Yawning, I scratch the stubble on my chin as I check the clock. “Midnight.” I adjust my headphones. “I wonder how much white noise a person can listen to before they go crazy.” I start the next Electronic Voice Phenomena recording from the courtyard, praying I find so much as a ghost belch this time. Tiffany won’t be happy if the asylum yields nothing. “Why do I let you talk me into all this ghost hunting crap?” I say to the picture of my sister, Tiffany, hanging on the wall. “It was really sweet of you too, to leave me sifting through all of this. It figures that your water would break when we’re supposed to be checking evidence.” I roll my eyes. “I’ve always known you hated this part.” As I think of her swollen belly, I chuckle.
Looking around the empty room, my mind wanders down the ink black hall. I shake my head as the hair on my arms comes to attention. “Ghosts are as real as fairy farts.” The white noise of the recording rattles my brain. Hitting pause, I free an ear and call my brother-in-law, Charley.
Tiffany yells as the other end picks up.
“Wow, that baby has her mother’s lungs.” I laugh.
“Shut up, butt!” Charley says. “You’re on speaker phone.”
“The only butt,” Tiffany pants, “is you, Charley. For answering your phone,” she moans, “in the middle of a contraction.”
I wait while Charley soothes her.
“Still waiting to push out the watermelon?”
“Marley!” Tiffany’s voice pounds my ear, “You’re such an as—tronaut.”
I smile at my sea mouthed sister’s attempt to clean up her language.
“Have you found anything yet?” She takes a deep breath.
“Only the usual, empty air. Ghosts aren’t real.”
I hear a thud.
“Easy, honey,” Charley says.
“We were at a freaking asylum from the 1800’s! Their idea of medicine was literally torture. How can it not be haunted?”
“Don’t say it, Marley!” Tiffany says, “You’re wrong. I don’t want to talk to you again until we either find a ghost, or you’re an uncle.”
Scowling, I end the call, close my eyes, and lace my fingers behind my head, clamping my lips against a yawn. I bounce my leg to keep from falling asleep as I hit play and the static chatters on.
My head bobs forward as my eyelids droop. I suck in a breath. “Stay awake. You have two more hours to get through.” I undo three buttons of my shirt and the cool air pushes sleep away.
Closing my eyes, I concentrate on the crackling in the recording as Charley laughs over the whimpering of the wind.
“Help!” A woman’s wisp thin voice says.
I jolt, looking over my shoulder at nothingness.
“Please, help us!” she says, her voice laying beneath Charley’s joking on the recording.
I shake my head, rub my eyes, and run the recording back. As the distant echo calls again, I stand, putting my back to the wall. “Why didn’t Charley respond to her?” My pulse hammers in my ears as the woman’s voice continues to cry. “He couldn’t hear her.”
The computer chair almost dumps me off as I pounce on the keyboard and find the time stamped on the EVP recording. Eleven o’clock! I pull any image of the court yard taken at the same time and blow up every inch, analyzing the pixels until my eyes ache. “If no one could hear this woman, she couldn’t have physically been there. If the recording picked her up, then this woman was talking, and somehow she was there—” My hands fall from the keyboard as ice creeps over me. In the grainy murk of the distant background at Charley’s feet, black eyes leap from an ashy face framed in long hair as a skeletal hand reaches from the darkness.
I press the gas pedal to the floor, my bag in the seat beside me. Getting off the interstate, I take the lonely road to the back of Windsworth Asylum.
Pulling out my infrared camera and an EVP recorder I start my session.
“Hello?” I say, mounting the concrete steps at the back of the building. Stepping inside, everything in me pulls away as the place settles its black curtain over me. I clear my throat as my eyes adjust. “I’d love to talk to whoever is here.” My shoulders stiffen. Yeah, right. Something shifts behind me and I whirl to find a mouse running across the floor.
The breeze is frigid as I bolt down the hall, heat growing in my cheeks when I stop. Ghost or not, I hope that woman didn’t see me run from a mouse. “I hope,” I say, switching to Charley’s favorite tactic, “that a beautiful lady like you won’t think me less of a man for running from a mouse. I had a bad experience as a child.” I walk in the stillness. “Do you like mice?” I say, shrugging away the idea of talking to myself in an insane asylum.
As I wander the halls, the air grows colder. “Am I alone?” I rub the hair at my neck and check for a draft, finding none. “I’ve never known a beautiful woman could make me cold. Are you doing that?” I make my way toward the front of the building, doing the best I can to catch each of the three floors I have access to. “Are we alone here?”
“Are you happy I’m here?” I strain my ears. “Do you remember me from last night? My sister said she thought you pulled her hair. Did you do that? ”
My feet start to drag as I continue through the silence. I check my watch. Three AM. “I’m not staying much longer. If you want to make a noise, or do something to let me know you’re here, now is the time.”
I cough as I step into the cold morning air of the courtyard. “Are you out here?” Sticking close to the wall the gravel rolls under my feet as I sweep the path ahead of me with the infrared. “I’ve already seen your beautiful face, you can come out now.” I inch my way toward the area where the apparition had been in the picture. The wall reflects the cold, showing up in greens and blues on my screen, the iron bars of the basement radiating yellow with the dying heat of the previous day. I study the screen, mumbling more questions as I stand close to the bars. “Are you here?”
“No way!” The camera begins to shake as a red and yellow form appears on the screen. “Is this you?” My heart pounds as I glance to find nothing but shadow.
“Help me,” the thin voice says as the form on my screen grows larger.
I smother a scream as something grasps my leg and a chill like death overtakes me. Pulling my eyes from the screen, I find a bony hand of flesh reaching between the bars clutching my ankle.
Thanks for reading! Sorry this story was late to post. Have a question you’d like to ‘ask’ Marley? Leave it in a comment below, or ask me on Facebook and I’ll be happy to include it in next week’s character interview.