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THREE

The boy ran up the stairs two at a time. The light of his phone illuminated the walls, the floor and the ceilings in a wild pattern as his arms moved while he ran. When he arrived upstairs he saw something skitter away. Something small and dark. Nothing that looked like a ghost. He followed the dark thing into one of the rooms.

He almost stumbled on an overturned chair. Scanning the room with his phone’s light he determined this had to be the master bedroom. There was a two-person bed, a large closet and a painting of an angel on the wall. On the bed was the creature he’d seen making his way across the hallway. It was furry, glowing eyes in the dark and it snarled at him. It wasn’t anything to put any sense of fear into him though, nor any man. It was a black cat. And with the lack of fear came quite a lack of superstition, so the whole thing about a black cat crossing your path meant bad luck was a bunch of bullshit to him.

“Easy buddy,” the boy told the cat, slowly extending a hand. He liked animals. This one was probably just a bit frightened by his sudden appearance and meant him no harm. He came closer to the cat, step by step. The cat snarled again.

The boy was almost close enough to pet the animal. “Easy… Easy…”

With a loud hiss the cat jumped at him, his claws barely missing the boy’s face. The cat ran past him. The boy thought of running after it again but decided he didn’t want to distress the animal anything more. He’d never seen a cat that distressed though. Was it just because of his own presence? Tales had it that animals were more attuned to the supernatural, could see things humans couldn’t.

That bed looked quite inviting he thought. Maybe, if there were indeed ghosts to be found in this place they’d show up at night? It had been quite a long drive over here. He could use some sleep. So he just made himself comfortable on the bed, not bothering to undress or get under the covers. He’d been travelling so long and so light, sleeping everywhere he could he never had any trouble falling asleep.

The bed was just as comfortable as it looked, adjusting to the weight of his body like a loving caress. He lay there, looking at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of the woodwork creaking, the wind blowing against the window. He was reminded about the trouble his parents had understanding that unlike other children he’d never feared the dark, had never needed a nightlight or a teddy bear to comfort him. In a way he felt like he’d robbed them of a very essential part, essential longing of a parent to protect a child. He remembered very vividly how he’d been standing at the window one night during a thunderstorm, fascinated by the lightning that painted the dark sky in beautiful colors. His mother had entered the room, worried about him. She put a hand on his shoulder, telling him everything would be alright. He told her he wasn’t up because he was afraid but because he was hoping he might feel something like it. He couldn’t help seeing the disappointment in his mother’s eyes. One of those crucial moments that had him looking for fear when he turned sixteen. With that memory he slowly drifted away…He woke up from some kind of light, not aware how long he’d been asleep. The light was green. It seemed to pulsate. It illuminated the hallway. He got out of bed, walked towards the hallway. He didn’t need his phone, the light bright enough for him to see in the dark.

He felt something brush his foot. He couldn’t quite make out what it was. He bent down on one knee and had a closer look. What he saw had him gagging. It was what once had been the cat. It looked like it had been torn open, guts spilling out of it like stuffing out of mattress. What the hell had happened to this poor creature? Was there another animal in here? One that preyed on smaller ones? It must have taken quite some strength to pull apart the cat’s body like that and very sharp teeth.

He got up, looking down the hallway, looking for either the predator or the source of the pulsating green light. No sight of the predator, but it was clear where the light was coming from. One of the two rooms he hadn’t been in yet. He made his way over to it. As he came closer he could also make out a strange sound coming from it. It was like a hum. A low, throbbing hum. Not like a person humming, but also not like the hum of a machine. It was somehow a mixture of those two. A sound he’d never heard before. It drew him to the room like a moth to a flame.

He entered the room, probably the guestroom. There was a one person bed, a small cabinet, a small table and a chair. No paintings. The green light in the room made it easy enough to make out all objects in the room. It almost hurt his eyes in the dark even. The thing that was creating the light was also the source of the humming noise, as he’d thought. It was also something he’d never ever seen before. It looked as organic as it did otherworldly. Like something from a fever dream, something from what most folks would perceive as a nightmare. The boy was mainly just fascinated by it, like he’d been fascinated by the lightning. He slowly came closer to the hellish thing.

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Jochem Vandersteen

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