Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.
People always told me my smile was the first thing that entered a room. But I’m not smiling now. In fact I’m terrified. I can hear wood creak above me and a distinct rusty hinge on a window somewhere else in the house – metal scraping metal sound, making itself known it is there, in this house full of ruins, something is moving. Fifteen minutes. That’s all I need to last. Eight more minutes.
I start to hop from foot to foot, as if that somehow will calm the fireworks display that’s coursing up and down my body, from the tip of my fingers to the bottoms of my feet, making me feel like the human embodiment of what people would call a “live wire”—if such a thing meant you were also jacked up so high on adrenaline it felt like your ears were about to explode. And don’t forget, that itching, creeping feeling that makes every single hair on your body stand on end, that feeling that tells you something most definitely is here. With me.
But There is nothing here. I don’t believe in ghosts. Even though I don’t believe in ghosts, in this moment, I started to think about the old wives tale my mom used to tell me about ghosts using human bodies to attach themselves to the mortal world, that way they can escape the prison of wherever they’ve been forced to haunt. I shudder at the thought.
So far, I have sequestered myself to foyer of this big, grand house on Babbage Lane. And so far, I’ve handled the first five minutes in the middle of the first floor landing pretty well, considering everything. Granted, I’ve shut my eyes for most of it, and that has sort of worked. I try not to think about the broken French doors that lead off to blackness to my left.. or what made them broken. I try not to think about the overturned, moldy, faded sofa through the archway to my right or who flipped it over. Instead For part of those first five minutes, I tried to think about what the house on Babbage Lane used to look like. Before it was shuttered and left to rot.
I start to think of the family that lived here, before I was born, and even before my mother and her mother before her. There was a family of four, a mother and a father, and two daughters. I’ve asked my mother about the house on Babbage Lane plenty of times before, but my mother just shuddered and said “Best not to think about it. People do crazy things for love. ” If I pressed her further, my mom would reply: “It’s a bad house. A very bad, evil house.”
I’ve heard bits and pieces of the local lore that surrounds the house, of course. I’m not deaf—I’ve lived in a small town on an island my entire life after all. Not much happens that doesn’t reach the ears of every single islander at one point or another. I have basically lived my whole life knowing that secrets won’t ever stay secrets in this town for long. What I’ve pieced together of the story is this… It was a family of four who lived in the house. A mother and father and their two grown daughters. The eldest of the two had gotten engaged to be married but to a man who her sister was in love with. on the night of the, while the new husband and wife lay together in bed that night fast asleep… the younger sister came in and brutally stabbed both of them to death. She drug her sisters body into the closet.. changed into her wedding dress and lay next to the corpse of the groom where she cut her own throat with her left hand while clutching onto his with her right.
The parents having lost both children in a single night were overcome with grief and shame and the rumor is they left town. The house changed hands a couple times in the last century or so but it was always said to be hunted. Women who occupied it said they were tormented by a woman in a wedding dress.
It had all the right hallmarks of a horror story… if you believe in those things. Which to be very clear… I didn’t. But as I reply the story I’ve heard so m any times, over in my head even I start to feel the prickles of fear on my skin….I remind myself why I am here. And his name was Zach. He’s outside right now, waiting with the others who dared me to go in. But it could’ve just been him willing me to do it, for all I care. It was Zach and Zach alone that I think about every night. Zach who I hoped would both worry about me while I am in here and then be proud of me when I came out, victorious, after the twenty minutes was up. Me and Zach have been dating for a few weeks now, and I wanted more than anything to impress him. My mom warned me that any body I might like at this age was worth my time of day. “Save your thoughts about marriage until you’re older and can decide things for yourself”—but I couldn’t help it. He seemed so strong and smart and perfect. Why wouldn’t I want to marry Zach?
I was getting a little lost in my thoughts when right then I caught a glimpse of The kitchen directly in front of me, down a hallway, I could even see the white tile of it glinting in the moonlight. Wait… that’s not right. I rubbed my eyes and then looked again expecting to see a floor that is dusty grey or brown covered in decades of dust… but when I moved my hands from my eyes again nothing had changed… the tile on the floor was white…. LIKE bone white. As if it had been freshly scrubbed. But that didn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be white.
I felt a chill go all the way down my spine and I tried to shake it off – to tell myself I was crazy for letting the ghost stories get to me. They were just ghost stories after all, told to keep kids out of abandoned buildings that had the potential to harm them– not with vengeful spirits, but with shards of glass, rusty nails, broken floorboards that fell straight through to the basement. You could cut your arm, get tetanus, and quite literally break a leg in this house. Ghost stories were just old wives tales meant to protect children from those harsher, more violent realities. And I was too old to believe in old wives tales now. After all, how the hell was I going to impress Zach if I was too scared to last twenty minutes in here?
I take my first step in five minutes towards the gleaming white kitchen and eventually reach the countertop. I glance around—turns out my vision hadn’t been failing me, the countertops were sparkling. But why? No one has been seen going into this house for over forty years. Unless…
I call out into the darkness,
the very act of acknowledging that someone might be in here gave me goosebumps. I sometimes heard stories of teenagers eloping to the island, hoping to escape their parents and hide out in one of the houses here whose occupants had left as soon as the summer air turned slightly crisp with fall. But the lovers were always caught, sooner or later. Someone would see them stow away on the ferry without a ticket and their general naivéte would get the best of them. I wonder if someone was stupid enough to try to make the Babbage House their couple’s hideaway, but then I remember that any thought of romance would go straight out the window at the first sight of the discarded, deteriorating interior.
I glance at my watch. Eight minutes to go. This was feeling like an eternity
Did you hear that???
Is’t like…. a soft…song, a woman humming, absently to herself, and the swish swish of a mop dunking itself into a bucket, then splaying itself on the tile floor.
I think it’s coming from behind me….
Every filament in my body is screaming out no, don’t turn, don’t turn. Please, don’t—
But I can’t help it.
I turn. And there, standing in the pale light of the moon, is a woman, dressed in only a white night gown stained with crimson blood on her chest. I’m too terrified to scream. Where every nerve ending was on fire before, now I feel frozen, locked in a state of terror. She doesn’t notice me at first. She continues to hum a sad little song. It sounds like a nursery rhyme, and she moves in rhythm with her mop.
Finally though, she sees me.
The ghostly figure holds a finger up to her lips, shhhhhhhhhh
I just nod – I didn’t know what else to do! She continues to mop back and forth, humming quietly. I even can’t believe what’s happening in that moment. Here I was, being silent in front of a real live ghost. And I didn’t believe in ghosts! But there she was, as real as day. The long ruby colored blood trailing down the white lace bodice on what looked to be a wedding gown. She looked to be about my age, if I were to guess. But that didn’t make sense to me. If she was my age, why was she in a wedding gown? I didn’t have time to mull over this just then
my phone in my back pocket starts to ring. The ghost snaps her head to look at me then, and she hisses, viciously in my direction, like a black cat that I’ve frightened.
The ghost whispers at me in her hiss
“Turn it off!!!”
And I fumble with the phone quickly, trying desperately to silence the clatter. I mute it, finally. But not quickly enough.
*add running footsteps*
Suddenly, I hear footsteps bounding across the upstairs floor. Two by two. No… wait… four by four? I can’t tell…
“Oh now you’ve done it.” The ghost hisses at me again.
I apologize over and over I’m so sorry…. And im equal parts sorry, terrified and also completely baffled that I’m apologizing to… a ghost.
The steps continue to traipse across the upstairs, almost as if they’re running, and soon I hear them on the landing.
The woman starts to wail now, rolling her head back and forth around on her neck… “she’s coming… you can’t let her find you.. she won’t let you be happy!” “ She didn’t want me to be happy” “go!”
I begin to shake now, my body feeling a whole new course of action, an emotion I’ve never felt before: absolute terror. I try desperately to open the door to my left, the one that was leading out to the garden, but my hand is shaking like crazy and it’s completely and utterly locked. The ghost behind me continues to wail, and I know there’s no consoling her now. I know I have no choice but to continue in the way I came, and thus I continue back down towards the hallway…. but just as I think I’m to the main entrance, my foot breaks through the wooden floorboards.
suddenly I am falling, as my feet plunge all the way through the floorboard, the wood splinters cascading around me and I tumble into the inky blackness.
Lucky, I land on a soft cushion and think for one second that I am back in my bed and this is all just a terrible nightmare that I can easily wake up from. It certainly feels like a nightmare.
But then I get my bearings, and realize that I’m not waking up, and that I can’t see my hand in front of my face let alone wherever I have landed. Luckily, I still have my phone in my back pocket and use the flashlight on it to light my surroundings.
I seem to be in a basement, and I’ve landed on a dingy old bed, covered in a sickly brown stain. I reel backwards when I realize it must be dried blood, decades old, left to turn into from a deep red to dark rust color. Once again, a shiver runs down my spine.
I hear the footsteps reach the foyer above me, and a sudden cackle and shriek from two people who I know is not my ghost. Not the one in the nightgown.
Then I hear them advance towards the kitchen, yelling.
The girl in the nightgown wails something I don’t understand, but she sounds so miserable, her misery is almost palpable and infectious and I can almost feel her – it’s then suddenly that I hear the ghosts scream upstairs, pulling me out of my reverie. I gulp to myself, but then remember I need to be calm. Need to figure out a way to get out of here.
I shine my light to the bottom of a set of stairs, and I have t go back up… to where the sounds are coming from but also to the only way I know how to get out of this hell hole.
One by one, I take the stairs, being careful not to let the floorboards creak below my weight, despite how old they are. Somehow, I make it to the top, and the door has been ripped off its hinges, luckily, so I squeeze right through.
I can still hear people in the kitchen, but they are arguing to themselves, crying and wailing and complaining to each other.
I’m halfway outside the house when a new ghost appears in front of me. She’s wearing a wedding dress stain in the front with blood that is still dripping from her neck as though it were just cut.
She reached her arms out toward me and grabbed me by the throat. Sher hands ddint land – the passed through me but when they did I felt this clenching feeling in my chest… it was tight an painful like what a think a heart attack might feel like….
Terrified, I turn start running in the opposite direction toward the door.
When I finally burst from the front door, breathless and panting in front of Zach and my friends, I don’t know what to say. They all ask me what happened, but I just shook my head and told them I wanted to get out of there.
Weeks later I almost convinced myself it was all a dream. That it never happened and my fear and imagination made it all up from the folk lore I heard growing up.
But then…. Something happened. I was with Zach after school. We were walking to our buses and holding hands when I got that horrible clenching feeling in my chest again. With the pain also came a wave of anger. All of a sudden I hated Zach for not loving me. I recoiled my hand and ran onto the bus.
As it drove away I watched his confused face through the window. I was confused too. Why had I done that. Why had I felt that? I know Zach likes me. He was holding my hand. It was such a stupid feeling. But it wasn’t totally gone. And the longer the bus drove the more feelings… sickly feelings, I got about Zach. It felt like anger… jealousy…. Hurt.
That first night I wanted to just sleep it off. Something was going on but I was just tired or stressed or whatever.
But that night I had a dream. When I opened my eyes I was back in the Babbage lane house laying flat on that stained mattress in the basement. I looked over to my right and see her. The same ghost in the wedding dress who grabbed me before I left the house.
I know I shouldn’t be … but I’m calm. Nothing like I actually was that day in the house. I’m acutely aware that this is a dream. But dream or not I still lose my breath a little when her head starts to turn slowly to the side.. her neck barley attached and blood still flowing from her wound.
She looked me dead in eyes as she propped herself up on one elbow to face me. A few seconds go by in silence but they feel like hours… then she finally speaks.
You shouldn’t have come into our home. You know.. I knew girls like you. You’re just like my sister. Beautiful. Smart. The whole world just falls down at your feet – you work for nothing and people love you… Men throw themselves at you. Men Like Zach…. Boys like zach…
But you don’t get to be happy. Girls like you haven’t earned happy.
You came into my home and I’m with you forever now. and you will never BE happy. Every time a man touches you I’ll make sure you recoil. Any man who shows affection to you I’ll make sure you despise.
you know, You’re the first person who came close enough for me to touch. All these years I’ve been in that house living in my own pain, pissed off at the world. But now… because of you… I don’t have to stay in this house anymore. I can go out there .. anywhere out there I want… well… with your help of course…
Just then I was able to croak out a question “what do you want”
I want to kill anyone who falls in love with you…
Then she leaned in closer and whispered… and eventually. I want to kill you.
Just then I sprung up from my bed soaked in sweat. My alarm was waling and the sun was beating into my room.
I tried to shower and shake the dream off but I couldn’t it was too vivid.
When I got to school and saw Zach part of me wanted to tell him about my crazy dream, to run to him for a hug but when I saw him something stopped me. And I know saying this out loud sounds insane but I swear a heard a whisper in my ear.
Maybe I’m losing my mind, maybe im still dreaming…. But maybe it’s that, just like the house on Babbage Lange, I am now haunted, too.