PART TWO: NIGHTTIME
"Charlie, I am not letting you sleep up in the frickin' attack all alone in some possessed witch's house in Norway!" James's whisper carried across the stateroom and several others looked up in interest.
Charlie stared them down and looked at his friend straight in the eye. "Somebody has to, James, and I'm not sending Roger or one of the kids up."
James looked at him desperately, his blue eyes scared. "Then-," he sighed shortly and looked down, chewing on his bottom lip. "Then send me, man," Charlie shook his head instantly and looked up at the ceiling as James immediately began to defend his proposition. "No-no don't look at me like, Charlie! I am twenty-four years old, as old as you, I might add, and I know just as much about fighting evil spirits as you do so don't tell me it's too dangerous, man, don't tell me that!"
Charlie rubbed a hand over his face and exhaled slowly. "James," he said quietly, well aware of the attention they were collecting. "We don't have time for this, okay? It'll be dark in-," he glanced down at his watch. "In twenty minutes and we still have to wait for Davis to set all the cameras up. I'm the only one who's been up there scoping it out and as team leader it's my job to finish the work."
James rolled his eyes and looked in disbelief at his friend. "I don't give a rat's ass about your job or how well you think you know the upstairs. No. I don't trust you alone, man, and you know perfectly well why."
Charlie had opened his mouth to reply when Davis called out from a different room. "GUYS!" he shouted and they took off towards the library.
It was a dingy little room, smaller than even the kitchen, and cluttered with shelves and shelves of dust-coated moth-eaten novels written centuries prior. A little wooden desk sat in the middle of the room which made it annoyingly difficult to move around, and nearly impossible to set up the tripod.
Davis, a balding man in his mid fifties stepped out from behind the camera and nodded at Charlie. "Oh good," he said. "You can hear me."
James dropped his jaw. "That was a sound check?"
Davis looked at him and nodded as though they were merely discussing what was playing at the Cineplex. "Well," he said. "We don't have walkie-talkie's so-,"
"-Wait a second," James chuckled disbelievingly and turned to Charlie. "We don't have walkie-talkies?"
Charlie shrugged. "Yeah; I forget to mention that?"
James nodded sarcastically. "Might've been nice to know," he said. "So I could go ahead and book an appointment with the friendly neighborhood mortician."
Roger started to laugh shrilly, but when everyone turned to him with equally raised brows he cleared his throat and looked at his feet.
"Awkward," one of the team members said quietly and James blew out his breath. Charlie ran a hand through his blonde hair and sighed loudly.
"Okay," he began, facing the team. "Davis, John, and Roger: I want you three in here tonight (if you think you can all fit?). Um, let's have…Well, Julie and Melanie in the parlor room like last night still, that seemed to work out okay-,"
"-We didn't anything," Melanie interrupted coolly and Charlie nodded.
"I know, I know," he said absentmindedly. "But that could change tonight." He raised his voice so everyone could here. "Whatever's haunted this place might not have been aware of us last night or it might not even have cared but with all the equipment out and the weapons all set it knows we mean business. Listen up: Darren, Cory, and…Baldwin you take the stateroom, and then Luke and James can take the dining room." They all agreed and walked off into their designated areas.
James followed Charlie out as they exited the library behind the small team. "What'd you think I was kidding?" he demanded and Charlie did his best to ignore him; James had none of it. "No," he said, speeding up to stand right in front of his friend. Charlie tried to turn around him but James simply moved again. "No," he said quieter but with no less conviction.
Charlie threw his hands in the air. "Fine, you don't trust me enough to leave me alone? Like you said, James, it's been three years; more than enough time for me to just get over it, right?" he sniffed strongly and looked away in fury. "I mean just 'cuz Emily's dead along with my little boys isn't any reason to be a little broken up is it? No. And just 'cuz my little girl is paralyzed for life doesn't mean I should turn bitter, does it? And-," he had more to say (oh, so much more) but he suddenly couldn't hold it in any longer as the sobs overwhelmed him and he fell to his knees.
James sighed and gave him his privacy having been through this exact episode many times before. "Look," he said quietly after a few minutes. "I'm not saying you should forget about them, but I am saying that you need to learn to have fun again. To be yourself again." He paused and looked around the empty hallway. "Why are you here, Charlie? You have a daughter back home—little Mary back living with her aunt and uncle back in New Jersey…What are you doing here with us?"
Charlie looked up at him, tears glittering in his reddened eyes. "I don't-," his voice broke off and he cleared his throat. "I don't know how our car crashed that night," he said softly, voice shaking. "I don't drink—you know I don't drink—and it was a perfectly clear, summer night. There were no cars on the road, James! Nothing. It was a straight back road we'd been on-hundreds of times before, nothing…"
James sighs. "Freak accidents happen, Charlie."
"Not this one," James shook his head, his tone low and angry. "Something pushed our car off the road. I don't know what, but something did. When we were…Rolling down the slope I saw something," he groped for the word, gaze going distant. "Like a…I don't know, a-a child's hand and it was reaching for me, James, it was reaching for me and it said not to worry. That I was going to be alright."
"Well," James furrowed his brow. "It was right, wasn't it?"
"Do I look alright?" Charlie asked him, chin quivering. "Because I'm not, James, and I'm not going to be until I tell it that it was wrong."
James shook his head slowly. "Damn, Charlie, that's some--," he blew out his breath. "That's some serious shit, right there." He extended his hand and pulled his friend to his feet.
Charlie nodded. "It's dark out," he said after stealing a glance out a window.
James nodded in agreement. "Yep," he said. "Listen, Luke can take the dining room by himself; we both know whatever's haunting this place isn't going to show up in there; nothing meaningful. I can come up and take the other side of the upstairs,"
Charlie sighed and scrunched up his face skeptically. "I dunno…"
"Aw, com on, Charlie! We both know that's the sensible thing to do!"
"Fine," Charlie consented, unable to find the energy to disagree.
"Good," James nodded briskly. "Now. Tell me why we don't have walkie- talkies because I saw no problem with them. Once I even got it rigged so that I was talking to some chic in Brazil, and you know what, man? I don't even speak Spanish!"
And they walked up the winding stairs.
It was nighttime and Charlie was trying to stay awake.
Every few seconds his eyelids would slowly begin to close, but then he'd remember his job and snap them back open again painfully.
The darkness was so dark it seemed to be smothering him; driving him in blackness he couldn't escape from. Like a great net to kill a whale he felt helpless and caught in a web he could very well have brought on himself.
And then he saw it.
Reaching for him…Closer…Closer…The pale, shimmering hand of a gentle child. He could see anything but the palm but someone he knew that it belonged to a small girl and that she was reaching for him…Reaching…For him…
"…You're going to be alright…" a voice whispered and for a moment all he could think about was whether or not he had turned the tape recorder on.
Then it hit him.
Not in a literal sense, but in every other way possible as his mind gave a great screech and rage drenched every fiber in his body.
"You!" he whispered, voice wavering dangerously in his blind-numbing fury. "YOU!" he said louder and dimly registered James asking him what the matter was from the other end of the twisting room. "You. Were. WRONG!"
The fingers on the translucent hand curled into a tight fist, and then unraveled slowly as the hand slowly lifted, waving them as a pianist plays.
The hand was waving.
Charlie screamed out in rage and tried to grab it, but as he did so someone grabbed his arm and he jolted awake with a strangled cry.
And he was back in the car as it sped off the side of the road and began to roll …Rolling down the side of the unforgiving hill, still slick with the remains of last night's downpour…He saw the trees ahead and closed his eyes as he braced himself for the impact-
And then he opened them.
White. The world was white.
As he looked around himself in confusion sweat ran down the sides of his face like great fountains his breath came out in great gasps.
"Mr. Jones!" A man came running into his room with a long shot and Charlie's eyes widened. Where was he? This wasn't The Agnatha Indre! Where was James? Why was he in a different bed? WHERE WAS HE!
"Where am I?" he asked the man breathlessly, staring in terror as the other began to inject the brown liquid in the syringe into his arm. "NO!" he shouted, pushing the man away.
"Mr. Jones, I'm going to ask you to relax, aright?" the man said calmly as more dressed identically in their white coats filed into the room. "You're at St. Rose's Asylum, do you remember coming here?"
Charlie looked at him disbelief, a vein pulsating in his temple. "What? No! I'm in Norway with-with James and Julie and we're going to catch the spirit!"
"Yes," the man said skeptically. "So you've been telling us for the past three years." And Charlie froze, ceasing his struggles and staring at the man in shock.
"Three-three years?" he whispered faintly.
"Never can seem to remember, can you?" the man said and shook his head in-was that amusement? He turned to someone next to him. "James, go get Dr. Davis and tell him that his patient is a bit restless this evening."
"Right away, sir," James smiled slightly and hurried off as Charlie watched him go, eyes as wide as saucepans.
"And Roger!" the man nodded to a thin Asian checking a chart in the corner. "Stop stuttering to Cory and John, here, they can't understand a word you say." The man chuckled and looked back down at Charlie. "If you're a good little patient," he leered slowly, an evil glint in his eye. "I'll let Miss. Julie come in and visit you," and he motioned to a nurse leading a woman in a wheelchair past the room. The woman's hair was dead and frazzled and she appeared not to notice anything but a little walkie-talkie in her hands. "Maybe she'll even let you play with her toy,"
As Charlie watched him start to laugh he felt himself slide into a pit of inescapable horror and he began to shake in terror when he swore he saw a little hand reach for him from the corner of the cell.
Maybe he would have to give that key back to his apartment, after all.