Don't Forget to Turn Out the Lights

By Sarah Ricard-Walton

"Oh, wow, it's beautiful!" Libby exclaimed, hands flying up to cover her smiling mouth in surprised delight. From behind her, Nina let out a little gasp, and then looked at Mr. George Fairborn, wondering if he'd caught on that their reactions meant they hadn't been expecting much.

If he had, he played it off, only smiling back at them, pleased and friendly and proud.

"It's quite a sight, isn't it? I told you it was famous," he said, though he hadn't actually proven that it was. "In my opinion, the loveliest venue in town for your special event. Now, I've already talked some about the history of the house, but the history of the ballroom, specifically..."

And off he went, educating them on that, or attempting to. Nina, for one, started tuning him out, although she attempted to make a good show of apparently continuing to listen. She couldn't tell if Libby's attentiveness was true or false. Mr. Fairborn seemed like a sweet man, but he was a bit long-winded. He used to be a history teacher, he'd told them the day they met him. Nina felt for his students. He was passionate about his subject, that much was obvious, but maybe he was a bit too obvious. His earnestness bordered on the cornball as his saggy cheeks flushed in a face full of broken capillaries, and he made frequent excited, fidgety gestures to illustrate his point.

Maybe we shouldn't have asked for the deluxe tour, Nina thought wryly to herself as she nodded good-naturedly at Mr. Fairborn as if she was following what he said. Something about how the older, back part of the house had been built in the 1880's by some guy who owned a candy company. Prescott Confectionaries. Nina had heard of it. She, Libby, Mitch, and Aaron had passed by the huge, vacant building when they'd rolled into town.

She began to stroll the length of the floor restlessly, hands clasped behind her back as her gaze wandered about the room, taking things in. Every now and then, she looked back at Mr. Fairborn so she appeared to still be listening to him. There was a lot to take in. The enormous mural that wrapped around all four walls, covering them floor to ceiling with the images of people engaging in dance and drink and conversation and all manner of revelry. It brought to mind a Renoir, though not as skillfully done. It was still beautiful, however.

"And then the ballroom was fully restored just five years ago, and, can see what a magnificent job they did with the place!" Mr. Fairborn raved.

She stared one at a time at the two large mullioned windows flanking either end of the long room, stared at the lovely stained glass they contained. Last but not least, she stared up at the ceiling, at the immense and brilliant chandelier hanging from above. She didn't even know they made them that big. So many lights...

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Fairborn loudly, breaking into her thoughts. He saw what she was looking at. "Make sure that's shut off at night, will you? Every single night." The solemnity in his voice was a bit peculiar.

"Oh, of course," said Libby cheerily. She wrapped a blond ringlet around her finger and with her other hand pushed her purse further up on her shoulder. She exchanged a look with Nina which said plainly that this had gone on long enough. "That's gotta add quite a bit to the old electric bill, huh?" And she chuckled.

"But we won't be using it every night," Nina found herself saying with a furrowed brow, though she didn't really understand why. Just let it go. Talk fast, agree to whatever he wants, get him out of here! "We only have that one event this week, right? That wedding reception. Nobody's going to be in here otherwise. But of course we'll shut the lights off when we're done."

Mr. Fairborn was making some serious eye contact with her that she didn't know how to interpret. "Miss Hardensen," he said, with a slight smile on his thin lips which didn't reach his humorless eyes, "I am a silly old man, with deeply ingrained habits. For as long as I've been the owner of the Briarwood B&B, I've come down to this ballroom before bed and checked to make sure the lights were off. And the doors locked. It would just mean a lot to me if you would continue that tradition." He smiled wider and it was still an odd smile. "You just never know."

"Right," Nina smiled back, faking that she found him reasonable. "You don't. Checking the lights every night it is."

And for some peculiar reason, Nina kept her word.

For three nights straight, she volunteered to check the ballroom as part of her share of the pre-bedtime rounds. Nobody else would have done it (well, Mitch would have, if she had begged) and as far as she was concerned, it didn't need to be done. All the same, she did it anyway. Could Mr. Fairborn be concerned about a wiring issue? Would that make lights spontaneously come on? Well, if they decided to buy this place, they'd have to have an electrician come out and take a look at things.

No, she wasn't sure exactly why she did it; all she knew was that she had a compelling, unexplainable feeling that it was a good idea.

On the morning of the fourth day of their stay, after they'd fed the half dozen guests they currently had, the would-be owners of the Briarwood B&B- plus Mitch- sat eating their own meal on the spacious back porch of the place.

Mitch wrinkled his nose and helped himself to his second potato patty. He cursed and complained about how badly the river stunk.

"That's why no one else is eating out here," said Nina.

"Man," said Aaron, "I don't know if I want to put any of my money into this place if it's got a stinky river by it that scares people away." Aaron kept going back and forth about whether or not he thought buying Briarwood was a good idea. He may be Libby's husband and their money situation might be a what's-mine-is-yours one, but as far as Nina was concerned, his vote should count for less than his wife's.

He wasn't even staying there with them for their one-week trial management period. He was staying at his childhood home with his mother, who had apparently insisted on having him once she found out Libby had to come to town to look into her dream of owning a B&B.

(Still, he'd spent last night with his wife at Briarwood. Mitch and Nina had been cringing in their room, overhearing the loud romp and Libby's shrill, rapturous giggles about wanting to swing from chandeliers with Aaron. "There's no way," Nina had snickered to her longterm boyfriend as they were trying to go to sleep. "Libby's been telling me that they've already had to get creative with the positions because of her pregnancy, but there's no way chandelier swinging is on that list.")

"No one is getting scared away," argued Nina. "But since you brought it up, how are we all feeling about this place so far? Think we should buy it?"

"Hey, what kept you?" asked Mitch, stretching out on the bed. He was in a T-shirt and sleep pants and was looking drowsy.

Nina smiled sheepishly at the door, closing and locking it behind her. "Well, first, I fell asleep over a book in the library. And then I remembered that I had to give a couple of those guest feedback cards to the Fergusons, since they're checking out tomorrow."

She went over to the sit on the bed. Mitch was wiping the sleep out of his eyes.

"Were you sleeping well here tonight without Aaron and Libby doing their thing next door?" she asked, nudging him playfully. She pressed down on the mattress with her palm, and released the pressure, feeling the material spring back up. "This place has really comfortable beds."

"Not comfortable enough without you in it," said Mitch, almost in a growl, suddenly not looking very sleepy at all as he tackled her.

"Crap," said Nina in sudden realization some time later, the word somewhat muffled by her pillow.

Mitch's arm tightened around her affectionately and he half sat up, looking disheveled and much more tired than he had when she'd entered the room a couple hours ago.


Nina's eyes were trained on their bedside clock. "Why did you let me doze off? I forgot to check the ballroom."

Mitch snorted and rolled his eyes, but removed the arm that had been holding her to the bed. Still he protested with, "Why shouldn't I have let you doze off? It's ridiculous, Nina. You don't have to check that damn ballroom. Nobody can get in there without the key."

"I want to check it," Nina insisted, brushing off the common sense of his words as she climbed out of bed and went about making herself decent. "I promised Mr. Fairborn."

Mitch laughed, flopping his head back on the pillow. "Jeez, Nina... I mean, why would you do that? And that old windbag isn't even here, anyway." He covered his eyes with his arm in frustration.

Nina shrugged even though he couldn't see her.

"Maybe he knows something we don't," she said before she slipped from the room.

She padded in her houseslippers down the long hall to the correct stairway. The ballroom was at the back of the house- in the older part of the house. The front part of the house was newer, built in the 1920's, and much larger. The back was mostly storage and the ballroom. All of the old rooms, apart from the ballroom, looked strikingly dull and unappealing. They weren't in particularly bad condition, but they were much less modern-looking than the rest of the house. (Which, mostly, wasn't even all that impressive for its own part. It was large and comfortable, but homey rather than luxurious in any way.)

Her destination was the ground floor. Nina paused at the top of the stairs and looked at the old grandfather clock that stood there. She gnawed on her bottom lip as she noted the time. It was a little after one in the morning, and Nina was remembering something strange. It was something Mr. Fairborn had said to her, over the phone the very first time they'd ever spoken.

"You don't keep odd hours, do you? You don't stay up late into the night, past midnight or anything?"

At the time, Nina had thought that it was none of his business. Besides, she was in her twenties, of course she sometimes stayed up past midnight. But then she'd remembered that Mr. Fairborn probably just wanted to make sure she wouldn't be up late and disturbing the guests. Consequently, she'd proceeded to assure him that she didn't "keep odd hours."

As Nina continued on past the clock, though, and started down the steps, she had the vague, unsettling idea that maybe he'd been asking so he'd know when she was likely to check the lights.

She had to laugh at herself. What the hell was she thinking? That notion was only coming out of guilt- guilt that she'd put off doing what that kind (but weird) old man had asked. And that was guilt she had no business having in the first place.

Nina was in the middle of the first of two long flights of stairs when she heard it. It was a wail; an awful, shrill, undulating wail that seemed to vibrate right through her. Her heartbeat immediately picked up its pace.

As she stood frozen on the stair, her logic told her to strain her ears to listen for the sound of the wind, so that she could associate the sound she'd just heard with that, that rational explanation. But she heard no wind.

Maybe one of the guests was in distress? She could only hope, if it was an emergency, that they'd go seek out Libby for help, because Nina wasn't about to roam the halls looking for the source of that noise. Not when she had a job to do.

Directly above the ballroom was a large old pantry. It had been used in the old days of the chocolatier and his wife as a pantry, and it was still used as a pantry for the B&B, albeit a backup one. Before its restoration, there had been a small kitchen to the rear of the ballroom, with a trapdoor that opened to the floor of said pantry. When Nina was in front of this room, she finally thought she heard the wind. Yes, that sounded like wind, didn't it?

She came to a standstill again, and gazed down the hall to her right as she listened for the wind once more. She shivered; she wished this house wasn't so prone to shadowy corners and dark spots where shapes seemed to shift and change every time a person moved or blinked. Did they really want to buy this place?

She heard the wind again, finally, whistling through the drafty old back of the house. She stood listening to it for several long moments before beginning to descend again.

In between the sounds of wind she'd heard before, however, Nina thought she heard a different sort of noise creep in. One that sounded like another wail, a humanlike wail. It was fainter than before, but no less miserable, no less a thin, lancinating instrument perforating the peace of the night. Still, she forced herself onward, when what she yearned to do was fly back to hers and Mitch's room.

Why did she need to go check the ballroom lights, anyway? Despite not being able to come up with a concrete answer, she found herself approaching the bottom of the second flight of stairs, telling herself she had only imagined one of those sounds being different from the blowing of wind. Or, if she hadn't, that she had merely been hearing a guest moaning from indigestion, or maybe from sex. Never mind that no guests slept in the back of the house.

At the bottom of the stairs, she was met with a set of large oaken double doors. And a rush of cold.

Nina didn't move a muscle. There was a strange stillness in the air, and that air also felt somehow thicker than usual. A sick feeling was suddenly in Nina's stomach. She put her hand out and touched the door in front of her, planting her palm flat against it as though to keep her balance. With her other hand, she dug around in her robe pocket for her ring of keys.

"Why didn't you turn off the lights?" Nina demanded again of Libby, somewhat more fiercely than she intended. She narrowed her eyes at her friend across the table.

"I forgot, but why the hell are you pressing me on this?" Libby finally exploded, after having ignored Nina the first time she'd asked, flipping her hair and turning away to locate the marmalade. She eyed Nina with confusion and the beginnings of hostility. "What's the big deal? You always check the lights! So if anything, I gave your actions a purpose last night."

Mitch crossed and uncrossed his legs nervously as he peered at the two women over his morning paper.

Nina felt her nostrils flare at Libby's contentious attitude. She bit her lower lip, frustrated that she was too embarrassed to tell the truth about why she was so bothered by Libby's seemingly small act of negligence.

No sooner had she and Mitch met her for breakfast out on the porch did Nina confront Libby about finding the chandelier on the previous night. Luckily, Nina hadn't found anything else amiss in the ballroom, but her trip down there had left her shaken up enough to want to hold somebody accountable for something.

And somehow what she'd heard on the stairs, and that bizarre cold, thickness in the air outside the ballroom had become linked to her friend's lack of vigilance.

Apparently, Libby had gone to a movie with Aaron last night, and when he'd dropped her off back at Briarwood, she'd offered to show him the ballroom he'd never seen, having never taken the special tour of the place with Mr. Fairborn.

"You also left to make an eighty thirty movie!" Nina exclaimed, grasping at straws. "It was your idea to buy this B&B! I'm not going to go in with you on the purchase and make your dreams come true if you can't even stick to the arrangement that we're not off-duty until nine!"

"I don't need you to snap at me!" Libby retaliated, pointedly reaching down and resting her hand over her middle. It was all Nina could do not to engage in a massive eyeroll right in front of her friend's face.

"Just because you're going to be a mother doesn't mean you can't be wrong!" she spat out instead. Libby glared at her angrily and pushed back from the table, standing and heading back into the house.

After she'd gone, Mitch frowned.

"Nina..." he began disapprovingly.

"No," said Nina, a little weakly, shaking her head. She, too, stood up from the table. She couldn't deal with any of this right now. She would feel too foolish to confide in Mitch about last night, and she also couldn't find it within herself to admit having done wrong by scolding Libby too much.

She walked slowly over to the far end of the porch, as though testing herself. They were behind the B&B, and a certain part of the porch skirted the outside of the ballroom. She wanted to walk by it right then, to get over her fear, since she knew she'd be going back in that room that night, to check the lights.

Nina reached the end of the porch and took a deep breath. It was alright, it was all alright. She was being ridiculous. She leaned over the railing of the porch and aimlessly peered around the side of the house. Her gaze found one of the stained glass windows of the ballroom.

"Mitch!" she cried out without thinking. She heard his footsteps behind her running across the wooden porch, and she knew she'd have to ask conversationally what he thought had happened, and then talk about hypothetical repair costs.

She wasn't about to tell him she'd nearly jumped out of her skin at the sight of a large, jagged scratch marring one of the colorful squares of the window. And how it seemed to have been made from the inside.

It was Saturday night, and music filled the ballroom. Mitch was whirling Nina around the floor, and her heart was light and happy. Her hair flew out behind her like a raven-colored fan, she noticed, looking over her shoulder during a spin as the wedding band played on. The reception had truly been a perfect event, and the ballroom had been the perfect place to hold it in. It was a space that begged for a celebration like this- one of joy and love, and also of a little bit of grandeur.

It was easy to get lost in the moment now. Things had been drama-free at the B&B for three days straight. It had taken all the nerve in her, but after her scare going to check on the lights back on Wednesday, she'd resumed her routine on Thursday. The past couple of nights, she'd completed the light check without incident, failing to hear any sort of weird noises or feel any phantom drafts in the process. She had all but convinced herself she'd imagined what had happened in the middle of the week.

And although she did have the thought that since on both Thursday and Friday night she'd found the lights off, this might be tied to everything being calm...well, she'd pushed that thought right out of her head.

She'd also convinced herself that the scratch on the window was nothing creepy, and must have been there the whole time.

Nina was still humming melodies when she was getting ready to turn in for the night. Here they were, their week at a literal end, and their other week- their week-long trial run of the B&B- to officially be at an end tomorrow afternoon. Mr. Fairborn would be back, and they'd be telling him the news.

That news was that they'd decided not to buy the B&B.

It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the Briarwood B&B in particular. However, Nina had come to discover that Mitch was right.

"Is this really something you should be doing with your best friend, Nina?" he'd asked her, after she and Libby had exchanged angry words over breakfast that one morning. "And not only Libby- do you think you should be going into business with a couple? I don't see how it's possible that you won't end up third-wheeling eventually. I'm not about to go in on this deal, on account of the obstacles of working with friends. Not to mention, it's not my dream. It's not yours, either, Nina. It was always Libby's, though whether now, when she's about to have a baby, is the right time to start it is another matter."

Nina had then gone to Libby and Aaron and begun the necessary discussion as diplomatically as possible. They'd been receptive to her words. More than receptive, in fact. They actually seemed relieved that Nina was bringing it up first. Aaron had never been too into the idea of buying the B&B- he'd just been supporting his wife. Meanwhile, Libby owned that maybe the bed and breakfast was too much to take on right now, and it all had been settled.

Just after midnight, Libby knocked on Nina and Mitch's door. Nina was just putting on her houseslippers, in preparation for making the trek downstairs to check the lights.

"Hey," said Libby, holding out something wrapped in foil on a plate. "I wasn't sure if you knew about this. When the parents of the bride came to me and settled up the rest of the fee for using the ballroom, they also gave me a few slices of the wedding cake. I just went down to the kitchen to get one as a midnight snack, and I thought you guys might like some, too."

"Thanks," said Nina, taking the plate. "I was just about to..." she gestured down at her feet "...go do that silly thing I do."

With a smile, Libby placed a hand on her arm.

"No, don't," said Libby. "I'll go check. I should have to be the one for once, right?"

Nina hesitated in surprise, but at last gave a loud laugh and teased Libby by asking, "But I can trust you to do it right, can't I?" She grinned.

Libby grinned back at her. "Oh, I think so. I don't think it's that complicated of a process."

"She isn't back yet?" asked Mitch, popping his head out next door from where Nina sat on the floor. She was waiting outside of Libby's closed and locked bedroom, and jumped a bit at the sound of his voice.

He chuckled at her, but she looked up at him gravely.

"No," she said, her voice soft and worried. "Where do you think she is?"

Mitch shrugged. "I don't know, sweetie... She must have gotten sidetracked by something."

He held out his hand to help her up, and she took it, but once she was back on her feet, she did not allow him to lead her back into their room. She instead told him she was going to go look for her friend.

"Mitch...if I'm not back in ten minutes...come and look for us."

Mitch laughed at her, which of course he would, but agreed, which of course he also would.

Nina felt slightly nauseated as she headed down the hall to the staircase. The peace and quiet of the past few days, and the fun times had at the wedding reception were all forgotten.

This time as she made her way down the stairs, the house seemed to hold an eerie silence. And it only seemed to grow heavier as she reached the second flight of stairs.

All too soon she was at the bottom. Nina's heart stuttered in her chest when she saw a strong, bright light spilling out from under the gap of the heavy oaken doors.

Get a grip, she told herself.

She was walking into a fully lit room. She shouldn't be so afraid.

However, when she wrapped her fingers around the handle of the door and a shiver ran through her...when she wrenched the door open and stepped into the ballroom, her fear proved founded.

Something whooshed through her stomach, whooshed through her very soul. She fell back breathlessly against the wall. The room was bright and splendid. It was cleaned of all the debris left behind once the party had come to a close. It looked so very clean, under the myriad of lights from the chandelier, except for the small pool of blood.

"What happened?" Nina gasped, seeming to take the large room in a couple of strides, for practically in the next instant she was kneeling at her friend's side.

"The lights were on...the lights were on!" came a crazed, fervid whisper floating out of the darkness. Nina felt impaled by icy steel at the sound of it: run through by a sudden, sharp cold terror that pinned her to the spot.

That voice. There was something... so wrong about it. She couldn't put her finger on it, but it sounded different from any human voice she'd ever heard. And not just different because it came from a stranger.

She got a greater sinking feeling in her stomach when she saw what was lighting the room. High above them shone as many lights as were normally seen in the ballroom when it was lit up- only, they weren't in the chandelier. White-hot, they glowed, suspended by themselves in midair.

Nina looked at Libby's injury, at the first time at a piece of metal protruding from the broken, blood-seeping flesh. It was a horrifying sight, and Libby's gasping crying was a horrifying sound. The wound was on her calf, under the leg of her punctured pajama bottom. It was bleeding a lot, but at least the metal piece wasn't coming out the other side. Nina couldn't tell from what part of the chandelier it belonged, but on the other side of Libby was the debris of the fallen, huge light fixture.

How had she missed that before?

The thick air in the room seemed to shift as another entity entered it.

The ghost let out a heinous, impossibly shrill shriek. Her mouth contorted into a wipe, gaping scream, her young, misty face impossibly ugly. She soared toward a window, laying her fingers as solidly against the glass as she could.

Nina felt her teeth actually begin to chatter- how often did that happen in life, that teeth chattered because of fear, and not because of coldness? (Not that it wasn't pretty damn cold in the room. )

What a ludicrous, random thing to wonder about, but then, why not concentrate on something completely irrational when faced with a situation that seemed to fly in the face of all rationality? It was a miracle she could think at all, when fear seemed to be doing its best to short circuit her brain.

"You woke me up, you bitch!" came a seething hiss out of the mouth- a black, toothless abyss- of the ghost. Her head rotated and she seemed to be looking straight at Libby, who was gritting her teeth in pain and quivering in fear.

The ghost's transparent form was draped in a transparent dress, which looked to be in a style from the 1940's, as did her immaculate coiffure.

Her nails, however, looked like long, unkempt talons, scratching at the window in frustration.

"Wake me up to torture me! Wake me up to make me look! And now you've brought in some other dumb dora to laugh at me and make catty remarks about my misfortune."

Nina was shrinking back into herself with every word spoken by the awful figure occupying the room with them. That voice could freeze blood in the veins. Though Nina, who had never even believed in ghosts up until now, didn't know if it was possible for one to really hurt had that chandelier fallen?...there had never been anything more sinister to her than this absolutely surreal experience.

And then...and then the ghost simply vanished out of the room, seemingly evaporating into thin air.

Nina made herself focus on one, concrete thing so she could keep a hold on reality. Libby was cradling her swollen stomach. All the world was reduced to that hand, for Nina. That hand, and the leg wound, the broken chandelier, and the lights that did not exist, but which for all intents and purposes did. The phantom lights, the mirage. What seemed like a thousand, thousand lights, twinkling like fairy lights.

"Call Aaron!" Libby suddenly screamed, somewhat nonsensically, Nina thought. "Get Aaron!" Was Aaron's presence here at his moment in time critical? What on earth would Aaron being here solve?

"What do you want?" she found herself yelling at the specter who had disappeared. Silence was her only answer.

She looked over at Libby and saw that she still shaking uncontrollably.

Nina didn't know much about medicine or treating injuries, but she found herself wishing for something with which she could make a tourniquet. What if Libby was losing too much blood, and she was just squatting beside her, doing nothing?

"We'll get out of here," Nina told her, though she didn't know how.

All she could think about was her injured, pregnant friend. What if she went into shock or something? Libby was pale and panicky, and Nina wondered if maybe her state of extreme fright would cause more harm than her actual injury. Maybe physical trauma wasn't as big a threat right now as emotional trauma.

Don't be traumatized. Don't be traumatized, Nina thought.

The ghost's re-entry into the room was proceeded with a hellishly sharp and shrill scream, one to set teeth on edge and pierce every bone in a person's body.

"I'm waiting! I've been waiting! How much longer do I have to wait?!" She was doing the spectral equivalent of pacing, her feet appearing to touch the floor, but floating across it rather than stepping. "He is coming back, isn't he? He said...he promised! After midnight, some night soon, he'd be coming down the river." The ghost moved to the left, then to the right, and back again, traversing almost the length of the long room multiple times with her rapid, ghoulish gliding.

"HE IS COMING BACK!" she shouted in her raspy, wrathful wail. She stopped near the midpoint of the room, uncomfortably close to Nina and Libby. Nina felt her stomach drop.

"He'll be sailing on home to me, when he comes back from the war."

The one-dimensional, soulless eyes of the ghost skittered resentfully across the two women, and then she turned her head slightly, and began to stare blankly into space. For several long moments, the ghoul was entirely still, not a flicker of movement or a single sound coming from that apparition. She seemed well and truly...well, dead. She didn't seem aware of anything at all.

"Here..." Nina whispered, looking sideways at Libby.

More like she looked again at Libby's blood, the metallic substance drawing her attention like a magnet.

"Here," Nina spoke to her friend's wound. She didn't know what she was even getting at, really. She just knew that she had to do something. They couldn't simply stay in here like idiots. "Hey." She started to get up, her movements slow and awkward. "I'll..." Go for help? And leave Libby here alone with a malevolent spirit? "We'll..." How could Libby go anywhere?

All at once, there was a very particular aroma wafting through the air.

"It smells like chocolate," Nina stated dully, the realization coming upon her.

"What?" yelped Libby, sounding hysterical. "What the hell does that matter?! It's- it's...You're smelling the cake from the reception!"

"No," said Nina, shaking her head. She crouched back down, and with a trembling hand, reached out and began mindlessly stroking her friend's hair.

"It smells more like candy."

Libby was letting out loud, measured pants that sounded like mini shouts, each one full of pain and terror. She didn't seem to have any kind of opinion on Nina's statement.

The lights went off; Libby screamed; and Nina listened to the sound of her own breathing in the dark.

She jumped when she heard the banging on the door.

"Nina!" It was Mitch's voice, calling her name from the other side of the ballroom doors. "Nina! Are you in there? Nina? Libby?"

She wanted to cry out for him; she wanted it above all things. However, the words were stuck in her throat, and she couldn't seem to make them come out, or even to make her mouth open.

She jumped less when she heard the next loud noise. That one, though, ended up having the much more dreadful cause.

One of the fine china plates that was kept in a hutch over in the closest corner of the room came hurtling through the air, strangely illuminated in the dark, spiraling past the ghost and toward the far wall. It struck it with a loud clatter, and shattered. The ghost evaporated again.

"WILL YOU SHUT UP?! I keep telling you, never again will I put up with this absurd racket! You little flibbertigibbet, this has happened one time too many! Will you QUIT sulking?!"

Out of the dark, a new figure suddenly seemed to shimmer.

Libby hung her head and moaned. Nina could smell blood and chocolate.

Drifting out of the ceiling, floating down to stand on transparent feet upon the floor, was the figure of a woman. An older woman than the menacing figure waiting for her beloved, she was rather matronly looking, her vaporous face pinched and prim. She was wearing Victorian era clothing.

She looked right at Nina, and said with utter calm,

"I've lived above that bitch for decades. For many decades before that, this house was mine and mine alone. I will not let that little whiner forget her place."

And then she was gone, drifting up once more, ascending to her candied reward. The chocolate-scented air seemed to warm slightly, and the two double doors swung open, freeing them.

The End