The frozen grape that Niki had just popped into her mouth instantly thawed as she rolled it on her tongue; the sweetness of her instantly curbed her desire for anything and everything in the form of sweets. It was a trick her sister had taught him to help keep the curse of her family’s thunder thighs at bay. It seemed like an endless fight, but a war that she would fight for the rest of her life; however, that was not her immediate problem. The grainy footage on her computer screen was what made her scratch her head. The image was of a room in an old Victorian house on the good side of town. It had been sent to her by a friend of a friend who knew she was into the paranormal investigation craze.
For the past few years, his specialty has been debunking videos and stills before they get the attention of the rest of the team; and she was really good at her chosen trade. She made sure to stay on top of all the latest software and little tricks in the editing game. Niki could detect deception with one eye closed, but this one had her stumped. The video had been taken with a cheap point-and-shoot camera at night, which left the video dark and blurry. She worked on the video for a few hours after receiving it and corrected the file as much as she could, but she still left a lot to be desired. As the video came to an end, she once again hit the play button and settled back to watch again. She had to have a rational explanation for what she was seeing, people didn’t just disappear into thin air. She had to be missing something and she was determined to find the deception. If she didn’t, that meant the ghost really existed and that wasn’t an explanation she was willing to accept. Three hours later and she had no options, she had to call the team. The only way they were going to be able to discredit this recording was to get into that house.
Niki held the flashlight so tightly that the pattern on the handle transferred to her hand. She had never liked the dark and being alone in her house made her nervous. She should have left when the others gave up and called it a night. The team had found what they had come for, evidence of the paranormal. They had captured several static filled EVPs and some still shots of “orbs”. This was enough for armor ghost hunters. After all, they were just a group of friends doing this as a hobby, but for Niki it was much, much more. They had packed up there, purchased equipment from Amazon, and headed home. But no Niki, she had been on a crusade to shed light on all the fakers in cyberspace who were taking advantage of dueling just to boost their numbers on YouTube. She shook her head to return to the present. There was no point in reliving the anguish she had felt when she happened to him only four years ago. She shined her light on the wall through which the “ghost” seemed to pass through. She had to be something; a hidden door perhaps? No, that would have been obvious on the recording. Her skeptical mind would not accept that the house was actually haunted. How can it be? Ghost did not exist.
He pulled out one of the chairs that surrounded the dining room table and sat down. Looking at the wall, she played the video in her mind, she had to be missing something. As she sat there, a light breeze brushed against her cheek and she played with the hair at the nape of her neck. She absentmindedly pushed her hair back as she continued her concerned examination of the wall. Once again her hair lifted in the breeze. But wait, the air wasn’t moving. There was no breeze; Niki’s spine stiffened at the realization. Her eyes moved from left to right as if she could identify the occurrence if she sat perfectly still. Someone was playing and she was going to find out who. She forced her heart to slow the beat in her chest, forced her lungs to suck in air. She had to keep a cool head if she was going to catch the person responsible for the fraud. She had to look like she was buying what they were selling. She slowly turned her head to the left and then to the right and then shook her head as if to clear away the cobwebs of confusion. Going back to her reflection on the wall “what a girl Niki”, that little voice in her head encouraged her “do it easy, let them show her hand and then you have them”. She did her best to listen to the little woman in her head. The problem was that her restlessness was not just an act. She was too aware that she was alone; there was no one to back her up. “Damn,” she swore, the voice inside her. She should have accepted Todd’s offer to stay with her, but no, she had to bring out the whole I’m a woman, hear me roar attitude.
Okay, there was no going back, he had to handle this on his own. Hopefully this was just a geek to show that he was better than her when it came to Photoshop. Okay, that lowered her anxiety level a bit. A geek she could handle. Her relief was short-lived. It was just a thud in the other room, barely audible but his experienced ears had picked it up. His hand automatically went to his neck as his hair once again tickled her skin. Okay, when she finally caught this guy, she had to figure out how she was doing that, it was creepy. A shadow on the back wall of the dining room caught her eye and she quickly turned in her chair; nothing. So what had the shadow thrown? Was it just her imagination or had the room temperature dropped a good ten degrees? She shook her head again, but this time it wasn’t an act. “It’s a good thing she wasn’t the hysterical girly type,” that little voice whispered, “or we’d be running out the front door screaming for help by now.”
The image of her doing a damsel in distress move made her smile to herself, but she’d had enough, it was time to tune out “it’ll take more than a few shadow puppets and a fan to scare me.” She said in a loud voice so that whoever was listening could here. “Then why don’t you show yourself so we can all go home and get some sleep?” She turned off her flashlight and sat in the dark listening to the sound of footsteps as the pranksters came out of her hiding place… Nope. She knew it wouldn’t work, but she had to try. “Okay, we’ll do it the hard way.” She screamed once more. She squirmed in her chair until she had her back to the wall she had previously been examining. She now had a full view of the entire room. “Okay, show me what you got,” she taunted the aspiring special effects artist from the unseen future.
Niki looked at her watch, forty-five minutes had passed since she launched her challenge. Her eyes were getting heavy and her bottom was numb; It’s time to leave him for the night. She reached out to the right and the thing seemed to roll away from her hand. Well, time to go home and rest, she thought to herself as she reached out to grab the thing. This time she rolled to the end of the table, turned in her direction, and ignited. “Okay, I admit it was okay,” Niki said out loud. Her hair once more brushed against her neck as the air around him seemed to roll over her shoulder. The sensation made her skin crawl. Her throat tightened as she realized that the air in the room was perfectly still. There was no breeze.
Niki rose from her chair and leaned against the wall as the flashlight went out, leaving her once again in complete darkness. She made her feet shuffle in the direction of the lantern, feeling along the wall as she went. She slowly inched herself forward, forcing herself to stay calm as she moved forward. She first put her hand on the rail of the chair and then her feet followed. She felt like a complete idiot and prayed that no one was hiding in the shadows catching her reactions on video of her. Man, she’d be out of business. Who would want to hire a ghost debunker, a self-proclaimed non-believer who was caught on tape shivering in her boots? “Damn, okay, time to pull up your big girl panties and get out of here.” She removed her arms from the wall and searched in the dark for the back of a chair or the table that she knew was only a few feet in front of her. Nothing, another step and then another; This wasn’t right, the rational side of her told her that the table should have been right in front of her. The illogical side of her said forget about the light run to the door! She forced herself to stay perfectly still and took a deep breath. She had simply become disoriented in the dark. She passed people all the time. She just had to pull herself together and get her bearings.
“Damn” she muttered aloud as the non-existent breeze seemed to caress her shoulder. She swallowed hard when she realized that she couldn’t feel the air moving around her; the sensation was only on her shoulder. Niki closed her eyes as the sensation rushed over her shoulder and down her arm. “I must be losing my mind” she breathed as the sensation of her breeze turned into a soft caress. She had the strange feeling that if the lights came on at that exact moment, she would find a man standing behind her as he slowly ran his finger down her arm and shoulder as she made his way to the soft skin of the woman. her neck.
Niki stopped breathing. Had she just heard what she thought she heard?
Dear God in heaven, it was a man’s voice. He had whispered the words into her ear, a breathy request; but for what and by whom? His head began to spin as if he was drowning in a sea of confusion and trying to find his way to the surface. Niki tried to clear her head but he refused to understand what was happening. After all, the ghost did not exist.
“Please leave me alone?”
The words were urgent now but they seemed to calm her. She was no longer afraid. She was perfectly willing to let this scenario play out here in the dark as she stood in the middle of a stranger’s dining room. The soft touch of the invisible hand now traced little circles against her neck.
Niki felt herself nod. She didn’t want this strange hypnotic feeling to end.
“Say it” the disembodied voice whispered in her ear. “Give me permission” the voice almost begging him to say the words “It’s been so long… Please leave me”
“Do it” he whispered into the night. She would have said anything to keep this feeling from ending. What could it hurt to agree with the pleading voice inside her head; after all…
GHOSTS DO NOT EXIST!
A low growl brushed her skin as she felt his lips on the tender flesh just below her ear.
Niki woke up to the insistent buzz of her phone. “Damn” she muttered to herself as she came fully awake. Why did she never get to finish her good dreams? She looked through misty eyes and realized that she must have dozed off while she was reviewing the video of the disappointing investigation of the old Victorian house the night before. She closed her laptop and turned on the television to watch the morning news before heading to the coffee pot. When the little white machine began to produce little droplets of life that gave her caffeine, she Niki headed to the bathroom to shower and dress before heading off to another day of work to numb her mind. She looked at herself in the mirror and pulled her hair up on top of her head. “What the hell?” she exclaimed as she leaned in for a closer look. The next mark on her was between a hickey and a bruise with two small marks in between. They looked like puncture marks that had begun to heal. But how could that be possible? The blood seemed to drain from her face as the words he had spoken formed in her mind.
“There is more lurking in the shadows of the night than you can dream of, my dear Niki…ghosts, angels and yes, even vampires.”