The saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but it didn’t say anything about a human. So Jessie set out to check the lower part of the house. She imagined owning a house someday, possibly this size, or bigger. She would have children, and of course a husband, and they would be endlessly happy.
And fairy tales really did come true. Berating herself for living in a dream, she examined the collection of books in the shelves on the lower level. They were children’s books, in a wide range of titles and ages. She’d had books similar to these in her youth and had been found often enough curled up in bed reading the day away as a teen.
She loved to read, to escape in the story and dream the day away with a good romance. Unfortunately, happily ever after were only in fairytales and romance novels.
But it didn’t hurt to dream.
Her last relationship had ended in a bang, with her calling the cops on the belligerent bastard after he had smacked her in the face during an argument. The relationship before that had been as fulfilling as a walk through a dark forest, void of trees. She just didn’t have luck when it came to men. And without a man, there were no children, unless she had in vitro, but that was only an option if she hadn't met Mr. Right by the time she was nearing her late thirties. She still had ten years before that was an option.
She mused over the cute Barbie dolls dressed in the modern fashions, and all the amenities that came with Barbie these days. In her day, the damn doll didn’t even have bendable arms and legs. Now, not only was she able to bend, but she had a career as well as a family and a wardrobe even the richest female often ogled over.
The toys for the boy were just as impressive. It seemed this little man enjoyed playing with trucks, cars and airplanes, and there were plenty to go around. It was obvious the lower level was designed for the children.
Turning the door knob that led to the lowest level, the cellar, Jessie hesitated briefly. Cellars were known for creepy crawling insects and bugs. Did she dare go down further simply to satisfy her curious need to investigate every corner of the house?
Looking down at her sneakers, she decided it would be okay, as long as she kept a close eye on the floor for any creepy little bugs that might be lurking about. Clicking the light on, she took the wooden steps down, the scent of mustiness filling the air. One washing machine and one dryer sat off to the back of the cellar. Aside from that, there were boxes, old furniture and useless items that should have been tossed long ago. Why did people have a need to collect junk?
Again, curiosity got the best of her. She bent down to peek into one of the boxes.
The lights went out.
She screamed. Standing up, she realized she had no idea where the stairs were. There wasn’t a window in the room to let in any of the sunlight scorching the outside with its heated rays. Calming herself, she turned to find her way towards where she hoped the stairs were. Jumping at the sound of the creaking stairs, she nearly bit her tongue. “Dowling?”
An ice cold hand touched her shoulder and she jumped, letting out an ear splitting scream. Turning, she made a dash for what she hoped was the stairs and hit a brick wall of a chest. She stumbled back with the force, then felt the hands grab hold of her arms to steady her.
“Let me go,” she demanded.
“Fine. I was just trying to help.” C.J. clicked his lighter on, illuminating mostly his face. “Power’s out.”
“You think?” she snarled at him, her thundering heart finally calming. “Why do you enjoy scaring me?”
He shrugged; a sly grin on his face. “It gives me a thrill, what can I say.”
“Well I wish you would stop it. And why the hell are your hands so cold?” She shivered remembering the iciness she had felt on her shoulder.
“They’re not cold, feel.” He laid his palm on her shoulder, then let out a yelp when the flame singed his other hand. “Damn it, that smarts.”
“Very funny, Dowling. Get it back on.”
“It’s too hot, give it a moment.”
“Oh, grow up. Give it here.” She reached out for where she thought his hand was and knocked the lighter to the floor.
“Way to go.”
“Oh, shut up and help me find it.” She knelt down, pausing at the thought of tiny little bugs possibly scurrying on the floor.
“Man, you have some attitude.” Lowering down, their heads bumped together.
“Sorry, a little blind here. So, tell me, what made you scream after the lights went out?”
“You know perfectly well why I screamed.”
“Enlighten me, Jessica.”
Terrified that some slimy insect was going to touch her hands, she moved them carefully as she searched for the lighter. “You snuck down the stairs just as the power blinked off and grabbed my shoulder.”
“I did, huh? Got it.”
She was never more grateful for light than she was when he clicked the lighter on. Even if it made his face look ghoulish. “You know perfectly well you did.”
“I will admit I was coming down the stairs to see what you were up to, just as the power cut out, but I didn’t touch you until we rammed into each other.”
Her body warmed being this close to C.J. She remembered their brief kiss the day before and her body reacted in the most normal of ways. She was definitely feeling arousal. She jumped up, then took a step back, telling her body to calm down. “Nice try, Dowling, but I’m not that stupid.”
“If you say so, Jessica.”
“Stop calling me that.” The lighter clicked off and her body tensed. “Get it back on.”
“It gets pretty hot you know, but thank you for caring.” She jumped when he grabbed her arm. “Relax; I’m just leading you to the stairs. Did the hand that touched you feel anything like the one I’m holding you with now?’
She felt him step up and figured they were at the stairs.
“Colder. And no, it wasn’t a ghost. Jesus, Dowling, get over it already.” She saw the light from the window on the next level and breathed a sigh of relief. At least there wouldn’t be any bugs here to spook her.
“Why are you stubborn?”
“I’m not stubborn, I’m a realist.”
“A realist that believes in a God she can’t see.” He took the rest of the stairs to the upper level.
“You know, for someone who says they were raised to believe in God, you sure sound like an atheist.” She followed after him.
“I do believe in God, but I also believe in life after death.”
“Then how can you say that God didn’t create life as we know it?”
He turned to her, tilting his head to the side. “I never said that.”
“You did so, yesterday, in the living room when you were preaching to me about Jesus walking on water and blah blah…”
“I was just having a conversation with you, trying to see where you stood.”
She wanted to scream. “See, this is why I avoid talking to you. I never understand what the hell you’re saying and then when I think I do, you turn it all around on me.”
“Do I now?”
“Yes, yes you do,” she fumed.
“And here I thought were just having a rational adult conversation. I’m sorry if I speak above you, Jessica, I’ll try to dull it down for you.”
With a muffled growl, she glared at him. “That’s not what I said, and you’re doing it again. I’m not the one with the problem, you are.”
“I never said you had a problem,” he countered smoothly, lifting a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lighting it up without his eyes ever leaving hers.
“Yes, you did, you said you had to dull—oh god, I’m stepping right into your web again, damn it.” Throwing her hands in the air, she marched up the stairs. He was infuriating.
Still vibrating from her conversation with C.J., Jessica searched her bag for her cell phone. The guy was driving her to the brink of insanity. Playing jokes and pranks on
her, making her think there were spirits here, then turning everything she said around to make her look like a fool.
Growling, finally finding her cell phone, she pulled it out and turned it on.
Glancing down she saw undetectable signal and fumed. “How the hell can you not find a signal?” Standing up, she moved to the window, but still it wasn’t connecting. “Stupid phone.” Tossing it on her bed, she dropped down then flopped back. Staring at the ceiling, she tried to calm down.
With the power still out, C.J. looked over his meters and gadgets, checking the thermometers for any changes.
He was damn glad he brought a large supply of batteries.
If the power stayed off for long, at least he would still have his equipment.
A boom of thunder rattled the windows, and glancing up, C.J. saw the rain as it began to fall. It was about time they got some rain. This heat wave was driving everyone nuts.
He’d had that familiar tingle when he’d stepped into the cellar, a tingle that told him there was a spirit present.
If Jessica didn’t want to believe it, that was her choice, but he knew what he felt, and he’d felt a presence. Who it was, he couldn’t be sure, but he could speculate. Darius Smithers.
There had been no other traumatic events in the house, other than the fire in nineteen thirteen, so it stood to reason if there was an entity, or entities, it had to be the Smithers family. And it stood to reason that if they were still around, there was something keeping them here.
What he needed was to search the archives again and get more information. Booting up his laptop, grateful for the battery, he frowned when he couldn’t access the internet. The rumble of thunder clued him in that possibly there was too much distortion in the air for the laptop to access an outside line. In the distance, his EMF detected the electricity from the lightning. Years of experience, and his own senses, taught him how to differentiate between an average energy spike causing his meter to react and that of a spirit.
Leaning back, slipping a cigarette from his pocket, he sat patiently, waiting for the storm to take its course. When
Jessica stepped into the room, he acknowledged her with a tip of his head.
“About time we got some rain.” Moving to the fridge, she grabbed the half empty bottle of pop, and poured herself a glass. “What are you working on?”
“Nothing at the moment. The storm seems to be messing up my internet connection.” So she was speaking to him.
“Yeah, my cell isn’t working either. But the rain is nice.” She moved to the window, opening it to allow the cool rainy air to enter the house. “Smells good.”
“I love the smell of rain.” Tapping out his cigarette, he moved in beside her to watch the rain as it fell on the ground. “There’s something incredibly stimulating about a good storm.”
“You can almost feel the energy of it vibrate inside your body.”
“Yeah, I feel the same way.” Their eyes met, held for a moment until his flicked to her mouth. “Nothing like a good storm to get the juices flowing.” Lifting his hand, he tucked the stray hair from her face behind her ear.
“I better…I have…” She turned abruptly and fled the room.
Lowering his hand, sighing deeply, he continued to watch the lightning split the sky and the rain douse the dry ground.