The electromagnetic indicator ticked.
“Guys?” Paul’s voice was edged with tension.
Tara and Steven turned.
Paul was hastily backing away from the fireplace. “Guys, something is going on here…”
The indicator ticked again.
A flash of lightning, a CRACK of thunder.
And the lights went out.
Tara clicked on her flashlight first, then Paul, then Steven. They all stood still for a moment.
Steven flicked his eyes around the room. Paul had backed up against the wall; Tara stood leaning slightly forward as if trying to listen to a very faint sound.
“I can hear them,” Paul said.
“Them?” Steven asked, peering into the dark.
“I think there are two.”
“What are they saying?” Tara asked.
“I…can’t quite make it out.” Paul said. “It’s pretty garbled. Sounds like…like a record playing backward. With lots of scratches.” He frowned. “I think they’re children.”
“That would make sense,” Steven murmured. He started to walk toward Paul, looking down at the electromagnetic indicator: the needle quivered upward with every creaking step.
Lightning threw the room into stark brilliance for a split second, then thunder rattled the windowpanes.
“Hold it.” Paul raised his hand, palm out.
“They don’t want you to come near them.” Paul nodded toward Tara. “They want you.”
She turned to him, her brow furrowed. “Why me?”
“Steven,” Tara said, eyes still on Paul, "how about you go turn the infrared this way?”
Steven backed out of the living room and swung the camera around to face in. Then he took a deep breath and looked into the viewfinder.
Paul's body heat showed up in shades of orange, blending into yellow, blending into white. Tara’s form, in the same jumble of bright colors, crouched down and held out its hands, palms up.
Then a dark figure appeared right in front of her. It wavered like an image on a television with bad reception: indistinct in some moments, sharp and discernible in others.
“Tara,” Steven said, trying to keep his voice steady, “there's an entity right in front of you. It looks like... a little kid.”
He saw Tara's form stretch out its hand. “What’s it doing?”
The figure seemed to pull back slightly – then held out its own hand. “It’s reaching for you. Tara, it’s touching your hand. Can you feel it?”
The image of Tara shook its head. “No.” She held out her other hand. “Hey. It’s all right. My name’s Tara. What’s yours?”
Steven saw Paul’s form shift forward. “Lauren,” he said, his voice flat. “She says her name is Lauren.”
“Lauren,” Tara said. “That’s a very pretty name.”
The dark figure flickered, then seemed to stoop down. When it straightened, it was carrying something in its arms.
“Tara,” Steven said, “I think Lauren is holding a baby.”
Steven watched Tara's form kneel, then sit on the floor. “Lauren,” she said, “what’s the baby’s name?”
A moment of silence.
Then Paul spoke, his voice again strangely flat: “Toby.”
“Toby,” Tara repeated. “Hello, Toby.”
She reached out her arms...
Suddenly a third figure appeared and lunged for Tara. Steven shouted, “Tara, look out!"
Too late. This figure, much larger than the others, reached out with huge hands and dug into Tara’s shoulders. Steven looked up to see, in a flash of lightning, Tara being thrown back against the wall. He ran toward her, the crash of thunder drowning out his voice as he shouted her name.
Paul threw himself against Steven, pushing him away.
“Paul," Steven cried, "what the hell are you doing?"
“You need to stay back!”
“Like hell I do! Tara!”
“You can't help her right now!”
“Paul, get off me!” Steven tried to push past him.
Paul pinned him against the wall. “Don’t be stupid, Steven, he…”
Just then, the temperature dropped as the electromagnetic indicator ticked faster and faster.
Paul grimaced and closed his eyes.
Tara was slumped against the wall, her eyes wide and dazed.
It got colder and colder, and soon both Paul and Steven were shivering.
“Good God, Steven,” Paul hissed. "Tell him!"
“What? Tell what to who?”
“Tell him you’re not going to hurt her.”
“Just do it, Steven!”
He looked up into the empty darkness and thought he could see two red orbs glowering at him. “I…I’m not going to hurt her,” Steven said. “I would never hurt Tara.”
They stood there, shivering, Steven’s back pressed against the wall, Paul’s hands on his shoulders, for a good minute. Then the air around them warmed back up. Paul let his hands drop and stepped to the side; he put his own back to the wall and slid down to the floor.
A flicker of lightning.
Steven ran to Tara and knelt beside her. “Tara!”
She stared ahead.
“Tara, talk to me!” He moved in front of her. “Tara?”
A rumble of thunder, distant.
For a moment, she continued to stare blankly past him. Then she blinked, and her eyes refocused to meet his. “Steven? What…what happened?”
He leaned down to gather her into his arms, drawing her close. “Are you all right?” he whispered hoarsely.
“I…I think so,” she said.
They sat on the floor together, wrapped in each other’s arms, for a long time.
Paul sat with his back to the wall, his hands limp in his lap, watching them.
The lights came back on, but if any of the three noticed, they gave no sign.
Tara Martin – exceptionally accomplished neurobiology major with a troubled past. Steven Trent – confident political science major with an irresistible attraction to Tara. Paul Stratton – history major who is able to hear spirits. Together, they make up the Society for Paranormal Researchers at their prestigious New England University. When they’re not in class or writing papers, the three friends are chasing their passion….ghosts.
When the group learns of a local retired couple trying to sell a house they claim is haunted, they decide to investigate. As the clues unfold, a familiar spirit interrupts their investigation and Tara finds her life in danger. Can her friends save her before it’s too late?
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Genre – YA paranormal, NA paranormal
Rating – PG-13
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