The Bet by K. A. Denver
SPOOKY LITTLE SHORT
“Oh man! I seriously can’t believe you talked me into this.”
Bob laughed softly as he shook his head. The reality of the situation hit him hard. Looking through the small screen in front of him he saw his friend Greg just a few steps ahead.
“Stop your moaning, you know you love it. We only have to stick it for an hour, that’s it, and then we win the bet, and those guys upstairs will shut it once and for all. No more teasing and we get to hold our heads high being the only two to have taken this challenge and completed it.”
Greg was slowly and tentatively making his way toward the bottom of the hall. Like Bob, he had in his hand a small camcorder that the others in the team had given them. They had also been offered two-way radios just in case, but Greg hadn’t wanted to look like a pussy, so before Bob had the chance to accept he had declined the offer.
Bob heard a shuffling sound behind him and swung the camera around to see if he could capture the source. His heart had been beating faster than normal as it was, but now it was almost thundering, he could hear the beat in his ears.
“What the f . . .” he mumbled as he panned the camera around, but the small screen displayed nothing out of the ordinary. Just the murals on the walls some kids had painted and bits of debris from the ceiling above which had begun to give way. This was a part of the building that not many would venture into during the day, never mind at this ungodly hour.
The building was their training ground. They had been fortunate to be given access to it, as many had tried before and been unsuccessful. Paul, the head of their group, had emailed the owners and at first had been turned down, but as they lived close by and had been told that they would be around, Greg and Paul had decided to try asking in person.
The building had been the site of an old orphanage which took in children of all ages. It had been originally built to house forty at most, but at its close, it was documented as having seventy-three housed under its roof. For years not one official had come to inspect, locals never asked questions, and much of the town was oblivious to the evil that had taken place within the walls.
It wasn’t until five years ago when a little girl, no older than ten years old, in a dirty and torn nightgown, had walked into a café on the edge of town. She collapsed at the feet of the sheriff, and in front of neighboring law enforcement who had been visiting from the next state over. It was only then questions had been asked. Until then, as long as the administrators of the orphanage had their paperwork filed on time, no inspections were ever carried out, and the town’s people speculated on that reason being payoffs to local officials, but as no evidence had ever been found it had officially been chalked up to negligence.
“What did you hear?”
His friend was turned in his direction with the camera pointed at him. The hallway was in complete darkness, and part of the bet had been to do this without the aid of a torch, so they had to rely on the image on the tiny screen to ensure they were not walking into anything or each other.
The little display showed Bob looking a tad skittish but unharmed, his friend kept throwing quick glances back over his shoulder.
“I thought I heard someone behind us, could have been rats? I dunno, but when I turned the camera, there was nothing.”
If truth be told they were both a little skittish and if it weren’t for the sake of pride they would not be doing this at all.
Since an investigation at the Old Manor Orphanage back in July; when they had heard what sounded like a little girl weeping, they had investigated but turned up nothing. On their way out of the room the door slammed behind them, they both freaked and ran. They had been tagged as the Shaggy and Scooby Doo of the group.
In their state of panic, they had forgotten the monitors, which were stationed everywhere, and they bolted from that room like their lives depended on it. All this played out in full view of the rest of the team who had been back at the hub in the downstairs staff quarters.
Greg forced a brave face and gave an exaggerated smile, more for himself than for his good friend Bob, “Dude, this place is a rat hotel, so yeah, I’d say that’s what it was. C’mon let’s get to the Manager’s Office, it’s just at the bottom of the hall and to the right.”
Just before he finished speaking the sound of metal being dragged over a tile floor rang out from the area they had just been through. Bob was by Greg's side in seconds, his heart beating ten to the dozen as he whispered to his friend, “What da hell was that? Did you hear that? Tell me you heard that!”
Greg couldn’t speak, his voice choked by fear. Instead, he jerked his head in a quick nodding motion indicating that yes, he had heard it. They both kept their cameras facing the direction of the sound while, with haste, they used the heels of their feet to feel their way, now more than ever eager to get to the office, do the hour and get da hell out of there. He knew that they had carried out a sweep of the building before it got dark just in case any homeless people were sheltering there, but because there was none then, it didn’t mean that there was none now.
Greg nodded to himself in agreement with his unspoken thoughts. Weirdly enough that was a calming thought, a better belief than the one that was rooted in his subconscious right now. A feeling that they were the ones being haunted, and that a spirit with a grudge to bear was stalking them and hemming them into where it wanted them. That thought scared the crap out of him.
Bob had a feeling tonight was going to be a rough one. When he found out that Greg had signed them up for this, he had kept an eye out for any news on the building and over the past week alone one of the workers who tended the grounds around the building had to be admitted to hospital after having a massive heart attack. When the paramedics were treating him, he kept saying over and over, ‘It was right there then . . . it was gone.’ As well as, ‘It felt like it was squeezing my heart.’
Medics thought it was just hallucinations and took no notice, but the guy’s wife had been called and had been in the ambulance with him as he was being treated en route to the ER and she had commented on it on her Facebook page, her husband was insisting that a ‘Ghost’ did it.
They reached the bottom of the hall and to say they were relieved would be an understatement. They both knew that no matter where they were in this building, nowhere was safe. The office they were approaching was actually the most active part of the building which was why the guys upstairs had picked it to be their holding place for the hour.
Bob could feel the hair on the back of his neck raise, and a coldness began to surround him. As if his heart wasn’t beating fast enough, he felt it kick up a gear and could hear it thump out a quick rhythm in his ears, his blood pressure was off the chart.
“Greg, do you have the K2 on you buddy? I think I have walked into a cold spot.”
Turning to his friend, the camera picked up Bob as he stood before him unmoving. He paid no attention to the image on the screen though as he rifled through the pockets of his webbed jacket. Even though it was a warm summer night, sitting in a healthy area of 87°F, Bob’s breath could be seen on screen with each exhale.
“Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I have one.”
Pulling it from its cradle, he switched it on and waited a few seconds for it to calibrate before moving it in a slow sweeping motion toward Bob. As the device got closer to him, each light would blink on and flicker until the next light illuminated.
“Jesus man it’s on full bars here.”
It was then he caught a glimpse of his friend on the little screen, his jaw dropping as he witnessed what appeared to be a little girl standing by his side, she was no bigger than chest height. He kept the camera trained on her as he whispered to his friend.
“Dude, where are you feeling it? Can you sense anything around you?”
He wanted to capture this, and he knew if he told his friend what he was witnessing he would take off.
“All down this side is freezing, can you see anything on the camera?”
Bob ran his hand down his left side, and Greg’s eyes all but bugged out of his head as he watched it cut through the image of the little girl, her form wavering as it passed through her like it would if she was made of smoke.
Her face formed back as it had before, a strange smile crept over her lips, and her eyes darkened to two black pits.
“What else are you feeling, besides cold I mean?”
Greg was in awe, what he was witnessing right now was something that many paranormal investigators would die for. Something many of the so-called ‘great’ TV shows faked to get ratings. He really wanted to tell his friend, but he knew what would happen. He didn’t want Bob to freak out, his only mission right now was to get this shit on camera.
“Agh man, honestly? You know that feeling ya get when ya say someone has walked over your grave? Yeah? Well imagine that, but more intense. My fight or flight responses are kicking in. There has to be something beside me dude. I ain't never felt anything like this before.”
Greg could believe it. His friend was right in front of him standing side by side with something that by all logic wasn’t there.
As Greg watched, the little girl on screen raised a boney finger to her lips as if to tell him to stay quiet. With a wicked smile on her creepy gaunt face, he watched as she turned to look up at Bob. Her gaze lingered only briefly before turning back to look at Greg. With that same creepy expression, she held his gaze as she lifted her hand, and without warning thrust it into Bob's chest.
“Fuck –” Greg momentarily forgot about holding the camera steady and lowered it as he hesitantly moved forward to check his friend. Then realizing looking through the little illuminated screen on his camera was the only way to see the entity, he swung it back up to recapture the image of his friend who was looking at him like he had lost his mind.
“You okay Greg, did you stand on something? Something freak you?”
Bob appeared oblivious to what had just happened, which in Greg’s mind was good.
Greg’s own heart was pounding now, and he could feel his blood pressure rise. Should he tell his friend now what he had seen? Shaking his head as if to shake clarity and sense into himself he gave a little cough.
“Shit sorry man didn’t mean to scare you. I thought I’d stood on a rat or something, but it was nothing. Let’s just get to where we need to be and get this over with.”
Greg’s hand shook slightly as he lifted the camera once more. Fear of what he couldn’t see as well as what he could when he viewed his friend through the brightly lit screen. When he forced himself to look once more the image of the creepy little girl was gone.
They had made their way down the hall, stepping over the debris. Things that had fallen off the wall or bits of the building that had crumbled. It wasn't lost on Bob that his friend seemed to be acting a little weird. Truth be told, from the moment they entered the building he had a sense they were being watched. At first, he thought it was because of the hype surrounding the place as well as the history it contained, but the further they made their way to the heart of the old historic building the more his heart began to quicken.
Greg was acting strange, like really jumpy, and he had never seen him like that before. His friend's jumpiness was making him anxious, and his mind was beginning to play tricks on him. A few times now he had thought he could hear someone behind them, but he knew there was no one there.
“We made it, look…” Bob pointed over Greg’s shoulder to a door that was partially opened, on a name plaque read the words Manager’s Office. With the camera still trained on him, his friend glanced back briefly to see what Bob was pointing at before glancing back at him.
“Okay, let's get this over with. I swear, I need to get this done. I need, no…we need out of here.”
“You okay dude? You’re acting a little…I dunno…freaked? We can always go back. There’s no shame in saying it was too fucked up to go on. They wanna call us Shaggy and Scooby? Big fucking deal, worse things to be called man.” Bob, after all, was only here because his friend didn’t like the nicknames they had been given. He didn’t really care one way or another. He was getting tired of sitting in cold places, freezing his ass off and calling out into the night to everyone and no one, ‘Is there anyone here who can hear my voice? We mean you no harm.’ And then the hours after listening over the recordings only to find nothing, not even a mouse fart.
After tonight, after his friend earned back the respect of the rest of the guys he was packing this crap in. Ghosts, like who the hell really believed in them. None had ever been caught on camera. No real ones anyway.
“I ain’t gonna give those assholes anything to say about us. We have made it further than any of them. Sure, they have the balls to come down in a group during the day, but none of them have had the cojones to do it at night. Not like us.”
And that was that. Decision made. He knew better than to argue with his friend or to try and sway him.
Greg said nothing more as Bob sighed, and with a small shrug, he circled around him. Turning to say he would go in first his brows furrowed when he noticed something just over Greg’s shoulder. He tilted his head slightly to the left and squinted, unsure that what he was seeing was actually real. Just at his friend's shoulder, he could see the top of a head. At least, that is what it looked like in the dark with only the illumination from the LCD screen to cast a small wash of light over it.
Were the guys fucking with them after all? Surely they would have heard or seen them, especially if they had got that close. There was too much crap laying around on the ground for them not to trip over or accidentally kick on their attempt to creep up on them and scare them.
Bob was about to call them out when two red eyes blinked open. Strands of what looked like messy hair hanging over them broke the eerie glow they emitted.
“Yeah? What is it–”
Bob couldn’t clearly make out the expression, half the face was hidden behind Greg’s shoulder, but from what he could see, he could tell it was menacing.
“DUDE! We need to get the fuck out of here.”
Bob was truly freaked. He was done with the macho crap.
“Bob, it’s cool. You need to chill. Like you said we are here, we only have to kill 10 minutes here. That’s it! What is the worst that can happen?”
Bob swallowed thickly as the red glowing eyes grew wider and more menacing, with a loud audible gulp he stuttered, “Famous last words…”
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About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”