There was always that feeling. That urge. That hunch. That curiosity. For, perhaps it was just the wind's way of blowing the door open and perhaps it was just the rusty hinge's way to creak so eerily. But, there also lay the possibility that some spirit had pushed its way back in to find a living soul. Perhaps whisper something into that soul’s ear. Perhaps flash appear in some hazy form in the corner of a mirror. And there is some doubt in all that. There is little, if any, proof to the idea that ghosts do, in fact, exist. And, what’s more, that if they do, that some would spend their time climbing the dusty spiraling staircases of long-forgotten mansions. But, with all the skepticism, why is it that not a single human can admit to never having felt the chill of goosebumps in times like these?
Allister felt the duality. Understood and listened to the points made by either side of debates on the afterlife. Listened, even, to my thoughts and fears on a particularly shadowy home at the end of my street that seemed to beckon and cackle at all who stepped to its gate. But, when push came to shove, or shall we say before push came to shove-just before the tension of a moment urged towards a push-Allister would push first. Allister would shove with all his might at what might have wanted to push. This, he explained to me in vague terms until I finally pointed out their vagueness.
And, in answer, he simply took hold of my arm with such purpose, such force, that goosebumps shot throughout my body-inside and out-with such fervor that I feared the bumps would fire off my body and into the eye of some innocent passerby. They did not. They remained attached and rising, but never fleeing, from my skin. And Allister dragged me to the house in question. The house that cackled and beckoned. The house that bled through its windows. The house where shadowy spirits did shadowy things, screamed shadowy shrieks.
And here is what Allister did. He kicked the iron gate open and pulled me through. He looked into my eyes, smiled, gripped harder, and charged forward with me in tow. From deep below some hidden dark passage of Allister’s lungs arose a howl more maniacal than anything I had ever heard before. It was a warning for impending evil-be it spirit, ghost, ghoul, banshee, or demon-that we were coming. And not on the defensive. No sir, make no mistake. Like thousands of seemingly defeated armies before, whose forces had been cornered and defeat arose imminent, we fed on massive doses of adrenaline and surged forward to rip apart all that we could. Allister threw open doors and cackled. He sprinted through darkened hallways where dark paintings should have come alive and begged them to do so. He ran up spiral staircases where the caretaker’s spirit should have hung from a noose, giggling. And Allister giggled the whole way up to the top to find that if the caretaker was, in fact, there, he had since untied the noose and collected the rope, and left.
The top floor was empty. No murdered wives in bathtubs. No sleeping spirits in beds. No Victorian clothing floating without a human wearer. He hurriedly lunged for the clothes in the closet, overcoats and undercoats, and wear them first. He dressed me in the same. And, then, he tossed the sheets from all the covered furniture. The sheets floating down in the dust, Allister had conjured up memories of long forgotten slumber parties and left the room in that spirit. He howled with glee. So deep the howl, so deep the glee, that it walked the fine line where glee and fear must meet. He confronted all mirrors-be they broken, dusty, or whole-to show him any other reflection besides his own. And, when they did not, he howled harder.
He finally stopped for a moment. Looked down at the floor below. Breathed in deep the dust, the fear that stillness bathed in, and smiled again. He looked at my eyes, gripped harder, and sprinted down the stairs, me still in tow, shouting like a stark raving mad general galloping happily to impending doom. For, we were heading down the basement stairs, the stairs of the wine cellar, the stairs that led to buried bodies and screaming voiceless victims, the stairs that led to children’s ghosts kneeling in corners and smiling up at us with hollow eye sockets. I pulled, but Allister held fast and howled. We met the dirt floor, were introduced to each and every corner. And when it seemed as though I had somewhat calmed to the dark stillness that was a basement, that was an abandoned house, Allister grabbed a shovel and dug up the dirt floor until it became quite apparent that no one was buried there.
And we sat there, in the dirt of a long-abandoned home, wearing long-abandoned clothing, catching our breathes. And Allister said, “This is what I do when I am scared.”