Kat pointed the light cautiously around the darkness, picking out the dimensions of the room.
‘The quicker we get the candles out the better, this torch won’t last much longer,’ she murmured slapping her hand against the battery. ‘Becky, can you…?’
I fumbled with the zip of her backpack, removing a couple of thick candles. She passed me a lighter then indicated that I should move further into the room.
‘Someone needs to hold this door open, what if it slams shut?’ she explained, clearly not wanting to be the first into the room.
I swallowed, suddenly unnerved by Kat’s behaviour. I fought to restrain the curling fear in my gut and answered quickly. ‘Fine.’
I moved forward but despite my attempts to stay calm, a cool slick of sweat formed along the back of my neck.
The room was empty in that the furniture and accessories that made a room a room had been removed but there was a free-standing mirror along the far right wall and drawn by some morbid fascination I moved further inside. A wide stone fireplace contained a couple of empty cider cans and some charred logs, long since cold.
I could hear the quickening rush of the storm outside. A chill slip of wind found its way down the chimney and lifted the hair from my face. Wanting to dispel the cold darkness that surrounded me, I lit one of the candles and set it down. The light brought a comforting kind of warmth and a flash of red caught my eye. Deep velvet curtains hung against the nearby wall. I stood, hypnotised by the idea of what they concealed. From the corner of my eye, I saw Kat lean the door open with her backpack.
She hurried to my side. ‘Fuck, is that the window?’
I touched the heavy fabric. ‘I guess so.’
My hand hesitated over the parting then taking a deep breath I pulled the material away, picturing the movements of that new bride as she took her final steps to her fate. There was something incredibly frightening about the window, that instead of making it seem safe, the replacement of glass with brick and cement, made me question what it was that the woman had been trying to escape from and that by bricking it up, the room had gathered a greater force, that of a prison.
‘Look,’ Annie whispered. She went to the fireplace. ‘That’s weird isn’t it?’
On the mantelpiece there was one of those bottles meant to contain holy water and fashioned in the form of the Virgin Mary. Annie picked it up. ‘It’s full.’
‘Put it back,’ Kat ordered.
Anne snorted but she replaced the ornament. ‘Are we doing this or what?’ she asked. She lifted the backpack from the doorway, calling me out of my stupor.
I pulled the curtains shut and a shower of dead flies cascaded down on our heads.
Kat jumped back, shaking out her hair. ‘Argh, what the fuck!’
I dusted the flies off, feeling them disintegrate into crisped up shells and wings under my fingers. Kat shone the torch at the ground. There were hundreds of them covering the floor at our feet. ‘Jesus!’ Kat whispered.
‘They must have been looking for a way out,’ I murmured, sweeping them away with my foot.
We settled cross-legged and giddy onto the floor. Annie had already laid out the board. It was homemade, the alphabet drawn around the periphery in red crayon. It had meant to simulate blood, which had seemed a grand and gothic idea at the time of making but in the darkness it proved impossible to see the letters. An up-turned glass waited for our fingers in the centre of the board.
‘These letters are rubbish,’ Kat remarked. ‘What’s the point of doing the Ouiji if you can’t see what they’re spelling out?’
I took up the other candle and tried to position it so that the letters were visible but the brightness of the flame reflected off the cardboard, completely obliterating them. Without the alphabet, there was no point. I sighed, more out of relief than disappointment. The coldness in the room was beginning to penetrate the thin jacket I was wearing, and every now and then a draught blew out from the chimney and stirred the air behind me, giving me the feeling that someone moved in the blackness behind me.
‘There’s no point doing this if we’ve no alphabet, we’ve seen the window, we should go.’ I stood hastily and Annie joined me.
‘Wait! We can see the Yes and No options and the Goodbye. We can ask questions and…,’ she retrieved some small containers from the bag, ‘I have these. I’ve not tried it before but it could work.’ She placed them around the board.
Annie nodded. ‘I guess they’ll do.’
I sat back down slowly. ‘What are they?’
Kat pointed to one. ‘This one contains a ring. That means you’ll get married soon. This one—’ she moved her hand along, ‘—water, meaning travel or it could be drowning, I can never remember. And this one.’ She raised her eyebrows. ‘Clay meaning death.’
I felt my mouth go dry. ‘I little childish don’t you think?’
Kat folded her arms. ‘You got any better ideas?’
We took our positions and placed our hands on the upturned glass. Slowly we brought the glass around the board.
Kat gave each of us a meaningful stare. ‘Remember, whatever happens we have to close the board. Bring the glass to Goodbye at the end. Otherwise the spirits won’t rest.’
Annie watched the glass make its round. ‘Right.’
‘Who wants to ask first? Becky?’
I shook my head but before I could speak the glass swung round the table stopping abruptly at Yes. I glanced up at Kat. ‘Did you do that?’
‘No! Fuck. I guess it’s you then.’
‘Ar…are you the woman who jumped from the window?’ I tried.
Annie tittered. ‘You’re supposed to start easy.’
I glowered at her. ‘I didn’t know that.’
The glass moved round again then settled over No. I swallowed. ‘That’s all I’ve got.’
‘Are you the reason she jumped?’ Kat asked.
The glass moved to Yes.
‘Woah!’ Annie laughed. ‘That’s heavy.’
Kat continued. ‘We want you to guide us. When I call out a name indicate which item lies in their future.’
The glass tugged under my fingers and I wanted to pull my hand away. ‘Kat, let’s stop.’
‘Why? This is good. This never works at home.’
‘Becky’s right. This is too freaky,’ Annie whispered.
‘No. We started so let’s finish.’ She took a deep breath. ‘Kat,’ she pronounced in a clear voice.
The glass swung round and stopped at the container of clay.
I shared a horrified look with Annie then glanced at Kat. She laughed. ‘It doesn’t mean anything. It could mean change, right?’
I went to move away.
‘Do not break the circle,’ Kat demanded. ‘We’ve done me and I got the death card. It’s only fair that all of you have a turn.’ She smiled. ‘Annie.’
The glass moved to the water.
The glass circled, increasing in speed. ‘I can’t keep my fingers on it,’ Annie cried.
‘Don’t break,’ Kat ordered again. ‘Becky.’
It stopped sharply at the container with the ring. Immediately I felt a searing pain through my left hand.
‘Ow,’ I shouted getting straight to my feet. There was something bound tight against my finger, squeezing the thin flesh at my knuckle.
Kat was on her feet. ‘You broke it!’ she shouted. ‘We have to sit back down. We have to close the board.’
I clasped my hand to my chest. I could not locate the injury but yet my finger throbbed and sharp jabs of pain shot up my arm. ‘I’m not going near that thing again,’ I gasped.
Annie coughed. ‘I’m not feeling too good, Kat. I think we should get home.’
I took up the torch and blew out the candles. ‘We’re going.’
Kat passed the bag to Annie. ‘If you want to go so bad, you can clear that up.’ She grabbed the torch from my hand. ‘We’re not supposed to break off like that.’
‘If you want to continue, be my guest. But I’m leaving.’
Kat shrugged. She followed me into the hallway then holding the light to her face put a finger to her lips. ‘Shh,’ she whispered then pulled the door shut, closing Annie inside.
‘Kat?’ Annie’s voice wavered on the other side of the door.
‘Let go of the handle,’ I urged her. ‘You’ll scare her.’
‘Don’t be such a wet week.’
The doorknob shook. ‘Kat? Let me out.’ Annie shouted. There was a muffled sort of cry then the door shook violently. ‘Kat! Kat please. Let me out of here.’
Kat laughed and held tight to the handle.
‘Kat…fuck…Kat…there’s something in here. Kat please…there’s something in her…’ I could hear her break, hear her voice shake with fear, her sobs catch in her throat.
‘There’s something in there.’ I whispered and shoved Kat aside.
Ignoring the pain in my finger, I gripped with both hands tried the handle again. ‘It won’t open.’
Kat’s eyes widened.
‘It won’t open!’ I said again.
Kat grabbed the handle, turned it and shook. She rammed her shoulder against the door but didn’t budge. Annie’s cries pierced through the wood becoming louder before retreating into sad whimpers until we couldn’t hear her any longer.
The house was suddenly quiet. Our own breaths held in check for any sound on the other side of the door. Glancing at Kat I tried the door again and finally the handle turned easily. I rushed in and found Annie lying on the floor.
‘Annie?’ I reached out.
Kat pointed the torch. ‘She must have fainted or something?’
I put my hand on her shoulder. It was wet. I turned her over. Her face was pale, her hair damp, water bubbled over her lips and trickled down her chin. I looked up at Kat. ‘She’s soaked.’
‘Kat. She’s soaked through.’ I ran my hands the length of Annie’s body, searching for an area that did not feel damp. It was almost as if she had fallen into water. The thought filled me with dread. I put my fingers to her throat and felt the reassuring pump of her pulse then placed my ear to her chest.
‘She’s not breathing,’ I whispered. I tried to recall our bio class. Tried to imagine all those emergency programmes I had watched but Kat beat me to it. She shoved me aside and pushed heavily on Annie’s chest until water choked up our friend’s throat and we heard her take a few ragged breaths.
Between us we helped her up. Neither of us speaking of what we had found, neither of us wanting to admit what it could mean for us. In the hallway, I shifted Annie’s weight on my shoulder and leaned back to pull the room door shut. I caught my reflection in that free-standing mirror and paused briefly. I saw her, the bride looking back at me, dressed in ghostly lace, her friend limp and damp supported over her shoulder. I felt the strangling pain of the wedding band on my finger and closed the door.