As Ginger, Aleck, Ellie, Fletcher, Phoebe, and I stood beneath the hazy streetlight, I posed to everyone, “You guys ready?”
“I’m ready for a nap!” Fletcher asserted. “Ready to go into a haunted house? Not so much!”
“The only reason I’m feeling good about this crazy idea is I’m still relishing in the glow of victory!” Ellie proudly declared.
Ginger grumbled, “Okay, okay! We get it! You were right about researching Damon’s history! You don’t have to gloat!”
Ellie differed, “I’m not bragging about it! I’m just reminding everybody that we wouldn’t be at this juncture at all if we hadn’t done the homework! So, next time this happens-.”
“Woah, woah, woah! Next time?” Aleck quibbled. “No, no! We’re only travelling to another dimension once! The only reason I got away with sneaking out of the house at the crack of dawn is that I was sleeping on couch since I left for groceries at ten a.m. and came home at two in in the morning with no food! If I have to go on anymore crazy adventures, my wife’ll probably have the locks changed by the time I get back!”
“It’s gonna be okay, guys!” Phoebe attempted to buoy our spirits. “We’ll stop in real quick, destroy the key, and get to work early enough to get some coffee in the teachers’ lounge! Yup, we’re gonna fight some demons and then carry on with our jobs like nothing weird occurred! It’ll be fine…”
I espied the dismal expressions my colleagues bore, and I knew that we would already have a disadvantage against our adversaries if we entered into their territory with this attitude, so I avidly addressed them all, “Listen, I know this is a strange experience to go through, but the sooner we get it done and over with, the sooner our lives can go back to normal! We’ll seal the portal, and then Damon will go back to Hell where he belongs! No more ghosts! No more monsters! Our biggest worry will be wondering how to deal with Roxy’s melodrama once she realizes her paranormal paramour isn’t coming back!”
Fletcher tried to cut in, “Uh, Connor…”
“I’m not done!” I assumed that he would aim to raise some sort of objection to our venture, and I wasn’t going to allow anymore doubts into our aura! “If we let this go another day, a bunch of innocent children will get subjected to this torment, and do you really want to-?” Since I had been ignoring Fletcher’s attempts to get my attention, he grabbed me by the head and craned my neck in the direction of what he was trying to allude to. I grew horrified to see Rowan behind us! He was in his yoga outfit and held a bag over his recycling bin, so clearly he was in the middle of a very typical routine when he overheard the not-so-typical nature of our conversation! He stared at us incredulously, and I grinned at him in a chagrined manner. “Oh hey, neighbor!”
“Do I wanna know what’s going on…?” he somewhat nervously inquired.
I replied, “Probably not.”
Rowan accepted my response. “Alright, I’m gonna go inside and pretend I didn’t see anything! Good luck with… whatever you’re doing!”
After he returned to his home, Phoebe commented, “That was awkward!”
I suggested, “Let’s finish this before anyone else in the area comes out! All that confidence-building stuff is still true, ‘kay? Let’s get going!”
Using the flashlights on our cellphones, we walked across the cul-de-sac and marched straight up to the driveway! As the plethora of pine needles that blanketed the yard crunched beneath our feet, Ginger asked me, “So, you’ve been in here before, right? What’s it like?”
“It’s nothing special ‘til you get to the garage,” I answered with a shrug. “Even then, it’s pretty boring unless that door is open! Honestly, Ferneus’s mansion was creepier, and it didn’t have any mystical gateways in it! I don’t think… Nah, I doubt his ‘turtledove’ would stick around for that crap!”
“Well, what I really wanna know is did I make a mistake wearing a skirt and high heels?” Ginger queried. The entire group gazed at her clothing, and she defended herself, “I was in a hurry and grabbed the first things I could find!”
I got the sense that a few people had some strong opinions on her choice, but it got tabled as we all reached the threshold this abandoned abode! We all paused to steel ourselves up for what awaited us beyond these walls. Aleck took a deep breath, and then he muttered, “I am a man of science! There’s nothing in here that hasn’t’ been seen before! Except for the demons… But this is a chance to study some new elements! Yeah, I can do this! I can go on a field trip and learn some new facts! All I gotta do is-!”
Ellie pushed past him and commanded, “Quit overthinking it! Let’s get this done and over with!” And with that, we all trickled inside of this building….
As we traversed through the deserted hallway, we gazed at the peeling wallpaper and the slightly singed portraits with trepidation, and Fletcher pressed me, “Are you sure this joint isn’t possessed by any evil ghouls?”
“Other than my ex’s clutches in the realty company that owns this property, nothing sinister has a presence here!” I assured him. Suddenly, a low, pitiful groan echoed throughout the space! The others all turned to me questioningly, and although it spooked me at first, I consoled them (and myself!), “Richard lives next door- maybe that was him getting lucky!” With much more frustration and hopelessness, another groan sounded, and a gnawing sensation formed at the pit of my stomach! Were we too late? Did Babelsama get the Netherworld entryway open without the key that I currently grasped in my pocket?
“If that’s Richard, then I can guarantee you he ain’t getting any welcomed action right now!” Fletcher opined.
I argued, “You don’t know that! Maybe he’s into really freaky stuff… I shuddered at the image that brought to my imagination, and then I directed our assemblage, “It doesn’t matter what’s causing that noise! We gotta deal with whatever’s there! Come on!”
The groaning grew more an more voluminous the closer we got to the garage, and as much as I told myself that it was nothing threatening, I became more and more prepared to engage in an epic battle! As we set foot into the room of our destinated path, my adrenaline kicked into high gear, and I jumped into that territory with the full bravado of a warrior in combat! I didn’t know what sort of beast or entity we would encounter, but the last thing I expected was…
“What in the blazes…?” Ellie exclaimed without realizing the irony of her statement.
“Did someone say my name?” Blaise’s voice rang out throughout the vicinity.
We all peered in disbelief as we beheld a pair of legs dangling out of a portion of the wall sectioned off by a door frame! To the untrained eye, the door currently ajar previously led to the outside and got sealed off with cement, and even though we knew what truly laid beyond that veil, it was still unnerving to see a person stuck in such a solid surface! Once I had gotten over my initial shock, I crept up to the struggling limbs and gasped, “Blaise?”
Blaise grumped, “Didn’t we already establish that?”
“What are you doing here?” I pondered in profound perplexed fashion. Out of all of the places on this planet for him to have resurfaced, I never would have predicted it would have been there! And definitely not in that position!
“At the moment, not a whole lot!” Blaise shot back as he strove to wriggle free from his confinement.
I was still too startled to offer him any assistance, but I got annoyed at his caginess, so I rephrased my enquiry, “Why are you here? I mean, one minute, you’re going outside to get your lighter, and the next thing I know, you’re trapped in… Why did you go into this hovel at all?”
Blaise haggled, “I’ll explain everything, but could you pull me out first?”
I sighed and relented to his request. I grabbed his shins and gave them a yank, but they wouldn’t budge! Fletcher and Ellie joined in, and we started to make headway. Everyone else lent a hand, and slowly, we got more and more of him out! AT last, his entire self popped out, but when I saw how singed his top half had become, I blurted, “How in the hell are you still alive?”
“Actually, I’m not,” Blaise admitted. We gawked at him incomprehensively, so he forced himself to explain, “A few years ago, I was performing a complex ritual in order to raise the dead, but instead of using salt, I accidentally poured rat poison into my potion! You know how that’s easy to do…”
“Not really!” Aleck responded as he eyeballed him peculiarly.
Blaise ignored Aleck’s slight and continued, “Well, I got sent to Hell on account of all the ‘evil’ I committed in my lifetime, but then I got recruited by some dude in the Netherworld. He gave me two options: spend an eternity getting tortured or return to Earth to spread some mayhem, and after I thunk on it-.”
Phoebe raised her eyebrows at that. “You had to think about it?”
“After I realized that they weren’t gonna inflict the kinky kinda torture, the decision wasn’t so difficult,” Blaise stated. Phoebe winced at the vile picture he painted, and Blaise went on, “Initially, he had me return to the compound and keep growing my religious base, but then he tasked me with the effort to reopen this portal, so I purposely let the ranch go into foreclosure so my dear family in Terra Belle would take us in…”
“You’re lucky that Connor was around when I took my mom’s call! I would’ve left you on the streets!” Phoebe spat.
I canvassed him, “How did you know we lived across the street from the portal?”
He filled me in, “I didn’t! My boss saw that I had a connection to the town where his gateway existed, so he sent me there to find you and get his key. It was a stroke of good fortune that only did I run into the keyholder immediately, I moved in right by my boss’s domain!”
“Wait, this Babelsama guy is your boss?” Ginger deduced.
“Yup!” Blaise confirmed. “He was tickled pink when my window revealed your close proximity! He figured you just followed Damon into this building before! Once he got the truth, he spazzed out! He has all sorts of plans for you when the gate is unlocked!”
I sardonically articulated to him, “Gee, too bad you never got a hold of the key and opened it for him!”
He didn’t detect the sarcasm in that sentence and concurred, “I know, right? I tried to get it open without it, but then, well, you seen what happened! I nearly got the key once when you were drunk and took your pants off, but then that damn cat peed on it! That’s the only substance that can make me sick!”
“Aw! And I yelled at Jett for doing that!” I lamented.
“So, you’re like a vampire or something?” Fletcher interrogated Blaise.
Blaise enlightened him, “Nope! I’m simply undead!”
I denoted, “Wow, I guess the FAUK club wasn’t far off with their zombie concept!”
“Um, the term ‘zombie’ is offensive to my kind!” Blaise took offense to my depiction. “You see, we-!”
“He’s gonna have to come with us,” I instructed the others. “If we let him stay behind, he’ll go to that portrait and warn Baelsama about our presence in his realm!”
Ellie brought up, “What if Damon works out what’s going on and tips him off?”
I mulled the matter over briefly. “Hmm… Maybe a couple of us should keep guard in here in case he tries to interfere.” Aleck, Fletcher, Ellie, and Ginger all vigorously volunteered, and after I gave the issue some consideration, I decreed, “Aleck and Fletcher should remain here.” Ellie and Ginger objected, so I reasoned, “They’re already in hot water with their wives- if they quit answering their messages, they’ll lose their relationships! We can’t have that! Unless there’s a cell tower down there…” I glimpsed at Blaise for clues, and he indicated that he had no inkling about that.
“So, I’m hanging out with these guys while you’re down there?” Blaise gazed at me with substantial hope glimmering in his eyes.
“Absolutely not! If it makes you that happy, it’s probably not a wise plan,” I ruled. He grew sullen, but I paid him no mind. I quizzed my other three companions, “You ready?”
Ellie barked, “Will you drop that phrase from your vocabulary? We’re never gonna be ready, but we’re not gonna let that bar us from moving forward! Let’s do this!”
I shut the old wooden door and drew out the spoon. I took a vigorous inhale, and after the exhale, I fitted the handle into the keyhole. I unlatched it, and once I reopened the doorway, an immense, rapidly moving vortex swirled before us! I gulped and debated whether or not I had the courage to seriously set foot in that terrifying whirl, but then Phoebe took my arm, and it reminded me of what I was doing this for! Ellie and Ginger braced each other behind us, and then we stepped into the abyss!
I anticipated that we would float around in a vast nothingness for a stretch, but to my bewilderment, we set foot on solid ground! Although we were spared from that ordeal, we weren’t out of the woods yet! What lurked beyond the void nearly made me faint! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the land of the departed would contain this…