The party was crowded with things seen and things invisible. Strobe and Christmas lights hung carelessly throughout the Victorian style house that hadn’t been ‘officially’ occupied since a tree caved in the extended sitting room a decade ago. As music pumped through portable speakers, college students mingled and danced in groups separated by half caved in walls.
Alina stood at the top of the entrance stairwell. From there, she could see everyone who entered and most of the living area. If any of the drunk partiers were to glance up at her, they would see a loner glaring into the crowd. They would then glance away and forget all about it. A few might wonder when she got there or if she even went to their school, but those thoughts didn’t bother her. It was the ghosts and overconfident football players that did.
Alina felt a cold breeze brush against her neck. She looked over to see Ren rest his forearms on the railing next to her. He looked over the crowd with none of the distain Alina felt. His eyes darted from the girls at the bottom of the wooden stairs to the lights to the living area, where most of the dancing was happening.
“See anything?” Alina asked Ren. She would normally whisper when talking to him, but between the music and the distance between her and everyone else no one would hear her talking to air.
Ren glanced at her then looked back down to rescan the crowd. He straightened and moved so his hands rested on the railing. It was habit for him; acting as if he was solid. Like he could touch the railing, like he couldn’t float around if he wanted to.
“I see what you see.”
His response wasn’t a no. They could both feel that something ‘other’ was there but hadn’t been able to see it yet. It was why she was here. She had known something powerful resided in the abandoned building when she drove by a few weeks ago, and as long as the building stayed abandoned it wasn’t her problem. The harmless dead had no claim over her time. When the living got involved, however… She had heard of the party a few days ago and had to double check the address to make sure it was the same building. So, here she was, looking for something quite not there when she should’ve been studying for tomorrow’s chemistry test.
“Who do you think it is?” Movement drew Alina’s attention to the door. Two college students cheered as they brought in a large stack of pizza.
“Probably a child,” Ren answered, “Victorian houses always seem to have children.”
Alina shivered. Children were the worst kind of ghost. Some of the adults could be reasoned with, but children never understood and that made them dangerous and deadly.
“Where are they?”
Ren, being dead himself, could normally sense them out, but they hadn’t been able to find anything earlier that day or when party goers had started to show up.
Ren had been the first ghost Alina had seen. For weeks she had thought she was going crazy, then she started seeing more people that weren’t there. Ren said he was here to help her and that she was one of the few that were able to see them. He taught her how to trap the ghosts into charms and how to put them to rest.
“It’s still here,” Ren confirmed, “why don’t you go have some fun? I promise I’ll find you if I see it.”
Alina looked over at him. “I’ll have fun when the job is done.”
Ren snorted. “No, you’ll go right back to your dorm and study for the rest of the night. I don’t think you understand the college experience. It’s concerning.”
“Oh?” Alina raised her eyebrows. “Were you were a big partier in college?”
Ren grinned. “Maybe, maybe not.”
Alina sighed loudly and tilted her eyes to the ceiling in a pleading look. Ren refused to tell her about when he was alive. All she had ever managed to get out of him was that his name was Ren and his parents had moved to the States from Japan when he was only one. That was it. Her best friend was a total mystery.
A creak down the hall caught her attention. Alina looked around Ren into the darkness. The darkness made eye contact then moved into the nearest room. A room she knew to be a study.
“Did you see that?”
Ren blinked a few times. “No. What was it?”
Alina slowly moved out of sight of the party goers and down the hall. She slipped the chain over her head. The maroon gem spun as she wrapped the chain around her palm.
“Alina, Alina,” Ren harshly whispered. He was a few steps behind her, and hated when she went in blind, but flashlights make it harder for her to see them.
Alina stepped over the threshold and into the study. Ren paused in the hall. Inside were a few chairs and a desk. The wall still held old picture frames covered in dust and empty bookshelves. Otherwise the room was empty.
“I don’t see anyth-” Ren’s voice was cut off by the door slamming in his face.
Alina spun around in time to see an arm lash out from the darkness hitting her in the middle. Her feet left the ground, and she flew across the room. Wood splintered beneath her as she landed on an old chair.
“That’s new,” Alina groaned as she stumbled to her feet. Ghosts couldn’t touch her until the stone touched them, until now apparently. Beyond the door Ren was yelling her name and pounding on the door. Which was weird because he should’ve been able to pass right through the door.
The form rushed at her again, but she was ready. Her body moved with the ghost. He reached. Alina grabbed his arm rolled back and flipped him over her head and onto his back. Alina rolled and leapt from her crouched position. The ghost, in the middle of sitting up, was tackled back to the floor.
Alina pushed his chest with her hands and tried to maneuver the gemstone so it could touch the skin over his heart. Blood dripped down her face where the ghost raked his fingers down her cheek.
She cried out as the ghost flipped her, so he was on top. His hands wrapped around her neck. Her hands tore into his shirt. She tried to scream. Her lips felt heavy. Felt numb. The gem still hung from her fingers. Ren was screaming her name. She could see the bare skin. Total darkness edged her vision. She felt as is her heart was about to explode. The gem escaped her grasp and fell to the floor. Her fingers remained on his chest. Her eyes shifted to his face only to find darkness. No eyes, no mouth, no nose. Just black shadow. Her hands fell as the last of the world drifted away.
The weight on her chest was lifted. Air flooded her throat. Alina opened her eyes and rolled onto her side as she gasped and coughed. Her hand landed on her necklace. In the corner of her returning vision Ren was fighting off the faceless thing. It hit Ren in the gut, who fell to one knee giving It the leverage to kick Ren in the face.
Alina curled her fingers around the chain. Her arms shook as she pushed herself off the ground. Ren threw It across the room and into a wall. Dust fell from the roof and a picture frame smashed to the floor. Glass scattered on the hardwood.
It shook it’s head before stumbling forward. Alina lined herself behind Ren’s form. Her legs shook and her head spun while trying to pound itself out of her skull. It lunged across the room to Ren. In a smooth motion Ren grabbed It’s wrist and twisted under and up. Alina moved forward and reached up. The gem slammed into It’s chest. Bright light escaped through Alina’s fingers.
It screamed. A horrid, draining sound. Most ghosts lean into the gem and let it absorb them, like they were being sucked into a wormhole. Instead the thing screamed and burst into black ash before disappearing.
Alina dropped her hand.
“Alina, are you alright?”
Alina looked up to Ren concerned face right before her knees gave out and she collapsed onto the floor.
“Alina!” Ren dropped in front of her. His hands hovered over her arms wanting to touch her but knowing they will just pass right through her.
Alina held one hand to her throat and the other on the ground to keep her from flopping over. She stayed that way for a long while: hand on the ground feeling the pulse of the music below, breathing even though every breath sent pain zipping through her throat, and eyes closed trying to keep from passing out.
“Alina, are you okay? The room wouldn’t let me in, and I heard you scream. Somehow, I broke the door down and I saw that thing on top of you and I thought you were dead. Alina, are you alright?”
Alina finally opened her eyes and looked to Ren. “What was that?” The question was a hoarse whisper.
“I don’t know.” Ren shook his head and repeated the answer a second time under his breath. “We’ll worry about that tomorrow. You should see a doctor.”
Alina shook her head and stood. “I’m fine. I just need some rest.” Ren rose with her, hands outstretched to catch her if she fell. It was enough to almost make her smile. “Let’s go home.”