BROOMETIME SERENADE (The Oz-Files, Book 1)

By Barry Metcalf

Thriller, Crime & mystery, Paranormal

Paperback, eBook

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478
5 mins

Chapter 33: Seeing Isn’t Believing

Its hinges creaked, but the door opened a crack—slowly, ponderously, as if protecting some dire secret. Portal to hell! Martin exerted more effort and forced the door open far enough to allow ingress. Darkness greeted him—a thick, impenetrable blanket relieved only by a thin band of sunlight that slanted through the opening and extended less than a metre inside.
He stepped back, panting from his efforts. Still, no one spoke. Again, he and Claire exchanged glances, and his heartbeat increased. She suspects. It’s not just me. There’s definitely something evil about this house.
In single file, the three squeezed through the narrow opening and entered Mildred Jones’s house. Once away from the doorway, darkness enveloped them. Pitch black and impenetrable, it cut off the sounds of the outside world, as well as their sight.
Martin paused and waited for his eyes to grow accustomed to the blackness. They didn’t. Someone opened curtains. The scrape of the rings sliding across metal was dismal and foreboding but without substance. He spun towards the sound.
Claire stood by the window nearest the entrance, little more than a silhouette. Light filtered through the glass but did little to dispel the gloom or reveal details. Grime and cobwebs coated the windowpanes, as if they hadn’t been cleaned in a hundred years.
Leaves and twigs littered the carpet just inside the front door. Beneath this lay a coating of grime, similar to what covered the windows. A damp, dank, cloying smell emanated from the interior.
Claire flicked a switch. Nothing happened. Either the power was disconnected, or the bulb had blown.
The hackles on the back of Martin’s neck rose. Despite the coolness of the interior, sweat beaded his forehead and face. Every sense warned him that danger lurked somewhere within. Is Wanda Jean inside? Waiting? I was powerless against her before. What if...?
He forced his fears to the back of his mind and led the way through a curtain of spiderwebs. The silken ropes hung from the ceiling like vines and threatened to entwine him. He brushed them aside and stepped deeper into the blackness. His feet probed their surroundings, in search of a trap.
Something squelched underfoot.
“Damn!” His voice sounded eerie, without resonance, as if something huge had swallowed his words. “I wish we’d thought to bring a torch.” He took another tentative step and tested the ground with his foot before placing his full weight.
“Your wish is my command,” said Claire.
Martin turned. In the murky light, he could see only her silhouette. She opened her handbag and rummaged inside. Dozens of objects rattled against one another. The sound was dull and distant.
“Ah,” she said at length, and a shaft of light cut through the false night.
Where did that...? And then he remembered. She’d purchased the medium-sized Maglite at Wing’s General Store less than an hour ago.
The beam disappeared after a distance of less than a metre in the impenetrable gloom, swallowed as if it had fallen down a deep well. No, as if the murkiness possessed an existence that fed on light.
Claire directed the torch at the floor near Martin’s feet. The circle of light revealed a large black cockroach, its body almost as long as his shoe. Its legs were mangled, its body squashed with icky fluids oozing out to join the other muck on the carpet. Dull round eyes peered up at them.
“Yuk!” said Claire in disgust. The beam wavered as her hand shook. “I’m glad I didn’t tread on that thing. Look at the size of it.”
“How can anyone live like this?” said Constable Kimble from the darkness. His disembodied voice dripped with disgust. “My God. It’s like some sort of cave in here.”
Martin chuckled despite the foreboding and evil crowding in on him. “You’re more right than you’ll probably ever know.” His voice was more hushed than before. “Let’s see if we can quickly locate the epicentre of this manifestation.”
“Epicentre?” Constable Kimble’s unease was evident in his tone. He shuffled closer. “What kind of mani... mani... that word you used?”
“You’ll know it when you find it.” Claire directed the torchlight further into the room, but it didn’t penetrate far enough to illuminate the walls. “Look for a spot in the house where the slime and grime are at their worst. That’s where you’ll find the epicentre.”
“But will it attack me?” Constable Kimble asked. “I mean, this epicentre... this mani... fes... thing?”
Claire’s laugh was dull and without resonance. “No, it won’t harm you, but what might lurk inside may very well do so.”
“I don’t think she’s here any longer,” Martin said. At least, I hope she’s not. “The state of the house indicates she’s long gone.”
“She? Who’re you talking about?” Constable Kimble sounded indignant. “I want to know what’s going on.”
“Not now.” Martin had nothing to gain by providing simple answers to the constable’s questions. “All in good time. Let’s concentrate on locating the source.”
They crossed the lounge-room, but found nothing except mouldy furniture and the ever-present spiderwebs. The strands, sticky and as thick as a child’s arm, clutched at them and retarded their progress. With slow, measured paces, they moved from room to room like clowns on a tightrope, each step as unsure as the last. Tiny feet scuttled across the floor, evading the light, and tiny pinpricks of eyes stared at them, glowing red when caught in the beam of Claire’s torch. She assumed the lead, her senses better developed than her partner’s. Martin and Constable Kimble pressed close behind, protecting her back and sides.
At length, they entered a small chamber that had once been a den or study, judging by the bookcases that extended from floor to ceiling along three of its walls. Thousands of books filled these shelves, each tome thick and dark-covered beneath the ever-present dust, grime and cobwebs. In the narrow beam of the torch, authors’ names such as Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Dean Koontz, H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Rice Burroughs showed vaguely beneath the grunge. Might they be first editions? Martin reached out and selected one. It crumbled to dust. He withdrew his fingers as if he’d been bitten and watched the flakes and motes float towards the floor, caught in the glow from Claire’s torch.
The beam veered abruptly away. A sudden, sharp intake of breath from Claire jerked Martin from his ponderings, back to the task at hand.
He turned. His fiancée had stepped back several paces.
Framed in the torchlight where she’d been standing moments before hung a giant-sized centipede, using a spiderweb like a ladder. As long and thick as his forearm, the creature had a black body with an orange belly, its legs as round as his fingers but longer. Its pointed stinger was raised, ready to strike. Other than its size, its most amazing feature was its eyes—big and round like Frisbees but not faceted. Improbable as it seemed, they resembled human eyes.
I recognise those eyes. Martin’s mind reeled. But from where? And judging from Claire’s sudden reaction, she thinks the same. Again, something interrupted his musings.
This time, Constable Kimble was the culprit. He leapt between Claire and the enormous creature. “Stand aside. I’ll take care of this monstrosity.” He drew his revolver and aimed at the giant centipede.
“No.” Claire’s voice was firm. She reached out and rested her hand on his gun arm. “There’s no need for that, Constable. You see, nothing we’re seeing in this house is real.”
“What?” Constable Kimble was on the edge of hysteria. Despite this, his pistol remained steady, aimed at the centipede’s head. “You can’t tell me that thing isn’t real.”
She continued to exert subtle pressure on his arm. “The centipede is real. You’re right about that.”
“Then let me kill it.”
“No. The centipede is real, but how you see it isn’t.”
“How I see it....” For the first time, the constable’s resolve wavered, and the barrel of the pistol dropped. “What do you mean by ‘how you see it’?”
“Everything you see is real, but someone has left a spell that makes everything look worse. More threatening... more frightening than it is.”
“Spell?” Constable Kimble again aimed at the centipede. “What’s all this palaver about spells?” He tried to laugh, but the sound died in his throat, choked off by fear.
“All in good time,” Claire said. “Right now, I want you to take my word for it. You have nothing to fear from that centipede.” She forced his arm down to his side. “That’s better.”
“All right,” he agreed. “How do you know that what we’re seeing isn’t real?”
“There’s a trick to it,” she said.
“Trick? What kind of trick?”
“Don’t look directly at the centipede. Move your attention away from it. Try and sneak a glance at it out of the corners of your eyes. After a while, you’ll see it for what it really is.”
“But why does it have those... eyes?” Constable Kimble’s tone indicated he was not wholly convinced.
“I’m not sure,” said Claire. “It’s funny, but I’ve got the strangest feeling the centipede’s trying to tell us something.”
“The centipede, ma’am? How can centipedes tell us anything?”



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