Mike awoke to bright sunshine, pigeons cooing on the roof above, and flies buzz-batting against the window. He rubbed his eyes and looked around. He was in his sleeping bag, on his foamy, in the middle of the floor. There was no furniture, only dust and dead flies on the window sill.
What weird dreams, he thought. They were so real. But no ghosts, what a bummer. I really wanted to see a ghost.
He put on his shirt and pants, stuffed his sleeping bag and foamy into his pack, and went down the stairs. He was almost to the door when he remembered the flashlight. His father would not be pleased if he came home without it. He walked over to the opening in the hall floor. It was an entrance leading into the basement; its door was leaning against the wall.
He looked down. Weak sunlight filtered in through a window. The stairs were steep and narrow. He put down his pack and carefully went down the stairs, clinging to the wobbly bannister. At the bottom, he looked around and saw the flashlight lying against the wall. He picked it up and pushed the button. He sighed with relief when the light came on. At least it wasn’t busted.
He shone the light around the basement. It glinted off something glassy sitting on a shelf. Mike walked over and saw an old coal oil lantern with a crack in the glass chimney, just like the one Nathaniel’s father had held. How strange! Mike rubbed his fingers over the chimney, heard his nails click over the crack.
He swung the flashlight around, saw something lying on a table. He picked up the bundle, then dropped it with a start. It was a doll just like Molly’s. No, it wasn’t like Molly’s, it was Molly’s. The back of the head was broken, just like he’d seen in his dream. But was it a dream?
He hustled back to the stairs but stopped when his foot kicked something. He looked down, saw a little book. Finally, something I didn’t dream about, he thought. He picked it up. The cover had a picture of an old airplane, like he saw at air shows, and the word “Autographs.” He opened the cover. His eyes popped wide open. There, on the first page, was written, “This book belongs to Delbert (Bert) Harris.”
He dropped the book with a yelp and ran towards the stairs but not before he saw, leaning against the wall, a pair of crutches, Matt-sized crutches. That was the last straw.
Mike scrambled up the stairs, grabbed his pack and bolted for the door. Just short of the door, he stopped, turned around, his eyes wide open, his mouth agape.
He scanned the house – the stairs up to the second floor, the trap door in the hall and beyond that what had been the kitchen, the living room to his left – then he laughed.
“House, you’re not haunted. You’re a time portal! Like those tv shows where the guy gets into a phone booth and those scientists walk through that sparkly round gate and suddenly they’re in a different time or planet or universe. I’ve time-travelled! Yes!” And he gave a fist-pump.
Boy, wait till the others hear this, he thought. They’ll be so jealous. They’ve never time-travelled and I have. But wait, what if they don’t believe me?
Mike pondered for a few minutes. I know. I’ll tell them I battled monsters and goblins and ghouls with nothing more than, than . . . than what? I know, Dad’s flashlight, because they’re scared of light, and some magic words I read in a book somewhere. Nah, bet they won’t believe that, either. Ah, who cares if they believe me. I’ve time-travelled. Maybe I’ll just tell them that nothing happened.
He smiled, raised his hand in a salute. “Thanks, house. I’ll keep your secret.”
Mike heard a soft, quiet sound, a regular sound, as if . . . the house . . . was . . . breathing! Then, for just a moment, the house glowed.
A most unearthly glow.
Mike gulped. His skin went all goose bumps. The hair on the back of his neck stood up!
It was over so fast that Mike wasn’t sure if he had actually seen what he thought he had seen, heard what he thought he had heard. He could still feel the hair standing up on his neck. His skin was still prickling. His heart was pounding. He looked around again, but all he saw now was an old deserted house full of dust and cobwebs. Nothing that looked threatening or weird or spooky. And no breathing sound.
He exhaled – loudly, – shrugged, opened the door, walked outside and closed the door firmly behind him. He took one long, last look at the house, hoping to see something – anything – unusual. All he saw was an abandoned, dilapidated, run-down, weather-beaten, derelict old house. Mike got on his bike and rode home.
* * *
The house was soon to be demolished. The town was expanding this way, and rumours were rife that a new subdivision would be built here. Once this house was gone, the ghosts would vanish, too.
Or would they?
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