Entertaining Demons (Novel Excerpt)

by on Jul 27, 2017 in Short Fiction | 4 comments

Entertaining Demons by Daniel I. Russell (Apex Book Company)

1.

DOWNING, ENGLAND

 

The night reveled in paradox; flattening sleepers with heat while venting anger in wind and rain. Summer storms held the most fury, lashing out like a confused child.

Molly lay in bed, listening to a distant gate slam back and forth, rattling in its moorings. The rain echoed on the roof and struck the window. In her younger years, she’d found a storm comforting. She’d be snug and safe while the elements raged outside. In this house, the relaxing pitter-patter of the rain failed to soothe.

She yawned and rolled onto her side, uncomfortable atop the clammy sheets. A hot night in England took everybody by surprise. The old dears in the village would complain in the morning guaranteed. Might make a change from their favourite topic of conversation …

Molly pushed the bitter thought aside and looked to the window.

She’d left the curtains open, and the glow from a streetlight cast a hazy rectangle that cut across her bed. Droplets of rain hit the window and lingered, clutching the glass and refracting the light from outside. The glittering jewels, not exempt from the ugly, destructive ways of the world, succumbed to gravity and attraction, gradually running together to form rivulets of water that streamed down the window. Combined. Blurred. One running into another until they poured off the glass and beyond, into the drain, into the sewers.

Molly wondered if memories were like the rain. Her mother had those moments of clarity, like the reflections within the raindrops, but her thoughts quickly muddled and combined until only a distorted haze remained. Molly prayed for that fog to clear during visits. It broke her heart to see the confusion on her mother’s face. Sometimes she was called nurse. Other times her mother ignored her completely. On one harrowing occasion, she’d taken one look at her daughter and began wailing, screaming that the devil had come to take her away. The nurses had sedated her, quieting her cries about kings and creatures.

Worse by far where the times her mother actually did have a clear spell; moments in the eye of her own torturous storm. Seeing her mother wake and realise, actually realise again, what was happening to her … Molly felt a piece of her own soul wither and die every time.

And what of the future? At fifteen, she was mature enough to know the fickle nature of time. Her friends may not, thinking themselves forever young and immortal but in her mother, Molly saw herself, grey and withered, sitting in a white room, babbling about the toads and the cats.

Was it hereditary?

She thought recent events might be warning signs: signs that her brain was already starting to turn to mush. The doctors had thought so, with her tales of sudden chills and doors that opened in the dead of night. Stress, they said. Anxiety. Take these pills three times a day.

She sighed, more from the suffocating heat than her sudden melancholy, and she grabbed the hem of her nightshirt to pull the clinging fabric up and over her head. Already she anticipated the relief of releasing her damp skin. She stopped and allowed her nightshirt fall back, patting it back into place. Better to be covered up, despite the closeness of the hot, stale air. Anybody could be watching. Her grandpa had bought the nightshirt especially for its length and thickness. Yes, better to keep all the skin covered.

There’ll be all kinds out there, you know, Grandpa had said as he’d handed it over. Don’t want you being watched for … well … you know. Other reasons. Just wear it.

Her grandpa always worried too much. In his world, the internet was a breeding ground for pedophiles, the schools were full of rapists, and their tiny village of Downing had been taken over by darkies. There’s no fun like a paranoid racist. At least he allowed her to be part of Samuel’s study, despite Samuel being black and built like a sumo wrestler.

She flopped onto her back once more, her arms folded behind her head through her thick hair, and looked around her dark bedroom.

Friends smiled at her from various photographs mounted around the mirror over her desk. With school over for the year and the Investigation taking up so much time, she’d barely spent any time with Tiffany, Emma, and the rest of the girls. All that would change in a few days. Sweet sixteen. It had been planned for months, and with the money from the Investigation, Grandpa had a big celebration planned. A stop at the cinema for a girly flick, followed by a hardcore shopping trip, and dinner at an expensive restaurant. No Samuel and his crew. No cameras. Just her and the girls. Nothing would ruin it.

Her gaze darted around the room, checking the door, wardrobe, and light shade. Everything seemed fine. Seemed normal. Porcelain dolls on her shelves watched on with impassive, frozen expressions. She planned to be rid of the horrid things soon. Gifts from Mum had proved hard to throw away.

She isn’t dead. Stop thinking about her like she’s dead.

In the corner, a green LED glowed just below the ceiling: one of Samuel’s video cameras.

Fuck this. It’s too damn hot to sleep.

Climbing out of bed, she smoothed out her nightshirt, ensuring she covered as much leg as possible, and barefoot, padded across the thick carpet. At her desk, she sat down and switched on her lamp. The room sprang into subdued brightness.

She waved at the camera and smiled, wondering if Samuel was watching.

“When do you ever sleep?” she asked it.

Somewhere in the house, a door closed.

Molly’s breath caught in her throat. She glanced up at the camera.

He would’ve heard that. So many microphones … he would’ve heard it.

She closed her eyes and counted slowly to ten.

The house composed nothing further. The noise, if it was a door, might be her grandpa going to the toilet or getting a drink of water. Or with the storm battling outside, a rafter was bound to creak, a floorboard likely to moan. A door gently closing, carried on a slight draught, more than possible.

Molly slid open her desk drawer. Her phone lay on top of the accumulated junk, and a quick check showed no messages. She stared at the photographs framing her mirror for a moment, taking in the smile of Tiffany the day they’d gone bowling. Next to that, a picture of Emma receiving her swimming medal, her jet-black hair still sleek with pool water. Molly’s own medal was hung by the ribbon over the corner of the glass.

The phone had been relegated to the drawer for the last week, a bid to stop herself checking its small screen every few minutes. Okay, things had changed. She wasn’t a normal teenager any more. Surely her friends could see through the hype and the endless filming and the damn Investigation? Their intense curiosity had quickly changed to annoyance. Perhaps a dash of jealousy. Who wouldn’t want this kind of constant attention?

Me. Molly pushed the phone aside and dug deeper for her iPod. With the storm, the heat and the never ending … expectation, she needed Usher to serenade her to sleep. Finding the turquoise unit, she pulled it free and switched it on.

Footsteps, light and creeping, sounded from the corridor outside her room.

Molly nearly dropped the iPod. Placing it on the desk, she turned around in her chair.

Her door stood closed.

A fresh gust of wind pelted rain against the window. It sounded like grains of rice striking the glass.

Molly swallowed and slowly rose to her feet.

The slow, deliberate footsteps continued, growing closer.

Holding her breath, she waved her hands at the camera. Samuel had to be watching.

She stepped closer, now standing beside her shelves. Seeing movement in the corner of her eye, she quickly turned her head, catching a porcelain doll, a pasty-faced girl dressed as a harlequin, staring back.

She tapped it on the nose.

The footsteps stopped on the other side of the door.

“Samuel,” she said, her voice low, “get in here. It’s starting.”

The doorknob, made of rounded metal with an engraved floral pattern, turned a little before bouncing back on its spring.

“Samuel!” Molly hissed. She sensed the stares of the dolls.

The doorknob turned again, further this time. The door rattled.

“Go away,” she said.

Samuel encouraged communication, but so far their efforts had been fruitless. Yet sometimes, it listened.

Other times, it didn’t.

The door creaked, like someone had leaned on the other side and pressed hard against the wood. The knob jerked violently left and right.

Molly breathed in through her nose and held it, trying to calm her pulse, just like Samuel had taught her.

“You’re not welcome here,” she said, forcing the quiver from her words. “Leave this house.”

Hurried whispering. Children gossiping in the playground. The dolls.

Don’t look at them. It wants you to be afraid.

A final bang, and the door eased open a few inches. The quiet voices abruptly stopped.

Gasping, Molly peered into the darkness of the hallway. She wiped her forehead with the sleeve of her nightshirt, the room hotter than ever.

Her legs had locked up, knees rusted solid and refusing to move. Tears squeezed from her eyes and began a journey down her cheeks, mirroring their brethren on the window. Molly sniffed and wiped them away. She shivered despite the heat. Her chin trembled. She bit her bottom lip and willed her body forwards.

The first step proved to be the hardest. Her toes sank into the plush carpet, and she flinched from the touch, like she’d dipped into ice-cold water. Determined, she planted her foot down. With no further activity ahead, she dared a second step.

Nearing the door, and before fear gripped her once more, she clutched the handle and pulled the door all the way open.

The empty hallway greeted her, leading away into the murk. A green LED marked another camera below the attic hatch, hidden in the darkness. At the far end, the door to Grandpa’s room stood closed. With no light leaking underneath, she guessed the disturbance had failed to rouse him. It was a sad fact, but they were beginning to get used to the things that went bump in the night, filtering out minor disturbances. Grandpa had anyway.

Molly turned on the light switch, flooding her bedroom with a comforting glow that dispelled the shadows. The porcelain dolls sat still and silent.

We have to take step back, Samuel had said in the early days of the Investigation. Nearly every noise will have an explanation. It’s the ones that don’t we concentrate on. We need to know the difference. Control your fear, and the truth will reveal itself.

The door showed no sign of tampering: no dents or scratching. The knob felt a little warm. Everything did in this heat.

Molly paused on the threshold to her room, deciding whether she should wake Grandpa.

No. Whatever was going on, it’s finished. Just hope Samuel got something good on camera.

Carefully, she closed the door and after a moment of consideration, reached for the light switch.

A sudden clatter from behind caused Molly to shriek and turn, slamming her back against the door.

Her porcelain dolls lay scattered on the carpet.

 

2.

DOWNING, ENGLAND

 

“I can’t believe you slept through it,” she said, tipping cornflakes into a bowl and squinting against the early light. The storm had wiped the slate clean of clouds. Morning rose crisp and warm. Molly yawned, suffering from the lack of sleep. “I need coffee.”

Her grandpa already held a steaming cup. Sitting opposite at the kitchen table, he raised it to his lips and peered at Molly over the rim.

“I’m old,” he said and took a drink. “We sleep lots. It’s like getting in practice for death.”

“That’s not funny,” said Molly, replacing the cereal and reaching for the milk. “You’re not that old.”

Despite reaching his sixties, Grandpa had retained his dark chestnut hair, which he also chose to show off with a beard and moustache. His face, narrow, wrinkled, and with a permanent scowl, prevented him from looking twenty years younger.

“But, how the hell could you sleep through it? All that banging around and footsteps …”

“You get used to it,” he grumbled, returning his attention to his coffee. “Not like we can move and get away from it all.”

They‘d tried that several months ago. The noises and slamming doors had followed them to a hotel. It was an intriguing occurrence, one that fascinated Samuel. He believed the house had originally contained a residual haunting, with Old Bill, a previous owner who had died alone in the lounge, going about his business. Something about Molly had kicked this into an intelligent haunting, wherein Old Bill liked to play tricks and scare her. Samuel was determined to find out how, and more importantly why, this had happened.

“I thought you’d getting used to it too after all this time,” Grandpa continued. “Only a few bumps and bangs. People put up with worse. Besides, all this is keeping us looked after. Your mum, too.”

“It’s not all about money, you know,” said Molly, poking at her breakfast with a spoon. “It’s different for me. It’s not you he’s after.”

Molly sat up straighter, hearing a brief scratching noise from the front of the house. She listened as the front door opened, accompanied with scuffing steps and voices. She glared across the table. “You gave them a key?”

“Thought it would be best, you know, in case they have to get in here quick.”

Molly slammed the spoon into the bowl, splashing milk over the side, and stood.

A trio of men swept into the kitchen, still talking. They paused long enough to say good morning.

“This is beyond it,” said Molly and stamped out of the kitchen. She nearly walked into the boom microphone held by Paul the soundman.

“Easy, love,” he said, moving it from her path at the last second. “I don’t want my equipment getting broken.”

Molly turned on him. “I’m tired, Paul. It’s been a rough night. So if you don’t want your other equipment broken, move it.”

Dave the cameraman chuckled. Paul shot him a glance.

“Sorry,” called Patrick to her and Grandpa. As the production manager, he proved time and time again to be the only crew member with any education or manners, besides Samuel, of course. “Is this too early, Molly? Your Grandad Eddie here gave us a key and said to come in whenever—”

Molly raised a hand. “It’s fine. Again, I’m just tired.”

“Yeah. Saw some of the footage. Wow! Was all go in here last night, eh? Samuel has lots to go over. We’ll just set up.”

“You do that,” Molly hissed as she turned and headed for the stairs.

“Go on, darlin’,” said Paul. “Make yourself all pretty for your fans. I know they like all this paranormal crap, but we don’t wanna scare ‘em too much, eh?”

Molly rolled her eyes and continued to her room, wondering who was worse, the crew or the ghost.

§

The corner of the lounge had been converted into a small studio, containing monitors, computers, and audio equipment. Samuel liked to sit here–the van could be quite uncomfortable for a man of his size—to review the footage caught on the mounted cameras. Their experiments using handheld cameras had been a waste of time, especially as Dave established his inability to capture supernatural events in the dead of night. Patrick preferred to film the various interviews in the makeshift studio. Molly and Samuel had talked many times here with Dave shoving the camera in their faces, and Paul holding his boom over them like a guinea pig on a stick.

Still, Grandpa was right. Their regular spot on the weekly show PI: Paranormal Investigations paid for her mum’s hospital bills and kept them quite comfortable. Hauntings this regular were rare, and the network wanted to keep hold of their golden goose until the public lost interest. Ratings were kept high by the competitive time slot on a Saturday night. Internet clips received hundreds of thousands of hits. The attention of Samuel’s peers, the debate among skeptics, and pure curiosity of the general public guaranteed the viewers.

By the time Molly had showered, dressed into jeans and cream blouse, and fixed her hair, Samuel had arrived. She entered the lounge and found his considerable bulk at the console, perched on a tiny stool. He leaned over the desk, bringing his face so close to a monitor that his nose was almost touching the glass. Catching her reflection, he sat up and winked.

“Mornin’.” His voice rumbled with a deep bass and southern drawl. From Louisiana, Samuel reminded Molly of an obese Louis Armstrong, whom Grandpa had been known to listen to now and again despite his habit of calling him that trumpet darkie. Samuel had studied parapsychology and spectrology back in the States before landing this job, an investigator on PI. Viewers loved him. A comforting anchor, Samuel was a contradiction to the frightening events portrayed. The network wanted real, edge-of-your-seat scares. Samuel wanted hard evidence.

“Morning,” she returned. “We need to talk.”

“Indeed we do,” he replied and paused the footage on the monitor. “Take a seat, Molly, m’dear.”

She joined him, sitting on another stool.

“You said my safety was guaranteed,” she said. “Last night … I don’t know. It felt …”

“Dangerous?” Samuel offered. “I was watching from the van. You’re a brave girl.”

“Then you saw what happened. The dolls?”

Samuel nodded. “The dolls were new, yeah. I don’ think you need to worry about the dolls too much. The dolls themselves aren’ possessed or anythin’. You can still keep them. I think the contents of the shelf, no matter what it be–jewelry, cards, books—would’ve been disturbed last night. Although … it’s been well documented that entities are particularly attracted to toys. Anyway, whatever you doin’, whatever this catalyst is, it be workin’. The presence is getting stronger.”

Molly’s insides squirmed. “Just what I wanted to hear. Why didn’t you come inside?”

Samuel waved away the question and, with some difficulty, slid around on his stool to face the monitors once more.

“I’ve told you before. Heisenberg. Whatever is happenin’ to you, I want to study it as it naturally occurs. Our presence in this house may already be havin’ an effect, which is somethin’ I wanna avoid. The more you study somethin’, the more likely you are to interfere with results.”

“That doesn’t really make me feel better,” said Molly. “It’s kinda hard to think about spoiling the results when it’s the dead of night, I’m having dolls move, and something opened my door.”

Samuel tendered a small smile and patted the back of her hand.

“You’re a trooper. Things might get worse before they get better. I’ve never lied to you about that. So far, you haven’t been touched, so that’s a good thing. This spirit seems to want to torment, like a bully. Its behavior, as shown last night, is starting to diversify.”

“Again,” said Molly, “not very reassuring. Not surprising that all my friends are staying away. They might be touched up by Casper the Overly-friendly Ghost.”

Patrick the production manager leaned in through the open kitchen doorway holding a piece of toast.

“You guys wanna save this for the camera? We’re about ready to shoot.”

Now that your bellies are filled, thought Molly.

“I’m not sure,” said Samuel. “This might be best handled … sensitively.”

Patrick’s eyes widened. “You haven’t shown her the footage yet, have you? We need reaction shots. Coop will go ape shit if we don’t get them.”

Molly had never had the pleasure of meeting Coop, Patrick’s boss at the network. His name was spoken in fear among the crew. From what she gathered, he was a high-up suit on the food chain and a real ballbuster. All about the ratings.

Samuel interlocked his fingers and rested his chin on top the clasped hands. He stared at the screen in a solemn silence for a moment.

Patrick bit off a chunk of toast. “Well?” he asked, spitting crumbs.

Samuel sighed. “I suppose she’s gotta know.”

Molly looked between the men. “Know what?”

“What we caught on the cameras last night,” said Patrick.

§

Dave set up the camera, and Paul readied the boom, twiddling knobs on the black box hanging from a shoulder strap. Wearing large earphones and with his head slightly tilted, he looked like he was struggling to find a radio station. Grandpa sat on the sofa, trying to fake disinterest. He always developed a keen curiosity during filming, but tried to have as little to do with Samuel as possible.

“Okay, guys,” said Patrick. “We’ll just do the usual. Samuel, you run the show and do whatever you want. We have the one established camera on the tripod for the wide. Dave, I want close ups, especially Molly’s reactions. Paul, don’t miss a word. If she gasps, we want to hear it. Ready?”

Samuel looked to Molly and shrugged, smiling a silent apology. While she was yet to habituate to the presence that stalked her night hours, she had quickly learned to deal with the quick and shallow treatment of the film crew. They were here for the show, not to spare her feelings.

“Let’s just get it over with,” she said.

§

All the images on screen were in a pale green; the all-seeing night vision of the camera. A procession of shots circulated on the monitor: the lounge, kitchen, upstairs hallway, and finally her bedroom. Grandpa kept his privacy, but nothing had happened in his small bedroom anyway. The digital clock in the bottom right corner showed twenty minutes past one in the morning.

“It had been a pretty uneventful night up until this point,” said Samuel. His voice always changed during filming, and his tone sounded more like a teacher, explaining to his student what was happening under the microscope. He even lost the extremes of his accent. “We’d recorded a few quiet bumps, and something that sounded like light scratching a little past eleven. But considering the storm last night, these can probably be explained.”

On screen, the picture froze on the shot of Molly’s bedroom. She lay in bed above the sheets, looking up at the ceiling. Her eyes had that blank stare, always present when they filmed her on the night vision. She hated it. It gave her dead eyes. The picture seemed trapped in a light but constantly moving fuzz.

“Sorry about the picture quality,” said Samuel. “There was some light coming in through the window and the movement of the rain has distorted the clarity. Is this when you first woke up?”

Molly leaned in closer. She had no idea of the time last night.

On the monitor, she rolled onto her side and looked towards the window, clearly awake.

“I think so,” she said.

The pictures went about their carousel once more. Lounge. Kitchen. Hallway. Molly couldn’t help but scrutinise each shot, trying to spot any kind of movement no matter how subtle. When they arrived back in her room, screen Molly, lying on her back, climbed out of bed.

Watching the footage, Molly recalled making sure her legs were covered. Some viewers might get off on seeing some fifteen-year-old flesh.

Screen Molly walked to her desk which lay just in the foreground, just below the camera. She clicked on the lamp, and the picture sprang from washed-out lime green to full-colour. She waved at the camera and said something.

“I was asking you if you ever slept,” she said.

“Not as much as I should,” Samuel replied and chuckled.

They watched her doing very little at the desk for a few moments.

“Now listen,” said Samuel. He leaned over to a laptop that sat beside the main monitor. Following a click of the mouse, a program appeared on screen, like a cross between a media player and an ECG monitor. The white, horizontal line on a black background trembled slightly. Molly listened to the rain from the storm last night.

The line suddenly spiked to the sound of a door thumping closed. On screen, Molly reacted and turned in her seat at the desk.

Present Molly swallowed, remembering the fear.

Dave thrust the camera in her direction.

“As far as we can tell,” said Samuel, pausing the film, “all external doors were locked. I have viewed the footage from all the rooms at the moment of that noise. Every door remained closed. We can see the bedrooms and bathroom from the upstairs hall camera, and the cupboards in the kitchen from the camera we have in there. So far, there is no clear explanation, except for more storm noise, but if we listen to it again, slowed down …” He jabbed the mouse button, and the sound played again.

Molly listened intently to the noise. A very clear creak of a door followed by a faint click of a tumbler slotting home.

“The only explanation I can offer is that your grandfather may have closed a wardrobe or closet inside his room, which we obviously can’t verify, although your grandfather assures me he slept through the night.”

Behind them, Grandpa snorted. He never had appreciated being mentioned on air, especially when being blamed for a random noise. Molly knew she’d be hearing a rant straight after filming.

“Okay,” she said and nodded. “I guess that’s possible.”

“We have to consider everything,” said Samuel and smiled. That was for his critics. “Now, things get interesting.”

He unpaused the footage.

Screen Molly searched through the drawer of her desk.

Samuel pushed a button on the keyboard and the screen split in half, showing the bedroom on the left and the night vision hallway on the right. A line of yellow light shone from beneath her bedroom door.

“Keep watching.”

Patrick cleared his throat. “You getting all this, Dave?”

The cameraman nodded, aiming the camera at Molly.

Paul, holding the boom aloft, merely stared at the screen, captivated.

Molly smiled weakly at Samuel, who also watched the screen with a grave fascination. Her heart rate soared, seeming to squeeze her throat. She forced herself to watch the events unfold on the monitor.

The picture on the right, the hallway, flashed with the snow of static for a second. Molly knew from experience that skeptics would call this a cutting point; a place in the footage for editorial cheating to create an event. The image of the hallway returned, perhaps a little darker.

“Did you …” she started.

Samuel shushed her and pointed at the screen.

The first amplified footstep sounded through the equipment, causing waves to jerk down the readout line on the laptop.

“Shit,” whispered Molly.

It had sounded like something heavy striking a hard surface, but with a slight restraint, like the light tap of a pin hammer. Considering Molly had first thought this a footstep, she envisioned something like a tap shoe on exposed floorboards. Yet the upstairs hallway was carpeted.

Onscreen, Molly gasped, turned in her chair and slowly stood, gaze fixed on the closed door at the other end of the room.

The steady noises continued: tap … tap … tap … Each one sending spikes shooting down the audio line.

Molly watched herself start to cross the room, nearing the shelf. Her interest shot to the line of porcelain dolls.

“What were you looking at?” asked Samuel.

“The dolls,” she murmured.

“Ignore the dolls. For now. Look here.” He tapped the right side of the screen. The hallway.

Even in the hazy green of the night vision, something could clearly be seen on the wall.

Molly’s breath caught in her throat. They’d never caught anything on screen this clearly. An occasional patch of light or orb that floated like a dust particle … but this was something completely new.

“What …?”

Tap … tap … tap …

“To me,” said Samuel, his sudden booming voice breaking the hush of the room, “it looks like a shadow of some sort. I’m only speculating, of course, but it moves along the hallway proportionally with the sound of the footsteps and stops at the same time. In addition, its position coincides with all known light sources in the hallway. There’s more.”

Molly raised a hand and covered her mouth.

Nothing more than an outline, a darker patch on an already dark wall, the vague shape slid along at a slow and constant speed, escorted by the sound of crisp footsteps on a hard surface. It was the size of a large dog at the base and reached about four feet up the wall from the floor. The only discernible feature was something like a crown or flower head that protruded from the top.

“The dolls,” said Samuel and tapped the left side of the screen. After a few clicks and button presses, the image magnified, showing a close up of the dolls on the shelf. The resolution made the picture blocky and blurred, like an old video game.

“As far as I can see, nothing remarkable happened to the dolls at this point. I’m zooming in now just to check.”

“I’m sure,” she said. “It was like … I could feel them watching me.”

“Let’s watch.”

Molly leaned in closer to the screen.

On the left, the disfigured shadow proceeded to creep along the hallway. To the right, the close up features of the harlequin doll sat motionless. Only her own shadow, as she trembled in the bedroom, leant the impression of movement.

The doll twitched.

“Wait,” said Samuel, his hands leaping on the various controls. The picture paused in an explosion of static and played backwards for a few seconds. “I can’t believe …” He hit play and then slowed the footage.

One moment, the tiny figure was sitting on the shelf, inert. As Molly’s shadow flitted across, its head moved ever so slightly, as if trying to ease a stiff neck.

Molly closed her eyes. It was no good. She still saw the doll moving, but not on screen. She was back in her room, in the middle of the night, alone. The thing in the hallway was moving closer … and the doll …

She shivered.

Samuel scratched his cheek. “I’m going to have to look at this further. Can I take the doll?”

“Please do,” she replied. “Look, is there much more of this? I … I don’t want to watch much more. I was … there, you know?”

“Not much longer. There are things the human senses cannot pick up. These are the things I want to show you.”

The footage resumed at normal speed.

The shadow in the hallway had faded on reaching her door, yet the line of light beneath had been blocked by unseen feet.

The audio detector registered the rattling of the doorknob. On screen the door shook from both angles, inside and out, pushed by an invisible force.

“We’re close to the end now,” said Samuel. “Activity stopped for the rest of the night. But listen closely.”

He turned a dial. The volume increased.

“Go away,” said Molly from the speakers.

Her heart stepped up hearing the terror in her weak voice.

I really was trapped in there, she realised. How far is this going to go?

A noise brushed through the speakers. The audio line on the detector trembled.

Molly sat up. “What was that?”

“I’ll play it back and clear it up a little.”

Samuel performed more of his technical wizardry.

The occupants of the room held their breath.

“Go away,” said Molly on the footage, louder this time.

A pause.

“… mine …” growled a low voice.

“Oh, Christ,” she gasped and hid her face in her hands. “Oh, fucking Christ …”

“We can edit out the fuck,” said Patrick. “Play some spooky music over it or something.”

The footage continued, and more scrapes and rattles attacked the door. The knob twisted violently.

“You’re not welcome here. Leave this house.”

“… miiiiiiinnnnnnnneeeeeeee …”

Molly retched and clamped her hand over her mouth to stem the eruption of cornflakes. Sucking in a deep, slow breath through her nose, she managed to quell her rising gorge.

“We made contact,” said Samuel, beaming.

“We made contact, all right,” said her grandpa, springing from the sofa. “What the hell you trying to do? Send her to the nuthouse like her mother?”

The room filled with the sound of frantic and hushed chattering from the speakers: the same noise she’d heard from the dolls last night.

Molly clamped her hands over her ears.

“Turn it off, Samuel. Please, just turn it off.”

“Molly, I’m just …” Samuel flustered, his fingers fumbling over the controls. Nothing seemed to be working. The horrendous, busy noise continued.

On the monitor, the door popped open, and the shadow slipped inside the bedroom.

“Samuel!” Molly wailed, her hands squeezed into fists and pushing against her head.

“I’m trying! There must be something wrong with the equipment.”

Dave the camera man pounced and span, trying to capture as much of the chaos on film as possible.

“You getting this, Davey boy?”

“Sure am, Patrick.”

Molly’s grandpa dove in, shoving the crew aside and wrapping his lean but muscular arms around his granddaughter. “White, if you don’t turn this off, I swear to God I’ll smash the damn thing to pieces! Can’t you see it’s upsetting her?”

“I can’t!” said the bigger man, his southern drawl returning in spades of panic. “I just ca—”

The noise suddenly cut out.

Everyone stopped, frozen to the spot. The movement on screen caught their attention.

Molly had turned on her bedroom light during the confusion, and now, satisfied the event was over with, reached out her hand to turn it off.

Behind her, the dolls flew off the shelf, as if knocked by a single heavy sweep of an arm.

Molly burst into tears and buried her face into her grandpa’s chest. He stroked her hair.

“We’re going to win a National Television Award for this,” said Patrick, awe in his voice.

Entertaining Demons (Apex Book Company) is available for purchase.

Daniel I. Russell has been featured publications such as The Zombie Feed, Pseudopod, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Author of Samhane, Come Into Darkness, Critique, Mother’s Boys, The Collector, Retard, and Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, his latest novel, Entertaining Demons, is due for release in 2017 with Apex Book Company. Daniel lives in Western Australia with his partner and four children, and is so very, very close to completing a BA in psychology and counselling.

4 Comments

  1. This had to be one of the most disappointing reads ever. The excerpt had me hooked but apparently it was the only worthwhile portion of the book worth reading. Every character had the same voice and it was generally poor writing. Most egregious of all? The rampant spelling errors that made this feel more like a teenager’s creative writing submission on Reddit. Cars have handbrakes, not “hand breaks”.

    • We’ve fixed “hand breaks.” That was a grievous mistake.

      Just throwing this out there…we used Aussie English spellings, so that might be what you took as many of the spelling errors?

    • Really? I thought the like 20 violent rape scenes in what seemed like a paranormal activity novel was what really disappointed me. I’m disappointed that Apex would publish something with so much baseless sexual violence (only really against women done by men of course. That coming from someone who loves all the rest of their horror stories. It was more senseless that horrifying

      • Absolutely agree that the writer’s fixation on sexual violence was horrible. The story wasn’t made better for it and some descriptions in particular seemed to be more for the writer’s benefit than the narrative.

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