Shadow Days Page 10

“Just teasin’, sweet cheeks.” She smiled. “We’re havin’ a slow day. No rush.”

“Thanks,” I said. It wasn’t like me to lose track of time, but after a few minutes I knew that wasn’t what had happened.

I didn’t want to go home.

That place didn’t feel right to me. from the nightmare I’d had, to the weird art, to the sheer emptiness of it. Sitting in a café until my blood was pure caffeine was a way of delaying my return to Rowan Estate. But I couldn’t stay here forever, even if the waitress said she didn’t mind.

I paid the check and dashed through the spitting rain back to my truck, but I didn’t drive home. I’d figured a couple things out: I knew what my next blog post would be and I didn’t want to be alone in that house anymore.

I was lying on my bed trying to get in touch with my inner tech geek and frustrated that what I’d thought was such a brilliant idea had ended up in fail mode. It was too late to go back to the store, but something had to be wrong with the handheld video camera I’d brought home. Or maybe I’d read the directions too quickly and missed something.

I’d wanted to get reactions. facebook was fun and the blog . . .


But video? Video took things to the next level. If I had to have solitary confinement in Vail, at least I could show people what was happening and have a little more interaction with the outside world.

Rowan Estate should have been the perfect place for my experiment.

I’d never run out of weird stuff to tape, and it had that whole haunted mansion thing going for it. Sometimes a little too perfectly.

I played back the video again. The first shots of the house were fine. My brief “hello” from my bedroom was fine, but once I went down the hall, the picture went haywire. It was all the more frustrat-ing because I’d thought shooting the winged statues would be my

“hook” for the webisode. I guess my career in video journalism failed before it began. I watched the scenes one more time.

To hell with it.

I uploaded the video as it was. My eyes ached from rereading the tiny type in the instruction manual. Maybe someone online would know an easy fix for the camera. If not, I could start from scratch tomorrow.

My mouth was open, throat dry, and I knew I’d cried out in my sleep.

It had happened again. I rubbed my eyes before I looked at the clock.

5:00 a.m. Maybe it was a recurring nightmare, but the crash startling me from sleep had been identical to the sound that had woken me the night before. I rolled out of bed, and a chill made me shiver though sweat beaded on my chest. Stumbling to my closet, I groped around until my fingers closed around the neck of a baseball bat.

The air was even colder in the hallway, making the hairs on my arms stand up and my skin prickle into gooseflesh. The blood roar-ing in my ears made me feel like an idiot at the same time that it tightened my grip on the bat. Trying to listen so hard it made me dizzy, I climbed the stairs to the third floor. A blast of frigid air hit me the moment I stepped into the east corridor.

Isn’t heat supposed to rise?

I wanted to turn into a pathetic, shuddering lump, but I forced myself to stand still because I thought I’d heard something. It might have been a breath of wind seeping in through the old windows, but it had sounded like whispering.

I took the bat in both hands, moving toward the sound. My heart climbed into my throat, hard as a rock, and stuck there, choking me.

Snatches of sound drifted toward me, a hissing of murmurs. It was closer now, just around the next corner. I inched forward, drew a quiet but deep breath, and steadied myself.

With a shout I jumped around the corner into the next hallway.

Something was there. Something huge. Its arms stretched toward me. And something other than arms, something much worse, loomed in the shadows behind the thing. I yelled and swung the bat as hard as I could.

The bat met its target and cracked, splintering into sharp pieces as it disintegrated against the marble statue.


I beat my fist against the wall. Those frickin’ statues. The cool pale stone face of the winged woman gazed serenely at me, unper-turbed by my attempt to club her to death with a bat.

Exhausted and embarrassed, I convinced myself that the baseball bat was a far better sacrifice than one of my uncle’s precious pieces of art.

I picked up the shards of woods, making my way to the kitchen to throw them out. I grabbed a tub of ice cream and headed back to my room, where I turned on the lights, plugged my iPod into speakers, and blasted the Ramones.

I wanted to pretend that it hadn’t happened. That I hadn’t climbed out of bed and crept upstairs. That I hadn’t attacked a sculpture with a baseball bat. And most of all, that beneath the cracking of the wood against marble, I hadn’t heard laughter.


PeoPle like suPernAturAl occurrences—even a whiff of the paranormal gets a lot of folks drooling. Or else people enjoy the suffering of others. Specifically my suffering. It could be both.

Those were the types of conclusions I drew when I logged onto my media pages the next day and saw all the buzz about it. My initial reaction was sour at best. I could hardly muster cheerfulness given my previous night’s adventures.

Give the people what they want. Or so they say.

I was going to try my best to do just that, if for nothing but the sake of saving my sanity. When I moved through the empty halls of Rowan Estate, my jaw ached and my temples throbbed because I was listening so hard, waiting for any sign of the murmurs I’d heard the night before. But there was nothing. The only living thing in the house was me, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to last very long like this.

The interactive aspect of the video and facebook worked the best for alleviating my sense of isolation, so I started there, reading through and responding to comments before trying out the video again. I got the same fuzzy crap anytime I tried filming the statues.

Instead of stomping on the camera, I decided to try some experi-ments, approaching the sculptures from different angles. I got the same results every time.

I ditched the video and went for old school. My digital camera failed, giving me only blurred shadows where the statue should have been. I wished that was more of a surprise. And it meant another trip into town, but getting out of the mansion was pretty much a relief. I took the scenic route, though anywhere on this stretch of I-70 could qualify as scenic. But I’d decided to wind my way through the small mountain towns that dotted Vail Valley.

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