February 19. The Night Before Presidents’ Day. 11:56 p.m.

Kate moved through the house step by step, pausing anytime the wood floor made a sound. If I don’t make any noiseI’ll hear anything else that does.

It was four steps to the living room, which had a soft rug. Or fifteen steps to the stairs. The stairs meant a rush to safety on the upper floor. But fifteen steps felt like too long, when every creak of the house settling could mean danger.

“Katie?”

Kate startled at the sound of her sister’s voice. One foot slid out from under her and she grabbed at a nearby table. The sudden noise seemed to echo throughout the house. She froze. Her sister Lyla did the same. Both of them stood very still for the next two minutes.

I hope we didn’t wake them.

Something wailed from elsewhere in the house. It sounded like it came from the basement. She knew for a fact that the basement was empty.

“What are you doing?” Lyla hissed, when they were both sure the house was quiet again. “You shouldn’t be out of bed.”

“Neither should you,” Kate said.

“I’m still on the stairs.”

“Midnight is any minute, though.” Kate moved toward the stairs, staying as quiet as she could.

“The stairs are safe.”

Halfway up the stairs, Kate paused and stood next to her sister. Lyla gripped the cherry wood rail. “Let’s go,” she said. “It’s almost midnight.”

“I’m going to stay,” Kate said. “I want to see what happens.”

“You shouldn’t.” Lyla edged closer to Kate. They stayed on the stairs.

The clock ticked towards midnight, minute by minute, second by second. The hair on Kate’s arms stood up, like a static shock had run through her body.

“They’re coming,” Lyla whispered. Her eyes had a faraway look to them.

We shouldn’t be here. In her soul, Kate felt the last seconds to midnight tick away.

They reached midnight. Kate knew when it happened, somehow, and she felt the entire house rattle with the force of it. Something wailed from elsewhere in the house. It sounded like it came from the basement. She knew for a fact that the basement was empty.

“Look,” Lyla breathed. The first specter materialized a few feet away from them. Its legs appeared first, then its body, then its head. It had the face of a gaunt, decrepit man, his jaw half-rotted away. He wore a faded blue military uniform, with rusted medals pinned to the chest.

He stared at Kate for a long time. Other ghosts started to appear—all of them men, all deathly pale, many stained with blood. They swept through the house, phasing through walls and rattling furniture. The first ghost remained at the bottom of the stairs. He couldn’t move onto the cherry wood surface. He didn’t try. Instead, he floated in place and stared at Kate.

She took a step down. The ghost moved its mouth back and forth, making rusted, garbled sounds. Kate stepped toward him again.

We shouldn’t be here.

Behind her Lyla gasped. “Katie, don’t.”

“I won’t leave the stairs.”

Kate moved down to the second-to-last step, keeping the last step as a barrier between her and the ghost. They stared at each other for what felt like hours. The ghost never blinked.

After a while, blood started to run from his eyes. It poured over his face, a waterfall of red. Kate couldn’t look away. The blood streamed down, splashing on the floor and soaking through the ghost’s clothes. He held her gaze, staring with an open, bloodstained mouth.

She blinked.

It was all gone when she opened her eyes. Kate stared at the empty dining room and kitchen, then down at the clean floor. She looked back at Lyla.

“Did you—did you see that?”

Lyla blinked. She looked just as disoriented as Kate felt. “I… think so.”

Kate looked around again. “We should go to bed.”

“Yeah.”

Lyla hurried up the stairs. Kate followed. The wall next to her creaked, just loud enough to startle her.

“It’s just the house settling,” Lyla said. She didn’t look back.

Kate heard more noises throughout the house as she went up the stairs. It’s just the house settling, she told herself, and she didn’t look back either.

 

For more spooky stories, check out the October 2017 edition of Havok!

 

Meet the Author

Aurelia Gonzalez is a writer of short fiction, regular fiction, and screenplays. She is currently in her senior year of high school. When she isn’t doing writing, doing schoolwork, or spending time with her family, she’s analyzing books and movies to learn more about story structure, themes, and awesome characters. You can follow Aurelia on her website and on Twitter.