The Haunted Institute Augustus Douw

The Haunted Institute: B-Sample Chapter

When Ann reached her door in the gathering darkness, she looked at it uncertainly, as if afraid that there was a complete congregation of ghosts and goblins awaiting her in her living room. It was quiet around the yard, except for a few crickets. The nearest house was sixty meters away. She had thought of asking Alice to come spend the night with her, but had not been willing to admit her fears and betray her faith in God. She thought about her fiancé, Paul Gitonga. He lived out of town on his father’s farm a few kilometers away. She couldn’t just run up there tonight, claiming she was scared of ghosts and demons like a little girl. She had never spent a night at his home before. It would seem unjustifiable, trivial. She loved and respected him, but had made him believe since they first met that she was a mature woman in charge of her life, faith and relationship. She guessed he must have heard the strange tales going on in the school, but she had not spoken to him during the day.

She had left her light off earlier, and now wished she had left it on. If she was going to be swallowed by goblins in her house, she would like to at least see her adversary and have a fighting chance, or a last prayer.

Ann decided to take charge of her situation. This was her residence and if ghosts and gargling goblins wanted to fight it out with her, this would be as good a place to die as any. She took a deep breath and stuck her key in the door lock, turned it slowly and thrust the door open into the dark room. For a second she held her breath and contemplated yelling out a challenge to whoever might be lurking in her dark room. But the notion passed, and was replaced by fear. Real female and human fear of the unknown.

No sound came from inside. She stepped in tentatively, ready to strike out and fight for her life with whatever fiend jumped at her. She finally found the light switch, her heart hammering, and her eyes wide as old shilling coins. She snapped it on and whirled around, unconsciously ready to scream and claw out. But there was only her furniture. Nothing seemed unusual, and no sounds were audible. She looked around on the floor as though expecting something, or a piece of paper with a strange message like Alice’s. Alice had said she had found one just inside the front door. But there was nothing. She turned around and peered out the door into the darkness outside, subconsciously thinking someone might be lurking around the door waiting to corral her inside as soon as she walked in. She slammed and locked the door.

Ann now wished she had a phone with which to call someone, then remembered the unsolicited messages that had come through on Gladys’s phone. Now that would be another way for the ghosts to find and torment her. She would have to think about it. May be radios, phones and computers were not good things to keep. It seemed the ghosts or spirits had easy access to people’s lives through these. She had been smart to stick to her old typewriter. And the ghosts knew it; that’s why perhaps they sent a message saying the days of the typewriter were gone. Perhaps they wanted her to use the computer for some selfish reason.

Ann retrieved a cooking stick from the kitchen for a weapon, then stalked through her house, flipping on lights and whirling around, ready to fight dragons and whatever; in the guest room and store, the cooking stick whipping left and right like a samurai sword, then turned off the lights and slammed the doors shut. Finally, she came to her bedroom door, hesitated for a long moment to get up her nerve, then flung the door open and jumped back yelling a battle cry as if the goblin had already jumped at her out of the dark room. She stood in the open doorway, then gingerly reached for and found the light switch, her breath coming slow and deep, and flipped it on.

A sigh of deep partial relief, then she began to tentatively hitting around the bed with the cooking stick. She stopped and studied the covers hanging low over her bedside, calculating the possibility that someone or something might be hiding underneath the bed just waiting for her. She reached down ever so slowly, grabbed the edge of the covers and, “Hoooaay!” she yelled and flung the covers up and jumped back, cooking stick ready like a ninja tigress ready to slay the dragon. But there was no dragon, only eerie quietness in the whole house. Her breath was rapid, her heart hammering in battle fright. Finally satisfied all was clear, she stalked back to her kitchen.

She was hungry, but didn’t feel like cooking. She found some bread from breakfast, made herself a butter-and-tomato sandwich and more tea, and then went to her room.

She couldn’t go to sleep for a long time, listening out for any strange sounds and trying to place each one. Crickets were louder than usual tonight, and distant dogs sounded comforting. She had no radio and was glad. She thought about getting rid of anything electronic from her house, but she only had a small CD player and a small refrigerator. Was that an electronic or appliance? Could the ghosts use a refrigerator? She would have to ask Paul these things. He taught computer hardware and would know.

Ann tried reading a romance novel to entertain sleep, but was also subconsciously afraid to go to sleep and lose control in case something happened. She tossed and turned, and her mind refused to relax, force-feeding into recall every weird story she had heard at work, and unknowingly accumulated material for a wonderful nightmare. Sleep evaded her. She got up, went to the bathroom, drank some water in the kitchen and returned to bed, feeling tired. She finally got absorbed in the romance novel, and fell asleep with her light on, the book on her pillow.

When the dream came, it was near dawn. She was among many people, some of who seemed like students and teachers from the institute. Alice and The Hawk were around somewhere. They were all at some kind of picnic at the base of a tall mountain, and smoke was curling up from the top. It was supposed to be a volcanic mountain. Someone had said it was going to erupt soon. Suddenly Ann looked around to see everyone gone, vanished, leaving her all by herself. The place turned eerily quiet, and then the mountain shook and thundered. Ann turned to run, but she didn’t know where to go, for down the hill was a wide black hole stretching to the horizon.

Suddenly the mountain erupted, and Ann saw hordes of red-clad, bearded demons with three-pronged forks in their hands and horned helmets shooting out of the top, then turn to fly swiftly down at her. They laughed and thundered along with the mountain. Now she had to run, and when she started down the hill screaming, the black hole rapidly got closer, and out of it crawled hundreds of white-clad translucent ghosts with black empty eye sockets and white skulls, all running to meet her, their jaws working. They were all laughing cacophonously, the hollow reverberations bouncing back down the walls of the deep wide hole. Ann tried to stop, but she skidded and fell right into the arms of one of the ghosts, whose fetid laughter exploded in her face and it floated away, carrying her swiftly into the abysmal dark hole. The fearful feeling of painful, smothering death quickly encompassed Ann as the bottomless cavernous pit swallowed them, a suffocating and choking terror tormenting her heart worse than hot flames.

Ann woke up screaming, stumbled out of her bed and tripped on a sandal. She fell headlong onto the floor, still confused, half in the nightmare and half in her room, fighting to get out of the black hole. But she mercifully woke enough to realize she was all alone in her comfortable room. Her light was still on, a barely comforting realization. Sweat bathed her face and her thin nightdress clung to her body. Her heart was galloping, her breath labored, like someone who had run up a mountain at top speed.

She sat on her bed and looked around till she was calm, then prayed. Somewhere outside roosters were crowing and birds singing. Thank God there was almost day light again. She needed to see some light and know what everything was for a change. She crossed the floor, pulled back her curtain and peered out the window. It was almost light outside.

She lay back on her bed to cool her nerves before going to bathe.

 

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Augustus Douw

Author, blogger and literary researcher.

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