ISABELLA

ISABELLA

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

“I like the place,” Pamela Stanford announced. “I’ll take it.”

“You will? Are you serious?” asked the man by her side.

Pamela could tell that he was overjoyed.

Dressed in a black suit and holding a briefcase, the man adjusted his spectacles as if to see Pamela more clearly. “Okay, Miss Stanford. As you know, if you can make an initial deposit today, I can prepare the necessary papers and hand over the keys to you shortly. And depending on the amount of the deposit, you could be entitled to a discount.”

“I will not be making a deposit.”

The man’s excitement seemed to deflate like a punctured balloon. “You won’t be making an initial deposit? But… but… I thought you said you liked the house?”

Pamela nodded and turned to look at the modern duplex in front of them.

They were standing on a well-maintained and lush lawn, amongst neatly-trimmed hedges and shrubs with bright flowers. Overhead was a balcony fitted with flowerpots, overflowing with a range of colourful plants.

The windows of the house were big, with cream-coloured frames that contrasted perfectly with the light green exterior. Tall trees could be seen in the backyard, swaying over a sizeable swimming pool. A small, white fence and a wooden porch completed the picture of an inviting home.

Pamela turned back to the man beside her. While she was busy taking in the view, he had been watching her with bated breath. It seemed like his world was about to collapse, and Pamela could sense why. She smiled broadly at him. “Relax, Mister—Peters, was it?”

“Yes, but James is just fine, Miss Stanford.”

“Okay, James. Please just relax.”

“I’m simply concerned about your sudden change of heart. Why won’t you be making a deposit?”

“Because I want to pay the entire sum outright.”

James’ mouth fell open. “The entire sum?”

“Yes, all of it.”

“This is wonderful—very wonderful, indeed! That means you’ll be entitled to a twenty percent discount off the total cost of the house.”

“Thank you, James. I’m wondering though, how soon can I move in?”

“Move in? You want to move in right away?”

“The sooner, the better. I need to move in as quickly as possible.”

“No problem. As soon as we get notification of your payment, I can—”

Pamela took out her phone. “Give me your agency’s bank details,” she interrupted.

James quickly opened his briefcase. He pulled out a sheaf of documents and handed one over to Pamela. She copied the details into her phone. A short while later, she smiled at him. “You can call your office to confirm. The transfer was successful.”

James rang his office. His face beamed after he ended the call. “It’s all done, Miss Stanford. The money has been deposited into our account.”

“Now I can move in, right?”

“Absolutely! You can move in right away. Here are the keys,” James took a small set of keys from his pocket and handed them to her. “I’ll arrange the legal documents first thing in the morning.”

“Thank you very much, James,” Pamela said and started walking towards her parked SUV. “I’ll be expecting them tomorrow.”

“My, you really were ready to move in today!” James laughed as he watched her open the boot and take out some luggage.

“Yes, I was ready. I needed to move into a new house as soon as possible. This property fit the vision I’ve always had of a dream home.”

“And you really had to move in today?”

“It had to be today, James. I had to move in today.”

“I see,” James replied.

From the corner of her eye, Pamela could see that he was staring at her, trying to figure out what she meant. Eventually, she saw him shrug. Apparently, he had decided that her rush was none of his business.

“Would you let me assist you?”

“No, please don’t bother. As you can see, there’s nothing really bulky or heavy here, just two briefcases and some bags. I can handle them just fine.”

“Okay then, Miss Stanford. I’d better head off so you can settle in. I’ll be over tomorrow with the necessary paperwork. Have a wonderful day!”

“Thank you, James. See you tomorrow.”

After he left, Pamela stood there, gazing at her new home. She didn’t know how to put it in words, but she was ecstatic about finding this house.

Pamela hadn’t told James why she was in such a hurry to move into a new house, but she had recently gone through a very bitter divorce. The whole experience had left her feeling distraught.

She found it difficult to concentrate at her former place of work. Both her colleagues and her neighbours kept casting suspicious glances at her, as if she had been the one responsible for her breakup from her ex-husband. Eventually, Pamela had arrived at a decision: she needed a new beginning. And that would mean finding a new town, a new job, and a new home to start afresh.

Without warning, she had handed in her notice at work. That same day, she had called the estate agent in charge of her flat and handed over her apartment keys.

“You’re moving out?” the surprised agent had asked.

“Yes, I am,” Pamela replied tersely.

“But you still have three weeks left on this month’s tenancy!”

“You can send me a cheque for the extra rent. I can’t stay here and wait for the payment to clear.”

Before the agent could utter another word, Pamela had gathered her belongings and started to load them into her SUV.

“Can you give me your forwarding address?”

“Why?” Pamela asked, her voice tinged with irritation.

“To send you the cheque for the balance of your tenancy.”

Pamela stopped packing her belongings and thought about it. Eventually, she shook her head. “No, that won’t be necessary. You can transfer the balance to my bank account. I’ll email you the details later.”

“Okay.” The agent watched in silence while Pamela finished with her packing.

As she drove off, she could still see him staring at her. She could sense that he was confused about her leaving her apartment so hurriedly. Pamela had no grudges against him, but that neighbourhood and her old colleagues had gotten on her nerves in ways she did not want to remember.

This is my new beginning, Pamela thought to herself, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. I’m going to make the best of it.

It wasn’t just that she was desperate—Pamela knew that this new property was going for a price that she considered to be more than reasonable. When Pamela had discovered the exact amount, she couldn’t resist buying it on the spot. She knew she’d made the right decision.

Now she was going to enjoy starting her new life.

 

***

 

The next day, her younger sister Denise came over to visit.

“This place is unbelievable!” Denise gushed, as Pamela took her on a tour around the duplex. “Is that really all you paid?”

“You saw the documents, didn’t you? It was a good bargain.”

“A good bargain? This is an absolute steal! How did you come across it?”

“Through a couple of references from some friends back where I used to live.”

Denise placed her hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Pam. I know you’ve had a hard time, but I’m sure this new place will help you start life all over again!”

“I think so too, Denise.”

Denise reached into her bag. She brought out a camera and began to take pictures. “I hope you don’t mind if I take some shots? I have to show Mum this place. She’s not going to believe it when I show her where you live now!”

Pamela laughed heartily. “Do you think she’d like it?”

“Like? Come on, Pam, ‘like’ would be an understatement! She’s going to love it just like I have.”

“Denise, if you and Mum fall in love with my new house, that’d make three of us. And we all know that three is a crowd.”

Denise stopped taking pictures to look at her sister. “Don’t you want us coming around?”

Pamela shook her head vigorously. “No, not at all! That’s not what I meant, of course you can come. You’re both free to come over any time—I was just making a silly joke, that’s all. You know I’m starting a new life, so I don’t know anyone here yet! You and Mum are more than welcome.”

“Thanks for the reassurance,” Denise rolled her eyes, then went back to taking pictures. “Anyway, I’ll take some shots from outside and then I think I’m done. Mum is going to absolutely love this place!”

 

***

 

Later that evening, while they were relaxing by the fireplace, drinking wine and enjoying music, Denise brought out her camera again.

“You want to take more pictures?” Pamela asked.

“No, I just want to look at the ones from earlier. I can’t wait for Mum to see them.”

Pamela went to sit by Denise to look at the photos with her. “They’re really nice,” Pamela commented. “I can’t believe I’m the owner of such a lovely house. It seems so unreal!”

For some reason, Denise didn’t respond. Pamela saw her frowning at the camera. “What is it?”

“Where did I take this picture?” Denise asked.

“What picture?”

“This one,” Denise passed the camera over to her sister.

Pamela squinted at the picture. She recognised it. “Have you forgotten already? You took it outside.”

“Outside? Outside where? Outside this house?”

Pamela chuckled. “Where else? Of course it’s outside this house. What kind of joke are you trying to spin this time?”

But Denise’s facial expression remained serious. “No, it’s not a joke. This picture looks odd.”

“Odd? What’s odd about it? Isn’t that me standing there on the porch? Of course it’s me—look, I’m still wearing the same clothes!”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. There is something really odd about this picture.”

“Yes, there is something odd about it,” Pamela finally seemed to agree. “You’re not in it.”

Denise didn’t laugh at her sister’s attempt to lighten the mood.

“I’m not joking, Pam. Something’s not right. Can’t you see?”

Pamela squinted at the camera again, before handing it back in exasperation. “It’s just me and the porch, Denise. What are you on about?”

“Over there. Who is that inside the house, looking out the window?”

Now it was Pamela who was frowning. She snatched the camera back. “Someone in the house?”

Denise was right. Quite right. Pamela was in the forefront of the photo—but on closer observation, she could just make out another woman in the window behind her. The woman was inside the house, looking out.

Pamela gasped. “Who is she?”

“Who is she?” Denise repeated. “How would I know?”

The woman looked deathly pale. Even out of focus in the background, she seemed unusually white. She had a scarf tied around her head. Her face was long and her eyes seemed wider than normal. She was wearing a loose gown and a shawl draped over her shoulders. She was waving at the camera with a smile on her face.

“Who could that be?”

Denise shrugged. “I told you, I don’t know.”

“But when you were taking the pictures, surely you would’ve seen her when I was on the porch?”

“I didn’t see anything.”

“You mean you didn’t see anyone when you took this shot?”

Denise shook her head. “Nothing, no one. Trust me—if I’d seen her, I would’ve said something! But there was no one there. Honestly, there wasn’t.”

“Then where did she come from?”

“Maybe it’s a glitch,” Denise suggested.

“A glitch? What sort of glitch could do that?”

“It does happen sometimes. An image from a previous picture could have superimposed itself onto this one.”

They didn’t think or say anything more about the image. Denise stayed over for the weekend, then left on Monday morning to head back to her home town, where she lived with their mother.

Denise was excited showing their mother the house that Pamela had just bought. Little did she know that she had left her elder sister to face the music alone.

 

***

 

The night after Denise left, Pamela woke up in the middle of the night with a start. She sat up in her bed with a splitting headache.

Then she realized her bed was shaking, violently rocking from side to side.

An earthquake?

Scared, Pamela looked around with frightened eyes.

Before she moved into this town, she had done her research—they had never had an earthquake before.

What is this?

There must be a logical explanation, she thought. Though the bed continued to rock, she reached forward in the darkness to turn on the lamp.

Bright light flooded the room. The bed suddenly stopped shaking.

Curious, Pamela carefully got out of bed and knelt down to check underneath it.

There was nothing there.

Frowning, she stood up and paced the room, determined to find the cause of her bed shaking.

After a long search, Pamela returned to her bed. She was not just tired from the search, but exhausted.

Eventually, with no more ideas or answers, she decided to go back to sleep. But as soon as she had rested her head on her pillow, she heard a noise.

At first it was barely audible, but it was definitely there. Then it began to increase in volume and tempo. Pamela sat up again and listened closely.

Yes, she was right. There it was—some kind of clicking sound, coming from different directions.

Pamela climbed out of bed and walked out of her room. She could hear the clicking sound coming from the balcony, the kitchen, the living room—every part of her house.

How could this sound be happening at the same time all over my house? Pamela wondered.

Then it hit her: it’s the sound of stretching wood!

She looked at the floor. As she gawked in disbelief, she could see the wood twisting beneath her.

Pamela backed away slowly, then dashed back into her room.

But there was no hiding or running away from the strange phenomenon—even in her bedroom, the floorboards were also clicking as they stretched right before her very eyes.

Pamela did not know what to think. She couldn’t say which was more frightful—waking up in the middle of the night to find her bed rocking and shaking on its own, or hearing the strange clicking sounds made by the wood in her house inexplicably stretching.

She didn’t have to wonder for long, because it all abruptly stopped.

As Pamela blinked in confusion and listened carefully, she realised that her heart was beating rapidly. This annoyed her.

Am I frightened? Frightened of what?

Pamela took a deep breath and sighed. Her headache had returned.

She got up and went to the bathroom. She took a couple of aspirin, hoping that it would offer some relief. Then she headed to bed and slumped straight into it.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

In the morning, Pamela woke up in high spirits. She decided that she was not going to waste her time and energy dwelling on the mysterious occurrences of the previous night. Rather, she would go shopping at the mall and furniture gallery. Later, when the delivery van arrived, she coordinated the installation of various items around the house.

As Pamela spent the next few days redecorating, she imagined what Denise’s reaction would be. Pamela was sure she would be impressed.

There were now lovely settees in the living room, which had once been bare. She had ordered brand new light fixtures to hang from the ceiling. For the floors, she had bought Persian rugs, which she placed underneath the settees and centre table. She had bought an extra rug for her bedroom upstairs. In the kitchen, she had installed a huge double-door fridge, as well as two deep freezers. Her teacups and plates were pure china, her cutlery polished silver. She had also asked a florist to order several new plants, some of which were put in the original flowerpots around the house. Young pine trees were also brought in and planted outside, giving the surrounding garden a whole new appearance.

At the end of the renovations, Pamela was very pleased with herself. She loved the look and feel of freshness that now filled the house.

That night, Pamela treated herself to a long bath. As she got ready for bed, she made a mental note to call Denise the next day. She could already see Denise gushing about how lovely the house now looked, and taking pictures as always.

She fell asleep with these warm and happy thoughts.

Deep in the night, she woke to discover that she was shivering violently. Her teeth were chattering noisily from the cold. Alarmed, Pamela jumped out of bed to put on a sweater and get another blanket.

But as she opened her wardrobe, a thought occurred to her: why am I so cold when the heating is on?

Frowning, she closed the wardrobe and analysed her room. It was as if a cold wind had been blowing in, but she couldn’t find where the wind might be coming from. All the windows in the room were closed tight and so was the door. She checked the heating system and confirmed that it was still on and running fine.

Confused, she rubbed her arms. Why do I feel so cold?

Eventually, she picked up her extra blanket and covered herself.

 

***

 

The next night, she woke up again. It was dark and quiet. Then she realized that her bed was soaking wet. She stood up from the drenched bed and saw that she had been sweating profusely.

She couldn’t understand it.

Is it the weather? she speculated.

Not wanting to dwell too much on the issue, she focussed on changing the bed sheets. She had a quick shower to freshen up. By the time she returned, her bedroom was chilly.

Pamela smiled as she relaxed into her bed. Momentarily, she closed her eyes and hoped to fall asleep.

But she did not fall asleep—she found herself sweating again.

Pamela leapt out of bed in shock. The clean pyjamas she had just put on were now soaked through, and she was covered in sweat again.

Am I running a temperature?

She went to get the thermometer from her first aid kit. Her temperature was regular.

Then why am I sweating so much? she wondered.

Pamela thought it maybe the pyjamas she was wearing, perhaps the material. She took off her damp pyjamas, then put on a pair of shorts and a thin sleeveless top instead. But she didn’t stop sweating.

Worried, Pamela opened the windows and sat on the bed. Within minutes, the temperature in the room dropped considerably and she could see frost beginning to form on her windowsill. Still, she was too hot.

Pamela walked out of her room and began to pace up and down the corridor. As she did, she noticed that her body temperature had started to lower. She was no longer sweating like before.

When she returned to her room, it was extremely cold. She had to close the windows and cover herself with two blankets.

Finally, she fell asleep.

 

***

 

A couple of days later, while she was in the kitchen washing dishes, she felt someone breathing over her neck. It startled her so much that she dropped a china plate and spun around.

There was no one there.

Confused, Pamela bent down to pick up the broken china. As she scooped up the pieces, she felt the sensation again.

Pamela turned around again, but there was no one there.

Now she was beginning to wonder what was going on. She stood up slowly, eyes wide with apprehension.

Pamela knew she was not delusional or imagining things. Someone had been standing behind her, breathing down her neck.

She left the kitchen in a hurry. She went to the living room. She sat down on one of the settees and turned on the television, hoping for a distraction.

While she was watching one of her favourite shows, she began to feel drowsy.

Pamela woke up with a start. As she sat up, she remembered why she was on the settee and what had happened in the kitchen. She yawned and turned off the television.

Dragging herself up the stairs, she went into the bathroom. As she passed the mirror, she was taken aback by her reflection. On impulse, she spun around, expecting to see someone behind her.

No one was there.

She turned around slowly to check again. The woman in the mirror was wearing her clothes and the same confused expression, but Pamela swore that it was not her reflection looking back at her.

Pamela was middle-aged and beautiful, with long black hair that fell to her shoulders, rich skin and bright eyes—the woman in the mirror was profoundly different in many ways.

The woman in the mirror had to be at least seventy or eighty years old, based on the deep lines etched into the skin on her face and neck. Her eyes were sunken and stared out of almost hollow sockets. Her hair was grey and thin.

Pamela let out a gasp, then cried as she backed away from the mirror. But even as she held her mouth to stifle a scream, she saw the reflection copy her movements exactly.

That woman in the mirror is me!

Distressed, Pamela bolted out of the bathroom. She ran into her room and began rummaging through her drawers, searching for a hand-held mirror—she knew she had several lying around.

She found one.

With shaking hands, Pamela turned over the mirror slowly. She hoped with her whole heart to see the face she knew so well, not the stranger that stared back at her in the bathroom.

There has to be a mistake somewhere, she thought. Maybe the mirror in the bathroom is faulty.

When she peered into it, she saw the same face with hollow, sunken eyes and high cheek bones.

Pamela flung the mirror aside and began to sob softly. She fell down on her knees and continued to weep until the cold hands of sleep came over her and she did not remember anything at all.

 

***

 

In the morning, Pamela picked herself off of her bedroom floor.

When she went to freshen up, she wasn’t alarmed or shocked by the old woman staring back at her in the mirror. She simply washed up and headed for the kitchen.

As she started to prepare breakfast, she figured out her situation.

She must have fallen ill, to have aged so drastically.

I’m old? She thought.

She could feel the weakness in her body as she made coffee, already feeling tired after a couple of menial tasks.

She had to get medical help, she reasoned. But as she reached for her phone, she felt the familiar sensation of someone breathing on her neck. She looked over her shoulder but didn’t see anyone.  

She picked up her phone to make a call, then caught sight of her reflection on the surface of an aluminium pot. The image in it was surreal.

Unconsciously, Pamela dropped the phone and picked up the pot.

Pamela stood there, wordlessly holding a pot in the kitchen and staring at her reflection, then her phone began to ring. She took one tired gaze at the ringing phone before ignoring it. She was too fixated on her own reflection.

In the coming days, Pamela would spend endless hours gazing at her reflection on any surface she could find—mirrors, shiny pots, the windows at night time, even the marble floors of her living room.

 

***

 

At the very moment, several towns away, Denise walked into her mother’s room. Her mother could sense that something was wrong. “What’s the matter, dear?”

“I’m worried and concerned.”

“About what?”

“About Pam.”

“Pam?”

“Yes, Mum. I'm worried about her.”

Her mother smiled. “I see. Well, we know that she’s been through a lot lately, especially with the divorce and moving to a new town. But I know your sister is a strong woman. She’ll adjust quickly and be on her feet again. You don’t have to be worried about her.”

Denise shook her head vigorously. “No, Mum, you don’t understand. That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Her mother frowned. “But the other day you showed me those pictures of her beautiful house. She’s clearly doing just fine. I’m sure we’ll hear good news about her getting job offers soon enough.”

“Mum, that’s not what I mean.”

Her mother frowned again. “Then what?”

“You know, Mum, I call Pam every day. We would usually chat for hours on end.”

“Yes, I know that, dear. You two have always been quite close.”

“The last few times we spoke, she was barely coherent.”

“Barely coherent?”

“Yeah, I didn’t understand what she was saying—none of it made any sense. It was like talking to someone who’d just woken up from a deep sleep.”

“You mean you called her when she was sleeping? What did you expect?”

“No! Even if I called during the day or in the morning, she always sounded the same. She wasn’t making any sense at all.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m absolutely sure. She’d just mumble strange things, like she didn’t know where she was. Two days ago, she stopped answering my calls.”

Her mother sat up straight. “She’s not picking up?”

“No, she hasn’t even read my texts. And I’ve sent quite a few.”

“What should we do?”

“I’m going to pay her a visit first thing tomorrow morning. I have to find out what’s happening.”

 

 

Chapter 3

 

The next day, Pamela heard her doorbell ringing downstairs. She went to answer the door. “Denise?” Pamela was surprised to see her sister on the porch. “You should have called me first! How did you know I’d be in?”

Pamela left the door open and turned, expecting Denise to follow—but when she didn’t hear any response, she turned to find Denise staring at her with her mouth agape. “What’s wrong, Denise? Come on in and close the door.”

But Denise just stood there, staring. “Pam, what happened?”

“What happened? What happened where?”

“To… to you?”

“Me? Nothing happened to me.”

“Have you looked in the mirror recently?”

“The mirror?” Pamela furrowed her brow. “No, not the mirror. I don’t want to see that woman again.”

“What woman?”

“There’s a woman in my mirrors. Anytime I look into one, she’s there, blocking my view of the real me. She thinks I don’t know what she’s doing, but I do! She wants me to believe that it’s me I’m looking at!”

“Pam, what are you talking about? Have you taken a look at yourself? You’re a mess! My goodness, what happened to you?”

“Nothing’s happened, Denise.”

Denise held back what she wanted to say. She simply led her sister to the bathroom. As they walked through the house, she could not believe what she was seeing. It was a disaster. The place clearly hadn’t been cleaned in a while. There were dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, and dust lined the floors and cupboards.

In the bathroom, Denise quietly cleaned up her sister. Pamela hadn’t taken a shower or combed her hair for several days.

While Denise was helping her dress, Pamela hugged her, then broke down and began to cry. Pamela recounted everything that had happened to her since she moved into the house six months ago.

Denise pulled away from her distraught sister. “Six months? What do you mean six months? You just moved here a couple of weeks ago!”

Pamela blinked and shook her head. “What? No, not two weeks. It was six months ago.”

“No, you’re wrong, sis. Where’s your paperwork?”

Pam went to one of the cupboards, then opened a drawer and rifled through several sheets of paper. Denise peered through them too. “Look at the date,” she pointed. “Can you see it?”

Pamela followed her sister’s finger. She gasped. Denise was right. The papers were dated two weeks ago. With tears streaming from her eyes, she looked at her younger sister. “Denise, what is happening to me? ”

Denise hugged her tightly. “Don’t worry, sis. I’m here now.”

 

***

 

The next day, Denise woke up early to take more pictures. When Pamela came downstairs, she saw her sister busy with the camera. “You want to show Mum more pictures?”

“No,” Denise replied. “I have a hunch about what might be happening to you and this house.”

After taking several photos throughout the house, Denise sat down to review them with Pamela. She had just opened the first picture when she snapped her fingers and exclaimed. “There, what did I tell you? I said something was wrong, didn’t I?”

Pamela took the camera and examined it. There was a photo of the living room, with the settees in frame. Pamela was sitting on one of the settees, watching television. On the other settee was a pale, white woman in a black veil.

Pamela gasped. The camera fell to her lap.

Denise picked it up and patted her sister’s arm. “Don’t worry, Pam. We’ll get to the root of this mystery.”

They went through the other pictures of different parts of the house. Just as Denise had suspected, that same woman was in every one.

Pamela was now panting, like someone who had just run a race. “Who is she? Who is this woman?”

“I’m sure we’ll soon find out, sis,” Denise reassured her. She brought out her laptop and began to google the history of the house. After a while, Denise discovered several articles. “Pam! Come and see what I found!”

Pamela sat down next to her at the table. “What did you find?”

“There used to be a woman called Isabella. She was the owner of this house a long time ago,” Denise said, showing her a picture from the laptop.

Pamela couldn’t believe it. “That woman looks exactly like the one in your photos! In my reflection!”

“Yes, she does.”

“How on earth did she get into my house?”

“If my guess is right, she doesn’t have to get into your house because she lives here.”

Pamela frowned at her sister. “She lives here? What do you mean by that?”

“These articles say she was robbed by eight men one evening. And after they robbed her, she was raped before they murdered her.”

“Oh my god. Raped and murdered?”

“Yes. Right inside this very house.”

“Then that means she… she is…”

“She’s a ghost. That’s why we’ve been seeing her in all these pictures. She’s still in this house. She hasn’t gone anywhere.”

“My goodness. What have I gotten myself into?”

“It’s not your fault—there’s no way you could have known about the evil crime that had taken place here. It happened a very long time ago.”

“That must have been a horrible time for this town. Were the criminals ever caught?”

“Not long after Isabella’s murder, eight of the suspects died mysteriously one after the other.”

“All of them?”

“Yes, all of them were killed, those eight men. Local legend says that Isabella’s ghost went after them herself.”

Denise saw her sister shiver involuntarily. “This is terrible, very terrible indeed! What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know. But I think we have to get in touch with someone who’s familiar with such strange occurrences—someone who knows a thing or two about ghosts and communicating with them.”

Pamela snapped her fingers. “I think I know just the right person—Beatrice. She’s an old friend of mine from my college days.”

“You think she might be able to help us?”

“She should. If I recall correctly, she’s always been into this sort of thing, studying ghosts and hauntings. She’d be really helpful.”

Denise picked up her sister’s phone and handed it to her. “Then we’d better call her right away, Pam.”

Pamela nodded and made the call.

“Well? What did she say?” Denise asked.

“She was actually quite excited,”

“Really? So she knows what to do?”

Pamela nodded. “That’s what she said. She promised to get here as soon as possible. I’ve already given her the address. Now we just have to wait for her to get here.”

They were watching the television in the living room when they heard the doorbell ring.

Denise went to open the front door. There was Beatrice on the porch, smiling excitedly. “Hello there! This must be Pamela’s new place, right? And you must be Denise, nice to meet you!”

Before Denise could respond, Beatrice had pushed past into the living room. Denise wasn’t too sure about what she had seen Beatrice holding. But when Denise reached the living room, she saw that Beatrice was carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and an Ouija board in the other.

“The place looks nice,” Beatrice commented.

“My sister told you what’s been happening here?” Denise asked, as she sank into a nearby settee.

“Yes, that’s why I’m here.”

“So, when do we start?” Denise asked.

“After dinner.”

That evening, the three women cooked dinner with little fuss. They ate and drank by the fireplace and shared stories. Once it struck midnight, Beatrice went to get the Ouija board.

“Get me three candles,” Beatrice instructed Denise.

Beatrice lit the three candles and placed them around the Ouija board. She then gestured at them to sit down around the board.

“Does this thing really work?” Denise asked, with a hint of scepticism.

“Yes, it does. Just keep an open mind and be sensitive,” Beatrice replied. “I will be the one talking with the ghost. No matter what happens or what it says, neither of you should utter a single word—do you understand?”

Both sisters nodded.

Beatrice closed her eyes as they joined hands around the board. “We are here to contact the being in charge of this space, this house, this home. If you are here, if your presence is amongst us at this early hour, please give us a sign.”

Suddenly, the flames of the three candles flickered. It was as if a soft wind had blown through the living room.

Beatrice looked at the two sisters. She could see the doubt in their eyes. She knew she had to do something more convincing. “Spirit in charge of this house,” she called again. “Please give us a sign that you are here in our presence.”

The lights hanging from the ceiling began to flicker randomly, and the candlelight wavered. Suddenly, the bulbs went out, throwing the house into darkness. The only light came from the candles and the fireplace.

Pam and Denise were focusing intently and their doubts seemed to fade.

“Thank you for your confirmation,” Beatrice said. “We have come in peace, and only seek answers from you. Please can you tell us: are you Isabella?”

The pointer on the Ouija board moved swiftly, spelling ‘Yes’.

“How long have you been in this house, Isabella?” Beatrice continued.

The Ouija pointer moved again. ‘Very long. My house’.

In the dim light of the fire, Beatrice saw Pamela shift and open her mouth to speak. Beatrice squeezed her friend’s hand. When Pamela looked at her, Beatrice shook her head. Pamela hesitated but remained quiet.

“Please Isabella, we simply want to know what you want. Why are you still here?” Beatrice continued.

The Ouija pointer moved ‘My house. Leave. Leave me alone’.

Before Beatrice could respond, Pamela yanked her hands away. She fell hard on the floor and began to jerk violently.

Denise and Beatrice leapt up and rushed to Pamela’s side, trying to hold her steady even though they were both terrified.

But no matter how hard they tried, they could not subdue the spasms that jolted through Pamela’s body.

She shook uncontrollably and foam spewed from her mouth.

“Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Denise cried.

But her cries were in vain. Pamela continued to foam from her mouth, then her eyes turned white. Her fingernails grew longer and her hair began to stand on end. Pamela’s face contorted as her teeth elongated and protruded from her mouth.

Both Denise and Beatrice backed away as Pamela began to undergo that awful transformation.

Pamela was now hissing and howling like a rabid dog. She stood up and began to pace around. Suddenly, she bolted into the kitchen.

“Where is she going?” Beatrice asked. “Come back here, Pam! Pam, come back here!”

Denise and Beatrice were still figuring out what to do when Pamela reappeared from the kitchen, snarling angrily. In her hands, she brandished sharp knives with delight. She advanced towards them, growling and staring at them with wide, white eyes.

“Run!” Beatrice shouted, pulling Denise with her.

As Denise fled through the living room, she snatched up her bag and her camera. As soon as Denise ran out the front door, Beatrice slammed it shut behind her.

Beatrice led Denise to her parked car. They jumped in and locked the doors. Beatrice turned on the engine and sped away.

As Beatrice drove, Denise turned to look back through the darkness. On impulse, she turned on the flash and took a few photos of the house before it disappeared in the distance.

Denise examined the pictures she had just taken. Beatrice heard her gasp.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” Beatrice asked.

“Look!” Denise cried out, facing the camera towards her.

Denise had taken very clear shots of the house.

In all the photos, the lights in the house were turned on. In one of the windows, she could see two women looking at the camera.

They were both waving and smiling.

They were oddly familiar to her.

It was Isabella and Pamela.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar