The toddler’s wicked laugh echoed throughout the basement, bounced off the walls, and traumatized my ear drums. I cringed and strengthened my grip on the dagger until my knuckles turned white.
Despite the danger I was in, I had trouble staying focused. Today had been a long day. After spending six hours cooped up in class trying to wrap my mind around criminal psychology, I had spent another two hours in the library crouched over dusty newspapers with pages yellowed from age, trying to find out as much as I could about the specter I’d dubbed the Main Street Basement Ghost. Then I headed to Main Street, to an apartment building straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie, and here I was, face to face with the ghost.
Well, maybe not face to face, since the toddler-ghost was playing a game of hide and seek.
The toddler laughed, and I followed the noise, farther into the darkness. I’d brought a flashlight, but the batteries had died about five minutes into the investigation. Usually, I had moonlight to guide me, but in this windowless basement, stark darkness was the only thing greeting me as I groped my way through stacks of boxes, mannequins, and things better left forgotten.
I caught a glimpse of a white, glowing figure moving in the back of the room. Knocking over several boxes, I rushed to the spot as fast I could.
The darkness worked as a disadvantage for the ghost. He was crouched behind a tower of books — nevertheless, the eerie glow surrounding him gave him away. In the daytime, he would’ve been much harder to spot, but in the darkness, he was a glowing beacon.
I stopped in front of the pile of hard covers and glanced at the glow resonating from behind it. The eerie light barely reached my torso. Getting rid of adolescent ghosts was never easy and a pang of guilt tugged at my heart. But this kid had killed three people already, I reminded myself.
At that moment, the kid launched himself at the books, toppling them over, crushing me. I raised my hands to my head for protection while I was continuously bombarded, trying to keep my balance at the same time.
He towered over me. His dark hair was disheveled, and he wore nineteenth- century clothes stained with blood. His head tilted slightly to the right. Half of it had been cut off, as if whoever had decided to rid the kid of his head, didn’t have the stomach to complete the job. His eyes were dark and hollow, and they stared at me with unmatched venom.
Leave me alone.
His lips didn’t move, but his voice was clear as day. Hatred glistened in his eyes. He snarled and launched himself at me with his fingers clawed, growling like an animal.
I took a step back and braced myself for the collision. His full weight hit me right in the chest, and I fell backward. I grabbed the ghost and held him away from me, while he gnarled, bit, spat, and clawed at me.
Drops of sweat dripped down my forehead, and blood oozed where he scratched me. I grimaced and pushed the ghost away with all my strength. It flew several meters backward, but instead of dropping to the floor, it hovered mid-air. Its eyes sparked with black flames, and it hissed at me.
Guess I pissed it off for real this time.
I scrambled around on my knees in search of the dagger I dropped to the floor when the ghost knocked me over. The search was proving useless as I couldn’t spot it anywhere.
The ghost’s mouth grew large enough to swallow a small person, forming a black, gaping hole. Its eyes became small slits, like a snake’s. It launched at me again, as fast as a leopard.
Running was out of the question. This thing, zigzagging toward me, its face the material of nightmares, was a lot faster than I was.
My gaze darted left and right, still in search of the dagger when I caught the silver sparkling in the ghost’s glow. It was behind him. Just my luck.
Lunging up, I ran forward toward the ghost, dropped to the floor, and dove below the phantom, straight at the dagger. My sleeve ripped and I bumped my elbow into the wall, but at least I had my dagger back.
The ghost howled like a wounded animal. Turning around, it pulled back its arm and swung at me. I grabbed it mid-swing with my left hand, clenching my teeth as I used all my strength to stop the attack, and with my right hand, I plunged the dagger straight into its belly.
The spirit and I stared at each other for a beat. He screamed, a sound that went through marrow and bone. Then he vanished.
Relieved, I stumbled backward. My knees were wobbly, and I had to hold on to the wall for support. Taking deep breaths, I tried to steady my heartbeat. With the ghost gone, the basement had gone from illuminated-by-eerie-ghost-glow to pitch black darkness.
When I’d recovered a little, I fumbled through the pockets of my jacket until I found my cell phone. The battery was almost dead, but I was hoping it would hold out until I got out of here.
Groping my way through the darkness, I bumped into a million different things, and almost suffered a heart attack when I ran into a life-sized mannequin. It seemed to take forever before I managed to make it out of the basement. I slipped twice on the stairs going up, and by the time I reached the hallway, I felt as if I’d just survived a year in Alcatraz. There were lights in the hallway, although they were on emergency setting; they went on and off every few seconds.
My backpack still lay where I’d left it, right outside the entrance to the basement. I slumped down against the wall, opened up my backpack and grabbed a bottle of water. I drank half of it, and poured the other half over my head in an attempt to cool off. Next, I pulled out my pocket mirror and inspected the damage to my face. Green eyes, thin, black eyebrows, a straight nose, high cheekbones, a small bruise under my left eye, and a cracked lip stared back at me. But at least my teeth seemed fine, and the bruise was small enough to cover up with concealer. My hair was a mess, though.
I loosened my ponytail and ruffled through my long, black hair. With caution, I searched my scalp inch by inch, looking for wounds. I had hit my head pretty hard the first time the ghost launched at me. But apart from a growing bump at the back of my head, the rest seemed fine.
My arms hadn’t been so lucky. They were covered in scratch marks where my sleeve had ripped. Another jacket ruined. My ankle throbbed and my head hurt, but all in all, the damage was minimal. Which was to be expected, considering that the Main Street Basement Ghost was a piece of cake compared to some of the other specters I’d fought.
I stumbled a little when I got back up. After hoisting my backpack over my shoulder, I walked through the hallway and out of the abandoned apartment building.
Another ghost had been sent straight back to the afterlife, and another paycheck awaited my collection tomorrow. My employer would be glad his building was ghost free, and that he could now safely find new tenants for the fourteen apartments above the haunted basement. As for me, I was glad I’d be able to pay the rent for another month, and buy some food for the table. A girl had to eat.
About the Author:
Author Majanka Verstraete has written more than twenty unique works of fiction. A native of Belgium, Majanka’s novels explore the true nature of monsters: the good, the bad, and just about every species in between. Her young adult books include the acclaimed Mirrorland (YA Dark Fantasy) and Angel of Death (YA Paranormal) series of novels.
Majanka is currently developing a new YA shifter series with a fresh take on fierce female detectives called THE ADVENTURES OF MARISOL HOLMES which will be published by Monster House Books in October 2018.
Her NA paranormal romance series, Ghost Slayer, has been picked up by Fire Quill Publishing. The first volume will be released in 2017.
When she’s not writing, Majanka is probably playing World of Warcraft or catching up with the dozens of TV series she’s addicted to.
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