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Before This | After This

So, hey, I actually finally fucking finished something. How crazy is that? It's in process of going up on THF right now, so I thought that I should remember to come over here and throw it up all fast like so you guys get it first, like you have been so far. <3 (but if you want to comment over there, too, I won't smack the keyboard out of your hands. ;) )

One, Two, Three, Four

“Bill still isn’t back yet?” Tom asked, scanning the parlor and furrowing his brow. “How long does it take to change a camera?”

“I don’t know,” Gustav said, scooting over as Georg flopped down next to him. “Maybe he got lost. Maybe he put the batteries in backwards and can’t figure out why the camera won’t come on. I’m not him.”

Tom hedged in the doorway, looking back towards the darkened stairs. “Well...we should probably check on him or something, right? I mean, it has been a while.”

“Have at,” Georg agreed, gesturing to the door. “As for me, I’m going to be chowing down on these fluffernutters while you’re gone.”

“Hey now!” Bill said, clapping Tom on the shoulders and making him just about jump out of his skin. “You touch my fluffernutters and we’re going to be adding one more murder to this house’s history.” Patting Tom on the back, Bill slipped around him and sat down on the floor, holding out a hand and receiving a gooey peanut butter and marshmallow laden sandwich. “So, did I miss anything interesting?”

“Not really,” Tom said, sitting next to Bill and laying claim to one of the other fluffernutters.

“Tom got scared and almost broke one of the other cameras,” Georg said matter of factly, digging a sandwich out of the cooler for himself. “I had to go help him finish checking his cameras because he didn’t want to go alone.”

Tom huffed aloud as Bill snorted around sandwich. “I wasn’t scared. I just didn’t have a light that worked and I didn’t want to go pitching over a couch because I couldn’t see it.”

Georg hummed, unconvinced.

“Holy shit, your flashlight died?” Bill asked, excited. “That’s supposed to be a sure sign of some sort of ghost presence.”

“Or a sign of shitty batteries,” Tom countered, fishing his flashlight out of his pocket and flashing it at Bill’s face. “It’s fine now. It just needed different batteries.”

Bill flinched, rubbing the spots out of his vision and glaring in the general direction of Tom. “Maybe it needed new batteries because the ghosts sucked up all the juice from the old ones. Come on, that would be way more interesting,” Bill wheedled, bumping against Tom’s shoulder with his own. “We’re supposed to be looking for the supernatural here, not complaining about the quality of bulk battery purchases.”

“Shitty batteries really are more likely, though,” Georg interjected through a mouthful of turkey and swiss.

Frowning, Bill folding himself into a sulking ball and turned is attention to his own meal, the very joy and wonder of a sandwich filled with marshmallow cream sullied by his friend’s, and traitor of a brother’s, lack of enthusiasm for their ghost hunting project. Beside him, Tom sighed, rolling his eyes at Bill’s usual dramatics and refusing to rise to his bait. Grumpy silence held sway over the room for a long minute, broken only by the sticky smacking noises of everyone’s chewing and the occasion sharp rustle of a bag of chips being rifled through.

“So,” Gustav finally began, making at least half the room’s occupants jump at the sudden break in the silence, “who wants to see what we got on the tapes?”

“Me!” Bill exclaimed, shoving up to his knees and digging through his pockets for his memory card while Gustav got his laptop booting. “I kept hearing something dripping while I was up there, but I couldn’t see anything. I want to know if it came across on the tape.”

“Wow, dripping. That’s scary,” Tom said, scooting around to plant himself next to Georg while Bill squished in between Georg and Gustav.

“I never said it was scary. It was just weird,” Bill countered, watching expectantly as Gustav hooked the little memory card up to the computer and opened the file.

The pale green tinted bathroom shivered slightly as Bill from the past made sure it was properly set up on the tripod, his own washed out face coming into frame a second later. Looking it over briefly, his pupils brightly reflecting light back into the lens, Bill nodded and smiled. “There we go. Alright, show me something cool, little camera,” he said, disappearing from view, the only sound in the room his footsteps retreating before fading away entirely.

In the video, the bathtub sat front and center in the room; the location of at least two dismemberments and a drowning over the course of the house’s history. Even with such a gory pedigree, the tub looked...boring. It was just a plain white tub, up on curved clawed little feet, granted, but it wasn’t any different than a fancy bath in any other house. There were no blood stains or claw marks on the walls around it. It was just an old tub. An old tub that sat there and didn’t do anything at all for a solid, seemingly endless eight minutes.

“Wait! Did you see that?” Bill exclaimed, leaning in towards the computer screen sharply enough that he nearly jostled it off its perch on Gustav’s knees.

“Jesus Christ, Bill,” Tom replied, clutching at his chest from the sudden shock of Bill’s interruption. “See what?”

“Zip it back, would you, Gustav?” Bill asked, waiting while Gustav rewound the video for a minute. Holding his hand near the screen, Bill waited breathless before pointing. “That! Right there!”

“...Dust?” Georg asked, squinting at the screen as Gustav rewound and replayed the bit of footage again.

“No, not dust,” Bill said, somewhat condescendingly. “It’s orbs! They’re totally a thing you’re supposed to look for in ghost videos. It’s practically proof positive.”

“Like dying flashlights?” Tom asked skeptically.

Bill glared at his twin. “Yes, like dying flashlights. Come on, you’re supposed to be on my side here.”

“It does kind of just look like dust,” Gustav said, slowing down the video and playing it again at half speed. “I mean, we have stirred up an awful lot of dust just walking around this place. It would stand to reason that some would blow past the camera once in awhile.” Looking over at Bill, who was glaring back at him, Gustav put up a hand defensively. “Or it could be orbs, whatever. I don’t watch these ghost shows.”

“It’s orbs,” Bill declared, taking the computer from Gustav and settling it on his own boney knees. “We should watch and see if they congregate around the tub or anything. Ghosts would totally congregate around the tub.”

Locking his eyes on the screen, Bill watched as a few more dust motes drifted past the camera, harmlessly bobbing out of frame and vanishing entirely. None of them came even remotely near the bathtub, and there wasn’t even a hiss of EVP in the audio whispering out of the speakers. As much as Bill hated to admit it, there really didn’t seem to be anything going on in the video at all. He couldn’t even hear the little drips of water he could have sworn that he’d heard while he was up there. There was just...nothing. And it was boring as shit.

Around him Tom and Georg has already gotten tired of watching a bathtub sit and exist, and had gone back to, quietly, ransacking the cooler for snacks, while Gustav tried to remember if he’d fully charged his laptop before they left or if he’d just meant to. It wasn’t like he was going to be able to find an outlet that worked to charge the thing if it died in the middle of Bill’s avid ghost searching.

“This is so boring,” Bill finally admitted fourteen minutes of unchanging footage later. “How do the people on the shows do this all the time? It’s mind numbing.” Pushing the computer back to Gustav, Bill reached over and stole Tom’s half eaten bag of chips before flopping over backwards onto Gustav’s sleeping bag. “We still have seven more cameras to go through, and that’s just the first couple hours. By the end of the night we’re going to have….”

“Nearly 50 hours,” Gustav offered.

“Nearly 50 hours of nothing footage to sift through for what? More stupid dust?” Sighing despondently, Bill stuffed a handful of cheesy corn chips into his mouth. “This was dumb.”

Shifting around Georg, Tom took up the spot next to Bill, scruffling his hair and rumpling his ponytail. “Naw, Bill. It’s fun. I mean, yeah, it’s going to take a while to go through everything in the end, but who knows? We could still get something cool. I mean, hell, my flashlight died. There’s probably going to be all kinds of crazy shit on my cameras.”

Bill pursed his lips. “You think so?”

“Sure, why not? This dumb house totally has to have something going on somewhere. It just hasn’t kicked in yet,” Tom said, nodding affirmation.

Bill grinned. “You’re probably right. Let’s put your tape in and see what it’s got,” he said, getting a barely concealed round of sighs from the rest of the room.

***

Tom’s video was just as boring as Bill’s had been. Nothing moved, nothing creaked, and the only sound in the room was of Georg snoring on his sleeping bag a few feet away while Bill tried his best to listen for moans or screams or anything that would be interesting. By the end of the first 15 minutes he would have been happy to see a mouse run across the room, At least that would have been something. After half an hour he’d dozed off against Tom’s shoulder.

Watching the twins slowly listing into sleep, Gustav managed to rescue his laptop and get it shut down and set aside before the pair flopped over in a tangled pile of lanky limbs. With them asleep, part of him almost didn’t want to set the alarm on his phone to wake them up for the next battery change. They could all just hunker down and sleep through the night and head out in the morning with what they had. Easy.

Sighing, Gustav set his alarm anyway. He knew too well that, if they didn’t get a full night that night, Bill would just make them stay another night, and he didn’t want another entire day of cold sandwiches and chips as his future.

***

Bill startled at the sound of Gustav’s alarm going off in the quiet room, elbowing Tom in the ribs as he came awake all at once.

“Ow! The fuck, Bill?” Tom grumbled sleepily, pushing his twin away from him and trying to snuggle back down against the sleeping bag they’d fallen asleep on.

Yawning, Gustav shut his alarm off and stretched. “It’s time for another battery check,” he said plainly, standing and toeing at Georg to wake him before digging through his bag for another batch of batteries and memory cards. “Same rooms as last time, yeah?”

Bill gaped at him as a handful of items were dropped into his hands. “We fell asleep? Here?” he asked incredulously. “Before midnight?”

Gustav shrugged, handing supplies off to Georg. “It’s been a long day and we were watching basically the most boring video ever shot. I’m surprised you stayed awake as long as you did.”

“But…” Bill began, frowning. “Man, we probably missed so much cool stuff.”

“And it’s probably on tape,” Tom said, accepting his own things and climbing to his feet. “Alright, time to go see of the camera wants to try to blind me again, and then I’m going back to sleep.” Picking up his flashlight, Tom gave it a quick test before heading drowsily out into the house.

“Same. man. I was having the best dream. You know Eva that works at the coffee shop?” Georg began, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“Ugh, I think I’d rather go drown myself in the murder tub than listen to you talk about your weird sex dreams,” Bill said, pushing up to his own feet and stretching. “We’re watching at least one video when we all get back, though. We should really at least pretend to try to find something.”

Georg scoffed, shaking his head and following Tom off into the rest of the house, leaving Bill and Gustav alone in the sitting room. “Hey, I’ll watch one with you. At the least, we’ll get to listen to Tom get freaked out by his camera malfunction,” Gustav said, getting a bright smile out of Bil.

“Thanks, Gustav. I’m glad at least one other person wants to take this seriously.” Checking his own flashlight, Bill headed off towards the stairs while Gustav made his way towards his own set of cameras.

***

Tom yawned aggressively as he swapped out his batteries and memory card for the second time that evening. Somehow it was less scary wandering out into the house a second time, even if it was after midnight this time. Even his flashlight was behaving better this time, giving him nary a flicker to startle him into further wakefulness.

As neat as it would be to actually manage to catch proof of a ghost on camera, or at least something that could be spun that way if they really tried, Tom was starting to think that Gustav was right. It was just an old house with an unfortunate history. The scariest thing they were going to run into was their own imaginations going haywire.

***

Georg was more than happy to get back out of the mildew stink of the wine cellar and back up into the main house once he got his batteries changed out. He knew he was probably misremembering, but he could almost swear that the basement smelled worse than it had the first few times he’s been down there. Maybe it was just because he’d been stirring up all the old, fetid water that had been sitting down there for so long, Who knows what all could have been lying and rotting in that water all these years. There could be dozens of lost squirrels that had met their end trying to find someplace warm to stay, which was both sad and disgusting.

Making his way back to the servants quarters, Georg ran his fingers along the wooden railing, smooth and warm under his hands. Someone had loved this bannister back in the day, had polished and oiled it regularly, even though it only lead up to the servants’ quarters, and it killed Georg inside just a little to see it left to rot, abandoned and forgotten. A house like this, woodwork like this, should be taken care of and cherished. Nowadays it seems like all anyone wanted was laminate and PVP and plastic, god knew he’d put in enough of it himself, but this? This was old growth hardwood. This was worth more than he made in a year, and no one gave a shit about it.

Sighing to himself, Georg changed out of memory card and batteries on the upstairs camera, stroking the footboard of the bed and feeling the carving through the sheets covering it. “You deserve so much better than Gustav,” he said aloud, the wind from the window stroking across his cheek like a touch. Part of him almost hoped that the twins managed to find something on their recordings, just so they could make sure that Gustav kept the place. The things he could do to it if given a chance. He’d love this house more than anyone else ever could.

***

Gustav scratched his forehead. He was almost sure that he’d left the camera pointing at the piano when he’d left, not at the painting, or at least he’d meant to. He must have gotten distracted when he knocked the sheet off and left it turned the wrong way round, he figured. No big deal, all in all, it just meant that they’d have a few more hours of boring footage of an old fireplace. It wasn’t like the piano had started playing itself and they managed to miss it or anything.

Changing his own batteries and such around, Gustav made sure to point the camera at the piano this time, checking the angle on it twice just to make sure it was framed well. Satisfied, Gustav nodded to himself before making to head off to the next camera, pausing briefly to glance again at the painting over the fireplace. On second viewing, she was a bit prettier than he’d originally given her credit for. No great beauty, but she definitely had something about her that you didn’t pick up on immediately. Gustav figured she’d probably been the matron of the house at some point, maybe even the woman that had killed her children. He doubted that, though. She certainly didn’t look like a murderer to him. She looked nice, if a bit old fashioned.

Pulling his attention from the painting, Gustav made himself head off to his other camera. Battery changes and more sleep awaited him, and he couldn’t spend all night staring at a painting.

***

Bill was ready for the glowing red ‘eye’ of the camera in the bathroom this time, not jumping even a little when they swam up out of the dark at him. “Yeah, you thought you could scare me again, did you?” he said to it, popping out the old memory card and the batteries in a much more fluid movement than the last time. “I’m on to your games this time, camera.” Switching everything out, Bill pointed the camera at the mirror, making faces at himself in the green night vision glow for a moment before setting it back up on its tripod. “There, now there will at least be something on the tapes that’s mildly entertaining.”

Squaring up his shot, Bill cast his flashlight beam around the bathroom again. He’d had such high hopes for this trip, and so far it had just been shitty batteries and him scaring himself with lights and old house noises. It was enough to almost make him want to call it quits and got get a hotel for the rest of the night so they could at least sleep on comfortable beds instead of an old, dusty floor. But, man, it would have been so cool to get a ghost on tape. Even just a little one or a discernable word coming through on video that wasn’t one of them.

It would have been so cool.

Disappointed, Bill headed back towards the door, the sound of water dripping again behind him. “What is that?” Bill asked the room, shining his light around it a second time. It sounded for all the world like a drippy faucet, something he was well familiar with thanks to their apartment’s shitty plumbing, but everything appeared to be dry when he looked it over. There was nothing he could see that could explain it.

Raising an eyebrow, Bill looked at the camera. Nothing he could see, but who knew, maybe the camera could manage to pick something up. That’s how it always worked on the shows, after all, so it was worth a shot.

Picking up the camera again, Bill was bathed in pale green light as he turned the camera around the room, getting the all clear from the doorway and the toilet, seeing nothing but the old rust marks on the sink. The bathtub, however, was another story. Clapping a hand over his mouth, Bill stared as the light from his flashlight reflected in ripples off the surface of the water filling the tub, water that wasn’t there a moment ago when he’d looked unassisted. “What the fuck?” he whispered, looking over the edge of the camera at the bathtub.

Another drop of water splashed down, sending a new set of ripples across the water. “What. The. Fuck?” Bill repeated again, creeping around the camera and closer to the bath even as the sensible part of himself screamed to turn around and run back downstairs. “How in the…?”

Reaching the edge of the tub, Bill sank to his knees, watching through the viewfinder as his free hand creep towards the surface. He didn’t entirely want to touch the water, he wanted to leave and get Tom and have a witness to prove that he wasn’t crazy, but part of him wanted proof that it was real.

The water was surprisingly warm as his hand sunk into it; warm and strangely thick. Like blood, he thought in spite of himself, jerking his hand away at the idea and scraping it against his pants. “It’s not blood, stupid, it’s clear,” he told himself, carefully touching the water again and watching it fall in gooey ribbons from his fingers. “Gross. What is this shit?”

Pushing his hand in deeper, Bill started as his flashlight flickered, going bright before going out entirely. “The fu…” he began, sucking in a gasp as something grabbed hold of his wrist and pulled him under.

Comments

( 3 Words — Your Words Go Here )
volare
Sep. 30th, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
YAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

(Georg. Me. Yes exactly... *nods*)

wait, ain't this part 5?

Edited at 2016-09-30 01:43 pm (UTC)
tattooofhername
Sep. 30th, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC)
I ship Volare/the house!
gajastar
Sep. 30th, 2016 05:20 pm (UTC)
You know, it absolutely IS part 5. Me and numbers no work good, apparently. :)
( 3 Words — Your Words Go Here )