The Upstairs Room

by Tony Smith

The upstairs room by Tony Smith

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The house was situated at the end of a winding path, at the top of a hill. The garden, although very much overgrown, was a good size. Most of the trellis type fencing was either blown over, or in a state of disrepair. Where the dense forest met the dilapidated fencing; the boundary was encroached by trees; if you didn't know any better, you might think the tree's were actually moving further into the garden, and closer to the house. The vendor's asking price was a good deal less than they thought it might be, but as Bradley Petersen pointed out to his wife Evelyn, there was so much work needing to be done throughout the property, that the lower asking price didn't seem, quite so outlandish.

The Petersen family consisted of: Bradley and Evelyn, and their five year old son Dexter. They also had a dog; a three year old Labrador called Jasper. The dog seemed to be troubled by something unseen, and was acting very strangely, spending most of the time staring up into the stairwell, and often barking, which would bring a rebuke for the noise. Dexter had started talking to an imaginary friend, who he called "Mr Howdie".

The property was three storeys, and in truth was far too big for the young family, but the situation was about to change:

"Bradley I have some news for you which could change things around here" said a rather excitable Evelyn to her husband.

"Don't tell me you've secretly been investing money, and have amassed a fortune sufficiently large that I won't have to work twenty six hours a day for the next two hundred years to pay for this house!"

"Try again honey"

"I give up, you know how I hate these guessing games Ev" and on saying these words he fell back into a chair, and awaited a response.

"Well I am not sure how to tell you this after you've just said that, but here goes anyway; I've been to see Dr Burdett and he has confirmed what I suspected....."

"What, what is it, you're not ill, are you?"

"I'm not sure, it rather depends on your perspective; I mean if you consider being pregnant an illness, then I must be unwell, but if you look on it as......" Bradley jumped up from the chair, grabbed Evelyn around her waist cutting off her words in mid flow and kissed her.

"You're not mad at me then" she whispered.

"Of course not sweetheart, come here" and pulling her closer he said:

"I'm made up darling, mind you I will have to work twenty seven hours a day for two hundred years now!"

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The next few months were filled with Bradley working every available hour in the house. As the "making good" in the property progressed Bradley turned to his presently unemployed brother for some much needed assistance.

Peter was three years younger than Bradley and, although he had graduated from a top university, was not in any hurry to get a foothold on the careers ladder, so helping his older sibling suited him down to the ground.

"Give that back Mr Howdie, that's mine" said five year old Dexter, as he splashed about in the bath, what it was that Mr Howdie had taken was not clear, and when Evelyn re-entered the bathroom to check on her little man, as far as could be ascertained it had not been returned.

"Where is your submarine Honey bunny have you thrown it out of the bath?"

"No mummy it was Mr Howdie, he took it."

"Oh I see it under that towel, hold on, I'll get it for you." as she stretched across the corner of the bath to pick up the errant nautical plaything something caught her eye, she straightened up from her stooping position, dropped the submarine into the water and turned to face the bathroom mirror; There, written across the bottom portion of the bathroom accoutrement were the words "LEAVE THIS PLACE". The handwriting was childlike in it's construction, one or two of the letters were written in reverse and there was no uniformity to either the height or width of each letter of each word. The scrawl was applied in vermilion red colour, although what medium was used to render the sentence onto glass wasn't obvious to the naked eye. Evelyn recoiled from the mirror and stepped back from the bath to a position of about five feet from her child who had now got himself out of the tub, as she started towards him with a towel she removed her gaze from Dexter and turned to once more view the mirror, now sullied and defaced by someone or something unseen, certainly unseen by her. Terrified by the writing on the glass, she tried to keep her fears from her child. As she dried her son, the letters on the mirror were all now flowing freely with the main body of what in reality amounted to some type of unholy graffiti, now with a viscous bloody fluid running from the start of the words down the wall to the floor, where they collected in a pool of undetermined origin. Evelyn didn't know what was the best thing to do about these events. Mind you, with all the stress she had been under lately, how could she honestly say what she saw in the bathroom, maybe it was nothing, perhaps her lack of sleep was taking it's toll, causing her to see things that were not really there?

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"Are we going to smash right through this plasterboard or what bro?"

"What do you think you clutz?" said Bradley impatiently.

"Just checking bro, right through it is then chief, INCOMING!" "CRASHHH!" the eighteen pound hammer hit home and smashed the aforementioned plasterboard to smithereens and when the dust settled, which took quite a time as there was tonnes of builder's gypsum everywhere, the view the other side of where the board once stood was a complete shock for both men. In the newly exposed half of the room was a door, which had been rather haphazardly boarded up, using what looked like old pieces of timber and various sized nails, some not quite hammered home, just left sticking out far enough to cause injury.

"What the hell is going on here?" asked Pete, as he ran his fingers over the uneven surfaces of the bits of wood affixed across the door frame and onto the front of the door.

"I haven't the faintest idea; This was not on any of the plans from the estate agents, whoever boarded this up was in a hurry".

"You might be right about that, some of these nails are less than half way into the wood".

"Anyway we're here now so we may as well open the damn thing up, and see what treasure awaits us behind the green door!" Peter started to ease the pieces of wood from the frame with a claw hammer.

The door was cleared of any wooden debris, and the nails removed, before finally being opened. As they pulled it open there was a huge rush of air, which was so sudden and unexpected that it quite literally took their breath away. The gust of air also brought with it a very unpleasant stench that smelled as if someone had died there.

"Here's your favourite sweetness, burgers and chips with lashings of ketchup". Dexter grinned like some demented cat who was "enjoying the moment" before lapping up the cream. All at once, The young child with the laughing face yelled out in pain as something bit his arm as he was picking up his fork:

"Aaahh! mummy, mummy, my arm......" face crumpled up, tears flowing slowly, his face now starting to glisten as two uninterrupted tributaries travelled down the cheeks inexorably to where they converged together, collecting mucus from the nose as they passed, before finally being deposited inside of Dexter's mouth.

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Evelyn at first didn't really believe the toddler, but on seeing the very real tears knew that something had happened, she picked her boy up, and cuddling his tiny body she rolled up his shirt sleeve to look at where the bite was supposed to have been; on seeing the injured area, now obviously smarting, and an angry light crimson colour, she nearly lost control of her faculties; on closer inspection she could make out the small but perfectly formed bite mark which consisted of a full top row of teeth and most of the bottom row minus one or two molars or incisors it was difficult to tell.

The five year old now quietened down and just sat on his mother's lap, sucking his thumb and feeling wretched. She went upstairs to have a word with Bradley:

"I'm slightly concerned about Dexter" said Evelyn, to her husband whose facial demeanour had quickly gone from showing worry, through to a distinct furrowing of his brow, which was indicating extreme concern.

"What is the problem with the little lad, Ev?"

"I can't really put my finger on it but things just don't seem right at the moment."

"Be a bit more specific please sweetheart, please if you can."

"Well he's just been bitten by something, which has upset him."

"What bit him a flea, bedbug, mosquito, a rat........what?"

"I think you had better have a look yourself because this was no animal, I would say this was another child of about ten years of age."

"What the FU......! who, what, whose kid was it, I'll bloody ring his neck!"

"That's the big problem with this.....you see it's nobodies kid, there wasn't one there, I saw Dexter stop in his tracks, yell out and start to cry, he was in REAL pain but from what I don't know, but I do know the bite mark is without a shadow of a doubt real because I've seen it."

Evelyn treated the bite mark with a topical lotion, fortunately the teeth hadn't broken the skin otherwise a tetanus might have been needed, which would have made the bite pain seem like nothing, compared to what Dexter would have felt with a tetanus jab into his buttocks! Not to mention the fact that his assailant was unseen therefore invisible, so providing any sort of details about the attacker would have been bothersome to say the least.

Within the secret room, all along the east wall, just above the skirting, pressed into the dust was row upon row of hand prints none of them bigger than a child's. Perhaps this room had once been a nursery Bradley surmised; they washed the walls down anyway so all evidence of the hand prints was gone.

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Just after Four fifteen AM and the silence and stillness of the night was suddenly, violently ripped apart as a noise as loud as a small bomb going off rocked the area where the parents were sleeping! As they awoke they quickly realised the commotion was coming from Dexter's room.

"Dexter darling mummy's coming" shouted Evelyn, running, terrified at what she might find in the little boy's room. again she shouted:

"Dexter, Dexter mummy's here" and on entering the room Dexter was nowhere to be seen, nor was anything out of place.

"Bradley, I can't find Dexter, where is my baby?" Evelyn was now sobbing uncontrollably, with Bradley at her side; he called out:

"Dexter, daddy's here, where are you son?" They opened all the closets and cupboards, some of which were too small for even the slightest five year old to hide in, if indeed he was hiding. As is often the way, as people become more fraught and begin panicking they lose track of the obvious and until they heard a muffled sound from under the bed they had completely forgotten to look there. Sure enough their beloved son was squashed up under the bed frame, it must have been uncomfortable for the little boy to get under there, as there wasn't much space for anything of any size in the tiny gap, let alone a five year old child. Bradley lifted the base of the bed up and Evelyn scooped her son up.

"It was Mister Howdie and some of his children that forced me into under the bed mummy." The little boy was looking much the worse for wear after going through all the events of the last couple of days.

Evelyn decided and Bradley concurred that maybe she should take a trip with Dexter to her mothers for a few days, just until they could all get a handle on the recent happenings. Evelyn kissed Bradley goodbye grabbed her son, put their few bits into the boot, jumped into the SUV and drove away.

Only fifteen minutes into the journey and driving through the village of Latchmere, Evelyn slowed down to a crawling speed, pulled up alongside the Parish Church of Our Blessed Mother. Locking Dexter in the car she entered the church.

"Hello there young lady, haven't seen you in church since well, haven't seen you in church......ever." bellowed the parish priest from his pulpit where he was standing behind a pillar, unseen by Evelyn Petersen on her arrival and entry into the fifteenth century church. She would have normally jumped out of the proverbial skin, but due to her having one or two scary moments herself lately at home, she had somehow become inured to sudden unexpected booming noise or noises, so on hearing the priests dulcet tones, she very calmly turned around and came face to face with the purveyor of these aural ministrations, Father Vincent Wybourn.

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"Hello there Father, my name is Evelyn Petersen and I promise I will return to this place of worship for now and evermore if you can help me with a small problem I have at home."

"Well there's an introduction if ever there was one, come into the cloisters and we'll have a cup of tea and you can tell me all about it as I must confess, pardon the pun, you have got me intrigued."

"Father, just let me get my son out of the car and I will be right back."

She woke Dexter and went back with him into see the holy man. Evelyn was not sure what to tell Father Wybourn, nor where to begin, and would her revealing her suspicions render her likely for ridicule or even worse a trip to the "Twilight Zone" or some other mental institution.

Father Wybourn was one of those rare people who made anyone with whom he was conversing feel they were the most important person on earth, at least for the duration of their conversation, and would generally put the inquisitor at ease, thus getting whatever information was imparted (either solicited or unsolicited) in it's fullest unabridged version. Making answers easier to formulate, whether they were solutions of a religious nature or maybe answers to run of the mill everyday questions, such as "How do you change spark plugs?" ! She began recounting the recent events and her fears that there was something very wrong with either the house, or heaven forbid, her beloved son. Father Wybourn listened intently and didn't give the impression that he thought he was talking to a mad woman, but just let Evelyn continue at her own pace, never interrupting, never being judgemental, he simply listened.

"Father I wonder could you let me look at the parish records for these areas for as far back as they go please, as I am trying to find a person who may or may not have lived in these parts, to be utterly frank, he may well have not even existed, but it's something I have got to do; You see, it's just that this little man asleep in my arms has an imaginary friend with an unusual name and with even more unusual traits that I have just outlined to you."

"And what might the name be Mrs Petersen?"

"Please call me Evelyn, Father."

"Okay then, Evelyn what is the name of your lad's imaginary friend?"

"He calls him Mister Howdie, I know this is absurd and I shouldn't be wasting your valuable time but it just doesn't seem normal for a five year old child to have a friend who is obviously older than the child, even if you just think about the name, how many kids have friends that are Misters surely none, this whole thing has got me spooked big time Father."

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"Not at all Evelyn, none of this strikes me as absurd, you are obviously a devoted, loving mother, who for one reason or another is encountering problems that are ruining your life, and the lives of your loved ones. It is so important to you, that you walk into a church that you have never entered before. For all I know you have maybe never even been in a place of worship before today.

You risk possible ridicule as a consequence of telling a priest you have never met, about your troubles with the very real possibility that as a result of telling your story the priest might not have reacted as I have done, but may well have thought you a crazy woman. You knew all these risks and yet still knew that there was no other way to resolve this crisis other than to talk to a man of the cloth in a house of God." as Evelyn's head began to drop slightly, as an unplanned demonstration of just how tired she had become both physically and mentally the priest placed his hands under her chin and with his fore fingers pushed her up to face him and said:

"Evelyn I will do my very best to help you and your family through this turmoil, I cannot say that I have all the answers, I may not have any, that is for the Lord to decide, but I think we must be half way there already judging by your immense courage you have selflessly shown in being here today."

"Thank you Father, I am very grateful to you for letting me waffle on, perhaps if you get an odd spare moment any time soon you could dig out anything with the name Howdie or even anything similar from the parish records just to put my mind at ease."

"I'll do one better than that, if you follow me into the annex we'll have a look now for your chap." Evelyn picked her child up and with him safely held to her bosom they followed the Priest. After much searching there was just the one name which might have been in some way connected to her child's "friend".

"This chap here, he was called Howdie, Captain Ligael Howdie, nasty piece of work he was too, he was suspected of three killings but it was never proven he lived in this parish from 1846 until his disappearance some time in the summer months of 1857, coincidently around the same time as many of the children living in or around the parish were murdered, as many as twelve little ones lost their lives at that time, at least four or five of the bodies were never found." This revelation filled Evelyn with dread.

The next day Bradley woke up his brother to resume their work at the top of the house in the hidden room which had now been thoroughly cleaned and any signs of the "nursery" were removed and painted over.

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"There's some weird shit going on around Dexter, bro and I just don't know what to do about it." said Bradley who was clearly fishing for any ideas from Peter, but nothing was forthcoming, in fact Peter was more quiet than was usual, and kept his thoughts to himself, all the way up the stairs to the hidden room. On opening the door Peter was the first to speak:

"What's your dog doing up here Bradley?" Peter enquired of his brother, who was as surprised as Peter was on seeing the animal curled up in a ball whimpering.

"I don't know, but what with Dexter's problems, I clean forgot about Jasper." The dog looked very frightened, and made no attempt to respond to Bradley's calls; he just stayed where he was in the corner, it was as if the dog couldn't leave where he was, as if something unseen was stopping him from moving from that place and then in an instant the dog jumped up and bounded over to Bradley and started licking his face and running about excitably, in fact Jasper was once again behaving exactly as a Labrador would.

Evelyn had gone to her mother's after leaving Father Wybourn at the church, but they had provisionally arranged that the priest would come to the house to offer a blessing in the hope that it might help in calming down whatever external energies may be at work in the property. It was a long shot really, almost certain to be of very limited use as a weapon with which to battle entities and other unexplained phenomena, but, in truth, the priest had already decided that it was a near certainty that these occurrences, were being generated from within the house, and were very definitely man-made, and not as Evelyn believed visitations from the spirit world of demonic origin, and in his considered opinion they were most likely borne of Mrs Petersen, due to some sort of inner conflict with which she was struggling, and this was manifesting itself as some type of unrestrained energy, that might be described by people of little knowledge as "sightings".

At three thirteen AM on Friday the thirteenth of November a large storm hit the property and brought with it winds that were gusting at speeds that were capable of tearing slates from rooftops, uprooting trees, and causing major damage to structures in and around the vicinity of the freakishly bad weather.

At the precise moment the storm began wreaking havoc, Peter Petersen, normally a heavy sleeper, was awoken by the very distinct sound of fingernails scratching against glass, first there was some nails scraping against Peter's window, then several more nails, then so many nails were etching into the glass, that it made counting them impossible, using only sound as your instrument of sight.

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Peter had thought at first that these sounds were actually caused by the tops of trees being blown against the windows of the house, but that thought was soon discarded as the sounds of scratching became louder and more immediate, set against the backdrop of the tempest raging all around. Gingerly, Peter went over to the bedroom window and pulled open the drapes with a snatch. NOTHING! He didn't know what he felt as he eyed the glass closely, but there was not anything unusual or extraordinary outside the embrasure, just darkness, then in the distance the sound of thunder, and with the thunder there followed from within the cumulus an iridescence that lit up the night sky as a million orphaned bolts of electrical discharge became one again as they impacted earth.

Suddenly the skyline was bathed in a brilliant light; Peter could see himself reflected in the glass, and to his horror he could also see reflected, upwards of eight or nine, maybe ten figures of childlike proportions standing behind him in the room. Peter spun around with such speed that the sheer terror that gripped his body had not yet registered. Peter was very frightened, but not in any doubt about what he saw, albeit fleetingly. He threw on a tee shirt, jumped into a pair of jeans and sneakers, then out onto the landing, down the hall straight into Bradley's room for a chat.

"You know me bro, I might be a bit flighty at times, but I am as sound as a pound when it comes to things that scare you shitless like this!" Peter practically shouted at Bradley.

"I know that Pete, but what if........." Bradley was cut off in mid flow by the sound of children playing, with the laughter and the screams that all that entails. The shrill noises were coming from upstairs, the hidden room almost certainly. Jasper was already on the staircase panting furiously, ready to do battle if needed. As they ran up the stairs towards the auditory racket, Jasper suddenly pulled up as if being forcibly restrained by an unseen hand. Now deathly quiet and whimpering again, he turned, and barrelled back down the stairs, away from the children playing, back down towards safety.

Peter was first through the door into the newly opened secret room, where to their amazement the two men found no signs of children, nor anything else that could have made such a noise.

"This situation is becoming weirder by the second......LOOK at the skirting's we washed down, the fucking hand prints are over the whole area!" Peter was visibly shaken by this, and still hadn't told Bradley about what he saw in the bedroom.

"I'll tell you another thing bro, there's more of 'em, and they are darker red."

"At the risk of looking a complete wanker bro, I think this fucking house is haunted!" Bradley nodded his agreement

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"I was thinking along them lines from the day we found this room, what with the first lot of hands, and the fact it was boarded up, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want to scare Ev and the lad." Bradley squatted down and started rocking slightly on his haunches.

"There's a little something that I haven't told you yet, and it really did scare the pants off me." Peter told his older brother about the strange visitation he experienced in his bedroom and they both agreed that there was evidence of unnatural activity taking place in the house, but particularly around the room at the apex of the building. All that they had to decide now was what on earth do you do about paranormal "goings-on" in the twenty first century!

Monday morning and the first of two expected arrivals, Evelyn without Dexter is back at the house just after nine; followed shortly thereafter, at ten fifteen by Father Wybourn.

In view of what was going to happen that morning, the Petersen's decided it would be prudent to leave their son with Evelyn's mother. Evelyn introduced Father Wybourn to Bradley and Peter, whereupon after exchanging niceties the blessing of the house began.

A blessing ritual was not that unusual; many people who were not being plagued by paranormal activity, requested that their local "man of the cloth" call upon them, in order that they might have their houses blessed, believing that once the property was sanctified no bad things would befall them in their homes.

The priest blessed all four corners of the house and each of the rooms within those corners. The whole ceremony lasted about two and a quarter hours from inception to denouement and ended without any fuss, no fanfare, no ticker tape, no letter from the Queen, nothing, just a calm feeling of serenity that seemed to indicate the house was clean.

Indeed the nocturnal activities that had caused sleepless nights for all of the Petersen's since they moved into: "Number thirteen, Devil's Lane," did cease for a short while, until a Wednesday, during the last week in October, a little after three in the morning, when all hell broke lose!

"Oh my God, what was that!?" said Evelyn frantically. She turned to face Bradley, who was getting out of the bed, even before she had finished her question.

"I'll go down and take a look, you stay here, pass me that will you, I'd better take "Old faithful" with me." Old faithful was in fact a wooden shillelagh which was thin enough at one end to be firmly gripped, whilst at the other end; the bulbous meat of the club could inflict serious, possibly even fatal damage if brought down with enough force to shatter any part of the head.

"Just be careful will you, and don't try to act the hero, you or your brother, call the police!"

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As he left the bedroom, Peter was slowly coming down the stairs with such a look of terror on his face that Bradley forgot about the commotion in the kitchen area for a split second to ask him if he was alright.

"No I don't really think so bro." and as his lips closed together on the sound of "oh" he keeled over and fell the last few steps onto the floor below, he was out cold. Bradley shouted up to Evelyn, as loudly as was possible, given his being hindered by the severe limitations in lung capacity and breathing generally, when trying to pick up a fifteen stone dead weight off of the floor, and then placing him up against the bottom steps, while also holding onto an instrument of potential devastation in case of attack.

The pandemonium from downstairs continued unabated as Bradley and his heavily pregnant wife attended to Peter who was by now coming to his senses.

"You sort him out love I have to go see what is occurring downstairs, get Dexter from his room and lock yourselves in the dining room or something." and off down he went to the kitchen which was now absolutely quiet, too quiet he thought to himself as he approached the double saloon type doors which was the entry point for the kitchen from the stairs. Bradley tentatively crept towards the light switch, as the thought of tackling anyone, or anything without light filled him with dread. He clicked the switch up into the "on" position then "PUFF" the bulb blew and all the lights in the house went out!

Now the already twisted knotting feeling deep within his stomach gave way to a new even worse sensation of impending doom that was causing Bradley's sweat pores to go into overdrive with the result of this massive amount of hyperventilation aligned with a huge influx of adrenaline leaving him saturated from head to toe with the beads, then streams, then finally torrents of sweat generated from his body in this moment of being petrified.

"Who's there?" he asked in a rather less than sure voice verging on trembling.

"I know you are in there so come out now." There was no response, there was nothing, not a sound was coming from that area, the silence was just interrupted by the faintest of sounds, the ticking of a wall clock in the galley.

Bradley had never felt so scared and very alone, but he had to prevail so he had better just get on with it. These words from inside himself were not his, but were dimly remembered words from another, way back when his feet were outgrowing his shoes by the second and trousers, such as they were, never covered up his cold knees for more than the blink of a very fast eye. But more saliently, these words were said to him by his much loved and very sadly missed father, as Bradley, then just ten or eleven years old, was about to fight the school bully in the Edgar Street school playground for the love of a girl called Rhonda, whose best friend was a pretty ten year old called Evelyn.

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In the pitch black of the early morning and without as much as a candle Bradley pushed open the swinging doors and went into the kitchen, the drawers were closed as they should be, cupboards weren't open, once again there was no sign of anything being out of place. Bradley opened the first drawer nearest the doors and HALLELLUAH! he found a small torch at the back, switching it on revealed that There was certainly nothing broken on the floor, no smashed glass anywhere, it was as if the bedlam that was heard by everyone was simply a ruse to get everyone downstairs, but why? Bradley with torch in hand went down to the fuse box and switched the lighting back on. It was at that moment a shrill caterwaul shrieked out of the five year olds bedroom:

"Dexter, Dexter, Bradley I can't find our darling boy!" Bradley sped out of the kitchen and up to the sobbing Evelyn, who was holding one of Dexter's jumpers to her face and was alternating between infusing the smell of her little boy into her nostrils and then dropping her hands down to her lap still holding the treasured jumper and crying out in abject misery over her missing boy.

"Baby, baby we'll find him he must have just got scared when the noises started and went to hide somewhere." Even as he was trying to comfort Evelyn and offer hope to her, he was doubting the veracity of those words and inside was feeling such pain that it would have been beyond even the most learned, scholarly, and well read exponent of the english language to provide words that could adequately describe how he felt.

After the house had been thoroughly searched the only possible course of action then was to phone the police to report a missing child, this would be a problem in itself, as there wasn't any clues, nor any signs of an intruder or intruders taking the child, and if said intruders had spirited him away, where to?

Surely with the house being so secluded there was no chance of interloper's coming into the property without being seen.

The doctor had been called for Peter, who was not making any sense at all, just spouting gibberish about "the children being damned" and sleeping most of the time. Now the doctor was seeing Evelyn as well who, although sedated and also asleep most of the time was prone to occasional bouts of lucidity. It was during these times that she kept saying that Dexter was inside the house up at the top of the building in THAT room. Both Bradley and the officers from the local force had all investigated her wild claims and searched the upstairs room and produced nothing. In fact the police were viewing the disappearance of Dexter with some incredulity and were leaning towards the thinking that he had been murdered by his parents and his body had been hidden somewhere either in the forest or in the house.

Three days had passed since Dexter vanished, Peter was still in and out of consciousness and making less sense with outbursts such as:

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"The room, it's in the room, we're all going to die!" before again falling back into a slumber that was at times restful and untroubled, judging by the evidence of Peter's look of contentment while sleeping, and at other times was anything but restful, but instead appeared to be causing distress to the comatose younger brother. Evelyn was more stable mentally and asleep much less than had been the case over the last few days and was keen to find out "where her son was being held against his will", but was resolute in her belief that he was within the house somewhere, that somewhere being the secret room.

In desperation Bradley called the priest to avail him of the latest happenings in the house, he readily admitted that the blessing had not worked.

The holy man, although very sympathetic to their plight could not offer any assistance as he neither had the authority nor did he have the experience to perform any of the more controversial rituals, such as an exorcism, so sadly he was not going to be the answer to their prayers, but he could, if they wanted, pop by over the next several days for a chat. This suggestion was politely turned down.

Evelyn was the first to hear it, an indeterminate noise emanating from somewhere near the top of the house, a sound like that of a child crying, the really worrying thing being that it sounded like Dexter. She found Bradley:

"Listen GOD DAMN IT! can't you here that, it's Dexter, our little boy."

"I am sorry love, I don't hear anything, no nothing, I am sorry, you know how much I miss him, the sweet little man......." Bradley's eyes were stinging now, a sure sign of impending tears. He glanced at Evelyn and then turned and walked back out from the top room and onto the landing where he found Jasper, who bounded over to him before jumping up and licking his face with an enthusiasm seldom seen from the Labrador. The dog was very excited and was darting from one end of the landing, then back to Bradley, then back to the end again. And then the hound started barking wildly as if he knew that somebody was at the front door:

RINGGGGG!!! There was someone ringing the doorbell, who could it be at this hour thought Bradley. Maybe it was the police coming to arrest him for the murder of his beloved son, maybe there was news of his whereabouts, he wouldn't know until he went downstairs and answered it!

Through the translucent window set into the door, Bradley could just about make out that the visitor was female and short, very short and fat. He turned the handle and pulled the door towards him, and there standing in the porch was the heavy set female, she was no taller than four feet in her heeled shoes, and she was very fat, indeed her corpulence was straining against the fabric, battling for the right to stay within the confines of the dress, the frock valiantly trying to keep it all together, even when all the stitching had reached it's breaking point, and was in danger of "throwing in the towel" which would have surely resulted in

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the spontaneous explosion of the woman's garment! A thought so utterly hideous as to render Bradley speechless for a moment.

"I am Ms. Poinsettia Gardner, and I would suggest that your intentions are that we liberate from those who hold him, your child. If as I suspect that is your desire to save the first born from the evil that haunts this house then I reckon you had better invite me in sugar." Evelyn beckoned the dumpy woman into the vestibule and as she entered she let out a sigh:

"Oh yes I feels a very strong presence here in this area, this entity has been getting fat, feeding on the negative energies that have always pervaded this unholy place sugar."

There were questions to be asked of Ms. Gardner such as how did she know about their problems with the house, and where had she come from and who sent her? Evelyn began to assume the position of someone who was about to ask those questions but with her first word just a nanosecond away from being said:

"My lovlies, time is agin us so ask me those questions after we've saved Dexter, and you sugar can you please fetch me a tumbler of water, oh and by the way you might not believe my power but please desist from sending your thoughts to me as some sort of test. You will only hold things up if your puerile attempts at telepathy clog up the astral airwaves."

Bradley flushed bright red, and sheepishly made himself scarce going into the kitchen to get the Medium her glass of water.

"Can I ask you one simple question please Ms. Gardner?"

"Courses you can, sugar but be as swift as you can be, that is if you dont's want your bairn lost."

"Can you save Dexter for us, please, we love him so much, and we miss him terribly." On seeing the heartbreaking emotion pouring out of Evelyn, the tiny psychic pushed down Dexter's mother's head so she was now kneeling at Poinsettia's waist and wrapped her arms around the sobbing heavily pregnant Evelyn Petersen.

"I can save your boy sugar, but I cants do it without you and yours, I have to tell you I have never encountered an evil as powerful as this, I know who has your boy and it's not pretty, nor will it be easy, as the most precious thing, prized above all else they have is your son, they hold him, but they themselves are also being held, the children surrounding your child are drawn to his purity and spectral light, they are covetous of his life force which burns so very brightly,

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they find beauty in it's simplicity and how incandescent his soul is, they are children that were just a few years older than Dexter who were all murdered by the one who holds them all, and who is determined to steal your child's soul away, sugar this is the real deal, saving your offspring is the only way of leading the children's spirits from this place of ordure where they are perpetually in a state of limbo. Now Evelyn and Bradley we have to go to the top of the house if we are going to battle to get your boy back."

They often say that "Love conquers all" whether that saying is true or not is purely subjective, the only truth was that "love" was going to have to battle hard this very day, if there was to be victory for good over evil within this house.

"Where was it that you last saw Dexter please sugar?"

"I think it was in his room, yes I'm sure of it, I bathed him and then put him to bed, yes I'm positive." replied Evelyn to Poinsettia. They went into the missing child's bedroom to try to find any signs of where he was abducted from. There was no clues to be found.

"This cupboard do you keep it locked all the time?"

"No it's never locked, I don't even think that it has one....." She looked at her husband, who thought for a few moments and then said:

"No of course it isn't locked, here let me try." Ms Gardner had been trying to open the cupboard door with no success, hence the questions about locking it.

"It's stuck I think, hold on I will jemmy it." Bradley ran back downstairs to where his toolbox was kept, grabbed his crowbar, then back to the cupboard.

"Right give some room, I'm gonna get this open." he mustered all the strength he could find inside himself then: CCCRAAKK! he practically ripped the doors apart, and one clean off it's hinges!

As the cupboard opened Ms. Gardiner let out a huge sigh and closed her eyes, she remained with eyes tight shut for about ten seconds, before opening them and saying:

"This is where your boy went through, this is the gateway, through which we have to go in order that we gets him back."

"But there's only enough space for a child to get into the cupboard and no way out as the back is solid wall." pointed out Bradley.

"Have faith Mr Petersen this is the way watch." the medium then recited some words that noone could understand nothing, then again she recited the same words, again nothing, then on the third attempt the back wall within the cupboard seemed to disintegrate and where once there was brickwork there was now an open tunnel which was easily large enough to allow for a man to go through.

"I can smell Dexter, I can smell our little boy." said Evelyn who was keen to enter the tunnel after him.

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"Bradley I need you to get me the strongest rope you have, quickly now sugar." and with that he took off down to the cellar where he knew he had a tow line that should suffice.

"OK I need all of us to go into the tunnel, but which one of you two does Dexter listen to the most, who scares him?"

They began to argue amongst themselves before Poinsettia cut in with:

"We have no time children, which one of you is the boy going to answer first?"

It was decided that it was to be Evelyn who was the one who he would respond to the most, so she went in first. The tunnel went all the way up to the attic and was hidden behind the chimney breast all the way to the top.

The starting point of the tunnel was relatively warm but as they neared the end of the line it grew colder and colder, until near the top where it was freezing.

As they arrived at the top of the passageway they were thrown backwards by an instantaneous explosion of the brightest luminous ectoplasm serving as some sort of hindrance barring the way through the entrance.

"Call to your son, Evelyn sugar, call to him."

"Dexter mummy's here honey, come to mummy" no response.

"Try again sugar, get him to move towards the light, now sugar now."

"Sweetheart move towards the light, mummy's waiting for you."

"I can't move mummy, they are holding me, all the children." came the boy's response.

"Who is holding my baby, can't those bastards see he is only a child?"

"Sugar those bastards are only children themselves just trying to keep hold of what they see as a source of hope for them."

What now then?" asked Evelyn

"Bradley throw the end of the rope into the ectoplasm, do it now sugar."

The end of the rope seemed to travel further than it was possible for anything to go into the ectoplasm.

"Evelyn tell Dexter to grab the end of the rope, do it now sugar if you ever wants to see your boy again."

"Dexter grab the end of the rope for mummy, do it now sweetheart."

Suddenly where once was slack was now taught and it was hoped that Dexter had grabbed the rope. For a moment or two there was no sound until:

"I've got it mummy!"

"Now pull with all your might, save your first born let ye"

Everyone pulled on the rope and after a short while the rope erupted from the portal with a five year old attached to it.

"Take your boy away from this place take him downstairs I have a little something that I must do here before I come down too."

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Whatever the Medium said or whatever actions were taken nobody found out but suffice is to say she came down to greet Dexter and to tell them their son was still in danger if they stayed in this house.

The next day found Peter up and about having fully recovered from what he thought had been a very bad dream. Both he and Bradley boarded up the upstairs doorway with a little more care than the last people boarded it up with.

Then they all jumped into the sports utility vehicle with as much of their belongings as they could carry and without a backwards glance towards their house they were gone, about to put the property once

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