She shouldn't have come alone. The old Queen Anne house was where he had lived, where memories of him lingered. Amy closed the front door quietly and faced the soundless gloom of the entrance hall. His family had long since moved and left the house to ruin. The chandelier was missing from overhead but chains still dangled from the roof, swaying slowly in the semi darkness. With a sharp right angle, the wide staircase disappeared into the tenebrous upper storey where Amy wouldn't dare go. The house had once been her friend, its occupants full of life and love. However, life, laughter, and love had long deserted its vast interior replaced by sorrow and loss.
She walked into the parlour, her footsteps leaving imprints in the years of dust and dirt that smothered the once polished hardwood floor. Twelve candle-shaped light globes formed a circle around the chandelier in the parlour but on this particular night, only three globes burned. Shadows danced in every corner of the room. Shapes slithered across the ornamental hearth and along the worn carpet to the card table she'd brought earlier that day. Amy sank into her camp chair and studied the Ouija board she'd set out, then placed her fingers on the planchette. The three globes blinked, threatening to plunge the room into darkness.
Lightning made her flinch. The illumination brought the room alive before the dullness of despair reclaimed the vast space. Behind her, the bay window rattled under the force of the wind that brought the storm closer. Naked tree branches swayed, casting ominous shadows through the window and onto the walls; long tentacles of darkness that reached for her with weathered fingers. Breathing deeply, Amy lowered her gaze to the planchette.
"Is there anyone with me?" Her voice carried into the entrance hall, up the angled staircase, and along the dusty upper corridors.
She bit her lip and waited for the planchette to move, thinking she should have shifted it around the board herself to test its smooth movement. Somewhere inside the house a door slammed. A voice, barely audible above her quickened breathing, echoed through the house back to her. Yes. Amy pulled her hands from the planchette and sat back. She hadn't expected a reply.
A vicious vein of lightning struck the horizon, brightened the room as though it were day, and then quickly dissipated. The lights dimmed and she looked at the bulbs before placing her hands on the planchette again.
"What's your name?"
The planchette stirred, then stilled.
"Tell me your name," Amy called.
The planchette scraped across the laminated wood of the Ouija board. B.R.A.D. Footsteps whispered on the marble floor of the darkened entrance hall. Sandalwood cologne, faint and familiar, drifted into the room. She couldn't look. For a long moment she couldn't move. The cool breeze of a touch fanned her cheek and stirred the hair around her face. Amy.
Her stomach fluttered. "Brad, why are you still here?"
Amy yanked her hands from the planchette. That was enough. She didn't want to know any more. She stood, bumping the chair over in her haste to shove the board and planchette into her backpack. Playing with the Ouija board was dangerous; no one knew what terrors the board could conjure. As she fastened the zipper on the pack, the lights snapped out. Darkness pressed onto her shoulders like the hands of an oppressive lover, surrounding her, cold and still. Her ears burned as she strained to listen for the smallest sound. Forks of lightning revealed the shimmering image of a man. He stood close, every handsome image clear. Invisible lips caressed hers, persuasive; gentle. She escaped into her memories, and the power his tenderness once held over her.
Amy shrieked at the sudden sound of banging on the front door. The resonance of her fear pierced the walls of the house and rebounded back to her as an eerie cry for help. The lights flicked on and she hurried across the entrance hall, opening the front door in the hope one of her friends had decided to join her. Wind poured into the house but the threshold was deserted. Only the shape of her van occupied the unkempt front garden, reassuring her that the world outside still existed. Dark clouds unfurled in the sky above the Norfolk Pines that lined the street. Lightning flared, so bright that she had to shield her eyes against the glow.
"Hello?" Her voice wasn't quite as strong as she'd hoped. "Is anyone there? Sharon? Alison are you trying to scare me?"
The deep growl of thunder answered her. With one more glance either way along the porch, Amy closed the door against the imminent tempest and headed back into the parlour to find the Ouija board and planchette set up on the table, and the contents of her bag strewn across the floor. Wraiths, in the guise of shadows, flitted across the walls to escape what little light glowed from the chandelier. The lights fizzed out again. This time, the darkness wasn't complete. The Ouija board glowed with soft, yellow light. Amy had come to the house to communicate with Brad. Although, now he wanted to speak she wasn't so sure she wanted to listen. Unseen hands guided the planchette across the board. O.U.R. P.R.O.M.I.S.E.
A sob caught in her throat. "Why?" she whispered.
Forever. Cold breath touched her ear, the word like glass on her skin. Fingers whispered across her mouth, along her jaw and to her throat. Amy lowered her eyes. She didn't want to remember her promise. But how could she forget her desperate struggle to push him away as his foot pressed hers harder onto the accelerator? The handbrake's diamond-like pattern still tattooed the palm of her left hand, and the car's tyres had screamed louder than she'd thought possible. Beams of light, brighter than the lightning, had burned the back of her eyes as her car charged into the lane of oncoming traffic. She shook her head to disperse the haunting memories and pulled the car keys from her pocket as she ran from the room.
Brad's opaque image blocked her way to the front door. He wore blue jeans and his favourite striped t-shirt, the same clothes he'd worn when she last saw him. For a moment, Amy couldn't believe her eyes. Then, as understanding flooded her mind, she turned and fled to the back entrance of the house. Two years ago she had reneged on a promise.
The first drops of rain hit her head like stones falling from the sky. The flare of a dozen lightning forks lit her way and within moments the wind’s current forced icy torrents to fall all ways but straight down. Amy remained close to the house and turned her shoulder against the elements as she continued her hurried way from the rear overgrown garden to her van. She climbed into the dry car a shook rain from her hands before turning the ignition. Through the curtain of water on her windscreen, she watched each light in the house flick on, and then off. Headlights on, and windscreen wipers on full, she reversed down the driveway, tyres screeching as she changed gears and drove away from the house.
Amy turned the car onto the busy main road, and glanced into her rear view mirror. She expected to see the reflection of Brad’s face but the back seat was empty. The storm was on top of the small town. Lightning and thunder attacked in unison. Somehow, the rain became heavier, thick pellets of merciless water that thumped onto the van’s duco. She wiped fog from the windscreen with her sleeve and leaned forward to peer through at the road, barely visible through the rain.
“Remember how much I loved you?” Brad asked from the passenger seat.
Amy screamed and slammed her foot on the brake pedal. The car skidded on the wet road and came precariously close to the double white lines that divided northbound and southbound traffic.
“I thought we could be like Romeo and Juliet,” Brad said.
Amy pulled the steering wheel hard to her left but the car wouldn’t respond.
“Here, let me help.”
Brad leaned across, his hand on the wheel. Her car veered across the double white lines and into the southbound traffic. Bright headlights dazed her. Heavy weight pressed down on her foot and the car accelerated. She threw her arms across her face as her car ploughed into a delivery truck.
You and me, Amy. Forever. You promised.