Read Among You Online

Authors: Jack Wallen

Among You (9 page)

Sally,’” I whispered, “she was right in front of me. Her face…I could see everything. What they did was impossible.”

Then how did they pull it off,” begged Sally.

I have no idea, but I intend to find out.”

The remainder of the Gaultier House was as elegant and frightening as the first few encounters. The rooms ranged from morbid to graceful. Throughout, it seemed the redhead angel followed me…made a point to always be at my side when the lights shooed the darkness away. For whatever reason, I found some comfort in her presence. Even the sight of her mask thrilled me. I knew the delight that lay beneath the facade and wanted to dive deep into the pool of her existence.

Whatever it was, she held powerful sway over me.

Sally and I stepped out into the chilled night air. My face felt frozen, not by temperature, but astonishment. Shock and awe flooded my system.

Sally waved a hand in front of my face. “Scott,” she said, “you okay?”

I nodded. I wasn’t ready to speak; there was so much yet to process.

Come back to me, Spooky.”

A flood of emotion washed through my system. Tension poured from my muscles to drown the brick walkway below me in emotion and stress.

Oh my God,” I whispered. “Sally, that was…I can’t…how is it possible that…”

I couldn’t do it; conjure the words necessary to describe what I had just witnessed. In all of my years as a fan of horror and haunts, I had never before experienced such perfection.

There was something else, something drifting in and out of my conscience that I couldn’t explain away…didn’t
to explain away.

Sally, I have to go through again. I’ll pay for us both. Can you…”

Concern lined Sally’s face. “I’m sorry, Scott. I have so much homework.”

Disappointment threatened to break my spirit. I nearly insisted Sally drive home without me. Surely, I could find a cab or bus home. That scenario would play out with me grounded for thirteen lifetimes. Plus, there was no way I’d lay that kind of guilt on my best friend.

I understand. Maybe we can come back this weekend?”

Sally smiled. ”I’d love to.”

As we walked away from the Gaultier House, I felt a tug beckon me back. I wanted to give in, turn, and run back into the comfort and wonder of the haunt. I wanted to search out the red-headed angel and fall completely under her spell.

Against the will of my soul, I allowed Sally to drive me home.


seven | discoveries


Babette stood at the hidden exit of the house, the angelic mask hiding her true self from the crowd. She watched the young human boy walk away from the mansion as her heart shattered against her ribcage and fell into the pit of her stomach.

She didn’t hear Timely step up beside her.

Look at all of them; so utterly devoid of truth,” whispered Timely.

Babette jumped at the sound of her best friend’s voice.

Oh that’s too rich,” Timely laughed, “I scared
the great Babette? Wow, this is a banner night.”

No, you didn’t…okay, maybe a little. But I was preoccupied.”

Timely stared off, in the direction of Babbette’s gaze. “
Oh, the human boy. I saw you fawning over him in the house.”

Babbette turned to Timely and placed her hands on her hips. “I did not. No fawning happened. I did no such thing.”

Timely’s eyes went wide and her mouth dropped. “You cannot lie to me, Babbett Gaultier. Do not forget who you are speaking to. I know you nearly as well as I know myself. You’re smitten with that human boy…and smitten bad.”

Babbette opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

Wow! This
a red-letter day. Not only did I scare you, I rendered you speechless.”
Timely danced around Babbette and sang a song in the tongue of ‘Kind. “Too rah ha. De lah pra ha no ja. For keeg zo ti la ja.”

Babbette turned and pointed her finger at Timely. “
That is so not true. I did not make a fool of myself because of a silly crush.”

Timely continued to sing. “
Mo rey ti zo nee zay.”

Stop it, Timely,” Babbette insisted. “We aren’t supposed to use the ancient tongue in public. If my father were to hear you…”

Babbette tor vortilah haha.”

You’re lucky I am a lady, Timely, and your best friend.”

Timely finally stopped singing and dancing. A grin spread wide across her face. “
Admit it, you’ve got it bad for that human boy.”

Babbette gasped. “I will admit no such thing.”

Babbette, I can see it written all over your face, even through your mask.” Timely tugged at Babbette’s mask. “You have a serious crush on that human boy.”

An awkward silence drifted between the two girls.

Before you fall too far for him,” Timely pointed toward the human pair, “it looks like he already has a girlfriend.”

I know,” Babbette sighed.

Timely grabbed Babbette’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Whoa. No, no, no. This is for the best. The second he saw you without your mask, he’d run screaming. Humans don’t value beauty as we do; they can’t see beyond the flesh. Besides, your father would forbid it so hard, your babies would be born screaming ‘Oh no you didn’t, momma!’”

It’s not fair, Timely.”

Timely turned to Babbette and stared deep into her golden-yellow eyes. “
No, it’s not. That is why we live our lives behind masks, three hundred and sixty four days out of the year. Otherwise, it’d be Frankenstein, all over again.”

Babbette laughed. “Are you on that conspiracy again? Frankenstein’s monster was not one of us. Besides, that was a tale of fiction. We were there when Mary Shelly wrote the book.”

You mean, I was there,” Timely huffed. “And I know, for a fact…”

Before Timely could continue her tale, a familiar voice interrupted.

Girls,” Gorman shouted. “What may I ask are you doing out here, when there are humans to frighten within the walls of the manse?”

Both girls turned and stared, wide-eyed, at Gorman Gaultier.

We were,” started Babbette.

…just getting some fresh air,” continued Timely.

The smoke was bothering my voice,” finished Babbette.

Gorman stepped in between the girls and leaned against the railing. He took in a great pull of air. “
Isn’t that the most lovely smell? There is something other-worldly about Autumn.”

I wish it would remain this way, year round,” added Timely.

Gorman glanced at Timely and spoke with a measured tone. “What fun would that be, young Timely? The change of the seasons serves to remind us how precious life is. Without Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, we would all fall victim to complacency. Besides, there’s a beauty in the change that cannot be found elsewhere.”

Babette moaned. “Oh Father, you’re too much of a romantic.”

And what, may I ask, is wrong with that? Romantic souls are what make the world a beautiful experience. We feed the hearts of those without connection to creation or joy. Without us, this planet would be dreadfully beige.” Gorman turned to Timely. “I do so hate the color beige.”

We know, Father,” chimed Babbette.

Beige is the color of boring,” the girls recited the familiar phrase in unison.

Gorman let loose a laugh from deep within his belly. The sound resonated off the nearby walls and bounced around until it drifted to silence.

Babbette looked to her father. “Father…”

Gorman smiled down at his child. “Yes, my dear?”

The young girl stared up at the elder and went blank.

Is there something you want of me, darling?”

Babbette shook her head. “No, Father.”

Timely grabbed Babbette’s hand and gave it a tug. “Come now, let’s return to our stations. We have humans to haunt.”

The two girls started off, but were stopped by Gorman’s booming voice. “

Babbette and Timely turned to see Gorman looking to them, his hands crossed in front of his chest and his left eyebrow raised.

Yes, Father,” Babbette asked, fear creeping through her voice.

Slowly, steadily, a smile drifted across Gorman’s lips. “
Have fun.”

The girls both offered a quick curtsy, turned, and sped off to the entrance. Gorman stood, perfectly still, taking in the moment. When he finally turned back toward the crowd of humans, he raised his hand and turned it so the palm faced up. He closed his eyes and whispered, deep and soft. “
Come to me, secret moment. Grant me your knowledge, so that I may protect my child from the ill will of mankind.”

The air around Gorman’s hand sparkled. The show of light concentrated itself above his palm until it funneled into his flesh and disappeared. When he opened his eyes, the pupils dilated until all color had been replaced by blackness. A low growl escaped his throat. He pulled in a deep breath and then puffed a cloud of sparkling air from his lips. The contrail shot out and chased down the cause of his daughters condition.

Oh my dearest Babbette,” Gorman whispered, “this will not do.”

With a flourish, Gorman turned and walked to the entrance of the mansion. Before he pulled the door open, he released a long, relaxing breath.


eight | tactical skirt move


Lunch was ritual, a rite of passage for all teenagers. It was a painfully slow climb up the social ladder and the only possible reward was a seat at the table dubbed ‘Cool’. Sally and I knew that was never a part of our future; so for the last two years, we relegated ourselves to a corner table where no one would notice us. We did our best to remain ‘small’. There were days when it bothered one or both of us and we’d venture out. When the shaming looks fell upon us, we’d scurry back to our corner like rats and hope drama didn’t follow us.

The whole scenario made me feel like a coward. How was I ever going to step out of fear’s shadow when all I knew was how to tuck my tail between my legs and run off?

How did you do on the English essay?” Sally asked.

I ignored the question.

Scott, what’s going on with you?”

When I finally looked up at Sally I could see fear in her eyes. I’d seen that look one other time. Freshman year, my parents considered moving out of state. Dad wanted to relocate to a more open-minded
city – one that didn’t ‘turn its nose up at anyone with a little ink on their bodies’. When I had broke that news to Sally, I was certain that she’d come undone, then and there. Thankfully, the move never happened. Somehow along the way, it became acceptable to have tattoos. To dad, that was a blessing in disguise. Although his shop was busier than it had ever been, he was now inking every housewife and businessman in the tri-state area. Day after day, he came home complaining about doing tattoos that should never exist, like tramp stamps and finger

I’m sorry, Sally. My mind is still on the Gaultier House.”

Sally rolled her eyes.

I’m serious. Listen, I grabbed a few marketing pamphlets before I left. They had some history and other tidbits about the house. The place is fascinating. Apparently it was brought over from Europe, brick by brick, more than one hundred years ago.”

I grabbed Sally’s hand and pulled it close. “Sally, I need to go back tonight.”

Scott,” Sally sighed. “Halloween is over; the place is probably closed now.”

I don’t care. I want to know how they pulled those effects off. Sally, you know I’ve been to haunts across the country; I’ve visited houses with million dollar budgets and none of them could compare to what we saw last night. If I don’t get a peek behind that particular curtain, the questions will gnaw at my brain for the rest of my life.”

Sally knew that to be true. She’d been on the ugly end of my obsessions and had no desire to be part and parcel to another.

Before Sally could answer, a large hand shot around me and slammed down on the table. I didn’t have to turn around or look up.

What do you want, Sloan?” the question spilled from my lips before I had a chance to filter my frustration.

Cody Sloan took the seat next to mine and put his phone in front of me. On the screen was a picture.

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