They were somewhere in England, in the small village of Tynebridge – at least that was what the Doctor had told her. She had not seen much of Tynebridge so far, not houses nor the river Tyne itself – partially because it was pitch dark, the night sky covered in heavy clouds which only occasionally broke open exposing the full moon, a storm curling the trees above her head, and her eyes were fixed on the ground whilst trying to evade the numerous puddles and twigs and branches, clutching the Doctor's hand so she could follow in his steps without tripping over something. Partially also because they were not actually in Tynebridge itself, but slightly north of it, walking through a massive park towards-
Well, he hadn't told her yet, but by now she had a certain suspicion.
"Can we not do that when it's a bit brighter? Like at daytime?" she asked again, but he seemed to be determined to do whatever he was up to right now.
"You'll like it, trust me!" he replied and she followed him around another bend of the way they were walking along.
Martha was not with them, she had to do something with her family, and so he had suggested they'd do something together. It had not quite sounded like a date, but then again, it had, somehow. Spending time together outside the TARDIS, in the beautiful English landscape, why not? If she would only be able to actually see something of it.
"So just tell me, what is it? A castle?"
Then, finally, she saw it. As if it had been orchestrated the clouds opened again for a moment and she could see the old mansion house in the pale moonlight. At least it looked old, but there was a good chance every building would have looked old in this setting. It was quite large, three stories maybe, but yeah, definitely not a castle. There was a centre part with a few stairs leading to the entrance and two wings, stretching far to both sides. That was an overly simplified description – the longer she looked at it, the more details she could see. There were parts attached, smaller side buildings which could well be connected to the wings and it was impossible to tell how wide it was. From what she new of architecture the wings should be rather narrow though. It was framed by old, big trees, and, most of all, all windows were dark.
"What do you say?" he asked with a big grin on his face.
"Well. First of all, it's cold. Second, whoever you wanted to visit is not home. It's all dark," she replied, pulling up her shoulders and hugging herself, shivering in the cold wind.
"I don't want to visit someone," he replied. "Why do you think there's someone living here?"
"Well, what else do you want here then? Which year is it, anyway?"
"Doesn't matter," he replied. "And no, we're not visiting anyone. At least... not the living."
The last part he had whispered, looking at her expectantly.
"What?" she asked, raising an eyebrow and feeling as if she was in the wrong movie.
"It's deserted for decades," he explained, pulling her with him towards the entrance. "Reportedly the most haunted house in the area. Weird sounds, whispering voices, lights behind the windows, dogs going mad, oh, and people as well, the usual..."
"Wait," she said and stopped, letting go of his hand. He walked a few more steps before he stopped as well and turned around to her. "A haunted house? Seriously?" she added.
"Yeah, at least so they say, so-"
"You believe in ghosts?" she asked.
"Why? No, no... At least I never met one. Yet. So..."
"Well, we can't just walk in there. You're sure it's deserted?"
"Yeah," he said, sounding not that convinced himself.
"There are no ghosts. At least in my universe there is no proof of ghosts whatsoever. I've seen things over the years which could pass as ghosts, but none of it were souls of the undead," she said, gesturing with her hands to emphasise that she did not take the idea of undead souls very seriously. "So what do you want in there?"
"Well, something's going on, and I thought we could check it out."
"No," she said, crossing her arms.
"No! I'm not trespassing at someone else's house in search for 'ghosts' and-"
"Oh, come on! It's empty, isn't it? No one's near, you of all should know! So, what do you say?" he said, smiling at her his irresistible smile.
But not this time. Though she had to admit he had her there. No, no one was around, at least no one living and feeling, and the house seemed to be empty. For now.
"No," she said again, shaking her head. "Forget it."
"What? Why? Come on, live a little!"
"Live a little," she repeated his words, speaking to herself. "You know, I had my fair share of deserted space ships, deserted space stations, and even deserted cities and whole planets. And trust me, it was creepy like hell, and no, I never ever met a ghost. Not one. I am not going in there, period. Dammit, we don't even have a torch, it's pitch black! And it's cold."
"Is it? I hadn't noticed."
"So, are you coming? It's probably warmer in there. At least less windy."
"Why not? It's just a house. Come on, it'll be fun!"
"Oh reeally?" he replied, his head tilted backwards, looking at her from above. "I thought that's the point about humans and their ghost stories. Come on."
He walked over to her, put his arm around her shoulders, trying to pull her with him. But she didn't move, leaning backwards against his arm.
"So, what is it?" he whispered so close to her ear that she could feel his cool breath on her skin, giving up his attempts on pushing her.
"I'm not going in there," she repeated stubbornly. "I 'm done with ghost hunting for the rest of my life."
"So you do believe in ghosts?"
"No," she said, knowing at the same time there was no point in denying it. Not with him. And yes, it was true. There had been, and still was, a small part of her which was hopelessly superstitious, and despite everything she had seen and all her knowledge it was still lurking in the back of her mind, waiting to come out when the occasion was right – or not that right, most of the times. Maybe it was something genuinely human, something like a shared subconsciousness, deeply rooted in human culture.
Yes, it was just a house. And yes, everything which had happened in there to others most likely had a very good, very scientific explanation. And yet...
"Well, I did," she finally admitted. "Ages ago. And I thought it's a good idea to do ghost hunting. Once. Just once. It was a rather small house, and I was supposed to walk up to the first floor and see if I can hear something, all on my own. It took not quite five minutes and I ran out screaming. I'm not even sure I really heard something... Most likely not. The others told me they'd almost called an ambulance because I wouldn't calm down. I guess someone slapped me out of it eventually, but I can't quite remember. So now you know one of my most embarrassing teenager stories and no, I'm not going in there."
Just then a bright lighting almost immediately followed by a thunder tore the air, making her shriek and jump.
"See?" she said, staring at him. His dark eyes gleamed in the moonlight, and he looked slightly startled about her reaction himself.
"You're not alone this time, so what could happen?" he asked and smiled again. "Please. Just come with me to the door. We can turn around if you really don't want to go in there."
She sighed resignedly, let him take her hand and followed him, knowing she had already lost.
The house seemed to grow even bigger as she approached it until it filled out her whole field of vision. It was a bit like in one of those ghost movies – step in and never coming out again. Even the door looked like straight out of a movie. Big, old, dark wood with iron fittings, heavy looking. There was a door knocker in the form of a gargoyle head holding a ring in its mouth. An ugly thing if she had ever seen one. The entrance was framed left and right by huge casement windows, each casement divided into smaller parts by thick wooden beams, yet still as big as a single, normal sized window back in her time. But as much as she tried, she could not see through them; probably they were too dirty. Meanwhile, the Doctor had produced the Sonic Screwdriver from his pockets and with a loud click the door unlocked.
"Hey! That's burglary!" she whispered.
"So?" he replied, his hand on the doorknob.
"Wait!" she said. "If - If we really go in there: No bad jokes. Really, I mean it."
"What? What are you talking about?" he said, looking at her in all his alien confusion.
"What am I talking about? Nothing like: Sneaking off and leaving me alone in the dark. Or, pulling my hair or clothes and saying it wasn't you, or-"
"Why would I do that?"
"Because it's funny?"
"No! I swear, if you do anything remotely like it, I'll never even so much as look at you again. Got it?"
"I don't think that's very funny," he mumbled and finally opened the door. "I won't do anything like that"
The door swung open, creaking in its hinges as if it hadn't been opened in ages. That could well be the case, she thought as she followed the Doctor over the threshold. The air in there was stale and dusty. Old. There was a strange energy, a strange atmosphere, and she was not quite certain it was only in her head, knowing now that this very place was supposed to be spooky. Clearly a lot had happened in this place, forever imprinted in its very stones.
"How old is this house?" she asked, her voice hardly more than a whisper, even though she had wanted to speak normally. Why was she whispering then? The house was empty, so there was no one she could have alarmed by speaking up. And yet it felt as if fear was already choking her, fear breathing coldly in her neck. Primal fright, like being a child again, sitting the dark bedroom, holding her breath to not wake what might lurk under the bed.
"The main part and parts of the wings were build in 1578," he replied with a normal voice, making her jump. "But they refurbished it a few times. Took out the floors in some areas of the original parts to make the ground floor higher. The outer walls are original though. Limestone. It was enlarged over the centuries, the newest part at the back is from 1857. Well that's a great entrance hall, isn't it?"
"It's pitch black."
The only thing she could see were the frames of the windows, not much else. Next thing she heard were his light steps walking away from her.
"Wait, where are you going? Don't you dare-"
Then she heard the sound of a matchstick, and suddenly she could see his face lit up by a candle.
"Getting some light for you," he said, all innocent, walking back and handing her the candle. "Forgot for a moment just how bad human eyesight is in the dark. Sorry. Although I have to say, it somehow ruins the atmosphere," he added with a frown, looking around.
And yes, he was right, it was a massive entrance hall. A gallery was overlooking it, connected with the ground level by a massive, wooden stair. There was a lot of dark wood in here, she added in her thoughts as she looked around. The Elizabethan and late Tudor influence was undeniable. It might have even been a really comfortable entrance hall, judging from the huge fireplace, the thickly upholstered armchairs, the decoration of old weapons and medieval armour, and a huge carpet muting the sounds of their steps as they walked towards the step.
"Let's head for one of the wings," the Doctor said. "Here's just the official rooms I guess. The wings with the guest-, private- and bedrooms is where all the drama happened, don't you think?"
Now, as they were walking through the east-wing, he had to admit that the house was even bigger than it appeared to be from the outside. He had expected the wings to be quite narrow, just a hallway with rooms to both sides, but they actually were much deeper, the floor-plan being devoid of any logic whatsoever which could only be explained by the house being enlarged throughout the centuries. And yet, on the inside it looked all similar in a Tudor and Elizabethan style.
Mira was walking next and slightly behind him and holding onto the candle for dear life. He knew that she had a thing for superstitions and these sort of things. They hadn't talked about it, but that was one of the things about her personality he had seen in her mind. To be fair, most humans had that more or less, lurking in a corner of their minds where logic and rationality had no saying, an instinct once so important for survival as well as providing a convenient explanation for the formerly unexplained and in modern times more an annoyance than anything else. But he hadn't expected that this house would hit such a nerve with her - but then again, something definitely was weird here. He did not believe that it actually were ghosts at work here – in all his life he had never encountered anything which had come back from the dead as a ghost; even when it seemed like, there had always been another explanation. But he was absolutely determined to figure out what it was – and without the help of his Sonic Screwdriver, if possible. He was even open to the idea of encountering ghosts. And he was almost certain Mira could feel herself that something was odd – otherwise she would not freak out like that already.
"That's what I call a huge bed," he said as he randomly opened one of the doors to his left. It was then when he realised that he had been babbling the whole time about random things he could not quite remember whilst lost in thoughts. He was not nervous, wasn't he? Nah, why would he be?
"Wonder if that's the master bedroom," he continued as he walked around the huge, four-poster bed made of dark wood which stood on one wall, a richly embroidered canopy covering it, matching the bedspread and multiple cushions. Apart from the bed the room was sparsely furnished – some armchairs, a trunk, and two bedside tables. The wooden, creaking floor was covered in thick carpets.
"So how did you do it? Lie on the bed and wait if something lies down beside you?" he continued and then jumped on the bed, backside first, lying there, arms and legs stretched out.
"Don't," Mira said, her voice weirdly toneless.
"What?" he asked and propped himself on his elbows so he could see her.
"Don't," she repeated. "Get up."
"Seriously, get up. Don't do that."
"Mira, come on!" What was wrong with her now? "Here's still room," he added, patting the bed beside him. "Why won't you..."
She didn't seem to listen as she just turned around and walked straight out of the door. He watched after her as the light of the candle disappeared in the hallway, a big frown forming on his forehead. He could hear her steps receding, stopping for a moment after approximately sixteen feet, then walking into an enclosed space, most likely another room on the opposite side of the hallway. He heard her talking, "Just don't lie on other people's beds, okay?" Rather quietly, but by now she must know how good his hearing was so he didn't wonder about it too much.
"Okay, fine," he said just as quietly, sat up, swung his legs off the bed and walked over to the door as well. There he stood for a moment, watching the light of the candle moving around in a room ahead of him.
"Ow, that was my hair!" she whispered now, "Could you be a bit more careful?"
The frown on his head grew even bigger. Slowly he began walking towards the room, trying to not make too much noise, to not disturb whatever was going on in there. There was no one in there with her, was there? As he lurked through the doorway he could see her standing sideways to him, looking at a huge picture on the wall. The room seemed to be some small library, a few bookcases made of dark wood covering the walls, a comfy looking armchair, a big picture, and Mira. And nothing/no-one else.
"Mira?" he said and her head flung around. "What's with your hair?"
"You-" she said, her eyes growing wide, "Where- I thought you were in here?"
"You weren't in here?"
"Nope," he said again, shaking his head.
"You... You did not... you did not pull my hair?"
"No, no I didn't. Why would I? Maybe it got caught somewhere?"
"You weren't in here - the whole time?" she said, her voice thick with fear and he doubted she had even heard his last sentence.
He shook his head again.
"Then... Who is standing behind me?" she breathed, the candle shaking in her hand so hart he was afraid she would drop it any moment.
"Mira, there's no one here, the room is empty," he said, taking a step towards her.
It was then when she finally dropped the candle which went off immediately. She didn't even scream, she just jumped forward and ran past him, an expression of utter panic on her face, further down the corridor which was bending right, and around the corner.
"Mira!" he yelled and went after her. "It's too dark for you, you'll-"
Fall over something, he wanted to say, but he already heard her bumping against something around the corner. It sounded like wood, and a second later he heard her rattling at a door. He was around the corner as well when he heard her yelling in panic, "It's locked! We're locked in!"
"Mira," he had caught up with her and tried to pull her away from the door.
"Who in hell locked that bloody door?" she yelled, now banging against it with her fists.
"Mira, stop it!" he yelled himself now because he doubted she would listen to him otherwise. He grabbed her forearms and finally pulled her away from the door, turning her around, still holding her so she could not run off again. "Mira, that's not the door we came in," he added more quietly.
"Is it not?" she said after a moment with a shaky voice, staring through his face, reminding him again that she could hardly see anything in this dark corner of the hallway.
"No," he replied, "This one is leading further into the east-wing. The one we came in is behind us."
"Really?" she asked and leaned against him, her face against his chest.
"Really," he replied, hugging her. "Say, what made you think I was standing behind you? I was on the bed the whole time."
"I heard your steps," he heard her muffled voice.
"There were no steps," he said, able to see almost every detail of her face as she lifted her head again. "Apart from yours, I mean."
"I heard them! They were right behind me, and then someone pulled my hair. And no, it didn't catch somewhere, I was right in the middle of that room. I could feel someone behind me! Well, not really feel. More in a physical way, like someone shuffling and breathing behind me."
"Sure you heard it? Or was it in your head?"
She stared at him for a moment, before slowly shaking her head.
"And why did you mind me lying on that bed?"
"Did I? I don't know..."
"You told me to get off it!"
"That I do remember. But I don't know why I minded it that much. Honestly, I couldn't care less who's lying on that old thing."
So something was going on in here. He wasn't quite sure what it was yet, some sort of entity, something alive? And, judging from the amount of stories around this house, one didn't need to be psychic to feel its presence. He still didn't believe it was a ghost though. Something alien, definitely. But not a-
"We have to get out of here," Mira said suddenly.
"What? Why?" he whined. "We came here to see what's going on, and now we know there actually is something going on, and you want to leave? Come on! Who if not us will figure it out? Don't worry, I don't think it's a ghost, and it seems it already tried to contact you."
"Seriously? I don't care if it's a ghost or not, I don't like being influenced without me noticing it. And I tell you, I've heard those steps, that wasn't just in my head! I would notice that!"
"Maybe it needs our help?"
"Oh come on, that's not fair, I-"
Suddenly both of them jumped – Mira even shrieked and buried her face against his chest again - as the door rattled violently and loudly in its frame, as if someone was trying to get out. It lasted for a few seconds, and then, after another loud bang from the other side, all was quiet again.
"Did you just scream?" he said as he took her gently by the shoulders and pushed her away so he could see her face.
"So what?" she said and freed herself from his grip.
"You're all right?" He could hear her heart beating and her breath going much to fast. "Too much oxygen is not good, you might want to try to-" He stopped as she lifted her index finger in a gesture to shut him up. Then she turned around to face the door.
"That's enough," she said, and then, louder, almost yelling at the door, in her voice a mix of fear and rage, "What's next then? Rattling chains? A figure in a white dress? Do you think that's funny? Shaking a bloody door? Come on, show yourself you fucking coward! Bloody tw-"
"Mira!" he stopped her, looking back and forth between her and the door. "I am shocked."
"Yes, so am I," she replied and pointed at the door. "Shocked to death. Well, almost. Would you be so kind and try to open it? Please?"
"No more swearing then?"
She sighed and said, "Fine. For now. Don't look at me like that. I was shocked, really. Sometimes I swear to compensate that and..."
"Do you really want to leave?" he asked and took her hands, looking at her intently and for the fracture of a second he could feel again the sensation of her bare, soft skin against his, back in the TARDIS not too long ago. How he had been tracing all the marks sixteen-hundred years had left on her body, some barely visible, others more prominent like the scar on her shoulder. It was more than a memory, almost a flashback, but it was gone just as quick. But he could also feel how hard she was trying to pull herself together right now. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea after all – the last thing he wanted was for her to suffer.
No, he heard her in his mind. Let's find out who in h- Sorry. Who's responsible for that. It's okay, really. I'm not a teenager any more after all.
He let go of her hands and tried to open the door with his Sonic Screwdriver. Well, he always could open it with something else, so that was not really cheating, was it? Just a moment later he realised that his attempt of cheating was in vain.
"Deadlocked," he said, more to himself, staring at the door disbelievingly.
"How so?" Mira asked, "That's a simple lock, isn't it? We could even try it with hairpins. I have some..."
"Nah," he decided. "Let's look for another way. I'm sure there's a walk-through room or something. Can't imagine that's the only way into the rest of this wing."
"As long as you still remember where we came from – I absolutely fail at imagining the floor-plan of this thing."
"Sure I can. I have an unerring sense of direction!" he replied, slightly indignant. "Well, most of the times. Almost always, I-"
"I don't want to hear it. Just leave it to unerring, will you? And we have to go get the candle. I can't see a thing."
They had tried some of the rooms left and right the hallway, and indeed, they had found one with a second door, leading to even more rooms. She still tried to track the orientation of the rooms and corridors in her mind, mapping it to how the building looked from the outside, but failed miserably. There were windows where she didn't expect them to be and just the other way around, confusing her completely. Sure, it had seemed big from the outside, and rather complex in its layout with all the different parts attached, but not that big.
"We're lost," she said, for the umpteenth time.
"Nah," the Doctor replied whilst knocking at the wooden panels covering the walls of yet another room.
"But you would admit if we're lost? You're not just saying we're not?"
He didn't reply but continued knocking. She turned around to the door where they had come in. The room was almost empty, and no other door, so they were wasting their time. This room was a dead end. But there was a window, so they must be somewhere on an outer wall.
"Ah, there it is-" she heard him say behind her, then the candle was blown out by a sudden, cold draught, followed by a loud a bang.
She flung around, almost blind in the darkness after staring in the bright light of the candle just a moment ago.
"Doctor?" she yelled and ran over to where he had been, only to find the place empty. "Doctor?"
Her hands were sliding over the panelling, searching for the hidden door he must have opened. But how could he vanish so fast? She hammered against it, a dull, muffled sound, as if nothing but solid brick wall was behind the wood. "Doctor?"
As the clouds outside broke open for a moment moonlight bathed the room in a cold, almost glaring light and she could see she was indeed alone before it got dark again. She hammered against the panelling once more, then put her ear against it but – nothing. "DOCTOR!" No reply. "Fuck!" she stomped her foot on the floor in utter frustration.
Okay, calm down, remember who you are and keep yourself together, she thought and drew a deep, shaky breath. There must be some secret mechanism opening a door. She tried not to think about how he could have vanished so incredibly fast. One step at a time. The next minutes she spent systematically knocking at the wall, trying to trigger whatever he had triggered. Finally she gave up, unable to say how long she had been trying; but she was certain she had covered every inch of the part of the wall where he had been knocking.
Not only her sense of direction, but also her sense of time was somehow screwed. Now that she as thinking about it, she couldn't even remotely say how long they had been here, not for the life of her. The change that had happened since she had come here was so subtle that she had hardly noticed it. But now, with her hand resting against the wall, she could feel it. The old wood, the stone behind it, all the things these walls had seen throughout the centuries. Even the weird layout of the rooms didn't seem that weird any more – not that it made any more sense though.
She pulled her hand away as sudden as if she had burned it.
What in hell was going on? She could not sense anything or anyone with her psychic senses, and yet something was not quite right. Something was separating her perception, her way of thinking piece by piece from reality, pushing the reason why she was here and what she wanted to do next to some far off corner of her mind, making everything in here appear slightly less odd with every passing moment - so subtle she would only know when it was too late. Or was it just her imagination? Knowing how old this house was, together with the darkness, the storm outside, being alone and-
Had she forgotten? No. She tried to pull herself together and looked around. By now her eyes were more adapted to the darkness, and together with the dim light from the windows she could take a closer look at the fireplace. She walked over and grabbed a massive, cast-iron poker. Next time when she heard steps behind her she certainly wasn't unprepared.
Stop it! There were no steps.
All she had to focus on now was trying to find the Doctor and not getting any more lost than she already was.
The sheer force of whatever had pulled him through the newly formed hole in the wall knocked him over. By the time he got up again, only seconds later, he only found a massive, wooden panelled wall – the opening was gone. He was alone, but that was no surprise. Mira had been a few feet behind him, and there had been no time for her to follow him. As he looked around to orientate himself he stopped dead in his tracks. The wood panellings along the wall, the chairs in the corners, the windows, even the Tudor-fireplace – it was an exact copy of the other room, only mirrored.
The next minutes he unknowingly spent almost exactly like Mira - minus the swearing and stomping. And he was much faster, as he could remember where and how he had knocked on the wall on the other side, and it was easy for him to find the exact same spots here. He even tried it on other spots, but in vain.
There were various things he couldn't explain – first of all, the wall was massive. There should be an opening behind the panelling or even behind the bricks – but there was none. He didn't need to scan it, the sound when knocking against it was telling him enough. It was as massive as it could be. Second, why was the room mirrored? A weird quirk of the owner or the architect? He didn't doubt for a second that he was still in the same building in the same dimension and timeline. Otherwise he would have noticed it. Third, there was the illogical floor-plan. He hated to admit, but it was confusing him as well. He should easily be able to picture it in his mind, but he failed for some rooms.
Then again, all things considered, nothing objectively was wrong or really strange in here, apart from Mira's previous behaviour. He hadn't heard any steps; it was just a house, certainly old but nothing out of the ordinary. No disturbances in time or space. Of course, there were all the stories surrounding it, and to most human stories there was at least a hint of truth.
He walked over to one of the chairs and sat down, raising a small cloud of dust.
But, all in all, it was more things he did not understand than he was comfortable with. Why was Mira so much more susceptible to whatever was going on here than he was? Was it really only because it was the cliché haunted house setting here? What was it with the steps she claimed to have heard? He didn't doubt for even a second that she was convinced of it, but still, she could have imagined it after all. He hadn't heard them. And the door rattling followed by a loud bang? Probably the wind and then a window slamming shut. But why was the door deadlocked? Well, whoever was living here didn't want them in that part of the wing, and that was perfectly fine with him.
Whilst he was sitting there and thinking, his hand was gliding over the cold wood of the armrest, tracing the carvings, acknowledging the craftsmanship of whoever had built this chair. A quite comfortable chair, someone else's chair. Not his chair. Suddenly it didn't feel that comfortable at all – rather quite wrong. He shouldn't sit in it.
Seriously, get up.
That was what Mira had said when he had been lying on the bed. Not his bed. He jumped up as if the chair had bitten him, turned around and stared at it and then around himself. How long had he been sitting there? And why had it suddenly felt so wrong? And why had he been sitting there at all? There were more important things to do. So why sit around and – do what exactly? He had wanted to leave this room and search for Mira, and finally turned to the door and walked out, a part of him afraid he would sit down again if he waited any longer in this room.
For a moment he considered if he should search for the way out, hoping Mira would do the same and probably already waiting outside for him – but she would certainly look for him before leaving here without him.
He continued the short hallway which, and as all hallways looked rather similar here, it did not occur to him that it looked much like the one leading to the other, mirrored room. It was ending with a door to another walk-through room. He stopped for a moment to listen for steps – Mira could be nearby after all - but he couldn't hear any. Just as he wanted to call her, he saw her standing in the next room, which was round as if it was part of a little tower on one of the corners of the building, facing the windows, her back turned to him. Weirdly enough, she had changed her clothes.
"Mira?" he said, wondering why he was talking so quietly. "Where did you find that dress?"
He halfway expected her to jump, but she didn't move, just stood there staring out of the window. The dress was long, flowing, in a pale green colour, hemmed with lace. Though it wasn't ripped or worn out, it seemed to be quite old. Reluctantly he started to walk towards her, only to stop again after a few steps, still probably eight feet away from her.
"Mira? What are you doing?"
She appeared to be frozen to the spot. Her hair, which had been in some half-up, was now completely open and falling over her right shoulder, exposing the pale skin of her neck. Her arms were hanging limb at her sides.
"Mira?" Still no reaction. He started to walk towards her again, a growing feeling of unease coming over him. What was wrong with her? "Mira, it's me. Turn around and look at me, will you?" Finally he reached out to touch her shoulder, hoping not to scare her too much.
"To whom are you talking to?"
One of his hearts stopped for a moment when he realised the voice was coming from behind him, leaving him feeling unpleasantly light-headed. He spun around, his hand lifted and hanging in the air, his eyes scanning over the figure standing in the doorway – but he had already recognised her voice. She was still dressed as she had been when they were separated. Plus, she was armed with a massive, cast-iron poker which he remembered had been hanging next to the fireplace in both rooms. Well, if that wasn't so Mira. But who...
He flung around again, but the place where she- that woman had been standing was empty.
"You're all right?" Mira asked. "You look like you've-" she didn't finish the sentence but bit her lip. "Forget it," she added quietly.
Was he hallucinating now? He quickly walked over to her and touched her temple slightly with his fingertips.
"Hey, it's me, okay?" she said muffled as he was already hugging her.
"But where is she gone then?" he said and let go of her again. "She was here a moment ago!"
He walked back to the spot where he had seen the woman, stomped slightly on the floor, looking around himself, searching for more secret doors.
"Who?" Mira asked.
"There was a woman. I could have sworn it was you. Though I don't know why you'd put on that ugly old dress."
"A green one. Honestly, I swear, I thought it was you. Same height, same frame, pale skin, long- Wait. I actually don't know how long, she had it over her shoulder. She was standing there, staring at the windows."
"Maybe she teleported-"
"There was no-one."
"Or it was a projection, or- Wait. What did you say?"
"There was no-one. I watched you walking and lifting your hand, and I heard you talking, but there was no-one."
"How could you see her? She was standing behind me, seen from the door."
"I would have. You were standing slightly sideways. And then you turned around, moving out of my line of sight. There was no-one."
"Really. So you do believe now that I didn't make up the steps? Good God, I'm glad I didn't turn around when I heard them...," she said and stepped away from the open door, placing her back towards the wall, so close that hardly anyone could stand behind her.
So it had been a hallucination? He shouldn't have that. There were no drugs or anything like that in his system, and he couldn't imagine what influence could cause him to see ghosts.
"How did you find me?" he asked eventually.
"Wasn't too hard," Mira said and started to walk along the wall, her fingertips sliding over the panelling. "I just left the room, walked down the hallway, through the previous room and there you were. Wonder that you didn't hear me banging against the wall from in here?"
"What?" he said, staring at her out of wide eyes. "Can't be. I came out in that room back there. Whoever build this house had a funny taste though, it's exactly the same room just mirrored."
"No, it's not mirrored," she said, her fingers still touching the wall. What was she doing?
"It is, and that was the room I was in after-"
Mira had turned around again and for a moment they just stared at each other before she finally pulled her hand away from the wall in a sudden movement as if bitten, wiping her fingers at her trousers.
"It's this house," she whispered. "It's not just weird architecture."
He knew exactly what she was insinuating. There was something going on, a shift in time or even space, but then he should be able to feel it; and there was nothing. Or was there? Maybe he was just thinking, believing that everything was normal? Spatial and temporal anomalies could wreak havoc with some people's minds - most definitely with human minds - creating feelings of disorientation and fear, even more so if someone was sensitive to time like Mira was. But it should not influence him like that. Not making him see – and feel – things that were most likely not there and then miss other things – like something wrong with time – that could be there. And if something was wrong with time, then it was a possibility that this woman had been there – an echo of another time, but then Mira should have seen her as well, because then, purely objectively speaking, the woman in green had actually been there. Visible for everyone able to see himself, as she had existed in the same temporal and spacial continuum as him, if only for a moment.
"We need to find the way back to the entrance hall," Mira said, pulling him out of his thoughts and grabbed his hand. "And don't you dare letting go of my hand. I really don't feel like panicking and running off to God-knows-where in this weird maze of a house. Or being separated again."
"Okay," he said a bit breathless, but not yet scared. Well, not quite. Maybe a little. Actually rather confused than scared.
"And then we... regroup and decide how to proceed," she added. "Which is the tactical way of saying: Let's get the hell out of here. What do you say?"
"Sounds like a plan."
~to be continued~
a/n: Okay, I think this was the third year where I wanted to post a story like this on Halloween. Last year (did not work out with the timetable) and the year before when I was still living in Germany (well, I actually had planned it back then for the next year). I almost made it this year, but then I had a nasty cold and then I was off on Star Trek LARP and had to prepare stuff for that. I also realised when starting to write it that it'll get much longer than I thought. So I decided to finally post it anyway. I hope it's not a total miss as it is not easy to write ghost-stories. :-)
heroherondaletotherescue, OneWhoReadsToMuch, bored411, oXxgeorgiaxXo, MiaEther, AxidentlGoddess, maithiliJoshi54, Shadow, and the two unknown guests: Thanks for leaving a review :-)