Edited 10/2010

Warning: rated 'T' for horror. Don't read late at night. ;)

A Danny Phantom FanFic by Cordria

Chapter 1: Athens, Ohio

True fact:

Athens is a real town in Ohio. It has been given the dubious distinction of one of the scariest places on Earth as well as being named the third most haunted town in the world. There have been numerous television shows dealing with the demon-like spirits that seem to haunt the greater Athens area.

The facts, as presented in this story, are all true.

Athens, Ohio. It was a small city about seventy-five miles southeast of Columbus. Home to Ohio University and about twenty thousand people, it was an up-and-coming area with beautiful scenery and surrounding countryside. Athens was an ideal place to raise children… until a certain family stepped out of their tricked-out RV. Whatever mockery of 'ideal America' the town had managed to pull over it's muddled past was forever shattered by one blazing orange jumpsuit and a heartily bellowed, "Come on!"

I scowled and sank deeper into the seat, wondering if I could take back my promise to come on this insane vacation. It was already turning into a horrifying experience and we hadn't even gotten out of the RV yet. Danny glanced over at me and smirked, unbuckling his seat belt and slipping out the door. "You agreed to come," he said over his shoulder.

Shooting an annoyed glance at Tucker, I sighed and finally levered myself out of the car. "You promised that there would be ghosts," I grumbled, crossing my arms and glaring around the picturesque town. "The third most haunted place on Earth, you said." I gestured at the gleaming buildings. "This sure doesn't fit the mental image."

He shrugged. "Give it a few minutes, Val. You can't judge a book… or however that goes."

Tucker jumped out of the RV and grinned, stretching his arms over his head. "Yeah, Val, Fenton vacations always manage to blow up the idea of 'normal'. If we don't see at least one ghost by tomorrow, the world has probably stopped turning."

"Of course there will be ghosts!" Mr. Fenton suddenly said in my ear, clapping a hand on my shoulder and making my heart skip a beat or two. "We're going to visit The Ridges, Wilson Hall, and some of the cemeteries. There's the story of that woman…"

"Thanks, Dad," Danny interrupted, "but we heard the story on the way here."

"Four separate times," Tucker added darkly under his breath before shooting me a grin. "You'll get used to it… he's just a little excited about having someone new to blather to."

"Yeah," Danny said with a chuckle, grabbing my hand and dragging me away from his brightly colored family, "excited. That's what he is."

I laughed. "So, it's just you, me, the geek, the sister, and the parents for the weekend. This will be a blast. Maybe see a few ghosts, break up a few hauntings, and save all of reality from the wrath of evil." When a strange, distressed look crossed Danny's face, I couldn't help my grin.

"Not again," Tucker whispered, crossing his fingers and squeezing his eyes shut. "Please, please, not again."

I glanced over at him in confusion, wondering what he was muttering about, but Danny whapped Tucker on the back of his head and grabbed a piece of paper out of his pocket. "Shut it. First stop is the hotel to check in…" we all looked up at the small, ratty motel his parents had decided upon, "okay… that doesn't look promising… and then we go check out The Ridges tonight, Wilson hall tomorrow night, and the five cemeteries before we leave on Sunday."

Tucker moaned. "Why is it always nights? Why not noon? Or, maybe, 2:30 in the afternoon. Nothing bad ever happens at 2:30 in the afternoon. This is just asking for our brand of trouble."

I squinted at Danny and Tucker for a moment, trying to figure out what they meant by not again and shut it, but decided it probably wasn't any of my business. You're not here to pick apart their secret; you're here to hunt ghosts with two world famous ghost hunters. Focus, Val. Switching my gaze to the motel, I took in the dusty, flaking paint. "All the better to see ghosts," I said before heading around the RV to grab my backpack. "That's the point, isn't it?"

Both of them stared at me for a long time without answering.

"You can't really blame her for being so innocent," Tucker said to Danny after a moment, "she's never been on a Fenton family vacation before."

Danny nodded, but not before glancing over his shoulder into the slowly gathering darkness and shivering. "Yeah…" he agreed distractedly.

I pushed past them, hurrying to catch up with Danny's sister. The two of us were bunking together at the motel and I wanted the bed closer to the widow just in case I had to leave in the middle of the night to do my 'job'.

Behind me, Tucker sighed. "I know that look in your eyes, Danny. Sam's going to end up being lucky one on this trip."

"Shadow broke her leg, Tucker. How's that lucky?"

"Bet you a week's worth of homework that by the end of this, you'll admit that Sam was the lucky one."

There was a long moment of silence. "I don't take stupid bets, Tucker."

The door to the run-down motel jingled as I pushed it open, drowning out anything else the two boys might have said.

True fact:

In the area of Athens, Ohio, there are five cemeteries. These cemeteries are really nothing to look at individually – they are just places to bury the dead. But when seen from a witch's perspective (from the air), the cemeteries form a pattern. Connecting the five locations forms a nearly perfect pentagram.

Travel to the exact center of this spiritual symbol and you will find yourself in the center of the town of Athens – Ohio State University. Home to 'Wilson Hall' and one of the most bizarre haunting/suicide stories in history.

I followed Mr. Fenton up the path, staring at the humongous building with butterflies fluttering in my stomach. An ancient Victorian building made up of millions of bricks, its three stories loomed over us in the darkening evening. Black windows gazed into the cloudless night with a quiet intensity that sent chills up my back.

I'm a ghost hunter – I've seen some of the worst that Amity Park can throw at me. But this place was just… downright creepy. Something was very wrong here. All of the hairs on my arms rose at some strange chill in the air.

"The Ridges," Mrs. Fenton said happily, then broke off, sending Danny a weird look. Danny was staring up at the building with wide eyes. He shivered a bit, then blinked before a forced smile appeared on his face.

For a second, I just continued to watch him. I didn't buy the smile one bit. Danny was pale, his eyes had an element of terror to them, and his muscles were tense. But his mom just smiled and continued up the path.

I'd kill for my dad to be that oblivious. Danny's so lucky.

Tucker poked Danny in the arm and whispered, "What's wrong?"

"Same-old," Danny whispered back, shooting a glance up at the old building. "The entire place is haunted. And they aren't going to be nice ghosts either."

Jazz appeared out of the shadows, clicking her flashlight on and off to check the batteries and fiddling with her walkie-talkie. "Stupid ghosts, stupid family trip, stupid haunting, stupid…" she looked up, blinking at me with a smile before fixing on her brother's pale face and stopping dead in her tracks. "Danny?"

The siblings exchanged a loaded look and I felt out of the loop… again. Ever since I'd joined Danny's trio of friends, this happened over and over and over again. They all knew something they didn't want to tell me. The only thing I'd figured out so far was that it had something to do with ghosts.

For some reason I couldn't quite place my finger on, seeing them all react like that made my stomach do a small flip. Very few things phased me anymore, but these three were making me feel like I was hunting my first ghost again – both terrified and excited at the same time. The hairs on the back of my neck rose suddenly and I shot a glance over my shoulder towards the building looming at the top of the hill.

There was nothing there. The watch on my wrist wasn't reacting to anything.

A breath slipped out of my lungs and I forced myself to turn back towards the other teenagers, putting my back to The Ridges. I could feel the building fix its gaze between my shoulder blades and it took almost all my will power not to twist around and glare back in defiance.

Jazz, Tucker, and Danny weren't following the Fentons up towards the darkened building. Instead, the three of them clustered closer together on the shadowed walkway, a similar foreboding look on each of their faces. "We don't have to go in," Jazz muttered softly.

"It's just a ghost…" Danny added under his breath.

"Nah, if it was just a ghost you wouldn't be so pale," Tucker whispered. "This is something else."

I shook my head, turning away from them and heading towards the ancient building. Their expressions weren't helping the chilled and paranoid feelings that were snaking around in my stomach. I wasn't going to listen to their groundless ramblings – it would only make those feelings worse. I hadn't come this far to turn back now. I was going in that building.

I took a deep breath and a few quick steps in an attempt to catch up to Danny's parents, but something flickered at the edge of my vision and I looked up at the building. Nothing looked different. The darkened windows were still empty, several panes of glass glittering brokenly in the wane moonlight, and the trees waved skeleton-like fingers into the star-speckled sky. I hesitated for a moment as I studied the old asylum, the slight wind whispering in my ears and carrying the echoing sounds of the insane.

I shared Danny's shiver. This place was definitely haunted. Butterflies in my stomach caused my palms to start to sweat and I had to rub them on my leg, an unconscious smile appearing on my face. I could already feel the adrenaline starting to rush through my-

What was that?

Squinting up at a tiny window on the third floor, I hesitated. The window was empty. I took a small step forwards, my eyes narrowing further. I could have sworn I saw a person standing up there, staring down at us, robed in white with short hair.

A hand suddenly grabbed my arm and I flinched in surprise, laughing softly when I noticed that my own hand had crept up unannounced to rub my other arm. "I'm not scared," I informed my arms, quietly berating them for doing something without telling me. I pushed them back down to my sides.

My eyes flickered back up the window, once again catching the glimmer of some kind of presence up there. It wasn't human, that much I was pretty sure. I tipped my chin up and clenched my hands by my sides, glaring up at the building. "Valerie Grey is not scared of some stupid ghost."

A sharp click behind me made me jump, almost smashing into Danny. I blushed as he steadied me with a pale-faced grin. We both listened to his father take the key back out of the lock and push open the heavy front door with a creak. "This is a bad idea," Danny murmured to himself, his eyes seeming to glow in the encroaching shadows, "these ghosts are not happy."

Just for a second, just for one measly little second, I thought about mentioning that we didn't have to go in. The little hairs on my arms were standing on end and the haunted look in Danny's blue eyes was almost creepier than the building itself. But I changed the words right before they slipped out of my mouth and into the freezing air – Valerie Grey doesn't get scared of a building just because it has a ghost or two in it. "They're just ghosts, we can handle them."

Danny, Tucker, and Jazz all raised an eyebrow and shook their heads in disbelief. "Some ghosts," Danny said softly, "should just be left alone."

"Forty-six degrees Fahrenheit," Mrs. Fenton said, reading off of her thermometer. "That's the ambient temperature of the air tonight, so we'll use that as the baseline and look for cold spots statistically different than that…" her eyes squinted a little, apparently doing math her head, "so check for places under forty degrees."

"Three teams," Mr. Fenton jumped in, his face alight as he flipped a switch on the wall. Half of the overhead lights blazed into existence and flooded us with harsh light and sharp shadows. "Just like we planned. We'll meet back up here in two hours. Let's go!"

"Wait," Mrs. Fenton grabbed a handful of her husband's jumpsuit and smiled at his pouting face, "walkie-talkies are for communication, I expect to hear from each of you every fifteen minutes at the most. This place is old and not kept up, so if a sign says to stay out of a place, stay out. Don't do anything stupid," she hesitated to shoot Danny and Tucker a glare, "and get us some good evidence. Have fun!"

It took a whole of five seconds for the two eldest Fentons to vanish through a shadowed doorway. Danny, Tucker, and Jazz exchanged another loaded look. "Um… we don't have to split up," Tucker finally said.

"It'll take twice as long to get through our sections then," Jazz complained, glancing over her shoulder. "I say get in, get it done, and get back out. Danny? What should we do?"

Danny tipped his head to the side, thinking, then turned to look at me. "What do you think we should do, Val?"

"Me?" I blinked.

"You wanted to go ghost hunting," he half-smiled before looking around the room and tensing a little more. I could almost feel the stress flowing off Danny's body. "What do you think we should do?"

He looked over and met my eyes and I cut off the words that were about to jump into my throat. Danny's eyes were a dark, haunted blue, but some trick of the lights was causing strange motes of glowing green to flare in his irises. It was eerie. My breath caught in my lungs for a half-second before I let it all out in a frustrated huff. "Let's split up and do this thing."

I pulled out a piece of equipment the Fentons had shoved at me, taking a second to realize it was an EMF reader. I turned it over twice, searching for the 'on' switch, before Danny pulled it out of my hands and pressed a button. He handed it back, the screen glowing faintly and numbers starting to run together.

"Two votes to split up, one to stay together." Danny nodded, grabbing a flashlight out of his pocket and gesturing towards the stairs. "Majority wins. Jazz and Tucker get the upstairs, Val and I'll take the basement." He grabbed my arm and propelled me across the small space.

"But you didn't vote," Jazz called as we rounded a corner. "DANNY!"

I followed him for a quiet for moments, both of us intent on finding the stairs that lead to the basement. Our shoes sounded loud against the wooden floor, sharp-edged shadows chasing ahead of us and falling behind us as we passed under rows of buzzing lights. "Why didn't you vote?"

"Choose between my sister and my best friend? Are you kidding?" He tried to grin, but it wasn't a real smile and it looked out of place on his pale face. "If you must know, my vote is to leave right now. This place is…" He trailed off, staring down the long hallway with a dubious look on his face.

Something brushed against the back of my neck and I turned around, walking backwards for a moment. There was nothing there. I squinted, studying the long hallway with its dozens of doors heading off into the unknown, unable to stop myself from wondering what demons hid behind those solid wood portals. "Then why did you vote to stay?" I asked. I took another step backwards, but Danny had apparently stopped. I stepped into him into him and started to tip over, but he grabbed my arm and held me steady.

"Look," he flipped on his flashlight and shined it at the wall, completely ignoring my question. His light illuminated a water-damaged and moldy poster. "The Ridges: formerly the Athens Lunatic Asylum. Established 1873, shut down 1979."

I wrinkled my nose at a sour smell that suddenly drifted through the stale air. Overhead, the lights flickered.

"An entire building full of insane, vengeful, and demonic spirits." Danny flicked his flashlight back off and let out a deep breath. "Tucker was right about this stupid vacation."

True fact:

The ancient building now known as The Ridges was once the Athens Lunatic Asylum. This building was once a regular stop for a physician that used extreme medical practices. Nick-named 'Dr. Lobotomy', he was quite well known for trying radical brain surgery on the patients.

It didn't take long to plunge a probe into a head, mangle around the gray matter a little, and see what happened. It was unfortunate that a lot of the patients died in the process.

I put my foot on the ancient steps, my breath fogging in the air. The farther we got into the building, the colder it seemed to be getting. I licked my lips and let out a shaky breath before straightening my spine and clenching my teeth, steadying myself. "Come on, Danny, it's not so bad. They're just ghosts."

Danny just sent me a small glare and curled his arms a little tighter around himself. That eerie illusion of the lights in his eyes was back, emerald fireworks flaring against a troubled blue background. "Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea," he muttered softly, one for each time his foot settled onto the dusty steps, leading the way into the pitch-black basement.

I felt myself unconscious echoing his bad idea bad idea bad idea as my feet hit the steps and I scowled, shaking my head. "If you think this is such a bad idea, why come in? I'm sure you could have stayed in the car."

"The whole town is freaking haunted by something," he said darkly. "Staying in the car by myself on a night like this wouldn't have been any better."

"Knock it off," I whispered, more to myself than to Danny. His paranoia and fear were almost palpable – and worse, apparently catchy. My nerves were on edge and the butterflies in my stomach were fluttering more wildly than I'd ever felt them before. For the first time in my career as a ghost hunter, I actually felt the desire to just leave.

Something brushed against my hair and I twisted around, scanning the empty space behind me, my heart jumping a bit. It lodged itself someplace halfway between my throat and where my heart normally rested and I had to swallow hard to force it back to where it belonged. There was nothing behind me. A glance at the ghost detector on my watch showed there were no ghosts.

I breathed out slowly and turned back around, trying to put the incident out of my head. When we reached the bottom of the shadowed stairs, Danny reached over a flicked a light switch, a few of the overhead lights flickering and then buzzing to life. They illuminated twin rows of partly-opened door that lead into blackness, thick layers of dust and cobwebs strung the hallway like holiday garland, and flickering shadows of forgotten objects still strewn on the floor. "Wow," I whispered, "it's a perfect haunt for a phantom."

"Not on your life," Danny breathed softly.

I shot him a look before grabbing my flashlight and heading towards the nearest door. The door had a faded '6' painted above a small, glass-free window with iron bars and a dark stain around the doorknob from decades of use. "Come on – let's get those readings for your parents."

He muttered something I couldn't catch, but he followed a step behind me and yanked some equipment out of his backpack, fiddling with buttons. I pushed open the door to room six and stared into the dark shadows. A shiver ran up my spine as a fresh wave of cold air breathed over me and my imagination started to run away without me.

Anything could be lurking in the darkness. Axe murders, zombies, blood-deprived vampires, lost lunatics, a demonic ghost…

Flicking on my flashlight, I played it quickly over the room, stifling my brain before it could do any more damage. The room was empty, except for some iron shackles bolted to one of the walls and a cracked mirror above a broken sink. I took a deep breath and forced my nerves to calm down. There's nothing here. Stop that. There's nothing in this room – it's just an empty building with a few ghosts in it.

"Temperature," Danny muttered, slipping around me to shine the laser into the room, "thirty-six degrees." He glanced over at me as his breath fogged in the air, his forehead wrinkling in concern. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," I said sourly, backing back out of the room and fighting to keep from shivering again. I crossed my arms tightly, glaring into the infinite blackness that was hiding behind the door. The room is empty, stop it. Despite my own thoughts, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the door, feeling this odd sense of dread boiling in my stomach. My fingers curled tighter around my arms and I focused on breathing slowly and steadily, controlling my fear.

"Val?" Danny asked and I flinched at the sound, looking up at him.

My eyes were drawn past him, down the dismal hallway, mindlessly counting the doors that seemed to stretch into oblivion. "Do we have to look in all those doors?" My voice squeaked and I scowled darkly. My eyes flicked back to the door I'd pushed open. It was slowly drifting shut again on its own and I suddenly gripped with the desire to rush over and push it back open, shining my flashlight in and making sure it was still empty.

Cold suddenly swirled around me like a demonic hand, brushing at the back of my neck and pressing its lips against my cheek. Goosebumps ran up my arms and I felt my knees weaken.

"Not all of them." Danny's voice was quiet and strained. "Actually, I think we've got enough readings. Let's just go back upstairs."

My feet wouldn't move. My eyes darted from the doorway in front of me to the large expanse of hallway to my left and then towards the shadowed stairway on my right. I suddenly felt cornered… trapped… attacked… "What's going on?" I rasped.

"Val… Valerie…" he licked his lips, dropping his thermometer with a painfully loud clatter and wrapping his arms around his chest. "We need to leave. They don't want…" His eyes were wide and frightened as he stared down the hallway.

"I can't." It came out as a pitiful whisper. Something cold brushed past me and I screamed, my wide eyes trying to see in every direction at once. But still my feet wouldn't move. I couldn't even get my hands to move.

A door slammed far away in the deserted hallway and a bunch of shadows dropped from the ceiling. Bats – dozens of small bats – shrieked in anger and they flooded down the corridor and blasted past us. I slammed my eyes shut, unwilling to see what was going on. I wanted to run… but I couldn't… I just…


I cracked one eye open. Then the other. Then I spun around, my hand jumping to my mouth in horror.

I was alone.

With whatever ghost was out there.