‘Terry, c’mon, this is stupid. Let’s just go home already.’
‘Geez Jane, if I knew you were going to be such a wuss about it, I would’ve left you with Aunt Lydia.’
Jane bit back her retort at the last second. As much as she wanted to go home, she was too scared to walk by herself. Instead, she slumped her shoulders in resignation, and followed her older brother into the old Cartwright building.
Despite being abandoned for over twenty years, Jane would have thought that people still lived there if dust wasn’t coating every surface like freshly fallen snow.
‘They say they were in the lounge before they went missing,’ Terry said. ‘Let’s check there.’
The lounge was empty, except for a table in the middle of the room and a worn-out old harp in the corner. As they entered, an uneasy feeling crept over Jane, like an unseen malicious presence was tickling her senses.
Terry, seemingly unaffected by this sensation, made a beeline for the table and began unpacking a Ouija board. ‘Play the video, will you?’ Terry said.
Jane silently obeyed, opening her phone and playing a podcast discussing the disappearance of Maisie and Mirrah Cartwright. By the time Terry had finished setting up the board, the monotone voice of a Scottish man was discussing the reactions to the mystery.
‘On the twenty-sixth of August 1991, Mirrah Cartright, age fourteen, and her younger sister Maise, age eight, disappeared from their Glasgow house without a trace. Initially, the police suspected their father, Theodore Cartwright, age forty-five, of being involved with the disappearance. However, he was quickly able to prove that he was in Denmark the night they went missing, so the police started exploring other potential leads, including…’
‘Spirits of the Cartwright sisters! We are here to discover your fate! If you can hear us, please respond!’
‘Terry, what are you doing?!’ Jane hissed.
‘Calm your knickers, princess,’ Terry said. ‘This is just a bit of fun.’
Trying her best to hide her fear, Jane watched the Ouija board intently, looking for the slightest movement.
‘It’s moving, its moving!’ Terry yelled excitedly.
‘Because you’re moving it.’
Terry scoffed. ‘You an expert on ghosts now?’
‘No, but I know you and your hand tricks. You did the same thing at Michelle’s party back in March.’
Terry bit his lip, then to Jane’s surprised, he smiled. ‘You’re getting too sharp for your own good sis. Guess I need some new tricks.’
They sat in silence for 10 minutes, looking at the board for any sign of movement. Suddenly, a loud shrill noise came from the righthand side of the room. Jane shrieked, spinning around to the source. Terry’s phone was on the corner of the table playing a video, ‘Creepy Harp Music’. Terry fell to the floor, clutching his sides with laughter. Jane glared at him, furious.
What a childish, crumb-brained, good-for-nothing, crusty little-
‘Laddie,’ the podcast narrator said. ‘If ya don’t shut off that fuckin’ harp this instant. I swear to Christ, ya won’t live to regret it.’
Terry wasn’t laughing anymore.
The narrator went back to reading the documentaries script but, in the background, a dull static noise could be heard, growing louder and louder.
Jane could barely hear herself. ‘Turn it off.’
‘The harp or the video?’ Terry yelped as the Ouija shot out from under his hand and sailed across the room.
‘Both of them, hurry!’ Jane’s pitch was so high, she was amazed that the phone’s screen didn’t crack.
Not needing any more encouragement, Terry grabbed his phone, and held down the power button. The music kept playing. He pressed the button again and again to no avail, he looked at his phone, desperate, before slamming it to the ground and shattering it. For a second, the harp music continued to play in a more distorted tone, then it sputtered out.
Jane followed suit. Holding down the power button on her phone didn’t stop the video either. The static was deafeningly loud. Any second thoughts were wiped from her mind. She pulled out her sim card and slammed her phone against the table again and again, until the static stopped and the room was quiet.
Jane let out a long breath she hadn’t realised she was holding. Then she looked at Terry to see how he was; and saw that he was shaking. His hair, which had been tidy minutes ago, was now wild and covering half of his face. The unconcealed half was stricken, his eye wide in terror. ‘We need to get the hell out of here.’
Jane shot to her feet, running towards the entrance, Terry right behind her.
‘Now, now, you can’t leave yet.’
Jane felt her legs stop against her will. That malicious feeling she had felt before now pulsated through the room. Invisible hands clasped her from all over, and her body slowly pivoted around. Jane closed her eyes but felt them pull open. Before Terry and her were two girls, one short, wearing a scarf, the other taller and slightly hunched over.
The smaller girl approached them, smile wide.
‘Look, Mirrah, new friends.’
Mirrah Cartright smiled as well and walked forward to join her sister. Jane knew something was wrong with her but wasn’t sure what it was.
Maisie ran up to her sister and hugged her. ‘This is so exciting.’
Mirrah laughed and spun Maise around.
Jane screamed, for as the sisters embraced, she saw the knife jutting out of Mirrah’s back, straight through her spine.
Maise wriggled out of Mirrah’s grip, and as she turned to face Jane, her scarf fell off, revealing a sweltering red mark that circled her entire neck.
‘There’s no need to be scared,’ the sisters said in unison. ‘We just want to play.’
Jane suddenly found herself in the middle of the lounge, jumping rhythmically as a rope spun around seemingly of its own accord.
‘Sixty-eight, sixty-nine, seventy!’ Maisie counted delightfully as Jane skipped again and again. From the corner of her eye, she could see Mirrah sitting by the table, watching Terry intently as he read ‘The Little Match Girl’ to her.
Jane could feel tears streaking down her face as she skipped against her will. Her legs starting to burn from the relentless jumping.
‘What’s the matter?’
Jane was suddenly sitting in the corner of the lounge, Maisie’s face a hairs length away from hers.
‘It’s no fun playing if you’re sad.’
It was only now that Jane realised that she could move again. She instinctively flinched back and covered her face with her hands. ‘Please don’t kill us,’ she begged through choked sobs.
Now she was sitting in the middle of the lounge, Terry next to her, and the two sisters sitting across from them, a sad look in their eyes.
‘We’re sorry if we scared you.’ Maisie said softly. ‘We just get lonely sometimes, and he never lets us meet new friends.’
‘He?’ Terry asked shrilly.
Mirrah nodded. ‘The one who took us when we told Mummy and Daddy we hated them and tore up their wedding photos.’
‘Daddy told us he’d get us if we were naughty,’ Maisie said excitedly. ‘But we thought he was talking rubbish to scare us.’
As Maisie spoke, Jane stared at the red mark around her neck, which seemed to come alive whenever she made a sound. ‘It didn’t hurt,’ Mirrah said matter-of-factly. ‘He is good to us, but we can’t ever leave, and-’
For an instant, the two girls’ figures seemed to stretch unnaturally, and a deafening static sound engulfed the room, before returning to normal just as suddenly.
‘No fair,’ Maisie said sulkily. ‘Time’s up already?’
Mirrah nodded sadly before turning back to Jane and Terry, ‘He tried to scare you away before, but we begged to play with you for a bit, and he finally said yes.’
Jane was engulfed by an enthusiastic hug by Maisie, Terry getting a similar treatment soon after. ‘Thanks for the games,’ she said cheerfully. ‘Come visit us again sometime.’
Then they were outside, the cold night air wrapping around them like a sudden brush of fear. The Cartright house was now a ruin that had long since collapsed in on itself. Jane and Terry looked at each other, then wordlessly ran from that cursed house, towards the safety and comfort of home.
Author: Flynn is a 4th year Creative Writing student with a penchant for fantasy, mystery, and the supernatural. Growing up, Flynn loved reading stories with worlds that he could get lost in for hours, and he hopes that one day he will write stories that others can also get lost in.
Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.
Editors: Kelly Rouzbehi and Rory Hawkins