Shooter wished he could pinch himself and wake up because this couldn’t be anything but a nightmare. What had happened to make Angelié so mean, and so angry at people? She finally lost him when she started talking about sleeping gods and ducks, and he was nervous she’d get so worked up that the gun would go off and someone could get hurt. On top of that, she was talking to people he couldn’t see..he wondered if the strain of being a camfluencer had broken her a bit.

While she and Sam went back and forth, Shooter spotted movement in the kitchen. There was a guy in there who hadn’t been there a minute ago. Maybe the strain of all this was getting to him too. He tried to breathe, to recall the soothing voice of Coach Sprocket at his ear when he felt he’d reached his limit, gently pushing him to do one more rep, to push past the fear. The exhale was shaky, but it helped, right up until the guy in the kitchen banged his head, and the sound caused them all to jump a bit. Fortunately, Angelié didn’t have the gun pointed at anyone in particular, so there was no worry about anyone accidentally being shot. Not knowing who the new guy was, Shooter leaned over to ask Sam if he was the Ebenezer fellow recently mentioned. He was sorry he’d asked when everyone turned to stare at him as though he’d grown an arm out of his head, like he was the weirdo in this situation.

The guy in the kitchen ran into the hall, making his way toward the group in the living room when he suddenly tripped. He rolled over and looked accusingly at the wall, then yelled at it, just as Shooter was thinking this day couldn’t get any stranger.

“You did that on purpose!”

As far as Shooter could tell, the wall didn’t respond, but the man reacted as though it had.

“I’m not clumsy, you tripped me! You’re just jealous that he can see me and not you.”

Shooter took another deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Sam,” he whispered, “what’s going on? Who is he talking to?”

Sam hesitated and Angelié whirled to face the two of them.
“Are you going to pretend you can’t see him, Sam?” She pointed at Blane, who was laughing at Nathan struggling to his feet. Angelié turned back to Shooter. “I’ll make it simple for you. This is Nathan, he’s dead. He’s a ghost. Somehow this place makes it possible for ghosts to be solid enough that they can trip one another. I’m not sure why you can see him,” she pointed to Nathan. “And not him,” she pointed to an empty space near the wall, “but I don’t really care. It won’t matter much longer anyhow. Oh, and it turns out that our little friend Sam has been able to see ghosts this whole time, and never once helped us with our ghost getting show. Talk about selfish.”

“You don’t even care about that. It was all a weird front for your culty bullshit. You do know how insane you sound, right? You’ve obviously not read enough fan fiction to grasp that you’re so far beneath the notice of these ancient, giant cephalogods they won’t even perceive that they’ve crushed you underfoot. Or tentacle, whatever. If they’re real.”

Oh Sam, I would love to see you proved wrong, but I’m bored now.” She turned to face Blane, a sly smile on her face. “What do you think? Do you have enough physical strength to pull this place down?” To answer her question, Blane smirked, then walked down the hall and out of sight of the members of the group who could see him.

From the back of the house came a solid thump, and then the ominous sound of something heavy being dragged. Closer and closer it came, a sense of menace threatening to overwhelm what was left of Shooter’s sanity. He could see it now, a dark handle gripped by an unseen hand and the weighty head of a sledgehammer carving a path along the dirt covered floor. Before they had time to adjust to the unsettling sight, it swung through the air, kicking up a cloud of dust which settled into the shape of the man carrying it. Shooter gasped as the figure underneath came into focus.

Blane stopped in the doorway, posing like he was auditioning for a renovation reality show. There was a moment when Shooter knew exactly how the ghost refurbishing twins had felt, moments before the house they’d planned to fix up tumbled down on top of them. He figured this place was likely beyond even their skills, and wondered if, like him, they had seen the ghost which intended their demise.

Angelié giggled with approval at the sight of Blane, and made to head toward the door. Without any warning, he raised the hammer and swung sideways at the load bearing wall in the center of the cabin. With the first swing the whole cabin shuddered, and Shooter leapt to his feet. Angelié screamed, enraged.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? Wait until I’m outside!” Blane looked her in the eyes with a dreadful smile, then swung the hammer again. This time he knocked the standing beam free of the wall and the ceiling above the hallway collapsed. Angelié fell in the doorway and the gun dropped from her hand, sliding across the floor to where Shooter stood. He kicked it away from her, and it spun toward Sam. Before Sam could grab it, Nathan swooped in and grabbed it. He turned it on Sam, who had been in the process of heading for the door. The grin on Nathan’s face made Sam feel sick. Shooter was nearly at the doorway, where Angelié stood holding a wicked looking knife.

With a whoop, Blane headed toward the back of the house. There was another smash, another shudder and they could see the ceiling of the kitchen cave in. In the aftermath the whole structure groaned and heaved, and the floor on the other side of the room, near the sofa, started to split open, revealing a fruit cellar or crawlspace. It yawned like a grave.

Nathan levelled the gun so it was even with Sam’s face.
“I could just shoot you. I don’t care if it doesn’t look like an accident.” His voice dropped low and his eyes narrowed. “It wouldn’t be the first time I killed someone, you know. One good thing about being dead is that I can hurt you without being hurt myself so I can really let loose. No crime, no consequence because I don’t even have fingerprints.” He waved the gun at Sam, grinning madly now. Angelié looked amused but mildly impatient. “No more heartbeat, no more morality, no…” a booted foot suddenly appeared between Nathan’s legs, coming up hard and fast enough to lift him completely off the ground. He let out a high pitched scream, the gun falling from his limp hand as his whole body buckled and heaved forward.

“No more balls! Did ya miss me, numbnuts?”
Sam wasn’t sure there had ever been a sweeter sight than Tommy standing there, hands on her hips with a saucy smirk on her lips. Angelié was not amused.

“Who the fuck are you?”
Before Tommy could answer, a resounding crash came from the back of the house and the whole living room lurched forward as though untethered. Angelié grabbed the doorframe as the cabin shuddered and the floor shifted.

“Blane!” She screamed, then gasped as his hands appeared at her waist, his voice husky and menacing at her ear.

“I’ve got you princess.”

“Quick! Help me get out of here!”

“That’s nice thought, but I had something else in mind.” With that, he pushed her back into the room, toward the place where the sofa used to be. She screamed as she fell toward the dark maw of gaping floorboards. Sam jumped over Nathan and headed for Shooter, aiming to get them out the door while Blane was distracted.  Shooter had just made it onto the porch when the ceiling above them finally gave way. They darted, aiming for the sunshine, but then a weight came crashing down and the last thing Sam heard was Tommy screaming, before everything went black.

Photo by Gwendal Cottin on Unsplash