I’ve been here for days. At least I think I have, I don’t know anymore. All I know is that I have to leave before I die, and I don’t have much time.
Let me take you back to where this all started. A few friends and I were fascinated with everything Victorian all throughout High School. We had been to every shop, historical town, and museum we could find within our reach, until we found a new place an old friend heard about. This was an old Victorian hat shop.
Throughout the school term we all patiently waited for a chance to head up there. So obviously when one free weekend turned up, we all jumped at the chance to take a look at what we thought would be a wonderful place. When Saturday rolled around everybody hopped in my good friend Josh’s badly maintained Jeep. His twin brother Eli was manning the GPS and we three girls were sitting in the back, staring out the window and giggling with excitement.
After hours of driving, we noticed there were fewer buildings, and each of them becoming increasingly dilapidated, more and more like a ghost-town, as we sped towards our destination.
We drove along a desert road until there were no visible signs of civilisation anywhere. Jess was sitting between Charlotte and I, she had a small issue with being in tight places for large amounts of time, so naturally, we stopped to let her sit outside and breathe for a few minutes before continuing our journey again. We had performed this routine about five times after starting our little adventure, but this time she started acting a little out-of-the-ordinary.
It was late evening, so we couldn’t see too much in the dim glow of the moon. This must’ve confused Jess or something, because after she was done in the fresh air, she got up and started walking the wrong way. I don’t know if she was coming back to the car and lost direction or what, but if she'd never had that stupid claustrophobia then we wouldn’t have gotten into this mess in the first place, we would’ve just given up finding the shop and gone home.
Josh and Eli noticed her walking away first. They shouted after her but there was no response. Everybody rushed out of the car and chased after our wandering friend, until we came to a sudden halt. It was as if a building appeared out of nowhere. Right in front of us. I couldn’t see too well in the dark, but I did notice boarded windows, and a big heavy door, slightly ajar.
We heard the GPS chant quietly in the background, and then stop completely. Suddenly the car took off down the road and Josh chased after it, yelling. At this point we were all questioning how the car could’ve moved like that. Even if the handbrake was accidentally left off, there was no way it could go so fast on a completely flat piece of road. What was going on?
Everybody sat anxiously waiting for Josh and Jess to return. Until after a while we heard panting and a distressed voice blurt out; “the car’s gone, I couldn’t catch it”. Josh was destroyed, that was his first car and he loved it to pieces. I guess it’d turn up somewhere though, hopefully in one piece. Until then, there was Jess to worry about.
Well we're here. And after losing the car there wasn’t much we could do but scramble through the building for Jess. Charlotte stepped in first and we all followed. This must have been the place we were looking for, because of all the amazing and beautiful Victorian headwear covering every inch of the shop.
“JESS?” Eli called loudly. No answer. “JEEEESS?!” He called again. Still no response.
The door creaked and slammed behind us. Weird, there was no wind at all before we came in.
“Hey guys!” The sweet voice of our dear friend had returned.
Jess stepped out of the shadows with a big grin on her face, proudly displaying a large red bonnet on the top of her head.
“Aren’t these hats great?”
We all sighed with relief when we saw she was alright, although our relief didn’t last long. Everyone started to panic as Jess began to scream. Her eyes filled with an unnatural blue light and she was lifted into the air, and slammed back down to the ground. The noise was the most sickening part as every bone in her body shattered into a million pieces. She was thrown at such force she was now completely unrecognisable, only a puddle of chunky blood, flesh, and mangled bone.
We all stood there for what seemed like hours, running through what just happened over and over in our heads trying to make sense of it. It was then that Charlotte burst into tears, screaming and crying for our dead friend. Nobody spoke.
Charlotte, whimpering, crawled to the corner of the room and silently wept. And Eli began to talk.
“Okay,” he said in a robot-like tone.
“Someone call the police."
Josh scrambled for his mobile phone and pressed a button on the screen.
“No service,” he said, panicking, watching Eli slump into a dusty old leather couch.
I ran for the door, not sure where I was going or what I was going to do when I got outside. I kicked and banged and screamed but the door wouldn’t open. Hopelessness and grief had got the best of me; I sank to my knees, and cried.
So, four panicked, grieving, confused teenagers in a dusty old hat shop. Our friend had just died and we were trapped. What did Eli suggest?
“We should look around the shop."
We all somehow agreed to split up. I was with Charlotte, and Eli with Josh. Charlotte and I found a long dusty staircase and decided to creep around the upstairs. Every step creaked and groaned and wept. Wept? What was that? I swear I could hear crying from the top of the staircase, but it wasn’t Charlotte. What was it?
We came into a dark, damp room with mould covering every corner of the walls. And right in the middle of the floor on an old broken rocking chair was a beautiful young woman dressed in Victorian attire.
I walked over, amazed, and touched her on the shoulder. She felt so cold.
She didn’t even notice me, she never flinched or turned around, and she just sat there, crying.
A little boy ran into the room.
“Mummy! Mummy!” He bolted over to the woman and tugged on her dress, taking no notice of me.
I was so confused; I just went back to Charlotte and didn’t know what to think about it. We met up outside the door to the room I'd just left; we stared awkwardly at each other until a loud screeching noise pierced my skull and a gruesome looking Victorian ‘woman’ came flying through the air. Within a matter of seconds she whacked Charlotte across the face and sent her shooting down the stairs.
What was left at the bottom was a twisted body.
I screamed until my lungs couldn’t take it and ran down shouting Josh and Eli. I came to a small wooden door, so short I had to crouch to get through it. Inside were my two living friends. I only just pushed myself through the doorway when Josh picked up a faded black top hat and placed it on his head. Then just like Jess, a pale blue light filled his eyes.
Suddenly Josh began to fly around, banging into walls and furniture, bleeding from the mouth and nose. Eli and I were frozen, too shocked to move until Josh was good and dead. His body flopped to the ground, knocking a leather suitcase off an old dark cabinet and causing the paper contents to flutter around the room.
The blue light left and I once again heard the maniac screeching, the same as the scary ghost woman that killed Charlotte.
We had no idea what to do; I was numbed with grief for all my dead friends, although there wasn’t much we could do about any of this except look for help or anything to get Eli and I out of here. I turned to see my friend rustling through the suitcase papers.
“These papers” he said.
“They’re all things like bank letters and jail notices. Here! Look! A notice of bankruptcy, it seems like this shop had to be shut down. A family owned this place, each of them were sent to jail one by one until they could pay the bills. I guess the rest died before they could.”
Eli seemed so intent on finding out what was happening that he didn’t even care about Josh or the others. I guess that was a good thing, somehow we can sort all this out.
“I think they’re ghosts” the words came out my mouth before I realised I was speaking.
“Me too” Eli replied.
He whipped out a long scroll, he seemed to understand it although I couldn’t, and he was always the smart one out of the group. The scroll said the family members could be released from jail if there was income to the shop; I guess there were better hat stores at the time.
That screeching noise was returning. I felt my heart leap into my throat when I noticed it, she was coming. Eli was so absorbed in reading he didn’t even notice, this time it was so loud I can’t believe he didn’t. The woman appeared in the room with a whooshing noise and snapped Eli’s neck within a matter of seconds.
“WHY?!” I screamed.
“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!”
The woman shot towards me and we were face-to-face, our noses nearly touching. She grunted and flew towards the scroll. As she picked it up the weeping woman and child rose from the floor and they all began speaking at once.
“They took our family, we will take yours. They were innocent, and we will never get them back without the release.”
I didn’t know what to do, until… They needed money for the shop, and the income would mean they got their family back, so, I fumbled through my pockets to find a $50 note and some coins.
The ghosts all stared me in the eye and the scary woman held out her bony hand. This was it. I passed her the money and waited. The blue light came back, and well, how do I say it? Less sharp. It was more relaxing and pleasant as three figures appeared in the corner of the room. Although I couldn’t make out what they looked like, I knew they were the missing family.
Suddenly the light became more menacing and the gateway set on fire.
“NOOO!” The ghosts all screamed in unison.
This was my chance, I ran for my life and up to the door we came in. It was how I thought we left it, before it somehow latched and locked. I used all my might and swung open the heavy piece of wood and ran as fast as my legs could take me.
Streetlights appeared. Streetlights that weren’t there before. They all shone the blue light that I was so afraid of now. And then, the woman who I dreaded stood in the distance then disappeared.
The screeching returned louder than ever before, I felt a sharp, painful jolt in my neck and everything turned black.