This is my Part 1 of the challenge. I felt bad for missing the last one, so I used the haunted house sub-genre that I had for this one. I don’t know where this came from, it just sort of happened. :0
Mildred stumbled tiredly into the sunlit kitchen and used the counter to support her while she prepared a cup of tea. “The hallway walls are bleeding again,” she said through a yawn, gesturing vaguely back the way she’d come.
“What?!” Jalila rushed to the doorway and stuck her head into the hall with a groan. “Dammit, I thought we’d gotten past this.” Her fist connected with the doorframe in irritation, a frown pulling at her lips. “We agreed on no more bleeding!” she hollered.
A sound echoed down from the upper floors of the old house and slowly the blood running down the walls began to disappear. Jalila rolled her eyes skyward and made a gesture as if to say ‘why do I put up with this shit?’ before settling back into her seat to finish breakfast.
“So, have you ever thought of getting an exorcism?”
The moment the words left Mildred’s mouth the whole house shuddered and her dark skinned friend sent her a murderous glare.
“We don’t use the e-word in this house.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Mildred said to Jalila and then the house, holding one hand up in surrender as she carried her tea to the table.
The sound of someone huffing indignantly slipped in from the hallway and then the stairs creaked as they walked up them. Mildred mouthed another ‘sorry’ across the table and pulled a face behind the rim of her mug. Jalila just shook her head and returned to searching through the classifieds for any feasible job openings. She was running low on her savings and even though she wasn’t in danger of losing the house (too haunted), she couldn’t exactly survive without food, so the job hunting continued as it had for the past few months.
“Anything promising?” Mildred asked.
“There’s an assistant at a vet’s clinic, mostly drudgery; a front desk clerk at a cemetery, like I need more haunted things in my life; and some executive assistant position at a local publishing company, which I strangely have the qualifications for.” Jalila tapped her pen against the newspaper while she talked, skimming for anything she may have missed.
“I hope you get that one at the cemetery, dear. That’s where my husband’s buried, y’know.”
Both women looked to the corner of the kitchen to see an older woman with silvery white hair pulled back into a loose bun, knitting what seemed to be a scarf while blood from her gaping neck wound soaked into her white floral blouse. She smiled serenely at them as she reached to grab more yarn from a basket near her feet.
Mildred blanched and set down her mug. She pushed the mug away from her before setting her elbow on the table and resting her head on her hand. Jalila just chuckled and continued eating. The sound of knitting needles clicking together was the only thing that broke the silence until the whole house seemed to groan, as though it were shifting on its foundation.
“Not again,” Jalila muttered, setting her laptop back on the table as it finished booting up.
“What is it?”
Jalila didn’t bother to answer; she just made a ‘wait for it’ gesture with a small frown on her face. A few seconds later a booming voice announced, “New arrival.” Mildred’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, a confusion that grew when a ghostly image of a boy, no more than fifteen, stumbled into the kitchen. The boy looked frightened and there was dirt and leaves stuck in his hair, cigarette burns on the flesh they could see and angry red marks on his throat.
“I’m lost,” he said when he caught sight of the two of them.
His voice echoed in the room and sounded almost like the sobbing of a small child. Jalila’s face turned stormy for a moment before smoothing out into a soft smile as she approached to boy. When he took a wary step back she stopped and waited.
“Where am I?”
“You’re at the Halfway House,” she replied, watching him tense up at the sound of her voice.
“How did I get here?”
She took a deep breath to calm herself and paused until he met her eyes, “You were murdered. You’re here because it wasn’t your time and your soul isn’t fully ready to move on just yet.”
“But- I can’t be. I can’t…”
“It’s not so bad, dear, once you-”
“Mrs. Ansin,” Jalila gave the old woman a pointed glare.
“Well, alright,” she huffed and vanished.
“What’s your name?” Jalila asked, taking a hesitant step forward.
“…Jace,” he said, as though he wasn’t sure if he was right. “I can’t be dead, right? Something important had just happened and… why can’t I remember?”
“Your memories will return, slowly. Why don’t you come sit down?” she held out her hand.
“But, if I’m dead, won’t I just pass right through you?” he asked, looking at her outstretched hand skeptically.
When all she did was smile, he slowly moved closer and rested his hand in hers. When it didn’t pass through he looked at her, startled.
“There’s a reason I run the Halfway House,” she answered and led him to the table. “My name is Jalila and this is Mildred.”
Jace nodded in greeting and sat heavily on the spare seat, his gaze on the table. It wasn’t long before the tears came and Jalila spread her arms in front of him, allowing him to decide if he wanted her comfort or not. He nearly threw himself against her and she wrapped her arms around him, whispering soothing words. When he calmed down he smiled at her, pulling back and wiping at his eyes.
“I can show you to your room and then I have to leave for a bit. Will you be alright until I get back or would you like me to wait until tomorrow to go out?”
Jace seemed to ponder this for a moment before he shook his head, “I’ll be ok, I think.”
“I’ll be here,” Mildred added, “I can get ahold of Jalila if you need her.”
“I… thanks.” Jace seemed relieved at that.
“Come on, we’ll get you settled in and then I’ll see about getting a job,” Jalila chuckled, standing and gesturing for him to follow.