A plea for help brought me to the house on Cotton Lane. The message on my phone was left in a hurry by a woman that sounded terrified. Pressing the phone to my ear, I listened to it again.
“Harry Smythe, I need your help,” the voice whispered. “I know about your talents and I need them here. There is an evil presence in this house. Please, you have to come. I am at the house at the end of Cotton Lane.”
There was just one light on in the house. I sat in my car, looking out through the torrential rain and listening. My mediumship skills searched around the house, but something blocked me. I tried to push through, but it was a solid wall of psychic power. Everything told me to turn around and drive away from this place. There was something sinister in that house and it was watching me, doing it’s best to keep me out.
When the rain stopped, I flung the door of my car open and stepped into the cold night air. There was only one house on Cotton Lane, down a narrow road into the country. My sat nav missed the turning, so it took me an hour longer to arrive than I’d cared for. I tried to call the woman who left the message, but I hadn’t stored the number in my phone.
Hurrying to the house, I stopped by the steps that led up to the door. The sense of unease was great and I stared at the light in the top window. There were bars on the window and I wondered if it was to keep something in or out. Steadying my mind, I listened for the paranormal, but there was nothing but static as something hid from me.
It was scared.
My hand went to knock on the door, but it swung open. “Yes?” a man’s voice asked from the dark of the hallway. “Can I help you?”
I introduced myself. “I had a message to call by here,” I said, peering into the gloom.
“Who called you?” the voice asked, full of suspicion. I tried to read the person, but that block hung over the house like a storm cloud.
“Perhaps there has been a mistake,” I said, deciding it might be a better idea to come back during daylight.
A woman called from inside, “There’s no mistake. I called you.”
There were hushed voices inside. Finally, the man told me to come in. Lingering on the step, I tried to search out the thing that was watching in the shadows. My sixth sense told me to leave, but the woman in the message had sounded so desperate in so few words. So I entered Cotton House. When my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw two figures watching me.
“I’m sorry about the lights,” a woman said, matter of fact. “The only place the bulbs don’t blow is in the front bedroom and no one goes in there.” She looked at the man next to her, but I was unable to see their expressions. Reaching into my coat, I brought out a flashlight; I always carried one, because in my line of work, electrics were never reliable. I shone my light on the woman first. She was mid fifties, her hair held up in a tight bun. The black was mixed in with grey. Her face was tired looking, as though she hadn’t slept in days. My light swept over the man who held his hand up across his face as my beam shone in his eyes. He seemed younger, his hair an unruly mess about his shoulders. He was slight of build, perhaps a little older than the woman.
“Come this way, Smyhte,” the woman commanded, heading down the hallway. I followed and the man kept his distance. I could sense his mistrust of me.
“Ignore Bailey,” the woman said. “He’s not used to visitors.” We entered a dining room where candles flickered and gave some illumination. “My name is Elisa. It was I who summoned you here. Your talents are well known.”
I put my torch down on the side. My senses reached out and there was that feeling of being watched again. The hair on my skin prickled as something drew near. “You said there was an evil presence?”
Elisa shot Bailey a quick glance. “We mustn’t talk openly about it,” Elisa whispered. “It’s listening to us.”
I nodded. There was certainly something lurking there that didn’t want to be found. “Why don’t you go in the front bedroom?”
Bailey stepped forwards. “It lives there!” he hissed at me.
Elisa hushed him. “We stay away from that room. It is cursed.”
The room suddenly went cold and I shivered. My senses reached out and I touched something filled with hate so strongly it pushed me back. Stumbling, I grabbed the edge of a table and steadied myself. “Whatever is in this place is strong,” I said. “I need to see that room.”
Elisa nodded, but I could see the fear in her face. We went upstairs towards the front bedroom. Light spilled out around the door and I paused by it. Placing my hand on the door, I felt the thing that was lurking behind it. Hate. Anger. “He must’ve died in there,” I whispered. “And now he won’t leave.”
“You have to go in there?” Elisa whispered from behind. “You’ll anger it.”
“You called me here to help,” I said. “So, yeah, I have to go in there.” I took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Light from the room blinded me for a moment and I took a step inside. Behind me the door slammed shut, separating me from Elisa and Bailey. I tried to open the door, but it was locked. Too scared to turn round, I placed my head on the door and closed my eyes. There was something behind me. The temperature dropped and my breath misted in the air. The smell of human filth filled my nostrils and I gagged.
Music from an old record began to play, crackling and jumping. “Bang Bang, he shot me down... Bang bang, I hit the ground.”
I tried to open the door again, thumping hard until my fists hurt. The crackling record continued to play and I felt something draw closer. “Bang bang, that awful sound... Bang bang, my baby shot me down...”
Suddenly, the music stopped. Turning, I faced a shadowy figure in the corner. It circled the room, keeping to the shadows. Reaching out with my sixth sense, I tried to communicate with it, but all I heard was manic laughter. My eyes scanned the room for something to help me. The room was bare. But the walls didn’t look right. Keeping my distance from the shadowy ghost, I reached out and touched the wall. It was soft to touch. Padded.
“You were a patient,” I whispered.
The entity shuffled towards me and I felt it’s anger in a great wave of emotion. It was watching me with curiosity now, but there was also something else. Yes, that was it: hunger. It was hungry for something, but to my horror it was hungry for me. The old record started to play again and I covered my ears. The thing was playing with me like I was a new toy. The ghost creeped from the shadows and stood under the light. It was restrained in an old straightjacket, so it twisted around as it moved. Looking at me with a skeletal grin, it started to sniff around me. I ran for the door and screamed out for Bailey and Elisa.
“They forgot me,” a voice whispered from behind. “I won’t let them go until they feed me.”
My sixth sense exploded and I was suddenly transported across time. I saw a man sat in the corner of the padded cell, a straightjacket restraining him. He struggled against the bonds but it was useless and he crawled across the floor, too weak to stand. They’d left him there for days. He was so hungry! Resting his head on the door, he listened to the distant sound of a record playing downstairs somewhere.
“Bang bang, he shot me down...”
I felt his fear turn to anger. Bailey had thrown him in here on Elisa’s orders. She’d watched with a smile. “You can come back out when you behave,” she’d said coldly.
But she never returned and the man suffered for a week before finally crawling into the corner and dying. Cotton House. Only, it wasn’t a house. It was an asylum through the sixties and seventies before it burned to the ground. I remembered being invited for a ghost hunt there. Three found dead. Elisa and George Bailey, the couple who ran it. An unknown patient was found locked in the top floor room. How could I have been so stupid?
Suddenly I was back in the present and I looked up at a manic face. With all my strength, I pushed mentally at it. “Back to the light!” I shouted. The entity snarled, but scrambled back to the corner. While it was weakened, I tried the door and it opened. Elisa and Bailey screamed out, coming at me with stretched out arms. “We must feed him!”
I threw a wall out with my mind and they stopped, shrieking at me. Behind me, something stirred and drew close. Bailey and Elisa ran at me. I threw myself to the side and they ran into the padded cell. Quickly, I slammed the door on them and listened to their anguished screams. When they fell silent, I made my way down the stairs of the deserted asylum. Out in the cold of night, I looked up at the top floor window where I saw three figures looking down at me, pulling uselessly on the bars to be freed.
On my way back to the car, I saw a for sale sign with the words, “sold” pasted across. I shivered as I thought of anyone moving in and opening the room on the top floor. Some doors should never be opened.