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Mac checked the paper in his hand again – 2.30pm.
He checked his watch – 2.32pm.
The other man was late.
Shuffling his feet on the pavement Mac blew on his hands, rubbing them together in an attempt to warm them. The chill November air was cutting and although he was wearing his coat, the cold still seemed to permeate through to Mac’s bones. He glanced around again – no sign of him.
His impatience now building, he walked a little way until he was almost in front of the house, standing at the foot of the grand stairs and looking up at it in awe. Having taken the decision to move back to the country from the big city, Mac had been overwhelmed to see this property on the market. On paper it seemed to be perfect, all that he had ever wanted in fact, and now all he needed to do was see inside and sign on the dotted line. It was that simple.
According to the estate agent, for whom he was now waiting, the house had been empty for a while which Mac had at first thought odd, however he knew of many who could no longer afford to keep such a grand house. The fact that it was empty added to its attraction, it meant that Mac could move in as soon as the ink on the contract was dry. He had nothing left for him in the city – not anymore.
Turning to survey the street behind him, he was frustrated to note that the estate agent had still not arrived. The street was silent, eerily so, although given the hour, that was perhaps not unusual. Most people would either be tucked up inside against the cold, or they would be at work. Time had long since passed when people came back from their offices to their homes for lunch.
Making a decision, Mac began to mount the steps – half a dozen or so large wide steps, which led up to the grand front door. Being situated on the corner ensured that there was no immediate neighbour, and this only added to its attraction. As he got closer to the bricks and mortar, he realised that some were in a pretty bad way – the house had clearly been neglected as well as being unoccupied. Making a mental note to call the builders to quote for the work required, he approached the heavy wooden front door, admiring the antique brass-work fittings which although tainted, were still in perfect working order.
The cold was really hitting him now and so Mac lifted the large brass knocker on the door, watching as it dropped down and made a resounding thud against the woodwork. Perhaps the estate agent was already inside the house? Mac had not considered that option and was now mentally cursing himself for not checking sooner.
Initially the door remained steadfastly closed, but Mac’s desire to get inside the house was great and so he lifted the knocker again. The thud seemed louder this time, almost enough to shake the door and he jumped back as he heard the sound echo off the adjacent walls. He hadn’t realised that he had dropped the knocker down with that much force.
As he stood and considered what he should do now, Mac heard footsteps from the other side of the door and breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly the estate agent was already here. Bracing himself he waited, as the door creaked open slowly, the hinges groaning under the weight. The doors would also need to be looked at by the builders, it would seem.
Finally the gap opened sufficiently for him to see inside and Mac smiled, as the door revealed the estate agent standing before him.
“Hi!” Mac said, extending his hand, surprised to find the estate agents’ hand cold. Really cold.
It was a statement, one which Mac found odd, considering that they had made an appointment.
“Yes, of course. I wish to look around the inside of the house.”
The estate agent nodded. “Before you enter I need you to understand that I know who you are.”
“Okay…” Mac answered. He should hope that the estate agent knew who he was – it had only been yesterday that they had talked in his office.
“No, I know who you are.” The estate agent continued and Mac looked up at him in query. He had no idea what the other man was talking about.
“I’m sorry, I don’t follow.” Mac replied.
“You left your life behind. I know that.” The estate agent continued. “You left everything behind. A wife. A child. You are troubled, deeply so. You have come here seeking answers.”
Alarmed, Mac coughed. He didn’t remember telling the estate agent any of those things in the consultation yesterday.
“Okay…” he repeated again. “But that is not relevant to our negotiations today – surely?”
The estate agent smiled. “On the contrary, it has everything to do with today.”
“I don’t understand,” Mac replied. He was getting frustrated now and the wind was picking up, chilling him even more.
“Perhaps you will when you enter,” the estate agent said, opening the door wider to allow Mac room to pass.
“Thank you,” Mac said automatically as he moved passed the estate agent and entered the hallway. Abruptly the door closed behind him and almost immediately they were shrouded in darkness, the room much darker than the light had been outside.
He turned to the estate agent, waiting for instructions, directions, anything. He was greeted with silence, an eerie silence.
“Hello?” he said into the darkness, his voice shaking slightly as the first fingers of fear began to grip his heart. “Hello?”
And then, without warning, there was a sound of cackling coming from his left, louder and louder until it became almost unbearable and Mac covered his ears at exactly the same moment that a cold hand touched him and propelled him forwards.
A room opened out in front of him and Mac stood frozen as he watched the sight before him unfold. He was not alone.
The hand at his back pushed further as the cackling began to resound from the rafters, creating an even more chilling edge to the atmosphere. Mac stumbled and then fell, landing on the floor hard, his side coming into contact with a solid cold object as he tried to right himself.
Turning, he registered that it was the estate agent that he had fallen against, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“What is going on?” Mac whispered.
As he watched, the other man smiled, the smile becoming larger and larger, and eventually taking on an evil appearance. Unable to withdraw his eyes Mac watched as the estate agent began to change in front of him. Gone was the man in the suit, gone was the friendly face, gone was the warmth that he had encountered only yesterday and in its place sat something that Mac had never seen before. Something that he had never even considered existed before.
The estate agent had become a ghost and in doing so, he now became one of the many ghosts who were circulating the room, cackling in their mad manner as they fluttered here and there, like moths in the darkness, endlessly searching for light.
As the estate agent began to rise up to join the others, his dismembered face turned back to Mac and he spoke, his voice eerie, no longer of a human kind.
“You have crossed over Mac. You have joined us now. You are welcome.”
And as Mac began to scramble to his feet and rush towards the door to escape he was halted; his feet became light, his body became cold and his face began to crack as his skin fell away. And in a matter of seconds he saw his life with complete clarity, a mini movie playing in front of his eyes and as he rose to join the others circulating the room he smiled to himself, finally contented.
Mac had arrived.
He was where he needed to be.
© Jade Reyner 2013