Erin walked through the door as she did every night, following the man in the black tattered clothes she had seen repair themselves right before her eyes. He stood slightly hunched and looked worse than Boris Karloff in The Mummy.
He had stopped talking to her from his lips three days ago opting for telepathy. She knew what he was going to ask of her. She could tell by the sick smile playing upon his cracked lips and the fullness of his gray cataract eyes.
I need another soul. Go get me one-a woman. Try and be quick.
"No." Erin said simply.
His smile faltered.
"What did you say?" He hissed.
She thought he was too weak to speak aloud.
"I'm done with you...whatever you are. I will not get you another victim, and I will not stay in that Godforsaken room any longer."
She was trying to be tough and aggressive, finding it hard to deal with the arctic chill in the house. There must have been an air conditioner in every room to make it that cold.
"You will do as I say. You will go out and bring someone back here to me. Do you understand?"
Erin reached for the knife block on the kitchen table selecting the largest one. She ran toward her captor with rage in her eyes and fury in her heart.
"You're weak! You're old and rotting and I'm going to kill you!"
Holding the knife above her head she rushed him. He cackled a bustling laugh as the blade, right along with her hand, went through his body as if he were nothing more than a projected image.
"You stupid bitch! You can't kill me."
"But you're dying. Your body is deteriorating."
"I'm already dead, my dear, I'm just surviving. You see, I don't want to meet my maker."
His relentless eyes stared at her like a cognizant zombie. He tried to intimidate her, but his powers and spiritual guile had become useless.
"You need them, you need them to survive," she mused more to herself than the ghoul.
"If you want to live than you had better go and bring someone back here. If you don't, I will kill you and take your soul."
"I wont. I'm just going to leave and return with the police."
"The police," he laughed. "What are they going to do?"
Erin just shook her head, turned, and headed for the front door. As she reached for the handle, she saw and heard the deadbolt lock.
"You're not going anywhere," his voice rang out from behind her.
She attempted to unlock the door but was unable to.
"I guess I will have to kill you and take your soul. I can find another as weak minded as you have been to serve me, I can even use your house after you're dead."
Erin darted down the hallway toward the master bedroom, but before she could get there, the hall runner rug was pulled from beneath her feet bringing her flat on her back.
"Don't think you can get away. After all, you've been trapped in your own house for over a year."
But he can't use his spells anymore, you broke free of that, and now you have to break free of this house.
He stood in the living room next to the kitchen, staring down at her on the floor of the hallway. He was decrepit and rotting more by the minute, hunched over and palsied, hair white, lips cracking, the skin on his face drooping. To die is the way of all flesh and this roaming soul was rapidly losing his consistency. He needs a soul to refresh his own dying soul to save himself another week from Hell.
"How much do you have left in you?" Erin asked.
"More than you might think."
The door to the master bedroom suddenly slammed shut. The sconces on either side of the hallway detached from the walls and flung themselves toward Erin. She moved just in time to avoid being hit.
She walked back into the living room never taking her eyes off her captor. Above, the chain holding the chandelier to the ceiling snapped dropping the large light fixture to the ground. Erin jumped out of the way just in time. She should have expected that.
Despite sweating from the action of fighting off light fixtures, the house was sub-arctic. The sweat running down her face and under her armpits felt sticky and unnatural in the cold.
Maybe the cool air acted as a preservative and just as vital as the souls.
There was only one way to find out.
Erin calmly walked across the room toward the front door.
"You don't think I would let you get out that easy, do you?"
"No," she said quietly as she turned the other air conditioner off, the one that her husband had put in the living room four years ago.
It switched back on.
She turned it off.
Next to the front door leaned a baseball bat, a half-assed burglar deterrent. She grabbed the bat with finesse, turned, and let her rage out. After five or six good whacks, the air conditioner gave a sigh and shut down.
Bitch! he screamed in her mind. He hobbled a few steps forward then stopped, realizing that his once human emotion was getting the better of him. He was angry but he had wiles.
Like bullets, the set of knives in the wooden block on the kitchen counter unsheathed themselves and flew through the air toward Erin. Screaming, she hit the floor. One knife pinned her arm to the front door; the rest embedded themselves in a series of thuds.
Gritting her teeth, she wiggled the knife freeing her arm. Wasting no time, she ran toward the ghost with the bat above her head. She knew she couldn't harm his image, but what could harm him was in the wall behind him. Erin swung the bat down like a sledgehammer right through his ghostly form making contact with the air conditioner. The bat broke in half and the air conditioner kept blowing cold air.
In the front door, the knives were shaking and trying to free themselves from their embedment in the wood. His power was weakening.
I need your soul, he whispered into her mind.
He looked into her eyes, and for a moment she was frightened. It was difficult for her to think of him as inanimate, but if he could grab her, he would have killed her by now.
From the kitchen, a broom swatted her across the head. Miscellaneous items of food and dishes were throwing themselves at her but his power had weakened and the items were small and nearly useless. Drawers opened and flung themselves onto the linoleum floor and that's when she saw the scissors.
But he saw them first.
Risen from the mess on the floor, the scissors flew toward Erin's face. She swatted them away with her hand just as the scissors snipped taking one of her fingers off. She screamed and swatted as the scissors came after her again. All but leaping to the floor, pinning the animated scissors to the ground, she stifled their movement.
Items of equal danger began to swat her body-steak knives, butter knives, a pizza cutter-all inflicting minute slices and slashes.
Now in control of the scissors, Erin wasted no time defending herself from the onslaught of kitchenware before cutting the chord to the air conditioner.
"Noooo! Stop it!" yelled the weakening ghost. She could feel the weight of the knives and spoons decrease as his power weakened from the loss of his deathly preservative.
"You don't stand a fucking chance." She spat the words in his face, then went from room to room cutting the wires of any other air conditioners she saw, three more in all.
It was in the last room, the den, when she saw him lurching in the doorway, a mere waste of rotten flesh hanging from his skeleton. He was an alarming image that seemed too real to be of spiritual origin.
"Do you remember this room?" he asked her.
"No," she said calmly. For the first time she felt under control.
"You don't remember what's in the closet?"
She looked at the closet door. It was an old house so the closets still had regular doors rather than sliders. She looked at the door trying to elicit any memories, but nothing was there. Even memories from her life before her slavery were defunct in this room.
"You've sent me to Hell. I should have been more cautious." His words were a low guttural growl.
The knob on the closet door turned; the door began to creek as it opened.
"But I won't let you win." He smiled, his body falling to the ground as to reserve the last vestiges of his spiritual powers. He had one last haunt. One that he hoped would completely twist her mind.
Erin's attention was diverted from the failed ghost wasted and rotting on the floor to a delicate voice in the closet. She shook her head from side to side. What she was seeing couldn't be there, but it was. She closed her eyes and opened them several times to banish the sight to no avail.
Jade and Christopher were in there; they were mutilated and staring at her.
"Why, mommy," her daughter said placidly. "Why did you kill us?"
As the fiendish ghoul's body became a pool of ectoplasmic matter, he laughed as he was sent to Hell. Erin broke down as she realized that he had used their souls to prolong his miserable existence.
She screamed and yelled until her voice was hoarse and raspy, wondering one thing as the image of her murdered husband and daughter faded:
Did he make me eat them?