The next day, David decided not to stray too far afield just in case he did get called in to work. Even though he now had internet, he went back to the bank cafe, to have a chat with Elena and get a good cup of coffee, besides it really was a cool location. He caught up on his log book for ITG over the past couple of days detailing his locations, unfortunately his times were not spot on since he had been too busy to do this every day. He had never really garnered any help from the log book to paranormal detector comparison and did not entirely see the point. After he went home and read a book. The next day passed very much the same.
The following week crawled by day by day, nursing could be a very rewarding job, however work in the nursing home was one of his more depressing assignments. David keenly felt the battle he was losing to death each day as he cared for his patients. It made him glad for his mother who had died without having to experience this phase of her life, but sad for his grandmother who was just starting to enter it. On Tuesday he ran into Piea and reminded her of their agreement, he gave her his address.
On Thursday night there was a knock on the door, David opened it, "Hey." He greeted Piea, grabbing his spring coat which held the EE in one of the pockets.
"Hey, ready to go, I grabbed the key earlier." She added pulling a key ring from her pocket.
"Cool," he answered and set off with her. They walked up Main Street and cut through the forests by the nursing home into a little wooded park area between the buildings chatting as they went.
"Why did you want to go on a ghost hunt?" he asked her.
She shrugged, "Eh, why not? Plus Pheme didn't like the idea so it was fun to tease her."
"Do you think we'll see any ghosts then?"
"Of course, I remember going into that building while it still had residents, there was always something moving out of the corner of your eye."
"How do you mean?"
"It always looked to me like there was a person dressed in all white walking next to me, but I'd only see flashes of them and if I turned my head to look at them no one would be there."
"Hm," David mused that did not sound like other ghosts he had experienced but then, "I suppose it's all in how your mind interprets it."
"I guess," She answered, "What about you?"
"Me? I like this kind of stuff, every town has their haunted places and ghost stories." David had found answering questions like this as near too honest as possible was the best choice. "I've been to tons of haunted houses over the years."
Piea snorted, "I hope our little house doesn't disappoint you then."
"Maybe it will, maybe it won't. It's diffidently the most widely agreed upon haunted house I've ever visited."
"Eh, how’s that?" Piea frowned in confusion.
"Most places have a few people that totally think they’re haunted. They saw something there personally or know someone that saw something there, but there are always so people that think it's just made up or for attention. Here though even people I'd think would be skeptics agree the place is haunted."
Piea laughed, "It's kind of hard to ignore this one."
They were coming up on the back of the building now and David studied it. It was really a massive structure to have been built a hundred years ago, and in the middle of nowhere no less. The back facade was less elegant then the front, but four stories of uniform red brick was always majestic in its own way. The glass was slowly melting and warping with age giving each window a unique winking characteristic as nearby light reflected off them. Ruselling wind made the panes rattle and old wood creak even at this distance. A noticeable difference from this angle was the ground floor, the doorways now stood at about five feet tall and even Jessi would have had to duck to get in the building. They moved to the center back of the building where newer brick and unsunken doorways made the building look less decrepit.
"This is the kitchen entrance," Piea motioned the door while taking out the key ring and sorting for the correct one, "It was added on in the 70's so they could put air conditioning in a a bunch of these rooms." She found the key and opened the door.
David was not given to jitters in such moments, but the hairs on the back of his neck rose all the same and he had the distinct impression of being watched. The feeling was not like a sudden plunging but a greater awareness and he realized he had felt that way the entire walk across the park.
Moving into the dark inside, Piea pulled out a flash light and switched it on the small beam illuminating a set of wooden stairs descending two feet to a prat of the original building which had sunk bellow the addition. The air temperature dropped about ten degrees and the both shrugged on jackets.
Piea nodded down the wooden stairs, "That's the butchery and the creamery. The old bakery was over there" she flashed the light off towards their right. "The easiest thing to do is to go upstairs by the elevator."
The elevator was in between the two doors off the entryway, and David slid over and pressed the call button. As he did so he noticed the fine layer of dust on everything, there was a bit of a path to the two rooms off the entryway from the most recent activity, but near the elevator was a healthy dusting. The elevator clanked into place and David properly looked upon it for the first time.
"Um... is it original?" David asked with a sidelong glance at Piea, she looked deeply concerned.
"I don't know if it's original, but it is really old. Probably the most dangerous part of this trip is this stupid elevator. It caught fire once you know."
David looked somewhat quizzically at the elevator as he pushed up the wooden gate and proceeded into the cab. He thought he could see scorch marks on the back of the wooden chaise. It began to move, as arthritically as the elder who used to live in the building.
The second floor was tiled in a style that could only be 70's and stood in contrast to what he had seen of the building so far. They turned left and entered into the kitchen which had evidently been renovated about the same time. A few holes in the counter tops stood out eerily were large machines had been moved out when the building was abandoned.
"Through here is the dining room," Piea said, "There's some furniture and stuff left all over the building." She gestured broadly to the counters with the flashlight.
"Hey!" David exclaimed as the light swung wildly. He followed Piea into a room about half the size of the first which had been the kitchen before the expansion. He switched moods on his watched and nearly gasped aloud, the needle was pointing firmly in the red, the largest amount of paranormal energy he had ever seen. Such a large amount of energy suggested multiple strong paranormal events, some of the ghosts here could likely influence the physically world, David wondered if any of them had become violent in their years of seclusion.
They entered into the dining room a vast room, David could imagine an old school ball being through in this room, several tables and chairs still congregated evidently not valuebale enough to carry off one even had a table cloth. Out of the corner of his eye, David saw a group of gentlemen dressed all in white gathered around a table intent upon a game of some kind, but when he turned to look at them directly nothing was there.
Glancing at Piea he saw her looking at the same table, she waved at the table, "This is David. He's nurse." She stood a few seconds and when nothing happened she took it as acceptance and moved to the other side of the dining room. The door was locked and she fumbled about looking for the key, after finding it they proceeded into a long hallway. Very few windows shone onto the hallway leaving the flashlight as the only cone of light. David could not see either end of the hallway.
"This is pretty much the middle of the house." Piea said although she did not whisper her voice both muffled and echoed slightly in the large abandoned building, "We'll walk past the entryway because it's pretty and then head upstairs to the Masonic Lodge room, that's kind of cool too. I'm going to leave this door open so you can find it in case we get separated."
"I don't know how we'd get separated, you're the one with the light, and I don't plan to wander off." He responded his own voice sounding distant and strange, but left the door open anyway.
The walked to the right, ahead slightly on the left was the entrance hall to the building. The reverse side of the beautiful front facade, held Greecian style columns and two exqusiatley carved granite lions which looked out the front windows guarding the house. The entire floor was tiled with granite and a huge old chandelier hung from the ceiling.
"I'm surprised they didn't try to sell any of this." David muttered, "Especially that chandelier."
"No one could move it," Piea answered, "The lions obviously way a ton, and the chandelier is attached very sturdily somehow, you'd have to demolish the building to get either of them out."
"Why didn't they demolish the building?" David asked.
"The basement and attic are full of asbestos." Piea answered, "The management don't like to talk about it, but it's more costly to demolish the building and have it removed safely then to hold it all in place and not let anyone in."
"So the building will just rot here?" This answer seem strange to David.
Piea shrugged, "I guess that's the plan."
They turned to move on and David again thought he saw people dressed in white out of the corner of his eye. Dust motes hung in the air, the hallway was covered in a thread bear carpet and the walls had been redone with inexpensive wood paneling at some point in their history. There were several doors leading off the hallway, most were thrown open showing what had once been the rooms of residents though all were now empty. Behind them at the opposite end of the hall David heard a door slam and jumped about a foot in the air.
Piea laughed at him and the sound filled the house, strangely the merriment did not seem unnatural or unwanted, "I guess someone's not happy to see us." Piea smiled.
David was not so happy at the prospect of ghosts that could interact with the physical world as he walked past an open door he saw a man dressed in white, but again when he turned his head to look the man was not there.
Piea had turned her head simultaneously, "There never old. Did you notice?"
David shook his head, "I can't really tell, they don't look young though."
They had stopped in front of the door as Piea regarded it thoughtfully, "No, but most of them were on wheel chairs or in walkers when they lived here, and you never see any. Everyone seems to walk upright and tall, and they remember things and people."
"How do you know they remember people?" David asked as a trickle of cold ran down his back.
Piea nodded to the door, "That was Mister Alister's room. He was the last person to live here. He didn't want to move out and anyways he was probably too sick to move safely. Me and two other CNAs basically took care of him for a month after everyone else had been moved, up until he died. He was a nice man, he intended to leave us a lot of money, but of course that's not allowed."
David raised an eyebrow and followed Piea as she shifted into the room. It was empty, but as they turned to leave David saw the man out of the corner of his eye again, standing by the window and looking down at the steps outside the house which lead to the entryway. They continued down the hallway in the same direction and eventually came to a set of stairs on the right. These stairs were diffidently original to the building, a skinny stretch of wood which David figured would have been impossible to navigate for the elderly residents of the building.
At the top of the stair case they found themselves in a roughly identical hallway. After about ten yards another hallway opened out on the left and Piea turned down it. A short ramp bought them up into a perfectly square room at the back left corner of the house. Two of the walls had large banks of windows that let in a haunting light from the three quarters moon as it meandered through the heavily dust filled old glass panes illuminating the room quite well with a shifting light. Two rows of wooden pews held an ail between them which lead to a raised dais at the front of the room with an elegantly carved mahogany chair. At the back of the room was a lower dais with a smaller, but similar chair. Several display cases in the room still held Masonic paraphernalia.
"Why didn't they take any of this?" David asked many of the items were likely both very valuable monetarily and to the current resident population as about a half of the men were members of the Free Masons.
"They weren't allowed." Piea answered noncommittally she had gone to look out the east facing windows at were the river meandered near the house. She started humming a bit and turned the light off. David's eyes adjusted to the gloom readily and he ascended the dais to look at the carving on the great chair.
As he passed down the ail he noticed several white clad figures sitting in the rough wooden pews. Strangely many of them seemed to be women in fabulous white dresses, David knew the Free Masons did not allow women, but figured Piea would not know the answer to this mystery and did not ask.
Arriving at the mahogany chair he traced his fingers through the groves of the carving, seeing the smooth, polished old wood and sharp edges through his hands. David sat in the chair and rubbed his palms on two patches of well-worn wood, as a hundred years of men had done before him. He raised his eyes and the swirl of dust in the distorted moon light made the room seem like a dream world or an underwater ship wreck.
The air felt thick with tension and David was sure he could see the ghostly figures in the pews through the hazy light. Piea's soft singing drifted through the room and his eyes locked onto hers, an ancient goddess stood before him, tall and statuesque, with her long dark hair wrapped around her face and shoulders, her entrancing eyes looking through his body into the essence of his being.
Piea began to sing in earnest. David did not know what song she sang or even what language it was in, but it was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard. He forgot his surroundings and sat in rapture as her voice drifted around him and filled the long empty house. As she sang Piea advanced down the ail slowly towards him moving on the natural air currents that permeated the room. The hints of white figures all turned to watch her, the image enraptured David, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
At the foot of the dais she stopped and the song entered into an upbeat portion, as the tempo increased David's blood warmed and rose. Piea was less than two feet away from him and he greatly desired to reach out and touch her, to kiss her, but his body felt heavy and locked in place. He gave in to the heaviness and watched with a growing passion as her song climaxed and ended.
After the last notes floated away he spoke, "Don't stop." His voice sounded harsh and unworthy after hers.
She smiled up at him innocently, "Maybe another time, but we should start heading back it's after one in the morning."
David shook himself mentally, and flexed his limbs which felt like he had slept a night outside on the concrete, he had no idea so much time had passed and looked down at his watch to confirm.
"Alright, but promise to sing to me again."
Her smile changed, and David perceived it as sinister for just a moment, "I promise," she answered, "you can hear my sister sometime too if you'd like."
He beamed up at her.
They retraced their steps to leave the house, as they did so David came to a peace and understanding with the place. He realized the collection of the departed here were not a violent lot, these were men and women who chose to linger on in the remembrance of lives well lived, not out of spite for those who remained alive. With this knowledge it became a strangely peaceful place, and any tension or animosity he had held for it washed away.
Upon returning to the dining room, David saw two people sitting at the table still covered by a table cloth. Over the past hours he had become accustomed to seeing these figures out of the corner of his eye and thought nothing of it until he looked straight at them. With a jolt that shattered the peace of the place he perceived one of them was alive, it was Ella. The old woman sat demurely at the table in her white nightgown, her hands placed in front of her on the table as if she clasped the hand of her partner.
Piea put an arm out to stop him and they stood across the room, Ella acted as if she had not noticed them, she was saying something David could not quite hear to the apparition seated next to her. The form of the being had disappeared when David's eyes fell upon it, but the table cloth was distinctly swept away as if someone sat in the chair. Ella finished her conversation with the other and stood, she acted as if she received a kiss on the forehead before turning and addressing them.
"I'm ready to go back now, the nurses will be missing me."
They moved across the floor towards her and David saw lucidness in her eyes that had never been there before.
"Thank you, for letting me come here." Ella said to Piea, and David looked at her quizzically.
"I didn't, you must have followed us out somehow." Piea answered.
"Oh yes," Ella perked up as if she remembered something, and then pulled out a key and handed it to Piea.
"I suppose this is the master key?" Piea asked.
Ella nodded, "Are you ready to go?"
The three of them proceeded out of the building.
Ella spook no more after that. Even when David pressed her to see what she had been doing there and who the ghost she had visited was. They took her back to the Memory Ward, were the night nurse was shocked to learn of Ella's newest escape.
As they walked home Piea answered one of his earlier questions, "It was her husband, Alfred. He died about ten years ago, I am sure it was him."
"Huh, you don't think that was what she meant all this time? Home to Alfred?" David wondered aloud.
"I think it was." Piea mused, "She used to live there and that's where he died. I wonder what she'll do now that she's found him."
David shrugged, he wished Piea a good night shortly after that and went home to bed himself.
The next morning he wrote a detailed account of his time in the old Home, focusing on the encounter with Ella, he glossed over Piea's singing. He felt that incident was more personal then business. He sent the account in immediately detailing his new view on the paranormal situation. The building likely had one of the largest known persistent hauntings, his evolving view on how the paranormal energy spread ubiquitously through the town was the close connection several of the dead had with current residents. The Home was a fixture of the place and almost everyone knew someone that had died there, they kept these memories and brought the dead into their lives in a way that had not been observed anywhere else.
It was midafternoon by the time David finished with his account, he did chores and ran errands for the rest of the day. In the past when David had written up such an account it had filled him with a purpose and pride, but this evening he felt empty and hallow. Would anyone remember him when he died? Would his memory be carried on by anyone? The depths of his mortality and the consequences of his itinerate lifestyle sunk in on him like a rock in quicksand.
Saturday was his second day off in a row, and he could barely take it. He had the nice long chat he had promised himself he would have with Mrs Donaldson, went to the coffee shop and chatted with Elena, and finally went to the bar to talk with Pheme, who was not working that day. He meet some more townies and chatted with them instead before heading home to bed.
David arrived at work on the Memory Ward the next day to find Ella dead,hHer small form still and peaceful upon the mattress. The cause of death would be a massive stroke in her sleep, but David knew in his soul that being with her husband’s ghost was the real cause. He added it to his report to IGT, but did not believe it represented an increase in hostility on the part of the residents of the old Home, but rather Ella's desire to go back to her husband.
The week passed slowly after that. The bright spot was his growing relationship with Piea, they ate lunch, or perhaps breakfast for her he was not sure, every day. Others joined them and they talked of trivial thing, and which residents were their favorites. David had never really delighted in the death that was his job, but after the encounter with Ella, he began to realize that the people around him were not walking corpses, but walking histories, walking life stories to be recorded.
The next week, the third week of his assignment, his relationship with Piea grew more, she began coming to his apartment each night and singing to him. He enjoyed her company more than anything else and it quickly developed into the happiest and most peaceful time in his life.
The fourth week, IGT sent him an email, things in his reports did not add up. His paranormal readings were off the charts, especially at times when he said he was at home, he needed to investigate the situation further. He responded that he disagreed, the incident with Ella had marked him forever and he now brought her ghost home with him each night, he promised to look into the paranormal of the area further, but did not. The case was closed in his mind.
More weeks slipped away and he came to dread leaving little Dousman behind. He planned with the retirement home to be hired full time and stay on; he planned with Piea and Pheme to move into their house, and tendered his resignation from ITG. He began to listen to the resident's life stories and to copy them down; he planned to publish them as a collection of autobiographies, a snap shot of a time gone by.
The first week in July brought an unexpected visitor. She came to the bar one night, he was the only customer and Pheme was working, or rather chatting with him. Her name was Laura, she was another agent of ITG one of the best and the oldest.
"Hello David, Pheme." She said as she took the bar stool next to him.
"Hello." David answered puzzled by her appearance; she had mentored him for a time when he had first joined ITG.
"I thought ITG had accepted my resignation." He said after the silence stretched on he noticed Pheme did not move to get Laura a drink.
"We have, but I'd like to ask you a few personal questions about your departure and to speak with your friend here, I hope neither of you minds."
Pheme kept a poker face an avoidance of showing emotion David had never observed in her.
"I don't mind anyway." He told her.
"Good I'll start with you then. Why have you decided to stay?" She asked levelly.
"Because I'm happy here." David knew that most travelers found a place they were happy and stayed, this was not unusual.
"When you joined paranormal investigations, what reason did you give for participating?" Laura asked without the slightest hesitation. This was odd although David had told Pheme and Piea about his extra job at ITG Laura had no way of knowing that and normal this was kept in the strictest confidence, he glanced at Pheme who betrayed nothing.
"In my mother's memory I wanted to do some good in the world, I've always wanted to act in a way my mother would be proud."
Laura nodded, "In your file at ITG this is the reason given. Would it surprise you to know however, that under this is written, 'Real reason, to find his mother.'"
"No, I suppose they're about the same thing really."
"Do you feel like you have finished what you set out to do?" Laura inquired.
"Oh yes," David smiled, "I'm writing a book about the lives of the residents here, many of the women are," he flattered he turned and looked Laura in the eyes deep dark brown eyes that looked right through him. "Many of the women are just like my mother; it helps me to write they're stories." After a moment he added, "And some of the men are like my father, it helps me to absolve them of their sins."
"Are you happy here?" The question was bland, not an accusal not an encouragement, just a question.
"Yes, happier than I've ever been."
Laura turned to Pheme who stared her down coldly. Laura maintained solid eye contact and the silence stretched on.
"He can always check out." Pheme stated clearly into the silence, the statement seemed odd to David.
"Ah, but he can never leave." Laura answered, and Pheme inclined her head as if agreeing.
David felt confused and left out of the conversation, "I don't want to leave" he said to break the silence sounding like a small child whining after a long day playing at the park.
The two women did not move for what seemed ages before finally Laura spoke, "Say hi to your sister Thelxiepeia for me, Aglaopheme."
"I will," Pheme answered. As Laura spun on her bar stole and left.