The darkness was incredibly overwhelming. American Rust Junkyard was creepy even in broad daylight, but in the dead of night with only their phone’s flashlights to show the way? It was like walking into a campsite stalked by Jason Voorhees. Max shivered as she gingerly walked over pieces of broken glass, planks of wood, and rusting tin cans, following Chloe to the “ultimate ghost hunting zone.” How had she ever let Chloe talk her into this anyway?
Well, she knew how. It had been too long since they’d ever had something fun to do on Halloween, and there was no way either of them would be going to the Vortex Halloween Party. Last week, with a totally empty social calendar and little else to do, hanging out at the junkyard looking for ghosts seemed like a pretty decent time.
“Hey, so, remind me again,” Max said, hopping over a tire. “How’s this work?”
“Dude, it’s so easy,” Chloe replied, holding up a small device. “This thing picks up EVPs – electric voice phenomena. We just sit here for a bit, and if the ghosts have any energy or are around, they’ll talk to us!”
She blinked, trying to wrap her head around it. If Warren were here, he’d no doubt be launching into some kind of rant about the physics behind it, or something. “It’s that easy?”
“Hell yeah. I saw a show about this last week on Syfy. These dudes from like, Rhode Island checked out this lighthouse and it was hella haunted. Like, voices and shadows all over the place.”
Max nodded, knowing full well that Chloe couldn’t see her in the darkness. If nothing else, they’d probably do exactly what she said – hang out for a few minutes, then go home like nothing happened.
“This’ll be a good spot,” Chloe said, setting the recorder down on the hood of an abandoned car. She took a seat on the same hood, staring into the dark sky as if they were about to count stars rather than try to talk to the dead. Max sat down next to Chloe, taking in the sounds of the night from the familiar trill of bugs to soft rustling of leaves in the wind.
“So… what now?”
“I gotta turn it on first, genius,” Chloe said, manipulating the recorder. A little red light began to blink, and she set it back down on the hood. “Alright, this is Chloe and Max, at American Rust Junkyard, AKA home away from hell, it’s… uh, 12:48 AM. You wanna start, SuperMax?”
Max furrowed her brow. “Start what? I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Dude, just talk to any spirits that might be out here. It’s not hard.”
She looked out to the night, trying to figure out how to take Chloe’s instruction. She found it hard to talk to living people, let alone dead ones she didn’t know would answer back or not. “Uh… hey there,” Max said, immediately regretting opening her mouth. “Um… is anyone out there?”
Silence. Next to her, Chloe scoffed and shook her head. “Dude, you’re terrible at this.” Dramatically, she cleared her throat, her voice becoming almost lifted like she was talking to an old friend. “Hey, if there’s anyone who’d like to talk to us, we have this little device here. All you have to do is get close to it and talk into it.”
More silence. Max looked around, spotting exactly nothing in the darkness. “I don’t think it’s working,” she eventually said.
“Shut up, it’s fine,” Chloe said. “If you’re trying to talk to us, we can’t hear you right now, but this thing can. Did you die here?”
Max waited a few more moments, as if whoever might have been out there would actually talk back to them. “What kind of question is that?”
“Don’t worry, I got this. We’re about to go, but before we do, if there’s anything you want to tell us, we’ll hear it on this. All you’ve got to do is let us know and we’ll hear you, okay?”
The two sat on the car for a little while longer as bugs made their various noises somewhere off in the night. As Max expected, she didn’t hear or see anything else. Eventually, Chloe picked up the recorder and turned it off, the red light dimming away and becoming part of the blackness around them. “Okay, let’s go home. I’ll check this out tomorrow.”
Max checked her phone as she turned on the light. It was only a few minutes to 1 AM. Had they really been out there for nearly fifteen minutes? It didn’t feel like it. “Well?” Max asked. “Get what you came here for?”
“We’ll see,” Chloe said. “I’d check now, but I’m going to be buzzed as hell by the time I get home.”
“Text me if you find anything?”
The next day, Chloe had almost forgotten about their adventure into the junkyard at midnight. The house was quiet without step-douche there, all the better to analyze last night’s recording. She couldn’t afford many distractions anyway. Chloe headed over to her laptop, slipping on her headphones and transferring the files over.
A few minutes later, she had them loaded up and ready to listen to. Standard stuff, she heard herself and Max talking, heard Max’s question. No response from the void other than the sound of bugs and wind being picked up by the recorder’s microphones. Well, it was only the first one. Ghosts might have been shy.
Nothing after Chloe told them to talk into the recorder. They probably still were just a bit nervous, if ghosts could get nervous. Not that she’d really know. But nothing came of Chloe’s question regarding whether anyone died there, which, okay, that’s fair. Touchy subject. But still, she expected something other than a bunch of stupid wind and bug noises. If she wanted to hear that, she didn’t even need to take the fucking recorder out.
She was about to write the whole thing off as a loss when she heard her final plea, followed up about a second later by… what sounded like a voice. Chloe narrowed her eyes, checking the waveform. Yeah, it definitely looked like someone else was talking, but she hadn’t said anything. Max didn’t say a word. So who the fuck was this?
Chloe highlighted the unknown waveform, listening to it over and over. It was just so quiet, but she could definitely hear words. Okay, well, time to isolate it and kick up the gain. She removed the background noise, the bugs and leaves that made listening harder, cranking up the gain until she was sure she could hear it clearly.
Something else was in here, but Jefferson was the only thing she could hear clearly. Okay, a bit more cleanup. Something else was interfering. God, there was only so much she could do, but Chloe’s heart was racing. She had actual proof she had talked to someone who was dead. Chloe readjusted herself on her chair, leaning in closer to her laptop as if that’d make listening easier.
Don’t trust Jefferson.
As she listened – over and over and over again as it replayed the same segment – Chloe realized who was talking to her.
It was Rachel.
Like she had just been punched in the gut, all the air in her escaped as she gasped. She kicked her chair back and her headphones went flying as she stared at her screen in horror as the waveform called out to her. She hadn’t heard right. It couldn’t be right. There was no way in hell that she had just heard Rachel Amber talking to her from beyond the grave. For one, she wasn’t fucking dead. Two, it didn’t make any fucking sense. Why was she warning her about Jefferson?
Chloe felt her eyes well up with tears. The answer she had been seeking out for so long had finally come to her, but it wasn’t the one she wanted. She never wanted to accept it because goddammit it should have never have to be that way, Rachel didn’t deserve to be dead. Chloe collapsed on her floor, clutching her head like that would help her overcome the disquiet in her heart. Like a beanbag chair, she rolled about in an inconsolable mass around her room, losing track of how long she spent just outright crying. This was bullshit – she was supposed to be the tough, badass bitch who wasn’t affected by anything. So why the fuck was she crying like a literal bitch over a stupid group of waves?
Okay. Calm the fuck down. Chloe sighed, her shoulders shaking as she forced out the last few tears, pulling the plug on further sobbing. Alright, that was better. She picked herself up off the floor. She wouldn’t be texting Max. She had something else in mind.
Chloe would be going back to the junkyard tonight. If Rachel was there, she had to talk to her alone.
The moon was out tonight. Maybe that’d help. At this point, Chloe had no idea. Armed with the recorder, every dead-end Google search, and enough nerves to build another person, she ventured deeper into the junkyard. Instead of a random car, Chloe went to the familiar hideout she and Rachel always went to. She read that spirits had strong emotional attachments to places like that.
Chloe sighed as she collapsed on the couch, taking in the old sights and smells that, even after so much time had passed, remained fresh as ever. Empty beer bottles lay around, with a palette of makeup that Chloe remembered as belonging to Rachel, but truth be told it could have been either one of theirs. Every little note they had on the wall, every memory, forgotten leftovers of days gone by, each one was a memory that haunted her.
With a heavy heart, Chloe turned the recorder on, setting it on the coffee table and sighing heavily. “This is Chloe,” she announced, watching the red light blink. “I’m at the junkyard, and it’s 1 in the morning.”
She felt a surge of emotion wash over her, and she paused, sighing heavily. Fuck. Chloe cleared her throat, trying to maintain her composure. It was almost like Rachel was right there next to her, trying to provide comfort. This shouldn’t be that fucking hard. Chloe swallowed hard again, trying to collect herself. She rubbed her temples, hoping that would help.
“Rachel, if you’re out there,” Chloe finally said, her voice shaking almost as much as she was. “Please let me know you’re okay.”