“Oh, that is such bullshit. ” Is the first thing out of Will’s mouth when Lauri finishes telling him about the St Osyth legend.
They’ve currently set up shop in a small, pleasant little cafe located at the main street of St Osyth, Essex, UK. St Osyth is a sleepy little town, all old buildings and fresh country air, nothing like the busy hustle and bustle of everyday London. There are few streets, and even fewer cars, which makes taking a drive around town quite the pleasant affair. The afternoon sun shines in through the windows of the cafe, and despite having to squint if he leans in a little bit ahead to talk to Lauri, Will doesn’t really mind. It feels warm, comforting. Even though he’s here for work, Will could very much appreciate taking a holiday in this idyllic countryside.
The cafe itself doesn’t really look like much. Outside, it’s located right by the end of the street, small and unassuming when compared to more well-known locations, such as the Red Lion pub he and Lauri heard so much about when doing research for this place. Inside, though, it’s another story entirely. It’s quite busy, actually, Will is surprised to find. The walls are a comforting shade of cream, the ceiling is made of wood, and the overhead lights are turned off, which makes the natural light all the more pleasant to bask in. The counter offers a great variety of sweets and cakes Will’s mouth is just watering to try, but despite everything, he has to remind himself he has a reason to be here.
Lauri has her work laptop open in front of her, scoffing with a smile at Will’s overwhelming skepticism. This is a song and dance they’re quite used to by now; Lauri is the one willing to believe, Will is the one unwilling to do just that. It works quite well and rakes in the views they need to keep their completely independent channel afloat in the mess that is the YouTube algorithm. Sometimes it’s not ideal, but they make do as best as they can.
“Maybe you should be a little more respectful about it. Most of the locals are quite touchy with this.” She says in her thick French accent, which somehow hasn’t been worn down by her many years living in London. Will rolls his eyes softly, tapping his nails against the hardwood table.
“That’s just impossible to believe. What, she just got up and picked up her head, just like that? And walked all the way to the nunnery ?” Will shakes his head, wondering to himself how some of his viewers can truly believe in this nonsense. Lauri shrugs, private smile still playing on her lips.
Before Will can add anything else though, someone stops by their table, breathing somewhat heavily. Will is already prepared to greet one of their fans as enthusiastically as he can, considering he’s still a bit grumpy after waking up from a perfectly good nap at the hotel by Lauri’s insistence, when his eyes finally take in the person that stands before him.
To say that Will is smitten is an understatement.
The guy is clearly not a fan, if the apron and writing pad are anything to go by. His brown hair is a bit ruffled, a few curls falling on his sweaty forehead. His eyes are blue as blue can be, blue like the sky on a cloudless day. His soft cheeks are a bit flushed, and the smile on his lips makes Will’s throat go dry. When he speaks, it’s like angels have come down to earth to bless this man’s voice.
“Hello, so sorry for the delay!” His accent is thick, very northern. It’s so cute Will feels his heart about to lurch from his throat. “What can I get you fellas today?”
“Just a latte for me, thank you.” Lauri smiles pleasantly, looking at Will as the boy writes her order on his pad. It’s like she already knows exactly what is going through his mind, because she turns back and adds, “and he’ll be having an espresso. Double shot, please.”
“Coming right up.” The guy - ‘Thomas’, as Will reads on his nameplate - smiles pleasantly and leaves as swiftly as he had arrived. Lauri snaps a picture of his stunned stare, following Thomas’ movements with his eyes, before kicking him on the shin and snapping him out of his stupor.
“What was that for?” Will grumbles audibly, reaching down to rub his hand over his leg. Lauri shakes her head with a laugh, closing her notebook and pushing it to the side.
“ Focus , loverboy. You can flirt with the locals later.” She says in a conspiratorial tone, leaning over the table like they’re scheming something. Will blushes and scoffs, but doesn’t say anything. It’s not like she’s wrong; this Thomas fellow is probably the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen in his 25 years of life. And he felt this… pull towards him earlier. It was all very strange.
Before Will can give it any more thought, Thomas comes back with their drinks, carrying them effortlessly without spilling a drop as they’re set on their table.
“There you go,” he grins at them, pushing his hands inside the pockets of his trousers. “Need anything else?”
“I think that’ll be all for today, thank you. Although…” Lauri trails off and Will does not like where this is going. Not one bit.
“Say, what’s your name?” Lauri smiles at Thomas as charmingly as she can. He looks a bit surprised, before responding with an easygoing smile.
“Thomas Blake. But you can jus’ call me Tom.” Tom . That does suit him more than Thomas. Will wipes his sweaty hands on his trousers. “Only fair that you give me yours, now.”
“Lauri.” She answers, before shooting straight into the next question. “Are you a local?”
“Sure am. St Osyth, born ‘n’ bred.” His head quirks to the side. “Why’d you ask?”
“See Tom, me and my partner here - “ a languid wave in Will’s general direction “ - do kind of a ghost hunting show on YouTube, y’know?”
At the mention of ghosts, Tom’s shoulders tense up a little bit. “Uh huh,” he says slowly, prompting her to keep going.
“So since you’re a local here, I was wondering if you could help us with the legends here? God knows there’s quite a few.” She places her chin on her open palm, shining her brightest smile. Will still only has eyes for Tom.
“Uh.” Tom crosses his arms, wetting his lips a bit nervously. “Well, I’m in the middle of my shift. If you fellas don’t mind waitin’ a bit, then…”
“Oh, take your time! Thank you.” Lauri leans back on her seat, seemingly satisfied with the results. Tom excuses himself and heads back towards the kitchen, picking up used mugs and plates from other tables on his way there.
“Way to freak him out!” Will hisses at her when Tom is out of earshot, hands curling into fists on his knees.
“Oh, piss off.” Lauri waves him off, taking a sip of her latte and opening up her notebook once again. “Like you had any better ideas to get him to talk to us.”
Which, ok, Will didn’t. But still.
They sit in silence for the next hour, each of them busy doing their own research. Will doubts that Tom could give them any information they haven’t already scoured in the internet, but any excuse to hear him talking is a good one. He’s already on his second cup of espresso, served to him by a different person, when Tom approaches their table again, this time dressed in more casual clothes; a dark coat that looks like it could swallow him whole, unbuttoned, and light washed jeans that accentuate his thighs quite nicely, Will notes privately. And then he pinches himself on the inside of his wrist, because goddamit, he shouldn’t be ogling at the guy they’re going to be interviewing for the next few minutes.
“Hey.” Tom says in manner of greeting, waving at the pair a bit awkwardly. Will scooches sideways into the booth, so that Tom could have a place to sit. Next to him.
Wow, ok. Way to be creepy, William.
“So, uhm…” Tom brings his hands together on top of the table, running his left thumb over his knuckles. Will notices his right hand is adorned with two golden rings. “Anything in specific I can help you with?”
“Oh! Uhm…” Lauri is quiet for a few seconds, scouring her mind for whatever legend they don’t have enough information on. The awkward silence stretches on for a few seconds before Will pipes up himself. “Just tell us about whatever you can think of.”
Tom seems a bit startled that it’s Will speaking this time, since he’s been dead silent for all their exchanges so far. But instead he nods, with a slightly uneasy smile, before scratching his chin in thought.
“Hmmm… I assume you lot have heard enough ‘bout the Osgyth deal?” When both of them nod, Tom takes a minute before continuing. “And the spring?”
Yet again, they nod. Tom mumbles something beneath his breath, just loud enough for them to hear.
“Well, there’s the Chester House, but…”
“Wow, wow, wow! Chester House? What’s that?” Lauri stops him with an interested glint in her eyes. “I didn’t see anything about that on the internet!”
“A-Ah well, we’re not exactly… known… for that…” Tom chuckles nervously. Clearly, talking about this house isn’t the most pleasant subject for him. Will is overcome with a sudden, intense urge to comfort him, to protect. “It’s a house jus’ by the edge of town. Someone… someone got murdered there when I was two.” He shrugs nervously, pulling the sleeves of his coat over his hands. “People say there’s somethin’ there. Somethin’ bad. So no one goes near it anymore.” He says that last part quietly, very quietly, as though this bad thing hiding in the house could hear him.
“That sounds perfect . Thank you so much, Tom.” Lauri smiles like that again, that business smile of hers that manages to charm anyone. “Could you give us an address, maybe?”
“Ad… Address?!” Tom jolts in his seat. Will puts out a hand in his direction placatingly, eyeing Lauri with furrowed brows. “You- you two can’t possibly be thinkin’ of goin ’ in there!”
“It’s kind of our job. So yes.” Will answers with a shrug. Tom looks between him and Lauri, bewildered.
“But- but y’can’t!” He speaks too fast when he’s nervous, Will notices. It’s quite endearing. Cute, even. “People who go in there, they-“ Tom cuts himself off for a second, a flash of something passing through his blue eyes too quickly for Will to decipher what they could mean. “-they don’t come back the same!”
“Then why don’t you come with us?” Lauri grins, shiny teeth on display. If Tom weren’t here, Will would have punched her in the arm for suggesting such a stupid thing.
But Tom is here. And he’s quite startled by her suggestion. “I- what?”
“Think about it. You go with us, we show you there’s nothing there.” Lauri looks at Will for support, who is shaking his head vehemently in a no. Lord knows he won’t be able to concentrate on filming if there’s a cute boy with them. “And if there is something there, which there won’t be, you can lead us to safety and tell us ‘I told you so’. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Not… particularly…” Tom’s eyebrows furrow, before his jaw sets and his eyes light up with challenge. “But there’s no way I’m jus’ gon’ let you birdies head in there by yourselves. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
In retrospect, Will probably should’ve felt offended by being referred to as a ‘bird’. But he’s just so charmed by Tom’s sudden bravery that he can’t bring himself to be bothered. “So you’re coming with us?” He asks breathly.
Tom turns to him with an audible swallow. He manages a shaky smile, before nodding.
“Yeah. Why not, right?”
“This is a terrible idea.”
The house itself doesn’t seem like much. It’s got two floors, a small yard, a big window on the side; if it weren’t for the deserted neighborhood and Tom wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers every two seconds, Will could imagine himself even living there. However, skeptic as he may be, he can’t deny the energy that comes from the building.
The weather is quite pleasant, at the very least. The night sky is clear, a thousand twinkling stars illuminating the empty street as a light breeze ruffles by. Will can’t help but gaze up at it in awe, wishing he could get this kind of view in London. The weight of his camera in his right hand is comforting, familiar; like it’ll protect him from whatever it is that might be inside that house.
Not that ghosts are real, of course.
“It’ll be ok, Tommy. Me and William do this stuff all the time.” Lauri pats Tom on the shoulder and heads towards the front porch, stepping up the stairs as they creak and groan underneath her weight. Stopping just short of the entrance, she adjusts her grip on the camera in her left hand before pushing the door open, which is even louder than the steps were. Will and Tom both cringe at the sound, Lauri seemingly not affected.
“I’m sure it’s fine.” Are her final words, before she steps inside.
Tom swallows audibly by Will’s side. The open door looks like a gaping maw, ready to swallow them into the darkness of the home. Suddenly, the light breeze from before feels more like a cutting wind; all the pleasantness of standing underneath the night sky and the stars has been sucked into the dark hole that is the entrance of the Chester House.
“Hey. You ok?” Will asks quietly, placing his free hand on Tom’s arm. He jumps a little bit but nods, squaring his shoulders and setting his jaw just like he had done in the cafe.
“I’m fine. I said I’d do this, so I will.” He crosses his arms over his chest and hunches over just slightly, reminding Will of a cat puffing up its fur to seem more intimidating. “I ain’t no chicken.”
“I mean, you barely know us.” Will remarks, although a bit remorsefully. It feels as if he’s known Tom his whole life; maybe even more than that. “I wouldn’t judge you if you decided to back out.”
Tom seems a bit conflicted by that statement. He opens his mouth to responds but closes it soon after, shuffling on his feet uncomfortably as a few of his curls fall over his forehead and eyes again. God , Will just wants to reach forward and push them up again; maybe run his hands through his soft looking hair, tangle his fingers in each and every little one of his brown strands. Stare into his blue eyes as he does so- and maybe, just maybe - lean down for a kiss…
“I jus’ feel… comfortable with you. If that makes sense?” Tom breaks Will out of his trance, making him cringe internally at how fucking creepy he’s being. “Like I’ve known ya my whole life. Is that weird?”
It hits Will then, that that was the exact same thought he had about Tom. Which isn’t exactly… weird anymore, just strange. Strange because if Tom noticed it as well, then there was definitely something there.
‘ Well, at least I’m not going crazy yet.’ he thinks to himself.
“It’s- it’s why I agreed to come here, actually.” Tom continues, talking to himself more than Will at this point. “I mean, if it were anyone else, no way in bloody hell I’d be standing here right now. You two are a pair of crazy bastards, I’ll give ya that. But I just, I just, I wanted to come with you-”
“Are you boys coming?” Lauri’s yell from inside the house nearly makes Tom jump out of his skin, cutting his rambling off. He grips the sleeves of his hoodie so tight Will is afraid he might rip them, but he just schools his expression to a more neutral one instead of the ‘ holy-shit-im-literally-about-to-shit-my-pants’ deal he had going on and takes a shaky step towards the house.
Finally getting with the program, Will falls into step next to him as well, putting a hand on his shoulder just before they enter the house to stop him.
“Hey. It’s not weird.” He says almost in a whisper, taking in the way Tom’s blue eyes widen almost comically at his words. Christ, his eyes are so big and so gorgeous. “I felt it too, actually.”
“Oh.” Tom responds, a bit strangled, before stepping into the house without another word.
Will follows him inside.
To say that the place is trashed would be putting it nicely. It is absolutely decrepit ; what little furniture remains is either scratched to hell and back, knocked over and askew, or at least partially destroyed, multiple chairs lacking arms or legs thrown across the stretch of living room that is visible to the eye. The windows are shuttered and boarded up, but some of the wood has rotted away, allowing shreds of moonlight to gleam through. To the left, a winding staircase goes to the second floor, which is barely even visible due to the oppressive darkness that covers the whole place.
To the right is the dining room, which somehow seems even worse off than the living room. Will steps under the archway separating both sections of the house and takes the scene in, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. The large, hardwood table is cracked down the middle, nearly splitting apart from where it lays sideways on the floor. A cabinet left open with nothing but broken glass inside is the only other thing in the room, and the wallpaper is peeling off around the weird, claw-like marks left on it. The carpet smells (and looks) mouldy, the foul stench that emanates from it is strong enough that Will has to cover his nose with his shirt for a few seconds.
He turns night vision mode on on his camera.
Behind him, a presence. Will tenses up minutely before he realizes it's Tom, fumbling with the flashlight they had given him before arriving at the Chester House. From the noises of frustration he can hear, it doesn’t seem to be going too well.
“Bloody hell, how do you turn this thing on?” Tom mutters to himself more than anyone else, momentarily distracted from the oppressive darkness all around him. Will takes a second to smile fondly at the scene, pointing his camera to the other boy without giving it much thought. It’s not like he can’t edit these sections out in the final cut, anyway.
“You have to shake it.” Will supplies helpfully, grinning to himself when it startles Tom. Nevertheless, he gives the flashlight a hearty shake, finally shining some light upon the awful state of the house.
“There we go!” Tom exclaims triumphantly, though the moment is short lived as he takes in the appearance of the house. “Well, this is horrifying. Wait, is that recording?”
Tom shines his flashlight directly into Will’s face.
“ Ouch ! Yes, yes it is! Lower that!” Will waves his hand haphazardly in the direction he thinks Tom might be, before shielding his squinted eyes. Tom chortles amusedly, before turning the flashlight away.
“I would apologize, but I reckon ya deserve it for recording me without me knowin’.” He says all that around a laugh, so Will knows he doesn’t really mean it. That’s the only reason for why Will lifts his camera back up, relieved for some reason to be capturing that gorgeous laughter on film.
‘ Christ,’ he groans to himself. ‘Focus, William .’
As their light banter dies down, they’re left standing in the dark, only the measly light of Tom’s flashlight illuminating the dining room. Suddenly, the oppressiveness is back; Will can feel the tension building up in his shoulders and back, like a violin string threatening to snap. Tom doesn’t seem to be faring much better, curling into himself and tucking his hands underneath his arms, pointing the light from a weirder angle now. Even in the dark, Will can tell the fear is yet again clouding over his shiny eyes.
“Kinda cold, innit?” Tom chuckles mirthlessly, rubbing his free hand over his bicep nervously. Will can’t help but agree; the dining room suddenly seems that much colder, at least a good few degrees lower than it had been moments before. Will would even bet that outside would be warmer than this.
But that doesn’t really make any sense, now does it?
“Hey, where is Lauri, anyway?” Tom continues his nervous chattering, suddenly aware of the lack of said Lauri amongst their ranks. “She can’t have gone in that far, right?”
“In here,” a familiar voice calls out, from a doorway Will hadn’t even noticed before leading out of the room. “In the kitchen.”
The boys trade a look. Tom’s eyebrows are knit together in concern; with every moment that passes, he seems less and less sure about himself and the whole situation they’d gotten themselves into. Which, in Will’s opinion, is just silly, because the paranormal isn’t real and it would be more likely that they run into a serial killer than a ghost in here.
“Well, come on then.” Will breaks the tense silence, nodding his head towards the doorway. Tom nods back just slightly, before hurrying towards the kitchen, looking over his shoulder to make sure Will is following. Which he is, of course; lest he lose sight of this gorgeous boy that his presence has been graced with. Jesus, what is up with you today?
Stepping inside the kitchen, there is thankfully some more natural light than there was in the living room. The windows aren’t boarded up, so the moonlight filters in unbothered. But that’s about in when it comes to improvements; the rest of it is similarly trashed like the rest of the house, the mahogany of the countertops smashed to pieces and strewn across the foundation of it. The faucet of the sink is missing, but it doesn’t take Will too long to find it; somehow, it’s stuck to the wall, making quite a few cracks show up on the surrounding tile. The cabinets are all open and pretty busted up, some even lacking any doors whatsoever. In the midst of all it, sits an hilariously undisturbed table, white with only a few stains showing up on it. Lauri kneels by it, probably because she couldn’t find any usable chairs, finishing setting up their nerve center.
“What’s all this, then?” Tom questions after turning his flashlight off, tucking it inside his back pocket. “You guys are runnin’ a real operation here, huh.”
“Well, of course. We need eyes on every inch of this house even when we’re not there.” Lauri stands up pretty much effortlessly, considering she has about five cameras and a tripod for each bundled in her arms. “Will, help me set these up.”
It’s a song and dance that they’re used to by now. The first camera, they put up on the kitchen, settling it against one of the corners so they can see the entirety of it. The second one is set up watching the dining room, which still feels inexplicably frigid, and finally, a third camera watches over the living room, where Will catches Tom eyeing the front door with longing.
The three of them crowd around the staircase, the one they can’t really see the top of. The darkness feels worse somehow up there, filling Will with a sense of dread and discomfort he hasn’t felt in a long time in one of these investigations. Tom has his flashlight out again, but it does little against the pitch black that encompasses the second floor. Will and Lauri have their night vision cameras to guide them.
None of them want to take the first step.
Will grips the remaining two tripods in his hand harder, steeling himself for what seems like a trivial thing. Nothing here can hurt them. It’s just the dark. Which is actually kind of strange, since Will has never been scared of the dark, but maybe Tom’s uneasiness is just getting to him. That’s what he tells himself, anyway.
“Well, no use in just standing here. Let’s go up.” And with that, he takes the very first step up the stairs, a chill running down his spine the moment he does so. Choosing to ignore it, Will continues his ascent, ready to strike his tripods into the face of whatever could come crawling out of this darkness to attack them. Not that anything will, but you know. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
When he reaches the landing, his eyes finally adjust to the dark up there a little bit more. He can see three different doors, all in differing stages of decay, a bit open or totally shut, each more unappealing than the next. When Will peeks over the overlook, the living room seems a million floors away, despite him being able to clearly see the light of the camera they set up there blinking reliably. He hates being up here alone.
Will walks back to the landing and glances down the stairwell. He can’t see Tom and Lauri from here properly, just barely visible silhouettes shifting and barely discernible in the low light. Not even his night vision camera can see much, which is freaky in of itself. The more he looks at the shadows, the weirder they get. It’s almost like they’re merging, melting into each other, turning into something big and scary and violent -
He clears his throat and calls out to them, ignoring the sudden fear that chokes him up and makes him want to bolt from this place. “At your own time, gentlemen.”
The healthy dose of sarcasm seems to make the weirdness of it all dissipate, if only for a little bit. Will can hear the footsteps coming up to join him. The first up is Tom, which is unsurprising considering Lauri is carrying the remaining cameras. Tom gives him a nervous smile, crease in his eyebrows ever so present, before shining his flashlight in the direction of the first door. Will can see his throat bobbing in nervousness, right hand tightening around the flashlight.
“How are you holding up?” he asks quietly, mourning his lack of hands to reach up and squeeze Tom’s bicep comfortingly. Tom laughs, strangled and miserable, turning to face Will with a tense grimace.
“Could be better.” he shrugs, before turning back to the set of doors, watching them like a hawk for even the tiniest indication of movement. He doesn’t elaborate further than that, so Will drops it, stepping closer to Tom as that is pretty much the only semblance of comfort he can offer at the moment. When he feels a shoulder brush lightly against his own, Will can tell that Tom appreciates it.
With a light groan, Lauri shows up on the landing, blowing a strand of her curly hair away from her eyes. Tom immediately steps forward, hands outstretched to help her with the cameras, but she simply shakes her head and nods towards Will.
“Help me out here, bellboy.” Rolling his eyes, Will sets up one of the tripods right by the banister, where the camera has a full view of the hallway that seems more and more sinister by the minute. As he does so, Tom keeps watch, breath catching on his throat right when Will finishes securing the camera to the tripod and turning night vision on.
“What’s wrong?” Hovering a hand by his shoulder, Will turns to look at where Tom is shining his light at. It’s the half-open, half-closed door of the first room right next to the staircase, which Will can’t really see the inside of. Lauri flanks Tom’s other side, who still seems paralyzed by whatever it is that he saw.
“I saw a light,” he practically whispers, and Will can almost hear the sound of his teeth grinding as Tom clenches his jaw. “Looked like a pair of eyes.”
Will is torn. Of course, ghosts aren’t real, the supernatural doesn’t exist , but at the same time, he doesn’t want to dismiss Tom’s worries as nothing. If he saw something, he saw something, and it was his and Lauri’s job to at the very least debunk it.
“Well, let’s check it out then.” he says decisively, pointing his handheld camera in the direction of the door and taking a couple steps towards it. Lauri joins him wordlessly and Tom hurries as to not fall behind, not willing to be left alone in the all-encompassing darkness with only a flimsy flashlight at his aid. Not that Will would ever leave him behind, of course. Not ever.
Willing his mind to be quiet, he pushes the door all the way open.
His first thought is that they’ve come across a nursery. Beneath all the mold, the walls appear to be pink, a filthy crib set directly underneath the window, with miraculously intact, translucent curtains draped over it, which already improves the visibility of the room considerably. There are a few toys knocked askew, a rocking chair just by the slanted ceiling side of the place. But all of these details pale in comparison to the by far most sinister part of the room, which is the circle of stuffed animals that sits in the center of it.
“What the fuck?” Tom squeaks, gripping Will’s arm with his free hand so hard he can feel the bruises he’s leaving in his wake. But he doesn’t have any reason to complain, so he says nothing. “What- what the hell’s that supposed to be?”
“No idea.” Will murmurs, and, against his better judgement, steps closer to it.
He squats down next to it, capturing the scene on film. Upon closer inspection, he notices three of the stuffed animals placed in the circle seem newer than the others, at least a bit less filthy and ruffled. A large rabbit, a medium sized mouse, and a smaller cat, all placed slightly closer to each other than the other ones. Will chuckles mirthlessly.
“Kinda looks like us a little bit, wouldn’t you say?”
Lauri’s ‘ haha, very funny ’ is drowned out by Tom’s indignant exclamation, the crease between his eyebrows growing even more defined. “Don’t say that!” he hisses at Will, holding the flashlight with both hands as if he were afraid someone would come and rip it from him. Will immediately feels guilty, though he’s sure Tom didn’t mean to make him feel that way. He can’t really blame him, though; the tension is starting to get to all of them.
“Sorry.” he murmurs before stepping away from the circle, sniffing at the toys as if they had personally offended him. Lauri walks the perimeter of the room with her own handheld camera and points to a spot right by the corner of it, turning back to face Will.
“We should set up the last camera here.” she says quietly, which is unlike her. Despite being the ‘believer’ out of the both of them, Lauri hardly ever takes these investigations seriously. Nevertheless, Will complies, grabbing the tripod he had propped up against the wall earlier and putting it up on the spot Lauri had chosen.
Now with a camera watching the weird circle for them, Will feels like he can breathe a little easier. He checks the feed of all of them on his phone just for a second, just to reassure himself everything is still in working order. He’s still in control of the situation.
Suddenly, the numbing cold of the dining room washes over them once more.
This time it feels worse, somehow. Like this bone chilling draft is permeating his clothes and burrowing inside Will’s skin; suppressing a shiver as best as he can, he buttons up his coat with quickly numbing fingers, breath coming out a bit faster, a bit more frantic. This is weird. The very bad kind of weird; not even outside is this frigid, and April isn’t exactly the warmest British month. As far as Will can tell, the window behind him is closed shut, and no wind comes from the open door leading into the hallway.
Something draws his gaze to Tom. Just like Will, he was doing his best to remain warm, encircling himself with his own arms and tugging his hoodie sleeves over his hands. But something makes him pause.
Tom’s breath is visible to them all, coming out in little puffs of condensation.
“Let’s get out of here.” it’s Lauri’s voice that snaps them out of it, turning on her heels and stalking out of the nursery as fast as she can. “This place creeps me out.”
Will is quick to comply, wrapping his arm around a flabbergasted Tom on the way, effectively dragging him along. Tom’s eyebrows are once again knit together in that weird way that makes Will want to comfort him, so he rubs his hand along Tom’s shoulder in what he hopes is soothing enough for him. Once they’re out of the room, Tom finally seems to snap out of it; he turns around and shuts the door for good measure.
“You two are bloody insane.” he says shakily, resting both of his hands against the rotting wood of the door, flashlight pointed at a weird enough angle to reach the end of the hallway. “You really want to keep doing this?”
Biting his lower lip, Will crosses his arms and shifts his weight on his feet, deep in thought. Because yes, he does want to keep doing this; this is the first time in a long time that he and Lauri stumble across anything truly worth investigating. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to force Tom to stay in this place any longer than what he’s willing to take. Though it pains him to do so, he steps forward and rests his hand on Tom’s shoulder once again. Distantly, he thinks he could get used to this being a thing between them.
“Listen, Tom.” he begins delicately, squeezing his shoulder for good measure. “You can leave if you want to. Really. No one’s going to judge you for it-”
“No!” Tom’s voice doesn’t really sound quite like his own. Lauri shifts uncomfortably in his peripherals, doing crazy hand gestures that Will thinks mean ‘cut it off’. Tom is still turned towards the door, head bowed low, so Will can’t see his eyes; though he has a bad feeling he wouldn’t like what he’d see anyway.
“I… I mean…” Tom clears his throat, finally taking his hands off the door and turning to face Will. He looks scared, blue eyes clouded over, but most of all he looks like himself. Will feels himself relax. “I want to see this through. I said I would, so I will.”
This again. Will shares a private laugh with himself, thinking back to when Tom had used these exact same words to justify his frankly questionable decision. Once again, he feels awash with the want to be close to this boy, who had so quickly carved himself a place into Will’s heart it was actually quite frightening. Reluctantly, he steps back, giving Tom his space, before turning his camera towards the hallway once more.
“Let’s keep going, then.”
The second room is a bit unremarkable, compared to whatever the fuck the nursery was. Will assumes it’s supposed to be the master bedroom, if the king sized bed and dusty vanity mirror are anything to go by. Other than that and a huge, somewhat scary wooden wardrobe, the room lacks furniture, feeling bare and like a part of it is missing.
“Odd use of negative space.” Tom tries for a bit of humor, dragging his finger over the vanity mirror and pulling a face when it comes back grey and coated in dust. This room has a window as well, although it lacks the drapes the nursery had. Will takes a peek outside, not liking what he sees. Beyond the house lies only the forest and a dark dirt road leading out of town.
It suddenly dawns on him how isolated from the rest of St Osyth they really are.
Ignoring the thought, Will pushes himself away from the window, suddenly plagued with bizarre visions of himself, Tom and Lauri falling off of it. And speaking of Lauri, she doesn’t seem to be having the best time, either; her camera is pointed steadily in the direction of the wardrobe, tongue darting out to wet her chapped lips.
“What’s wrong?” Will questions, stepping closer to stand next to her. Tom’s attention is dragged away from the vanity mirror, and he too comes closer to them.
“Nothing.” Lauri’s voice is dry and lifeless, like just being close to the wardrobe had sapped her of all her energy. “Let’s just film a final sweep of this room and leave. I don’t think there’s anything here.”
Not wanting to push his luck (God knows Lauri is scary when she gets mad), Will complies, walking along the entire room and getting every little nook and cranny of it on film. Since they were out of static cameras to put down, this would have to do. Behind him, he can hear Tom speaking quietly to Lauri, likely offering her words of comfort or something, because he’s just that lovely of a person. Will bites the inside of his cheek to school his ridiculous thoughts into place.
Soon enough, he’s finished. Lauri’s gaze has yet to leave the wardrobe, but when Will gently guides her out of the master bedroom, she goes without complaint. Back out in the hallway, they take a second to regroup.
“Well, since there’s only one more room left, I think I’m gonna head down and start dismantling nerve.” Lauri pipes up with fake cheerfulness. Will creases his forehead with worry; they had barely been there for one hour. Usually, after investigating the whole place, the two of them gave it another two or three hours before packing up and leaving, just in case something else ghastly would occur. Obviously, that never happened, because ghosts aren’t real, but still. Whatever it is that Lauri felt in the master bedroom clearly shook her down to her very core.
“Ok.” Will agrees easily, putting a hand on Tom’s lower back without much thought (he doesn’t notice the way Tom’s breath stutters) and gently pushing him along. “We’ll check out the last room then.”
“You go do that.” Lauri calls back from the darkness, already heading down the staircase with the cameras and tripods from the hallway and nursery.
They’re alone again.
“Well…” Tom chuckles nervously, flashlight pointed towards the end of the hallway and managing to illuminate absolutely nothing. “Shall we go in, then? What’s behind Door Number 3 and all that?”
Will bites back a chuckle at the awful joke, though he can’t hide his smile. Lifting his camera back up, he’s about to take a step when a loud, loud noise makes him stop.
It sounds like a door creaking open.
“Did you hear that?” Will whispers, sudden and primal fear coiling in the pit of his gut. Tom nods, his face a shade of ghastly white. Will distantly thinks to himself that it can’t be Lauri; unless she’s going through the front door and leaving them there to deal with whatever the fuck is in this house with them.
“It sounded like a door-”
Before Tom can finish his thought, the last door bangs all the way open, and a stool comes flying out of the darkness and in their direction.
“Duck!” Tom shouts and drops to the floor, Will quickly doing the same. The stool slams against the door to the nursery (which Lauri had closed again on her way out) with such force the already weakening wood of it gives in and caves to the floor, falling down with a loud crash and splinters flying everywhere. Tom curses loudly and gets up to run, followed closely by Will as another piece of furniture gets smashed just a hair’s length away from them.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Tom chants as he runs down the hallway and almost slips on the staircase, a sentiment echoed by Will as he takes a hold of his arm to steady them both. They get to the ground floor without taking a fall, despite the loud crashes that seem to be following them from the landing.
“Lauri!” Will calls out loudly, almost crying in relief when his partner comes running out of the kitchen with all of their bags in tow. Tom is already running for the front door, legs shaking like a baby deer’s.
“What’s going on?!” she questions, handing Will one of the bags. The loud noises are getting closer and closer.
Before Will can even open his mouth, Tom calls back from the foyer. “There’s no time! We have to go now!”
When another loud crash resonates too close to them for comfort, Will and Lauri take off towards the front door, where Tom is holding it open for them. They run.
And they only stop when they’re at least four houses away from the Chester House, chests heaving and palms sweaty, hair sticking to their foreheads like they’re all matching. Tom bows down and puts his hands on his knees, flashlight lost somewhere in their frantic escape.
“What… the fuck… was that .” he questions, breathing heavily. Will sits down on the curb with a sigh, wiping his face with the sleeve of his coat.
“Probably a squatter or something.”
“A squatter ?!” Tom shouts, probably way too loud for the current hour, but the neighborhood is completely abandoned so it doesn’t really matter anyway. “Are you crazy?! It- it was throwing furniture at us!”
“That’s not that hard.” Will protests feebly, giving Lauri a look that says ‘I’ll explain later’. When Tom gives him an anguished look, Will gets up with considerable effort, wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers.
“Look, Tom. It’s probably nothing, but we got all the footage we needed out of this anyway.” His hand finds its way to Tom’s shoulder again, almost on its own. “We don’t need to go back there.”
Tom sighs, so heavy with relief it makes Will feel a little guilty. But he just nods and gives him a tired smile, hand coming up to squeeze Will’s wrist.
“Can’t say this was fun, but I liked hanging out with you two.”
Lauri laughs quietly behind them, essentially shattering the moment. Though Will can’t really voice his annoyance, so instead he just turns to look at her, observing her as she dusts herself and her bags off, taking a look at her watch almost like a second thought.
“This is all very sweet and all, but it’s getting pretty late. I think it’s bedtime for all of us.” and then she adds, quietly. “And I don’t really want to be around this place any longer than we have to be.”
“Seconded.” Tom agrees easily, giving Will one last, sweet look before stepping away and joining Lauri on her way back towards civilization.
Will is left alone with his thoughts for a second.
That house… he really doesn’t want to go back in there. And he won’t, of course. But whatever it was that was in the Chester House with them has made itself a little corner in the back of his mind and burrowed in deep, a virus just waiting to overtake all of his thoughts.
Well, at least he got Tom out of all that.
Will hurries to catch up, hiking the bag Lauri hands him higher on his shoulder, easily falling into step besides his friends. The Chester House looks smaller and smaller the further into town they walk.
Out of sight, out of mind.