The others stood back and let John do his work, and when the doors were nothing but a pile of wood and glass, they moved in and began pulling the pieces away from the opening, being careful not to cut themselves on the glass.
"Careful," John warned using the ax to push some of the debris away, "that didn't take much, now let's see what we can do with the plywood."
"See if you can knock the wood loose at the edge, and I'll wedge the bar in there and pry it up," Larry said wielding the steel bar now.
"Gotcha, stand back so I can get a good swing," John said, raising the ax high over his head, then leveling it out and beginning his swing, "Just like playing baseball," he chuckled, "gonna hit a home run."
With those words, he swung the ax with all his might, and it contacted the edge of the plywood sheet with a dull thud.
"Ouch, they must've used some big-assed nails on this thing," John said, seeing that the plywood hadn't budged at all.
"Let me give it a try," Jeff said reaching for the ax. You're probably tired after chopping the door down."
"Be my guest," John said handing the ax to Jeff and stepping back.
"Okay guys...Paul Bunyan here," Jeff joked as he lined up the blunt end of the ax and drew back to take his swing.
With as much force as he could muster, Jeff slammed the ax into the wooden panel only inches from the edge. Again he took aim and swung, encouraged as the crack at the edge widened a tiny bit. Three whacks later the crack had grown even wider, but still wasn't wide enough for the bar.
"Whew, they really nailed that mother-humper good," Jeff said taking a rest.
"Here, let me give it a few licks, no need for one person to wear themselves out," Larry offered.
"Just one more," Jeff said, licking his lips then drawing back, and with one mighty swing he let loose.
The ax head met the plywood with a satisfying whack, and a splintering sound, and upon examination they could see that the plywood had cracked a little, the gap widening even more.
"Good one, here let me. You got it going, let me work on it," Larry said enthusiastically.
But before Larry could draw back the ax, suddenly there was the sound of boyish laughter, which seemed to have come from the front of the house.
"What the hell was that?" Larry said still holding the ax.
The four had swung around and were staring nervously in the direction of the noise, unsure whether to ignore it and continue, or investigate it's source.
"It's quiet now, maybe it was the wind or something," Billy said in a near whisper, his mouth suddenly dry as dirt.
"It was him," John said numbly, "it was the boy from my dream."
"How...uh, how do you know that?" Jeff stuttered, "that was just a dream."
"Maybe, but he's real...I just know it, both of them are, and they want something from us," John said staring straight ahead as if in a trance.
"That's crazy," Billy squeaked, then remembering his own dream, he fell quiet.
"Come on," John said, "he wants us to come to him," he said in that same trance-like voice. Then he began to move, not even bothering to see if the others were following. They'd agreed to stay together, and even if John was acting a bit strange, they didn't intend to separate now.
The air seemed colder now, and the insistent drum of the rain on the roof, the rumble of thunder, and the occasional flicker of lightening through the boarded up windows only added to their dread as the four marched forward.
As they entered the living room, their flashlight beams went left and right, searching for anything out of the ordinary, until finally they were satisfied there was nothing there. However, as they neared the fireplace, a sudden gust of wind swept across the room, fanning the flames, and chilling the four even further.
"It's cold as a witch's tit in here," Jeff said in a near whisper.
"In all the movies I've seen about ghosts, it's always cold when they're around," Billy said looking around nervously.
"Guys..." Larry said suddenly, "what's that?" he said pointing at a glowing figure approaching from the front foyer.
The other three swung around then, and Billy let out a little yelp as he came face to face with one of the boys he'd seen in his dream, "That's him, that Robert kid..." Billy whispered.
"What do you want from us?" John said, approaching the figure and holding out his hands in supplication, but the figure merely stood there staring straight ahead as if oblivious of the boys and the room before him.
Then slowly, the shimmering lessened until at last the boy seemed to solidify, and only then did he seem to be aware of them. He smiled sadly, and held out his hand, but not to them, to a second shimmering figure who had suddenly appeared.
"The other kid, Julius," Billy said softly as they observed the same phenomena occur as with the first boy.
At last the two stood before the four teens, holding hands and occasionally smiling at one another. Despite the circumstances the four felt no immediate threat from the two, and in fact felt a sort of peace come over them. As they watched, the two moved closer and shared a lover's kiss, then turned their heads to their audience.
"We mean you no harm," the first boy, Robert, said in a low reverberating voice, as if it were coming from a distance.
"You're Robert and Julius, right?" John said as if speaking to supernatural beings was an everyday occurrence.
"Yes," the boy said simply.
"But you died, right?"
At first there was no answer, then Robert looked at Julius before beginning to speak, "Our spirits remain here, never to move on, for our love was interrupted by death. Julius' death so many years ago in the fire, and mine a slow and agonizing one without him. Only in death have we found each other again, and now we share our love, here in the place where it all began."
"I think your love is wonderful," John said smiling, "but in my dreams..."
"Ah, I apologize for that. We had hoped that frightening you might convince you that you needed to leave this place, but we did not realize you had already decided that until now."
"We didn't mean to disturb you," Larry said, "we didn't know you were here, and now all we really want is to go home."
"Come, and I will show you the way out. But, you must promise never to return," Robert said motioning for the four to follow him. Then taking Julius hand, he started across the living room toward the back hallway.
"Wait," John said frowning, "so, you admit you made us dream those things, but there are so many unanswered questions. Like, what happened to Jeff? He disappeared and then reappeared soaked as if he'd been out in the rain."
"I'm afraid that was Bartholomew who was responsible for that. There is a secret passage in that bathroom that leads to a hidden stairway. After placing your friend in a trance, Bartholomew directed him down the stairs, then to the basement, then finally outside. He had hoped your friend would leave then, but I suppose his loyalty to his friends won out in the end, and somehow he made his way back."
"Who is Bartholomew?" Jeff said, asking the question on everyone's mind.
"Wait," Jeff said then, "you said there was another spirit here. Who is that spirit, and why is he here?"
"His name is Bartholomew, and he, he...was murdered here by my uncle," Robert said looking a little sad.
"I don't remember hearing anything about a murder here," Larry said softly.
"No, wealth can buy many things, and covering up Bartholomew's death was an easy task for my uncle and the others."
"But...why did he kill this Bartholomew guy?" John asked for all of them.
"First, I must tell you about Bartholomew for this story to make any sense," Robert said glancing at Julius, who merely nodded, however, the look on his face said he wasn't as eager to hear the story as the others.
"Bartholomew was only 19 when he came to stay with us. He was a distant cousin and his own family had disowned him after finding out he was of a certain persuasion. Like myself and Julius, Bartholomew liked males and not females.
Bartholomew enrolled in University and was studying law, excited about the prospect of becoming a lawyer someday, perhaps to defend others like himself in court. To earn his keep, Bartholomew agreed to tutor me in my studies, as I was having some difficulties with Math and Grammar.
At first it was a very equitable arrangement. My grades improved, and Uncle was satisfied that Bartholomew was earning his keep. Then, the unimaginable happened. As Bart and I spent more time together, we began to develop feelings for one another. Having lost my dear sweet Julius only two years before, I was lonely and still filled with despair, and Bart's friendship was just the tonic I needed."
The others noted that Robert was now calling his cousin by a shorter version of his name, Bart, perhaps his private nickname for him, and that his whole demeanor had changed, a soft look coming across his face.
"At first it was platonic, but as we spent more time together, our feelings for one another became more intense, and finally intimate. I was 14 then, and experiencing the onslaught of puberty, and being of the same persuasion as dear Bart, our relationship became physical.
At first it was merely touching, then we began to use our mouths to pleasure one another. Bart had some experience in such things, and he taught me what little I didn't already know. Of course, I was no virgin myself, having learned the mechanics of male love with my lover Julius, but Bart brought me to new heights of pleasure, and soon I could not get enough of him.
I'm afraid I fell quite desperately in love with Bart, but alas, for him our relationship was more about the physical aspect. Oh, we kissed and went through the motions of love, but what Bart desired most was to bury his hardness in me and to plant his seed there.
As Julius and I had performed the act several times during the brief time we had together, I welcomed his advances and never denied him. However, eventually I confronted him, begging him to utter those words I longed to hear, but he merely laughed and said I was too young to know of love, and that...that we were simply having fun, and nothing more.
I was very distraught, but having no one to confide in, I kept my feelings locked inside. I had begun keeping a journal quite early on in my life, and I did express my thoughts in that journal, believing no one but myself would ever read those words. I kept the diary hidden in a secret place in my room, but my uncle found it one day and all of my secrets were exposed.
He confronted me with everything from Julius, to what Bart and I were doing, and being angry at his violation of my privacy, I became quite verbal. I told him exactly what I thought of him and society in general, and he finally had heard enough, and he struck me.
Bart had just returned home from his classes, and he heard our argument and the unmistakable sound of me being struck, and he rushed in to see what was the matter. Uncle attacked him then, and they scuffled on the floor, but Bart, being much younger and stronger, managed to get the better of Uncle and restrain him.
Pulling free, Uncle ran from the room and Bart came over to comfort me and to apologize. He confessed that he did have real feelings for me, perhaps did love me, but that he did not want to complicate my life by entangling himself in it. Being older, he said that he knew Uncle, and society in general, would never accept our love, yet he could not bring himself to give me up any sooner than necessary, even though he knew there was no future for us.
I understood immediately what he meant, after having witnessed my uncle's rage over the diary, but I assured Bart that I would find a way to keep us together if he really loved me. After all, I owned everything, and Uncle was merely my guardian till I reached the age of majority.
We kissed and hugged and it was while we were so engaged that Uncle returned, a huge knife in his hand, and he stabbed my dear sweet Bart in the back. Bart died in my arms as he confessed his undying love for me, but alas, though his love might be undying, his body was not.
I was of course devastated and so distraught I had to be sedated. For three days the doctor kept me sedated, and when I awoke on the fourth day, it was as if nothing had ever happened, or that Bart had ever existed.
His things were gone, the blood cleaned up from my room, and from that day on no one ever spoke of him again. Even I began to wonder if I had dreamed it all, but eventually I came to grips with the reality that Uncle had committed murder, and I feared that I might become his victim as well if I did not keep his secret.
After that, Uncle and I barely spoke, and in fact we seldom saw each other. I ate my meals alone in the kitchen with the cook as my only companion, and I always locked my door at night for fear Uncle would murder me in my sleep.
When I turned 18 and could take control of my assets and properties, I instructed our corporate attorneys to begin paying Uncle a generous monthly pension and give him the deed to one of the prestigious properties we owned. While I was away at University, my uncle moved out, and I never saw him again. He died several years later, taking his secret to the grave with him, and I never spoke of it to anyone until tonight."
"Oh my God, you lost two loves to death," John said sadly, "I'm so sorry, but what became of Bartholomew, you say he's here in this house, why haven't we seen him?"
"He is near, he is always near. He sometimes joins Julius and I in our lovemaking. In a way, we have in death what we never had in life, and there is no one to shame us or shun us."
"So...um, you three guys mess around together?" Jeff said blushing.
"We make love," Julius said, speaking for the first time.
A gust of icy air suddenly rushed across the four teens and they hugged themselves and shivered. The cold seemed to penetrate to the very bone, and the four cowered as they waited with dread for what they knew was coming.
As the other two had done, the third spirit began as a shimmer, then slowly solidified until before them stood a young man, dark haired and with dark brooding eyes, but just as handsome as he'd been that fateful day he'd died at Robert Mason's hands.
"You must be Bartholomew," John said smiling despite his fear.
The figure nodded, but didn't speak as he walked over to join his two fellow spirits. Reaching out his hand, Robert took the newcomer's hand in his, and the three stood hand in hand just staring at the four teens.
"Are you happy?" Jeff asked suddenly.
"Happiness is for the living," Bart said speaking at last, "in death there is only peace, if one is lucky."
"And because you were murdered here, your spirit hangs around, is that it?" John asked, curious about the new arrival and his circumstances.
The older boy nodded, "I will remain here as long as this place exists."
"Wait, earlier you said something like that too," John said to Robert, "what happens if the house falls to dust, or gets torn down, or burns to the ground?"
"Then our spirits will be free at last to move to the next level," Robert replied calmly.
"And that's a good thing, right?" Billy said meekly.
"Yes, but until then, we reside here and do not wish to be disturbed. At first we tolerated your intrusion because you never remained for long periods of time, nor did you attempt to stay overnight. But this night, All Hallows Eve, is a sacred night for those such as us. By being here you have disturbed the dynamics of our very existence. You must go, and go now, before it is too late for us...and for you."
"What do you mean, for us?" John asked. He didn't like the sound of that, in fact it actually sounded more like a threat than a warning.
"Never mind that," Bartholomew said then, "Come with us and we will show you the way out."
"But we were doing a pretty good job of finding a way out ourselves," Larry huffed, "before you came along."
"We know a better way out," Robert said then, "come and we shall show you."
"What have we got to lose?" John said shrugging as the three spirits began to move toward the hallway.
The four followed at a respectful distance behind them and were surprised to see the three were leading them once again to the basement. Noticeably missing was the piano that had been blocking the door earlier, and John just couldn't let that go.
"Earlier there was a piano blocking this door?" John said almost angrily, "who put it there and why? And where is it now?"
"I'm afraid that was me again," Bartholomew said smiling evilly, "a lame attempt to force you to stay in the basement and find the way out on your own."
"But the door to the outside is blocked. Something heavy fell across it. Wait, how did Jeff get back inside then?"
"Huh?" Jeff said, "I...don't remember being outside, but I guess maybe I came back in before the tree or whatever fell across the door."
"He must've come inside while we were still in the attic, right after Billy saw him headed this way. Then he went to the living room and that's where we found him...later," Larry reasoned.
"If you say so," Jeff said shrugging, "but I swear, I don't remember a thing."
"So was the piano real, or just in our imagination?" John insisted, still not ready to let it go.
"It seemed real enough," Larry mumbled.
"In your minds, it was real," Bartholomew said with an insolent look, "that is all that matters. That you were able to overcome that obstacle shows how close you four are in mind and spirit."
"Come, the hour grows late and midnight approaches," Robert said starting toward the door to the basement and holding his hand up.
Slowly the door opened without him touching it. and beyond the darkness lay before them. With their flashlight in hand the four nervously followed the three spirits down the stairs, hoping they weren't being led into a trap.
Once they'd reached the bottom of the staircase, they halted abruptly and waited for further instruction. At first the three spirits stood motionless, staring straight ahead, then Robert took the lead and headed toward the outside wall.
"The door is blocked..." Larry started, but then seeing that the boy wasn't headed to the door, he fell quiet.
"Here," the boy said indicating a blank spot on the wall, "push here," he said turning to look at the others.
John took the lead then and passed within inches of the three spirits, but felt no benevolence, only a slight chill when he neared them. Then staring at the blank wall for a moment, he noticed it was made up of blocks about six inches wide and a foot long, staggered to interlock. Placing his hand on the wall, he felt the coolness of the stone and it sent a chill through his body.
"Push," Robert said softly.
Nodding, John applied a little pressure to the wall and was surprised to see it give a little. As a section of the wall swung inward as if on hinges, he noted that the staggered blocks gave it a jagged look.
"It's a secret panel," John said, stating the obvious, "but where does it lead?"
"Go, and you will see," the boy said still standing in the same spot as before, Julius by his side.
"What if it's a trap?" Larry muttered to John.
"I don't think so," John said shining his flashlight into the space beyond, "it's a tunnel," he said looking back at the others.
"Wait, I just thought of something else," John began, "The knife, did you take the knife?"
"I'm afraid there is one more spirit here, one that cannot rest until he has made amends for the wrong he has done," Robert said staring beyond them, as if seeing something in the distance.
"The old man I saw on the bed..." Larry said looking pale, "that was...your uncle?"
Robert merely nodded, "Do not worry, he cannot harm you, nor does he wish to."
"There are so many things I don't understand," John said, "the key, the locket, the red rubber ball. What do those things have to do with all this?"
"The key was necessary for you to explore the house completely. As you found the other items, the pictures, the newspaper clippings, the locket, the toys, we hoped you would understand our story and be more receptive to our presence when we finally confronted you. The ball was a gift from Julius," he said looking over at his love, "the locket as well...a picture of my love."
"One more thing, how did Jeff's flashlight wind up on the fireplace after he disappeared?" John said, determined to get all his questions answered before they went any further.
"He dropped it," Bartholomew said simply, "and I placed it there for you to find."
"You're sure there's a way out?" Larry said then, trying to move things along.
"Wait," John said, "those things we found, the clippings, the photographs, the diary, is it all right if we take them with us?"
"We cannot stop you," the boy said shrugging, "but I beg you not to share what you have learned here. If others come, we will have no peace."
"I promise," John said, "is it okay if I go get those things now?"
Robert simply nodded and John started toward the stairs.
"Wait, I'll go with you," Larry said, "you guys wait here. We'll be right back."
It only took a few minutes to retrieve the items from the living room where they'd dropped them earlier, and by the time they returned to the basement, the three spirits were no longer there.
"Where did they go?" John asked the other two boys, actually feeling a little disappointed that they'd left without saying goodbye.
"In there," Billy said, nervously pointing toward the door John had opened in the block wall.
"Come on, they're probably going to lead us out of here," John said starting that way.
The others followed behind John, and as they stepped through the doorway, they found themselves in a long dark tunnel. Shining their flashlights ahead, they could see that the tunnel turned to the right about 10 or 12 yards ahead, and there were three shimmering figures waiting for them.
"Are you sure about this?" Larry said stopping John with a hand across his chest.
"Sure, what's to worry about? This probably leads to a hidden exit in the hill behind the old house."
"I hope you're right," Larry sighed, "damn, it's even colder in here."
"Come on, we're almost out of here. We can warm up when we get home."
As they met the spirits at the end of the tunnel, John noticed the three seemed to be staring at them almost sadly. However, John had no time to think about that, or anything else for that matter, as suddenly, with a thunderous roar, the roof of the tunnel began to come down all around them, quickly burying the four teens and ending their lives.
"I guess being dead isn't all that bad," John said stretched out naked on the big canape bed, relaxing after having made love to Larry.
"Yeah, well...I wasn't quite ready to die," Larry grumbled, "and I'm still a little mad at those three."
"Yeah, but having sex with them is fun, right?"
"Yeah, but remember, I was the only straight guy here, but yeah...I have to admit I enjoy the sex...now."
"Hey, you guys..." Billy said suddenly floating into the room, "Man, I love being able to float like this," he giggled.
"Where's Jeff?" John said smiling at the younger ghost.
"Fucking Bart, that boy can't get enough cock," he chuckled.
"And I guess Robert and Julius are still at it in their bedroom?" Larry said shaking his head."
"Of course, they're sooo in love," Billy said swooning."
"Yeah, so much in love that they killed all of us to keep their secret safe so they could keep on loving each other in this house," Larry grumbled.
"Yeah, it was sort of a dirty trick, burying us alive along with all the evidence, the pictures, the journal, and the knife."
"Yeah, it was pretty sneaky the way Robert's uncle slipped the knife into the box with the pictures and stuff," John said thoughtfully, "but I wonder how they knew we'd want to go back and get that stuff?"
"They probably made you do it," Larry reasoned, "I think they could influence our thoughts, just like with the piano. It seemed so real..."
"Yeah, I guess...hey, I wonder if we can do that stuff too?" John wondered.
"Well, maybe we'll get to find out someday. Maybe some other kids will figure out a way in here someday and we can haunt their dreams," Larry laughed.
"Yeah, that might be fun," John laughed.
"Speaking of that, did you guys feel anything when we...um, died. I mean did you suffer?" Billy said suddenly.
"I don't remember anything after I heard that horrible noise," John said.
"Nope, not me, one minute dead, next minute a ghost," Larry added, "still sucks though, I'll never get to nail a chick now."
"You can nail me," John teased.
Suddenly, Julius and Robert came into the room, materializing at the foot of the bed, and looking distraught.
"We have a problem," Robert said frowning, "some young people have broken in through the French Doors that you destroyed and are wandering around downstairs."
"Any girls?" Larry asked with interest.
"Yes, two females, two males," Julius said, "Help us get rid of them."
"I have a better idea," Larry said laughing evilly, how about we arrange for them to join us in eternity?"
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