are you sure this is a good idea?” Enjolras asked, tone
hadn’t realized he’d stopped and started inching backwards away from
the looming, black doorway until he bumped against Grantaire’s chest
who then had the nerve to grab his shoulders and shout “Boo!” as
loudly as he could in his ear. Scowling, Enjolras shoved at him,
pushing him back in so much as you could push back someone who was
damn near a foot taller than yourself.
just prodded him towards the door and laughed, “Scared? I thought
you lived and breathed this city, Enj. Shouldn’t you want to explore
every miserable, grimy inch of it?”
so maybe his tone had been less “disapproving” and more bordering
the realm of “terrified” but he’d be damned if he’d admit it.
he snapped. “It’s just… probably not safe. Isn’t it condemned?
And it’s illegal, this is trespassing, right?”
‘cause we’ve never done anything illegal before,” Courfeyrac
smirked, strolling past Enjolras to leap up the sagging wooden steps
onto the wide, heavily shadowed porch.
worry, Enjolras,” Jehan added, peaking their head back out through
the doorway, “I’ve been in here a bunch already, it’s stable enough
so long as we stay off the third floor.”
peered up – and up and up – at the towering, ancient house. With
tall, narrow windows, moss clinging to every inch of the delicate
scrollwork, and steepled little towers and chimneys rising up into
the black night, the building looked like it had crawled out of the
darkest corners of a ghost story, waiting to gobble them up as they
stepped inside past the rotting door that slumped on its hinges and
the cracked plywood that had been a half-hearted attempt to board it
course it was the ghost story
aspect that had brought them out here in the first place. At the
moment Jehan was incredibly keen on what they called urban exploring
– finding the forgotten places surrounded by a sea of people, or
something else vaguely poetic and sinister sounding – and made
frequent treks about the city and into the suburbs with Bahorel or
Grantaire or Courfeyrac or whoever else they could convince to climb
around graffitied buildings and crumbling woodwork for a couple
hours. They’d come to their last meeting out of breath with
excitement, insisting that they had felt a presence
in this one old house – a house which, Combeferre informed them
after looking it up, had been the house of the hospital directory for
an old tuberculous hospital that had been fashioned during an old
epidemic that had swept the city. While the hospital itself had been
torn down decades ago the house itself had lingered. Since then
though it had been abandoned to the elements and was now condemned,
and Jehan was certain that it had spirits clinging to it – perhaps
poor souls who had been quarantined to the old hospital and never
left, or the director himself, his soul tortured and trapped after
all the suffering under his command.
of course, thought it was complete nonsense. Combeferre, on the
other hand, was nearly as giddy as Jehan at the prospect, and
insisted they visit the next night to see if they couldn’t “detect”
anything else. Recognizing it for the foolishness it was, Enjolras
politely declined when Combeferre suggested he join them. He even
resisted when Courfeyrac got wind of it and immediately after signing
himself onto the expedition started turning his indomitable will on
Enjolras, insisting, cajoling, and begging Enjolras join them. Courf
grinned the entire time, his begging coloured with a teasing bite –
he had grown up with Enjolras and knew exactly how bad he was with
horror movies, the little shit. Enjolras refused. But then
Grantaire had turned up at the meeting, just let off from a late
shift, and Enjolras realized Courfeyrac’s plan seconds before he’d
managed to call Grantaire over. Tackling Courf did no good though,
because he squirmed under Enjolras’ body until he was gasping but
free enough to invite a baffled Grantaire to join the ghost hunt.
From that point on, there was no hope for Enjolras. Both he and
Grantaire were kept business enough with schoolwork and club work and
work–work that time
that could be spent together was precious, and as soon as Grantaire
started wheedling at Enjolras, trying to convince him to join them –
it’d be fine, just a bit of wandering around some old
bloke’s house, no big deal, it’ll be fun –
Enjolras knew he was doomed.
that was why he could now feel his heart beating a painful staccato
against his ribs as he ducked under the plywood and entered the
was eery, to say the least. Thick dust covered and greyed a rug that
ran the length of the hall, and though Courfeyrac gave the old light
switch on the wall an experimental flick the ornate bulbs stayed
clouded and lifeless. The hall ran in either three directions from
the front door. At either end, visible only when the flashlights
Jehan had brought were cast down their depths, was a door, one firmly
shut and the other cracked – Enjolras tried to resist shying away
from that one and whatever might be waiting inside.
started looking around in there,” Jehan whispered. “It’s an old
parlour. Ferre, just wait
until you feel the energy in there!”
third route was a pitch black stairwell that curved upward into the
blackness of the ceiling, it’s posts crumbling apart and old steps
littered with debris. At the moment it was all Enjolar could do not
to run back out the front door – nothing on this earth would get
him to touch those stairs. Even with Jehan’s reassurance that they
were sturdy, it looked like a deathtrap waiting to happen. No sooner
had he inched away from the stairs though, towards where Jehan,
Combeferre, and Grantaire stood with the flashlights, then the very
house seemed to moan at him, as if sensing his fear. Of course it
was the wind streaming in through the boarded up windows and down the
strange halls, but it was so much like a pitiful voice trapped in the
houses depths, like cold fingers trailing up Enjolras spine, that he
couldn’t help but shudder away, towards Combeferre when the wind
seemed to solidify, wrapping its cold talons around his wrist and
gave Enjolras’s wrist a playful shake as he swallowed his yelp and
said, “Shivers, Enjolras? You sensing some ghosts
pulled his wrist from Grantaire’s hand and scowled at him. “All
I’m sensing is dicks.” Lurching away from Grantaire, Enjolras
marched further along the hall, to where Ferre and Jehan were in
conference with each other.
Grantaire called after him, “you know you’re welcome to sense my
dick all you–”
it PG, kids!” Courfeyrac shouted from open room at the end of the
hall, where he had promptly ducked into after pilfering Jehan’s
flashlight. “You never know, these spirits could be minors!”
and Jehan laughed, slipping past the door to join Courfeyrac, but
Enjolras stood stock still, staring down at the dark void that was
the open door, lit only by the occasional darting paths of flashlight
beams. He knew his friends were in there, it was crowded and safe
with their voices, but stepping inside…
don’t look like that,” Grantaire said, giving Enjolras a nudge.
“Let’s catch up with the others. You can hold my hand if you
like,” he added with a wink.
a moment Enjolras considered it. It might almost be nice, despite
his rabbiting heart and already frayed nerves. Enjolras was short
enough that he tucked nearly perfectly under Grantaire’s arm, and the
idea of walking around the creepy old house, cocooned in Grantaire’s
warmth, hand in hand was almost appealing. But then came the thought
of the amount of teasing and preening he’d have to put up with every
time he jumped at a creaking roof or stray gust of wind. He did not
believe in ghosts, he did not,
but… well, there was nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fear.
Grantaire was the one always saying he didn’t have a strong enough
survival instinct. What would he say now that he saw his fearless
leader – his boyfriend – trembling in his boots over make-believe
monsters and shadows In that moment he felt himself steeled and
stepped stubbornly away from Grantaire, snatching the flashlight from
go join the others,” he huffed. “I’ll look over here.” He
gestured the beam of light vaguely in the other direction, towards
the door past the stairs and down the opposite end of the hall.
all by yourself?” said Grantaire. “Won’t it get spooky?”
it won’t, because this is ridiculous and there’s no such thing as
ghosts,” Enjolras snapped. “The sooner we establish that, the
sooner we can leave.”
held his hands up defensively, though he still looked amused enough
that Enjolras could feel his hackles rising. “Alright, whatever
you say. And you call me a skeptic, Combeferre would be so
disappointed in you. We’ll meet up with you before we head upstairs,
I guess. Or, y’know, if you need a pair of warm, strong arms to
protect you, you know where I’ll be.”
Grantaire ducked to avoid the wood chip Enjolras snatched off the
lopsided table in the hall and hucked at his head, before waving
goodbye and slipping away into the now dark room that the others had
gone into. Leaving Enjolras in a small pool of light in an otherwise
dark hall. Alone.
had he been thinking?
mostly he’d been thinking that he would get to retain an ounce of
dignity by marching high-headed and confident into that room at the
other end of the hall and have Grantaire trail behind him. He hadn’t
Grantaire would leave him alone, god knew Enjolras could never
convince him to when they had exams to study for. But the thought of
turning tail now and running immediately back to Grantaire’s side –
oh, Grantaire would happily do exactly as he’d said and wrap Enjolras
in his arms, tuck his head under his chin, but what it would cost in
mockery made Enjolras grit his teeth. Darn it, he was a grown man,
he could walk into a dark room by himself. He’d give the room a
cursory glance around, then walk back to the others at his own pace.
It was fine. Totally fine. This wasn’t a horror movie and there
were no mass murderers or malevolent hell-beasts lurking around that
was much easier to tell himself than to believe, especially since
every step he took down the hall seemed to make the entire house
groan under his feet. If there were
any spirits in here – not
that there were – they’d know exactly where Enjolras was and where
he was going.
that cheery thought in mind, Enjolras held out his flashlight like
the beam was a weapon and, rallying himself, pushed the door open.
briefly considered turning around with the excuse that the door was
jammed, such a shame, oh well, before bracing himself and slamming
his shoulder against the door.
gave with a painfully melancholic cry and a shower of woodchips, but
the door swung inward and let Enjolras stumble in, tripping over the
high lip of the old door. Swinging his flashlight around, not sure
what would be worse, something hiding in the dark or finding
something hiding in the dark, Enjolras steadied himself against the
door jam and tried to regain his breath – which promptly escaped
from him again with a wheeze when he saw something skitter through
his light. A rat. It was just a rat. But it was also a rat.
Lurching away from the wall, as if they could be teaming with the
sharp, furry, fanged creatures, Enjolras tucked his arms into his
body continued to bounce the light around the room. He was suddenly
very, very grateful for his tall boots, but the thought of those
tiny, cold, claws clambering up his pantleg, biting and infecting him
with some horrible, fatal disease… he groaned and shuddered.
Nothing else moved in the silent, dead room though except for the
dust in his flashlight’s beam, so he cautiously worked up the nerve
to creep further in.
stank, was one of the first things Enjolras was able to register once
his fear of things creeping in the corners had abated somewhat. One
of the windows was shattered and though it was bordered up now it had
made the room all the more exposed to the elements; that entire
corner was a thicket of soggy moss and black decay, and filled the
room with the moist, suffocating smell of rot, not helped by what
Enjolras could only imagine were long rotten jars and boxes stacked
along the room’s shelves. It was a kitchen, he realized, as his
light slid past the shelves to an old, oily stove and looming
refrigerator that looked like the newest thing in the entire room and
even that was outdated by some fifty years. Tentatively Enjolras
stepped further into the room if for no other reason than he didn’t
want the gaping, dark doorway at his back, ready for any reaching,
grasping things to
snatch him up. Instead of thinking about every squeaking moan of the
floorboards as he stepped, Enjolras tried to focus on cataloging
everything his light unearthed. Scraps of curtain hung in the
windows, worn thinner now than the cobwebs that were draped from
every corner, wallpaper that was spotted with moisture clung
pitifully to the walls, and jars of fruit preserves glistened sickly,
lumps suspended in greying liquids, too ancient and organic to look
at for long. There was what looked like a trapdoor of sorts built
into the floor with a heavy ring for a handle set into the old,
moss-coated planks, but Enjolras had no intentions of touching it,
not on his own – hopefully Jehan wouldn’t notice it either because
the thought of being forced to explore a basement… The thought of
dusty skeletons and forgotten demons gave Enjolras more than enough
motivation to step gingerly around the door. On the other wall was a
sink lined with mildew, and a pantry that was partially open but let
of such a stench and was so filled with flies that Enjolras sharply
avoided it. Cutlery was spread over the counters and Enjolras tried
not to think of anything nefarious about the knives, old china
glinted dully under the light, and thick layers of dust grew
had just about decided he’d spent enough time in this room to prove
to Grantaire that he was no coward, when an ear-splitting shriek rang
out, like metal on metal. Or claws on a sealed door, or
broken teeth on bone, or… Heart
pounding, fear thick in his throat, Enjolras stumbled back, the beam
of light swinging wildly – he nearly screamed as faces jutted out
at him in the dark, he only saved his pride by realizing seconds
after that they were harmless, smudges on the wallpaper, an old, dull
photo tacked to the wall, the cracks in the window – when the thump
came. The entire room rattled, it could be anything, dropped chains,
falling bodies, murderers slipping in from the high, narrow windows –
and Enjolras couldn’t help it, he jumped back with a scream in his
jump carried him back hard though, and something grabbed his foot –
no, it was that ring in the floor catching on his shoe – and then
he was stumbling on the old trapdoor, softened with decay, and the
floor gave a creak, a moan, and finally a pitiful wail as the old
planks gave and Enjolras was falling, falling, and down.
had to press his hands to his mouth to keep from shrieking. He
wasn’t sure if it was to maintain some semblance of dignity or
because of the bone deep certainty that something
would hear. Instead he remained lying on his back, aching, and
willing his heart to calm and his sense to come back to him. He
wasn’t hurt, not really. The fall hadn’t been far, more sudden; the
worst damage was a sore ankle that he’d landed badly on before
flopping down onto his back.
was trapped he was trapped he was trapped in the basement of a
was going to be alright.
biting his lip as his back twinged, Enjolras sat up and scrambled for
his flashlight, gasping with relief when his fumbling hands clasped
around the light. At least it wasn’t dead. On the other hand he
wasn’t so thrilled by what he saw. He was in a… cellar, or sorts.
There was a gaping rectangle of blacker darkness where the trapdoor
had given way and a pile of crumbling planks below him to mark the
descent. The room wasn’t really all that much bigger than that. It
had a dark, low ceiling that made the entire thing very
claustrophobic and the walls were lined with sagging, wooden shelves
filled with more foggy jars. At least it was small enough that
Enjolras knew he was only thing in it besides a handful of spiders
among the shelves.
problem was though that despite the tiny cellar was, the ceiling
still towered well out of Enjolras’s reach and if there ever was a
ladder then it had either been removed or had long since broken
pounding so heavily in his throat he could hardly breathe past it,
Enjolras scrambled to the edge of the little cellar and flung himself
upwards at the ledge – if only, if he could just…
fingers didn’t come close to the edge, they grasped at air
He jumped again, and again, until he fell heavily against the wall,
He was trapped down here. He couldn’t get out. And it wasn’t like
any of them had thought to bring ropes… if he wanted to get out,
he’d have to wait for them to leave and come back with something to
rescue him with, they’d have to leave him alone down here in the
he tried to call but it came out as more of a hoarse croak, barely
enough to make the dust stir in the air never mind be heard in the
rest of the house.
around, he scrambled for a crate tucked against the far wall and
heaved it towards the opening. Its faded apple brand was still
legible and Enjolras prayed that meant it hadn’t been as eaten away
as the trapdoor. It held steady as he heaved himself onto it but as
he jumped – fingers just brushing the edge, jarring his nails and
still not far enough, too high, still trapped, but as he dropped back
down he hit the crate hard enough for the wood to splinter under his
feet and send him tumbling back down, sore ankle complaining under
you hear that?”
think it’s a ghost thumping around in there? Probably Enjolras
trying to kill a spider.”
Enjolras called out desperately.
was a thumping of feet that made dust shake loose over head, and then
Enjolras was squinting up into twin beams of light as Courfeyrac and
Grantaire peered over the sides of what was once the cellar door.
the hell’d you get down there?” Grantaire called, eyebrows in his
hairline, clearly shocked at Enjolras’s daring for exploring the
cellar. How soon he would be disappointed.
fell,” Enjolras said, trying to keep his voice from quavering.
“The floor gave way. I– there’s no ladder, I can’t get out.”
are you okay?” Courfeyrac called down as Grantaire swore next to
him, craning to look further into the hole, trying to ensure that
Enjolras was whole and well.
okay,” Enjolras said. He was, he was, he would be fine, even if he
was left alone in this dark house, in this hole, he would be fine…
“My ankle’s twisted but that’s it. But there’s no way out. You–
someone will have to go and get a rope, or, or something.”
Enjolras in there?” he heard Jehan call from somewhere in the
distance, followed by more thumping and then Courfeyrac’s head
disappeared to call over Jehan and Combeferre.
okay?” Grantaire asked again, gently.
leave,” Enjolras found himself saying, to his embarrassment.
Grantaire’s head disappeared and Enjolras nearly choked on his fear
again as the room seemed to become all the more darker, even with his
little flashlight – was this another prank? Or would Grantaire
just leave him like this to go talk to Jehan? Or was he finding a
way to get Enjolras out?
the second had hardly passed before Grantaire’s head was replaced
with his worn sneakers, and Enjolras couldn’t even get a warning out
before Grantaire had dropped heavily into the pit next to him.
cried, slapping Grantaire back before he was even able to straighten.
“What’s the point of both
of us being stuck?”
the strongest, the others are going to need you if they get a rope to
pull me out with, what were you thinking–”
Grantaire stood. And kept standing. And… and, oh. Grantaire
would actually need to be careful not to bump his head on the far end
of the cellar where the ceiling sloped. He raised a brow at
Enjolras, gesturing grandly to himself, and smirked as Enjolras went
red. Without further adieu he hauled Enjolras up around the waist
and carried him over to the lip of the hole, which Enjolras was now
able to easily heave his arms over and, with Courfeyrac and Jehan’s
help, was able to pull himself back onto the sturdy, kitchen floor.
Combeferre was patting his back reassuringly as Grantaire leapt at
the hole with a huff and pulled himself easily up over the edge.
hate you,” Enjolras grumbled as Grantaire knelt down next to him
and pulled him into a hug.
what, that means you and your poor, twisted ankle don’t want
to be carried?”
huffed but immediately looped his arms around Grantaire’s neck and
his legs around his waist, and clung to him as he straightened up.
Without a word, Grantaire’s arms were looped around him, holding him
securely in place, and Enjolras pressed his head against the crook of
Grantaire’s neck, deep into his hoodie and breathed with relief a
smell that wasn’t tinged with dust and mildew.
I take this to mean you’re ready to head home?” Grantaire asked.
grunted his agreement.
seriously can’t believe how short you are, Enjolras,” Grantaire
added, earning himself a sharp kick in the side. “But it does mean
I get to play the dashing hero, so I’m not complaining.
really hate you,”
Enjolras amended, but Grantaire’s laughter was a reassuring rumble
against his chest, and okay, there were definite perks to being short
and those included being carried and cuddled like you weighed as much
as a teddy bear, and Enjolras wasn’t ever going to complain about
that. Especially if it meant being carried promptly out of this
awful house, down the street, and preferably straight into his warm