The front door closed behind me with an ominously final-sounding click. The ceiling above my head creaked as Dad walked around – unless that was the ghost. But it was probably Dad, setting up the salt circle and chalking signs on the walls.
I drifted further into the foyer. A small wooden table stood against one wall, scattered, with mail and odd bits of change. And a photograph, in a frame so new I could still see the spot where they’d peeled the price tag off. I picked it up.
A young woman, with dark circles under her eyes and sweat-soaked hair, smiled up at the camera with a newborn baby cradled in her arms.
As I went to set the photo back, something flickered in my peripheral vision and I jerked away instinctively. The glass shattered harmlessly against the wall, shards tinkling to the floor.
Missed me, I mocked, though not aloud. No need to antagonize that poltergeist any further.
“Lizzie?” My dad called from upstairs. “You okay?”
“Fine,” I shouted back.
The stairs were at the back of the foyer, golden wood covered in a floral runner. The banister was painted the same pale blue as the outside of the house. It was charmingly domestic – the perfect little farmstead. Save for the lingering sense of malevolence that permeated the air.
I walked down the upstairs hallway, careful to avoid the sigils chalked on the floorboards. More covered the walls. They were mostly guiding sigils, designed to draw the ghost toward a location, in this case the partially open salt circle Dad had made on the floor of the nursery. I paused in the doorway. He’d almost finished setting up — four candles ringed the salt circle, one at each cardinal point, a hand bell sat ready on the floor, and his old, battered copy of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, volume I, sat open across his forearm.
“What was that, Lizzie?” he asked.
“She threw a glass at my head. I dodged in time.”
Dad raised an eyebrow. “She?”
I shrugged. “New baby, jealous ghost.” it was a pretty common trigger for poltergeists, actually. “And her aura read female to me.”
“In that case, do you think we could lure her with…” he trailed off, gesturing toward the toys strewn around the nursery. I stepped around the salt circle and drifted toward the crib. Almost immediately, the temperature dropped five degrees.
I shivered. “I’m gonna go ahead and say yes.” I reached into the crib, lifting out a stuffed rabbit with a pink ribbon tied in a bow around its neck.
Bang! Downstairs, a door slammed shut.
“Are you okay to play bait, honey?” Dad asked. Poltergeist hunting can get a little rough — I ended up with a black eye once.
I nodded. “Fine.” Then I stepped over the line of salt into the partially-open circle, still holding the rabbit.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Another door slammed, then another, and another, each one closer than the last. I’d done this before, but my heart still beat faster as the bangs traced the ghost’s progress up the stairs and down the hallway, till at last the door to the nursery slammed shut, trapping us inside with an angry poltergeist…