Ethan squeezed under the loose fence picket. The yard beyond it was so overgrown, he couldn’t see the night sky above, or the abandoned house to which the yard belonged.
His brother grabbed his arm and hissed.
“Shh! You want the ghosts to hear us coming?”
“No way this place is actually haunted.”
“Is too. I’ll show you! Unless you’re too chicken?”
“Shut up. Let’s just get this over with.”
They trudged forward through the weeds. Ethan couldn’t help but wonder if the strange purple blast in the sky last week had something to do with how big the plants were. A lot of weird things had happened that day.
“Do I tell him? He’s going to think I’m a freak.”
Jacob pulled out his flashlight as they got to the steps. The wooden slats creaked beneath their feet. When they reached the door, Jacob shined the flashlight in Ethan’s face.
“I don’t want you seeing how to get in. You might tell Mom. Now turn. And close your eyes, too.”
Ethan faced the street and shut his eyes tight. He listened for whatever pins or skeleton keys his brother was using on the lock. But, all he heard was a small whoosh-pop
“I could show him instead. Break the door and he might be more impressed than scared of me.”
The old door whined on its hinges. Ethan turned around to see his brother standing on the threshold. An ancient mist of dust and mildew wafted into the night air. It looked a lot like their house, except covered in a gray film.
Jacob motioned with the flashlight, and walked deeper into the house.
“I heard it happened upstairs.”
The stairs to the second floor were lined with photos of the family. Their smiles made Ethan shudder. He bet the little girl in the pictures didn’t smile much anymore.
Jacob flicked the flashlight’s beam around the bedrooms. The button eyes of a ratty teddy bear gleamed in the light. Wind whistled through a crack in a window pane, billowing the cobwebs. Ethan had to admit, this place was definitely creepy.
Jacob stopped at a closed door. He held the handle, but didn’t turn it. He pointed the flashlight up at his face.
“You want proof this place is haunted? Look.”
He opened the door to the bathroom. Inside, there was a dark patch on the floor. A wet, red spot coating the tiles. Ethan’s heart raced at the sight of the murder scene.
“Every time somebody tried to clean it, the spot kept coming back like it was fresh.”
Ethan knelt down next to the haunted stain. It looked a little like ketchup. He reached out.
His brother grabbed his hand.
“What are you doing? Don’t touch it!”
Ethan yanked his hand away.
“It’s fake, admit it. I’ve seen enough.”
He waved Jacob off and left the bathroom.
A chilling moan resonated behind him. The flashlight flickered. Jacob’s voice jumped up an octave.
“It’s not fake. They’re here!”
Jacob hit the flashlight’s metal casing. The light went out entirely as Ethan turned toward his brother.
“Nice prank, Jacob. I’m out of here.”
“No, don’t – AAH!”
Jacob’s scream cut short. The moan returned, fiercer, louder. Ethan swore he heard another whoosh-pop as the flashlight clattered to the floor. The bathroom’s window burst open. Ethan fumbled for the flashlight.
“Give up, Jacob. I already know it’s you.”
His fingers grasped the flashlight and clicked the button on. Jacob was gone. Ethan tore open the shower curtain.
His brother wasn’t there. He tried the linen closet next, but still nothing. He looked down the hall.
The ghostly moan returned while Ethan checked the bedrooms. A big mirror in the older boy’s bedroom cracked as if hit. In the little girl’s room, the stuffed animals threw themselves at Ethan.
“I… I don’t know how you’re doing this, Jacob, but… but it’s not funny!”
The moan turned into wicked cackling. Ethan felt a chill on the back of his neck. He slapped it away as he swiveled around. He could feel his insides growing hot. Maybe there were ghosts. If the blast could make him into a freak, it could bring back the dead as vengeful spirits. But, Jacob…
“I’m sorry, Jake.”
Ethan ran down the stairs. He’d get help and come back to save his brother. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, the front door slammed shut.
His insides burned, and this time Ethan gave in to the feeling. His vision went red. He roared in pain as thick spiked plated grew over his skin. He clenched his hands into tight metal fists.
“You can’t keep me here!”
The door splintered as he punched it. A second hit tore the door from its hinges completely.
A shimmering silver face floated next to his head.
Ethan growled at the ghost.
“You! Give me my brother back!”
He swung a fist toward the thing’s face. It materialized in that second with a whoosh-pop. Ethan’s spiked knuckles drove deep into Jacob’s cheek and eye. The force of the hit threw him across the room against the brick fireplace.
Ethan gasped. His vision cleared when he realized what he’d done. He raced to his brother’s side as his skin returned to normal.
Blood trickled from Jacob’s mouth.
“We… both got powers?”
Ethan nodded with tears in his eyes.
“I’m sorry. I should have told you. I’m so–”
Jacob coughed a laugh.
“Maybe now this place… really will be… haunted.”