"We are the lost, we are the dead, and we're here to make sure you're aware..." Ryan is being haunted. But by what?
I've been wanting to upload this for aaages, and now I finally can; I'm really excited about it. This has got to be one of my favourite things I've written so far, and I hope you enjoy it too. Links and Author's Note at the end.
Ryan thumped up the stairs, pushing the door to his bedroom open. He flung his school bag into a corner and threw himself face down on his mattress, groaning with relief. He was safe; if only for a little while.
Rolling onto his back, he stared blankly at the ceiling, his intelligent brown eyes flickering as they traced hair-thin cracks that were starting to show. His thoughts screamed through his head at a million miles an hour, jumping from one thought to the next. Ryan put his hand to his face and pressed the heel of it into his right eye as if he was making an effort to stop them. He didn’t want to think about the torturous day he'd had at school; didn’t want to think about the way his name had been spat at him in sarcastic apologies as he was shoved back and forth in the school halls, turning it into something bitter and nasty.
“Sorry Ryan,” they said, “Didn’t see you there, Ryan.” The very essence of his name had turned into something plain and boring, and it was almost like he no longer had an identity. But if it wasn’t something as stupid as his name they picked on, it was something else. And to make matters worse, Spencer had been away, forced home by the common cold, and so he’d had to roam the grounds by himself – an easy target for the hierarchy and self-proclaimed rulers of the school.
Removing his hand, Ryan sighed. He sat up and looked hesitantly at his desk by the window. He probably should get started on the pile of homework that had been set for him by his teachers before his dad got home and he had to clean him up and look after him.
Reluctantly, he stood and dug around in his backpack for his books, setting them down on the desk before opening them and settling down to write a History essay. He was half done when the snap of the front door alerted him to the time. Shit, not again, was the only thing running through Ryan’s mind as he hastily exited his room and descended the stairs. He ran his long fingers through his brown hair as a loud crash came from the living room. Ryan flicked on the lights and saw his father stumble again, using the wall as support to hold himself up. Drunken mumbles reached his ears while he surveyed the damage.
One of his grandmother’s old vases had been knocked off its pedestal and now lay in large pieces on the carpeted floor next to the couch. Ryan gave a grim smile. It was okay; they’d never liked that vase anyway.
Skirting the broken pottery, he reached the big hulk of a man that was his father. “Dad,” he said softly, “Come on Dad, you’ve been drinking again.”
His father raised his hereditary eyes – the same colour as his son’s – and blinked slowly, recognition pooling in his pupils as he focused on his son. “Ry’n,” he slurred.
“Come on, Dad,” Ryan said, gently guiding him through the kitchen and out into the hallway, grimacing as he caught a whiff of his father’s rancid breath. The clock he passed gave a time of 10:36 pm, and his stomach grumbled as he berated himself for losing track of the time and allowing himself to be absorbed in his essay.
His father cursed and exclaimed as he tripped over his own feet, ambling behind loudly. Ryan led him into the bathroom just as his dad decided to empty the contents of his stomach on the floor in front of him. The stagnant smell of vomit was disgusting, worming its way into Ryan’s nostrils as a small chunk splashed onto his shoes. He bit back a sarcastic remark and rolled his eyes as he watched his father overbalance in an effort to avoid the putrid puddle and land in it instead. Sighing, he turned the shower on, helping his dad to his unsteady feet and peeling off his clothes. When his father was under the warm water, he left to get the cleaning supplies from the laundry and cleaned up the splash of vomit. Unlacing his shoes, he threw them in the garbage bin, watching sadly as they hit the bottom with a loud clang. They had been one of his favourite pairs, but there was no way he’d be able to get the smell or stain out of them, no matter how hard he tried
He returned to find his father out of the shower and trying to dry himself off. Ryan helped him and then got him dressed and into bed, ignoring the slurs and mumbles that left his dad’s lips. Instead, he tried to remember the times as a kid when his dad hadn’t been like this. When his father had taken him up to the lake, maybe, or how they used to sing along to all the CDs he kept in his car. Letting his eyes sweep over the lump in the bed one last time as he shut the bedroom door, Ryan wondered how it had come to be this way. Maybe fate hated him or had something against him. But he thanked God that his dad wasn’t one of those people who got violent when they were drunk.
To stop his stomach from eating itself, he quickly made himself a grilled cheese sandwich and ate an apple, biting into its shiny surface with a loud crunch while dragging his feet up to his room tiredly. He ran a shower for himself, letting his clothes pile on the floor as he scrubbed his skin and washed his hair to remove the smell of puke. He didn’t want to face a new day of school with the odour surrounding him like the slipped halo of an angel. It would only increase the taunts. Hopefully Spencer would be there tomorrow. His presence would offer some protection, at least.
Methodically and robotically, he put his pyjamas on. Falling into his bed backwards, Ryan didn’t even bother to climb under the covers, falling asleep straight away. His slumber was not peaceful, however, and soon he was awoken by a noise.
Footsteps echoed loudly, starting at the bottom of the staircase and continuing up to the top where they paused. Groaning, Ryan raised his head and lifted his body up off the bed, walking to the door. It was probably his father, wanting something. But it was strange, normally after he put his father to bed most evenings he didn’t wake until after Ryan had left for school. Yawning, he opened the door slowly and stuck his head out, blinking down the hall to where he thought his father should be.
There was no one.
Frowning slightly, Ryan opened the door further. Still, he couldn’t see anyone. He cautiously slipped out into the hallway and crept quietly to the top of the stairs.
Shaking his head, he turned and started back towards his room. He was probably imagining things; there was no one there for crying out loud. What else could it be but an over active imagination?
The moment he reached out his hand to touch the doorknob, he heard it again. Ryan froze, every muscle in his body tensing. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. His breathing hitched and he turned and looked around wildly.
Maybe it was his mind playing tricks on him again, but the shadows definitely seemed more sinister and dark. His heart thumping loudly, Ryan pivoted back around and flew into his room, yanking the door closed behind him. He didn’t know why he felt scared but he didn’t like it. It made him feel weak and defenceless.
He lay back down on his bed, crawling under the covers this time. Closing his eyes, Ryan calmed his racing heart with deep breaths. They couldn’t be footsteps, there was nothing there, he told himself, trying to reassure himself that he wasn’t going crazy. He was also annoyed that he was frightened. Seventeen year olds don’t get scared by things that go ‘bump’ in the night. That stuff was for babies.
Slowly he relaxed, and had almost slipped back into sleep when it happened again, causing his eyes to fly open.
Footsteps, they were definitely footsteps. From the top of the stairs to outside his door. They stopped, causing a floorboard to creak. There was no way ‘nothing’ could make that sound. And if it wasn’t his dad…
Fear made Ryan huddle deeper under his covers, shifting his weight lightly so his back was to the door, reverting back to the childish logic of ‘if I can’t see it, it can’t see me.’
Ryan shook as his doorknob was slowly turned, shoving a bony fist into his mouth to stop himself from crying out or making a noise. His door creaked as it slowly swung inward. This time, when the footsteps started again, they were deliberately slow and meaningful, like there was a purpose for them being in his room – hell, forget his room, his house – and they crossed the carpet until suddenly they stopped. Ryan had goose bumps on his arms and the room had suddenly turned colder. A soft scraping sound came, one that he recognised as his desk chair being pulled back, and then there was a creak as someone – something – lowered itself onto the wooden seat.
A wave of terror washed over Ryan. Something was in his house, in his room, watching him. The only sounds came from the beating of his heart, and he was sure that whoever – whatever – it was could hear it, it was so loud in his ears. He now regretted facing away from the door, as it meant that he was facing his desk. Ryan squeezed his eyes tight shut and curled into the fetal position, staying like that all through the night and not daring to move until his alarm went off at 7 am. And when he looked at his desk in the pale morning light that filtered in through his window, there was nothing there.
“You look like shit,” Spencer said as Ryan sat opposite him in the cafeteria at lunch.
“You don’t look so good yourself,” Ryan said tiredly. But Spencer was right; big dark circles framed his eyes and his shoulders slumped, giving him a hunched posture.
“Yeah, but I’ve been sick. Sick people always look like shit.”
Ryan gave a short laugh and propped his chin on his hand while his elbow rested on the table. He covered his mouth while he yawned, telling Spencer, “I didn’t sleep much last night.”
Spencer took a bit out of his salad. “Your dad?” he asked sympathetically.
Ryan hesitated before nodding. He didn’t want to tell his friend about the footsteps. He’d probably laugh at him, saying he was paranoid and had been imagining it. But Ryan was sure those footsteps had been real; his door had been wide open this morning and he knew he had definitely shut it in his attempt to put distance between himself and… whatever it was.
“What’d he do this time?”
Ryan shrugged. “The usual. Drunk out of his mind when he came home. Threw up all over the bathroom floor and knocked over a vase. I had to clean him up and get him to bed. You know how it is with him.”
Spencer nodded, showing that he understood, but Ryan knew that he didn’t really. He’d never had to go through something like that, and he probably wouldn’t have to. But he knew enough about what happened in Ryan’s life to grasp a basic understanding of what his friend went through.
“What have you got next?” he asked Ryan, who was picking at his food disinterestedly.
“Science,” he groaned. “Ms. Adams is like fucking Hitler reincarnated.”
Spencer grinned. “I have Spanish.”
“Yeah, but you just take it because you think the teacher’s hot,” Ryan snorted.
“I think she likes me; all I get in her class are A’s!” Spencer’s smile widened, causing Ryan to roll his eyes and throw half a sandwich in his direction as the bell rang. He laughed. “Have fun with Hitler,” he said as they gathered up their bags and parted ways. Ryan flipped him the bird and slouched off towards his class.
As he took his seat at a spare desk in the middle of the classroom, he let out a combined groan with the rest of the class when they discovered they had a surprise test. Ms. Adams/Hitler glared at them all as she handed out the test papers, sending a particularly murderous look at a boy in the back row as he muttered, “Just like the old hag to spring this on us.” She then promptly gave him detention.
When the command was given, everyone simultaneously turned their papers over. Ryan closed his eyes and sighed briefly. There was hardly anything on here he knew the answer to, and he knew his results were going to be bad even though it was multiple choice, which was relatively easy. He began to answer the questions. The answer to question 5 could be D. Or it could also be B. Number 7 was C, 12 was either A or B, 16 was D… or was it E? And 17 was definitely-
Ryan jerked his head up, his pen clattering to the floor as he heard his name being called. He looked around, but all he could see were the bent heads of his classmates as their pens scratched and scraped on the paper.
“Mr. Ross, is there are problem?” Hitler asked coldly from the desk at the front of the room. Ryan turned bright red.
“No, I, I, no… Just dropped my-my pen,” he stammered, feeling the eyes of other students boring into his head from wherever they were seated.
“Well, pick it up and get on with it.” She narrowed her eyes dangerously.
“Y-yes ma’am.” Ryan bent to pick up his pen, but the moment his fingers touched the object, he heard it again – loud and clear like someone was shouting.
He jumped, hitting his head on the underside of the desk and almost upsetting it in his attempt to see who was calling his name. He swore quietly as he rubbed his head. Looking up, he caught the eye of Ms. Adams and cringed.
“Mr. Ross,” she hissed, “disrupt my class once more and I will send you out and give you detention, do I make myself clear?”
Ryan gulped. He didn’t trust himself to speak, so he nodded. Retrieving his pen, he sat up and began to continue his test. The voice still called his name every now and then, and he wondered how Ms. Adams could fail to notice it. It started off as a whisper, then slowly escalated until it was the normal speaking volume. Ryan tensed his muscles to try and stop himself from flinching every time his name was said. It was almost sung, the way it was said; the voice calling his name in a tone that was slightly seductive and playful, with a rich, warm feel to it. The only other thing that Ryan could pick up was that the voice was male.
“Ryaaaaan, Ryaaaaaan, Ryaaaaaan.”
Slowly, it got louder and louder until it was yelling in his ear. It wasn’t fair, he thought. How can Hitler not hear that? And then it began to get even louder, screaming his name until he couldn’t take it anymore.
“Stop!” he yelled, standing up and knocking his chair over. “Whoever’s doing that voice, stop! Just shut up and leave me ALONE!”
The room went dead quiet as everyone looked at him, and even the voice had gone. Ryan felt his cheeks catch fire as the smirks began to slide into place. With horror, he realised that Hitler was sucking in a large breath, her eyes bugging out of her head as she stood up.
“Mr. Ross-” she began in a deathly quiet tone, but that was as far as she got as Ryan grabbed his bag and ran out the door, his shoes pounding loudly down the corridor. He ran through the school blindly, ignoring the shouts that came after him. He burst through the front doors of the school, leaping down the stairs and lengthening his stride, only stopping when he almost tripped. Sliding down the wall of the building beside him, Ryan drew his knees to his chest and buried his face in his hands, covering his ears when he realised that the voice was back and it had started laughing – a cruel, cold, malicious laugh that sent shivers down his spine and seeped into his bones. And it was only then that he discovered that he was the only one who could hear the voice, that it was in his head.
Maybe he really was going mad.
The voice didn’t leave him alone.
Now that it had started speaking, it didn’t stop. It called his name, gave that laugh, or taunted him by delving deep into his darkest fears and whispering them into his ear. Even when Ryan shoved the earphones of his mp3 player in his ears and turned the volume up to maximum it didn’t stop.
What it did do however, was cause him to almost get hit by a car as he frantically started running again, though he should have known by now that there was no escape. After apologizing profusely to the driver of the car, he continued walking. He didn’t care where he went, just so long as it was somewhere. There wasn’t much to do in Vegas, which didn’t leave him much choice.
Turning down a street near the Strip, Ryan felt like somebody was watching him. He looked up and froze mid-step.
On a street that had been strangely empty before, there was now a man standing on the sidewalk on the other side of the street watching Ryan. But it wasn’t just any man. Oh no, there was an air of deviltry and maliciousness about him, like he meant someone harm. But his clothes and face were the strangest part about him.
He wore mottled black pants tucked into boots of the same colour that went to mid-calf. A dull gold waistcoat with a high collar covered what looked like a cream vest that was horizontally lined with shiny golden strips that met in the middle, where a line of brassy-looking buttons shone.
And his face… His face was painted with a strange design. His eyes were covered with black patches, starting at his eyebrows and travelling down the inside of his nose, ending at his nostrils. The patches then went diagonally upward, until they reached the outside corner of his eye, where they then went straight up to finish at his eyebrows. A smirk stole onto his face as Ryan stared at him, his almost-black eyes narrowing to make the look even more menacing. With his clothes and make up he looked like he was performing in one of the many shows that were performed daily in Las Vegas, but Ryan had a strange feeling that he wasn’t a performer.
He continued to stare and the man kept smirking, leaving Ryan with a horrible, sick feeling in his stomach. The man bared his teeth and laughed. Ryan’s insides froze and he swore that his heart stopped beating for a minute.
It was the same laugh that Ryan had heard after he had run away from school. His eyes widened and he opened his mouth, though for what he didn’t know. Then a car drove past, making Ryan blink and lose his focus. When he looked again, the man was gone.
Pressing a hand to his face, he discovered that he was trembling. He didn’t know what the fuck had just happened. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to, either. Swallowing the hard lump that was in his throat, Ryan turned and began to make his way home, still shaken by what he had seen. After what had happened in Science class today, he didn’t know if seeing that man was a coincidence or not. But one thing was for sure.
He never wanted to see that man again.
The front door was unlocked when Ryan returned home soon after. Closing the door behind him, he frowned, straining his ears to try and pick up the tell-tale signs that meant his dad was home. Nothing. Biting his lip in thought as he climbed the staircase, he didn’t think too much about it, his mind still fixed on the man he had seen on the street. Ever since they had locked eyes, the voice had disappeared. Ryan didn’t know if it was permanent or temporary, but he certainly hoped that it wouldn’t come back.
Entering his bedroom, he was so focused that he didn’t notice the boy reclining casually on his bed until he spoke, causing Ryan to jump three feet in the air and whirl around, his eyes flashing in surprise.
“So you gonna tell me what happened during Science?”
“Spencer!” Ryan gasped. “The fuck…? How’d you get in here?”
Spencer raised an eyebrow. “I used my powers of teleportation. No, seriously,” he said, stopping Ryan from making a sarcastic comment, “I used your spare house key. Come on, you gotta admit that to hide it in the pot plant is so cliché.”
Ryan slid the strap of his school bag off his shoulder, letting it fall to the ground with a thud. He took a seat at the end of his bed, reluctant to sit in his desk chair for some reason. The same horrible feeling that Ryan had when the man had looked at him was back, and he shivered involuntarily, feeling as if icy fingers were being run up and down his spine. Spencer gave him a look.
“You okay?” he asked, concern starting to blossom on his face.
“Yeah… I… Just. Cold in here,” Ryan explained. There was no way in hell he was going to tell Spencer about what was going wrong. The guy was like Ryan's brother, don’t get him wrong, but if he’d already heard about what happened in Science class earlier today then there was no way he’d think Ryan was sane if he told him about voices in his head, men that disappeared and footsteps belonging to someone that wasn’t there. It just didn’t add up to a sane explanation. Ryan wasn’t exactly sure of what it did add up to, anyway. He didn’t want to think about it.
“So, how did Science with Hitler go?” Spencer asked again.
Ryan closed his eyes and fell backward onto the mattress, pulling his legs up so his feet were resting flat on the bed. “If you know, why do you need to ask?”
Spencer sighed. “I don’t, Ryan. Just, rumours were spreading at the end of the day. People were saying…” he hesitated. “People were saying that you just suddenly went ape shit and started screaming your head off for no absolute reason at all.”
Ryan opened his eyes and turned his head so he was looking at Spencer. “And you?” he asked flatly. “What were you saying?”
“Ryan, that’s not fair,” his friend said quietly. “I’m your best friend – your only friend – and you know that I wouldn’t say anything like that.” He sighed again. “That’s why I came here.”
Ryan shifted his head back so that he was staring at the ceiling. He began to follow the cracks, an old habit that he had developed over the years. Spencer was telling the truth, he really was Ryan’s only friend. And a loyal one, at that. He had stuck by Ryan for so many years, especially when his dad had turned to the bottle. Ryan felt like he owed something to his friend… That’s if he still was friends with him after he found out the truth. If Ryan decided to tell him the truth. He could see that conversation going down really well. Hey Spence, guess what? I can hear voices in my head. Last night I heard footsteps when there was no one around, and oh yeah. Today I got a strange feeling when I saw a man with strange clothes and make up who disappeared right before my eyes.
Spencer moved, making the mattress sink in the middle. Silence hung between the two boys for a minute or two before Spencer spoke.
“You can trust me, Ryan. You know that, right?”
Ryan swallowed. “Yeah. And trust me when I say that I’m fine; that the rumours are blown way out of proportion and you don’t need to worry,” he said.
“So what did happen then? I know something did.”
Ryan sighed, running his hand over his face. “Nothing, just… Some jocks decided it would be funny to wind me up by calling my name and throwing things at me and I just got sick of it. So I got up and left,” he lied, hoping Spencer wouldn’t catch him at it like he normally did.
“So no going ape shit randomly?”
“I might have told them to stop it and leave me alone,” Ryan shrugged. “It’s really not that much of a big deal, Spence. But you know how it is; jocks always make it seem worse than it was to make themselves look good.”
Spencer gave his friend a long look. Ryan squirmed under the intensity of it. Would he buy all his lies?
He must have, because after a few tense seconds, Spencer looked away and changed the conversation topic. Ryan joined in, happy to be discussing something other than his questionable sanity.
Spencer left soon after.
Left alone with his thoughts, Ryan decided that he would study in the kitchen, where there was a dining table. He left his room without a second glance, letting out a sigh of relief when he was seated at the table. He felt stupid for being so paranoid, but he couldn’t help it.
Homework soon frustrated his brain. Ryan couldn’t stop thinking about the incident earlier in Science. He closed his eyes, remembering the hushed whispers and smirks of his classmates. His cheeks flushed and he felt embarrassed all over again. He would never be able to return to school. They wouldn’t let him live it down.
Ryan could feel a headache coming on as he hunched over the table, resting his head on his arms. His sleepless night wasn’t exactly helping either, and all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and never leave the safety of his blanketed world. Closing his eyes, Ryan expelled a large breath of air. Then he felt it.
Frozen icicles of fingers seemed to trail down the back of his neck lightly, while a breath of icy air whistled past his ear. He jumped in his seat, brown eyes widening. He was being touched.
A choked noise escaped Ryan’s lips. “Wh-who? What?” His head swung from side to side as he tried to comprehend what the fuck was going on. The one thing that was clear to him was that whoever had been doing the voice was now touching him.
And Ryan didn’t like it one fucking bit.
The light touches had turned into caresses and now it felt like there was another set of fingers joining the first, making it into a pair of hands. Ryan jolted upright, sending his chair clattering to the ground. The temperature had dropped again, sending a wave of chills through his body. He backed away, and in his haste to get away from whatever it was, tripped over a leg of the over-turned chair. Air left his lungs in a whoosh as he landed hard on the floor.
Gasping, Ryan struggled to his feet, forcing his now aching body to comply. He shuffled backwards until his back was against a wall.
Ryan clapped his hands over his ears. “Stop it!” he cried. “Just go away! Whoever you are just-” His words were cut off by what felt like a pair of hands circling his throat. But there was no one…
Ryan’s eyes bulged out of his head as he tried to get a breath of air.
“Ryan, Ryan, Ryan,” the voice breathed, “Such a helpless, pathetic, little boy.” Each word was accentuated with a tightening of the ghostly hands. Spots began to flicker in Ryan’s vision while his brain screamed for oxygen. “I could kill you right now if I wanted to. But where would the fun be in that?” The hands were released and Ryan fell to his knees, holding his hands loosely around his throat as if to protect it and sucking in large amounts of air. He sent another wild glance around the kitchen before bolting out of it, taking the stairs two at a time. He raced into his room and shut the door behind him, leaning back against it while his chest rose and fell rapidly.
“Silly boy,” the voice said. Ryan whipped his head around, letting out a yell and feeling his legs turn to jelly as he saw the man he had seen on the street earlier walk out of the lengthening shadows in his room. “You can’t hide from me, Ryan. There is no escape.”
As soon as he finished speaking, Ryan’s mouth went dry and he felt a sudden pressure on his shoulders, like someone was pushing them back into the door. He struggled, but found that he could not move his body. It was like it was bound with an invisible rope. Panic flared in his stomach, along with fear and helplessness. Trembling, he stared at the man. “What-who are you?” Ryan hated the way his voice shook and broke on the last word.
The man smirked. “I believe you got it right the first time,” he said, one side of his mouth twitching upwards and turning the smirk into a devilish smile. “What am I? It’s simple Ryan,” he continued. “We are the beasts under your bed, we’re so inviting. We are the ghosts outside your door, creeping in slowly.”
He moved closer to Ryan, still smirking. “We are the voices in your head, when you need silence. We are the ones who keep you up, when you are sleeping. We are a force that can’t be stopped.”
Reaching the terrified boy, he stood in front on him, locking eyes. The last thing Ryan heard before he lost consciousness were words that were whispered in his ear. “We are the lost, we are the dead, and we’re here to make sure you’re aware…”
A dark haired boy cowered in the corner of his dimly lit bedroom, hiding his face in a useless attempt to disappear from view as the figure advanced.
A low, bitter chuckle escaped the figure’s lips as his tall and lanky body moved. A grey cardigan covered a woollen-looking vest and frills that hung from his neck like a lacy tongue and cascaded down from his sleeves. Hands wearing fingerless gloves peeked out from underneath, with long fingers and dirty, ragged nails. A yellow sash hung around his waist and a newsboy cap covered his dark hair, making it even harder to see his face. But from what the cowering boy could see, it was made up with an elaborate design of black, vertical diamonds running over his eyes that were heavily ringed, not unlike a circus clown’s. Tiny white dots travelled down the bottom half of the right triangle. He flinched as the man spoke in a low voice, inching closer and closer to him all the while.
“Silly boy. You can’t hide from me, Brendon. There is no escape…”
So, there it is. I was inspired by the song 'Phantoms' (where the title comes from) by an awesome Australian band called The Getaway Plan. Brendon's (who was haunting Ryan, if you hadn't realised) speech at the end is a direct quotation of the lyrics. Check the song out here --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1chkbTMEhQ.
I'm not quite sure how well I described Phantom Brendon and Phantom Ryan's outfits, but I imagined them like their Nothing Rhymes With Circus costumes. Just incase though, and because the makeup I imagined is pretty specific, I've added these two links:
I hope they clear things up a bit more.
Thanks for reading this, and I would love it even more if you could review and rate to let me know what you thought. :)