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The Vigil
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

"Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked.

The Professor stretched lazily and looked down at his tea. His thin lips curved into a smile under his beard. "Why," he said, "donít tell me you believe in ghosts. Surely notyou?"

"I donít," I said awkwardly. "But it seems kind of pointless to go crawling around a dirty old house just because someone or other thinks itís haunted."

The Professor wasnít really a professor, of course Ė itís just what everyone called him, because he had such a professorial air. It came with his part time role as a hoax-buster and anti-medium, scourge of charlatans and magicians of all stripes. He tilted his head now so he could look at me down the length of his considerable nose.

"My dear fellow," he said, "nothing is ever pointless. No effort is wasted, as long as you set out to achieve something."

"So," I said, knowing I was rising to the bait but unable to stop myself, "what exactly is this that you think youíre about to achieve? A few uncomfortable hours spent in a damp house when one could be doing something useful?"

"Like what?" he asked, raising one eyebrow, something which always irritated me because I could never do it. "What would you say is more useful?"

"Anything. Watching TV. Reading, Sleeping. Just about anything I could name would be more interesting."

"Well then," he said, innocently looking past my shoulder, "I think youíd better stay in this evening and watch TV and then read yourself to sleep. Iíll just go on by myself and see whatever Iíll see."

There was a long pause. I looked at my hands, and tried to make the fingers stop twisting around each other.

"When do we have to go?" I asked.

"Weíll stay till midnight," the Professor said, fitting the key in the lock. "That ought to be long enough."

"Long enough for what?" I watched him twist the key in the lock. It hadnít been used in a while, and he had to move it back and forth repeatedly. "Since thereís no ghost anyway, what are we going to be able to prove?"

He didnít answer for a moment, pushing the door open with his shoulder. It creaked, as though tired with age, and so loudly that the noise seemed to echo through the house. Inside it was already quite dark, though the sun hadnít even set yet. It looked dank and unwelcoming, and I had no desire to enter.

"Well?" the Professor asked. "Are you coming in or arenít you?"

To save myself from having to answer, I stepped back and looked up at the building. It was a grey, angular mass, its peaked roof outlined against the evening sky like the blade of an axe. Tiny windows marked the upper storey, looking too small to be of much use.

"Itís old," I said.

The Professor snorted. "Of course itís old. Itís almost a hundred Ė they donít make buildings like this any longer. Nor will this one be up much longer Ė the ownerís eager to sell, and of course anybody who buys will have it demolished and replaced by something modern."

"But nobody will buy?" I asked, beginning to see the point of this expedition.

"No, because of this ridiculous story of a ghost. Iím pretty sure the owner believes it too Ė thatís why he wouldnít come with us." He looked at me impatiently. "If you arenít coming, say so."

"Iím coming," I said, unhappily. The floor of the hall, inside the front door, was thick with dust, and it made me sneeze. "Whoís ever seen this ghost anyway? Whatís it supposed to look like?"

The Professor laughed shortly. "I have not the faintest idea," he said. "The more I heard about it the less I knew. Some of them said, you know, that they saw a oval of light with a hole for the face Ė the usual thing. Some others, a lovely naked woman with a string of pearls round her neck." He cocked a sardonic eyebrow at me. "I see that got your attention."

I felt myself blushing. "Itís all rubbish anyway."

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6.33 / 10
Rated By:13 users
Comments: 1 user
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