Riley felt herself slowly fading in and out. Her head was throbbing and ached, and there was a ringing in her ears. There were noises around her, and she was fairly certain she could hear people talking. But it felt like she was underwater. She was trying to focus, trying to settle herself. She slowly rolled up on her hands and knees, fighting the dizzying and nauseous feeling that occupied the move.
Under all of that was the overwhelming feeling she was being closely watched. That something was trying to reach her.
“Everybody, please stop!” Riley called out as loudly as she could.
To her surprise, not only did the voices stop, but the feeling seemed to lessen as well. She slowly lifted herself up more and realized she was near a wall thankfully, and leaned against it while she tilted her head back. She slowly breathed in and out to try and clear her head, then she would worry more about seeing and hearing.
After a bit, the swimming feeling slowed down, and the ache in her head dulled. “Can you let us know when you are okay?” she heard Ethan call out. His voice was soft, but she could still make out the panic.
“I am okay. I just really need a few moments,” Riley answered. Her vision cleared, and she looked around the room. It appeared to be a small office, but it was even more dilapidated than the rest of the building. It was dark enough that she was struggling to see, and she slowly and stiffly made her way to the only window in the room. She realized she still had gloves, and put one on and drug her hand through the dust, cleaning off the window. She made a face when she saw how dirty they were, but it had helped; a little moonlight was now in the room, and she could see a bit more clearly, but it was still rather dark. She dug around her pockets and found a little penlight. It wasn’t much, but between it and the moonlight, she could at least see a bit better.
She walked closer to the door, but still kept her distance. She had a feeling it might set off whatever was in the room with her. “Okay, I can focus more now,” she called out.
“Can you see in there?” Ethan asked.
“There’s a window, I had to wipe it down, but I can see well enough.”
“Is there anything in there with you?”
“I can’t see it, but yes.”
“That’s not too shocking,” Josh jumped in. “The amount of energy it took to drag you is rather impressive. The spirit is probably struggling with the basics of what they are capable of now.”
“That’s good, right?” Riley asked with some hesitation.
There was a long pause. “Yes and no,” Ethan admitted, “The spirit clearly wants something from you, so it is unlikely that they allowed themselves to drain all their energy. Whoever it is probably wants to ensure that they have at least some options.”
“Oh,” Riley said softly and looked around again, trying to see if she could see anything.
“Riley, we will not let anything happen to you,” Ethan assured her, but they could all sense how anxious he was.
She was concerned by his tone, but before she could think on that too much, she felt the earlier feelings of being watched and not being alone rise again. She was still scanning the room and still couldn’t see anything when a foreign feeling started to creep in again. Nervousness, fear, and so much anger and sadness.
“Hello?” Riley called out. She was no longer focused on the door, and Ethan began to panic a bit.
“We need to get her out of there, she is not safe alone,” Ethan snapped.
“No!” A new voice screamed out, and the glass from a few lamps around the office shattered.
“Okay, we are not going to talk about getting me out again!” Riley yelled to the group then turned back to the room. “I am not leaving, okay?” She held up her hands in surrender and walked a little further into the room again.
“Damn it,” Ethan said and moved from the door having the other two follow him. “Emily, go to the van, there is a crowbar. Josh, do you have everything you need to cleanse?” Josh confirmed and began to prepare while Emily ran to the van. “We will try to help Riley to communicate, but the next time we have need to get nervous like that, no asking, no warning, we go in and grab her.”
Josh nodded, and he wrapped his hands in fighting tape with prayers on them and got his bear totem ready. When Emily returned, Josh and Ethan readied the crowbar.
“I can try to help you if you let me.” Riley was too busy trying to reach out to whoever was in the room with her to notice what they were doing on the other side. “Is it you, Abby?” She asked, using the nickname, hoping it would help her.
A figure slowly started to appear in front of her. It was attempting something human-like, but lacked much in the way of defining features or characteristics, almost as though it were made of smoke. Riley slowly held out a hand in front of her, and the smoke seemed to do the same back.
When they briefly made contact Riley was overwhelmed by pain and hatred and a few flashes of memories. Men following her around, never leaving her alone, having to watch her best friend fall in love. Her sad fiance and their arrangement. A fight. Then nothing, then confusion and loneliness. Then more men, they always came back. It was all quick flashes and hard to sort, but Riley was able to pick out just enough. This was Abby. Not the Abby that Riley had read about in her journals, but an Abby all the same, drowning in agony.
“It is Abby,” Riley called back.
“How do you know? Can you see her?” Ethan asked, nerves spiking again.
“Sort of. She is not corporeal, or even distinct at all. I just know it’s her.”
Josh and Ethan exchanged a quick look. Josh was excited, all Ethan could feel was dread. “Alright, I need you to try to communicate with her,” Ethan pressed.
“Since she can’t communicate normally, try to find something she can do,” Josh suggested.
“Okay,” Riley said mostly to herself and watched the form again. “Are you Abby?” Riley asked, and the smoke seemed to turn bluish. Riley assumed it was a yes, but she needed to confirm the opposite. She quickly remembered the rumors behind the men dying in the library. “Were you in love with either of the men who died here?” This time the wisp turned red, and Riley could instantly feel the anger rising. “Alright, I got it,” Riley said, trying to placate her quickly.
“Did you work something out?” Josh asked.
“As long as we stick with yes or no questions,” Riley answered. “What do I need to do?” She asked, keeping her eyes on Abigail and trying to control her nerves.
Ethan let out a deep sigh. This is not how he wanted this case to end. Fortunately, Riley was smart and had above-average knowledge of this world already. He was also almost entirely positive that she had some innate gift, and he feared he knew what it was. Still, he would rather she not be alone, and Josh be able to handle this to ensure it went smoothly. It would be tricky and ran risks for all involved, including the spirit. If only they hadn’t fought, Abigail might not have felt so desperate. It was too late now though, they were on the clock. He needed to have faith in Riley, as well as her compassion.
“The best and easiest way we can do this is for you to convince her to move on. Talk to her, try to explain that it will be better, use your knowledge, Riley. You were right to tell me that you were not completely out of the loop on how to do this,” Ethan said, hoping that she believed him, she needed confidence, and he was grateful that he didn’t have to lie to help her get it.
“Barring that, we have a backup plan,” Josh said. “I don’t think we’ll need to use it, but move away from the side of the door that it opens.
Riley nodded, understanding what they meant. She began to slowly shift, not knowing how much Abigail could understand or her ability to reason what was happening. She didn’t want to risk tipping Abigail off and setting her off again, or worse, more.
“Did the two men kill each other?” Riley asked, the wisp sparked ever so slightly. “Did you kill yourself?” Once again, the angry feeling spiked, and the figure of Abigail almost seemed to vibrate. Riley thought over what she had read in the journals and notes. Her brows pulled together, and she thought, what had they all missed? “You were in the library, so everybody assumed because they claimed to love you that they kept you out of it.” Riley spoke mostly to herself and a sinking feeling formed. It was a bad assumption. “One of them killed you?” The wisp lit up more than she had seen it, and Riley felt like she had been punched in the gut.
“Ethan?” Riley called out weakly.
“I heard,” Ethan answered with a heavy sigh. “This makes it a bit harder. She will be angrier and more inclined to vengeance, but she is in a weakened state. She was never that powerful or hateful, to begin with, and she had to have almost entirely drained herself. We are ready, but you can do this, Riley. Connect with her, convince her to move on.”
“I am not good with people, what makes you think I’ll be good with a spirit?” Riley asked panic and doubt starting to rise, which only seemed to agitate Abigail.
“You are good with people, or at least you have the ability to be. You are simply uncomfortable with them. Besides spirits are different, they are easier. Trust yourself. She likely wants comfort and understanding, a little will go a long way.”
Riley didn’t respond for several minutes, and Josh stepped forward, ready to go in. Josh’s nerves were also starting to rise now. Ethan held up his hand though to stop the other man, he still had faith in Riley.
“Abby,” they all sighed in relief to hear Riley begin, “I can’t imagine how much it must have hurt and how angry you must be that they stole your life away from you. It must have been so hard after so long of not fitting in.” Riley watched as the wisp would do little sparks of red and blue, trying to pay attention to which of Abigail’s emotions were rising as she talked.
“I don’t really fit in either,” Riley said and began shifting closer to her. Ethan thought she needed comfort, and Riley agreed, it wouldn’t do to still seem so afraid of her. “I know it’s not the same, but I do understand how it can feel to be lonely and isolated.”
Ethan’s head shot up as he heard Riley’s voice fading and started to panic. Emily grabbed an arm of each of the men and squeezed, trying to calm them. Ethan was the one that believed they need to let Riley try this first.
“I think it’s easy to forget there are people who care,” Riley said, moving a little closer. “People who understand and try. It’s also easy to let ourselves be lost, but you can’t do that, Abby. You and your fiance did love each other in your own way, and he and your best friend cared for you even after you died. You were a good person Abby, but you won’t be if you keep staying.”
The wisp started to vibrate more, and everybody felt the temperature drop.
“Screw this!” Josh said.
“Wait!” Riley yelled and tried to reach out further to Abigail. “Abby, they stole your ability to feel comfortable, and they stole your life, don’t let them take the rest of you!”
“No!” They heard the scream again as the door started to give.
“Abby!” Riley yelled, trying desperately to pull her attention back. “You need to go! Don’t let them take anything else from you!”
There was a burst of light, and Riley was flung back a little just as the door gave, and the three rushed in. Riley sat up and watched as the smoke that made up Abigail became more opaque and defined; they could more closely make out a person.
“I am ready,” Abby said softly, “I am sorry for the pain I have and will cause.”
“Will?” Riley asked, confused, then Abigail faded away, and Riley dropped as she felt like her heart was being broken in her chest.
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