Atmospheric Pressure

The official website for science fiction, fantasy, and horror author Aaron Frale

Footfalls on Creaking Floorboards – Part 7 #Horror #Fantasy

Author’s Note: As you may have already noticed, I’ve slowed down writing the Footfalls posts. Mainly because there are a couple of other projects taking priority at the moment. My second novel, Atmospheric Pressure, is very close to completion. The 4th story in the Kal series is also making a lot of headway. I will continue to write Footfalls, but I only have a limited amount of writing time. Until the books sales equal my paycheck, I’ll have squeeze it in when I have some time. In meantime, please enjoy installment 7:

“Ghost? What do you mean ghosts?” Luther said. His voice tuned up a notch or two when he got nervous. The shrill squeak of the word ghost almost made Angela want to have a serious conversation with him about why he never seemed to get a girlfriend. Aside from crushes on lesbians, he really spent too much of his time whining about his situation rather than doing anything about it. He would write these annoying tweets like “so and so didn’t even talk to me today, guess I’ll be single forever.”

Sometimes, she wanted to reach through the computer, slap him, and yell, “No wonder why you’re single!” Other times, she wanted to friend dump him. However, no matter how annoying he could be, there would always be a glimmer of hope. He would come through when she needed him. He picked her up from a friend’s house when she was too high to drive home and didn’t feel safe about staying. He stuck up for her when someone would pick on her for her sexuality. Most people would just stay quiet when bigots expressed their opinion about her “life choices.” Luther was never quiet. Despite the fact that everyday life seemed almost too much for Luther, he was there when she needed him. Right now she needed him. Hopefully, now wouldn’t be the time Luther would break.

“The little girl. She saw us,” Angela said. “But the father didn’t. And the clothes. They are definitely not from our time period. Look at this basement. It looks new.”

“So what are you saying? We time traveled?”

“It’s something more than that. The father didn’t even react to us.”

“Maybe strange people in his basement is a regular occurrence.”

“Would you just ignore the strangers talking to your little girl in your house?”

“Um… Ok. Right. So what do we do? Can’t we just draw the witch marks again and go back.”

“Not until we find my brother.”

“But what if there is a time limit? What if it doesn’t open?”

“Look, you can go back. I’m not stopping you, but my brother is back in this time, I just know it.”

Angela explained to Luther everything she had learned from Mr. Harrison’s photograph to her thoughts on the current situation. She drew the symbol on his sketch book, so he’d be able to draw it himself if he needed it. Afterwards, Luther decided to stay. Despite the fact that he could be annoying from time to time, he was always there when she needed him.

They decided to explore the rest of the house. If the only person in the house who could see them was the little girl, it would be pretty easy to have a look around. If Angela’s brother really had tagged a wall in the future and ended up discovering a tunnel to the past then there should be a sign of him somewhere within the house. They would also have to ask the girl when she was away from the adults.

They made their way up the stairs and opened the door to the kitchen. Everything looked new despite the fact that the appliances were very old. The oven looked like it was a polished antique with ornate legs like it was a piece of furniture out of a movie set. The refrigerator was nothing more than an icebox. The place was clean and didn’t have the musty smell that most old houses had.

They made their way into the dining room. The same table that seemed to stand as a monument to time looked completely new. The room was also bright and decorated. There were dishes on display in the built-ins. The girl and the dad were setting the table. The girl looked up at them when they came into the room. Angela smiled and put her finger over her lips. The girl nodded and continued to help her father.

A woman entered with a bag of groceries. She was wearing a turn of the century dress and bonnet. The shopping bag had a loaf of bread sticking out of the top. The scene looked exactly as one would expect from a historical drama. “I’m so sorry about the delay. You know how it can be in town. You get to talking and one thing leads to another…”

“It’s ok. I decided to make supper this evening for all of us,” the husband said with a cheery smile.

“It’s definitely not your average turn of the century family,” Luther whispered.

“Why are you whispering?” Angela said. “It’s not as if they can hear us.”

“She can!” Luther said.

“She’s agreed not to talk with us until her parents aren’t around. Nod if you understand me.” Angela said, and the girl nodded her acknowledgement. “So why would you say they aren’t average?”

“The dad is doing the cooking.”

“Plenty of father’s cook. Mine does for us every night.”

“But this is the 1900s! Didn’t women have to do whatever their husband wanted?”

“Quit being a misogynist.”

“Misogynist! I’m not the misogynist. They are! They didn’t even let women vote.”

Angela rolled her eyes and said. “Come on, let’s explore the rest of the house.”

Angela and Luther went through the house. It was what one would expect from a turn of the century farm house. The furniture that would be antique by their standards looked new. The decorations were out of a different era. There was even an old time phonograph that gleamed like it was new.

Throughout the house, they found no evidence of her brother. There wasn’t anything to suggest that travelers from her time period had ever been to the house. Once Angela was satisfied there were no rooms undiscovered or any clues missed, they turned their attention back to the family. The little girl had to know something. They decided to confront her after dinner.

They made their way back down the stairs and into the kitchen. The family had just finished eating when Angela and Luther stepped into the room. The woman began to pick up the plates. The husband stopped her and said in the same cheery tone. “No, I got it dear. You both relax. I’ll fix up some dessert.”

“I couldn’t really,” The woman protested.

“I insist. You’ll love it. It’s a French recipe.” The husband said and scooped up the dirty dishes. The woman sat back down and the daughter eyed both Luther and Angela. Luther turned to follow the husband into the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” Angela said.

“I’m curious,” Luther said. “I wonder if we can eat food from this time.”

“We are trapped in the past and all you can think about is dessert?”

“We can’t talk to her in front of her parents. Might as well make the most out of the time we are here. Besides, you never know when what we learn will come in handy.”

“In case we need to eat our way out of a situation?”

“I mean the manipulation of objects. Even poltergeist stories have some sort of truth to them.”

He did have a point. Angela followed Luther into the kitchen. The husband pulled out a bowl from the icebox that looked like chocolate pudding. He stirred the mixture and turned to look over his shoulder. Even though Angela knew he couldn’t see her, it looked as if he was staring right at her. He pulled a vial from his coat pocket. The vial had a skull and crossbones on it. Once he was satisfied that no one was watching, he poured the vial into the pudding and stirred it some more. A wicked grin appeared on his face as he poured the mixture into three serving bowls.

Footfalls on Creaking Floorboards – Part 6 #Horror #Serial

After the screams died down, Angela knelt to check on Luther. She didn’t know anything about what to do with a feinting victim, so she felt for breath and a heart beat. They both seemed to be there, so she turned her attention to the girl at the top of the stairs. The girl watched Angela check on her friend and must have thought that these strangers weren’t all bad. The girl walked down the stairs towards Angela.

“You should put his head on a pillow and fan him. That’s what my daddy does when mommy passes out,” The girl said.

“Thanks,” Angela said as she used his messenger bag for a pillow. “But I don’t seem to have either at the moment.”

“I can go ask my daddy for one.”

“That’s ok,” Angela said. It was probably best if the girl didn’t run and find her parents just yet. A kid could handle the existence of strange people in her basement, but an adult would be less forgiving. If Angela’s theory about what happened was true, alerting the girl’s parents right away would only put herself on the wrong end of a shot gun.

From the newness of the basement items like the furnace and all the equipment, the girl’s period dress, and the witch marks carved into a beam by her brother before he was born, she knew that she had time traveled. Angela had seen way too many Dr. Who episodes to not easily put it together. The tunnel opened by the witch marks took her and Luther to the past when the Wellington House was new.

“So what’s your name?” Angela asked the girl.

“My daddy says that I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“I’m Angela, and this is Luther. There, we aren’t strangers anymore.”

The kid seemed to accept this as an answer and said, “I’m Gretchen.”

“Nice to meet you Gretchen. Say Gretchen, have you seen a man pass through here? He looks kind of like me, maybe a little taller, and with brown hair?”

“Come through my basement?” The girl said, confused.

“I’m afraid so. It looks like where I come from is somehow connected to your basement.”

“You’re the first people I’ve ever seen come through the basement. We have a front door. Most visitors use the front door.”

“Who are you talking too honey?” A male voice said at the top of the stairs.

Startled, Angela jumped up. There was a man coming down the stairs. He too had clothes from the early 1900’s. He was also dirty and sunburned, like he had been working the fields all day. She was about to apologize to the man when she noticed something odd. He didn’t seem to notice her at all. He passed her and Luther and scooped up his daughter.

“I’m talking to my new friends, Luther and Angela,” the girl said.

“Oh?” The father said. “Well you better tell them that its time to wash up for supper. You’re mother will be home with the shopping any minute now.”

The father took the girl up the stairs while she proceeded to tell him all about Angela and Luther. He listened like a father would when his daughter told him about an imaginary friend. Angela became light headed, and sunk to her knees. She sat down next to Luther least she pass out herself. The father flicked the light when he left leaving them in the darkness.

Luther stirred and opened his eyes. He leaned up and looked around. “What happened? I remember a quake, and then I had this strange dream about a tunnel and a girl.”

“It wasn’t a dream.” Angela said.

“What happened?”

“I think we might be ghosts.”

Footfalls on Creaking Floorboards – Part 5 #Horror #Halloween

Both Angela and Luther turned toward each other and then looked back at the stone arch. There was a passageway beyond that seemed to angle downward and was obscured by inky darkness. Angela walked towards the phenomena, when Luther held her back. “Wait! You don’t know what’s down there!”

“That’s exactly what I intend to find out,” Angela broke free from his grasp.

“I’m not even going to pretend to know what is going on here, but that thing wasn’t here a second ago. What if it disappears the moment you step inside?”

“There is only one way to find out.”

Angela walked towards the archway. She touched the stones with her hands. They were cool, nothing out of the ordinary for a basement in October. Heeding some of Luther’s caution, she decided to test the portal. She tossed a stone inside and heard the clatter of it down the passage. The next test involved poking one of the metal fence posts past the threshold. Nothing happened. After they exhausted all the other options, Angela had no choice but to go inside.

Before she went, she turned to Luther, “You don’t need to follow me. If it does disappear, tell Brenda that I love her, and my parents too.”

“Um… OK.” Luther said.

Before he could devise another reason why she shouldn’t go, she crossed the threshold. She turned towards Luther who was dumbly shaking in his boots. She stepped back out again and smiled, “See. It’s not trapping me in some other world.”

Angela turned back down the passageway. After some deliberation, Luther rushed forward to follow her. The passageway was a narrow stone tunnel with an arched ceiling. It seemed to have an infinite blackness beyond the reach of light generated by Angela’s phone. Luther kept making glances back to make sure the entrance to the basement was still there.

They walked for what seemed like hours, but in reality was only about thirty minutes when they finally saw light up ahead. The basement had disappeared into the darkness, so Luther pushed them forward towards the exit. When they finally got close to the end, they could see that there was definitely a room up ahead. By the time they could make out the details of the room, they were almost upon it.

They stepped out of a stone arch similar to the one they had entered. The room looked like the basement they had just left with the exception that everything looked new. The octopus furnace had gleaming metal like it was freshly installed. All the farming equipment looked new like it had yet to collect the rust from the ages. There was even fresh soil on some of it. The basement was clean and well organized, and there were no witch marks on the beam in the ceiling.

While Angela was exploring the surroundings, awed by the change the basement had gone through, Luther tugged her sleeve. “Look,” he said. She could hear the fear in his voice.

She turned toward the wall where the archway should have been. It was no longer there. It was a wall like any other part of the basement. She turned to Luther and saw that his gaze was not fixed on the wall, but rather the top of the stairs. He didn’t seem to notice the missing archway or else that would have surely sent him into a panic. Whatever was at the top of the stairs was making her uncomfortable as she could see him begin to shake.

Angela turned her gaze to the top of the stairs, and there was a little girl of no more than nine-years-old. She had blond ringlets and was wearing an early 1900’s dress. Both Luther and the girl screamed. Angela was so startled that she began to scream too. Their voices blended into a cacophony of terror that was punctuated by Luther passing out.

Author’s Note: I thought I’d be done with this story by Halloween, but it’s taken a life of its own and went in a way unexpected to even me. Please follow for more installments.

Footfalls on Creaking Floorboards – Part 4 #SpookyStories #Halloween

“Angela?” A barely masculine voice squeaked out the “ah” sound at the end of her name.

Angela rolled her eyes and jumped up from her hiding spot. She hit her head on the octopus furnace and a loud clang echoed in the darkness of the basement. There was a commotion at the top of the stairs as the person jumped backward. Angela swore and cursed.

“Asshole, Luther, get down here!” She yelled.

Luther appeared at the top of the stairs. He was a skinny and tall kid, much taller than her, with a brown mop of hair, hipster messenger bag, and glasses. He navigated by the light of his phone. He was a late bloomer a couple of grades below her. He had the hots for her and wouldn’t let it go even when she clearly outlined that she had zero sexual attraction for boys. Even though he wanted to live in the world of unrequited love, he had a good heart, so she was never mean above and beyond brutal honesty. He was like a lost puppy, and she had a soft spot for strays.

His phone went into sleep mode halfway down the stairs, and he futzed around with the finger print identification. Angela could hear the buzz, buzz, as it rejected each swipe of his thumb. He finally got the phone on again and continued down the stairs. When the phone timed out a second time, Angela was ready with her flashlight app, “If you’re going to use the screen as a flashlight, download an app, or at the very least turn off sleep mode!”

“I wasn’t intending on going inside,” Luther said in is crackeling not-quite a man voice. “But then I saw your car and figured you may need some help.”

Angela knew she should have not parked in such a noticeable location. She was hoping the trip would be quick. She’d take a couple of pictures, maybe find some evidence that her brother had been at the Wellington House, and then leave. However, there were no tags in the house. Her brother would have left his mark somewhere, especially if the witch marks inspired his signature.

The more she thought about it, the lack of graffiti in an old abandoned house was odd. People should have left some evidence of occupation behind. While the house was old and worn, there was no indication that anyone had left their mark aside from the beam in the basement. Angela found it hard to believe because the police had problems with vagrancy in the house. Various people tried to get it torn down over the years, but they were always blocked by a historical society that seemed to like protesting more than restoring houses. Someone should have left something behind, even if it was just a harmless tagger, or a doodle. Every other abandoned building in town was covered with graffiti. Why wasn’t the Wellington house?

Angela turned her phone light towards the walls of the basement. She explored every inch, and there was no evidence of any graffiti. Luther was confused by her actions. She ignored his questions, and continued to sweep for clues. There was junk, but anything useful had been picked clean years ago. The rest was rusting farm equipment that looked as if hadn’t been used since World War II.

“At least let me help,” Luther said and pulled out his phone. After two buzzes of failed attempts, he unlocked the phone. “What are we looking for?”

“Anything drawn, written, painted, on the walls,” She said as she searched.

“Um, OK. Mind telling me why?”

“Have you noticed any graffiti since you’ve been here?”

“Um… no… I don’t see.”

“That’s exactly it. This house has been abandoned for how long now?”

“I believe it’s been…”

“I don’t need the exact number. Suffice to say that don’t you find it odd that there hasn’t been a single tagger? Not one street artist in the entire history of the house?”

“Maybe the tags have been painted over?”

“Have you seen the condition of the paint? I don’t think this place has been repainted since hipster beards were just beards.”

“Maybe taggers don’t come here. The abandoned warehouse seems to offer more space….”

“Or maybe they did… and…”


Angela stopped in front of a grey, blank basement wall. It was craggy and old, but not so much as to prevent a young street artist from painting a mural. There wasn’t any form of human marking on the wall. Angela turned to Luther, “Do you have your sketch book?”

“Yeah, but I don’t see…”

“Do you have the charcoal? Could I get a piece?”

Luther shrugged and dug through his messenger bag. He pulled out a piece of charcoal he used for sketching. Angela took the piece and walked up to the wall. She drew a circle. Even though she was definitely rubbing charcoal on the wall, nothing seemed to leave a mark.

“Maybe it’s resistant to charcoal?” Luther suggested and handed her a marker.

She tried another circle. The marker left no indication that it had contact with the wall even though she pressed as hard as she could. She switched to the charcoal and instead of doing a circle, she drew a straight line, violently rubbing the piece as hard as she could.

“Um… Angela,” Luther said while she grunted and toiled.


“You better come look at this.”

Angela walked over to the foot of the stairs. One of the lines that composed the witch marks on the beam was glowing. The wall directly behind the witch mark had a charcoal line that mirrored the one that was glowing. Angela ran to the wall and drew another line that mirrored another one from the witch mark. The line appear on the back wall, and the equivalent line on the beam began to glow as well.

Angela didn’t need to look at the beam. She had seen her brother draw the markings so many times. She had it memorized. Each time she drew a line, the corresponding line on the witch mark would glow. She completed the lines including the hidden, k, y, l, and e. As soon as she finished the design on the back wall, the house began to shake.

“We should get out of here!” Luther yelled and ran towards the stairs. The shaking increased and Luther tripped on the bottom step and tumbled past the stairs. The octopus furnace clanged and groaned as the tremors rippled through the pipes. A bundle of metal fence posts fell to the ground. The shutter was accompanied by a low pitch rumbling noise that seemed far away in the beginning. The noise became louder and louder until it was almost deafening.

Just as it felt as if the house would collapse around them, the rumbling stopped. The basement was in a state of disarray. The rusting equipment was scattered. A pipe from the furnace collapsed. The witch marks on the back wall had turned into a passageway with a stone arch signifying the entrance.

Footfalls on Creaking Floorboards – Part 3 #GhostStory #Halloween

The inky blackness enveloped Angela as she went down the stairs. She could hear the groan of the wood as she stepped further into the darkness of the basement. She clutched the rail as she stepped down. The creak of her footfalls seemed to echo into the nothingness around her. After she was sure that she was no longer at street level. She brought out her phone, and flipped a switch on her flashlight app.

The house on Wellington was watched by the police. If they saw flashlights coming from the house, they would burst inside and arrest the trespassers. Since the house was a hotbed for ghost hunters, thrill seekers, and the occasional drug addict or two, the sheriff decided to press charges first and ask questions later. Angela needed to take the risk of using her phone. She had to see the witch marks for herself.

When the flash on her phone lit up the basement with a bright white light, she was startled by an old octopus furnace that looked like a being with tentacles lurking outside her vision. Once she was satisfied that it was just a normal object in a forgotten basement, she turned the light up towards the ceiling. There was a beam that ran across the ceiling from the landing to the depths beyond the furnace. A crisscross pattern etched into the beam was visible near the landing.

The crisscross would look like a random pattern to most people, but Angela had seen it many times before. Hidden in the overall pattern were the letters, k, y, l, and e. It was her brother Kyle’s tag that he created to identify his work. He was a graffiti artist. The angular lines were distinctive of his style. The signature was carved into the wood like many witch marks, so Angela could understand why no one noticed the word Kyle hidden in the markings.

The weird part was that the photograph Mr. Harrison showed the class was from the late seventies. Well before either Kyle or Angela were even born. In order for Kyle’s signature to appear etched in wood to later appear in a fraudulent photograph, he would have carved it himself, which was impossible. The other more likely possibility was that Kyle saw this carving and adopted it for himself. Regardless of how the carving came about, Angela knew that the key to his disappearance was in this house.

Angela took a few photographs of the markings for herself. She was about to turn back when she heard the whine of a rusty hinge from upstairs. Then she heard footfalls on the creaking floorboards of the living room. Angela ducked down near the furnace and turned off the light on her phone.

The blackness of the basement enshrouded her. She could only hear the sound of her shallow, tight, breath. Her imagination ran wild with the lights off, and she did everything in her power to remain calm. She pulled her thoughts from what could be lurking in the darkness to thoughts of her brother.

She remembered sitting under a tree during a sunny summer day. She was in a park with a concrete storm ditch that ran the length of the green space. The tree was right up against the side of the waterway. She was eleven-years-old. Her brother, who was sixteen at the time, was in the ditch with his hoodie pulled over his head. He was spray painting a clunky drawing that he would soon perfect in subsequent years.

“Can I come down now?” Angela poked her head over the side.

“No,” Kyle said. “You’re supposed to be the lookout. Now sit against the tree.”

“But no one is coming! I want to help.”

“Fine, come on. Hurry, before someone sees you.”

Angela remembered Kyle helping her into the ditch. He taught her all about graffiti, the lines, the form, and the technique. His skill wasn’t quite there yet, but it was better than the blob she had made. It was one of the best days she could remember, just her and her brother. She tried to hold on to the memory, so she wouldn’t think about the dark basement around her.

The footfalls came closer. She could hear each step. Each thud was followed by cracks from the aging wood. They came closer and closer. Angela held her breath and sat perfectly still. The hinges squeaked as the door at the top of the steps opened.

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