Rain lashed against the windows, and the strong wind howled down the chimneys. It was cozy inside the library but the inhabitants still shivered as a breeze blew across the room. The fire had long ago died.
Despite the thick curtains, they could all sense the thick fog surrounding them, almost as if the moor was penetrating into the house.
Madame Kiri coughed and cleared her throat. It turned into a racking, chesty hack which she tried to stifle with the sleeve of her dress. The rich embroidery on the material was quickly dampened.
“Now then," she croaked, placing both her hands onto the table in front of her," let’s all place our hands together, fingertip to fingertip.”
One by one, they placed their hands on the table top.
The green velvet felt smooth and cool, as the tips of their little fingers all touched.
Pulling a face, the man closest to Madame Kiri gingerly touched her.
Glaring at him, her voice now it’s normal, rich tones, she called out,” Are their any spirits out there? Do not hesitate; we are all your friends!”
The wind howled louder.
There never seemed to be good weather on the moors, but this was different. Almost as if the wind was alive, savage.
Madame Kiri cleared her throat again,” Spirits! Talk to us!”
The old fashioned gas lights ensconced either side of the heavy, wooden mantel, flickered. The shadows around the room became darker, heavier.
Looking around her, Madame Kiri frowned.
“There is some one here who doesn’t believe," she whispered. " The spirits sense this. They will not appear.”
Guiltily, they glanced at each other.
Clearly none of them believed.
Closing her eyes, Madame Kiri moved her head from side to side, almost as if someone was holding her.
A low hum came from her mouth.
It was a tune that none of them recognized.
The man stared at her before looking at the others.
“ Is she alright, do you think?” he mouthed silently to them.
One of the ladies shrugged, the worn lace shawl slipping slightly off her shoulders as she did. Shivering, she moved one of her hands from the table and wrapped it more tightly around herself.
“And what do you think you’re doing?”
The lady jumped.
Madame Kiri’s eyes were open and fixed on her, but it hadn’t been her voice.
“Well,’ she repeated, her head still moving from side to side,’ what do you think you’re doing?”
“Erm, I was just moving….”
“No!’ Madame Kiri yelled, her voice echoing around them,’ no one breaks the circle!”
The gas lights flickered again, and then extinguished. The room was left in darkness.
Those gathered around the table collectively shivered, and seemed to move closer together.
“The spirits are with us,” Madame Kiri whispered.
Silently, the shadows seemed to press closer, as if they were trying to peer over their shoulders.
The lady glanced behind her slowly. The shadow that had been behind her, moved away.
She gasped, old sweat covering her skin.
“I think I’m going to faint,” she whispered, but either no one heard, or no one cared. They were all silently waiting.
“There are many of them here tonight," Madame Kiri again whispered." I sense them, all around”.
A crash of thunder sounded above them, making them all jump.
“Oh this is ridiculous,” the man said, standing up.
They could hear him as he stumbled around the room, crashing against furniture and knocking books off of the shelves. Several of the people screamed.
The room suddenly became light again as he reignited the gas lights. The shadows retreated.
The lady sniffed as the strong odour reached her,” Should it smell that much?”
“The spirits have much to tell us,’ Madame Kiri said, her eyes focused on the table,’ they mention the gas. It should not be lit.”
Rolling his eyes, the man strolled around the table, his hands fishing in his waistcoat pocket for his pocket watch,” Enough already! There are no spirits!”
The gas lights flickered again and, as a peal of thunder echoed across the night skies, extinguished once more.
The lady screamed.
“Oh no,’ she sobbed, fumbling for her handkerchief,’ my nerves can’t stand this.”
“The spirits are scared. They know something is about to happen.”
The man moved towards one of the windows, obviously determined to ignore her, and peered behind the curtain.
His body stiffened and, as he turned to face them, his face became deathly white.
“No one look outside,” he muttered.
“What? Why not?” the lady said, tears trickling down her cheeks.
“There’s nothing there.”
The lady leapt up from her seat, her long skirts swirling around her legs, and looked outside.
The fog was pressing up against the windows. She couldn’t even see her own reflection against the glass.
“Spirits!” Madame Kiri groaned. Her chin was now resting against her chest.
The man tutted in impatience.
He reached out to touch her shoulder, but his hand passed straight through her.
Madame Kiri shivered,” They’re confused. They don’t know what is happening.”
The man stared around him, wildly.
“What is happening?” he asked the lady.
“I don’t know.”
She twisted her hands together and looked back at the circle of people. There were already people sitting where they had been.
“Where did they come from?”
“This isn’t funny!" the man yelled, his face turning red. "Stop it!”
Bright light dazzled them both as the room lit up.
Neither one of them recognized the torches that the people around the table had switched on.
“Well, that was a bit disappointing, wasn’t it?” one of the people said, stretching his hands high above his head.
“They were here,” Madame Kiri said, resentfully, as she started to pack her belongings.
The man nodded,” It’s okay, we believe you.”
He winked at his companions.
“Hey, what about us?” the man yelled, leaping around the table, and running his hands through his hair until it stood on end.
Slowly, everyone left the room, leaving the man and lady standing in the dark.
“What was that about?” he whispered.
Lightning lit up the sky and the room.
The lady gasped.
The walls were blackened, the furniture charred and the wall where the gas lights had been, were large holes that the wind howled through relentlessly.
“You don’t think….”
The man nodded,” Yes. I guess there really were spirits present tonight.”