The Whispering


By Lariel



She paused abruptly, caught in the middle of unpacking a crate by what sounded like a faint whisper.


“Is there anybody there? she asked, knowing full well there wasn’t. Granted, she was in the middle of moving day chaos but the removals crew had left – although the mess they’d made still remained – and she’d had a good look around her new home, admiring the woodworm-riddled oak panels, the cracked oak floorboards and the peeling paintwork. All mine, she had thought proudly.


She loved a challenge. Loved one so much, she’d bought one of the biggest she’d ever come across - restoring the derelict old house. Fainter hearts than her had given up. Many fainter hearts, according to the Estate Agents who sold it to her.


She remained crouched above the wooden packing crate, caught in the middle of levering the lid open. Perhaps it had been the groaning of the wood as the nails strained to keep their hold; perhaps it had been the noise her own arm had made as she had brought the crowbar down.


There was definitely nobody there.


She bent again to the crate, and leaned on the crowbar with all her strength. The old wood splintered with a creak as it finally gave way. Her mother’s tea set lay nestled securely inside on a bed of straw and shredded old Daily Mirrors from the eighties. She decided to leave the tea set on its safe bed until the display cabinet in the kitchen was cleaned and ready to receive it. A job for tomorrow. For tonight, she had other far more pressing tasks – find the kettle and put a pot of coffee on, and assemble her bed.


As she was crossing the hallway, she heard it again; a slight whisper, teasing her ears with its almost-sound. She felt a chill roll down her spine as a tingle of air like the cold breath of a dying lover brushed faintly against her cheek. Her mind went numb.


She heard a creak and with a thud of relief realised that the removals men hadn’t shut the front door properly behind them. That was where the breeze had come from.


“Jesus,” she said, feeling faintly dizzy. “It’s just the wind.” She wasn’t sure why she was talking to herself, but she felt better for it. “Get a grip, you silly cow.”


She was tired from moving house; that was all. A cup of coffee, and an early night – that’s what was needed, she thought. If only she could remember where she’d packed the kettle. And the coffee.




She’d toured the entire house, making sure all windows and doors were locked and bolted, that shutters were firmly closed and that all electrical sockets were switched off. Old wood and ancient electrical wiring meant that the place would go up like a tinderbox at the slightest spark.


Too exhausted to put her bed together, she’d put the mattress on the floor and now lay snuggled in duvets and blankets against the crisp autumn cold. She’d found a bedside lamp already in the room and was thankful when she plugged it in to find it worked, casting the room in warm golden light. With a hot chocolate in hand, she felt cosy. At home.


The curtains billowed slightly. She sighed. More draughts; more woodwork to repair. Better get some wood filler and start in the morning.


The curtains moved again. “Ours.” It was soft; and almost sounded like a word that time.


“Bloody rickety old window frames,” she said, pulling the duvet around her before turning off the lamp. Shadows flooded in from all the hidden corners, filling the room now the light had deserted.


In the darkness, the curtains slowly parted.



The old house was looking a bit tidier and trimmer. With a decent night’s sleep and a few pots of coffee in her, she’d set to work and by late afternoon, had arranged most of her large furniture items, unpacked most of her kitchen boxes and cleared the rest away into one of the spare bedrooms. Carpets had been hoovered and rugs were hanging across the washing line where they had been beaten to within an inch of their threadbare lives. The lovely old wooden staircase had been polished and oiled, and gleamed in the golden autumn sunlight that streamed through the open door and windows. A pumpkin ready to be carved for that evening sat on the lower stair, burnished orange caught in the evening glow of the setting sun.


Now she was moving around with a can of polish and a duster, sending up tornadoes of years-old dust to join with the storm already raised from the carpet and rug cleaning.




She stopped mid-polish. Whispers, creaks and groans had accompanied her all over the house through the day and she’d grown used to the strange noises but this one was so distinct; so very nearly a recognisable word. “Ours.” The whisper came again.


“Mine,” she replied with a small smile as she bent back to her dusting. It was odd how the breeze seemed to form words, most noticeably here in the echoing space of the entrance.  Perhaps it as the way sound bounced off the wood.


“Ours.” Louder, and almost at her shoulder. “Ours.”


She froze. Her senses suddenly strained and every nerve jangled but there was nothing; no breeze, no movement. No other sound. She turned slowly, half dreading what she may find – and saw nothing save the cloud of dust that had seemed to follow her around the room.


“Oh great,” she muttered. Perhaps the rumours had been right: the old place was haunted after all. That’s why all the previous occupants had disappeared as soon as they moved in, frightened away by strange whispering. She took a deep breath, and straightened. “I don’t believe in ghosts, just so you know,” she said with far more bravado than she felt. “And I’ve paid far too much to run away, so you better get used to me being here. Alright?”


Silence. Almost a frosty one as the atmosphere chilled slightly.


“Just so we understand each other.”


“Ours.” The weak daylight rays caught the dust again, making it swirl and dance wraith-like around the sunbeams.


She tilted her chin bravely. “You don’t scare me that easily,” she lied. “I’m staying. Deal with it.”




The dust dissipated. She raised shaking hands and continued polishing.




The evening shadows lengthened as the sun dropped to the horizon. Her hand trembled as she raised the tumbler of whisky to her lips and drank deeply. The whispering had started again as the sun had set, a constant white noise of hissing and murmuring which seemed to follow her constantly.


“Ours. Ours. Leave.”


Well, that was new. She topped up her whisky, spilling some of it as her hand shook.


“Fear.” Distinctly louder, and definitely a word. A very apt one.


“Ours. Leave. Ours.”


Her nerves were jangling and she was already on her second very full tumbler, neat and no rocks at all. Maybe the whisky had gone straight to her head and the whispering was actually her own subconscious? Maybe she should eat something, get some strength back after a very hard day.


She rose and on wobbly legs made her way to the kitchen. The hallway light sent fractured streams of light into the kitchen, sharp lines splitting the shadows starkly. Motes of dust shone in the glow as they danced and swirled in the air, forming haphazard shapes which twisted and unfurled around her.


“Leave! Fear!”


The dancing dust gathered closer, blocking her path across the floor. “Leave. Feed. Fear.”


The half-full tumbler slipped from her nerveless fingers and shattered on the floor. The whisky weaved a slow trail across the floor and started pooling at the edge of the door to the coal cellar, a small trap door set into the flagstone floor.


“Leave. Ours. Leave! Fear. Feed. Fear!”


With a scream, she covered her face and ran from the room.


The whispering stopped.




She lay on the floor in front of the fireplace where guttering flames twirled and licked towards the yawning dark of the chimney. She had sobbed in terror until she had fallen into an exhausted doze filled with nightmares. The fire crackled and popped, adding chilling sound effects to her dream-filled sleep. A log sparked and shifted, and she awoke with a start.


Silence. Blessed silence.


A couple of glasses of whisky and the stress of the move must’ve led to the awful nightmares, she reasoned. And she’d always had a very vivid imagination.


Halloween dreams, that’s all it had been.


She cast a glance around the empty room then peered beyond the doorway into the hall. The pumpkin squatted on its stair, its marker-penned face grinning at her from the shadows. She hadn’t got around to carving it yet but there was still time. Halloween wasn’t over for another few hours; still time for the pumpkin to do its job of warding off unwelcome spirits.


She padded off to the kitchen again to fetch a knife.


A dust cloud watched her, then whirled and moved across the hallway with her. “Leave! Fear. Feed! Leave.”


“Leave me alone!” she sobbed, devastated to discover that it hadn’t been a dream - the whispering was indeed real; sounding like a multitude of voices woven into one, uneasy bedfellows with a common purpose. She ran into the kitchen and grabbed a small knife before foolishly brandishing it at the dust.


“Ours! Leave!” The dust thickened, seeming to draw more substance from the shadows and the walls. The house was hardening, trying to drive her out like she was a virus, its dust ghost the white blood cells attacking her, the intruder. “Leave! Feed!”


She backed up across the kitchen in a panic, stumbling on an uneven flag and falling to the floor as the dust column wavered to her right. Tendrils of dust reached out to her whilst the semblance of a face flickered momentarily, eyes and mouth wavering and reforming as the whispering grew louder. “Come!” Dusty fingers appeared, stretching towards her. “Come!”

She drew her hand back at the same time feeling the cellar door beneath her right fingertips melting away - a yawning chasm was opening up where the cellar door had been. “Come! Leave!” The whispering grew frantic, matching her own terrified cries in intensity. “Fear! Afraid!”

A new sound was swelling underneath her; the cellar trap-door was now a heaving, writhing mass of formless white shapes lifting sightless black eyes towards her. Their hungry mouths were red slashes which puckered and pursed as they sought out the warmth of her skin; she felt tiny pinpricks in her calf and right arm as they fastened on.

The dust figure again reached out wavering fingers and grasped her own. Desperately she tried to cling on as the dust attempted to pull her away from the mass of suckling figures, but the dust was too fine. She felt it running through her hands. It wavered and reformed, but her grip slipped.

With a final scream, she was gone. The cellar door appeared again.

The dust wavered and danced, it's vacillating eyes and mouth a silent scream. It drifted over the trapdoor.

Silence returned and the dust dissipated, settling back thickly onto the surfaces and the hollows of the house.