The first time Tanim enters the house he is bombarded by the voices of the dead, so many speaking at once he can’t even determine their number. But it’s what isn’t being said that sends ice crawling down his back. Amid the emotional cacophony of the spirits around him, there is one presence inside the house which does not speak. He cannot see it; he can only sense it like the weight of a storm front looming somewhere in the distance.
The entity never makes itself known during his first session in the house, though Tanim can feel its awareness of him as he moves from room to room. He doesn’t acknowledge it, instead focusing on the other spirits clamoring for his attention. They are a startling range of ages, genders, time periods, and tragedies unlike anything he’s experienced. Yet beneath individual anger, sorrow, and confusion they share one common emotion – terror.
Records show no deaths associated with the property, though Tanim’s heard rumors about a suicide so long ago the details are lost. Why, then, the amassed dead? Tanim digs through archives, basements, attics, local myths and legends, but nothing explains the presence of so many dead. Even the findings of past mediums make no sense; no one seems to have encountered the same spirits twice in the house, and no one else has reported sensing the unknown entity which watched Tanim so closely.
The second time Tanim enters the house, he tunes out the noise of the dead as he passes methodically through each room. Beneath their racket he can still sense the unseen entity, its presence growing in strength as if it laid a trail for him to follow. And perhaps it has; Tanim feels himself pulled ever higher, up to the base of the attic stairs. There are no dead on this floor, which explains their density down below – they’re too afraid of what waits upstairs to venture closer.
Tanim climbs the stairs into a dim, dusty attic. Nothing stirs, yet he knows he’s not alone. The storm front sensation builds until the pressure tightens around Tanim’s chest, making him sink to his knees as he struggles for breath. Then the pressure lifts like the storm breaking and Tanim raises his head to see a man standing before him. He has just enough time to register pale skin and white hair, dark clothing and narrowed black eyes, before the figure vanishes again.
A single word accompanies the vision: Daren.
Tanim retraces every step of his research, yet still can find no physical records of the suicide or even anyone in the town named Daren. It makes no sense; other death records for the area go back to the founding of the town, certainly long before the house existed. Why, then, was this one death never recorded, if not in a newspaper then at least by the medical examiner?
Unless this death was meant to be wiped from the collective memory.
The third time Tanim enters the house, empty rooms and silence greet him. The dead who packed the house like frightened refugees are gone; only the single entity remains like a spider at the center of an empty web. Tanim can feel it waiting as he climbs each staircase and once more enters the attic’s oppressive gloom. Though he longs for the spirit to show itself again, fear makes him hesitate to call it out. He’s encountered entities that feed upon the energy of others before, but never one so powerful it could pull other dead from miles around and trap them in one place. This isn’t a normal haunting and he must tread carefully.
As Tanim takes a step forward, the entity appears. The spirit’s form is that of a young man, possibly Tanim’s age, with an angular face and thin, sardonic lips. It wears black clothing of an indeterminate time period, the color melting into the dark attic so only the figure’s face and hands are entirely visible. Those same hands twitch periodically as if the entity wants to attack Tanim, yet holds itself back.
“You must be hungry,” Tanim finally says as he watches its fingers’ slight spasms. “You’ve drawn everything in the area to you, haven’t you? You’re running out of prey.” The spirit says nothing, but that doesn’t surprise him. This one clearly doesn’t like to talk. “If you remain in this house, your power will eventually dwindle. You’ll become just another shade trapped where it died.” He approaches the entity, pleased when it neither moves nor disappears, only watches him with wary curiosity. “Of course, if you attach yourself to me, you could leave this place and go anywhere. We could find all sorts of things for you to eat.”
The entity seems to consider the offer for a moment. Then a wolfish smile spreads slowly over its face and it closes the distance between them.
Every time Tanim enters a new house, he watches its resident spirits scatter away from his approach; they sense the predator lurking within him, though they can’t know its exact nature. “Have fun, Daren,” he murmurs to the man standing at his side. The entity’s only response is soft, hungry laughter.