Title: The Hunting Season
Author: Michelle Muto
Genre: NA (Paranormal/Horror: Ghosts)
Synopsis. Be careful what you let in…
Siler House has stood silent beneath Savannah’s moss-draped oaks for decades. Notoriously haunted, it has remained empty until college-bound Jess Perry and three of her peers gather to take part in a month-long study on the paranormal. Jess, who talks to ghosts, quickly bonds with her fellow test subjects. One is a girl possessed. Another just wants to forget. The third is a guy who really knows how to turn up the August heat, not to mention Jess’s heart rate…when he’s not resurrecting the dead.
The study soon turns into something far more sinister when they discover that Siler House and the dark forces within are determined to keep them forever. In order to escape, Jess and the others will have to open themselves up to the true horror of Siler House and channel the very evil that has welcomed them all.
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Gage scooted across from her, sitting cross-legged, and positioned the board across their knees. Jess scooted in until her knees touched his and placed her fingers on the planchette. Gage did the same, letting his fingers rest against hers.
Breathe, stupid. He’ll think you’re a clueless idiot.
“Ask away.” Gage’s eyes met hers. “Ask if it knows where Riley is right now.”
Jess returned her focus to the board and concentrated. The question wasn’t her first choice, but it’d do. “Where is Riley right now?”
The planchette moved over the letters slowly, their fingers floating along with it.
H O U S E
“Did you see that?” Gage asked.
Jess nodded. Shocked, it was all she could do. She’d hoped that the board would work, but seeing it in action was something else entirely.
“Ask it something else,” Gage urged.
“Is Riley in this room?”
Again, the planchette moved across the board.
Y E S
Jess’s heart began to race. She glanced at the mirrors the Silers had installed along the walls, but Riley wasn’t in them. Suddenly, she didn’t want to be in here. Not with all these mirrors.
“Ask it about demons. Ask the board about Allison.”
Jess wondered if it was a wise thing to do, but nodded. “Are there demons here?”
For a moment, the planchette didn’t move. Slowly, it spelled out an answer.
S O O N
Jess sucked in a breath. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Which ones?” Gage asked, solemn, as they exchanged glances. The planchette didn’t move for him.
Resisting the urge to wipe her sweating palms on her shorts, Jess repeated his question. “Which ones?”
The planchette moved up, then down, creating a figure eight over and over again.
“He wants to channel a specific demon,” Allison said as she walked into the room.
Jess and Gage looked up from the board, surprised. The last place Jess figured Allison would venture into was a room with a Ouija board. The planchette stopped its repetitive figure eights.
“What are you doing here?” Jess asked. “I thought you didn’t want any part of this.”
“I don’t.” Allison inched carefully closer as though the board might suddenly lunge for her.
She nodded toward the board. “But he does.”
“Who?” Gage asked. “Who wants to channel a demon? Riley?”
Allison nodded again. “Yes. A really bad one.”
Gage frowned. “They’re all bad, Allison. Which demon?”
“The one who possessed him when he was alive?” Jess guessed.
Allison nodded once more.
“Well,” Gage pressed. “Does the demon have a name?”
The planchette began to vibrate on the board, although neither she nor Gage was touching it. Jess swallowed hard, trying to keep down the fear building inside.
This was so not a good idea.
“They all have names,” Allison replied shakily as she eyed the board. Jess had no idea how Allison was still here, why she hadn’t turned and run by now. “I’m not doing that, by the way.” “Does the demon have a name?” Gage asked. If he was frightened, he didn’t seem like it. “What or who are we dealing with?”
The question finally broke Allison. “Don’t ask for its name!” she shrieked. “Never ask for a demon’s name when using the board! Never!”
As if responding to Allison’s outburst, the planchette resumed figure eights again, faster and faster.
“See what you’ve done?” Her face had gone completely white.
The board rattled slightly.
“Allison,” Jess said quietly, trying to calm her. The board was feeding off their energy. It was all Jess could do not to push the board away from her, but that might upset Allison even more and if the board was feeding off her emotions, that wouldn’t be good.
Allison backed up a few steps. “Now you’ve done it.” Tears began to flow down her cheeks, but at least her voice had returned to its normal pitch. “They’re angry.”
“Who?” Jess implored. “The demons? Riley? Who?” She could only stare at the board now.
“Make it stop!” Allison demanded. “Jess, just make it stop. Tell the board good-bye!”
The planchette continued its figure eights. It took all her will not to get up and run.
She’s right! Tell it! Tell it!
“I don’t know much about Ouija boards, but I think Allison’s right,” Gage said. His
eyes were wide now, all pretense of calmness gone.
“Good-bye,” Jess said weakly.
The planchette didn’t stop.
“What do you know about all of this, Allison?” Gage’s eyes were focused on the board as if it were a venomous snake. “What’s it doing?”
Allison shook her head. Her voice was quiet. “You won’t believe me. No one would.”
How could Allison be calm all of the sudden? Because that is what Allison did. She shut down. She’d found someplace to hide within herself and she wasn’t coming out until she felt it was safe again.
“Try me,” Gage insisted.
“I shouldn’t have come up here. I knew it.” Allison took another step back. “Something’s wrong with the board.”
“He’s not alone,” Allison announced as she stopped at the doorway. One of her shoelaces on her sneakers had come untied, but she didn’t seem to notice. Allison wasn’t home.
“Riley isn’t the only one here,” she said, eyes glassy. “We need to go.”
That was all Jess needed to hear. The time for false bravado had passed. She scooted backward, letting the board fall to the ground. Gage followed her lead. The planchette clattered to a stop, still on top of the board. With a quick jerk, it returned to its center, however. Jess yelped. The board vibrated a few beats as though some epic struggle was going on for control of the planchette.
Finally, the planchette began to move, gliding slowly over letters.
J E S S
Gage grabbed her arm and pulled her up.
Again, the planchette abruptly returned to the middle before hovering over three more letters in quick succession.
R U N
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