11 November 2009

Curse of the Other World, part nine

He took her hand gently and helped her to her feet. She was still unsteady but the shaking had all but died away; which was a great relief.

'Sorry, I must seem like an utter fool now,' she said, half laughing through her nerves.

'Don't fret so much,' said Peter. 'You're under a lot of strain and with what we've seen today I don't blame you.'

She was not sure how to take his comments but decided that the last thing she needed at that moment was an argument, so she let it slide and sipped her tea instead. It was cooler than she would like, but she drank it anyway. Her mouth was dry, either from the shock or as a side effect of her medication, so the liquid helped.

In the corner, the computer bleeped. Sarah felt for the coffee table, put down her mug carefully and hurried over to her workstation.

'What was that?' asked Peter.

'I've got an alarm on the computer to alert me when certain people send me e-mails,' said Sarah, distractedly. 'Ah, it's from Howard.'

'You contacted her too? I thought you said you'd only called me.'

'He's a he now,' said Sarah as she brought up the e-mail. The text displayed in her usual magnified font. She read it quickly. 'Ah, he's finished processing the sound file I sent him.'

'Hang on, back up a minute,' said Peter. He sounded confused. Sarah rolled her eyes. She did not have the time for this.

'Can we discuss this later?' she asked. 'I think this is important.'

'Okay. What's the e-mail about, if you don't mind me asking?'

'I sent him a copy of the recording I made at the hotel and asked him to run it through his equipment for me. You know he's a sound engineer now? I was hoping his equipment would pick up something mine would miss.'

'And did it?'

'Apparently so. Turn on the speakers, would you?' she asked, pointing to the doorway. 'The amp is on a table behind the door.'

A high pitched wine made its way into her head without going through her ears. She hated that sound but there was little she could do to stop it, save for buying a new set of speakers and without a sudden pickup in the number of articles she could sell to the paranormal rags and occult websites, that was not going to happen any time soon.

The whine died down, the amplifier clicked noisily; telling her it was ready to receive a signal. She double-clicked on the file attached to Howard's e-mail.

A whistling sound like steam escaping through a broken kettle piped through the speakers, blurring into a digital chattering. For a moment it sounded like a hundred voices all talking at once, in another room.

'What is this?' asked Peter.

'White noise filtered through a load of digital effects to screen out background noise,' said Sarah. 'Just ignore it. Listen for anything that sounds like real speech.'

The chattering continued but now there was another sound. Plastic creaking, under pressure. The dictaphone casing creaking as she clipped it to her jeans.

'GET … OuT … noW.'

The voice was harsh and seemed to be formed out of the background chatter itself. It was as if someone with no means to make sound on their own had taken parts of the white noise on the dictaphone recording and played with them, enhancing the base of some, the treble on others and arranging them in such a way that the intended message would be heard, albeit in a synthetic and highly foreign to the ear manner, when played back.

Sarah felt for the mouse and quickly clicked on the pause icon.

'Did you just hear that?' she asked.

'I'm not sure,' said Peter. He sounded nervous. 'What do you think you heard?'

'A voice.'

'In that case, yes.'

'What did it say?' asked Sarah.

'I think it was “get out now” but I'm not certain.'

Sarah nodded slowly. 'That's what I heard, too.'

The floorboards creaked as Peter walked over to the armchair nearest to the computer table. 'What do you think it means?'

Sarah shrugged. 'Honestly, I don't know. I could be nothing, of course. This stuff often seems to be nothing more than random chatter and fake warnings.'

'So you've heard weird voices like this before?'

'Many times, yes. It's called Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP for short. Like in that film with Michael Keaton?'

'Sorry, all I remember him from is Batman.'

Sarah rolled her eyes again. 'Your knowledge of modern cinema is sadly lacking.'

'Yeah, yeah. You're getting off topic now, love.'

'Hint taken,' said Sarah. She smiled, brushed a few stray hairs out of her eyes and turned back to the computer. 'Okay, let's just play it through and see if there's anything else on here.'

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