A Guest in a Ghost House - Chapter 10

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Chapter 10 Burning the Paper Money
We entered the shabby yard . The lawn was overgrown with tall weeds . The two floors of the house were covered by dry vines . We could hear small animals scurrying about .
The white paint on the building was peeling off and the red roof tiles looked ready to fall off . There wasn’t a window without damaged glass . However, the door was in good condition still, guarding the secrets within .
I walked into the yard with He Xiaoru . The soft sand rustled like dry leaves .
The light of the flashlights spread around . I was worried that something would go wrong .
He Xiaoru swallowed loudly .
“Who are you?” A voice cracking with fear reached us .
I almost threw the torchlight in my hand, the voice had not come from He Xiaoru or myself . It came from the distant corner of the house .
When I calmed my wits, I shone my flashlight in the direction the voice came from . A sixteen-year-old boy used his hand to block out my flashlight, shining his own flashlight at me with his other hand .
All of us felt relieved when we found out everyone present was a human being .
The boy seemed relieve from the bottom of his heart and began walking towards me . He trampled on the rustling sand, followed closely by two other figures .
The boy walked in front of me . Seeing He Xiaoru’s pale face, he looked at me and said, “Hey bro, are you out here exploring?”
I finally had a chance to examine the boy . I had guessed correctly; he was about 16 years old and wore a tracksuit with green spots . It was dirty from climbing the wall .
The other boy was of a similar age to the first one, and also wore a tracksuit . A young girl of the same age hugged his arm tightly, staring at me timidly .
“It’s easy to get scared to death around here . . . ” He Xiaoru said, “You sure are brave to explore this place . ”
The boy laughed, “You too . ”
He Xiaoru laughed as well, “We’re just heading to the main room . ”
The boy laughed, “Yeah, that’s what we were thinking of doing . ”
I was speechless . I felt like I was from a different world than everyone present, though I was just 20 years old .
Everyone introduced themselves after greeting each other . The three kids were from the same middle school nearby . There was an article about the ghost house online, so they decided to check it out . The leader of the group was Chen Kai . The two who were hugging each other tightly and were following him were Wu Di, Chen Kai’s friend, and a girl named Kitty .
I saw Wu Di hug Kitty closely . I was guessing that Wu Di probably wanted to go to the ghost house to get a chance to get real close to his girlfriend . A common thing for couples their age .
Seeing me walk towards him, Wu Di pouted towards Kitty, who leaned her head onto his chest, making it quite clear to me what he had in mind .
I envied them a bit, having someone to be intimate with . I glanced at He Xiaoru . Although she was quite a strange girl, she really was a beauty .
He Xiaoru didn’t take any notice of me, she was already going on ahead with Chen Kai . Wu Di, Kitty, and I followed after them .
He Xiaoru had already given me the impression that she was brave, but I soon learned that Chen Kai had more courage than the rest of us . Walking up to the front door, he kicked it in with no hesitation .
Bang .
The sudden sound in the quiet night frightened me . I had to admit, his careless attitude was pretty cool .
The main room of the ghost house was huge . There were two spiral staircases on either side of the hall, clearly worn by time . There was trash everywhere . Many desks and chairs had fallen over . It appeared as if the desks and chairs had been pushed to the sides of the room .
Chen Kai invited He Xiaoru to explore upstairs . The ground floor was huge, yet I could see her easily with the shine of our flashlights . He Xiaoru kindly refused his offer with a smile and wished him good luck .
I had to admit that the funny chatter between He Xiaoru and Chen Kai earlier had eased the horrible aura the ghost house was giving off .
I felt like there was a generation gap between us, especially after I said a few words about staying safe . Then I looked for the ceremonial fire basin that the old woman in the shroud store had mentioned .
It was easy to find . There was a round bowl in the center of the hall, equidistant from the two spiral staircases .
I called He Xiaoru over, walking towards the basin .
I’d never seen a ceremonial bowl like this one before, it was immense . It already held some ashes, as if it had already been used . Upon closer examination however, the ashes appeared to have fused with bowl over time . Whatever had been burned here, was done so long ago .
I put my bags beside it, taking out the yellow paper money and throwing it into the bowl . He Xiaoru squatted beside me, tearing the paper money .
The scene looked like a typical couple worshipping their ancestors, if it weren’t for the creepy surroundings .
He Xiaoru attempted to set the paper on fire with her lighter, “Why isn’t it burning? What kind of paper is this?”
He Xiaory’s grumbling made me remember something . I took out the matchbox that was given to me at the shroud store, “The old woman said we should burn it with these matches . ”
I opened the matchbox . There was only one matchstick inside .
Luckily, the match lit up the contents of the bowl right away . A light pink flame sprung up, a small eddy of smoke appearing above the fire, sending paper ashes up into the air .
Seeing this scene, I took a big gulp . Although I knew the airflow was cause by the temperature of fire, I was scared of it . I hurried to throw the golden paper ingots into the fire .
“So are you going to ask them to let you go and stop sending you photos?”
I ignored the dust, knelt on the floor and bowed my head to the ground, kowtowing three times and murmuring, “Please let me and my family go, oh spirits . ”
The old woman in the shroud store gave me many things to burn . It took a long time to burn them all . I took out my phone carefully . It was almost one o’clock .
He Xiaoru had fallen asleep beside me . I couldn’t believe it, we were in a ghost house and here she was, peacefully napping beside me . . .
“Hey, did you fall asleep?” I pat He Xiaoru lightly on the shoulder .
He Xiaoru shuddered and looked up, “No way!”
She said as she discreetly wiped away the saliva at the corner of her mouth .
She looked cute . If not for her, I wouldn’t have been so calm .
“Let’s go . The paper money is all gone . ”
He Xiaoru was stunned . She seemed to be disappointed with the uneventful night . Nevertheless, she stood up and nodded, “Okay, congratulations . You’re safe now! Have Chen Kai and his friends left already?”

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