[Mysteriousheartland.com] So, explain to me why we’re trespassing on private property,” Emmet demanded as Mike, Aurelia, Greg, and he climbed the stone steps of the abandoned, chapel-like home on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
“We’re not trespassing,” Mike shot back as he took the lead and entered through the open door into the narrow hallway. “Obviously no one owns this place.”
“Man, there was clearly a sign back there,” Greg said as he glanced over his shoulder. He could only see a sliver of the road through the rotting doorframe. The interior of the house was small and poorly lit. The aroma of mold and mildew hung thick in the air over the carpet and emanated from the peeling wallpaper. With every breath, the Fallen inhaled hundreds of toxic spores.
As Emmet and Aurelia poked around the interior, Greg pulled Mike into a small room off to the side of the main hallway. The colorful, childish wallpaper suggested its previous use as a nursery or child’s bedroom.
“Do you honestly believe we’re going to find an astral gate here?” Greg whispered as though it was possible to obscure his voice in such a tightly enclosed space. “You know I’m always up for an adventure, but it seems like we’re crossing a line. Is it worth attracting the cops?”
“No one ever said this was going to be safe,” Mike replied. “Besides, we have to explore every possibility. They could have hidden this astral portal anywhere, but they couldn’t hide its attraction to the supernatural. That would have made it stand out like a sore thumb.”
“So they probably hid it in a place with a lot of reported paranormal activity?”
“Exactly. If you want to hide a marble, put it in a pile of a hundred marbles. There’s no way to find it other than to explore every possible lead.”
“There’s got to be a better way,” Greg countered. “It could take forever to look into every possible rumor of a haunting in Illinois. We can rule some of them out. Like this one.”
“We can’t be sure,” Mike said dismissively. “I’m convinced the gate needs a physical object to manifest–a door, house, or any similar structure. And I’m not going to give up until I find it.” He forced his way past his friend and joined the rest of the group further down the hallway.
“I don’t know what you guys were hoping to find here,” Emmet said when Mike appeared by his side, “but all I see is a bunch of dirty carpet and spider webs.”
“Why don’t we check the basement and then move on to that barn?” Mike suggested. “There’s supposed to be a group of dead trees that forms a pentagram on the property. Maybe that’s what we’re looking for.”
“You guys are nuts,” Emmet chuckled as he pushed his way past and carefully climbed down the narrow staircase to the basement.
Sunlight streaming through a side door lit the stairs, so Emmet turned off his flashlight. Whoever had preceeded them ground bits of broken plaster, wood, and wiring into the spongy carpet. He turned on the flashlight again once he stepped onto the basement floor.
The basement was nothing more than a vacant square filled with piles of debris. Graffiti covered the cement walls. Greg moved closer and inspected the neon markings. A large, yellow Latin Kings crown sat side-by-side with professions of love and the occasional misspelled warning.
“Most of this is just gang related,” Greg said. “Nothing genuinely occult.”
Mike dangled a quartz crystal pendulum, but it did not move. “The pendulum isn’t picking up anything,” he replied with a heavy sigh. “Let’s go check out that barn.”
Aurelia coughed. “Please,” she said. “My asthma is starting to act up. This dust is horrible.” Without waiting for the others, she climbed back up the stairs and exited through the side door.
After a few minutes, the quartet stood under the shade of a cluster of trees alongside the slab-rock home. They quickly marched across the road towards the abandoned farm located no more than one hundred yards away. The setting sun painted the teetering, two-story farmhouse orange. A large barn and a cement silo stood at the end of the gravel driveway.
“That must be the barn,” Mike announced as he approached the weed-draped entrance. “Some say it’s the barn of death.”
“I hope it’s not the barn of death,” Greg joked, “because we’re the only living people around here.”
“We have company,” Emmet shouted as the sound of grinding gravel under the wheels of a car told him they were no longer alone. A sleek, white Ford Explorer crawled up the driveway.
“Son of a―” Mike cursed. “Wait a minute. That’s not the PCPRS. Who the heck is that?”
“I think we’re about to find out,” Greg said as the sport utility vehicle stopped a few feet away and the doors swung open. Two men and two women, all middle aged and wearing white sport coats and pants, climbed out. The only color in their wardrobe belonged to the black sunglasses that covered their eyes. “Looks like the circus is in town,” Greg added.
The two groups squared off and faced each other like characters in a gangland musical. Mike opened his mouth to speak, but one of the women in white cut him off.
“Good evening,” she said in a deep but pleasant voice. “What are you kids doing out here?”
Offended by the woman’s use of the word “kids,” Greg sneered. “We’re on a play date,” he shot back.
“What do you care what we’re doing?” Aurelia asked as she dug her fists into her brawny hips. The slim, black bracelets on her forearms slid down and bunched together angrily.
“Why don’t we just cut to the chase,” one of the men, an older gentleman with silvery hair, replied. A Rolex Daytona watch, one of the most sought after watches in the world, dangled from his wrist, and rings adorned his fingers. “We know who you are and what you’re trying to find. We’ve been shadowing you for some time.”
“You’re the ones who’ve been tipping off the PCPRS!” Mike spat.
The man grinned. “Naturally. But now we must end the games and forbid you from continuing your search. The astral gate is too valuable to fall into your hands.”
“Excuse me?” Aurelia said venomously.
“What the heck is wrong with you people?” Emmet cut in, referring to the entire ensemble. “You don’t believe the tripe he peddles, do you?” He thrust a bony thumb at Mike, who returned the insult with an irritated glare.
“Thanks, Emmet,” Mike responded. He turned back toward the pristinely clad interlopers. “And how do you plan on using the portal if you find it?” he demanded.
“To spread the word of our gods, of course,” the silver haired man said. “Once we have unlocked this secret, we will spread their message of obedience everywhere, and we will not let the sacred portal fall into the hands of evil. It veils secrets the world is not ready to know.”
“Knowledge is only evil to tyrants,” Mike snapped.
Before anyone could respond, a sharp siren cut through the air and a police cruiser pulled up behind the SUV.
“I thought I smelled bacon,” Greg muttered.
The blue uniformed officer and his partner strolled up the driveway. The shorter of the two spoke into his radio before addressing the crowd. “This is private property,” he announced after a brief exchange. “Can I ask what you’re doing here?”
“Sorry, officer. We were just telling these kids to leave. It looked like they were about to cause trouble, maybe even vandalize,” one of the women in white said with a smirk. “Especially this witch,” she whispered, staring at Aurelia.
Aurelia balled her hands into fists and sneered. With the growing redness in her face the only warning, she sprang at the woman.
The policeman was quick to react and intercepted Aurelia before she could do any damage. His partner quickly handcuffed her and ordered the rest of the Fallen to put their hands above their heads.
The group reluctantly complied.
A short time later, through the police cruiser window, Mike saw the silver-haired man smile at them as they drove away.
“Nice going,” Emmet whispered. “How are we going to get out of this mess?”
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