Chapter 5: Gateway to the Soul

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As soon as Jenn and Chad got their friends out the rubble that was once Bache Manor, they quickly helped them to James's van, surprised he still had his keys in his pocket.

"What are we going to tell the hospital?" Chad asked.

"The truth," Jenn replied. "Well, part of the truth—that they were involved in a sinkhole collapse... and that the owner didn't make it out alive."

"Do you think that will fly?" Chad asked James, trying not to look at him, since his eyes were freaking him out. "A sinkhole collapse?" James didn't reply. "James?" He turned his attention to Shannon, who was sitting beside him. "Shannon?"

They hadn't spoken a word—none of them—since they dug their way out.

"Shannon? Are you okay?" Jenn asked, knowing her leg had to hurt.

Despite the fact she should be writhing in pain, she was showing no signs of emotion at all; no pain, no fear, no anything.

"Here," Chad said, handing her a small blanket that he'd gotten from the back of the van, "wrap this around her leg."

Aside from Shannon's gunshot wound, Deb seemed to be injured the worst, with a rather vicious gash in her head, and James was a close second, with an obvious broken arm. Other than that, compared to what they'd been through, they seemed to only suffer minor injuries.

Jenn looked at Chad, concern evident on her face. "What's going on with them?"

He shrugged. "I don't know, but something is."

"Well, we need to go, get them to the hospital. You drive." Jenn slid the door shut and got into the passenger seat. "Buckle James up, first, though, since he can't because of his arm."

Before Chad had a chance to, James lifted his broken arm and attempted to buckle himself up, his bone buckling back and forth under the pressure.

"James, stop!" Chad yelled, forcing his arm down.

He buckled him up, without another word uttered from either, and shut the door. "What the hell is going on?" he asked Jenn as he got in. "Something's not right."

Jenn was afraid she knew what that something was, but was afraid to say it out loud. "Let's just get them to the hospital."

"Okay, but then what?" he asked, as he started the van and backed up. "When they see that they're like this—the eyes, how they act—what then?"

Jenn took a deep breath, not knowing the answer. "All I know is that they need medical attention. What happens after that is out of our hands."

"But what if they—"

"We have no choice," she interrupted, "unless you just want to leave them here. Then, if we do that, people will ask us where they are, why we left them. At least this way, we're trying to get them help."

He knew she was right. "Okay, then, let's go." After a few minutes of silence, Chad couldn't handle it anymore. "Do you know?"

"Do I know what?" Jenn asked.

"Aaron talked to you. I heard him. What did he say?"

"Oh, he said a lot of crazy things," she admitted. "Crazy but true, apparently."

"Would any of it explain this?" he asked, nodding his head toward the back of the van.

She thought about what all Aaron had said. "Maybe."

"Like...?"

She didn't want to say it out loud. She didn't even want to believe it. Could what Aaron had said been true?

As she glanced into the seats behind them, black eyes staring at nothing, she knew it was. "Do you think someone could live without their soul?" she asked, her eyes stinging.

"Their soul?" He gave her a skeptical glance. "Wait a minute... you don't think...?"

"Look at them, Chad. They're not... them. They're not normal." She turned back around, looking out her window. "He had said they were alive, if one could actually live without a soul."

In the midst of trying to process that, Chad felt a hand on his shoulder, causing him to jerk his head around. James's face mere inches from his own, his mouth gaped open in a silent scream. 

"Shit!" Chad instinctively lurched forward to get away, causing the van to sharply veer off the road and down an embankment.

***

The van was found the next day by the local police department. The accident, along with the nearby 'sinkhole' at Bache Manor, both made the front page:

Late Sunday afternoon, police were called to a mansion, locally known as Bache Manor, in East Steinberg County, where a substantial sinkhole collapse completely engulfed the home. It is still unclear if anyone was inside at the time of the collapse, since the owner's whereabouts have been unclear for some time. However, the police do think there were casualties, since a group of paranormal investigators had reportedly been at the location at the time of the collapse. It was their families who initially notified police when they failed to return home.

Two of those missing investigators, a male and female whose names have yet to be released, were found dead a couple of miles away from the manor, both seeming to have succumbed to injuries suffered in a vehicular accident. The police say it appears they were most likely going to get help when the van they were driving, which belonged to one of the missing sinkhole victims, left the road and went down an embankment.

Local law enforcement officials say it is unlikely the other four individuals survived the devastation caused by the sinkhole. "We have searched the entire area, both at the accident site and the manor, in case they took off on foot to get help, and there are no signs of these four individuals. Looking at all possibilities, we are confident in assuming they were at the manor when the sinkhole occurred. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the families of these six individuals. We will continue to search for their bodies so they can have closure, but as of right now, we are not looking for survivors," Sheriff Marcum stated earlier today. "Due to the instability of the area, we ask that citizens stay away."

When asked about the whereabouts of the owner, Aaron Bache, Sheriff Marcum informed us they were still trying to notify him and that it's unclear whether or not he was inside his home at the time of the collapse. We will inform the public of any new developments as they are made available, but the latest information does appear that at least six people are confirmed dead in this terrible series of events. 

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