Hey everyone :) This is my first bonafide horror scene and it starts with Kaylee standing on the threshold of the haunted house.
(The first chapter is earlier in my blog, if anyone's interested :) )
No sound. Not even a whisper of wind, which should have been gusting through the empty window frames. On the threshold, Kaylee cleared her throat, the noise distant, muffled. Flashlight shoved under one arm, she plugged her ears and swallowed as if trapped in a pressurized room. Nothing.
Any control over her pulse disappeared.
Freaky, too freaky…oh God…
Shaking, she pushed the button on the flashlight, wishing for a major flood light that would frighten off everything from creepy crawlies to grizzly bears.
Because there is no such thing as ghosts…
The jittering light picked up a great room with a massive fireplace along the east wall. A bit of trash fluttered in a wind she didn’t hear. The paper moved, yet emitted not even a crinkling whisper. Every particle of her being wanted to run, to turn tail and never skateboard again if it meant leaving untouched by the thing she could feel watching her.
Just the guys watching outside. No one in here but me.
It had to be that mass hysteria thing. Her dad once said completely normal and sane, some highly intelligent people could succumb to mass hysteria. The mentally challenged, however, were less likely to get sucked in. Go figure. At the time, she thought herself too pragmatic, too realistic to fall into such an absurd trap. Yet here she was, imagining there was no sound, no wind, and garbage could move without making any noise.
Kaylee inhaled deeply, closed her eyes and stepped forward. An incredible whoosh filled her ears, all the night sounds rushing in around her. The dank, moldering aroma of lumber moldering deep within the ground swam over her.
“Hurry up!” Jimmy hollered a few yards from the porch.
Startled, she shone the flashlight in his face. “All right, I‘m going!”
She spun back and strode with purpose toward the rickety staircase. The rail lay in pieces on the floor and she found herself hugging the wall again.
The cold pit of her stomach, the shaky light in her trembling hand, shamed her. If she truly believed there was no such thing as spooks, then what was her problem? This should be a cakewalk. She hastened her pace, ready to get this over with.
On the second floor landing, she raced the flashlight across the ceiling, searching for the attic’s drop ladder. Nothing but cracked plaster and a fractured light fixture hanging by one rotted-cloth covered wire. Three doors on her right, two on her left. Which one?
A sound, very faint, came from the wall on her left. Scratching.
Backing away from the too-regular noise…fingers opening, retracting, opening…she opted for the far door on her right. The knob spun loosely, refusing to disengage at first, then did and she pushed through into an empty room. Wallpaper, the rose pattern yellowed and faded, curled at every seam.
The window still had glass, probably the only one in the house. It leant the air a stale, nesting odor that tickled her nose. Eager to be out of this room, she opened the only other door and found a shallow closet with hooks and no rod. A moth-eaten dull gray shirt hung dejectedly from the center hook. No stairs to the attic.
She went back into the hall and hurried to the furthest room on the left. The window beside the door let in a more brisk breeze at this height and offered a glittering view of her neighborhood. All those lights. What she wouldn’t give to be back home, away from this strange place.
Below, Danny must have caught the glow from her flashlight because he hollered, “Dude! Hurry up!”
Dude? Yeah, like she wanted to linger in a haunted house. Reason reminded her she didn’t believe in ghosts and she pushed into the next room.
Unlike the last, this bedroom had furniture and a collection of ancient dolls and books shoved onto shelves and into hutches. Wind tossed the tattered remains of lacy curtains into the air. A warped and weathered bed held the remnants of a canopy, the rug on the floor faded from the sun. Two doors in this room. She passed the rotting mattress covered with ragged blankets on her way to the first door.
I did not just see the bed move.
Heart knocking hard on her ribs, hair standing on the back of her neck, she shone the light on the center of the mattress. Motes swirled in the air, but nothing moved. She took another step toward the door. Still nothing.
I had to have imagined it.
Her mouth dry, palms sweaty, she grasped the doorknob. Damp had swollen the wood and she yanked hard to get it open. Cobwebs came with it, a slew of dirt and leaves followed, layering the thick dust on the narrow, steep stairs. The attic.
Thank God! In a rush, she ran up the stairs, leaned over and grabbed the first thing her hand landed on—an old silver mirror, the glass long gone, the metal tarnished.
Three steps down, she remembered to shine the light out the window. She shoved the mirror in the front pocket of her hoodie and turned back, tripping up the stairs in her haste. Boxes, racks of old seventies-style clothes and furniture spilled out of the corners across the floor. She pivoted, aimed the flashlight at the empty window frame, and froze.
A girl stood in the way. Her pasty skin so white it looked blue, dark hair dripping down the sides of her sunken face, eyes of black tar staring at her. Bluish hands rose, seeming disembodied until the flashlight picked out the girl’s black dress in the gloom.
Kaylee screamed and the girl opened her mouth, a gaping hole that stretched impossibly far. A gorge of bubbling, thick fluid erupted out of a bulging throat, coating Kaylee in scum that showed bright red in the flashlight. Screeching again and again, she backpedaled toward the stairs and fell.
The girl came forward in a jerky, shambling gait. Kaylee rolled to her knees, crawling, afraid to take the time to regain her feet.
Get out! Get out! Get out!
A boom, so loud she covered her ears and curled her knees to her chest.
Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!
The house shook, dirt spilling out of the rafters and over her, sticking to the blood spray. Another boom, so powerful she bounced on the floorboards. A hurricane blew into the room. The blue girl flew apart like ashes in the wind. Pressure forced the air out of Kaylee’s lungs. She couldn’t scream, she couldn’t move, she couldn’t see what this new thing was, didn’t want to see because she could feel it all around her, pressing on her back, forcing her prone on the floor.
Terrified, she inhaled sharply, gathering herself, pulling her spirit together, a thing she didn’t even know she could do. In her mind, she screamed.
The invisible weight lifted abruptly and she rolled, gasping. Still there, she thought, sensing its puzzlement, its surprise. Pulse pumping with adrenalin, she scurried toward the stairs. The flashlight flew out of her fingers and spun crazily until it landed beside the pool of blood.
The thing came back, he came back, pressing her into the rotted, dry floor. Stunned, she dug deep, searching for that inner energy, to pull it from every corner of her being and fight him off again. His strength immense, her fear even larger, the power within her diminished. He smothered the oxygen from her lungs. Weakly, she cried, “Help me…”
No air left.
A scream ripped through the air and the pressure vanished.
In front of her, the blue girl reappeared, her ghastly face contorted with hate-filled rage. Kaylee sensed the presence, sensed him, centering his focus on the ghost girl. A horrible roaring sound beat against her eardrums. The jet-engine noise whined higher and higher, the metal fillings in the back of her mouth shaking with the vibrations. Her throat ached from the high-pitched, frightened screak straining out of her.
Crying, she stood on wobbly legs. Dodging the blood, she finally made it to the stairs. One foot on the first riser, a final boom hit so loud and hard, it felt like thunder clapped in the confines of the staircase. Thrown forward, she raised her hands to stop a head-long plunge down the steps. A bright, white light filled the space. Hands out in front of her, she blinked until the glare became a hazy aura and her eyes adjusted.
At top speed, she shoved out the door, into the hall, down the railless staircase and jumped the last four steps. Halfway to the door, barely aware of the shrieks coming out of her, she made out the guys standing frozen, mouths agape as they stared at the attic window. A wave of ice ripped through her, parting her ponytail and sending the hair whipping against her face.
In an instant, intimate knowledge about the other spread through her mind, her very core. The girl. Too scared, too out of her head with fear, she couldn’t process it all. Her flight instinct in full force, she raced for the porch, barely having the presence of mind to grab her board, and flew off the steps. The boys stepped backward and when they saw her, they looked beyond her, to something happening inside the house. She didn’t look back.
“Jesus,” Jimmy whispered, turning away. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him grab Danny’s sleeve and drag him along.
They ran, crashing through the woods, hurrying to get as far from the house as they could. Kaylee pumped her legs, not daring to look back, her heart in her throat, breathing raggedly. The boys were all around her, shoving between trees, leaping over fallen trunks and brush in their path. In seconds flat, they were back on the street again.
Sneakers slapped pavement in an ever decreasing rhythm. Boards thunked to the road, wheels spun in the slushing-slush noise so familiar and comforting. Wind and distance did more for her nerves than anything. Breathing deep, the world sparkling under streetlights and her heightened senses, she pushed along with the boys for three blocks before her pounding blood subsided.
Kaylee stopped, looking over her shoulder. Panting, she stepped off the board as the others halted around her. Nothing followed, no sound of pursuit. She bent at the waist, hands on her knees, and tried to regain her breath.
“What the hell happened in there?” Danny asked. “What was that big light? You set off a bomb or something?”
“Don’t be stupid,” Will said.
All three boys appeared shaken, their hair and eyes wild. It occurred to her then, what she must look like, covered in blood…
No blood on her clothes, or anywhere on her at all. Dust and dirt for sure, but not blood. Mass hysteria? She patted her hoodie, relieved to feel the lump of the wrecked mirror. She pulled it out and tossed it to Jimmy. “Head’s up.”
Jimmy caught the mirror, hands huge on the slim offering. “What am I gonna do with this junk?”
He tossed it back to her. Absently, she stuffed it into her backpack, wanting to get home where she could think through what happened, apply some reason with a capital ‘R’ to the situation and get rid of the slick, strange metallic taste in the back of her throat. Erase the sensation that something, someone, else had shared her skin. “We good? I passed your little initiation, right?”
“Yeah, you can have your skate-off.”
She rolled her eyes. Screw latent hostility, I’m flat-out hostile. “You can’t be serious? After all that?”
“All what?” Jimmy asked, strength returning to his voice. “You went in some dumb old attic and brought out a mirror. That ain’t much of an initiation.”
“What?” She fairly squeaked, noticing Danny’s surprised look, but he kept his mouth closed. “I know you saw that light and stuff. Did you hear that thing in there?”
Careful, Kaylee, don’t say it out loud, don’t make it real.
“Yeah, I saw your flashlight, but that was it,” Jimmy said, turning to encompass both Will and Danny. “Ain’t that right, guys?”
They took their time nodding, but they did. Kaylee wanted to slap every one of them silly, even as she told herself they were right. She had to have imagined it all.
I didn’t though. I know I didn’t.
“Where’s my flashlight?” Will asked.
She hopped on her board and resisted the urge to whip the bird at him. “Back at the house. Shouldn’t be a problem for you to go get it. It’s just a dumb old house after all. Have fun.”
Kaylee pushed off, leaving them behind, leaving the whole night behind. She didn’t feel wild and free anymore, didn’t find anything exciting about being all by herself on the street at night. No, she felt exposed and exhausted. She wanted her bed, and the blankets pulled over her head.
* * *
Spotlight on LETTING GO by Maria Thompson Corley
3 hours ago