By Yinglan Z.
I shrieked as my notebook flew out of my hand. “What the hell!” I snapped at my jerk of a brother, Jake and punched him in the arm.
“Ow!” He replied in a mocking voice as he bent over and picked up my notebook. “Why did you do that?”
“Because you deserved it.” I snatched the notebook from his hand. “What are you doing here? Didn’t you see the ‘Do not disturb’ sign?”
“Not funny, get out, I have work to do.” I sat back down in my chair and waited a moment. “I don’t hear you leaving.”
“What if I don’t want to leave?” My grip on the pen tightened as I clenched my teeth. My patience was running dangerously low. I had three pages to write and less than eight hours left for sleeping. “What are you going to do about it?”
Oh I’ll show you what I’m going to do about it. I got out of my comfortable chair and turned to my brother, shoulders tightened and back slightly hunched like a fierce dog poised for an attack. I grabbed his shoulder – one of the pros of being six inches taller than Jake – and push him across my bedroom’s threshold. He prepared to advance and that was my cue to slam the door.
I locked the door and returned to my desk, massaging my temples along the way. God, why can’t I have a sister? I sat back in my chair, blew a mouthful of air, and turned my attention to the paper at the corner of the desk.
It’s the prompt for my English homework. Write a Halloween story, it read. Below the sentence were a bunch of rules of what we can and can’t write. I sighed. “Let’s see, the story must take place on Halloween, not the next day or the day before. It must be rated G or PG, must contain a haunted house blah blah blah.”
So many rules, courtesy of Mrs. Ashby, my English teacher who is all about rules. On the first day of class, she made us memorize her fifteen ridiculous classroom rules. It’s like if one day when rules cease to exist, the world would end.
A Halloween story with a haunted house? I wondered and sat back. This topic is so lame, so childish. Do people even go to haunted house anymore? What do haunted houses even look like? Suddenly, a Halloween-themed story was looking harder than I’d imagine.
My eyes traveled back to the empty page of my notebook. I’ve thought of using it to outline, it’d be way quicker than typing the outline on the computer. “Forget this.” I set the notebook aside and turned to my laptop in the corner.
In a blank document, I began typing, “The Nightmare.” There, that’s a good title for this.
Once, there was a young girl with an annoying brother who was always messing around…
“‘sup?” I greeted my best friend, Valerie, the next day as I was opening my locker.
“‘sup.” Valerie replied in a voice slightly deeper than usual and a tilt of her chin. She was raised in a family of five brothers and the more I see her, the more she seemed to be evolving toward boyhood but I’d never imagine to be this quick.
“Do you have a sore throat?” I asked her while surveying her appearance. “You look… different today,” I remarked. To be honest, she looked like a slob. Her checker-patterned button shirt and jeans looked like it’s seen better days, the sweater-shirt tied around her waist was obviously too big for her, and don’t get me started on the shoes. Ugh, those shoes look like it could be a very nice home for mice. Meanwhile, her dark-brown hair was braided in the messiest pony-tail.
Sure today’s Halloween and we could wear costume to school but it didn’t mean she get to come to school looking like she hadn’t showered for a week. “What are you supposed to be?”
She hastily turned her cap around and pulled her shirt downward, “A man,” she said proudly, “I’m here to show people that anyone can be macho.” She spoke those words loud and clear so passerby would stop and gawk. Ugh, I hate being the center of attention. “What,” she snapped at a passerby.
“She’s practicing for a play. Her character’s a man.” I piped and right away, people became disinterested. “Do you have to act like a man too?” I said through my teeth.
“You bet I do. If I dress like a man and don’t act like one, then my disguise would be bogus.” She whispered in her regular voice.
“What disguise?” I whispered back.
“For tonight’s party?” My forehead creased. She folded her arms across her chest. “Don’t tell me you forget about the party?” Valerie leaned in, “the ‘secret’ Halloween party?” She air-quoted secret. “Dude, I told you last week, remember? They only sent out a handful invitations. You can only get in if you have a connection.”
“You have a connection? Who?”
She looked away and stuttered. “C-can’t say, top secret.” I crossed my arms, she placed a hand on her hip. “So are you coming or not?”
“Where is it?”
“Can’t say that either, just be in your costume and ready by 5:30, I’ll come pick you up.”
By the time I finished curling my honey-golden hair to perfection and putting on my make-up, it was five minutes past 5:30. As usual, Valerie was late but this time, it was to my advantage because the doorbell didn’t ring until I clumsily made it downstairs in my four-inch high heels which was the highest high heels I’ve ever attempted. I opened the door and there she was, in a formal black suit and top hat. “Good evening, Mr. Lincoln.” I greeted and giggled.
She scoffed and looked me up and down, humorless, she said, “And what are you supposed to be, a hooker?”
“No, I’m a cocktail waitress.” I corrected, feeling a little annoyed.
She gave my outfit a quick glance and shrugged, “Eh, I guess.”
I put a hand on my waist. “Thanks, thanks a lot. Now are you ready to go?”
Valerie strolled to the kitchen, “Where’s your mom?”
“She’s at work,” and won’t be back until three in the morning, I wanted to finish the sentence but decided to save my breath.
“Yeah, let’s go.” She grabbed a granola bar from the basket on the kitchen counter before heading to the front door. Then I locked the door and nervously climbed into the passenger seat of Valerie’s vintage mustang that looked as though it’s going to break down at any moment. As she drove, I gritted my teeth and grabbed tightly onto the handle above me. I didn’t dare to say a word, afraid that I would set off a chain reaction and cause an accident. I think Valerie is a very talented person but she lacks the talent of driving. Honestly, I don’t even know how she passed the road test.
After a crazy fifteen-minute ride, she finally shifted the car to park and pulled the key out of the ignition. I got out, muttered thank you to the sky, and looked around. We were in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by large well-maintained houses and old trees. It didn’t looked like a place that a “secret” Halloween party would be held. “Where is it?”
“Follow me,” Valerie said and together, we walked down the block and turned right. The trees began to thin the farther we walk, until surrounding us were nothing but empty lots. Why aren’t these lots developed? I wondered before the answer presented itself.
At the end of the dead-end street on the left was an iron-wrought gate and behind the gate was a mansion-like house. It looked abandoned and falling apart. “Nice place for a party,” I scoffed as we approached the bouncer by the door.
“Invitation?” He asked and Valerie shoved her phone in his face. “Connection?”
“Jake Appleton,” She said loud and clear.
“Jake?” I asked after the bouncer let us through.” My brother is your connection?”
She shrugged. “So?” I scoffed. Whatever, I thought and I followed her to the main room. The mansion may looked like it’s falling apart on the outside but the inside was far from falling apart. The main room had a bar, a stage, and wooden dance floor that was made for dancing and already, the room was filling up with people in strange looking makeup and a wide variety of costumes.
“Are you ready to rock tonight?” The lead singer of the band screamed into the microphone.
“Yeah!” Everyone – including me and Valerie – yelled back and then, the musicians began strumming their guitars and pounding the keyboard.
“You want a drink?” Valerie said into my ear.
“Sure!” I yelled over the music and followed her to the bar which was lined with literally every kinds of soda in existence. “I still can’t believe my brother is your connection.” I said upon sitting down on a bar stool.
“Can I tell you something?” I nodded. “Jake and I are…”
“Oh, no, please don’t say,” but she didn’t have to say it, I grimaced, “Really, you and him?”
“Is there a problem?”
I shook my head, “No, it’s just,” I paused, trying to find the right words to say, “very hard to believe.” Thanks, Jake, for making my friendship with Valerie awkward, I thought but I guess Jake has a soft side. After all, he got us into this killer party. I cleared my throat. “I’m very happy for you, Val.”
“You guys aren’t talking about me, aren’t you?” A voice said behind me.
“No, why would we be talking about you,” I scoffed as Jake moved from behind me to wrapping his arm around Valerie’s waist. It made me want to throw up.
“You told her about us, didn’t you.” They exchanged a quick glance and then he turned to me. “Well, sis, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. You did give Val your blessing, right?”
I glanced at Valerie who mouthed, please. “Sure, why not.”
“Great!” Valerie said, “Let’s dance.” I slipped from the stool and together, Valerie and I jumped to the beat of the music while Jake did horrible yet hilarious Elvis impressions because apparently dating had rubbed off on him. Like what Valerie did in the school hallway this morning, he was doing the same thing now, acting like Elvis. I couldn’t help but laugh at his impressions.
“Hey, I’m bored. You want to come with me to explore the house?” I asked as a slow song began playing.
“No, you go.” Valerie said, “I think I’ll stay here and you know, be with Jake.”
I twisted my mouth in slight disgust. Even though I’ve never seen them kiss, the thought of them kissing and making out made me want to vomit even more. “Dating has made you different.” She grinned, “I don’t like it.” I said and left the room.
The stairs creaked beneath my feet as I climbed higher and higher while the music below became more and more distant. The creep factor was beginning to grow, especially with spiderwebs hanging over the portraits of what looked like grumpy muses.
The wide spiral staircase felt like it was going up forever before I reached the landing of the second floor. It didn’t remotely resemble the condition of the floor below. There was only way to go, through the battered double doors. Slowly, I pushed the right door open – it squeaked and moaned – and other than the dim light of the moon outside, the room was pitch-black.
I took three steps into the room. From what I could tell, the room looked like a library. Damn it, why didn’t I bring my phone or a flashlight?
My heart began to pound because to be honest, I’ve always been a little afraid of the dark. A fire roared to life in the fireplace. I jumped back and stared at the fire. It was like it knew what I was thinking. How did it do that? I wanted to say but found my mouth dry and speechless.
Involuntarily, I headed toward the fireplace. The fire felt warm and comfortable compared to the rest of this cold room. I must had been staring too intensely into the fire because a voice sounded behind me, making me jump.
“You want to play?” I turned. Two girls, identical, couldn’t be more than seven or eight, were standing behind me at the center of the room. In the light of the fire, their faces were pale, their reddish hair was tied in a similar fashion, and their checkered-pattern dresses looked like it had been wearing this dress everyday for an entire year.
“Who are you? Where did you come from? ” I asked quickly.
The girls smiled and ignored my questions. “Ready?” The one on the left asked.
The one on the right touched my hand, I felt like I’ve just plunged my hand in a bucket of freezing water. “You’re it.” The other laughed and before I could grasp what was happening, they laughed and ran out of the room.
“Hey!” I shouted. What had just happened? Who are they? Where did they come from? Questions whooshed into my head while I began to question the unexplainable. Were they… Is this house…Is that even possible?
I shook my head. I have to get out of here and before another thought popped into the head, I moved to the door. Ten, nine, eight, I counted the steps to the door, the only thing that could keep me sane, five, four, three…
My hand reached out for the door handle and the door suddenly slammed shut. I staggered two steps back, breathing hard while my pulse was through the roof. “Okay, calm down,” I told myself, “I am sure there is a simple explanation to what is happening. I am sure it’s just a stupid prank, pulled by none other than Jake.”
I blew out a mouthful of air. “Or maybe it was the wind.” I said even though I was positive that that wasn’t true. Either way, this is getting more and more creepy and I have to get out of here. I grabbed the door knob and handle and pushed. It wouldn’t budge. What the hell?!
I pushed again. “Hey!” I screamed like an idiot, like anyone below was going to hear me. Please, Valerie’s too busy making out with my brother to come check on her best friend. There has to be another way out of here, I thought and surveyed the room, and there was, the window.
I picked up a brick-size book from the small round table next to the armchair and approached the window. Three feet away, I stopped, lifted the book over my head, and threw it at the window. I could feel my heart lifting as the book flew toward the window. A part of me was cheering, “I’m free!” while another part was fearing that it would not work.
It felt as though the moment went on forever as I stood here, anticipating the book shattering the glass of the window but as the book touched the window, not only did the window not shatter but the book bounced back. Narrowly, I ducked, an inch from being knocked unconscious by a flying book. A moment later, I heard a dull thud, letting me know the book had landed somewhere in the corner.
As I stood up, I could feel sweat building up on my palms and my chest continued to pound through the roof. This cannot be happening. I’m trapped, I thought while another voice countered, no, you’re not. “There’s no such thing as ghosts. There’s no such thing as ghosts,” I repeated simultaneously while rocking myself back-and-forth. “Ghosts aren’t real. Ghosts aren’t real.”
“Actually, ghosts are really real and they go like this, ‘BOO!'”
I could literally feel my head slam on my desk before bouncing back up. I glanced around my room. My brother was once again back in my room but I was more concerned about what had just occurred. I brushed my hair back and sat back in my chair as a realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Are you kidding me? It was all a nightmare? Then I turned to my brother. “You and Val aren’t a thing, right?”
He was surprised by my question and burst into laughter. “A thing? Please, she’d be the last girl I’ll go out with.” I let out a breath. At least, that’s one less thing to worry about.
“Hey, what are you doing in my room? Didn’t I kick you out?”
“So? What are you going to do about it?” He mocked.
“Out!” I got out of my chair and pushed him out the door with all my strength while shouting. “I have work to do.” I slammed the door in his face and clicked the lock.
©Yinglan Z. All Rights Reserved