By Abigail Falanga
You check your phone. “I have time to read Havok. Always love Wacky Wednesday!”
It’s a dark and stormy afternoon in more ways than one.
“Awkward…” mutters Jed, the new kid at school.
I fumble my keys to let the four of us into the house. “I had no idea a horror movie would end up making us the third wheel.”
Maddie’s my cousin, and we’re close, considering she’s a typical cheerleader and I’m… not. We used to be just friends with Tyler the quarterback. But she scooted into his lap during the film’s scary scenes, and they’ve been glued into PDA since.
You skim a few paragraphs.
Screaming pierces the house.
I run to the kitchen.
Red liquid soaks Maddie’s tank top. Horrified, she looks at Tyler, splayed on the floor—
Picking up shards of juice bottle.
“Ugh!” Maddie strips to her lacy pink bra. “Now I have to change into one of Amy’s department-store shirts.” She stomps towards my room.
I hand Tyler paper towels.
He grabs them. “Stupid place to put juice—on top of the fridge.”
“Sorry,” I mutter.
But, he’s right. Something’s wrong—cabinets wide open, knife stand knocked over, knives scattered everywhere.
Suddenly uneasy, I follow Maddie’s juicy footprints. They disappear just outside the study.
“Maddie?” I call.
“Jed?” The study is empty. A shiver raises goosebumps on my skin.
I yelp, spinning around.
Jed jumps from the cubbyhole behind the door, sniggering. “So, lemme tell you more about that fugitive. He killed five people—dismembered them with a chainsaw while they were still alive—and he was only locked up for a week before he escaped from the prison van right around this area. The podcast says—”
Oh, now it’s getting interesting!
“Tell me later.” I gulp. “I’m looking for Maddie.”
“I’ll come.” Jed follows me down the hall. “The killer might’ve been into demonology—or that’s the speculation.”
“Not my favorite subject.”
“Actually…” Jed looks around. A step creaks under his foot. “…this house could easily be the center of demonic activity. It’s old, right next to that cemetery, and did you notice the chill when—”
I hold up my hand. “Maddie was changing clothes, so…”
Jed flushes and backs off. “Sure. I’ll find Tyler.”
The corridor leading to my room seems darker than usual. And chillier. A breeze comes from my room, carrying a smell I can’t identify. Nauseating. Sickly-sweet.
I reach for the handle. Light streams from beneath the door.
You scroll eagerly.
Inside, the odor is so strong it nearly chokes me. The window is wide open, letting in sunlight and a cold breeze. But the room is empty.
Except for my doll.
A beautiful, antique doll, normally enshrined above my wardrobe. She sits on the chair, staring at me, covered in black goo.
My voice makes no sound. I clear my throat. “Maddie?”
A screeching crash!
I skid into the hall and lean over the balustrade.
Jed—flung across the couch, eyes wide and unblinking, eerie light playing across his face.
A voice rumbles. Heavy steps approach, nearing the stairs.
I jump back, looking for refuge. The closet. I jump at it. My hands slide over the handle until it finally opens. Inside. Be still! I’m trembling, gasping. My pulse beats so heavily I know he’ll hear it.
“The closet?” You chuckle. “Stereotypical hiding place. First spot he’ll look.”
Faint light falls on my hand, and I lift it. It’s covered in black goo. Must have been on the balustrade or the door or—
Here he comes!
Footsteps right outside. A shadow blots out the light. Passes.
I let out a shaky breath, reach for the handle—
“Too soon, scream queen.”
The door jerks from my grasp.
“Boo!” Tyler sneers. “Hiding in the closet? Geez, and I thought Jed was immature. You know he’s playing video games down there? Not much reason to hang around, so I’m leaving. Where’s Maddie?”
I draw a deep breath, calming my heartbeat. “I don’t know.”
“Check up here, and I’ll look around downstairs.”
“Ok. Three jump-scares too many. Next one has to actually be something.”
I open the door to my sister Emma’s room. It’s twilight-dark, except for the nightlight. Four-year-old Emma sits in the middle of the floor.
Why? She’s not supposed to be back until this evening with our parents.
She turns her head.
Her eyes are closed. But a smile spreads her mouth. It’s black with dripping goo.
“Emma,” I whisper. “What have you done?”
Her hand, blackened, reaches toward me.
I turn, staggering. Flee downstairs. Toward the back, away from the study—
I pass Maddie, sprawled on the floor in a pool of black and red. A silhouette lurches across the window. A man. Outside.
“Now we’re getting to it!”
Sputter. Choke. Roar!
A chainsaw buzzes to life in the man’s hand. He looms.
I run down into the basement.
“What?!” you yell at the screen. “That’s the worst place to go. Call for help. Head out the front. Do something other than hide in the least-defensible place.”
Silence swallows me as I reach the bottom step. It feels safe. I’m alone. Nothing can get at me here.
Something is watching me.
I feel eyes on my back. Hear something creeping up behind.
Turn, slowly. Try to scream.
Something flies at me. Teeth, claws, fur, wiggle, purr.
“Aww, Snuggles.” I pull the kitten into a hug. “Just who I needed to see. Dad’s home early to trim the hedges, Emma is making a mess eating licorice, and Maddie seems to have tripped in it. A day of terror!”
“That was IT?” You scowl, barely stopping yourself from throwing your phone. “What a sell-out. All that build-up for nothing.”
Almost midnight. Not much time wasted.
“Back to my project. This one is coming along nicely. So much blood and screaming.”
You pick up your knife and pause to grin at the reflection of possessed green-lit eyes on your screen.