Closing out today’s collection of 2020 Halloween Flash Fiction stories is NYT Bestselling author Kristen Proby. (Who, by the way, has the second book in her Bayou Magic series, SPELLS, releasing TOMORROW!!) Kristen chose this image as the inspiration for her story.
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A Short Story By Kristen Proby
Copyright © 2020 by Kristen Proby
All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect are appreciated. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Deadly serious,” Shannon, the president of Delta Delta Delta says with a snarky grin. “This is the last part of your initiation. If you can make it through the entire night in there, you’ll officially be our sisters.”
Becs, my best friend since the second grade, slips her hand into mine as we stare up at the enormous, abandoned mansion. It totally looks like something out of a really old horror movie, with vines growing up the sides of the peeling paint, broken windows, and shutters hanging down. It looks as if no one has lived here for at least fifty years.
Probably because they haven’t.
“You have everything you’ll need for the night,” Shannon says. “You three will be just fine. I hope.”
She laughs and then runs away with the other sisters. They climb into their cars and zoom off, and I’m left with Becs and Julia, my new roommate.
“Hey, Chelle, can you please tell me again why we wanted to join a sorority?” Becs asks.
“Because it looks good on our resume,” I say and look at both of my friends. “We can totally do this. It’s just an old house. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Right, just two-hundred years’ worth of ghosts, and probably a lot of mice,” Julia says. “Let’s get it over with, okay?”
We turn on our flashlights and walk up the creaky porch steps that look like they might give out at any minute. Inside the manor, it smells dusty and old, the paint peeling from the walls. Plaster from the ceiling has even crumbled in places.
If it were daytime, it would be super cool.
At night, it’s terrifying.
“I think we should all sleep in this room,” I say, pointing my flashlight into what looks like a study. “We can close the door and just stay right here until daylight.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Becs agrees and sets her sleeping bag down. “And we have to promise to stick together. I am not going to be alone in this gateway to hell.”
“You always were dramatic,” I reply with a laugh, and the three of us get to work setting up our sleeping bags, lights, and getting cozy. “Although, I don’t want to think about what might be crawling on this floor.”
“I’m sleeping sitting up,” Julia says and leans her back against the wall.
“I don’t think I’ll be sleeping at all,” Becs retorts.
I agree with her. I don’t want to say anything and scare Becs more, but this place gives me the heebie-jeebies. The quicker the sun comes up, the better.
“I wonder how many girls didn’t make it through their night in here,” I wonder aloud.
“Like…they died?” Becs asks.
“No, silly. Like they ran out of here screaming.”
“Probably all of them,” Julia says.
“Some must have done it. There are still girls in the sorority,” I remind her.
“I think this is new,” Julia says. “I overheard Shannon telling one of the other girls that there’s no way in hell she’d stay the night here.”
“Well, damn,” I mutter.
Our three flashlights, the old-school kind that my dad insists I keep in the glove box of my car, cast a nice glow around the room. We have our phones, as well, but we don’t have a way to charge them, so they’re still in our pockets.
The house creeks around us, and some critter skitters across the floor just outside the door.
“Rats,” Julia says with a shrug. “Well, guys, I’m gonna sleep.”
“Seriously?” Becs demands.
“Hell, yes. I have a swimming tournament tomorrow, and my coach will kill me if I show up half asleep.” She settles back against the wall, crosses her arms over her chest, and within seconds, she’s snoring lightly.
“How the hell does she do that?” I ask Becs in a whisper. “I swear, every damn night she says she’s going to sleep, and seconds later, she’s out.”
“I don’t usually have trouble sleeping, but I will not sleep here tonight,” Becs says. “I can’t believe you dragged me into this.”
“You wanted to join the sorority!”
“I know, but I didn’t know that I’d have to stay here to get in. This feels really excessive. We’re probably trespassing. I don’t want to go to jail, Chelle.”
“We’re not going to jail.” I snort and glance around the room. “I think this place was really beautiful at one time. It’s super old.”
“I wonder who owned it. And why did they leave it? It seems sad to just let it die like this.”
I nod and then feel my eyes getting heavy.
“You can’t sleep,” Becs says.
“What are we going to do all night? Just sit here and stare at each other?”
“Well, I have to pee.”
I gape at my best friend in horror. “Becs.”
“I know, but I do. You have to come with me.”
“What about Julia?”
“She’s asleep. She’ll still be asleep when we get back.”
“There isn’t a working bathroom in here, you know.”
“I’ll find a bush outside. It’s only pee.” She stands and pulls me to my feet. We hurry outside, and Becs is good to her word. She squats by a bush, relieves her bladder, and we’re back inside in less than five minutes.
“What the fuck?” I exclaim when we get back to our room.
Julia is gone.
Her sleeping bag and flashlight are still there, but she’s not.
“Where the hell is she?” Becs asks.
“Maybe she had to pee, too,” I say as I hurry back down the hall to the front door and peek outside. No Julia. “Shit.”
“We shouldn’t have left her,” Becs says. “This is my fault.”
“She’s fine. She probably just decided to go exploring on her own.”
“Without her flashlight? After she was fast asleep?”
“Maybe she’s using the flashlight on her phone. Come on, we’ll go find her.”
With our flashlights held out like swords, we set off toward the house’s main living quarters. It’s slow-going in the dark, even with the lights, especially because we constantly have to step over debris and even some holes in the floorboards.
“Julia!” I call out. “Where did you go?”
We stop to listen but don’t hear anything.
“She’s probably hiding somewhere so she can jump out and scare us,” Becs mutters. “I’m gonna kick her ass.”
“Same.” I push some broken glass out of the way, and when my light moves up, I scream. “Holy shit, that scared me!”
“It’s just a painting.”
“Yeah, of a face. And it looks like the eyeballs are following us as we walk.”
“You’ve seen way too many old, scary movies.”
Suddenly, we hear a scream coming from somewhere in the house—Julia’s scream.
Becs and I stare at each other. “Where did it come from?”
“Upstairs, I think.”
“Julia!” I yell. “Damn it, I can’t tell where it’s coming from! This house is too big, and with the windows broken, she could even be outside. We have to split up.”
“She could be hurt. Definitely scared. We need to find her.”
“I’m scared, too.”
“I’ll call you. We can talk to each other on our phones as we go.”
I pull my cell out of my pocket and dial Becs’ number. She answers, and we set them to speaker.
“This way, we’re not alone. You go upstairs, and I’ll keep to this floor—and pray to God I don’t have to go into the basement.”
“This feels like a cheesy horror movie, and we’re both going to die,” she says but turns to start up the stairs. “Do not hang up on me.”
“I swear, I won’t.”
I set off in the direction of what looks like the kitchen. “There’re still pots and pans on a really old stove.”
“These steps feel like they’re going to give out from under me. Chelle, this is a shitty idea.”
“I don’t see any evidence of her so far,” I say. “You?”
“I just looked in one bedroom. Nothing yet.”
Another scream pierces the air.
“Oh my God, Julia!” I yell. “Where are you?”
“I think she’s back here,” I say—both to myself and to Becs on the phone—as I walk through the dining room and toward what looks like maybe a mudroom. When I get inside, I see it’s actually an old craft room full of fabrics and even an ancient sewing machine. “Julia?”
“No, she’s up here,” Becs says. “I think in this big bed—”
The line goes dead.
I call her back, but it goes straight to voicemail, and then my phone dies.
Followed immediately by my flashlight.
I’m in the dark.
“Beeeeecs! Juuuuulia!” I scream for them and then go quiet, trying to hear if either of them replies.
Before I can yell again, every single door in the house slams, one by one, like dominos, shaking everything around me.
I run for the door of the sewing room and try to open it, but it’s locked.
I scream for my friends until my throat is sore, my voice hoarse.
But no one comes to find me.
I feel my way to the wall and slide down to my butt, my heart racing, my breath coming fast in pants.
Something scratches across the floor.
“It’s just a rat,” I tell myself. “Only a little, harmless rat.”
Something falls from the wall and shatters on the floor.
And then, in the dark, I hear cackling. Someone or something laughing in sinister delight.
I don’t say a word. Simply sit in my little spot, waiting for daylight while not moving a muscle. Worried about my friends.
When the first hints of dawn start to appear in the small window, the door to the room gently opens. It’s almost as if someone turned the nob and gave it a little push as an invitation to leave.
I scramble to my feet and run through the house, almost tripping on a broken table, but I don’t let it slow me down.
My lungs burn in my chest as I reach the front door and burst outside, shocked at the scene before me.
Becs and Julia.
“Oh my God.”
I hurry to them, and they fold me in their arms.
“I screamed for you,” I say. “But it was just quiet all night.”
“I screamed, too,” Julia says. “Until she told me to shut up or she’d slit my throat like she did her husband’s.”
Becs and I stare at Julia in shock. “Who?”
“The woman who owned this house.”
“I got locked in the fucking closet all night,” Becs says. “And she laughed at me.”
“She laughed at me, too.” I turn to Julia and grip her shoulders, one in each hand. “Did she take you out of that room when Becs had to pee?”
Julia’s gaze leaves mine, and she looks up at the house behind me. Her face goes white, and then she licks her lips. “We have to go. We have to go…now.”
“Shannon isn’t here with the car.”
“We’ll walk.” Julia takes our hands and pulls us down the drive way. “We have to go.”
I turn to look up at the house, trying to see what scared Julia.
Looking down at us from the second-story window is a woman. Smiling gleefully. A knife in her hand.
Damn right, we have to go. But Julia will be spilling more the minute we’re safe. And Shannon will definitely be getting a piece of my mind.
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