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Stella Carson glanced up at the clock and sighed. Though she had only been studying for an hour, it felt like she had been sitting at her desk for days. Her eyes wandered to the window. Her new room had a perfect view of the street she lived on, but it was obscured by the pounding rain at the moment. As the words on the page blurred again, she heard the phone ring downstairs. Since no one else was home, Stella stood, stretched, and hurried out to the hall connection. When she picked up the receiver, she could already hear someone talking on the other end.
“—me… someone…. Is anyone there? Help me….” Stella’s eyes widened. It sounded like a woman’s voice, but it was hard to tell, because they were speaking very quietly, between sobs.
“Hello? Can you hear me?” Stella gripped the phone more tightly as she spoke.
“Who is this?” But the woman carried on as if she hadn’t heard. Stella spoke more loudly.
“Hello? What’s going on?” As she spoke, she heard the woman’s voice grow quieter and quieter, then was cut off by a dead silence. Stella slowly placed the phone back on its hook. What was that all about? She wondered. I hope that lady was okay. As she crossed the hall to her room, Stella paused to examine her reflection in the mirror outside her bedroom door. She looked like a mess. Her dark brown hair hung in tangles around her round, freckled face, and her mascara was smudged under one eye. As she raked her fingers through her hair, she thought about what the phone call must have been about. A wrong number, perhaps? It was possible. The Carsons had moved to Waynesbridge only a week ago. But why would someone call this phone anyway? The house had been abandoned for years, the phone disconnected. She turned her head to inspect the other side. Suddenly, she froze as she caught sight of the phone stand in the mirror. The phone’s cord lay on the floor, unconnected to the wall.
The next morning, Stella still couldn’t get the phone call out of her head. Even her mother noticed. “Are you sure you’re feeling alright?” she asked. Stella considered telling her about the phone call, but decided not to. Her mom had enough to worry about without Stella’s problems on her mind. “Nope, I’m fine!” she shouted over her shoulder. “See you later!”
When she arrived at school, Stella saw her friend Nicole waiting at her locker. She hurried over. “You’ll never believe what happened to me last night!” she proceeded to tell Nicole her story. When she finished, Nicole’s bespectacled grey eyes were as wide as saucers. “No way!” she exclaimed. “Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?”
“Positive.” Stella said. “My nightmares are never that realistic.” Nicole wound a piece of her carrot-coloured hair around her finger. “So what did you do after that?”
“I tried the phone again, but it was definitely still dead. I was so terrified, I couldn’t sleep all night!” Stella yawned. “And on top of that, I never finished studying for my calculus quiz!”
Just then, the bell rang. Stella said good-bye to Nicole and rushed to first period. No matter how hard she tried to concentrate, she kept thinking about the phone call. Who had the woman been, and what had happened to her? How had she been able to call Stella on a disconnected phone?
After school, Stella headed to the library to look up her house’s history. After looking over newsreel after newsreel, she finally found the one she was looking for. Dated from about ten years ago, a front-page article sporting the headline MURDER IN WAYNESBRIDGE caught her eye. Leaning closer, she realized that the grainy photo next to the words was of her own house! With a shiver, she started reading. When she finished, she was sure of who the caller had been.
According to the article, the last people to live in the house were a young couple. Though they were recently married, they already had many problems. The man was a heavy drinker, and he beat up his wife almost every night. One night, the neighbors heard the man come home drunk as usual, but this time it seemed that the wife had hidden herself and was calling the police. Unfortunately, this sent the husband into a rage, and when he found her, he strangled her with the phone cord. By the time the police had arrived, he had killed himself as well, hanging himself from a beam in the attic.
This last piece of information sent a chill down Stella’s spine. Not one, but two people had died in her house. No wonder it had been abandoned for so long! She was almost afraid to go home, but how could she explain to her parents that their new house was haunted? When she left the library, it was getting dark out and had started to rain. She pulled on her hood and ran home, stopping in front of the gate. She stared up at her house, and it seemed to stare back, looming over her like a dark monster about to devour another victim. She walked slowly up the porch steps, and paused before stepping up to the door and unlocking it. Summoning up her courage, she dashed into the house, slamming the door shut behind her. Stella groped around the kitchen for the light switch and flicked it on, only to find that the power was out. She stood stock-still, in the middle of her kitchen, terrified. Now she was stuck in a haunted house, in the dark, with no means of communication.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, she was able to move again. She walked slowly out into the corridor, toward the front door. She would go to Nicole’s house, or back to the library. There’s no way I’m going to stay here, she thought. Not for a second! The house seemed to be pulsing with dark energy. As she reached the front door, the phone in the kitchen began to ring.
Stella gasped and jerked her head up. Had the phone company come yet? Or…was it…? Every instinct in her body was screaming for her to run, but Stella hesitated. There was only one way to find out. She made her way back into the kitchen and picked up the receiver. After a frightened pause, she spoke quietly into the mouthpiece. Her voice sounded shrill in the empty house. “Hello?” Stella listened intently. Was that sobbing in the background? Finally, the woman’s eerie whisper came through. “He’s going to get me…. Please, send help…. Help me… someone--” there was a sharp cry from the other end, then silence. Stella stood in the dark kitchen, staring at the receiver in her hand. Then she heard creaking above her head. Footsteps! Heavy, thudding footsteps, coming down the stairs into the hall. She was trapped! If she tried to make a run for the front door, she would be spotted! Her only hope was the small window in the dining room, to her right. But before she could take a single step, she felt the phone cord around her neck.
Tina Gardner stared up at her new house. Moving to a dump like Waynesbridge had been bad enough, but this house was even worse. It seemed to be keeping secrets imprisoned behind its walls, and she was sure that they weren’t good ones. “Tina!” Her dad was struggling with a heavy lamp. “Go up and open the door, before I drop this thing!” She walked slowly up to the front door, and after a moment’s hesitation, turned the knob. As she stepped inside, a phone began to ring.