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Willow Creek House
“So, if we multiply tangent squared by cosine squared, we get—”
‘Absolute garbage,’ Ty finished in his head as his math teacher completed an example problem on the board. Why was it so important to adults that kids be shut up in a dim, moldy smelling room and be made to study things that made no sense whatsoever?
“Hey, Ty…Ty!” a voice hissed. Ty shifted slightly in his seat to lean back and listen to his friend Mark who sat behind him.
“Me and Maggie are going to Willow Creek tonight with some of the guys on the team. Wanna come?” he whispered.
“Yeah, sure,” Ty replied noncommittally as he pretended to understand that sine squared minus one did not equal cosine squared.
“Great! Nine at the bridge, okay?”
“Mr. White, do you have something you wish to tell the class?”
“No, Mr. Foyle,” Mark replied, the angelic smile he wore almost broken by a grin.
The bell rang, saving Mark from disaster. “Remember, nine at the bridge!” he called back to Ty as he raced from the classroom.
Ty ignored him and began picking up his papers. Slowly, the realization of what he’d agreed to sank in. Damn it, why had he said yes? Why was he going back to that place?
With an agitated swing, he hoisted his bag onto his shoulder and strode out of the classroom to the parking lot. He had to think up an excuse and get out of it, he thought. He couldn’t go back to that house.
Local legend went that back when the town was settled, before the Revolutionary War, a woman had died in Willow Creek house. No one knew exactly how. All anyone knew for sure was that she’d left behind two grieving children, a husband…and her spirit. Not many people had seen her, but anyone who had said she looked so grave and solemn, so sad, that it had brought tears to their eyes just to look at her. As ghosts went, she wasn’t remotely scary. But it wasn’t her Ty was worried about. It was the other ghost.
He slammed his keys into the lock and slid into the rickety old piece of metal he called his truck. With a sigh, he leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes.
He was ten, crammed in a tent in the woods with Mark, Brandon and Nate, eating popcorn, drinking soda and telling ghost stories. Mark had a huge grin on his face, like he had a secret no one else knew. “Why don’t we go to Willow Creek? I want to see the ghost!” “Yeah!” “Cool!” “Let’s do it.” They gathered up flashlights and strode bravely out into the night.
Damn! Ty’s eyes flew open and he jolted upright. Swearing under his breath, he jammed the keys in the ignition and turned. With a familiar cacophony of clunks and scrapes, the truck roared to life and Ty put all his pent-up agitation and anger into the gas pedal, shooting out of the parking space and onto Main Street.
He hadn’t been able to come up with an excuse for Mark. Every time he thought he had a good reason, he’d hear Mark’s voice in his head shooting it down. So now he was driving to the bridge, with two flashlights, extra candles and matches stuffed in a bag on the seat next to him. If he was going back to that house, he was going prepared.
When he pulled up at the bridge, everyone else was already there. Mark was leaning casually on the side of his truck, his arm around his newest girlfriend Maggie. Brandon was perched on the hood of his prized Honda Civic sedan, grinning as he and Nate debated the likelihood that the ghost would show herself. Three girls he recognized but couldn’t put names to were whispering intently over the contents of a cardboard box. From a distance he could make out the faint gleam of metal candlesticks and the glow of the worn wood of an Ouija board.
Four girls and four guys to achieve a ‘spiritual balance’, candles, and an Ouija board. The idiots wanted to have a séance at Willow Creek.
“Oh, good, Ty, you’re here,” Maggie said briskly, or at least tried to say briskly. Her preppy airhead voice instead made it sound like she was about to treat him for ice-cream. Trust Maggie to come up with this idea. She thought hosting séances at three parties made her an expert. And her empty head had come to the logical conclusion that if she was that good, she should try for the big leagues: a haunted house.
“Nate, would you grab that box for us? I really don’t think Em should be lifting it with her manicure.” Ty groaned and wished he was anywhere but here.
“Guys, over here!” They ran up the creek and to the crumbling doorway. It was barricaded. They snuck around back and crawled in through the weakened boards over a window.
Mark led the way, sweeping the dusty floor and cobwebbed ceilings with his flashlight. Ty brought up the rear.
A sudden bang came from overhead. Nate jumped backwards into Ty and sent him flying into the wall. Spiders and wood rained from the ceiling.
“Ty! You okay?” Mark was bending over to check on him.
“Ty! Ty!” Mark was waving his hand in front of Ty’s face. “Anybody home?”
“Yeah,” he said, coming back to earth. “Sorry. What’s up?”
“Grab your stuff. We’re moving out.” Mark thumped his back and, digging out his flashlight, took the lead. The others followed, leaving Ty to bring up the rear. ‘Déjà vu, much?’ he thought ironically and trudged after them.
In the years since he’d been to Willow Creek, someone had ripped the boards off the front door, so the group didn’t have to resort to squeezing in through the gaps in the window boards. The rest of the house was the same as ever though: dusty, dank, dark…and absolutely silent. No creaks from rusty shutters or from old floorboards. Not one sound.
As the boys held the flashlights, Maggie and the girls laid a white cloth on the ground and placed the Ouija board in the center. Then came the bronze candlesticks and the candles. Per Maggie’s instructions, white and black candles were lit to increase the power of their psychic call to the ghost and to protect them from any other spirits who might try to take advantage of the séance. Ty immediately dug out the two candles he’d brought and lit them.
The others formed a circle on the floor around the cloth and clasped hands. Ty, his trepidation growing, slowly joined them and prayed with all his heart that things would be okay.
“Close your eyes,” Maggie instructed them in her airy voice. “Focus on the ghost and how much you want to see her.” For a few moments there was absolute silence. Then one of the girls giggled.
“If you don’t believe in this, leave now. You’re lessening the power of this group,” Maggie reprimanded her, her haughty tone offset once again by her breathiness. It sounded so pompous that Ty nearly cracked up.
With an injured expression, the girl closed her eyes again and Maggie resumed. “We call upon the spirit of the woman who haunts this place. Come to us, speak with us. We call to you.” Silence.
They waited thirty minutes, hands clasped, focusing on the ghost. When nothing happened, Ty felt his anxiety ease. Maybe the ghosts would leave them alone tonight.
“Is there a spirit here who wishes to communicate with us?” Maggie asked the air. Nothing happened. Ty was about to suggest that this was pointless and that they should go when a sound came from the Ouija board. The pointer was moving.
Astonished gasps came from the circle as they watched the pointer jerk agitatedly over the board. Maggie, her voice hoarse, repeated the letters aloud. “L—E—A—V—E—N—O—W. Leave now.” She turned towards Mark, puzzled. “She’s a benevolent spirit. I don’t understand.”
A wind shrieked through the rafters, screaming bloody murder. The candle flames danced higher and higher, then went out with a flash of smoke and hot wax. As darkness engulfed them, Ty could hear some of the girls cry out and felt someone clutch his hand in a white-knuckle grip. A chill seemed to grip the room and Ty’s breath turned to a frosty vapor before his face. A strange creaking started at the top of the stairs.
It was coming.
“Everybody out!” he yelled and began to drag whoever was clutching his hand toward the door. Forget the candles, forget the Ouija board. They had to get out of there. Now.
He could hear Maggie protesting behind him. She wanted to go back for her Ouija board. But Ty didn’t turn around. He didn’t let them stop. He knew what was behind them: a horror like no other.
“It’s too dangerous,” Nate reasoned when Ty was back on his feet. “I’m going back.” They began to retrace their steps to the window. First Nate, then Brandon and Mark made their escape, slipping through the boards. Ty waited for one of them to pull him through, clutching his flashlight in the darkness.
A chill wind blew through the room and Ty’s teeth began to chatter. The floorboards in the next room creaked slowly, almost rhythmically, as if something was walking towards the doorway. Ty scrambled for the window, afraid the house was falling down around him.
He lost his grip on the sill and toppled onto the floor. Gingerly he picked himself up and called for Mark to help him. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He called again for Mark, for Nate, anyone, desperate.
The creaking stopped, and all of Ty’s body screamed at him to run, to run as fast as he could and never come back. He turned around, heart beating wildly.
It stood there in the doorway: a dark shadow, surrounded by a blood-red glow. Its face was darkness, with two pricks of boiling red for eyes and a sadistically grinning maw that promised an eternity of pain and suffering for the little boy who had dared disturb its rest. It stretched out its arms for Ty.
The group stood panting by the cars, some bent over double, others stretched out flat on the muddy ground. For a time, the only sounds were those of their labored breath and the slow murmur of the creek.
Mark broke the silence. “What happened back there?” he wheezed, picking himself off the ground.
“We made contact!” Maggie exclaimed shrilly. “And Ty made us leave.” She shot an annoyed glance at him.
“Ceiling was starting to cave,” he lied. “Wasn’t safe.”
“Again?” Brandon rolled his eyes. Maggie turned her ‘killer’ gaze on him. He glanced at Ty, who shrugged. “Last time we were here, the ceiling fell in on Ty. Twice.”
“Twice? I remember the first one, when we were all inside, but—“ Mark said, confused.
“Second time was after we three had gotten out of the house. Ty was still inside. Remember we heard him yell? We don’t know what happened.” He shrugged. “Some of the plaster probably hit him on the head.”
“No wonder he’s so messed up,” Nate joked.
Maggie’s face had by now returned to its sunshine smile. She reached out and slid an arm around Mark. “Oh, well. We’ll try again later.”
Ty stood in silence as the others slowly walked towards the cars. It hadn’t come. It hadn’t hurt his friends. He’d gotten them out in time. Relief washed through him, leaving his knees weak.
“Hey, Ty! Let’s go, man!” Brandon yelled from his sedan.
“Be right there,” he called back. He’d beaten it. He’d beaten the ghost.
‘I am not afraid of you,’ he thought at the specter. Setting his shoulders, he turned and looked up the creek to the house that haunted his dreams.
Silhouetted in moonlight in front of the house stood a silvery figure. She stared at Ty, her eyes full of sadness and pain. She gestured with her hand, a shooing motion, like a mother gives to an unruly child. ‘Go home,’ she seemed to say. ‘Go home where it’s safe. I don’t want you to get hurt.’
Ty felt his heart constrict at the eternal sorrow on her face. How could something as peaceful as her haunt the same place as that bloodthirsty nightmare?
She motioned again, more insistently. Ty could take a hint, even if it was from a ghost. Besides, he’d had enough of ghosts and spooks for one night. He was going home. He turned his back on Willow Creek, slid into his truck, and drove home.