It was a scorching eighty-seven degrees in Prescott, Arizona, on the day of June second. Most of the children were still in school, anticipating the final ring of the bell at three o’clock that afternoon. They sat in their chairs, shifting from side to side as they watched the clock instead of their teacher. There were ten minutes left of the school day.
Prescott, with its friendly community and entertaining neighborhood, had endless things to do. Many of the kids were in sports; the most popular was soccer.
But four boys in particular that day had a different idea in mind of after-school entertainment. Karson, the “leader” of the gang, had found out about an old abandoned house at the edge of Redwood Drive. It had been vacant for almost thirteen years now, boarded up and dry rotting. The legend was that in 1997 a family with three children bought the house and had just moved in when a tragic accident occurred. During the middle of their first night sleeping in the house, one of the youngest children, Blake Winsfied, had somehow died unexpectedly in his sleep. He had no medical problems or sicknesses. In the morning however, after investigators and paramedics examined him, there were noticeable hand marks around his neck. The diagnosis: he had been strangled. But the question remaining was who? Who could have strangled this young boy, and for what reason?
After that horrible incident the family moved out and away from the city entirely, and the house was closed off and left empty for years. No one ever wanted to move there, and the house was eventually taken off the market for good.
Over the years a story had developed that a ghost was haunting the vacant house. It was also rumored that the supposed ghost was the one who had killed Blake Winsfield. Countless brave children had attempted to spend the night in that house, but none had succeeded. Most never even lasted a full hour inside.
Today, Johnny, Garret, Kyler and Karson planned to at least spend a few hours inside the old Redwood house. No one had done it before, and Karson was curious about the alleged ghost killer.
The bell rang and everyone jumped out of their seats. “Don’t forget to read pages nine through twelve tonight!” their teacher reminded. Karson stood at the door waiting for his friends. The only one that was in the same grade as him was Kyler. Kyler had blonde hair and brown eyes and was thirteen years old; one year younger than Karson. Karson was taller then the rest, with blue eyes and black straight hair. He greeted Kyler with a nod.
“You ready?” he asked.
“As ever. We still gotta get Johnny and Garret though.”
“Yeah I know. They’re meetin’ us outside by the water fountain.”
“Alright, let’s go get ‘em them.” They walked through the crowded halls, text books in hand, and stepped outside where they saw Garret and Johnny waiting by the water fountain.
Garret and Johnny were brothers; Johnny was the younger one. He was only ten years old and a lot shorter than the rest of the crew. He had brown hair and brown eyes, and always seemed to be carrying a soccer ball around. His brother Garret had brown eyes as well but darker colored hair. They were both pretty tan, as were most of the people who lived in Arizona. Garret was twelve, two years older than Johnny.
“Hey, are you guys ready to go?”
“Well I am,” Garret said, “but I’m not so sure about Johnny.” He pointed his thumb back at his little brother, who looked as if though at any minute he was about to break down and cry. When he realized what Garret had said though he immediately toughened up.
“I’m ready,” he said, cradling his soccer ball. There were various scuffs and scratches from all the times it had been kicked and played with. He stood up straight. “Let’s go right now. I’m not scared.” The boys looked at one another and shrugged.
“Everyone remembered to tell their parents we had to stay after school for a project so they don’t get suspicious, right?” Kyler asked. Everyone nodded.
“All right then,” Karson replied. “I say we go then.” There was a small hesitation but they all followed as soon as Karson turned to walk towards the bike rack. They were all prepared physically, but no so much mentally. Backpacks strapped over their shoulders and on their bikes, they began the three mile ride to Redwood Drive.
They pedaled down the sidewalk through town, dodging pedestrians here and there. Karson led the way, followed by Kyler and Garret with Johnny in the back. He had learned to ride using only one hand since he usually held his soccer ball in the other, which most other kids his age couldn’t successfully do yet. They continued down the smooth pavement, then turning to the right down a dirt road, just past the small dollar store. They only had about a mile left to go.
“Are we almost there?” Johnny called from the back, drifting farther away from the group.
“Hey guys, take a break for a sec’,” Garret called as he looked back at his brother. “Johnny’s tiring out.” Everyone pulled in their brakes, skidding to a stop and kicking up a cloud of brown dry dirt. Kyler kicked down the kick stand of his bike and walked over to where Johnny was catching his breath resting on his bike. He slid his backpack off his left shoulder, unzipping it and taking out a half filled plastic water bottle.
“Here, kid, take a drink.” He unscrewed the cap and held out the bottle, which Johnny took gratefully. When he handed it back, only about half of the amount that was previously in there remained. He wiped the dripping water from his mouth with his arm sleeve.
“Thanks. It’s just so hot out today. But I’m ready now,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Ready.” Kyler slung his bag back over his shoulders and mounted his bike. Karson looked back to make sure everyone was ready and then started pedaling onward. There weren’t many houses on this road, and not many trees, either. They only passed six homes, and there weren’t any kids living there either. Just old adults like retired grandmas and grandpas. Due to the lack of trees there wasn’t much shade, making the ride to the Redwood house long and tiring. The boys didn’t stop again, determined to reach their destination with time left to explore inside. Even though all of them acted as if though they couldn’t wait, Karson was the only one that was genuinely excited about the whole thing. The others were intimidated and a little scared, Johnny especially. No one showed it though. They all kept a tough expression.
“There it is, boys!” Karson declared, pointing to an old run down building just up the next hill. Two single trees stood in tall grass of the yard. Hardly grass; it was more a small field of three foot high weeds and dandelions. “It doesn’t look that scary!” Karson shouted back to his friends trailing behind him. He wheeled into the rocky driveway and stopped his bike just at the front porch steps. The entire house was one main color: gray. All the paint on the wood had chipped away and just the boards remained, weak and dry. The rest of the boys pulled in behind their leader. They parked their bikes and stood in front of the house, all looking up at the glass-empty windows and dark interior.
“Well,” Karson said, hands on his hips as he squinted up at the building. “Shall we enter?” He smiled at the rest of the group as they slowly followed. They all still had their bags.
The stairs of the porch creaked just as pretty much all the other wood did. Karson was first to enter, followed by Kyler and then Garret, with Johnny right behind his brother as usual. They all hopped in through the front left window since the door had been boarded shut.
The group stood at the foot of the staircase. “Whoa. Creepy.” Kyler looked up the stairs. They seemed to lead no where, and for it being so bright outside it was scary as to how dark it was in there. Especially up the stairs.
“Hey, there’s the kitchen,” Garret pointed. There wasn’t much furniture in the house at all. Just one or two old chairs that had been left behind. There was a kitchen table, though, so dusty it was almost white instead of wooden-brown. Johnny blew away a large area of it as he walked by. He tried focusing on other things besides the stories he had heard of the little boy being killed in this house. The boys walked around, examining all the aspects of the old house. It was hard to imagine a family living there.
“Quite a dump,” Karson remarked, opening one of the cupboards above the kitchen counter. There were cobwebs all over the place.
“So what are we gonna do?” Johnny asked. He stepped out from behind his brother. He held his beloved soccer ball against his left hip.
“Well, little man, I planned on takin’ a look upstairs. I hear that’s where the ghost is.” Johnny’s eyes got wide and turned around to look at the stairs. Only the side was visible, and it was coated in dust. “What do you think about that?”
For a minute he didn’t say anything. Then he realized he hadn’t answered yet and was still staring at the staircase. “Umm…yeah, sure.” Karson laughed.
“You don’t have to go up there if you don’t want to,” Garret said. “I’ll stay down here with you while Kyler and him go up.”
“Oh, no you don’t.” Kyler stepped forward. “Don’t try to use your little brother as an excuse to chicken out of this thing. We’re all going up there, and if Johnny really doesn’t want to then he can wait outside with the bikes or something.” Karson nodded.
“So come on. Let’s go,” Karson replied. He led the way, walking over to the rickety staircase. “So are you coming Johnny or what?” he called, looking up at the top of the stairs.
“Sure, I guess-” Just before he finished there was a huge crash upstairs. They all froze. No one- that they knew of- had been up there when they entered the house. Johnny whimpered. He clutched his soccer ball as hard as ever, stepping back in to the kitchen area. Karson had one foot on the first step. He now stepped down, taking his hand off the railing.
“What in the hell was that?” he asked, frantically glancing at each one of the guys.
“Karson!” Garret said. “Not in front of Johnny.” Kyler stood still.
“Well what do you want me to do, use my manners, mom? Jeese, just calm down!”
“You guys!” Kyler held out his hand, signaling for them to stop. “Just shut up, will ya?” It was silent in the home now, with no other sounds coming from the second floor. “Let’s get out of here,” he said and headed for the door before Karson grabbed him and held him there. He stared up at the top of the stairs.
“Let’s go up there,” Karson urged. “I wanna see if this ghost is for real or not.” He took a step forward, the stair creaking loudly. Looking over his shoulder he saw the terrified faces of each of his friends, watching in disbelief that he was crazy enough to go up those stairs. He continued on. After a few minutes the rest of the group followed.
“You sure you wanna go?” Garret whispered to his brother.
“No.” They kept walking.