A blood-spattered clown stood in our path, cocking his head to the side eerily.
“Turn back. Now.”
“He’s looking right at me…” Cindy whimpered.
“Turn. Back.” he groaned.
“C’mon, keep moving,” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. We stepped around him carefully as he continued to stare us down.
“Guys, haunted houses creep me out,” she said. “Halloween is the creepiest night of the year.”
“Well, we’re almost halfway through,” Our neighbor said as he tried to hold back a laugh. “And it’s not Halloween yet- the tickets are cheaper the night before. Halloween’s tomorrow. At midniiiiight…” He cocked his head to the side, rolling his eyes back into his head. “Ooooooh…”
“Oh, give her a break, Dave, it’s her first time at a- augh!” I yelped suddenly as she cringed and screamed.
“Michaela! Don’t do that!” she moaned as we laughed.
“Really, Cindy, don’t sweat it. This haunted house isn’t bad, it’s actually kinda lame…” Dave lowered his voice.
“Yeah, you can tell when they’re gonna pop out, there’s usually one at each doorframe…” I said, gently moving her forward as we neared the next room.
“No, no, no… I take it back, I don’t want you guys behind me, you guys go first.” She shook her head.
Dave and I strode into the next room. Moonlight poured in through the window, revealing pretend cobwebs and a large plastic cauldron. A witch stood next to it.
“Stop. Don’t go any farther.” she said urgently. “A curse lies on this house! At midnight-”
“C’mon, let’s keep moving, Mick,” Dave whispered. “I bet they’re gonna run out of caramel apples at the exit if we take too long.”
I waved at the witch as we moved down the hallway.
“Come back!” she shrieked.
A group of kids in front of us inched forward. A boy in the back yelped as he was picked off and pulled into a dark room.
“Hey, did you see that?” I said pointing.
“Yeah, I bet he’s a friend of the old man who owns this place. Probably trying to save money with the cheap theatrics.” Dave replied, adjusting his cap and twisting it backwards. “What?” he asked as I gave him a look.
“You’re such a skeptic,” I laughed. “Try not to be such a fun-sucker, okay?” I gestured to the kids in front of us turning the corner. “You’re ruining it for the children.”
“Fine, fine. Hey, you want to watch some old horror flicks when we’re done with this place? I think Netflix has-”
We jumped as the kids screamed.
“Good grief, they’re shrill,” Dave sighed, rubbing his head. “They sound scared to death, poor guys.”
“Wait, where’d they go?” I peered into the single room at the end of the hall. “Did we miss something?”
“Hey, candy! Take one.” Dave pointed, reading the sign. “Don’t mind if I do. Mickey, want some candy corn?”
“Nah.” I said, looking longingly out the window at the caramel apple booth outside. “Candy corn’s gross. I mean, why do they even call it-”
Suddenly, Dave yelled out in shock.
I spun around. “Dave?” I squinted in the dim lighting. “Seriously, where’d you go? Don’t even try to jump out and scare me.”
After waiting a couple minutes, I sighed in frustration. “Fine, I’m moving on. There has to be a bathroom somewhere around here, I reeeeally gotta go… hey, Cindy, do you need to-” I turned behind me to find an empty hallway. “Ugh, where’d she-” I started to walk back down the hall, then immediately regretted drinking three cans of coke before we left.
I pulled out my phone as I sped walked through the house, relieved to find a tiny bathroom at the top of the stairs. Preparing to text Cindy, I squealed as a vampire jumped in front of me, blocking my path.
“You are playing a dangerous game, mister.” I said, squeezing my legs together. “Please just let me through, I need to use the bathroom.”
“Don’t go upstairs.” he said firmly.
“Let me through!” I insisted, pushing past him as I hurried up the stairs, slamming the bathroom door behind me.
I shook my head annoyed as I took a seat.
“Where are u i’ll come get u” I texted to Cindy, only to get no reply. Very unusual for her, considering she keeps her phone on her and turned up twenty-four seven.
A loud banging on the door practically made me drop my phone.
“Occupied,” I called out.
“Let me in!” A man’s voice demanded.
“What part of ‘occupied’ don’t you understand, you creep?” I shouted back.
“Keep it down, they’ll hear you! Let me in, they’re coming.”
“Okay, I get it, the house is scary. Maybe a kid’ll buy your charade, but I’D some privacy. Get out of here!” I said as I stood and washed my hands. “I am SICK of this place…”
“It took my son! He’s dressed in a Batman costume- this place isn’t safe, let me IN!”
I dried my hands and opened the door, stepping back into the dark hallway. “Jeez, it’s all yours! What’s the MATTER with-” I yelped as a hand clapped over my mouth and pulled me back into the bathroom, slamming the door.
“Okay, you need to listen. I went through the room past the candy corn- Jimmy and I both had some- and then we-”
I shook my head free. “Where… where are you?” I was alone in the room.
“Wait, what?!” He released me as I scooted against the wall, shocked. “You- you can’t see me?”
I grabbed a bar of soap from the shower and threw it in his direction, hoping the disembodied voice was some sick prank. The soap knocked into nothing and fell to the ground.
“Great!” he groaned. “It must’ve been that candy corn! Listen, my son and I had some and then we could see all these creatures… I thought it was a trick, but this lady in a mummy costume started telling us to get out, and that there was a curse on the house. The actors in the house are being held against their will- the attraction’s meant to lure people in. Then this old man came up, the owner, and he killed her! There was no way it was fake… then this… dark misty stuff covered my son and he disappeared. Just like that, he was gone.” The voice choked. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I need to find out, now.”
“This is a nightmare…” I mumbled.
“I came to find something to protect myself with, it’s too dark out there. Just be quiet, and leave the lights out when I leave so they can’t find you-” The heavy ceramic lid of the toilet lifted in the air. “This’ll do. Okay, now stay here, be safe.”
“Are you kidding me? My little sister’s in the house somewhere, and my neighbor already ate that weird candy corn.” I said.
“Good, he’ll be able to see what he’s running from.” The voice said. “You going out there?”
I nodded. “I have to.”
The metal shower rod cracked from the drywall and was extended to me. “Take this, get to the candy corn bowl as fast as you can, and get your sister and neighbor out of here. What time is it?”
I checked my phone. “11:45.”
“You have fifteen minutes.”
And with that, the door opened and closed again, leaving me alone in the haunted house.
I gripped the shower rod and swung open the door, feeling it ram into something.
“Is it you?” I whispered, then felt grubby hands close around my neck and warm breath in my ear. I screamed, then became a living beacon for invisible creatures as I heard them swarm around me, grabbing for my arms and hair.
Swinging the rod hard, I cleared my path and ran down the stairs and turned the corner.
Panting, I reached the bowl and stuffed some candy in my mouth.
“Yech, it had to be candy corn…” I whispered.
A dark figure in the corner caught the corner of my eye.
“Dave… Cindy…” I whimpered as it stepped into the moonlight. A bluish, rotting boy stared at me intensely. He was wearing a Batman costume.
Just as the zombie child grabbed for me, I stumbled backwards into the next room, now seeing dozens of creatures approaching.
I crawled under a table, shaking. Nothing made a sound but the occasional scream.
Suddenly a floorboard creaked and I glanced up, gripping my shower rod.
“Stay back!” I shouted.
A little girl stepped out from behind a chair.
I sighed in relief, crawling out from under the table. “Oh, you’re just- stay by me, okay, it’s not safe here.”
She stepped out of the shadows and hissed at me, revealing a split tongue and reptilian eyes as she backed me into the corner. The dark mist followed close behind.
“Take her,” she said as my eyes widened and I screamed.
I found myself in an attic tied to a chair.
He stopped struggling to untie himself and looked up. “Mick! It got you too…”
“Dave, did you see if Cindy could escape?”
He hung his head as a creature emerged from the shadows.
“You! What did you do with my sister?” I choked, cringing from the grotesque figure. The sound of the scales on its leathery tail dragging the ground made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
“You left me.” It said. “You left me behind…”
I squinted in the dim attic, freezing at the sight of the creature’s familiar blue eyes.
“It has begun,” she snarled, bounding down the stairs.
Before I could scream, the mist appeared again and Dave cried out in shock. He transformed before my eyes, growing course fur and fangs. His new claws scratched at his bindings as he doubled in size, then suddenly grew calm.
“I will serve my master. The creatures of the night are my brothers and sisters. This place will forever be my home.” He stated.
“Dave…?” I asked in horror.
“You’re next,” a voice said in the darkness- the old man had been standing there the whole time.
“Why- why are you doing this?” I gasped.
“Don’t you think it should be Halloween every day?” he smiled, his eyes blank and expressionless.
The mist enveloped me before I could speak. I felt no physical change, but my mind became like there was someone else living inside of it. The old man told me my body wasn’t transformed so I wouldn’t alarm the people living in town, but could persuade them to enter the house and live like we did. My mind begged my mouth not to lead innocent people to the hell hole, but my mouth wouldn’t listen.
Before my first day of work, I stared out the attic window as the old man looked on. I could feel the dangerous urge to doom the people outside rising, but it couldn’t be controlled.
“All ready, Michaela?” he asked pleasantly, a psychotic gleam in his eyes.
I turned to him and glared. “Something wicked this way comes.”