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Lost in the Dark
The door slammed shut and the house was dark. She was sorry that she had told her friends not to come with her — her pride had told her that she could do this alone. Now, her brain was telling her to get out of the house and run as fast as she could away from the mystery that drenched the house and seemed to pull people in. The story of the house was no more than a false rumor that had started among the teenagers of their small town, yet the very mention of the house’s name could create reckless dreams - and the sight of it could make people take reckless actions.
A reckless action — that was what the girl was doing right now. She was desperate… desperate for friends, attention, and respect. Even though she’d arrived from an exclusive private school in a big city and probably received more awards than everyone in the little town combined, no one seemed to take her seriously. Oh, it’s the rich girl, people whispered when she was in the halls of her school. I heard that her parents bribe all the teachers so that she’ll get good grades. Even the teachers were just as bad. They looked at her as if she would taint their classrooms with whatever “rich girl” vibes she seemed to give off. People who called themselves her friends - the people who she had been thinking of coming to the house with - were only hoping for a shopping trip where she would pay the bill.
Her parents might have been even worse, always pressuring her to do more. An A- on a test was not enough, it had to be an A+. Her father was always reminding her about the early age that he had started his first successful company, and her mother was always reminding her about how privileged she was to be born into her family. No one knew the endless pressure that was on her — they just assumed her life was perfect because of the money. They scorned her because of their stereotypical opinions that her life was easy. Maybe it was easier than theirs, but she had her own struggles. She longed to make her mark on the world, have people acknowledge that she was important, but she also just wanted to fade away and never face another person again. Frustration had started to take over her life, making it impossible to think, and more important to her parents - to study. She had hoped to clear her mind, do something stupid, like she had never allowed herself to do before.
So here she was. Alone, in a strange place, trying to heal her wounded pride. The boards of the stairs creaked suddenly, and she squinted to see if anyone was there. Her pulse sped up as the darkness seemed to get more intense. She spun around and put her hand on the door, ready to shove it open and charge out into the daylight. Then the cold metal of the handle reminded her of her original purpose. My “friends” will regret ever saying anything. She thought back to Friday, anger causing her face to get hot.
“Guys, look at my new shirt!” a girl squealed from behind me. “It’s so pretty, right?” I spun around, recognizing the voice of one of the girls I had gone shopping with last weekend. She had told me to hold her clothes for her while she went to the bathroom. When she came out, she had told me to just pay for everything quickly so that we could leave. At that time, I hadn’t seen anything weird about that. I could just be nice, right? But today, I saw how it was from everyone else in the school’s view.
“How did you afford that? Gucci clothes are so expensive!” someone said.
“Wow, I wish I had someone who could get me nice clothes like that,” another said. The girl with the shirt laughed.
“Want to know how to get clothes like this for free?” She pointed to her shirt. Then she turned around to face me, smirking. “She bought this for me. She’s bought so many other things for me too! Have you guys ever noticed how many new clothes I got since she came?” I offered a small smile, thinking that they she was about to talk about how nice I had been, how generous.
“She’s so gullible. I’ve used her for this entire year! She doesn’t even know.” The laughter from the crowd stung my ears even more than her words. She was using me? Telling everyone that I was just a stupid girl to be exploited for her money? I could only feel humiliation as I realized how everyone thought of me.
“Serves her right,” a short blonde girl from the corner added. “Every teacher has been looking down on us and comparing us to her since she got here.”
“Right! She doesn’t even belong here.”
“We all know that everyone who belongs here has to take the test,” my “friend” said, her burning glare cutting right through me as we made eye contact. “Hey, city girl. Do you think you can just storm into here and rule over all of us? Here’s news, you can’t. All of us, you might think we’re beneath you, but we’re all worth something, even if it’s not worth much from your rich point of view! You never had it hard. You never struggled through a night without eating. Do you know what we have been through, to still be alive today?” I stared at her, stunned, clenching my fists in anger. How many times would I have to tell them that it wasn’t easy? That just growing up rich did not make everything perfect? And nobody would ever believe me.
“Just let her take the test and then we can see what she’s really made of,” someone whispered to my “friend.”
“She’s not made up of anything, but why not let her try? It’ll be funny,” my “friend” said. “You up to it?”
“FINE!” I screamed. “Fine! I’ll do whatever stupid test that you want me to do! I’ll prove to you that I’m not just a lazy rich girl because none of you seem to think that real life might be a whole lot different from the fake rich families that you see on television everyday!” I could feel my nails digging into my palms, dangerously close to drawing blood.
“After school today, then,” she said. “I’ll have to tell you what the test is.” The menacing whisper of her voice sent chills down my back, but it was nothing compared to the hot anger that was resonating inside me. With my screams, and her words, still echoing in my ears, I turned away from the crowd that had gathered, barely hearing their laughter under my own tangle of emotions.
I have to show them, she thought.. I will show them. The very thought of the people who ridiculed her in the hallways of the schools, and when she was walking outside made her nerves turn to steel. The girl turned back to the stairs with her hand clenched into a fist.
Ignoring her thoughts about the stories of the many people who had never come out of the house, she cautiously made her way forward with her arms in front of her. She wished she had a flashlight to at least dispel some of the darkness in front of her. The crowd of students who had poked insults at her until she ran into the house had made sure she had absolutely nothing that she could use to help her through the house. She patted her pockets - and then realized that they had actually left something out. She pulled a small flashlight out, and flicked it on. A small area in front of her was suddenly brightened, and she relaxed and walked forward. Still unsure of what she might find, she walked slowly towards the hallway with the first room in it. She pushed the door open, shining the flashlight in before her.
Her confidence grew as she only discovered dusty furniture. There weren’t even any cobwebs to brush away. A test of courage? She laughed aloud. The people living here are such wimps. This is scary to them? They should see the haunted houses in the city. The fear that she had been feeling minutes ago did not stick around for much longer. She confidently strode into one room after another, throwing open doors and not bothering to close them after her.
She climbed up the set of creaky stairs that led to the second floor, stepping onto the landing facing a hallway full of rooms. She walked into the nearest one. There was a window in the room, barely visible. It was greasy and cracked, and the light from the small flashlight only reflected off the dull surface. The girl used the tattered curtains that hung off the window to wipe off some of the grime. Faint light filtered through the cracked panes, illuminating the room dimly. Her eyes adjusted to the different lighting, taking in details that she had not seen before. There was a bed in the room - she had seen the faint outline of that before.
Suddenly, the girl jumped backwards, pressing against the dirty wall opposite the bed. Did something in the bed just move? Her heart raced as she trembled in shock. A loud, groaning sound reached her ears. It sounded almost human, yet there was something about it that made her legs weak. She fell to the ground, holding the light in front of her as if it could pierce the deep darkness of the house. The loud sound came again, sounding even closer to her. She curled up into a ball, covering her ears.
When it ended, every small sound seemed ten times louder to her ears - the rustle of the curtains, the creak of the stairs, and even her own ragged breathing. Slowly, the seconds passed, and she managed to calm herself down enough to get back to her feet.
Her flashlight seemed a lot dimmer now, barely illuminating enough for her to see her hand in front of her. She inched forward along the wall furthest from the bed. She struggled to come up with a rational reason for the loud noise. Must be the house shifting, she thought. It has to be. What else? Demons? Ghosts? As soon as the thought crossed her mind, a chilling whisper of wind swept across the house, like a sign that she had guessed right.
The girl abandoned all attempts at silence and dashed across the room. Just as she touched the door handle, a hissing laugh erupted from the bed. She yanked and twisted the door, trying to open it, but it seemed to be jammed. She banged on the door, screaming at the top of her lungs.
She was soon exhausted. Her throat was sore from all her screaming, tears were running down her face from fear, and her hands were bloody from the splinters in the door. The malicious laughter continued. She summoned what little courage she had left, standing up shakily and fumbling with the flashlight. She crept closer to the bed, the thin beam of light only showing a yellowed blanket. The hissing noise had gotten softer now, making her straighten up and walk closer to the bed. She shined the light on every possible spot on the bed. There was a lump on it - but it didn’t seem to be moving. It couldn’t possibly have made the sound that she was so scared of. With a tentative hand, the girl reached out to touch the old sheets. A cloud of dust swirled upwards, blocking her view. She waved it away, holding the flashlight in front of her. The lump under the bed was still there, and it had not moved. She pulled the covers away.
. . .
The old house was silent. A soft breeze blew, ruffling the long grass in the house’s lawn. Inside, a girl lay on a bed, as if she was asleep. Her face was peaceful, her body relaxed. But she was cold to the touch, and unnaturally pale. Her heart no longer pumped blood through her body, and her lungs no longer took in air. Many people remembered her - but few would talk about her. Only the married couple, standing in the driveway in brand name clothes, just back from their vacation, had asked about her. The couple had left her too early to save her, and come back too late to save her. They heard rumors about how she wanted the attention, the love, that they had never given - and now, would never get to give. They walked slowly up to the house, tears spilling out of their eyes. The air around them was heavy with regret and grief. The only thought on their mind was that they were too late - too late to save their daughter.