All I wanted to do was make friends. Yet as a brace-faced, four-eyed teen entering high school, this proved hard. I had opted out of four years of hell at a public high school, but the small, private, all-girls school did not feel as welcoming as I’d hoped. Some of the girls had known each other in middle school, and some for their entire lives. I knew this school was the place for me, but I wanted a partner to help me navigate those hallways of chaos. So I decided to explore my options out of the 38 girls in my class.
Soon the opportunity I was waiting for arose. One of my classmates, Sarah, invited our class to volunteer at a haunted house. If I could win her over, I would have someone to walk with in the hallways, work with as partners in class, and do things with after school.
On that fall day, I followed Sarah’s instructions and dressed in all black. I raced to Bower’s Farm, eager to help out my soon-to-be friend. Soon after I arrived, I was swept into a cluttered room in the back of the farmhouse. Masks of all shapes and sizes on the wall stared at me with their eyeless holes. Bloody clothes and muddy shoes were strewn across the room in the panic to get ready. I made a beeline toward Sarah before being quickly dismissed to find a costume.
I searched for a mask to cover my thick eyeglass frames, then finally found the perfect extra-large one covered in ugly sores. With my pale skin tone and crooked, metallic smile glinting through the mouth hole, I was the epitome of scary.
In the cornfield beyond the farmhouse were five pop-up wood shacks connected by a maze of corn paths. Each was loosely covered with a plastic tarp to keep out moonlight or wet weather. Within these crudely built structures, nightmares came to life.
Dressed in my hideous mask and dark clothes, I was assigned to hide at the end of the final shack and pop out to scare the patrons one last time. As a girl who couldn’t even watch “ET” without covering her eyes, I already knew that this would be a challenge.
We made our way to our stations. I watched Sarah disappear into the pitch black shack, then anxiously awaited the patrons. Now, I am far from scary; I’d be more likely to trip and take the person down rather than to scare them by popping out and screaming. But I was doing this for Sarah, to show that I would be a great new friend, so I was determined to try.
Soon I heard the ear-splitting screams and yelps of innocent patrons at the front of the shack. Hands sweating in anticipation, I readied myself to frighten the customers trying to exit the terrifying chain of huts. I was the last character they’d see; I had to make this big.
I made out four forms approaching through the flickering of the seizure-inducing strobe light. I could hear their sighs of relief as they neared the end. Unbeknownst to them, I was waiting. My glasses slowly slipped off my face in my sweaty apprehension. As soon as the customers’ shapes were recognizable, I revealed my hideous face and an earth-shattering scream.
My sudden appearance startled them; their piercing screams filled the air. I had done it!
I readied my body to pounce again and again. My feet throbbed, my throat burned, sweat ran down my back, and my glasses continually slipped down behind the mask. Yet I kept going, scaring person after person, reveling in their screams like a succubus, feeding on the fear.
As I waited for another victim, I forgot that the only reason I was there was to make a friend. I was in too deep. I had transformed my personality to match the mask on my face. I waited, scared another, waited, scared another, lost in the darting of light from the strobe and the sounds of faceless yells.
Provoking screams became too easy. I needed a real challenge, and finally one presented itself. The man was around 20 years old, with a full beard and an FBI sweatshirt stretched over his broad chest. His girlfriend was clutching his arm. All my muscles tightened; I felt like a cat ready to pounce. A scream started to bubble in my throat. I leapt at them and let out an animalistic cry. All of a sudden, I felt an impact on my lip and the skin on the inside of my mouth tore on my braces. My nose started to swell and leak as my glasses fell to the ground. I was frozen in shock; my victim had fought back! I looked into my conqueror’s face. Amidst the fear, I saw regret in his eyes.
My attempt at gaining a friend failed. My mom was called to come pick me up while I was supplied with Skittles, an ice pack, and an accident report form. I can still remember my mother’s hysterical laughter at the daughter who is, I quote, “the only child who would ever get punched in the face for looking ugly.”
I had to leave Sarah behind that night, and to this day, I feel our lost friendship as painfully as a bloody nose and a busted lip.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the October 2015 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.