The three of them stared through the front gate while I stood a few feet behind them. They’d never noticed there was a house back there.
“You sure it’s haunted?” Kyle asked.
I chuckled. Nobody believes any place is actually haunted anymore.
“Yeah,” I answered. “It’s definitely haunted.”
Ben, without turning around, spoke next.
“How d’ya know?”
“Cause I been in there before, that’s how I know,” I said. “Look, if you’re all too scared, we don’t have to check it out.”
“No, we’re definitely going in,” said Dave, a smile growing across his face. Dave loved this sort of thing, so I knew he’d be in. And his influence on Kyle and Ben helped me convince them to join.
“Alright, then it’s settled,” I said, taking the lead. “There’s a hole in the wall you can crawl through over here, then it’s just a short walk through the trees to the front door.”
The gate, chained shut, stood unmoving between two ends of an old stone wall that ran around the property. The wall was high enough to prevent any good view of the house except from the front gate, and there were enough trees and overgrown bushes out front to keep you from getting much of a look even from there. But the house was back there all right.
“When you say haunted, what do you mean?” asked Kyle. We’d been over this before, but he wasn’t listening. Too busy playing games on his phone to pay attention. No problem. I always enjoyed telling the stories.
“Some say the owners had kids who went crazy. Snapped one night and killed the family in their sleep with forks and knives from the kitchen before running away, never to be heard from again. Others say the kids stayed in the house and still live there, eating rabbits or birds or whatever gets too close to the house.”
Dave chuckled. “I don’t buy that. Nothing scary about silverware.”
“Are you kidding? People in movies get killed with knives all the time! It’s awful!” Ben’s eyes were wide. He was definitely the most likely to cry in the group.
“Knives maybe, but not forks. Forks aren’t scary to anything but salads.” As soon as Kyle said salads, he started laughing as if he’d just told the funniest joke in history. We all started laughing with him. Even Ben, who was clearly still on edge, laughed a bit.
We got to the hole in the wall, a small opening just big enough for a boy of about twelve to fit through. Just our size. Dave crawled through first, then Kyle (who hit his head on his way in, much to the amusement of the rest of us), then Ben. I crawled through last.
When I stood up, I surveyed the scene. It’d been a while since I’d gotten a good look at this place. The moon was full and bright, but the trees cast most of the property in shadow. Here and there, you could make out the shape of a bush or some especially high weeds. Otherwise, there was nothing out of the ordinary. No gravestones, no creepy sheds, no silverware. Just a walk through some dark woods to a haunted house.
“There are other stories, you know,” I said, trying to set the mood as we started creeping our way through the woods. “Some say this house has a mind of its own, that it drives anyone who tries to visit it mad and won’t even let you in unless it likes you.”
“Wait, like the house itself is alive?” Ben asked, his voice starting to shake.
“Yep. Some say it makes you see things. Gets you before you even get to the front door.” At this point, I noticed a figure in the shadows near one of the trees to our left. Long hair, frilly dress, about our height. I decided not to tell the others.
“So what you’re saying is we’re either going to find forks, or we’ll go crazy?” Kyle asked. “Because if you ask me, I – ”
“What’s that?” Dave asked. He was a few feet ahead of us, staring at something directly ahead of us in woods. From this distance, you could start to see the corner of the house.
We huddled up together and looked where Dave was facing. It was hard to make out what it was, but it looked like the girl again, only now she was hunched over and pulling something across our line of sight. We could tell there was something at the other end of her rope, but we couldn’t make out what it was through the darkness.
Ben began to whisper, and it was clear he was about to start crying. “Let’s go back, guys. I don’t like this anymore.”
We all nodded our heads in agreement and began to step backward when Kyle stepped on a stick that made a loud cracking sound (Isn’t that always how it starts?).
We all looked down at the stick, then accusingly at Kyle, then back to the girl. She’d stopped, and we saw the outline of her head turn toward us and her mouth start to open. She screamed, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a scream sound quite like that before.
We began to sprint back the way we came, jumping over fallen limbs and ducking under low hanging branches. We ran around a particularly large bush and spotted the wall. Dave was already almost there, with Ben close behind him. I looked to my right in time to see Kyle emerge from the weeds and then get grabbed by something and pulled backwards. I yelled.
Dave ran back and followed me to the place where Kyle disappeared, but there was no sign of him. The woods seemed darker now. We tried to listen for him, but the woods were quiet. I looked at Dave, who met my eyes with a shaken look I hadn’t seen from him before, when we heard Ben call us. We turned to look as he pointed to the wall where we’d come through.
“It isn’t there,” Ben said. He was shaking at this point.
Dave walked over and ran his hands along the wall, scanning left and right to make sure we hadn’t missed something, but Ben was right. There used to be a hole here, but not anymore. Rocks had been packed into the place where the hole used to be. He stood up and turned to us, confused. He normally had the answers, normally gave the orders. He was our rock. Now, he just stared off into space, his eyes unfocused on anything in particular. I could see beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
“I just want to go home,” Ben said, sobbing now. “I just want to go –” he stopped short. Someone was crying in the woods. It was faint, but you could just make out the words.
“It’s Kyle,” Dave said. “It’s gotta be. He needs us.” At this, Dave took off into the woods. I started following him when I felt Ben grab my arm.
“No!” he cried. “It’ll get us too!”
“Ben, Kyle needs us. We have to be strong. Come on, don’t be scared.”
I helped Ben up and we began to jog after Dave. Tree branches cut us as we brushed past them, but we didn’t care. Our hearts were pounding through our chests, but we couldn’t stop. We rounded a tree and saw Dave a few yards ahead of us. He was looking around, but he stopped turning when he saw us and started waving. We waved back, but realized too late he wasn’t simply making himself known. He was shouting too.
“Hurry! Watch out!”
I turned around in time to see the girl right behind me. I could see her face clearly even in the shadows, her eyes empty and her mouth wide in a snarl. She tackled Ben. I stood motionless for a moment as I watched her drag him, screaming around the tree we’d just passed. Dave was at my side at this point, running past me after her, after Ben. But Ben was gone now too. We walked around the tree and noticed a hole in the trunk large enough for a body to fit through. I tossed a stick inside and realized it went far deeper than it should have. That explains why we couldn’t find any bodies.
“We need help,” Dave said. “There’s a gas station just up the road from here. We can call the police from there.” Kyle was the only one of us to have a cell phone, and it was with him now, wherever he was.
I nodded in agreement, following Dave as he walked in the direction of the gate.
“I’m pretty sure I can fit through the gate,” he said. “I thought about trying before, but didn’t since we had the hole. But I think I can do it.”
I looked to my left and noticed the girl again, walking quietly but quickly a few yards away. She had the rope again and was still dragging something. This time there was more on the end of her rope. I thought I noticed the sweater Kyle was wearing on one of the objects. I lost sight of her as Dave and I entered an especially dense part of the woods.
“Wait,” I said. Dave stopped and turned around, confused.
“We can’t just leave them, can we?” I asked. “Shouldn’t we keep looking for them?”
Dave thought for a moment before answering. That was fine. I only needed to stall for a few more seconds.
“No, we need to go get help. If we stay here, whatever’s out here will get us too.” He turned to leave, so I reached forward and grabbed his arm.
“No, I think we need to stay,” I said. I couldn’t hid my smile any longer.
“What– ” Dave began, but that was all he could say before the girl appeared from behind a tree and grabbed him. She threw him to the ground and began to pull him, but he kicked away.
“Help!” Dave cried, crawling toward me. From where I was standing, I could have taken his hand and pulled him away. I laughed instead. The wind blew the trees just right, and a sliver of moonlight allowed me to see his eyes for a second. Fear filled them. I knew that sight well. The next moment, the girl shrieked and pounced on him. I turned around and walked toward the house. I never watched to see what she did to them.
I walked for a few minutes through the crisp breeze until I could see the house fully. It really was a shame you couldn’t see this place from the street. It’s beautiful in its own way. I kicked a fork off the front step as I entered the house for the night.
Huge thanks to Maci for her editing work on this story.