So I’ve been in physical therapy for a few weeks now. Actually around two months. Wow.
Okay, moving on. My physical therapists, Mindy and Kara, are really nice. We talk about a lot of stuff, because it would be really boring to just do exercise for an hour and say nothing to each other.
Anyway, today we were talking about heights. Mindy is afraid of heights, whereas I have more trouble with being on unsteady objects. Put me a thousand feet in the air on the edge of a cliff and I’m fine. Heck, throw me off the cliff and as long as I have a parachute I’ll have a fantastic time. Put me three feet off the ground on an unstable surface and I’m clinging to whatever I can get my hands on.
We were laughing about that and I mentioned all the stuff on my bucket list that involve heights. I almost added, “My girlfriend has promised she’ll be waiting for me with her feet firmly on the ground.” But then I realized that would be weird for Mindy. That’s not really a socially acceptable topic.
So I moved on, but that bothered me on the ten minute drive home. We’re making progress toward equality, but until I can mention my girlfriend in passing to acquaintances or casual friends without worrying about their reactions, we don’t have it. And that makes me sad.
Moving on again. I started a story that’s essentially based on confusion for the first several pages. Woohoo fun times. Ignore the crappy beginning. I’m terrible at those.
Sophie sighed when the bottle stopped spinning, pointed directly at her. “Ooh, Soph, truth or dare?”
She debated. The truths were getting boring, and she couldn’t make them exciting. But she didn’t know what Caroline would make her do if she chose dare. Here goes. “Dare.”
“Okay. Um,” she seemed flustered. Then a wicked grin spread across her face. “I want you to spend ten full minutes in the McAllister house.”
The other girls’ jaws dropped. That was daring even for Caroline, who was known for trying to be edgy. The McAllister house was notoriously haunted.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” she said, confident. Other people might believe in ghosts, but that wasn’t Sophie’s cup of tea.
It was Halloween. A Wednesday, so no one wanted to really party. So four girls had ended up at a sleepover at Caroline’s house, since her parents were out of town. The real party was going to be on Friday. And Saturday. And probably Sunday. But they were all in costume today.
Sophie stood and smoothed out the skirt of her civil war-style gown. “Okay, I’ll drive us there,” Caroline said, “you sure you’re not too chicken? I don’t want to go all the way out there for nothing.”
“I’m sure. Let’s do it.”
It was a long twenty minutes of silence on the drive there. The other girls were spooked, and even Caroline’s cockiness couldn’t get them talking again. “Hey, let’s go back. I don’t like this plan,” Jess said.
“No, it’ll be fine,” she couldn’t back out of it now that they were almost there.
Walking up to the door, she started to get apprehensive. The other girls’ fear was contagious. Not that she believed in ghosts. She just didn’t know how safe it was to go into a house that hadn’t been inhabited in a hundred years and was probably falling apart.
A peek back at Caroline and her smirk made her willing to keep going, if only to wipe that infuriating smile off her smug face.
She put a hand on the handles of the double-doors, took a breath, and pulled them open with a loud creak. She glanced back one more time before slipping inside.
She flicked her flashlight on and shined it around the room slowly. She got the impression of dust, cobwebs, peeling wallpaper, and broken-down furniture before pausing on a large staircase. She had ten minutes, she might as well do some exploring. She might stay in there for half an hour just to freak them out.
Sophie headed for the stairs, lifting her skirts and kicking rubble out of the way. She was glad she’d worn relatively sensible boots. The floors creaked loudly under her feet and she found herself jumping at the myriad shadows.
“Don’t let them get to your head,” she said sternly to herself, the sound of her own voice startling in the silence. She heard a thump and jumped, clamping a hand over her mouth to keep herself from screaming. A mouse skittered across the beam of her flashlight and she sighed in relief, shaking her head at herself.
She glanced at her watch: 11:58. Two minutes in. She got to the top of the stairs–there was a hallway that stretched both directions. She chose right and made her way down the hall, lifting her skirt out of the debris with one hand and shining her flashlight ahead with the other. She was beginning to think this was a bad idea, but she couldn’t get Caroline’s smug grin out of her mind. So she kept walking.
She opened the door to the first room she came to. It looked like some sort of bedroom, but she didn’t see much because she heard a loud crash.
She was halfway down the stairs before she realized it was a grandfather clock striking midnight. She slowed her pace and breathing, wondering how it still worked after all these years. She walked down the last few steps as the chiming stopped. She’d ignored the ground floor originally, but she saw a door and made her way to it.
It was mostly off its hinges, and when she stepped into the room she saw it was a library. There were rows of shelves, covered in dust, and a few books scattered across the floor. Someone had carved “turn back” into the wall, probably a kid years ago hoping to scare later generations. The carpet had worn thin in most places. She saw a stain on the floor that looked almost as if it was spreading.
She shook her head roughly, certain the lighting and her mind were playing tricks on her. She knelt to reassure herself that it wasn’t real, that it was just an illusion.
She reached for the stain, telling herself firmly her hand was shaking from the cold, when she heard a noise behind her. She ignored it, knowing she was just making herself jumpy. Until a hand squeezed her shoulder. She leapt to her feet and scrambled away. A young man stood there, in what looked like a Confederate soldier’s uniform.
“You frightened me! What are you doing here?” she demanded. He just stared at her. “Are you all right?”
“Turn back,” he said quietly.
“Yes, that’s what the wall said too. Did you write that?”
“Get out now,” he said. He reached for her and she took a step back.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing? Did Caroline put you up to this?”
An arm wrapped around her waist and she twisted around, annoyed. “This isn’t funny–” the man’s other hand clamped over her mouth.
She tried not to panic. Caroline was probably laughing about this with Jess and Lucy right now. “Stay very quiet,” he said. She looked at him and saw he was staring intently at the other boy, “and follow me. Okay?”
She rolled her eyes and nodded. She didn’t have much of a choice, with him practically dragging her to the door.
When they were out, she brushed his hand off. “So are you Caroline’s friend?”
“Who’s Caroline?” someone asked from the front door. She whipped around to face him. Great. There are two of them.
“No idea,” the first one said. Out of nowhere, he pointed a gun back into the room. Sophie’s dad shot for fun, so she knew a real gun from a fake one. This was no prop.
“What the hell?” she shrieked as he shot into the library. “What about the man in there? You probably just killed him!”
“Probably not, he won’t be that easy,” the second said casually, striding a few steps closer. She backed away, stumbling on the stairs.
“You’re… what… easy? What are you talking about? You just shot at him!”
“Shall we finish this? I hate it when they go into hysterics.” the second said.
“Hysteric–you just shot him! Screw this,” she dashed for the door.
“Cain,” the first guy said, sounding bored. The second, presumably Cain, grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back into the room.
“It’s not 1865 any more,” Cain said.
“Of course it’s not! What are you talking about?”
They had the gall to look confused. “What are you talking about?”
“You just killed that guy,” she said, morbid curiosity drawing her back to the library.
“I already told you, he won’t be that easy to kill,” the first one drawled. “Why are you still here?”
“Well I tried to leave and your friend wouldn’t let me,” she snapped, pushing the door out of her way. The man wasn’t in the library anymore.
“No, I don’t mean here. I mean here.”
“That doesn’t even make sense,” she said, “Where did that guy go?”
“What do you mean? Is he not in the library? Shit,” the second said.