Lightning flashed and the thunder boomed as the rain poured down, soaking everything that was not under shelter. A man crept up the walkway of an overgrown yard towards the front of a large ominous looking mansion. The foliage grew in the half century of abandonment to resemble that of a jungle. The shrubs that were once manicured and shaped now looked as ragged as the broken panes of glass in the lower floor windows. The walkway, once pristinely poured concrete, now has cracks running throughout with weeds growing up through them making the slabs uneven. The trees creaked in the wind as the water-laden leaves pulled down on the branches.
“Of course, it would be storming the night these dipshits make me go into the local haunted house. And why did my freaking hippie parents have to name me Storm?” Storm McPherson said out loud as another crack of thunder ripped through the night air causing him to flinch. Storm stood six feet two inches and weighed one hundred and sixty-five pounds. His shoulder length black hair was plastered to his head and face, partially obscuring his glacier blue eyes. He scanned the area around him and noticed that several sections of the wrought iron fence were missing. He stopped at the foot of the steps leading to the old and sagging porch. Storm’s cell phone started to ring, playing ‘I’m So Sexy’, so he tapped the Bluetooth device in his ear.
“Yeah?” He asked, knowing who was calling by the ringtone that was playing.
“Are you going in or are you a chicken shit?” The caller asked.
“Chicken? Me? Yeah, says the pansy that’s nice and dry in the car across the street.” Storm chuckled and looked back towards the street to spot his friends in the car. When he located the headlights, he raised his hand and flipped off the night. The car responded with a quick beep of its horn. Storm then turned back to the front of the mansion and took the flashlight from his back pocket, playing the beam across the lower floor looking for a way inside.
“Hey Storm, Brad says to hurry up. His buzz is wearing off.” The caller said in Storm’s ear again.
“Hey Kevin, tell Brad to kiss your ass.” Storm said with a smile and heard a loud boisterous laugh from the other end of the phone. Kevin Simpson and Bradford “Brad” Murphy have been Storm’s best friends since childhood. Kevin was the football team’s starting quarterback and Brad was the starting center. Kevin was six feet three inches tall and weighed one hundred and sixty pounds. He had shaggy wheat blond hair and cat’s-eye green eyes that most people in high school swore were colored contacts. Brad was six feet five inches tall and weighed two hundred twenty pounds of solid muscle under a starter beer gut. He had close cut coal black hair and whiskey brown eyes and a deep tan that said that we spent a lot of time outside. Storm was the running back for the team. Kevin and Brad also worked at the same store and shared the same house. Brad decided that for his twenty-first birthday he wanted to get drunk and have Kevin and Storm do crazy stunts. Storm was to take a selfie on the third floor of the Armstrong Mansion.
“Kevin, remind me about this place again?” Storm asked as he began to climb the steps. He then looked at the boarded-up windows looking for a loose board.
“Okay. Old Miles Armstrong had this place built in 1906. His father struck it rich in the California Gold Rush of 1849. Miles was born March of 1861 in San Francisco. He married Elizabeth White, a schoolteacher, in 1893 and had a son, Eli, in 1900. They lived comfortably in San Francisco until Elizabeth fell very ill. They set out for New York to see a renowned doctor in early 1906. But when they arrived in Peoria, IL, in April of 1906, Elizabeth’s health took a sharp decline. They stopped and checked her into St. Francis hospital, where they began to treat her. Miles contacted the doctor in New York, Dr. Russell Turner, and had him come to Peoria.” Kevin said as if he were reading from a script. Storm knew his friend was a history buff and had a very uncanny ability to recall information, but he also knew that his friend may actually be reading from a printed copy that he keeps in his car.
“April 18, 1906, Miles heard that San Francisco was destroyed after a large earthquake and fire, within hours of his wife passing away. Miles was devastated. He was a widower who had lost all his belongings and was now a single father. Six-year-old Hamilton Eli Armstrong just lost his mother and didn’t know what was happening in his world anymore. Miles decided that Peoria would be where he and his son would live from then on. With his wife deceased and buried in Springdale Cemetery, Miles wanted to be close to where her soul was laid to rest. He had the construction started on the mansion a month later and oversaw the construction on what is now Grandview Drive. While looking for a nanny for Eli, forty-five-year-old Miles met twenty-five-year-old Sarah Cook and married her six months after the death of his wife. In January of 1907, Eli had a tragic accident in their now completed three-story mansion.” Kevin explained and then stopped. Storm heard the slurp of a straw as Kevin took a drink. Storm had found his way into the mansion and began to look around at the garbage that built up over the years. There was graffiti on the walls and used condom wrappers and needles on the floor. There was a large hole in the ceiling of the first floor so he could look up to the ceiling of the second floor.
“The story goes that Eli was playing on the third floor. As he was running to the stairs he tripped, falling down the iron staircase, breaking his neck.” Kevin continued.
“Damn, so it’s haunted by the kid?” Storm asked as he tugged on a few boards in front of a window then went on to the next. Finally, he found a window that had all the glass broken out and the lower two boards came away in his hand. He carefully climbed through the window and froze when his foot stepped on the broken glass with a grinding crunch. Once he was sure that there was no one in the room with him he stood up and slowly walked around the main living room, taking in the debris and other garbage strewn about the room.
“Him and others. Sarah Cook, now Armstrong, was said to be a witch. In June of 1907 she gave birth to a little girl, Victoria. November of that same year, Miles was killed in yet another mysterious accident. While having five stone gargoyles added to the roof, one of them fell and landed on top of him. The workers claimed that the gargoyle that fell was on the opposite side of the house that they were working on, and that it was secured to the roof. All told, it’s believed that there are more than one hundred and fifty souls trapped in this house.” Kevin added.
“And most of them…’ BELCH! ’are pissed.” Brad remarked as he took the phone from Kevin.
“But it doesn’t help that there are claims that this house was built on top of a convergence of ley lines.” Kevin said after he took the phone away from Brad. Brad stuck his tongue out and took the phone back and flipped Kevin off.
“Now stop being a pussy and get your ass up there and take the damn selfie. I’m starting to get sober!” Brad exclaimed and hung the phone up before dropping it back onto Kevin’s lap and belching again.
“Dick.” Storm muttered under his breath as he slowly made his way up the main staircase. The wooden stairs creaked and groaned with every step. Dust motes danced in and out of the beam of his flashlight. The second floor was not as vandalized as the first, but there were a few stained mattresses and a few pieces of graffiti on the walls. He looked around for the stairs to the third floor but couldn’t find anything. He decided to go back down to the first floor and make his way to the kitchen. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling and door frames. Once in the kitchen he looked around and found the bottom of the iron staircase that Eli fell. He tested the sturdiness of the steps and proceeded to slowly climb to the third floor. At the top of the stairs he noticed there was a single lit candle placed on a wooden box next to a backpack and sleeping bag.
“Oh shit.” Storm whispered and called Kevin on his cell phone. His eyes roamed the entire area of the third floor, stopping at the deep shadows and let the beam of his flashlight scatter the darkness.
“Hey Storm, you get the picture yet?” Kevin answered while Brad leaned forward breathing his alcohol infused breath on Kevin’s ear. Kevin swatted at him until he sat back some. With a tap of the screen the phone went onto speaker mode.
“Shut up. There’s someone living here.” Storm whispered harshly into the Bluetooth device.
“What? Can you see anyone? How many of them are there?” Kevin asked, his voice getting higher pitched in excitement. Brad and Kevin exchanged looks of a mixture of excitement and fear. Brad turned his attention from the phone and pressed his face against the window trying to peer through the gloomy night and into the building.
“No, I don’t see anyone. There’s a lit candle here next to a sleeping bag. And there’s food wrappers all over the place.” Storm said as he held up an empty chip bag.
“Did either of you dicks come in here earlier and set this up to fuck with me?” Storm inquired as he dropped the bag and began to scan the area around him again. Brad saw the flashlight beam sweep across the upper floor window, and he gripped the driver’s seat tightly.
“No!” Kevin and Brad shouted in unison. Kevin looked in the rearview mirror and saw the worry begin to work its way across Brad’s face and could tell that his friend was sobering up quickly.
Storm finished climbing through the entrance to the third floor and began to look around. He stepped closer to the sleeping bag and nudged it with his foot. When nothing moved, he tapped the pack with his foot and it tipped over, spilling some of the contents to the floor.
“Storm you still there, bud?” Kevin yelled over the phone, the sudden break of silence startling Storm, causing him to jump and clench his fist tightly.
“Fuck. Yeah, I’m here. You scared the shit out of me. I knocked the backpack over and some stuff fell out.” Storm replied, kneeling next to the pack.
“What’s in there?” Kevin asked. Storm picked up several items that fell out.
“It’s a bra.” Storm said in confusion as she held up a simple bra to look at it in the beam of the flashlight. He grunted as something struck him in the back of the head. He fell over and landed with a thud that dislodged the Bluetooth piece from his ear.
“Storm? Come on man, this ain’t funny.” Kevin said while looking up towards the third floor of the mansion. Brad had his face pressed to the back-driver side window.
“What do we do man?” Brad asked as he wiped his hand across the cold glass to clear the fog from his breath. Kevin lowered his window to try to hear anything but all he could hear was the pounding of the rain drops on the car. Kevin then looked at the phone and saw that the two phones were still connected. A shallow breathing came over the line almost startling Kevin.
“Storm! God damnit Storm, answer me.” Kevin shouted. He disconnected the call and tossed the cell phone on to the passenger seat. Kevin then stared up at the upper floor window to see if he could stop any kind of movement. The flashlight beam had been turned off so their hopes of seeing movement decreased drastically.
“We have to go to the police.” Brad said, shaking Kevin’s seat and breaking his concentration on the window.
“No. We’ll get busted for trespassing. Plus, he could’ve just tripped and dropped his phone.” Kevin said and leaned over to open the glove box, pulling two flashlights out and held one out to Brad.
“Then we go in for him.” Brad said, taking the flashlight. Kevin nodded and put his window up and killed the engine.
“Okay, on three.” Kevin said as he put his hand on the handle of the door.
“Three!” Brad shouted and charged out of the car while Kevin was still trying to unbuckle his seatbelt.
“Brad, damnit!” Kevin said as he tried to rush out after his friend, but his hand slipped on the wet door handle. He finally got the door open and ran from the car. Brad was leaping up the stairs as Kevin rushed forward, tripping on the uneven walkway and fell.
“Fuck!” Kevin yelled as he hit the ground and rolled over to his back. He brought his leg up in front of him and grasped the ankle as rain fell onto his face. Brad looked back and saw his friend laying on his back in the flash of a lightning bolt. He stood there a moment while he had an internal battle over going to Storm or helping Kevin. Brad then quickly made his way back to Kevin and knelt next to him.
“What happened?” Brad asked as his gaze continued to drift towards the front of the mansion.
“My ankle.” Kevin winced. Brad looked down at the ankle that Kevin was holding, the foot was sitting at an odd angle.
“Oh shit. I think it’s broken.” Brad said, biting back bile as it rose to his throat, threatening to force its way out.
“No shit! Help me up.” Kevin said and held a handout to Brad. Brad grasped his hand and hauled Kevin to his feet, causing Kevin to groan in pain.
“We got to get you to the hospital. I’ll keep trying to call him.” Brad said and helped Kevin to the car. Kevin crawled into the back seat backwards and Brad slammed the door shut, hitting Kevin’s broken ankle. Kevin screamed a colorful array of profanity as Brad climbed into the front seat and started the car, taking off with a screech of tires. Brad drove the four and a half miles and went to the OSF St. Francis emergency room. The guard in the little shack in the parking lot stopped them.
“Are you here for the emergency room to be seen?” The overweight guard asked and he ducked down to peer into the dark interior of the car.
“No, I’m here for the fucking oyster bar.” Kevin yelled from the back seat. The guard ducked down and gave Kevin a scowl. The guard then stood up and waved them through. Brad pulled up to the main doors. He ran in and grabbed a wheelchair and an emergency room tech followed him out and between the two of them they pulled Kevin out to set him in the wheelchair.
“I’ll take him in so you can get your car parked, sir.” The tech said. Brad nodded and shut the door before climbing behind the steering wheel again to park the car. Before getting out of the car Brad tried to call Storm again. The phone rang until the voicemail picked up.
“Hey, sorry I can’t answer right now. Shoot me a text or leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I can.” BEEP.
“Storm, why the fuck aren’t you answering your fucking phone. Anyway, we are at OSF. Kevin broke his ankle dude. Call me.” Brad said and hung up. He then made his way into the waiting room where Kevin was getting a hospital bracelet put on his wrist. The tech who helped walked away from the wheelchair to let Brad take over.
“It’ll just be a few minutes sir.” The receptionist said and indicated that they should go to the waiting area. Brad wheeled Kevin out and then sat down.
“I just tried to call him again. It went to his voicemail.” Brad said with a sigh. Kevin was sitting in the wheelchair, rocking back and forth then tilted his head back and took a deep breath before letting it out.
“We have to keep trying. Take my phone too.” Kevin said and took his phone from his pocket and handed it to Brad.
“You sure?” Brad asked. Kevin nodded at him.
“Yeah. I know you used your phone a lot today, so you probably don’t have much battery left. And besides I think they’re gonna give me some really good pain meds and I don’t want to text or call and say something stupid to anyone.” Kevin explained. Brad chuckled and nodded his understanding and took the phone, putting it in his other pocket. Kevin’s name was called, and Brad wheeled him to one of the rooms for the nurses to get his vitals and then to the treatment room. It was decided, after some x-rays, to do surgery on Kevin’s ankle. Brad stayed in the room that they brought them too and kept trying to call and text Storm from both phones.
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