Lucas and Mason had been best friends forever. Well, when you’re eleven years old, ten years can feel like forever. Ever since they met on their first say in day care, and Lucas had offered Mason his ball to play with, they had been inseparable.
Over the years they had found many interests to strengthen their bond, and the strongest of these was their fondness for horror. Ever since their first Halloween when Mason had dressed as Frankenstein’s Monster and Lucas had dressed as The Wolf Man, the two of them had shared their fondness for all things supernatural and macabre.
Even at their young age, they’d read all the classics; Frankenstein and Dracula, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, everything by Lovecraft and Poe, and they had an awesome knowledge of everything you could imagine that might keep you awake at night. They’d moved on to other more modern horror writers, like King and Koontz, but their personal favourite had always been Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.
One evening, on their walk home from their first day at secondary school, they came across an abandoned house they had never passed by before.
“Look at that place,” Lucas smiled widely as the two of them stopped outside to stare at its gloriously scary exterior, “it look just how Shirley Jackson described in her book.”
“Do you think it’s actually haunted?” Mason asked, wide eyed at the idea that they might have found an honest to goodness haunted house.
“Don’t be silly,” Lucas laughed, “those book we read are all good fun, but there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“Are you sure about that?” asked Mason.
“Of course I am,” Lucas scoffed.
“Would you place money on it?” Mason asked, raising his eyebrows meaningfully.
Lucas narrowed his eyes at him, “What would I have to do?” he asked.
“Spend the night in that old house,” Mason grinned, folding his arms across his chest.
Lucas stared at his friend, not sure whether he was joking or not, “What’s in it for me if I do?” he asked.
“Twenty pounds,” Mason told him triumphantly.
“Twenty pounds?” Lucas repeated in disbelief, “Where did you get twenty pounds from?”
“I saved it from my birthday money last month,” he told him, “So, what do you say?”
“What do we tell our parents?” Lucas asked, “I mean, we’re only eleven years old – they won’t let us stay out all night.”
“We say you’re staying at my place,” Mason shrugged, “It’s no big deal.”
“But what about you?” Lucas asked.
“I’ll be staying at my place,” Mason told Lucas, “I’m not saying at that house with you – you have to stay on your own.”
Lucas frowned, worried about staying the night in an old abandoned house. What if there were junkies, he asked himself, he’d have to hide from them if they started using the place as a shooting gallery...
...And what if the house really was haunted...
But there were no such thing as ghosts, right?
Plus, there was the twenty pounds to think about.
“Okay then,” Lucas spat into the palm of his hand and gestured with it to Mason, “You’re on.”
That night, after having told his parents he was staying at Mason’s for the night, Lucas trudged down the street to the old abandoned house, alone. He stared up at the windows that looked like eyes, and the doorway that looked like a gateway to hell, and he swallowed nervously.
He couldn’t say why, but Lucas was terrified.
As he stared at the house, his cell phone suddenly rang in his pocket, and his heart leapt into his throat. Scrabbling for the phone in his jacket pocket, he picked it up and answered.
“What do you want?” Lucas asked.
“I just wanted to see if you got in there okay,” Mason said from the other end of the line.
“I’ve only just arrived,” Lucas told him, “I haven’t even checked for any open windows yet.”
“Well, if there aren’t any, make sure you break in through the back door,” Mason advised.
“Break in?” Lucas repeated, “You never said anything about breaking in!”
“Well, you might have to break in if the doors are locked,” Mason said, “I mean, how often have you seen anyone just leave their front door open for any burglars to just waltz inside?”
“Never,” Lucas admitted, “You’re right. I’ll check the windows too, then give you a call back if I have to break in.”
Lucas ended the call on his phone and put it back in his jacket pocket before hoisting his backpack into a more comfortable position on his shoulders.
He trudged up the path to the front door and tried the handle. Just as Mason had predicted, it was locked tight, so Lucas was forced to walk round the side of the house and try the back door.
That too was locked.
Lucas stroked his chin. Maybe he was going to have to break in after all.
It was as he was considering his options that he heard a gentle banging noise. He looked over at where the noise was coming from and saw a small window rattling in the breeze. Cautiously he trod over to it, taking a look to see if he’d be able to get through.
The window was small, and close to the ground, and Lucas would never be able to get through with his backpack on, but if he pushed that through first...
Lucas took the backpack off and pressed down on it to make it as thin as possible, then started to squeeze it through the opening in the window. He pushed as hard as he could until, with a sudden pop, the backpack flew out from between his fingers and fell to the ground below. Lucas peeked through the window to see if he could make out where it had landed, but the room was too dark.
Swallowing nervously, Lucas checked he still had his cell phone in his pocket, then started to slowly lower his legs through the window. Once he was up to his waist, he tried to feel around with his feet, but he couldn’t feel the floor. Furrowing his brow and hoping that it wasn’t a big drop, Lucas edged the top half of his body through the gap until the only part of him that was still outside was his head and his arms. Bracing his hands either side of the window frame, Lucas managed to get his head through the gap, then let go of the frame.
His body fell about a foot; his heels hit his backpack and made him lose his balance in the dark. With no idea what he could grab onto for support, he flailed wildly, falling backwards onto the cold stone floor. With his landing he heard a sharp crack, and he groaned audibly.
He’d landed on his cell phone.
Still sitting in darkness, Lucas reached into his pocket and pulled out the phone. He could feel that the screen was cracked, and he anxiously pressed the buttons that surrounded the phone to see if it would come to life. There was a brief flicker of light from the screen, before it died completely.
“Dammit!” Lucas cursed, realising he may have lost his only source of light.
Reaching around in the dark, Lucas located his backpack and hauled it onto his shoulders, then started slowly walking away from the window with his arms reaching out in front of himself. It was a little disconcerting, trying to find his way in the dark, but it didn’t take long for him to find the doorway, and the light switch.
Obviously, the lights didn’t work – Lucas was in an abandoned house, for crying out loud. You don’t get many of them with the electric left running for free. Realising that he had a choice of either sitting in the dark or using the matches he’d stashed in his backpack, Lucas carefully removed his backpack and tried to locate the matches by touch alone.
As he searched, he heard a creaking noise coming from above him. The house was three stories high, and with him sitting in what he could only imagine was the basement, that left a lot of the house for the noise to have come from. Starting to get very scared, Lucas rummaged with more fervour through his bag until he heard the unmistakeable rattle of a box of matches.
Pulling them out, he placed the box carefully on the floor and levered his foot over it so he wouldn’t lose where it was, then slung his backpack back onto his shoulders. Once this was done he reached down for the box of matches, fumbled one out and struck it down the side of the box.
The room that suddenly became illuminated looked to Lucas like something out of a classic horror movie. There weren’t any corpses or instruments of torture – nothing as obvious as that – but it just had that feeling. A number of boxes lined the walls, and as Lucas wondered what might be in them, his match burned down to his fingertips, scolding his hand. Instinctively he threw the match to the ground, licking his fingers before trying to light another match.
With the second match lit, Lucas decided to try to find some candles, or maybe even a torch, so he wouldn’t have to go through the burning finger pain again, and also to preserve his matches. He started peering into the boxes that lined the room, but they only seemed to be filled with old clothes and unwanted books. He pulled out one of the books and looked at the cover. It didn’t look very interesting, so he put it back, throwing his match down to the ground before lighting a new one.
As he walked out into the hallway, he spotted a candlestick sitting on a table. This place really was old, he thought to himself, lighting the candle and picking it up. Not many modern houses would have candlesticks lying around the place – candles perhaps for bath time, but not actual candlesticks. Now that he had a light things shouldn’t be so spooky, though the flickering flame did create much more of a haunted house atmosphere than a simple battery operated torch would have done.
Bravely Lucas ventured up the stairs, each step creaking under his weight as he began to check out the rest of the house. When he reached landing, he glanced left and right, looking at the few rooms that were on this floor. One of them was clearly a bedroom, so he ventured inside to see if there was somewhere he could sleep for the night.
The room was completely bare except for a four poster bed in the middle of the room. The mosquito netting that hung down the sides billowed in a breeze that came from a cracked pane in the window and Lucas swallowed nervously as he walked towards the bed. What if there was someone in it, he thought, what if there was a dead body, or something worse...
Lucas reached out with his free hand and grasped a corner of the netting, counting to three in his head before pulling it back. As he did so something flew into his face, and he screamed, dropping the candle to the ground.
Thankfully it had only been flies, which had swarmed at him when they sensed new blood. He crouched down, picking up the extinguished candlestick and lighting it once more with another match.
He looked down at the bed, which thankfully was empty except for a strange stain in the middle of the sheets. It was hard to tell, but it could have been blood, though it was far more likely to have been faecal matter.
Lucas sighed. Well, he wasn’t going to be sleeping there, that was for sure, and it was pretty cold in there because of the broken window. With an air of resignation, Lucas started to check out the other room; there was a bathroom and what looked like had once been a study, but that was all. The staircase that led to the next floor was broken in places, and he didn’t care to risk trying his weight on the rickety looking steps, so he headed back down the stairs.
Lucas found himself in the living space of the house, and he sat down cross-legged on the floor, placing the candlestick next to him. There was no furniture other than a coffee table with a missing leg and a wardrobe that looked like it had seen better days. Why the wardrobe was in the living room was anybody’s guess, but at least there weren’t any junkies shooting up, threatening him with knives or even guns! And definitely no blood slash poop stains!
Taking off his backpack again, Lucas undid the zip and pulled out his Wolf Man lunchbox. He clipped the top open and pulled out a sandwich, taking a bite and putting it back. Then, taking a sip from his thermos, he breathed a heavy sigh.
It didn’t look like the house was haunted after all.
What an easy twenty pounds, he chuckled, pulling a thin blanket from his bag and pulling it round himself. Using his backpack as a pillow, Lucas tucked the blanket under his chin and slowly fell asleep.
The next morning Lucas woke up with a start. Sometime in the night the candle had burned out, so the morning light was all he had to help him see around the room. He could hear a noise coming from the direction of the front door, and he jumped to his feet with a start!
What if it was the owners? He’d get in so much trouble for breaking in!
Realising he only had a short time to spare, he grabbed his blanket and backpack and ran to the old wardrobe, clambering inside. As he pulled the door closed on the wardrobe, he heard the voices of two men speaking.
“They said they could see a light in here last night,” one voice said, “they think there might be squatters.”
“Well we better check, Terry,” the second voice spoke, “the last thing we want is squatters in here.”
Lucas held his breath as he heard the footsteps of the two men coming into the living room. If they found him, he was done for.
“Well, there’s your light source, anyway, Greg,” the man whose name appeared to be Terry spoke up, pointing at the candlestick Lucas had left in the middle of the room, “it was probably just some junkie using the place for the night. It looks like they’ve gone now, anyway.”
“Well, we better make sure,” the man called Greg said, “otherwise we might get in trouble.”
Lucas listened as the man started to check all the rooms in the house, and he bit his lip to stop himself from screaming. If they found him, his parents would never forgive him for lying to them. He pulled the blanket around his ears, hoping they didn’t look in the wardrobe.
“Is anyone here?” Greg called out, sounding like he was back near the front door, ‘this is your last chance.”
After a moments silence, Terry spoke up, “There’s no one here,” he said, “Let’s go back to the crane.”
Lucas breathed a sigh of relief as he heard the front door close. Now all he had to do was wait a few minutes to make sure the coast was clear, then he could make a break for it.
Sitting quietly in the wardrobe, Lucas thought about how he’d spend his money. Twenty pounds wasn’t much, but he could buy a couple of books with it, and anything left over he could put towards some chocolate bars. I should have brought some chocolate bars last night, he told himself, as he heard what he assumed was the engine of the vehicle belonging to the two men start up.
Then a loud crashing noise dragged Lucas out of his reverie as he felt something smash down on top of the wardrobe. The tiny space in which he hid toppled forward and sideways, and Lucas fell against the doors which were now trapped against the floor.
What had the two men said again – let’s go back to the crane?
Oh my God – they were a demolition crew!
Lucas listened on in terror as he heard rubble crashing down on the wardrobe that had now become his tomb. Maybe, if he was lucky, Mason would get here soon and let the demolition crew know what had happened...
He stared at the back of the wardrobe as it buckled under the weight of what he could only assume was the entirety of the building he’d just spent the night in.
Maybe he’d be okay?Maybe...