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(9) The Road to Nowhere

FLORENCE NIGH WAS A CREATURE of risk. It was all about the thrill – the danger. The feeling of power as she stared death in the face, over and over. Most of all, she lived for the chaos. The flash, the moment of panic right before the end, when your entire body rebels against the impending void – when you’re reverted back into the most basic of creature: an animal, fighting for breath, for life.

Too often, life felt dull and monotonous, like she couldn’t feel the air in her lungs or the beat of her heart. Too often, she felt nothing of the world.

It was only in cases of impending danger that she came alive.

Bethanie drove the three of them, Florence handing out directions every now and then from the passenger seat. The Volvo’s headlights illuminated first the suburban roads, then the empty highway, and then a forest track overgrown with shrubs and weeds. It looked as if no one had been here in years.

“You mind telling us where we’re headed?” Bethanie asked.

Florence glanced at her, noticing the signs of apprehension on her delicate features. She was afraid, Florence realised, and smiled to herself. This was going to be a good night.

“I think I know,” Dylan said from the back, a note of nervousness in is voice.

Florence smiled. “It’s just a little further.”

A couple minutes later, the road widened into a cul-de-sac. With trees on both sides and the moon-less sky, it was too dark to see anything. Bethanie pulled the car over next to the tree-line and put it into park.

“There’s nothing here,” she said, leaning forward in her seat. She’d left the headlights on but they did nothing to illuminate the area. It was just dark on dark on dark.

“No,” Dylan said from the back and swung open his door. “You just can’t see it.” He stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him.

Bethanie sighed and did the same, turning off the engine before she got out. Now that the headlights were off, her eyes could adjust.

And there it was: the wooden three story monstrosity, with smashed windows, eroding wood, and vines curling along it’s walls, strangling it.

“What is this place?” Bethanie asked.

Dylan pulled up beside her. “Our very own haunted house.”

Florence looked at the two of them, gazing up at the dark house with an air of trepidation, and laughed. Oh yes, this was going to be fun.

Dylan turned to her. “What’s so funny?”

“You’re afraid,” she said, and mounted the old wooden steps, running a hand along the blackened, chipped and only half-there banister. “It’s just a house.”

“Maybe,” Dylan said. “But my father told me about this place. He warned me to stay away from it.”

Florence smiled, revealing a set of pristine teeth. “Even better.” When she turned back to the house, she could feel it calling to her. It was so dead she was convinced of the opposite – that it was alive. If she listened hard enough, she thought she could hear the echoes of the long-gone’s and once-were’s.

Behind her, Dylan swore.

“What is it?” Bethanie was asking.

Florence was only barley listening. She was on the porch, hand slowly rising to open the door. Her fingers brushed the icy metal doorknob.

“I forgot my camera back at the house. I have to go grab it.”

“Do you really need it?” Florence could practically here the frown in Bethanie’s voice. She could also here what Dylan couldn’t: the fear.

“It’s for my university portfolio. I need to take more photos to complete it and I can’t miss this opportunity.”

Bethanie wasn’t replying. Florence had her hand around the doorknob. When she begun turning it, she realised she should have knocked first. Don’t want to scare away the dead. She knocked twice.

“Can I borrow your car? I’ll be right back. It’ll only take me twenty minutes, tops.”

The keys jangled as Bethanie tossed them. Dylan caught them with one hand. “Be careful,” she said.

“Your car will be fine.”

Bethanie nodded. He hadn’t understood her.

Florence listened to Dylan’s footsteps as he went back to the car and got in. The engine fired up. At the same moment, she pushed open the door to the house. The dark insides gaped like a black pit.

When the sounds of the car had faded into the distance, Florence smirked. “Come on, Beth,” she said. And without once looking back, stepped inside.

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