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(7) Scare World

THE DAYLIGHT CREPT IN THROUGH the cracks of the old house. It was the same house as always – the one they used each year: two levels, creaking floors, flaking wallpaper. All the windows had been smashed in at one point or another, and only shards of glass remained like the jagged teeth of some monster.

As they entered, Dylan supposed it would be much scarier at night. They’d done the house up with fake spider-webs and false-metal prison bars. There were also props: a coffin in the centre of what used to be a bedroom, a tangle of bloody human limbs in the kitchen, a multitude of creepy looking statues in the dining room.

And people had been hired to put on the show. Like a woman who flung open the coffin and emerged in bloody rags whenever someone walked past. Or the chef, who smiled wickedly as he sliced and diced human flesh. The statues, who turned out to be people that grabbed for you if you got too close. There were even actors in the halls, hiding behind black drapes, wrapping their hands around the prison bars as if trapped within.

Dylan found the experience utterly un-terrifying. But he still took photos –

Bethanie before the prison bars, a bloodied arm reaching for her neck.

Florence with mock fright as the woman jumped out of the coffin. “Didn’t see that one coming,” she said sarcastically.

The two of them in the kitchen, walking amongst limbs as the chef followed them with his eyes – and with his knife.

It wasn’t until they reached the final room that Dylan felt anything that resembled fear.

The final room was the living room, eerily done up as though people still lived there. There were two couches, faded and fraying. A small table topped with magazines and a half-finished mug of coffee. Family portraits and nineteenth century paintings hanging above the dreary wallpaper. An old television, sitting atop an antique table, the screen emitting nothing but grey static.

As the trio entered the room, Dylan waited for someone to jump out at them, as was the running theme with the show. But after a minute of walking around, it became apparent they were the only people inside.

“Kind of a lack-lustre finale,” Bethanie said. “No blood, no gore, no jump-scares. Are you sure we went the right way?”

Dylan just frowned. His eyes swept the room, looking for any sign of horror. Instead, he found Florence, who had made herself comfortable on one of the couches. There was something off about the way she stroked the couch arm, almost as if she had done it a million times before. It set him on edge.

“What?” she said, catching him looking. “It looked comfortable.”

Bethanie sighed. “Let’s just go. Obviously they didn’t have the money to decorate this room.”

But Dylan wasn’t convinced. All year round, the house was empty. No decorations, no furniture – nothing. It was a heritage listed property so it couldn’t be knocked down and no one wanted to buy it. If the furniture was there, it was because the show had put it there.

Or at least, someone had put it there.

Florence followed Bethanie lazily out the door. Dylan took a photo of the room and was about to follow them out when he felt something cold brush up against his arm. He spun around but the room remained empty as ever.

“Dylan, you coming?” Bethanie’s voice drifted in from down the hall.

Dylan swallowed. “Yeah,” he said.

With his heart beating fast, he left the room behind.

At sunset, Dylan found himself back at home. Bethanie had wanted to prepare for a party she was dragging the two of them to, and Dylan took the opportunity to start developing some of the photos on his camera. He’d closed all the blinds in his room and placed panels in front of the windows, turning it into a temporary darkroom.

When he was done and all the photos had been hung up to dry, he switched over the film in his camera and fumbled around in the dark for his things. Stubbing his toe on a book, he realised it probably would have been a good idea to organise his room before he started developing his film.

Eventually though, he managed to collect his things and get out. He headed down the stairs, saying a brief, “Hey,” to his father, who seemed preoccupied with work. As the mayor, his work followed him everywhere. There had rarely been much time for father-son bonding, and as a result, Dylan felt estranged from his father.

It didn’t bother him too much – Dylan had always been of a solitary disposition – but it did come to him as waves of nostalgia for his younger years.

On his way out, he avoided looking at the wall to his right. There hung a photograph of his family, taken when he was ten. He used to like the photo. Now it felt as though the smiles were mocking him.

He left.

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