A sick thrill went through her stomach at the sight of the old building. She loved haunted houses. This one had been tended to lovingly, each detail adding to the atmosphere of fear that permeated through the long line they were waiting in. This particular haunted house was very popular, though this was its first ever Halloween being open. She had saved it for last, because she guessed it would be the best. They were at the back of the line, and would probably be one of the last groups to go through before the end of the night.
It was a tall, three story, plantation-style house. Vines grew up all of the sides of the outer walls, the shutters had been sanded down in spots and something dark (meant to look like blood she was sure) stained some of the outer edges on the lower level windows. This wasn’t the kind of haunted house with light up pumpkins, and ghost figurines. This one was understated, simple, but also stood silently against the darkness as a looming and intimidating figure –it inspired a different sort of fear than most haunted houses she’d been too. A shiver ran up her spine.
“This place is so creepy. Where did you hear about it again?” Her best friend Catherine, wasn’t quite as keen to go haunted house jumping every year as she was. She usually spent the days leading up to Halloween trying to work up a cough or come up with any excuse not to join in on what she called Anna’s “creepy obsession night”, and spent the days following it in an angry self-imposed silence. She never actually skipped it though, and for that, Anna was grateful.
“How can you have a nickname as cool as ‘Cat’ and not like Halloween? I saw a flyer for it when we stopped at the convenience store on fifth last week. Besides, the online buzz for this place has been pretty loud.”
“I like Halloween just fine. Dressing up and getting candy or going to a party are all great, but purposefully going somewhere to have the shit scared out of you just seems like stupidity to me.” Cat shifted uncomfortably, and glanced furtively at the dark figure of the building in front of them.
“If you don’t want to be scared, just remind yourself that it isn’t real. It’s just a bunch of people in masks and makeup, with torn clothes, jumping out of dark places. Most haunted houses even have a rule where they aren’t allowed to touch you at all.” Anna laughed, as though the thought of that rule was amusing for some reason.
“If that’s what you do, why even come at all?” Cat was annoyed, she let herself get talked into joining this mad crusade every year, and she had somehow let it happen again.
“I said that you should do that if you don’t want to be scared. I want to be scared. I have to try and convince myself it’s real the whole time so that I can be afraid. It’s like a scary ride Cat, it’s just for the adrenaline.” She glanced at a place over Cat’s shoulder and chuckled with what Cat considered to be too much enjoyment and said, “Watch out.”
Cat jumped, and turned so quickly she could have given herself whiplash. In the distance, walking towards them in their place in line, was a man in a dark shirt and a creepy smiling mask. He was making his way slowly, as though they were in some kind of horror movie and he was just waiting for them to walk into a trap. Cat shivered.
“Nope! No. No. No. No way! Let’s go back to the car!” Anna laughed as Cat pushed her in front, trying to protect herself from someone who wasn’t even that scary.
“It’s just a guy in a mask, calm down! We’re almost to the front of the line anyway.” The man was almost all the way towards them, shuffling his feet in the dead leaves scattered across the front lawn.
Cat cursed. She hated this so much. She watched him continue to shuffle towards them as Anna searched her pockets for the tickets. He was only a few yards away now, dragging one leg behind him as though he had been in some terrible accident and had it sewn back on. She reminded herself that it wasn’t real, that he was merely putting on a show, but she couldn’t help the unease that continued to sprint up and down her spine and across her stomach. After two other haunted houses, her nerves were a wreck and she was having a hard time calming herself down. What kind of person did this sort of thing for fun?
He traveled the last few steps, stopping just in front of Anna. She stared him down, unflinching, as he brought his face just a foot away from hers. She didn’t seem impressed, and through the mask the man’s eyes met Cat’s for a split second. She knew immediately that he would switch to her as a target because she seemed more scared, hiding behind her friend. He took a half step around Anna, bringing him closer to her as she hastily made her way backwards.
“Ma’am, do you have your tickets.” He asked, a smile in his voice, after she could no longer move backwards.
“I do!” Anna said, enthusiastically. She reached around Cat, handing the man their tickets as he escorted them into the foyer of the old house.
The foyer was lit with a black light, so that you could only see a few feet into the entrance. A man stood rather still in front of a velvet rope, as he let groups in one by one, saying creepy things like “may God have mercy on your souls” or “last chance to make it out alive”. Cat looked back out the front door, another man in a clown mask swept into a side door, relieving their ticket master for a smoke break. Cat hated clowns. She wished she could just walk back to the car now, but she knew Anna would never let it go.
“What would you like for me to tell your families when you have left us?” The still man with the rope asked Anna as they walked up for their turn. He looked straight ahead, playing his part of detached evil doorman. Anna smiled up at him, perfectly at ease with the terrifying atmosphere.
“Tell them I fought bravely good sir!” She spoke lightheartedly, not a care in the world, and Cat felt a stab of jealousy.
“May God have mercy on your souls.” He told them solemnly, detaching the rope so they could cross into the darkness.
Anna took a large step forward, Cat grabbing the back of her shirt so she wouldn’t get lost in the dark. A soundtrack was playing in the background, of creaking doors and subtle laughter. Cat knew that if the same track were playing in the daytime she would laugh at its cheesiness, but something about the darkness made the sounds so much more frightening.
They made their way through the dark hallway, Cat clinging to Anna as though it would make the fear go away. A dim light was shining to the side, and they made to turn, and someone leapt from their other side, shouting. Cat screamed, Anna jumped, but as Cat’s scream died away in her throat she could hear Anna already laughing. The dark figure stepped away, back into whatever nook they were hiding in. They made their way into the next room, Cat cursing under her breath the whole time.
Anna was a little underwhelmed so far. The dark creepy factor was great, but overall it didn’t seem much different than the other haunted houses they had been too. They had made their way through a dark hallway, a room with a girl dressed like the chick from the ring, and room with two ladies dressed like little girls killing dolls and saying creepy things like “you look like my dolly”. The house was like a circle, they had made their way upstairs in the front, and now were making their way back downstairs towards the back of the house. It was definitely creepy, but she wasn’t getting the usual thrill.
Cat however, was a complete wreck. Ever room had been a new nightmare, and she just wanted to make it out as soon as possible and go home to watch cartoons and eat candy. She knew there would be a clown room, there had been a man in a clown mask, but she hoped that he was just the ticket master. Anna told her that all of the buzz online said that there were no actual people in the clown room, so she had decided she would close her eyes when they got to it. They were towards the end, so she knew it was coming up.
Even as she thought it, they made their way into the clown room. One glance was enough to make her wish she had closed her eyes before they walked in. Clown dolls were hanging from nooses from the ceiling, lounging in metal chairs, and wrapped in chains all around the dimly lit room. Fake blood was splattered across the floor, and a lot of the clown dolls were holding fake blood covered knives. She closed her eyes, resentfully grabbing Anna’s arm. She would definitely be having nightmares about this room.
“Ow!” Anna yanked her arm away, and Cat realized she must have squeezed too hard. “Let go!”
“Sorry I-” Cat started, before she heard scuffling. Dread filled her stomach. Anna had promised no one would jump out at them!
“You’re not supposed to touch the customers, let me go!” Anna shouted. Her voice had a frantic edge to it. Cat, realizing something was wrong, opened her eyes in a flash. The man in the clown mask had Anna by the arm, pulling at her while she struggled to get away. Cat froze, trying to take in exactly what was happening.
“No, stop!” Anna shouted, as the man did something to her side. Cat stared at the spot, wondering how he had produced so much fake blood. She looked at his hand, trying to find the tube running through the knife, trying to understand. Anna spluttered incoherently, falling to the floor, while Cat still tried to convince herself that the man in the clown mask hadn’t actually stabbed her.
The breath left her lungs, as he turned to her. The same deliberately slow type of movement that she had experienced minutes before outside by the ticket master. This was a different sort of purpose though. Her heart was pounding so loudly she was having trouble thinking. Was this a prank?
She looked back down at Anna. Anna’s breath was labored, her hand on her side, trying to stem the flow of blood. She was still muttering incoherently, just as in shock as Cat, her eyes wide with fright.
Cat took a step back, trying to convince her body to do something. Anything. She had to run, or scream, or find help. She took a deep breath in as the man took a step towards her. Scream. Scream for help or Anna is going to die! She felt paralyzed, trying to convince herself that this was actually happening. Scream!
Her shriek pierced the air, surprising even herself, and rang through the room. The man laughed and took another step towards her, his manner seemingly unchanged.
“Idiot, whose going to care about someone screaming in a haunted house.” The man’s voice was gruff, but he sounded amused, and Cat felt another shiver of terror. Of course no one would rush to the scream in a haunted house. It was over. He was standing between her and the exit.
She looked around, not actually searching for anything but hoping something would jump out and save her. He took another step towards her, and she grabbed one of the chairs with empty chains on it, hurling it at the man. It hit him square, and he stumbled backwards, getting caught in the legs of the chair and falling down. Cat turned to run, hoping she could find someone to help her before Anna bled out on the floor.
She tripped as she was almost to the door, falling and smashing her head against the doorframe. The room spun, as she looked behind her. The man in the clown mask had recovered, and was making his way quickly towards her now, but dark spots were swimming across her eyes. She looked down. She had tripped on a clown doll, sprawled across the floor. She was passing out, but she was also trying to convince her body to scramble backwards.
“No!” She shouted, as she tied to get to her feet through the grogginess her head was starting to feel. The dark spots where getting bigger, taking over her field of vision.
She looked up once more, to see how much time she had, to see the man in the clown mask was standing almost on top of her. She kicked out, connecting with his shin, but he wasn’t fazed. As he moved towards her, her vision went completely dark.