1. Sketchy Plan
The instant the words ghost, hunt, and fun arose in the same sentence, and out of my friend Rebecca, I knew I did not want to go, yet I was curious. Who doesn’t enjoy being part of one of those cheesy, scary movies? The kind where a chill coils down the main character’s spine and the hair on their arms sticks up similar to a porcupine’s.
I would. I know I would because I love those stories.
I’m the girl who sits at the theater laughing at the stereotypical, goofy teenager. The idiotic one who hears a dreadful clatter making their skin crawl, and instead of running to their bedroom to quiver under the bed while with fumbling fingers they dial 911, they choose to leave the safety of their home and the front door wide open.
In the process, clueless, they forget their glasses, a knife, and their phone and yell hello, while with a heavy breath the killer hides behind the wax-leaf bushes in the back yard, holding a cleaver.
Also me? Someone sane who should’ve stuck to her convictions and the word no when her foolish friends pushed that Wednesday evening. I should have followed my instincts when in angst my gut tightened at the mention of a delightful cryptid tour at an asylum. One of the most rachitic and haunted spots in the country.
While on the phone, she’d commented our best friend Leon thought it would be cool to go as a group because as they say, twigs in a bundle are unbreakable. My eyes rolled, whatever the hell did he mean by that?
“When?” Hesitating I lingered. I knew she noticed but I couldn’t come up with a solid reason not to go. I’d been caught off guard and thinking straight was impossible.
“Friday. And, don’t say you got plans because you don’t—well, duh! You do. With us. I know because you made them with me. All three days too. Friday through Sunday. At the time we didn’t know where we were going ... Now we do and it’s going to be awesome!”
In my mind’s eye, I could picture her shrugging her dainty shoulders after finishing her monologue. I waggled my head and smirked. I knew her well.
One at a time, I rhythmically tapped my short, manicured nails on the oak, dining table while gazing at the muted TV with a vacant stare.
I pulled the red blanket tighter around my shoulders. “To an abandoned asylum, though?” I whined.
“Yes! Freaky, huh?”
The voice at the other end of the receiver sounded irrational and for a split second, I wanted to hang up and pretend I lost phone service.
“A little too freaky, Rebecca. Tsk! I don’t know ...” The chocolate-brown ringlets of hair swung when I shook my head.
“No excuses, Liz. You said you were up for anything.”
“Yeah,” I grumbled. “But that was before you mentioned the word haunted and going to a freakin’ spirit-filled institution. I-I’m not feeling it.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I’m serious. Have you a clue what to do if we happen to see one? Or worse yet, if one of them decides they want to go home with you?”
“One what? Who’d want to go home with me?”
Her voice peaked with interest and I rolled my eyes. “Ghost, of course!”
“What?! They can do that?!” The tone of her voice deepened.
“Yes, they can do that! Have movies taught you nothing?!”
“Bah! C’mon, stop it. It’ll be great. I promise. We’ll go eat first, maybe a bar afterward, huh?”
I was frustrated. I knew she didn’t believe in such a thing and so I said nothing else about it. I contemplated my options. Go, or not. The clear answer was not to go. But I felt foolish. We’d been talking about Leon’s day, for months. He and his boyfriend were always up for any shenanigans we planned, no matter how ridiculous they sound. They were always game.
Flustered, I expelled at the receiver and scratched the top of my head. With uncharacteristic patience, she waited. I could visualize her losing interest. Her index and middle fingers twirling through her straight, copper hair. Her cat-like eyes looking at the ends checking for splits while her mouth curved down at the ends.
“I’m thinking ...”
“What is there to think about? Your best friend needs you, on his birthday to go to an abandoned looney bin. As simple as that.”
“Isn’t it confined or something? Covered in deadly mold--”
I inhaled, one—two—three.
“Tsk!” Then, I reacted annoyed. “Isn’t it? I think we can go to jail if they catch us trespassing. I read somewhere the cops have an eye on that place and can make it out in five minutes flat.”
“Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. We will gain access,” Rebecca whispered unto the receiver. “Guaranteed to go in unnoticed. We got a guy.”
“You got a guy? Who’ll get us in? I-I’m sorry, Becca but I’m on the fence with this one.”
“Are you afraid?”
“Hell yeah, I’m afraid!”
“But you love this sort of thing!”
She seemed shocked and managed to get a chuckle out of me.
“I do! But in books and movies, you weirdo! Not experience it first hand with a couple of freaks like you guys.”
She laughed heartedly. “We’ll have it all on video. It’ll be the same as directing our own horror film!” she exclaimed as if considering it for the first time.
“It’s probably not real, Liz. What am I saying? It’s not real, Liz. All fake, you know? Like when those ghost hunters film moving chairs and suspicious shadows. It’s some big production to get more likes and views.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so.”
“They are,” she said flatly.
It was the most conviction I had heard from her in as long as we had been friends. As if she must believe what she was saying or else she would not go either.
A sigh escaped me.
“We’re all gonna go,” she continued. “I guess, you got a little time to consider your options if it makes you feel any better. Oh, and the inside guy we got is a ghost hunter who’s gonna be there so we’ll be set. He’s an expert.”
I flickered my eyes. “He hunts for ghosts?” My compressed lungs released a puff of air through my lips. Friday was nine days away. “When do I have to let you know by?”
“Wednesday is good enough. We should all meet for dinner Wednesday. A pre-birthday celebration.”
I kept quiet. I didn’t want to argue. I’d had a shit day at work. She knew me and therefore understood I might be persuaded to go because I love Leon so very much. He, Paul, and Rebecca were my world.
“If I decide to go, I have rules.”
I perceived she was bouncing with glee on the other end. “We don’t go at night, we get a serious guide who knows the place and no monkey business.”
“Liz, don’t do this. You know we have to go at night so nobody sees us. Plus, you did hear the part where I said it was a guided tour. He can only meet with us after 8:00 p.m.”
“No. Why? Because you never said you guys got a guide.”
“Yeah, I did. And, it is. We got lucky. Friday is the only day he has available so we booked him.”
“You said a ghost hunter was coming to get us in. You never mentioned he’d be the guide.”
“Same thing. It was implied.”
“Not really, this ghost hunter could be an obsessed crazed person.”
“Well, that’s who we got, Liz. He’s been there before with all the insane ghost technology. Paul says he’s hardcore. I say he’s a psycho, but same difference.
“Rebecca!” I gritted my teeth and stopped. I knew a laundry list of insults would follow if I didn’t take my time to respond. “That’s not helping.”
“Liz, many people go and it’s not a big deal. Some have nothing happen, others say weird stuff does. They’ve seen things. That’s why we’re taking a good camera and not just phones.”
“Let me think about it.”
“What is it with this? I’ve never—”
“I said, I’ll think about it.” I wasn’t sure why I was uneasy with the idea, but I was.
“Don’t be pissed. It’s not what I thought we’d go do. You’ve never cared for shit like this before ... Why are you pushy all of a sudden?”
Becca gave a dramatic sigh. “Leon wants to go so bad. It is his idea. He watched some show or something. Wouldn’t you like to be part of this? What if we catch something spectacular? Then post it online and get a million views?”
“This isn’t you, Liz. Did you have a bad day at work?”
“Yes, but irrelevant. And, this is me.” I lied.
“You should quit.”
“Yeah, I know. I should.”
She was right, it wasn’t me. I’m an up for anything type of friend. I’m the person who gives anything a go at least once. But also, I am a person who recognized she didn’t want to be the protagonist of a paranormal encounter either and scared shitless like the characters I laughed at.
I knew I would go. But in retrospect, I also knew it to be a mistake. One that I would regret for the rest of my days.