Eric cupped his hands around his mouth and called out to his friends. His shoelace had come undone, and in the short time it took him to re-tie it, Luke, Emily, and Priscilla all managed to run off. God, so typical of them, he thought. At least he had his flashlight this time around (in their previous visit they had to leave before it got too dark). No one wants to be lost in these woods at night. At least that’s what he had heard his whole life… and here he was. The earth was soft but uneven with tree roots plaguing everywhere he stepped. Eric almost tripped, breaking his fall on a tree, and for a brief moment he was worried that he was lost.
Luke was always loud, which Eric was thankful for. He just needed to follow the voices and, voila, just a few moments later and there they were. Luke had his arm around Emily, and Priscilla was standing off to the side, observing the police-taped house in the middle – or what felt like the middle – of the woods.
Eric had an urge to walk up beside Priscilla, maybe even risk putting his arm around her, but he froze, unsure what he would say. How does Luke do it? What makes him so special? Luke was a ladies’ man, sure. Okay, he was also tall and had nice, full hair. Just be yourself… just be yourself. Thinking it did little to boost his confidence, however.
“Well, let’s check it out,” Luke suggested. Eric sighed in relief, thankful for the break in the awkward pause. I’ll get another chance.
“Remind me why we’re here again,” Emily said as they moved up to the house’s front porch. “We could be drinking at my moms’.”
“Because this is more fun,” Luke, exclaimed. Eric saw Emily’s eyes roll.
“Yeah, come on, ’Em, let’s check it out. What happened here again? My parents won’t talk about it,” Priscilla said, getting ahead of the group to peer through a dark window in the front of the house.
The house was small, Eric observed. But he hadn’t seen many houses in the woods. From what he knew, they were mostly older and the town started moving away from the woods to put up new homes. It was certainly peaceful in the area – he struggled to picture a violent crime happening in such a delicate, quiet area. Tall, green trees covered the night sky above, and below, four teenagers outside an empty forest cabin.
“The dad went insane and killed his wife and his son, then he killed himself… when stuff like that happens it’s always because the house is haunted,” Luke explained, matter-of-factly.
Yeah, right, Eric thought to himself. He was skeptical of the house being haunted. But it was true – the family did die here only a few days ago. His uncle had told him and he always knows what’s going on in town. I just hope we don’t get caught doing this. He stole a quick glance from Priscilla. At least I have a chance to get closer with her.
The four entered the house, ducking under the yellow police tape that covered the entire entrance. The door was closed, but opened when Luke turned the knob. It was pitch black inside, but they had two flashlights between them, which was enough to illuminate the room. Eric moved his eyes around the ground floor, scanning for any dangers.
“Oh, gross,” Priscilla complained, covering her mouth.
“What?” Eric asked, looking around to identify the cause of her displeasure.
“I just realized… do you think there will be blood and stuff still?” she said.
Eric shrugged. He never thought about it, but it did make sense. He didn’t know how the family actually died, because it hadn’t been put in the paper yet. He supposed he could ask Luke, but he’d probably get some made up story.
Eric shined his light around, left to right, then right to left. There was the kitchen on the left, a staircase that led upstairs, and a door to the right, possibly a dining room.
“Eric, stay with Priscilla, Emily and I are going to look around,” Luke said, and then moved into the room on the right with his girlfriend leaving Eric and his would-be-girlfriend alone. Smooth, Lucas… not really, Eric sighed.
He gave Priscilla a hopeless smile. At least she smiled back.
“Do you want to try going upstairs?” he asked her.
“Sure, lead the way,” she said. Eric realized that she may have been more excited than him about being here. I’ll use that to my advantage.
They walked slowly up the creaky, narrow floorboards. The staircase wasn’t long – maybe 10 stairs, but Eric didn’t count. The upstairs floor had a narrow hallway. Guess we’ll try the right side first.
Eric and Priscilla casually wandered into the first room they came across. It appeared to be the master bedroom. There was a neatly made king-sized bed, and a boring layout of furniture and décor. Clothes were still hung up in the closet. There were even some folded clothes on the ground beside the dresser. But there wasn’t anything unique or interesting. Priscilla occasionally suggested Eric move the light so she could see. Aside from that, they didn’t converse much. What can I say… what can I say…
The room across from them was a sort of storage room, or maybe a spare bedroom. It had a couch that was perhaps a pullout for guests to sleep on. It was a bit messy – there were picture frames stacked along the wall, stacks of paper on a nightstand, and a couple of plastic storage containers. Eric thought about opening one to see what was inside but Priscilla caught him by surprise. “Did you hear that?” she asked, quietly.
Eric looked at her curiously, then shook his head. “What did you hear?”
“I’m not sure… a sound. I think it came from back this way,” she said, then led out back into the hallway. Eric gave her light so she could move ahead.
They came to another room on the right side at the other end of the hallway, the last aside from an open closet across from it with a vacuum and some other things tucked away. This room looked like a kid’s room – a boy’s, Eric concluded. The room was painted a navy blue, with soccer ball decals randomly placed along the walls. There was a baseball glove with a ball in it on the floor by the television stand. There was a desk that had a couple of action figures, and two model helicopters.
“Funny that Luke made us go together, don’t you think?” Priscilla asked him. He turned to face her in the middle of the deceased boy’s room. “You don’t feel… awkward do you?”
Eric smiled. At least she was cool about it, he thought. “Not at all – do you?”
“Nope… I mean, I’ve been waiting for you to talk to me,” she said. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but the way the flashlight hit her face it almost appeared as if she was blushing.
“I’m sorry,” Eric said. “I’m a bit shy I guess.” Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why would you tell her that? Oh, you fool, she already knows… it’s all over you.
“You don’t need to be. I already know you like me.”
Eric laughed, maybe a bit too awkwardly. “Did Emily tell you that?”
“She could have, but it’s obvious… and… I’m okay with it,” Priscilla said, coming a little closer. “You can kiss me if you want to, before they find us.”
Eric’s heart fluttered about six times a second, and his arms grew heavy. He felt his hands and knees shaking. This is what he wanted, and she made it easy for him. He just had to avoid screwing it up.
She crept closer, and then he did as well. She moved in most of the way and he had but to just ease in. Her lips were soft and wet. He felt her hand grab his shirt ever so gently, keeping him in place. Eric enjoyed every second of that kiss, feeling more relaxed as they explored each other in the quiet, dark house. Eric opened his eyes and pulled back slightly. She smiled at him, and moved in again. But just as he was about to take her up on another kiss, something caught his eye behind Priscilla’s head, moving about in the shadows. Eric stepped back from her, alert, and unsure.
“What is it?” she asked, and turned to face where he slowly drew the light.
“I thought I saw something,” he said, a little shaken. What was it? Luke, perhaps?
“Here,” he said, shining the light on the other side of the bed. But there was nothing there.
“Guys! Let’s go, this place sucks,” they heard Luke yell from downstairs. Eric felt impartial – he wanted to kiss Priscilla some more, but he could not shake that feeling he had… that something was watching him. And now he knew that it wasn’t Luke playing a joke on them.
They left the bedroom and walked out into the hallway, Priscilla leading the way. She turned and gave him a quick smile before going down the stairs. Just as Eric was about to follow behind her he caught a shadowy figure with the corner of his eye at the other end of the hall, past the master bedroom. Frozen, he slowly drew the flashlight up to reveal two people standing there. They were dark and pale at once; one was a man, the other a woman. They didn’t move, they didn’t speak… they just stood there. Eric was completely locked up, and every particle in his body began to shiver with fear. But it wasn’t until the two figures vanished into thin air when Eric ran down the stairs as fast as he could, almost steamrolling into Priscilla, and straight out into the dark woods.