HauntedA Story by snarled musings
What will you discover when you spend the night in a house that's allegedly haunted?
They said the house was haunted. Looking up at it Ben thought it sure looked it. It had all the trappings necessary. Empty windows stared at him, broken shards of jagged glass teeth threatening to draw blood should he dare to get too close to them. The paint was peeling, flakes of it piling up like a deformed dusting of snow against the foundation. He stepped closer, drawn towards it against his will. Tentatively he scaled the rickety porch steps. They groaned appropriately under his feet. Ben couldn't stop an ironic smirk to cross his features as he turned and glanced at his friends. They stood watching him, waiting for him to step into the house. It might have been one of the most stupid hazings he'd ever heard of, spending the night in a haunted house for membership in the fraternity. But what did it say about him, that he was willing to go through with it? Ben knew it spoke volumes, but he didn't really feel like this was the right time for introspection.
He gave a thumbs up before turning and pressing on the door. The wood had warped from age, water damage and disuse. He turned his shoulder into it and began to push. Finally, grunting with exertion, he managed to force it open. A sigh of relief escaped him, both that he'd overcome the first obstacle and that he wouldn't have to crawl over broken glass (teeth) to get inside. He wondered what he'd be willing to go through for acceptance.
“Second thoughts, Benjamin? It's okay, none of us thought you'd go through with it anyway. Actually I bet a hundred you'd back out. You're doing me a favor here!” Shane's mocking voice grated in Ben's ears. He stiffened at the taunt and made a split decision. He flipped Shane and the rest of the guys off before straightening his spine and stepping inside.
It was early in the evening, but the heavy gloom inside hung like velvet drapes, shutting the light out. He flicked on his flashlight and looked around. Motes of dust swirled and flickered with every step he took, tiny spirits of abandonment dancing around him. The floor was cracked and water stained, covering the wood in strange obscure patterns. Ben got a strange notion that the floor tried to tell him something. He spun in a slow circle, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose with his middle finger. The gesture was habit, and it never failed to annoy people around him. Peering around he took in the rest of the room. The wallpaper had a faded flower pattern on it. It had probably been bright once, but now it was a brackish brown. He glanced quickly into the kitchen. It was empty apart from one lone chair with only three legs. It looked incredibly forlorn standing there all by itself. For the first time Ben wondered who the house had belonged to. What kind of ghosts could he expect? A crazy old man, or maybe a cuckolded wife? He shivered slightly as he moved further into the house.
The floor in the living room was too damaged for him to even risk stepping on. He eyed the stairway with no small amount of trepidation. But if he stayed downstairs it meant he'd be a sitting duck for Shane and the rest of the guys if they decided to prank him. He'd never live down his humiliation if they scared the crap out of him. So in the end he carefully made his way upstairs. Every step gave slightly under him and his mind filled with pictures of how he fell to the floor and landed in a broken, twisted heap. He drew a shaky breath as he stepped safely onto the second landing. All he needed was a space for him to hole up for the night. He passed through the hallway, looking into each door. One of the rooms was practically missing its floor. The other had an extremely unpleasant odor emitting from it. Finally he settled on a corner room. It had a bed and a bureau still remaining. The mattress on the bed didn't look too shabby, and a whole lot more inviting than the floor. On impulse he pulled the top drawer of the bureau open. It was empty apart from an old journal. He lifted it and cracked it open, feeling like a voyeur. The writing inside was neat and precise.
Of course I fell for it. How could I be so stupid? There's just no way Belinda would ask me to come over without a hidden agenda. But I wanted so badly to fit in, to make friends. Instead it was a mother-daughter party, which Belinda had completely missed to mention. I don't understand what I've done to deserve this! All I ever wanted was to have a normal life again. I hate my life, and I hate mom for killing herself!
Ben had to close his eyes for a second. Even though the entry was short the raw emotion still had him reeling. He could fully sympathize with whoever had written it. He flipped back to the beginning of the diary and settled in to read.
Happy New Year! Now that's a big, fat joke. How could anything ever be happy again? I spent the night listening to dad crying. He's trying to hold it together for me, I know it, but it makes everything so much harder. I don't want him to see how much I miss mom, how mad I am at her for doing this. If he sees, he'll only try harder to be strong for me, and I'm afraid that'll break him completely. F**k you, mom! Was I really that horrible a daughter? I tried to help you out, to do everything you asked me, to be perfect for you! But you just saw yourself and all your problems. Sure, I get that you were depressed. But what about me? I'm the one who had to put up with all the jibes of having a crazy mom, and how I was probably the one who drove you nuts. You were the one I should be able to turn to, the one who should hug me and laugh at their stupidity and tell me it'll all blow over. But you never really cared about me, did you?
He wondered who had written the diary. It was horrible to read, the pain saturating the pages nearly scalding his fingers. He read random entries. One part was like a punch to the gut.
I can still see you there, lying in the bathtub. Your skin pale, almost bluish; the bathwater pinkish red. I thought I'd never stop screaming. Do you know I couldn't speak for three days after I found you? My throat was too raw.
He closed his eyes and drew a shuddering breath. He couldn't believe the pure horror of having to find your own mother like that. He'd been traumatized enough by his mother's death due to an illness. To actually find her like that... goosebumps rose on his skin. He read on, unaware that full dark had fallen outside. He only stopped reading when the beam of the flashlight started to flicker and fade. He had extra batteries in his pocket so it didn't really matter, but he just had to stop reading. He went into the bathroom next door. As he stared at the tub he wondered if that was where the writer had found her mother. As he looked in the mirror he thought he saw something flit by. He spun around too fast and something gave under his foot. The tiles cracked under him and his foot went straight through the floor. With a yell he tore free, throwing himself backwards. As he landed he realized he had no way of knowing if the floor in the hallway was sturdier. Maybe he'd get squashed after all. But the floor stayed solid under him. He panted, struggling to get his breath back and feeling utterly foolish. There had been nothing there besides his own over-active imagination. He didn't even believe in ghosts. There were times when he wished he did, so he could tell his mother good-bye properly.
He wondered if Shane and the others were still waiting outside. Maybe they'd heard his cry. He held his breath and listened, but could hear nothing. It seemed he'd gotten away clean. Or maybe they were afraid to enter the house. He allowed himself a small smirk at the thought. Joe and Brent were the worst, all big mouths and large words. He'd been the butt of their vicious pranks more times than he could count. They were always humiliating and often painful. He'd put up with them since grade school, and he still couldn't figure out why he'd even tried to make it into the fraternity. His father had already told him it was a bad idea. Ben knew he was probably right. Well, he was most certainly right. But he figured he might get away from the torment if he was part of the fraternity. That probably wouldn't happen, but Ben had always been too eager to please. It was his biggest flaw. His therapist claimed it stemmed from feelings of abandonment after his mother's death. He'd told her it was a load of bullshit, but privately he agreed with her. He just wanted to be liked, and eventually loved. But his eagerness was always exploited and got him in trouble over and over again.
His heart had stilled enough for him to sit up again. He glanced at his watch. Five more hours to go until daylight. Five more hours of doing nothing, just waiting for a ghost to appear (or not). He rose shakily to his feet, carefully testing the floor. He didn't want another close call. Once was enough. Carefully he made his way back to the corner room. The diary lay where he'd left it. It seemed to beckon him, whisper to him, begging him to uncover its secrets. He picked it up carefully, half expecting it to burn him or burst into flames. It didn't so he settled down. After putting in fresh batteries into the flashlight he continued to read.
Melissa asked what it felt like to know you were so awful your mother killed herself. Something in me snapped. Why should I be called awful? Mom was the one who couldn't deal, why should I suffer for it. So I told Melissa mom was a selfish b***h, and that I was better off without her. Come on, all she ever did was whine and moan about her tough life. Good-bye and good riddance, I don't need her, she was just cramping me. Something like respect shone in Melissa's eyes. For an instant I felt proud, then I started thinking about the price I'd just paid for that respect. I had bad-mouthed one I'd loved most in the world, just to get away from harsh words. It made me want to throw up.
The others seem to think I'm okay now. They thought my speech to Melissa was cool, that it showed I could stand on my own. They've started accepting me. But they don't understand that their budding acceptance is just another crutch to me, something to lean on. It's a double-edged sword. I don't have to hear them talk about me anymore, so I can get some peace of mind. But the price is that I have to say bad things about mom. I feel more horrible than I've ever done before. Dad's trying to talk to me, but I can't look him in the eyes. How can I ever own up to the things I'm saying about someone we both love?
Ben felt a wave of sympathy wash over him. He could relate to what this poor girl had been going through more than he cared to admit. He wondered who she was, where she'd gone. Part of him wished he could track her down, talk to her. He'd apologize to her for intruding on her private thoughts, then he'd let her know she was not alone. Maybe they could become friends. He smiled faintly at the silly notion. Life didn't happen that way. She'd probably accuse him of being a creep and a pervert. He gave a small shrug and continued to read.
Belinda told me I was almost one of them,but I had one thing left to do to be fully accepted. She said it was easy to act and talk all tough, but I had to do something to prove I wasn't all talk. I agreed to do whatever she told me to. In my head I figured all the hassling would be over if I just did this last thing. They'd been a lot nicer to me, and I thought we might even become friends for real. Yeah, I had talked bad about mom, but maybe it was worth it to finally be part of something, to belong somewhere. After all mom didn't exactly go out of her way to be there for me, why should I honor her memory? I went with the rest of the girls, my heart sinking as I saw we were heading for the cemetery. They fell back, letting me lead the way to mom's grave. There were fresh flowers on it. Dad had visited recently. I hadn't been there for a long time. Melissa looked at me and smiled.
“If you're as tough as you say, you piss on her grave. Just do it, like she did on you.” My heart seized in my chest; I couldn't breathe. How could they ask me to do this? They stared at me, then they started to walk away. I couldn't stand to be left alone again. I cried out for them to wait. When they turned I hiked my skirt up, pulled my panties down and let go. They applauded me.
I can't live with myself, what I did yesterday. They hailed me like I was one of them, told me I was cool. I didn't feel cool, in fact I felt hollow. I couldn't sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes I saw mom staring accusingly at me. And they were treating me like I was some f*****g hero. I pissed away myself yesterday. I'll never be able to look myself in the mirror again. The bath's drawn already. I wish I didn't have to do this. Dad will be devastated. But he'd be even more devastated if he found out what I did. I'll never have forgiveness for what I did. So I deserve to be with mom, to let her punish me forever. After all, what kind of daughter am I ? I'll go now; the bath and the razor's waiting. It's better this way.
Ben looked down at the final entry again. Only as the ink smudged slightly did he become aware of his own tear marks overlapping the ones already staining the page. He dashed his cheeks with the back of his hand, knocking his glasses askew. He was trembling with emotions, heart racing. How could she go so far, whoever she was? How could she ever... he halted his thoughts, peering out the window. He could see the silhouette of whoever was sitting on guard, making sure he really spent the entire night in the haunted house. It was haunted, he knew that for sure, just not in the sense everyone talked about. Who was he to condemn the girl who'd written this, who'd ended her life just like her mother had? He was no better. Was that where he'd end up if he kept up this charade?
“I won't be like that, I refuse to let it go down like that!” His voice rang out in the silence, loud and filled with power and resolve. He would not sell his soul, his very being, just to belong. Hearing his own voice strengthened him. He picked the diary up a last time. Reverently he put it back where he'd found it. If he ever crumbled in his resolve he'd know where he could be reminded. He carefully stepped downstairs and headed outside. The house no longer seemed threatening, just sorrowful. He knew the tear tracks were still visible on his dusty cheeks.
“I knew you'd chicken out, you p***y. You held out longer than I'd expected, though. Maybe that'll merit you another test to see if you'll get into the frat.” Brent's voice was mocking. Ben looked him square in the eyes.
“You can take your frat and shove it. Spend a night in that house; maybe you'll learn something.” He turned around and began walking back to his house, ignoring Brent's cat calls. There was no way any of those guys would ever learn. But he gave a silent thank you to the tormented girl who'd given him a wake-up call and set him on the right path again. He'd honor her by doing the right thing from here on.
© 2012 snarled musings
AboutI've always loved to write, and wish it could be my main income. Alas, I'm far from that! But I've decided to at least put myself on a limb now that I've started writing short stories again! I want cr.. more..