It's been a long time since I've put a short story up here, and with Halloween coming tomorrow, I thought I would share this scary tale. I hope that you enjoy!
TRUTH OR DARE
“Go on. You picked dare.”
Lucifer, whose real name was Tony, sneered and elbowed her lightly. He had insisted they pick new Goth names a few weeks ago and Emily was having a hard time remembering to use them. Her own moniker was Chaos. She had written it down on small pieces of paper that she would throw away, trying to drill it into her brain.
Why here, wondered Emily, why did he have to pick this place?
The large gothic Victorian house stood in front of them, owning the darkness. Spires tipped the corners, pointing to an ebony sky, and sharp arches sliced through the night. Each window looked like a set of empty eyes holding sentry to a tenebrous world that lie just behind the glass. Emily couldn’t shake the feeling that the house knew they were there, that it was watching them. The hairs on her neck stood in agreement.
The home was tall. Its shudders were drooped, hanging idly from a few lazy bolts, the shingles sagged. The front door looked like the crooked grin of an old man with the various small panes of glass long ago shattered and broken leaving haphazard shards behind. The porch boards were curled and nails had worked their way out of the wood, poking upward in dangerous angles. No one knew the last time people had lived here.
Emily swallowed, her fear a hard lump in her throat.
Tonight, Emily had pushed her luck when she had suggested they play Truth or Dare. Stephanie, now known as Paradox, liked Lucifer, and Emily did, too. Emily had stood in the shadows for long enough. Her timid demeanor put up against Paradox's bold self confidence was no contest, but tonight Emily was determined to show Lucifer another side of herself. She had never considered they would end up at this house tonight.
Lucifer and Paradox stood back, uncharacteristically silent, taking in the house from the street.
Emily hesitated before she put one boot in the yard. A small rush of wind blew her skirt around her and her hair into her face, taking her breath. Tears formed, spilling over slightly, making her thick eyeliner sting as it slid into her eyes. She briefly fought the urge to turn and run, but with clenched fists, she stood still until it passed.
With resolve and Lucifer foremost in her mind, Emily started toward the house.
An ornate, clover shaped window on the steeply pitched roof held beautiful stained glass. The vibrant colors were muted by the darkness, but Emily found herself drawn to it, staring. From behind her, Paradox began to giggle. Emily could only imagine how Paradox would be flirting with Lucifer when she wasn’t around. She needed to get this over with and send Paradox on a long dare herself. The thought made her smile.
Emily trudged on. The porch creaked and sagged under her weight.
With a sudden sharp crack, Emily’s left ankle fell through the boards. She started to shriek but stuffed her fist into her mouth, effectively cutting it off. Dust plumed all around her, making her cough. Thank goodness her boots went up to her knees, otherwise the jagged wood would have cut into her leg as she yanked her foot free.
She was shaking as she made her way to the front door, the adrenalin still pumping through her.
The large front door stood sentinel for the house, yet Emily only needed to push and it easily opened. She glanced back at Lucifer and Paradox, who were still watching from the street. She noticed Lucifer now had his arm around Paradox, who was leaning into him. A silent scream ran through her mind as jealousy burned deep. Exhaling, Emily turned and faced the darkness of the open door and stepped inside.
Once inside, Emily waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The strong smell of mold caused her to wrinkle her nose. She stumbled forward, sliding her feet instead of picking them up for fear of falling over something. Finally she remembered she had her cell phone in her pocket. She pulled it out and pressed a round button on the front, turning it on. Dense blue light illuminated a path in front of her.
Holding the phone straight out ahead, she opened her eyes wide to better see, blinking from the dust motes swirling in the light.
She was in what appeared to be a large sitting room. Old furniture sat decaying and mildewing like the skeletons of ancient creatures, tented with thick cobwebs that trailed from their corners to the ground. The fabric was thin and split open with age. A tarnished mirror hung in the large living room, reflecting a hazy, milky image.
Thick dust covered the floor and there were no footprints. It had been a long time since anyone had been in here.
Emily carefully made her way through the large room. To her left was a staircase. Her phone did not allow her to see to the top of the stairs, but she guessed from the way they curved, disappearing into the darkness, that it was long.
It was when she was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up into the ebony nothingness, that she heard the voice.
It was whispered, barely audible, and after jumping, she blurted out her first reaction.
“Guys, you know that’s not my name anymore!” Emily figured it was her friends playing a trick on her.
It became quiet again.
Emily made her way to a window and looked out. Paradox and Lucifer were still standing in the street, near the front lawn. Now they stood side by side, playing with their cell phones.
A prickly feeling crawled across Emily’s neck and down her back, leaving her hair standing on end.
She walked back to the staircase and once again looked up.
It was the same as before.
The realization that it wasn't Lucifer or Paradox fell over her. Her breath strangled in her tightened throat, her body started to tremble. She couldn't run out, she couldn't let him see her scared. She would have to face this, whatever was in the darkness. After a few unsuccessful attempts, she finally squeaked out, “Who’s here?”
There was no reply.
The thought of them setting her up with someone upstairs to mess with her gave her a burst of bravery. Emily exhaled sharp and aimed her phone at the stairs. “Listen, I’ve got a knife. Be warned.” She surprised herself with the confidence that came through.
Remembering there had been no footprints in the dust, fear mixed with curiosity, and a giggle from Paradox rode in on the dank air, compelling her forward.
She put one foot on the first step and pressed down. A slight groan came from the wood, but it held steady. Emily slowly put her other foot down and waited. It seemed that it would be able to hold her weight, even when she lightly bounced on it, so she began to climb the steps.
Soon, something began to pull her along. Her body went numb. It felt like a hand was reaching deep into her belly, its fingers gripping her insides lightly, tugging her farther up the steps. It tickled and despite the undercurrent of fear, Emily found herself nervously laugh.
The stairs curved upward in a circle. Emily didn’t know when they would ever end, but the pulling persisted and began to feel like a cold breath that licked at her ears.
“Emily," the breathy voice died in the distance.
She climbed ever further. The air thickened the closer she was to the top. The distinct feeling of moisture clung to her skin, leaving a sheen of slickness behind.
Not able to tell from which direction the voice came, she turned, going toward her right. There were three doors that opened to reveal bedrooms with more decrepit furniture filling them. Going back down the hall, she continued down the other side.
On this side there was another bedroom and a small bathroom. The bathroom had a claw-footed bathtub that was filled with gelatinous brown muck. The smell was so strong and pungent in here that it burned her eyes. Emily backed out quickly.
Feeling frustrated, Emily was about to go back downstairs when she heard it again.
“This way,” it breathed. The ‘s’ sound was elongated, mimicking a snake’s hiss.
It was coming from behind her.
There was a brief but strong primal instinct that kicked in, urging her to leave right now, but her emotions overpowered it, shoving the tiny voice away. With her head held high, she turned to see a door that she hadn’t noticed before. When she opened it, there was another smaller set of steps lying before her, wrapped in a strange silver glow.
Emily pocketed her cell phone because the light here was ample enough that she didn’t need it.
The voice became louder and less breathy as she climbed the steps with automatic movements.
“Emily, come here,” it beckoned.
A large attic space opened up. Lit with the same silver glow as the steps. It housed many items such as a large, decorative mirror, stacks of moldy books, a coatrack with an antique white lace dress hanging in tatters from the edge, and framed portraits. Ladders were angled against the wall, a steel tub had been filled with boxes and old hats hung on pegs. Emily stared in wonder at the room. There was a dream-like quality to the moment with its filtered appearance and her muffled thoughts; her movements had slowed as if she were under water.
The voice was coming from a corner.
She followed it to find a large, black trunk sitting up against a wall. Kneeling, Emily pushed the heavy lid up.
There were stacks of books and old photographs bundled with shiny ribbon. A pair of boots lined with tiny, round buttons and a dry-rotted pinafore. She removed each item with ease, laying them each on the floor beside her.
Near the bottom, there was an old hairbrush, its bristles frail and brittle, and a matching hand mirror. They used to be silver but were now tarnished so bad that they appeared mostly to be a dull brown. She tried to look at herself in the glass. Still holding the mirror, she noticed something glowing in the bottom of the trunk.
Picking up a small, wrapped bundle, Emily began to unwind the gauze that covered it. The more she took off, the stronger the glow became. With the last of it removed, she could see that it was a necklace. A blue and white cameo; the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Carved into it was a child, his angelic face forever captured in pristine innocence. His blue eyes shone and seemed to be looking right at her. A snake that wound around his small legs and up his rounded belly to rest on his shoulder, lovingly, encircled his swathed body. The child appeared to be floating on a puffy cloud with stars lining the background, a small set of wings sprouting from his back.
Emily rubbed her fingertip across the pendant; each delicate score was painstakingly detailed. The blue was almost electric as it glowed in her hand.
She bowed her head and lifted the necklace, setting it in place around her throat.
Instantly the room went black.
Emily snapped out of the dream-like trance she was in and remembered where she was. Fear gripped every inch of her and she opened her mouth to scream. Before any sound could escape, something touched her neck.
A raspy voice hissed, “You have released me. For this I thank you, but, please forgive me; I haven’t fed in centuries.”
Searing pain blossomed from her throat as something sliced into her soft flesh. Warm blood spilled onto the floor with a heavy splash.
Emily clutched at her throat, gasping for air that was bubbling in the gaping wound. As she fell to her knees, her body was pulled from behind up into the air.
She managed one last scream that slashed through the silent night with piercing clarity. Lucifer and Paradox‘s heads snapped up at the sound. The two of them saw the glow coming from the stained glass window that now blossomed with color, and ran toward the house.
A river of blood fell upon the floor, and the necklace dropped beside it, the glow fading into the night.
“Emily!” In their haste, nicknames were forgotten. Their cries rang out as they clumsily made their way to the top floor.
The attic had darkened. Lucifer aimed his small penlight and saw that a large pool of blood covered the center of the room.
Lucifer paced the area looking for Emily. Paradox stared in shock at the blood.
A large drop of blood fell on Lucifer’s shoulder. He stopped where he was and slowly looked up.
In the darkness he could make out the edges of the eaves disappearing into inky blackness.
Another drop of blood fell on his cheek.
“Emily?” he asked in a weak voice.
From the black came the sound of wings beating followed by a harsh squeal.
A large creature emerged from the darkness above, swooping down at Lucifer who shielded his face with his arms and crouched, screaming.
The thing landed with a thud, its talons clicking on the wood.
It stretched its arms wide, and opening its chest, it leaned its head back and shrieked again, flexing large, veined black wings. It had the head of a snake. A forked tongue flicked out of its enormous mouth between long, sharp, red-stained fangs. Moist, bulbous eyes contained pointed pupils.
As Lucifer trembled in the floor, Paradox stepped forward; her eyes open wide and fixed on the creature.
“You are real,” she said softly. Lowering her head, she dropped to one knee. “I bow before you.”
The creature tilted its head and ambled its lanky form ahead.
It bent down and enveloped her with its large wings. A loud crack and a quick squeal were all Lucifer heard as he sat in the floor, rocking back and forth.
Paradox’s limp body fell to the side.
The giant creature lifted itself off the ground with its wings. Wind swirled in the room kicking up papers, dust and debris.
Pointing a clawed finger at Lucifer it said, “Tell them I have come.”
Lucifer snapped out of it in time to see the creature’s visage change from the beast that it had been to the form of the small, beautiful child on the necklace. Bright blue eyes glowed in the darkness. In an instant it morphed back into the beast.
With a powerful whoosh of its wings, it propelled itself forward with great momentum, crashing through the stained glass window and off into the night.
Its large black form was briefly silhouetted against the bloated, full moon.
A shriek rendered the night alive.