There we stood holding our breath, as the only source of sound came from the wind forcing its way through the broken shutters, whistling like a janitor waxing the floors at the end of the work day. Darkness filled the house around every corner. I’m not talking about the darkness you have when you turn your bedroom light off to go to sleep. You know, the kind where you can maneuver your way to the bathroom if you need to, thanks to your alarm clock illuminating just enough to make out the door. I’m talking about the darkness you get when you close your eyes, not even able to make out your own hand three inches in front of your face. “So, this must be what it’s like to be blind” I said, attempting to lighten the mood, but failing miserably. “Shut up and turn on the damn flashlight” directed Sarah. I reached for the flashlight I had in my back pocket and turned it on.
The house was just like the kind you see in horror films: old, Victorian-styled house with rotting wood panels somehow keeping the house upright. Shutters hanging on by nails that, if pierced your skin, would have tetanus coursing through your body almost instantly. Layers of dust so thick if you breathed in too heavily, you might literally cough up a lung. There were stairs that ran along the left side of the house, leading the way up to three bedrooms on the second floor. To the right of the front door was a room occupied by a grand piano. If you walked further down the hall you came to a formal dining room with a chandelier not even the heirs of oil-tycoons could purchase. Opposite that was an office occupied by a large oak desk, stained with a blood-red finish, facing a wall filled with every type of book you could imagine: medical, law, economics, even taxidermy. At the end of the hall was where you found a large living room and kitchen, as open as the Great Plains. The living room floor was filled with furniture resting peacefully under bed sheets and broken glass. On the walls hung picture frames and mirrors that were turned around, so the only thing showing was the back of the wooden frame. In the kitchen lied the most profound smelling foods, rotten to the core.
The beam of light pierced through the darkness, revealing the back door leading to the deck. I turned to the right towards Sarah, only knowing she was in that vicinity due to her snark demand. She raised her hand to block the light from her eyes and groaned, “are you trying to make me go blind?” Chuckling, I turned and shown the light to my left where David stood facing the wall. “Well, this is embarrassing…I thought I was facing you guys”, he said. He turned around, grinning from ear to ear, “so, now what?” As we stood there, contemplating the next move, it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Uhhh…guys? Where’s Elena?” Fear struck Sarah’s face as she began yelling Elena’s name. “Elena! Elena! Where are you?!” Sarah’s voice bounced off the walls, filling every room in that house. She stopped, pausing for a response, but received nothing.
The flashlight began to flicker on and off. I could feel Sarah’s eyes pierce my skin, giving me the sensation of that year I did the Polar Bear Plunge. “Stop acting so immature, Josh. Can’t you tell I’m already freaked out enough?” I banged the flashlight a couple of times on my knee. “I’m not doing this on purpose, Sarah” mimicking the sound of her voice. When the light stopped flickering, David cleared his throat, “I guess we should go look for her, huh?”
We walked down the hall in a single-file line, as if we were kindergartners going to lunch. I shined the flashlight in each of the rooms passing by, but to no avail Elena wasn’t in any of them. As we were approaching the living room we heard this loud crack that echoed throughout the house. We stopped, frozen in our tracks, hearts racing and heavily breathing yet again. “Should we go up there?” I proposed. “If we do, you’re leading the way, Columbus; considering you have our only source of light” David said. I stood there, ruminating about what David just said, but the only thing that kept running through my mind was me reaching the top step and getting hit in the face by a blunt object and never seeing the light of day again. “It was probably just wind slamming a shutter shut”, I cowardly said, “let’s keep going.” When we reached the back room, consisting of the kitchen and living room, the smell hits us instantly. “Oh my god, Sarah, close your legs”, David jokingly said. Another smack filled the air, but this time I think it’s obvious as to who made that noise. “What the hell, Sarah? I was kidding. Relax” David painfully said.
Scanning the kitchen with the flashlight, realizing I wasn’t finding anything significant, I turned to the living room. As I guided the flashlight across the open room I came across Elena sitting in the corner, curled up in a ball. Sarah couldn’t help but scream when Elena’s body filled the circle of light cast by the flashlight. “Elena? Elena?”, I whispered. “Is everything alright?” She raised her head, tears running down her face as if she were at a funeral. She jumped up and sprinted into Sarah’s arms, squeezing her so tightly you could hear Sarah’s spine cracking. “Now that’s what I like to see!” David said, as he raised his eyebrows up and down repetitively. Elena turned to David, giving him the nastiest of looks.
“I thought you guys left me” Elena sympathized. “Did you not hear us calling your name?” Sarah asked. “No. I guess the fact my mind was racing with thoughts as to what was about to happen to me effected my hearing.”
That’s when it happened. A light other than my flashlight seeped through the shutters, filling the living room with a casting lined shadow on all of our bodies. Struck with fear, my reflexes somehow kicked in and I turned the flashlight off. We all stood there hoping the occupants of the car mistakenly pulled up to the wrong house. As the tires rolled across the gravel driveway, the breaks sang the highest of melodies and the car finally came to a stop. The house was once again filled with darkness as the headlights turned off. The door to the car squeaked open, sending shivers down our spine as it slammed shut. Then, silence.