by Chris Fleschner, age 15
© 2019 by the author
Russel is down to one card. One final card. I really hope the game keeps going; I’m having so much fun for the first time since this summer. It’s been two months since Russel, Kate (we call her Kit), Jay, and I hung out together. It’s October 30 today. We’re one day from the notoriously scary Halloween. In our neighborhood, stories about crazed, missing people in abandoned houses are recounted like no other. There has got to be some truth behind them, you’d wonder.
Kit just played a draw four. Ugh, and I had just two cards left. Red two. Yellow skip. Red seven. Yellow three. This game is eternal but it’s an eternity I’m glad to suffer.
“What are you guys planning on being tomorrow night?” Jay asks. Everyone knows she wants to be something scary, something so petrifyingly horrible that it makes her own screams gasp for breath.
“I want to be a ghost. I know it’s cliché, but there’s something about wearing a sheet on my head that brings back the feelings of being a little kid again.” Russel is the oldest of the four of us. He never lets us forget it either; it’s only by two weeks and one day but that has an infinitesimal meaning to him. “What about you, Marcel?”
“I…I don’t know yet. I can always find an old costume or something.” I’ve never been such a huge fan of the dressing up part.
“What about you Kit? Jay asks. Kit is staring at the window. She looks nervous, white as a ghost. The vane on the side of her forehead trembles as she slowly opens her mouth…
“I…I think I saw some…someone out there.” Kit is notorious for being the scaredy-cat of the group. All the stories and decorations give her the unshakeable chills year after year. I’m sure this is nothing, it usually is.
“I win!” Russel shouts. The game ends after what seems like hours. He finally managed to get rid of his last card after all.
“Ugh. I was close too.” Jay added. She was the most competitive of the group by far. Russel winning is unusual; it’s like she had to let him. It wouldn’t come as much of a surprise either. It was almost common knowledge that Jay has liked Russel as more than just a friend and Russel likes her back. It’s the reason the four of us haven’t had much time to spend together. The two of them are typically off together, leaving Kit and me behind. This game of Uno was the first thing to bring us all together again, it’s tradition anyway. Every Halloween we get together to see who holds the title for the year as Uno…
Something just hit the window. It made a sound so loud it’s a mystery how the window is still intact. Jay got up to go see what happened. Maybe a bird flew into the window or something. They do that when the see their reflection anyway; it’s an instinct thing.
“Nothing. There’s Nothing. Hmm.” She heads back to the circle now, but before she can sit back down another deafening crash echoes through the basement. She walks hastily back to the window.
“Hey guys? I think I see a man out there.” We all got up to investigate. It was true; there was a man. He looked tall too, maybe 6’2” or 6’3”. He was wearing a torn costume that looked like an old clown face with a ripped striped shirt. Red and Yellow. Red and Yellow.
“Why is he just standing there? Kit adds. “Do any of you know him?” We all shook our heads no. Nobody had ever met or even seen this deranged-looking man before. Why is he staring at us? What could he want?
“Let’s just play another round and maybe he’ll be gone.” Said Russel, so we went back to playing cards and talking for a little while.
We were in Kit’s basement, and her parents weren’t home, just her little brother who was sleeping upstairs. Her parents finally trusted us to be here alone. It only took until our consecutive 16th birthdays for a motif of responsibility to set in. Being home alone for the first time with Russel, Jay, and Kit feels unnatural though. Our whole lives, we cry for more responsibilities but then we get to stay home alone, and it feels bizarre, worrisome at times. After roughly thirty minutes, Jay got up to check the window again. She shakes her head.
“Whoever that was, well, they’re gone now.” That was relieving. For a night that typically doesn’t scare me, my heartrate was a little above…
We all run to the window now. If this was meant to be a joke, it isn’t funny. And again, not a thing in sight. What could be making that noise? Everyone looks around at each other. I can see panic-stricken looks yearning to be seen; hearts are beating, and fear is starting to settle. Suddenly there are footsteps. There’s something upstairs, walking languidly. The steps are slow; everything in the basement goes silent. I start to hear my own pulse in tune with the footsteps. Out of the corner of my eye I see Russel and Jay reaching for each other’s hands. I can see the glare shining off Jay’s shiny ring. Kit looks into my eyes. I know exactly what she’s remembering.
The thought of her brother facing whoever or whatever was upstairs ousted the fear from her mind and she charged up the stairs with the three of us close behind. We brace to see the source of our panic immediately, but there’s nothing. Everything’s in order. Kit goes to check on her brother just to be sure. Russel quickly locks the doors too. We hear the door to Max’s room creak open.
“He’s here. He’s okay.” We hear Kit say with relief. We all walk in behind her to see Max. Kit is sitting on the side of his bed as we walk in. Russel, Jay and I stand behind her as she taps him on the shoulder. He doesn’t move. This time Kit shakes him from the shoulder. He remains still. I can see the nerve on her forehead begin to tremble as she reaches over Max’s still body. She turns him upright. Screams filled the room.
“His eyes are gone!” Jay yells. Where there should be eyes, only sockets remain. Blood seeps out of the gaping holes little by little, turning the blue sheets dark red. I’m petrified now. My body is frozen completely; the fear has frostbitten me.
The four of us dash towards the basement to get as far away from Max’s room as possible. I can hear rapid breathing from the others. The stories are true. We make it to the basement door and Russel grabs the handle. He twists and pulls it with a force that can only be catalyzed by complete panic. As the door is heaved open, we practically fly over the steps and run the middle of the room. The Uno cards are scattered everywhere. We’re all trying to wrap our heads around what has happened. Is it even real?
“Where’s Jay?” Russel says. I can sense the worry in his unsettling voice. Where is Jay? There’s only three of us down here.
“Maybe she stayed upstairs to grab weapons or something,” I add. I still can’t believe this is happening. My brain refuses to.
There’s another crash at the window and it breaks. Kit lets out a shriek of intense fear. The glass litters the floor all around us; a myriad of pieces sit still as the night sky outside.
“It’s Jay’s hand!” I can see her ring. Russel runs over and covers his mouth and closes his eyes. Kit is frozen. Goosebumps conceal the heat of her arm. The glass on the floor starts to shine red. The last warmth from Jay’s life soaks the floor underneath my feet. What is there to do? In just minutes, two people have died, and nobody knows why.
“What do we do? Kit asks in utter panic.
“We have to run. Do either of you know where we can go?” Russel seems devastated. His voice is melancholy and raspy. This night escalated quickly. Just minutes ago, we were in the same spot; four of us playing Uno. Now all that’s here are three shattered kids.
“I think we should head to the church. It’s only a mile or so away, and we can see things coming.” I say. Kit and Russel nod in unison. We head upstairs to the kitchen. I grab knives and the others look for flashlights and the car keys.
“Anyone know how to drive?” Kit asks.
“I just got my permit, but I know the basics.” Russel replies.
We get in the car, Russel in the driver’s seat, me in the passenger, and Kit in the back. The engine stutters, and the headlights blink. Next thing I know we’re speeding down the road. I close my eyes. My mind is racing; it’s going a mile a minute. Thoughts are mixed with the sounds of screams and the sight of Max’s empty eye sockets. Jay’s hand is flying through the window all over again. The image of that man, or whatever he is appears to me, and his blank stare through the window comes back for a fleeting second. Then I open my eyes. I must be hallucinating right now. The image of that man in my head out there, on the road. It’s getting bigger. Why can’t anyone else see him?
“WATCH OUT!” I yell. Russel swerves right and the car busts through the fence and tumbles off the side of the road; everything went dark.
. . .
Crunch! Crunch! I can hear the orange leaves crumbling beneath someone’s steps.
“Help!” I hear Russel yelling. “Help!”
My legs are stuck under the collapsed dashboard, and I can’t get out of what’s left of the car. I’m twisting, writhing, trying to free myself and find the screams. Every time I open my eyes, I’m blinded by pain; there’s too much light. Occasionally I can stagger a few blinks, and I can see Russel’s squirming body being dragged away.
“Marcel? I can’t feel my legs anymore.”
“Kit! We need to run! Russel is gone, he was taken!” I use every of energy to free my legs and help her. I make one last check to make sure we’re alone before I pull her out and help her up.
“Let’s hide in the woods. It’s too dark; he’ll never find us in there,” Kit says to me. She can barely walk. Her left leg is bleeding from the outside of her thigh. I put my arm around her shoulder to help her move quickly away from the car.
“Did you see him?” she asks.
“Yeah…I did, but not in time to get a good look,” I replied.
“I think his eyes were missing too, like Max’s. It’s like some of the story’s say. It had to have been the deranged man from the stories, I’m telling you. I recognize him too; he lived in the house on 34th Street with the steel fence and oak trees. It’s the man from the stories. He’s real.”
If it were true, I still didn’t believe it. One by one we were getting picked off, killed. And now there’s just two of us in the woods desperate for help. We’re wounded, and he knows it. How could he not? He’s like a shark sensing the blood in the water, waiting until the injured sea creature is too vulnerable to protect itself. It’s only a matter of time before Kit and I are trapped in the clenched jaws, and it’s all over.
Finally, we made it to a good spot. There are trees all around, and I can’t see any lights. I can’t even see the sky either; the foliage is far too dense. I helped Kit down beside a tree and tied her ripped legging around her leg to fashion a tourniquet. I can’t see my last friend die slowly in front of me. We sit for a while in silence. I keep hearing the mumbled screams as I visualize Russel’s flailing legs being pulled from the car. I can hear Jay’s voice in my head: “Nothing. There’s nothing.” Oh, how I wish it were nothing, because nothing just took her away from me. It took everything from her.
“It was nice...” Kit’s quavering voice broke the long silence. “...getting together again. We haven’t hung out together since this summer at the fair. Do you remember going on the Scrambler after eating all those funnel cakes? All four of us threw up.”
“Yeah, I remember.” I couldn’t see why she was reminiscing right now. I can’t get tonight’s events out of my— “Kit? Did you hear that?” I heard a snap; it sounded like something right behind her. I look up at her… She’s gone.
All that remains is a pile of blood from hew leg, not another trace. I grab hold of the bark behind me and pull myself up as fast as I can. I can hear the wind flying past my ears. My legs are moving so fast, I don’t think I’m touching the ground. I can hear something behind me. I can’t stop now, or I’ll die. If I stop, I die. If I stop, I die. The sound is slowly getting louder. I can hear the leaves flattening and twigs crackling. The volume intensifies even more. I feel like it’s mere inches behind my head. I stop running. The forest is silent yet again. I look every which way and nothing. It’s too dark to move. I listen. There’s something there. I keep listening. The silence echoes louder and I’m listening…