Lightning rent the sky, casting a harsh light upon her destination. The old house had been abandoned for years, as evidenced by the sad shape it was in. The wood siding was warped and scarred, the windows thicker at the bottom where the glass had slowly worked its way downward over the centuries. She stood by the enormous house, taking in the horrific beauty of the whole scene. The gnarled trees twisting their way up through the tangles of weeds in the long-forgotten yard only added to the sinister nature of the domicile. The waves of the ocean crashed ever harder against the side of the cliff the house was resting upon.
She reached down and scooped a fairly large rock up in her hands, weighing it. Good enough. She hesitated a moment as she lifted it above her head, preparing to strike at the ancient window. Was it really worth it? The dare seemed so stupid now that she was actually here. Surely, she didn't have to go through with this. Admittedly, she was incredibly frightened
but would she be able to face the boys the next day if she didn't?
No. She couldn't. There was nothing to be afraid of. At most, there would be nothing but a few bats inside. A house is a house. No matter how creepy it looked, it was nothing more than that.
Steeling her courage, she raised her rock again and grunted as she thrust it forward, smashing the window. The ceaseless lightning illuminated the shattered glass as it tumbled through the air, landing in the overgrown grass at her feet. She took her first glance inside the home by the sea. It was just as she'd pictured it-dark and dusty, with cobwebs stretching from every corner. She took a deep breath and began her journey. Taking care not to cut herself on the sharp glass that still protruded from the windowpane, she clambered inside. A cloud of dust swirled all around her as the fell to the floor.
Amazing. Suddenly, the sounds of the raging storm, so loud and overbearing before, were softened, muted, muffled. The noise from the outside world grew even fainter as she took a few tentative steps down the hallway. Eventually, it disappeared completely. The only thing she could hear was the sound of her own footsteps and the beating of her heart. This isn't so bad, she thought to herself as she looked to the left and the right. There were pictures lining the walls, each one depicting people who had obviously lived long ago. One particular portrait caught her eye-a picture of a girl much like herself. She got closer. Yes
the girl looked eerily similar to herself. They even had the same deep-set eyes
She slowly brushed her fingers against the glass, wiping away the dust of the ages. Crash. The portrait fell to the floor, the glass smashing. Her heart was pounding. What was that? What WAS that? Something had DEFINITELY brushed against her
but she could see nothing. She pressed herself against the wall, her hand clutched to her chest. She never should have come here
never. For nearly ten minutes she stood plastered to the wallpaper, a cold sweat breaking out on the back of the neck. But, after a time, she began to calm down. She was just being paranoid. She shook off her fear as she knelt down to pick up the pieces of the shattered glass.
After placing the glass to the side, she hung the now glassless portrait back in its original position. She looked back at her motionless counterpart
and felt uneasy. Something was wrong with this place. She just knew it. She wanted to leave
Something compelled her to stay.
She walked further down the hallway, turning into a conjoining hall. The house was much bigger than it looked from the outside. Unnaturally so. As she turned down another hall, she realized that the house was a labyrinth. A maze in which she now realized she was lost. She tried to go back the way she came, but everything looked different somehow. The portraits had changed. Panic began to well up inside of her, for she could see no windows. No way to escape. Frantically, she began to run down more hallways, hoping to run into an exit. She felt the tears burning in the ducts of her eyes, but she held them back. She would NOT let the boys know she had cried.
Run. She gasped and stopped dead in her tracks. Somewhere, on the verge of her subconsciousness
she heard a voice. Voices. Help us. Someone. The tears finally spilled over the brim of her eyes and began flowing slowly down her cheek. Let us out of here. The tears flowed in earnest now, as she felt a swift breeze blow around her. But there were no windows.
Then they appeared. Out of the woodwork, pushing their way through the cracks in the wood. Out of thin air even. Shadows. Shadows in the shape of men. Twisting through the air like phantasmal specters, they surrounded her. She stared in horror at them and looked deep into their eyes-their soulless eyes full of despair and hopelessness. When we were free, we were not unlike you. They seemed to be speaking as one, their collective voice filling her whole body all the way to her fingertips. Free. Free like the waves of the sea. Free like the gulls that fly overhead. Before we first heard the Keeper. So many years ago.
She felt herself open her mouth, tried to let a scream tear itself from her throat, but she was robbed of her voice. The only thing she could hear was the voices. The voices. Her feet were rooted to the floor. She felt a tingling sensation in her fingers that slowly encompassed the rest of her body. Then, she slowly began to lose all feeling in her body. With utter horror, she felt the precious life force being drained from her. Although the wailing of the spirits around her grew ever louder, she heard one last voice before her transformation was complete.
"Welcome to the home by the sea."