The following is a clip from my WIP, The Old Mill – this is NOT a finished draft!
They had been planning the adventure for months. It was a rite of passage in Amesbury, one that had been going on for decades, though every generation thought it was original.
The Five Inseparables were going to visit the Goode Mansion after dark.
Amy Lancing was able to borrow her parents’ car for the evening. Although the quiet one of the group, she reveled in the control that being the driver gave her. And this wasn’t just any night with the car. It was special and she would do everything in her power to make sure their adventure was perfect.
The traffic up the hill from Amesbury was light. Great. Amy took the left onto Miller Road, as she’d practiced a dozen times. She slowed down as she passed the driveway into the mansion and began to scan the woods on the left. Just down a small incline and across a bridge and perhaps another hundred yards there was a turn off into the woods. It was supposed to be secret, but even in her headlights she could see that were many tire prints in and out. Right, the worst kept secret in the county.
Amy turned and pulled the car into the woods as far as she dared. She turned off the lights and shut off the engine.
The five 17-year-old girls piled out of the car, all giggles and trying to “shush” each other.
Amy looked at the other four: Jess, Lauren, Stacy and Kath. She shook her head. They had no clue and would be lost without her.
Time to get moving.
“OK, we go through the woods,” Amy said. “The path is difficult, but no flashlights.” She didn’t bring one. The rules of the game clearly stated “no lights” and she wanted to be sure the others were on board.
“Yeah, yeah, Amy, we got it,” Stacy Farley said. “You’d think you were our mother.”
The others giggled, but it was a nervous sound.
“Well, I want to be sure we do this right,” Amy said. “Everyone talks about running away screaming, and we all promised not to do that, right?”
“They’re all just a bunch of sissies,” Lauren Thomas said. She was trying to act tough, but Amy could hear the fear in her voice. “Us Inseparables will show those stupid football jocks who has the real balls. They’re the little girls. We’ll have something to…”
“I’m going to talk to Martha,” Jessica Wallace said cutting Lauren off.
“Right,” Stacy said.
“No, really, I am. Just you wait.”
“What are you going to talk about?” Amy asked.
“Things. Life. Death.” Amy could see Jess smile in the dark, the smile she reserved for talking about sex. “Love.”
“Love?” Lauren asked. “Martha was an old spinster. She died as the oldest virgin in history and I doubt she’s had any as a ghost. What would she know about love?”
“You haven’t heard the stories about Samuel?” Jessica said. “And have you heard the music? She knows love. I’m going to ask her about Gill.”
The others laughed, but Jess kept her knowing smile.
“OK, enough talk,” Amy said. “Let’s moving.”
The woods proved to be more difficult than they had guessed. Following the rules, they didn’t use lights and were constantly tripping over unseen roots and rocks. Stray branches grabbed at them as the went by. Amy stayed out front, breaking trail, but she had no idea where she was going, just trying to get there by instinct, shushing the others whenever they talked, which Lauren was bound to do every time she hit a snag or bump. It wasn’t just the rocks, roots and branches, though: Amy’s feet were soaked by the time they reached the estate’s lawn.
Despite the difficult terrain, it didn’t really take that long and Amy felt proud of her scouting skills. None of the others would have done half as well.
Stopping at the edge of the woods, Amy turned to the girls and held a finger in front of her mouth. Lauren snickered. Stacy let out a single laugh, then hissing a “Shhh”, she hit Lauren in the ribs.
Amy frowned at the two.
“Stupid clowns,” she said to herself.
Despite their jokes, the others were waiting for Amy’s lead. Jess was standing straight, still smiling and could have gone ahead. Lauren and Stacey were poking each other, obviously both on the verge of laughing. They seemed to have no clue. And then there was Kath.
Amy had noticed that Kathy Wilson had said less than three words since they had arrived, but didn’t think of it until then. Kath’s eyes were wide and she was shivering. Amy gave the girl a smile, but Kath didn’t respond.
So be it. They had to go and Kath would come along, nervous or not.
Amy motioned for the others to follow, still acting the fearless leader.
Kath hung back for a moment before, with a longing glance into the woods, followed the others onto the lawn.
The girls snuck around the carriage house, staying close, but not too close. The walls were cold, as if they were skirting a glacier, not a building. But it was more than that. Unseen hands seemed to grasp at them as they walked, tear at them, trying to pull them in. Amy could hear a scream in her head, a scream that went on and on without stop.
Glancing back, only Jess seemed unaffected. She grimaced, hoping Kath didn’t have a heart attack.
Just press on and it wouldn’t take long.
The open space between the carriage house and the mansion was too exposed, yet with each footfall away from the accursed building Amy felt a little better.
They were soon in front of the mansion itself. Faint music filled the air and Amy could see a golden glow from the third floor.
She stopped and looked at the window.
“Why are you…?” Lauren started to ask, but Amy cut her off with a “Shhhh.”
“The party is on,” Kath said. Her voice was odd. She wasn’t looking at the house or at the other girls, just at her feet. She was shivering from more than the cold.
Amy shook her head. The beautiful music and warm light were welcome after the dark chill of the carriage house. She dreaded passing it on the way back to the car.
“Yes, the ball has started,” Jessica said. Her eyes caught the glow of the third-floor ball.
“Right,” Lauren said. “I think…”
Stacy hit her in the arm and they both giggled nervously for a second.
“Come on,” Amy said.
The front door was unlocked. Amy pulled gently. The door opened easily without the cheap horror film “creak” she had expected.
If there was a golden glow on the third floor, it sure wasn’t on the first. The door had opened into a blackhole. Cold, fragrant air rushed out, air that smelled of age and Egyptian tombs, air with a taste of dried roses and gingerbread spice.
Amy closed her eyes for a second, took a deep breath and stepped in. The others followed, with Jess just beside her.
Once past the threshold, she continued forward, half leading, half following Jess who was trying to pull out front. Amy could feel the others press in close, for all of the bravado and giggles when outside, it was obvious they were all nervous and huddled up against the girl girls in front for protection. Each step into the black space was harder than the last, yet Amy knew they had to keep going. At least there was still a tiny fragment of light creeping in from the open front door.
The door slammed shut.
Amy spun around at the noise, feeling the girls around her doing the same. She strained her eyes staring into the nothingness before it hit her.
They were trapped.
Something cold and heavy dropped onto Amy’s shoulder. She felt herself turned around as if by cold hands, turned towards the center of the house. She couldn’t stop the force.
A middle-aged woman was standing in the hall, visible where she should not have been. Was she glowing?
“What are you brats doing here?” the woman asked. She frowned. “This is private property. You were not invited.”
“M, M, Ma, uhm, Marth…,” Amy tried to speak but her tongue felt frozen so the words couldn’t form.
The woman melted into a corpse, the rotted flesh dripping off of her skull. She stepped towards the girls, leaning to be right in their faces.
“Get out!” the decomposed old woman shouted.
Amy could hear the others running, fumbling with the door.
She whirled around and sprinted. Lauren was just in front of her, then Kath, still screaming. She could make out Stacy, far ahead, running across the lawn.
As Amy reached the door a thought struck her.
Where was Jess?
I hope you enjoyed this little snippet on this fine Halloween morning. It is someone’s birthday today, but I won’t say whose it is ;) Oh, yeah, and this was also an excuse to post that animation again…