People say the old Summer House was possessed. Hiding among the dark oak trees like an evil omen, and the unexplainable stories associated to it, no one could say otherwise. Not a soul dared venture near, and the overgrown path leading to it had been barred off for years.
To Jamie Tomp, a dare was a dare. Step one foot beyond the threshold, and he would have everyone’s allowance for a month. In addition, he would be the most important kid in town. But still….
He gulped and looked over his shoulder, where his friends stood at a safe distance waving him on. Jamie sent a silent plea up to the sky, squared his shoulders, and took a step-
Around the bend.
This was the furthest anyone has ever gotten since old man Barkley barred the gate. Just beyond, beneath dark looming boughs, it stood.
To say the house looked old would be an understatement. What might have once been a beautiful home was now nothing but a desolate shell. White walls were streaked with dirt, seeming to ooze out of the very cracks. Large rotten holes littered across it, like some angry giant tried to take a bite and found it displeasing. The windows were nothing but jagged panes of glass embracing the sills like sharp teeth. Doors, it had none. They lay on the floor, rotting away to mold and muck.
Jamie felt a cold trickle of sweat run down his forehead. The foliage surrounding the house lay sprawled on the ground, like frightened hands trying to crawl away. Grey clouds hung low in the sky, and an ominous roar rumbled in the distance. Again, he squared his shoulders and steeled his resolve, the promise of fame and fortune whispering into his ear. He walked on, ignoring the dead shrubs lining the path as their spindly twigs grabbed at his clothes and scratched his bare skin. The wind took on a fevered frenzy, and the house groaned in response.
"Go back!" The weeds waved.
"Turn around!" The leaves shook.
Yet he continued.
As he approached nearer, he noticed objects littering the grounds. Things from long past serving as memory, or maybe a warning. A dull red train lay half buried in the dirt; a broken parasol with nothing but dirty strips hanging from rusted rods. A croquet match unfinished. All semblance of a happy family on a Sunday afternoon. Jaime dared not think of what tore them away.
He finally stood on the veranda. Planks teetered on crumbling cornerstones, and the roof sagged where there was a roof left. Jaime’s heart beat wildly in his chest, and he was barely able to hear his own ragged breaths. The door was nothing but a gaping hole and beyond darkness, hiding whatever lurked inside. The air was permeated with the smell of death.
Jamie rocked his foot back and forth, his thin resolve almost shattered. It was then he looked back, and saw his friends peering over the gate. They wanted to make sure he kept his end of the bargain. He curled his fist.
He would show them. He would show everyone there was nothing to be afraid of this old, decrepit house.
He took a step.
Immediately, the wind stopped howling, and the house stopped its moans. An icy chill sweep across the entire room, sending Jaime’s skin into goosebumps. Now that he was inside, he could see what secrets lied behind the white walls. Worn out furniture covered with dust and cobwebs, pictures of great people decorated the walls, but the paint was so worn out, all that remained clearly were their eyes. They shone like gems and stared right into Jaime. Right through him.
He felt another round of goosebumps and shivered. Somehow, he felt he wasn’t alone.
A sudden chime rang next to him, and Jaime jumped. It was a grandfather clock with both hands pointed straight up. The witching hour. But that was not what caught his attention. It was a single word, newly bushed in red. The letters dripped: WELCOME.
A single, shrill cry pierced the air, and Jaime’s friends stood frozen in place. They looked to the house and caught a glimpse of a passing shadow. It reappeared, as a ghostly hand, beckoning to them.
They did the only sensible thing.