Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: One
A/N In celebration of Halloween yesterday - and the deliciously creepy photo prompts - I’ve chosen to step away from Wither. Mara and Glen will return next time around, and we’ll see if the new beginnings of love can survive in a dying world. Thank you to those who are reading. I hope you all had a spooktacular Halloween.
I stare at the dated and faded picture often. Four girls, best of friends, ready for Halloween fun. Me, decked out in my native girl costume complete with bow and arrow. Suzy and Betty with their hilarious interpretations of Mickey and Minnie mouse, happy and laughing. And of course, beautiful Jeanine, stunning as a sexy witch, outshining us all as usual.
We were barely out of high school, just into our freshmen year of University, high on ourselves and our perceived infallibility, full of unsuppressed energy and high on life. We started our night with drinks in our dorm as we donned our costumes, taking turns primping in front of our one full length mirror.
It was Suzy who got the crazy idea to drag out a Ouija board she swore belonged to her grandmother, though we all thought it looked cheap and plastic, like she bought it from the local five and dime. Suzy was always full of tall tales, amusing us even though we often rolled our eyes with scepticism. She ran around lighting candles, convincing us a séance would be a great idea, asking the dead to tell our futures.
The flimsy plastic planchette had a warp in it, making it lean to the left side of the board. Drunkenly, we asked whatever spirits might be around to answer the standard questions. Would we graduate? Would we be rich? Would we fall in love with handsome doctors who would adore us and shower us with gifts?
Jeanine grew bored. Typical for her. She lay on her side on the floor in a sex kitten pose she didn’t have to work at. She sat up, put her fingers on the planchette, and dared to ask the unthinkable.
“When will I die?”
“Oh my God. I can’t believe you asked that,” I said, endlessly shocked by Jeanine’s devil-may-care attitude. I was equally impressed and repulsed by her audacity on a regular basis in those days.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby.” The planchette twitched, and her eyes widened as it squeaked across the board, slowly spelling out a date. That days very date.
We all accused her of doing it on purpose. She wouldn’t confirm if she did or didn’t, but her features seemed pinched with tension, her complexion pale. Later, I’d think about that and wonder if things would’ve been different if any of us had really pushed her for the truth. Would it have changed anything?
Our big plans for the night were to visit a haunted house set up on the outskirts of town, but I tell you now, I wasn't keen to go. Newspapers had been spouting headlines about three missing girls from a neighboring city. They'd only found one of them. Well, pieces of her… I didn’t think it was a great idea for four girls to be out and about, all alone on Halloween night of all times.
It was out of my comfort zone for sure, but I think I ended up agreeing because I was mad Jeanine flirted with a boy I liked the day before, even though she knew I was interested in him. Out of all of us, despite her bravado, she tended to be easiest to scare. Sneak up on her and she’d be the first to squeal and jump out of her skin. The thought of her possibly peeing herself of fright felt like a little deserved retribution. I can admit I could be a bitch in those days, full of jealousy and insecurities.
We made it there just before midnight, the setting eerie - all shadows and bare tree branches extending like claws to rake at the night sky.
I went in first with Jeanine. I still remember how hard she held my hand, the clamminess of her palm against mine, but my memory becomes fuzzy after that. There were flashing lights and creepy displays. Fake sheet ghosts that howled and shook cheap plastic chains. We screamed, giggled, and rounded a corner, our hearts in our throats despite the cheesiness.
I can't describe him perfectly, but I know there was a man waiting there, standing in the shadows. He was tall and big, dressed in black with a hood covering his face. He scared the bejesus out of me. Terrified, I let go of Jeanine and ran back the way we came, sure she was right behind me. I mean, why would she linger?
I found Suzy and Jennifer, but...Jeanine never came out. Later, the police told us the people who ran the haunted house swore they didn’t hire anyone to play the part of a black-hooded man lurking in the corner. He was never found. Neither was Jeanine, though we know the police had their suspicions, all surrounding the other missing girls.
I’ve learned to accept I’ll probably never know what happened to Jeanine, but right up to this day, I wonder what might have happened if I kept holding her hand instead of letting her go. Would she have found her way out with me, or would we both be in pieces somewhere, waiting to be found.
I think it’s better I don’t know.
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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)