Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Should’ve Picked Truth
Looming and historically majestic, the old manor stands at the end of the drive, silently taunting me to enter her gates. My hands shake while the hairs on my neck rise in warning.
I now wish I’d asked for a truth instead of the dare to enter the supposedly haunted house. Gulping down the bile that rises in my throat, I inch slowly down the lane, hoping my courage will grow as the estate gets closer, but knowing realistically that isn’t going to happen.
I glance over my shoulder, trying to see if my friends are still standing by the main road to ensure I follow through on my side of the dare. If I fail, it isn’t just my reputation for reneging, but I am also going to have to carpool everyone to school for the next three months. And while I enjoy driving, having to get up an extra hour early to do the pick up rounds isn’t my idea of fun.
“Katlyn, hurry up! We don’t have all night. Jamie’s curfew is in forty minutes. If you want to wuss out, then just say so. Quit pussyfooting around,” I hear faintly shouted from Allison, my best friend.
I turn to shout back, but before I have a chance, I’m yanked back behind a bush that’s standing beside the front door. A hand is wrapped over my mouth, shielding me from the scream wavering to get out. Struggling against the unknown foe, I can feel the other arm wrap completely around me, trying to contain my overwhelming urge to fight back.
“Shhh... Katelyn. Its me.” Austin’s hand slowly backs away and is quickly replaced by his lips. “I overheard you guys at the diner and figured I’d help you win the dare.” he whispers, pulling me back onto my feet to examine the boarded up house. “I didn’t want you to have to go in by yourself.”
The terror that had been coursing through my veins mere moments ago, seems to dissipate into just an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach with my boyfriend's presence.
Taking his hand, we wander the perimeter of the house, trying to find a way in. The moon is almost full, enabling us to see without having to rummage around in the dark. In the very back of the house we find a broken window, appearing like someone had thrown a rock through the glass. Tentatively reaching in, Austin gropes for the lock on the window while trying to avoid being cut by the razor sharp edges of glass. He finally succeeds and carefully backs his hand out and muscles the window open.
Before climbing through the window, I kiss him earnestly, thanking him again for his help. “I’m not sure I could do this without you.”
“I’d be a pretty shitty boyfriend if I knew about it and didn’t try. I know you hate scary movies, and can only imagine how you’re feeling right about now.”
He boosts me through the window and clamors in behind me. We both turn our cellphones on to use like a flashlight, trying to get a good look around the decrepit place. The Inside is mostly empty, aside from a few pieces of furniture draped in white cloths. The smell of dust tickles my nose and the chill of the night feels more prominent for some reason. I squint through the darkness trying to find where the stairs are. The dare is quite specific, I have to take a photo of myself on the second floor as proof that I’m actually inside. Even though my body wants to get the hell out of here, I’m determined to win the stupid dare now that I’m in here.
“Let’s go upstairs. I need one picture of me from the top of the stairs and then we can get out of here,” I explain, but when I turn around Austin isn’t behind me. “Austin, don’t fuck with me. Where are you?” I shout, spinning in wide circles with my phone’s screen illuminated at arm’s length.
My heart is hammering loudly in my chest, my skin is prickly with fright. I know deep in my bones that he wouldn’t have left me standing here alone, not after ensuring I didn’t have to come into the house alone. Would he? Images of serial killer ghosts run rampant through my thoughts and I don’t waste a single moment. I bolt. Jumping out of the window I catch my sleeve on the window, but don’t care. My breath is coming out in heaving pants when I reach my friends at the end of the lane, with one extra person.
“Austin, you fucking dick.” I shout, seeing them all standing in guilty silence. “You scared the crap out of me. I beat my hands on his chest, exclaiming that I’d never forgive him for this.
“Sorry, Hon, but you’re the only one with a car,” he admits. “Besides, the look on your face when you came charging up here was priceless.”
Hearing his traitorous words, I storm off down the lane, not waiting for the group to follow. I go back inside the house and march up the steps, pulling my phone out to take the damn picture. I’d be damned if I was going to lose this fucking bet.
Snapping the photo with the stairs trailing behind me, I turn to leave when I see a wisp of smoke out of the corner of my eye. Pivoting my head slowly, I see the image of a woman floating three feet over the staircase. She doesn’t say anything, just stares. I imagine wondering what the hell I’m doing in her house. Her body appears to be wearing a white robe, her hair pulled up into a tight chignon. Her face is classically pretty, and I wonder when she’d been alive.
Coming to my senses, I whisper that I am sorry to have disturbed her and creep away from her presence, surprised that my fear is now gone completely, replaced by sheer will and determination. I only make it down two steps before I’m stopped by an unseeing force. I’m literally frozen in my tracks.
“How dare you disturb my home?” a menacing voice shouts, seemingly from inside my own head.
A tear streaks down my face and I know this isn’t a joke. “I-- I’m sorry,” I repeat, knowing it would be my last words. I had one thought flit through my head just as the inky blackness consumed my consciousness.
I should have picked truth.
Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com