“Don’t worry, Rob can’t make me do anything,” Mark said. “I’m a big boy. I can make my own decisions.”
Leigh shook her head, but Ellis was not convinced. Rob tried to coax anyone he could, if it meant he was going to find it entertaining. The four of them stood at the end of a sidewalk that led to an abandoned house that was tucked away in one of the city’s older neighborhoods.
“Mark, all you have to do is walk through the front door, climb the stairs and wave your hand from that window on the second floor,” Rob explained. “That way we know you’ve got some gusto.”
“No problem,” Mark said coolly. “I’m not sure what the big deal is. It’s just old house. A little ‘Poe-esque’ perhaps, but nothing to get upset about.”
Rob went on to explain the story behind this old house.
“This house is almost 70 years old,” Rob started.
Leigh rolled her eyes and said, “Big deal, my grandpa’s almost 70 years old.”
“Zip it,” Rob snapped. “Besides, your grandpa isn’t haunted.”
Mark almost burst out laughing. “You think this house is haunted?”
“Oh, it’s haunted alright. The story goes that 25 years ago a homeless man wandered in there one night to get out of the rain. He didn’t realize that someone living there. At the time, the house wasn’t abandoned, but only one man lived there, Mr. Westerley. They say he went crazy after his little boy died when his wife accidentally hit him with the car. She went crazy and so he had her committed to an institution.”
“How do you know all of this,” Ellis asked.
“He doesn’t,” Leigh explained. “The story changes every time he tells it to someone different.”
Mark looked over at the girls then back at Rob, who continued his story, after giving a heavy sigh of frustration toward Leigh. “Anyway, all the lights were out. It was almost 11pm when the homeless man went into the house. The old fool was so blind drunk that he didn’t even put it together that all the furniture and stuff in the house meant someone lived there.”
“He started stumbling around in the dark, knocking over picture frames and knick knacks. Mr. Westerley woke up realizing someone had broken into his house. He grabbed a poker from the fire place and attacked the homeless man from behind. Beat him to death, they say.”
Mark could feel a lump rising in his throat. Ellis looked over at Mark and saw what looked a little like fear in his eyes. They had only been dating a few months, but she could read his emotions.
“This story is lame,” Leigh said. “Can we leave?”
“What happened to Mr. Westerley,” Mark asked, his voice slightly shaking.
Rob continued, “No one knows for sure. Some say that when he realized he killed that man, he went up that room.” Rob pointed to the window where told Mark to go. “Put the poker to his chest and fell to the floor, causing the poker to kill him.”
Ellis chimed in, “That sounds like a pretty sure answer to me.” Rob gave her an intense stare.
“A friend of the family stopped by the next day. He went screaming out of the house and went to find help. When the police got there, they found the dead homeless guy in the front room…with the poker in his hand. The only things upstairs in that room where some scratches on the floor and huge, dried puddle of blood.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Leigh said. “Why would…”
“Shh!” Rob exclaimed. “Now Mark, I want you go in there and wave out the window from that room. I need to know that the guy dating my sister, Ellis, is a real man.”
“Mark, you don’t have to do this,” Ellis said.
“I know, but I will,” Mark said, trying to encourage Ellis by standing up a little straighter and broadening his shoulders. He gave her a kiss and started down the sidewalk toward the house.
“Hurry up,” Leigh yelled, rubbing her arms. “It’s cold out here.” Ellis gave Leigh an angry stare.
“Have you ever been in there,” Ellis asked Rob.
“Just once, with some friends. There’s nothing in there but a couple of old pieces of furniture and some trash.
As Mark walked closer to the house, a wind gust blew under his jacket sending a shiver down his spine. His hands were freezing from the wind blowing on his sweaty palms. Looking around as he walked up the front steps he saw old pieces of paper, beer cans and cigarette butts. How bad could it be, he thought to himself. Kids come here to hang out. The boards creaked under his feet. There was a half moon out, but it was on the other side of the house, offering him no light. He pulled out his cell phone and use the light from the screen to see the door knob. He noticed the time was nearly 11pm. His heart raced as he opened the door. An eerie quiet surrounded him. Somehow it felt colder in the house than outside. He continued toward the steps that led upstairs.
Rob and the girls watched as Mark entered the house. The wind picked up and Leigh got closer to Rob to stay warm.
“Rob, you shouldn’t have made Mark go in there,” Ellis said with worry in her voice.
“The man said it himself. I couldn’t make him do it. He went on his own accord. Besides, nothing bad has happened there in years.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, a few years ago, supposedly a kid wandered in there on a dare from his friends. They wanted him to go in there at 11pm, the time of the murder.”
“And that was it. No one ever saw him. Not a trace.”
Ellis’ expression went cold. “If something happens to Mark, it’ll be your fault.”
“Relax, he’s doing fine.”
Mark climbed each step very carefully. The house was old and no one had been there to take care of it. One misstep and he could break a leg, or worse. Every wooden step creaked as he grew closer to the top. A picture window at the top of the stairs allowed moonlight to fall across the stairwell. Once Mark reached the top of the stairs, he looked around. His heart pounded so hard, he thought he could hear it, but the blood rushing to his head were just making his ears throb. He slowly walked towards to room where Mr. Westerley allegedly killed himself. The door was slightly open. He reached the door and lightly pushed it open, taking quick glances around the large room. It was large enough that it ran from the front of the house to back of the house, where a rear window allowed some moon light into the room. Mark slowly creeped his way toward the front window to wave at his friends down by the street. He stopped for a moment upon seeing the dark stain on the floor. He wanted to race out of the house and say he gave up. He’d take the ridicule. But he was so close to the window.
“What’s taking him so long,” Ellis said, starting to panic.
“Calm down, he’s fine,” Rob assured her. “Look there he is, he’s at the window.” They could see Mark’s silhouette from the moonlight. He was waving in the window.
Ellis breathed a sigh of relief and put her face hands. And Leigh let out a hearty, “Finally.”
“Wait, who’s in there with him,” Leigh wondered.
“What,” Ellis said in a panic and looking back up at the window. A shadowy figure was standing behind Mark with a poker raised over his head.
“Oh no!” exclaimed Rob.
Ellis screamed, “MARK!”