BY: E.J Patterson
“I don’t know…”
“Come on! I’ll be there the whole time-nothing bad is gonna happen!”
“But no one has been in there for over ten years! It might not be architecturally stable!”
“Oh, like that would happen to us! Besides, we’ll have Jackler with us, and he’s almost twenty one!”
“What-you afraid of Ghosts? Is a little ghostie gonna get you?”
Fiona Walker bit her lip, thinking furiously.
The house was just an empty wasteland, most likely home to scuttling roaches and creepy cobwebs dangling like dirty wedding veils. Nobody has been inside the Crikler House for almost a decade-which means that it hadn’t supported human body weight for almost ten years. Her heart fluttered nervously.
“Well, you comin’ or not,” Fiona’s friend Jess said impatiently, “Cause Jackler’s getting squirmish.”
A million thoughts zoomed and bounced inside Fiona’s stuffed mind.
She admitted it to herself-she was shy, and Jess helped her out of her shell. Because of Jess, Fiona had friends-she had Jess, Hallie, Daemon, Jackler…
She needed friends-she was a schlub without them. Sure, they had their faults-Hallie with her constant complaining, Daemon with the excessive smoking, Jackler with the hard-core tough guy stud muffin attitude, and Jess with the athletic popular I’m-better-than-you-because-I’m-pretty-attitude.
But she had friends, and she didn’t want to ruin the friendship just because she was afraid of going into a supposedly haunted house. She sighed.
“Ok, fine, I’ll go with you into that stupid house.”
They stuffed themselves into Jackler’s beat-up buggy and tried to slowly make their way through the misty night fog to the Crikler House.
“Were all gonna get out at separate times, so the neighbors don’t get suspicious,” Daemon said while lighting a fresh cigarette. The putrid fumes spread through the car, intoxicating Fiona’s lungs, burning her eyes. “Why can’t you wait to smoke that thing?” Hallie choked, blinking her eyes rapidly. “It’s making my stomach ache worse!”
“Oh, shut up, were here anyway,” Jackler said as Daemon crushed his cigarette into the dashboard. “I’ll go first,” Jackler said excitedly. He bashed open the door and snuck off toward the rickety front door.
“Jeez, it’s cold tonight,” Hallie whined. “All I have is my pink sweater, you know, the one with the sparkly butterfly?” She twisted the pinkish red fabric further across her torso. “You guys are all warm, in your nice winter jackets! Look at me, I’m-“She broke off, for Daemon had just shooed her.
“Shut up-look!” He said, pointing toward the upper right window of the house. A dazzling yellow-orange ball of light had appeared. “It’s Jackler’s joint-the signal!”
Daemon let out a hoot of excitement and sprinted toward the house, lighting his own cigarette on the way. They heard the door creak behind him.
“And then there were three,” Jess said, flipping her brown curls out of her eyes. “So-who’s next? How bout you, Fiona?” She smiled maliciously.
Fiona shivered in her warm jacket. She didn’t want to be next; she didn’t even want to be there! She shook her head. “No, I want to go last,” she said quietly.
“Fine, scaredy cat! Be that way…I’ll go!” Hallie said, her voice trembling with anticipation. “Got nothing to lose anyway…only this damn sweater,” she added, stretching the material in her hands. “Decided that just in time-look!”
A burst of light shone out of the left window. “Later!” Hallie screamed, jumping out of the car and running crazily to the front door.
“Ok, so Fiona the scared can go last,” Jess said importantly. “I mean, why we even kept you in our group beats me. If your parents didn’t have so much money, I swear, we would have dumped you the first chance we had.”
Fiona stared at her in shock. Did Jess really just say that? She studied Jess’s perfectly made up face, waiting for an early “April fools” or something to explain what just happened. Jess just smiled a crooked smile, lit a cigarette, and leaned back in her seat.
“W-what?” Fiona choked out, her eyes burning dangerously.
“You heard me. You’re a wannabe. You could never be like us. Admit it-we saved you-saved you from yourself.” Jess took a long drag on her cigarette. “You would have killed yourself without us.”
Fiona felt a tear spill out if her eye. Not only was Jess incorrect, (Fiona never once considered suicide,) but the mere thought of Jess thinking that was unbearable.
Suddenly, something burned inside Fiona’s stomach. It wasn’t utter devastation-it was pure, hot anger. Anger from four months with Jess, Hallie, Daemon, Jackler…four months worth of bottled up complaints and cigarette smoke, four months of perfume and leather polish, four months of pot inhalation, four long months of taking their criticizing slurs and trying to turn them into something worthwhile, something worth listening to…the whole thought made Fiona sick with hatred, at the gang and herself. They were never her friends. They were walking disasters, walking drugs, walking bullies…stringing their prey along, claiming to make them beautiful and then crushing them in the end…this was the mind of a bully. The mind of someone so sick and trapped inside their own mind all they can do is demolish those in their path, every little one of them, until it was only them left-only them to rule.
Fiona’s tears had gone. She lifted her chin, looked Jess in the eye, and said, “You are the wannabe. You’re the one who wants to get high every night. I’m not the scared one-you are. You’re afraid of people, so you smush them-until you’re the only one left. You start by looking the part-the curled hair, the black makeup, the expensive clothes…then you talk the part-the criticizes, the threats, the smooth talking, the popularity. You use all that to hide the person underneath. The scared, ugly, twisted monster under those perfect curls. Only a few can really show who they are-the truly brave ones-like me.”
Jess had dropped her cigarette on the dirty floor of the buggy in surprise, and was now stamping it out with her heel. She looked up at Fiona, outraged.
“You’re going to regret you ever said that,” Jess said coldly.
“I won’t,” Fiona said just as coldly back. She opened the door and stepped out of the car. The walk home wasn’t far; she could call the police there about a group of teen’s breaking and entering the Crikler House. She was just about to say that when Jess suddenly grabbed her arm. “Let go!” Fiona yelled, but stopped abruptly at the look on Jess’s face. She turned to face the house-and gasped.
Orange flames licked the sloping sides of the gray wood, mightily spreading with every second that passed. She could hear strangled yells from inside the poor house, the blazing fire obscuring the whole house. It would soon collapse. The front door burst open, and a sooty Jackler, Daemon, and Hallie can stumbling out, coughing and retching. “Get-in-t-the-car!” Jackler gasped. “Hurry-come on!” But it was too late. The neighbors were pouring out of their houses, hands over their mouth in shock, some of them dialing 9-1-1 on their phones.
Fiona stood their, hands in her pockets, staring calmly at the demolished house, the flames now dying down. She could see her parents car zooming up the street, their faces alit with fright, Hallie’s sobs at her dreaded fathers reaction, the police chaining Jess’s wrists together, Her, Hallie, Jackler, and Daemon being forced into the Police Car, the red and blue siren burned in her eyes along with the orange crackling only mere feet away.
She wasn’t afraid any longer, for she was free.