By Josh Snyder
She remained, lurking in shadows cast by spirits and haunts alike, things that rattled chains at night and moaned in despair with no physical mouth to do so. With her she brought light, shining into the dark of each shadow and killing off the threat of the ghosts, lighting her way as she sunk further into the black of abandoned houses out in the middle of the woods. She brought both her wide eyes and quiet, warm gasps that showed in the cold air of the night. The darkness was hers in those moments and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
This instance was only a continuation of that. She would never expect anything more than whispers over her shoulder or a shape dart across the moonlight bleeding in from the distressed windows of the other houses she’d ventured into alone, besides the creeps she sought out that dwelled inside. No, she’d never expect more. She would only hope and hope for something to fall over, for her calls into the dusty halls of the place to be answered with movement that wasn’t accompanied by a pulse. All she wanted was for a vase to fall, for a door to slam, for something to touch her shoulder and make her shriek and dash in panic.
She’d read of this place so many times the writing of the articles might as well been stamped under her eyelids. It was a stereotypical story, a man gone mad with a knife and a family that would soon bleed prettily for him in the night, a wife with child, two sons and a daughter. Although she tried her damnedest, she could never find a picture of the young dead girl to go along with her tragic story, all that she could put with it was a bloody white dress that was shredded by a slashing blade. Just thinking about it made her shiver where she stood, on the doorstep of the decaying home. She gripped the doorknob and immediately it fell at her feet with a loud knock of metal on wood, making her jump back and cringe at herself.
The door creaked when she shoved it open, having to force it without the knob, and cringing again upon hearing it echo throughout the structure. Her eyes danced along the moonbeams that exposed what would otherwise be hidden by the consuming black of the house. From her back pocket she pulled out a flashlight, stepping into the house and appreciating the eeriness of it before flipping the switch of her light and following the brightness that cut through pitch black to a bloodstained floor. Instantly her lips turned up into a small smile at the sight of it, and her eyes darted up to look around the room, looking at all she’d been wanting to explore for months now. The walls were cracked and covered in a layer of dust and dirt, as was the rest of the place. A thin film covered the stairwell that abruptly ended about 3/4 up, the rest having fallen in.
Her steps were followed by the sound of the floorboards struggling to support her weight, barely managing to do so, squeaking along as she looked from wall to wall. Crooked and cracked picture frames were strewn across the walls, depicting landscapes and happy faces. It broke her heart to think of them bloody, dead, decaying in unmarked graves. Stepping in front of a particularly big picture, her eyes scanning it up and down, her heart rate sped up.
It was the girl.
The little girl, the man’s daughter, the one he had slaughtered, was right in front of her. Or rather a picture of her was. She took the time to observe and learn her features, admiring the soft curls of her long ginger hair and the boredom forever instilled into her golden, hazel eyes. She felt sympathy for how she thought the painting might not have brought out the true beauty of the girl, despite how nicely it had been made. A light blue blossom rested on her left ear, and it did little justice to the warm colors of the painting besides the cool contrast of the sky blue. She forced herself to drag her eyes over the painting again and again, memorizing and admiring until the colors seemed to blur together.
Her eyes bored into the dead gaze painted onto the girl, capturing the swirl of paint until, with a loud and disruptive bang, the painting fell. The glass was jagged against her; it pierced her flesh and pulled at her body when she struggled under it, breathless but screaming and shaking against the portrait. Shockwaves of pain shot through her with each movement, but she didn’t stop thrashing because of it.
She stopped because the paint was bleeding onto her, she thought,
The painting was bleeding.
“Just like me. You’re going to go just like ME! SCREAMING AND RIPPED APART!”
She didn’t think about the rarity of hearing something so clear and powerful from an entity that was not living, she only thought about how she was drowning in blood that she couldn’t distinguish from her own, that the glass was sinking deeper into her, that she wasn’t the only one screaming in the house.
But, for a little while longer, she was the only one with a pulse.
James Snyder is a Freshman at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts