TW: Brief mention of a hanging.
Piper always played on the safe side. If you dared her to tiptoe through a path of broken glass, she’d suggest replacing them with Legos. If you invited her to a party, she’d only go if there was a cat or dog for her to interact with. If you invited her to go bowling with some friends, she’d make up some story of how she’s allergic to bowling balls. The only way to crack open that shell was to give her no other option.
That shell finally started to crack when Piper spent the night at her friend Quinn’s house in August. Quinn was always finding ways to get her friend to come out of her shell, and with Senior Year just around the corner, the teenager felt pressured to shed away her cowardice. They’ve already tried camping out in the woods, going to parties, and even rock climbing. When the latter failed to do the trick, Quinn thought of something that was just as thrilling.
“Come on, Piper,” Quinn said as she grabbed her keys. “Let’s go for a drive.”
“Where to?” a confused Piper asked. “It’s nearly nine.”
“You’ll see. Let’s go.”
Piper grabbed her purse in her confusion and followed Quinn to the car. The full moon had already passed, but there was plenty of moonlight as they hurried outside. It wasn’t until they had nearly left town limits when Quinn finally explained what was happening.
“Piper, do you like ghost stories?” Quinn asked as she adjusted the air-conditioning.
“Yes, I enjoy them every now and then,” Piper replied.
“How about urban legends?”
“What about one that is believed to have occurred right on the edge of this town?”
Piper grew silent. She knew exactly where this was going. The reason why Quinn waited this long to say anything was so that Piper couldn’t back out of it. The only way out was to jump from the moving car, but there was no way she’d do it.
Feeling anxious, she pulled out the duck keychain that she often carried for good luck. The recent paint job was already chipping off, exposing the yellow skin under the pink bill. The four-leafed clover gem that she was stroking with her thumb had recently been reglued. She needed comfort for what Quinn had planned.
“We’re going to that creepy old barn, aren’t we?” Piper sighed.
“Ding! Ding! Ding!” Quinn cheered. “It’s the perfect way for you to come out that shell you hate so much. If you can conquer this place, you can conquer anything.”
The moonlight highlighted the silhouettes of trees as the car drove down a narrow path that was too tight for a U-turn. The only way out was to turn around at the destination.
“So, what’s the story behind this place again?” Piper asked as she continued to stroke the gem.
“Nearly a hundred years ago, a farmer named Franklin reported that his wife Felicity had hung herself out of guilt for infidelity,” Quinn shared. “Of course, everyone knew that he was the one having the affair as it was so out in the open. There is some debate on whether she hanged herself out of grief or if he murdered her and then staged it to look like a suicide. Either way, he was free to marry his mistress, Maria. One day, his new wife went out to fetch a pitchfork and let out a scream. When the unfaithful man reached the barn, he found her corpse with her neck snapped. He also noticed how the barn was surrounded by dust as he ran to it.”
“What happened to Maria?”
“Franklin believed that this was the work of his first wife’s angry spirit, so he hurried to move away to avoid her wrath. It’s possible that he would’ve escaped with his life if he hadn’t returned to the barn to fetch a few things. When his buddy arrived to assist him, he saw that the barn was surrounded by a dissolving circle of dust. Then he stepped into the barn and found the farmer with his neck snapped.”
Piper pretended to not be scared, but her friend could sense the act.
“Has anyone else died?” she asked.
“I think that at least five other people have died in the barn in the same fashion, but I could be wrong. The last known trespasser to have died was reported nearly forty years ago. This town really wants Franklin’s first wife to rest in peace, so they had since locked up the place. Of course, nobody goes there anymore, so there’s probably nobody keeping watch.”
“What was the first wife’s name?”
“Felicity. Honestly, there’s probably nothing to worry about. Some say that the ghost doesn’t exist and the people who’ve died since Felicity were just reckless.”
Silence filled the car for a good long while. Piper was desperate to be brave, but was it worth risking her life? What if Felicity’s ghost were to appear? What if this story wasn’t just a story? She rubbed the keychain even harder.
“Piper, I could turn the car around once we reach the barn,” Quinn said with the most sincerity. “I’ve clearly taken this a bit too far.”
“No, I want to do this.”
“You can still back down. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with being a coward.”
The coward refused to back down.
With the combination of the moon, the car’s headlights, and her phone, Piper made her way over the locked gate and through the tall grass to the barn. Unsurprisingly, the barn was also locked up. Despite the effort to prevent anyone from entering, someone couldn’t be bothered to cover up the window in the back. In fact, it looked like someone had already broken in through the window some time ago, and nobody could be bothered to come over and inspect the place. Did the last intruder make it out alive, or were their remains still inside?
That last thought was enough to make Piper turn around. However, she turned right back around and helped herself through the window. After nearly falling flat on her face, she took a good look around with her lucky duck keychain in her hand.
The ceiling had since given way, spilling the contents of the hayloft everywhere. A few items could still be seen hanging onto what was left of the ceiling, ready to fall at any second. Carefully, Piper tiptoed through the miscellaneous items on the ground. She made her way to another window and saw that the boards covering it were weak enough to tear away, creating another possible exit. She then made her way to another one that was closer to the door so that she’d be closer to the car.
The one thing about the story that Piper couldn’t remember was if the dust appeared before or after someone died. If it appeared as a sign that Felicity was there, then maybe she could hurl herself out the window and make it to the car. She probably should’ve thought of her escape plan before entering the barn, but it was too late for that.
Piper’s heart nearly leaped out of her heart when her phone rang.
“Quinn, you scared the crap out of me!” she snapped.
“Well, I don’t see any dust surrounding the barn, so at least you’re alive,” Quinn said soothingly. “What do you see in there?”
“Just your typical farming equipment.”
“Why? There’s nothing cool in here.”
“You can show them to everyone and be known as the sole survivor of Felicity’s wrath. You’d be the coolest kid in the school.”
“And I’d be immediately arrested for trespassing.”
“I thought you wanted to be brave.”
“Quinn, I am not going to-”
And that’s when Piper’s phone cut out. She could also see the car’s headlights go out through the window. She still had service, so she tried calling Quinn back. Nothing. She leaned her head out the window and screamed at the car for Quinn. Nothing.
Piper rubbed her keychain harder as she began to panic. What should she do? Hide in case Felicity was making her way into the barn? Jump out the window and sprint towards the woods? Run back to the car to check on Quinn? Should she hide or run?
It took a pitchfork falling from the remains of the ceiling to send her flying out the window.
The breath was draining out of Piper as she darted back to the car. She didn’t hesitate to jump over the fence like she did when she first arrived. The headlights suddenly turned back on right before she ran smack into the vehicle. Sitting in the driver’s seat with a big smile on her face was Quinn.
“You actually did it!” Quinn cheered as she got out to hug her friend. “You survived Felicity’s wrath!”
“Are you serious?” Piper recoiled. “I thought you were dead! I almost died!”
“Hey, calm down. I just helped you grow a backbone.”
“Calm down? I was nearly impaled by a falling pitchfork!”
“I guess my hard work didn’t pay off.”
“Take me home. Now.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I just wanted you to brave and-”
The two of them drove home in silence, and Piper immediately fell asleep, tired of her questionable friendship with Quinn.
It wasn’t until Piper unintentionally woke up at almost seven in the morning when she realized that her lucky duck keychain was missing. After rummaging through her purse, she came to the horrific realization that she dropped it in the barn. Most people would’ve just left it behind, but Piper honestly believed that the keychain she had been holding onto for five years actually saved her from the falling pitchfork. She couldn’t just leave it behind.
The sun displayed the barn in all of its decrepit glory as Piper pulled up. No longer afraid, she hopped right over the gate and marched down to the barn. She hoisted herself through the window. Everything looked so much better in the daylight, giving it a strange beauty. A single beam of light pierced through a window and shone a spotlight on the lucky duck.
As Piper picked up the duck and gave it a little kiss, her phone rang.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Piper, where are you?” Quinn asked on the other end. “My mom said that she heard you leave.”
“I left my lucky duck keychain at the barn, and I just found it.”
“Wait, are you seriously there right now? Did you seriously go back there for a keychain?”
“This keychain prevented a pitchfork from going through my head. Of course, I went back for it.”
“Piper, listen to me very carefully,” Quinn said in a panicked tone. “I’m sorry for what I did and for not telling you everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“I took you there at night because I knew you’d be safe. You see, according to legend, Felicity only attacks in the day because it was clear as day that Franklin was cheating on her. Everyone knew the truth about her death and did nothing. If she is real, then you need to get out of there now.”
“You better not be messing with me again.”
“I’m not! Get out of there and I’ll-”
Just like the night before, Piper’s phone cut out. This time, she had no service at all. Clutching onto her keychain, she made her way out the window and carefully hurried back to the car. That’s when she noticed the dust kicking up. Piper’s heart froze as the dust grew into a shape that almost resembled a person. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and rubbed the keychain, awaiting her doom.
A good minute passed before Piper opened her eyes and saw that the dust had settled. A big smile spread across her face as her phone rang and she saw Quinn’s caller ID.
“Piper! Piper, what happened?”
Piper took one last look at the barn and walked to her car as she said, “I was one lucky duck.”