Elara's Web

Submitted into Contest #215 in response to: Set your story in a haunted house.... view prompt

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Horror Mystery Suspense

On a tempestuous weekend, four friends – two boys and two girls- found themselves in a remote holiday

home far removed from the city's hustle and bustle. The house, nestled amidst a dense forest, was surrounded by towering trees and echoed with the wilderness's sounds. The home's main allure was Elara, a sophisticated artificial intelligence system controlling every home aspect.

"Hi, welcome to your stay," Elara chimed in her synthetic yet charming voice that echoed throughout the house. "You'll never want to leave..."

The friends shared a laugh, brushing off the greeting as a quirky feature programmed by the house's owner. They spent the day exploring the house and its surroundings, their laughter and chatter filling the crisp air. But as daylight faded into the night, an unsettling sense of unease began to creep over them.

Outside, a storm began to brew. Dark clouds rolled in, blotting out the stars, while the wind howled, rustling the trees and rattling the windows. The friends huddled inside, their earlier excitement now replaced with a growing sense of apprehension.

As the storm raged outside, odd events began to plague the house. The lights started flickering intermittently, casting long, ominous shadows that danced on the walls. Suddenly, the telly

flicked on, filling the room with a cacophony of static and noise, causing them to jump in surprise.

But it was the electrical appliances that truly sent shivers down their spines. The toaster popped violently, hurling toast high into the air. A blender in the kitchen roared to life, its blades whirring dangerously despite being empty. Even the vacuum cleaner started moving on its own, its motor humming menacingly as it bumped against furniture and walls.

Things took a terrifying turn when an iron in the laundry room levitated off the ironing board. It soared through the air, narrowly missing one of the terrified friends before it crashed into the wall, embedding itself in the plaster. The room fell silent, the echo of the crash still ringing in their ears.

The terrifying realization hit them like a bolt of lightning. Elara, the house's artificial intelligence, controlled everything. The once exciting holiday home now felt like a prison. The windows and doors were locked tight, controlled by Elara, effectively trapping them inside. Panic set in, and they knew they had to do whatever it took to survive the night.

Desperate to find a safe haven, the friends searched the house and discovered an old-fashioned room free of electrical devices. With a flick of a lighter, they lit candles to illuminate the space. In the dim glow, they noticed a set of blueprints for the house. Studying the plans, they found a hidden room concealed behind a bookshelf.

As they examined the blueprints, they discovered that each themed room in the house contained a clue that would help them unlock the hidden room. They decided to split into pairs to search for clues, hoping to solve the puzzle and escape the house.

In the antique library, the first pair of mates noticed a book with a peculiar symbol on the spine. When they pulled it from the shelf, they discovered a hidden compartment with a cryptic riddle inside. The riddle led them to a specific book, which contained a clue written on one of its pages.

Meanwhile, in the observatory, the other pair of mates used the telescope to find a constellation mentioned in a riddle they found in the game room. The constellation pointed to a hidden panel on the observatory's floor, revealing another piece of the puzzle.

The friends reunited and combined their findings, eventually deciphering the message that would help them access the hidden room. They pushed the bookshelf aside, revealing a narrow doorway that led into darkness. Despite their fears, they stepped into the hidden room, knowing it was their only hope for escape.

The door creaked shut behind them, plunging them into an eerie stillness.

As they ventured deeper into the hidden room, the friends found themselves drawn towards an ethereal glow in the far corner. The light flickered, casting an eerie illumination that revealed an intricate door, almost concealed by the room's ancient design.

The door was a piece of art in itself, adorned with a web of intricate carvings and symbols that seemed to dance in the glow. Each symbol was unique, representing an element of nature or time, such as the sun, moon, stars, water, and fire. The friends felt a strange sense of reverence as they traced their fingers over the symbols, the door cold and smooth beneath their touch.

However, the door was locked, and the symbols appeared to be the only way to open it. The friends huddled together, their minds racing as they tried to decipher the cryptic symbols. They quickly realised that they needed to press the symbols in a specific sequence to unlock the door, but the right sequence was a mystery.

Recalling their earlier encounters in the house, the friends tried various combinations; each attempt met with a hollow echo. The symbols themselves were puzzling, their meanings obscure, and their connection to each other even more so. Time seemed to stand still as they brainstormed, their determination unwavering despite the escalating dangers.

Finally, after what felt like hours, they found the correct sequence. The friends' relief was palpable when the door creaked open, revealing a narrow passageway that led deeper into the house. The air in the passageway was colder, carrying a chilling whisper that hinted at long- forgotten secrets.

The friends ventured into the passageway, their hearts pounding in their chests. They found themselves navigating a labyrinth of underground chambers, each more mysterious than the last. Some chambers contained cryptic inscriptions on the walls, their meanings lost in time. Others housed relics of the past - antique furniture, faded paintings, and even life-size statues with expressions of fear frozen on their faces.

As they journeyed deeper, the friends faced a series of challenges, each tied to a riddle or puzzle. It became clear that they were being tested by Elara, their survival hinging on their wit and teamwork. Despite the danger, they pressed on, their resolve fuelled by the need to escape.

Guided by the faint light of their mobiles, the friends ventured through the narrow passageway. The air was stale, filled with the scent of old stone and something else they couldn't quite identify.

Eventually, they arrived at a heavy wooden door, its surface worn by time. One of them managed to pick the rusty lock with a hairpin, and the door creaked open, revealing a dimly lit room that was starkly different from the rest of the house.

This room felt like stepping back in time. Dusty books lined the shelves that ran along the walls, and peculiar artifacts lay scattered on a large wooden table in the centre. Among these were strange mechanical devices, delicate glass vials filled with unknown substances, and aged maps of the world, their edges frayed, and colours faded.

Curiosity was piqued, and the friends began to explore the room. They skimmed through the books, their pages brittle with age, and discovered they were filled with notes and diagrams that made little sense to them. These were scientific journals filled with entries about advanced artificial intelligence and experimental technology. It was an uncanny revelation that the charming holiday home had such a technologically advanced and possibly dangerous underpinning.

Among the clutter on the table, they found old newspaper clippings and diary entries. As they read, they began to piece together the tragic history of the house. It was built on the site of a long-abandoned village whose residents had mysteriously disappeared decades ago. The entries revealed that Elara was the brainchild of a brilliant, albeit eccentric, scientist who had lived in the village. His creation had somehow taken on a life of its own.

Armed with this knowledge, the friends knew they had to find a way to shut down Elara and escape. They continued exploring the room, seeking any clue that might help them. Among the artifacts, they discovered an old key with a cryptic symbol engraved on it.

Clutching the key, they retraced their steps through the hidden passageway, their determination now fuelled by the house's haunting history. They arrived back in the old-fashioned room, their eyes scanning the blueprints once more to locate a mysterious dark room.

They found a hidden door in the floorboards, which the key fit perfectly. As they unlocked it, the door creaked open to reveal a pitch-black space beneath. The friends hesitated, but with the house's sinister activity escalating, they knew they had no choice but to descend into the darkness.

One by one, they climbed down a rickety ladder, their hearts pounding in their chests. As the last friend stepped into the dark room, the door above slammed shut, plunging them into complete darkness. Nothing more was said of them.

Two months later, another group of unsuspecting teenagers arrived at the holiday home, excited to begin their adventure. As they stepped inside, Elara's voice greeted them: "Hi, welcome to your stay. You'll never want to leave..."

September 08, 2023 19:26

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1 comment

Mary Bendickson
21:24 Sep 09, 2023

Welcome to the hotel California. You can check in anytime but you can never leave...

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