October 31, 1999
"Are you guys coming or not?" Charlie demanded, a snarky smirk crawling up his face. "Or are you too scared?"
Charlie, Alice, Tanner, and Emmet stand in front of Hollow Manor, the oldest house in the neighborhood. Every kid grew up hearing stories of the murder. The owner of the house, Mr. Hollow, was murdered viciously by his wife on Halloween night twenty years ago, in 1979. His throat slashed and his head cut open to reveal his brain, sliced into pieces. Reports say that the blood that seeped into the master bedroom carpet and that splattered onto the curtains couldn't be cleaned.
Everyone knew that every Halloween night, Mrs. Hollow's maniac laughing could be heard, accompanied by her husband's screams in a haunting symphony.
Alice, the youngest and the only girl, calls out to Charlie, who stood at the iron gate of the property. "I don't think it's safe. What if the old wood of the house caves in? We could get trapped."
Tanner and Emmet, twins, noded their identical agreement. "It's Halloween night, Charlie. Why don't we just go tricker-treating?"
Charlie scoffed. "That's for babies; we're nine. Let's do something exciting!"
Alice agreed that nine years old was not a "baby" age, but she knew they were much too young to be exploring a haunted house. She fingered her pink princess skirt, while Tanner and Emmet argued quietly beside her.
Charlie tapped his foot impatiently, crossing his arms with a loud sigh. Suddenly, he jerked open the gate and began marching up the long driveway towards the house. He didn't need to look back; Alice, Tanner, and Emmet hurried along to catch up, not wanting to be left out. All they thought about as they raced up the driveway was the scary treasures that would lay in the house.
It was only when they had reached the front porch that they stopped. Fear twisted in each of their stomachs, accompanied by an exciting thrill that zipped up their spines and made them shiver.
Hollow Manor loomed over their heads. Its menacing frame tilted down like it was leering at them. A tree, bare of any leaves, waved its spindly branches; a crooked finger; an invitation to come inside.
The wind blew sharply against the windows, shaking their frames. Goosebumps rose along the arms of the children and they moved closer together.
"What do we do now?" Whispered Emmet, his green eyes wide. "Are we going in?"
Alice, still hesitant, gripped Tanner's arm. "I don't like this."
Charlie yanked her arm away, hissing furiously. "Stop being a baby, Alice. Nothing's going to happen."
He smiled, though his eyes glinted with a terrible light. Charlie grabbed the fake gun attached to his cop belt and held it up. "Anyway, I've got a weapon!"
Tanner (Batman) and Emmet (Robin) laughed, always the first ones to follow in the footsteps of their leader. Alice, perhaps it was because she was the only girl, did not laugh. She glared at Charlie, who ignored her and stomped up to the door.
He knocked. "Anybody home?"
Nobody answered and Charlie then turned to his friends and flashed his teeth. "Now, we can go in."
The door opened with a loud creeaaakkk that made their bones quiver under their skin. The children entered the house and into a foyer, a large chandelier slightly swinging over their heads. It was dark, only the light from the moon allowing them to see. When Charlie closed the door, they were drenched in sudden darkness.
Alice let out a yelp as something touched her arm. She swiped her hand out, connecting with the hard mask on Tanner's face.
"Ouch! Alice, that was me!"
Alice blushed, "Tanner! I'm so sorry!"
Charlie snapped his fingers at them. "Shut up, you two!" A beam of light was cast onto the floor; Charlie had brought a flashlight. "Let's explore." He said brusquely, leading the way into the kitchen.
The kitchen was old and untouched. Nothing was on the counters except for grime. Emmet opened the nearest drawer to find it full of spoons. The curtains that swayed on the window above the sink were once pale yellow, but were now dark with age and ripped with holes.
"Hey!" Tanner called, over by the kitchen door. "I've found the light switch!"
With a flip, the lights flickered. Holding their breaths, the children prayed for the lights to stay on.
Charlie switched off his flashlight and tucked it into his belt. He asked, "Who wants to go upstairs?"
Alice shot a look towards the staircase branching off of the kitchen. They looked older than the rest of the house; unstable.
"No," Alice said. "They don't look safe."
Charlie huffed, "Oh come on, Alice! They're fine! Plus, the real crime happened upstairs. Don't you guys want to see the blood pool?"
"Yeah!" Emmet exclaimed.
Alice side-eyed Tanner, who looked sheepishly away, confirming his decision to go upstairs. Alice was disappointed; Tanner usually sided with her. Now she would have to go upstairs, or else be named a weakling.
And Alice was not a weakling.
Alice crossed her arms angrily, "Fine."
The boys cheered and raised their fists in the air. Charlie led them to the stairs, stomped hard on the first one, and shot a nasty grin at Alice.
"Idiots. All of them." Alice muttered under her breath, carefully taking each step at once.
The children, as they climbed up the stairs, studied the photographs that scaled up the wall. The one that stood out to Alice was of a woman. She was wearing a black dress with a red coat.
Alice looked down at the message written on a gold plage: Elizabeth Hollow, October 30, 1979.
Alice gasped, the sound echoing in the silent staircase; the boys had already gone up to the master bedroom. Alice placed a tentative finger on Mrs.Hollow's cheek. The photograph had been taken only the day before she murdered her husband.
Mrs. Hollow's eyes were deep blue, so deep, Alice felt herself being pulled toward the photograph. She wanted to fall into those eyes and not come out; she wanted to drown in those magnificent twin pools. Alice felt like she was drowning; her body was heavy, so, so heavy...Alice's eyes began to drift close...
The instant Alice's forehead touched the photograph, a sudden heat swept into her arm. Alice opened her mouth to scream, but the pain was so strong, she could make no sound.
The last thing she saw before everything went black was Mrs. Hollow's mouth open in a high, freakish laugh.
The boys were punching each other in the master bedroom, accusing each other of being babies for not being the first to touch the large pool of blood on the carpet.
"You do it!" Emmet screamed at Tanner.
"No! You do it!" Tanner yelled back.
Suddenly, they both turned to Charlie and pointed their fingers in his face. "You do it!"
Charlie threw up his hands. "Fine!" He stepped closer to the puddle, which looked bright enough to be fresh. Shivers climbed up his spine.
He crouched and reached a tentative finger towards the puddle. A cold sensation rushed between his bones as his skin made contact with the blood.
Just then, the door to the bedroom slammed open. Tanner, Emmet, and Charlie let out short screams.
Alice stood in the doorway, blonde curls hanging around her face. Her princess tiara was titled, giving the little girl a disheveled look.
"Oh, Alice, "Charlie said, greatly relieved. "Where'd ya go?"
Alice did not answer. She looked to the puddle of blood and then at Charlie. The finger that he had touched the pool with started to itch, and he curled his hands into fists. Tanner and Emmet shifted on their feet, deeply unsettled by Alice's silence.
Suddenly, Alice glided across the room to stand nose to nose with Charlie. Her black eyes flashed angrily- wait, Charlie thought, but Alice's eyes are blue, not black.
Alice reached up and stroked a cold finger lightly down his cheek. Charlie's body went rigid, but he didn't dare move. This girl is crazy-
Pain shot through Charlie's face as Alice's nails dived into the skin of his jaw. Charlie cried out and clawed at Alice's strong grip, which now encompassed his throat.
Her voice was shrill when she spoke. "You. Will. Die."
Tanner and Emmet gasped. Tanner stepped forward to pull Alice away, but she turned her face to him and froze him with a deathly glare.
"Alice, calm down. What's wrong with you-" His voice was drowned by Alice's scream. Her mouth opened into a dark chasm, emitting a harsh screech.
Emmet jerked toward the door, fumbling with the knob before thundering down the stairs. Tanner grabbed Charlie and raced after his twin. They stumbled down the stair in their panic.
Alice shrieked louder from upstairs. "YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE!"
Charlie and Tanner jumped the last two stairs, yelling for Emmet. "Emmet! Where are you?"
"Here! In here!" Emmet shoved them into a large room; the library.
Breathing heavily, the three boys scurried to the back. The books were covered in dust, and the room was cloaked in darkness. Only a sliver of the moon seeped in from the window.
The house was silent. The boys could not hear any noises from upstairs, but they knew they weren't safe. They needed to get out.
The library door opened with a soft creak. Alice's feet padded softly until she reached the bookcase where the boys were hiding.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are." Alice sang.
But it wasn't Alice's voice, Charlie realized. It was different. Sweet and musical. Mrs.Hollow, Charlie thought.
Alice's hand curled around the bookcase. She trilled her fingers playfully. "Don't you wanna play with me?"
With a swift tug, the bookcase collapsed, almost on top of the boys.
Screaming, the boys shot out from their hiding place and made a beeline for the open door.
Alice cried behind them. In front of them, the library door closed with a loud bang.
"Well, where is there to go now?" Alice asked tauntingly.
The boys exchanged worried and fearful glances. Alice pulled a knife from her dress pocket, its blade glinting in the moonlight that shone through the window.
"Alice, put that down," Tanner demanded.
"Oh? But why would I?" Alice tilted her head. "I like my toys."
"That's not a toy," Charlie gasped.
Alice laughed, "Maybe not." She agreed, then smiled menacingly. "Who wants to be first?"
When none of the boys volunteered, Alice picked one. "You," She pointed to Charlie, "come here."
Charlie didn't move, too frightened.
Alice lost her patience. She stomped over to him. She raised the knife to his eye. "Hmmm...I cut the eyes out first the last time..."
She moved the blade to his chest. "So maybe now I'll take the heart. Not that you have one."
With a forceful push, the blade sank into his chest. Tanner and Emmet, cried out as blood bloomed beneath Alice's fingers. Charlie could only gasp, gurgling on the blood rising in his throat. He moaned on his way to the floor.
Alice smiled at his still body. Tanner and Emmet stared in horror as she bent down and drove her knife back into the wound; pulling down, Charlie's chest was ripped open. Alice cracked his ribs; they shimmered blindingly white against the darkness.
Finally, she pulled out his heart, still beating.
Alice held up the heart triumphantly. "My prize!"
She clamped her teeth around the organ. Blood spurted from the heart, running down Alice's red-stained fingers and dripping slowly...slowly to the carpet.
Tanner and Emmet gaged as Alice burped with satisfaction. She wiped her hands delicately on her dress, smearing red across the pink landscape. Her eyes still shone black, but Tanner and Emmet could see them flicker back to blue. It was only for an instant, a blink of an eye, but it showed them that their Alice was fighting whatever devil was inside her.
"ALICE!" They screamed. "RUN! FIGHT!"
Mrs. Hollow, who they both realized had been possessing Alice, blinked in surprise and clutched at her chest. Tanner and Emmet kept screaming; their support was the only thing that would help Alice. The spirit had fed on their fear; so now Alice would feed on their courage.
"FIGHT ALICE! FIGHT!"
Mrs. Hollow stumbled to her feet. She jerked toward them. She swiped the knife at Tanner, catching his arm. Tanner cried out but fought back; he pulled back his fist and punched Mrs. Hollow in the nose. Emmet followed his twin's lead and grappled for the knife. The two boys battled with all the energy they possed, screaming along with Mrs. Hollow. Nails were broken, hair was pulled, and skin was cut and bruised.
Blood was everywhere.
Emmet snatched the knife from Mrs. Hollow's hand and thrust it forward.
Right into her poisoned heart.
Mrs. Howard gasped and collapsed on the carpet, her black eyes staring at nothing.
Tanner and Emmet grasped each other in a hug. "We did it! We defeated Mrs. Hollow!"
It was only then that they realized what they had done. Mrs. Hollow was dead, but so was Alice. Mrs. Hollow had left Alice's body; Alice's blue eyes reflected the moonlight.
Tanner rushed to her body, cradling it in his hands. "Alice! No... please..."
Emmet and Tanner clutched their friend's hands, sobbing into her blood-matted hair. Tanner, who had been the closest to Alice, let his tears fall onto her pale cheeks. They flowed from his green eyes and landed on her pale ones. Those blank, oh so dead, orbs.
None of the children, years later, will understand how the next event happened, but they will always wonder how Alice's eyes closed, then opened.
Bright and alive.
Alice stared up at her friends' worn, pale faces. Tears created a clean path in the dirt streaked across their cheeks.
"Why are you crying?" Alice asked, lifting the hand crushed against Tanner's chest to rest it on his cheek.
Tanner's head shot up, and he cried out in amazement.
She slowly climbed to her feet. Her head felt fuzzy like it was stuffed with cotton. Looking down, she noticed the ocean of blood surrounding her. It coated her hands, dress, and shoes. It was everywhere.
She touched her chest, where the blood had seeped into her dress so thick, it was black. It was still slightly wet, more so sticky.
The rest of the blood on the floor came from a body, that was sprawled beside the spot Alice had been laying moments before.
With a gasp, Alice recognized who the body belonged to. "Charlie!" She cried.
Alice did not kneel; she could already tell there was nothing she could do. He was dead, his chest gaping open like an endless chasm.
She turned to Tanner and Emmet with her fingers lingering on her lips, a sour taste in her mouth. A sick feeling was swirling in her stomach.
The surviving boys watched her attentively. "What happened?" She spoke barely above a whisper.
Emmet winced and Tanner answered, "You don't remember?"
Alice shook her head. "No. All I remember was touching that photo on the stairs."
All three looked at Charlie's body. Alice finally looked away, a cold expression on her face. "Do I even want to know what happened?"
The twins shook their heads. "Something bad. A spirit possed you and-" Tanner's voice cut off. Bile rose in his throat; he couldn't finish describing what had happened.
He didn't have to. Alice understood what she did. What Mrs. Hollow did.
She reached out for her friends and they wrapped their arms around each other. "Let's go home," Emmet whispered into her shoulder.
"What about Charlie?" Tanner asked, "we can't leave him here."
"We go home and call the police. They'll handle this." Alice suggested.
"But what are we going to tell them?" Emmet said, "They won't believe us."
Alice shrugged. "They'll have to."
The three children walked silently through the hallway and out the door. No one looked back as they walked down the driveway, closing the gate softly behind them. Hand intertwined, they stumbled home, the tree that had first invited them inside waving them goodbye.