Are you ready to be scared to death? You know I have many sides as an author, writing in several genres. What I’ve learned to embrace since working with Christian Jensen (an amazing horror author) is that I have a VERY dark side. I love exploring the minds of serial killers and monsters, human or otherwise. In this piece, I unleash my inner beast. We wrote this short story in just a couple of days. We feed off of each other in ways few authors ever work together. I’m thrilled to bring you a terrifying taste, but be very careful, it just might scare…you…to…death! Thank you Booktrope and the Forsaken Imprint for taking such good care and Brenda Gonet for an incredible cover.
The room was dark, lit only by the six candles that spread a meager, dancing light. Shadows writhed, lovers mingling in the opaque darkness. Outside the sorority house, rain tapped on the windows and thunder rolled across the night, occasional flashes of lightning giving temporary brilliance to the sky Only Kaitlyn and Amanda had come down to the common room so far, and Adrianna was growing impatient. She twirled her dark hair on a thin finger absently, eyes roving through the dim light, searching out familiar objects. Maybe her edginess was because of the storm, but things felt different in here tonight and she just wanted to get this over with.
“Brittany! Cheryl! Jennifer! Let’s GO!” Her voice carried over the storm, over the stillness of the common room with commanding authority. She was their president, and confident in her leadership, normally. Tonight, however, Adrianna didn’t feel so strong. She secretly wished Kaitlyn hadn’t talked her into this stupid séance, and she absolutely wished Amanda hadn’t discovered the stupid Ouija board in the basement.
The damn thing looked like a piece of trash. The game board was burnt a little around the edges and smeared with dust. The planchette was an old wooden thing that looked like a cross-eyed child had carved strange symbols into it. The letters on the board were hard to distinguish, smudged by some old liquid that had dried in a hazy film. She told the girls the thing was nasty and needed to be trashed, but Amanda swore she could clean the heap of junk.
They’d brought the board up, along with an assortment of other junk the sisters had found for their charity garage sale. Amanda had immediately walked into the kitchen and spent the next two hours meticulously cleaning the board, scrubbing with the dish sponge until the tan surface sparkled. In truth, Amanda had worked with a strange detachment that gave Adrianna the chills. The crazy bitch hadn’t let the thing out of her sight since.
Someone was coming down the stairs. Adrianna could hear the creaking of each step, but the candlelight didn’t permeate into the hallway enough to see who it was. Adrianna grunted in annoyance and tapped her fingernails on the table.
“Let’s go,” she called out into the darkness. No one stepped forward. “What the hell, girls?” She jumped up from her chair, grabbing the cell phone that was such a permanent attachment to her hand, and quickly found the flashlight app. A brilliant shimmer filled the room, the too-bright beam of blueish illumination washing over the furniture. She aimed the light into the hallway, but no one was there.
A cabinet slammed closed in the kitchen, making Adrianna jump. Whoever had come down the stairs must have gone through the hallway and in for a snack. She growled in annoyance and stomped off to intercept the wayward girl. Adrianna really just wanted to get this thing over with. Another minute or two and she’d cancel the whole damn event.
Lightning flashed, bathing the room in blinding light for a brief second. Thunder immediately followed. Adrianna jumped at the sound, cursing under her breath for being such a scared child.
“I told you to hurry up,” Adrianna pushed the swinging kitchen door open and walked over the threshold, her cell phone light leading the way into the empty room. “Let’s g—”
Her heart skipped, the sudden fear making the muscle beat twice as hard. Cold sweat began to form on her face, her body feeling flushed. Outside, the rain intensified, the sound pounding on the roof and washing over the windows growing to a fever pitch. Adrianna clutched the phone tighter as she turned away from the empty kitchen, the beam of light skipping over the wall and illuminating the window, and the face pressed to the outside of the glass.
Adrianna screamed. She dropped the phone and sent it to the floor with a solid thunk! She bent quickly to retrieve it, unsure if she wanted to shine the light back on the window or race away to some unknown safety. Her mind screamed for her to run, but the rational, mature part of her mind chided her for such nonsense. The haunting was probably just one of the frat boys, some immature jackass hoping to catch a peek of the sorority girls having a naked pillow fight or wrestling in pudding between cram sessions for their calculous midterm.
But no, Adrianna knew that face didn’t belong to any of the boys on campus. She didn’t think the apparition belonged to a person. The complexion wasn’t pale. The illuminated face was bleached, with large, black eyes and an upturned nose showing cavernous nostrils. The flesh was pulled too tightly over angular features, the chin pointed and forehead elongated. For some reason, she thought the thing looked slimy, the way reptile skin looked in the sun. She knew her thoughts were crazy, but the teeth had looked pointed, the tongue bright red and lolling, impossibly long, and pierced with a heavy metal spike at its center. The longer she thought of the face, the clearer the vision became.
She shook her head, running a trembling hand through raven black hair. She was just on edge. Midterms were this week and her grades had been bad since breaking up with Dylan in October. She wasn’t sleeping right either, the nightmares kept waking her up, nightmares about running through the woods while some unseen terror raced behind her. Adrianna was falling apart, emotionally and physically, and the energy required to pretend she wasn’t had finally taken its toll. She hadn’t seen anything in the window, she hadn’t heard anything in the kitchen, and there was nothing to the stupid Ouija board but wood pulp and paper.
She shone the light directly at the window. Her reflection looked back at her, but nothing else. Grunting with approval, Adrianna headed over to the table. She was exhausted and sick of this stupidity. “Okay Amanda, I’m going to bed. It’s not my fault our sisters didn’t come down.” She used the light from her phone to guide her out of the common room.
“They’re coming,” Amanda said. Her voice was monotone, deeper than it normally was. There was a decisiveness to the words Amanda never had. She was a tall, thin blonde devoid of curves and personality, shy to the point of socially awkward. She whispered when she spoke, and everything came out more as a question, even when she was stating a fact. If Amanda hadn’t been a legacy, the sorority would never have taken her.
“No they’re not.” Adrianna cocked her hip and pointed towards the hallway. “They’re probably all asleep. These girls don’t have any idea how to handle life without electricity.” Adrianna glanced at her phone and saw the battery already showing yellow. Her iPhone would be dead by morning if the lights didn’t come on soon. She felt like a lifeline was slipping through her fingers, the rope cutting into the skin as she tried to hold on tight. It was a strange, fleeting sensation and Adrianna had no idea where the nasty power came from.
They walked through the gloom of darkness, melting out of the shadows as noiseless as ghosts. Adrianna jumped in surprise when Brittany stepped into the room, seemingly appearing out of thin air. Cheryl and Jennifer were right behind her, each of them staring blankly to the Ouija board as though it was the only thing in the room.
“Where the hell were you sluts?” Adrianna sighed, trying to gain some of her usual demeanor back. She’d been on edge ever since they found that stupid toy tucked away in the rafters. She didn’t even understand how Kaitlyn had seen the game all the way up there. She was the shortest of the group, a cute little redhead with shocking turquoise eyes and a petite figure with just a hint of curves. She was loud and brash most of the time, but when she found the Ouija board, she’d taken on a kind of reverence for the thing. She’d been intensely quiet ever since.
They all gathered around the round table, each of the girls finding a seat without looking. Theirs was a practiced maneuver, synchronized like a dance move. Adrianna didn’t know what was going on, but she was beginning to think her sisters were playing some kind of prank on her. They just happened to get lucky with the storm, but everything else had been set up. One of the girls snuck down the stairs before and ran into the kitchen. They slammed the cabinet door, and then waited for Adrianna to go into the kitchen before rushing back upstairs. Another one of the girls put on the stupid mask and waited at the window, making just enough noise to get her attention. Now they were acting like they were possessed or something.
She was actually proud of them. There’d been a lot of teamwork and preparation to pull something like this off, but the prank had gone far enough. If they were pulling this shit on someone outside of the sorority house it would be different, but Adrianna didn’t like being the butt of the joke. She was their leader, damn it.
“Okay bitches, I think this silliness has gone long enough.” Adrianna was the only one standing. All of the girls were sitting patiently, their hands at their sides and eyes locked on that stupid board. It was a game, a kid’s toy. So what if they made horror movies about a supposed connection to demons? The thing was nothing but a board game for bored kids to scare each other with. “You got me pretty good. I’m proud of the teamwork sisters, but enough is enough. I need to go study.”
She waited for a second, expecting the girls to all start giggling and teasing her, but no one moved. She shrugged her shoulders and turned to leave.
“Sit down.” Amanda’s voice commanded. Her demanding tone was as far out of character as possible and Adrianna felt a sudden icy hand grip her insides. They’d spent years trying to get the girl out of her shell, and none of them had ever heard her voice over a normal level. They’d all surmised Amanda was incapable of yelling, her vocal chords simply not able to handle something so forceful.
“Damn girl, when did you get so much base in you—”
“Sit down,” Amanda repeated, her voice deepening to the point of masculinity.
“Sit down,” Kaitlyn said, in nearly the same voice.
“Sit down,” The other girls repeated in perfect unison.
There was only one chair left in the circle, and Adrianna couldn’t think of anywhere she wanted to sit less. Her heart was pounding, the sound of her pulse rushing through her ears. Her face was hot, her hands were cold and slick with sweat. She wanted to turn and run, but the memory of her nightmare kept her rooted to the spot.
Darkness, broken only by the occasional flash of blueish lightning, made everything in the room look ominous, haunting. Trees were everywhere, branches grabbing at her hair and clothes. Rain poured down on her in a relentless shower that fell with such fury the pinging sensations actually hurt. Mud oozed between her toes with every step. Terrified, Adrianna rushed through the black forest, her insides turning to ice. She could hear the demon behind her, some faceless evil that wanted to destroy her. The fetid, hot breath of the thing ran down her spine, urging her to go faster. Her lungs and legs burned with a fierce intensity that begged her to stop, but her mind and heart screamed to just run.
You can’t hide from me…
Adrianna shook the memory out of her head. How could a dream seem so real and inhabit the mind as a memory? Adrianna thought she could ask her psychology professor from last year, but after he asked her out and she so brutally turned him down…probably not going to happen.
“Listen, it’s getting late and I ne—”
“SIT DOWN!” The voice had come from all around her. None of the girls had opened their mouths. None of them had moved. Adrianna flinched, ducking and wrapping her arms over her chest. She was suddenly aware of how cold the room had become. Her nipples puckered tight, goose bumps rising on her arms and legs. She looked around the room with wide, terrified eyes, but saw nothing in the darkness. Adrianna whimpered, but remained where she was. Somehow she knew that taking that seat would be a very bad idea.
“Adrianna,” Kaitlyn turned her head, eyes perfectly white and staring. “If you don’t sit down he’s going to kill you. Your slaughter won’t be a quick death, and just might last for all eternity. He’s a master at things like that, so I say this with all the love in my heart…sit the fuck down before I break your neck.” Kaitlyn giggled like a little girl. “I’ll do it because I love you. Snapping your bones between my fingers is much better than what he’ll do to you. So much better.”
“So much better.” The other girls said in unison.
Adrianna wanted to turn and run. She was faster than the other girls, stronger than all of them. She had been on the track and field team since high school. Her legs were thick with muscle, her arms tight and strong. She could get out of here. She could run. All she needed to do was get into the kitchen and out the back door.
Something massive crashed in the kitchen. The entire house shook, plaster dust raining down around the light fixtures, hitting the flame of one of the candles and sparking crazily. Adrianna snapped her head in the direction of the kitchen door, all hope fading fast. Her head shot to the window, eyes locked on the moving shadows that seemed to rush at the glass, hands made of the inky blackness pressing to it and then retreating, spectral, pallid faces peering in and retreating too fast to focus on.
All the oxygen was pulled from the room. A cyclone of alien emotions whipped around, ripping the heat from the very air. Adrianna shivered, her breath coming out as ghostly vapor. She was freezing, yet sweat dripped down her cheeks, leaving a burning chaotic line against the perfect skin. She wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. This was too much. The girls couldn’t have done all of this. Something was very wrong here and Adrianna didn’t want to know what evil lurked in the shadows. She just wanted to wake up in her bed, screaming the terror away.
The nightmare is real. The nightmare is…
She closed her eyes, crushing the lids together and forcing her heart to slow, her breathing to go back to normal. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. She was going to open her eyes and she’d be in her bed, covers twisted around her and pillow hugged tightly to her chest.
She opened her eyes.
The devil looked back at her, laughing hysterically.
What do you think? Hungry for more?
Kisses and spanks…