Boys and Ghouls!
Welcome to the Pen & Muse Haunt!
The Haunted House looms before you, threatening to swallow you up. It’s larger up close, isn’t it? You know that you shouldn’t really be here. In fact, now that you’re here, you want to leave.
But you chose to come inside. Even though you knew something felt a little off. All you can really do now is try…try to stay alive.
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Good luck. You’ll need it. Muahahahahaha!
Script To Survival
by Kristen Jett
I turn the key in the ignition again, praying for a miracle. No such luck. Girl goes for long car ride by herself down a country road. She stops suddenly for a dog in the road. The car stalls. The ignition won’t turn. She glances at her cell phone, but there’s no service. I do look at my phone, and sure enough, no bars are visible. Does she leave the safety of the car to go ask for help, or does she hope AAA can find her before the creatures of the night do? I roll my eyes at myself. There’s a reason I write horror scripts after all.
Writing horror also means I’m paranoid. One reach into the glove box finds the emergency satellite phone I keep there. You can never be too prepared after all.
Except I have no idea where I am. Kinda hard to tell AAA to come help me if I can’t narrow that down. I dial the number anyway, hoping they can somehow track me by the phone. It doesn’t sound promising, but the operator still says they’ll try to send someone out to me.
I can see the headlines now: Horror Writer Stumbles Into Fate Worse Than Her Own Movies. This is the same cliché bit I’d start with – except I’d break far away from the norm by the end. Will my own story be the same?
Knock. Knock. The noise at the window nearly causes me to shriek. Nope, so far we’re still following the same cliché movie script. Man at the window with concerned eyes, looking in. Reflexes push my finger to the window button…but it doesn’t work. Of course. Broke down car and all. Last time I buy American. Do I open the door? Might as well. It’s not as if he can’t break the glass if he really wants me – and I certainly can’t go anywhere. My hand finds the pepper spray on my keychain as the other opens the door a crack.
“Yes?” I hadn’t looked at him before. Well, shit. He’s handsome. That’ll disarm a girl.
He pauses for a moment, looking nervous. “I’m sorry to intrude – but is everything okay?” When I don’t answer immediately, he continues, “I’m on my way to the Rose Inn – it’s right down the road. My mom runs it, and I always like to check in on her in weather like this.”
At least he doesn’t live with her. No thanks, Norman Bates.
I finally manage to speak. “I think the battery’s dead, but I’m not sure.” It sounds more like a question than I mean for it to.
He nods. “Pop the lid? I can give you a jump.” With a small smirk at my barely opened door, “You can stay in the car if you’d like. It’s chilly.”
The car is doomed. Or haunted. Or possessed. He – his name is Adam, by the way – frowns at my poor little convertible. “I haven’t the slightest idea why she won’t start. The battery’s good. Everything looks clean. It’s as if she just doesn’t want to go.”
Those words sit in the air between us, like thick tangible tension. Not just the sexual kind.
Wind whistles through the trees. It’s getting later, colder, darker. Snow is beginning to fall. I certainly can’t stay out here all night. “I hate to impose, but could you-”
He starts to speak at the same time I do. “I don’t want to come across as creepy, but I can’t just leave you-”
We both crack a smile. He looks nervous again. Or maybe it’s thoughtful. Hard to tell. “Can I at least give you a ride to my mom’s inn? You can call someone and wait in the warmth at least.”
Warmth sounds like a better idea than spending the night shivering in my car – or freezing to death. I nod, letting Adam help me with my bags – and help me into the truck. What? It’s the ladylike thing to do. I still clutch my purse close, pepper spray within reach, and the pistol he doesn’t know about safely inside. Adam doesn’t try anything though. He simply tells me about the area as my eyes try to keep a firm look on him, while taking in the sights . I need to be smarter than one of my characters – which means I need to memorize the path back to my car. Just in case. We drive past a deep ravine, and I can’t help my shudder. No guardrails. Can you imagine what would happen if a person drove off the edge in the dark?
It’s easy to see why the Rose Inn is titled such. Roses of all colors drape themselves over the gate as we drive up, reaching for us, pulling us in. You can barely see the actual house for all the flowers. Yet…something about it seems familiar, but all quaint little inns somehow feel like home.
The grand house is quiet. It’s as if it hasn’t been used in years. Adam’s brow furrows for a moment. He quickly gestures for me to make myself comfortable, and then scurries off – in search of his mother?
Left alone to wander, I, of course, do. It’s in my nature. Writers are curious creatures. The front room is sparkling clean, as any entry point should be, but the further I travel, the more it seems as if I’ve entered something dormant, something that hasn’t been touched for years. The house is darker, dustier, quieter. My fingers slide down a tabletop and come up coated in a faint white powder. Odd.
My feet keep taking me further and further into the house, peeking into rooms, leering around corners. What must be a piano room, big enough to have once been a modest sized ballroom. A room with spare furniture, all wrapped in plastic that smells suspiciously of bleach. The kitchen with startlingly white tiles, and mismatched knives in the block. I touch a doorknob and wince – in a house this cold, how could metal get this hot?
My fingers trace the edges of an old book, still on the shelf. Naturally my feet have found their way to a library. Mama always said it was my greatest gift – to be able to find the place with the most books in a building or a town. The gilded font spells out words in a language I don’t understand. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess Aramic, but who the hell uses that anymore? A quick glance around proves none of these choices are the norm for your everyday B&B though. Torture. Demonology. Cults. It looks more like my writing research bookshelf than the summer reading you’d expect to find on vacation.
Thud – Something falls behind me and I whirl around – not sure what to expect. Nothing looks out of place. My eyes run over the bookcases, sweeping over the corners of the room, and finally fall back on the desk. The desk. A picture frame has turned over. It’s heavy in my hand – too heavy to fall over by itself. Maybe there’s a draft. But despite my shiver, I don’t believe it. Adam and…his mother? She looks like the quintessential inn owner – floral dress, apron, white hair, vintage locket that you just know holds pictures of her late husband. Cute. She may have odd choice in light reads, but she obviously adores her son.
Creeeaaak. I swear if that’s a cat, I’m out of here. Horror movie lesson: if the suspicious noise turns out to be a cat, you hightail it in the other direction. The desk drawer bumps into my leg, and I realize I’m safe. For now, at least. I squint, trying to get a clear eye of what’s inside the drawer. Wait, did that drawer open by itself? A leather billfold – probably a passport holder. A magazine with the charming Rose Inn on the cover. Newspaper clippings? I thumb through a few. All obituaries. Friends? Family? The hair on my neck goes up, and I rush to put the papers back. The edge of my fingers touch something cold, and I can’t but pull it out to see. A chain. A chain attached to a locket.
And suddenly I know. Why the house is so silent. Why the owner is absent. With trembling hands, I peek at the last obituary – which is probably the first. Dina Rose. Same picture as the one of the desk. Survived by her son Adam. Ladies, this is why you don’t get into a strange car with a strange man to go somewhere off the beaten track. You become a movie plot – and the made for tv kind at that. Guess we know why everything smells like bleach.
It’s of no surprise when I hear footsteps behind me. This…this was all planned. From the moment he saw my car on my road. Were all the other clippings from women he killed? Did he kill Dina?
“You won’t be able to leave.” Adam’s voice is soft, almost regretful. I bet he sounds just like this before he murders all the girls. My purse? Where is my purse? I can’t remember. But my brain mentally retraces all the steps I’ve made in the house. I may not have my gun, but I can still run. Thankful for the ballet sneakers I wear when traveling, I dash towards the door. One twist nearly rams me into a wall, but I correct just before I collide, my feet instead skidding violently across the hardwood floors. I don’t hear Adam behind me, but I dare not turn around to look.
My mind flashes back to all the odd things I’ve discovered in the house. Demonology books. News clippings of the dead. The smell of bleach. Oh shit. What have I gotten myself into? All I can hear is the racing of my own heart, and the panting of my breath. It’s far too cold for all this running. But I just need to get outside. Maybe he left the keys in the truck. Doubtful. He’s too smart for that. Maybe AAA will know where I am from the description of the inn. If it’s real. Maybe the friendly library ghost will help me. That’s what I’m relying on? A ghost? Somehow I don’t think Casper is saving the day.
I pull deep, trying to remember what I learned during my let’s-try-running-a-half-marathon days. I hadn’t gotten far, but I did learn a better running technique. My legs speed up. The front door is in front of me. A low creaking sound, and it opens – wind? Casper? I don’t really care. Ignoring the ache in my side, I will my legs to move faster, and to my surprise they do. Almost there. Almost there. Almost – the wind is suddenly knocked out of me, and I fall backwards, flat on my butt on the floor.
What. The. Fuck. Not helpful, Casper. Not at all.
“Salt and Goofer’s dust.” There is a long pause; when he finally speaks his voice trembles a little. “Spirits can’t cross easily without permission.”
Spirits? I almost turn around to face him, but instead gently reach for the line of powder. It’s as if we’re the same sides of a magnet – the closer I get, the harder it is for me to reach forward.
“I’m sorry, Ava.” This time I do turn to face him, feeling a slight dampness in my eyes. “I realized you didn’t know.” His mouth quirks into a mirthless smile, “But there’s no proper etiquette for telling someone they’re dead.”
Dead. I’m dead? This has to be a cruel joke. I don’t feel dead.
A newspaper clipping falls out of his hands.
Horror Writer Found Dead After Tragic Accident
June 23rd, 2002
The body of horror writer Ava Summers, 25, was finally found last Thursday after a three week search.. Ava had been last seen headed for a road trip to research historic locations for her next movie. A search party found the overturned convertible down a ravine, the remains still inside. Police officials hint that foul play is suspected. An anonymous source reported marks on the road – as if Ava’s car had been run off the road..
My voice is weak. “Today’s June 23rd.”
He nods, sadness in his eyes. “I know. You come back every year.”
My eyes find the calendar on the wall. June 23rd.
June 23rd, 2014.
After writing horror for so many years, I have finally become it.