“I dare you to go in,” whispered Mike.
“Are you kidding? I thought you were going in,” replied Jane.
They were crouched outside the abandoned house of 1215 Arbor Lane, peering through the wrought iron
fence they had opened just enough to still feel safe, but also feel like trespassing. The old, weathered,
rotting house was stained with rain and overgrown with wild grasses and vines. Mike and Jane had been
entranced by the story they had heard about this house since they were little.
The legend told of a witch who lived in this very house, who kept her evil spells in a book given to her by
the devil. The yarn also said that if a young woman was able to steal the hag’s book of spells and cast it
into a fire, the witch would be destroyed forever.
“Scared?” he asked, smugly.
“Uh, yeah!” she whispered hoarsely.
“Do you believe those old stories?”
“Of course not—that’s stupid,” she spat.
“Don’t worry—I’ll protect you,” he said, getting up and starting into the yard. Jane hesitated.
“Oh come on, wimp,” he called back. The word ‘wimp’ was enough to get Jane on her feet. She took a
step forward, and froze.
“Seriously Mike. This is trespassing.”
Mike came and stood in front of her. He said, determinedly, “Think about it, Janie. This is our one chance
to stand out in this tiny town. We’ll be famous! Disproving the old legend once and for all. All we have to
do is find that old witch’s book of spells—if there even is one. We can’t lose. Either there is one, and we
take it for proof, or there isn’t one, and we take something else for proof. Come on.”
And he turned and started back toward the house. Jane swallowed, shook off the chills she had, and
followed him.
Mike came to the base of the steps leading onto the porch. The green paint was dirty beyond cleaning
and peeling off in great chunks.
Jane said, standing safely behind Mike, “If you forgot, its right, then left, then repeat.”
“Shut up,” he told her, and recklessly flew up the creaky stairs. He was at the top before Jane was off the
first one. Each stair made a ruckus.
One of the hanging porch lights flickered on, and they were able to see what had caused the thump.
It was only a rather plump cat. A black cat.
“This is too scary, let’s go Mike…” Jane said, her voice trembling slightly.
“It’s only a cat,” he said, brave again.
“And the light? Someone must have turned it on,” she said, then shivered and said, “Someone must be
here.”
“Oh come on, everyone knows no one’s been here for decades. It’s probably wired to the city, like the
streetlights. You know, to keep out burglars and people.”
Mike put a timid hand on the spider web covered doorknob. He stole a quick glance at Jane before he
turned it, and then pushed open the underused door.
He let the door swing completely open and bang against the wall before he moved again, proceeding
carefully into the middle of the foyer. Once he felt comfortable, he stood straight up again, as he had
been creeping along in sort of a hunch, and proclaimed more loudly than he should have, “See, nothing’s
here.”
With that, the door slammed shut. Jane released a startled scream, and simultaneously a light suddenly
glowed from around the corner, in a room they could not see, the walls leading to it just barely
illuminated, in a white, ghostly hue. Jane, who had run quickly away from the door and into the foyer,
now clung, her nerves wrought, to Mike’s side. He remained frozen, shock spelled out plainly across his
face.
The glow from deeper inside the house beckoned to them. Mike took a step in that direction, and Jane
clasped his arm, making him stop. She shook her head furiously, unable to form words. Mike put a hand
on her arm and, ignoring her wishes, started toward the light.
The pair rounded the corner to find a fire burning brightly in a stone fireplace. A mahogany podium,
suspiciously clean compared to the rest of the house, on which a thick book sat, was the only other
object in the unfurnished room.
“Look, that’s it!” whispered Mike excitedly.
Swiftly and wordlessly, Jane went to it, raised her hands over it as if to grab it, but then stopped. She
turned to Mike to flash him a triumphant grin before destroying the book in the fire, but her smile quickly
faded into a face of horror, for what she saw in the doorway behind her friend.
A witch—The Witch—was there, her face demented, her hair tangled and teased, her skin rotting, and her
clothes battered, torn, and in some places it seemed, burnt.
Mike, seeing Jane’s reaction, turned around and saw exactly what she had. He backed away slowly,
toward Jane, never removing his eyes from The Witch’s twisted figure.
But she did not move. The Witch stood in the doorway, her chest heaving with every breath, and did not
enter the room. That is, not until Jane placed her hands on The Book. Instantly, The Witch seemed to
snap ‘on’, and began to glide into the small room. Her dress covered her shoes, but it was pretty certain
her feet weren’t touching the ground.
Jane knew what she was supposed to do—and what The Witch was going to try to stop her from doing.
She tried to make her legs move, to carry her to the fireplace, but they seemed to have lost feeling. She
stood stalk still, eyes wide with dread, up until the very last possible second—she could feel The Witch’s
hot, rank breath on her neck. Long, boney fingers ended with yellow, dirt-encrusted nails hovered inches
from her face.
That was it. Jane’s knees decided to bend, and her legs suddenly were cooperating with her. She ducked
under The Witch’s hands and dashed around her, but not before The Witch had grabbed onto her baggy
sweatshirt, pulling her backwards, catching her off balance since she wasn’t expecting the sudden tug.
She fell down, landing hard on her bottom, still clutching the book in her outstretched right hand. Mike
moved now, for the first time since the scene had begun to unfold, in hopes to help Jane. He knew he
couldn’t take the book from her and destroy it himself, according to the legend, at least. Instead, he
figured he would tackle The Witch—literally.
He ran full speed at her, but he seemed to be moving in slow motion. As he crashed into her, the feeling
was far from what he had been anticipating; it was like running into a sheet hanging on clothes lines. He
wasn’t able to move her, but it seemed to jostle her senses for a second—a second long enough for her
to loosen her grip on Jane’s sweatshirt. Jane scrambled and crawled to the fire and flung in the unwieldy
book.
The moment the book hit the flames, The Witch let out an earsplitting shriek that made both kids cover
their ears. She became even more twisted than she already was, her pale hands making fists as she
shrunk to the floor, writhing in pain, all the while emitting screams and squeals high pitched enough to
crack windows. With one last screech more terrible then any of the others, The Witch crumpled into
herself, hiding her face as she became more and more compact, and a great puff of black smoke
enveloped her.
When Jane and Mike had stopped coughing and the smoke had cleared, The Witch was gone. All that
remained was her long, tattered black dress in a heap on the floor. The fire went out, leaving the house
completely dark, signaling the end of the eventful night for Jane and Mike. They walked quickly out of the
house, stopping briefly on the porch.
Mike and Jane looked at each other blankly for a second, before they released nervous laughs, their
adrenaline still pumping. Did that really happen?
“I told you it was a stupid idea,” Jane said.
“We did it!” Mike responded, ignoring her jab.
“Mike, we could have been killed!” she whispered angrily.
“I know,” he agreed seriously, then added, “But we weren’t! And now we’re going to be legends!”
“How are we going to explain it all? Do you really think anyone will believe us?”
“I have proof,” he said triumphantly. She looked at Mike inquisitively, as he reached into his big pocket in
his cargo pants. “Wait…it was here, I’m positive…” he mumbled.
“What? What was it?”
“I took her dress, but it…it….vanished!” he said, bewildered.
“Haunted House”
by Helen Cooney