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joyce-huis-280788

1. He grabbed me by the neck to make me kiss him.

“It was Halloween and my friends and I were out celebrating at a really popular (and packed) bar. I was dressed as an owl in a full, fleece onesie with a hood. Somehow I got separated from the group and ended up at the back of the bar by myself. With no warning, no introduction, and absolutely no permission, a guy grabbed me by the back of my neck and started making out with me. I was sober and completely taken aback. I didn’t know what to do so I just stood there and pretended it was fine, so he would eventually go away. He ended up also taking my phone from my pocket and putting his number into it and texted me all night about how he wanted to meet up and ‘see what was under that onesie.’ I didn’t respond. I don’t even know his name.”

— Kendra, 28

2. He kept pushing after I said, “I’m uncomfortable.”

“I was a freshman in college visiting my best friend. We met up with two of her guy friends. We went back to the guys’ dorm room and one of them started making moves on me and my friend and her guy left. I kept telling him I wasn’t into it and literally said the words, ‘I’m uncomfortable’ but he kept pushing things, coercing me to take my shirt off and all this stuff. Finally, to get him to stop, I kept pulling away and pretending to laugh and he finally goes, ‘What’s your problem?’ and I said, ‘My mom and I are very close, and she wouldn’t approve of this behavior.’ It was strange enough for him to stop for a second and for me to throw my shirt back on and run out to call my friend. I made it into a joke, saying how funny it was that I would talk about my mom mid-hookup but in actuality I was a scared 19-year-old who felt like I had to because I was in his dorm room, right?”

— Olivia, 25

3. He pretended to be my friend to get what he really wanted.

“He was my friend at college for over a year. Very likeable, hilarious, and overall had been a good friend to me. He had a long-distance girlfriend, who I’d met at least once, and they seemed crazy about each other. One day while we were Snapchatting, he began to get flirtatious, and when I called him out, he said ‘what his girl didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.’ He proposed a friends-with-benefits situation, which I told him I couldn’t do. He apologized, claimed to understand, and we dropped it. However, every day for the next two weeks, he would bring it up, imply something sexual, or attempt to flirt with me, and after each and every time I told him no, he would apologize, promise to stop, that he couldn’t help himself etc. I believed him. Or told myself I did. I eventually caved into what he asked, hoping if he got what he wanted, he would stop. He didn’t. This continued until I moved back home after leaving college, and only stopped after I finally broke down and told someone, as well as blocked him on all social media. I kept telling myself if I told anyone, I could ruin his life, or that it was my fault for not speaking up sooner. This should’ve stopped the first time I said no, and it didn’t. He wasn’t a friend—anyone who is a friend will listen, not manipulate and push past your boundaries.”

— Lacey, 24

4. When he realized I wouldn’t give in, he took to insulting my body.

“This is the first story that comes to mind. I was sexually harassed by a ‘friend’ that I used to work with. Never flirted with him, never gave him any signs of interest, but we were hanging out in a group one day and he kept hitting on me. It made me and my friends (all girls) uncomfortable, but no one said anything. When he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere with me, he changed from being flirtatious to angry and threatened to throw me off of the hill we were all hanging out on. Then he started making comments about my weight and how I was ‘too skinny’ for anyone to like me. Even though there were THREE girls there, no one felt comfortable telling him how out of place he was.”

— Holly, 24

5. I was too scared to go home, and even though he could tell, he didn’t care.

“In college there was this said guy who every girl thought was extremely attractive, and he knew it too. Athletic, on a sports team, smart, charming he was also older than me which was naively appealing as a freshman. I was at a party and we started dancing together. We kissed, and the physical attraction was there. He asked me if I wanted to go back to his place. I said sure. On the walk there I realized I didn’t want to have sex with him, and that I really just wanted to go home. I was too scared to tell him that so I continued to walk to his apartment. We get there and one of his roommates was out in the living room. We didn’t know each other but he looked at me with this weird smile like ‘I know what you came here to do.’ We go to his room, start to kiss, and I’m hesitant. He touches me and he can tell. I kept thinking ‘I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home. Just tell him you want to go home.’ I didn’t. I stopped him from kissing me and he asked what was wrong. I told him I didn’t want to have sex, the truth was I didn’t want to be there at all. He said well let’s just do this instead and started masturbating in front of me, he took my hand and directed me to start masturbating in front of him too. I continued until he was finished. I think tears were in my eyes the entire time. I didn’t even really see it as wrong back then, but I know it didn’t feel right. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone because I thought they’d say it was normal and think I was a prude for feeling weird about it. I was quiet because I was scared, scared while it was happening, and scared after. I shouldn’t have had to feel scared to say ‘I want to go home,’ but I was.”

— Lily, 25

6. He forced me to kiss him while taking a selfie.

“I was outside a bar with a few of my friends when it happened. It was the end of the night and I was already sober, but we were stuck because someone had parked behind our car. A few guys standing outside started talking to us, and they seemed pretty nice. That is, except the one who kept putting his arms around my waist and grabbing my ass.

I felt uncomfortable and kept moving away, but he didn’t stop; I felt like fighting about it would have been dramatic. When someone suggested we all take a selfie together, the man stood beside me. When his friend said, ‘Cheese!’ the guy suddenly shoved his tongue down my throat; when I tried to push him away, he grabbed me hard so I couldn’t move. When he finally let me go, he laughed; I shook. I didn’t know what to do. My friends acted like they didn’t notice.

Later, he stole my phone and called his own number — he told me he didn’t trust me to give him my real number. The next day he messaged me about all the sexual things he wanted to do to me. I never responded.”

— Callie, 23

7. It made me feel like I have to watch my back no matter where I go.

“It was fourth of July weekend and every year dressing up and going to beach bars is pretty normal in my circle of friends. As one of my favorite holidays, I always like to go all out. So when a group of older guys invited me to the bar across the street, I naively thought it was because they liked my outfit. But they weren’t looking at my outfit as much as my boobs in a bikini top I haven’t worn to this day. I didn’t think much of going alone with them. It was daylight and I was a local in a place where I knew everyone. I felt safe. They bought me a beer, asked what I do. Next thing I know one of the guys makes a pass at me touching me, putting his face in my boobs, and trying to feel me up. I pushed him away standing there frozen and stepped back. Only then to have his friend come up to me and start slut-shaming me for what I’m wearing, saying I was ‘asking for it’ and ‘how rude it was of me because his wife was right there.’ A woman told me not to think much of it because ‘he was drunk.’ I put my beer down and left only to completely break down in my Uber. I didn’t date for the next year. I stopped drinking for months. It was just a moment. A moment he probably doesn’t remember or think much of. But for me, it was a moment that made suddenly watch my back in every place I walk into.”

— Shelby, 25

8. I was told nobody would ever take my side.

“It was sophomore year in college at a surprise party for one of my good friends. I had just recently gone through a bad breakup and was feeling pretty down and vulnerable, but I was excited to celebrate with people instead of just hiding away in my dorm room. As it so happens, it turned out to be one of the most traumatic nights of my life. It didn’t happen in a dark alley way or in a forest far away from civilization. It happened in my friend’s bedroom, a place that was supposed to be safe. A place I never would have expected sexual assault to happen to ANYBODY. But it happened even when I tried to push him off and it happened with two other people in the room. I think the worst part about the whole ordeal was the stigma that surrounded the subject of sexual assault and harassment. Even the detectives, the people who were supposed to be on MY side hissed judgment at me. They told me that because I had drank too much, I was at fault. But it wasn’t my fault. When I begged them to please believe me and help me, they told me that I would never win the case in court. It was difficult to come to terms with the fact that these men who didn’t know me automatically assumed that I was the one to blame. So I never went to court. That guy never got punishment for what he did to me. It made me realize why so many women don’t speak up. It’s not that they don’t want to, and it doesn’t make them any less brave. It’s just that they are afraid of being judged and blamed by society. They don’t want to be judged by men with badges to their names. Just like I was. And when we have police officers and professional people who don’t even believe you, than who the hell will?”

— Lauren, 24

9. When I told him to stop, he just did it again.

“I was on public transportation. I felt my ass being grabbed but assumed it was just accidental contact on a packed train. When it didn’t stop, I turned and realized it was a man freely grabbing me. I yelled at him to stop and he point and laughed at me and grabbed me again.”

— Katie, 29

10. He made me live in fear for my life for over a year.

“When I moved to a new city, a man was working at the gym where I became a member. At first he was kind, offering to take me out, help me meet people, make friends etc. Soon it progressed to complimenting my physique, coming up to me and touching my arms and legs to ‘correct’ my form at the gym. Then it was talking to me, following me around the bar, following me home to ‘make sure I was safe,’ showing up unannounced, making moves on me, saying ‘I’m being a gentleman’ while trying to force himself on me. Eventually things got so bad that I had to get a restraining order, as I wasn’t interested in dating /being with him and he wasn’t listening or respecting me. After months of mistreatment / harassment /stalking and issues in obtaining a restraining order, I had one granted. Within six months of having a year-long, court ordered restraining order, he violated it 139 times through emails, calls, blocked calls, voicemails, showing up in places where he knew I’d be, creating new social media accounts, messaging me, messaging friends, messaging family members.

A warrant was issued for his arrest – stalking and criminal violations to a restraining order – just last month. I have been in constant fear for my safety. I have not felt comfortable being alone. I am always looking for him when I’m out in public. He is currently in jail, pending a trial where I may have to testify. No, I haven’t been ‘assaulted’ but I’ve lived in fear of that for the past year. Me too.”

— Jessica, 24

11. I was 16, and he was my boyfriend’s dad.

“I was in high school, dating my first long term boyfriend. He was emotionally and physically abusive, but it was his father who sexually assaulted me on multiple occasions. Whenever his son (my boyfriend) turned away he would grope me, grab my ass as I walked by, anything to show he could touch me. I was 16 and didn’t know how to handle it. Still hurts now.”

— Lauren, 25

12. A stranger assaulted me when I was only 14.

“When I was 14 I was on vacation with my parents in Las Vegas. We were at the front of a crowd watching an outdoor show and I felt someone behind me pushing up against me. I thought he must have been pushed by people behind him so I moved forward. But he pressed back up against me with his hands just touching my middle and stayed there for a couple minutes, basically humping me hard from behind. I was confused and shocked and really naïve for 14 being raised with abstinence-focused sex education, but a few years later I realized that I had been feeling his erection against me and just how wrong what he did was. I never told anyone.”

— Lexi, 30

13. Even just taking public transportation is a nightmare.

“I live in a big city, so I use public transportation constantly. And every single time I use it, whether it’s 10 at night or 11 in the morning, I am on high alert. There have just been too many times where I’ve had to deal with some sort of harassment, and I’m left still feeling sick to my stomach when I think about it weeks, months, or even years later. I once had to scream at a man to get away from me on the train after he leaned right over me, put his hands on either side of the corner I was standing in, got in my face, and then began making disgusting, sexual gestures with his mouth (this happened while an ENTIRE train of people watched and said nothing). Another time, I was sitting on the bus and a man stood over me, put his pelvis in my face, and started unbuckling his pants; I responded by screaming ‘Stop! Put your pants on!; while, once again, the rest of the passengers watched and said nothing (I had to get off the bus in the middle of the trip). And although I was spared the sight of that particular guy’s genitals, I witnessed it a different time with a different man who pretended to ‘drop’ an item of his, which I picked up for him, only to stand up and find that he had fully removed his pants and his underwear and was standing in front of me naked from the waist down. These things happen all the time, and people just WATCH. I know a lot of it is panic – from feeling unsure of what to do or from worrying that the woman (or man) being harassed will tell you they can take care of themselves. But trust me, a person who is being harassed will probably NEVER be angry at you for stepping in to help – even if your particular words aren’t the final thing that stops the harasser, the person being harassed will feel safer and comforted just from knowing there was someone out there who cared enough to step in. Say something, do something, please.”

— Kim, 27

14. It even happens with people who supposedly love you.

“I’ve had a hard time in the recent days of survivors speaking out. I think particularly because I am triggered by what’s going on in the media right now. I would rather keep what happened to me to myself. I don’t want to talk about it probably because not many people discuss partner sexual assault. I feel uncomfortable talking about it because I wanted what happened to me to not be something big. Not something that even happened. I wanted to keep it to myself because I stayed with him. I chose to stay with him because he ‘probably didn’t know what he did,’ he ‘probably didn’t mean it.’ I made excuses for him, blamed myself. I blame myself for staying with him. I blame myself for not making it bigger. I couldn’t make it bigger because it was a family vacation. Looking back I think he probably chose when family was around to act this way because it was the only time I said no to him. He knew it wouldn’t be something big if so many people were around. He continued even though I said no. I didn’t fight back. I blame myself for not trying harder to make it stop. This was my partner of several years. I constantly question what happened that day. I repeat it over and over. I remember telling him after in a calm way “that was not okay. I said no”. He apologized and we continued on with our life together as if it never happened. I still don’t know if it was sexual assault or not. I just know what happened to me was wrong and that if someone says no, it should be a ‘no.’ Even if they are your partner, they can still refuse sex. You are allowed to say no even to your boyfriend, even to your fiancé, even to your husband.”

— Becca, 28

15. I pushed him away, he heard me say no, and he still didn’t listen.

“I started dating this guy when I was a freshman and he was a junior. We hung out at least a few times a week for the remainder of the semester doing what every college couple does — go out, have sleepovers, pick a Netflix show to watch together, etc. When summer came around, he left our college town for an internship and I left to spend the summer back home. We talked and texted as often as we could, and when his internship brought him to my hometown on a night when my parents were conveniently out of town, he came to stay with me. He had to leave early the next day, but he wanted to spend what little time he had with me, so I felt special.

The next morning, I awoke to the sensation of his fingers inside of me. I had slept over a million times and we had done the deed for a solid semester, averaging 3-4 hookups a week. I pushed his hands away and told him no, I was tired. I turned away from him, thinking that maybe my backside would be enough of an indication that I really didn’t want to have sex right now, and that maybe he could just big spoon me instead. He didn’t take it that way.

He climbed on top of me, whispering in my ear, ‘Come on, babe, I’m leaving soon. Please.’ He shoved his fingers in me again, and I tried again to push him away. This time, I told him no, I didn’t want to. He started kissing my neck, opened my legs with his, pinning my hands above my head, which I’m sure he thought would get me in the mood but, in reality, it just made the whole thing worse. I made a choice. Instead of fighting him, or causing a scene, or getting up and sleeping on the couch, I let him have sex with me.

‘Let’ is a generous word — I mostly just laid there and he took this opportunity to shove into me. My legs were already open, thanks to the sly move he had put on me before. We stayed in missionary the entire time and he didn’t kiss me once.

After it was over, he got up, cleaned himself off, packed up his bag and left. Our first kiss that morning was the one I initiated as he was walking out to the door. I remember that specifically because I remember thinking how strange it was that this man was just inside of me but this was the first time I was feeling his lips that morning.”

— Riley, 24

16. He didn’t care about consent, only what he wanted.

“I fell in love with someone over the span of two years online. We spoke every single night. We skyped, talked on the phone, wrote each other emails when we were away. Our families knew about one another. We spoke at length about the day we would meet. There was so much feeling there, and I felt like I had found someone who would finally give me the kind of love I had been searching for. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. When I finally traveled to see him, it was beautiful. I felt like I was dreaming. Things started to become physical, and that is where they quickly changed. I had consented to being with him, but before we finally went through with it, I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to do anything without him using protection. He didn’t have any, and I told him that we needed to wait, and that it was important to me because I wasn’t on any form of birth control. He completely changed his demeanour, from someone who was soft and kind, to someone who was angry and volatile. He told me that I was being crazy, and he yelled, ‘I’m not fucking you for the first time with a condom.’ He then proceeded to have sex with me. I don’t really remember anything about it other than feeling hopeless. I remember the ceiling, the rocking of the bed. I was fixated on just waiting for it to be over. I remember it as if it weren’t me, if that makes sense. I felt like I had no voice, I felt like I had no way of saying no, or stopping what was happening.

I didn’t realize what had really happened until I started learning about what sexual assault was. That you can say yes, and then say no, and that prior consent does not mean that you were asking to be uncomfortable or touched against your will. That someone you felt very deeply for could be an abuser. I think that was the toughest thing to come to terms with.”

— Quinn, 26 TC mark

This Is Why ‘Big Bang Theory’ Actress Mayim Bialik’s NYT Op-Ed Is Fucking Terrible

This Is Why ‘Big Bang Theory’ Actress Mayim Bialik’s NYT Op-Ed Is Fucking Terrible

Trigger warning: This article contains sensitive content involving sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape.

This Is Why ‘Big Bang Theory’ Actress Mayim Bialik’s NYT Op-Ed Is Fucking Terrible
iDominick

This past Friday, The New York Times published an Op-Ed by The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik. It was called “Being a Feminist In Harvey Weinstein’s World.”

And much like the show she stars on, it was fucking terrible.

When I first saw the headline, I thought it could be promising. It seemed like it could be some intelligent and much needed commentary in the wake of the dozens of horrific accusations against Weinstein. Much to my disappointment, though, it wasn’t. It was an article filled victim blaming, disguised as feminism.

Throughout her piece, Ms. Bialik tells us her experience as a woman and a feminist in Hollywood. She remembers being a preteen in auditions and how “young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in high register were favored for roles by the powerful men who made those decisions.” She shared how she left the industry for 12 years, but then went back in her 30s.

Upon her return, she said how because of her “nontraditional” appearance, she always found herself auditioning for roles like the “frumpy friend,” which eventually landed her the role on The Big Bang Theory.

All of this portion is mostly okay. Her experience is her own, and this is not to discount it. It’s what comes after that I, and I think many others, have taken issue with.

After her background story, Ms. Bialik then transitions to talk about “the upside of not being a ‘perfect ten.'” She writes:

And yet I have also experienced the upside of not being a “perfect ten.” As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms. Those of us in Hollywood who don’t represent an impossible standard of beauty have the “luxury” of being overlooked and, in many cases, ignored by men in power unless we can make them money.

She continues:

I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise. I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.

Huh. So, let me get this straight. Only super hot women who don’t dress modestly are harassed and assaulted? Based on the statistics surrounding sexual assault in the United States, something tells me that’s just not true.

After the article’s publication, many women took to Twitter to express their frustration, disdain, and downright anger about her piece:

Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape are never the victim’s fault. Ever. Not once. It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, it doesn’t matter if she was alone, it doesn’t matter if she was drunk, it doesn’t matter if she smiled at you across the fucking bar, this is not an invitation and you are not entitled to anything from her. Period.

Ms. Bialik’s article perpetuates that idea that women can avoid abuse and harassment and assault if we would only “dress modestly” or not “act flirtatiously” or be “perfect tens.” But this is a falsehood and contributing to a dangerous narrative that women can somehow prevent attacks and harassment and that it is somehow brought on by something they did. That they were, in fewer words, “Asking for it.”

Since the backlash, Ms. Bialik has posted on Twitter to say that her words were taken “out of context.” But the truth is, they weren’t. The underlying implications of her claims are plain to see. As well, intent does not equal impact. While I’m sure she wasn’t trying to victim blame, her article was still incredibly misguided and very much a harmful piece of writing.

If you have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or rape, please know you are not alone. I believe you. Many others will believe you, too.

And most importantly? It was and never will be your fault. Not now, not ever. TC mark

The Painful Reality Of Being Catcalled As A Sexual Assault Survivor

The Painful Reality Of Being Catcalled As A Sexual Assault Survivor

Woman walking down a busy street in the city
Unsplash / Alexandre Godreau

It’s my first work trip as a Real Adult With A Salary, or whatever. I’m in Las Vegas, which is the least “me” place there could be, as a health-conscious and environmentally-conscious urban planner and yoga teacher. But other 20-somethings at the conference are seemingly having a blast with their also young coworkers. I am an introvert, have no fellow coworkers here, I hate networking, and I am among 14,000 conference attendees, many of them what I would call “tech bros” (semi-derogatory).

I contemplate recent articles about sexual harassment in the workplace. That some men have personal policies of avoiding one-on-one lunches with female coworkers because they don’t want to seem “creepy.” Then don’t be a creep and see women as people instead of objects? I don’t know what to tell you, bro. But it is this exact objectification that keeps workplace inequality alive and women out of positions of power (by power, I mean decision-making clout)—and it cycles like this.

I catch myself thinking my own internalized misogynistic shit, judging other women—“oh she’s wearing a ton of make-up and she’s successful/smart?” Oh my god. Yes, I used to genuinely believe that I wouldn’t succeed because I wasn’t attractive. Let’s unpack that. There are some contradictions, too:

  1. That women can’t be both smart and attractive.
  2. That success (for women) is determined by attractiveness (because GOD KNOWS that ain’t true for men).
  3. That I am not attractive.
  4. That because I am not attractive, I won’t be successful—and the cascade of self-doubt and self-loathing that comes with that.

But here I am, at this conference (maybe I’ve made it and I am successful, at least on paper!), now believing that I am both smart and attractive. And creative and a powerhouse and all these things, yet still holding all of these other contradictions somewhere in my awareness.

~

I am in the hotel elevator after the conference and step into an elevator with one other man. I immediately tense and my thoughts start racing. Oh god, he’s holding a cup. He might be drunk (this is Las Vegas, remember). Oh he’s getting off on the same floor as me. That seems like too much of a coincidence out of all these 20 floor options. I have to let him get out and walk in front of me so that he doesn’t try to force his way into my room from one step behind me.

Another similar recent experience: I went on a solo road trip in Utah last week to hike/frolic in the outdoors, see some beautiful places, learn about self-reliance, etc. Two nights I had to sleep in my car instead of my tent because:

  1. I was too afraid to even get out of my car at one campsite that was full of large trucks (which I equate with men) and I was so sure that no one could see that I was a young woman traveling alone or I would be raped. So I had to lock myself in my car and sleep scrunched up because if anyone DID try to rape me, they’d have to break my window first so that seemed like a safer option?
  2. I was sleeping in my tent at that same campsite a few nights later, proud of myself that I was feeling relaxed enough to not sleep in my car that time, despite there still being all the trucks. It was a windy night and the rustling of my rain tarp woke me. But it sounded like feet approaching on crunchy desert sand. And it kept sounding like that, even though I knew the reality. Still, I had to get out of my tent and lock myself in my car for the rest of the night.

This is how it feels to me, as a sexual assault survivor with mild PTSD, when I am alone in a space (or even in public sometimes) with a man I don’t know. Even sometimes with men I do know. Like bosses. OH, how my career and self-development has been stunted by my anxiety of being alone in a room with a man. And guess how many bosses in America are men? 85% of executive officers.

Guess how many women in America have been sexually assaulted? One out of every 6 women in the U.S. have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. It’s much higher on college and university campuses. (And my own empirical data of nearly EVERY woman I am close with having experienced some sort of sexual assault—maybe that’s a result of my own experiences attracting similar people, but I think it is more indicative of a trend and a systemic problem, which is patriarchy and the reign of toxic masculinity.)

Guess how many women share in this experience of anxiety around men? I can’t say, but I’m sure many.

~

Later still, I am walking across a pedestrian bridge on the Las Vegas strip because the roads here are 10 lanes, even though this is supposed to be a city for people and not cars—I digress. I am hangrily searching for a meal that isn’t fast food, a disgusting chain restaurant, or a place that has something without meat. No dice (ha). I notice a club promoter talking to these two beautiful women dressed in fabulously fitting jumpsuits, looking fly as hell. He’s asking them if they have plans tonight and yeah, okay how about Saturday? If a man in a t-shirt and cargo shorts scouting the streets for women based on their appearance and clothing in order to offer them deals that aim to get them as drunk as possible in a night club doesn’t scream rape culture, well, I don’t know what does.

A few blocks later, a man starts walking towards me. I can’t remember if he was wearing a shirt or not. I try not to make eye contact and speed up my pace. Street harassment is something you can feel coming sometimes, and you brace yourself. Yet each time I am amazed at how my safety can be so violated in a public space—and that men feel they have the right to do it. That they are God’s gift to my day and of course I want to talk to them and also have sex with them, what else could be going on in my pneumatic body and air-filled mind?

“What’s your sign?” he calls out.

I keep walking.

“What’s your sign? Zodiac,” he persists and falls in line next to me, too close for my comfort, which he clearly has a blatant disregard for.

“Guess,” I say bluntly, showing no enthusiasm for this interaction, though he probably still takes it as flirtation.

“Aquarius,” he doesn’t even ask as a question.

“No, Cancer,” I entertain, still with no actual entertainment in my voice.

“Oh. I’m an Aquarius,” he offers.

“Well, it’s not gonna work out then,” I quip matter-of-factly and smirk, cringing at previous Aquarian men I have dealt with.

I quicken my pace still and look straight ahead. He still feels entitled to yell some profanities at me about “white chocolate women” always being the best. I am repulsed. I sigh loudly and roll my eyes into 2070 (where sea level rise has at least put this place underwater THANK GOD, but oh god now it’s even more like the movie Wall-e).

Cat-calling, or street harassment, is so common that I’d venture all female-bodied people (and some male-bodied folks, too, yes) have experienced it at some point.

Once in a mall while I was riding an escalator down, a man riding up on the other side says, “You dropped something.” I look down and lift up my bags to see.

“Your smile,” he returns, rising past me as our separate track paths cross each other.

Again, I roll my eyes in 2070.

Telling random women to smile suggests that you only see them as something in your line of vision for your pleasure, not that I might have a rich and varied life going on inside of me (and, no, I do not want you inside of me). That your mere presence and ABSOLUTE WIT with that comment should inspire my smile!!

That men at large feel entitled to make comments on a woman’s body and appearance in public spaces … imagine what they feel emboldened to do in private spaces—the statistics support this.

Harassment isn’t a compliment, despite that I do sometimes smile when a man on the street tells me I’m beautiful. And then I hate myself for that reaction, because objectification isn’t flattery. Sure, a man can think I’m genuinely beautiful and want to tell me that, but what is the purpose of your talking to me? Actually, I would like to know the logic behind this, but it appears that the intent is to get some type of further interaction, and suggests also an entitlement to that further interaction. An ownership.

As a survivor of sexual assault and thus a person who already feels unsafe in their body, especially in public places, street harassment is triggering to me. A reminder that my body is not my own in rape culture, that other people believe themselves entitled to my body and my time.

So, what is the way forward? Seeing women as humans. That’s basically the whole idea of feminism—so radical! But it’s even more than that. It’s seeing everyone as humans. That we are all people, with our own inner worlds. That we are all worthy of respect. And you don’t know everyone’s story, but everyone has one. We should strive to be more compassionate and kind in our interactions, including that of strangers. I love to look strangers in the eye—when I feel safe enough to do so. That I don’t is a failure of our society, a result of our deep disconnect from one another, each other’s humanity, humanity as a whole, the earth.

Yes, the earth is related. Humans (mostly white men in positions of power) have and continue to ravage the earth. The earth is seen as an object, a resource to be exploited, not having its own intrinsic value. The same as women.

Let us connect with our surroundings on more than just an objective level, but a sensual and intimate experience (a safe one). Let us connect with people in a way that is humanizing and mutually enriching. But don’t you dare tell me to smile. TC mark

I Never Want To See Your Face Again

I Never Want To See Your Face Again

Girl who never wants to see his face again
Unsplash / Jacob Postuma

I am never going to respond to your texts.

I am never going to accept your friend requests on Facebook or Instagram.

I am never going to approach you if I see you out in public.

I am never going to put on a fake smile and have a casual conversation with you, as if nothing bad ever happened between us.

I am never going to let our history, or my past love for you, convince me to do something as stupid as allow you back in my life again.

I am going to do everything within my power to never see your face again. You don’t deserve a place in my memories, so you certainly don’t deserve a place in my current life.

I am not bitter. I am not dramatic. I am not overreacting.

I have a right to cut people out of my life. I have a right to say that I don’t want you around anymore. I have a right to do what is healthy for me, even if it means that you are going to throw a fit.

You brought this on yourself. I gave you a million chances, but I am done playing nice, just because I am used to having you around. I am done acting like you might have had a perfectly good reason for doing what you’ve done, just because I don’t want to believe that you’re capable of being so shitty without a reason.

I don’t want to hear your apologies anymore. I don’t want to hear your excuses. I don’t want to hear your voice.

I don’t even want you to wish me a happy birthday. I don’t want you to send me a Christmas card. I don’t want you to text me when you’re drunk, telling me how you’re so sorry that things went down the way that they did.

I don’t want anything to do with you and I can’t imagine that changing anytime in the future — but luckily, I’m finally learning that cutting you out of my life is okay.

It is okay for me to ignore your messages, and even for me to block your number.

It is okay for me to tell my friends that I don’t want to talk about you anymore, that it hurts too much to think about.

It is okay for me to decide that I am worth more than the way you have been treating me. It is okay for me to raise my standards and my expectations towards the people I allow inside of my circle.

Cutting you out of my life doesn’t make me childish. And it doesn’t make me a bitch. It makes me smart.

Because the dumbest thing I ever did was put up with your bullshit for this long. And I’m done. I’m done being treated like I mean nothing to you. I’m done acting like the situation between us is healthy. I’m done playing nice.

And that is okay. Because I am allowed to do something for meTC mark

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2874544926_c7f440269b_o__1_-1

Flickr / / // /
Flickr / / // /

In my hometown there is a giant house perched on a hill right on the corner of Alan Street and Hitcherson Road that you should never approach on Friday the 13th.

It is a menacing mansion, with rotten black shutters hugging its clouded windows, and peeling green paint that never ceased to fascinate me as a little boy. My parents would drive past it on the way to the supermarket, and my eyes would become fixated upon its every window and two lofty towers.

I grew up in the small village of Lordestown — where very little was remarkable, so us kids would often talk about the mansion while playing in the schoolyard. There were so many crazy stories associated with the house that they were hard to all keep track of. Todd claimed that his runaway dog had chased a squirrel into the mansion — to never come back. Jack says that the mansion used to be the home of an eccentric doctor who experimented on his patients in the house’s gaming room. Claire said that the house’s builder had been killed during the mansion’s construction, and wanted nobody to live there in peace.

And we all ate this shit up. Every Halloween we joked about going up to the house and giving it a touch, sometimes when we were exceptionally brave we talked about venturing inside. Jack would tease Sarah about the mansion until she cried. Chloe would end up shoving him on his ass and then we’d all laugh and forget about the scary place that sat right up the road from our neighborhood like a dormant volcano.

beetlejuice

Years passed, and jokes about the old house perched on the hill eventually faded. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that the green mansion came up in conversation again. A group of my closest friends and I were sitting in the hallway after school, just shooting the breeze, when somebody (I think Sarah?) mentioned that it was a few days before Halloween and whether someone would actually have the balls to go up to the notorious building. We all laughed, obsessed with our own nostalgia, and kept joking about the house up until the point we where we were interrupted by the school’s elderly night-shift janitor.

“It’s not visiting that house on Halloween that you have to worry about,” he mumbled through his long, white beard.

Our conversation stopped immediately, as if he had screamed at us rather than utter a small phrase barely above the volume of a whisper.

“What did you say?” My best friend Jack demanded.

“Nothing will happen to you if you visit the house on Halloween,” The old janitor croaked. He was wearing a typical blue custodial outfit, and his long white hair matched his white beard, tied back behind his head in an elaborate ponytail.

“Okay, thanks for the advice,” our friend Chloe chimed in, twirling her fingers through her long jet-black hair. “As much as I’d love to visit some creepy dank old building, I think I’ll be okay just…not.”

“Just don’t visit the house on Friday the 13th.” The old man finished as if Chloe hadn’t even spoken. “For your sake, do not approach that hill, or that mansion, on any Friday 13th.”

As the old man slinked off, we all stood dumbfounded.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Todd exclaimed in disbelief.

“Just ignore him,” Chloe responded dismissively, “I’m pretty sure I walked in on him jacking off in the janitor’s closet when Mrs. Cook sent me to get some paper towels. He’s an old crank.”

beetlejuice

Months go by, and both the mansion itself, and the conversation with the crazy janitor quickly falls from our minds. One-by-one, my friends and I get accepted to various schools from around the country. Only Todd and I are attending the same college, both having been accepted to a prestigious engineering university in Indiana.

After graduation, toward the middle of the summer, we all decide to go to a house party that almost our entire high school class was attending. It was the rager to end all ragers — One last time to get shitface wasted with the friends we had grown up with, and were about to leave.

Maybe if I hadn’t gotten so drunk that night, all of this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I had just kept my cool, and stayed somewhat sober, I would be writing about a fun party I went to instead of this nightmare.

But hindsight is 20/20, right?

“I love you guys SO MUCH!!” Sarah exclaimed as she chased another shot of cheap whiskey with a diet Dr. Pepper. Our entire gang — except Jack, who was “dominating” in beer pong — was sitting out on the porch outside the hot, sweaty house.

“I hate all of you,” Chloe replied sardonically as she took a sip from her shiny silver flask.

“Do you want something to go with that?” Todd asked, handing her a Coke.

“Nah,” Chloe replied. “I like my liquor the way I like my men — straight. Which is why I won’t sleep with you, no matter how much I drink.”

We all burst out in hysterical laughter.

“I wasn’t supposed to get this drunk,” I laughed, leaning into Sarah. “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon.”

“What time?” Sarah asked.

“Ummmmm,” I mumbled as I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “1:30pm on Saturday the 14th,” I answered. “Could be worse I guess, but I’m not sure I’ll be feeling 100% by 1:00pm.”

We all laughed.

“WAIT!” Sarah exclaimed, as if she had remembered something invaluably important. “Wasn’t it Friday the 13th that that weird janitor warned us to NEVER visit the green mansion???”

“That old creep?” Todd replied, “Yeah, but who cares what he said.”

“WE SHOULD DO IT!” Sarah said, basically yelling at this point. “We gotta do it before we all move away, or we NEVER WILL!”

“Oh my god girl,” Chloe replied. “You are SLOPPY drunk right now.”

“I’LL GO GET JACK AND WE’LL GO!” Sarah said, and jumped up to run back into the house.

beetlejuice

A few minutes later, we were all walking down the road toward this mansion. The walk itself is a little fuzzy for me — like I said, I had a few drinks — and my memory doesn’t really snap back into focus until we approach the ominous hill where the green mansion is perched.

As we had gotten older, the building had grown older too. Some of the rotten black shutters fell off, and the green paint peeled even further down the sides.

We were all standing at the gate at the bottom of the hill upon which the house was perched. For a moment, we all paused.

“Well, what are we waiting for!?” Sarah exclaimed as she threw open the rusty iron gate and casually walked on through.

The rest of us hesitantly followed, as a gentle (unseasonably) cold breeze blew against us, as if urging us to return back through the gates and away from this place. But we didn’t.

The hill wasn’t as steep as it appeared from the road, and I remember a surreal feeling passing over me, as I finally approached the building that I had watched sit stagnantly for my entire life. The subject of our childhood stories and games was mere yards, now mere feet, in front of us.

“Hurry up, slow pokes!” Sarah yelled as she gasped out of breath at the top of the hill.

“Are you going to touch it?” Todd asked mockingly, as we all caught up to Sarah.

“We should all do it together,” Jack suggested with a chuckle.

“One last act of solidarity before we all go our separate ways in life!” I chimed in with a laugh.

The house was probably only about twenty feet in front of us. It had always looked impressive, but by standing right in front of it I felt very very small indeed.

“Okay you fucks,” Chloe grunted, “Let’s get this over with so I can go to bed.”

“We’ll have to go back and tell the janitor that we survived!” Todd exclaimed excitedly.

“I’m not going back to that High School even if you paid me a million dollars,” Chloe responded with a grunt as we all began to walk forward. A few steps later, we were right in front of the mansion. The walls appeared rotting, with ants making their home where the walls met the soft, damp dirt.

“Okay,” Sarah said. “Let’s do this on five.”

She paused as we all stretch out our arms.

“One. Two. Three. Four. FIVE!”

At once, we all lunged forward and pressed our palms against the mansion.

“WE DID IT!!” Sarah yelled, pulling her long blonde hair behind her head.

“Am I still alive?” Todd said, having apparently kept his eyes shut.

“Shut up, you idiot.” Chloe responded as she hit him over the head with her hand.

Suddenly, overpowering all our voices, we heard an extremely loud howl.

“What. The. Fuck. Was. That.” Sarah whispered slowly.

“It was a wolf, haven’t you heard them your whole damn life?” Jack growled.

“It sounded really really close,” Sarah stammered.

“That’s because of how sound travels,” Jack dismissed.

“Anyway,” Todd said, probably more nervously than he wanted to let on. “We might as well get going.”

We all turned away from the house and began walking down the hill back to the road. We had only made it a few yards, however, when the sharp wolf howl pierced our ears yet again. And it sounded even closer now.

“Just keep walking,” Jack mumbled. “It’s probably still miles away.”

“You really think so Jack?” Sarah responded, her voice crackling on the verges of pure terror.

“Yes, Sarah, I really really think so.”

“Do you think that that wolf is miles away?” She responded, pointing down the hill.

My heartbeat stopped as my eyes — seemingly in slow motion — turned toward where she pointed. There, at the base of the hill, a savage-looking wolf was prowling, slowly, in our direction.

Flickr / Nathan Siemers
Flickr / Nathan Siemers

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Todd cried as we all stumbled a few steps back.

It was probably only owning to the wolf’s glowing eyes that Sarah had seen him at all. He was clothed in jet-black fur, frequently turning his head back and forth…as if listening for something. Or someone.

We kept slowly backing up, until Chloe tripped over some brush and fell right onto her back.

“Fuck,” she said softly as the wolf’s head abruptly turned toward us.

It was almost as if the world was conspiring against us at this point, as the cloud cover moved on past the moon, leading a bright ray of light shining over the landscape. The wolf connected eyes with me (or at least I think it did?) and it suddenly started galloping toward us.

“RUN!” Todd yelled. “RUN!”

Chloe had gotten up off the ground, and we all sprinted back up the hill toward the house.

“Down the other side of the hill!” Jack gasped as we all sprinted as fast as our alcohol-riddled bodies would let us. As we ran past the house, and down the other side of the hill, we saw movement down the other side. We slowed.

“It’s another effin’ wolf,” Jack gasped.

“We are going to die,” Sarah breathed softly as we heard yet another howl in the distance.

The new wolf, at the base of this side of the hill, took off running toward us as well now.

“RUN!” Todd commanded yet again.

“WHERE??” Sarah cried, with tears pouring down her face. “There’s nowhere to run!!”

“INTO THE HOUSE!” I exclaimed, the idea having shot into my mind with the ferocity of a bullet from a gun.

“ARE YOU CRAZY!?” Sarah yelled again, as we ran across the hill, perpendicular from the front door.

“Do you have a better idea!” I yelled as the first wolf rounded up the top of the hill and began sprinting toward us.

“NOPE! Into the house!” Chloe breathed as we all ran. Every second seemed like an hour as my legs moved faster than I ever imagined they could. We eventually leapt onto the dilapidated porch and I slammed into the front door, trying to juggle the door-knob, but to no avail.

“It’s locked,” I spat.

“Let me try,” Jack said as he pulled on the door.

“Try pushing it!” Todd supplied as he slammed his body into it. The door wasn’t budging.

“GUYS HURRY!” Sarah yelled as three wolves converged together at the top of the hill and began prowling toward the house.

“Let me do this,” Chloe said, pulling a bobby-pin out of her long hair. “I’ve seen this work on TV.”

“Oh well then it WILL definitely work!” Jack replied.

“Just get the hell out of my way,” Chloe demanded as she shoved her bobby pin into the lock. After a few seconds, we heard a soft click.

“I think I got it!”

The tiny, soft little click had done something to the wolves too, however. Suddenly they took off at full speed — right toward us.

“INSIDE NOW!” Chloe exclaimed, and she didn’t need to offer any further urging. We all leapt into the door as the wolves leapt onto the porch and, almost in unison, turned to slam the door shut.

For a brief moment we heard them gnawing and clawing at the door, but then all was silent, except for Sarah’s loud crying.

“Are they gone?” Todd asked, breaking the quiet.

“Give it another minute,” Jack replied, resting his back against the door.

“What the fuck was that?” Sarah asked, wiping her eye with her sleeve. “They were after us.”

“They weren’t after us,” Jack replied cooly. “We just got caught in the middle of their hunt.”

“Jack, that thing looked right at me,” Sarah responded. “It was after me, it was after all of us.”

“Don’t let this place freak you out,” Jack replied condescendingly. “They were wolves. We were a potential dinner. Now we just have to wait for them to move on.”

Todd got up and walked over toward a window and peered out: “I don’t see them anymore. I think they’re gone.”

“Alright, let’s get the hell out of here,” Chloe said as she stood up and pulled on the door. It didn’t budge.

“What is with this door?” She asked insistently.

“Let me get it,” Jack replied impatiently. But even after a few minutes of pushing and pulling, he couldn’t get the door open.

“What the heck,” Todd exclaimed as he activated the flashlight on his iPhone and began looking around the room.

“We must have damaged it when we slammed it that hard,” Jack rationalized.

“Or,” Sarah paused hysterically. “It’s because this is an evil house and we never should have come here!”

“Will you pull yourself together, Sarah?” Chloe asked.

“Remember what the janitor said??”

“Sarah,” Chloe interrupted her, “Listen to yourself. Remember what the janitor said. Listen to some crazy old janitor who collects his favorite broom trays in the corner of the high school basement. This is freaky, I get it, but we have to get through it. Okay?”

“I think the hallway is over here,” Todd said as he shined his iPhone light down a long expanse of darkness. I pulled out my phone light as well, trying to get my first really good look of the house’s interior. Dust accumulated on old portraits of old people, and greasy mirrors lined the hallway that my light could not see the end of. A board of wood stood leaning against the wall, and a single lightbulb hung from the ceiling.

Flickr / Mark Hanlen
Flickr / Mark Hanlen

“This place must have been looted a thousand times over,” Jack mumbled to me.

“I wonder why the pictures weren’t stolen?” I asked quietly.

Jack walked over to the wall and tapped one with his finger. It didn’t move. He hit it with his hand — still nothing. Finally, he pulled at one of the photos that had a young girl but it still did not budge.

“Hmmm, must have had some intense adhesive,” Jack mused.

“Wait!” Todd interjected suddenly. “My phone’s battery is down to 1%!”

“Mine too,” Chloe responded with a puzzled note in her voice.

I looked down at my phone, the source of my light, and it too was registering at 1% battery life remaining.

“It was literally at 53% just a second ago!” Todd exclaimed.

“Is there a lamp or something we can light?” I asked everyone.

“Nothing I see,” Jack responded, frantically looking around. We were in the middle of the long, dark hallway and only the faintest refractions of moonlight would make it to us.

We began walking more quickly down the hallway, but before we made it to even past the next row of paintings, our phones went dead, plunging us into the darkest of darknesses.

“Stay together,” Jack commanded as Sarah cried out.

Even after a minute to adjust my eyes, I still could barely make out anything as we began slowly shuffling down the hallway toward the end of the hallway.

The darkness was intoxicating and I felt myself begin to zone out and just go through the basic motions of walking. After what seemed like an eternity, the hallway finally ended into a dead end.

“I think there’s a door here on the righthand side!” Jack exclaimed as he pushed it open into yet another dark room. I followed behind Jack, with Chloe, Sarah, and Todd behind me.

“Get off me Todd!” Sarah said irately as she followed us through the open door.

“Seriously! Get off me!” Sarah yelled, as we heard a thump on the ground.

“Todd?” Chloe asked. “What are you doing??”

“Hey! My phone’s battery is working again!” I exclaimed as I turned it on and shined it toward Todd and Sarah.

Sarah had scampered away to the wall, and Todd was laying face down on the floor.

“Todd?” Jack asked as he poked him on the back. “Todd?”

He then pulled his body toward him and flipped it over, before we all cried out in horror.

Todd’s face was locked in a state of terror, with a the hilt of a knife jagged out from his ribcage. He was dead.

“Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!” Sarah cried, and even Jack turned away.

“I’m gonna hurl,” Chloe said quietly.

“What happened here?” Jack asked, taking an aggressive step toward Sarah. “What the FUCK happened?”

“I…don’t…know!” Sarah said. We were walking down the hallway, and I felt a cold breeze brush right by me, and then when we went through the doorway Todd was on-top of me. I didn’t do anything.”

“Oh, so a breeze killed Todd? A nice cold breeze!?” Jack asked.

“Leave her alone Jack,” Chloe demanded taking a step toward Jack. “She doesn’t know what happened.”

“Our friend is DEAD! One minute ago he’s alive, and now he’s dead, and you’re telling me to fucking calm down?? Jesus fucking Christ, how did he die?”

“Maybe the knife was sticking out of the wall or something?” Chloe suggested. “You aren’t seriously suggesting that Sarah was the one who killed him, are you?”

“I don’t know what I’m suggesting…” Jack trailed off, sniffing up tears. “I just know my friend, our friend, is dead.”

“We have to keep going,” I said. “We have to get out of here and call the police.”

“What should we do with Todd?” Jack asked.

“Leave him,” Chloe responded. “We gotta keep going. Now.”

With my racing heartbeat finally slowing, I got a good look at the room. It appeared to be some sort of office, with a very large and very old desk sitting near the back. I began shining my phone light (which also had its battery power restored) across the walls, looking at the various ornaments. Whichever looters had visited the main portion of the house had never gotten here. The wall was bespectacled with ancient portraits and old electric lamps.

For some reason, there was something on the desk that caught my attention. I walked over to it, turning my light over the old fragments of papers.

“What are you looking at?” Jack asked softly, approaching from behind me.

“This.” I said solemnly.

“So, people died here at some point,” Jack said as he finished reading the old piece of parchment.

“People were murdered here at some point,” Chloe corrected.

“And are still getting murdered,” Sarah chimed in, still leaning against the floor on the ground by the entryway.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said, stuffing the old article in my back pocket.

We carefully navigated across the room, where there was a door on the other side. There was no way we were going back into that damn hallway, so Jack opened this other door which, upon first glance, appeared to be some sort of waiting room with a receptionists’ desk against the wall right next to the door.

“Whoever the original owner was here, he was apparently important enough to have a fucking waiting room in his house,” Jack growled.

“That means there must be an exit somewhere nearby!” Chloe exclaimed. We shone our lights through the room, with layers of ancient dust flying into the air, causing Sarah to cough.

We reached the end of the room. There were two doors.

“What do we do?” Sarah asked.

“Our goal has to be to get out of here as quickly as possible,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I think we have to split up.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Sarah said. “That’s how people die in horror movies. We have to stick together.”

“This isn’t a movie, Sarah. This isn’t a game,” Jack replied firmly. “We have to get out of here, and we have to do it fast. The quickest way we can be sure that we do that is by splitting up.”

“I agree,” I sighed. “Jack and I will go through the right door here, and Chloe and Sarah, you guys can go through the other door. When we find something we call each other.”

“What if our phones go out again?” Chloe asked.

“Hopefully they don’t,” Jack replied, running his hands through his short brown hair.

“Okay,” I added, sensing that nobody would actually want to do this. “Let’s go now.”

Jack and I walked through our assigned door into yet another dark hallway.

“Stay close,” Jack mumbled.

“I’m surprised you were willing to part with Chloe,” I said, trying to bring some levity into this pretty shitty situation.

“I’ve been over her for ages man,” Jack replied, trying to stop himself from breaking a smile. “This situation is just so fucked up I can’t handle it.”

We were both surprised when the hallway suddenly opened up into a huge kitchen area. It was a gigantic room, with at least three different ovens and four different island-counters were cooks could prepare food. This place must have required five or six people to run it at full efficiency, at least.

“Wow, this is elaborate,” Jack replied.

“Over there!” I pointed. “A door!”

At the far end of the room was a rickety door. The bottom half seemed to be made of some sort of rotting wood, but the top was a thin pane of glass.

Jack had run to the door, “It’s locked!”

“Hold on,” I said, my eyes falling on a large walk-in pantry on the other side of the room. “Let me see if I can get something to break the glass.”

I heard Jack repeatedly try to bang open the door as I rushed into the pantry. I looked up and down for a rolling pin, or axe, or whatever the hell we could use to bust open this damn door.

I found myself practically zoning out while scanning the dozens of shelves and crannies in the room. I lose focus, and after what seemed like an eternity, I was startled by a bloodcurdling scream. It was Sarah.

I ran out of the pantry like a bat out of hell.

“Where have you been??” Jack yelled. “Let’s GO!”

We ran back down the hallway and into the reception area, and through the other door.

“Sarah!? Sarah!?” Jack yelled. “Where are you!?”

“Over here!” We heard Sarah’s voice echo through muffled tears.

“Sarah? What’s happening?” Jack yelled, shining his light frantically.

“Chloe, I…I…don’t know what happened, but she vanished!”

“What?” Jack yelled. “Did you leave her?”

“No!” Sarah cried. “She was literally here one minute, and gone the next.”

I shone my light around the room. We appeared to be in some kind of game room with a dusty pool table in the center, and different pool sticks mounted around the wall.

“People don’t disappear,” Jack mused. “She has to be around here somewhere.”

We all started walking around the side of the room. There was one door leading out of the room, but I followed my instincts to a closet. I turned the handle and slowly opened the door. I shined my light into the space and saw a female body hanging from the coat rack. There was a coarse rope tied around her neck, with her face frozen in an almost panicked state.

“What’s over there?” Sarah asked before walking over and seeing what I discovered.

“NO!”

“Holy holy shit,” Jack spat as he ran over.

“How did this happen Sarah?”

“I told you!” Sarah yelled at Jack. “I have no freaken’ idea! She just vanished!”

“Really?” Jack asked with an increasingly high-pitched voice. “Because you are the only person here to have been with both of our friends second before they were killed!”

“It wasn’t her, Jack, lay off!” I replied angrily. “We don’t know what is going on, but we know for sure that Sarah would never hurt anyone!”

“We found an exit,” Jack said, clearly changing the topic. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”

We retreated back through the reception area, and into the kitchen.

“Did you find anything in the pantry to break this glass?” Jack asked me.

“No, I didn’t see anything. Just old boxes and shit,” I replied.

“I couldn’t get it open!” Jack exclaimed hysterically. “But I found a door to the basement! There has to be an axe or something in the basement!”

Jack led us to a dark doorway (with no door?) that had a long descent of stone steps. Sarah and I followed him gingerly as we used lights to try to gleam what was around us. A lot of empty space was around us.

“We have to find a hammer, or axe, or something!” Jack basically shouted.

We were all looking around frantically to find something, anything. I walked over with my light to a pile of boxes and began shifting them around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. An axe. I was about to call out when suddenly I began zoning out, staring at the axe and the stone wall right behind it. It felt like an eternity passed with me in that place, It felt like actual days had passed when suddenly I felt a hard object hit my back.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING MAN?” Jack screamed at me. My surroundings had changed, I didn’t know where I was. I tried to regain my senses, but I felt a peculiar sensation, as if I was slowly being drifted into a peaceful sleep.

“STOP!” Jack kept yelling. I realized that the axe was in my hand. I was on top of someone. Was it Sarah? I tried to pull myself to awareness, but the lull of sleepy bliss was almost too much to resist. I summoned my strongest burst of willpower, and for a moment, saw the scene clearly before my eyes. I was kneeling on top of Sarah’s legs, her body visibly unconscious from some kind of blunt trauma. Jack was continuously hitting at me with a metal pipe. For almost a moment I thought I would be able to get up and walk away from the horrific place, but suddenly I was overcome with something else. Not a soporific lull, but a violent presence.

It ripped through my every fiber, and sent my nerves screaming. It was a pain that tugged at the fabric of my soul, and sent tears streaming down my dirt-smudged face.

I was left with my consciousness, but my physical movements were absolutely not my own. So I had to watch myself raise the axe high above my head, poised to strike my friend. I aggressively tried to look away, but the demonic force would not allow it. It simply would not let me. I was made to watch myself bring the axe straight down into the head of Sarah, blood squirting in all directions. I felt numb to everything, to anything — it couldn’t be real. It couldn’t.

“You motherfucker, you son of a bitch!” Jack yelled at me, as I turned to face him. My body seemed immune to anything he did to me, no matter how much he swung his pipe into my head, I marched toward him. I wanted to stop. I had to stop. But I couldn’t stop.

I connected eyes with him, and I just hoped he could see the helplessness I felt. I still hope that to this day.

As I rose the axe to use against Jack, a vaulting force tackled into me, knocking me off balance.

Surprised, I looked up, hoping to see an angel. Far from it. It was the old night-shift janitor from the school. He stood grizzled, with a thick rod in his hand.

“You gotta fight it, kid!” He yelled at me. “There’s gotta be a way to beat it!”

But my body kept moving without my consent. The old man stood between me and Jack.

“Take me, Satan. Take me.” He ordered solemnly. “I’m the one who deserves it! Right here, right here in the heart,” he continued, thumping his chest.

I kept advancing, and pushed him aside, proceeding onto Jack.

I watched myself knock him out cold with the blunt end, and raise my axe to finish him. But then, without warning, I felt a tinge of power to resist. So the axe fell slowly, only part way. Then I wrested myself away, throwing my body onto the ground as the evil force attempted to rise.

“It’s the sunrise!” The janitor exclaimed as he pointed to a small window that was just barely above ground. “Keep fighting it off, son! Keep fighting it!”

I felt myself gain almost full control of my body! Confidently, I stood up and prepared to throw the axe aside. However, as I took one tiny step forward, the lingering demonic force inside me caused me to trip, sending the axe flying forward out of my hand, and — almost in slow motion — straight into Jack’s slumped over chest.

“No,” I whispered softly as I crumbled to the ground. I knew the horror was over, but the horror had been me.

The janitor looked away, downcast.

“Who are you?” I asked quietly. It was the only thing I could ask.

“My name,” the man replied equally quietly, “Is Ashton Boulevard.”

I perked up at that name.

“The boy who survived the murders?”

“Yes, yes, the boy who survived the murders,” an ancient Ashton replied bitterly.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“When the police found me,” Ashton explained, “I was sleeping in my bed, peaceful as could be, but covered in all the victims’ blood. The county considered prosecuting me, but I was 9-years-old and I guess they thought there was some other explanation for it, plus the whole thing was a snafu for the law enforcement. So they let me go.”

“Years later I was determined to find out who was guilty for the murders of my parents and sisters. I investigated every corner of this house, and demanded the county unseal the records of the police investigation years before. My research eventually led me to the killer. Me.

I thought about killing myself. But something kept me alive, the fact that I knew, deep down, I would never murder anyone. So I also started doing a lot of research on this house. It was known as the mansion where families went to die. Nobody lasted longer than a year in the Green Hill Manor. Nobody. And so I took the place back from the bank, and swore that I would protect the world from this house forever.”

“I wish I could have protected you,” He cried solemnly.

beetlejuice

He helped me bury the bodies in the basement. Nobody would find them there. I tried to get more information out of him, but he barely said another word. We parted ways at the end of the night, and never spoke again.

When people asked where I last saw Chloe, Todd, Sarah, or Jack, I told them that we parted ways at the base of the hill. Nobody ever doubted me, and after one quick interview with the local police I was let go.

The next few years I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I didn’t make any new friends, and tried to have as little contact with people as possible. I eventually blurted the whole horrific story out to one of my therapists, and she had me committed to a three month stint in an in-patient rehabilitation facility where I was “cured” of my delusions. But I still know what really happened.

A few weeks ago Ashton Boulevard died — I saw the notice in the Village Paper. A day later I received a letter in the mail stuffed with official-looking documents. In his Will the man had left me the Green Mansion.

Today you can find me at the Lordestown High School. I work the night shifts as a custodian there. And I’m writing this in an attempt to tell my story to as many people as possible, to make sure that whatever happened to me never ever happens again. TC mark

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Flickr / / // /
Flickr / / // /

In my hometown there is a giant house perched on a hill right on the corner of Alan Street and Hitcherson Road that you should never approach on Friday the 13th.

It is a menacing mansion, with rotten black shutters hugging its clouded windows, and peeling green paint that never ceased to fascinate me as a little boy. My parents would drive past it on the way to the supermarket, and my eyes would become fixated upon its every window and two lofty towers.

I grew up in the small village of Lordestown — where very little was remarkable, so us kids would often talk about the mansion while playing in the schoolyard. There were so many crazy stories associated with the house that they were hard to all keep track of. Todd claimed that his runaway dog had chased a squirrel into the mansion — to never come back. Jack says that the mansion used to be the home of an eccentric doctor who experimented on his patients in the house’s gaming room. Claire said that the house’s builder had been killed during the mansion’s construction, and wanted nobody to live there in peace.

And we all ate this shit up. Every Halloween we joked about going up to the house and giving it a touch, sometimes when we were exceptionally brave we talked about venturing inside. Jack would tease Sarah about the mansion until she cried. Chloe would end up shoving him on his ass and then we’d all laugh and forget about the scary place that sat right up the road from our neighborhood like a dormant volcano.

beetlejuice

Years passed, and jokes about the old house perched on the hill eventually faded. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that the green mansion came up in conversation again. A group of my closest friends and I were sitting in the hallway after school, just shooting the breeze, when somebody (I think Sarah?) mentioned that it was a few days before Halloween and whether someone would actually have the balls to go up to the notorious building. We all laughed, obsessed with our own nostalgia, and kept joking about the house up until the point we where we were interrupted by the school’s elderly night-shift janitor.

“It’s not visiting that house on Halloween that you have to worry about,” he mumbled through his long, white beard.

Our conversation stopped immediately, as if he had screamed at us rather than utter a small phrase barely above the volume of a whisper.

“What did you say?” My best friend Jack demanded.

“Nothing will happen to you if you visit the house on Halloween,” The old janitor croaked. He was wearing a typical blue custodial outfit, and his long white hair matched his white beard, tied back behind his head in an elaborate ponytail.

“Okay, thanks for the advice,” our friend Chloe chimed in, twirling her fingers through her long jet-black hair. “As much as I’d love to visit some creepy dank old building, I think I’ll be okay just…not.”

“Just don’t visit the house on Friday the 13th.” The old man finished as if Chloe hadn’t even spoken. “For your sake, do not approach that hill, or that mansion, on any Friday 13th.”

As the old man slinked off, we all stood dumbfounded.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Todd exclaimed in disbelief.

“Just ignore him,” Chloe responded dismissively, “I’m pretty sure I walked in on him jacking off in the janitor’s closet when Mrs. Cook sent me to get some paper towels. He’s an old crank.”

beetlejuice

Months go by, and both the mansion itself, and the conversation with the crazy janitor quickly falls from our minds. One-by-one, my friends and I get accepted to various schools from around the country. Only Todd and I are attending the same college, both having been accepted to a prestigious engineering university in Indiana.

After graduation, toward the middle of the summer, we all decide to go to a house party that almost our entire high school class was attending. It was the rager to end all ragers — One last time to get shitface wasted with the friends we had grown up with, and were about to leave.

Maybe if I hadn’t gotten so drunk that night, all of this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I had just kept my cool, and stayed somewhat sober, I would be writing about a fun party I went to instead of this nightmare.

But hindsight is 20/20, right?

“I love you guys SO MUCH!!” Sarah exclaimed as she chased another shot of cheap whiskey with a diet Dr. Pepper. Our entire gang — except Jack, who was “dominating” in beer pong — was sitting out on the porch outside the hot, sweaty house.

“I hate all of you,” Chloe replied sardonically as she took a sip from her shiny silver flask.

“Do you want something to go with that?” Todd asked, handing her a Coke.

“Nah,” Chloe replied. “I like my liquor the way I like my men — straight. Which is why I won’t sleep with you, no matter how much I drink.”

We all burst out in hysterical laughter.

“I wasn’t supposed to get this drunk,” I laughed, leaning into Sarah. “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon.”

“What time?” Sarah asked.

“Ummmmm,” I mumbled as I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “1:30pm on Saturday the 14th,” I answered. “Could be worse I guess, but I’m not sure I’ll be feeling 100% by 1:00pm.”

We all laughed.

“WAIT!” Sarah exclaimed, as if she had remembered something invaluably important. “Wasn’t it Friday the 13th that that weird janitor warned us to NEVER visit the green mansion???”

“That old creep?” Todd replied, “Yeah, but who cares what he said.”

“WE SHOULD DO IT!” Sarah said, basically yelling at this point. “We gotta do it before we all move away, or we NEVER WILL!”

“Oh my god girl,” Chloe replied. “You are SLOPPY drunk right now.”

“I’LL GO GET JACK AND WE’LL GO!” Sarah said, and jumped up to run back into the house.

beetlejuice

A few minutes later, we were all walking down the road toward this mansion. The walk itself is a little fuzzy for me — like I said, I had a few drinks — and my memory doesn’t really snap back into focus until we approach the ominous hill where the green mansion is perched.

As we had gotten older, the building had grown older too. Some of the rotten black shutters fell off, and the green paint peeled even further down the sides.

We were all standing at the gate at the bottom of the hill upon which the house was perched. For a moment, we all paused.

“Well, what are we waiting for!?” Sarah exclaimed as she threw open the rusty iron gate and casually walked on through.

The rest of us hesitantly followed, as a gentle (unseasonably) cold breeze blew against us, as if urging us to return back through the gates and away from this place. But we didn’t.

The hill wasn’t as steep as it appeared from the road, and I remember a surreal feeling passing over me, as I finally approached the building that I had watched sit stagnantly for my entire life. The subject of our childhood stories and games was mere yards, now mere feet, in front of us.

“Hurry up, slow pokes!” Sarah yelled as she gasped out of breath at the top of the hill.

“Are you going to touch it?” Todd asked mockingly, as we all caught up to Sarah.

“We should all do it together,” Jack suggested with a chuckle.

“One last act of solidarity before we all go our separate ways in life!” I chimed in with a laugh.

The house was probably only about twenty feet in front of us. It had always looked impressive, but by standing right in front of it I felt very very small indeed.

“Okay you fucks,” Chloe grunted, “Let’s get this over with so I can go to bed.”

“We’ll have to go back and tell the janitor that we survived!” Todd exclaimed excitedly.

“I’m not going back to that High School even if you paid me a million dollars,” Chloe responded with a grunt as we all began to walk forward. A few steps later, we were right in front of the mansion. The walls appeared rotting, with ants making their home where the walls met the soft, damp dirt.

“Okay,” Sarah said. “Let’s do this on five.”

She paused as we all stretch out our arms.

“One. Two. Three. Four. FIVE!”

At once, we all lunged forward and pressed our palms against the mansion.

“WE DID IT!!” Sarah yelled, pulling her long blonde hair behind her head.

“Am I still alive?” Todd said, having apparently kept his eyes shut.

“Shut up, you idiot.” Chloe responded as she hit him over the head with her hand.

Suddenly, overpowering all our voices, we heard an extremely loud howl.

“What. The. Fuck. Was. That.” Sarah whispered slowly.

“It was a wolf, haven’t you heard them your whole damn life?” Jack growled.

“It sounded really really close,” Sarah stammered.

“That’s because of how sound travels,” Jack dismissed.

“Anyway,” Todd said, probably more nervously than he wanted to let on. “We might as well get going.”

We all turned away from the house and began walking down the hill back to the road. We had only made it a few yards, however, when the sharp wolf howl pierced our ears yet again. And it sounded even closer now.

“Just keep walking,” Jack mumbled. “It’s probably still miles away.”

“You really think so Jack?” Sarah responded, her voice crackling on the verges of pure terror.

“Yes, Sarah, I really really think so.”

“Do you think that that wolf is miles away?” She responded, pointing down the hill.

My heartbeat stopped as my eyes — seemingly in slow motion — turned toward where she pointed. There, at the base of the hill, a savage-looking wolf was prowling, slowly, in our direction.

Flickr / Nathan Siemers
Flickr / Nathan Siemers

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Todd cried as we all stumbled a few steps back.

It was probably only owning to the wolf’s glowing eyes that Sarah had seen him at all. He was clothed in jet-black fur, frequently turning his head back and forth…as if listening for something. Or someone.

We kept slowly backing up, until Chloe tripped over some brush and fell right onto her back.

“Fuck,” she said softly as the wolf’s head abruptly turned toward us.

It was almost as if the world was conspiring against us at this point, as the cloud cover moved on past the moon, leading a bright ray of light shining over the landscape. The wolf connected eyes with me (or at least I think it did?) and it suddenly started galloping toward us.

“RUN!” Todd yelled. “RUN!”

Chloe had gotten up off the ground, and we all sprinted back up the hill toward the house.

“Down the other side of the hill!” Jack gasped as we all sprinted as fast as our alcohol-riddled bodies would let us. As we ran past the house, and down the other side of the hill, we saw movement down the other side. We slowed.

“It’s another effin’ wolf,” Jack gasped.

“We are going to die,” Sarah breathed softly as we heard yet another howl in the distance.

The new wolf, at the base of this side of the hill, took off running toward us as well now.

“RUN!” Todd commanded yet again.

“WHERE??” Sarah cried, with tears pouring down her face. “There’s nowhere to run!!”

“INTO THE HOUSE!” I exclaimed, the idea having shot into my mind with the ferocity of a bullet from a gun.

“ARE YOU CRAZY!?” Sarah yelled again, as we ran across the hill, perpendicular from the front door.

“Do you have a better idea!” I yelled as the first wolf rounded up the top of the hill and began sprinting toward us.

“NOPE! Into the house!” Chloe breathed as we all ran. Every second seemed like an hour as my legs moved faster than I ever imagined they could. We eventually leapt onto the dilapidated porch and I slammed into the front door, trying to juggle the door-knob, but to no avail.

“It’s locked,” I spat.

“Let me try,” Jack said as he pulled on the door.

“Try pushing it!” Todd supplied as he slammed his body into it. The door wasn’t budging.

“GUYS HURRY!” Sarah yelled as three wolves converged together at the top of the hill and began prowling toward the house.

“Let me do this,” Chloe said, pulling a bobby-pin out of her long hair. “I’ve seen this work on TV.”

“Oh well then it WILL definitely work!” Jack replied.

“Just get the hell out of my way,” Chloe demanded as she shoved her bobby pin into the lock. After a few seconds, we heard a soft click.

“I think I got it!”

The tiny, soft little click had done something to the wolves too, however. Suddenly they took off at full speed — right toward us.

“INSIDE NOW!” Chloe exclaimed, and she didn’t need to offer any further urging. We all leapt into the door as the wolves leapt onto the porch and, almost in unison, turned to slam the door shut.

For a brief moment we heard them gnawing and clawing at the door, but then all was silent, except for Sarah’s loud crying.

“Are they gone?” Todd asked, breaking the quiet.

“Give it another minute,” Jack replied, resting his back against the door.

“What the fuck was that?” Sarah asked, wiping her eye with her sleeve. “They were after us.”

“They weren’t after us,” Jack replied cooly. “We just got caught in the middle of their hunt.”

“Jack, that thing looked right at me,” Sarah responded. “It was after me, it was after all of us.”

“Don’t let this place freak you out,” Jack replied condescendingly. “They were wolves. We were a potential dinner. Now we just have to wait for them to move on.”

Todd got up and walked over toward a window and peered out: “I don’t see them anymore. I think they’re gone.”

“Alright, let’s get the hell out of here,” Chloe said as she stood up and pulled on the door. It didn’t budge.

“What is with this door?” She asked insistently.

“Let me get it,” Jack replied impatiently. But even after a few minutes of pushing and pulling, he couldn’t get the door open.

“What the heck,” Todd exclaimed as he activated the flashlight on his iPhone and began looking around the room.

“We must have damaged it when we slammed it that hard,” Jack rationalized.

“Or,” Sarah paused hysterically. “It’s because this is an evil house and we never should have come here!”

“Will you pull yourself together, Sarah?” Chloe asked.

“Remember what the janitor said??”

“Sarah,” Chloe interrupted her, “Listen to yourself. Remember what the janitor said. Listen to some crazy old janitor who collects his favorite broom trays in the corner of the high school basement. This is freaky, I get it, but we have to get through it. Okay?”

“I think the hallway is over here,” Todd said as he shined his iPhone light down a long expanse of darkness. I pulled out my phone light as well, trying to get my first really good look of the house’s interior. Dust accumulated on old portraits of old people, and greasy mirrors lined the hallway that my light could not see the end of. A board of wood stood leaning against the wall, and a single lightbulb hung from the ceiling.

Flickr / Mark Hanlen
Flickr / Mark Hanlen

“This place must have been looted a thousand times over,” Jack mumbled to me.

“I wonder why the pictures weren’t stolen?” I asked quietly.

Jack walked over to the wall and tapped one with his finger. It didn’t move. He hit it with his hand — still nothing. Finally, he pulled at one of the photos that had a young girl but it still did not budge.

“Hmmm, must have had some intense adhesive,” Jack mused.

“Wait!” Todd interjected suddenly. “My phone’s battery is down to 1%!”

“Mine too,” Chloe responded with a puzzled note in her voice.

I looked down at my phone, the source of my light, and it too was registering at 1% battery life remaining.

“It was literally at 53% just a second ago!” Todd exclaimed.

“Is there a lamp or something we can light?” I asked everyone.

“Nothing I see,” Jack responded, frantically looking around. We were in the middle of the long, dark hallway and only the faintest refractions of moonlight would make it to us.

We began walking more quickly down the hallway, but before we made it to even past the next row of paintings, our phones went dead, plunging us into the darkest of darknesses.

“Stay together,” Jack commanded as Sarah cried out.

Even after a minute to adjust my eyes, I still could barely make out anything as we began slowly shuffling down the hallway toward the end of the hallway.

The darkness was intoxicating and I felt myself begin to zone out and just go through the basic motions of walking. After what seemed like an eternity, the hallway finally ended into a dead end.

“I think there’s a door here on the righthand side!” Jack exclaimed as he pushed it open into yet another dark room. I followed behind Jack, with Chloe, Sarah, and Todd behind me.

“Get off me Todd!” Sarah said irately as she followed us through the open door.

“Seriously! Get off me!” Sarah yelled, as we heard a thump on the ground.

“Todd?” Chloe asked. “What are you doing??”

“Hey! My phone’s battery is working again!” I exclaimed as I turned it on and shined it toward Todd and Sarah.

Sarah had scampered away to the wall, and Todd was laying face down on the floor.

“Todd?” Jack asked as he poked him on the back. “Todd?”

He then pulled his body toward him and flipped it over, before we all cried out in horror.

Todd’s face was locked in a state of terror, with a the hilt of a knife jagged out from his ribcage. He was dead.

“Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!” Sarah cried, and even Jack turned away.

“I’m gonna hurl,” Chloe said quietly.

“What happened here?” Jack asked, taking an aggressive step toward Sarah. “What the FUCK happened?”

“I…don’t…know!” Sarah said. We were walking down the hallway, and I felt a cold breeze brush right by me, and then when we went through the doorway Todd was on-top of me. I didn’t do anything.”

“Oh, so a breeze killed Todd? A nice cold breeze!?” Jack asked.

“Leave her alone Jack,” Chloe demanded taking a step toward Jack. “She doesn’t know what happened.”

“Our friend is DEAD! One minute ago he’s alive, and now he’s dead, and you’re telling me to fucking calm down?? Jesus fucking Christ, how did he die?”

“Maybe the knife was sticking out of the wall or something?” Chloe suggested. “You aren’t seriously suggesting that Sarah was the one who killed him, are you?”

“I don’t know what I’m suggesting…” Jack trailed off, sniffing up tears. “I just know my friend, our friend, is dead.”

“We have to keep going,” I said. “We have to get out of here and call the police.”

“What should we do with Todd?” Jack asked.

“Leave him,” Chloe responded. “We gotta keep going. Now.”

With my racing heartbeat finally slowing, I got a good look at the room. It appeared to be some sort of office, with a very large and very old desk sitting near the back. I began shining my phone light (which also had its battery power restored) across the walls, looking at the various ornaments. Whichever looters had visited the main portion of the house had never gotten here. The wall was bespectacled with ancient portraits and old electric lamps.

For some reason, there was something on the desk that caught my attention. I walked over to it, turning my light over the old fragments of papers.

“What are you looking at?” Jack asked softly, approaching from behind me.

“This.” I said solemnly.

“So, people died here at some point,” Jack said as he finished reading the old piece of parchment.

“People were murdered here at some point,” Chloe corrected.

“And are still getting murdered,” Sarah chimed in, still leaning against the floor on the ground by the entryway.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said, stuffing the old article in my back pocket.

We carefully navigated across the room, where there was a door on the other side. There was no way we were going back into that damn hallway, so Jack opened this other door which, upon first glance, appeared to be some sort of waiting room with a receptionists’ desk against the wall right next to the door.

“Whoever the original owner was here, he was apparently important enough to have a fucking waiting room in his house,” Jack growled.

“That means there must be an exit somewhere nearby!” Chloe exclaimed. We shone our lights through the room, with layers of ancient dust flying into the air, causing Sarah to cough.

We reached the end of the room. There were two doors.

“What do we do?” Sarah asked.

“Our goal has to be to get out of here as quickly as possible,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I think we have to split up.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Sarah said. “That’s how people die in horror movies. We have to stick together.”

“This isn’t a movie, Sarah. This isn’t a game,” Jack replied firmly. “We have to get out of here, and we have to do it fast. The quickest way we can be sure that we do that is by splitting up.”

“I agree,” I sighed. “Jack and I will go through the right door here, and Chloe and Sarah, you guys can go through the other door. When we find something we call each other.”

“What if our phones go out again?” Chloe asked.

“Hopefully they don’t,” Jack replied, running his hands through his short brown hair.

“Okay,” I added, sensing that nobody would actually want to do this. “Let’s go now.”

Jack and I walked through our assigned door into yet another dark hallway.

“Stay close,” Jack mumbled.

“I’m surprised you were willing to part with Chloe,” I said, trying to bring some levity into this pretty shitty situation.

“I’ve been over her for ages man,” Jack replied, trying to stop himself from breaking a smile. “This situation is just so fucked up I can’t handle it.”

We were both surprised when the hallway suddenly opened up into a huge kitchen area. It was a gigantic room, with at least three different ovens and four different island-counters were cooks could prepare food. This place must have required five or six people to run it at full efficiency, at least.

“Wow, this is elaborate,” Jack replied.

“Over there!” I pointed. “A door!”

At the far end of the room was a rickety door. The bottom half seemed to be made of some sort of rotting wood, but the top was a thin pane of glass.

Jack had run to the door, “It’s locked!”

“Hold on,” I said, my eyes falling on a large walk-in pantry on the other side of the room. “Let me see if I can get something to break the glass.”

I heard Jack repeatedly try to bang open the door as I rushed into the pantry. I looked up and down for a rolling pin, or axe, or whatever the hell we could use to bust open this damn door.

I found myself practically zoning out while scanning the dozens of shelves and crannies in the room. I lose focus, and after what seemed like an eternity, I was startled by a bloodcurdling scream. It was Sarah.

I ran out of the pantry like a bat out of hell.

“Where have you been??” Jack yelled. “Let’s GO!”

We ran back down the hallway and into the reception area, and through the other door.

“Sarah!? Sarah!?” Jack yelled. “Where are you!?”

“Over here!” We heard Sarah’s voice echo through muffled tears.

“Sarah? What’s happening?” Jack yelled, shining his light frantically.

“Chloe, I…I…don’t know what happened, but she vanished!”

“What?” Jack yelled. “Did you leave her?”

“No!” Sarah cried. “She was literally here one minute, and gone the next.”

I shone my light around the room. We appeared to be in some kind of game room with a dusty pool table in the center, and different pool sticks mounted around the wall.

“People don’t disappear,” Jack mused. “She has to be around here somewhere.”

We all started walking around the side of the room. There was one door leading out of the room, but I followed my instincts to a closet. I turned the handle and slowly opened the door. I shined my light into the space and saw a female body hanging from the coat rack. There was a coarse rope tied around her neck, with her face frozen in an almost panicked state.

“What’s over there?” Sarah asked before walking over and seeing what I discovered.

“NO!”

“Holy holy shit,” Jack spat as he ran over.

“How did this happen Sarah?”

“I told you!” Sarah yelled at Jack. “I have no freaken’ idea! She just vanished!”

“Really?” Jack asked with an increasingly high-pitched voice. “Because you are the only person here to have been with both of our friends second before they were killed!”

“It wasn’t her, Jack, lay off!” I replied angrily. “We don’t know what is going on, but we know for sure that Sarah would never hurt anyone!”

“We found an exit,” Jack said, clearly changing the topic. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”

We retreated back through the reception area, and into the kitchen.

“Did you find anything in the pantry to break this glass?” Jack asked me.

“No, I didn’t see anything. Just old boxes and shit,” I replied.

“I couldn’t get it open!” Jack exclaimed hysterically. “But I found a door to the basement! There has to be an axe or something in the basement!”

Jack led us to a dark doorway (with no door?) that had a long descent of stone steps. Sarah and I followed him gingerly as we used lights to try to gleam what was around us. A lot of empty space was around us.

“We have to find a hammer, or axe, or something!” Jack basically shouted.

We were all looking around frantically to find something, anything. I walked over with my light to a pile of boxes and began shifting them around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. An axe. I was about to call out when suddenly I began zoning out, staring at the axe and the stone wall right behind it. It felt like an eternity passed with me in that place, It felt like actual days had passed when suddenly I felt a hard object hit my back.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING MAN?” Jack screamed at me. My surroundings had changed, I didn’t know where I was. I tried to regain my senses, but I felt a peculiar sensation, as if I was slowly being drifted into a peaceful sleep.

“STOP!” Jack kept yelling. I realized that the axe was in my hand. I was on top of someone. Was it Sarah? I tried to pull myself to awareness, but the lull of sleepy bliss was almost too much to resist. I summoned my strongest burst of willpower, and for a moment, saw the scene clearly before my eyes. I was kneeling on top of Sarah’s legs, her body visibly unconscious from some kind of blunt trauma. Jack was continuously hitting at me with a metal pipe. For almost a moment I thought I would be able to get up and walk away from the horrific place, but suddenly I was overcome with something else. Not a soporific lull, but a violent presence.

It ripped through my every fiber, and sent my nerves screaming. It was a pain that tugged at the fabric of my soul, and sent tears streaming down my dirt-smudged face.

I was left with my consciousness, but my physical movements were absolutely not my own. So I had to watch myself raise the axe high above my head, poised to strike my friend. I aggressively tried to look away, but the demonic force would not allow it. It simply would not let me. I was made to watch myself bring the axe straight down into the head of Sarah, blood squirting in all directions. I felt numb to everything, to anything — it couldn’t be real. It couldn’t.

“You motherfucker, you son of a bitch!” Jack yelled at me, as I turned to face him. My body seemed immune to anything he did to me, no matter how much he swung his pipe into my head, I marched toward him. I wanted to stop. I had to stop. But I couldn’t stop.

I connected eyes with him, and I just hoped he could see the helplessness I felt. I still hope that to this day.

As I rose the axe to use against Jack, a vaulting force tackled into me, knocking me off balance.

Surprised, I looked up, hoping to see an angel. Far from it. It was the old night-shift janitor from the school. He stood grizzled, with a thick rod in his hand.

“You gotta fight it, kid!” He yelled at me. “There’s gotta be a way to beat it!”

But my body kept moving without my consent. The old man stood between me and Jack.

“Take me, Satan. Take me.” He ordered solemnly. “I’m the one who deserves it! Right here, right here in the heart,” he continued, thumping his chest.

I kept advancing, and pushed him aside, proceeding onto Jack.

I watched myself knock him out cold with the blunt end, and raise my axe to finish him. But then, without warning, I felt a tinge of power to resist. So the axe fell slowly, only part way. Then I wrested myself away, throwing my body onto the ground as the evil force attempted to rise.

“It’s the sunrise!” The janitor exclaimed as he pointed to a small window that was just barely above ground. “Keep fighting it off, son! Keep fighting it!”

I felt myself gain almost full control of my body! Confidently, I stood up and prepared to throw the axe aside. However, as I took one tiny step forward, the lingering demonic force inside me caused me to trip, sending the axe flying forward out of my hand, and — almost in slow motion — straight into Jack’s slumped over chest.

“No,” I whispered softly as I crumbled to the ground. I knew the horror was over, but the horror had been me.

The janitor looked away, downcast.

“Who are you?” I asked quietly. It was the only thing I could ask.

“My name,” the man replied equally quietly, “Is Ashton Boulevard.”

I perked up at that name.

“The boy who survived the murders?”

“Yes, yes, the boy who survived the murders,” an ancient Ashton replied bitterly.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“When the police found me,” Ashton explained, “I was sleeping in my bed, peaceful as could be, but covered in all the victims’ blood. The county considered prosecuting me, but I was 9-years-old and I guess they thought there was some other explanation for it, plus the whole thing was a snafu for the law enforcement. So they let me go.”

“Years later I was determined to find out who was guilty for the murders of my parents and sisters. I investigated every corner of this house, and demanded the county unseal the records of the police investigation years before. My research eventually led me to the killer. Me.

I thought about killing myself. But something kept me alive, the fact that I knew, deep down, I would never murder anyone. So I also started doing a lot of research on this house. It was known as the mansion where families went to die. Nobody lasted longer than a year in the Green Hill Manor. Nobody. And so I took the place back from the bank, and swore that I would protect the world from this house forever.”

“I wish I could have protected you,” He cried solemnly.

beetlejuice

He helped me bury the bodies in the basement. Nobody would find them there. I tried to get more information out of him, but he barely said another word. We parted ways at the end of the night, and never spoke again.

When people asked where I last saw Chloe, Todd, Sarah, or Jack, I told them that we parted ways at the base of the hill. Nobody ever doubted me, and after one quick interview with the local police I was let go.

The next few years I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I didn’t make any new friends, and tried to have as little contact with people as possible. I eventually blurted the whole horrific story out to one of my therapists, and she had me committed to a three month stint in an in-patient rehabilitation facility where I was “cured” of my delusions. But I still know what really happened.

A few weeks ago Ashton Boulevard died — I saw the notice in the Village Paper. A day later I received a letter in the mail stuffed with official-looking documents. In his Will the man had left me the Green Mansion.

Today you can find me at the Lordestown High School. I work the night shifts as a custodian there. And I’m writing this in an attempt to tell my story to as many people as possible, to make sure that whatever happened to me never ever happens again. TC mark

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Flickr / / // /
Flickr / / // /

In my hometown there is a giant house perched on a hill right on the corner of Alan Street and Hitcherson Road that you should never approach on Friday the 13th.

It is a menacing mansion, with rotten black shutters hugging its clouded windows, and peeling green paint that never ceased to fascinate me as a little boy. My parents would drive past it on the way to the supermarket, and my eyes would become fixated upon its every window and two lofty towers.

I grew up in the small village of Lordestown — where very little was remarkable, so us kids would often talk about the mansion while playing in the schoolyard. There were so many crazy stories associated with the house that they were hard to all keep track of. Todd claimed that his runaway dog had chased a squirrel into the mansion — to never come back. Jack says that the mansion used to be the home of an eccentric doctor who experimented on his patients in the house’s gaming room. Claire said that the house’s builder had been killed during the mansion’s construction, and wanted nobody to live there in peace.

And we all ate this shit up. Every Halloween we joked about going up to the house and giving it a touch, sometimes when we were exceptionally brave we talked about venturing inside. Jack would tease Sarah about the mansion until she cried. Chloe would end up shoving him on his ass and then we’d all laugh and forget about the scary place that sat right up the road from our neighborhood like a dormant volcano.

beetlejuice

Years passed, and jokes about the old house perched on the hill eventually faded. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that the green mansion came up in conversation again. A group of my closest friends and I were sitting in the hallway after school, just shooting the breeze, when somebody (I think Sarah?) mentioned that it was a few days before Halloween and whether someone would actually have the balls to go up to the notorious building. We all laughed, obsessed with our own nostalgia, and kept joking about the house up until the point we where we were interrupted by the school’s elderly night-shift janitor.

“It’s not visiting that house on Halloween that you have to worry about,” he mumbled through his long, white beard.

Our conversation stopped immediately, as if he had screamed at us rather than utter a small phrase barely above the volume of a whisper.

“What did you say?” My best friend Jack demanded.

“Nothing will happen to you if you visit the house on Halloween,” The old janitor croaked. He was wearing a typical blue custodial outfit, and his long white hair matched his white beard, tied back behind his head in an elaborate ponytail.

“Okay, thanks for the advice,” our friend Chloe chimed in, twirling her fingers through her long jet-black hair. “As much as I’d love to visit some creepy dank old building, I think I’ll be okay just…not.”

“Just don’t visit the house on Friday the 13th.” The old man finished as if Chloe hadn’t even spoken. “For your sake, do not approach that hill, or that mansion, on any Friday 13th.”

As the old man slinked off, we all stood dumbfounded.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Todd exclaimed in disbelief.

“Just ignore him,” Chloe responded dismissively, “I’m pretty sure I walked in on him jacking off in the janitor’s closet when Mrs. Cook sent me to get some paper towels. He’s an old crank.”

beetlejuice

Months go by, and both the mansion itself, and the conversation with the crazy janitor quickly falls from our minds. One-by-one, my friends and I get accepted to various schools from around the country. Only Todd and I are attending the same college, both having been accepted to a prestigious engineering university in Indiana.

After graduation, toward the middle of the summer, we all decide to go to a house party that almost our entire high school class was attending. It was the rager to end all ragers — One last time to get shitface wasted with the friends we had grown up with, and were about to leave.

Maybe if I hadn’t gotten so drunk that night, all of this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I had just kept my cool, and stayed somewhat sober, I would be writing about a fun party I went to instead of this nightmare.

But hindsight is 20/20, right?

“I love you guys SO MUCH!!” Sarah exclaimed as she chased another shot of cheap whiskey with a diet Dr. Pepper. Our entire gang — except Jack, who was “dominating” in beer pong — was sitting out on the porch outside the hot, sweaty house.

“I hate all of you,” Chloe replied sardonically as she took a sip from her shiny silver flask.

“Do you want something to go with that?” Todd asked, handing her a Coke.

“Nah,” Chloe replied. “I like my liquor the way I like my men — straight. Which is why I won’t sleep with you, no matter how much I drink.”

We all burst out in hysterical laughter.

“I wasn’t supposed to get this drunk,” I laughed, leaning into Sarah. “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon.”

“What time?” Sarah asked.

“Ummmmm,” I mumbled as I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “1:30pm on Saturday the 14th,” I answered. “Could be worse I guess, but I’m not sure I’ll be feeling 100% by 1:00pm.”

We all laughed.

“WAIT!” Sarah exclaimed, as if she had remembered something invaluably important. “Wasn’t it Friday the 13th that that weird janitor warned us to NEVER visit the green mansion???”

“That old creep?” Todd replied, “Yeah, but who cares what he said.”

“WE SHOULD DO IT!” Sarah said, basically yelling at this point. “We gotta do it before we all move away, or we NEVER WILL!”

“Oh my god girl,” Chloe replied. “You are SLOPPY drunk right now.”

“I’LL GO GET JACK AND WE’LL GO!” Sarah said, and jumped up to run back into the house.

beetlejuice

A few minutes later, we were all walking down the road toward this mansion. The walk itself is a little fuzzy for me — like I said, I had a few drinks — and my memory doesn’t really snap back into focus until we approach the ominous hill where the green mansion is perched.

As we had gotten older, the building had grown older too. Some of the rotten black shutters fell off, and the green paint peeled even further down the sides.

We were all standing at the gate at the bottom of the hill upon which the house was perched. For a moment, we all paused.

“Well, what are we waiting for!?” Sarah exclaimed as she threw open the rusty iron gate and casually walked on through.

The rest of us hesitantly followed, as a gentle (unseasonably) cold breeze blew against us, as if urging us to return back through the gates and away from this place. But we didn’t.

The hill wasn’t as steep as it appeared from the road, and I remember a surreal feeling passing over me, as I finally approached the building that I had watched sit stagnantly for my entire life. The subject of our childhood stories and games was mere yards, now mere feet, in front of us.

“Hurry up, slow pokes!” Sarah yelled as she gasped out of breath at the top of the hill.

“Are you going to touch it?” Todd asked mockingly, as we all caught up to Sarah.

“We should all do it together,” Jack suggested with a chuckle.

“One last act of solidarity before we all go our separate ways in life!” I chimed in with a laugh.

The house was probably only about twenty feet in front of us. It had always looked impressive, but by standing right in front of it I felt very very small indeed.

“Okay you fucks,” Chloe grunted, “Let’s get this over with so I can go to bed.”

“We’ll have to go back and tell the janitor that we survived!” Todd exclaimed excitedly.

“I’m not going back to that High School even if you paid me a million dollars,” Chloe responded with a grunt as we all began to walk forward. A few steps later, we were right in front of the mansion. The walls appeared rotting, with ants making their home where the walls met the soft, damp dirt.

“Okay,” Sarah said. “Let’s do this on five.”

She paused as we all stretch out our arms.

“One. Two. Three. Four. FIVE!”

At once, we all lunged forward and pressed our palms against the mansion.

“WE DID IT!!” Sarah yelled, pulling her long blonde hair behind her head.

“Am I still alive?” Todd said, having apparently kept his eyes shut.

“Shut up, you idiot.” Chloe responded as she hit him over the head with her hand.

Suddenly, overpowering all our voices, we heard an extremely loud howl.

“What. The. Fuck. Was. That.” Sarah whispered slowly.

“It was a wolf, haven’t you heard them your whole damn life?” Jack growled.

“It sounded really really close,” Sarah stammered.

“That’s because of how sound travels,” Jack dismissed.

“Anyway,” Todd said, probably more nervously than he wanted to let on. “We might as well get going.”

We all turned away from the house and began walking down the hill back to the road. We had only made it a few yards, however, when the sharp wolf howl pierced our ears yet again. And it sounded even closer now.

“Just keep walking,” Jack mumbled. “It’s probably still miles away.”

“You really think so Jack?” Sarah responded, her voice crackling on the verges of pure terror.

“Yes, Sarah, I really really think so.”

“Do you think that that wolf is miles away?” She responded, pointing down the hill.

My heartbeat stopped as my eyes — seemingly in slow motion — turned toward where she pointed. There, at the base of the hill, a savage-looking wolf was prowling, slowly, in our direction.

Flickr / Nathan Siemers
Flickr / Nathan Siemers

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Todd cried as we all stumbled a few steps back.

It was probably only owning to the wolf’s glowing eyes that Sarah had seen him at all. He was clothed in jet-black fur, frequently turning his head back and forth…as if listening for something. Or someone.

We kept slowly backing up, until Chloe tripped over some brush and fell right onto her back.

“Fuck,” she said softly as the wolf’s head abruptly turned toward us.

It was almost as if the world was conspiring against us at this point, as the cloud cover moved on past the moon, leading a bright ray of light shining over the landscape. The wolf connected eyes with me (or at least I think it did?) and it suddenly started galloping toward us.

“RUN!” Todd yelled. “RUN!”

Chloe had gotten up off the ground, and we all sprinted back up the hill toward the house.

“Down the other side of the hill!” Jack gasped as we all sprinted as fast as our alcohol-riddled bodies would let us. As we ran past the house, and down the other side of the hill, we saw movement down the other side. We slowed.

“It’s another effin’ wolf,” Jack gasped.

“We are going to die,” Sarah breathed softly as we heard yet another howl in the distance.

The new wolf, at the base of this side of the hill, took off running toward us as well now.

“RUN!” Todd commanded yet again.

“WHERE??” Sarah cried, with tears pouring down her face. “There’s nowhere to run!!”

“INTO THE HOUSE!” I exclaimed, the idea having shot into my mind with the ferocity of a bullet from a gun.

“ARE YOU CRAZY!?” Sarah yelled again, as we ran across the hill, perpendicular from the front door.

“Do you have a better idea!” I yelled as the first wolf rounded up the top of the hill and began sprinting toward us.

“NOPE! Into the house!” Chloe breathed as we all ran. Every second seemed like an hour as my legs moved faster than I ever imagined they could. We eventually leapt onto the dilapidated porch and I slammed into the front door, trying to juggle the door-knob, but to no avail.

“It’s locked,” I spat.

“Let me try,” Jack said as he pulled on the door.

“Try pushing it!” Todd supplied as he slammed his body into it. The door wasn’t budging.

“GUYS HURRY!” Sarah yelled as three wolves converged together at the top of the hill and began prowling toward the house.

“Let me do this,” Chloe said, pulling a bobby-pin out of her long hair. “I’ve seen this work on TV.”

“Oh well then it WILL definitely work!” Jack replied.

“Just get the hell out of my way,” Chloe demanded as she shoved her bobby pin into the lock. After a few seconds, we heard a soft click.

“I think I got it!”

The tiny, soft little click had done something to the wolves too, however. Suddenly they took off at full speed — right toward us.

“INSIDE NOW!” Chloe exclaimed, and she didn’t need to offer any further urging. We all leapt into the door as the wolves leapt onto the porch and, almost in unison, turned to slam the door shut.

For a brief moment we heard them gnawing and clawing at the door, but then all was silent, except for Sarah’s loud crying.

“Are they gone?” Todd asked, breaking the quiet.

“Give it another minute,” Jack replied, resting his back against the door.

“What the fuck was that?” Sarah asked, wiping her eye with her sleeve. “They were after us.”

“They weren’t after us,” Jack replied cooly. “We just got caught in the middle of their hunt.”

“Jack, that thing looked right at me,” Sarah responded. “It was after me, it was after all of us.”

“Don’t let this place freak you out,” Jack replied condescendingly. “They were wolves. We were a potential dinner. Now we just have to wait for them to move on.”

Todd got up and walked over toward a window and peered out: “I don’t see them anymore. I think they’re gone.”

“Alright, let’s get the hell out of here,” Chloe said as she stood up and pulled on the door. It didn’t budge.

“What is with this door?” She asked insistently.

“Let me get it,” Jack replied impatiently. But even after a few minutes of pushing and pulling, he couldn’t get the door open.

“What the heck,” Todd exclaimed as he activated the flashlight on his iPhone and began looking around the room.

“We must have damaged it when we slammed it that hard,” Jack rationalized.

“Or,” Sarah paused hysterically. “It’s because this is an evil house and we never should have come here!”

“Will you pull yourself together, Sarah?” Chloe asked.

“Remember what the janitor said??”

“Sarah,” Chloe interrupted her, “Listen to yourself. Remember what the janitor said. Listen to some crazy old janitor who collects his favorite broom trays in the corner of the high school basement. This is freaky, I get it, but we have to get through it. Okay?”

“I think the hallway is over here,” Todd said as he shined his iPhone light down a long expanse of darkness. I pulled out my phone light as well, trying to get my first really good look of the house’s interior. Dust accumulated on old portraits of old people, and greasy mirrors lined the hallway that my light could not see the end of. A board of wood stood leaning against the wall, and a single lightbulb hung from the ceiling.

Flickr / Mark Hanlen
Flickr / Mark Hanlen

“This place must have been looted a thousand times over,” Jack mumbled to me.

“I wonder why the pictures weren’t stolen?” I asked quietly.

Jack walked over to the wall and tapped one with his finger. It didn’t move. He hit it with his hand — still nothing. Finally, he pulled at one of the photos that had a young girl but it still did not budge.

“Hmmm, must have had some intense adhesive,” Jack mused.

“Wait!” Todd interjected suddenly. “My phone’s battery is down to 1%!”

“Mine too,” Chloe responded with a puzzled note in her voice.

I looked down at my phone, the source of my light, and it too was registering at 1% battery life remaining.

“It was literally at 53% just a second ago!” Todd exclaimed.

“Is there a lamp or something we can light?” I asked everyone.

“Nothing I see,” Jack responded, frantically looking around. We were in the middle of the long, dark hallway and only the faintest refractions of moonlight would make it to us.

We began walking more quickly down the hallway, but before we made it to even past the next row of paintings, our phones went dead, plunging us into the darkest of darknesses.

“Stay together,” Jack commanded as Sarah cried out.

Even after a minute to adjust my eyes, I still could barely make out anything as we began slowly shuffling down the hallway toward the end of the hallway.

The darkness was intoxicating and I felt myself begin to zone out and just go through the basic motions of walking. After what seemed like an eternity, the hallway finally ended into a dead end.

“I think there’s a door here on the righthand side!” Jack exclaimed as he pushed it open into yet another dark room. I followed behind Jack, with Chloe, Sarah, and Todd behind me.

“Get off me Todd!” Sarah said irately as she followed us through the open door.

“Seriously! Get off me!” Sarah yelled, as we heard a thump on the ground.

“Todd?” Chloe asked. “What are you doing??”

“Hey! My phone’s battery is working again!” I exclaimed as I turned it on and shined it toward Todd and Sarah.

Sarah had scampered away to the wall, and Todd was laying face down on the floor.

“Todd?” Jack asked as he poked him on the back. “Todd?”

He then pulled his body toward him and flipped it over, before we all cried out in horror.

Todd’s face was locked in a state of terror, with a the hilt of a knife jagged out from his ribcage. He was dead.

“Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!” Sarah cried, and even Jack turned away.

“I’m gonna hurl,” Chloe said quietly.

“What happened here?” Jack asked, taking an aggressive step toward Sarah. “What the FUCK happened?”

“I…don’t…know!” Sarah said. We were walking down the hallway, and I felt a cold breeze brush right by me, and then when we went through the doorway Todd was on-top of me. I didn’t do anything.”

“Oh, so a breeze killed Todd? A nice cold breeze!?” Jack asked.

“Leave her alone Jack,” Chloe demanded taking a step toward Jack. “She doesn’t know what happened.”

“Our friend is DEAD! One minute ago he’s alive, and now he’s dead, and you’re telling me to fucking calm down?? Jesus fucking Christ, how did he die?”

“Maybe the knife was sticking out of the wall or something?” Chloe suggested. “You aren’t seriously suggesting that Sarah was the one who killed him, are you?”

“I don’t know what I’m suggesting…” Jack trailed off, sniffing up tears. “I just know my friend, our friend, is dead.”

“We have to keep going,” I said. “We have to get out of here and call the police.”

“What should we do with Todd?” Jack asked.

“Leave him,” Chloe responded. “We gotta keep going. Now.”

With my racing heartbeat finally slowing, I got a good look at the room. It appeared to be some sort of office, with a very large and very old desk sitting near the back. I began shining my phone light (which also had its battery power restored) across the walls, looking at the various ornaments. Whichever looters had visited the main portion of the house had never gotten here. The wall was bespectacled with ancient portraits and old electric lamps.

For some reason, there was something on the desk that caught my attention. I walked over to it, turning my light over the old fragments of papers.

“What are you looking at?” Jack asked softly, approaching from behind me.

“This.” I said solemnly.

“So, people died here at some point,” Jack said as he finished reading the old piece of parchment.

“People were murdered here at some point,” Chloe corrected.

“And are still getting murdered,” Sarah chimed in, still leaning against the floor on the ground by the entryway.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said, stuffing the old article in my back pocket.

We carefully navigated across the room, where there was a door on the other side. There was no way we were going back into that damn hallway, so Jack opened this other door which, upon first glance, appeared to be some sort of waiting room with a receptionists’ desk against the wall right next to the door.

“Whoever the original owner was here, he was apparently important enough to have a fucking waiting room in his house,” Jack growled.

“That means there must be an exit somewhere nearby!” Chloe exclaimed. We shone our lights through the room, with layers of ancient dust flying into the air, causing Sarah to cough.

We reached the end of the room. There were two doors.

“What do we do?” Sarah asked.

“Our goal has to be to get out of here as quickly as possible,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I think we have to split up.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Sarah said. “That’s how people die in horror movies. We have to stick together.”

“This isn’t a movie, Sarah. This isn’t a game,” Jack replied firmly. “We have to get out of here, and we have to do it fast. The quickest way we can be sure that we do that is by splitting up.”

“I agree,” I sighed. “Jack and I will go through the right door here, and Chloe and Sarah, you guys can go through the other door. When we find something we call each other.”

“What if our phones go out again?” Chloe asked.

“Hopefully they don’t,” Jack replied, running his hands through his short brown hair.

“Okay,” I added, sensing that nobody would actually want to do this. “Let’s go now.”

Jack and I walked through our assigned door into yet another dark hallway.

“Stay close,” Jack mumbled.

“I’m surprised you were willing to part with Chloe,” I said, trying to bring some levity into this pretty shitty situation.

“I’ve been over her for ages man,” Jack replied, trying to stop himself from breaking a smile. “This situation is just so fucked up I can’t handle it.”

We were both surprised when the hallway suddenly opened up into a huge kitchen area. It was a gigantic room, with at least three different ovens and four different island-counters were cooks could prepare food. This place must have required five or six people to run it at full efficiency, at least.

“Wow, this is elaborate,” Jack replied.

“Over there!” I pointed. “A door!”

At the far end of the room was a rickety door. The bottom half seemed to be made of some sort of rotting wood, but the top was a thin pane of glass.

Jack had run to the door, “It’s locked!”

“Hold on,” I said, my eyes falling on a large walk-in pantry on the other side of the room. “Let me see if I can get something to break the glass.”

I heard Jack repeatedly try to bang open the door as I rushed into the pantry. I looked up and down for a rolling pin, or axe, or whatever the hell we could use to bust open this damn door.

I found myself practically zoning out while scanning the dozens of shelves and crannies in the room. I lose focus, and after what seemed like an eternity, I was startled by a bloodcurdling scream. It was Sarah.

I ran out of the pantry like a bat out of hell.

“Where have you been??” Jack yelled. “Let’s GO!”

We ran back down the hallway and into the reception area, and through the other door.

“Sarah!? Sarah!?” Jack yelled. “Where are you!?”

“Over here!” We heard Sarah’s voice echo through muffled tears.

“Sarah? What’s happening?” Jack yelled, shining his light frantically.

“Chloe, I…I…don’t know what happened, but she vanished!”

“What?” Jack yelled. “Did you leave her?”

“No!” Sarah cried. “She was literally here one minute, and gone the next.”

I shone my light around the room. We appeared to be in some kind of game room with a dusty pool table in the center, and different pool sticks mounted around the wall.

“People don’t disappear,” Jack mused. “She has to be around here somewhere.”

We all started walking around the side of the room. There was one door leading out of the room, but I followed my instincts to a closet. I turned the handle and slowly opened the door. I shined my light into the space and saw a female body hanging from the coat rack. There was a coarse rope tied around her neck, with her face frozen in an almost panicked state.

“What’s over there?” Sarah asked before walking over and seeing what I discovered.

“NO!”

“Holy holy shit,” Jack spat as he ran over.

“How did this happen Sarah?”

“I told you!” Sarah yelled at Jack. “I have no freaken’ idea! She just vanished!”

“Really?” Jack asked with an increasingly high-pitched voice. “Because you are the only person here to have been with both of our friends second before they were killed!”

“It wasn’t her, Jack, lay off!” I replied angrily. “We don’t know what is going on, but we know for sure that Sarah would never hurt anyone!”

“We found an exit,” Jack said, clearly changing the topic. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”

We retreated back through the reception area, and into the kitchen.

“Did you find anything in the pantry to break this glass?” Jack asked me.

“No, I didn’t see anything. Just old boxes and shit,” I replied.

“I couldn’t get it open!” Jack exclaimed hysterically. “But I found a door to the basement! There has to be an axe or something in the basement!”

Jack led us to a dark doorway (with no door?) that had a long descent of stone steps. Sarah and I followed him gingerly as we used lights to try to gleam what was around us. A lot of empty space was around us.

“We have to find a hammer, or axe, or something!” Jack basically shouted.

We were all looking around frantically to find something, anything. I walked over with my light to a pile of boxes and began shifting them around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. An axe. I was about to call out when suddenly I began zoning out, staring at the axe and the stone wall right behind it. It felt like an eternity passed with me in that place, It felt like actual days had passed when suddenly I felt a hard object hit my back.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING MAN?” Jack screamed at me. My surroundings had changed, I didn’t know where I was. I tried to regain my senses, but I felt a peculiar sensation, as if I was slowly being drifted into a peaceful sleep.

“STOP!” Jack kept yelling. I realized that the axe was in my hand. I was on top of someone. Was it Sarah? I tried to pull myself to awareness, but the lull of sleepy bliss was almost too much to resist. I summoned my strongest burst of willpower, and for a moment, saw the scene clearly before my eyes. I was kneeling on top of Sarah’s legs, her body visibly unconscious from some kind of blunt trauma. Jack was continuously hitting at me with a metal pipe. For almost a moment I thought I would be able to get up and walk away from the horrific place, but suddenly I was overcome with something else. Not a soporific lull, but a violent presence.

It ripped through my every fiber, and sent my nerves screaming. It was a pain that tugged at the fabric of my soul, and sent tears streaming down my dirt-smudged face.

I was left with my consciousness, but my physical movements were absolutely not my own. So I had to watch myself raise the axe high above my head, poised to strike my friend. I aggressively tried to look away, but the demonic force would not allow it. It simply would not let me. I was made to watch myself bring the axe straight down into the head of Sarah, blood squirting in all directions. I felt numb to everything, to anything — it couldn’t be real. It couldn’t.

“You motherfucker, you son of a bitch!” Jack yelled at me, as I turned to face him. My body seemed immune to anything he did to me, no matter how much he swung his pipe into my head, I marched toward him. I wanted to stop. I had to stop. But I couldn’t stop.

I connected eyes with him, and I just hoped he could see the helplessness I felt. I still hope that to this day.

As I rose the axe to use against Jack, a vaulting force tackled into me, knocking me off balance.

Surprised, I looked up, hoping to see an angel. Far from it. It was the old night-shift janitor from the school. He stood grizzled, with a thick rod in his hand.

“You gotta fight it, kid!” He yelled at me. “There’s gotta be a way to beat it!”

But my body kept moving without my consent. The old man stood between me and Jack.

“Take me, Satan. Take me.” He ordered solemnly. “I’m the one who deserves it! Right here, right here in the heart,” he continued, thumping his chest.

I kept advancing, and pushed him aside, proceeding onto Jack.

I watched myself knock him out cold with the blunt end, and raise my axe to finish him. But then, without warning, I felt a tinge of power to resist. So the axe fell slowly, only part way. Then I wrested myself away, throwing my body onto the ground as the evil force attempted to rise.

“It’s the sunrise!” The janitor exclaimed as he pointed to a small window that was just barely above ground. “Keep fighting it off, son! Keep fighting it!”

I felt myself gain almost full control of my body! Confidently, I stood up and prepared to throw the axe aside. However, as I took one tiny step forward, the lingering demonic force inside me caused me to trip, sending the axe flying forward out of my hand, and — almost in slow motion — straight into Jack’s slumped over chest.

“No,” I whispered softly as I crumbled to the ground. I knew the horror was over, but the horror had been me.

The janitor looked away, downcast.

“Who are you?” I asked quietly. It was the only thing I could ask.

“My name,” the man replied equally quietly, “Is Ashton Boulevard.”

I perked up at that name.

“The boy who survived the murders?”

“Yes, yes, the boy who survived the murders,” an ancient Ashton replied bitterly.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“When the police found me,” Ashton explained, “I was sleeping in my bed, peaceful as could be, but covered in all the victims’ blood. The county considered prosecuting me, but I was 9-years-old and I guess they thought there was some other explanation for it, plus the whole thing was a snafu for the law enforcement. So they let me go.”

“Years later I was determined to find out who was guilty for the murders of my parents and sisters. I investigated every corner of this house, and demanded the county unseal the records of the police investigation years before. My research eventually led me to the killer. Me.

I thought about killing myself. But something kept me alive, the fact that I knew, deep down, I would never murder anyone. So I also started doing a lot of research on this house. It was known as the mansion where families went to die. Nobody lasted longer than a year in the Green Hill Manor. Nobody. And so I took the place back from the bank, and swore that I would protect the world from this house forever.”

“I wish I could have protected you,” He cried solemnly.

beetlejuice

He helped me bury the bodies in the basement. Nobody would find them there. I tried to get more information out of him, but he barely said another word. We parted ways at the end of the night, and never spoke again.

When people asked where I last saw Chloe, Todd, Sarah, or Jack, I told them that we parted ways at the base of the hill. Nobody ever doubted me, and after one quick interview with the local police I was let go.

The next few years I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I didn’t make any new friends, and tried to have as little contact with people as possible. I eventually blurted the whole horrific story out to one of my therapists, and she had me committed to a three month stint in an in-patient rehabilitation facility where I was “cured” of my delusions. But I still know what really happened.

A few weeks ago Ashton Boulevard died — I saw the notice in the Village Paper. A day later I received a letter in the mail stuffed with official-looking documents. In his Will the man had left me the Green Mansion.

Today you can find me at the Lordestown High School. I work the night shifts as a custodian there. And I’m writing this in an attempt to tell my story to as many people as possible, to make sure that whatever happened to me never ever happens again. TC mark

I Never Expected To Find My Forever Person

I Never Expected To Find My Forever Person

Forever person
Instagram / Holly Riordan

I never thought I would hit the six month mark of a relationship, let alone stay with someone for this many years and still feel like I’m the luckiest girl alive.

In fact, I never thought I would use terminology like that — cliches that I used to consider stupid — that I am the luckiest girl alive with butterflies in her stomach who feels like she is walking on air because she has found her true soulmate.

I never thought that I would find a good enough reason to settle down. I always thought that I would be the skeptical, single girl. The girl who was secretly happy to be unattached because love always ends and no one can be trusted and I’m better off alone. But you changed my way of thinking. You turned me into someone who believes in the possibility of forever.

You turned me into the kind of person who would rather fall asleep with your arms wrapped around me than inside of a big, empty bed. Who would rather share a bedroom and a bathroom than live on my own. Who would rather spend the evening watching old cartoons on the couch than go out and get drunk.

Honestly, I never thought that I would find my forever person. I never thought that I would become half of a couple that all of my friends aww’ed over. I assumed that I was destined to be alone — or at best, destined to jump from person to person without ever finding someone who made me feel half as alive as you do — but you changed all of that.

You gave me a reason to open my heart. You gave me a reason to trust. You gave me a reason look forward to my future. Our future.

I never thought that I would find someone like you. Someone I never have to censor myself around. Someone who I can bawl my eyes out in front of, can curse someone out in front of, can throw up in front of, and you won’t like me any less.

I never thought that I would stumble across someone who genuinly cared about my happiness. Who was willing to sacrifice for me. Who was willing to put actual effort into our relationship every single day.

I never thought I would find someone who pushed me forward instead of holding me back. Someone who encouraged me to pursue my dreams instead of stifling them. Someone who was proud over every success that I have achieved.

I never thought I would find someone who fit me as well as you do. Who makes me smile. Who makes me laugh. Who makes me feel comfortable in my skin.

I never thought I would be in a relationship for this long with someone so perfect for me — but now that I am, now that I’ve met you, I know we are going to stay together forever. I know that our story will last a lifetime. TC mark

2874544926_c7f440269b_o__1_-1

2874544926_c7f440269b_o__1_-1

Flickr / / // /
Flickr / / // /

In my hometown there is a giant house perched on a hill right on the corner of Alan Street and Hitcherson Road that you should never approach on Friday the 13th.

It is a menacing mansion, with rotten black shutters hugging its clouded windows, and peeling green paint that never ceased to fascinate me as a little boy. My parents would drive past it on the way to the supermarket, and my eyes would become fixated upon its every window and two lofty towers.

I grew up in the small village of Lordestown — where very little was remarkable, so us kids would often talk about the mansion while playing in the schoolyard. There were so many crazy stories associated with the house that they were hard to all keep track of. Todd claimed that his runaway dog had chased a squirrel into the mansion — to never come back. Jack says that the mansion used to be the home of an eccentric doctor who experimented on his patients in the house’s gaming room. Claire said that the house’s builder had been killed during the mansion’s construction, and wanted nobody to live there in peace.

And we all ate this shit up. Every Halloween we joked about going up to the house and giving it a touch, sometimes when we were exceptionally brave we talked about venturing inside. Jack would tease Sarah about the mansion until she cried. Chloe would end up shoving him on his ass and then we’d all laugh and forget about the scary place that sat right up the road from our neighborhood like a dormant volcano.

beetlejuice

Years passed, and jokes about the old house perched on the hill eventually faded. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that the green mansion came up in conversation again. A group of my closest friends and I were sitting in the hallway after school, just shooting the breeze, when somebody (I think Sarah?) mentioned that it was a few days before Halloween and whether someone would actually have the balls to go up to the notorious building. We all laughed, obsessed with our own nostalgia, and kept joking about the house up until the point we where we were interrupted by the school’s elderly night-shift janitor.

“It’s not visiting that house on Halloween that you have to worry about,” he mumbled through his long, white beard.

Our conversation stopped immediately, as if he had screamed at us rather than utter a small phrase barely above the volume of a whisper.

“What did you say?” My best friend Jack demanded.

“Nothing will happen to you if you visit the house on Halloween,” The old janitor croaked. He was wearing a typical blue custodial outfit, and his long white hair matched his white beard, tied back behind his head in an elaborate ponytail.

“Okay, thanks for the advice,” our friend Chloe chimed in, twirling her fingers through her long jet-black hair. “As much as I’d love to visit some creepy dank old building, I think I’ll be okay just…not.”

“Just don’t visit the house on Friday the 13th.” The old man finished as if Chloe hadn’t even spoken. “For your sake, do not approach that hill, or that mansion, on any Friday 13th.”

As the old man slinked off, we all stood dumbfounded.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Todd exclaimed in disbelief.

“Just ignore him,” Chloe responded dismissively, “I’m pretty sure I walked in on him jacking off in the janitor’s closet when Mrs. Cook sent me to get some paper towels. He’s an old crank.”

beetlejuice

Months go by, and both the mansion itself, and the conversation with the crazy janitor quickly falls from our minds. One-by-one, my friends and I get accepted to various schools from around the country. Only Todd and I are attending the same college, both having been accepted to a prestigious engineering university in Indiana.

After graduation, toward the middle of the summer, we all decide to go to a house party that almost our entire high school class was attending. It was the rager to end all ragers — One last time to get shitface wasted with the friends we had grown up with, and were about to leave.

Maybe if I hadn’t gotten so drunk that night, all of this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I had just kept my cool, and stayed somewhat sober, I would be writing about a fun party I went to instead of this nightmare.

But hindsight is 20/20, right?

“I love you guys SO MUCH!!” Sarah exclaimed as she chased another shot of cheap whiskey with a diet Dr. Pepper. Our entire gang — except Jack, who was “dominating” in beer pong — was sitting out on the porch outside the hot, sweaty house.

“I hate all of you,” Chloe replied sardonically as she took a sip from her shiny silver flask.

“Do you want something to go with that?” Todd asked, handing her a Coke.

“Nah,” Chloe replied. “I like my liquor the way I like my men — straight. Which is why I won’t sleep with you, no matter how much I drink.”

We all burst out in hysterical laughter.

“I wasn’t supposed to get this drunk,” I laughed, leaning into Sarah. “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon.”

“What time?” Sarah asked.

“Ummmmm,” I mumbled as I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “1:30pm on Saturday the 14th,” I answered. “Could be worse I guess, but I’m not sure I’ll be feeling 100% by 1:00pm.”

We all laughed.

“WAIT!” Sarah exclaimed, as if she had remembered something invaluably important. “Wasn’t it Friday the 13th that that weird janitor warned us to NEVER visit the green mansion???”

“That old creep?” Todd replied, “Yeah, but who cares what he said.”

“WE SHOULD DO IT!” Sarah said, basically yelling at this point. “We gotta do it before we all move away, or we NEVER WILL!”

“Oh my god girl,” Chloe replied. “You are SLOPPY drunk right now.”

“I’LL GO GET JACK AND WE’LL GO!” Sarah said, and jumped up to run back into the house.

beetlejuice

A few minutes later, we were all walking down the road toward this mansion. The walk itself is a little fuzzy for me — like I said, I had a few drinks — and my memory doesn’t really snap back into focus until we approach the ominous hill where the green mansion is perched.

As we had gotten older, the building had grown older too. Some of the rotten black shutters fell off, and the green paint peeled even further down the sides.

We were all standing at the gate at the bottom of the hill upon which the house was perched. For a moment, we all paused.

“Well, what are we waiting for!?” Sarah exclaimed as she threw open the rusty iron gate and casually walked on through.

The rest of us hesitantly followed, as a gentle (unseasonably) cold breeze blew against us, as if urging us to return back through the gates and away from this place. But we didn’t.

The hill wasn’t as steep as it appeared from the road, and I remember a surreal feeling passing over me, as I finally approached the building that I had watched sit stagnantly for my entire life. The subject of our childhood stories and games was mere yards, now mere feet, in front of us.

“Hurry up, slow pokes!” Sarah yelled as she gasped out of breath at the top of the hill.

“Are you going to touch it?” Todd asked mockingly, as we all caught up to Sarah.

“We should all do it together,” Jack suggested with a chuckle.

“One last act of solidarity before we all go our separate ways in life!” I chimed in with a laugh.

The house was probably only about twenty feet in front of us. It had always looked impressive, but by standing right in front of it I felt very very small indeed.

“Okay you fucks,” Chloe grunted, “Let’s get this over with so I can go to bed.”

“We’ll have to go back and tell the janitor that we survived!” Todd exclaimed excitedly.

“I’m not going back to that High School even if you paid me a million dollars,” Chloe responded with a grunt as we all began to walk forward. A few steps later, we were right in front of the mansion. The walls appeared rotting, with ants making their home where the walls met the soft, damp dirt.

“Okay,” Sarah said. “Let’s do this on five.”

She paused as we all stretch out our arms.

“One. Two. Three. Four. FIVE!”

At once, we all lunged forward and pressed our palms against the mansion.

“WE DID IT!!” Sarah yelled, pulling her long blonde hair behind her head.

“Am I still alive?” Todd said, having apparently kept his eyes shut.

“Shut up, you idiot.” Chloe responded as she hit him over the head with her hand.

Suddenly, overpowering all our voices, we heard an extremely loud howl.

“What. The. Fuck. Was. That.” Sarah whispered slowly.

“It was a wolf, haven’t you heard them your whole damn life?” Jack growled.

“It sounded really really close,” Sarah stammered.

“That’s because of how sound travels,” Jack dismissed.

“Anyway,” Todd said, probably more nervously than he wanted to let on. “We might as well get going.”

We all turned away from the house and began walking down the hill back to the road. We had only made it a few yards, however, when the sharp wolf howl pierced our ears yet again. And it sounded even closer now.

“Just keep walking,” Jack mumbled. “It’s probably still miles away.”

“You really think so Jack?” Sarah responded, her voice crackling on the verges of pure terror.

“Yes, Sarah, I really really think so.”

“Do you think that that wolf is miles away?” She responded, pointing down the hill.

My heartbeat stopped as my eyes — seemingly in slow motion — turned toward where she pointed. There, at the base of the hill, a savage-looking wolf was prowling, slowly, in our direction.

Flickr / Nathan Siemers
Flickr / Nathan Siemers

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Todd cried as we all stumbled a few steps back.

It was probably only owning to the wolf’s glowing eyes that Sarah had seen him at all. He was clothed in jet-black fur, frequently turning his head back and forth…as if listening for something. Or someone.

We kept slowly backing up, until Chloe tripped over some brush and fell right onto her back.

“Fuck,” she said softly as the wolf’s head abruptly turned toward us.

It was almost as if the world was conspiring against us at this point, as the cloud cover moved on past the moon, leading a bright ray of light shining over the landscape. The wolf connected eyes with me (or at least I think it did?) and it suddenly started galloping toward us.

“RUN!” Todd yelled. “RUN!”

Chloe had gotten up off the ground, and we all sprinted back up the hill toward the house.

“Down the other side of the hill!” Jack gasped as we all sprinted as fast as our alcohol-riddled bodies would let us. As we ran past the house, and down the other side of the hill, we saw movement down the other side. We slowed.

“It’s another effin’ wolf,” Jack gasped.

“We are going to die,” Sarah breathed softly as we heard yet another howl in the distance.

The new wolf, at the base of this side of the hill, took off running toward us as well now.

“RUN!” Todd commanded yet again.

“WHERE??” Sarah cried, with tears pouring down her face. “There’s nowhere to run!!”

“INTO THE HOUSE!” I exclaimed, the idea having shot into my mind with the ferocity of a bullet from a gun.

“ARE YOU CRAZY!?” Sarah yelled again, as we ran across the hill, perpendicular from the front door.

“Do you have a better idea!” I yelled as the first wolf rounded up the top of the hill and began sprinting toward us.

“NOPE! Into the house!” Chloe breathed as we all ran. Every second seemed like an hour as my legs moved faster than I ever imagined they could. We eventually leapt onto the dilapidated porch and I slammed into the front door, trying to juggle the door-knob, but to no avail.

“It’s locked,” I spat.

“Let me try,” Jack said as he pulled on the door.

“Try pushing it!” Todd supplied as he slammed his body into it. The door wasn’t budging.

“GUYS HURRY!” Sarah yelled as three wolves converged together at the top of the hill and began prowling toward the house.

“Let me do this,” Chloe said, pulling a bobby-pin out of her long hair. “I’ve seen this work on TV.”

“Oh well then it WILL definitely work!” Jack replied.

“Just get the hell out of my way,” Chloe demanded as she shoved her bobby pin into the lock. After a few seconds, we heard a soft click.

“I think I got it!”

The tiny, soft little click had done something to the wolves too, however. Suddenly they took off at full speed — right toward us.

“INSIDE NOW!” Chloe exclaimed, and she didn’t need to offer any further urging. We all leapt into the door as the wolves leapt onto the porch and, almost in unison, turned to slam the door shut.

For a brief moment we heard them gnawing and clawing at the door, but then all was silent, except for Sarah’s loud crying.

“Are they gone?” Todd asked, breaking the quiet.

“Give it another minute,” Jack replied, resting his back against the door.

“What the fuck was that?” Sarah asked, wiping her eye with her sleeve. “They were after us.”

“They weren’t after us,” Jack replied cooly. “We just got caught in the middle of their hunt.”

“Jack, that thing looked right at me,” Sarah responded. “It was after me, it was after all of us.”

“Don’t let this place freak you out,” Jack replied condescendingly. “They were wolves. We were a potential dinner. Now we just have to wait for them to move on.”

Todd got up and walked over toward a window and peered out: “I don’t see them anymore. I think they’re gone.”

“Alright, let’s get the hell out of here,” Chloe said as she stood up and pulled on the door. It didn’t budge.

“What is with this door?” She asked insistently.

“Let me get it,” Jack replied impatiently. But even after a few minutes of pushing and pulling, he couldn’t get the door open.

“What the heck,” Todd exclaimed as he activated the flashlight on his iPhone and began looking around the room.

“We must have damaged it when we slammed it that hard,” Jack rationalized.

“Or,” Sarah paused hysterically. “It’s because this is an evil house and we never should have come here!”

“Will you pull yourself together, Sarah?” Chloe asked.

“Remember what the janitor said??”

“Sarah,” Chloe interrupted her, “Listen to yourself. Remember what the janitor said. Listen to some crazy old janitor who collects his favorite broom trays in the corner of the high school basement. This is freaky, I get it, but we have to get through it. Okay?”

“I think the hallway is over here,” Todd said as he shined his iPhone light down a long expanse of darkness. I pulled out my phone light as well, trying to get my first really good look of the house’s interior. Dust accumulated on old portraits of old people, and greasy mirrors lined the hallway that my light could not see the end of. A board of wood stood leaning against the wall, and a single lightbulb hung from the ceiling.

Flickr / Mark Hanlen
Flickr / Mark Hanlen

“This place must have been looted a thousand times over,” Jack mumbled to me.

“I wonder why the pictures weren’t stolen?” I asked quietly.

Jack walked over to the wall and tapped one with his finger. It didn’t move. He hit it with his hand — still nothing. Finally, he pulled at one of the photos that had a young girl but it still did not budge.

“Hmmm, must have had some intense adhesive,” Jack mused.

“Wait!” Todd interjected suddenly. “My phone’s battery is down to 1%!”

“Mine too,” Chloe responded with a puzzled note in her voice.

I looked down at my phone, the source of my light, and it too was registering at 1% battery life remaining.

“It was literally at 53% just a second ago!” Todd exclaimed.

“Is there a lamp or something we can light?” I asked everyone.

“Nothing I see,” Jack responded, frantically looking around. We were in the middle of the long, dark hallway and only the faintest refractions of moonlight would make it to us.

We began walking more quickly down the hallway, but before we made it to even past the next row of paintings, our phones went dead, plunging us into the darkest of darknesses.

“Stay together,” Jack commanded as Sarah cried out.

Even after a minute to adjust my eyes, I still could barely make out anything as we began slowly shuffling down the hallway toward the end of the hallway.

The darkness was intoxicating and I felt myself begin to zone out and just go through the basic motions of walking. After what seemed like an eternity, the hallway finally ended into a dead end.

“I think there’s a door here on the righthand side!” Jack exclaimed as he pushed it open into yet another dark room. I followed behind Jack, with Chloe, Sarah, and Todd behind me.

“Get off me Todd!” Sarah said irately as she followed us through the open door.

“Seriously! Get off me!” Sarah yelled, as we heard a thump on the ground.

“Todd?” Chloe asked. “What are you doing??”

“Hey! My phone’s battery is working again!” I exclaimed as I turned it on and shined it toward Todd and Sarah.

Sarah had scampered away to the wall, and Todd was laying face down on the floor.

“Todd?” Jack asked as he poked him on the back. “Todd?”

He then pulled his body toward him and flipped it over, before we all cried out in horror.

Todd’s face was locked in a state of terror, with a the hilt of a knife jagged out from his ribcage. He was dead.

“Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!” Sarah cried, and even Jack turned away.

“I’m gonna hurl,” Chloe said quietly.

“What happened here?” Jack asked, taking an aggressive step toward Sarah. “What the FUCK happened?”

“I…don’t…know!” Sarah said. We were walking down the hallway, and I felt a cold breeze brush right by me, and then when we went through the doorway Todd was on-top of me. I didn’t do anything.”

“Oh, so a breeze killed Todd? A nice cold breeze!?” Jack asked.

“Leave her alone Jack,” Chloe demanded taking a step toward Jack. “She doesn’t know what happened.”

“Our friend is DEAD! One minute ago he’s alive, and now he’s dead, and you’re telling me to fucking calm down?? Jesus fucking Christ, how did he die?”

“Maybe the knife was sticking out of the wall or something?” Chloe suggested. “You aren’t seriously suggesting that Sarah was the one who killed him, are you?”

“I don’t know what I’m suggesting…” Jack trailed off, sniffing up tears. “I just know my friend, our friend, is dead.”

“We have to keep going,” I said. “We have to get out of here and call the police.”

“What should we do with Todd?” Jack asked.

“Leave him,” Chloe responded. “We gotta keep going. Now.”

With my racing heartbeat finally slowing, I got a good look at the room. It appeared to be some sort of office, with a very large and very old desk sitting near the back. I began shining my phone light (which also had its battery power restored) across the walls, looking at the various ornaments. Whichever looters had visited the main portion of the house had never gotten here. The wall was bespectacled with ancient portraits and old electric lamps.

For some reason, there was something on the desk that caught my attention. I walked over to it, turning my light over the old fragments of papers.

“What are you looking at?” Jack asked softly, approaching from behind me.

“This.” I said solemnly.

“So, people died here at some point,” Jack said as he finished reading the old piece of parchment.

“People were murdered here at some point,” Chloe corrected.

“And are still getting murdered,” Sarah chimed in, still leaning against the floor on the ground by the entryway.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said, stuffing the old article in my back pocket.

We carefully navigated across the room, where there was a door on the other side. There was no way we were going back into that damn hallway, so Jack opened this other door which, upon first glance, appeared to be some sort of waiting room with a receptionists’ desk against the wall right next to the door.

“Whoever the original owner was here, he was apparently important enough to have a fucking waiting room in his house,” Jack growled.

“That means there must be an exit somewhere nearby!” Chloe exclaimed. We shone our lights through the room, with layers of ancient dust flying into the air, causing Sarah to cough.

We reached the end of the room. There were two doors.

“What do we do?” Sarah asked.

“Our goal has to be to get out of here as quickly as possible,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I think we have to split up.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Sarah said. “That’s how people die in horror movies. We have to stick together.”

“This isn’t a movie, Sarah. This isn’t a game,” Jack replied firmly. “We have to get out of here, and we have to do it fast. The quickest way we can be sure that we do that is by splitting up.”

“I agree,” I sighed. “Jack and I will go through the right door here, and Chloe and Sarah, you guys can go through the other door. When we find something we call each other.”

“What if our phones go out again?” Chloe asked.

“Hopefully they don’t,” Jack replied, running his hands through his short brown hair.

“Okay,” I added, sensing that nobody would actually want to do this. “Let’s go now.”

Jack and I walked through our assigned door into yet another dark hallway.

“Stay close,” Jack mumbled.

“I’m surprised you were willing to part with Chloe,” I said, trying to bring some levity into this pretty shitty situation.

“I’ve been over her for ages man,” Jack replied, trying to stop himself from breaking a smile. “This situation is just so fucked up I can’t handle it.”

We were both surprised when the hallway suddenly opened up into a huge kitchen area. It was a gigantic room, with at least three different ovens and four different island-counters were cooks could prepare food. This place must have required five or six people to run it at full efficiency, at least.

“Wow, this is elaborate,” Jack replied.

“Over there!” I pointed. “A door!”

At the far end of the room was a rickety door. The bottom half seemed to be made of some sort of rotting wood, but the top was a thin pane of glass.

Jack had run to the door, “It’s locked!”

“Hold on,” I said, my eyes falling on a large walk-in pantry on the other side of the room. “Let me see if I can get something to break the glass.”

I heard Jack repeatedly try to bang open the door as I rushed into the pantry. I looked up and down for a rolling pin, or axe, or whatever the hell we could use to bust open this damn door.

I found myself practically zoning out while scanning the dozens of shelves and crannies in the room. I lose focus, and after what seemed like an eternity, I was startled by a bloodcurdling scream. It was Sarah.

I ran out of the pantry like a bat out of hell.

“Where have you been??” Jack yelled. “Let’s GO!”

We ran back down the hallway and into the reception area, and through the other door.

“Sarah!? Sarah!?” Jack yelled. “Where are you!?”

“Over here!” We heard Sarah’s voice echo through muffled tears.

“Sarah? What’s happening?” Jack yelled, shining his light frantically.

“Chloe, I…I…don’t know what happened, but she vanished!”

“What?” Jack yelled. “Did you leave her?”

“No!” Sarah cried. “She was literally here one minute, and gone the next.”

I shone my light around the room. We appeared to be in some kind of game room with a dusty pool table in the center, and different pool sticks mounted around the wall.

“People don’t disappear,” Jack mused. “She has to be around here somewhere.”

We all started walking around the side of the room. There was one door leading out of the room, but I followed my instincts to a closet. I turned the handle and slowly opened the door. I shined my light into the space and saw a female body hanging from the coat rack. There was a coarse rope tied around her neck, with her face frozen in an almost panicked state.

“What’s over there?” Sarah asked before walking over and seeing what I discovered.

“NO!”

“Holy holy shit,” Jack spat as he ran over.

“How did this happen Sarah?”

“I told you!” Sarah yelled at Jack. “I have no freaken’ idea! She just vanished!”

“Really?” Jack asked with an increasingly high-pitched voice. “Because you are the only person here to have been with both of our friends second before they were killed!”

“It wasn’t her, Jack, lay off!” I replied angrily. “We don’t know what is going on, but we know for sure that Sarah would never hurt anyone!”

“We found an exit,” Jack said, clearly changing the topic. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”

We retreated back through the reception area, and into the kitchen.

“Did you find anything in the pantry to break this glass?” Jack asked me.

“No, I didn’t see anything. Just old boxes and shit,” I replied.

“I couldn’t get it open!” Jack exclaimed hysterically. “But I found a door to the basement! There has to be an axe or something in the basement!”

Jack led us to a dark doorway (with no door?) that had a long descent of stone steps. Sarah and I followed him gingerly as we used lights to try to gleam what was around us. A lot of empty space was around us.

“We have to find a hammer, or axe, or something!” Jack basically shouted.

We were all looking around frantically to find something, anything. I walked over with my light to a pile of boxes and began shifting them around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. An axe. I was about to call out when suddenly I began zoning out, staring at the axe and the stone wall right behind it. It felt like an eternity passed with me in that place, It felt like actual days had passed when suddenly I felt a hard object hit my back.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING MAN?” Jack screamed at me. My surroundings had changed, I didn’t know where I was. I tried to regain my senses, but I felt a peculiar sensation, as if I was slowly being drifted into a peaceful sleep.

“STOP!” Jack kept yelling. I realized that the axe was in my hand. I was on top of someone. Was it Sarah? I tried to pull myself to awareness, but the lull of sleepy bliss was almost too much to resist. I summoned my strongest burst of willpower, and for a moment, saw the scene clearly before my eyes. I was kneeling on top of Sarah’s legs, her body visibly unconscious from some kind of blunt trauma. Jack was continuously hitting at me with a metal pipe. For almost a moment I thought I would be able to get up and walk away from the horrific place, but suddenly I was overcome with something else. Not a soporific lull, but a violent presence.

It ripped through my every fiber, and sent my nerves screaming. It was a pain that tugged at the fabric of my soul, and sent tears streaming down my dirt-smudged face.

I was left with my consciousness, but my physical movements were absolutely not my own. So I had to watch myself raise the axe high above my head, poised to strike my friend. I aggressively tried to look away, but the demonic force would not allow it. It simply would not let me. I was made to watch myself bring the axe straight down into the head of Sarah, blood squirting in all directions. I felt numb to everything, to anything — it couldn’t be real. It couldn’t.

“You motherfucker, you son of a bitch!” Jack yelled at me, as I turned to face him. My body seemed immune to anything he did to me, no matter how much he swung his pipe into my head, I marched toward him. I wanted to stop. I had to stop. But I couldn’t stop.

I connected eyes with him, and I just hoped he could see the helplessness I felt. I still hope that to this day.

As I rose the axe to use against Jack, a vaulting force tackled into me, knocking me off balance.

Surprised, I looked up, hoping to see an angel. Far from it. It was the old night-shift janitor from the school. He stood grizzled, with a thick rod in his hand.

“You gotta fight it, kid!” He yelled at me. “There’s gotta be a way to beat it!”

But my body kept moving without my consent. The old man stood between me and Jack.

“Take me, Satan. Take me.” He ordered solemnly. “I’m the one who deserves it! Right here, right here in the heart,” he continued, thumping his chest.

I kept advancing, and pushed him aside, proceeding onto Jack.

I watched myself knock him out cold with the blunt end, and raise my axe to finish him. But then, without warning, I felt a tinge of power to resist. So the axe fell slowly, only part way. Then I wrested myself away, throwing my body onto the ground as the evil force attempted to rise.

“It’s the sunrise!” The janitor exclaimed as he pointed to a small window that was just barely above ground. “Keep fighting it off, son! Keep fighting it!”

I felt myself gain almost full control of my body! Confidently, I stood up and prepared to throw the axe aside. However, as I took one tiny step forward, the lingering demonic force inside me caused me to trip, sending the axe flying forward out of my hand, and — almost in slow motion — straight into Jack’s slumped over chest.

“No,” I whispered softly as I crumbled to the ground. I knew the horror was over, but the horror had been me.

The janitor looked away, downcast.

“Who are you?” I asked quietly. It was the only thing I could ask.

“My name,” the man replied equally quietly, “Is Ashton Boulevard.”

I perked up at that name.

“The boy who survived the murders?”

“Yes, yes, the boy who survived the murders,” an ancient Ashton replied bitterly.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“When the police found me,” Ashton explained, “I was sleeping in my bed, peaceful as could be, but covered in all the victims’ blood. The county considered prosecuting me, but I was 9-years-old and I guess they thought there was some other explanation for it, plus the whole thing was a snafu for the law enforcement. So they let me go.”

“Years later I was determined to find out who was guilty for the murders of my parents and sisters. I investigated every corner of this house, and demanded the county unseal the records of the police investigation years before. My research eventually led me to the killer. Me.

I thought about killing myself. But something kept me alive, the fact that I knew, deep down, I would never murder anyone. So I also started doing a lot of research on this house. It was known as the mansion where families went to die. Nobody lasted longer than a year in the Green Hill Manor. Nobody. And so I took the place back from the bank, and swore that I would protect the world from this house forever.”

“I wish I could have protected you,” He cried solemnly.

beetlejuice

He helped me bury the bodies in the basement. Nobody would find them there. I tried to get more information out of him, but he barely said another word. We parted ways at the end of the night, and never spoke again.

When people asked where I last saw Chloe, Todd, Sarah, or Jack, I told them that we parted ways at the base of the hill. Nobody ever doubted me, and after one quick interview with the local police I was let go.

The next few years I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I didn’t make any new friends, and tried to have as little contact with people as possible. I eventually blurted the whole horrific story out to one of my therapists, and she had me committed to a three month stint in an in-patient rehabilitation facility where I was “cured” of my delusions. But I still know what really happened.

A few weeks ago Ashton Boulevard died — I saw the notice in the Village Paper. A day later I received a letter in the mail stuffed with official-looking documents. In his Will the man had left me the Green Mansion.

Today you can find me at the Lordestown High School. I work the night shifts as a custodian there. And I’m writing this in an attempt to tell my story to as many people as possible, to make sure that whatever happened to me never ever happens again. TC mark

I Never Expected To Find My Forever Person

I Never Expected To Find My Forever Person

Forever person
Instagram / Holly Riordan

I never thought I would hit the six month mark of a relationship, let alone stay with someone for this many years and still feel like I’m the luckiest girl alive.

In fact, I never thought I would use terminology like that — cliches that I used to consider stupid — that I am the luckiest girl alive with butterflies in her stomach who feels like she is walking on air because she has found her true soulmate.

I never thought that I would find a good enough reason to settle down. I always thought that I would be the skeptical, single girl. The girl who was secretly happy to be unattached because love always ends and no one can be trusted and I’m better off alone. But you changed my way of thinking. You turned me into someone who believes in the possibility of forever.

You turned me into the kind of person who would rather fall asleep with your arms wrapped around me than inside of a big, empty bed. Who would rather share a bedroom and a bathroom than live on my own. Who would rather spend the evening watching old cartoons on the couch than go out and get drunk.

Honestly, I never thought that I would find my forever person. I never thought that I would become half of a couple that all of my friends aww’ed over. I assumed that I was destined to be alone — or at best, destined to jump from person to person without ever finding someone who made me feel half as alive as you do — but you changed all of that.

You gave me a reason to open my heart. You gave me a reason to trust. You gave me a reason look forward to my future. Our future.

I never thought that I would find someone like you. Someone I never have to censor myself around. Someone who I can bawl my eyes out in front of, can curse someone out in front of, can throw up in front of, and you won’t like me any less.

I never thought that I would stumble across someone who genuinly cared about my happiness. Who was willing to sacrifice for me. Who was willing to put actual effort into our relationship every single day.

I never thought I would find someone who pushed me forward instead of holding me back. Someone who encouraged me to pursue my dreams instead of stifling them. Someone who was proud over every success that I have achieved.

I never thought I would find someone who fit me as well as you do. Who makes me smile. Who makes me laugh. Who makes me feel comfortable in my skin.

I never thought I would be in a relationship for this long with someone so perfect for me — but now that I am, now that I’ve met you, I know we are going to stay together forever. I know that our story will last a lifetime. TC mark