Chapter 1


Seven Years Later…

A fourteen-year-old girl by the name of Winter sat in the park by herself, hugging her knees as she looked at the laughing people on the hill below her. She had just moved into the small town of MeadowBrush Falls and so had no friends. She dreaded the day that her parents would make her go to the high school, knowing that day was fast approaching.

Winter loved being alone, she always had. Her favorite thing to do was read ghost stories in the dark of her bedroom, or anywhere for that matter. She didn't feel the need nor the importance of making new friends and hanging out in the classic spots, like the movie theatre. She enjoyed being a loner.

Her parents had been pressuring her to go out and meet people, much to her annoyance. They had insisted that she go outside and threatened to enroll her in school the next day if she didn't attempt to meet some kids her own age. She had sourly agreed and headed to the park. They didn't notice that she grabbed her book, which rested on the kitchen countertop.

She sighed and flipped to the right page, tiring of watching those around her. Their happiness made her nauseous. How could anyone be that happy all the time? She didn't understand. Sure, the occasional joy was fine, but giddy for no reason? It reminded her of her cousins. How she loathed them, and their constant happiness.

Winter turned her attention to the book in front of her, reading intently and ignoring all the happy people that surrounded the spot which she sat.

After a few minutes of reading, she felt someone slide onto the bench beside her. Thinking it was one of her parents, she sighed. They had a habit of following her when she least wanted them to. The young girl looked up, preparing to get scolded about closing herself in with her book, but was surprised at the eyes she looked into. Instead of an angry mother or father, there sat a smiling teenage boy. "What do you want?" she demanded harshly, harsher than even she wanted to.

"Just to chat," he said, his voice low and his gaze making her uncomfortable.

"I'm…busy," she replied, turning slightly away from him. She jumped startled when she saw another boy on the other side of her. She scowled at him. He flashed a grin in return. "And I suppose you're also wanting 'just to chat,'" she said snidely.

"Nah, I don't 'chat' like he does." He glanced down at her book, then snatched it from her hands. "What'cha got here?" he asked, opening the book and skimming through it. "Boring," he sang, tossing it over his shoulder.

She gawked at him, outraged. "I was reading that!" she practically cried out.

"Boring," he repeated simply. "There are things more interesting than stupid ghost stories." She scowled at the boy, then went to stand up and retrieve her book. There was a third one, however, this one standing, and he pushed her gently back down on the bench between the first two.

"Hey!" she objected.

"Hey!" the original boy mimicked.

She turned an icy glare on him. Her mother said it was her cold eyes that named her Winter, and it was that glare that made it stick. "Look, I don't wanna talk to you. I wanna be left alone! So go away!"

"Aw, come on, we're just tryin' ta be friendly," the third said in a tone that was anything but.

Winter felt fear begin to fill her. It was something about the way those boys looked at her that scared her to the very core. Panic began to gnaw within. "Be friendly to someone else! I want to be alone!" she spat, her eyes dancing from one to another.

"Aw, it's not fun bein' alone," the first boy said, gripping her arm firmly and yanking her to her feet. She gasped, her blue eyes widening.

"Lemme go!"

"Why?" he asked, gripping her arm tighter. She tried to pull away but the second boy grabbed her other arm. Winter struggled against them in desperation.

"What's the hurry?" the third cooed at her.

"Look at her, Carl!" the second laughed. "She looks like she wants ta cry!" Indeed, Winter's eyes were beginning to line with tears of fear.

"Are you gonna cry now?" the first teased. Winter tried to make her features form a scowl, but it wasn't happening. Her entire body began to shake as they laughed, teasing and taunting her. How was it that no one saw? Why wasn't anyone helping her?

In a blind panic, Winter lashed out with her leg, meeting one of the boy's shins. He cried out and let go of her, startling the others.

Taking her chance, Winter jumped up onto the bench then darted over it, scooping up her book as she ran in terror. Unwittingly she scurried away from where the mob of park-goers were lounging.

She ran as fast as she could, not daring to look behind her to see where they were. When she finally stopped, she realized that the three boys weren't following her any longer. They had stopped.

Panting with eyes wide, she glanced around, hugging her book tightly to her chest. It was then that she noticed the grass where she stood was dead and the area was completely void of people. A shiver danced down her spine as her eyes narrowed and she glanced around. Her eyes fell upon a black, metal fence, and then on the house behind it.

A Victorian structure loomed up, seeming like it was desperately reaching for the sky like a starving man would food just out of reach. Its once white paint was chipped and damaged, revealing rotting wood. Windows were cracked and old, some were missing altogether. What few curtains remained were blood red and blew in a chilling wind, creating an eerie effect.

The yard before the Victorian home but after the black gates was in no better shape. Vines twined up the side of the home and gate, along with narrow oak and yew trees. Dead and decaying flowers lined the edge of the stone path that flowed toward the wooden deck. The French doors were splintered and the brass doorknobs were rusted, looking as though they haven't been touched. The house looked as if it hadn't been cared for, or lived in, for close to a decade. It was spooky, looking like something from one of her Stephen King novels.

Winter's curiosity was sparked immediately. Why was this part of the park avoided? Behind the old house, a secluded area caught her attention. Hesitantly with butterflies filling her stomach, she walked over to where a smaller fence lined the lone spot. She gasped when she saw rows tombstones. Just like in the books! she thought in delight.

Winter walked along the fence until she came to a gate, rusted at the hinges. She slowly pushed it open and went into the small gravesite, looking at the names engraved on the headstones. Anderson; that was the last name on most of them.

She traced her fingers along the cold stone, taking time to examine each one. It looked as if they hadn't been cared for in years.

Her eyes wandered away from the graves at her feet and around the yard. Stones were spread for quite some ways, filling the overgrown area. There wasn't much space between any of the graves, that she noted, until her eyes drifted up a small, rolling hill. She squinted at a lone tombstone, sitting a safe distance from the others. Her curiosity growing, Winter began to head up to it, but then stopped. It felt like someone was watching her. She slowly looked around, but saw no one even glancing at her. Not even the three boys who had been harassing her earlier. The only people she could see were at the park, a safe distance away from the house.

Winter felt another shiver dance up her spine. Suddenly a wave of nausea traced through her stomach and dizziness rushed through her head. She reached out to grip a tombstone but yanked her hand back. Her ice-blue eyes drifted to the house and she shivered. Leave! a voice screamed in her head. Now! A dizzying sensation of confusion flew through her mind as the foreign voice echoed through her head. Now! it repeated. Feeling as if she had no further time to contemplate the move, Winter darted from the graveyard as fast as she could.

She ran past the house, glancing at it from the corner of her eye. Heading toward the populated area of the park, Winter was careful to avoid the spot where she had last seen the three boys, heading toward her home. One thing was for sure: next time her parents made her go out 'meet new people' she was going back to that house to investigate.