The House Written and © by Christine Coulter, Sept. 05, 2006

The house was the largest house in the area, overshadowing all that lay before it. It was surrounded by woods, concealing all but the tallest tower of the manor, from which if someone stood, they could see the entire wood below. The house had stood there for well over one hundred years, but if you were to ask someone when and whom had built it, you would not get an answer . . . at least not one you would expect. For the house was legendary to all who inhabited the small town near the woods in which it resided.

Anyone you asked about the house who would give you an answer, for some wished to not even mention the house, let alone talk about it, would tell you that the house had just appeared overnight, seemingly out of thin air. No one had seen it being built, and even though some would say this was because of the woods surrounding it which blocked it from view, they couldn't explain why no sounds of building were heard either. Also, no one had seen anyone come into the town who may have built it, and all of the residents of the town denied having anything to do with its construction.

The fact that the house seemed to have appeared out of nowhere was not what made it so infamous. It was what people gave for the explanation of the house's sudden appearance that made everyone shiver just thinking about it. For from the moment the townspeople first sat eyes on the manor, one thought entered their minds - This house was built by the Devil himself! Who else would have created something so horrific in appearance? The house was overly large, seeming to go on for miles. It was made from wood of the blackest black, coming from a yet still unidentified species of tree, and was hard as stone and cold as ice upon touch. Many windows gave the appearance of hundreds of eyes staring down at those before it. No light came from within, so these eyes were just blank sockets, showing into a soul more cold than anything imaginable. The knocker on the front door was designed like a serpent, with red jewels set in as eyes, and when one touched it, they could swear they heard hissing and feel the stone snake slither in their grasp.

Just the mere glimpse at the house sent chills down everyone's spine. The townspeople dubbed the house the Devil's Manor, and no one dared to enter the woods to see the house up close. Not even the bravest of souls went near it.

And so the house stood, seemingly alone . . . Until the night the screams were heard.

They rang through the night like gun shots, startling everyone awake. The sound was so unearthly that some believed they were in fact within a nightmare, and begged to awake from it to escape the screams. But the screams did not end, and upon following them to discover their source, everyone was led to the Devil's Manor.

The screams continued, growing even louder and more frantic each second. It was agony to hear them, and the volume reached such a pitch that several people had to cover their ears with their hands, and even doing so, the screams could still not be blocked out.

A few of the men rushed to the front door and tried to open it, desparate to save whomever it was making such screams of terror. However, the door would not budge. The men began shoving into it with their shoulders, putting all their force into it, but the door could not be moved. It felt as if they were pushing into a brick wall. And as they continued their efforts to force the door open, the screams persisted, growing ever the more piercing.

Finally, someone rushed home to get an axe, hoping this could be used to get into the house. The strongest of the men took the axe and prepared to bash open the door, but as he was about to bring the axe down into the wood, the door burst open on its own. Shards of wood flew out, embedding themselves in peoples' flesh, one woman screaming in pain as a large splinter flew into her eye, sending blood splattering.

The moment the door had flown open, the screams ceased, seeming as if they never were and leaving a deafening silence in their wake. The only sound that could be heard was that of the wounded people's whimpers.

Slowly and cautiously, the men made their way into the dark house, carrying lanterns to illuminate the darkness. They looked for some source of light within the house to help in their search, but found nothing. They had nothing to see by but the dim light of their lanterns, and, no matter how hard some of them tried to deny it, the shadows of the house filled them with extreme uneasiness. They could swear someone, or something, was watching them from the darkened corners, waiting to lash out at them at any given moment.

Upon searching the bottom floor of the house, the men were surprised to find no signs of anyone having been in the house. The house seemed to have never had anyone step foot in it, let alone live in it. Despite there seeming to be no one but them on this floor, several of the men kept seeing quick movements in the corner of their eyes. However, whenever they'd turn to find the source of the movement, they'd find nothing but darkened emptiness.

The men were becoming very anxious and wanted to leave the house as soon as possible. To make their search go quicker, they decided to split into two groups, one to search the cellar, the other to search the top floor, the tower, and the attic. Wishing each other luck, the men went their separate ways, some going upstairs, the others going into the basement. The men who had gone upstairs then also separated, some going, rather reluctantly, to look in the tower and attic.

The ones searching the second floor began looking though the rooms. They had searched all but one room, all of which had been empty, but as they came to the last room, they could make out a dark shape laying in the center of the room. As they entered the room and walked toward the object, the door slammed violently shut behind them.

At the same moment, the attic door slammed shut, as well as the basement's, trapping those within the rooms inside.

All the men upstairs whipped around toward the door, horrified.

"What's going on?" one of them asked.

"I have no idea, but let's see what or who this is and get the hell out of here!"

The men once again went to the object laying on the floor and shined their lights on it. Whatever it was was covered with a blanket, obscuring it from view. One of the men reached down and touched it, feeling the thing move.

"Are you alright?" he asked, guessing this was probably the woman who had been screaming. When she didn't answer, he took hold of the blanket and pulled it back - and what was revealed made the men scream in terror.

When the blanket had been removed, the thing beneath it rose quickly to its feet and turned to face the men, revealing a face only seen in the worst of nightmares. The face was not that of a living human. The flesh had rotted away, leaving skull clearly visible, through which the men could see thousands of maggots crawling. The eye sockets were not empty, but the eyes that stared out of them were much more than demonic. They were red as blood and blazed with a fire that burnt to the core of the men's souls. The mouth was a gaping black hole, oozing a foul substance through rotted teeth. And this mouth, though void of lips, still managed to smile wickedly at the men just before rushing at them.

The men ran for the door, but many were caught by the creature before they could reach it. The demon tore them apart limb by limb, sending blood spraying across the room and onto the faces of those not yet dead. Soon, only one man was left, and as he grabbed desperately at the door handle, it wouldn't budge. And as the thing that had killed his companions came toward him, blood and shreds of human skin coating the thing's fingernails, he only had time to let out one last scream before he, too, lay dead in a pool of his own blood, his eyes staring blankly from his head that lay on the other side of the room.

At that same moment, the others in the rest of the house could be heard screaming by those outside, and these screams were far worse than those that had brought them out to the house. It seemed to go on for hours, and when the horrid shrieks finally faded into the night, everyone waited with baited breath to see if anyone was going to emerge from the house. Only one did, and he was so ashen-faced and stiff as he walked that no one wanted to ask him what had happened in the house, and most doubted he would have been able to tell them, for no sound escaped his pale lips as they led him back into town, leaving the dreaded house behind.

After that night, no one dared to return to the house. And so for years the house sat undisturbed. Many said they should tear the house down and be rid of its evil for good, but whenever anyone would get near enough to the house to do so, they would be overcome by a feeling of such dread that they fled the area immediately.

As the years went by, the path which led to the house became overgrown with plants, making it barely visible, but the house itself remained unchanged. After enough years to make the houses built after the evil house need much repair, the Devil's Manor still appeared newly built and well-cared for.

As each child born into the town turned into a teenager, new stories were created of the house's origin, each one more twisted and frightening than the last. It soon became the running bet of most teens to see if anyone was brave enough to go out to the house at night and stay there until morning. No one had followed through on the bet yet.

And so it seemed that the house would continue to remain as it was, daunting and evil, until the end of time itself . . .

70 YEARS LATER

As her parents' car drove toward their new home, Cara Stevenson once again wished so much they would hurry up and get there before she was forced to murder her brother Martin. Martin had been continuously poking her in the ribs since they had left their old house three hours ago. It was bad enough being stuck in a car for that long, but having to be stuck in it with one's younger brother was torture, especially when he was constantly trying to make you tell him off so you'd get told off by your parents.

"Stop it!" Cara said for the hundredth time, though she knew it would still do no good.

"Stop what?" Martin said, trying to act innocent. "I'm not doing anything!" he said, poking her once again, this time harder than the other times.

Fed up, Cara grabbed his finger and held it.

"If you don't stop, I'll break off your finger and shove it up your-!"

"Cara!" their mom said from the passenger seat. "Watch your language! And Martin, stop pestering your sister! If you don't, I'm likely to let her do whatever she wants to you!"

Cara let go of her brother's finger, who pulled it quickly to him and held it protectively.

"Are we almost there yet?" Martin said, annoyance in his voice.

"We'll be there in about a half an hour."

"Oh man!" he said. "I really have to piss!"

"Martin! Don't say piss!" their mom said.

"Sorry, Mom. I mean, I have to pee, and I don't think I can hold it any longer."

"Why didn't you go back at the gas station?" their dad Alan asked.

"You know I can't go in public places. Besides, there was a giant spider in the bathroom!"

"Wuss," Cara said, though she was terrified of spiders as well.

"Maybe we should pull over and let him go in the trees," their mom suggested.

"Darla, we're nearly to the new place. Surely Martin can wait a little longer," Alan said.

"But I don't think I can!" Martin said, beginning to wiggle in his seat. "I feel like I'm about to overflow!"

"Fine," Alan sighed, pulling over to the side of the road. "Just hurry up."

Martin jumped out of the car and ran into the trees, trying not to go too far away from the car but still be well hidden by the trees so no one could see him going. When he found a spot he thought was suitable, he unzipped his pants and waited to start peeing. He had just begun to go when he saw something over the top of the trees. It looked like the top of a tower like those he'd seen in pictures of castles and mansions, and Martin wondered who would build a place out in the middle of the woods. He couldn't take his eyes off the tower the entire time he was peeing, and when he had finished, he felt compelled to find out what the house the tower belonged to looked like.

"Hurry up, Martin!" he heard his sister call from the car, but ignored her as he went farther into the woods in search of the house.

Martin made his way through the trees toward the house, but he soon realized the house must have been farther away from him than what he had thought, for he had been walking for at least ten minutes and still hadn't found the place.

Back in the car, Martin and Cara's parents were becoming impatient with their son.

"What in god's name is taking him so long?" Alan asked. "Cara, go find your brother."

"But Dad!" Cara protested.

"Look, do you want to get to the new house or what? Just go find your brother and drag him back to the car if you have to."

Cara sighed and got out of the car. I'm going to kill Martin when I find him, she thought. He better hope he's been eaten by a bear!

Martin was about to give up on his search for the house and return to the car when he finally walked into the clearing in which the house sat. He gasped when he saw the full house. It was easily the creepiest thing he had ever seen in his life. The house was jet black, with tall dark windows that resembled cruel eyes staring down at him. He was frozen by the house, unable to take his eyes off it, and the longer he looked at it, the colder his skin seemed to become. It was eighty degrees out, but he felt as though he were standing outside in the middle of winter with no coat or gloves.

As he stood looking at the house, something drew his eyes to one of the top windows. When he looked up, his heart stopped when he saw the face of a woman with black eyes and white skin looking back at him. And when a hand grabbed his shoulder, he jumped a foot off the ground and screamed. Whipping around, Martin let out a sigh of relief when he saw Cara standing there.

"What the hell are you doing?" Cara asked. "You were just supposed to pee and come back to the car. Mom and Dad are going to kill you-" Cara stopped talking when she saw the house. "Wow, this place is freaky," she said, only because she couldn't think of any words that could truly describe what she thought of it.

"Tell me about it. There was someone looking out at me."

"Really?" Cara asked. "Where?"

"From that top window," Martin said, pointing to the window from which he had seen the woman, but there was no one there now.

"Ick," Cara said. "Let's get out of here. This place gives me the creeps."

"Yeah," her bother agreed.

They turned from the house and headed back in the direction of their parents' car, but they kept glancing back at the house, feeling as if something was trying to keep them from leaving. When they reached their parents' car, they wasted no time in getting in, relieved to be out of the woods.

"What the hell took you so long, young man?" their mother asked. "We could have already been at the new house by now!"

"Sorry, Mom," Martin apologized.

"I've never known you to take that long to go to the bathroom. What were you doing out there?"

"Well, while I was peeing, I saw the top of this tower over the trees, and so I went to check it out."

"You went to look at some house in the middle of the woods when you have no idea who could have lived there?" their mother said, shocked. "How do you know some maniac didn't live there? You never go looking for something in someplace you don't know. You could have gotten lost, or killed! That's it, from now on, if we're out in the middle of no where and you have to pee, you're just going to have to hold it!"

"Believe me, if I had known what the house would be like, I wouldn't have gone looking for it," he explained. "That place was scary as hell!"

"Language!" Mrs. Stevenson said.

"But it's true!" Martin protested. "It looked like something Cara would live in!" He was referring to Cara's love of the Gothic.

"Please! Not even I would live in a house like that. That place was just freaky," Cara added, shuddering.

"Well, it doesn't matter now," their dad said, starting the car. "All that matters is that we get to the new place and get settled in."

Their dad started down the road again, and finally, about a half hour later, the car pulled in front of a two story house near the end of Barkley Street.

"This is it?" Cara said, looking up at the house. Neither she nor Martin had seen it before now.

"Yup," their dad said.

"Great!" Martin said sarcastically, standing beside his sister.

The house was clearly at least a hundred years old and was the horrible color of brown. It didn't look evil like the house in the woods, but it was still not something Cara or Martin would have chosen to live in. They both looked at their parents with looked of "What the hell were you thinking?!" on their faces.

"Hey, it was the only house available!" Alan said. "Besides, it doesn't look so bad on the inside. There's even an attic bedroom, which I'm sure Cara will love."

"Great, thanks, Dad," Cara said, trying to force a smile but failing.

"Well, come on everyone," their mom said. "Let's start getting stuff inside!"

They spent the rest of the day unloading stuff from the car and the moving van that had come ahead of them and taking everything into the house. They finally got everything inside around eight, and since everyone was so tired, they decided to only unpack the most important things that night and save the rest for later.

Cara was in her attic bedroom, setting some things up. There was only one window, and since it faced the attic window of the house next door, the first thing Cara did was start to hang up some black curtains, because she didn't like the thought of whoever lived there looking in on her. However, as she was hanging up the curtain, she saw the occupant of the neighboring attic standing in front of his window. He had in some earbuds, which were attacked to an mp3 player. His eyes were closed, and his mouth was moving, so Cara guessed he must have been really getting into whatever song he was listening to and singing to it. He looked to be about her age, with black hair that came just past his ears, and in her opinion, he was rather good looking. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and looked up, and when he saw Cara, he smiled, making her blush bright red. As quickly as she could, Cara pulled the curtain shut, thankful she had finished hanging it.

As Cara's mother turned down Wester Street, Cara could see the High School looming up ahead. She had always dreaded school, but especially hated it when she had to go to a new school where no one knew her. Not that anyone had known her at her old school, for she had very much been an outcast, but at least there people were used to her and didn't stare. At a new school, especially with her Goth appearance, she couldn't avoid being stared at. She would rather be invisible than a spectacle.

As Cara's mom got closer to the school, she stopped a few hundred feet away.

"You want me to drop you off here so you don't have to be embarrassed by your mother?" she asked Cara.

"Thanks," Cara said as she grabbed her book bag.

The moment Cara was out of the car, she slipped on her shades, even though it still wasn't bright enough for them. She slung her bag over her shoulder, and reluctantly began walking the rest of the way to her new school.

"See you this afternoon!" her mother called after her.

"Uh huh, whatever," Cara said, giving a halfhearted wave as her mother drove past her.

Cara reached the school's lawn where a group of students were making their way into the school as well. When they saw her, they gave her weird looks, which she gave to them in return. They then began whispering to each other, counting to glance back at her until they had disappeared into the school. Cara reluctantly went in behind them.

There were at least a few hundred students moving about the halls. She glanced around, hoping to spot some fellow Goths, but unfortunately, she saw none. She had been the only Goth at her old school, which meant she had gone the entire time having no one to fit in with. She had had no friends and had hoped that if anything good would come from moving that she'd make some here. Her hopes hadn't been very high for it, but now they were even less so. She did, however, spot the office, which she went to.

As she went to the desk, the lady sitting behind it looked up at her.

"Hello. What can I do for you?" the lady smiled, but as she saw the way Cara was dressed, the smile faltered slightly.

"Yeah, hi. I'm Cara Stevenson. This is my first day."

"Aw, yes. I have your schedule and locker number and combo right here," the lady said as she grabbed some papers off the table. She handed them to Cara. "I'm sure you'll enjoy it here," she said.

"Yeah, right," Cara replied.

She turned from the desk and headed back out into the hall, looking down at her schedule. Suddenly, someone slammed into her, making them both fall roughly to the floor.

"Hey, watch it!" Cara said indignantly.

"Sorry!" the guy who had run into her said.

Cara looked at him, and was pleasantly surprised to see he was dressed similar to her, only his look was more punk than Goth. He had on knee-length black shorts, sneakers with no socks, a green stripped shirt, and a green Mohock. His nose was pierced, and underneath his arm he carried a skateboard, which he had managed keep from dropping when he ran into her. When he saw how she was dressed, he smiled.

"Hey, love the look!" he said cheerfully. "It's about time we got some new blood around here, especially someone as hot as yourself!" Cara blushed. She had never been called hot before. "My name's Kyle, by the way." He stood up and held out his hand.

"I'm Cara," Cara said as he helped her up.

"Sorry about running into you like that. I just wanted to find my boy Brandon before class started."

"It's cool," Cara said. "At least you actually acknowledged bumping into me. At my old school, people would run right into me and act as though I wasn't even there!"

"Well, the same happens here," Kyle admitted. "But lucky for me, I always notice when I run into a hot girl!" He laughed.

"Well, I don't know about being hot, but I definitely know I could use some help finding my locker."

"What number is it?"

"217."

"Hey, that's right by Brandon's. Here, I'll take you."

Kyle led Cara down the halls, pass several students who all looked at he and Cara like they were the lowest form of life. Kyle just smiled at them, apparently unbothered by it. When they reached locker number 217, the one beside it was open, and the locker's owner had his head shoved into it.

"Hey Brandon, my man!" Kyle said. "Hey, I want you to meet my new friend. Cara, this is Brandon."

"Nice to meet-" Cara stopped dead when Brandon closed his locker door, allowing her to see him. It was the same guy she had seen in the attic next door. He wore black jeans and a black shirt, and when he saw Cara, his blue eyes seemed to brighten up a bit.

"Hey, I know you!" Brandon said, smiling. "You're the girl who just moved next door to me."

"Um, yeah," Cara said, blushing. She looked away, playing with her locker lock to keep from looking at him.

"Wait, she lives next door to you?" Kyle said.

"Yup," Brandon said.

"Lucky bastard."

"So Cara, what brings you to this god awful town?" Brandon asked.

"My parents' car," Cara said, and then blushed even harder, fearing Brandon would think she was being rude, but when he laughed, she did too.

"You're funny. I think you'll fit in with our little group."

"Group? There are more of you?"

"Yeah, but only two others, James and Missy. But they're the most awesome fuckers you'll ever meet.

"Missy's my girlfriend," Kyle said. "James is her bother."

"Where are they?" Cara asked.

"Oh, they're always late for school," Brandon said. "They're probably still in bed. They always show up late. But they'll come in eventually. Let me see your schedule." Cara handed it to him. "Hey, we all have the same lunch break. If you don't meet them in between classes, you'll definitely meet them at lunch. You can sit with us if you want."

"Um, sure," Cara said. She couldn't ever member being invited to sit with anyone at lunch before. It was a nice change.

It turned out that Cara shared each of her classes with at least one of the "freaks," as they called themselves. At lunch, she joined Brandon, Kyle, James, and Missy at a table in the back. They had just started eating lunch and were discussing the newest horror movie to come out at the theater when a tall, muscular guy came over and knocked Kyle's drink out of his hand.

"Well, if it isn't the freakoids!" he called them. "Oh, and I see you got a new member of your fucked up group," he said when he spotted Cara. "Like we need another vampire-wannabe at this school. You four were bad enough."

"Oh, fuck off, Rodney," Brandon said. "Why don't you go butt fuck your football buddies over there?"

"Fuck you, pissbag. So, new girl, has anyone told you about the Devil's Manor yet? Seems like the perfect place for a freak like yourself."

"Devil's Manor?" Cara asked. "What's that?"

"It's this totally fucked up house in the middle of the woods a few miles outside of town."

"Wait. Is it a black house?" Cara said, remembering the house she and her brother had seen in the woods. She had even had a nightmare about the house the night she had seen it.

"Yeah, how'd you know?" Rodney asked.

"Because I saw it. Place is scary as hell."

"You're telling me. No one will go near the place."

"I don't blame them. But why is it called the Devil's Manor?"

"Because supposedly, Satan himself built it. Legend has it that the house just appeared in the middle of the night about seventy years ago. Some people went into it, but only one came out alive."

"Yeah, right," Cara said, unbelieving.

"Hey, it's true. The guy that came out went all crazy and shit. He's still alive in the mental institute here in town."

"Is this for real?" Cara asked Brandon.

"Supposedly," Brandon said. "The story's been around forever."

"Yeah, and no one's been in the house since then," Rodney continued. "No one can get in, even if they are brave enough to try. But I hear that on the anniversary of the deaths that the house opens up again, ready to take more victims. And guess what tomorrow is?"

"The anniversary?" Cara stated the obvious.

"Fuck right. And I bet you pussies aren't brave enough to go to the house and see if it's true."

"Oh, fuck you. I bet you're not brave enough either," James said.

"Bullshit! I'm braver than any of you fucked up Goth freaks."

"Prove it then," Brandon said. "Go out to the house tomorrow night."

"Yeah fucking right. I got a party to go to tomorrow."

"Yeah, or else you're too chicken . . ." Missy taunted.

Feeling insulted, Rodney tried to puff up his chest and look all tough. "Okay, how about this. If you fucks go out to the house, I will too. If we really can get into the house, we'll go in and see who stays the longest. I bet you fucks won't last an hour in the place."

"You got yourself a bet," Brandon said. "The five of us and you will go to the Devil's Manor tomorrow night, and we'll see who the real chicken is." He and Rodney shook hands, but as soon as Rodney pulled his hand away, he knocked Cara's tray on the floor, spilling her food.

"Sorry about that," Brandon said, helping her pick up her tray. "Rodney's a fucking dick."

"Oh, don't worry about it. I dealt with people like him at my old school. But can I ask you something? Are you serious about going out to that house? I've seen it, and it's not exactly the type of place I really want to sneak into . . ." Cara said, blushed slightly, afraid Brandon would think she was too scared to do it, even though it was true.

"Hey, don't worry about it. If anything happens, I'll protect you," he said with a smile. "But if you don't want to go, you don't have to."

Cara felt herself grow even redder, his smile making her heart skip, and before she realized what she was doing, she smiled back and nodded. "Okay, I'll go, but only if you'll protect me."

The night they were to sneak into the Devil's Manor, Cara kept pacing back and forth across her room, her nerves building up inside of her. She kept playing with the hem of her skirt and biting her lip. She hadn't told anyone where she was going, for she knew that if she had, her parents would never let her go. Luckily (or more like unluckily, she thought) they had gone out for the night, so she didn't have to worry about them asking where she was going and not having an answer for them.

The night before, the day Brandon had made the bet with Rodney, Cara had had another nightmare about the house, in which she kept seeing all these evil faces and hands staring and grabbing at her, trying to pull her down into the floor. She had seen her friends having their flesh torn off and blood seeping from their eyes, and for the first time in her life, she woke up screaming. She just couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen in the house, but she didn't want to let Brandon down either, so she knew she couldn't chicken out now, no matter how bad she wanted to.

Martin, who was listening to his mp3 player, walked by Cara's room and saw her pacing anxiously.

"Cara?" he said, pulling his earbuds out of his ears.

Cara jumped, nearly falling to the floor. When she turned and saw Martin standing there, she steadied herself and ran at him.

"Martin, you shit! You scared the shit out of me!" she raged. "Don't do that shit to me!" She was breathing hard and held her hand over her pounding heart.

"Sorry," Martin said. "What's up with you, anyway? I've never seen you this jumpy."

"It's nothing," Cara lied, trying to calm herself.

"Are you going somewhere?" Martin asked, noticing Cara was wearing her combat boots.

"Maybe," Cara said.

"Where?"

"None of your damn business."

"You're not going to that house we saw in the woods, are you?"

Cara stared at him, startled that he knew. "How did you know that?"

Martin shifted from one foot to the other, clearly uncomfortable. "I, um . . ."

"Tell me, you little shit!"

"Well, at my school, there's this kid, Brian Merriman, and he was saying how his brother Rodney was going out to the Devil's Manor with some Goth kids. And since you're one of the only Goths I know, I thought you might have been one of them. And then I had a dream about that house last night-"

"Hey, I had a dream about the house, too!" Cara said, shocked.

"Is that why you screamed in the middle of the night?" Martin asked.

"Yeah. It was scary as hell. What happened in your dream?"

Once again, Martin started shifting from one foot to the other, and he couldn't seem to look Cara in the eyes.

"Martin, what happened?" Cara asked again, but from the way he was acting, she didn't know if she wanted to know.

"Well, you kind of, um . . ."

"Yes?"

"You died."

"What?! Are you serious?"

"Yeah. At first, I figured it was just a dream, because I dream about you dying all the time - no offence," he added, "- but this one was so realistic. And then, at school today, I heard Brian talking about his brother going to the mansion with some Goths, and it made me afraid that you were one of them and that something bad was going to happen to you."

Cara didn't know what to say. She had never seen her brother look so worried before, and it made her want even more to call up Brandon that very moment and tell him she couldn't go, but she just didn't think she could do that, not when she thought of his gorgeous blue eyes looking at her with disappointment. So she tried to push her nervousness aside.

"Hey, don't worry, kiddo. You're right, it was just a dream. It is just a house after all. What's the worse that could happen?" But she seemed even less convinced than Martin did.

"Cara, please don't go," he said, sounding as if he were about to start crying.

"Martin, I-" But before she could finish, the phone rang, making them both jump.

Cara answered the phone, her voice somewhat higher than usual when she said hello. It was Brandon saying he was on his way to pick her up.

"Um, Brandon, about that . . ."

"What, is something wrong?" Brandon asked.

"I, um . . ." She just couldn't do it. She just couldn't back out now. "Never mind. I'll be ready."

"Okay. See you in a bit."

When Cara hung up the phone, her brother looked at her in disbelief.

"So you're still going?!" he asked, sounding shocked and even more frightened.

"I'm sorry, Martin, but I can't let Brandon down. I'll be fine, I promise," Cara said, but she wasn't so sure herself.

Martin suddenly turned and ran from her room, and Cara was afraid she had really upset him. She followed him to his room and saw him bending over his trunk.

"Look, Martin, I'm sorry-" But before she could finish, he stood up and faced her.

"Here," he said, handing her a box.

"What's this?" she asked.

"Just open it," he said.

Cara opened the box and saw within it an ankh necklace. "Martin, this is gorgeous!" she said. "Where'd you get it?"

"I saw it online and ordered it for you for your birthday. I know that's still a few months away, but I heard ankhs are good for protection, so I wanted to give it to you now, just in case."

Cara had never known Martin to do something so thoughtful. "Are you sure you're my brother?" she asked.

"Very funny. So put it on, will you? You're boyfriend will be here any moment."

Cara blushed. "He's not my boyfriend," she said as she slipped on the necklace.

"Well, you're sure being awful stupid for some guy who isn't your boyfriend," he said, cracking a slight smile. She smiled back, though like his, it was slightly forced.

They heard a car horn sound and knew that Brandon had arrived. They ran down stairs. Cara put her hand on the door handle, but before she turned it, she looked once more at Martin.

"Promise you won't tell Mom and Dad where I'm at, okay?"

"Okay," Martin said.

"Thanks, squirt."

Cara opened the door and saw Brandon's truck. In the back sat James, Kyle, and Missy. They smiled and waved at her, though Cara could tell they were nervous as well. Brandon waved at her from behind the steering wheel.

"Hey, hot stuff," he said. "Let's get a move on."

"Okay," Cara said, walking out to the truck.

Just as she put her hand on the handle to open the passenger door, Cara felt someone grab her wrist. She turned around and was very surprised to have Martin wrap his arms around her.

"Please be safe," he said, his voice muffled from his face being pressed into Cara's shirt.

Cara hadn't been hugged by Martin since he had been five, so she was rather taken aback by the situation, but she hugged him back.

"Don't worry, I will."

"Okay, enough with the mushy stuff," Brandon said. "We need to go."

Cara and Martin broke apart, and as Cara got into the truck beside Brandon, she kept looking at Martin, whose eyes were beginning to redden. She waved at him as Brandon drove down the street, and she hoped with all her heart that she would be able to keep her promise to him that she'd be okay.

After a few minutes of driving, Cara noticed that they weren't going in the direction of the Devil's Manor.

"Hey, where are we going?" she asked.

"To the mental institute," Brandon told her.

"Why?"

"Because Rodney thought it would be a good idea if we met the guy that was last in the house, just to see if the stories are true. Rodney's meeting us there."

When they reached the institute, Cara got a slight foreboding feeling as she looked up at it. Rodney's Corvette was parked in a front parking spot, and they pulled in beside him.

"It's about time you freaks got here. I was starting to think you had chickened out."

"Please," Brandon said as he got out of the truck. "The only one who will be doing any chickening out tonight will be you as soon as we get to the Devil's Manor."

"Yeah? Well, we'll see about that," Rodney said, leading the way toward the institute's entrance.

When they went inside, they saw a counter, behind which sat a woman dressed in a nurse uniform. When she saw them, she stood up to greet them.

"May I help you?" she asked, eyeing them.

"Yes. We're here to see a Mr. Jonathan Piers," Rodney said.

"Jonathan Piers?" the nurse asked, looking at them suspiciously. "Are you relatives of his?"

"Um . . ." Rodney said, at first not knowing what to say. But then Brandon jumped in.

"Of course. He's our great uncle," Brandon said.

"Odd. We've never had any relatives of his come in here before." Now Brandon didn't know what to say.

"That's because we just found out we were related to him," Cara said, helping out. Brandon smiled at her.

"Well, alright," the nurse said, though still sounding skeptical. "Follow me, please."

She led them through two electronically locked doors, then to an elevator, which they took to the third floor. As they walked past some of the rooms, Cara heard moaning, and at one point, one room's occupant ran up and slammed her face into the small window in the door.

Finally, they reached the last door on the floor. The nurse unlocked it and led them inside. The room was rather bare except for one table and a very uncomfortable looking bed. In a chair that sat in a corner of the room sat a very old man, staring blankly forward.

"Jonathan, you have some guests," the nurse told him. Then she turned to them. "I must warn you. Jonathan is very unresponsive, so I don't think talking to him will do much good."

"That's okay," Brandon said. "Do you mind if we have some time alone with him?"

"Sure. I'll be right outside. Just knock when you're ready to leave."

The nurse left them alone in the room. At first, all was silent, for no one could think of anything to say. Finally, Brandon said, "Hi Jonathan. My name's Brandon, and these are my friends. Well, that guy there isn't," he said, gesturing toward Rodney, who flipped him off. Jonathan said and did nothing.

"We were wondering if you could tell us what happened to you in the Devil's Manor?" Missy asked.

Suddenly, Jonathan's eyes grew wide, and his mouth opened in a silent scream. He started shaking in his chair, and unexpectedly, he jumped and ran into the corner, falling into the fetal position. He started rocking back and forth, mumbling incoherently.

"Mr. Piers?" Brandon said. "Are you okay?" Brandon touched him on his shoulder, making Jonathan scream in terror and making the others jump back in shock.

"What's going on in there?" the nurse said, opening the door.

"We don't know!" Missy said.

"We just asked him a question and he started to freak!" James said.

"Get me the hell out of here!" Rodney said, pushing pass the nurse and running out into the hall.

Everyone began existing the room, Cara behind the others, and just as she was about to leave, Jonathan grabbed her wrist.

"Don't go to that house!" he said hoarsely, his eyes filled with utmost terror. "If you do, you'll never come out alive!"

Cara struggled to free herself from his vice-like grasp, but he seemed incredibly strong. Brandon turned around and saw what was happening, and grabbed Jonathan's hand and pried it open. Cara pulled her wrist free, rubbing it.

"Don't go to that house!" Jonathan screamed as the nurse led them away. "The Devil himself will never let you leave!"

Several minutes later, everyone was back in Brandon's truck, driving toward the Devil's Manor. They were following behind Rodney in his Corvette. No one had said anything since leaving the institute. Cara was still massaging her hurt wrist, which now had a bruise on it in the shape of a hand.

"You okay?" Brandon asked, looking at her with concern.

"Yes, I'm fine," Cara said. "Did you hear what he said to me?"

"What, about never coming out of the house alive? Yeah, I heard. Do you believe him?"

"I don't know," Cara said. "I mean, I know it's just a house, but I just have this really bad feeling about it."

"Yeah. But like you said, it is just a house. But if you don't want to go, I can turn around and drive you home."

"No, that's okay. We're nearly there. Might as well go all the way, right?"

"See, that's why I like you. Most anyone else would have backed out after having what happened to you happen. You're definitely one of the bravest chicks I know."

"Thanks," Cara said, smiling appreciatively at Brandon. "Just remember you said you'd protect me if anything bad happens in the house."

"Don't worry, I will. If any demon or ghost wants you, they'll have to come through me first."

After that, they fell silent once more. They were now driving past more and more trees, and Cara was sure they would soon reach the Devil's Manor. When they came to a dirt road, Rodney turned down it and Brandon followed. The road soon came to a dead in, and Rodney pulled to a stop and turned off his engine. Brandon did the same.

"We'll have to walk from here," Brandon said. "Grab the flashlights from behind your seat."

Cara reached behind her seat and found five flashlights. She handed on to Brandon, James, Kyle, and Missy, keeping one for herself. Rodney held his own flashlight, which he shined in Brandon's face as they walked up to him.

"Thanks a lot, asshole," Brandon said. "I'm blind now."

"No problem," Rodney said, smiling.

"Which way is it?" Kyle asked.

"I think it's this way," Rodney asked, walking into the trees. They followed after him. "There's supposed to be a path that leads to the house. I hear it's overgrown pretty bad, but I'm sure I can find it." Rodney began pushing through plants, shining his flashlight on the ground. At first, he didn't see anything, but then he made out a faint outline of earth that had been worn down, and shining his light forward, he saw that it continued on through the trees. "Ah ha, found it!" He smiled at them cockily.

As they followed the path deeper into the woods, Cara felt her nerves begin to expand, filling her chest. She wanted so bad to turn around and leave the woods, but she knew she couldn't, not now that she'd come this far. At one point as they walked, Cara thought she heard something behind them, making her heart pound even harder, but when she turned around and looked, she didn't see anyone.

Finally, they saw the top of the house's tower over the trees. They continued following the path until they came to the clearing in which the house stood. They were to the side of the house, and when they walked around to the front and looked up at its looming darkness, they all felt as if a shadow had fallen over them. Rodney in particular seemed to become very frightened, which Brandon was quick to point out.

"What's wrong? Thinking of turning around and running home to your mommy?" Brandon said.

Rodney looked at him menacingly. "I'm not going anywhere but inside that house," he said, and bumped into Brandon roughly with his shoulder as he walked pass him up the porch steps.

Rodney put his hand on the door's handle and stared at the evil-looking knocker.

"Think I should knock first?" he said, laughing.

"Just see if the damn door is unlocked!" Brandon said, coming up behind him.

"Don't tell me what to do, freak!" Rodney said, shoving Brandon.

"Okay, that's it!" Brandon said, pushing him back.

They began going at each other, looking as though each were out for blood, making James and Kyle jump in to separate them.

"Stop it, you two!" James said, holding Rodney back, while Kyle did the same for Brandon.

"Get off me!" Rodney said, throwing James off. "Let's just see if we can get into this damn house and get this the fuck over with!"

"Agreed," Brandon said. "I want to get away from your dumbass as soon as possible."

Rodney placed his hand on the door handle once more, and when he turned it, everyone was shocked to see the door swing open. They looked at each other one last time, took a deep breath, and stepped into the darkness of the house.

The first thing they noticed was the vastness of the entrance hall. It looked much bigger on the inside than from the outside. Above them was a giant glass chandelier, and in front of them was a giant staircase leading to the second floor. Cara stared up at the chandelier, a knot in her throat. She felt oddly cold, as if she were standing in nothing but shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter. The hair on her arms and the back of her neck stood up, and she could swear she felt eyes on her. The atmosphere surrounding the house outside had been bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the inside. She didn't like it here, not one bit, and she was wishing more and more that she would have just stayed home.

They walked toward the looming staircase, leaving the door open to help provide light, but just as they reached the foot of the stairs, the door slammed shut so hard the chandelier above them shook. Missy screamed, and they turned around in fright, hearts pounding. Immediately, they ran to the door. Rodney grabbed the handle and pulled, but it wouldn't budge.

"Shit!" he said. "The fucking door is stuck!" he said.

"What?!" Missy said, her voice filled with panic.

"Oh, get out of the way!" Brandon said, trying the door himself, but like Rodney said, it was stuck tight. "Fuck! What are we going to do now?"

"I knew this was a bad idea," Cara said under her breath, gripping her ankh necklace tightly.

"Everyone, just calm down," James said, trying to keep his voice calm. "The wind probably blew it shut."

"Yeah, but how does that explain the door being stuck?" Kyle asked, holding Missy close.

"This house is old. The door frame probably just warped or something. I'm sure there are other doors in this place to get out of. We just have to find one."

"I hope you're right," Missy said. "Because I really do not want to be stuck in this house for the rest of my life!"

"Don't worry, baby," Kyle said, running his fingers reassuringly through her hair. "We just have to call somebody to come get us out."

"Yeah, and get arrested for breaking and entering? I don't think so!" Rodney said. "We'll find our own way out." He turned and walked down the hall to the right of the staircase.

"Should we follow him?" Kyle asked.

"I guess. Might as well stick together," Brandon said.

They began to follow Rodney, but something made Cara stop and turn around. For a brief second, Cara thought she saw red eyes staring out of the darkness of the hall to the left of the stairs. They disappeared almost the instant Cara saw them, but she still continued to stare into the darkness. Her breathing grew heavy, and she tried to turn away, but she couldn't. Suddenly, Cara felt a hand on her shoulder, and she whipped around in fright.

"Whoa, sorry! Didn't mean to scare you," Brandon said. "Are you okay?" he asked, noticing the whiteness of Cara's face.

"I thought I saw . . ." Cara started to say, but she stopped herself, fearing what Brandon would think if she told him the truth.

"Saw what?" he asked.

"Nothing," Cara lied. "It was just the dark playing tricks on me."

Brandon looked at her with slight concern in his eyes, but he didn't voice it. "Well, let's go catch up with the others before they get lost in this house. It would take us all night to find them in this place!" he laughed, putting his arm around Cara and steering her in the direction the others went.

The hall led them into the dining room, which had a long table at which sat at least a hundred tall-backed, black chairs. Covering the table was a blood-red table cloth, and, as if waiting for guests to arrive, each place was set with silver plates, bowls, chalices, and silverware. One wall of the room was covered in a long mirror that stretched from floor to the ceiling, and behind what was clearly the host's chair, for it sat at the head of the table and was larger and more elaborate than the other chairs, was a fireplace. Missy and Kyle walked up to the fireplace and examined the mantle, which was carved with demonic-looking creatures. Cara walked up behind them and looked at the ashes in the bottom of the hearth, which looked fresh.

"Looks like someone was here not that long ago," she voiced, picking up a fire poker and toying with the ashes. As she was doing so, something jumped out of the ashes, making everyone jump.

"What the fuck?!" Rodney gasped, and Missy screamed.

Brandon was the first to realize that it was just a rat, and he started laughing. It took a few minutes for the others to calm themselves, and when they did, they started laughing as well, except for Rodney, who was still very white in the face. Brandon walked over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

"It's okay, Rodney. It was just a little rat. No need to be so scared."

Rodney shot daggers at Brandon with his eyes then roughly shoved Brandon's hand off his shoulder.

"Don't ever fucking touch me again!" he snarled. "I wasn't afraid of some fucking rat, and if you tell anyone I was, I swear I'll kill you!"

"Easy man, no need to go postal on me," Brandon said, backing away from Rodney, hands held up.

"Let's just find another fucking door," Rodney said. He went through a door to the left of the fireplace, and the others followed.

This door led them into the kitchen, and at the end of the room was a door, which they all ran to.

"Yes!" Kyle said.

"Ha! Told you there'd be door in here," Rodney said, sounding triumphant.

"Actually, no you didn't-" Kyle began, but stopped when he saw the look Rodney was giving him.

"See, sis, told you we'd find a way out," James said, but as Rodney turned the handle on this door, he quickly found that it was stuck as well.

"Shit! What the fuck is wrong with these damn doors?!" Rodney said, panic in his voice. He tugged at the door as hard as he could, but it wouldn't budge.

"Maybe the house doesn't want us to leave," Cara said jokingly, but the others didn't laugh. They just looked at her as if she had said they were all dying of cancer. "Sorry! It was just a joke!" Cara said.

"What if she's right?" Missy said, fear clear in her voice.

"Oh god, you have got to be fucking kidding me!" Rodney said. "It's just a house! It's not trying to keep us in! The damn doors are just stuck. We'll just have to keep looking around until we find another way out. I mean, this house is huge. There has got to be more than two ways in and out of here."

"He's right, you guys," Brandon said. "We just gotta keep looking. Besides, we came here to check this place out."

"I don't know," Missy said. "Something just doesn't feel right."

"Oh, come on, Miss. I've never known you to be afraid of anything!" Brandon said.

"I just have a bad feeling about this place, is all," Missy said.

"Hey, don't worry. I'll protect you," Kyle said, pulling her close.

"Well, come on then!" Brandon said. "I say we check out the upstairs first, work our way down through the rest of the house."

Brandon started to lead the way out of the kitchen and back through the dinning room when Rodney pushed himself to the front.

"Might as well let a real man do the leading," he said, elbowing Brandon in the stomach.

They reached the entrance hall and the giant staircase. Looking up it, all they could see was the dark landing as they shined their flashlights up the stairs. At first, they just stood there, no one really wanting to go up the stairs.

"Well?" Brandon said to Rodney. "Lead the way, tough guy."

Rodney looked at him hatefully and began making his way up the stairs, each step he took making a cloud of dust as he stepped on the carpeted stairs.

Missy clutched tightly to Kyle as they ascended the stairs, and Cara found herself wishing to do the same with Brandon, but knew it would probably be inappropriate since he wasn't her boyfriend, and the last thing she wanted to do was freak him out.

When they reached the top of the stairs, they looked to their left and right. There were long hallways that went both ways, and before them was a door they guessed lead to the attic or the tower. Rodney slowly approached it and placed his hand on the door handle. He looked back at the others.

"Ready?" he asked. The others nodded.

Rodney turned the handle and pulled open the door. Before them were more stairs leading upward. They looked up the stairs, but even with the light of their flashlights, it was too dark to see what was at the top.

"Should we go up?" Missy asked.

"We'll never find out what's up there if we don't," Brandon said. "Go on up, Rodney. Tell us if there are any demons up there."

"Fuck you," Rodney said. "Why doesn't your ass go up first?"

"Okay, fine. I'll go, but as soon as I give the word, you guys have to come up after me."

"Okay," they nodded.

Brandon pushed pass Rodney and began to go up the stairs. He shined the beam of his flashlight in front of him as he went. When he reached the top, he found another door. He pushed it open, and his nose immediately began itching from the dust and stuffiness that filled the room. He sneezed and made his way into the attic. He shined his flashlight around the room and saw that it appeared to be empty.

"You okay, Brandon?" Cara called up the stairs. "Find anything?"

"Nah, nothing. I'm in the attic, and it looks pretty bare. You guys can come on up if you want."

The others made their way up the stairs and were soon stepping into the attic with Brandon. They all shined their lights around the room, and as Brandon had said, it looked to be empty. However, as Missy shined her light on the floor, she let out a gasp. Everyone turned their lights to the floor as well and were just as shocked as Missy at what they saw.

On the floor, drawn in what looked like chalk, was a giant pentagram, its top point facing toward the south. They were all standing within the inverted pentagram, and in the very center was a book.

"Well, it looks like we aren't the only ones to have been in this house," Brandon said, leaning down to look at the book.

"Unless this has always been here. What is it?" Cara asked, looking over his shoulder at the book.

"It looks like some kind of spell book," he said, shining his light on the cover. There was an inverted pentagram on the book as well, as well as some writing in a language no one recognized. Brandon picked up the book, and it seemed to come open on its own. He dropped it in fright, causing a cloud of dust to rise as the book hit the floor.

They waited for the dust to settle, coughing, but it only seemed to get thicker. Soon, everyone was coughing loudly, trying desperately to fan the dust out of their faces. As James did so, he suddenly saw a demonic face form in the dust, its glowing red eyes staring right at him. Its thin, clawed hands reached out for him, and as he felt its icy flesh touch him, he let out a scream, which caused the others to scream as well, and they all started running in the direction they believed the door was in, for they still could not see.

Brandon was the first to see the doorway through the dust.

"This way!" he said, grabbing the hand of the person nearest to him to help lead them. It was Cara, and she in turned grabbed Rodney's hand, who grabbed James', who grabbed Missy's, who was already holding on desperately to Kyle.

Brandon led them toward the door, but just before he could reach it, it slammed shut.

"Shit!" he yelled.

Suddenly, they began to hear voices. The voices seemed to be chanting something, and as the chanting got louder and louder, the dust began swirling around the scared teens, choking them. Brandon continued to struggle with the door, and finally, just when he couldn't breathe anymore, the door came open, and they all ran as fast as they could down the stairs. When they reached the door at the bottom, it, too, was shut tight, and as they turned around to look back up the attic stairs, they saw a black figure making its way toward them.

Missy and Cara screamed, and all the guys began trying to open the door. When it finally opened, they saw yet another figure standing there, blocking their way. Missy screamed again, and the figure before them screamed as well. It took only a moment for the voice to register with Cara, and when she realized who it was, her heart nearly stopped.

"Martin?!" she said, unbelieving. She shined her light on him and saw that she was right. "What the fuck are you-" But before she could finish, Rodney pushed her out of the way, and they all ran out into the hall, Rodney slamming the door behind them, just before whatever was following could reach them.

They all stood there in silence for several minutes, watching the door to see if it would open. When it didn't, they heaved a sigh of relief. Cara turned to Martin, anger beginning to replace her fear.

"What the hell are you doing here?!" she asked, grabbing his shoulder.

"I kind of . . . followed you," he said, unable to look her in the eye.

"Followed us? But how?" Cara asked. "There's no way you could have gotten out here this fast on your bike!"

"I didn't ride my bike here," he admitted. "I just followed behind you guys when you went to the mental institute. I saw you guys go inside, and then I hid in the back of that guy's car," he said, pointing at Rodney.

"Why the hell did you do that?" Cara asked. "Don't you realize how dangerous coming here could have been?"

"Yeah, and that's why I came. I wanted to protect you," Martin said, blushing. "As soon as I saw Brandon's truck driving away, I just had this really bad feeling in my stomach. I just knew something bad was going to happen."

"But how did you get in the house?" Brandon said. "I know you couldn't have come in behind us without being seen, and the door is sealed tight."

"It wasn't when I opened it. I saw it shut behind you guys, and I saw you trying to open it through the windows. I waited for you to leave, then went up and tried opening it, and it came open fine."

"What?" Rodney said. "So the door can open now? Good! Let's get the fuck out of this place!" he said, immediately running down the stairs.

"Agreed," Missy said, going down after him.

"God, if I didn't want Mom and Dad finding out about me being here, I would so tell on your ass," Cara said to Martin as they went down the stairs. "You ought to be glad nothing happened to you. If something had, I would have had to kill you!"

Rodney reached the bottom of the stairs and ran for the door, a smile on his face.

"Finally, I can get the fuck out of here!" he said as he grabbed the door handle and pulled. However, the door did not come open. "Okay, what the fuck is going on?"

"Come on, Rod, stop dicking around," Brandon said.

"I'm not! This door won't come open!"

"What the fuck?" Brandon said. "You said it came open fine for you, right?" he asked Martin.

"Yeah. Actually, it seemed to open on its own," he said. "I had barely touched the handle when it came open."

"Well, try opening it again," Cara said.

Martin went to the door and turned the handle, but like it had with Rodney, the door wouldn't budge.

"Fuck! So we're still stuck here!" Rodney said, forgetting to try and hide his fear.

"Well, we can always go look for some more ways out again," James said.

"After what we saw in the attic?!" Rodney said. "Are you fucking kidding me?!"

"Well, what else do you expect us to do?" Brandon said. "Just sit around and do nothing?"

"Damn right! I heard that at sunrise, the door is supposed to open again. So if we just sit and wait for the sun to rise, hopefully we'll finally get to get out of this Godforsaken place."

"But what if that doesn't happen? What if we're trapped here for good?" Missy said, her voice cracking with fear.

"Hey, what they said about the door being unlocked was true, so hopefully this is true, too," Kyle said, trying to calm her.

"I hope you're right," Missy said.

"Fine. But where should we wait this out?" Brandon said.

"Well, I'm sure there must be a living room around here somewhere," Cara said. "Hopefully there will be some chairs or something we can sit on."

"Okay," Brandon said. "Well, we've gone that way," he said, referring to the direction in which the dinning room was. "So I'm betting the living room is either down the left hall, or behind the door to the left of it."

They headed toward the hall to the left of the staircase, but then Cara remembered the thing she had thought she saw down there earlier.

"Wait!" she said. "I don't think we should go that way."

"Why not?"

"Because I thought I saw something down there before we went upstairs. What if it's still there? Let's just look behind the door first. Hopefully that leads to the living room."

Brandon shrugged and went to the door to the left of the hall. He opened it and peered inside the room.

"Well?" Rodney asked.

"Good call, Cara!" Brandon said, smiling at her.

Brandon pushed open the door all the way, revealing a large sitting room with a huge fireplace big enough to walk into, two large couches, and at least four chairs seated near the fireplace. They went inside the room, and when Rodney saw that there were several candles placed around the room on tables, he pulled out a lighter and began lighting them while the others took seats on the couches. When Rodney was done lighting the candles, he went to the fireplace and tried starting a fire. It took almost no effort before a crackling fire was casting its glow over them. It was now bright enough to see without their flashlights, so they turned them off.

Cara eyed the mantle above the fireplace, on which sat several stuffed and mounted animals, each of which was set in frightening poses. She never liked taxidermy as it was, but it was even worse when the animals were made to look like they were attacking. A bobcat was one of the animals on the oversized mantle, and it seemed to be staring right at her. Mounted on the wall above the mantle was what looked like a battle ax, its sharp blade glinting in the firelight.

"God, those things are creepy," Missy said, staring at the animals as well. "They look like they're still alive."

Rodney tapped the bobcat with his fist, and it made a hard sound.

"Nope, they're dead as doorknobs."

"Why would anyone want to decorate their house with dead animals?" Cara asked.

"People are messed up, I guess," Brandon said.

Cara, who had her hand wrapped around Martin's wrist to make sure he couldn't wander off, brought her knees up onto the couch and shivered.

"You cold?" Brandon, who was sitting to her left, asked.

"A little," Cara said.

"Here-" Brandon took off his jacket and put it over her shoulders.

"Thanks," Cara smiled, blushing slightly.

They sat in silence for what seemed like hours. Missy began shifting around a bit, and Kyle looked at her with concern.

"Something wrong, babe?"

"I have to pee," Missy said.

"Well, I'm sure there's a bathroom around here some place," Kyle said.

"But I don't want to go by myself!" Missy said.

"Don't worry, I'll help you look. Come on."

"You sure you want to go looking around the house by yourselves?" Brandon asked.

"Don't worry about it. If anything attacks us, I'm sure you'll hear Missy's screams," Kyle laughed. Missy punched him in the arm. "We'll be fine."

Kyle and Missy got up and left the sitting room, staying close together. They reluctantly checked down the hall to the right of the sitting room first, but found all the doors locked. Luckily, they didn't see any demons or ghosts as they looked.

"Well, I guess we'll have to check upstairs," Kyle said.

"Upstairs?! I'm not going back up there!" Missy said.

"Would you rather piss your pants?" Kyle asked her.

"No . . ."

"Then come on. Don't worry, I'll protect you," he said, pulling her close.

"You'd better."

They made their way up the stairs, eyeing the attic door as they went. Nothing happened as they passed it, and they seemed to relax a little. They turned right of the attic door and went down the hall. Kyle saw an open door, and when he shined his light inside, he smiled.

"Found the bathroom, babe."

"Thank god!" Missy said, going in.

"You want me to come in with you?" Kyle asked.

"Hell no. I can't go with people watching me. Just stand outside the door and keep a look out."

Missy shut the door and shined her flashlight around the room. She saw a sink with a large mirror over it, an old-fashioned toilet, and a large claw-footed tub, surrounded by a shower curtain. On the vanity and placed around the room were some candles. She pulled out her lighter. She had been thinking about quitting smoking, but now she was glad she hadn't yet kicked the habit. She lit all the candles in the room, and sat down her flashlight. She then ran to the toilet and sat down, sighing in relief as she started going.

As she sat there, she suddenly heard water dripping. She looked in the direction of the tub, and thought she saw something move behind the curtain. As frightened as she was, when she finished peeing, she felt compelled to go to the tub. As she reached it, she saw the curtains move again, making her jump back. Her hand shaking, she reached for the curtain, and when she pulled it open, she saw nothing but a tub filled with water. She sighed in relief, and leaned against the tub to calm herself. Suddenly, the necklace she wore came loose and fell into the water.

"Shit!" she said. Kyle had given her that necklace, and there was no way she was going to leave it in the house, no matter how much she didn't want to stick her hand in the water.

"You okay in there?" Kyle asked from outside.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just dropped my necklace."

"Well, hurry up! I have this weird feeling that someone's watching me, and I want to get back downstairs!"

"Pussy!" Missy said, laughing.

Missy bent over the tub and reached her hand into the water, which was icy cold. It sent goosebumps up her arm. She saw the necklace at the bottom of the tub and placed her fingers on it, but before she could grab it, she felt in invisible hand grab her wrist.

"What the fuck?!" she screamed.

"Missy? What's wrong?" Kyle said, fear in his voice.

Whatever held Missy's arm in place was too strong for her to break free, and as she struggled to get her hand out of the water, the water began to turn a deep blood red. Suddenly, she was pulled into the water, her face being completely submerged. She managed to break through the surface of the water, and when she did, she screamed.

Kyle, his heart pounding, tried opening the bathroom door, but found that it was stuck. So he started shoving into it with his shoulder, and finally, he managed to break the door down. He rushed inside and saw Missy struggling beneath the bloody water.

"Oh god!" He said, reaching into the tub and grabbing her. "Hold on, baby! I'm gonna get you out!"

He pulled on her with all his might, but it didn't seem to do any good. Rushing into the room came Brandon and the others, who had heard Missy's screams.

"What's going on?" Brandon said.

"Something's trying to drown Missy!" Kyle said, his face void of color.

Brandon, Rodney, and James rushed forward and began trying to help pull Missy out of the water. Finally, she came free, sending the red water flying across the room. Missy coughed and sputtered, taking in desperate breaths of air. Kyle and James held her close, both close to being in tears.

"Missy, are you okay?" Cara asked.

"I th-think so," Missy coughed.

"What the hell happened?" James said, looking angrily at Kyle. "You were supposed to watch out for her!"

"Hey, this isn't my fault!" Kyle said.

"Then who's is it?" James said, his fear turning into fury.

"James, Kyle's right," Missy said. "I told Kyle to wait outside. He had nothing to do with me getting hurt. It's whatever is in this house. It tried to kill me."

Everyone was silent for several minutes, but finally Missy spoke again.

"Can we please get out of here?" she said, standing shakily to her feet, leaning on Kyle.

"Of course. Let's get you in front of the fireplace so you can warm up. You're cold as ice," Kyle said, leading her out of the room.

They went down the stairs, Kyle and Missy in front. They reached the bottom of the stairs and were just beneath the chandelier when they suddenly felt frozen in place. The others walked past them, thinking they had stopped to let Missy rest a little. However, when they continued to stand there, Brandon stopped and looked at them.

"Come on, Kyle. Let's get Missy in front of the fire."

"I can't. We can't move," Kyle said, his eyes wide.

"What do you mean, you can't move?" James asked, but just as the words left his mouth, they heard a breaking sound. Their eyes immediately jumped to the chandelier, and before they could do anything, it came crashing down from the ceiling.

"Missy!" James screamed, but he seemed to be frozen in place as well, as were the others.

They watched in horror as the chandelier fell upon Missy and Kyle, its sharp edges sinking into their flesh. Cara screamed as blood sprayed the room. Kyle and Missy lay dead, their bodies impaled with several shards of glass from the chandelier. Their blood pooled out, tainting the glass red. No one could move or say anything.

The silence was finally broken when James fell to his knees, burying his face in his hands. He was too numb to cry or even scream. He had just seen his own sister and best friend get killed. Cara, Brandon, and Rodney stood stock still, unable to say or do anything. They couldn't seem to pull their eyes away from the horrible seen before them. Martin, who Cara had told to stay in the sitting room while they had gone to find Missy and Kyle, came out into the entrance hall, having heard the sound of breaking glass.

"What's going on-" he began, but when he saw the blood, his words stopped.

"Martin, don't look," Cara said, pulling him toward her and trying to keep his face turned away, but Martin continued to glance back. And when he did, he was the first to see a figure standing at the top of the stairs.

"Guys . . ." he said, pointing up at the dark shape.

Everyone turned their eyes up the stairs and saw it too. When James saw it, his hands formed fists, his nails digging into his flesh.

"You son-of-a-bitch!" he bellowed, dumping to his feet and rushing at the figure.

"James, no!" Cara said, but he didn't listen.

James ran up the stairs toward the figure, his eyes filled with fury.

"You killed my sister!"

The others ran after him, and stared in horror as the figure grabbed James by the throat. It picked him up off floor, and threw him down the hall. It then disappeared.

Cara and the others reached the top of the stairs and ran in the direction in which the thing had thrown James. They found him laying in the doorway at the bottom of some spiraling stairs. He was struggling to stand up, and just as they were about to help him stand, they saw the figure reappear behind him.

"James, move! Now!" Brandon said, but it was too late.

The dark figure grabbed James and pulled him up the stairs so quickly the motion barely registered a blur in the eyes of the others. Brandon quickly ran up the stairs, Rodney, Cara, and Martin following him.

When they reached the top of the tower, they at first didn't see anything. However, when something warm dripped on Rodney's shoulder, he shined his light on it and saw that it was red. His hand was shaking as he then turned his flashlight upward, Brandon and Cara doing the same. Cara let out a gasp at what they saw.

Handing from the rafters high above them was James, his entrails hanging from his body, blood dripping down. Rodney became sick and vomited, and Cara once again tried to keep Martin from looking at the gruesome scene.

"That's it. We need to get the fuck out of this place, and now!" Brandon said.

They made their way quickly down the tower stairs, Martin nearly tripping, but Cara was able to grab him my his shirt just in time to keep him from falling. When they reached the upstairs hall, they began trying to open all the doors, hoping to find a window they could climb out of, but all of the doors were locked. So they ran back down stairs, trying their best to avoid stepping on any broken glass and blood, as well as looking at Kyle's and Missy's bodies. They tried all the doors down there as well, but like those upstairs, all the doors were shut tight.

"Fuck! Now what?" Rodney said.

"Wait, aren't there some windows in the entrance hall?" Martin asked.

"Of course! How could we have forgotten about those?!" Brandon asked, feeling rather stupid.

They went back out to the entrance hall, and Rodney looked around for something to break the windows with. He saw nothing, but remembered the fire poker next to the fireplace in the sitting room and knew he could use that.

They went back into the sitting room, heading straight for the fireplace. Rodney smiled to himself as he reached for the poker, but the sound of something growling made him freeze. He looked up at the stuffed bobcat, and his heart stopped when he saw its eyes flash red. He inched back, but before he had the chance to turn and run, the bobcat jumped off the mantle and dove directly at Rodney's neck.

Cara screamed, and Brandon ran toward Rodney, grabbing the poker from his hands and hitting the bobcat with it, knocking it across the room

"Run!" Brandon screamed at Cara and Martin, just as the bobcat came running at him. Cara grabbed Martin's hand and ran from the room.

Brandon swung at the bobcat with the poker, but missed, knocking over several candles sitting on one of the tables. They fell onto the couch, and as he watched the upholstery catch fire, he suddenly screamed in pain as the bobcat's claws sank into his side. He grabbed the cat and threw it across the room. The cat landed on its side, and Rodney took this chance to run at it and pin the beast to the ground. Holding his wounded side, Brandon walked up to the cat and forced the poker through the cat's side. After a few seconds, the cat stopped moving.

"Is it dead?" Rodney asked.

"It was already dead," Brandon said, pulling the poker free.

"Oh yeah. Well, let's get the fuck out of here then, just in case it or the others come back to life."

"Agreed."

They headed for the door, but just as Rodney was about to leave, he remembered he had left his lighter on one of the tables.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Brandon asked as Rodney turned around.

"I gotta get my lighter. My dad gave that to me, and if I lose it, he'll kill me!"

"Well, make it quick! I caught the couch on fire, and who knows how long it will take for the fire to spread!"

Rodney ran to the table on which he left his lighter, and as he grabbed it, he heard yet another sound, this time one sounding like metal rattling against wood.

"Rodney, duck!" Brandon screamed.

Rodney looked in the direction the sound was coming from and saw that the battle ax that had been mounted above the fireplace was now flying toward him. He managed to duck out of the way just in time.

"Wow, that was close!" he said, laughing with relief. But his laughter was cut short as the ax sank into the back of his neck.

Brandon watched in horror as the ax cut right through Rodney's entire neck. The jock's body fell to the ground, his head rolling across the floor. Brandon felt nauseated, but he managed to keep himself from throwing up. He made his way into the entrance hall, gripping the poker tightly.

"Where's Rodney?" Cara asked. She was standing next to the hall's windows, her arms wrapped securely around her brother.

"He's dead," Brandon said.

"What?! How?" Cara gasped.

"An ax. It killed him."

"Oh my god," Cara said, feeling as though her legs were about to give out from under her.

"We need to get out of this place," Brandon said. Cara could only nod.

Brandon walked up to the window and prepared to strike it with the fire poker, but before he could make contact with the glass, the poker went flying from his hand. They turned around in horror and saw a grotesque figure looming before them. Its skin was rotting on its bones, which they could see sticking out of its flesh. The eyes, red as blood, looked directly at them, burning into their flesh, and they felt as though a hand had gripped around their hearts, crushing them. Black blood oozed from the creature's mouth, and a foul smell filled the room, making them gag.

The creature approached them, and they were helpless to do anything, for they seemed to be frozen by the beast's gaze. It reached out with thin hands toward Brandon, and the moment it touched him, it disappeared, and they were suddenly able to move again.

Cara looked around in disbelief, unsure if the creature was really gone. She didn't see it, but the cold and smell that had consumed the room upon its appearance was still there, as well as a new smell of smoke. She looked to the sitting room's door and saw what looked like flames coming out between the frame and the door. Great, now the house is on fire! She thought. But that didn't matter. What did matter was that they get out of the house.

"Hurry, Brandon! Let's break the window and get out of here before it comes back!" Cara said, running for the poker that had landed on the floor a few feet away from them. She picked it up and ran back to the window, but as she was about to smash the glass with it, Brandon's hand grabbed her wrist. "Brandon, let go. We have to get out of here-" Cara's heart stopped when she saw Brandon's eyes, which were now blood red like the demon's. "Brandon, what's happening?" she said, but he only grinned evilly, revealing blacked teeth. "Martin, run," Cara breathed, her voice little more than a frightened whisper.

"What?" Martin said.

"Run!" Cara screamed.

Martin did as she said, running to the other side of the room, but staying where he could still see her. Cara began backing slowly away from Brandon, keeping a strong grip on the poker.

"Brandon, I know you're still in there. You have to fight whatever it is inside of you." But if Brandon was indeed still inside, he must not have been able to hear her or do anything to stop the thing that had taken him over, for it came closer to Cara, and she knew she had to act now, or else it may be too late. She swung the poker as hard as she could at Brandon, but he grabbed it in mid-swing and pulled it easily from her grasp. After throwing the poker to the other side of the room, well out of Cara's reach, the demon in Brandon's body grabbed Cara by the throat and pushed her up against the wall. It somehow made Brandon's nail grow like a claw and used it to make an incision in Cara's neck. She whimpered in pain and fear and a black tongue issued from Brandon's mouth and licked up her blood.

Its grip on Cara's throat tightened, and she felt more sharp nails digging into her flesh, and she felt sure the demon was about to tear out her throat. Tears began falling from her eyes, but just as she accepted she was about to die, the demon let go of her and screamed in pain. As Cara fell to the floor, rubbing her hurt neck, she saw what had made the demon release her.

A piece of glass from the broken chandelier had been shoved deeply into Brandon's leg, and holding the other end was Martin.

"No one tries to kill my sister!" he said.

Suddenly, what looked like a black cloud came out of Brandon's mouth, and when Brandon looked up at Cara, and his eyes were once again their normal blue, though they were filled with pain and immense fear.

"Cara, that thing was inside of me," Brandon said, his voice cracking, tears falling from his eyes. "We need to get out of here!" He reached down and grabbed the piece of glass and pulled it out, gasping in pain as he did so.

"No shit!" Martin said.

Brandon limped across the room and picked up the poker, leaving a trail of blood behind him. He staggered back to the window, noticing the door to the sitting room was completely engulfed in flames. He knew he had to hurry. He swung the poker at the glass, and this time, nothing stopped him. The window shattered as the poker made contact with it. He stepped outside and held out his hand to help Cara out, but she made Martin go first. She then prepared to step out herself, but before she could, something made her turn around. To her horror, she saw that the demon was back, and it was quickly advancing on her.

"Cara!" Brandon and Martin screamed. "Get out of there!" But she couldn't. She was once again frozen in place.

Her eyes were wide with terror as the demon came at her. She knew for certain there was no way she could escape this time, and she turned her head to avoid looking at the thing. Suddenly, just as the demon was about to reach her, she felt herself being shoved out of the way.

Looking to see what had happened, she saw that Brandon had come back into the house and had pushed her out of the way. So instead of the demon grabbing her, it grabbed Brandon, and he was now being lifted off the floor toward the ceiling.

"Brandon!" Cara screamed, getting to her feet. The demon appeared to have its hand buried within Brandon's chest, and Cara could see that Brandon was in immense pain.

"Cara, get out of here!" Brandon called down to her.

"No! I'm not going to leave you!" Cara said.

"You have to get out of here. This place is burning down! You don't have much time!"

Cara knew Brandon was right. The flames were quickly spreading, and she knew they would soon be so close to the broken window that she wouldn't be able to get out.

"But what about you?"

"Don't worry about me! I said I'd protect you, and I meant it!" Brandon coughed, choking from the pain he felt within his chest.

"But-" Cara protested, her voice sounding with the tears that were falling down her face.

"Go!" Brandon demanded.

Cara forced herself to turn away from him, her heart aching, and she ran to the broken window. She looked back up at Brandon one last time. "Come on fucker, give me all you got," he was saying to the demon. Cara made herself turn away once again and step out into the night.

"Cara!" Martin said, running to her as she reached the yard, wrapping his arms around her.

She held him back, then fell to her knees, unable to keep standing any longer. She began to sob, her body shaking with grief. As she looked back at the house, hoping to see Brandon come climbing out of the window, she saw that the house was now being quickly consumed by flames. A black cloud of smoke billowed into the sky. Even if Brandon had managed to get away from the demon, Cara knew it was too late for him to get out the broken window. So unless he could manage to find another way to get out of the house, there was no hope for him. She clutched the ankh around her neck and prayed. She didn't know exactly what she was praying for, for even though she knew she was speaking words, she didn't seem to hear what she was saying.

When the entire house was covered in flames, Cara suddenly felt something wet hit her shoulder. She looked up and saw black storm clouds overhead. A hard, steady rain began to fall, and even though they were getting wet, neither Cara nor Martin moved. They simply closed their eyes and allowed the rain to fall down on them.

Eventually, the rain began to slow, and soon, it stopped completely, and as the clouds above parted, light streamed through, and Cara knew the sun had finally risen. She and Martin looked back at the house, and all that was left was a blacked frame and a practically unharmed foundation. They then heard sirens in the distance coming closer.

"Great, now help comes," Martin said.

He stood up and helped Cara stand, and they began to make their way in the direction they believed the sirens were coming from. But as they were walking, Cara thought she heard someone coughing. She turned around in fear, afraid the demon was coming after them, but when she saw someone with black hair laying on the ground to the side of the burnt house, her heart leapt into her throat.

"Brandon?" she said, wanting to believe she was right, but unable to do so at the same time.

"Cara," she heard the person say, his voice hoarse and barely audible. She immediately realized the voice was indeed that of Brandon, and went running to him, her heart pounding.

"Brandon!" Cara said, overwhelming happiness sounding clear in her voice when she saw him. She wrapped her arms around him and helped him sit up.

Brandon coughed and looked up and her, his blue eyes shining, and even though he was more exhausted than he had ever been in his life, he managed to smile at her.

"Brandon, you're alive!" she said, holding him tightly. "But how? How did you escape the demon? And how could you possibly have survived the fire?!"

"I don't know how," he admitted, barely able to talk. His throat hurt greatly, but he continued. "I just know the demon dropped me for some reason, and since I wasn't about to wait around and let it grab me again, I ran toward the window. But the fire was already at it, so I couldn't get out. So I ran as fast as I could away from the flames. Let me tell you, even after having a piece of glass shoved into your leg, if you're scared shitless, it's like your body doesn't even realize you're wounded. I mean, I felt the pain, but I was still able to get around somehow." He coughed between almost every word.

"So what did you do?" Cara asked, wiping some blood off the side of his face with her sleeve.

"I just kept trying doors again, hoping one would finally open. Well, one did, and it was to the basement. I went down and saw a window and ran to it. Thank god it opened. I managed to pull myself up and out, but that was pretty much the end of my strength, and almost as soon as I was out of the house, I blacked out. I didn't come to until I felt the rain falling on me, but even then, I just ended up passing out again. I only awoke again a few seconds ago.

"At first, I felt so sure I was dead that I didn't even try to move. But when I looked and saw that the house had completely burnt to the ground, I remembered I had gotten out. And then I was afraid you guys had left, but I heard the sirens and Martin talking, and I knew I had to call out before you did leave."

Cara was crying again, but this time, it was from happiness. She normally wouldn't have wanted Brandon to see her like this, but right now she didn't care. All that mattered was that he, as well as she and her brother, were alive.

"I still can't believe you're alive," she said, hugging him tightly.

"Neither can I. But what do you say we finally get the fuck out of here?" Brandon asked, struggling to get to his feet.

"Yeah, let's."

Cara put Brandon's arm around her and lead him and Martin back down the path. They made their way slowly out of the woods and to Brandon's truck. They sat there on the tailgate until a fire truck, an ambulance, and a few police cars came to a stop before them. What happened after that was pretty much a blur. Cara could remember telling the police officers everything that had happened, and then both she, Brandon, and Martin being driven to the hospital in the ambulance.

While laying in the hospital, Cara felt sure the police hadn't believed her, Martin's, and Brandon's story, and her heart sank at the thought of what would happen to them. She was sure they were going to be accused of and be arrested for breaking and entering, arson, and for the murders of Rodney, James, Kyle, and Missy. However, when the police came to the hospital to speak to her and Brandon, they were told that there would not be any charges pressed. They couldn't understand why, but then they overheard two officers talking outside their hospital room when they thought they were asleep. The officers said that when some of the other cops had gone back to the house to search for the remains of Rodney, James, Kyle, and Missy, to their utter disbelief and horror, they had found the house once again whole and unscathed, looking exactly as it had before the fire, as though nothing had happened to it. The officers talking also said that when one cop had busted down the door and entered the house, his screams were heard just before his headless body was thrown out of an upstairs window. Cara, Brandon, and Martin were told not to mention anything about what had happened to them at the house to anyone, and even though they never did, and even though city tried to act as though the entire incident had never occurred, the three of them became instant celebrities to their peers, being known as the only people to have survived an entire night in the Devil's Manor without losing their lives or their minds.

But they didn't know that for many nights afterward that Cara, Brandon, and Martin had terrible nightmares about that night. All three tried their best to avoid even going near the woods in which the Devil's Manor resided in. If they ever even passed the woods, they'd look away from the trees, though they could always feel an ominous force watching from amongst the trees, as if calling for them to return.

Even though none but the three of them knew the truth about what had happened that night, they all heard stories of what others thought had happened, most of which weren't even close to the truth. But they never tried to correct the people telling the stories, hoping the stories would help keep others from making the same mistake they did. But they knew that eventually, someone would once again enter the Devil's Manor, and Cara prayed for the unfortunate soul that would.

The End.