"Sketchiest night of my life." I heard my twin sister say as I struggled to come up from a deep sleep. The bed creaked as she crawled on, and without my glasses I saw her face as a blurry, tan moon.
"What are you talking about? What time is it?" I mumbled, rubbing my eyes.
I reached out and jammed my glasses onto my face. I was still in the hazy state before I was fully awake, and I hadn't quite processed exactly what she'd said yet.
"It's three thirty. I was running around a canyon for two hours-" She began, her words tumbling from her mouth like river rapids as she tried to explain as fast as she could. Her words sounded oddly one-dimensional and flat in the quiet night air.
I had a moment of disorientation before I finally woke up completely. I remembered coming back from our win at Airband, a dance competition between the grades. We'd hopped up and down on stage and chanted "Seniors!" over and over again. There was going to be a celebration tonight.
I'd heard rumors before about the "Abandoned Mansion" on top of the hill, but I had never been to it before. I knew the stories about it getting 'rolled' before parties had even started were true, but it was hard to separate fact from fiction with all of the other details I'd accumulated through other people in snippets.
Some said the man who owned it had gotten arrested and then skipped out on court dates, or that the old house was detained. A kid even tried to come up with the excuse that it was his, but no one really believed that one.
There was a theory that it had "black mold", the tuberculosis-inducing carcinogen hidden and growing like death within the walls. Rumors that there was mildew and water from burst pipes dripping everywhere.
Other people said someone made up the fact that there was black mold to keep other people away.
It was a messy tangle of rumors, and I didn't know what to think or what to believe- but an Abandoned Mansion on top of a hill? It was too exciting to pass up, the legends behind it and the fact it seemed straight out of a high school movie only whetted my curiosity.
The road was windy and dark as we made our way up to the Mansion. We'd parked on a road just below the house, so that if the police did show up it would be easy for us to run down the steep hill covered in ice plants to it, but not easy for the cops to drive back on the twisting, windy roads. Each time a car came by on our assent, we'd jump to the side of the road to avoid getting hit.
"Hey!" Someone called out, and a few boys from the senior class pulled over and all of us piled in. I could barely see anything in the car because everyone was in each other's laps. It was like I was in a clown car. Cautiously, we came forward and parked about three houses away from the Abandoned Mansion, and right away we heard a kid speaking almost unnaturally politely to an older woman.
"Of course we would never-"
"I understand you won't, but there's no telling-"
She explained how some high school shitheads had been rummaging around the last time a party was held in this neighborhood and had looted her car. Since she was a 'top-of-the-mountain' dweller, her husband owned a very nice, very expensive car. Her voice traveled as I held onto the car door and strained my ears to listen.
We'll just check it out. We can always leave. That seemed to be what everyone agreed upon. We began to walk down to the Abandoned Mansion.
It was getting late, but it was a night shrouded in mystery and excitement. I held so much curiosity I barely even felt the cold in the air. We passed the woman's husband's car in a carport.
"That's a damn nice car," I'd said, as a few of us took a peek. The car was small, a racing stripe down the center and gill-like vents that all the nice cars have. It was impossible to tell the color. And that was that, and we kept walking on.
Drunk people met us at the door, the air filled with unknowingly loud, drunken voices and giggles and harsh shushes. I was careful treading down the beige marble steps, because the Abandoned Mansion was as dark as a house during a power outage.
Dark figures inside stood in clumps, chatting amicably. There was a whitish couch that no one dared sit on; it slumped in the corner as if dejected. The room was big with high, vaulted ceilings and white carpets. One beam above the couch was warped with water, its white paint lumping like cellulite. No wonder that frumpy old couch was not even given a second look.
The air was thick with musk from the filthy carpet and petrol. Our only source of light was the fireplace, which was why the room had such an overwhelming stench of gasoline. It was of a "modern" design, a sleek open rectangle with coals and a few cobalt-blue flames swaying and flickering.
A single discarded cigarette sat amongst the black rocks like a wrinkled worm with one side trailing a thin wisp of smoke in the air. It was a lonely thing.
There was a heavy feeling that pressed up on my chest; we should not be here, we should not be doing this. This house gave me a very particular feeling. It felt like it was a smooth wall with unblemished beige paint that seemed perfectly fine just by looking, yet it would peel away to reveal an expanse of black rot and mold; fuzzy dark poison behind the façade. The feeling made me very uneasy, and the sour feeling of guilt sat heavy in the bottom of my stomach. It was a hunch that I just couldn't ignore for long.
I explored for a few more minutes, but I didn't like all that open space with no furniture inside and white, blank walls, the enveloping carpet musk and darkness in the rooms on the inside. It made me feel slightly agoraphobic, something I have never felt before. I kept thinking I was seeing figures out of the corners of my eyes, but when I turned there was nothing. It reminded me of a bad dream I'd had before, so I made sure I kept outside after that.
Dirty yellow, hazy light shone from street lamps that were strung up like pearl necklaces below; the stars were clean white pinpricks in the velvety expanse of black. The ocean was a dark mass with a conic glare of wrinkled silver tapering off down the middle. I shivered, and my nose zinged with a caustic cloud of cigarette smoke.
When I went back inside again, I could barely make out faces in the dim light of the fireplace. People were all in shades of yellow and orange and mainly blue and black.
Finally, my friend and I decided to leave, laughing as we climbed down the slope of soft dirt and ice plants and fell a few times as we made our way down by the bright LED lights of our iPhones, back to where we'd parked on the one-way street below the house on the hill.
We'd seen a cop car, just sitting there about two blocks away as we drove home in my friend's mini cooper.
"Should we call?"
We did. The friend who answered her phone was a little tipsy already. I just hoped she passed along the message to the others there.
"I hopped a fence, I tore my skirt, I had to make it over a barbed wire fence-" My sister continued.
"Barbed wire?" I groaned, rubbing my bleary eyes. "Jesus Christ- why the hell was there barbed wire?"
"It was a gated community or some shit...we were trying to find a side-street, there was a goddamn helicopter...I have scratches all over my legs-" She explained, the excitement rapidly leaving her voice as she began to sound weary, the three o' clock feeling beginning to sink in after all that adrenaline.
The first image my sleep-fogged mind conjured up was me having to clean up these cuts, slather on Neosporin and slap on band-aids as the early morning bathroom lights scalded my pupils, hiding away and cleaning up in secret like sneaky criminals in the television shows. It was kind of a funny scene, but I tried not to laugh.
"Well, not really. It didn't draw blood, but they're kind of like cat-scratches, you know?" She finished. She seemed nervous for another reason.
"What is it?" I asked, seeing through her easily. She finally told me our family van was left by the mansion, on the dead-end road because she escaped by running then being picked up in someone else's car.
"Should we go now? Do you think they're writing license plates, will they investigate in the morning?" My sister asked me rapidly, eager to share her problem with someone else.
"Do you want to just go get it now?" I asked, but I already knew that I would have to get out of this warm cozy bed and go get this damn car.
"…Yeah," She answered, only a little bit guilty.
I crawled out of bed and threw on an old cotton sweater that was way too ugly to wear out in public and some pajama shorts. I shivered. I grabbed my driver's license because of all things to happen tonight, like hell I'm going to be called out for "breaking curfew".
We drove. We didn't play music and the air was blaringly quiet, almost fuzzy. Tones seemed flat. The rubber tires swished on the road, that's all I seemed to hear. I remember my dad saying the only people you'll see on the roads at this hour are people getting to an airport, drunk drivers, and the rest are a mystery. We pass only one or two other drivers on our way to the van. I wonder where they fall on the scale. I wonder if they are wondering about us too.
We drive up the winding roads, headlights casting a bright white circle in front as the light blazes the trail for us. Where are these cops? Are they sitting here like fat toads, plopped down and just waiting for us stupid kids to come crawling back to the crime scene?
All I see are illuminated cobblestones sliding slowly into view as we inch forward, the Lexus rolling cautiously on like some kind of curious animal. No cops popped out of the shadows like creatures of the night. We saw our soccer mom van, Polar Bear, as its little metal face peeked out from the blackness, and relief flooded my chest. My sister swung the car to the side, not quite turned around just yet.
"Want me to get it?" I asked, even though it's obvious. I asked mainly because I wanted to fill that heavy night silence, and mainly because I was feeling that "I'm so tired my mouth is a running tap" syndrome.
"Yeah." She says. "See you at home."
I walked to the car. It was only a few steps, yet I expected a man to emerge from the shadows and demand what I was doing there. I really wish I'd gotten one last glance at that mansion up above, but I didn't think to at the time. I did spot the fence with the barbed wire. What a sketchy night is right.
I started the car and it coughed to life. I checked my rear view mirror. My mentality was, like a child, in case a shadowy person is occupying the back seat. (Wow, I'm tired.) That song "Happy" played, and I twisted the dial down. It sounded so different right now, not like something I could sing along to. It somehow felt like the worn out copy of a copy, it sounded hollow and eerily flat so I turned it down.
I accidentally jumped a curb and Polar Bear shuddered as it plopped back down onto the asphalt. I suddenly felt as if the car I was piloting had expanded and was as big as a boat and twice as heavy as I kept going down the windy hill (and I thought to myself, I'm really tired).
I was following the shiny silver butt and the red lights of the Lexus as it slid down these dark roads, and I felt like my sister and I were the only ones awake in the whole world. Still, in separate cars, it almost felt like I wasthe only one awake in the entire world. It was a nostalgic feeling that I've only experienced a few times in my life, the utter and complete solitude.
We made it home.
I sit on the edge of my twin's bed as she called her friend who I drove home with to tell her the news. Goddamn, I'm tired. I screenshot the time of night on my phone, half because I don't know if I'll remember this, half to make sure it wasn't actually a dream.
"Kay, I'm going to bed." I yawned. It was now almost four in the morning.
"Night. Love you," My sister said. We rarely said that aloud, because it's a little awkward and we already know, anyway. It seemed like a good night to say it this time, though.
"Love you too." I mumbled, the fact she could have been arrested crashing down on me. Then, I thought about the fact that if I hadn't gotten such a bad feeling from the place, all of that could have been me.
I went to my bedroom across the hall and crawled under my waiting, wrinkled covers that had long grown cold. Wow, I remember thinking. Damn that was dangerous. Driving a huge mini van downhill while half asleep? Going into that creepy house in the first place?
What the hell had I been thinking?
Since I moved away, it was torn down. Sometimes I think about if I had looked up before I'd driven away from the house in that lumbering old Polar Bear, because I'll never see that strange mansion again.