Once upon a time, I would have told you that there are no such thing as ghosts. Hauntings are imagined by over-active and anxious minds. Negative energy is nothing but your mood on a bad day.
Oh man, was I wrong.
As teens, most of us can say that an old, abandoned house has an allure that we just can’t pass up– and that was the case when it came to the place down the road.
I wasn’t sure how long it had been vacant, but it was as long as I could remember. I knew vagrants and lost kids frequented there often, looking for a roof to sleep under.
I’m sure it had been a nice place, once. Whatever color that had once graced the old siding had long since faded to a dirty gray. The overhang above the front porch was caved in, whatever it may have held crushed under the weight.
Fall in Maine gets pretty damn cold at night. People find shelter can move on quickly enough, but they often leave more behind than what they came with. Used needles, empty booze bottles, and awkwardly placed torn up mattresses were to be expected around the outside, covered with what was left of the dead trees and bushes surrounding the house.
Maybe we should have realized that there were some who were unwilling to step inside, even in the cold. Maybe we should have thought about what we were getting ourselves into.
We didn’t care.
We didn’t think.
We were on an adventure.
Four of us left my house around 1am. We were loud and overly excited on the quick jaunt up the road, but as we grew closer, some doubt had sunk in.
“How do we know this place is safe? The roof is caving in?!”
“It has been boarded up for years, how do we even get in?”
“Maybe we should consider turning back. There are too many trespass warnings to ignore.”
I didn’t think twice. They were all fair questions, but irrelevant to me. We were already there, we would get in one way or another. Details mattered little to me that night.
We sent the smallest of us through a window around back.
John went first. We lifted him with our fingers locked together until he pried the plywood from the frame and crawled inside.
He hit the floor gracefully. “I ripped a hole in my jeans. Whoever comes next, be careful.”
My sister, Ashley, went next. Thomas and I lifted her with interlocked hands and she glided through the open window with ease.
We waited a few, and listened to them speak about what they saw. Lots of trash, a few mattresses. Newspapers were everywhere. They called out every minute or so, to keep us posted.
I looked around the back of the building and noticed a gaping hole in the basements foundation.
“Thomas, we can get in through here!”
We stepped inside, acutely aware that the noises from above were from John and Ashley.
There was junk everywhere. An old metal bed frame to the left, stacked boxes of decaying trash in front of it. There was an old bike to the right, rusted and forgotten.
“Dude, this is weird.” I said quietly. I looked around at all the forgotten property, and found a staircase up to the main floor. “Over here, we can meet them upstairs.”
Thomas and I climbed the old stairs up to the main floor. We stepped carefully, not knowing whether the structure could hold the weight.
Meanwhile, the noise from upstairs grew more frequent. Bottles rolling around on the floor above us. Drawers opening in the kitchen.
Ashley called out for us, “Are you inside?”
“Yeah, we’re in. Just a minute!”
We got to the top of the basement stairs. There were newspapers littering the floor of the hall, a few empty cans and the occasional needle had to be kicked from the path.
“Guys? Were are you?”
“The stairs to the attic are over here, they probably went up there.”
I followed Thomas upstairs, carefully taking each step because this stairwell was more rotted than the first.
At the top of the stairs in the attic, a dead bird layed in the middle of the landing. It was too decayed to tell what type it could have been.
“Dude, thats… wrong.” Thomas stepped over the bird remains and headed to the west side of the attic.
I stepped to the east.
Leaning against the far wall, just beneath the boarded up window, a toy doll sat facing the stairwell. Shivers ran down my spine as I turned and looked for Ashley and John. “Hey guys? Where are you?”
Thomas called out “Hey Trace, I found this weird painting.”
That was when I heard Ashley and John calling to us.
“HEY! WHERE ARE YOU?! WE HAVE TO GO!”
Thomas and I ran down both sets of stairs and out the basement as quickly as we could. Ashley and John were just below the window we had hoisted them into.
“After the bottles started to roll around in the kitchen, we were out. We’ve been yelling to you since we came out.”
Thomas still had the painting in his hand. Ashley gave him a questioning glare.
“It’s weird but I kinda like it.” He shrugged.
“You can’t take it, dude. We have all seen horror movies.” John replied. He was laughing, but even in the moonlight he was a shade or two paler than usual.
“You’re probably right.” Thomas leaned down and laid the painting along the side of the building. We started walking through the woods towards the road.
It was then that I began to feel a sinking feeling in my stomach. I turned around and looked at the painting he has left behind. The doll from the attic sat beside it. Her small, dead eyes looking directly at us as we disappeared through the trees.
That was about a year ago.
Every time I drive past that house, I pick up a stranger. Most of the time, it’s a little girl. Her clothes are gray, faded with time and dirt. She only wants a ride.
Most of the time, I don’t even have to stop.
I’ve grown used to looking up and seeing her in the rearview mirror. She grips the doll and gives me a hollow smile.