idol survivor | challenge 5 | 1550 words
Caught In The Web
My head is splitting and everything smells like mold, and I swear this is the last time I let Janie drag me to one of those crazy parties nobody else even knows about.
Can I actually be this hungover? And did I have fun getting there? Ugh. I figure, whatever happened couldn't have been all that great, if I don't even remember it.
It's too dark to see, but it's cold and I'm lying on concrete. Probably someone's basement. Great, so I had to be that girl, the one too drunk to make it home who had to sleep it off like a hobo or something. Forget crappy parties—I think I'll be a nun.
"Janie!" I whisper. "Hey!"
Where's my stupid phone? The sooner I Uber us out of this rat hole, the sooner I can start all the homework I blew off yesterday. "Janie!"
This whole thing was a mistake, all of it. Janie used to have this boyfriend, this Derek McWeasel-Turd or whatever, who was into practical jokes and random shit like that. The dude loved pepper. Anyway. That was when Janie started turning into this, like, experience junkie or something. Not just thrill-seeking stuff, either. If it was weird, she wanted to do it—like her whole life was some kind of performance art experiment.
God, for all I know, we're in a flophouse for winos right now, you know? Gross.
Fine, whatever. I start crawling forward, trying to find a wall. There has to be a light switch in here somewhere, but I'm too groggy to stand up, and if there's a sofa, I'll wind up ramming it with my knees. That's just the kind of luck I have.
I put my hand out in front of me and—
"Jesus!" Someone's in here with me! Why didn't they say something earlier? "Janie, is that you?"
I reach out to shake the person. Rude, I know, but if it is Janie, well… Janie's never in a hurry for anything except a good time.
"Janie, I have to get home!"
I stop. Then I slowly feel the hair beneath my fingers again with soft, shaking hands.
It's curly, just like Janie's, but something's wrong with it.
I snatch my hands back. The left one is wet and sticky now, and my head throbs harder as a reminder of—
I touch the sore spot on the back of my head to see. "Ow!" Sonofabitch. How did that happen?
Wait. Jane and I didn't go to a party last night.
We went somewhere we weren't supposed to be.
"We should totally go and check it out. I mean, every couple of years someone disappears right around that area, and no one's ever figured out why."
Janie's sitting on my bed, all worked up over some urban legend about an old house near the cemetery. "If we go together, we can look out for each other. Plus, it's a full moon tonight!"
I put down the kohl stick I'm using to try to make my eyes look mysterious. "How come no one ever says, Hey, let's check out the creepy haunted whatever in daylight, with fifteen of our closest friends?"
"Come on, it'll be fun!"
Janie's last idea of potential fun was a trip to a cowboy bar the next town over, which was mostly just weird. But we did glow-in-the-dark mini-golf last month, and that was neat, and once we went to a bunch of different foreign markets and bought all this fruit we'd never seen before, and then had a fruit fest with some other friends from the Freshman-year dorm.
Nothing's happening on or off campus this weekend, unless you count grocery shopping and doing laundry. I can either go along for Janie's thing, or immerse myself in bad television and Internet memes. Not much of a choice, really.
"Okay fine, I'm in."
"I'll come by tomorrow night and pick you up around eight. Wear black!" Janie says.
I sleep until ten, then gather up my dirty clothes and go to the laundromat by way of Starbucks. My old high school friend, Emily, is waiting on the porch when I get back. She and Chad are fighting, and she's worried he's about to break up with her, so she cries and talks while I feed her chocolate and secretly wonder if she'd be better off without him. I'm on the verge of asking if she wants to come along with Janie and me tonight, but then Chad calls, and after a few tearful minutes of back-and-forth, Emily goes off to meet him.
I have just enough time to make it to the grocery store and back when Janie shows up.
"That's not black," Janie says.
"I know. There was a thing earlier, with Emily and Chad."
"Oh god, Chad." Janie rolls her eyes. "Does Emily want to come?"
"No, I think they're back together now. Give me a second."
Five minutes later, we're out the door and driving over to the old part of town.
"I mean, for all we know there's a sinkhole on the property or something," Janie says, as we go past the cemetery. "We'll need to watch where we're going. I brought a couple of flashlights."
We park a block away from a row of old Victorians, around a corner on a side street. "So they won't know we're coming," Janie says.
"Who? Are we talking ghosts, or mice and rats?"
We get out of the car and shuts our doors quietly, and Janie locks up. Then we walk back toward the Victorians, keeping to the shadows and sneaking around behind bushes until we're in a front yard just two houses away.
"I think all of these are abandoned now," Janie whispers, "and the yards aren't fenced. So we can go into the backyard here and work our way over."
Janie's flashlights are pretty cool. She's wrapped cardboard around the edges like a shield, and they have this pinprick setting where they cast a really tight beam, so you can see a small area really well without alerting the whole neighborhood to your presence.
I point mine just ahead of me to watch where I'm stepping. "These are, like, cat-burglar tools."
"Right?" Janie whispers. "I used to shine one of these on Derek's eyelids sometimes, to freak him out while he was sleeping."
"God, Derek..." I mutter. He was such a jerk. I was so glad when Janie quit seeing him.
Janie's up ahead of me, crossing over into the next yard. "I think the one we want is right—"
I hear a Thunk and a tiny squeak, and then nothing. "Janie?" I whisper. "Janie! Are you okay?"
Damnit, I knew this was a bad idea! Janie could be down at the bottom of an old well now, for all I know. How on earth am I going to find her before daylight? What if she's broken something?
I move closer to where I last heard her voice, checking the ground carefully to make sure I don't step in the wrong place. "Hey, Janie, where are you?"
I hear a sudden Whoosh, and then there's this horrible pain in the back of my head and I fall into nothing…
Oh, god, what were we thinking, coming to this house?
How did we let ourselves get drawn in to thinking about ghosts and supernatural portals, without even considering the more obvious reasons why people disappear?
I have to get out of here, get Janie out of here and—
Oh, no. What if it's already too late?
I reach out to Janie again, slow and careful, afraid of what I might find.
There's her neck, yes. But no pulse, not even when I press harder. Oh god, Janie's dead! What am I going to do?
I choke on a sob. This can't be happening. We were just looking for some fun, just chasing silly rumors. None of it was supposed to be true!
I crawl away from Janie, keep crawling until I come to a wall and push myself up while the pounding in my head tries to force me back down.
I feel my way along the surface, trying to find a switch, a door, a window—anything that'll show me where I am or help me find a way out.
Wait, I hear a noise. Someone's coming!
Where can I hide? I can't even see what's down here, is there a cupboard or a closet, or even a table? I haven't found any furniture yet!
Could this be a dream? Oh, please let it be a dream, let me wake up from this, please please please!
I wish I could make myself disappear, I wish Janie and I had never come here, I wish—
A door slams open and then it's too bright, so bright it blinds me. I squeeze my eyes shut against the stabbing pain in my eyes and my head, against the burning afterimage of Janie and all the red-red-red spilling away from her.
"No," I whimper. This can't be happening, please let it not be real!
I hear heavy footsteps walking toward me, and then the sound of a man's voice, cold and cruel:
"Oh, good. I see you've found your friend..."
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