“I don’t want to go.”
Chance eyed his companion before cutting the engine. “Olivia, you’re being silly. It’s just a haunted house. Smoke in mirrors. Fun and games.” When she didn’t move, he gave her the puppy dog eyes she could never resist. “You know I’m not going to let anything happen to my best girl, right?”
After an eternity in a moment, she relented. “Fine.” She pushed open the door. “I can’t believe I’m wasting time at a haunted house on a Sunday night when I’ve got a monster term paper due in the morning.”
“Babe, it’s Halloween night.” He rested a casual arm around her shoulders as they crossed the grassy lot.
Lately, Chance spent more time wondering why he was with Olivia. She wasn’t adventurous. She didn’t like sports. In fact, all she did was spend time at her prayer group thing.
Maybe his parents were right about not settling down in high school. He’d break it off with her after Friday’s big game against the cross town rivals.
Some guys wore lucky socks; Chance’s lucky charm was a red-haired hottie with honeyed lips…
Marcus ran up to them before they could reach the door. “Dude! ‘Bout time.”
Anya grinned. “What my little brother is trying to say is that we’d have to wait for the next showing if you didn’t get here when you did. Let’s head inside.”
Chance accepted their tickets and asked, “Where’s Frank?”
“At home.” Anya held his gaze a beat longer than was necessary. “He wanted to finish his homework instead of coming out for a little fun.”
Was it his imagination, or was Anya giving him the “go” signals he’d been waiting since last year to get?
If she noticed anything, Olivia didn’t show it. “That’s where I should be instead of here.”
“Come on, Liv…We are going to have so much fun tonight.”
Olivia shot the blond a dirty look. “Traipsing around in an old meat-packing plant to look at fake gore isn’t really fun for me.” She handed her ticket to the man at the woman at the door. “I still have another three pages to type.”
Chance sighed and handed over his ticket. Did Olivia have to ruin everything with her sour attitude? He needed a woman who was more fun.
She didn’t seem to mind being out on a school night anymore than she minded the biting cold wind on her bare legs as it rustled her skirt. If only she didn’t have her kid brother with her…
…and he didn’t have an annoying girlfriend.
Marcus hopped around in front of them. “A friend of mine told me about a haunted house where everything you see is real.” His eyes lit up like only a child’s could. “You think it’s a fake alien abduction, but that’s just how they get their new experiment victims.”
The haunted house was a joke – especially the Hall of Fear. Spaghetti in buckets to look like brains, red gelatin as guts…a geeky drama club could’ve done better. At least they wouldn’t think it was a good idea to have a guy in black jump out and actually say, “boo.”
Olivia still shrieked in terror. Twice. If she hadn’t, he might’ve stopped the actors from dragging her away. It was just audience participation. She’d be fine.
Marcus turned to them before they entered the final room. “Bet someone’s gonna chop up your girl!”
“That’s silly, Marcus. Be quiet,” Anya warned, entwining her fingers with Chance’s.
The final room was grotesque. A woman beat the glassed-in front wall with her hands, begging for help; pleading for someone to take the axe and break the glass.
No one did.
“What’s wrong with you people? Help me! This is real. They took me from the audience an hour ago and…”
A hideous creature – or a man in a creature costume – emerged from the shadows behind her. His claws slashed across her in the most vicious way, blood spraying the glass, blocking part of the view. Gradually, bloodcurdling screams gave way to moans of agony.
Then…merciful silence, save for the sound of the creature dragging her limp, lifeless body into the shadows…
“Your girl’s next, football jock,” Marcus taunted.
Anya glared at her brother and looked around. “Hey, Lexi. Can you take Marcus home for me? We need to find Olivia.”
“Sure deal, chickadee.”
Chance and Anya hung back as the rest of the crowd filed out of the building, the sounds of someone losing their dinner wafting in from just outside. “You think Olivia’s okay, right?”
“Chance…of course.” She placed her hands on his chest and met his eyes. “My brother’s an idiot, even for a 12-year old.”
He battled to focus his attention on his missing girlfriend and off Anya’s touch. He lost. “What now?”
Anya looked around, then grinned at him. “Through that door.” She darted towards the other side of the cavernous room. “Come on!”
Once inside, Chance felt along the wall for a light switch, but Anya stopped him, whispering, “I have a better place for those fumbling hands. You know I’ve been waiting to get you alone tonight.”
“What about Olivia?” he protested, even as he pressed Anya’s back against the wall and lifted her skirt.
“I’m right behind you, Chance.”
Chance awoke strapped to the table behind a wall of glass. Candles blazed around him. Gradually, he heard the buzzing of voices over the sickening chanting.
He turned his head to the crowd. “Aren’t you people going to help me?”
Hooded figures moved around him, their backs to the leering crowd. “You’re the untrue heart, Chance. You get to be the final act,” Anya purred, brandishing her knife.
Olivia’s now crimson lips curved into an evil smile. “Come on, baby.” She drew strange symbols on his chest in – it couldn’t be! – blood. “Haunted houses are fun. It’s all smoke in mirrors, right?” She leaned close enough to whisper in his ear. “Scream for me, stud.”