“I don’t want to do this, you guys.”
“Come on, Eva, quit being a punk,” her friend Kelsey said, rolling her eyes.
“Yeah, are you chicken?” Jacob nudged Dylan in the ribs, and Dylan flapped his arms and made lame clucking noises.
Eva just shook her head. She really didn’t want to go in, but she had to.
531 Mulview didn’t look haunted. It was no different than any other house on the street, except for the “For Sale” sign out front, leaning a little crookedly after being ignored for almost eight years. The grass was kind of overgrown but there were no boarded up windows or screaming maniacs running around, wielding chainsaws.
Ahead of them, Dylan looked around furtively, his pink scalp shining through his buzzcut under the yellowish streetlight. “Come on,” he whispered loudly, and darted toward the dark backyard. Kelsey giggled and followed, blond ponytail bouncing.
“You coming?” Jacob asked, quirking a dark eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Eva replied, sounding anything but thrilled.
When they rounded the house, Dylan already had the back door open. He grinned widely and raised a rusty crowbar. Kelsey tittered and gazed at him adoringly.
The three of them walked through the dark doorway, Eva trailing behind. As she crossed the threshold, she shivered. In the dimness of the kitchen, Eva could make out the dull gleam of chrome appliances.
“In here,” Kelsey called from further in the house. “We’re setting up in the living room.” Her voice was breathless with titillated fear.
Eva reached out a hand to feel her way along the counter.
She rolled her eyes at Jacob’s moronic attempt to scare her with the old flashlight-under-the-chin trick and slipped past him to settle next to Kelsey on the grey carpet. Dylan had pulled out a lantern and a Ouija board. He lit the lantern after Jacob checked to make sure the dusty curtains were pulled over front picture window. Four elongated shadows flickered on the walls around them as he set the lantern in the middle of their circle.
“So you guys know the story behind this place, right?” Jacob asked in a low voice, the lantern light making his eyes look hooded and dark.
“Who doesn’t?” Dylan scoffed.
“Eva doesn’t, dummy!” Kelsey retorted tartly. “She hasn’t lived here long enough.”
“Well then, we’d better let her in on why 531 Mulview is the most haunted place in town.” His teeth flashed in a quick, sarcastic grin. A sudden thump from overhead made them jump, and prompted a squeal from Kelsey.
“Nice sound effects,” Eva said, trying to sound board.
Jacob tore his eyes from the ceiling, and continued on, his tone more serious. “About eight years ago, a nine year-old girl lived here with her family. One night, her parents were out and she and her best friend were here alone.” His voice deepened dramatically. “When her parents came home, she was dead on her bedroom floor – stabbed through the chest – and her friend was unconscious on the bed. They never solved the murder and the friend could never tell anyone what happened. Some people think the girl’s best friend went crazy and killed her.”
Another thump came from upstairs and Jacob jumped to his feet. Kelsey’s face had paled and she gripped Dylan’s arm tightly. “There’s probably a raccoon or something up there,” Dylan blustered, his face white under his freckles.
“So now you guys are going to do what?” Eva demanded in a trembling voice, gesturing toward the Ouija board. “Call up the girl’s spirit and find out what happened to her?”
“Exactly,” Jacob replied, sitting back down warily.
“Come on – everyone put two fingers on the plastic thingie.” Kelsey’s nervous giggle grated on Eva’s nerves, already strung tight with tension.
“Go ahead,” Eva said tightly. “I’ll just watch.”
They all hassled her, but finally gave up when she refused to budge. She watched as the other three put their fingertips on the planchette.
“You have to ask it a question,” Kelsey whispered, but before anyone could speak, the lantern flame shuddered once and the plastic piece began to slide along the letters.
Kelsey gasped, and Dylan bit his lip. Jacob murmured, “H… I….”
Upstairs, floorboards began to creak.
A faint blue light flickered at the top of the stairs, and Kelsey whimpered.
Just as Jacob muttered the letter “A,” the front door flew open with a bang. Jacob leapt to his feet, dropping his cooler-than-thou attitude as he ran yelling into the night. Kelsey screamed as Dylan scrambled over her to follow Jacob out the door. Kelsey stumbled out last, trailing ear-piercing shrieks behind her.
Eva was left alone in the living room.
As the blue light drifted down the stairs, an unmistakably girlish giggle tinkled in the air and Eva’s eyes filled with tears. “That was mean,” she reprimanded quietly.
“I know,” said a familiar voice, as insubstantial as the wind. Eva’s tears spilled over and trickled down her cheeks.
“Why are you still here?” she asked.
“I missed you.” The light reached the bottom of the stairs.
“My parents and I moved away,” Eva answered sadly. “Everybody was talking about it. When you died, I didn’t think I’d survive the grief. But the rumors and awful stories afterward were even worse.”
“It choked on a stupid jawbreaker,” Mandy said indignantly. “I wasn’t stabbed.”
“I know.” Eva’s own throat was tight with emotion. She stepped around the lantern and walked toward the blue glow. Inside it, she could make out the outline of her childhood friend.
“You need to go home now, you know.”
A sigh drifted toward her. “I know. I was just waiting to tell you’d good bye.”
“Good bye, Mandy.” Eva whispered. “I love you.”
She felt something soft brush her cheek. “Love you, too….”
Eva blew out the lantern, wiped her eyes on her sleeve and stepped out into the chilly night, feeling lighter than she had in eight years.