When we said that we’d come here, I didn’t think that she was really serious, but here we were standing five blocks down the street just to prove something to ourselves. Well, honestly for me to prove myself more than anything.
“Well, are you just going to stand there or are we really doing this?” Shannon chuckled at the hesitant look on my chubby perspiring face and looked as if she was already prepared to joke about me not being as brave as she was.
I took in a deep breath and didn’t say another word to her, boldly stepping forward into the darkness like I was Rambo and fully prepared for whatever came my way.
“You better be quick.” She urged playfully.
The things that we do to impress girls are the worst, but we were here now and there was no turning back. I stared up in awe at the Vincent family mansion, counting at least four floors. The pillars in the front hovered over our figures like they were the guards of this place. Darkness could be seen in the windows and it already felt like eyes were on us. They say no one even makes it to the third floor and that if you get to the second you’re practically insane by then.
My hands were sweating and I could hear my own breathing as I watched the puffs of smoke from the cold curtail from my dark shivering lips.
“You know Greg, this might not be for you. You already look like you’re having a heart attack.” Shannon giggled and continued to poke fun at me.
“I am fine, woman! This is…I can do this. No one’s scared. How can you be scared of a myth?” I shrugged my shoulders. “There’s not even any proof of the things they say about this place.” I didn’t sound very convincing and my voice had even gone up an octave.
Shannon stood there with her arms folded and a smirk on her face. She already knew what the case really was. How I was trying to convince myself that I was perfectly calm and would show her just what I meant.
She outstretched her slender arm, which was cloaked in a knitted fall sweater sewn with the color of bright fall leaves on a windy day. I stared into her beautiful face…it was the color of brand new shiny pennies my grandmother rolled in papers. I would take them apart when I was little and knew I’d be in trouble but I just had to touch one of those pennies and what I thought was the most beautiful color I’d ever seen…now here it was in front of me at the age of sixteen with curls around its face and a caramel apple sucker in its mouth. Close enough to touch and close enough to-
“GREG??!! Are you ok? I thought you were about to lead the way?”
She interrupted my thoughts with a pretty frown on her face. Her full lips in a pout. Eyeing me impatiently like I needed to come back down to earth while I took in the four interestingly placed beauty marks scattered across her skin.
I totally zoned out again.
That happens quite often around her, but I had to be in the moment. She could have been anywhere else…but here she was in the middle of the night…attempting to explore a historically haunted mansion with me. I huffed out my chest, put my right sneaker forward and ventured up the steps to the porch like I was ready for anything.
She scoffed but followed intently on the back of my heels.
Once we made it to the steps, we’d already jumped out of our skin just from the mere feel of spider webs on our faces and small field rats that were scurrying from beneath the leaves gathered around the large wrap around porch in the front of the house.
I took a deep breath and stepped forward towards the large door that seemed to leer at me for having the audacity to place myself in front of it. I shuddered.
“I think they say you have to knock first.” She whispered from behind my solid frame.
Her voice sent tiny tingles down my spine.
“And who the hell is supposed to answer?” I whispered back through gritted teeth. My chest began to tighten and I found myself still shaking my head and lifting my hand to knock three times in a row just to get this over with.
We both waited as if we knew someone was home and listened to the cold silence. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise and I thought I could feel someone standing near…piercing our presence in the dark. Suddenly, I felt a strong breath down my neck and something squeezed my sides in one quick movement.
“BOO!!” Shannon shouted into my ear and nearly made me crawl back down the steps and into the front yard where we stood just moments ago contemplating this entire stupid thing.
She giggled and pointed at me hunched over on the lawn and attempting to catch my breath from being startled.
“The look…” She could hardly breathe from laughing so hard. “On your face!! OH MY GOD!” She squealed with laughter. Every muscle in her face could be seen from the kick she was getting out of it.
It wasn’t that damn funny.
I won’t lie I was a little pissed she got one over on me that quick.
“Alright, alright, it wasn’t that funny.” I finally stood up and regained my composure, dusting the dead leaves from my solid black N.W.A. hoodie.
I could still peep her little attitude with her arms folded in the dimness of the dark, the moonlight being our only guide. Her teased and curly hair cascaded around her face perfectly.
“Well obviously you were afraid the whole time and wouldn’t admit it anyway, Watson.” She stated with a neck and eye roll now that she’d called my bluff. She only playfully used my last name when she was trying to get a point across or trying to irritate me because she always said it with an English accent like she was Sherlock Holmes.
I shook my head. “Nothing is in there anyway. Your face is the scariest thing out here I guess.” I teased with a smirk.
Knowing damn well her face was PERFECT
Her mouth instantly dropped and she put her hand up, preparing to lay it on me heavy.
“Boy, shut up! I will-”
Just as she was about really get into her whole spill the door behind her froze her words…
The door swung open from the inside…slowly…and loudly creaking open, as if someone finally decided to answer my knocks.
Shannon froze in horror and the copper color in her face that looked like the pretty new pennies I loved so much suddenly turned the pale color of coffee with too much cream.
My mouth hung open in surprise and I saw a dark and extremely large figure silently standing in the doorway. The silence seemed to last for nearly minutes, when in reality it was only less than ten seconds of silence before a gigantic hand grabbed Shannon by her arm and violently tugged. I screamed when I spotted long dirty nails wrapped around her beautiful sweater….clawing at her and forcing her inside of the entrance.
…for five seconds Shannon screamed at the top of her lungs
…another long five seconds of her being dragged inside
Then merely three seconds for her to be forcefully pulled inside…
Five long trails where her nails desperately clung to the old wood of that porch
Chipping the shiny lavender color that adorned each finger…
Leaving their vibrant remains behind
“GREEEEEEEEEEEEEGGGGGG!!! HELP ME!!! HELP ME PLEASE!! GREEEEEEG!!!!
That was what really hit me in the softest part of my gut…
Finally in one tiny second, the door slammed and there was silence.
Just like that she was gone and I still stood there in that yard…stuck in the silence of not even hearing her shrill cries any longer after just seven seconds…only crickets.
She called out to me…and I did nothing about it because I didn’t even know who…or what exactly took her. I was so lost on what to do and whether I should even go inside or run and find help.
Oh shit…oh shit….oh shit…
Go in there after her man!
I’m not trying to die either.
I don’t even have a damn weapon! SMART!
Call the cops!
Before I knew it, my big ass feet made the decision for me and I raced home. I didn’t look back and I didn’t stop until I made it inside and rushed to a telephone.
I frantically told the police what I saw but that I never really got a good look at whomever pulled her inside of the house. So all that I could say that she was…taken. My hands were shaking and my dark skin was clammy as I went over every thought in my head. How we should have never gone in the first place and the worst thought I didn’t want to think….
is she DEAD?
My head was spinning in circles and I didn’t want to call my mother yet in all of the commotion. The only reason I was out in the first place was because I knew her job would have her working throughout the night and I planned to return before she even knew I ventured into something this dumb. And Shannon’s parents were barely ever home, it had been that way since childhood and it was practically like her grandmother raised her. See how that works out? The saying goes for everyone…
DO NOT GO INSIDE THE VINCENT FAMILY MANSION
There were stories…several stories about disappearances that obviously never scared us enough because we still decided to test our bravery. And that’s just the thing, I don’t know what happened.
Monday morning, I climbed out of bed feeling like a brick hit me in the face. I hadn’t slept a wink and out of everything that happened and Shannon still missing, my mother made me get up and prepare to go to school…to face everyone and everything like a man.
I dragged my body down the steps and to the kitchen table. My mother poured her coffee, shoulders tense and a tiredness in her eyes I knew coffee could never take away.
“Don’t look at me like that Greg. Nobody and I mean nobody told you to take ya ass down to that house.” She shook her head and sighed with a blueberry muffin in her hand.
I hung my head so low that I wished I could become a blob and sink into the kitchen floor.
She walked over to me and gently kissed the top of my head.
“That house has always been bad news baby, we can only pray that they find Shannon. The house is very old and she could have fallen through foundation or anything to where they have to search everywhere.”
“I haven’t even seen the police out here…searching for her…or even at the house trying to find her. Do you know…they can’t even get in touch with her parents because they’re in freaking Europe??!! EUROPE!? There’s nothing on the news! I mean what are they really doing??”
I slammed my fist on the table and broke down, finally releasing everything I’d held in the past 48 hours. The remainder of the weekend since Friday night’s tragedy was the longest I ever lived through and my dreams haunted me with the pure terror in her face each time I attempted to close my eyes and rest. I was exhausted and confused.
I felt nothing like a man. I sulked and slowly walked down the street to school, clutching my royal blue backpack. I didn’t go to school, and no matter how many times something in my conscience urged me to go back to that house to get her, just to see whether or not she was still inside, I instantly change my mind and told myself to allow the police to handle it. I wasn’t sure what their plan was at this point and everyone was being so nonchalant about it.
Even my mom…
“she could be stuck inside of the foundation?“
“it’s an old home?“
No!! Nobody understood exactly what I saw. For the rest of my life, the vision of that hand and those dirty fingernails pulling her away from me would never exit the deepest folds of my mind.
“What’ll it be, love?”
I jerked my head towards a middle aged waitress with a name tag that said “Gloria” standing in front of me, I suddenly realized I had zoned out while walking and made the decision to venture into Fred’s Diner, practically everyone in town’s local eatery and “watering hole” where all of the town gossip could be heard. It was a comfortable safe space for me and I had nowhere else to go.
I sat alone in a corner and only the addition of an older man sat on the other side sipping a cup of coffee and writing inside of a notebook in deep concentration.
It was only around 8:30 a.m. and I’d obviously never skipped school to see Fred’s Diner this empty on a Monday morning.
“Uh…I’ll just take a sweet tea actually.”
My sweaty hands wrung together and I kept my eyes on the door.
She gently smiled, placing her pen and notepad into her apron.
“Well I’ll just let that one be on the house sweetie. You look like you’ve had a long day already and it’s barely started. Make yourself comfortable.” She shook her head and made her way to the back.
My leg anxiously shook and I watched local patrons and work trucks pass by the window outside without a care in the world. Happy and at peace, they were going about their lives and daily routine. Honestly, it was beginning to piss me off and I slammed my fists on the table.
You know what? Fuck this!
I immediately jumped up from the table, slinging my backpack over my shoulder.
“That’s it. I’m going in.” I stated to myself and to the house as if it could hear me. “I’m coming for you!”
Gloria quickly stepped from the back with a smile on her face, then eyed me in confusion.
“What about your sweet tea sweetie? Where are you rushing off to?”
She questioned me through lazy chews of gum and watched me walk to the EXIT.
“Thanks, but I changed my mind. I have somewhere I need to be.” I stated it confidently and as soon as I reached for the door my heart stopped in my chest.
Shannon in all of her glory walked right through the door, radiantly smiling, beaming, and alive as if nothing ever happened.
“What-w-…wait…what the hell??” I nearly fell back into the booth like I’d seen a ghost. Scrambling backwards from her presence.
The darkness in my face had drained and I was pale with fear and disbelief to see her standing in front of me with that goofy ass grin.
“Shannon…what? where? Oh my God! I didn’t know…”
I nearly broke into a sob and exhaled the longest breath of relief I ever had. She smiled and stared at me with her head cocked to side.
Her face, skin, everything was here in front of me. She had her hair up, showing her slender neck and glowing with excitement.
“Awww come on Watson, I know it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen you. Man up! But I’m happy to see you too.”
She teased me and playfully punched me in my arm.
Our gaze locked for several moments.
She reached up and lovingly caressed my face with her right hand. I melted into it’s warmth.
“Oh Greg…I missed you.”
“What the hell…what happened to you?” I had so many questions and she was standing there like she was perfectly fine. Her nails were even intact and had changed to a deep blue. Not really her style but I guess it suited her.
“Shannon?” I stared into her face and made eye contact like I would get it to somehow click in her head if she looked at me long enough.
“Last time that I saw you…was at…you know…the Vincent Mansion. You disappeared and-“
She stopped and stared at me in awe and smiled.
“Oh my God, Greg…you know who I am? You remember now?”
I twisted my face into a sarcastic frown.
“The hell are you talking about Shannon? I’ve known you since we were little. What is going on?”
“Oh wow! Dr. Haynes, come quick!”
The man that had been sitting in the chair writing and drinking his coffee rose from the chair and strolled over to me with interest; removing his glasses and wiping the lenses with a handkerchief from his pocket.
He examined my face and looked into my eyes like I was some type of experiment.
I gently pushed him away.
“Do you mind?” I squared up and backed away.
He stared down at the notebook he’d been writing in.
“Hmmm…something could have triggered his long term memory or engaged some type of cognitive behavior. I mean it’s been years and the brain has many ways of slowly repairing itself. Things we can’t explain.” His voice drifted off and he removed a bright flashlight from the lapel of his jacket, flashing it back and forth in my eyes in front of the diner counter.
“Hello, Gregory. How’s everything going. Do you know who I am? Do you know what day it is?”
My anger was about to boil over. I was confused about the way Shannon was behaving and where she’d come from and now there’s this guy!
“Man it’s Monday! Will you please back out of my space. Shannon who is this?”
I looked back and forth between the both of them. I even looked at Gloria for some answers and she just lowered her head.
They looked at me with saddened expressions like I’d said something that made no sense.
“Someone better start answering me.” I stated through gritted teeth.
“Forget this! I have to go to the cops and tell them you’ve been found Shannon! We’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
I grabbed her arm and led her towards the door and next thing I knew there was a sharp prick in the side of my neck and the entire diner instantly fell away like a mirage.
The tables disappeared and turned white. The diner booths turned into the the hard clinical chairs with uncomfortable cold metal. Everything became white and I discovered I was inside of an entirely white room with limited windows…with bars and now I was wearing white.
Gloria stood near and no longer wore a waitress apron, but a stark white nurse uniform, holding the very needle that was just pushed into my neck.
The other guy in the diner had on a white doctor’s coat and the only one with any color on was Shannon, standing in front of me adorning a blue dress and a saddened expression on her face.
What is going on??
She slowly stepped forward.
“Greg…do you remember anything?”
I shook my head and just wanted to get my thoughts together. Whatever “nurse” Gloria gave me made me feeling light headed and I squeezed my eyes shut trying to seriously remember how the hell I got here.
“I remember…I remember looking for you. They were supposed to look for you but…no one was doing anything about it.”
The doctor stepped forward with interest and spoke up.
“Where were you going to look for her Gregory?”
I don’t really like this guy saying my entire name like that.
“The last place that I saw her. That damn mansion!” I answered irritably.
I turned away from him and fully turned my attention to Shannon.
“The last place that I saw you…was at that house…something…someone had pulled…you-“
“US…into that house.” She cut me off and replaced the word like it was me that actually was pulled into the house.
“Wait-what? No…no…no…it was YOU. You have been missing for two days and I was looking for you.”
Shannon crouched down in front of me. Her face suddenly looked different. Older.
“Greg, you don’t remember anything?”
“I just told you everything that I remember and now ya’ll got me in here like I did something wrong!” I shouted and jumped up from the table.
Shannon rushed in front of me and took my face into her hands. The look in her eyes stopped me dead in my tracks. It was pity and empathy.
“Greg…I’m found. I’m not missing anymore and neither are you.” She stated slowly then continued. “But your mom is gone…that night when you returned home…without me…you stabbed her to death….”
I doubled over in more pain. Tears streamed from my face and I shook my head, whimpering like a baby.”
This is impossible
“You did come back for me…days later…but at first…you just left me.”
Her eyes narrowed and I sensed a little resentment in them, like she was reminiscing about that night. I squeezed my eyes shut when I saw the disappointment flash in her face.
“You didn’t really look for me the way you’re saying until days later. I was never the same after…but obviously…neither were you. We never should have gone in that house.”
She rose to her feet and looked down on me in sadness.
“The house didn’t seem to like what you did very much…I was released, but you…you’ll never be free.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
I never even got a chance to get back to the house, when did I even go back?
“Wait, how could I-“
“Greg, look, it’s not even 1988 anymore, it’s 2020. And you’re not sixteen anymore, you’re 32. I’ve been visiting you this entire time…every week…up here at Pine Meadows Psychiatric Hospital. Today is the first day you’ve been this calm.“
She showed me some thin black box she removed from her pocket with a glowing screen on it that displayed the time and date once she pressed a button on the side.
What the hell is that??
My body shook and my eyes shifted between them all. I backed away into a corner, whatever they gave me in that needle must have done this!
Shannon eased into my face with an expression of stone and we made direct eye contact.
“You better be quick.”
As soon as she said those words, just as quickly as I blinked, I was no longer in the room with them, but right back in that front of that house…in the yard, hoodie and all with Shannon standing in front of me, smirking once again in that same autumn colored sweater…head back in laughter at the fearful expression etched across my face…
My breathing intensified and I slowly backed away, darting from the scene once again only for it to bring me back each time in a never ending cycle of punishment and a merry-go-round of insanity…