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Panic.

Natalie closed her eyes and tried to ignore it, but it was impossible. She could feel it drawing the closet walls of her hiding place in close. It brought the small, dark ceiling pressing down within inches of tousled blond hair. Like the lid of a coffin, she thought helplessly. At least the others had ceased those pitiful mewling noises. Oh, Gods, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut. Tears began anew as she huddled further in the tight corner underneath the shelves. She knew she couldn’t help them now… not with that thing downstairs.

The banging noises had stopped once again, and now she could hear the steady creak of footsteps ascending the stairs. Natalie wanted to run, to scramble out of the bedroom window. Her mind was screaming; get out while you still can! But she stayed where she was with her knees tucked up against her chest. Her muscles had frozen into knots of ice.

Mike’s fault, Natalie thought as she clenched her teeth, her breath hissing in and out in short bursts. This was all Mike’s fault! If he hadn’t been so bored to scour the Internet until he found that stupid cottage on the edge of town!

Something rustled down the hall, something with slow, dragging feet. And Lola’s fault too! she thought, fear quickly giving way to fury. For encouraging him—for saying it was a way better idea to explore a murder house rather than hook up a DVD player to some stereo speakers and watch all “The Fast and Furious” movies!

For her devil-may-care attitude that accidentally unleashed this horrific monstrosity from the grave. You totally destroyed our lives, betcha because you were too busy attention-seeking and being an immature brat! You never stop to think-- it's whatever comes into your head you blurt out or you just do it without considering the consequences.

Minutes passed. Her teeth chattered. My fault too.

Half an hour passed. Her heart pounded. I'm the one who convinced Mike and Annie to come back and help me collect those bags of recyclables.

An hour passed. She still crouched there in that musty cold space, feeling all cold and hollow inside.

Shivering with fear and grief, she heard a sound which checked her sobs. She hoped fervently it had finally given up looking for her and was now leaving. Instead, she heard something take a half dozen quiet (but sure) steps up to the bedroom door.

I didn’t take your stupid gun! She fumed as her whole body shook in a convulsion that bumped her against the wall. I didn’t even touch the damn thing! I just looked at it. Why are you even still here instead of at Jeremy’s house? He’s the one that found… She froze as she pressed a fist into her mouth.

Natalie’s bewildered brain labored with the attempt to reconstruct the events preceding this whole mess. Everyone standing outside the dilapidated two-story cottage, where an untrimmed privet hedge would shield them from any nosey police officers or day-trippers, not that many passers-by came this way on purpose anyway. Mike and Jeremy forced open a window with a stolen pry bar, and then Mike boosted Jeremy in. Then when Jeremy couldn’t get the front door open, Mike had him haul Natalie in, followed shortly by Monica and Annie, and lastly, Lola. Jeremy did not like it when Lola’s turn came, but begrudgingly helped Mike anyway. Not only was she heavy and fat and had severe halitosis and yellow horse-like teeth, she always had been a mooch as well as a severe narcissist, ever since elementary school, and even worse upon entering high school.

“Hurry up, will ya!” Lola started crying and swearing up a blue streak, runny mascara leaving two tragic streaks down her pink puffy face. “The glass is getting into my Sweet Gothic Lolita Dress!” The dress obviously didn’t suit her since it was five sizes too small, and her appearance didn’t fit with the cute cartoon persona she was trying hard to emulate since she was an insufferable weeb with attitude and sloppy manners.

"Okay, okay!” Mike scowled as he tugged harder on one arm. “We’re doing the best we can! Just don't have a fucking coronary, Lola!”

“And keep your mouth shut,” Jeremy warned, tugging on the other flabby appendage. “We’re close to a public road. People might hear us.”

"Great..." Annie scowled to Monica and Natalie. “We're never going to get this urban explorer project started with this weeb slowpoke here weighing us down!” She turned toward the small window now filled up with Lola’s bulk. “Hurry up, slowpoke! We're not going to wait all day for you to catch up!”

"Shut up, Four-Eyes!” Lola yelled. “Or I’ll bust your nose and your Fancy-Dress-Big-Nerd-Eyeglasses!”

“Ooh, so scary…” Annie sneered. “Face it, Lola. You’re a wimp and whiner of the highest order. You’re in the ninth grade now and you still curl up in a ball with real tears whenever you think you might be in trouble, even if you’re not.”

Lola’s face reddened as she shouted in a garbled voice, “Why ya' lil’ ginger bitch!” She flounced about like a stuck pig. “Just wait until I get out of here so that I can kick your skinny little vegan butt!”

“Weeb!”

“Alright, everyone just shut up!” Mike demanded, still tugging hard on Lola’s arm.

Lola’s eyes popped open and she let out a bellowing cry as her sausage-fingered hands started flailing about. Both boys wrapped themselves around her thrashing arms and pulled, their shoes squeaking frantically for traction on the greasy hardwood floor.

“Goddamn it!” Jeremy winced, rubbing his ear where it was racked by Lola’s nails.

“ARGGHHHH!!!” Lola howled.

Both Annie and Natalie gulped in dismay. Monica, meanwhile, chewed and popped her gum frantically.

"Hey, Lola, stop,” Mike begged. “Just please stop, Lola.”

“URGHHHH!!!” Lola groaned.

“Like dude, pull it together,” Jeremy insisted, wiping away more mascara tears streaming down Lola's face with his handkerchief.

“GODDAMMIT!” she squalled. “Mike, Jeremy… please… get me out… get me out of here… I don’t want die stuck in a freakin’ window! Just get me out of here… Waah! Aaaahhhh! Aaaahhhh--eeeeee-aaaahhhhh!

Suddenly, without warning, the bottom window sill suddenly collapsed with a loud crack, sending a cloud of plaster dust into the air. With wide eyes and gaping mouth, Lola collapsed to the floor, while the two boys flew forward still clutching her arms.

“Mike, Jeremy! Are you guys alright?” Annie yelled, hurrying forward. Both Monica and Natalie followed closely behind, growing concern in their eyes and faces.

Mike opened his eyes groggily, trying to process what happened. He sat up with a groan, lifting his left hand and gingerly feeling his sore head. “Whoa, dude, did we just get hit by a truck?”

“Actually, we finally got Lola unstuck,” said Jeremy, helping Mike to his feet, “and made a new door in the process.”

“Ah, that’s good,” Mike nodded before turning to look back at Lola. “Hey, Lola? Lola, are you alright?”

His jaw immediately dropped when he saw Lola still gasping for breath and sprawled out on her stomach like a lumpy sack of potatoes, her flouncy chiffon skirt in ragged (way over exposed) disarray.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Jeremy asked him, before turning to look too. His eyes soon widened as his face blushed a bright crimson.

“Oh, my Gods!” Natalie muttered.

"Eww, gross!" Monica turned her head away, nose up,

“She… she's wearing a speedo.” A hiss escaped through Annie’s teeth, which quickly became a shrill hysterical giggle. The sound sent a squirrel scampering along a rafter, and dropping its acorn cache on Mike's shoulder. Chirping, it landed close by, before scampering up the chimney, but no one took any notice. You could never unsee or forget such things, no matter how many distracting elements were going around in your vicinity.

Dropping the pry bar, Jeremy covered his mouth, reeling backward in shock. He scrambled into a nearby corner where he immediately began retching loudly. Without thinking, Natalie found herself behind a moldering, paint and wax-encrusted couch, leaning and retching too.

Lola’s voice suddenly shot through the cold musty stillness of the room like a dart, “Not a speedo!”

Glancing up over the couch, Natalie saw Lola struggling to her feet while smoothing down her skirt. “It’s a bikini mini thong!” Her eyes were flashing, and there were more running mascara tears. “And you’re all bunch a big horrible bullies and I'm telling on you!" She winced as she inspected the jagged cut on her left palm. “Oooh… oohh… ooohhh… my hand… my hand. I probably got blood poisoning, and it’s all your fault!”

Natalie clenched her teeth, wiping away the spittle and sick with the back of her hand. Great! Just what we need on a ghost hunt: a spoiled, fussy brat.

Sniffing and moaning, Lola then fell against Monica, who promptly cringed and pushed her away, causing yet another round of broken-hearted sobbing. Finally Mike had enough. He gave Lola a hard shove, causing her to fall back against the window gap.

"Quit it, Mike!" Jeremy yelled, grabbing his friend before he lunged at Lola again. "You're being a total jerk.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sick of her emo shit!” Mike yelled in disgust. “Moron can just go back to her over-privileged waste of space existence! No one’s holdin’ a gun at her head, forcing her to stay here!”

Natalie watched silently as Lola sulked in defeat, walking away toward the small kitchen in back. Straightening up and walking around the couch, she noticed Mike standing with his arms crossed, a furious look on his face. Next to him were Annie, Monica, and Jeremy; only Jeremy was looking with some sympathy in Lola’s direction.

Mike put his across Natalie’s shoulders. “You all right?”

She managed a nod. “Yeah, it’s just seeing Lola’s massive ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’..." She shivered at the unwanted vision. “Why someone would decide to wear thongs on an urban explore trip is really beyond me.”

Mark glanced toward the direction of the kitchen. “Yeah,” he muttered. “I think those who wear skimpy stuff like that are just displaying an exhibitionist side. Very few chicks actually look good in them, and honestly, I don't want to think about where the string is going.”

Meanwhile, Annie was muttering in a hushed whisper “Man, this place is so screwed up... it’s Tweaker Trash Central!”

“Yeah,” Monica agreed, pinching her pert nose. “This place sucks. We should leave, seriously.”

They ended up staying, exploring the downstairs for an hour or so, finally ending up in that crappy lounge with piles of rotting rubbish and plastic shopping bags full of Monster and Red Bull drink cans everywhere, wallpaper and curtains hanging in tattered strips. The walls and ceiling were streaked black as though there had been a fire, but it was actually mold. Lumps of plaster were falling off the walls, narrowly missing their heads by inches. As they traversed the dingy corridors of the house, Lola followed silently behind them, looking like a morbid ghost with her fat pale face with wide dark eyes and black hair plastered to her scalp with sweat and styling gel.

It was barely into the second hour that a discovery would be made and Natalie’s life would forever be changed as a result of this. It happened when Natalie decided to explore the lounge again, while everyone else was poking around upstairs. She looked around the great stone fireplace, trying to spot the cut marks people said that were made by the ax that stark naked farm girl made as she butchered her family on the hearth. Of course, there was nothing. The house went through several renovations ever since those grisly murders in 1959. Natalie’s thoughts soon drifted to more practical matters as she turned her attention to the sacks of discarded cans lying about.

Gee, I wonder how much money I can get from these, she thought. Hmm... interesting... Should I tell my friends this money-making plan?

Then something grabbed her shoulder, causing her to let out a banshee-like screech. Natalie spun around to gawk at Mike, a big dopey grin on his freckled face.

“Sorry,” Mike laughed.

“Mike, you big doofus!” Natalie fumed with her arms crossed.

"C’mon we found something!” Mike declared, grinning and gesturing to the nearby staircase.

“What exactly?”

“Just, c'mon. It’s really cool,” Mike yelled excitedly, rushing upstairs

Feeling at wits end, Natalie let out a heavy sigh before heading up.

Like the downstairs, upstairs wasn’t much better. There was no shortage of rubbish—mostly clothes and old newspapers as well as used dental floss and old balding toothbrushes.

Everyone else was crowded in an old master bedroom. Jeremy crouched next to Lola, peering at something he held in his hands.

Walking closer, Natalie noticed everyone was all crowded around a gap in the floorboards near the dusty bureau, and then she stared at Jeremy, who held a blue-black revolver in an oily rag.

“Pretty cool, huh, Nat?” Mike gushed in her ear. “I bet it’s worth a whole lot of moolah.”

Annie scratched her chin as she pondered this. “Yeah,” she said finally. “Well, if it's so valuable then how come no one else decided to take it then?”

Monica shrugged, still popping her gum. “Maybe because the original owner hid it really good.”

“Well, how’d you find it then?” Natalie asked her.

“I didn’t,” Monica replied. “Jeremy did. We came in here to explore, and he was looking about that old bureau. Just happened to see the plank sticking up so he pulled that up and found the thing.”

Everyone looked at Jeremy who now held an empty oil rag, and then at Lola who sat next to him cross-legged, and then at the gun she kept turning over and over in her hand, staring at the rust-like spots now staining the metal from her injured hand. That chubby, dark-haired girl in a bikini mini thong stared back at them with a speculative expression in her watery blue eyes, and then licked her lips slowly as she tasted the stone grit and blood off her fingers.

“Oh, Gods, no, no,” Natalie moaned against her knuckles. “No! No! I have to tell Jeremy and Monica about that legend! Warn them too about Lola—she’s weak-minded and crazy enough to be influenced by that cursed thing… just like that homely, overweight farm girl back in the ‘50s who shot both her parents and her seven siblings dead with a similar blue revolver… and then...”

Back to the present.

Something rattled the brass knob then the bedroom door opened slowly. Footsteps slowly shuffled across the shag carpet.

For a moment everything was quiet, except for Natalie’s heavy breathing as she fumbled through her pocket, being careful to move slowly. “What? Where is it? Did I drop it?” She shakily felt the floor of her small confined space. “No! The phone must be in the car… Well, that's great, that's just fuckin' great, Tallie. Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We're in some real pretty shit now, Blondie.”

Natalie’s strained, whispered cursing was interrupted by a heavy banging and thudding as a desk was shifted aside, then a loud clatter and scrapping as if something long and wooden (a broomstick or baseball bat) was thrust under the bed.

She scooted herself further into the cramped corner. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! She bit hard on her tongue to keep from screaming, filling her mouth with a sharp pain and the coppery taste of blood. She heard more rapid movement, the sound of a bureau sliding open; moldy old clothes and shoes being yanked out to thunk and rustle on the floor. Then as the footsteps slowly shuffled around to face the closet door, her fumbling fingers encountered something—a narrow vertical crack, something… like the edge of a door. Something… like a crawlspace? Natalie wondered incredulously.

Her heart hammered painfully as she hurriedly searched the sealed panel with shaking fingers. Then she felt a cold current of air. It brought with it a faint fragrance of roses and orange blossoms, accompanied by a scent of autumn fire pits and pine bonfires. The floral breeze brushed her dust-coated hair, and gently stroked her damp forehead. A picture began to form in her mind, the narrow tunnel-like space just big enough for a lanky teenager, such as herself, to crawl through. The attic vent—little more than a wooden picture frame with a wire-like grate loosely attached to the wall, the sliding windows that were wide open in the attic… that someone long ago had forgotten to latch close. Words began circling around in her head over and over and over, causing her to break out in further cold sweat. Work fast and don’t make a sound, don’t let it hear you…

But she must have made a sound, for she heard an all-too-familiar voice call out her name, although it was now dry and cracked as if from great disuse or thirst.

Frowning with determination and resisting the urge to peek at the locked door, Natalie inserted her fingers into the narrow crack and yanked with all her might. The panel squeaked loudly as it slid slowly open, revealing a dark space encrusted with thick grime, dusty cobwebs and desiccated rodent droppings. She managed to get it halfway when the closet door suddenly buckled inward as a hatchet splintered through the heavy oak.

Her eyes locked onto the narrow rectangle of darkness.

Screw Mike!

Crunch. Thunk. Crunch

Screw Monica!

CRUNCH--CREEEEAAAK!

Screw Annie!

Crunch-CRACK! Crunch-CRACK!

Screw Jeremy!

creeeeaaak.…crrickkkk… crickkkkkkkk!

Screw them all! They’re on their own!

Scrambling forward, Natalie squirmed inside just as the door slammed back against its hinges with a sudden loud crack. She didn’t even pause to look back.

Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart
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