It's considered a great honor to be invited to explore the Liverly Haunted House. Only the rich are allowed inside, and we are told to never speak of what we see to anyone. Why? It makes it sound like something will actually happen, but everyone knows that the whole "haunted" idea is actually a farce and that the owners just want to make money. Still, rich kids flock to the Liverly's doors, some coerced by parents, others going for the fun of it. Word gets around about each trip inside, and no one's actually ever seen a ghost or ghoul, but still people go for the prestige.
That's why I'm here in my outrageously large pea coat, roasting alive and wishing I could take it off and feel the chill October breeze. Well, technically my parents forced me to come, but here I am, holding my little sister's hand as we're handed instructions and equipment (a backpack with a sleeping bag, a blanket, enough granola bars to last me a month, three large canteens of water in case I can't find one of the fifty water fountains inside the building, and a flashlight with extra batteries) before splitting off into our groups. There are only two groups this time, each around ten people. That's a really small number for the Liverly, but with school exams coming up or going on, no one (except for the foolhardy or forced) has time to spare. My sister and I don't have to worry about exams because our tutors plan everything around my parents' whims. It's annoying and horrible.
The trip through the house takes about two days. Each group is given several maps and placed in some random location of the house, told to find their way out. It's agonizingly easy to get out of the building even without the maps. Any door that will lead you in the direction of the exit is left unlocked while all the other doors are sealed shut. People have tried, but no one's been able to open one of the locked doors before.
So off we go in our little groups into the "haunted" house. Gracie clings to my arm, unwilling to let go. We're in the same group, as I requested, with eight bubbly, idiotic teenagers. They're older than me by five years, yet they're acting Gracie's age. Gracie and I are the only ones who wish we were anywhere but here. The guide weaves us through the house and shoves us all into a room, wishing us luck and then shutting and locking the door as she leaves. This is our starting point, some random room on the second floor. From here, we have to make it down to the first floor and out into the garden (aka "the end"). Think of this whole thing as a maze puzzle made for a three year old in one of those coloring books. There's literally no way you can get lost and never find your way out. The only thing this place is missing is arrow-shaped, neon signs.
We walk in silence until one of the boys gets the bright idea to randomly scream, scaring everyone in the group except me. After that, no one shuts up; even Gracie is a chatterbox. I just nod and smile, acting like I'm listening. In reality, I'm counting down the minutes until we're out of here and back home. We find bathrooms and stop for a break. I keep an eye on Gracie as she plays tag with some of the people in line while listening to the legend of the Liverly. Someone killed the owner in a horribly grisly manner, and somehow the murderer died a horrific death, and the original owner's children died by strangulation, so now they all haunt the decrepit building, waiting for revenge... You get my drift, it's your classic haunted house story.
Due to the amount of stops for people to take pictures, scare one another, etcetera, we have to spend the night in this infernal place. I take out my bedroll and, after several minutes of chasing her down, get my sister to do the same. I choose for us to be the edge of the group, me on the absolute outside. I want to be as far away as possible from the crazy scare-a-holics. This whole group is nutso over the "haunted" house and thrilled to be here. Even my sister is starting to catch the disease. I just want to go home.
Surprisingly, everyone goes to sleep at a reasonable hour, all seeming to agree that the idea of sleep is excellent. My sister snores gently next to me while several others in the group sound like hogs. I roll my eyes and stare up at the ceiling. I was exhausted before, but now I feel wide awake. I sigh and roll over, cover my head with my arm. Willing myself to sleep doesn't work. I stare at my watch, compulsively clicking the button that makes the face light up so I can read the time, praying that doing so will make this whole trip go faster.
Eleven. Eleven thirty. Midnight. Twelve thirty.
I feel myself begin to fade into oblivion and welcome it like a friend. The next thing I know, I wake up to find Gracie gone. Vanished. Poofed. I glance at my watch and see only thirty minutes has passed. How far can she have gotten in that amount of time? She's a notorious sleepwalker, so I'm not worried about "evil spirits" or anything like that. What I am worried about is her possibly falling down a flight of stairs and breaking her neck. I grab a flashlight from my pack and head back toward the bathroom. The house may not be haunted, but it's definitely spooky in the middle of the night with its creaking boards and utter silence. There's not even any sound of critters rummaging through the ruins.
A prickly feeling creeps up my spine and I whirl around with the flashlight. Nothing. Still no sign of Gracie and I'm officially freaking out. "Gracie!" I whisper as loudly as I dare.
I hear a sound and shine my light in that direction, but still nothing. I turn around to go wake some of the others when I hear my name screamed. Forgetting the creepy feeling, forgetting to get help, forgetting everything except Gracie, I run as fast as I can toward her voice.
I have to find Gracie.
Pain. Red and...black. Blood, maybe? Definitely blood. But not mine. Is it?
I have to find