The sun was just dipping beneath the trees of Vaughn Woods when the Cobalt Mansion came into view. Jack followed Emily, pushing through the thick overgrowth until they reached the edge of the clearing where the building sat dark, decrepit, and vandalized in the center.
“I don’t know about this,” shivered Jack, as a breeze blew past them, “I know that Becky and the others teased you, but we don’t have to go in there. Your reputation at school will be fine.”
“Are you scared?” giggled Emily, “The big man who volunteered to make sure I stayed safe? It’s not my reputation I’m worried about. I just want to prove that it’s not as scary as they say.”
“You’re new here. You don’t know the stories…” replied Jack.
“I know the ones Becky told me,” Emily said, watching the drapes move through the broken windows. “She said a hundred years ago the Cobalt family lived here, and owned almost the entire town until all their power and wealth came crashing down when the youngest daughter – Amelia, right? – made a deal with a demon so she could be the most beautiful woman in town. She and her whole family were found brutally murdered the next day, her body being the only one not mutilated. Or do you prefer the one about the poisoning?”
“I just don’t like this place, especially at night.” Jack lamented.
“It’s fine. It’s just an old house that was abandoned. I did my research after school. The stories are fake. The family moved down south. No one disappeared, or died, for whatever reason.” Emily teased, prodding him in the ribs.
“I think we should go back.” Jack pressed. His eyes darted from window to window. “This place gives me the creeps.”
“You don’t have to go in, but I’m not chickening out,” she declared, walking toward the house, “Why’d you volunteer to come, if you’re so scared of this place?”
“Because I- I- I like you.” He blurted.
Emily stopped and turned around, looking at him. Jack waited what felt like an eternity for her to say something, anything, in response.
“You like me?” she asked, finally breaking the silence.
“Like, like me, like me?”
“I’ve been too scared to tell you,” he admitted.
“And you choose now to tell me? Why?”
“I’m less afraid of admitting that I like you than I am of this place,” he confessed.
Another, stronger, breeze carried across the clearing stealing Jack’s breath. A visible shiver went through Emily.
“We can talk inside. It’s too cold out here,” Emily shivered, pulling her coat tighter as she turned, resuming her walk.
Jack walked with her as he considered her reaction. She hadn’t shot him down right away, which was good, but she also didn’t return the sentiment which was bad.
Emily reached the entrance first, stopping just outside. Jack felt his heart skip when he saw that the door was missing. Inside seemed to be the darkest black he had ever seen. He thought he could see the void looking back at him, twisting the knot in his stomach.
“I don’t know about this,” he recoiled.
“Quit being such a baby,” Emily replied as she turned her back to him. “Grab the flashlight out of my backpack for me.”
Jack obeyed without a word and Emily switched it on, illuminating the darkness before them as she stepped into the foyer.
The smell of wet, decaying wood permeated everything. From the warped pocket doors on their immediate left and right, to the ruined carpet that ran on the right side of the stairs in front of them to the back of the house, everything they saw was in a state of decay.
“This place has seen better days,” observed Emily as she grabbed the door to the left. “I think we should stay in one of these front rooms, just in case there are structural problems.”
When Emily tried the door, the mechanism supporting the door made a loud grinding noise before the door stopped after barely moving a tenth of an inch.
“Let me try,” Jack said as he switched places with her. Not wanting to seem weak, he heaved on the handle, which broke off the door, and he fell backward. Emily couldn’t suppress a giggle.
Jack looked at her harshly as a metallic pop sounded from the door and it crashed to the floor. It balanced precariously on its base, teetering for a moment, before it began falling towards them. Jack got up quickly and pushed Emily away as the door narrowly missed him. It landed with enough force the entire building shook.
“It’s a good thing I came along,” he laughed nervously.
Jack saw that Emily was shaking as the blood drained from her face.
“It’s alright. It was just a door,” he said.
She shook her head slowly and pointed into the room.
In the center of the room, hanging from the ceiling, upside down over a large washtub was a body. Blood slowly dripping out of it. The smile vanished from his face as he felt a flash of terror and his insides twisted as the smell of rotting flesh wafted over him.
They backed away from the room, hoping to make it to the exit, but unable to tear their eyes away. They stopped when they bumped into something much larger than the two of them, its acrid breath hot on the backs of their necks.
They spun around to see a huge monstrosity resembling a man. Its boil-covered face, grotesquely misshapen, twisted as the deep-sitting black eyes darted between them.
Emily opened her mouth to scream as the monster reached out clasping its hand over her mouth. Its thick fingers, wrapped almost all the way around her head.
It lifted her by the head as she threw her arms around it’s wrist, ignoring Jack completely, turned and began lumbering down the hall toward the kitchen.
Emily struggled to hold on without dropping the flashlight while she kicked at it in panic. Jack attacked the creature as he followed it.
It continued on, unphased by the assault.
With each failed attempt to free her, Jack felt a sense of dread wash over him. The stench of the creature was nearly overwhelming.
As it rounded the corner into the kitchen, the ever-shifting light of the flashlight illuminated a large, bloodstained butcher’s block with a cleaver embedded deep into the wood. Jack, pushing his nausea down, became set in his determination to free Emily, but needed something that would be effective against her captor.
Glancing around for a weapon he could use, Jack spied a rusted radiator pipe that ran from the floor to ceiling. He raced over to it and rocked the metal back and forth as hard as he could.
The desperation, or the rust, severed the pipe from the ceiling, showering him with plaster, but giving him a length of pipe with which to assault the creature. Jack moved behind the beast and swung as hard as he could just as the monster pushed Emily onto the wooden surface. A gut-wrenching crack echoed through the room as the pipe ricocheted off the back of the creature’s head.
It released Emily and quickly turned to face Jack, it’s face even more twisted than before revealing sharp, jagged teeth in the dim light. Boils and tumors not only covered the monster’s face, but was also covered every inch of its body. Every one of which beaded with blood as though it were sweating.
“Leave her alone!” shouted Jack.
Emily dropped the backpack and flashlight before ducking around the creature. The monster, moving to stop her from running, stepped on the flashlight, plunging them into darkness as Emily grabbed Jack’s wrist and scrambled back down the hall. The pipe slipped from his grip as she pulled him toward the entrance.
Jack looked over his shoulder, searching for movement following them through the dark as they exited the building. Emily suddenly turned as he continued forward and slammed into something. He screamed before he realized that someone else was screaming too. It was Becky he had run into.
“Becky! Run!” Jack yelled as he heard the thumping of footsteps behind him and scurried to get away.
Jack managed two steps when the collar of his shirt tightened suddenly, cutting off his air, and one of the monster’s deformed hands grabbed his arm.
Jack tried to scream as he saw the horrified faces of six school mates, including Emily, stared back at him while he was dragged toward the house.
Before Jack lost sight of the group, Emily, who stood at the front, winked at him as a smile flashed across her face. The smile faded and she turned, running away from the house with the others, as the inescapable grip of the monster pulled him into the darkness.