Dream State [short story]

Dream State

Summary: Michael and Jennifer think they got an amazing deal their new home. However, when Michael’s best friend and brother come over to celebrate the couple’s purchase, things go awry. No one can leave the house no matter what they try nor can they sleep. Then, the hallucinations continue to get worse over time…

Warning: This story contains violence, language, and dark disturbing themes

Part One: The New House

Chapter 1

Pulling into the driveway of his new house, Michael looked out the window of his car. He and his wife had brought their friend, Jared, and Michael’s brother, William, to see the place. Michael stepped out of the vehicle and admired his house, which wasn’t perfect by any means; however, they had gotten it for a reasonable price. He waited for the others to get out of the car.

“So this is the house. What do you guys think?” asked Michael gesturing to the house.

“How much did you guys pay for this?” responded Jared, skeptical, as he looked it over. He was a young man at the age of twenty-four. Michael had recently discussed with him his interest in becoming a funeral director. Jared was still bummed out about his father’s death. Michael thought to himself that he had come prepared with plenty of liquor.

“Not much,” stated Jennifer as she placed an arm around Michael. She was a little older then her husband and was very beautiful, with shoulder length black hair pale brown skin. Michael loved her very much. He had chosen to buy the house to make her happy.

“When was this house even built?” piped in William. As Michael’s younger brother, he too had short brown hair but his was a few shades darker. He was trying to get his comic strips published with the local paper. After he had been rejected, Michael had commented that they were asses with no taste.

“Sometime in the forties,” said Michael. “It’s old, but it’s rather large.”

“Well, it definitely needs some work,” remarked Jared as he moved closer to the house and picked off a dangling paint chip.

“Hey, it’s a house and it’s ours now.”

“Yeah, we spent all weekend unpacking,” Jennifer informed. “Supposedly no one has lived in this house for ten years.”

“It took forever to get everything unpacked.”

“Have you got the system hooked up yet?” asked Will, who apparently was eager to play video games. Michael responded with a yes, and Will made his way inside. He gestured for everyone else to go ahead and enter the house.

Michael proceeded to give Jared a tour of the rather large house. He showed him the back bedroom where he would be staying and the small bathroom that was a little ways down the hall. Next, Michael showed him the computer room leading into the master bedroom. Then, they went through the dining room and into the large living room, which was the largest room in the house. They didn’t bother Will, who was playing a fighting game on the forty inch TV.

“So Jared, you want a drink now or later?” asked Michael as he placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Preferably later.”

Chapter 2

Michael lit his pipe while watching and listening to Jared and Will, who were in the living room. Will was playing a game while Jared watched. Michael was interested in seeing how much Jared’s mood was affecting him. He had brought them here to have a good time. Michael was trying to find some way to cheer his friend up.

“You wanna play a game with me?” asked Will, who didn’t even look towards Jared as he asked him the question.

“Maybe later—I don’t really feel like it right now,” responded Jared as he leaned his head back onto the couch.

“Still planning on burying people for a living?”

“It’s a lot more than that,” noted an uninterested Jared.

“Oh right … you have to fix them up too. Right?”

“Something like that.”

After hearing Jared make that statement, Michael headed towards the bedroom. Jared was more depressed than he thought. He took the last sip of his beer and placed the bottle on the computer desk. When he entered the bedroom, he saw that Jennifer was folding clothes. He sat on the edge of the bed. Lying back, he proclaimed that he was very tired.

“Well, moving into a new house is a lot of work.”

“I certainly found that out rather quickly. Especially with how much shit we have,” he replied, placing his arm over his face.

“Jared still seems pretty upset about his father …”

“Yeah, well he needs to get over it already—I mean that was two months ago.”

“He was really close to his father. Don’t be so unsympathetic,” she firmly stated as she put some of the clothes in a basket.

“I’m not being unsympathetic. I just don’t think he should dwell on it.”

“He has to realize that himself,” she said as she finished with the laundry.

“He needs a good shot of vodka—now that’s what he needs,” determined Michael as he rose from the bed and left the room. It was time for another beer.

Chapter 3

While trying to rest in the bedroom, Jennifer could hear Michael offering a drink to Jared. She had been alone in this house for four days and hadn’t been able to sleep at all. By this time, she felt as if she could fall asleep in seconds. However, no matter how long she kept her eyes closed, sleep would not come.

The radio then abruptly turned on, but played nothing except very loud static. As she sat up startled by the noise, her vision seemed to blur. After blinking and rubbing her eyes, Jennifer thought she saw a shadowy red image of a man reaching out to her. He seemed to be in the middle of the room, but she only saw him flicker in and out of her view for a millisecond at a time.

Her vision returned to her, but the static remained. She stood and strained to listen to the noise. She could have sworn she heard whispering and moved in a bit closer. Faint words that she couldn’t quite make out were heard. She didn’t notice that the light had flickered on and off at different moments. She moved directly next to the radio where she could make out a few words in the mist of what appeared to be a thousand different people whispering. The words she could make out were “I will always love you.” Although she recognized the voice, she couldn’t quite place it.

As the static resided, she moved towards the living room. This was not her first hallucination. She had experienced a few things here and there, ever since she started having problems sleeping. She figured it was simply caused by stress.

///

“Michael it’s getting worse,” she said gathering the attention of everyone in the living room. Her husband looked over to her with a concerned look and placed his beer on the table.

“What’s getting worse?” asked Jared, who was now standing in front of the couch.

“She has been having issues sleeping.”

“How long has it been?” questioned Will, who had remained on the couch, but turned his attention to the doorway where she was standing.

“I haven’t been able to sleep for four days.”

“I figured it was just because we have been so used to sleeping in the same bed … that maybe she just needed me near. You know, that kind of thing,” stated Michael as he moved towards her.

“Usually after a few days, insomniacs start to hallucinate,” asserted Jared. Jennifer could hear the empathy in his voice. All of them were concerned for her and all she could think about was that she was in some way ruining their night. She simply nodded to his statement.

“I brought over some sleeping pills. They’re in the cabinet. Why don’t you take some? Here, I will show you where they are,” offered Michael as he placed a hand on her back.

“I’m fine, I can make it. Please, just continue what you were doing.”

He asked her if she was sure and she nodded making her way to the kitchen.

///

Jennifer took the pills with some water. When she opened her eyes, she tossed the glass into the sink. Blood seeped out of the glass, and in it were pieces of red pulp. She couldn’t make out what they were made of. She felt a little woozy and grabbed the counter for support.

Chapter 4

Michael, Jared and Will were relaxing in the living room watching a movie. Michael and Jared were drinking, but Will was just barely too young to participate. Michael was already feeling quite buzzed as he watched the film. After a few moments, he decided it was time to smoke his pipe. He made his way towards the door because he wanted some fresh air.

He tried to grab hold of the doorknob while watching the movie without looking at the knob. For some reason, he couldn’t find it. Turning his attention towards it, he realized that his hand couldn’t make contact with the knob. He continued to try, but found that it was like there was an invisible force keeping them apart. He could move his hand around and under it, but couldn’t take hold of it.

“Um, guys? I can’t open the door.”

“What do you mean?” asked a confused Jared.

“I can’t touch the door knob, man!” stated Michael, trying to keep from panicking. It occurred to him, maybe I’m just a little more drunk than I originally thought.

“That’s ridiculous! You’re probably just drunk! Here, let me try,” said Will as he moved towards the door and then tried to open it as well. Michael watched in disbelief as he saw that Will couldn’t wrap his hand around it either.

“What the hell, I can’t either!” yelled a shocked Will as he looked back towards Jared.

Jared approached it too, and just as Michael thought, Jared couldn’t touch it. Jared stepped back and stared at the knob in confusion. Michael looked over to one of the three windows on the right side of the room.

“I’m starting to freak out guys. I mean, how is this even happening?” Will questioned.

“I’m gonna try and break the window,” said Michael as he moved towards the window grabbing hold of the tall lamppost. It was a solid post made out of metal, and Michael held it backwards, preparing to slam it into the window. When he did, despite all the force he put behind it, it stopped just before the glass.

“Maybe it will work if you throw it at the window,” suggested William.

Michael took a few steps back and threw the post with as much force as he could muster. To his disappointment, it stopped just in front of the window and fell to the ground. Michael didn’t know what else to try.

“Let’s go check the other doors. I will check the back door. Jared, you check the door in the kitchen.”

Jared nodded, and they went on their separate ways.

Michael simply stood there. He hoped this was all some sort of dream. He thought, how can this be real? He had never believed in the supernatural nor even heard of someone being stuck in a house with no noticeable way out.

“What the hell are we gonna do?”

Part Two: A Restless Night

Chapter 1

Michael was rushing towards the kitchen because Jared had called out his name, sounding very concerned, which scared Michael. They had recently discovered that, at least in the living room, they couldn’t grasp hold of the door or break the window. Michael was scared of what might be happening now. The first thing he saw when he entered the kitchen was Jennifer lying on the floor.

“She was mumbling about something,” stated Jared, who was kneeling next to her. “Help me get her up.” They took her by the arms, and as they lifted her, she said that there was blood in the sink. Jared turned his attention in the sink’s direction as Michael verified that he had her. Michael waited for Jared’s answer as he held up Jennifer.

“There’s nothing in the sink but some water and a cup.”

“I’m taking her to the bedroom,” said Michael and he moved towards the master bedroom.

“The back door doesn’t work either,” announced Will as he entered the room, but Michael pushed him out of the way. “What happened to Jennifer?”

As Michael continued down the hall, he heard Jared refer to her having fainted and mentioned that the sleeping pills had been opened.

Mike helped her onto the bed and then sat next to her holding her hand. He looked her over with a concerned expression on his face. Not being able to leave the house was still on the back of his mind. He had to find a way out of this house.

“Are you alright?”

“So sleepy …” responded Jennifer. This made Michael think about the fact that she had just taken the sleeping pills.

“I love you. Don’t scare me like that okay?”

He started stroking her hair. As he left the room, he looked back at her. She appeared to be asleep or at least completely out of it. He had to go check on the others.

Chapter 2

“So what the hell do we do now? We can’t leave this house,” said Jared as he drank a glass of water, trying to sober up a bit. He looked over to Will, who was looking quite worried, but Jared was sure they all looked that way. He didn’t believe in anything but concrete facts; however, this occurrence seemed to maybe point towards the supernatural.

“This is some Amityville shit,” proclaimed Will as Michael entered the room.

“I think we should all just go to sleep and worry about this tomorrow,” responded Michael as he moved to the fridge and pulled out another beer.

“And what is that going to solve?” argued a slightly frustrated Jared.

“What else do you expect us to do?” retorted Michael as Will agreed. “Jared, you’re in the guest bedroom. Will, you’re on the couch in the living room. Now let’s just try and get some sleep.”

Jared watched as Michael left the room, and even though he was annoyed, he decided he would wait and see everyone in the morning. As he walked away towards the guest room, he heard Will say to him, “You know, I’m kind of scared.” Jared ignored him and continued walking towards the room.

Chapter 3

Jennifer, the only one of them able to sleep, was dreaming. She found herself standing in the backyard in a field of roses. In the distance, she could see what looked like hundreds of people, standing in the sunlight. They seemed to be looking in her direction, but she couldn’t tell. They didn’t have any color to their skin or on their clothes. They were just colored different shades of gray. She reached down, pulled a rose from the field, and smelled it. Even though it smelled like rotting flesh, she continued to smell it as if she was in a trance.

She looked up to the sun, which was slowly being eaten by what appeared to be pure black clouds. As the sun was being covered, the roses started to lose color, changing to different shades of gray. She looked back towards the house and noticed that it was also being covered in darkness. She watched as the walls seemed to move and distort. It was like watching something in the distance during a heat wave.

Then she noticed Michael and the others standing behind the kitchen window. They looked to be screaming and pounding the glass frantically until finally, they were pulled away from the window one at a time by gray colored hands.

She walked towards the house. As she did, the flowers around her began to wither and die. When she approached the house, she heard a loud squealing, and it grew louder as she got closer. She touched the wall of the house and could feel it distorting and warping under her hand. Emerging outward from the center of her hand, the wall commenced changing texture and color. It was red and organic, looking as though it was made of blood, flesh, and rust. It emerged outward, getting larger and larger, and the high-pitched sound grew into screams. As it started to spread onto her hand, she screamed.

Chapter 4

It was the middle of the night, and Michael was very much awake. He was lying in bed when he noticed that the light in the computer room, the room next to the master bedroom, was turned on. He hadn’t heard anyone in the room, so he decided check how the light had been turned on.

He looked around the room and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary—except the fact the light was on. In the corner of his eye, he noticed the light to his right in the dining room turn on. All of a sudden, he had the strange feeling that he was being led towards a certain part of the house. Once he made his way into the dining room, he saw the light in the living room turn on.

As he entered the living room, he saw that no one was in there. He was completely alone. Michael wondered if he might be dreaming. Soon enough, the TV flickered on, and at first, he didn’t realize what he was looking at. It was simply a hole in the ground with a shovel next to it. After a moment, he saw Jennifer enter the picture and pick up the shovel. She began digging, and the hole got even deeper. The point of view raised a little bit to reveal a wooden cross and when the screen moved closer to the cross, Michael saw it was his name that was scratched into it.

Michael didn’t know how long he had been in the living room. He wasn’t even sure what he had seen. Either way, he was making his way back towards the bedroom when he noticed the kitchen light flicker on. Was this another sign? Was he supposed to follow and enter that room too? When he entered the kitchen, he saw that it was simply William. Will was putting some food into the microwave.

“I can’t believe that I can’t sleep,” stated Will to himself, who didn’t notice Michael had entered the kitchen. However, Will did notice him when he opened the fridge and took out the bottle of vodka. “Mike … what’s up?”

“I couldn’t sleep either,” said Michael before he began drinking from the bottle in rather large gulps,

“Hey, do you think there is a connection? I mean, Jennifer hasn’t been able to sleep since she moved here.”

“No …” Michael took the bottle with him as he left the kitchen.

Michael sat on the edge of the bed and took sips from the vodka. He looked over to Jennifer, who was fast asleep, and wondered if she was dreaming. He hoped he had been dreaming moments ago, although it was unlikely. He didn’t know what the image on the screen was supposed to mean, but nonetheless it worried him. There could only be a few reasons why she was digging a grave for him. Michael reached into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone, and then sighed—there was no signal.

He contemplated the events from earlier again and realized that Will should have been sleeping in the living room on the couch. Yet he wasn’t there when Michael had walked in. In addition, Michael had walked through most of the house on his way there and hadn’t seen him. He could be in the back room with Jared or in the restroom. Either way this bothered Michael… he couldn’t let go of the fact that Will was unaccounted for during that time. He grunted a little before taking yet another sip.

Part Three: Loss of Trust

Chapter 1

Jared had been up all night. He now stared at his phone, looking at the pictures of his family and his ex-girlfriend, and wondered if he would see them again. Jared had always thought about trying to get back together with Heather. He knew he would love to see all of them if he found a way out of this house. He could see that the sun had risen through the crack of the back door. He decided to go to the kitchen and get something to eat, even though he was surprisingly not hungry. Jared sat down at the table and was soon joined by a very tired looking set of brothers. Jennifer wandered in and leaned against the wall looking much better than the rest of them.

“I noticed last night that my phone had no signal, “stated Michael as he rubbed his eyes.

“Mine doesn’t have any signal either. Why didn’t we check them right away? It seems so obvious to have checked them sooner,” replied Jared as he looked down at the plate of waffles he had made.

“Did anyone else sleep?” asked Jennifer.

“I know me and Mike didn’t,” supplied Will as he crossed his arms and let out a sigh. Jared simply shook his head as a response. Mike then asked why Jennifer was able to sleep. Jared saw that he looked a little wide eyed.

“Probably because I nearly killed myself with sleeping pills. I’m not entirely sure how many I took. I just know I took a handful.”

“Are you feeling alright?” questioned Jared.

“I feel fine. I have been up for a few hours and haven’t had any more hallucinations,” she responded with a smile.

“So we can’t sleep and we can’t leave.”

“Everyone seems to be ignoring the obvious question—what the hell is going on?” added an agitated Michael.

“I suppose none of us really have an answer,” responded Jared, who began tapping his fingers on the table. Mike had made eye contact for a second, but then he turned away quickly almost as if he had something to hide—something that he wasn’t mentioning.

“Well … if you ask me, that’s what we need to find out.”

“How are we even supposed to find that out? Does the Internet work?” Will asked. After Jennifer responded with a no, he asked, “What are we supposed to do then?”

“I suppose we can hope for the best. Maybe this will all blow over. Hell, I have a few movies we can watch. We do still have power,” Mike advised.

“A lot of good that does us,” expressed Jared. He didn’t like Michael’s attitude towards this situation. It was as if he wasn’t thinking straight or just didn’t care anymore. Things would not turn out very well if they continued to miss sleep. Jared looked over to the sleeping pills and decided it was too risky for them. If they took too many, they wouldn’t wake up. He decided he would hide them after the others left.

“Well, what do you want us to do! This is over our head …” said Michael.

“I’m out of here,” stated Will as he left the room with a frustrated look.

“We should do something other than sit on our asses,” argued Jared, who forced eye contact with Michael.

“Why are we arguing?” asked Jennifer.

“’Cause old Jared here seems to think he can get us out of this mess.”

“We have to try something!” reasoned Jared.

“Sure, let’s get that Ouija board from when we were kids. Maybe then we can ask the dead what to do.”

Jared was about to argue his next point when they heard Will call from the living room. Will sounded concerned, and so Jared stood from the table and headed towards Will. He noticed that Michael and Jennifer were following.

///

“Do you guys see this?” Will asked as Jared and the others entered the room. On the TV screen, Jared saw a bloody rusty image, which seemed to pulse slowly.

“What did you do?” asked Michael, who apparently saw something as well.

“I just put a game in. I put ‘Tales of Good & Evil’ into the system, and this is what loaded.”

“Well, I don’t remember this being in the game. Maybe it is a glitch,” added Jared as he moved closer to the television.

“So you guys see this too? Let me turn the TV off. Maybe that will fix it,” stated Will as he unplugged the television. The image remained, and it began to make Jared feel uncomfortable.

“This has to be a hallucination, although I have never heard of a group of people having the same one before.”

“Don’t you understand? It’s more than that—it has to be!” shouted Michael directly at Jared.

///

Jared had spent the rest of the day separated from the others. He didn’t know what they were up to and didn’t care. He assumed that they were trying more things to get out of the house. He had rummaged through the photos on his phone until it had finally died. He was angry, mostly as Michael, and didn’t have any idea how to get out of the house.

Jared decided he was thirsty and was on his way to the kitchen when he ran into Will. He didn’t say anything to him and simply opened the fridge. He had noticed the bottle of vodka was missing from the top shelf. He pulled out a can of soda and sat at the table as Will approached him.

“Do you think Mike is okay?”

“I dunno. He has been acting strange, more aggressive.”

“We tried to tear down one of the walls with some tools and various other things. That sort of force field isn’t letting anyone or anything get through. Anyway, I got the movie player working. I am going to watch a movie.”

Chapter 2

Mike wanted some time alone and decided that since Jared wasn’t in the guest bedroom, he would reside there for a while. He turned on the old CD player he had. Listening to the music, he took another sip from the bottle. He didn’t know what the others were up to, and he had been in the room a while. Michael stared at the wall, various things on his mind.

After a moment, he started to hear whispering, and at the center of the white painted wall, he saw a spot of blood. It dripped a little before finally seeming to reach out and spread outward across the wall. As it got bigger and bigger, he saw a texture that he recognized from earlier on the TV screen. Soon, most of the wall was covered with this blood and rust texture. It seemed to be pulsing and made his head hurt the more he looked at it. However, he couldn’t look away from it.

He turned his head to the side and vomited after a while. When he looked down at it, he noticed it was mostly red and something in it was moving. He looked away almost instantly and decided to head towards the restroom so he could wash his face.

///

He lowered his head towards the sink and splashed some water on his face. Michael then looked in the mirror and wasn’t surprised when instead of his own reflection he saw Jennifer there holding a shovel.

“What are you doing in there?”

“I will kill all of you—I can’t stand any of you!” the image stated in a slightly distorted voice.

“But—but … I love you.”

“I will kill you first Michael!”

“I … I can’t let that happen. I will get out of this house.”

“I am the reason for everyone’s suffering. I am the reason you can’t get out of this house,” the image said as it started to lose its color.

“How can that be?”

“As long as I live you will be trapped in this house,” the image stated as Michael began to cry.

“Your wife is no longer who she was. She overdosed on sleeping pills and has been replaced by a demon. If you kill her, you and the others will be able to leave. You have to end it. You have to save them.”

Michael then cowered into the corner of the restroom and sobbed openly. He knew what he had to do to save them. He thought to himself for quite some time, crying.

///

Michael was watching Jennifer, who was lying on the bed. He looked at her with horror because what he saw was a gray-skinned woman with blood-covered hands. After he had been standing there for an unknown amount of time, he made his approach.

“You are a demon,” he muttered as he stood before her. She said something, but he couldn’t hear her voice. Then he saw her eyes grow a dark red, and she began laughing. He grabbed hold of her throat and pressed as hard as he could. He had to destroy the demon. He had to … to save all of them.

///

Michael stepped back in horror as he looked upon the body of his wife. She no longer looked like the demon he had seen moments ago. All he could think about were the marks he had left on her neck. He let out a horrid silent scream and fell backward onto the floor. He covered his mouth with his hand, still silently screaming as the tears began to rush down his face. His eyes were wide with shock at what he had just done. He fled the room as quickly as he could.

Part Four: Accusations

Chapter 1

Jared was feeling quite out of it and finding it hard to concentrate. He had been mindlessly watching several movies with William, and it was becoming harder and harder to tell how long they had been kept from sleeping. He closed his eyes and leaned back into the couch.

Jared’s mind drifted back towards a picnic he had with his ex-girlfriend, Heather. He saw her smiling back at him. He then opened his eyes after having them closed for an unknown amount of time and looked back towards the TV. Even though he was watching, his mind still strayed to different memories of her.

Suddenly, the TV flickered off, and there was a faint sound of whispering. When the screen came back on, it showed the field from that picnic he had been thinking about. He looked over to Will, who resting his head and not watching what was happening. Jared watched the screen, and soon enough, he noticed Heather walking closer into view. After approaching, she seemed to hold her hand up to the screen. After a moment, the image on the TV seemed to distort and her hand looked to move outward towards him. Jared felt as if he could reach out and touch her. He decided to try, and—much to his surprise—they were now holding hands. Most of her body reached out from the screen and towards the couch. He held her hand tightly, wondering what kind of hallucination was this vivid, this real. She moved closer to him until he could feel her breath reach his ear.

“I’m here … waiting for you … come to me …” she whispered, before beginning to recede back into the screen. Jared refused to let go of her hand as the whispering became louder. To his horror, he watched as she lost the color in her skin and hair.

“No! Don’t go …. Are you really waiting for me?” he asked as she faded away, and the screen flickered back to off.

“Who are you talking to?” inquired a now confused Will.

“No one …. Just another hallucination,” stated Jared as he realized that his head felt like it had been hit with a truck. After a moment, a weary Michael entered the room and sat down. Jared noticed Mike looked a little pale, but he assumed that they all looked sickly though. “Did you get any sleep at all?”

“No …” responded Michael almost too low to hear.

“Where is Jennifer?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you not know?” asked Jared, who now struggled to hold his attention on Michael. They all looked like they were a bit drunk. He knew it was because they had lost so much sleep. However, he was now able to gain some sort of grip over himself.

“We have watched about five movies, maybe more—I have lost count,” added Will, who was still watching the TV.

“I listened to music all night in the guest bedroom. I guess I was trying to lull myself to sleep or something,” replied Michael, who hadn’t returned Jared’s gaze.

“We have been having trouble with hallucinations of different types. The only constant one is where our vision becomes blurred. It quickly comes and goes almost like a pulse,” informed Will, who demonstrated with his hands.

Jared watched as Michael simply nodded, and then they heard whispering again. He could tell everyone heard it because they all reacted to it. All of a sudden, Jared felt a great pounding headache and saw that the others seemed to as well. They grimaced in pain when the TV switched on to show Jennifer standing in the backyard.

“What the hell?” muttered William. Jared noticed that there seemed to be several hundred—no, maybe a thousand—people standing behind her in the field. The whispering changed to screams and Jennifer lost all of her color quickly.

“Jennifer is the only one not here,” said Will.

“We had better go check on her,” added Jared as they all rushed through the house looking for her.

Chapter 2

Jared was the first to enter the main bedroom room. When he did, he quickly turned and pushed Will backward, telling him to stay back, and Will’s expression grew grim. Jared turned back into the bedroom. What he had seen was still there—Jennifer lying lifeless on the bed with one of her arms hanging off the side. She was already very pale, and Jared didn’t need to check her pulse to know that she was dead. He muttered, “My God,” as Mike rushed into the room with a look of concern that abruptly changed to shock. Mike fell to his knees and took Jennifer’s hand in his. Jared watched as Mike whispered a few words that he couldn’t quite make out.

///

Jared was just outside of the room explaining to Will that Jennifer was dead. Jared had a hard time explaining it as he watched Will’s expression grow into sorrow. One thing that had been branded into Jared’s mind was the marks on her neck, which indicated that she had been strangled. Michael exited the main bedroom, a gloomy look on his face.

“What happened?” asked Jared as he turned to face Mike.

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t believe she died. How could this happen?” asked a flustered Will.

“In some cases they are murdered,” stated Jared as he continued to look Michael over. Mike simply held his head down and didn’t make eye contact.

“But with what has been going on in this house?”

“Mike, what all happened last night?” asked Jared.

“I already told you what I was doing. I don’t know the rest.”

“How do you not know what your wife was doing or what happened to her?”

“I don’t know …”

“You were the last one to see her. Did anything odd happen?” His frustration levels were growing significantly.

“I don’t know.”

“We didn’t see her or you all night …. What happened?” questioned Jared as he showed his frustration with a gesture of his hand.

“I don’t know what happened.”

“We didn’t hear from either of you all night and you’re still alive! You are the only one that would know what happened to her! Now tell me right now!” Jared screamed as he grabbed Michael by the collar of his shirt, practically lifting him off the ground.

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know!”

“Did you kill Jennifer!”

“No, I didn’t kill her you idiot!” yelled Michael as he kicked away from Jared’s grasp. Jared watched as Mike walked away with a furious look on his face. As he turned around, he saw Will had a disgusted expression on his face.

“What the hell was that!” Will finally asked.

“What?”

“Why would you accuse my brother of such a thing? The crazy shit happening in this house probably has something to with what killed her.”

“Well, from the looks of it, she has been dead for quite some time, and he didn’t seem to be affected by her death as much as he should have been,” stated Jared with an angry expression, keeping his eyes in the direction that Mike had left to.

“Is that enough to condemn him?” asked Will as Jared simply walked away. He left towards the guest bedroom where he could spend some time alone. He needed to think. It didn’t matter whether it was Mike or the supernatural that had killed Jennifer. What did matter is the fact that someone had died, which meant that so could Jared or the others.

Part Five: Regret

Chapter 1

Michael was alone in the guest bedroom room cowering in the corner, crying. His thoughts kept returning to the moment he ruined his own life. Something inside him seemed so very different, and he couldn’t quite grasp it. All he knew was that he had nothing else to live for. He was now without the most important person in his life.

He could feel his mind breaking. He began to stare off into nowhere, and the tears stopped. Moments ago, his knees had buckled, and he thought that for a long while he wouldn’t be able to stand on his own. However, he managed to stand and walked out of the room. He didn’t even think about the fact that Jared had accused him of murder. In his own mind, he didn’t even think that he was at fault. He had been tricked into it, used…

///

Michael walked into the bedroom and began to arrange Jennifer on the side of the bed that was against the wall, putting her in a position that made her look as though she was only sleeping. As he covered her with the blanket, he smiled, thinking to himself that everything was going to be all right. Then, Michael lay down beside her, staring into her eyes. He took her hand and kissed it while simply looking at her with a smile. Everything was going to be all right, he thought. He didn’t even notice her beginning to discolor.

Chapter 2

While Will was in the restroom, he had been thinking quietly to himself. Jared’s accusations stayed with him, although he didn’t think they were true. Will turned on the faucet and splashed some water on his face. He couldn’t believe everything that had happened and was happening. He just couldn’t grasp the thought that Mike had killed his own wife, but for some reason he continued to replay the confrontation between Mike and Jared, over and over in his head. He splashed another handful of water on his face.

He had tried imagining what might have really happened to Jennifer. Most of those thoughts resolved around the supernatural. He thought maybe the house was just haunted, and it had been a ghost that killed her. The other thoughts were simply too silly and unimaginable. He splashed another handful on his face, but as he did, he heard the same whispering. When he looked at himself in the mirror, he was shocked to see that he had just splashed blood all over his face. When he looked down at his hands, he noticed they were covered in blood too and watched as blood came out of the faucet, filling the sink. The whispering grew more intense, and Will stumbled backward.

He grabbed the towel hanging by the bathtub and began frantically wiping his face. In his spastic and clumsy movements, he tripped and stumbled into the tub, hitting his head and his vision becoming blurred. When his vision finally returned to full clarity, he noticed that the tub was already being filled with blood. It seemed to be coming up out of the drain. He fumbled around trying to climb out of the tub, but in his dazed state, he only splashed the blood around making it harder to get out. He kept slipping and couldn’t grab a hold of the edge of the tub. He then pulled the towel from the rack and used it to form a steady grip.

He managed to crawl out of the tub and stumbled onto the floor. His breathing was heavy and his mind still woozy. When he was able to compose himself a little, he looked all over his body, but there was no blood, just traces of water.

///

Will walked into the living room, shaky and disoriented. After slowly approaching, he sat next to Jared on the couch. Jared seemed to be in a deep train of thought. Will could tell based on the look in Jared’s eyes. He was simply sitting there, resting his head on his hand. Will didn’t bother with starting a conversation. He simply sat there waiting.

“Are you okay?” Jared finally asked, turning his attention to Will, if only for a moment.

“Besides being a little traumatized … I think I’m okay.”

“Mike doesn’t seem to be handling her death too well,” replied Jared. He seemed to return to his thoughts.

“I would assume so …. You know how important she was to him—she was his world. After having accused him of killing her, what made you change your mind?”

“When I checked on him earlier, he didn’t even notice me. He was just there lying in bed with her, holding her hand and repeating how much he loved her. It’s like her death has broken him,” added Jared in a somber tone.

“I think we are all going a little crazy being stuck in this house with all that is going on.”

“Well no sleep has a tendency to do that, but I’ve never seen it happen this fast before. It’s like we have lost a lot more sleep than we were supposed to have.”

Chapter 3

Michael left the bedroom because he needed to smoke from his pipe, and it was still in the living room. When he entered, he saw the last thing he would have expected.

“Hello Michael,” stated a colorless Jennifer.

“Jennifer! What are you doing here?”

“I guess that’s the only thing you can ask considering I’m dead,” she responded as Michael moved closer to her.

“I miss you …”

“I know you do,” said the colorless Jennifer as she smiled back at him.

“Why did you have to die?” he asked as he fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Well, you killed me …” she replied, and Michael broke out in tears.

Chapter 4

Jared was stumbling into the restroom when the whispering started again. He looked towards the toilet and noticed it was filled with various sorts of gore. Soon enough, the lights began to flicker on and off. Finally, they turned off altogether, and he left the room. He noticed the light in the kitchen the light was flickering, before finally staying on. He went into the kitchen and found the toolbox open with the hammer sitting next to it. When he got closer, he saw that the hammer’s blunt end was covered in blood. He wondered, solemnly, what this meant and decided to take the hammer and show it to the others. To him, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Chapter 5

Michael held on to Jennifer as he contemplated their life together—all the things they had done and everything they could have experienced together. They could have grown old together in a small house far away from the world. It could have just been them together for the rest of their days. He thought back to their wedding day and their vows. Michael was sobbing quite a bit now, holding onto Jennifer tightly as she stroked his hair.

“Everything is going to be alright Michael.”

“No! It’s not … I can’t do this without you. I can’t live in this cruel world alone. I loved you with all my heart and I am nothing without you.”

“It’s okay Michael. I love you and always will. I am waiting for you,” she stated as Mike looked upward into her eyes and smiled.

“I am so sorry that I killed you—”

“I knew it! You little shit!” shouted a voice from behind Michael. As he turned his attention behind him, Jennifer faded away. What he saw now was Jared rushing towards him with a bloody hammer in his hand. A grip of fear filled his heart as he tried to stand. He didn’t manage to, but he was able to hold onto the arm gripping the hammer. Michael was now fighting to push an infuriated Jared away. They stumbled backward onto the floor, Michael still struggling against Jared, who had managed to break Mike’s grip on his arm.

Michael watched as Jared lifted the hammer into the air. Then, he saw Jennifer, who seemed to be floating upward above them. She was smiling with open arms, and Michael was suddenly at peace. He knew what was coming and that everything was going to be all right in the end. The last thing he saw was the hammer crashing down on him.

Part 6: Visions

Chapter 1

Jared stood over Michael and looked at what he had done. He didn’t know where Will was, but he knew it was best for him to move the body before he showed up. Jared placed a blanket next to the body and started to roll him onto it. He glanced at Michael another time before finally wrapping him completely in the blanket.

Jared dragged the blanket across the floor, which had become soaked in a fair amount of blood. He wasn’t thinking clearly at all, but he couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction in what he had done. He didn’t know the exact circumstances as to why Michael had killed Jennifer, yet it didn’t really matter to him.

///

He eventually managed to pull Michael’s covered corpse into the master bedroom. He then mustered all his strength to place Michael in the bed next to Jennifer’s body. Somehow, he thought it was the right thing to do. Jared felt that he was placing them together in the end. All of a sudden, he felt a sort of cold breath against his neck.

“So what was it like to kill me?”

“Exhilarating! You deserved it,” Jared replied without turning around. He kept staring at his corpse as he covered him with the blanket.

“Nice of you to put us next to each other. It’s kind of openhearted of you … considering …”

Jared finally turned around to see a colorless Mike standing in the doorway. Angered, Jared grabbed him by the throat and shoved him into the nearby wall. His grip around the figure’s throat was much tighter than he realized. For a moment, he simply held Michael in place while Mike laughed.

“How are you here? I killed you! What the hell is going on? I don’t think I can take much more of this ….” stated Jared as Michael simply smiled—a great big smile—blood seeping through the gaps of his teeth.

Jared lost track of things for a moment, and before he realized it, his hands were empty—there was no figure at all. He punched the wall furiously as the lights flickered off, and the whispering was heard, louder than he ever heard it before. Jared slumped onto the floor, his back touching the wall, as the whispering grew into a high-pitched screaming sound. He then he let out a rather loud scream, which was aimed more at the sky than anything else. Jared screamed in anger and rage at whatever was doing this to them.

Chapter 2

Will was leaving the guest bedroom. He’d tried to eat some popcorn, but when he looked at what he was eating, there appeared to be some sort of intestine mixed in with the popcorn. He heard some strange noises that could have been various voices, whispering, followed by Jared yelling. Will now made his way to where the noises originated. However, when he was in the hallway, his head began to hurt tremendously. After falling to his knees, he realized that the whispers had become screams.

He held his head and tried to look around, even though his vision was heavily blurred. The walls around him seemed to transform, appearing to be covered in blood and rust. Will reached out to the wall to try to help get up. As he touched it, the wall seemed to be moving and warping under his hand. After ultimately being able to stand using the walls as a guide, he staggered towards the master bedroom. On his way there, he swore he saw assorted gray figures abruptly become visible for small instants at a time, laughing and mocking him.

“Mike? Jared? … I heard one of you scream. I can’t seem to focus,” said Will, when he managed to stagger into the master bedroom. He was shocked to see that there were two bodies on the bed. Now, next to Jennifer, was a body wrapped in a bloody blanket. He thought to himself, there were only two people who could be under that blanket.

Staring at the bed for quite some time, Will then turned his attention to his left where he saw a wide-eyed Jared. He noticed the blood on Jared’s hands and face. Will walked over to the bed and decided to lift the blanket and see for himself. What he saw was the head of his brother, which had been deformed by a blunt object. After almost throwing up, he turned his attention to Jared.

“You killed … my brother?” Will asked with an expression of shock and disgust.

“You don’t understand—I had to.”

“You bastard! That’s my family that is gone and it’s your fault! You were never my friend …. I only liked you because my brother held you in such high regard. If only he knew that you would be his murderer—that you would end his life!” declared Will waiting for a response. Will waited for quite awhile for some sort of answer—for a reason why Jared did this. After there was no response, in frustration, Will picked up the lamp from the table in the corner. Screaming in anger, Will threw the lamp at Jared. When the lamp hit him, he didn’t even move. Jared just let it hit him in the shoulder, the lamp shattering against him.

Will was unsatisfied with Jared’s lack of reaction, so he stormed out of the room, making his way back into the guest bedroom. While sitting on the on the bed, he began to reminiscence about when Mike and him were kids.

He remembered playing outside when it was raining, prancing around and stomping in the mud. Will was still very young and had slipped and fallen. He recalled how much it hurt and thought about what Mike had told him after he had started crying. “I know it hurts, but there is one thing you’ve got to remember. When you are hurt—no matter how bad—I will always be there to look after you. All right. Sure, I may be mean to you sometimes, but that’s because you’re my brother. I will look out for you, even if I push you around sometimes.”

After the memory faded from Will’s thoughts, he let his head fall into his hand and started to cry a little as he mourned his brother’s loss. They hadn’t always gotten along, but they were still very close. In just a few days, he’d had a lot taken from him.

Chapter 3

Will was sitting on the guest bed feeling quite upset when he noticed a hand reach out from underneath it. Soon the head of Mike peered out from underneath the bed. This didn’t seem to shock Will as he had come to the conclusion that anything was possible in this house.

“You know, it is quite interesting to be dead. At last, I know what’s going on in this stupid house,” proclaimed a gray-skinned Michael.

“Mike…What the hell is going on? Are you really here or am I just seeing things?”

“It’s a little bit of both actually—”

///

Jared was still sitting against the wall, watching as the colorless Jennifer walked over and sat on the bed next to the two lifeless bodies. He didn’t give it much thought and simply sat there waiting to see what was going to happen next.

“You know when you don’t sleep you begin to, in a sense, dream while you are awake,” stated Jennifer.

“There have been studies ….”

///

“But what no one realizes is that when you dream you are essentially gaining access to the afterlife,” said Michael, who was smiling upward towards Will.

“What does that even mean?” asked Will as he decided to move away from the bed and stand against the wall. He watched as Mike twisted his neck completely around to where it was facing his back and pulled his way out from under the bed. As the gray Mike stood, he twisted his head back into place and placed a hand onto Will’s face.

After a moment, Will opened his eyes to find himself in the field behind the house. He looked outward towards the horizon to see thousands of colorless people staring back at him. Mike approached from behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

///

Jared was standing outside in the field next to Jennifer, wondering what she had meant when she told him they were gaining access to the afterlife. The hundreds of people in the distance appeared to be whispering, and it made him feel a little uncomfortable.

“In our dreams, which originate from our ultimately unexplored subconscious, we gain access not to an imaginary world but instead to the afterlife.”

“Even if that is true, why would people experience such strange things in their subconscious—things we couldn’t even imagine or that don’t make sense,” asked Jared.

“Think of it as gaining access to the thoughts and imaginations of the dead.”

“Okay … so why have we all experienced insomnia so quickly and why have the hallucinations come to us so rapidly?”

///

“It’s this house, Will. So many people have lived here, and they have had so many dreams. Some people have a stronger connection in their subconscious to the afterlife. The course of this house’s existence along with the strong connection of the people who have lived here, made the house itself into a doorway to the afterlife. It has gotten to a point where when this house has people inside it, they quickly gain access to the thoughts and imaginations of the dead. This powerful of a connection affects your mind in ways you won’t understand,” stated Mike as he gestured towards the people standing in the field.

“So I understand that some people have a stronger connection to the afterlife, but how common is that?”

“More common than you think … and now you are wondering why this doesn’t happen to every old house. What also matters is how strong the dreams are that a person experiences. It leaves a sort of residue the more the doorway is opened and the longer it stays open. This residue builds up and affects any person that comes in contact with it.”

///

“So, in this sort of dream state we are susceptible to the afterlife?” asked Jared as he stared off into the distance.

“Yes, Jared. This is what is happening in this house,” responded Jennifer.

Jared was looking towards the people in the distance. He thought he recognized a few people and realized that he very well could—all of the people out there were dead. One thing he thought about was, why are the hallucinations so terrible and horrifying? Jared considered asking, but at that moment, he didn’t care. He had a hard time believing any of this was true to begin with. He thought it might all be a vivid hallucination. Maybe he had finally fallen to sleep and this was a dream.

Jared turned and looked towards the house. It seemed to warp the space around it or perhaps the walls of the house itself were vibrating slowly. He walked up to the house and touched its wall. It did in fact crawl beneath his hand. He felt a bit of hope when he realized that he was outside the house. He wondered what would happen if he decided to run as fast as he could in any direction. How far would I get—could I escape?

He noticed a thick shadow cover the land and watched just as the sun disappeared as it was covered by dark clouds. He removed his hand from the wall of the house, but he felt a strange texture on his fingertips. When he rubbed then together, he felt something between them. When he finally looked at what was on his hand, there seemed to be some sort of gray flesh. Jared looked backwards toward the house and saw that he had peeled off a layer of the house’s exterior. Underneath the layer, there appeared to be the same thing as what was underneath our skin, a layer of muscle. Blood poured from the peeled spot, and the implications bothered him. He knew what it implied but didn’t want to believe it himself. Jared refused to accept that the house had been affected so much somehow by the imaginations of the dead that it had all but become a living entity.

///

When he finally opened his eyes, he was in the master bedroom where he had been before. There were no signs of Jennifer or anything else. He right away noticed that on his fingertips remained the weird pieces of flesh.

Part Seven: Calming the Storm

Chapter 1

Will lay down on the couch in the living room in an attempt to cope with what had happened. He thought about what his brother had told him concerning what was occurring in the house. He imagined what it would be like to be dead, as he had never really considered suicide before, and he didn’t quite understand what waited on the other side, but this was an unbearable situation. In addition, he had wanted to ask his brother if they would all be together again in the end, but he had faded away before he could ask.

His vision was slightly blurred, and he could see glimpses of that unique texture on the ceiling. His head was killing him too. Will rubbed at his temples and closed his eyes, utilizing the shielding of his eyelids. Some amount of time passed before he began vaguely to hear what sounded like the ocean. When he opened his eyes, Will noticed the dim light of the TV. After his eyes adjusted, he saw an image of himself standing in the middle of the sea. He quickly ascertained that he was standing on the water, not in it, and watched himself walk outward towards the horizon, before stopping and looking at him.

His mirror image seemed to mutter something, but because he was further away, Will couldn’t quite make it out. Will stood up and walked closer to the screen while the image continued to mutter vague words. He was incredibly close to the screen now, as if being closer would allow him to hear his mirror image. On the screen, the ocean started to grow tempestuous with clouds covering the sky. Soon, a thunderstorm materialized and his other self still stood amidst it all.

Several thoughts crossed Will’s mind, and he speculated that the sea was a reflection of the chaos happening in this house. He wanted very much to continue this train of thought, but his mind wasn’t clear. Will was in a dazed state—half-asleep and awake at the same time. Then, he felt a painful sensation in his head and immediately looked away from the screen. He closed his eyes and waited to see if the pain would go away.

When Will returned his gaze to the screen, he now saw himself much closer and from an isometric point of view. His double still stood in the middle of a massive thunderstorm when suddenly, his mouth began to move. At first, Will thought he still couldn’t hear the figure, but he quickly realized that there was lag and a voice started shortly after.

“Soon … the storm will cease and you will be free,” stated his double on the TV, who raised his arms and fell back into the ocean. When his mirror image collided with the water, it caused a kind of shockwave that seemed to flatten the waves of the ocean. Soon the image panned outward as his double sank deeper into the water. The sea was as calm as he had ever seen, and the rain had stopped. Will knew what this meant and what he was going to do.

///

Will sat in the bathroom, waiting for the tub to fill with water. His thoughts wondered into his early teen years. He thought about the time when he had been attracted to a friend of his. She was the first girl he had ever liked, and they were very close. She lived just a block away from him, so they walked home together. Everything was fine until one day, one of the many bullies from school showed up. They hadn’t seen him until he was already at their feet. He heard Will tell the girl that he liked her.

The incident started with the bully laughing as he pushed Will, who almost fell. The girl Will liked said she was going to get help and ran off. Will was left with the bully for what seemed like forever. When the bully started punching, Will couldn’t understand the anger in the bully’s face.

Will lay on the ground waiting for the next kick when suddenly, he heard sound of someone landing a hit, but it wasn’t towards him, rather it was near him. Will had to turn to see what had happened, and when he was halfway to his feet, he had noticed it was his big brother.

Will thought back to the moment when he had seen his brother standing there with the bully running away. Will’s memory of the moment was probably exaggerated, but his brother was his favorite person that day. Later on, when Will had been tending to his wounds, Mike had explained that that bully probably had a thing for the same girl Will liked. Apparently, Mike had seen the worry on his face and reassured Will by telling him that the girl didn’t want Will hurt so that is why she helped him, instead of just watching. Will was reminded of how they had never dated, but they became friends for many years and he was fine with that. It turned out that she was asked out by that bully, who in turn had a pizza shoved into his face. Will always enjoyed that girl’s company and was glad to be friends with her for so many years, but he would always remember that his brother had been looking out for him.

Will noticed that the tub was ready. It had been filled almost to the brim. Will tested its warmth with his hand, finding it satisfying. He lowered himself into the water and let his body rest in it. Everything but his head was submerged. He stared at the water and thought to himself, what was it like to drown?

He lowered his head and held it under, closing his eyes. Will wondered how painful it was to drown. He had seen a movie where a character said that drowning was like going to sleep, although later it’s discovered that he had lied about that. Will didn’t care anymore—he wanted to finally calm the storm and find out what the afterlife was like. He couldn’t hold his breath much longer and knew the time was coming.

All of a sudden, Will felt arms wrap around him, lifting him out of the water. His first thought was that his brother was somehow looking out for him again and saving him from a painful death. When Will opened his eyes, he noticed that it was just Jared. Will could feel a scowl begin to form on his face as Jared placed Will next to the tub. They were both sitting on the floor now, and Jared was panting heavily. Will was disgusted by the idea of having been rescued by Jared and that he had been kept from ending the storm once and for all. While Will continued to frown the whole time, Jared finally spoke.

“You are not killing yourself and leaving me alone in this hell!”

Part Eight: By the Lake

Chapter 1

Jared had rescued Will from drowning and retired to the guest bedroom. Will had cussed Jared out and stormed towards the living room. Jared had saved Will because he was afraid of being alone in the house, but he still felt loneliness. Jared was simply afraid that he was losing himself. His thoughts became more clouded with each passing second. Jared felt he had lost his sense of time and was drifting from one strange thought to the next.

Jared heard rustling from under the bed, and soon enough, Mike’s gray colored head emerged from underneath. Mike had a massive, menacing smile across his face as he began to talk.

“You really should give me a proper burial. Wouldn’t it be so nice to be buried together in the backyard my dear?”

“It would be something at least,” responded Jennifer, who appeared against the wall.

“Maybe you should have been in that tub, Jared. So far Will is the only one who hasn’t done something terrible,” stated Mike.

“You seem to have forgotten that I didn’t do anything either,” said Jennifer.

“Well, the only innocent one of us left alive, I mean.”

“Shut the hell up!” yelled a very dazed Jared.

“You know there might still be a way out of this house… I’m still a little unclear on how this works. Maybe you should try harder,” mocked Mike with a smirk.

Chapter 2

Will was lying down on the floor in the living room. He really wasn’t thinking about anything, but when he closed his eyes, it was as if he was at the side of a lake, lying in the grass. That reality was very peaceful, but he kept waking up to his harsh reality as he could only keep his eyes closed for seconds before switching back to the living room’s cold floor. It was almost as if he was dreaming, and even if it was only for a little while, he continued closing his eyes.

After a while, he seemed to awaken next to a lake where he was sitting on the grass. He looked around and enjoyed the sights—the birds flying and the sound of water rippling. He picked up a small smooth stone and tossed it in the water. Soon enough, he felt a hand touch his shoulder. When he turned around, he saw that it was Mike, only that he now appeared to be a child in the way Will remembered him when he had been seven. The sight brought a sense of warmth and fond memories.

“How do you feel?” asked the childlike Michael.

“I was feeling terrible, but this… whatever it is, is nice.”

“It is a small gift from me to you. It will only last a little while but I wanted to offer you an escape from that nightmare,” added Mike.

“There is one thing I don’t understand. Why—if this is caused by the dreams and imaginations of the dead—are the hallucinations all so terrible?” asked a quiet Will.

“You have to understand that you are dealing with the dead. They are often very angry at being dead, and when they are not, they are jealous. When you are dead your emotions are pure and the longer you’re dead, the more you lose yourself.”

“Makes sense…”

“Don’t trust Jared. He has gone all sorts of crazy,” warned the childlike Michael.

“Will he hurt me?”

“He killed me, didn’t he?” responded Mike as he picked up a smooth stone and tossed it into the lake.

“He isn’t taking this very well…. What should I do?”

“You would have been better off dying in that tub, but I think that you should fight back. Take him out before he takes you out. Then, maybe we can help you find a way out of this house. Jennifer and I want you to make it out—you’re innocent. We will try and help you out, but Jared… no, Jared doesn’t get our help.”

“Can you really expect me to do that?” asked Will.

“You’ve got nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. It’s kill or be killed.”

“Kill or be killed…” Will repeated, lying backwards in the grass before walking back up in the living room. He closed his eyes to see if he could return to that lake, but he could only see the back of his eyelids.

///

Will had been thinking of what he was told all night. He was in the kitchen looking out of the window, watching the sunrise. He finally made his decision and took hold of the largest and sharpest knife in the kitchen. He was ready. Will contemplated being able to leave this house and never coming back.

///

Will walked into the guest bedroom where Jared was simply staring at the wall. He tried to move slowly and quietly towards Jared with the knife in hand. As Will lifted the knife above his head, he was ready to make the strike. Just then, Jared managed to look in his direction, clearly surprised.

Jared managed to grab Will’s wrist and stop the knife. Will fought back as Jared tried to stop him. He managed to get in a few swings with the knife, but Jared dodged effectively. Will lost his breath and was quite stunned when Jared kneed him in the stomach. He dropped the knife and watched it as it fell to the floor. Will felt hope leaving him as Jared punched him in the face. He was lying defeated on the bed, and he watched as Jared picked up the knife.

“You little traitor shit! I save your suicidal ass and now you try to kill me. I don’t stand for that shi—” Jared was saying, but Will had started to tune out the words. He didn’t care anymore what was being said. Will knew what was coming, and he was ready for it.

Will could hear the sounds of the lake and turned his head to the side. He was lying in the grass again and could see the lake. He could see Mike as a child, splashing in the water. Mike gestured for Will to join him. He knew it wouldn’t be long. Will had a smile on his face as he felt the knife slide into his chest. He ignored the pain and reached out to Mike as he felt the blood leaving him.

Chapter 3

Jared sat in the living room with the bloody knife in his hand. His thoughts were a little clearer, and he realized now that he was truly alone.

“I’m all alone—”

“No, you’re not,” replied a gray colored Michael as he appeared in the room.

“Shut up! You murderer.”

“And what does that make you?”

“You killed me…” said Will as he faded into existence.

“And avenged me,” stated Jennifer.

“You’re all alone?” laughed Mike. “You will never be alone in this house.”

“What am I to do then?”

“Rot! It’s all you can do,” advised Michael with a smile.

Part Nine: The Final Act

Chapter 1

Things were in a daze for Jared. He didn’t know much of what had occurred or how much time had passed. Mike had spoken the truth when he told Jared that he wouldn’t be alone. For what seemed like an eternity, the apparitions of his friends kept him company, tormenting him in their own way. Jared now felt as though he was completely losing himself.

The event that haunted him the most was when he was sitting at the kitchen table, and they had appeared before him, sitting around the table with their plates of food. The different foods would appear as gore at times in tune with the pulse. The apparitions laughed and chatted the night away; however, Jared simply sat there fading in and out of consciousness. The event had stuck with him because it reminded him of another memory. It was when Mike and Jennifer had just started dating, and Jared was invited to a hangout. He had already met Will, but not Jennifer. They had all sat around a table in her apartment sharing a few drinks. Will simply drank soda, enjoying the company. The importance of that memory is how it reminded Jared that they had all been friends.

What had this house done to us? Jared contemplated the events, regretting everything that had happened in this house. He began to cry at the loss of his friends and realized that there was only one answer left. He could either endure the torment or take his own life and join his friends. Jared remembered that he had hidden away the sleeping pills after Jennifer had almost killed herself with them. He went to seek the pills. He had hidden them in the living room.

///

It was done. Jared had taken the rest of the bottle, and now he was simply waiting to die. He almost didn’t notice it at first, but he heard someone behind him. It was Will. He was motioning him to head towards the kitchen. Jared wondering what this was about as he headed in that direction. On the way, Jennifer gestured him onward. Finally, in front of the kitchen door that led outside, he saw Mike bowing. Jared was surprised when the door creaked and then opened wide by itself.

Jared stepped outside and felt the warmth of the sun on his face. As he staggered forward, he could feel the sleeping pills begin to take hold. It was then that he noticed a car in the driveway that he didn’t recognize. As he fell on to the concrete driveway, he realized it was Heather, his ex-girlfriend. He watched as she came rushing towards him.

“Jared! What’s wrong?” she asked

“I took some sleeping pills.”

“Oh my god! How many?” she asked as he lifted his head onto her lap. She shook him as he seemed to doze off. “I’ll get help!”

“No…. Don’t. I deserve this. I killed my friends,” responded Jared as he took his last breath and closed his eyes for the final time.

Chapter 2

Heather watched as the last shred of the house was being torn down. It had been almost six months before she could get a hold of the deed and destroy it. She didn’t understand what had happened in the house, but she had the feeling that it wasn’t entirely Jared’s fault. Of course, no one had believed her, but she didn’t care. She had accomplished what she had set out to do. Nothing was left but rubble, and that satisfied her.

She had the feeling that she was being watched, and when she turned to look at the field behind the house, she noticed four figures in the distance. She walked a little closer and realized they looked like Jared, Mike, Jennifer and Will. For a moment, she didn’t understand what was happening. But then after they waved at her and faded away, she felt that something more had happened in this house. She had never really believed in ghosts before; however, until the end of her days, she would always remember the look of relief on the ghosts’ faces as they faded away.

The End

Copyright 2013 A.W. Richey

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