Back in the woods behind Murray Fields a decrepit house crouches in the weeds. No one has visited it since I was little when my old babysitter decided to spend the night there on Halloween. No one has seen her since. Rumors spread that the inhabitants of the house had taken her. I bet she just ran away and her parents left her. They were mean to her anyway.

The rusted gates screech like cats as I push them open. With a pencil in one hand and a journal in the other, I cross through the high-grassed lawn. The jack-o-lanterns’ flickering faces smirk from the rotted wooden porch. I can’t believe I said I would write an article on this place for Halloween. I wish I had guilt-tripped my friends into coming with me.

A single light glows from behind a boarded window on the second floor. As I approach the porch, the light snaps off. Maybe the person inside saw me and will answer the door when I knock.

I gingerly place my foot on the first step testing its weight. The step groans. I skip the steps and leap up onto the porch careful not to touch anything. I tip toe to the door afraid to put too much pressure in one place. The stone head gargoyle juts out from the door. In its mouth squirms a serpent in the shape of a circle. Ignoring the creepy door knocker I rap against the wood.

No one answers. I raise my hand again. Bang! The door bursts open, but the entry hall is empty. “Hello? You’re door opened by itself. Should I come in?” I call out. No one replies so I step inside and close the door behind me.

I walk down the entry hall and poke my head into the first room that I come to. I take a breath in and choke on the acrid smell of cigarettes. Smoke hangs in the air of what I assume is a parlor. It clings to the velvet, black sofa and the heavy, dark, theatrical curtains. In the center of the room a coffee table sculpted from bone grows out of the carpet.

I wrap my arms around myself as the hair on my arms stands up. I clear my throat. “Excuse me, I was wondering if I could interview you for an article for the Murray Times?”

No response. With dread swelling in my stomach like a balloon, I start further down the hallway. At the next room I stick my head inside and gag. Dirty china plates are piled from floor to ceiling in shaking, swaying stacks. Huge glistening steak knives and butcher cleavers hang in a chandelier over the kitchen’s island. Farther into the room a banquet table is filled with rotting food as if in anticipation for a feast that never took place.

“Hello?!” my voice squeaks out. I pull my jacket tighter around myself. I wish I had brought gloves. I can see my breath. As I turn around I see a set of spiraling stairs and my stomach sinks. I have to check up there.

I take a deep breath and barrel up the stairs. Panic bubbles inside of me. I want to fling myself down the steps and out the door. But I force myself to slow down and I open the only closed door on this floor. The frigid handle burns my hand, but I turn it anyway. “Hel-OH!” I gasp.

Pink paint peels off of the walls. A rickety silver bed frame lays barren. The mattress is stuffed in the closet. Shards of broken mirror litter the floor dripping blood. My eyes land on a small huddled figure sitting by the window. A girl with stringy black hair rocks back and forth in a blood soaked nightgown. I try to turn away, but my body freezes.

The girl turns her head all the way around. Shards of glass reflect my face in her eye sockets. When she smiles her mouth leers full of needles. Her voice comes out familiar to my ears. “Did you miss me?”

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