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House of Fears: A Short Story on the Manifestation of Paranoia

“Go, they said. It’ll be fun they said!” yelled Connor from the backseat of the car as he hit his face against his palm.

“Oh calm down. It’ll be fun. I promise,” quickly responded Thad trying to alleviate his friend’s nerves. After all, it was Thad’s plan to go to the House of Fears.  

“Yeah, cause you know walking into a haunted house is always fun!” sarcastically exclaimed Sage, who sat next to Connor.

At this point, they had been driving for almost 90 minutes and everyone was becoming impatient.

“Thad, how much longer till we get there?” whined Connor.

“I don’t know, maybe five more minutes,” said Thad as he shrugged his shoulders and looked down at the GPS. He wasn’t sure. He’d been saying “five more minutes” for almost an hour now.

“Maybe we should just go back,” said Andreas from the trunk of the car. Thad’s car wasn’t big enough to fit five people comfortably (after the passenger seat had been taken out), so like always, Andreas was in the trunk. Everyone voiced their agreement with Andreas.

“Yeah, let’s just go back,” Dylan hesitated to share. It was the first time Dylan had spoken this whole trip.

“Dude.”

“What?” questioned Dylan.

“Thought you were on my side,” responded Thad, shocked that his closest friend had betrayed him.

“I was on your side up until about 5 minutes ago.” Dylan took out his lighter and his pack of cigarettes.

“Oh no. Not here! Not in my car!” Thad grabbed the pack and threw it in the backseat.

“This is the last one, I promise,” Dylan pleaded. Thad didn’t believe him and neither did anyone else. Dylan had been saying that same thing for about a year now.

“Yeah, when are you gonna quit smoking?” asked Connor.

“When are you going to tell your father?” asked Dylan, completely ignoring Connor’s question.  

“I’m not ready yet,” whispered Connor. The whole car fell silent.

“Sage, How’s your mom?” interrupted Andreas.

“She’s good,” timidly answered Sage. Sage’s mother had been in and out of hospitals since she was about six years old. Her mother was currently in remission. Thankfully, it had been about a year and a half since her mother had gotten really sick. However, even though the number was extremely low, that three percent chance of a relapse would always haunt her.

“Wait, look!” screamed Dylan. In the distance was the house in all its glory.

“It’s about damn time,” added Connor.

Within a couple minutes, they were on the front lawn of the house. As Thad made his first step onto the front porch, it was as if he had brought the house to life. The dull, beige stain on the door (caused by all the years of abandonment) turned a brilliant shade of white. The wooden floorboards suddenly turned from being rotten to being in pristine condition in a matter of seconds.

“Conquer your fears,” read Thad from the sign on the door. Even the eerie feeling was beginning to wash over him, no matter how brave he was.

“Oh, whatever,” reasoned Connor as he brazenly barged into the house. “This is it?” he asked, not even bothering to hide his disappointment. The house looked almost brand new — like it could have easily been for sale back in their affluent suburb.

“It looks like someone still lives here,” agreed Sage looking in awe to the glorious light of the vintage chandelier. The twisting branches for the glowing candles were suspended in the air, while decorative crystals hung at the ends.

“Doesn’t look scary to me,” continued Dylan with a cigarette hanging from his lips. He had gotten his pack back when no one was watching.

“I’m going to take a look around,” confessed Andreas. “I want to check out every room.”

And just like that everyone had disappeared into the belly of the house, leaving Thad in the center by himself.

***       

Dylan reached into his pocket until he felt the cold surface of his lighter. The fire and the tip of the cigarette collided like stars in love. I’m truly going to quit he thought. I’m just not ready to yet. He dragged his heavy feet to the end of the hallway, the squeaking sound of his rubber boots echoed throughout the house. The door abruptly spun open.

“What the hell,” he cursed as he was lured into the room by his curiosity. The satin sheets covered the king-sized bed. The beautiful silk curtains shielded the sunlight. Dylan sat down on the bed. The ash of the cigarette fell on the floor as he tapped it against his finger. He reached into his pocket, the lighter still there. The heat from the fire radiated across his face. He reached over to the nightstand where the candles stood. The blaze from the lighter united with the candle wick. He rested his head of the silk pillows as sleep swept him away.

The sudden smell of smoke woke him up. The candle had fallen onto the floor next to the curtains, and the flames were exponentially growing bigger. Dylan rushed to the door, but it wouldn’t open. The flames consumed almost half of the room, and the smoke was beginning to build up. He could barely see his hands anymore. The door still wouldn’t budge. The smoke invaded his lungs and he began to cough uncontrollably. I’m going to die he thought over and over to himself. The feeling of defeat crept into his brain like the carbon monoxide filling up his lungs. Dylan gave it one last effort as he banged on the door. “Help! Someone, please help me! Anyone, anyone please help me in here!” he shrieked.

He continued to bang on that goddamn door until the smoke engulfed him and everything turned black.

Thad, leaving his daydreaming, heard the faint cries for help. It sounded like Dylan. He rushed up the center staircase as fast as he could. Everything looked fine at first glance, but he couldn’t shake the gut feeling that something was still terribly wrong. He began to open all the doors, but there was nothing in any of the rooms. Well, nothing until he reached the final door. He couldn’t tell if it was locked or broken, but it definitely wasn’t opening as easy as all the others.

“Dylan! Dylan!” hopelessly yelled Thad. There was no answer. He took a step back and kicked the door open to find his body on the floor. “Oh my God.” He rushed to Dylan’s side, the cigarette bud still on the floor. Dylan wasn’t breathing and Thad instinctually began to give him CPR like he had been trained to do as a lifeguard. “Come on, Dylan. You can do this. One, Two, Three.” Thad was getting frantic. He looked around the room, but there was nothing to notice except for the dull cigarette on the ground. “Why couldn’t you have just quit last summer?” he whispered in a mix of rage, sadness, and confusion.

“How could this have happe—” he began to question, but he was interrupted by Dylan gasping for breath.

“Help! Help!” screamed Dylan. He was shaking.

“Dylan, you’re okay now. I’m here with you. You can calm down now.”

Dylan began to look around the room. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it anymore. The beautiful silk curtains were in perfect condition and the silk sheets were neatly wrapped around the bed like when he first saw them. Everything looked just like it had a few minutes ago before he fell asleep. “What happened?” he asked his friend.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” shrugged Thad.

“The rooThis room was on fire. I thought I was going to die. I was positive I was,” he stuttered. Thad could barely hear his mumbled explanation. Dylan was still gasping for breath, his face still pale.

“We should go,” dribbled Dylan. Thad nodded in agreement and helped his friend up off the ground.

“Hey, do you want your pack?” asked Thad.

Dylan turned around to see his pack of cigarettes had fallen out of his pocket. “No,” he said, “I’m good.”

***

Andreas stepped out on the back porch. The blissful lake stretched infinitely into the horizon. For a moment, he was at peace with what he saw… it was truly beautiful.

“Help!!” screeched a strained voice.

“Hello?!” yelled Andreas. “Hello? I’m here, right here on the porch. Where are you?”

There was no answer. He stepped down off the porch and looked under it. There was no one was there.

“Someone, please, please help me!” shrieked the gargled voice again. This time he knew exactly where it was coming from. He turned towards the lake. There was someone there and they were drowning quickly.

Andreas was frozen by his hesitation before he plunged headfirst into the water. As he went up to gasp for air from his dive, he was beginning to get a little frightened. He hated lakes after all. When Andreas reached the surface, he looked around to see where the drowning girl was… but she wasn’t there anymore.

“Yo, where the hell are you?!” screamed Andreas in frustration. You have got to be kidding me? he thought to himself. Where did she go?

“This isn’t funny!” he yelled while splashing around in the water. After about a minute more of waiting, he decided to swim towards the shore. But before he could reach that beloved porch, he was dragged violently underwater. “WhaHey! Sto—,” he strained to say before he was fully entrenched in the lake.

The water was murky and muddy. He couldn’t see anything no matter how hard he tried to look. The deeper he went, the more he realized he was helplessly going to drown. He could no longer fight; whatever was dragging him down was overpowering him. His body began to go limp and he disappeared into the darkness of the lake.

As Dylan and Thad walked down into the main foyer, they saw the back porch door had already been opened. “Dude, someone’s probably out there,” said Dylan. 

“Do you think it’s Sage and Connor?” asked Thad, knowing that the two best friends were basically inseparable.

“Yeah, let’s go scare them!” suggested Dylan.

He and Thad rushed outside to the porch, but when they got there, they were the ones who truly were in for the surprise. Instead of Connor and Sage, they saw Andreas’ limp body floating in the lake.

“Oh my god. Andreas!” said Dylan as he ran and dove into the lake without even thinking. He swam right out to his endangered friend. “It’s okay man. We got you, you can wake up now,” Dylan said to no avail. Andreas wasn’t listening, and so in a last-ditch effort, Dylan threw his body over his own shoulders and swam back to shore, towing his unconscious friend.

“How did he even end up there? He can’t even swim,” Thad wondered in his panic.

“You gotta wake him up. I don’t know how. Please, Thad, you gotta do it” responded Dylan, avoiding the question. Thad was the only one who knew CPR. But before Thad even started, Andreas began coughing up water and catching his breath.

“Aren’t I happy to see you two knuckleheads?” giggled Andreas, clearly getting back to his normal goofy self.

“How did you even get out there? You hate the water” repeated Thad from before.

“Well, I heard someone screaming for help in the lake, and I just dove in to help them, because I was the only one who could save them. But when I came back up for air, the girl I heard was no longer there. When I tried to swim back to shore, something, I don’t really know what, started pulling me down to the bottom. I thought it was someone just messing with me, but then I started to drown cause we had gone so deep. Everything kinda went black after that.”

“This is really weird,” interrupted Dylan, “my fear is being burned alive, which almost happened, and Andreas’ fear is drowning. Both Andreas and Thad looked completely confused. “This house is using our fears against us!” Dylan continued to make himself more clear.

“Dude, we need to get out of here,” urged Andreas standing up.

“Where’s Sage and Connor?” asked Thad. “We need to find them and get the hell out of this demonic house.”

“And we need to find a towel,” added Andreas pointing at both his and Dylan’s soaking clothes.

***

The view is incredible thought Connor as he stared out the window to the magenta sunset. After it had completely set, he started to look around the room. The pictures in front of the mirror gleamed at the corner of his eye. Their low-quality made them appear like they belonged in the 1930s. But all of a sudden, just as the house had shifted early, the faces in the pictures began to shift as well.

“Huh,” Connor thought out loud to himself. The baby in the photo shifted to Connor when he was a baby and the mother holding the baby turned to Connor’s mother.

“What is this?” asked Connor. He started picking up the pictures. All of them were pictures of his family, from every birthday, to every graduation, it was all his.

“That’s disgusting,” said a voice. Connor jerked around to see his father standing with a disgusted face.

“Dad?” Connor asked, “what are you doing here?”

“You’re going against everything your family believes in, everything you believe in,” his father responded Connor’s heart stopped.

“You know?” retorted Connor. The look on his father’s face was too much to bear. “Dad, listen 

“I don’t want to listen. You’re gay, and there’s no forgiving in that,” said his father. Those words sliced through every ounce of strength that he had, he fell to his knees.

“Dad, please,” Connor begged. His father said nothing, just stood there with stone cold eyes.

“You will pack up your things and leave,” demanded his father. The air had left his Connors’ lungs.

“Dad, no please,” Connor cried. There was no changing his father’s mind. The door slammed. He was gone. He was kicked out of his house. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe. He just stayed there on his knees crying.

“Connor! Sage!” yelled Dylan. There was no answer.

“We have to split up,” suggested Thad.

“Yeah, so the house can kill us all individually?” responded Andreas sarcastically.

“Guys, shut up. Do you hear that?” asked Dylan.

“It sounds like crying,” said Thad as he rushed upstairs. The door was open. Connor was on the floor sobbing.

“Connor!” screamed Thad, “are you okay?”

He could barely breathe. He was shaking. “H— He knows,” Connor struggled.

“What?” asked Andreas.

“He knows. My dad knows,” stuttered Connor. Everyone knew exactly what he was talking about. He had held this secret for years from his father. Connor had told everyone else, his mother, his siblings, his friends, but not his father. Never his father.

“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up,” suggested Thad. He lifted Connor up.

“Mom!”

Everyone stopped.

“What was that?” asked Andreas.

“It’s Sage!” yelled Connor.

***

“Mom!” Sage screamed, “please don’t die.” The flatline ringed in her ear. Her mother was laying there lifeless.

“Come on, Mom! Please, not today,” said Sage. Tears were streaming down her face as she held her mother dead body. This can’t be happening. This isn’t real she thought. Her mother couldn’t be dead. She hadn’t been in the hospital for months. She laid there and coddled her mother until the door had barged open.

“Sage!” screamed Andreas. All the boys were at the door.

“Guys, she’s dead,” said Sage through tears.

“No, no she’s not this isn’t real,” said Thad. Sage began to look around. Her mother was no longer in her arms.

“What? but I watc,”

“Not real. This house is possessed and we got to go now,” Dylan explained, picking her up.

“So it’s called the House of Fears because it

“Because it uses our fears against us. Now let’s go,” pleaded Dylan. They all darted for the door.

“Wait, so what’s everyone’s fears then?” asked Sage as they ran from the room.

“Mine is being burned alive,” said Dylan.

“Drowning,” said Andreas pointing to his wet clothes.

“Coming out to my dad,” responded Connor still visibly shaken.

“Wait, Thad what’s yours?” asked Sage. Everyone stopped. Everyone had conquered their fear, but Thad.

“Thad doesn’t have any fears,” retorted Dylan reaching for the front door. Before he could touch the handle, the ground started to shake.

“Thad?” wondered Andreas. “Is your fear earthquakes?”

“No, it’s dying.” The wooden floor had caved under him. He fell to the basement when he felt a sharp pain. “Ah!” he screamed in agony. A wooden steak had pierced through his side of the stomach. Sage reached into her pocket to take out her cell phone.

“Wait, what are you doing?” asked Andreas.

“I’m calling 911,” said Sage. Dylan went to Thad’s side. There was so much blood. Blood was spilling out of him.

“Come on… Stay with me,” pleased Dylan as he reached for Thad’s hands. They were cold and stiff, but still clung on to Dylan’s.

“The ambulance is coming,” said Sage as everyone crowded around Thad. His eyes shifted from person to person. As the blood continued to spill from his body, he started to lose his grip. Everything soon went black.

***

“Your friend is gonna be okay,” said the paramedic. They had gotten there just in time. Everyone let out a sigh of relief. Thad was going to be okay. Everyone’s parents had arrived by then.

“Dylan, are you okay?” asked his father, “you’re soaking wet.” 

“Long story Dad,” he responded.

Sage saw her mother running towards her. “Darling, are you alright?” asked Sage’s mother. She looked as vibrant and as young as ever.  “Let’s go home.” Her mother could see the exhaustion on her face. Sage nodded.

Connor looked around. He couldn’t find his father. He didn’t even think he was capable of looking his father in the eye after today.

“Son?”

Connor turned around. His father was wearing his pastor outfit.

“Are you alright?” asked his father looking him up and down to see if he was okay.

“Yeah, Dad. I’m fine,” Connor said, “I have to tell you something”

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Just a girl trying to change the world.

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