How many haunted houses can you visit in your lifetime? Not the creepy old house on the hill of horror movies; the organised kind put together by ordinary folk every Halloween. Barry and I try to visit a different one each year. This year will be forty-one. Can we make it to fifty?
Number forty-one was advertised on the internet. It promised to be something 'special'. How special can you get? Cobwebs, monsters in the dark, sound effects ... last year they even had holograms. But we were after the record. The house was three towns over, an area we didn't know well. Harris Street was your typical suburban row of family homes.
On the outside, number 27 was no different to all the others. Wooden ghosts proclaimed 'BOO!', cobwebs hung from the eaves, and pumpkin lanterns burned on the lawn. The front door proclaimed 'open, come on in'. As I pushed on it, it gave an appropriate creak.
The hallway was wood paneled and barely lit by red uplighters. As we approached, a large spider descended from the ceiling. "Big deal!" Barry was disappointed with what we had seen so far. One of the wood panels slid open to reveal the first room.
A dozen coffins stood on end against the walls. They had split lids, the top part hung open. All but two were empty. The smell of incense was overpowering, so I hovered by the door. Barry examined the corpses."They look very realistic, don't they?" I half expected them to jump out and shout boo! So far there was nothing 'special' about this haunted house.
"What was that?" I looked about. "Was that knife there before, poking out of the wall?" Barry just shrugged. "Come on, let's see what else they got."
We went back to the hallway. Further down I spotted a Klingon bat'leth hanging from the ceiling. "Look out!" The weapon swung down on its cord, just missing Barry. "Not much on health and safety round here."
"What was that noise?" It came from behind us. A scraping sound, like something being dragged. We back-tracked to the room with the coffins. There were now three occupied. "Where did you come from, pal?" Barry poked the body. "It's warm. Shit! This body's real."
Barry and I competed for who would be out the front door first. The result; neither. The door was now firmly locked. While Barry did his strong man act, trying to force the door, I looked around for further health hazards. "Maybe there's a back door?" We walked down the hall, keeping our eyes open for further dangers. I turned a knob on a door and it opened. "So, this is the kitchen."
Blood spattered the walls. There was a pot boiling on the hob. "What's cooking?"
Barry peered in. "A ... h ... head." This room was full of dangerous objects; knives, a cleaver, possible poisons, boiling water.
"Come on, we're outta here." Not before the cleaver flew across the room and hit the door beside me. Barry rushed to my side and clung to me. "I'm okay, love."
"I'm not. Got any clean pants?"
"Let's try upstairs. Maybe there's an open window." We found our way back to the hall and took the first step. "Seems okay." Step two. A creak, but seemingly safe. We were two from the top when the stairs turned into a slide. As we flew back down, the ground opened, and we landed in a heap in the basement. It was dark. I had to feel around.
I reached out and grabbed what I thought was Barry's hand. "It's okay, love."
"Er ... I don't know who you're talking to, but I'm over here."
I thought the hand felt cold. I felt my way to the wrist. No pulse. I was holding hands with a dead person. I let go. "What have we got ourselves into?" I'm not one for tears, but something was starting to form in my eyes. "How ... are we ... getting ... out of ... this?" I sobbed.
Above us we could hear that scraping noise again. I wondered who was being dragged to their coffin this time. "Hey, I can see a bit of light." Barry was on the other side of the room.
I looked over to where his voice was coming from. Yes, there was a chink of light. "Is it a window?"
"More like a hatch. This must be a root cellar. If ... I ... can ... just ..." The hatch flew open and a street light glared into the chamber. It illuminated the bodies, in different stages of decomposure, littering the area.
I let out a scream as the eyes stared out at me. Climbing over rotting corpses, I made it to the hatch. "I'll give you a leg up, love." Barry's hands cradled by buttocks and pushed. I grabbed at the frame and struggled up, into the fresh air and the light. "Give us a hand." I grabbed at Barry's wrist. I knew he was heavy, but not that heavy. Something or someone had a hold of him and was pulling him back into the crypt. It was that scream that told me my husband was gone forever.