DELETED orignal chapter 1
Ever wonder what INSIDE looked like in the very beginning? Here's the raw first chapter:
Chapter 1-The Crew
The house sat alone, deep in the woods, dark and quiet. It crouched at the end of the old dirt road, undisturbed for longer than it could recall. Content to wait, as time had no meaning from within.
Its old wooden door and window boarded up loosely, a flimsy deterrent at best. The house needed no deterrent but it’s own reputation. Its story and its walls held strong through generations, hundreds of years.
A wind from nowhere burst through the inside, kicking up years of dust. The house shivered, the walls and floors shifting. Invisible footsteps paced the floor. Darkness shifted and a shadow crept across the ceiling. A crackle from a long since dead fire sounded from the fireplace, though no spark danced within it.
The flutter of tiny little wings flapped from somewhere inside the house.
And then, in the dark of the night, the glow of a fire emanated from within the uninhabited house. A single flame to light the darkness.
The whole house seemed to be waking.
If there was ever a time to stand up to Reid, to say no, now was the time. I fidgeted, sitting on my knees on the floor of my bedroom. The brown shag carpet that always felt so squishy and soft pricked like needles against my shins.
Stop this crazy idea.
I could feel the words welling up in my throat, touching the back of my tongue. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing happened. Son-of-a-bitch! I closed my mouth and bit my lower lip, digging my teeth in. My eyes searched the room for some kind of escape, some way out of this conversation and this awful plan. The window was an option, but we were on the second floor, and the only way down was by tree. Got a bit of a phobia about climbing trees.
I glanced over my bed, over Reid’s head and saw Bono staring back at me from the U2 poster on my wall. Tough bastard, he’d surely stand up to Reid. He’d be able to tell him no. So why was I having such a hard time?
Reid had been sitting on my bed, back against the wall talking about his plan this whole time, but only now did he look down at me. One eyebrow arched high into his forehead. “Hey, Alex, what’s wrong with you? Are you even listening? You look like someone just made you eat shit.” The last word lifted the side of his mouth into a crooked smirk.
Funny he should phrase it that way, because it didn’t feel too far from the truth. This plan was shit. Yeah, it was pretty damn tough to swallow. And I wasn’t just being a coward. I really wasn’t. There was a reason that creepy house stood for three hundred years, untouched, undisturbed. Sure there had been stories. All towns have them, those awful secrets that got told in the softest whispers.
I licked my lips before I answered. I had to choose my words carefully. Even though he was my best friend, sometimes he could be a real dick. And I knew he could easily lay me out flat if I pissed him off. Good guy to have on your side in a fight, ugly to get on his bad side. Reid was bigger than me, tougher than me, and a lot quicker to anger. It wasn’t his fault though. And he hadn't always been that way. The mean in him only seemed to have come to the surface since his mom died a few years back. Before that, he was a lot more lighthearted and playful. I couldn’t imagine losing my mom the way he lost his.
The bed let out a creak of protest as his tall figure leaned forward, snapping his fingers in front of my face, bringing my attention back.
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. “The house. It’s not really haunted.” I shifted my weight from one knee to another, digging my fingers into the carpet. “It’s just an old, old story. Urban legend and all that.”
He tilted his head to the side, squinted his eyes down real small, like he was sizing me up, and said, “Then it won’t be any big deal. We’ll be in and out in no time.” That devilish smirk of his crept over his lips.
To his right, a shadow from the hallway caught my eye. I could have sworn I saw the door creep open, just an inch or two. And then, the culprit. I saw a dark curl bounce and dangle in the doorway. My pain-in-the-ass twelve year old sister, Heather, with her nosy face crammed tight in my bedroom door. I swear I hadn’t left it open and yet here it was, just a crack, just enough for her to spy.
Without missing a beat, Reid flew off the bed and slammed the door shut in her face. All smug and proud of his work, he leaned against it, crossing one foot over the other. “What was I saying?”
From behind the closed door, I heard Heather’s give a sharp kick to the door. Reid responded with an elbow, beating back against the innocent door. He turned his head to the side and spoke through their barrier, “Suck it.”
Heather’s footsteps stomped off heavily down the hallway. Super pissed. I wondered what retaliation might be in store for that one.
I rolled my eyes and sighed. That girl was always into everything. Everywhere we went, she popped up. Every game we played, she had to play too. There was no such thing as ‘no girls allowed’ with Heather.
Reid continued, undeterred, “Seriously. Tomorrow night. We’re going. Clint and Danny know where to meet us, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I agreed halfheartedly. I was secretly hoping either or both of them would back out so I could too. Especially Danny. I could count on him for sure. Danny was a good friend, good person, but one of the biggest chicken-shit kids I ever met. “Of course, tomorrow night. We’re all in.” A thump-thump-thump sound began, and at first I thought it was my damn heart, pounding in my chest at the realization we were really gonna do this. It was coming from the wall. Small relief.
Reid seemed like he saw right through me, and he continued to try to sell our invasion of the house. “Just think about it. They say no one has gone into that house for over three hundred years. No one’s had the balls.” His eyes grew wide. “When they tell the story, our story later on, we’ll be the guys who got it done.”
The way he put it sounded so glorious, but somewhere in my mind I knew better. My mouth betrayed me, “Or they’ll say, remember those dumbasses back in 1987 who dared to enter that house. Never even made it to high school.”
“We got all our stories straight, right? I’m staying at your house, you’re staying at mine, and Clint and Danny are both staying at each other’s houses.” Reid pushed with his backside and sprang off the door. The closer he got, the more I realized I was losing my chance, my nerve to back out. He stepped in front of the light, and the room grew unnaturally dark. He reached out and punched me.
I rubbed my shoulder. That stung. “Uh-huh. The parent lies are covered. Everyone’s staying somewhere other than their house, so no one will know we’re gone.” Those last few words of mine seemed to echo through my brain. It gave me the willies. No one will know we’re gone…
In Heather’s bedroom, she threw herself on her bed in typical pre-teen girl fashion, all end-of-the-world-insulted style. Laying on her back, she flung her feet up on the wall, grabbed a nearby tennis ball, and started tossing it at the wall. Thump, thump, thump, it went against the wall that divided her and Alex’s rooms. Each time she’d catch it, she’d throw it just a little bit harder, intent on, if nothing else, pissing those shitty boys off for slamming the door in her face. She could feel Michael Jackson glaring down at her from the poster just to the right of her feet. She thought out loud, “yeah, I should pull a Michael and go all Thriller on their asses.” Nose scrunched up, brows furrowed, a real bad-ass.
They were always trying to get rid of her. Even though she was arguably the best football player of them all, and could hold herself in any sport or game the boys were playing, the just didn’t give her enough credit. Besides, it wasn’t like there were any girls in the neighborhood to play with either. Sure, there was Jessica Karsen, her mom’s best friend’s daughter, but all she wanted to do was play with Barbie's, get into her mom’s make-up, and talk about boys. “Humph. What a bore,” Heather said to poster Michael Jackson. And there was Danny’s little sister, Rebecca, but she was only ten, and well, a big whiny, baby. Must run in the family.
Heather slammed the tennis ball harder against the wall, and this time it got away from her on the return. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!” she cried out. Flipping her feet clean over her head, she did a somersault off the bed and stuck a perfect ten of a landing. Bowing to the invisible crowd of pleased onlookers, she fumbled around for the ball, cursing out loud, “Those shit-for-brains. I’ll show them. Think they can close me out like that.” She grabbed the ball and tossed it from one hand to the other, back and forth. “Think they’re so tricky. So smart. Wicked fucking morons, what they are.” She nodded, agreeing with herself. “I’ll show them.”
Danny’s basement reverberated with music streaming from the TV. A Mr Mister video played out while Danny sang along, completely out of tune. He stood on the faded plaid sofa, the one his mom deemed “too 70’s” to be seen in the living room any longer, and shouted at the TV.
“Carry a laser down this road that I must tra-vel. Carry a laser through the darkness of the n-i-i-ight!”
Clint pushed his glasses up a little higher on his nose and gave Danny a look of disbelief. “I really don’t think those are the words—”
“Yes they are.” Danny was sure of it.
“But the name of the song is Kyrie.” Clint shook his head, crossed his arms. He wasn’t going to budge. He never did. Danny was used to it; this type of stuff had been going on between them for years. Small worries. Small desires.
“But he has to carry a laser down the road and through the night. It’s like a weapon, or a flashlight so he can see in the dark.” Danny held his ground. He felt pretty good about his argument, anyway. Made complete sense. These were exactly the kind of arguments his dad told him to avoid at school. The nuh-uh, no-how, no way, I know you are but what am I childish jabs that he’d surely -hopefully- grow out of by fourteen. He had just a few months to sort that all out.
“I really don’t think so.” Clint stifled a giggle. “The name of the song is Kyrie. He says Kyrie Eleison. It means ‘Lord, have mercy’.”
“Not even. Who’d write a pop song about that?” Danny shook his head. “Watch.” He moved to the stairwell and shouted up the steps, “Mom! What are the lyrics to this song?”
A head appeared at the top of the stairwell, Danny’s mom’s blond hair fell over her face as she paused, listening, then dutifully replied, “Carry a laser, dear.” She disappeared.
“Aw man! Your mom doesn't have any clue either.” Clint waved his hand at the air in front of his face like he’d just smelled rotten eggs.
“Your mom.” Danny let out a snort and a chuckle. He really couldn’t help those childish jabs. “Your mom is so—”
“Enough. Whatever.” Clint seemed to have no patience anymore with the ‘your momma’ jokes.
“Pschhhhhiw.” Danny changed tactics and unleashed his invisible light saber on his friend.
“Pssschhhhiw.” Clint’s drew his to match Danny.
They erupted into an epic Star Wars battle. Saber on saber they continued, fighting each other across the floor, over the sofa, around the table, making a ruckus as they went.
Clint pushed Danny with all his might, forcing his chubby friend to fall back onto the couch. Clint leaned over, threatening.
“The force is strong with this one.” Danny backed himself up, rising to his feet on the couch.
Clint laughed. “Good thing he carries a laser.”
“That’s what he says!” Danny’s face was red with a mix of anger and exertion. He looked like he was turning tomato. He let out a breath and threw up his hands. “I give.” He sunk back into the weathered sofa, playing with a tear in the seat. His demeanor changed as he thought about their upcoming plans. “We shouldn’t go. To the haunted house.” He looked down at the tear as if it were the most important thing in the world and continued, “It’s probably not haunted anyway. Who knows how long it’s really been there.”
Clint nudged his glasses back high onto his nose, flipped off the TV, and launched into the story. He was an ace at reciting facts, and this was one story the whole town, including Danny, was aware of. “Pretty sure it’s been there at least since the 1600’s.” His voice deepened as he continued, “Legend has it the troubles began during King Philip’s war.”
Danny looked up. “The Indian dude, right?”
“Uh-huh. From the Wampanoag Tribe. They fought against the colonists and burned down all their houses. Every single one burned to the ground. Except that one.”
Danny got up off the couch and flicked on a couple of lights, as if the story itself had crept into the basement and darkened it. He sat back down on the couch, looking over each shoulder as he did so. No matter how many times he’d heard the story, it never got any less scary.
Clint continued, “It was like the fire couldn’t touch it, couldn’t burn through.”
Danny began to squirm. “Nuh-uh. You’re shitting me.”
Clint raised his hand, palm up before him. “I swear. I shit you not.” He dropped his hand to his side. “Even though they lit it on fire. The flames rose and surrounded the house but could not destroy it.” He walked around behind the sofa and whispered over Danny’s shoulder, “Since then, no one dared go near. It is cursed, haunted, some say the devil himself resides there.” He recited the words from rote, a story passed down to him from his father, and his father’s father.
Danny whipped his head around and mushed his hand over his friend’s face, forcing him back. “It’s a lie, a stupid story.”
Clint continued, intent on finishing his lecture, “Sometimes in the dark of the night…” He flipped off one of the basement lights. “The glow of a fire emanates from within.” He crossed the room and hit another light, dimming the room even more. “A single flame to light the darkness.”
Silence. And then there were footsteps. Both boys jumped as they saw a shadow floating down the stairs.
“You two want some snacks?” It was Danny’s mother.
They both relaxed and replied in unison, “Yes, please!”
The shadow disappeared.
Clint nodded to the Atari set sitting in front of the TV. “Wanna play?”
“Duh.” Danny collapsed in a graceless heap on the floor and grabbed a joystick.
Clint sat down beside him.
Danny grabbed two games and quickly shoved them behind his back. “Pick a hand?”
Clint shrugged. He screwed his mouth all up, trying to decide which hand held which game. He chose left. He always chose left.
Both hands appeared from behind Danny, then he set the games down. A serious look stole across his face. “I don’t wanna go tomorrow. It’s dumb.”
They’d already agreed to go. The plan had been set. To back out now would be bad. Reid would never let them hear the end of it. No doubt someone would end up getting punched and called a pussy.
“We agreed. We gotta go.” Clint paused, crossing his legs to sit Indian-style. “I don’t really wanna go either, between you and me. ” He reached for the game that had been in Danny’s left hand. PAC Man. It was always PAC Man. “You really should invest in Nintendo.”
Danny shook his head. “Atari’s a classic. You’ll see. They’ll be playing this forever.”