by Rebecca Fox
The door had been nailed shut for a reason.
It was only logical. Why would someone waste their time pounding nails into a door if there wasn’t a good reason? Maybe the house was separated into sections and rented out to different families. Maybe the previous owners of the house had a kid who thought nailing his little sister’s door shut would be a hoot. There was a dog-door-like square cut along the bottom of the wood. Maybe there was something sinister lurking in the room on the other side.
Gwen rolled her eyes at her own whacky imagination. Still, there was something strange about that door at the end of the hall, the door everyone else was intent on ignoring. Or maybe she was just the first one to notice it? The music was incredibly loud. So many bodies were pressed together into the living room of this old house. The only sources of light were the spotlights sweeping across the room, the candles lit in the open bedrooms, and the moonlight streaming in through the curtain-less windows. Whatever furniture might have been there was long gone, having been tossed outside to make room for the party.
Gwen took a swig of her soda and finally tore her gaze away from the door. Why did it matter if the door was nailed shut anyway? Was she just looking for an excuse to leave the crowd? Parties weren’t exactly her idea of fun. She was too shy to talk to strangers and the only boys who seemed to notice her were always creeps. But her sister was home from college for the weekend and had guilt-tripped her into coming. She was stuck in this creepy old house until Macy was drunk enough to forget her own name. Which might be sooner rather than later. Macy had made a beeline for the keg as soon as they’d arrived and had been parked there ever since, chatting up all the cute guys who came for refills. Gwen weaved her way through the dancing throng to get to her sister.
She turned away from the boy she was flirting with to give Gwen a wide-eyed look. “You’re not here for a beer, are you? I told you; you’re the designated driver tonight.”
Gwen waved the soda in her sister’s face. “This is all I’ve had tonight. Relax.”
“Okay. So what do you want?”
“What do you think is behind that door?” Gwen asked, gesturing to the door in question.
Macy adjusted the straps of her fairy wings and blew a raspberry. “Don’t know, don’t care. Justin said he found this house abandoned last week and decided it would be a good place for a Halloween party. I think he’s only been here, like, twice to decorate and stuff. Go ask him.” Then she continued giggling and gushing to her handsome toga-clad stranger as if Gwen had already left. The guy gave Gwen the once-over out of the corner of his eye, making her regret her slutty nurse’s costume immediately. She blushed and looked away, tugging at the hem of her little skirt as if that would suddenly make it longer.
Gwen’s eyes fell on the door again. She hadn’t seen Justin since she and Macy had arrived. He’d paused in his mingling to give them each a one-armed hug and comment on their costumes before he resumed his host duties. That was almost two hours ago. She set her drink aside and marched back across the room, getting a spurt of un-Gwen-like bravery. She didn’t need Justin. She’d unravel this mystery on her own. It wasn’t until she stood directly before the door that she realized she had no way of opening it. She dug around her purse, and pulled out a large nail file. Maybe she could pry the nails out? Doubtful but still willing to try, Gwen came closer to the door.
It was already open. Gwen blinked at the sliver of empty space between the door and the frame, wondering when that had happened. She could’ve sworn it was shut...
She shoved the nail file back into her satchel and gripped the warped door knob. The door opened with a spooky creak that made her shiver. The smell hit her then, the acrid odor of decaying meat. She slapped both hands over her nose, swallowing hard to get rid of the bile. But she couldn’t walk away. Morbid curiosity made her bump the door open wider with her hip and inch into the room. Darkness greeted her. She released her nose with one hand to search for a light switch along the wall. It flickered on a moment later.
Bones and matted meat littered the floor. Blood was sprinkled across the faded flowery wall paper. The windows were boarded up from the outside; the glass had been broken ages ago and scrapes cut jaggedly across the wood. As if someone had tried to claw their way out of the room at one point. A single bed mattress was shoved in the corner, covered by a ratty black blanket. A hole in the floor drew her eyes to the center of the room. Her mouth gaped open even wider when she realized its purpose. This was a prison cell.
But for who, and why?
A splash of blue among the meat and bones forced Gwen to look at the carnage again. She grimaced and turned with the full intention of walking away, but she paused. Something about that shade of blue struck a chord of familiarity within her. She took a hesitant step forward. It was a torn shirt made of fake, blue fur she was looking at, smeared with blood. Gwen’s knees gave way. She would have fallen onto the filthy floor had she not locked her legs just in time. Suddenly, she knew where she’d seen that fur before. It had been exactly two hours earlier, when Justin had given her that one-armed hug and said how great she looked in her nurse’s costume. He’d been dressed like an alien from Star Wars. The remains of his mask could be seen on the floor, pressed up against the wall. Hair and brain matter freckled the edges.
Bile climbed up her throat again. The world grew fuzzy at the corners.
The door creaked, causing Gwen to spin around with a squeak. A little girl stood behind the door, pale hand pressed against the wood, pushing it closed. Gwen stepped back, the bile finally winning at the sight of the child. Her short blond hair was matted with grime, her face streaked with dried blood, her wide eyes holding green pupils that were permanently dilated. She wore a large, gray sweatshirt with rips and a faded logo, but nothing else. Her feet were bare, exposing torn, black toe nails.
How long had she been imprisoned in that room? Had she eaten Justin? Gwen heaved and groaned until there was nothing left in her stomach. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and slowly turned to face the child again. The little girl was smacking her lips and swaying slightly, watching Gwen with wide, unblinking eyes.
Gwen managed to shake her head. “No.”
She grinned, exposing blackened teeth.
The scream cut through the music. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned toward the door down the hall with questions on their lips. The DJ killed the music after being prompted by some of the dancers. There was silence and then the unmistakable sound of tearing flesh.
Edited By: Elizabeth Fish