“So, are we going in or not?” said Brian. “Oh hell yeah,” whooped Danny, sounding too loud in the still night. “Come on Terri, this was your idea. Don’t pussy out on us now.” “Fuck you, Gregson,” I said, shoving past him. I’d been hanging back, nervous now that we were here. It had seemed an excellent idea at the time, but now, standing under the lone streetlight looking up at the dark, empty shell of a house, I wasn’t so sure. Brian and Danny sniggered on the other side of the fence and burst out laughing when I flipped them the finger. Fuck those two, I knew they’d made a bet I wouldn’t go through with it. But once on the other side, the sense of foreboding was worse. My stomach fluttered like the wings of a caged bird as we picked our way through the overgrown garden to the back of the house. “Oh shit. Shit, shit.” “Danny, you dick. Keep the noise down,” hissed Brian. Danny was standing on one leg trying to examine the other with the light from his phone. “I don’t believe it. Jack is gonna kill me. Shit.” He’d caught his trouser leg on a piece of discarded barbed wire and now there was a gaping hole with a streak of blood. I laughed. “Who’s the pussy now, Danny.” “Piss off,” said Danny. “You don’t know what he’s like. He’s lost his shit over a lot less than this.” “Then don’t borrow your brother’s gear,” offered Brian. “Oh yes. Thanks for the wisdom, Cooper. Not much fucking help right now though, is it?” “Look,” I sighed. “Are we doing this or not?” Getting in the house was easy enough. The back door was unlocked, just as I knew it would be. I went in first and switched on the torch, followed by Brian. “Jesus,” he said. “What a shithole.” I swung the torch around the kitchen, taking in the pile of dishes left in the sink and the mould that now covered them. I imagined the families that had once lived here, each happy enough until they met with an untimely death. I shuddered as a cold sensation ran down my back, like a centipede hunting its nightly prey. “Who the fuck leaves barbed wire lying around anyway,” said Danny as he burst through the door. “Oh shit. What is that smell.” Brian picked up one of the plates and offered it to Danny. “Just like your mum’s cooking, Gregson.” “I wish it was that good,” said Danny, wafting the smell away with his hand. “Come on,” I said, eager to get this over with. “It’s getting late.” “What’s the matter, Teresa, scared of the witching hour?” I slapped Danny’s hands away as he wiggled them in front of my face. “Because you’re really brave aren’t you, Gregson,” said Brian, as he pushed Danny through the door into the hallway. “Bunch of fucking witches don’t scare me,” yelled back Danny. Brian rolled his eyes at me as I shook my head. Danny was such a dick. The hallway was damp and musty. Faded patches on the walls where pictures once hung adding to the feeling of abandonment. “Let’s check upstairs,” I said, shining the torch past the cobwebs to where a staircase was just visible in the shadows. “Who put you in charge,” said Danny, snatching the torch from my hand. “Give it back, Gregson.” “Come and get it, Miss Nicholls.” He backed away from me and shone the torch under his chin pulling gruesome faces. Brian made a grab for it but Danny was too quick and jumped back, colliding with something behind him. Startled, he swung round and let out a strangled cry when the torch shone on Becky’s face. Brian and I fell about laughing. “Fuck me,” said Danny, clutching his heart. “What’s the matter, Gregson. Did I scare you?” Becky punched him in the arm before returning my high five. “What the fuck are you doing here?” said Danny. “You almost gave me a heart attack.” “No need to be hostile, Danny,” I said, taking the torch back off him. “You been here long, babe?” asked Brian, kissing Becky. “Long enough, this place is seriously creepy. There’s no way I would’ve done this if you guys weren’t coming.” “Does someone want to tell me what’s going on,” said Danny. “Becky’s doing a story on this place,” said Brian. “So Terri suggested she come up here at night, get a real feel for the place.” “Yeah, and i’m already regretting it,” I said. “Though I must admit it’s worth it just to see the look on your face, Danny.” “Very funny,” he said. “No, really. Fucking hilarious. I’ll be laughing about it for weeks.” “Oh come on, Danny Boy,” said Becky. “It was just a joke. You do remember those, don’t you? Come upstairs and i’ll show you my room.” “You have a room?” I asked, as we trailed behind Becky up the staircase. “Well that’s not even remotely fucking weird,” said Danny from the back. “It was her room,” said Becky, quietly, as though the house might hear her. “I thought it would be the perfect place to set up camp. Besides, it’s the only room that’s empty. All the others still have the previous occupant’s things in them. You know, beds and stuff. All their personal shit was nicked years ago. Felt a bit too creepy to stay in one of those though, after what happened.” I nodded as we stopped outside a room with light spilling from under the door. Becky pointed to where she had etched her initials in the rotting wood. “What do you think? If I become a famous writer because of this story, that could count as my first autograph. Hey, maybe we should all do it. Our names forever etched in a piece of history.” “No thanks, psycho,” said Danny, pushing past her. “And please tell me you have some smokes in here.” Becky had brought a blanket which was now draped across the filthy floor with a lamp placed in the centre. “I borrowed my dad’s camp light, he’ll go ape if he finds out. Here.” Becky threw a packet of cigarettes in Danny’s direction. “Just don’t go setting the place on fire, yeah.” Danny lit one up, then passed the packet round to each of us as we took our places round the lamp. “So, you all know the story about Eleanor Sykes, right?” said Becky. “That she was tried as a witch and found guilty—” “And she was burned at the steak together with her three sisters. Yeah, yeah, we all know the story.” “That’s right,” said Becky, ignoring Danny’s contempt. “But did you know that Eleanor confessed at the end and begged for the lives of her sisters. Of course no-one would listen, and they burned them all anyway.” “What even made people think they were witches?” I asked. “You only had to be female back then, but one thing we do know about Eleanor is that she had one blue eye and one green eye. Uncommon, but perfectly normal. Back then though, it would’ve been seen as witchcraft. Together with being financially well off even though both parents were dead, and being one of four feisty, outspoken sisters, it was pretty much case closed back in those days. I mean, women were being hung or burnt as witches all the time in the seventeenth century. It was a terrible time to be a woman.” “So she cursed anyone who lived in this house after her, and people have been dying ever since?” I said. “Not exactly.” “Did she curse everyone at the burning, and then their children, and then their children’s children,” said Brian. “No,” said Becky, shoving him. “But she did curse this house though. She said nine terrible deaths would befall those who dared to live here, three for each of her sisters. So far six people have died horrible deaths in this house. The last, of course, were the Braxton family, which we all know about.” “Oooh, scary shit,” said Danny, looking bored. “Why stop at nine?” “Well she didn’t. She also said there would be one more. One last life in exchange for her own, and through this person, Eleanor would return and wreak her vengeance on the people of Berwick.” “Jesus,” said Danny. “Well now i’m crapping my pants. Where’s the bathroom?” “Why are you always such a Dick, Danny?” I said. “No, really. Where’s the bathroom? I need to take a piss.” “Down the hall, turn left,” said Becky. “But don’t be expecting much, its pretty rancid.” “Can’t be worse than Cooper’s house,” said Danny, as he left the room. “Fuck you, Gregson,” shouted Brian. “Why did you bring him?” whispered Becky. “He always puts such a downer on everything.” “He’s alright,” said Brian. “Just give him a chance. Besides, Terri fancies him, it was her idea to bring him.” Becky looked at me, open mouthed. I rolled my eyes and grabbed the torch. “Don’t listen to him, he’s talking out of his arse as usual. I’m going to the bathroom too.” “Sure you are, Terri,” winked Brian. I stuck two fingers up as I walked out of the room to the sound of Becky’s laughter. Brian was right, of course. I did fancy Danny, but that wasn’t the reason I left. I felt restless. Uneasy. I needed to walk it off. I headed in the direction of the bathroom and called out Danny’s name, but if he was still there he didn’t answer. There were lots of rooms up here but I didn’t have the desire to look in any of them. As I wandered round the dark hallways I thought about Eleanor and the horror of being burned alive. I couldn’t begin to image how terrible that must have been. And her poor sisters too. Such a terrible thing to happen to someone so young. Then I thought about the people that had died while living in this house. Not natural deaths either, but tragic in their own right, and wondered if maybe Eleanor’s curse was real. If it was, then she wasn’t finished yet. I shuddered at the thought and wondered again why on earth I had suggested coming here. It was unnaturally quiet out here. I couldn’t hear so much as a whisper, though I was sure the others weren’t far away. The torchlight had started to dim too, making the darkness a much more formidable presence than it had been before. I banged the torch against the palm of my hand all the while knowing the crappy batteries would never go the distance. The light flickered brighter for a second, then died completely. I sighed and rubbed my hands to warm them against the cold. The temperature had dropped a few degrees in just the last few minutes. My breath appeared as plumes of white smoke, just visible by the sliver of moonlight that managed to penetrate the inky blackness. Pulling my jacket tighter I headed back in the direction of Becky and Brian, anxious to escape the eerie silence. It was difficult to navigate the hallways without the torch. I had to feel my way along the walls, hoping I was going in the right direction, a feeling of dread growing deeper with each footstep. As I banked left I saw a light up ahead and quickened my pace. The scream, when it came, pieced the silence with such ferocity that I froze, breath caught in my throat and my rapid heartbeat thumping in my ears. Incapable of logical thought and paralyzed by fear, I stayed where I was until I heard footsteps behind me. Then I started to run. I had no idea which direction the scream had come from so I headed straight for the light up ahead, praying the whole time that the guys would be there, laughing their stupid arses off at their elaborate joke. But it wasn’t a joke. The overpowering smell of copper was the first thing that hit me. Then I saw Becky and Brian. I turned away and retched, the sickening smell of my own vomit now mixed with the sweet scent of blood. Shaking violently, I turned back to where they were laid out on the blanket, side by side, each drenched in their own blood from the jagged cut across their throats. I fell to my knees and sobbed, recoiling from the look of terror frozen on their faces. The sound of a match being struck alerted me that someone else was in the room. I turned to see Danny casually leaning against the open door. “I guess the curse was real after all,” he said, taking a long drag on his cigarette as he surveyed the carnage in front of him. “That makes eight, right?” He turned to me with a glint in his eye and produced the rusted barbed wire from the garden. It was covered in blood. “Danny, are you OK?” I said, unsure of what to make of his calm demeanour. He tossed the barbed wire onto Brian’s body then pulled a knife out of his back pocket. “Never better, Terri. Can’t say the same for those two though.” I got up cautiously, my mind wrestling with the horrific possibility that Danny may be responsible for the murder of our friends. I told myself it couldn’t be true, that he was in shock, just like me. But the horror became a reality as Danny’s lip curled back in a sneer when he pointed the knife at me. “Only one more to go, Terri. Who’s it gonna be? Me, or you?” “Danny, what did you do,” I whispered. “What do you think, Terri.” He waived the knife menacingly in front of me. “Be grateful you weren’t here for the wire. I imagine it hurt a lot more than the knife will.” I backed away as he took a step closer. “You’re talking crazy, Danny. Why are you doing this? The curse isn’t real. ” “Well I guess one of us will find out soon enough.” He nodded in the direction of the blood soiled blanket where our friends lay. There was a knife lying at Brian’s feet. “Pick it up, Terri,” said Danny. I shook my head, terrified by the look of sheer malice on his face. “Pick it up, Terri, or I will gut you like a pig.” “Please don’t do this, Danny?” I whimpered. “This isn’t you. You don’t know what you’re saying.” “Last chance, Terri.” My instinct was to run, but Danny blocked the only exit. The chances of anyone hearing me scream were almost non-existent. If someone was going to come, they would’ve been here already. Danny had lost his mind, that much was clear, and if I needed anymore proof of his insanity the madness in his eyes was enough to convince me beyond any doubt. He calmly smoked his cigarette as I realised that my only option was to take the knife and fight for my life. He nodded as I backed towards the bloodied knife and picked it up. “Good girl, Terri.” Taking one last puff of his cigarette he flicked it past me into a pile of discarded papers. I noticed with a heavy heart that it was Becky’s torn up notebook. The pages caught almost at once. The flames licked at the threadbare curtains, then devoured them like a ravenous animal. Danny advanced on me as the fire took hold. With a trembling hand I held up my own blade and readied myself for his onslaught. But then he stopped. Cocking his head to one side he appeared to be listening. Then I heard it too. Above the roar of the advancing flames the chant of ‘witch’ could clearly be heard. Danny grabbed hold of the door and shook his head in anger. In the flickering light I could see where Becky had etched her initials in the wood, but her initials were now gone and had been replaced by another’s. T.E.N. They were my initials. Teresa Eleanor Nicholls. A black look came over Danny’s face as he lunged at me with his knife held high. Out of pure instinct I stepped aside, raising my own blade upwards as I did so. The feel of metal hitting bone reverberated up my arm as hot blood coursed over my hand. I let go of the slippery blade, horrified at what I had just done, and backed away towards the door. Danny looked at me in shock, clawing desperately at the knife trying to pull it free from his abdomen, but it was buried to the hilt and his attempts to free it were in vain. He turned to me then, open mouthed with all sign of malice gone from his face. Then he fell forward, forcing the blade further into his body until its tip protruded from his back. Shaking uncontrollably I took one last look as the fire consumed Brian and Becky’s bodies, then I ran from the room. I stopped in the hallway, bent over, choking from the all consuming smoke, and that’s when I saw the red mist. It was snaking its way towards me, long tendrils crawling along the walls, reaching out, slowly getting closer as I watched on in horror. The fire roared behind me as the entity in front began to take shape. It drew close, enveloping me in its cloying arms, and then I screamed. ******************* The shrill call of a telephone woke Terri from her nightmare. The smell of burning flesh still lingered in her nostrils as she threw back the covers to allow the cold air to circulate over her sweat soaked body. She could still hear the scream ringing in her ears as she climbed out of bed and made her way to the bathroom. She filled the sink with cold water then leaned over and splashed her face with the cooling liquid, relishing the feel of it on her hot skin. “Terri love.” Her mum banged on the bathroom door. “Were you with Rebecca last night? Her mum’s on the phone worried sick. She didn’t come home last night.” Terri slowly dried her face, taking her time as the nightmare gradually evaporated. “Terri, did you hear what I said?” “No, mum,” she called back. “I didn’t see Becky last night. I’ve no idea where she is.” Then she looked in the mirror and smiled, and her reflection smiled back. With one green eye, and one blue.