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📅 Published on February 24, 2014

"Game Board"

Written by

Estimated reading time — 17 minutes

Ever since the incident I’ve been so paranoid. No one would even really explain what exactly happened that night. I couldn’t make any sense of it, even though I was there. Every single detail is still etched into my brain, but I still can’t tell anyone what happened really.

The car pulled up to the big Arizona house, in the middle of nowhere. I mean, seriously? How do people live like this? Hawaii was a good call, mom. This is depressing. I glanced between my parents as they discussed whatever about who-cares. I can’t believe they were going to leave me here like this while they took a trip to the Bahamas! Did it ever occur to them that I’d like to go with them? But no, they’d rather ship me to another state to live with my crazy cousins for a whole week. Why couldn’t I have stayed with Aunt Kayla or any of my friends back in Hawaii? You’d think that they would want that, considering the whole family-fall-out thing that happened twelve years ago. But apparently that’s not what they wanted. Here I am, in ninety-degrees-in-October Arizona. I swear, when I’m president, I’m deeming Arizona as too boring and will gladly donate it to all the illegal immigrants so they will no longer be illegal. See, I’m very generous like that. I just solved two of the world’s problems, and amazed you with the thought.

My oldest cousin, Cassadee, came out to help bring my bags into the house and I finally stepped out of the car. I headed to the back of the car, to see that everyone had already gotten all of my things. I huffed. Oh, well. I didn’t want to carry them in anyway. I took in the sight of the humongous house in front of me, my house for the next week. This is just great. I really do hope you noted the sarcasm. I ran my hands through my long brown hair and sighed. It looked like it was either three-story, or two-story with a huge attic. The front door was swung open, letting me feel a small breeze from inside the house, but as tempting as it was to just run straight into the cool simulated wind, I stayed outside until my parents came back out.

“Are you sure you’ll be fine here?” My dad asked again, and even though I wanted to scream at them to take me home, I slapped on the best fake smile I had in me and nodded with creaky motions. He smiled wearily and rolled up the window to our ’09 Chevy Silverado. Only a few seconds later, I was left to stare at the dust they trailed behind them. I turned back to the house and nearly jumped at the sight of my little cousin, Clementine, standing in her window, just staring at me. Clementine is eight years old, and creepy-looking. She had black hair in a pixie cut matched with dark eyes, and a seriously pale complexion. She was very thin and short, also. She looked like she was tapping on the window as she looked out at me, but Cassadee came back outside, so I didn’t get to react more than with a simple wave.

“Bailey’s having a couple friends over later, so I think you might just want to stay in your room tonight. Dinner is later, I hope you like chicken…” Cassadee was saying, but I let my mind wander to other things as she led me up the narrow steps to the massive front door. A pattern was inscribed into the wood on the door: a bunch of swirls, leaves, and what looked like fairies decorated it giving out the theme of a horror movie. The terrified and mutated faces of the little people carved into it didn’t help. She led me through it, with great effort on her part in opening the heavy door. It swung open to reveal a Victorian-era-styled living room.

There was nothing hanging on the pale yellowish walls, and the floor was hardwood. There was a door across from the front one that was about as big, only it didn’t have the carvings in it. It also looked easier to open, and you could tell that the room beyond that had a tiled floor. There was a staircase to the left, and it looked like it was the oldest thing in this house. It was made of wood that looked like it had been through more walking than a single family of five could do. It seemed as if anyone were to take one single step on the worn wood, it would split in two to let you fall into the deepest layer of hell. There was an old red rug on the floor, and it shared the same type of designs on it as the door had. A large love seat sat in the middle of the floor, and then there was a small couch sitting across from it, the only furniture in the room. The high ceiling and lit up chandelier led me on to believe that there was no upstairs after all, but of course there just had to be, because Cassadee grabbed onto one of my bags and started up the wooden death-trap with it, not bothering to check if I was following her. I quickly grabbed my other bag and scrambled up after her, trying to forget my fear of dying on the steps.

“Your room is at the back of the hall. We’ll come and get you for dinner when it’s done.” I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me because she was in front of me. We finally came to the top of the creaking steps and I almost tripped when I saw the hallway. It was completely different from the front room. It was completely wooden, and looked so old, like they decided they would just renovate the first room people walked into. There were doors all over the halls, and I listened intently as she named them off to me. “This room is Bailey’s, just leave her be,” she explained, pointing to the first door on the right, “she has her friends with her and likes to turn on the bitch around them.” She shot me a smile, in an attempt to lighten the mood, but it didn’t really work. Still, I smiled back at her. She pointed to the door across from Bailey’s. “That’s my mom’s study. Don’t go in there.” She glanced over the door as if it held no real importance and we continued down the hall, our feet making echoes bounce off of the floor and walls, through the seemingly empty house. She paused at another door. “This is my parents’ room. Don’t go in there either.” She gave a quick point and we started walking again. The hallway was narrow, and I swear there was this weird smell coming from the wooden walls. The wooden panels were popped out in some places, giving it an uneven look, almost like they had a rat that crawled through the walls, pushing them out. The wooden planks we walked on creaked with every step, pronouncing your presence to everyone. I was so stunned on how far back the hallway could go, too. There was so much room between each door that I guessed the rooms must be huge. There were only three more doors at the end of the hall. Two were right next to each other on our left, and one was across the hall from the one closest to us. She stopped again at that door. “This is the bathroom. And that is your room,” she said, pointing to the first door on the left, right across from the bathroom. I pressed my lips into a thin line and nodded, biting my lip. She nodded back at me and turned to leave, but I stopped her before she could go.

“Uh, whose room is that?” I asked, curiosity tugging at my insides.

She immediately started acting defensively. “That’s Clementine’s room, but you can’t go in there!” She yelled angrily, coming closer and grabbing my bags from off the floor. She’s so protective of her little sister. Gosh. She practically gives off the ‘I-don’t-really-care’ attitude when she tells me not to go into her parents’ room, but when she tells me not to go into Clementine’s room it’s like she’s my mother telling me not to swim with sharks. I rolled my eyes as she hauled my things into the room, which was way smaller than I would have thought. It only had a bed and a window that was covered in thin white curtains. Great, I get to have a sun-alarm clock.

She set the bags right next to the bed and I thanked her as she walked out the door. Yup, I’m in hell for a week. The door was painted white, but the paint was peeling, and it had the same creepy designs as the front door and the rug from earlier. The doorknob sported a fairy that seemed to look at me with sympathy as I made my way to the only source of entertainment I had, the window. It was a smallish window with white curtains that were too large for it so they flowed lazily around it. I stared outside it and watched as the sun dipped down below the distant mountains, casting a shadow on the house that started to darken my room. I sighed in frustration that there was nothing outside to look at but the desert. Why do they have to live in the middle of nowhere?

I left the window and plopped down on my bed, the only thing actually in the room. I started playing with my fingers and hummed a song that I liked. After a minute of insane nothingness, I heard a tapping. My head shot around to look at my window out of habit, but nothing was there. My eyes went wide and my heart sped up. I stood up quickly, the wooden floorboards creaking loudly under me as I do. Then my head snaps to the right of me, at the wall where the light taps were emanating from. My head spun until I figured out that that was the wall that stood between me and Clementine’s room. It was just her. I slowly started walking towards the wall, but the floor decided to announce my movement to the whole house once again and by the time I had made it to the wall the tapping had stopped. I swallowed back my childish fear and commanded my heart to slow as I lifted my finger to the wall and tapped twice, like she had. When she didn’t answer I sighed and turned back to look at the window for a millisecond before my head rounded towards the wall again. She tapped twice and I smiled. I’m not alone after all. I tapped twice again, but before she could reply to my tapping, my door opened and I straightened quickly, turning to see a confused Bailey was standing in the door.

She had grown a lot since we were kids. I was older than her by only a couple months, but the way she stood in front of me now, she looked like she was years older than her age. You could see it in her eyes and the way she carried herself. I also saw this in Cassadee, but I figured that was due to being the oldest in a family with parents who are barely around. She looked at me, taking me in for the first time in twelve years and I suddenly felt like yelling at her and hiding from her at the same time.

“Dinners ready,” she said, barely moving a muscle in her face. With that she turned on her heel and walked away noisily. I swallowed and reluctantly walked away, trying my best to keep my footsteps light.

I followed Bailey down the hall, down the groaning steps, and then through the door I saw earlier, the one with tiled flooring instead of the croaking wooden floors the rest of the house possessed. The tiled room was a kitchen and dining room. It had a small dining table, set for only five, and a kitchen to the far left. There was another door to the right of the kitchen sink, and since it was so narrow I guessed it was a pantry. Bailey quickly took her place sitting in between two girls I’d guessed were the friends she had over. Cassadee was motioning for me to sit down at the only place left next to her. I quickly did a double count. Where was the other place, the one that was supposed to be here for Clementine? Wasn’t she coming down? I refrained myself from asking as everyone started to dig into their food and talk. I stayed silent though, I didn’t feel like talking. I felt sick to my stomach and can’t believe I was even able to swallow the dry baked chicken. It left a weird taste in my mouth as I gulped down some water after a few bites. After a while of talking Bailey and the two girls with her excused themselves to the room upstairs, giggling following them in their wake. Cassadee turned to me now, looking for the next subject to converse about.

“So, how’s Hawaii?” I nodded, keeping my eyes cast down.

“Fun, cool…sandy,” I said, not really wanting to talk about home when all I wanted to do right now was go there. She sighed and I finally looked up at her.

“Look, I’m sorry that you were dragged all the way here, to boring Arizona, a state no one wants to care about anymore, but I’m trying to make this at least a little bit easier on you. It’s just a week, and you pretending that your parents abandoned you here for the rest of your life isn’t helping anything.” Her eyes were hard, but they still pleaded with me to cooperate as her jaw clenched and she let out a shaky breath. My lips tightened into a thin line and my eyes found solace in looking at the ground. I swallowed and stood, walking quickly to my room. It’s their room. You can’t start labeling things as yours when you know it’s only temporary.

I was asleep in my temporary room when something brought me out of my well needed slumber. I sat up slowly, momentarily confused and covered in sweat. I blinked a couple times, trying to shake the forgotten dream of five minutes ago. The room was dimly lit by the appearance of a waning crescent moon right outside my window, being barely covered by the thin white curtains. The light coupled with the dark shadows sent an eerie chill up my spine.

The thin blanket that I brought from home was all the way on the other side of the room in front of the door. My small pillow was nowhere to be seen and I guessed it was under the bed. Somehow my bags, which had been situated next to the bed, ended up next to the blanket on the floor, some of my things strewn around the area. The sheets under me were coming undone, indicating that I must have been moving around in my sleep. I tried my best to sit all the way up and stand on the floor without making any noises, but that would always fail in this house.

I bit my tongue and hoped I didn’t wake anyone up as I crossed over to the window, loud groans trailing my feet. I pushed the curtains back and shakily opened the window. It made louder noises than the floor and I winced at the sound. Cool air from the night engulfed me, causing me to shiver slightly as I stared out at the moon and the clouds that passed over it swiftly. I looked down at the long dirt driveway, the one that led to the old gravel road that my parents had taken to get out of here. My eyes started to water at the unfairness of it all. Before my vision could completely blur over, however, something caught my eye. There was a tall figure pressed against the side of the house outside.  I could tell it was human by the way it moved, but it also looked so… unnatural. My breath hitched in my throat and my heart sped up to match the gait of a cheetah. The thing moved closer to the front door and I shook my head, trying to will it away. It didn’t seem to see me, though, because it just slipped in the front door, opening and closing the colossal wooden door with ease; which was something not even someone who has lived here their whole lives could even do. The blood drained from my face as I realized that meant there was someone in the house.

I tried to tell myself that that could’ve just been Cassadee, or her shadow that followed her around as she went outside to get something, but my mind wouldn’t really listen as I moved away from the window and backed up straight to the bed, not really caring about the noise anymore. I felt frozen to my place, thinking about the fact that someone could be in the house, ready to murder me. I tried to look at the reason, just to calm my nerves which would surly kill me before the stranger could even look at me or think of walking up the stairs. Just use your brain for once! You never heard the door, like you would if it really opened. Plus you never heard footsteps, which would be impossible to avoid in this house. And no one in their right mind would be in the middle of nowhere at this time, let alone a murderer with an axe. It’s just your weird ass mind trying to psyche you out, idiot!

I took in a deep breath, and kept it in for a second before letting it out. I’m letting this place and the heat get to me. I sat in silence for a couple minutes and closed my eyes, grateful for the quiet. After my eyes felt like they would start burning a hole through my eye lids, I opened them again, and then they widened with fright. My whole body went rigid as I heard a soft tapping come from behind me. After my brain had finally caught up to me, I sighed in relief that it was just Clementine. I leaned over the end of the bed frame that was against the wall and tapped twice, so she knew I was here and awake. She tapped once and I mimicked her, deciding to play her little game with her. She tapped twice and I copied. Then she didn’t answer. My heart dropped and I tapped two more times again just in case she didn’t hear me. Suddenly she started pounding on her side of the wall. It scared me so much that I jumped back to the other side of the bed and felt my heart drop to my stomach. Her poundings started out lightly, like a little girl’s, but then they started to get harder and harder with each time her fist met the wall. Then, to add to that, she started screaming a blood curdling banshee scream. I cringed and whimpered, bounding off the bed, out the door, and down the hall without thinking. I was too scared to think. You don’t ever think at a time like that.

I made it halfway down the hall before the screaming and pounding stopped, but then I could hear footsteps walking calmly behind me.

I didn’t dare look.

I sped my way down the rest of the hall as fast as I could, flinging open Bailey’s bedroom door. When I was inside, I slammed the door behind me and turned around. The only one in there was Bailey, and she had just woken up from a dream when I slammed the door to her room. Her room looked absolutely nothing like my room. It was all frilly and pink and everything you would imagine a teenage girls bedroom would look like. She sat up in the bed and looked at me wide eyed.

“What the hell are you doing?!” She hissed, but then she took a look around her room and started to worry. “Where did my friends go? What happened?” She looked at me and I could feel tears leaking down my cheeks. After a second her eyes widened and looked scared, understanding dawning in the blue-green orbs she possessed. “Clementine…” she whispered and the way she said it made me shiver and want to hide in a ditch to die peacefully. She stood up and grabbed my hand, pulling me to sit on the bed with her.

I didn’t know what to do, but she was looking at me expectantly so I just spilled. “I-I woke up about ten minutes ago, and I was hot so I went to open the window,” I averted my eyes from her, ashamed to say that I had seen something outside her house when in reality nothing was there, “and I saw something moving. It looked like a person, but it was too tall so I thought it was a shadow, but it opened the front door and got in. I was so scared and I just thought that maybe I was just really tired and seeing things, so I went and sat on the bed. Then I heard your sister tap on the wall, and so I tapped back ‘cause I thought she had heard me and knew I was awake or something. But then she started screaming and pounding on the wall, so I got scared and ran out. I didn’t mean to wake you up, but I had nowhere else to go and Cassadee never told me where her room was and I didn’t want to be alone…” I started crying as I finished. “I was so scared! I felt like I was gonna die,” I choked out. She squeezed my hand in an attempt to calm me.

“It’s okay, but we got to find Cassadee and get out of the house, okay?” I nodded.

“But what about getting Clementine and your friends?” Her face went completely solemn as she answered me.

“I can’t help my friends now, and Clementine has been beyond help for years now. We need to find Cassie.” She pulled me up, and I was too stunned to do anything but follow her as she pulled me out the door.

She stood outside the door for a second before she reached over and pushed on one of the panels in the walls, one that had the crooked look to it, and it fell off the wall to reveal a little compartment. In the compartment was a thin rope that ended in a knot, which she pulled on, making a bell sound echo through the house. She tensed up, but waited bravely with me still clinging onto her arm for dear life. She looked at the wall opposite the one she just pulled a rope from and I did too, not knowing what else I could do. Then, from behind the wall, we both heard a heavy thud. She jumped at it and I felt my heart freeze over as another thud sounded against the panel and it fell open, revealing Cassadee. She was on the floor, and it was evident she had fallen down the staircase, and landed against the hidden doorway unconscious. I gasped and Bailey tensed next to me. She shook me off her arm and I stood there helpless and watched as she checked her older sister. Tears dripped down her face silently as she cursed and shook her head at me. She stood and I felt completely hollow as she dragged me down the stairs, easily maneuvering around the dark house.

We got to the front door when she let go of me to open the giant thing. I couldn’t see a thing in the pitch black of my surroundings except for a tiny sliver of light that manifested under the door from the rising sun outside. I waited as she tried to open the door, and I could hear her struggle with it for a while, but then I heard her take in a sharp breath and curse. “Dammit, Clementine!” She sounded exasperated and sad when she said it, as if the words itself were a way to morn.

“What, Bailey?” A voice hissed from right next to me in a small voice, making me jump about ten feet in the air. Bailey went silent and everything ceased, the only thing visible was the little line of light hovering on the floor, and the only thing audible was my heavy breathing. After a minute, I felt as if I would die of suspense. What was Bailey doing? Why wasn’t she opening the door so we could get out of this hell?

“Bailey?” I asked. No answer. I waited for something to happen, but after a few minutes it felt like waiting for the sun to give birth and die. I felt a couple tears leak down my cheeks as I lowered my head in defeat.

*two weeks later*

I sighed as I turned off the TV in defeat. There was never anything good on at this time. I decided I would go check up on Jordan again.

Ever since the incident I’ve been so paranoid. No one would even really explain what exactly happened that night. I couldn’t make any sense of it, even though I was there. Every single detail is still etched into my brain, but I still can’t tell anyone what happened really. I remember being there with Bailey one second, then the next I was standing next to Clementine in the dark, and then the next my uncle and aunt walked in the house, shining light on the only person in the house anymore: me.

They walked inside and immediately pulled me out of the house with them. I turned to see where my cousins went, but they weren’t there. I was completely baffled as my uncle and aunt held me and cried. How did they walk away? Why didn’t I hear them move? Why didn’t I hear Clementine walk up next to me before everything went silent? All these questions ran through my head as my relatives pulled me by my arms into their car, driving me to the airport to meet my parents. They were also crying, and they looked happy to see me. Without acknowledging the couple that had brought me to them, they dragged me along to get on board the plane, without my things and still in my PJ’s. We didn’t talk at all on the trip home, and when we finally did get home they ignored me. My parents never ignored me, they always supported me and cared for me, but ever since we got home they’ve been very distant and won’t let me talk about Arizona. This is the first time I’ve been out of my own home for two weeks, and it’s to babysit my younger cousin, Jordan. My Aunt Kayla was going out with my Uncle Steven for their anniversary and I was their first choice to throw their kid at for the night. I didn’t mind though, it made me feel just a little bit normal for a while.

I stealthily climbed the wide, carpeted staircase and checked on the little two-year-old. When I was sure he was still asleep, I walked back to the living room and picked up one of the books off of the counter, figuring they wouldn’t mind and needing a time-killer. I plopped back down on the large loveseat and started reading when the phone rang. My eyes widened at the possibility of the noise waking up the baby so I quickly made a mad dash for the phone on the other side of the living room. I quickly pressed the ‘talk’ button, not reading the caller ID.

“Hello?” I asked, a little out of breath.

There was a pause on the other line, then a voice that I never thought I’d hear again. I could practically hear the devilish smirk in Clementine’s voice as she spoke, “Shouldn’t you check on the baby?” My heart immediately picked up to match the pace of a race cars’ engine as I hung up the phone and ran towards the stairs. My eyes were already starting to water as I reached the steps, and when I was about halfway up, the phone started ringing again. I stopped cold in my tracks and looked down at the phone that was still clutched tightly in my hands. The caller ID read, ‘WINNER’. My head started to spin and I felt as if I would pass out, but I took the bait and answered. Before I could even say anything, Clementine’s retched voice greeted me. At the same time she started talking, I heard small little taps on the door. My eyes started to pour and I fell to the stairs, sitting down so I wouldn’t pass out. “It’s just a game, you know. We’re all just pieces in a game…” She trailed off and the tapping grew to be pounds on the door, each one getting fiercer and harder than the last. “But I should have warned you,” She took another pause and when she finished her sentence she didn’t sound like Clementine anymore. She didn’t sound like a little girl anymore and I briefly wondered if the male voice that finished her sentence for her was even human. Just as the first word was uttered in that sinister voice, the front door slammed open, revealing the darkness behind it. “I always win.”

Credit To – J. Nicole Garcia

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