Friday Fright

Excited about Halloween, siblings Chris, Sarah and Nathan honored their annual haunted house tradition. Since childhood, they visited one haunted house to start the season off with a bang.

Each year they choose a haunted house to fit their mood. As youngsters, they liked ones similar to a Disney theme park with bright lights and a little spooky music, but nothing too scary. But later into teen years, they looked for more challenging adventures that left them anticipating each fright and scream until the exhilarating conclusion of relief.

“Let’s really get into it this year,” Nathan wrote on their group text.  “I want a haunted house that’s gonna make me wet my pants.”

As a psychologist, little sister Sarah briefly questioned his extreme need for excitement, but she knew her brother loved the adrenaline rush from a good scare and reveled in the challenge to frighten others. As a child, he’d set up elaborate Halloween pranks in order to catch others off guard.

 And as a teen, he enjoyed working at haunted houses each Halloween. At a towering seven feet tall, he was always placed in the role of the scary monster or the doorman with the intimidating voice to give people a taste of what they were about to experience.

With his insatiable appetite for a thrill, Nathan found a new haunted house that promised to be a truly horrifying experience.

As haunted house experts, it was difficult to not only achieve but exceed their level of excitement. So while they always went into it with open minds and hearts excitedly anticipating to be fulfilled, their bar raised high.

Upon entering, Chris, the artist of the trio, admired the level or intricate cobwebs poised atop the fake castle stones, crafted from Styrofoam and painted to show pitting and age. Big wooden doors that creaked when opened and sounds of the eerie music emanated from the speakers to set the mood.

“Welcome to Gregory Mansion said the booming announcement. Good luck.”

They all looked at each other with smiles and big eyes believing this could be something unique.

The first room set a dining room scene with a long table fully appointed with dripping wet wax candles and dull antique silver plates. The live zombies actors moved slowly with robotic repetition under a strobe light.

Sarah’s heart beat a little faster as she noticed mannequin heads spinning on plates in front of each person with the tops cut out and worms spilling out.

“Not bad,” Chris said. “They even sprayed the gummy worms to look like real worms, respect.”

“Yeah, but the lighting’s too bright,” Nathan sadly complained.

As they walked along a dark hallway, the eyes of the creepy portraits in the wall seemed to follow them.

“That’s the oldest trick in the book,” Nathan quipped with disappointment.

“Now that you’ve been fed. We invite you to join us for some entertainment,” the disembodied voice bellowed, and they stopped in a blackened room, looking into the darkness.

“Where do we go?” Sarah asked in a somewhat uncertain and frightened tone.

As if on cue, floating neon instruments played a baritone dirge.

“I can see the strings,” Nathan criticized.

“Our shy netherworld musicians will only appear if they feel welcome,” the voice scolded.

“Wow, this is strangely responsive,” Chris commented and began clapping, followed by the others.

The illumination sparked as a translucent ghostly band appeared before them.

“Your kind reception is welcome,” the voice said. “You have been invited to our main stage.”

The three glanced at each other with confusion and walked through the open door into a spooky laboratory. Clad in surgical garb, a masked audience silently watched a cloaked operating table. A surgeon entered and stood near the body as the sound of violins quickly screeched chilling notes. As the only girl, Sarah never exhibited fear in front of her brothers, but she felt uneasy.

The surgeon mumbled as he clinked shiny metal tools together, pretending to perform the operation, when the music abruptly ceased and a sudden shriek came from the lifeless covered lump on the table. The masked audience gasped and the lights flickered on and off. The surgeon ripped off his surgical gown, mask and cap to reveal a skeletal clown face and curly black and red wig.

A spotlight beamed on him as he cackled. “Aha. He’s alive.”

When the lights came back, they noticed the cloaked patient disappeared.  They quickly turned their heads back and forth looking for the missing person when Sarah let out a bloodcurdling scream.

Nathan and Chris unconsciously jerked back and saw the formerly lifeless patient holding a knife over their sister. The brothers grabbed Sarah’s hands and ran toward the glowing red exit sign. Once through the door, they found themselves in a small gray room, completely devoid of any décor.

“That was a close call,” Chris huffed from lost breath.

Sarah nodded, too upset to speak.

Smiling ear to ear, Nathan uttered a loud enthusiastic laugh. “That was great!”

The other two glared at him in disagreement.

“Sorry, not into the near-death experience performance, thanks.” Sarah said soundly.

“Really? I loved it.” Nathan gleamed.

“I agree,” the booming voice said. “We all need a little scare once in a while. Happy Halloween.”

And the outside door mysteriously opened on cue.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

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