Entry # 14


Truth or Dare
by
Carol Bond

It had started as a dare, nothing more than that, so who could have known it was to end this way.

Poppinac reached into her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief; it was a pretty, embroidered piece from her sister’s drawer. Lying and thieving took first place in her young life. It pleased her to take what she wanted. Grinning the young girl mopped her nose, and silently called her sister a fool. 

“Psst Rolen. Get in ere, I am not going to walk these stairs on my own.” She hissed the words, a little fearful at the echo that bounced back at her from inside the darkened gloom. Cobwebs tattered and torn rippled in the musty stale breeze from the door pushed open. Dark shapes sat in wait for the pair and goodness knows what else.

Rolen was short for his age, everyone told him so, everyone that was except for Poppinac. He stepped up close, breathing heavily from the jitters he felt about entering the old man’s lodge. The window’s winked at him, the darkness of it’s empty belly within smelt like old man’s dirty socks, at least that was how he saw it. The old building had been empty for decades, not a soul had stepped foot inside forever and a day and the stories that floated around town were thick with horror.

“Why can’t you just leave it alone.” He knew he was whining but he also knew Poppinac and the stubborn streak that rose above good sense. “All we have to do it say that we went inside and if we hide for a bit, the rest won’t know. I swear it Poppinac we only have to say we went inside.”

She shot him a withering look, “For God’s sake Rolen. How can we do that without grabbing a trophy to say so. Those out there, with their knees shaking and their pants wet from the very thought of doing what they dared us to do, won’t accept the truth of it without a trophy.” Poppinac turned back to the yawning hole. “Well here goes.”

Rolen hung his head; he knew that the time for talking was done. Swallowing hard the young boy followed.

#

The man knew he was a ghost, knew that he was half mad with anger and grief. He felt so alone. He had a name once, all those years ago when he had walked with the living, it had been Charles Baron Wentworth but his mother called him Bert. Now names didn’t matter, nothing mattered in the endless shift of time. Not even the clock ticked anymore, its battery was long dead, just like him, a useless thing from a past long gone.

Over the years, he had learnt to manipulate the living world, little tricks to pass the time. The switching on a light, the slamming of a door and the one noise he had managed to conjure into the dead air. The word ‘Promise.” He never expected to use it but if he pulled in the energy around him and stood very still, pushing all of his will into this word, upon release it bounced about the house like a song. It pleased him sometimes to call it out.

Tonight on Halloween where the boundaries of the living and dead met, Bert sat brooding.

#

“Poppinac?” The young boy’s hand shook as he clutched for her shoulder.

Freckled faced with a shock of orange hair gave Poppinac an almost ethereal expression. “Well what is it?” and she pouted “Look all we have to do is walk the stairs and take something that used to be his. Rolen, I promise.” 

Even whispering her voice rang in Bert’s ears like a hammering anvil. His ghostly head lifted from his hands. Someone was here, in his house, talking as though they had a right. “They dare come into my home. They dare walk the same steps I did as a young man.” Empty words coming from a dead man, still it was his house even if his corpse laid in a coffin some miles down the road.

Soft footsteps drew him to his feet. Anger bubbled in an empty breast, real enough for this ghost.

“Rolen don’t step on my heels. There’s nothing here to worry about. It’s just an old house with the lights turned off.”

The sun was setting and the lengthening shadows twisted into shapes on the walls as the sun weakly pushed it will through the broken glass windows and discolored curtains. Rolen could hear his heart thumping in time with the breaking of sweat of his forehead. It dripped down the back of his neck, snaking its way to the soles of his shoes. He was a fearful mess.

From the corner of his eye, Rolen saw Bert. The ghost had pushed his head out of the wall just above the next step and Rolen screamed. He hadn’t meant to but what would you have done in his place. Poppinac missed her step, she had jumped on that scream, and as the poor girl slipped her body crashed into her friend. Down they both went, all legs and arms as they bounced off each other on the way down.

Bert stepped through the wall, he pulled on his most hideous face and lifted himself into the air to greet the banged up pair. The lights flickered and upstairs several doors opened and closed in resounding bangs. All of it a spectacle to alarm, he wanted those children gone. How dare they walk his house as if they had a right.

#

Rolen lay under Poppinac. She opened her eyes, nothing broken, but she had the makings of some pretty bruises and a nasty headache. Pulling the handkerchief from her pocket, Poppinac wiped her face. It was then that she realized she was sitting on her best friend.

“Rolen are you alright? I’m sorry but you scared me.”

Rolen laid so very still.

“Rolen please get up.” Her voice took on a begging tone. It was fretful for she was only a young girl.

Blood crept towards her feet from underneath his head and his arm, bent at an impossible angle pointed to the top of the stairs. Hanging in the air some feet above the ground was Bert. Oddly enough, he wasn’t angry anymore. Wonder filled his dead eyes at the sight of Rolen’s corpse on the floor. 

Tears fell and Poppinac dropped to her knees. “Oh what have I done? It was supposed to be a dare, that’s all.”

It all stopped, the door banging and the flashing of lights and in its place stood another ghost. Rolen looked at Poppinac, his dead eyes questioning, sadder than anything she had ever seen.

“Oh Rolen I am sorry. I didn’t mean to fall.” She hiccupped in her grief.
Rolen’s ghost looked on, as silent as the dark house he was now chained to. Bert held out a hand and Rolen took it. The ghostly pair made ready to leave, Poppinac was all but forgotten. 

“Wait – please.” Entreated the young girl, “Don’t go. What am I to do now, you’re my best friend, my only friend.” 

Rolen lagged and Bert stopped, they both turned, ghostly apparitions on a stairwell. The lengthening shadows were long gone, not even the full moon had the sense to send its beams into such a place. 

’They’ll blame me and I’ll be sent away to be locked in a prison with bars and no one to keep me safe. Please Rolen what should I do.”

The ghost once called Rolen shook off Bert’s hand and gently walked the stairs back to Poppinac. He reached out and with fingers alight with the last measure of living energy, snatched her handkerchief from her pocket. He looked to Bert, and with a nod Bert opened his mouth.. Poppinac felt her heart miss a beat, now it was her turn to sweat.

“PROMISE.” Came a booming voice.

“Promise? What do I have to promise?” She was a little more than scared now.

Rolen smiled and she knew what it all meant.

“Okay I promise.” The handkerchief left his hand and floated to rest nicely on his cooling corpse.

She sniffed as they disappeared through the wall. Now she was truly alone. Rolen belonged to a dare, one that she had foolishly accepted and the promise now made with love for her dear friend, was the one of truth. Straightening her shoulders, Poppinac left the old man’s lodge and took to the street. All she had to do was tell the truth. For the rest of her life Poppinac had to walk the path of the straight and narrow, no more stealing, no more dares, just the acts of a good girl doing the right thing. With a sniff and a wipe of her nose with her stolen handkerchief, Poppinac walked the long walk home.

Comments

  1. Enjoyed the story very much. Defs worth a vote. Reminded me of Goosebumps haha

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really great story - poignant and powerful - well done Carol Bond!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome story, Carol! You've got my vote!

    ReplyDelete

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