Soul-Eater (2017 Halloween Story)

The last glimmer of sunlight sunk below the horizon as Jessica finished the final touches of her makeup. She grinned, admiring her handiwork in the bathroom mirror. It was a magnificent ghoul disguise. Kate will be so jealous! And to think, Jessica had almost decided not to go through with it. It had been years since she had worn any sort of costume for Halloween, especially to a party. But, when Kate mentioned that Michael would be there, how could she refuse? Michael had just moved to town last month, and Jessica had only talked to him a few times in class, but she knew if he gave her a chance, he would see what he was missing. Perhaps tonight she would finally have her opportunity.

She had been very careful in her selection of clothing for that night; not too revealing that her mother would force her to change, and convincing enough to be considered “ghoulish”, but also tight enough and low-cut enough to hopefully catch Michael’s eye. She found the small black dress at a thrift store of all places, pairing it with an old scarf she purposely tore into tatters. Underneath the dress, she slipped on black stockings—which she also tore holes into—and simple black flats that would be comfortable enough for walking, but still cute enough to look good. She couldn’t help but smile at her masterpiece.

“Jess!” Her mother’s voice rang out from downstairs, “Kate’s here!”

Jessica rolled her eyes and sighed as her phone buzzed with a text from Kate that read, “Outside”.

Will her mother ever grasp the concept of a cell phone?

“I know!” She yelled back. She quickly ran her brush through her long brown hair a few more times until it shone as bright as the polished bronze frame of the mirror, and then took off downstairs. She was barely more than a black streak as she darted out the front door.

“Don’t be out all night!” Her mother shouted sternly just before Jessica shut the door and stepped out into the cool night’s air.

A dark blue Honda Civic idled quietly at the end of her driveway, with Kate patiently waiting inside. Jessica strutted to the passenger side door and climbed in.

“Oh my gosh, you look amazing!” Kate smiled widely.

“Thank you!” Jessica furrowed her brow, slowly looking Kate up and down. She smiled politely. “So do you!” It was a lie. She wasn’t even certain what exactly Kate was dressed as. Judging from her white sweater, black jeans, and white makeup sloppily smeared across her face, perhaps she was a ghost or skeleton.

Kate laughed, oblivious to her friend’s internal critique. “We’re totally going to rock this party tonight!”

Jessica forced a laugh and smiled. Honestly, she had never really liked Kate much. If Kate’s best friend hadn’t been Michael’s cousin, Jessica probably would have stopped talking to her by now. But Kate was tolerable, especially if it meant getting closer to him. Tonight, it was finally going to pay off; Jessica had been invited to Jack’s Halloween Party and accompanying Kate was her ticket to getting in with Michael.

Kate pulled away from the house. “Do you think there’ll be a whole bunch of people there? I hope there is! I heard Mandy Holland will be there… I bet she’s dressed like a slut.”

“Yea, definitely.” Jessica adjusted her dress to show slightly more cleavage. She was going to need it if she was competing with Mandy for Michael’s attention.

Kate giggled, “I hope Sam is there too! He is so hot!”

“Totally.” Jessica nodded as she tried to remember who the hell Sam was.

The name sounded familiar, but all she could think of was the scrawny nerd in her Science class. Surely he wasn’t who she was talking about. Although, it wouldn’t surprise her if Kate was into someone like that. Kate had probably mentioned him before, but Jessica really didn’t pay much attention to her friend’s ramblings, especially if it did not concern her directly.

After what felt like ages, they pulled into the parking lot next to the basketball court. All guests had been instructed to park there, and walk to the house. Apparently Jack did not want to attract too much unwanted attention from the authorities or his neighbors. Jessica thought it was ridiculous that he believed this would really make much of a difference, since in less than one hour music would be blaring and drunken teenagers would be stumbling out onto the lawn.

Kate found a decent parking spot and the two began walking in the direction of the house. Jessica was glad she had worn her black flats as she watched Kate stumble awkwardly in the grass in her white heels. She held back a smile as Kate’s face twisted in discomfort, a small frown pulling at the corners of her mouth as she carefully chose her steps.

At last they reached a large red brick house. On the mailbox was tied a solitary yellow balloon, signaling they were indeed at the right place. Kate let out a sigh of relief as they made their way down the sidewalk to the front door. Eagerly, Jessica rang the doorbell. Kate shifted her weight, looking down at her feet.

The door opened and they were met by Jack dressed as a pirate. “Heyyyyy! Come on in!” He glanced at Kate and gave a small smile of recognition, and then turned his gaze towards Jessica. “Wicked outfits.” He motioned toward the living room. “Make your selves at home.” His eyes drifted over Jessica and he offered a flirtatious smile.

She smiled back, but was sure not to encourage him to attempt any further advances by briskly walking past him. Quickly, she searched the faces for Michael. He wasn’t there. Sighing, she quietly went to the back of the kitchen to get bottle of beer sitting in a tub of ice on the floor. Kate followed closely behind.

“I don’t see Mandy,” Kate whispered, “Or Sam.” She frowned.

Jessica nodded absentmindedly, focusing instead on the ideal location for her to sit so that she would be easily visible when Michael walked in the door. She found the perfect chair and gracefully sat cross-legged, aiming a full view of the side of her long legs towards the door. Kate managed to claim the chair adjacent to hers. Immediately, she reached down to remove her shoes, letting out a long sigh as she gently massaged her ankles. Slightly irritated that Kate’s feet might ruin any pleasant thoughts Jessica’s legs might inspire in Michael, Jessica nevertheless kept a small smile on her face as Kate rambled on about Sam.

“I really hope he comes. I know he really wasn’t sure. He’s not very popular you know. But, I really don’t know why! He’s so cute! I mean sure, he wears glasses… but that just makes him look so smart and sensitive.”

Dear lord, she was talking about that scrawny geek from Science class. Jessica couldn’t understand why Kate couldn’t just be into normal guys like Michael. He was as handsome as he was talented. Already he had claimed a key position on the football team. Every girl wanted to date him, and every guy wanted to be him. Jessica usually didn’t have much trouble getting the attention of boys—she was attractive, one of the head cheerleaders, and an amazing dancer—but for some reason that perplexed her, Michael didn’t seem that interested. Tonight she was determined to get his attention.

Kate gasped, bringing Jessica out of her thoughts, “Oh…my…”

Jessica followed her bewildered gaze. There, standing in the doorway, was Mandy Holland. Jessica frowned as she examined her. She was tall and slender, with long blonde hair that swept down her back. Her outfit was the smallest black dress Jessica had ever seen, and she had paired it with jet black stiletto heels. For a split moment Jessica wondered how the hell she had even walked here in those before her attention turned to the rest of her costume… if it could even be called that. All she had on other than the dress and heels was a small belt with a bunny tail, a black bunny ears headband, and small whiskers drawn on her face. Everyone immediately knew what Mandy was really up to. Jessica rolled her eyes and prayed that Michael wasn’t just looking for a one night stand tonight. Or at least, not with Mandy.

Jessica looked over at Kate. “Looks like you were right.” She scoffed.

Kate frowned. “No kidding. How does her mother even let her out of the house like that?”

Jessica laughed, perhaps a little too loudly. Kate could be so naïve at times. Jessica was sure Mandy had most likely put on a jacket or something else that could be easily removed in the car. It was a trick she had used herself a few times. Mandy strutted into the living room like Tyra Banks on the catwalk; waving and blowing kisses towards the guys she thought looked cute. Jessica grimaced as she took a sip of beer.

Kate grabbed Jessica’s arm. “There he is! There’s Sam!”

Jessica glanced over at the door, wondering what sad excuse of a costume that geek had put on to try to look cool. Her eyes widened as she spotted Michael next to the skinny skeleton Sam had made himself into. Michael had also chosen a pirate for his disguise, but had done it oh so perfectly. He wore a black eye patch across his right eye, tucking his dark brown bangs behind his left ear and letting them hang loosely on the right over the eye patch. The top three buttons of his white button up shirt were undone, allowing a generous look at his football-player toned chest. To finish it off, he wore black jeans and sneakers. He even had gone through the trouble of finding a fake pistol and sword to hang from his belt. For added effect he had drawn a red scar across his face under the eye patch. It didn’t look very realistic, but no one really gave a damn.

Besides Sam, Michael’s cousin Sarah also accompanied him. She was dressed up as a zombie, with torn jeans and shirt and fake blood smeared all over her. Jessica was actually slightly impressed. She wondered why Sam was in the company of Michael and Sarah. Most likely, Kate had begged Sarah to be nice to him and bring him along with them.

Quickly, Jessica looked away, trying to pretend like she hadn’t noticed him. She sat up straight and glanced downward to make sure she still looked good, adjusting her scarf so that it didn’t cover too much of her chest. Several other girls greeted Michael with smiles or flirtatious, “Hi, Mike!” She didn’t want to look desperate, so she turned to Kate.

“Sam looks good.” She lied through her smile.

Kate giggled. “Totally.” Her eyes grew wide, “Oh! Here they come!”

Jessica feigned disinterest as the trio made their way over to Kate, with Sarah leading the way.

“Hey, Kate!” Sarah beamed, bending over to give her a hug.

Kate smiled as she embraced her. “Hey!” She motioned over at Jessica as Sarah stood back up. “You remember Jessica?”

Jessica offered the most pleasing smile she could possibly muster towards Michael specifically. He caught her look and smiled. Her heart fluttered.

Sarah smiled warmly, noticing but choosing to ignore Jessica’s bias. “Of course, good to see you again!”

Jessica shifted her gaze to Sarah and Sam, offering them both a friendly wave.

Sam spoke up, “Hey.” He smiled shyly at Kate.

Jessica had to hand it to him, his skeleton costume was very fitting for his slender body. His circular black-framed glasses were barely noticeable against the dark black circles painted around his eyes, making him appear a bit less nerdy.

Kate grinned. “Hey. I love your outfit.”

He looked around nervously. “Uh, thanks.” He looked her up and down. “Yours is cool too.” He glanced over at Jessica. She forced a polite smile in his direction. He quickly turned his attention back towards Kate. “Want to, uh, grab a drink?” he asked.

“Sure!” Kate nodded enthusiastically as she slipped her shoes back on.

Jessica breathed a small sigh of relief she watched the two walk off. Sarah waved over at another group of people. She looked over at Michael. “Be right back.”

He nodded. Jessica could barely contain herself as Sarah walked away, leaving Michael alone standing in front of her.

He looked down at her for a moment before he spoke, “You’re on the cheer squad aren’t you?”

Jessica smiled and brushed her hair back. “I’m the squad captain.” She tried not to sound too egotistic.

He nodded and smiled. “Thought you looked familiar.”

She wasn’t really sure if he really hadn’t recognized her or if he was just testing her. Deciding that she would play his game she asked, “And you’re on the football team, right?”

“Yep, I’m a halfback, but you probably don’t know what that is.” He grinned teasingly.

She laughed, “I don’t expect you know what a flyer is either!”

He let out a soft laugh and nodded. “Okay, you got me there.” He looked around the room at all the people in costumes drinking beer and chatting among themselves. “This party’s kinda lame, don’t you think?” She immediately nodded in agreement, even though neither of them had been there longer than twenty minutes.

He leaned down close to her and gave a mischievous smile. “I know a place. Want to go?”

“Sure!” Jessica nearly jumped out of her seat. She smiled as she calmed herself “Why not?”

Michael smirked. “Cool, let’s get the others.”

Jessica’s heart sank as she realized he didn’t mean just the two of them. At least this meant they would be spending most of the night together, and who knows what might happen later. She placed her nearly empty beer down on the table next to her as she stood. They smiled at each other as they made their way into the kitchen to find the others. Jessica shivered as she felt Michael’s presence beside her. All of her patience and planning; everything was finally starting to fall into place.

Kate and Sam were laughing among one another, exchanging shy words of endearment. They were so enthralled by each other that they didn’t even noticed Jessica and Michael approaching until they were right next to them.

They simultaneously looked over at Michael as he spoke up, “Hey, we’re going somewhere else, want to come?” He motioned over at Jessica.

Sam and Kate exchanged unsure looks. Jessica could tell Kate would rather just stay and chat with Sam. She wasn’t exactly the adventurous type. It would be especially hard for her to break her moral code by going somewhere without informing her parents beforehand. Jessica had a feeling Sam had the same moral compass, but most likely would cave if Kate gave in. Secretly, Jessica hoped they would deny his offer. Just as the two seemed ready to give their answers, Sarah walked up next to Michael.

“Sorry about that, had to say hi to an old friend.” She smiled. She paused for a moment as she noticed the uncomfortable looks on Kate and Sam’s faces. “What’s up?”

Michael smiled at her. “Hey, you remember that old story about that abandoned asylum up by Willow Creek?”

A wide smile broke across Sarah’s face. “Hell yea! Let me just go get David.” She hurried off in the direction of the group she had just been conversing with.

Jessica frowned. The asylum was not what she had envisioned. What the hell was he thinking? A haunted house is one thing… but an abandoned mental facility was an entirely different ball park. Willow Creek Asylum was not exactly on Jessica’s to do list of places she wanted to see, and even she was beginning to debate telling Michael she’d changed her mind.

To Jessica’s surprise Kate spoke up, “Sure, let’s go.”

Sam smiled shyly. “Okay.”

Jessica stood with her mouth hanging open for a moment. She shook her head and composed herself. The day Kate was bolder than her would be the day Hell froze over. She made herself put a smile on her face as Michael looked over at her.

“Awesome.” He grinned. Without another word he began walking towards the front door.

Jessica turned to follow, but to her surprise she found that her legs would not move. She mentally urged herself. Come on, damn it, it’s just an old empty building.

Sam and Kate stood and started to walk after him. Jessica took a deep breath and followed behind. Several scenarios ran through Jessica’s head as she tried to think of a way out of this without looking pathetic. Maybe there was some other place they would be willing to go? Maybe she could convince them that haunted asylums really weren’t that interesting, and perhaps the five of them should go see a late night showing of IT at the theater? No. They most likely would see past those lies. Maybe Jessica could just fake an ankle injury? But then she would run the risk of the others just going without her, and losing her chance with Michael. However, if Jessica didn’t go, perhaps Kate wouldn’t either, and therefore Sam. Would Michael and Sarah abandon them all to go alone to the asylum? Jessica thought not. It was settled then. She would pretend to trip in the grass on the way to the car. She smiled deviously.

Just as the group reached the door, Mandy stepped in front of them, “Hey,” She smiled and lightly bit her lower lip as she eyed Michael.

“Oh, hey.” Michael smiled.

Jessica froze in horror as she carefully examined Michael’s reaction to the seductress. To her relief, she felt no interest from Michael towards her… for now.

Jessica was confused for a moment as to why Mandy suddenly appeared. Then, she realized that Sarah and another boy dressed as a demon were standing next to her. She assumed this demon must be the David that Sarah had mentioned. Her heart sank. Mandy was coming with them. David stepped up closer to Mandy.

She smiled and placed her hand gently on his arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

Luckily, it appeared as though Mandy was David’s for the night. However, Jessica would not put it past her to make a move on Michael later on when David wasn’t around. As they walked out the door Jessica realized there was now no way out of this now. She prayed that this escapade would be worth it.

As they made their way to the basketball parking lot Kate broke the silence, “I can drive with Jessica and Sam and meet you guys there.”

Jessica hadn’t even realized that there were now seven of them. Since Jessica and Kate had come together it made sense for the two to share a ride to the Asylum. She also assumed Michael, Sarah, and Sam had shared a ride. Mandy had most likely come alone… in a large car with plenty of room in the back seat.

Michael shook his head. “I’ve got room.”

In a way, Jessica was slightly disappointed he wanted to take one vehicle. This most likely meant he was not planning on being alone with her or anyone else in the comfort of a vehicle. She could see a look of disappointment on Mandy’s face as well. Jessica then began to wonder what vehicle Michael drove that could fit all seven of them comfortably. Her curiosity was soon satisfied as they neared the third row of the parking lot. Michael pulled his key fob from his pocket. A black Ford Escape’s headlights flashed as he clicked the unlock button.

Mandy and David volunteered to sit in the back, while Jessica, Kate, and Sam sat in the middle row, with Sarah in the passenger’s seat next to Michael. Only a few minutes after they pulled out from the parking lot, Jessica could already hear suppressed giggles from Mandy. She rolled her eyes in disgust.

In an effort to drown out the kissing noises that were now coming from the back seat, Jessica spoke up, “So, where is this place?” She knew it was near the creek that ran north to south through the town, but couldn’t remember exactly where the asylum was built.

“Not too far.” Michael smiled into the rear view mirror.

Jessica couldn’t help but wonder how he had even heard of the Willow Creek Asylum. It wasn’t something people talked about very often, if ever. A few months ago some kids from school had gotten in trouble for trespassing on the property, but that was the only time she could even remember any mention of the place.

Sam smiled at Kate. “Did you know the Asylum was shut down after the riot in 1977?”

She looked worried for a moment. “No. All I know is it’s been empty for… well, like forever.”

He grinned wickedly. “They say on precisely the night of October 31st, 1977, the patients all went mad and started killing each other!”

She lightly hit him on the shoulder. “Shut up! You’re just trying to scare me! Well, it’s not going to work!”

Michael laughed. “Well, what would be the point of going to just any old asylum or haunted house?”

Jessica laughed nervously. She didn’t really believe in ghosts, but for some reason she still couldn’t shake the sick feeling in her stomach as they came ever closer to their destination.

Kate laughed uneasily. “Right.” Then suddenly, she smiled. “Well too bad we can’t go inside, it’s probably all locked up.”

Jessica smiled to herself. She was glad Kate was on her side. She was also a little mad for not speaking up herself.

Michael grinned. “Good thing my dad left his bolt cutters in the back.”

Even though Kate’s face was covered in white makeup, Jessica could still see her face turn pale as she realized her attempt to have Michael abandon the asylum had backfired.

Sam’s eyes grew wide. “Hang on, I can’t get arrested! My parents would kill me!”

Michael laughed. “Hey, don’t worry, man. People go up there all the time and don’t get caught.”

Jessica thought about mentioning the teens that had been arrested, but she refrained. She desperately hoped perhaps Kate or Sam would remember the incident and bring it up instead.

Sam laughed with embarrassment. “Yea… sure.” He was determined to appear courageous in front of the others, especially Kate.

Jessica forced a smile. “Yea, it’ll be alright. No way we’ll get caught.”

She glanced at the rear view mirror for signs of approval in Michael’s face. She was relieved to see he was nodding in agreement. Perhaps tonight wouldn’t be so bad after all. Maybe it was his plan all along to take her somewhere frightening so that he could comfort her. She smiled at the thought of him putting his arm around her to protect her from the various creepy sights and sounds inside the asylum.

After thirty or so minutes, they turned off the main road and made their way down the old cracked road that led to the asylum. Jessica cautiously leaned forward to peer out the windshield. The road was lined with ancient Oak trees, taller than most she had ever seen. It was so dark she could not make out anything past the beams of the headlights. The fact that tonight was a new moon had slipped her mind. Suddenly, an old wooden sign came into sight which read, “Willow Creek Asylum”. It had partially fallen off its post, and the letters were barely legible. She hoped the building was not as dilapidated as its sign; she had no desire to be trapped inside the asylum if it were to collapse. As the building came into view, Jessica felt a slight relief as she realized it was constructed from study brick and steel. Dark vines crawled up the sides of the building. She frowned as she eyed the numerous spider webs strung across the gaps in the vines. Her uncle had been bitten by a brown recluse many years ago, and she did not wish to go through a similar ordeal.

Michael parked the car and looked back at the others, encouraging them with a wide smile. “Come on, let’s go.”

Reluctantly, Jessica unbuckled her seat belt and stepped out of the SUV. The weathered pavement crunched under her feet as she hurried to the driver’s side to meet Sam and Kate as they emerged from the vehicle. They were shortly followed by Mandy and David. Michael made his way to the back of the Escape to retrieve the bolt cutters. Sarah was already at the front of the building, attempting to look inside the discolored windows.

She looked back at them and frowned. “Can’t see a damn thing.” She came back over to Michael. “You have flashlights, right?”

He laughed and nodded, handing her a small flashlight. “I’ve only got four though.” He took the largest for himself and handed the other two to Kate and David. He smiled over at Jessica. “Guess we’ll have to share.”

Jessica beamed as all thoughts of despair abandoned her. He clearly was interested in her after all. Spiders be damned, she was not going to let this opportunity slip through her fingers. She glanced back at Kate as they walked towards the front door of the asylum. She was also rather content, as she had given Sam the flashlight and was now clinging to his other arm as they exchanged timid smiles with one another. Jessica was glad Sam was there to distract Kate; otherwise she would have most likely been glued to Jessica’s side instead, ruining any chances with Michael. To their surprise they found the chain on the door had already been cut.

Michael scoffed. “See, people come here all the time.” He went back to the SUV to put away the bolt cutters.

It did make Jessica feel slightly better knowing people had actually been there and not been caught. However, she hoped that whoever had cut these chains was long gone by now. Last thing she needed was unexpected guests spoiling their evening. Luckily, judging by the light coating of dust, it seemed as though they had been cut a while ago. Michael confidently strode up to the large double doors. He removed the chain and tossed it on the ground, then pushed them open. They let out an eerie shriek as they swung inwards. A puff of dust fell from the top of their frames, falling in Jessica’s hair. She cringed and quickly brushed the dirt off. Michael chuckled and reached up to gently pull a piece of decayed leaf out of her hair. Her breath caught in her chest as she looked him in the eyes.

He held her gaze for a brief moment, but all too soon he turned away and pointed his light into dark lobby. Damn, he really was playing hard to get. It was a fairly large room, with a large desk in the center. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. All that remained of several old chairs scattered about the room were rusted steel frames and tattered leather. On either side of the receptionists desk was a long dark hallway. A pile of old beer bottles was piled up in one corner.

The reflected light from the flashlight revealed a small smile on Michael’s face as he looked over at Jessica. “Which way should we go first?”

Jessica carefully examined both hallways. They appeared to be identical, however she decided the best option would most likely be the one that was closest to the pile of beer bottles. She assumed this hallway would be mostly cleared of spider webs and dust if people had been down it recently.

She smiled as she pointed to the hallway on the right. “That way.”

Michael nodded in agreement. Slowly, they made their way through the doorway. Jessica inched her way closer to Michael as they walked side by side down the long corridor. Dark empty rooms lined either side. Curiously, Michael shinned his light into one of the rooms as they passed by. Inside were a decaying old mattress and a broken wooden stool. The room had no windows and Jessica felt a strange pity for the people who had once occupied them. Suddenly, a loud bang echoed through the building. Jessica jumped, subconsciously grabbing onto Michael as she looked around for the source of the noise. Kate let out a small cry of surprise as she clutched Sam’s arm even harder. She covered her mouth in embarrassment. Michael and Sarah laughed at the look of horror on her face. Michael’s smile quickly shifted to a look of concern as he aimed his light behind Sam and Kate. Mandy and David were nowhere to be found.

Sarah scoffed. “Well, that didn’t take long.”

Jessica cringed at the thought of Mandy and David defiling some old dusty counter top. She was not really surprised, more disgusted at the thought of anyone willing to roll around on such cold, dirty objects. Even if Michael offered himself to her right then and there, she would definitely… probably… maybe… turn him down.

Michael shrugged. “We’ll, uh, get them when we’re about to leave.”

The others nodded in agreement. Jessica was sure the two boys wouldn’t mind seeing Mandy nude, but none of them wanted to walk in on whatever unspeakable acts that might be transpiring between her and David at that moment. Quietly, they began venturing further down the empty hallway. The asylum was far bigger than Jessica had imagined it would be. There must have been a surplus of insane people back in the 70s, or perhaps they are just better at blending into today’s society. After what seemed like nearly a half-mile of hallway, the group finally reached the end.

Relieved that it was over, Jessica smiled. “Well, that wasn’t so scary.” She laughed.

Michael grinned. “But, we haven’t even seen the other side yet!”

Kate spoke up, “Isn’t it pretty much the same?”

He shook his head. “Are you kidding? The other side must be where they did all the gruesome medical experiments!” He grinned.

It was obvious that Kate was more than ready to get the hell out of that place and spend some quality time somewhere else with Sam. Jessica was also eager to leave, but if Michael wanted to stay, then she would at least pretend to support him.

Jessica forced a smile. “Cool, let’s check it out.”

As she walked past Kate she mouthed the word “sorry” and tilted her head pleadingly in Michael’s direction. Kate sighed and nodded in understanding. Reluctantly, she followed behind Sarah, Michael and Jessica. They were nearly to the lobby again when Kate let out a cry as she tripped over an empty beer bottle lying on the floor. The bottle clattered down the hallway as Kate lost her balance. Sam barely was able to grab her in time, preventing her from falling to the ground. Jessica laughed with embarrassment, realizing she was clutching Michael’s arm so tightly that her fingers were turning pale.

Sarah quickly went to Kate’s side. “You ok?” She looked her up and down.

Kate gingerly put her foot down, but quickly picked it back up with a deep frown on her face. “Think I sprained my ankle.”

Jessica narrowed her eyes at Kate. She had a sneaking suspicion she had stolen Jessica’s earlier idea to get out of being forced to spend any more time inside the asylum.

Michael frowned in disappointment. “Can you walk?”

Kate nodded. “Yea.”

He let out a defeated sigh. “Alright, well… I guess I’ll go get Mandy and David. You guys can wait for me at the car.”

Sarah nodded as she went over to help Kate. Jessica thought about going with Michael, but decided that five minutes apart most likely wouldn’t really matter, and she didn’t want to look inconsiderate towards Kate. Michael quickly headed off down the remainder of the hallway. Kate put one arm around Sam and the other around Sarah. If she was faking it, Jessica had to give her props for committing to the act. Slowly, Kate hobbled towards the front door, Jessica leading the way. She tugged on the door handle. It didn’t budge. Her blood ran cold as she pulled as hard as she could, with no effect.

She frantically looked back at the others. “It’s stuck!”

“Here,” Sarah removed herself from Kate’s side, “Let me try.”

She firmly grasped the handle with both hands and tugged with all her might. The doors creaked, but still did not open. Jessica slid her phone out of her pocket and held it up.

“Shit.” She frowned. “No signal.”

Just as Sarah and Sam began reaching for their own phones, a shrill scream echoed down the hallway, followed by a series of clanging noises.

All four jumped and whirled around to face the hall. Simultaneously, Sarah and Sam shinned their lights in the direction of the disturbance.

“Michael?” Jessica’s voice cracked as she called out into the darkness.

No response.

Sarah gathered her courage and took a step towards the hallway. “Mike? David?” She paused. “Mandy?” Her beam began to shake as she took another cautious step forward.

By this point both Sam and Kate had their phones out and were desperately waving them around attempting to get a signal. By the looks of despair on their faces, Jessica assumed they had no such luck.

“Guys?” Sarah tried again, “Come on, this isn’t funny!”

Michael’s voice suddenly rang out, “Help!”

Another loud bang echoed throughout the building.

“Mike!” Sarah cried out as she took off down the hall.

“Sarah!” Jessica called after her. “Shit!” Jessica whispered under her breath as she once again pulled out her phone. She fumbled with the buttons until finally she was able to turn on the in-phone flashlight.

Kate looked at her wide eyed. “Don’t leave us here!”

“Don’t move!” She panted as she turned and hurried after Sarah.

“Jessica!!” Kate screamed after her.

Jessica could see Sarah’s flashlight in the distance. Frantically she ran towards it. “Sarah! Mike!”

Sarah’s light disappeared into a room to the right. Almost immediately after the light disappeared Jessica heard Sarah’s voice, “Oh my god!”

Jessica urged herself forward. She finally reached the room from which the light was emitting. As she rounded the corner she froze as she surveyed the scene. The room contained an old examination bed that had been flipped onto its side. The sheets were twisted and bloodied on the ground. A small trail of blood on the floor led to a pair of swinging doors on the opposite side of the room. Sarah was shaking uncontrollably with her hand covering her mouth as she stared blankly at the blood.

“This can’t be happening…” Jessica’s voice was barely a whisper.

Sarah’s voice brought Jessica out of her trance. “We’ve got to find them.” She aimed her light at the double doors.

“Are you crazy? We should go get help!”

Sarah shook her head. “There’s not enough blood… they’re probably still alive. But if we don’t find them soon they could bleed out.” Jessica furrowed her brow as she eyed the blood. Sarah noticed her look. “My mom’s a nurse.” She nodded reassuringly.

Jessica shook her head. “Whoever…whatever… did this is somewhere in here!”

Sarah nodded somberly. “I know, but we can’t get out the way we came anyways.”

“Kate and S—”

Sarah cut her short, “We’ll meet up with them after we find the others.”

She wasn’t entirely convinced that Sarah’s plan was the best course of action; however she would rather stay with Sarah than wander off alone in an attempt meet up with Sam and Kate. Also, she did want to know if Michael was alright.

She nodded in reluctant agreement. “Okay.”

Slowly the two made their way to the doors, following the blood smeared on the floor. They paused for a moment, unsure if they really wanted to find out what was on the other side. Jessica held up her hand as an idea came to her. She reached behind Sarah and grabbed a large metal medical instrument off of the counter. She had no idea what it was, only that it seemed heavy enough to perhaps knock an assailant unconscious. Sarah nodded in encouragement as Jessica firmly grasped the instrument in both hands, holding it up and ready in front of her. Quickly, Sarah flung open the doors.

Sarah swiftly scanned the room with her light as Jessica stood at the ready. A soft groan came from the left side of the room. Jessica jumped to the side as she aimed her weapon in the direction of the noise. There, in the corner of the room, sat Michael.

Jessica released all the air from her lungs as she rushed over to him. “Michael!” She looked him up and down as he gingerly held the back of his head with his hand. Her stomach churned at the sight of the blood on his hands.

Sarah knelt beside him. “Mike, are you ok? What the hell happened? Where’s Mandy and David?”

He looked around for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. “I… I don’t know. When I came to look for them, they were already gone… there was blood.” He looked around again. “Someone must of snuck up on me.”

“What the hell were you thinking going after them alone?” Sarah shook her head.

Michael shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought maybe they were playing a trick or something.”

Sarah stood back up and examined the room for any evidence of Mandy or David. The blood trail led off deeper into the building. Off in the distance they could hear Sam and Kate trying again to open the door, or perhaps the windows, in the lobby.

“Alright.” Sarah took a calming breath. “Let’s go get Sam and Kate. Whatever is going on here, we should probably stick together.”

Jessica felt like smacking her upside the head for just now realizing that, however, she was also was the reason they had found Michael. In the end, it had been worth the risk after all. Slowly, Michael stood, still holding the back of his head. Jessica put her phone back into her pocket and offered herself as support. He put his arm around her shoulders as she wrapped her arm around his waist. He frowned as he looked down at his flashlight. The lens was cracked. He just shook his head and motioned for Sarah to lead the way.

Carefully, they made their way out of the examination area and back towards the front lobby. Jessica couldn’t help but notice that even though the light was broken, Michael still clung to it tightly. She also still had the large medical tool grasped in her right hand. It was not very reassuring to see that he too was prepared for the worst. However, with his injury, she couldn’t blame him for taking extra precautions.

As they neared the lobby, Kate spotted the glimmer from Sarah’s light. “Oh, thank god!” She opened her mouth in preparation to complain about being left behind, but then she spotted Michael, bloodied and limping towards her. She gasped. “What the… What happened? Where’s Mandy and David?” Her face turned pale as Michael simply shook his head.

Suddenly, Sam laughed. “Okay, you got us. Very funny. I bet they’re out waiting at the car right now.” He paused as he waited for Michael and Sarah to confess their plot was revealed.

Sarah shook her head. “Does this look like a joke? He’s bleeding!”

Sam frowned as he realized how serious they both were. “Oh…” His eyes widened. “Shit.” He quickly went over to try to open the front doors one more time. They remained steadfast, regardless of how vigorously he pulled.

The five of them looked around for a moment in contemplation.

Suddenly, Jessica remembered something. “Hey, I think there’s a back entrance to this place.” She pointed down the hallway from whence the three had emerged minutes ago. “Down that way.”

Michael looked worriedly down the corridor, “Whoever is doing this… They’re down there… somewhere.”

Jessica took a deep breath. “It’s our only chance. If we stick together and stay in the main hallway… we’ve got a chance.”

The others reluctantly nodded in agreement. Once again, Sam went to aid Kate, who was still limping. Jessica felt a small amount of guilt for assuming that she had faked the injury, but it was clear to her now that she was in fact hurt. At least Jessica hoped that Kate wasn’t insane enough to keep up an injury act when their very lives could be in danger. Jessica went to help Michael and Sarah took point in the front as they hesitantly walked back through the door.

Jessica clutched Michael to support him, but also partially because she was terrified that if she loosened her grip even slightly, that somehow the unknown assailant might pop out of one of the doors and rip her away. She shook uncontrollably with each step. Desperately, she tried to calm herself by forcing pleasant thoughts of what might happen after they escaped this hell. She imagined spending days by Michael’s bedside at the hospital until he finally recovered from his ordeal. In this time he would realize what a wonderful person she was and ask her out on a date, one of many to follow. She smiled and her shaking ceased.

Just as she was starting to feel more relaxed, she felt Michael wobbling. She looked over at him, but due to the light being either in front or behind them, she couldn’t make out much detail of his facial expression.

She stopped. “Michael?”

Sarah also stopped and directed her light towards him. His face was white and he bore a blank look across his face.

Immediately recognizing his ailment, Sarah pointed to the nearest room. “Quick, he’s got to sit down or he might pass out.”

Her diagnosis was a minute too late as Michael went limp in Jessica’s arms. She struggled to hold him up. Luckily, Sarah was ready to aid her and they were able to catch him before he fell to the ground, unconscious. They awkwardly dragged him out of the hallway and into the nearest room. They had been fortunate enough to find a room that had multiple cots. They spotted one that seemed to be in decent enough shape to lay Michael down upon. Jessica gently swept his bangs back behind his ear as he lay still on the bed. She was shocked to feel how cold his skin was.

Sarah eyed him. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”

Sam stepped forward. “I can help carry him to the back.”

Sarah shook her head. “It’d be better not to move him.”

Kate spoke up, “I can stay here with him while you go look for a way out.” She glanced down at her swollen ankle. “My ankle’s pretty sore and I could use a rest.”

“No way you’re staying here alone!” Sam went over to her, “If you’re staying, so am I.”

She smiled appreciatively. “Thanks.”

Sarah nodded. “Alright, I guess me and Jessica can look for a way out while you guys stay here.”

Secretly, Jessica would rather stay with the others instead of wandering off with only Sarah for protection, but on the other hand she doubted Sam and Kate combined would honestly be much more useful than Sarah. She nodded in agreement with Sarah’s assessment.

Jessica gave Kate a concerned look. “Be careful.”

Kate smiled. “You too.”

Jessica quickly turned away and followed Sarah back into the empty hallway. Quietly, the two of them ventured towards the back of the asylum. Jessica followed closely behind Sarah, but not too close to lead Sarah to believe Jessica was truly as scared as she was. Her heart skipped a beat as the flashlight finally landed on the back of the hallway, illuminating a large double door. Sarah looked back at her hopefully. They rushed toward the door, nearly jogging in their haste. Sarah placed her hand on the door handle and closed her eyes, praying for them to easily open. Firmly, she pulled the door. They rattled and creaked, but would not open. She looked back with a deep frown at Jessica. Jessica’s heart was racing again, this time with panic. There were no other doors out that she knew of in the entire building.

“Okay…” She took a breath, “Okay… it’s okay… we can find a… a window, or… or… there’s got to be another way.”

Sarah directed the light around the hallway in search of the nearest room. “Let’s go.”

Just as the two began to head off, a loud bang rang out down the hall, followed by a horrified scream.

Jessica gasped. “Kate! Michael!”

Sarah and Jessica took off back towards their friends as fast as they could. Completely forgetting for a moment that Sarah had the only light, Jessica ran blindly in front of her and into the room where they had left their companions. The light from Sam’s flashlight shone into the hallway, and she simply followed it to her destination. Without hesitation, she ran into the room without Sarah. On the floor laid Sam, with his flashlight still grasped in his hand. A pool of blood surrounded his head. Over to the right, one of the cots had been knocked over. Kate and Michael were gone.

“Sam!” She panted as she went to Sam’s side.

Sarah arrived just as Jessica knelt down next to Sam. Gently, she reached down and placed her fingers on his neck.

“Oh my god! He’s… dead!” She looked up at Sarah in disbelief.

Sarah paused for a moment as she looked around. She quickly came over next to Jessica and placed her own fingers on Sam’s neck. She furrowed her brow as she changed the position and tried again. Tears pooled in Jessica’s eyes. She had never seen a dead person before, especially not someone she’d known. All she could picture now was Michael and Kate lying in their own pools of death somewhere in the dark maze of the asylum.

Sarah finally spoke, “This can’t be happening.” She stood up and put her hand on her forehead as she began pacing back and forth. “This isn’t happening! This wasn’t supposed to happen!”

Through her tears, Jessica gave her a confused look. “What are you talking about?” She went to her and stopped her in her tracks. “Sarah! Get a grip! We’ve got to get out!”

“No, no, no!” Her eyes were wide in terror. “You don’t get it! He’s actually dead!”

Jessica nodded in understanding. Sarah was going into shock at the sight of Sam’s dead body. She firmly grasped Sarah’s shoulders, “We are going to get out of here.”

Tears streamed down Sarah’s face as her lip trembled. “NO! He won’t let us out now!”

“Who?” Jessica asked.

Sarah’s eyes grew even wider. Realizing she was staring at something behind her, Jessica quickly turned around. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a blur of movement. Sarah’s scream pierced the air as a hard object connected with the side of Jessica’s head and all went black.

***

As Jessica began to regain consciousness, her breath quickened as she realized her hands were tied behind her back. Even more concerning was the fact that it was so dark, she could not make out anything around her. She fiercely struggled against her bonds, desperately attempting to free herself. She froze as she heard a strange rustling not far away.

She licked her lips and swallowed hard. “H-Hello?”

A series of muffled sounds frantically attempted to respond.

“Mike? Sarah? Kate?” She felt a strange sense of relief knowing that the others might be there with her.

Without warning a flashlight flickered on. Jessica squinted her eyes as they struggled to adjust to the light. A blurred outline of a person slowly approached her.

Frantically she struggled. “Stay away from me!”

The imaged stopped advancing for a moment, but then proceeded ever closer. She closed her eyes anticipating the sharp sting of some sort of dagger, axe, or god knows what kind of weapon this psychopath favored for torturing his victims.

After a moment a voice spoke, “I’m not going to hurt you Jess. Why would I hurt you?”

Jessica opened her eyes. “Michael?”

Shinning the light up onto his face, Michael smiled at her. “Of course… who’d you expect?” He laughed.

She shook her head. “I… I don’t understand… what’s going on?”

Without a word he reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter. He sauntered over to a table with numerous candles set upon it. Carefully, he began lighting the candles one by one. As the room filled with light, Jessica spotted the rest of their group sitting on the floor along the opposite wall. Each was gagged and had a bag over their head with their hands tied behind their backs.

“Kate!” She desperately yelled out towards her friend. She looked up at Michael. “What are you doing? Let us go!”

Calmly, he lit the last candle and looked over at her. “Come on, Jess. You must be wondering why I didn’t gag you too. Keep that up and I might just change my mind.”

She stared at him with wide eyes. “You’re the one…”

He smiled and nodded. “See, I knew you’d figure it out. You’re smart… ” he paused as he grinned widely at her, “…for a cheerleader.”

Jessica couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but it all made sense now. He was the one who suggested the asylum. He was the one who went looking for Mandy and David. He was the one who conveniently fainted and was left alone with Kate and Sam! There was only one thing that didn’t add up.

She couldn’t resist asking, “But… Sarah. She’s your cousin.”

Michael made a comedic buzzer noise, “Aaaank, no she not.” He laughed as he went over to Sarah, who still hadn’t regained consciousness. “All it took was a promise for this one.” He squatted down next to her as he examined her as though he had never seen her before. “Daddy’s little girl just wanted A’s in math.” He looked back over at Jessica with a smile on his face. “Good thing I know some people to make it happen.” He laughed. “Cause I gotta be honest, math certainly is not this one’s strong suit!”

Jessica shook her head. “Why me? Why us?”

“Ahhhh, now that is the million dollar question now isn’t it?” He nodded as he strolled back over to the table of candles. He took a large knife out and placed it on the table. Jessica flinched at the sight of it. Michael held up his hand. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you with that.”

With that… The words echoed in her mind. How had she gotten herself into this mess? Of all the boys in the entire world, why did it happen to be this one?

He simply nodded as he placed an old tattered book in the center of the candles. “Honestly, I wasn’t really sure about you at first… but then I saw you at that party, and I just knew.” He smiled as he looked at Sarah and Kate. “Those two… You know, honestly I thought about letting Kate go? She has such a good soul. An innocent soul. But then Sam had to go and be a hero and try to fight…” He shook his head. “Well, blame him for letting her see my face.” He glanced over at Mandy. “That one… Hah! Well that one was my first choice. I knew he would like her.” He motioned over to David. “Wasn’t really sure who she’d drag with her, but I knew whoever it was, he’d be just the type I needed.”

“Who would like her?” Jessica asked hesitantly.

Michael smiled gleefully. “The Master!”

Without hesitation he cleanly slid the sharp knife across his own palm, dripping his blood onto the old leather bindings. Jessica stared in horror as he chanted methodically, “Et vocavi vos animarum uncta devorare.” Jessica stared blankly at him for a minute, trying to discern what the hell he was saying. It was certainly not a language she was familiar with, yet somehow she felt as though she had heard something like it before. He continued as he inflicted his opposite hand with an identical cut, “Accipite haec sacra qui ex fide servo tuo. Dicatur a sanguine eorum: et in aeternum ut praeeset tenebris.”

The candles flickered and Jessica’s blood ran cold. Her entire life she had dismissed magic and the supernatural as just a method of scaring little kids into behaving. In that second, her world was turned upside down, and all rational thoughts escaped her mind. All she could do was pray that at any moment she would wake up in a cold sweat in her bed. Her prayers were not answered. Instead, the lights flickered again and a low humming filled the room. The air around the alter swirled with black smoke as Michael held up his hands in delight. The smoke thickened as it slowed, eventually coming to a rest in a column beside him. In an instant the smoke cleared to reveal a strange man… or was it a man? Jessica couldn’t believe her eyes. It resembled a man, but his skin was a dark reddish black. Ragged black robes hug loosely over his tall, thin body. His face was veiled in the shadow of his hood. He stood for a moment in silence before he raised his gaze to Michael.

Michael breathed a sigh of awe and immediately dropped to his knees in front of the beast. “Master!” He bowed his head in reverence.

Pleased by this display of submissiveness, the man held out his boney hand towards Michael. “Tell me, my servant, have you done as I have commanded?” His voice was deep and monotone. It seemed to echo through Jessica’s head, causing a cold disturbance deep in her chest.

Michael nodded eagerly as he took the creatures hand and stood. “Yes, my Lord!” He motioned over at Kate, Sarah, David and Mandy. “I offer you these four souls.”

“Excellent!” He then turned his attention to Jessica. Her heart leapt from her chest as she first laid eyes on his face. Small bony horns protruded from his chin and brow. His thin black lips parted as he smiled at her, revealing sharp pointed teeth. “And what of this one?”

Michael tentatively stepped towards his Master. “I would ask this favor of you, Master. If it pleases you…May I have her?”

Jessica blinked in astonishment. He truly was completely crazy if he thought she would still be his after all of this… this… whatever the hell this was!

The demon let out a low growl. “I have spent forty years waiting for this moment!” He raised his voice. “Forty years for the new moon to fall on this precise time and place! You bring me five ripe souls, yet deny me one for your own pleasure?”

Michael frantically bowed before him. “No, my Lord! Please, forgive me, Master! I… I just thought… she could be useful. All these years, I’ve been nothing but a good servant… alone. It would be better…easier to obtain more souls… if there were two of us.”

The demon tilted his chin up and looked down at Michael. “Perhaps.” He looked over at Jessica.

Without much thought Jessica blurted out, “I’d never join you!” She closed her eyes in preparation for his retaliation to her defiance.

Instead, the demon laughed. “She is rather interesting, isn’t she?”

Jessica cracked open her eyes. She didn’t understand. Were they going to kill her? Or not?

Michael nodded in agreement and smiled over towards Jessica.

Tears streamed down her face and she shook her head. “Please.”

Completely ignoring her distress the demon sighed. “Very well, I will make her yours. However…” he narrowed his eyes at Michael, “Should she prove to be nothing more than a distraction, you will both experience the extent of my malice. I will not show you any mercy, loyal servant or not!”

Michael cowered. “Of course, Master! You won’t be disappointed!”

Jessica began to scream. “NO! NO!” She pulled at the ropes with all of her might.

Ignoring her shouts of denial, the demon strolled over to her. Without a word he stretched out his hand towards her. An icy sensation filled her chest and began to spread through her body. She tightly closed her eyes. As the cold crept through her muscles one by one, they went limp as if no longer under her control. Her breath quickened as the cold rose up the back of her neck and into her mind. She screamed uncontrollably as a searing pain stabbed into her temple. Abruptly, all the pain went away. Jessica stopped screaming and opened her eyes. Michael was smiling down at her affectionately.

She smiled. “Michael?”

Michael laughed ecstatically and knelt down beside her to untie her bonds. She blankly observed her surroundings for a moment. The wriggling bodies tied across the room did not stir feelings of sorrow, only curiosity. Finally her eyes found the demon. She felt no fear or anger towards him… only a sense of dutifulness. Gently, Michael helped her up off of the ground.

She tilted her head to one side as he held her against him. “I had the strangest dream.”

He nodded as he brushed his fingers along her cheek. “It’s all over now.”

She turned to the demon. “What now?”

Michael smiled over towards the bound bodies wriggling on the floor. “Now the Master will claim their souls.”

Jessica watching in fascination as the demon went over to the first of the victims. He held his hand out towards them. Muffled screams came from under the hood as a strange blue-green haze slowly seeped out of their body and into the Master. When the last of the haze had been absorbed, the screaming stopped and they fell limply to the ground. Without a word he continued to the other offerings, repeating the same ritual. As he reached the last of the prisoners he paused.

He looked back at Jessica with a coy smile on his face. He beckoned her and Michael over to him. “Come.”

Obediently, the two immediately came to his call.

The Demon smiled at Jessica. “Prove your loyalty to me.” He motioned to the dagger in Michael’s hand. “Take it.”

Jessica studied the blade for a moment. She had never seen anything so beautiful, so elegant. She carefully took it from Michael and held it up in front of her. She felt an overwhelming sense of power as she admired the weapon.

“Complete the sacrifice in his name!” Michael urged her forward.

She looked back at him in disappointment. “Forgive me, but I do not know his name.”

Michael smiled. “He is the Soul-Eater, whose true name is unspoken.” He led her over to the last of the victims and removed her hood.

Jessica studied the girl. There was something familiar about her. Even though she wore white makeup smeared across her face, Jessica felt as though she had once known her. The girl looked up at Jessica with wide tear-filled eyes. So unfortunate… there was not more to sacrifice. Without further hesitation she plunged the blade into the girl’s chest.

Michael smiled as the girl went limp and fell to the floor. He proudly looked over at the Master. “I knew it! I knew she was the one.”

He smiled and nodded. “Indeed… she is.”