In a dimmed warehouse, chained to a pipe, alone, a spotlight shined on him.
Was it the water dripping from the ceiling or sweat? Was it his musty armpits crawling into his nostrils or the pile of dead rats a few feet ahead? What is this—Where am I? He felt drained, in pain and believed his consciousness was leaving him. Keep it together, Jason. Keep it together.
A woman approached. An old woman. She had a cane on her left side, didn’t help because her body still tilted that way. Her lip hung that way, the lady’s left eye drooped down, too.
“Who are you?” Jason asked with the last bit of his breath. Was a miracle he got the words out.
The old lady just laughed as she stopped before him. She shook her head, then drove her cane into his penis. Fuuuuuuccckkkkkkkkkkkkkaaaaaa “Ah!” the poor guy screamed and tried to hold his balls, but he couldn’t…stuck in the handcuffs…so, he balled his fists, and squeezed his eyes shut.
Then he felt old crusty hands wrap around his neck. The pressure in his throat popped his eyes open and he saw the evil in her eyes, but behind that, he saw pain, vengeance. But he didn’t know this woman. What could he had possibly done to hurt this crazy old bi—
His eyes opened. Really opened. To reality. Fuck! A dream.
Still, he felt a soreness in his throat and pain in his groin. He grunted as he sat up from the floor. The floor? “Why am I on the floor?” he asked, looking around and squinting at the foreign walls. Rubbing his hands across the unfamiliar wooden floors. “Where am I?” he whispered again. Then, he jumped to his feet and spun around three times. The room was empty and small, like a prison cell, no smaller; he spent a few months in juvie, but that a was a lifetime ago. His wife and kids didn’t even know. Where were they?
A square window no bigger than his chest allowed the moonlight to shine in. His only light. He looked out to a grassy field with no other house, building or structure in sight. Second floor. Can’t jump. When he tried to open the window, he couldn’t. Then, he looked for a door. Should’ve been his first choice, but only walls, all sides. The fuck is this?
He smoothed his hands over the walls and couldn’t feel anything that could be remotely a door.
After one lap around the room, he heard something from the other side. He couldn’t make it out—too muffled. But it came from the wall across from the window, he knew that much. He crept over, his right ear leading the way until it pressed against the wall. Still, the muffled call continued. As he focused, he heard it clearer.
“Help! Help me!”
He banged on the wall with his fist. The muffled call for help stopped. But he hit the wall again. And again. And again. The wall moved with that last bang; he swore it did. So, he backed up, looked at it with the help of the moonlight, then pushed on it with his shoulder. The wall shifted as he gave it all his weight and he went through, stumbling into a hallway.
My God it’s cold in here was Hannah’s first thought waking up.
She opened her eyes to a red ceiling. She tried to get up but couldn’t, her wrists were bound to a headboard. She struggled to free herself from the rope. “Jeff? Jeff?” she cried out for her husband. No answer. She pulled harder and harder on the rope, but it only tightened around her wrists.
To her right and left, the walls were dimmed red. Likely from the standing lamp in the corner by the door. The room matched her own in every single way, the texture of the wallpaper, the size, the bed, even the softness of the mattress, but the furniture was gone, her husband absent. “Jeff? Help me! Help!” She cried some more, struggling, kicking, losing a ton of energy in the process.
Cold. So cold. She lifted her chin and saw most of her skin. The chill bumps were visible around her bra and panties. No cover, no sheet, just her on top of the mattress. As she tried to catch her breath, still unable to calm down, she rubbed her legs together and stared at the ceiling. What’s going on? Where am I? She was convinced she was not home, and that her husband had nothing to do with this. He was likely freaking out, too. Someone was playing a cruel game. But who? She didn’t have many friends. The few she had were easygoing church-folk like herself, mostly older people in their fifties and sixties. How did this happen? The thoughts calmed her, and she accepted the cool breezes attacking her skin. God will save me. She prayed and that kept her at peace. It kept her warm. Kept her safe. Calm. Until whispers brought her out of that mediation.
“Ja—Jeff? Jeff?” She jerked her head to the left, half-expecting to see her husband standing there, smiling, laughing. Following through with what their pastor had said about experimenting with each other, sexually. But he was not there. Just a red-lit wall. A chatty wall, still whispering something she couldn’t make out. “Hello? Hello?” she called out.
“Hannah,” the whisper said, clearer, from within the room now, to her right side. She jerked her head that way to the other wall… no one.
A snotty sniffle erupted from the end of the bed. Under the bed? The breeze moved on to her waist, down to her legs, then ankles. It was so cold on the soles of her feet that they started to tickle. She rubbed her feet on her calves. But that feeling didn’t go away. The tickle started to itch. The itch started to hurt. Then it felt like someone grabbed hold of her, holding her ankles, lifting her from the mattress, pulling her.
Oh God. God! What is this?
Her stomach strained. The muscles in her arms and thighs tightened.
From the headboard to the—the—unforeseen force, something, not someone, stretched her body to impossible lengths. Because of the pain, she had moved on to a state of shock. Because of the shock, she couldn’t scream. She couldn’t scream, because of the blood filling her mouth.
She could still hear, though. And the bones in her ankles and wrists made a bone-cracking tune.
Then the door kicked open. The invisible force released her ankles and she dropped to the bed.
Surprisingly alive, but not well. Not by a long shot. She lifted her head and saw two men enter the room.
“Wake up, sleepy head. Time to get up, Shawn,” a sweet voice said. “Wake up, wake up, wake up,” again it sang.
Shawn opened his eyes to a tile wall. Didn’t take long for him to realize he was in a bathroom. Submerged in warm water, one leg over the rim of a bathtub, the other in the water. Still in his clothes, soaked, his eyes stung, his limbs ached, his chest hurt. Where am I? “Hello?” he called out and discovered that his throat was sore. It hurt like hell to swallow. The light above the bathroom mirror flickered, then dimmed as he climbed out of the tub.
He slipped on the water mess he made on the floor and fell flat on his chest. He screamed so loud, he coughed up blood. But not enough to explain the redness mixing in with the small puddle. So much pain in his chest, too much, throbbing so hard that he forgot about his stinging eyes, body aches and sore throat. He looked down at his shirt and it was stained red.
Bad idea to touch it—why not look at it? Thanks to the pain, he was full of adrenaline and he used that strength to rip his shirt open. Just what he thought, he was cut, across his chest. Deep cuts. He dragged himself to the mirror to get a better look. FREAK was carved from one pec to the other. “Fuck!” Poor guy must’ve stared at the mirror for five minutes, touching himself, hoping that it wasn’t real. Thinking of how this could happen. Wondering why this happened.
He turned on the faucet, bent down and splashed water on his face. Drank some, too.
When he brought his view back to the mirror, dangling feet swung behind his head. “What the fuck?” he stumbled backwards, crashing into the wall, falling to his butt. He looked up to the bathroom ceiling, and there was nothing there.
Chest still hurting like shit, he rubbed his eyes and crawled back to the sink. He stood, looked, and there it was, a body hanging in the mirror, supposedly behind him. He turned to nothing. Back in the mirror though, there it was. Oliver Park’s body. Shit.
“No. No.” Shawn punched the glass mirror, broke it, bloodied his hand, and ran out of the bathroom into a hallway that seemed to have no end. He couldn’t see an end. Only doors on his left and right. Parallel to each other.
It felt he was going crazy. “Help! Help me!” he yelled as he checked each door. They were all locked, though. But he kept on. Screaming, panting, pacing. In extreme pain but had all the energy in the world. This isn’t real. This isn’t real.
As he moved along, to nowhere since this hall had no end, something happened behind him. He saw a huge hole in the wall as he turned. Before he could fully twist around to see what or who, his neck was grabbed, and his body slammed against the wall.
“Who are you?” the man roared.
I know you. “Hey!” Shawn struggled out of the man’s grasp.
“Shawn?” the man released his hold and took a step back.
But Shawn remained aggressive. “Jason! What are you doing—why are you doing this to me?”
Jason looked confused. “Me. I’m not doing anything, man. I woke up in this dark room. By the looks of it,” he looked Shawn up and down. “It seems we are both victim to whatever is happening here.”
“Here?” Shawn tried his best to cover his chest, grabbing his shirt and bunching it up.
“I think I know where we are?” Jason said. “The Monster House.”
“Fuck! Had a feeling you were going to say that. How’d the hell we get here? How’d the hell I get here? I live in fucking Alaska.”
Jason shrugged. “And I live in California. Was there last night for all I remember.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“Ay, man. What happened to your chest?” Jason asked.
“Forget about it.” Shawn covered up some more and turned away.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here. There was a window in the room, we’re on the second floor. If I remember right, stairs are this way.” Jason led the way down the endless hall.
When Shawn looked to follow him, ready to speak up about there being nowhere to go, he saw a dead-end with a stairwell to the right of it. What?
Didn’t matter, it was good news. So, he followed his childhood friend down the stairs and toward the front door.
“See. Told ya,” Jason said, pointing to the double doors at the center of the lobby.
“Fucking go,” Shawn stated and followed Jason through the door.
But they didn’t go outside. Still inside. A red room. A bedroom. One bed. A woman tied to it.
“Hannah is that you?” Jason ran to the bed.
Shawn looked in awe as Jason took his shirt off to cover her half naked body. Shawn turned around as the door closed by itself. He didn’t know what to think, what to do, how to feel about this situation, but the last time he was in this house was twenty years ago. It was him, Hannah, Jason and poor Oliver Park.
This has something to do with Oliver. He knew. Did they know? Probably not, after all, he woke up in the room where they’d found the boy’s dead body. So, he’d spare them that.
Oliver, you ghost fuck. Jason looked around the room of the home he’d always believed was haunted. His friends were the skeptics but never him. In some sick way, he itched to tell them told you so. But this was serious. Their lives were in danger.
Finally, Shawn joined Jason and Hannah by the bed. The woman looked in worst shape than he did. But she was conscious enough to tell them what had happened to her since opening her eyes. Then Jason told them his story. Then Shawn, leaving out a key detail; Oliver.
Then, the door creaked open. They flinched, looked over and saw an old lady standing in the doorway.
“Welcome,” the old lady said.
THE OLD LADY
The way she slouched in the doorway wearing a dingy, once-white granny dress, seemed like she just got up from watching her ‘stories’ for a bathroom break. She looked as harmless as a sleeping dove.
“Who are you?” Shawn asked, stepping away from the bed, as Jason continued to tend to Hannah.
“I’m Oliver’s mother, of course. Don’t you recognize me?” she said in a giddy tone that did not match her appearance.
“No!” Jason roared. Hannah whimpered as Jason brought her feet off the bed to dangle over the side.
“Oh, that’s right. You didn’t go to his funeral.”
“Why are you doing this to us?” Hannah cried out.
“Oh, sweet dear, I will get to that soon. For now, just listen to me…and save your strength—all of you. You’re going to need it.” Ms. Park nodded at each of them deliberately.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” Jason asked.
“You,” she answered sharply.
“You the one who cut me?” Shawn asked.
“You tied me up?” Hannah looked back to the bed and the torn rope dangling from the headboard.
“Let us out, you old bitch,” Shawn roared, stepping closer to the old lady who had nothing but a cane to help her stand.
“I will do no such thing.” Ms. Park felt more disrespect from the request than the old bitch part. “I plucked you all from the corners of the country. Hundreds of miles away to bring you back home. Years of planning this, and you want me to let you go,” she snapped her fingers, “like that. No, no, no, no, no. Not when we’re just getting started. Why, you all don’t seem to grasp the reason why you’re here. At least understand the why before—”
“Okay. Enough of this.” Shawn smacked his teeth and stomped over to Ms. Park with both of fists squeezed.
Ms. Park lifted a long finger… “Ah, ah, ah,” waving it. Shawn stopped. “One more step young man, and I won’t tell you how to get out of here. Jason won’t believe me, or Hannah, but you—you my dear Shawn know all about this place. Monster House. How the walls talk, how the halls walk. How the structure twists itself inside out, upside down, like a pretzel. This forever-moving giant maze is under my supervision, my protection. I am God here. Only I know the way out. So, you take your pride back over there next to the bed before you make me nervous.”
Shawn looked at Jason and Hannah, then back to the old lady, then returned to the bedside. “Okay, I’m back. Now what do you want from us?”
Ms. Park dropped her cane and stood upright like she didn’t need it in the first place. Then she smacked her palms together, interlocked her fingers and said “Okay, let us begin.”
“This is impossible. They burned this place down after that boy killed himself,” Hannah whispered to Jason.
Ms. Park heard. “Oh, there’s no killing this place, young lady. There’s a bigger chance of my baby boy crawling out of his grave and teaming up with me right here, right now than there is of destroying Monster House. So, since you decided to interrupt me as I started, we’ll start with you Hannah Banana…Red room.” Ms. Park looked around, “It represents the red dress you wore when you seduced my boy. Your little snot nosed bastards here held his arms as you groped him, pretended that you wanted to kiss him, told him to close his eyes and you knew that he would, and you made him kiss a dead rat, you filthy whore.”
Jason erupted from the bed. “Now, wait a minute—”
Ms. Park held a hand up. “And you, pretty boy, Jason. You lured my boy to this place. Pretended to be his friend. Even played with him a couple of days before. You, you little fucker, tied my baby up with rope after your little girlfriend there finished pimping her rats out to him. You tied him up with rope, I saw the goddamn burns on his wrists when he came home that day. You tickled him and pretended to strangle him, just to see if he’d piss his pants, and he did.
“Then that’s when Shawn here decided it a good idea to write Freak on his chest. But no, that wasn’t enough for you all, was it? As he lay there crying and sweating and pissing all over himself, you guys kicked and spat on him until you tired yourselves.
“My poor Oliver came home and told me everything. Me, the loving and trusting and caring mother I was, didn’t believe any of it. Just thought it was his way to get attention. But he told me everything. I didn’t believe it until the police told me that they found him here in Monster House the next morning, hanging in the bathroom. Dead.”
“Ma’am.” Jason stepped forward, less aggressive, less defensive. “I’m sorry—we’re sorry for what happened to Oliver. It was twenty years ago. We were punks—maybe evil little shits, yeah, but I assure you, we are different people now. We all have families now, children of our own. Just tell us what you want from us.”
“Well your apologies are shit. No words will bring my boy back. No words will make me feel better.”
“What will?” Shawn roared, irritated.
“You let me kill you. All of you.”
Jason and Shawn laughed, Hannah didn’t. Ms. Park didn’t.
“How about a compromise,” Jason suggested, smiling like this was all some joke.
“Yeah?” Ms. Park grabbed her cane from its propped position against the door and crossed her arms.
“Show us the way out of here and we will forget this ever happened. Deal?”
Ms. Park looked at each of them; spent a good thirty seconds studying their faces, their thoughts, their feelings. Then she nodded. “Okay. Agreed.”
Hannah exhaled like she’d been holding her breath for hours. Ms. Park felt a wave of relief hit the room. And her insides became full of butterflies as she tried her hardest to hide the devious smile exploding off her face.
“Okay then. How do we get out of here?” Shawn asked.
“So, we’re in agreement then?” Ms. Park asked.
“Yes,” Shawn and Jason said together.
“Option one, you let me kill you or option two, I show you the way out?”
Jason rolled his eyes, then nodded. “Yes, yes. Option two, we choose the way out,” he said.
“All right then.” Ms. Park took a step back, reached behind the wall and grabbed three nooses. She tossed them in the room. “Here you are. The way out.”
She turned her back and walked down the hall as the door slammed shut. They banged on the door, screamed, cursed, but nothing would break that door down. Even if they somehow got out of the room, there was no getting out of Monster House. Not while she was in charge. She smiled as she walked away from the room, putting her hand out for her dead son’s ghost to grab.