Colorful leaves were swirling by and brushing up against the window glass. Jasmine was packing up the last box when she heard the movers out front.
"Dad," she called down from her bedroom window, "the movers are here." She walked over and closed the bedroom door and then sat on the floor.
She was sorting through the last items, when she came across a photo of her mother. She suddenly, had a memory:
"One day, I will leave you both and you will have to take over for me," her mother Jayla said, as she lightly brushed Jasmine's golden blonde hair. "Promise?"
"Why do you say things like that?" she asked, while playing on her phone.
"Because people aren't meant to live forever," she answered truthfully. "The sooner you come in grips with that—the more of life you'll be able to understand and accept."
"Then," Jasmine breathed, as she grabbed her mother's hand and looked up at her. "I promise."
* * *
Out of all the memories, that one haunted her the most. It was as if her mother predicted her own death. All she knew was that her mother was here one moment, and then gone the next. Not even the doctors could explain the sickness that came out nowhere and took her away, forever.
She looked at the photo for a few more seconds and then placed it inside of a small box, taped it up, and walked over to the window: to pull open the blinds. She watched the movers, as they threw a few boxes inside of the truck—while asking questions really loud to her dad, Peter.
As she continued to peer down at them, one of them looked up and creepily waved to her—in a really slow motion way that made her shiver. Before turning away, her dad came out onto the front lawn and handed them a few more things.
"Jasmine, hurry up and bring down that box!" he yelled, looking up at her. "You've been up there for nearly 30 minutes."
"I'm coming already!" she yelled back down. "Just a few more things I need to grab."
"The moving people are getting restless," he snapped. "Jesus girl."
"I said, I was coming," she argued. "Already on my way."
Rolling her eyes, she put her book bag on, grabbed the box from the floor and opened the bedroom door. She looked around one last time, turned off the lights and headed downstairs—pouting all the way down.
By the time she got outside, everything was already in the truck. She walked over and handed a small box to one of the strange looking movers. Up close, he had these really baggy eyes and this very flaky skin. Not to mention he smelled like a pack of cigarettes.
"Thanks Miss," he said, reaching out to shake her hand, but the moment she touched them, she pulled away quickly. His hands were ice cold.
"You're cold!" she cried, touching her own hand, still feeling the sensation run through her fingers.
But the mover ignored her and threw the box inside of the truck, without saying another word. She could feel the other one that waved to her, staring, but avoided his gaze as best as she could. She then looked over and saw her dad already waiting over by the car.
"So, am I driving today?" she asked, while forcing a smile and walking over to him.
"No," he said sternly. "Get in."
She circled around and got into the passenger seat. Her dog Rocket was barking in the back seat, so she quickly handed him a snack—which quieted him up immediately.
"Well, if you're driving," she said, turning back around to face the front. "I'm on DJ duty."
Peter smiled, while turning on the ignition and waiting for the movers to pull out. When they finally did, he began driving closely behind them, but then stopped.
"Are you going to say goodbye?" he asked, looking back at the house. "It's only your childhood home." He reminded.
"Mom is the only goodbye I gave to that place and I've already called all my friends," she murmured. "Let's just go . . . okay."
"Your choice," he said, as he turned up the car radio and continued driving.
After several hours of listening to every song on her playlist, they finally got to a narrow road. She immediately noticed these large evergreen trees that lined up neatly on both sides of it. And from a far distance, she could see the farmhouse.
"Welcome home, kiddo," Peter said, once they finally arrived.
Jasmine looked up and immediately her jaws tightened.
"With the housing market the way it is, we couldn't beat the price," he said, noticing her facial expression. "You look disappointed."
"I am," she confessed. "It looks . . . creepy. And what is up with that tangled looking tree in the front? It's old and weird."
"Dunno kiddo, didn't even notice it when I came here a few weeks ago," he said, his voice low. "Besides, I wanted the house's history to work with," he admitted, "my writing has been, as you know, horrible lately. I need the inspiration. Something to get my mojo back."
"Oh, you'll definitely get it here," she mused, as she opened the car door to get a better look. She then opened the back door to let Rocket out. "For a farmhouse, I don't see any animals."
"There are none," he admitted, "the last family that lived here . . ." but he trailed off and didn't continue.
They both already knew the history. The realtor made sure to disclose all of that unfortunate information—before he even decided to sign the house deeds.
Jasmine remembered it clearly, something about an ax murderer, who killed his entire family, before offing himself. This family supposedly lived in the farmhouse many years ago and it's been abandoned ever since. But that's all she could remember. And the more she dwelled on the topic, it made her sick to think that they were the first ones to actually buy the place, especially after hearing all of that.
As they began walking closer, she noticed that the windows in the front looked like a pair of giant green eyes—staring back down at them. And the wind had strangely picked up, causing more leaves to swirl literally everywhere. There was something indeed eerie about the place and from what she could see, everything was badly stained.
"Once we fix this place up," he said, taking out the key. "It'll feel just like home."
Home, she thought. The very word: made her miss it already.
He then gleefully opened the door, like some kid at a candy store that was told he could buy just about anything he wanted.
However, it didn't make her feel any better at how thrilling he was acting. It was only making things, worse.
As soon as they stepped inside, they began coughing from all of the dust. The inside of the house looked even worse than the outside. And the living room, was way too crowded—with the old family's furniture, some still covered up in sheets.
As they began walking around, the floors creaked with each footstep they took.
"So where's my room?" she grumbled, while picking up Rocket from the ground.
"Go straight through the kitchen," he said, as he looked around the living room. "I believe there should be a set of stairs on the left hand side."
She sighed. "Okay."
"Take the biggest one," he added.
She knew he only agreed to that to make her feel better, but she went along with it anyway.
Once she left, Peter began looking around and shaking his head. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. The movers threw the boxes everywhere. And the furniture, that was visible, was dusty and some even broken.
Along the side of the walls, were tons of spider webs on just about everything.
It was a mess. A nightmare even.
He then walked around some more, scratching his head along the way and that's when he noticed an antique looking mirror hanging on the wall that led to the kitchen. As he got closer and looked inside the mirror, his eyes were a different color, almost as if they weren't even his. But how could that be? He wondered.
He began blinking his eyes several times, and when he opened them back up, his eyes were back to normal again. Before turning around, he felt a tug at his sleeve. And when he did, there stood an old man—with bloodshot eyes, and his hand tightly clenched to a rope that was around a cow's neck.
"Get that animal out of my house!" Peter yelled, looking down at the cow. "Are you kidding me?"
"I dint mean to scare ya," said the old man. He had this very strong accent. "I'm ya next door neighbor, Jon Kamone."
He then began looking around as if it was his first time in there.
"Folks round here call me K-Jon," he continued, redirecting his attention back at Peter, "my nephew and I live right through dat creek." He then pointed out the window towards it—while Peter followed out and saw the path that led right to it.
"Is there anything I could help you with?"
"Look," said K-Jon, as he softly patted the cow on its back and it quickly moaned its way out of the house. "We all trust each other round these parts."
"Yeah, I see. Walking in the way you did," Peter confessed, while leading him out of the house. At this point, he could no longer hide how uncomfortable this new neighbor was making him feel.
"Well, I just wanted to come on over and tell ya that you can borrow as many eggs as you want from our old coops hen," he said, "my farmhouse is a lot more equipped den yours and honestly you don't look like da farmers type."
"I'm not—" Peter started to say.
"Just make sure to leave da golden eggs," he said mysteriously, "they're special and ward off those pesky demons—you know the ones that lurk in the middle of the night."
Peter stood there looking confused. "Yeah, sure," he finally said, while watching the old man walk away. He made sure he was out of sight before closing the door and locking it.
"Who was that creeper?" Jasmine asked from behind.
"Our new neighbor," he shrugged. "Can you believe he walked in here with a cow? Not a dog, a cow."
"Is that what that thing was?" she laughed.
"Apparently so," he said. "But I guess its good to have someone near us."
"I guess so," she whispered, with the strangest feeling in the pit of her stomach as they both walked the opposite direction and went about their day.
Later on that night, Peter was sitting at his desk writing in his journal:
Today was strange. The house was more disappointing than I thought. But I can't let Jas know. And then there was this mirror—which in fact I thought I saw a pair of eyes staring right at me, but they weren't mine . . .
Meanwhile, Jasmine couldn't sleep. The groaning noises the house was making was keeping her up. She tried to keep in mind that old homes had a mind of their own. It's like they talk to you, wanting you to know about their past, their secrets, and everything else it groans about.
Finally having enough, she decided to get out of bed and walk over to her dresser to turn on the lamp. She had finished unpacking hours ago, but still wasn't satisfied on how everything was arranged.
"This place sucks," she said, in a scratchy voice under her breath.
She slowly opened her bedroom door and walked down the narrow steps that creaked louder and louder with each step that she took.
Great, no sneaking out of here, she thought when she finally got downstairs to the kitchen. She then poured out a large glass of water and leaned herself up against the counter top, to drink and look around.
I need to rearrange and clean the entire house tomorrow, spic and span, she told herself. The place needed a serious touch up.
Once she was done, she washed her cup and turned off the lights, but jumped back when she saw a shadowy dark figure walking by, so she quickly swung the lights back on.
"Dad . . ." she called out. "Is that you?"
"Yeah," he said, in a honeyed voice as he stepped out into the light.
"What are you doing up so late?" she asked curiously, relieved that it was him. She noticed his hands behind his back, as if he was hiding something.
"I already told you," he said strangely.
"No you didn't." But he just stood there, staring at her. "Are you okay?"
He looked like he was dehydrated. "I-I wasn't talking to you, sweetheart," he said finally, as he began looking like himself again.
"Then who were you talking to?" she asked, still trying to see what he was hiding, but he quickly placed it in his back pocket.
"Never mind all of that," he smiled. "Looks like I need some sleep, huh?"
"Yeah," she said. "Its not very nice to walk around the house in the middle of the night like Frankenstein, dad."
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay," she whispered. She then followed him up the steps and watched him go inside his room, and close the door.
But before turning around to go into hers, she heard whispering coming from the inside of his bedroom. She quietly walked over and pressed her ears against the door to listen. As she shut out all the noise around her, she could hear him in there talking, but to whom?
"He's losing his mind," she whispered, as she covered her mouth trying her best not to make another sound.
As she continued to listen closely, she thought she heard two different voices in there: voices she didn't recognize at all. Her eyes then bulged in fear, as she stood there frozen—listening to the unexplained voices, from the unexplained whispering
The following morning, Jasmine got into some comfortable clothes and grabbed a pair of rubber gloves from the bathroom: before heading downstairs. She planned on spending most of the morning cleaning, to get things off her mind, especially after last night's fiasco. As she made her way down, she could hear her dad snoring through the hallways.
Good, she thought. He was okay. So she quickly gathered everything she needed from her cleaning bucket, and got to work.
First, she opened up all the windows—letting in some of the fresh air into the house. It felt like a stuffed closet box that suffocated the life out of anyone who was claustrophobic. She then began removing the old sheets from the three little couches in the living room. As she shook out each cover, she paused and coughed from all of the dust—nearly choking.
"Gross!" she said annoyed, her hair kept getting in the way: so she tied it into a tight bun and began cleaning off the tables, and the old furniture. She then tried turning on some music, but for some reason it wasn't working.
"This place blows," she complained, as she moved into the kitchen to clear off the counter tops—in walked her dad.
"Morning kiddo," he said, as he walked over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Up early I see."
She glanced at him quickly. "How did you sleep?" she asked, trying her best to not bring up the voices she heard in his room last night.
"Not so well," he admitted. "I kept waking up every hour on the hour—twisting and turning like Dorothy headed to Oz, lost inside of a tornado full of books and coffee."
Jasmine laughed and then continued to pick things up. "The house groaned and complained all night."
"Well, you know how it is—new house and all," he said, letting out a really loud yawn. "But I did eventually get some sleep."
"Did anyone come over last night?" she blurted out.
"No, why would you ask that?" he replied.
"I thought I heard . . ." she started to admit, but she couldn't find the right words to get out. "You know what, never mind."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded solemnly. And then walked over to a large bin and dumped the sheets inside. "Well I'm going to clean up a bit more and make us some breakfast. How does that sound?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," he said, opening the fridge to grab a beer. "I'll be upstairs writing if you need me. I woke up full of ideas today! So I should really go take advantage of it, and get it all typed out before it disappears in this big brain of mines."
"Great! I'll finish up here and wait for you and your beer breath to come join me." He laughed and walked away.
Jasmine smiled and watched him walk up the steps and continued cleaning.
An hour went by and she stood by the door entrance admiring her work. She cleaned up everything, including the kitchen. She quickly ran upstairs, took a quick shower and got dressed. Once she was done, she was back in the kitchen, bending down and grabbing a couple of pots from the bottom, one for sausages and one for eggs, but as she cracked open the eggs, her phone rang.
She smiled when she saw who was calling.
"Tell me what time it is?" she joked, the moment she answered.
"Ha ha. You haven't said that in months," said Mercedes, her best friend. "What is up girl?"
Jasmine had met her a few years ago when she participated in a foreign exchange student program at her school. She was a little taller than Jasmine, brown skin, with mahogany, dark hair, and a cockney accent—that was still intact, even after being away from London for quite a while.
"I'm so glad you called," she breathed, as she began cooking breakfast.
"I was going to give you sometime. But I figured you'd be settled in by now," Mercedes said, "so when do you start your new school?"
"I'm supposed to go with my dad on Monday to register. I can't even imagine how this place is going to be," she said, fantasizing how it would be to start eleventh grade at a totally different school. "On the drive over here, everything looked . . . old. Like super old."
"What do you mean by that?"
"It's hard to explain," she whispered. "It's a small town. You could tell. I don't even think I saw a Starbucks."
"No Starbucks?" Mercedes exclaimed, "now that is bloody depressing."
"Tell me about it."
"Well, at least you'll be far away from . . . you know who," she said, referring to Jasmine ex-stalker boyfriend who just wouldn't leave her alone and move on—even after she kissed another guy right in front of him. He just continued to stalk her through the hallways at school anyway, no matter how many times she tried to ignore him and keep her distance.
"You didn't tell him exactly where I was moving to, did you?" her voice a little shaky, while raising her eyebrows.
"Of course not," she answered. "Besides, he wouldn't hurt you. He just liked you a little too much. But I'm sure it was just puppy love."
"But still. I don't trust him anymore. Especially not after the last time we were together," said Jasmine, now flipping over the eggs and moving the sausages around. "Just the thought of it . . ." Her body shivered.
"He'll get over it," she said quickly. "Other than that, you don't sound too happy. There's got to be something good about the place."
"I mean the house is big and everything. Weirdly designed inside. But honestly, I think my dad is already regretting moving here," she said, turning around to make sure he wasn't there to hear her. "He just won't admit to it yet or say it out loud," she continued, her voice lower. "I could see it in his face though. He's really not good at hiding his feelings."
"Parents and their stupid decisions ruin our lives," Mercedes said, thinking about the time she had to move away from London to the United States. "I swear, I can't wait to be old enough to get the hell away from here and move to New York City and become a fashion designer or something—an actress even!"
Jasmine laughed. She was use to her wild imagination about living in New York one day. "Well if you do leave before I do, take me with you. I'd be happy to come and join you on your extraordinary adventure."
"Oh I bet."
Jasmine then glanced out the window and noticed Rocket playing out in the front yard.
"Hold on one second," she told Mercedes, "Dad, did you let Rocket out?" she yelled.
"No!" he yelled back down.
Strange, she thought, as she strained forward and watched Rocket run as if someone threw him a ball. She then noticed the path that led to her neighbor's house. But the more she stared, she could see a shadow in the grass, but it quickly disappeared.
"Jas?" said Mercedes.
"Rocket's outside for some reason and I have no idea how he got out there!"
"Wait—What? Huh? What's going on?"
Suddenly, it started to smell like something was burning. She glanced back down and noticed that she was indeed burning the sausages.
"Holy crap, I got to go," she exclaimed, but before Mercedes could protest or ask any more questions, she quickly hung up the phone, and turned on the fan above the stove, so that it could grab some of the smoke. She then realized that the burner was too high and turned that down as well.
After finishing up, she called her dad down to eat, so that she could head outside to get Rocket.
When she got to the front door, she grabbed a light jacket, and slipped on some boots.
The moment she stepped onto the grass, she breathed in some of the fresh air and felt relieved to be outside of the house. She then looked around and admired at how beautiful it was outside—which in fact was a lot warmer than usual for a late September. Rocket began jumping up and down—something that he normally did when he had to go.
"How did you get outside?" she whispered, as she petted him. But Rocket kept on jumping away from her hands.
So they walked and walked further down until they ended up on a leafy path. The sun strangely vanished into the clouds.
As they continued to walk and look for a spot where he can do his do, she moved a tree branch out of her way and glanced over to her neighbor's farmhouse.
She noticed a few pigs from a far distance, the infamous cow, and a scary looking scarecrow—that was neatly planted way out in the fields, with a few crows—cawing about.
Rocket settled by a small pond and before settling in, that's when she heard something.
She looked up and saw this guy sitting on a huge rock, staring back down at her with a planted smile on his face. He was wearing some ripped blue faded jeans, a fitted tank top, had visible tattoos, and looked very well tanned with thick brown hair at the top that was shaved down on both sides. He also had a pointy nose, making him look a little young in the face.
It's not that warm, she thought, looking at his tank top. She then wrapped her jacket around herself more.
"Hurry up Roc," she said, trying to play it off, as if she didn't notice the guy.
"Hello neighbor," he said casually.
"Hey!" she said, looking up and trying her best not to sound nervous. For some odd reason, her stomach decided to make a date with butterflies.
He then slid off the rock and threw something into the pond. "Come here boy," he said to Rocket, but the dog didn't move. He didn't even blink or bark. He just stared up at the guy and then ran over to Jasmine.
"You shouldn't spoil dat dog da way you do."
"I don't spoil him," she spat.
"You don't get much sun either."
She blinked. "I'm sorry?" She could also feel her nostrils flaring a bit.
"You're really pale," he said nonchalantly. "Even that lip ring has more color den you."
She gulped and looked down at herself and then looked back at him. She couldn't believe how rude he was being. "And you look like you've been baked in the sun for too long."
He laughed but then got really serious—really quick. "Does that thing hurt?" he asked, pointing to her lip ring.
"This?" she asked, touching it. "No. Sometimes I even forget that its there." But she didn't forget. Peter let her get one on her 16th birthday. She had been begging him for weeks for it.
"So what's your name?" she asked, trying to defuse the tension.
But he didn't answer. He just reached inside of his pockets and pulled out a piece of gum—slowly placing it in his mouth.
Is he ignoring me on purpose? she wondered.
"My name is Max," he said finally, as if he could read her mind. "And no, I don't have any special nicknames like my uncle. Just Max."
He then began chewing his gum really slowly—staring at her without saying another word. She stood there for a second and waited until his eyes moved away.
"Well it was nice meeting you," she murmured, as she bent down to pick up Rocket and began walking away.
"You too . . . Jasmine."
She suddenly stopped dead in her tracks and turned back around to face him.
"I don't recall telling you my name."
"Yea you did!" he snapped.
"No I did not," she snapped back, while crossing her arms. "How do you know my name?" she demanded.
Suddenly, she could hear Peter calling for her, but her legs remained frozen to the ground. She wanted an answer, and she wanted it now. But by his facial expression, she wasn't sure how to pull it out of him. She admitted to herself that he was a bit intimidating. Rocket then jumped off her arms and ran back towards the house.
"Rocket!" she yelled, running after him and relieved in some way that he did that. "Get back here."
But the dog kept on going until it leaped onto Peter, who was waiting by the open door.
By the time she got to them, she was out of breath and her heart was racing. She then turned around and saw Max walk away.
"Making friends?" Peter said smiling.
"Hardly," she said, coming in the house and locking the door. "Did you eat?"
"Burnt sausages and runny eggs . . . my kind of breakfast."
"Yea, sorry about that," she apologized. "Mercedes called, and we were just catching up." She then slumped herself down onto the couch and stretched her legs. "Hey, did you tell the new neighbor my name by any chance? I just met his nephew."
"Who that K-Jon guy with the cow?"
"No, why do you ask that?"
"It's just that . . ." she started to admit, but decided to hold back. She didn't want to worry him. "It's nothing."
His expression turned solemn. "All right," he said softly. "It's nothing," he repeated.
She then looked over by the window terrified to say another word about it. The fact that he knew her name, wasn't sitting too well—not to mention how aggressive he was.
"Well, I'm headed into town to buy a few more things for the house," he said, while grabbing his car keys. "Any special requests?"
"Bring more water, some food and dish washing soap."
"Okay mom," he joked, as he opened the front door and left out.
She waited for a few seconds and then got up from the couch and watched him through the small window. She saw her dad look over by the path, and then got into the car and drove off.
Before turning away, she saw Max standing there again with the strangest look on his face, causing her to look away. And when she looked back, he was gone.
To distract her mind, Jasmine began sorting through the old previous owner boxes, that were still in the living room. Luckily enough, they were small enough boxes: so she knew it wouldn't take her too long to sort through them.
In the middle of removing the tape, she had a quick thought of the creepy, but noticeably hot neighbor, Max. The way he knew her name, said her name: clouded into her mind like an annoying thought that keeps you up at night. She could tell that he was a bad boy. But how bad he was, remained to be seen.
Shaking off the memory, she ripped open the rest of the tape—trying her best to get that whole encounter out of her mind, for now.
Most of the stuff inside of the boxes were wrapped in plastic. She took out old cups, a few old books, tiny decors, and a really large journal—that was hiding neatly inside of the last box, at the very bottom.
While lifting it up slowly, she blew off some of the dust from the top: before opening it.
As she skimmed through, she noticed tons of newspaper clippings neatly taped on each page. Interesting enough, the fonts were freshly bold, as if it was just printed. But according to the date, how could that be so?
As she continued to look through, she noticed that whoever owned the journal could draw, too. There were many drawings throughout, but the drawings were fascinatingly weird—while some were a little too violent for her liking. While others, were too hard to explain.
She got up with the journal in hand, and walked over to sit on the couch. The moment she opened it back up, she began reading the contents that were written inside. Her eyes moved wildly around the pages like a pack of wolves stalking their prey. As she turned onto the next page, a mere sentence caught her attention:
Ghosts haunt these walls! I could hear them at night, whispering.
Another one that read:
Something murdered our cows, one by one.
Her eyes bulged as she continued reading:
It all started with footsteps . . .
That one made her shiver. And last:
Ghosts are on the other side of the glass.
Ghosts? She wondered. Maybe that creep has me on edge? This can't be real!
She then stopped to process what she was reading, she almost gave up, but curiosity continued to turn the pages—this time paying attention more to the clippings and what they said. She immediately noticed that some of them had headlines that read: FROSTED HILLS.
"Frosted Hills," she said out loud.
She suddenly remembered the huge sign she noticed on the way to the farmhouse, which read exactly that, Frosted Hills. And that's what it dawned on her, the name of the town and the name of her new High School!
How could it have slipped her mind so quickly?
A sudden panic spread over her entire body that she closed the book. She then looked over at Rocket, who was sound asleep. As she smiled down at him, a door by the steps miraculously opened.
It creaked slowly behind a small table, but not strong enough to push it over. She forced herself up and walked over to it, completely shocked and exhausted. Physically and mentally.
As she observed it, scrunching her eyes as if reading fine print, she tried to remember if she noticed it before, but she didn't. And the more she thought about it, her dad never mentioned having a basement. It was as if the door appeared out of nowhere.
She then moved the small table and placed it aside. When she opened the door wider, she could feel a breeze coming from down there. She immediately searched around for a switch and when she found it, she turned on the lights.
She slowly began walking down the steps, and for a split second, she began thinking about how disgusting it probably looked down there. If it was anything like the house, than the basement probably looked even worse: just as dusty as Mrs. Lovett's shop, from The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!
However, when she finally got down there, it was surprisingly clean. A little too clean, which was in fact, strange.
As she began exploring around, she noticed a few farm things: a big bag of hay, some soil, and an old tractor. The basement was just as wide as the living room and had a small cellar door that led out through the back of the house. She could see it through the small open window at the far end corner.
That's probably where the breeze is coming from, she thought, as she climbed up some mini steps to tightly shut it. She then turned around and looked around some more, almost tripping over an old farmer's handbook on the ground.
The family before must have been farmers, she thought, while picking it up and tossing it aside. She had no interest in becoming one.
She then saw some boxes sitting on a large wooden table. When she walked over to take a closer look, she noticed stains, but they looked a lot like dry bloodstains—splattered on some of the corners of it. Freaked out, she backed away. And as she was about to leave, she suddenly heard footsteps above her.
"Dad!" she called out . . .
Meanwhile, Peter pulled up to the local shopping center. He was happy to see a couple of name brand stores he was familiar with. But just like every small town, there were a few he's never seen before. He searched around for the grocery store, but couldn't tell which one it was.
"Excuse me," he said politely, to a lady walking by pushing a stroller. "Where's the grocery store?"
She looked at him and then pointed to a red brick building at the far end corner. But before he could say thank you, she stormed off.
"Okay," he muttered, as he got out of the car and walked over there.
The moment he approached the building, he noticed a small sign on the top that read: FROSTED FOODS.
Relieved, he opened the door and stepped inside. He quickly grabbed a cart and started making his way through the aisles—grabbing a bunch of junk food and other necessities for the house. He then went over to the organic section and got all of Jasmine's favorites. She was just like her mother, always watching what she ate.
"Sir," he heard a voice say from behind and when he turned around: there stood a young boy with dark circles underneath his eyes—fidgeting about. Peter noticed that some parts of his clothes were torn, vintage even, like outfits from back in the witch trial days, and his and shoes were so old, he could tell that they were ripped open at the bottom of them.
"Yes," he said, ready to tell the young boy that he definitely had spare change in his car and will gladly give him some if that's what he wanted.
The boy quickly handed him a pamphlet, while Peter caught a quick glimpse of his dirty fingernails. By the time he looked back up, the kid ran off.
"Hey, wait a second!" he declared, moving the shopping cart quickly.
But the kid was gone—almost as if he vanished into thin air the moment he turned the corner.
Shaking his head, he looked down at the pamphlet that read:
Accepting early applications to: CAMP FROST.
Peter folded it up and placed it inside of his back pockets and continued shopping. When he was finally done, he went to the register and noticed the young clerk was watching a small TV—while chewing gum really loudly.
He stood there for a while, but she continued to ignore him.
"Hem, hem," he began clearing his throat. "I'm ready whenever you are."
"Oh I'm sorry," she said meekly, looking up while she began ringing up his stuff. "Dint even know you were there!"
"It's okay!" he assured her, noticing that her makeup job, was terrible. Her mascara looked as if its been running, and her red lipstick, was cracked. And to top that off, you could see her badly stained teeth—revealing them each time she chewed her gum.
She looked up, noticing his gaze.
"Wife at home?" she asked, as she observed some of the fem products he brought—slowly looking at them and placing them inside of the paper bag.
"Daughter," he replied, pulling out the pamphlet to kill time.
As he began reading, the clerk stopped chewing her gum.
"Where did you get that?" she asked suspiciously.
He looked up. "Some kid, why?"
She looked around and then continued to bag his things—this time doing it a lot faster.
"Heard of the place?" he asked, placing it inside of the bag and trying his best to spark up a conversation. "Seems a little early for summer camp applications, don't you think? Summer just ended ya know!" letting out an awkward laugh.
"Yea," she agreed, but continued to bag his things while looking rather uncomfortable. "Your total will be $49.83."
He reached inside of his pockets, took out his wallet and handed her his credit card.
"I will need to see an ID," she said impatiently, while tapping her long fingernails on the counter.
"Sure, no problem," he said, as he took it out of his wallet and handed it to her.
Luckily, they changed their addresses on their ID just a few days ago before arriving.
Once she looked at it, she let out a low gasp. And then looked up and shot him a curious glance.
"I don't look that bad on my ID, do I?" he mused.
"No," she said quickly, now avoiding eye contact. Peter made a face.
Once she was done bagging all of his things, he grabbed the bag off the counter.
"Have a nice day!" he said, nodding politely, but the lady mumbled something under her breath and walked away quickly into a back room, without saying another word or without turning around.
Shaking his head, he then stormed out of the store—as if someone was chasing him.
Once he stepped outside, he stopped to catch his breath, as if he was holding it in the whole time. Trying his best to shake off the store clerk's sudden mood swing. He then noticed that the weather did a 180. It was sudden, colder—frostier.
As he began walking to the car, the wind picked up—while the sun got lost into the clouds. Everything started to look gloomy.
He reached deep inside his pockets and pulled out his car keys. But right before he was about to open the door, he saw someone's shadow emerge on the ground. Whoever it was, was standing right behind him. But when he turned around, no one was there!
What the hell, he thought, as he stood there glaring, looking around through the parking lot and then at each store—trying to see if he saw anyone, anything. But from what he could tell, it didn't look like anyone was even near him or paying him any mind whatsoever.
He quickly got into the car, turned on the ignition and pulled out of there like a bat out of hell. Once he got to the main road, he drove so fast that he nearly hit a car.
"Slow down," he heard a whisper say from behind. "Get home to Jasmine"
Startled, he looked through the rear-view mirror and swerved off the road the moment he saw a ghostly reflection of his late wife, Jayla.
Luckily, he didn't hit anything while he came to a complete stop. Breathing hard, he then slowly turned around, but the back seat was empty.
"Of course it is," he breathed.
Completely shaken and blowing it off as his imagination, he took out a cigarette to calm his nerves. Once he was done, he headed straight home.
* * *
After calling out for her dad, she stood there for a while—waiting for him to respond. However, no reply! Nothing.
"Oh Peterrr," she said, as she called out again—knowing that that usually did the trick when she called him by his first name.
He will definitely say something now, she thought. But no reply . . . again!
What the hell is going on? she wondered, as she began walking towards the stairs, but right before she got to them, one of the boxes on the table, fell to the ground. And the tractor suddenly turned on—scaring her nearly half to death.
Feeling a little silly, she let out a sigh of relief. And then she walked over to pick everything up from the ground that fell out of the box. She then searched for an off button and once she found it, she turned the knob. It hummed for a few more seconds and then abruptly shut down.
Suddenly, she heard the dreaded footsteps again!
"Dad! This isn't funny!" she yelled, as she carefully placed the box back on the table. "Would you answer me already!"
She stopped and closely listened to the footsteps above her. Pulse began thundering in her ears as they came: again and again. But this time louder—almost as if whoever was up there, began running!
After a few more seconds, she couldn't tell how many people were actually up there at this point, but it sounded like more than one person. Footsteps surround sounding all above her.
So she slowly started making her way up the steps, feeling more anxious with each step that she took. The closer she got, she noticed that the door was partially open, but she still couldn't see exactly who or what was on the other side of it. It was dark.
"Who's up there?" she demanded, as she pushed past her fear and got to the last step. But again, just like before, no reply.
As she reached her arms forward to push open the door, it suddenly slammed right in her face—literally knocking her down to the ground.
And before she knew it, she was out cold!