Content Warning: horror, graphic gore

You wanted to believe the best in your new neighbors. You had no reason not to trust them. When you moved in next door, you never expected such a….different community than the one you were used to. “Come to our annual haunted house,” they said. “It’ll be fun!” You decided there’d be no better way than to welcome yourself into the new neighborhood by going. You figured it’d be filled with cheesy decor and crazy children who put their blood, sweat, and tears into making an unbelievably terrible haunted house. But no, you were gonna be a good sport. 

You decided to take your best friend with you since your wife opted out due to irrational fear. You thought she was an absolute wimp, but you needed the excuse to see your friend since you hadn’t in a while.

You arrived at the house and were instantly bewildered by the darkness that encompassed the property. A vast mansion overtook your vision, complete with fog blurring the ground beneath you and cobwebs that felt a little too realistic. Your friend marveled at the sight, eager to go in, but you felt something was off. You didn’t remember this when you went to the open house last week. But with the abrupt grab of your hand from your friend, you crossed the threshold and barreled on in. 

Lights flickered, and sparks flew when you entered. You couldn’t hear anyone else inside, but felt you were being watched. Once you both were inside, the door behind you slammed shut. You jumped and turned to find nothing but darkness. You attempted to wrestle it open but to no resolve. You were stuck. This was far scarier than you imagined it could ever be. You didn’t know if you should be screaming out of fear or speechless out of amazement at what your everyday neighbors could put together. 

With a gentle push from your friend, you walked into an apparent laboratory. An empty table lay in front of you, with leather shackles dangling off. A tall man with a dirty lab coat appeared out of the darkness, and his silhouette alone put chills down your back. He approached your group and grabbed your friend’s arm. You hadn’t been to many haunted houses but knew touching was off-limits. “Maybe not here,” you thought. 

He brought her to the table and encouraged her to sit down. She bought into the ruse, lying down and placing her arms and legs near the shackles. He wrapped them tightly around her arm, and she wiggled around, laughing at her own poor acting skills. 

You saw the man turn around and grab a rusty syringe filled with a mysterious substance. He leaned over your friend and inserted the needle into her arm. She flinched at the sting but followed it up with a laugh and over-dramatic scream. But a moment later, her laugh ceased and her scream faded. You saw her eyebrows furrow and jerk her neck around. “I can’t move. I can’t move,” She repeated over and over. “I can’t feel my legs.” “Eve, I’m serious, I can’t move.” She tried to twist her neck and look at you, tears forming in her eyes. You tried to run and help her out, but the man reached for your hand, and you forced yourself back. He turned around and returned with a scalpel and scraped it across your friend’s throat, blood dripping off the table onto the floor as her movement stopped and life faded from her eyes. 

Forced to leave her, you sprinted out. You couldn’t breathe while muffling your sobs. Remembering the locked door, you continued through the house. You didn’t have enough time to contemplate what was going on beyond “something bad”. Sneaking a peek behind you, you bumped into another employee: A towering masked figure with a recently-used bloody ax in his hands. The ax dropped from his hands as you both fell to the ground. You reached to grab it, but he found his way there first. You scrambled to your feet, but not before your shoulder met the metal blade. You felt the crimson blood seep through your shirt and applied pressure with your other hand as you ran through the rest of the house. You heard rampant footsteps following you, but you couldn’t let another temptation clog your focus. 

Screams crescendoed as you ran farther into the mansion. Before you knew it, you were blinded by beaming fluorescent lights as a woman with ratted hair and a straightjacket came sprinting your way. Your reflexes punched her in the nose before she could do any more physical damage than you’ve already suffered. 

Leaving her unconscious body, you finally reached the door you believed led outside. Your knees collapsed onto the grass as you caught your breath, at last. You saw neighbors around the house, unphased by your clear unease. When the neighbor who invited you made her way over, you picked yourself up and flipped her off as you started to run again, this time heading home. 

You struggled to get the right key to fit in the front door while uncontrollably shaking. You immediately ran upstairs to grab the nearest suitcase and packed without a moment of hesitation. After throwing a couple of outfits for you and your wife, you ran back downstairs, shouting her name with no response. 

Continuously shouting her name, your pulse speeds up. You finally see her blond ponytail draped over the back of your couch, but when you walk over, you find her eyes shut, and a knife stuck in her ribcage. Attached to the knife is a crumpled piece of old parchment. Opening it up, it reads, “Thanks for coming! Can’t wait to see you next year.” Sobs rang throughout the bare walls of the house as you dropped to the ground. While your focus hovered over the breaking of your heart, you missed the sounds of stampeding footsteps closing in on your property.