I flopped onto my bed and screamed into my pillow, “UGHHH!! This is going to be the absolutely worst spring break ever!”
“Caitlyn Allen, do not use that tone in this house.” Mom followed me into my room, raising her voice.
“Can you please, please just leave me alone?” I said quietly. She walked out, taking a deep breath. Mom was a busy lady, being the CEO for the Allen Corporation, and all, so she rarely had the time to go on vacation. I knew I was being difficult, but how could I help it? After all, I was staying at Aunt Mildred’s, the most miserable, uptight lady I’ve ever met. She was my father’s sister and had become more evil when he died two years ago from the deadly car crash — when I was in seventh grade.
Dad was an intelligent chemist, so when he passed, everyone was devastated, especially me. Seriously, I have had many, many memories with Aunt Mildred — all of which have been unpleasant. For example, there was this time where she made me clip her toenails and rub her feet, and even the time where she made me give her angry, clawing cat, Kiki, a bath. I lay in bed contemplating my life and how I was going to one day run away from my home, Shelby, Alabama, to maybe somewhere like Hawaii, no, maybe Bora Bora?
Don’t worry, Caitlyn, I mean at least you’ll be able to see Ethan. No, no, no. I haven’t seen him since I was ten years old! It’s been 5 years, he is definitely not going to remember me. Oh well, I have to go anyway.
Mom hollered, “Come on, Caitlyn, we are leaving in half an hour. There will be some traffic, so get packing!” Mom had to catch a flight to Shanghai for a conference and did not trust me to stay home for two weeks by myself after the last time. Let’s just say, last time I may have made the house a mess from the pure joy of freedom I had felt. I threw some shirts, shorts, toothbrush, phone, and other stuff into my purple, plaid backpack and jogged out to the driveway. Mom was waiting in the car, speaking on the phone, as always.
She spoke loudly into her earbuds, “Mildred, hello. Yes, yes. Do not worry. We are on our way…. No, no… Yes. She will be on the best behavior… Okay, bye, bye. ”
She hung up and pointedly looked at me, “Be on your best behavior, Caitlyn. Aunt Mildred is our only family left, so you are going to be — ”
“Mom, I know, I know. Like you always say, ‘be the best, most courteous person that way you’ll go through life without getting hurt.’ You’ve said just about five billion times.” I spoke annoyed at her insensitivity. Mom backed out of the driveway, the car ride to the dreaded Aunt Mildred’s was filled with a grudgeful silence. Aunt Mildred lived in the countryside of Alabama — in the spooky town of Beatrice. Tall, branchy oak trees were abundant there, so much so that very little light could reach the town. Aunt Mildred had the largest house there, from what and for what I do not know.
I was lost in my thoughts until Mom interrupted, me, “Ahem, time to stop dreaming. We are here.” It was now seven o’clock at night, and it was almost pitch black. Caw, caw, caw! The crows here freaked me out, but definitely not as much as the mansion itself. Looking up, I saw the towering, once-white mansion. It was tall, with five floors, and large, with 52 rooms. The paint was peeling and graying, and the yellow, flickering lights did not help with its appearance. It looked unkempt with the ivy vines slowly wounding its weigh up the columns. Honestly, it looked like no one lived there. That is, until you saw the hot pink Lamborghini and heard the creaking of the stairs only to see a tall, haughty lady walk towards us. Click! Clack! Click! Clack! I lowered my eyes only to see two hot pink stilettos, which had to be at least seven inches tall, approaching me.
Then, they stopped, and I heard her snobby voice, “Now, now, Caitlyn Clarisse Allen. That is no way to greet your auntie, is it now?”
I forced myself to look up and mumbled clenching my fists, “Hello, Aunt Mildred.” She smiled fakely revealing her perfect white teeth, while her jet black hair was pulled back neatly in a bun. She was really, truly an image to be feared. Seriously, how could you not fear a lady in a tight pink pantsuit?
Walking past me, she hollered in a high pitched manner, “Oh, Marilyn! Come give me a hug, deary!”
Mom, who was trying to hide in the car because she was on a “conference call” rolled her eyes and faked a smile. “Mildred! How are you? We’ve missed you,” Mom hollered back.
Aunt Mildred exhaled in an irritated manner, “Come out of your darn BMW!” Mom stepped out, her face heating up. Suddenly, through the bushes, I felt someone or something tap my arm. I turned around, looking through the leaves and spiderwebs (ew) of the bush, and saw a tan arm coming for me. I gasped, Seriously… I’ve literally been here for two minutes and a zombie is already out to get me. Greeeaaat. I pulled my gaze away from the bush, but curiosity overcame me, and I tiptoed to the other side of the bush. In the distance I could hear Mom and Aunt Mildred faking a polite conversation even though everyone knows that they’ve hated each other ever since Mom got married.
“Hey, is that you Catie? It’s me Ethan!” I heard a deep voice whisper in front of me. I looked up to see him. Is that really him? He looks so much taller and so… different. His skin was olive tan (how it became this tan I’m not sure, I mean come on, there’s like no sun in this town), his brown hair was tousled but somehow looking put together. “Hello? Are you going to respond, or are we just gonna have a staring contest?” he asked with a smirk on his face. I felt my face grow hot and my hands clammed up. I forgot I was staring at him.
“Hey, sorry. I go by Cate now. I remember you,” I said rushedly.
Then, a screeching voice broke up the silence, “Caaaiiitttllllyyyn, young lady! Come into the house now. I know you’re in that Evan boy’s lawn!”
Ethan rolled his eyes, but started to laugh. “Hahaha, I just love that cranky lady — don’t you?”
I responded in absolute disbelief, “Um, nope, not at all. Not one bit.” Ethan laughed and I giggled sprinting back to the mansion before Aunt Mildred could yell at me again.
“Oh, good. You’re back. Let me introduce you to the maid,” Aunt Mildred said as she waved me into the mansion. I stepped into the mansion, and it looked exactly like it was five years ago — same black marble floor with a giant marble staircase leading to the East and West Wing. An extremely freaky statue of what looked like a gargoyle greeted me upon my arrival. On my right was the sitting room. I mean it’s sole purpose was for sitting, but no one actually sat there. Big, plump, velvet chairs surrounded one antique looking wooden table carved with beautiful detail. On my left there was Aunt Mildred’s office. I’ve never been in there, but I’ve seen through the door crack. It was actually nice and bright in there. Very pink, also. A wonderful smell wafted to my nose — mmmm… was that pork chops with mashed potatoes? Yum! I tried walking to the kitchen which was in the back, but Aunt Mildred’s bony hand held onto my shoulder.
“Not so fast, young lady. You must meet Caroline first! Ah, here she comes,” she said in her usual omniscient tone.
A stout elderly lady rushed over in an apron with a feather duster and says in a British accent, “Come, Miss Caitlyn, let me show you to your room. I have put your bag in there already.” She turns around, and her curly gray hair bounces up and down. Hmmm… I definitely do not remember this lady when I was here five years ago. She must be at least a hundred. Wow… just ancient. I climbed the staircase with her, and once we neared the top, we encountered three long hallways. Two of them were brightly lit with magnificent chandeliers, but the other one … well, let’s just say it was creepy as heck! The westernmost hallway was so dark that all you could see was one door, that had a crack of light streaming through the bottom. I peered in further and saw two green orbs of light blinking at me. I gasped in fear and tried to look away.
Caroline must have seen my agape mouth and wide eyes, for she quickly turned me around facing the center hallway and whispered in my ear, “Miss Caitlyn, you are strongly forbidden to go into the West wing. Specifically the fifth floor. Mistress Mildred’s orders.” Her cold voice evoked shivers and made me more drawn to the West wing. Then, she forcefully grabbed my hand, and she dragged me briskly into the center hallway. It took my breath away, and I felt my eyes widen, devouring all that was around me. The walls studded with sparkling gems of all sorts. The color and the sparkle weren’t all though. There were paintings too. Some of flowers, others of trees. I felt a pulling at my chest. Dad loved nature so very much. Suddenly I was no longer in this creepy mansion. I was in Muir Forest with Dad, hiking and having a jubilant time. This day, three years ago, was one of the best days I have ever had. This is what flashbacks have been like for me. I should probably take the meds my therapist prescribed.
“Ahem, Miss Caitlyn, shall we get going?” Caroline said, waking me up from the pleasant day dream. Turning around, I faced another wall. I felt intrigued. There was a huge black and white photograph that covered the whole wall. I squinted, wait a second… that must be Aunt Mildred when she was just a young girl. One would be ignorant to not recognize the jet black hair and sharp nose of hers. She was smiling, something I have never seen her do. Furthermore, she was holding the hand of a boy shorter than her. It had to be Dad. He looked quite different from when I knew him. Curly brown hair sprouted from his round head, his jovial face smiling, revealing his missing front teeth. I missed him.
Tears threatened to escape, but taking a deep breath, I entered the open door which had always been my room here and was elated to see more beautiful decor. Anyone could have guessed that this had been Aunt Mildred’s childhood room, for it was very pink… but beautiful nonetheless. A delicate, little chandelier hung in the center of the circular room. The light reached out to every wall of the room and filled the room with a magical, golden glow. There was an ornate, white dresser next to a dainty pink closet, filled with small, pink clothing. Facing the entrance there was a white, frilly bed — decorated with lace pillows and a pink, faux fur comforter. My favorite part of this room was the balcony, for its French doors opened out to a porch facing Ethan’s window. His baby blue curtains were closed, but a bright light permeated through. His nicely groomed yard and smaller brick home were neat and homely looking. Definitely the opposite of this creepy mansion.
“I’ll leave you here to get ready for dinner. See you later, Miss Caitlyn.” Caroline waved goodbye without a look back.
“Bye, Caroline. Thank you,” I said, but she was already out the door. Sheesh, all the people that work here are so hostile. Reminds me of the kids back at home at Westwood High. Starting to settle in, I suddenly felt a sense of loneliness. I had no one here, except for Aunt Mildred, but she can’t count. I mean come on, have you even seen that lady? I guess I have Ethan. He could be a good choice for a friend. My thoughts were then interrupted by none else, but the one and only, Aunt Mildred.
“Caitlyn!! Come down already. It’s been an hour! Your food is getting cold and eaten by flies.” Aunt Mildred’s high-pitched voice rang throughout the house. Sure enough, I checked my phone and it was already 7:29. It literally felt like five minutes. Ughhh. I dragged myself out of bed and rushed down the stairs. When I exited, I once again encountered the West Wing. Don’t look. Don’t look, Cate. I couldn’t help it. Peering in, I saw the two green orbs again. I got so close to them that I felt everything slow down, and suddenly I felt nauseous. My eyes widened in fear and my legs felt stuck in place — I couldn’t move. What was that? This mansion is definitely haunted.
“Miss Caitlyn, are you alright? You have been standing there for quite a while now,” Caroline said in a worried tone as her small hand came to rest on my shoulder.
Ummm… I was only standing there for like 30 seconds!
“Caroline, is th-th-there something in that hallway?” I asked quietly.
Caroline replied, “No, sweetie. Nothing. No one uses it, that’s all.”
I looked at her straight in the eyes, “Honest?”
“Could you please call me Cate. It makes me feel less creeped out by everything and everyone here.”
Caroline hesitated at first, not sure what to say.
“Oh, not you! You are probably one of the more normal people here.”
“Why thank you, Cate,” Caroline replied with the first warm smile I’ve seen all day.
Caroline led me to the dining room. Again, I must have forgotten just how truly beautiful the mansion was. The largest, most luminescent chandelier hung from the decorated ceiling. Yes, I know right. How extra! Who even looks at the ceiling? Little pieces of clear jewels hung from the chandelier like beautiful water droplets. In the middle, there was a long, sandalwood dining table, the legs carved with beautiful images of flowers and herbs. There was one lone plate in the middle of the huge table. Nothing else filled the table. I mean, sure. I usually eat my dinner alone anyway, but this was a whole new level of loneliness. There was an irksome silence, for even Caroline had disappeared. Well, I guess it’s just me and the ghost now. The thought still filled me with shivers, but the delicious smell of pork chops made my mouth water. I couldn’t stop wondering where Aunt Mildred was though. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. She’s probably plotting her next evil conquest. Sinking into the deep red velvet chair, I began to dig into the pork chops and mashed potatoes. Just when I was on my last bite of food, there was a rapping on the front door. I rushed to peer through the door hole to see who this mysterious stranger was. It was Ethan! Unlocking the chains to the door, I opened the door and he rushed in, his eyes wild. He was breathing heavily and scrambled to sit on a loveseat.
“Cate… you gotta believe me. I’ve been seeing crazy… things,” Ethan said between breaths.
“What?! I’ve seen enough crazy for one day!” I said exacerbated. “Also, let’s go into the dining room, I’m just finishing up dinner.”
We rushed quietly into the dining room where Ethan sat on the dining chair next to me.
“Mmmmm… that looks good.”
“Yep, it’s pretty amazing.” I replied through bites. “Do you want any?”
Suddenly, Ethan sucked in air, and I tried to see where he was looking. He continued to stare at my plate with his mouth agape. I looked down predicting the worst. Oh. My. God.
I tried to scream, but Ethan covered my mouth with his hand and said, “Shhh… at least it’s not a bad surprise?” On my plate, sitting there, like the pork chops and mashed potatoes had never been there, was a single slice of red velvet cake. It’s cream cheese frosting and moist looking cake beckoned me to eat it, but I couldn’t. After all, it did just appear from thin air.
“Well, what are you waiting for? That is just about the tastiest red velvet cake I’ve ever seen… so if you’re not gonna eat, I am!” Ethan said, clearly not understanding my point of view.
“Um, not to burst your bubble or anything, but it literally came from nowhere. Like magic, poof! Who knows where it has been? Maybe it’s been poisoned,” I said, flabbergasted.
This whole house was strange and there were always new surprises. I didn’t know how to feel about it. I mean, I was a girl who hated surprises. I was a girl who planned by days out meticulously. I was a girl who turned my homework in early. I was a girl that liked to stay in the comfort of her room. I was anything, but spontaneous. The whole situation really freaked me out.
“Where do you think it came from?” I asked, my voice shaking a little.
“Erm… ” Ethan looked around, “I-I don’t know. There’s no one here.”
Ethan paced around the dining table, looking ready to fight at anytime, “This house is freaking me out. Let’s get outta here.”
I nodded, completely overwhelmed, so he pulled on my hand, and we got up. We ran outside. Across the cobbly path with many deadly looking potholes we went, and I was quite surprised that I didn’t die. He stopped once we got to his perfect white, wooden porch lined with succulents. We both collapsed onto the comfy porch swing, our breathing still ragid from sprinting away from that creepy mansion.
“Look! Do you see that? What in the world is that?!” Ethan said with a hint of fear.
He pointed up at the mansion’s roof, and its chimney was truly doing something out of this world. It was spouting out red smoke, that in turn, sprinkled onto the roof in the form of powder.
“I have no idea. I have been in this town for less than a day and suddenly, all these crazy things are happening. And I don’t know why, but this place reminds me of my dad… ” I said on the verge of bursting into tears.
Ethan replied, unsure what to say, “Oh… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to — never mind, let me just fill you in on what’s been happening these few days.”
Sitting on the steps of his porch, he told me that crazy signs have been coming up starting the last two days. Everyday at 8pm, green, yellow, and sometimes red smoke is emitted from the chimney leaving the roof a powdered mess.
“But listen, Cate. It’s not just the fumes that are abnormal. You see, through my parents’ bedroom, I have the perfect view of a dark hallway,” Ethan said on a roll.
“Woah there, Ethan, slow down. The West wing? The dark hallway is the one Aunt Mildred told me not to go in,” I said disbelievingly.
“Yeah, yeah. The West wing. But get this — the hallway has these tiny green light things that fly all the way to the fifth floor. I can’t really see what’s on the fifth floor exactly. All I know is that Ms. Mildred goes in there every so often,” Ethan said, excited to be part of an adventure.
Feeling faint, I whispered, “I saw those while I was walking past the West Wing hallway. It’s near my room. C’mon, we’ve got to go.”
I grabbed Ethan’s hand, pulling him up from the porch, and we started to run back to the mansion. It was getting, cold and my hands and feet felt numb. We pushed through the cold, running along the windy cobbly path. I couldn’t help but shiver, not from just the cold, but also the creepiness of the dark looming trees. Were the cackling crows up there perhaps making fun of us? Running up the cobblestone driveway careful not to twist an ankle, we finally reached the doorway. The only light shining was that of an old lantern emitting an orange light. There was an eerie silence as we stood at the doorway. But suddenly, there was a, boom! Boom! Looking up, we gasped. It was the largest poof of glowing orbs coming out of the chimney I had ever seen. They looked like a colony of fireflies. However, they weren’t the green orbs I saw in the hallway of the West Wing. They were red, orange, and white, looking like some sort of weird fire.
“Oh my god. What in the freaking world,” Ethan whispered, his face white.
“Oh. My — ” I started to say.
Ethan said, “C’mon Cate, we are going to the fifth floor of the West wing,” pulling on my hand.
I held back shivering in fear, “I can’t, I’m sorry.”
He replied surprised, “I thought you wanted to see what was up there!”
I said, in a sorry manner, “We don’t know what’s up there! It could hurt us.”
Then, hearing how crazy I was being, I changed my mind and said, “Actually you know what, let’s do it. It’s just some powder and weird looking fireflies. It can’t do anything to us.”
We tested the front door, crossing our fingers that it was unlocked. Shoot, it’s locked. I knocked on the door. Knock! Knock! A green eye peered down at us through the door’s peephole. Chain dropping, the door creaked open and I dreaded the sight — Aunt Mildred wearing a cucumber face mask with her fuzzy pink robe and slippers.
“Just what do you think you are doing, young lady?” Aunt Mildred spoke sternly almost exploding with disbelief.
“Nothing, nothing at all. We were just taking a walk, Aunt Mildred,” I spoke quietly, not making eye contact. I nudged Ethan who was trying to stifle his laughter at the view of Aunt Mildred.
“No one can hear you, speak up. Whatever, come on in, now,” she said just noticing Ethan.
“Hey there! Ms. M, it’s me Evan!” Ethan spoke jokingly.
A shadow passed on Aunt Mildred’s face, and she forgot about us. She looked at her watch, then back at us squinting her eyes, as if trying to read our minds. She mumbled to herself looking worried — something about cake. She rushed to the dining room, leaving us in a confused state.
“Was it something I said?” Ethan asked just as perplexed as me.
“Oh no, oh no, oh NOOOOO! The cake. The cake. Why is it still here??” Aunt Mildred cried in distress.
She sprinted out, her green face resembling that of a wild ghoul.
“You come here now, Cate. You eat this cake,” she said, chasing us through gritted teeth.
In complete petrification, my feet were glued to the marble floor next to the front door, the wind outside howling at me.
Ethan unlocked me from the trance and shook my shoulders saying, “C’mon. Your Aunt Mildred is going crazy. We gotta escape from here.”
I nodded at him, and together we fled up the stairs, escaping the green ghoul that was Aunt Mildred.
“No! Come back, children. Look, look at this delicious piece of cake. Don’t you just want to eat it?” Aunt Mildred yelled, gaining on us after kicking off the slippers and throwing the plate of cake onto the ground, the plate shattering in a million pieces.
I heard someone shriek. Wait, was it me?
“Shhhhh!! Just keep running,” Ethan said, covering my mouth with his hand.
After what seemed like a hundred steps of stairs, we finally reached the top. My calves were burning in agony, and my muscles begged me to stop running, but instead, out of pure fear, we zoomed into the West wing.
Aunt Mildred was still climbing the stairs, but must have seen us go into the pitch-black hallway and hollered, “Come out of there right this second, Caitlyn Clarisse Allen. You’ll get hurt in there, trust me.”
I didn’t dare look behind me, I shut my eyes tightly and ran side by side with Ethan.
Ethan whispered, “Stop running Caitlyn, open your eyes.”
I cautiously opened my eyes, scared that there might be a monster or worse — Aunt Mildred standing there. Alas, it wasn’t. Thank god. It’s just the stairs up to the ominous on the fifth floor. That was when I noticed more green orbs circling around us, doing all sorts of things. Most of them were busy fluttering around us, curious at the new visitors. Some other ones were creating a long line and were glowing brightly, like they were trying to aid us in getting up the stairs. Almost like we could read each other’s minds, Ethan and I climbed the stairs together simultaneously, but everything felt slower.
We pushed ourselves to go faster, but everything felt slower up here, except Aunt Mildred’s pitter patter of bare feet on marble and the impossible to miss loud panting. How was she so fast while also being extremely out of shape? Thank goodness we were both wearing sneakers and um, normal clothing. Every floor we passed through brought new surprises and clues to the mystery that was the fifth floor — the second floor of the West Wing had cardboard boxes of all sizes, all filled with flasks and powders. The third floor was a huge library, filled to its cavernous ceilings with largely binded textbooks. The fourth floor, however, was the most shocking with a huge family crest resembling a crow with a sash that said ALLEN on it. It was lit with candles with one twin sized bed right next to it — sheets all tossed off the mattress. Well, I mean, it would have been the most weird floor until we reached the fifth floor.
“Wowzers. How amazing.” Ethan breathed out, clearly tired from all the running.
“Wowzers, indeed,” I whispered back.
Suddenly, the most infuriated screech was emitted, “ARGHHHH!! Those little dweebs, they found it — ”
Aunt Mildred was on the last step leading towards the magnificent fifth floor. Ethan and I quickly scurried behind a tall stack of cardboard boxes, not daring to even let out a breath. Thump!
What happened? Ethan peered out from behind the boxes and started to giggle.
I nudged him, warning him, “Shhh… she can hear you. What’s so funny??”
Ethan replied still laughing, “Hahaha, Ms. M has collapsed!”
“What??” I said in complete disbelief.
I, too then cautiously peered from behind the boxes and yep, there she was. Aunt Mildred, completely out of breath, lay there on the steps, not moving, but still alive. Oh, poor old woman. Is she okay?? No, Cate, don’t think that way. After all, she was the one chasing you!
We were free from her chasing us, finally. We could now take the time to fully absorb our surroundings. The tall, tall ceilings, that made every motion echo. First, the floor led to a long hallway, but then, Ethan and I made it to a pathway leading to a glass room. We observed into the glass room — somehow, there was sunlight in there. Long rows of all sorts of flowers were lined up in neat, colorful rows as bees and even a few hummingbirds zoomed around happily. The room was completely glass, and it emitted some sort of happy glow that the rest of the mansion failed to do. I moved my eyes to the right side and saw — Was that, was that some sort of mad scientist? It was indeed. There was a tall man, wearing a rumpled white lab coat. Underneath his lab coat, he seemed to be wearing a neon orange shirt with words on it that I could not make out. His hair was turning gray, with only wisps of brown hair peeking through.
“Who is that?” Ethan whispered to me in complete awe.
“No idea, must be Aunt Mildred’s scientist servant.”
We could not make out the scientist’s face because it was completely concealed by lab goggles and even a mouth mask to most likely protect him from the dangerous chemicals it looked like he was producing. The stranger stood behind a tall wooden table that was completely filled with flasks of all sorts of colors and plants. They kept letting out powders every so often which the scientist tried to catch with clear plastic hoods. The scientist himself worked on what looked like some sort of complex machinery that pumped the flowers from the gardens into those flasks.
Suddenly, we almost jumped at the sound of this strange man’s voice, “Mildred? Is that you?”
She moaned, “Yes… the test subjects just escaped from my grasp and escaped.”
Um, test subjects? What! Me? Everything suddenly made sense, but I didn’t dare to make a sound.
He answered in disbelief, “Come on, Mildreddd. You promised that it would work! How could — ”
“Sorry, sorry. I’ll try again in a few minutes,” Mildred replied weakly.
The scientist mumbled to himself in the glass room — undecipherable to all of us. He took off his thick goggles and then, it almost seemed like he could see Ethan and I in the corner of the hallway.
His honey-colored eyes glowed in the bright light and for a second… wait. Was it really him?