“Turn left onto Moon Road,” the GPS voice said.
“Left?” my father asked. “Why is it telling us to turn left? You can only turn right here.”
“Turn left onto Moon Road,” the GPS repeated.
“Maybe the thing’s broken,” my mother suggested.
“Wait, Mom, you can turn left,” my brother Jim said. “See? It’s a dirt road. It’s just hard to see.”
“Are you sure?” Mom asked.
“Ugh,” I groaned. “At this rate, we’ll never get to the lake.”
“Don’t worry, Izz,” my dad assured, using my nickname for Isabella. “We’ll manage.”
It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon in mid-August, and we were on our way up north to a little town by Lake Hudson. It was the annual family road trip we looked forward to every year, but this year it wasn’t starting out so well.
My brother was always a Mr. Know-It-All. He had straight A’s in his classes, and wasn’t modest about it. He had dark brown hair like our mom, our dad, and myself. It was long and shaggy and he wore these thin brown glasses that he thought made him look so intelligent.
I, on the other hand, looked completely different. While we both had long brown hair, brown eyes, and skinny, bony bodies, that’s where the resemblance stopped. In my opinion, I looked more modern and presentable. I always wore clean-cut blouses and pleated skirts. I didn’t do too bad in school, but A’s were about as rare as D’s and E’s, and if I ever did get an A, I didn’t brag about it to the whole family.
I’m pretty sure that while we were riding in the car, Mom and Dad were completely oblivious to Jim scrawling out math equations on his sneakers. I rolled my eyes and took out my iPod to listen to music. I wasn’t allowed to have a phone. Jim was, but he never even used it. Such a waste.
We traveled along the mysterious dirt road as Katy Perry songs flowed through my earbuds. We never took this way before, and it was also our first time using this new GPS Dad bought last Christmas. There were very few houses along the roads, mostly dead crops and abandoned farms, the barns burnt up and the silos all rusty.
I don’t know why, but machinery and scary metal things always creeped me out. Especially rusty farm equipment. I think it’s just from all the horror movies I’ve seen and the few scary books I’ve read where things go wrong with the machine and someone ends up hurt.
I knew it was just a road trip, though. And nothing could go wrong if we just stayed in the car, right?
Thump. Boom. Clink-clink. Sizzle. Blrsssst.
“Uh-oh,” my mother’s voice squealed.
I lifted my head up from where it was resting on the door.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Sounds like the engine combusted,” my father grumbled, opening his car door and stepping out.
“I’ll help you take a look at it, Dad.” Jim followed after him.
Great. the last thing we needed right now was for our suburban to break down in the middle of nowhere. It was probably that stupid GPS’s fault. Dad wasted like three hundred dollars on that thing because “ it was a good deal”. Please. The sales clerk was probably just telling him that so he would buy it, because nobody else wanted that crappy GPS.
I heard Dad and Jim’s voices outside, Jim using all these fancy technical terms like he knew anything about cars. Luckily, Dad knew some basic stuff and was able to figure out what was wrong.
“Well,” he muttered when he poked his head into the car. “Looks like the engine isn’t working.”
Oh, wow. Really?
“I’m gonna try to fix it,” he continued. “Anybody have a phone?”
“No,” I glared pointedly at him, because it was his fault that I didn’t have a phone.
“I didn’t bring mine either,” Jim added. Of course he didn’t.
“I’m not getting any service out here, hon,” Mom sighed.
“Isabella, Jim, why don’t you two go see if anybody’s home up on that farm house down the road to call for a tow or something?” Dad asked.
I looked at Jim, and he looked at me. We both groaned.
“Here, take this flashlight, my pocketknife, some Lifesavers-”
“I don’t know! Here, take this, and go look for help!”
Jim and I stepped out of the car, Jim carrying the supplies and I slamming the car door as hard as I could in exaggeration.
“I’m sure if I could just get my hands on a calculator I could figure out how to reconstruct the wiring system-”Jim started.
“Come on,” I pleaded. “Let’s just go.”
We headed south down the dirt road, called Moon, leaving Mom and Dad behind to work on the car. We stopped in front of house with the numbers “395” on the rusty old mailbox.
“I don’t think people still live here,” Jim stated as we neared the pathway that lead toward the house. “It seems abandoned.”
The house was white with a grey-shingled roof and grey shutters, very old-fashioned in a farm-house way. The wood door had red paint peeling off and showing the original brown color of the wood. Toys and children’s things were strung around the front yard, a swingset here and some toy monster trucks there. We could see further beyond the house there was a shed, and then a barn, and then all the farming equipment. It looked like they owned about fifty acres of land, and all the crops had withered away and died.
We stepped up to the front door and Jim’s hand wrapped around the knob.
“Wait!” I whispered, reaching out to stop him. “Shouldn’t we knock?”
“No,” he said flatly is his little know-it-all way, as if I was a foolish toddler suggesting we play with their sandbox. “Obviously no one is living here anymore. And we don’t need to whisper. Why are you whispering?”
“Oh. I… I don’t know,” I shook my head. It’s not like we were robbing them, right? We just wanted to borrow their phone to call for help.
Jim rolled his eyes at me, and went to turn the knob but it didn’t move. He shoved against the door but it didn’t budge.
“It’s locked,” he said.
“No, really?” I asked sarcastically.
“Let’s check the back.”
“Check the back for what?”
“For a door, Izz. Hopefully an unlocked one.”
I followed Jim around the side of the house to the back yard, which was enclosed in a rusty metal fence. The gate swung open easily but made a screeching noise.
“Yikes,” Jim muttered. We stepped into the backyard and went to the screen door. A heap of red, slimy mush lay beside the stone pathway. I gasped.
“Gross! I almost stepped in it,” I whined. “What is that?”
“Looks like roadkill,” Jim offered.
“Why is it in a big pile back here?”
“Maybe they eat it.”
“Gross, Jim! Uh, it smells too.”
As we stepped in through the back door I eyed the heap suspiciously. It was definitely carcauses, but not necessarily animal. I couldn’t really see any fur, but then again, it was so mutilated it didn’t look like much of anything. I shuddered at the thought.
There was a mini entryway where we first walked in, which led into a combined dining room/kitchen area, where a cord phone hung on the wall.
“There, Jim,” I pointed at the phone. “See if that still works.”
He picked up the phone and listened for a dial tone.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “It does. Who should I call?”
“Um, 911, obviously!” I cried.
“Izz, this isn’t an emergency,” he muttered as he turned back to the phone.
“It is to me,” I frowned, walking away to explore the rest of the house while Jim contacted different people.
“Where’re you going?” he hissed.
“Upstairs,” I hissed back.
“Isab-” he started to call after me, but I ignored him.
Upstairs, there were two bedrooms and one master, so I guess the people who used to live here had kids. The odd thing was, everything was still furnished. The beds had covers laying upon them, and the floors were a bit untidy with clothes, toys, and books. It didn’t seem as if they had moved out. It didn’t even seem like they were on vacation, because everything was covered in a layer of dust. It seemed like they just…
“Disappeared!” I heard Jim’s voice from back downstairs. “The flashlight, Dad’s pocket knife, the Lifesavers- they just disappeared!” I ran down to see what was happening.
“Jim, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“I lost all the stuff Dad gave us,” he replied. “And it’s getting dark.”
“It’s fine, we should be heading back to the car anyways. Did you contact anyone?”
“Nobody we know personally answered. But I found a phone book and called the nearest gas station, which is at least twenty miles away.”
“What did they say?”
“The guy said he would do what he could, send someone down here, but….”
“Well, I told him the address of the house….”
“And he said….weird things have been happening here.”
Jim looked away, and then down at the phonebook.
“You know what?” he said. “I’ll just call a tow service, ok?”
“But Jim, what kind of weird-”
“Just forget it, okay?’
“Do you think this place is haunted?”
“I said forget it, we’re getting out of here.” He turned completely away from me and picked up the phone again, dialing a number for tow service he found in the book. I walked towards the front foyer, where pictures and decorations lined a mantel where you first walked in.
I could barely hear Jim’s voice on the phone now that we were on opposite sides of the house. I handled one of the pictures from the mantel that was in a dark wooden frame. It showed the whole family, a handsome father, a beautiful mother, a daughter about my age and a younger boy, somewhere in the toddler years. Something was off about the picture, like they were pretending to be happy but they weren’t. Like they were hiding a dark secret that cost their life if they told.
Freaked out, I sat the picture back down, and looked out the window to see a tow truck only about a mile down the road, coming our way.
“Jim!” I called for my brother excitedly. “Jim, a truck’s here, come on let’s go!”
I heard a loud bang, and then I rushed into the kitchen area.
“Jim?” my voice cracked. I looked around the kitchen, he was nowhere to be seen. All there was was just a splotch of blood on the kitchen counter, and the phone hanging off the wall, swinging by the cord.
I ran out into the backyard.
“JIM?!” I screamed. “Jim, this isn’t funny! Please, where are you?”
My eyes scanned the fenced-in area, but I didn’t see anything. All I noticed was the bloody heap seemed a little bigger than it was last time, and beside it was a white Nike with “2x -5= -45” on it.
I returned back to the car, where my parents, a tow truck driver, and a car mechanic were waiting. I didn’t even realize I was crying until my mother asked me why I was so upset.
“Jim…” I started. “He…”
“I know,” the driver said, and we all turned to look at him. “He’s gone. Just ‘disappeared’, right? Like the family that used to live there, and anyone who’s visited since.”
“You know?” I asked, surprised.
“I used to think it was a legend,” he replied. “But it turns out to be true. Something about that house… weird things… You’re lucky to be alive.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I sighed, climbing back into the car.
“Well,” the mechanic said. “Looks like you guys are all set to go.”
“Thanks,” my mother smiled.
“We really appreciate it,” my father added.
The tow truck guys and the mechanic left, and we all buckled up in the car. I found a green Lifesaver sticking to my seat.
“If only a Lifesaver could’ve saved Jim,” I thought, as I traveled with my family up north, now as an only child.