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“How 'bout truth or dare?”

Of course. I thought. At every slumber party, you know truth or dare is gonna show up. I don't even know why I'm here. I'm not having much fun. We are having a Halloween sleepover and the only reason I came in the first place is because I don’t have anything better to do. We played truth and dare for a while but I was pretty bored. Eventually, Callie asked me,

“Bree, truth or dare?”

“Truth.” I responded.

“Aw, come on! Don’t be so boring!” Callie complained.

“You told me to choose one!”

“Yeah, but I WANTED you to choose dare!”

“Fine, dare.” I said, rolling my eyes at my friend’s twisted logic. Callie gave me an evil smile.

“I dare you to put a candle inside the dump.” All of the other girls gasped.

“No way.” I said.

“What, are you scared?”

“Um, no!” Um, yes! Of course I’m scared. There are stories about that place. Stories that, when you think about the dump makes your very bones chill. People say that there were ghosts or demons. They lure you in then don’t let you leave. Of course, I was a proud seventh grader and I would NEVER admit that I was scared because of a couple ghost stories. “We cannot go out this late. Callie’s parents would kill us.”

“We can cover for you.” Callie responded. A few minutes later, I was holding a candle in one hand and a flashlight in the other. The light the flashlight and candle gave seemed feeble compared to the sheer darkness of the quiet night. I lingered on the creaking threshold, trying to delay it as much as possible.

“It’s so cold.” I groaned.

“Don’t be a baby!” A girl shouted.

I stepped out the door as Callie closed it behind me. As I walked I was convinced the chill of the night was the spirits, closing around me and pulling me in. The earth was frozen in time. Every step I took could be seen and heard from miles around. I was sure of it. I considered dumping the candle in a garbage can and say that I went to the dump but I knew the girls would check. In the morning when the ghosts are gone. My feet felt as heavy as led. My legs ached from forcing them along. I took my steps one after another after another. I could feel my heart pounding, emanating through the silent night. My brain was screaming for me to stop but my legs refused. I looked up and realized I had arrived. I was standing at the entrance of a large dump with garbage piled feet high. There was a breeze that could not have come from the still earth. The stars were looking at me. Watching me. The blackness pierced my skin as I thought about what might be lurking within it. I heard something. It was very faint but it was there and growing louder. It was whispering. The sounds did not make words but I heard what they were saying clearly.

Come in. Come to us. We know about your friends. We know everyday you are living a lie. We know you look at the world as if though you are looking through a screen. As if you are acting. We know everyday, you hide in your room scared of what might be lurking outside. Scared of what had killed your mother. We know the the world hates you. Come to us. We will protect you from the hateful earth and the spite and lies that come with it.

The voices pierced the air like icicles. They were evil and cruel. They wanted me. They could sense the pain I had experienced and they loved that. They wanted that. They needed that.

As I stood there, the voices changed. They were warm and inviting. They were pulling me in their clutches with that warmth and wonder. I felt a longing. A need to be there. The voices brought me somewhere. Somewhere I recognized.

A little girl stands in a clearing with her mother and father. She looks happy. The girl is laughing and running. Her parents are setting down a basket and a blanket. An average family going on a picnic. The parents smile as their little girl, filled with boundless energy flies onto the blanket.

“Mommy!” She shouted. “Do I get a cookie?”

“Of course dear.” The mother said laughing. This happiness does not last long.

The same little girl is in her room. She is a few years older and does not act like the girl from the picnic. She is crying. Her door is locked and she crouched behind her bed. She worries that whatever is outside will get in. She hears an unearthly scream. She tells herself, without believing it, that everything will be fine. She can see red liquid trickling under her door and she goes farther behind her bed. Another scream. She is sure it could not have been from a human. It was from a human. She can hear sirens coming. They will rescue her. She does not know this. There is a knocking on her door. She holds back her whimpers and gets entirely under the bed. Somewhere downstairs she can hear a door open. She can hear footsteps. She hears sounds that she never wants to hear again. Her door opens. There is a man in a blue uniform who walks into her room. She is suddenly aware of how loud her breathing is. The man crouches and she sees his kindly eyes. He reaches out a hand but she does not trust it. She will never trust anything again. The one who she trusted most had let her down. She did not want it to happen again.

I did not realize I was walking forward. I did not realize I was going to them, looking for that warmth and love that others had failed to provide for me. I did not realize I was walking into their cold, icy grips until it was too late.  I did not realize I made a mistake. I did not think anyone heard my screams.


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