Category A: Highly Commended (2021) Monash Short Story Writing Competition
Author: Tarini Guddanti
The wind bit at any bare skin, poisoning it with a bluish-purple tinge. Crows screamed in the deadly silence of the night, their monstrous silhouettes accentuated by the glowing moon. I trod further into darkness, searching for the golden glow of light. I pulled my crimson cloak tighter against my body. And then I saw it. Light. It captivated me. It led me into it’s trance and lured me in.
I stood paralysed behind the gate. It loomed over me, and I stared, petrified at the skulls that were atop the metal spikes. Childrens’ skulls. I breathe in deeply. I whispered words of comfort to myself before thrusting the metal doors open. Inhaling deeply again, my jaw set in determination, I stepped into the mansion’s grounds.
I climbed cautiously up the stairs that lead to the door. There were pools of deep scarlet that seeped from the crack. Blood. Curiosity overwhelmed me and I placed a hand on the door knob. Despite the bitter cold, the metal was warm. With a sense of foreboding, I stepped over the puddles of thick, sanguine liquid, into the mansion. The house was unexpectedly warm and my skin prickled with unwanted pleasure. Despite the warmth, I was suffocated by the darkness.
My mind wandered aimlessly and my heart cried with desire as the thought of my family flashed in front my eyes. Mia. Mother. Father. I shouldn’t have ever come here. Chills danced down my spine. There was a small pressure on my shoulder, and I whipped around to look at it. A scream snagged in my throat. Translucent fingers wound themselves around my shoulder. I stood, paralysed.
Panic rekindled inside me. The flames rose higher. They were ravenous, they fed on hope, the only thing that kept me going. I desperately tried to kill the fire. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Adrenaline shot through me, and I ran.
My heart pounded as I saw the faint glow of the phantom behind me. My mind was so concentrated on running that I never saw the ring of rope on the floor, lying in wait for me. I never noticed how it tightened around my ankle. Harsh lights snapped on as I crumpled to the floor in a heap.
Disentangling myself, I ran faster. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sprinted down the corridors ignoring witches, princesses, goblins that stalked along the walls. I saw a group of creatures in front of me. They reached out and grabbed me and held on with a vice-like grip.
The scream that was in my throat all along finally escaped, until a clammy hand wrapped over my mouth.
“Shut up.” a harsh voice hissed into my ear. A familiar voice. My sister’s.
Pulling off her mask, Mia smirked and rolled her eyes, and shoved her phone into my hands. “If you haven’t realised, you’ve only been in here for ten minutes.” She sniggered as I stared at the screen, face reddening.
I hate haunted houses.