The Burn

Alicyn Harris

Sarah let out a sigh. “Do we have to visit the creepy old house?” She groaned. It was almost sunset, and she was ready to go home. They’d been hiking all day. 
“This is the last stop, I promise,” James responded, glancing over his shoulder at her and smiling. He paused for a moment, observing the house that sat in the middle of the clearing and was surrounded by woods. “I’ve read stories about this house. Some old couple died here.” 
Sarah stopped beside him, looking out at the half-burned house on the hill. “What were their names?” She asked, looking over at him. 
“Margaret and Edward Smith,” he answered. He looked back at her with a wide grin. “Rumor has it they still haunt this house.” There was a small pause as he looked up at the house for another moment. The sun was setting, casting eerie shadows across the meadow. Without another word, he started walking again. 
“Where are you going?” Sarah called after him, though she knew perfectly well where he was going. He had a curious nature, and she knew he wouldn’t leave until he’d explored at least some of the house. When he kept walking and didn’t answer her, she followed after him. “I don’t think this is safe,” she muttered under her breath. 
James reached the house several moments before Sarah did. She warily stepped inside, nervously glancing across the room. The structure seemed weak, especially the remainder of the ceiling that covered them. It looked like it would collapse at any moment. When she found him, he was standing in the middle of it, a blank expression on his face. 
“What are you looking at?” She asked, walking over to stand beside him. She followed his gaze to a spot on the wall that he seemed to be transfixed on, but nothing was there. It was an ordinary wall. “What is it?” She asked again. He still didn’t answer, just continued to stare at the wall. She placed a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t move. “James?” 
Still, there was nothing. Sarah began to grow more panicked. “James? Come on, this isn’t funny.” When there was still no response, she shook his shoulder. Her heart began to race. Something was seriously wrong. 
“Boo!” James suddenly shouted, reaching out and grabbing the hand that was on his shoulder. Sarah shrieked and jumped backwards. He was laughing at her. “That was hilarious,” he said, laughing so hard he could hardly speak. “You should’ve seen your face.” 
She punched him in the arm. 
“Ow! That hurt.” He winced, rubbing his arm. A smile was back on his face after a few moments. He started walking through the house again. 
Sarah was shaking her head at him, but she still had a small smile on her face. “Okay, you’ve had your fun, can we leave now?” 
Just as she said that, the faint smell of smoke filled the room. Her brow furrowed in confusion. “Where is that coming from?” No one else was in the house and there was no fire going. It seemed to grow stronger by the second as if they were standing in the middle of the inferno that had destroyed this house over 100 years ago, but there wasn’t any smoke in the air. It was a perfectly clear night. The moon was shining brightly overhead. She gazed upwards, peering at it through the holes in the ceiling. 
“Something’s wrong…” James murmured. A shiver ran through him, and floorboards creaked in the other room. 
Sarah glared at him. “You’ve already scared me once. You won’t trick me again.” Sweat trickled down her forehead and she reached up to wipe it away with the back of her hand. It had been a cool autumn day earlier, but the heat seemed to be gathering in the house. “Can we please leave? It’s hot in here and I want to go home,” she complained. The floorboards creaked loudly in the other room, making her jump. 
“Relax,” James said. “It’s probably just a raccoon or something.” 
A figure, an apparition, appeared out of the darkness. She had a withered face and wore tattered clothing stained black with soot. She seemed blurry and unfocused, and Sarah wasn’t sure if it was her own vision blurring or if it actually was this woman’s appearance. She looked down at the elderly woman’s feet and found that they weren’t touching the ground. It took her only moments to realize that she didn’t have feet at all. Her body faded into nothingness, only empty air, yet when she moved the floors under her shifted and creaked. Moments later, another figure appeared beside her, this time a man with burn marks covering half his face. 
The two of them stared at the young couple, unmoving and completely silent. Their eyes were like black holes, a deep and dark abyss. James and Sarah were almost in a trance as they looked back at the ghosts in front of them. In the back of their minds, they wanted to scream and run, but they found their feet unable to move. 
A light began to grow in the eyes of the elderly couple. It was dim at first but began to grow and light up the entire room. Flames erupted throughout the room, pouring out of the eyes of the ghosts like a dragon’s breath and consuming the house.
An old couple walked down a wooded path in Maine. A small town, where they would begin their new lives, sat at the end of the path. An old house was behind them, slowly being consumed by the flames. The old couple walked hand in hand, small smiles on their faces as they walked along through the darkness. It was a quiet and peaceful night apart from the roar of the flames and the screams coming from inside the house.