Chapter 4: Give & Take

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The creatures clawed at Aaron's legs as they began to drag him toward the center of the staircase. He fought with everything he had, but being hurt, they easily overpowered him.

"Nooo...."

Jenn and Chad felt slightly bad for Aaron, but not enough to fight these things for him.

The things started to squeal and make high-pitched noises as they pulled him toward the strings. As much as Jenn and Chad wanted to run, they felt paralyzed, unable to pull themselves away as they watched the madness that was unfolding in front of them.

As soon as Aaron's feet crossed the threshold of the circle of strings, a darkness fell all around him. It seemed to solidify into a tar-like mass, absorbing into the floor as it tried to take him with it. 

Jenn and Chad felt the floor begin to shake as the floor appeared to crack open inside the circle. "We, uh, probably need to get out of here," Chad pointed out as the entire mansion trembled.

The roar of destruction filled the foyer as the floor under Aaron fell away. Almost completely swallowed by the darkness, he clawed at the floor, trying to save himself from being pulled into the abyss that had opened underneath him. When the realization of the inevitable crossed his face, he let go.

When he did, all hell broke loose... literally.

"Yeah," Jenn said, finally agreeing with Chad, "let's go."

They bolted for the front door, hoping it would open. Thankfully, it did.

They ran across the yard, passed James's van, stopping once they felt like they were at a safe distance. When they turned around, it was like watching the devastation of a strong earthquake, yet they were standing on stable ground.

"It's gonna fall," Chad said as the windows began to explode.

Jenn fell to her knees as the house collapsed in on itself. "Shannon."

Chad knelt beside her, wrapping his arm around her. "I know." He did know. He had been friends with James for ten years.

Chad held Jenn as she cried, watching Hell swallow Bache Manor.

After several minutes, it was done, and they both realized there was nothing they could do but walk for help. "This is going to be hard to explain," Chad admitted.

Jenn shrugged. "Sinkholes happen all the time."

"I guess, but that's one helluva sinkhole."

A crumbling sound came from behind them, causing Jenn to stop and turn around. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah, the house is still disintegrating."

"No," she said, taking a few steps back toward the mansion. "I thought I heard...."

They both listened, and once again, a faint voice softly echoed across the yard. "You did hear it," Chad agreed.

They both ran back toward the house, scared of who it might be, but also hopeful of who it could be.

"Shannon?" Jenn called, while Chad yelled for James.

"What if it's not them?" Chad asked.

"But what if it is?"

Some bricks fell off to the side, causing them to sprint to that area of the rubble. Seeing movement, they proceeded with caution, until a female hand pushed its way out.

"Shannon!" Jenn climbed over the debris and started trying to help her out. When she saw who it was, though, she was immediately disappointed. "It's Deb," she said, helping her out of the mess.

"How the hell...?" Chad wondered out loud.

"Where are the others?" Jenn asked her. "Did you see them?"

Deb nodded, but seemed unable to speak.

They dragged her out, realizing she needed medical attention, since her head was bleeding profusely.

"I'm going to look for Shannon and James," Chad said, causing Deb to try to speak for the first time, grunting.

"I'll look for Traci, too, don't worry."

Movement came from behind them, another feminine hand poking out. "It's Traci," Jenn said, disappointment evident in her voice again.

She felt guilty for not being overjoyed that they'd made it out of this, but, then again, it was their fault they were wrapped up in this mess to begin with.

Traci mumbled something inaudible. "She's right here," Jenn huffed, assuming she was asking about her mom. "Where's Shannon? James?" she all but yelled. "Where are they?"

After several minutes, Jenn and Chad began to lose hope. Then, when ten minutes went by, they were totally despondent. It wasn't until a noise came from the other side of the pile of rubble that their spirits lifted.

They started yelling for their friends, overcome with a new rush of optimism when they got an answer back—it was James, moaning.

Not only did they find James, but Shannon, too. Once they got them pulled out of the mess and helped them get to the safety of the yard with Deb and Traci, they noticed something odd about them.

"What's wrong with their eyes?" Chad asked.

Jenn leaned down to see what he was talking about, the moon their only light. "They're—" she looked closer "—they're black." She looked at Chad in shock. "Their eyes are black."

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