Marty wasn’t going to listen to another word. He flew out to his car, Veronica and Jillian close behind, but when he tried to start the engine, nothing happened.
Hitting the dashboard in frustration, he turned to his friends. “It was working fine before. Alyson must’ve done something.”
“How?” asked Jillian. “She’s been inside the whole time.”
Alyson’s shadow cast a dark gloom over Marty’s windshield as she stepped onto the house’s threshold.
“The first rule,” she called out to them, “is that you are not allowed to leave. Not until morning. Your car will work just fine tomorrow, Marty, so if you’re still alive by then, you can leave. Until dawn, I’m afraid you’re stuck here.” She smiled. “The second and final rule is just as simple as the first: do exactly what I say.”
“Why are you doing this?” Veronica got out of the car and faced Alyson, refusing to let on how much this creepy prank frightened her.
“Why am I doing this?” Alyson laughed. “The dead want what they want. And my sister…she wants one of you. Now come back inside. I made hot cocoa.”
“She’s completely insane!” Jillian grabbed Marty’s arm as he walked around to her side of the car. The three of them huddled together staring at the front door as if it might swallow them should they take a step towards it.
“Maybe she is,” said Veronica, “but look at it this way. She’s a mean girl who just lost her sister. The only way she knows how to cope is to try to make other people feel as sad and desperate as she is. All we have to do is sit there and listen to her. In the morning, we can leave. If we act scared, it’ll only feed her craziness. Do you really want to do that?”
Marty and Jillian shook their heads. Without saying another word, they headed for the door. Jillian shuddered as Marty shut it behind her sealing them inside.
Back in the front room, the other teens Alyson had invited talked casually with each other. Veronica recognized them as members of Alyson’s in-group— Kayla, Christine, and Christine’s brother, Ben. “Something tells me Alyson doesn’t intend any of them to swap places with Marie,” she whispered to Marty.
Alyson circled the room, passing out large mugs filled with frothy hot chocolate.
Veronica set her cup aside and grasped Alyson’s hand. “Look, I know you’re hurting. I know you miss her. I miss her too! But what you’re doing here tonight—it’s not going to bring her back. Nothing will. She’s dead, Alyson.”
Scowling, Alyson pulled her hand away from Veronica. “Drink your hot cocoa, Veronica. I added extra marshmallows just for you.”
Minutes passed in tense silence. As soon as Jillian had drained her cup, she knew she’d been foolish to consume anything Alyson had handled. Her head began to spin as she tried to focus on what was happening around her. From what she could tell, Marty and Veronica weren’t fairing much better.
“What did you do to us?” Marty asked. He stumbled towards Alyson. Ben caught him and lowered him onto the couch next to Veronica who groaned as she rocked slowly from side to side.
“You were right, Alyson,” Ben said. “Whatever you put in those drinks sure worked.”
“Am I ever wrong?” She kissed Ben’s forehead and walked into a dark hallway leading to the back of the house. “I’ll bring her in. Watch them. Make sure they don’t try to leave.”
Jillian’s eyes wandered towards Ben. She’d dated him briefly sophomore year. Then Alyson had swooped in, claiming him for herself. Ben and Jillian hadn’t talked much since, but maybe some part of him still liked her and would put an end to this madness.
“Why is she doing this?” she asked him. “Ben, help us, please!”
“Ben, help us!” Christine mocked. Ben shook his head as he turned away from Jillian.
“Here she is,” Alyson said brightly as she pushed a rickety wheelchair into the room.
“Ugh!” Marty brought his sleeve to his nose as he eyed the decomposing corpse slouched in the wheelchair. Its mouth gaped open as though caught in an eternal last gasp. “Is that…is that Marie?”
The stench of Marie’s putrefying flesh filled the air. Even Alyson’s friends reacted with disgust. Kayla retched all over Christine’s shoes. Ben took several steps backwards. Alyson alone seemed immune.
Veronica struggled to sit up as she peered into Marie’s lifeless eyes. The dead girl’s cheeks drooped like melted wax. Her chin looked as if it had been nibbled upon. “I can’t believe this is what you meant when you said you couldn’t wait to see Marie. You actually dug up her grave? How could you?”
“She told me to!” Alyson snapped. “She spoke to me through my aunt and said I could save her. So that’s what I’m doing!”
Alyson snapped her fingers. Flames shot up from the floor forming a large circle with Marie in its center. “It’s time to play our game, a game of truth and consequences. Unfortunately for one of you, the consequence of the truth you have to tell is quite…life-threatening.”
Jillian eased herself towards the wall. Each movement caused her head to pound, but she knew she had to get as far away from the fiery circle as possible.
“Let me explain,” Alyson said as she smoothed a flab of loose skin onto Marie’s forehead. “Every life is given a precise amount of energy. When that energy is exhausted, the life it belongs to ends. But Marie’s energy wasn’t depleted on its own, was it? No, it was taken from her—stolen! Stolen by someone whose own life was about to end. All I want—all she wants, is to take back what is hers. You traded her life for yours. Now you’re going to trade it back. It’s time you told the truth.”
She raised her hand and pointed.
I’m in absolute disbelief that my name now appears on a story alongside R.L. Stine’s! How incredibly is that? There were so many excellent entries to this contest, and I am thrilled that R.L. Stine selected mine.
Now that the wait to see who won the contest is over, the anticipation begins anew! Just who is Alyson about to accuse of Marie’s murder? Be sure to check back on Halloween to find out how R.L. Stine decides to end our story!
- Amber K. Bryant