October 1st
I Love Parties, I Love High School
by kelsey murphy

“Wow, that’s so funny, I never tell this story,” she said, and it was so tiresome, because I knew she was lying. Katie always did this, invite the whole toast of the senior class (excuse the phrasing, it’s embarrassing enough to be in high school without having to police my weird-ass turns-of-fucking-phrase) to her house for a casual get together for Halloween while her parents are away flying god-knows-where (they’re both pilots, it’s so cute, I know) and then make it so she can tell her patented scary story about her actually haunted house. She’s dressed like a dead cheerleader, and I’m kind of jealous because it’s such a pro costume.

This year I didn’t have Heather to make faces at while this was going on, so I was languishing in the middle of things. Even though, I have to admit, it was a good story, I didn’t believe her house was haunted. I like scary movies as much as the next rando, but all this ghost stuff is total BS.

Brett Wilson ended up calling for people to gather around Katie for this whole thing, and actually quiet down to listen. And because he was tall and huge and Brett (dressed as a zombie doctor—in his dad’s scrubs), people actually did what he asked. Katie smiled sweetly at him and I had to force myself not to gag. Katie sat on the edge of the bar/window area opening into her kitchen, and we all surrounded her in the open living room. They’d remodeled the place into infinity, so even if it was an old house, it looked like it had gone up yesterday.

Kevin Connors ended up next to me, dressed as Guy Fieri. He bumped me in the hip and I almost screamed (in anger…no one’s allowed to touch me). “You heard this one before?”

“No, she never tells it,” I lied.

“Oh, weird,” he said, “I figured because you were friends and all.”

“Quiet!” Brett yelled again, “Katie’s actually going to tell it now.”

“Oh my god, thanks, Brett.” Katie laughed, “Now this has to be like professional,” she flapped a hand in front of her face, “like I’m nervous, now.”

“First time’s the charm,” I whispered. Kevin shot me a weird look. I felt bad I was so annoyed. It wasn’t Katie’s fault. Mr. Butler had scolded me in class today, and it felt totally sexist and stupid, just joining a legion of things that have happened this fall to make me feel totally sick of everyone. Plus, like fifteen people commented on the fact that I didn’t wear a costume, and I had to keep explaining that I was dressed as my cousin Becca from Canada but she dressed pretty normally so this was the whole deal—this was a bad joke that didn’t work, but I kept on telling it.

Katie started her story and I couldn’t take it, so I walked off to the front of the house, figuring I’d sit on the porch swing (silly, but very comforting) until she was done, or until I decided I’d stayed long enough that I could go home. I wasn’t a very fun teen.

I could maybe even read on my phone and pretend to be texting or on Instagram or something, like I wasn’t being so boring. I was in the midst of Dracula, trying to get into the holiday spirit. I’d found it pretty uninteresting so far, but things were starting to pick up.

Katie’s story wasn’t one of those fun ones where someone screams in the middle to get everyone to jump. It was just about how when she and her family had moved in, they’d always see this weird light show up in the background of any photos they took. And then Katie’s little brother started to see it in his room at night, and then Katie did, and then their parents did, too. This little light following them around.

Katie’s aunt is a low-level medium or psychic or whatever, so when she found out about it, she went over to their house to like exorcise it out, or whatever. She tried it, and thought it worked, but when she went home, all of her pictures had the weird white light in it, and then she saw it in her house, too.

It was like this weird warped version of The Ring, with none of the deadly consequences. Hear of this light? Now it’ll follow you around forever. Yeah, so, Katie’s aunt ended up hooking them up with some higher-level medium who was fully connected to “the other side.” This lady—who, by all accounts, was really weird—told Katie’s parents they had to make a space for the light, so instead of invading their lives and their rooms, it had its own place. It wasn’t going to leave their house, but it could be enclosed within it.

So, like, it was this wandering spirit that had the potential to turn, like, dangerous or whatever, but if in their reno they paid attention to it, it would stop like going into their pictures and waking them up at night. So they had to like tell their contractor to make a special room, extend the foundation in their basement, and have this medium-level-medium run a ceremony in this new room off their basement to offer it to the light.

They’re supposed to leave the door closed always. Like after they invited the light into this room, they weren’t allowed to touch it, because all the energy combined could make it more violent than it ever was before. I mean, I don’t know the specifics.

The thing about telling the story, is that everyone always wants to open the door afterwards. It’s like, Katie, you know you’re not supposed to open the door, and here you are baiting everyone who’s anyone in the senior class to potentially call death upon you and your whole family by opening the haunted room? Seems pretty stupid to me.

Just then, Kevin Connors popped his frosted-tips wigged head out of the front door, “hey, what are you doing?”

“On the ‘gram,” I lied, pressing the home button to pull Dracula off my screen. “Story over?”

“Yeah, I think a couple people are going downstairs to try and open the door. Wanna come?”

“Uh, I think I’m good, thanks.” I shake my head and wave my phone around awkwardly. “I don’t want to like tempt the spirits or whatever.”

“You don’t seem like the kind of person who believes in that stuff.”

I’m glad I come off that way. “Yeah, I don’t, but still. Who wants a weird light in all their photos? It’d be a pain to have to edit it out every time.” I joke.

“Oh-kay.” Kevin says slowly. He’s not really on my wavelength. “If we all die down there, tell my parents I loved them.”

“Will do.” I wave as he closes the door behind him. I text Heather, they’re opening the door at Katie’s house. Pray 4 me. I can’t believe she moved away. Worst day of my life. Worst year of my life.

I pull up Dracula again on my phone and get settled to read again, when suddenly the porch lights flicker and spark, busting out all at once. I stand up, confused, and look across the street—the neighbors’ lights went out, too. I jog up the driveway a bit and look up and down the street—the whole street is down.

It’s totally eerie. I grab my phone to turn on the flashlight, but it’s out, too. Everything dead. I walk back over to Katie’s and go in, shoving my phone in my back pocket. It’s weird and quiet—the music all off, and everyone must have all gone downstairs, since the hall and kitchen and living room are empty of people. I find the door to the basement, glad I remember where it is, and start walking downstairs. “Guys?” I call, “What’s going on?”

I get to the bottom of the stairs and peek into the basement. It’s bright in there. Katie’s parents must have a generator or something. I look in—but it’s not a generator. The door is open, flooding the room with white light. I have to shade my eyes it’s so bright. I don’t think I should go closer, I don’t think I should be here.

I step further into the room—the whole fucking senior class is in a line in front of the door, waiting to go in. It looks like the fucking entryway to heaven or something. A blinding, glowing white light from this weird basement room. It seems impossible. It is impossible.

The room is the size of a closet though, Katie showed us the plan when she was crowing about the renovations years ago. How could so many people fit in it? They’re just walking in—no one coming out.

Why would she open it? Why would she open the door? I look and can’t help but walk closer. I don’t want to walk closer. Why am I walking closer?

Kevin Connors is next—and Katie is next to the open door like she’s Vanna White or something, showing people in. Kevin turns for a moment, locking eyes with me, he looks terrified, confused. He turns back and walks in. It looks like he’s glowing. The light is so bright I can’t see him anymore. I can’t believe he’s going to die dressed as Guy Fieri.

“Katie, what’s going on?” I manage to shout.

“It’s happening. I did it!” she calls back, excitedly. “He wanted me to do it, and I did!”

What? My heart is practically beating out of my chest and I’m somehow still walking towards the door, and I can’t stop myself, and I don’t even believe in this shit, and if something happened to Kevin I was supposed to tell his parents he loved them, but who’s going to tell my parents that I loved them, and my sister, too, I won’t leave her out of this. How’s she going to learn how to get through middle school. Without me? No way. “Katie—" I manage to squeak out, it’s getting harder to talk, “close…the…door.”

“You’re joining me. You’re joining him,” she says, she sounds so happy, she sounds enlightened.

“What…about…your…parents?” I’m practically wheezing. “What happens when they come back from flying?”

“They’re not fucking flying, they’re fucking DEAD.” Katie shouts, smiling, and she screams in exaltation.

“Your…brother?” I ask—still inching forwards, no matter how much I try to fight it.

“He’s already inside,” she pouts. “He was called first.”

Fuck, I thought. I should have just stayed home, hung out with my parents, my sister, read Dracula at home instead of trying to be social. I didn’t even get to finish it. This was the worst. This was unbelievable. I was still walking, I couldn’t stop it. I wished Katie’s aunt had been a better medium, that that medium-level-medium had been stronger to contain this weird light that was about to consume me. I couldn’t believe this was all real—it was all happening. I couldn’t believe my last moments were to be spent with Katie.

The Gallagher twins were ahead of me, holding hands. They were so lucky. They got to be together, even in the end. I tried digging my heels in, closing my eyes, shutting out the light, but it was useless. A hand was on my shoulder, Katie. “You’re so lucky,” she said. “You’re so lucky.” And she pushed me in.

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