SELFISH DREAMS by Lesley Juarez

THE THIRD FLOOR
Don’t look back. Keep walking; I wish more people would say. But when dreams are a possibility it’s inevitable to stop and sometimes everything becomes blurry. For a second you never know who you are or where you are or what you’re capable of doing. You don’t know how you picked that shade of lipstick you’re wearing, or how you chose what clothes to wear. Then everything is processed. You can see everything clearly now. You are standing in front of your new home, while holding your fiancé’s hand. The sun is shining brightly, not a cloud in the sky. The wind softly caresses our cheek like tender kisses and the grass grows greener by the minute. Seems perfect right? Guess again.
“It’s a lovely manor, wouldn’t you say so?” exclaimed Mr. Benson, the realtor.
I glanced at Ian with glittering eyes. I slightly tug on his dark blue sleeve, which prompted a trouble smile from him, “I’m not… exactly sure?” Ian replied uneasy. “Are you sure you want to live here… in this manor?”
I nodded eagerly, “Of course I do! Ian, you know I’ve been dying to live in a place like this.”
“Yeah, I know honey.” He replied as he scratched his head over this difficult decision.
Seeing our troubled expressions, Mr. Benson intervened, “If I may say, this manor is perfect for relaxing. It’s located far away from the boisterous city-life. Not to mention its large space will be useful if you two ever plan to have guests over or decide to have children.”
Ian nodded in agreement. Yet, he still seemed unconvinced. I peered into his face worriedly. He was silent. His arms were crossed and his eyebrows were slightly furrowed in deep thought. I bit my lip nervously, anticipating his answer. Soon enough, that gloominess surrounding us perished into thin air. Ian let out a light titter, making my eyes go wide. A small spark of hope was ignited. He smiled wryly, “If that’s what my honey wants, that’s what she’ll get. Who am I to say no to?”
Overfilled with immense joy, I leaped into Ian’s arms. “Oh Ian, I love you! I love you!” I exclaimed as I showered him with kisses.
“I love you too.” He laughed shyly, “So then…” he began addressing Mr. Benson, “When can we—” Ian’s words were unexpectedly interrupted by his cellphone ringing. Ian politely excused himself and headed back to our car.
I smiled tenderly at him as he left. I was beyond excited to live in such a wonderful place. My eyes dreamingly stared on off to the white structure of the manor and its smallest details. Yet, that contented feeling was soon washed away. Mr. Benson’s words brought me back into reality. “Excuse me?” I questioned confused.
“Pardon my bluntness but you really must know this… history behind the manor.” He added with a stern expression, “You must be on alert at all times or else.”
I burst out laughing. But seeing Mr. Benson’s face showing no deceit made my laugh diminish. “Are you serious?” I raised my eyebrow in suspicion, “No, it can’t be.”
His voice was assertive and his green eyes were strict as he watched me, “Listen, I met the previous owner before. I came to one of his parties and we became slightly acquainted. He told me something about June 27th.”
I tilted my head in confusion and asked in an outraged tone, “A day? What’s so important about a day? Mr. Benson please get to the point and stop dragging things out. I don’t understand you.”
Mr. Benson sighed. “It was a day he told me he feared most. A day of terror.”
I shook my head vigorously, “If you’re trying to tell me this manor is haunted, I’ll stop you right there. I don’t believe in that.” I replied quite annoyed. “It’s foolishness.”
His eyes diverted back to the manor as if he was remembering something. “So, you don’t believe in ghosts? Or even old legends?”
I shook my head with exasperation, “Mr. Benson, in what way is this even relevant?”
He sighed louder and with desperation, “It is relevant! This manor is beautiful, mesmerizing, a dream house, but it holds darkness from within! Don’t be fooled by its appearance. The previous owner told me strange things occurred here. Odd sounds like a blood-curling shriek occurring after midnight, misplaced objects turned upside down or replaced, the mysterious words left on the mirrors, and it all occurs on the 27th of each month. May it be a foolish prank, I do not know but it’s all true because he told me… and then disappeared.”
“That’s…” I stuttered, “No, no, you must’ve heard wrong.” I peered into the realtor’s pale face, “Are you okay? Has the heat gotten to you?” I asked.
He tittered, “I am sane if that’s what you’re asking. But alright, I’ve done my job. I warned you about it. If you don’t believe it then all I can say is if you know any prayers I suggest you pray. You’re going to need them. Also keep all your occupied bed chambers locked on the 27th of each month that’s when you should be aware the most.”
His words rendered me speechless. If his job was to sell us this manor why praise it wonderfully and then say it’s ‘haunted’? Many thoughts rose to my mind though before I had the chance to speak Ian showed up. He sauntered next to me and asked if I was okay. I nodded and tried acting like Mr. Benson’s never told me anything. But Ian’s face didn’t seem entirely convinced. “Ian…what if this…” I began to mumble. “Never mind.” I cast my eyes away from Ian. How could I find the courage to tell him such a ridiculous story that may not even be true? This manor is my dream and to have it so close… I can’t let anything interfere with it not even a silly story told by a weird realtor. Thus, thought I made the decision alone to keep on with my plan. Ian asked again if I was sure of purchasing the manor and without a doubt I replied, “Yes.” 
Being said, Mr. Benson suggested we go to his office to close the deal. We all agreed and approached our vehicles. Ian opened the door for me with a cool expression unlike mine; I bit my lip nervously. I couldn’t help but look back at the manor in a skeptical way. Even when he drove off, the manor was the only thing I was looking at. My heart’s desire was fulfilled but a strong feeling of distrust was seizing my thoughts.
In a matter of two days, Ian and I were resting in our new home. Due to the faraway distance only, a few of our clothes and other personal belongings had arrived. We both were joyfully unpacking when Ian out of the blue asked, “So are you happy with our new place?”
“Yeah.” I merely replied.
At my reply Ian stopped organizing his drawer and set his favorite white shirt on the bed. Ian came towards me with worry and kneeled next to me, “You sure don’t seem thrilled about it like before.”
I smiled bitterly, “Well, Ian what would you say if…” I shook my head, “No never mind it sounds stupid.” 
“Nothing is stupid, tell me what’s on your mind?” He seriously replied.
“Okay, well Mr. Benson said the previous owner went missing. What if his ghost lives here?” I said partly lying.
He laughed lightly, “I didn’t think you’d be the type of person to believe in ghosts.”
I nervously tittered, “Yeah, that’s insane right? I mean I don’t! It’s not possible. Ghosts don’t exist right?”
“Right.” He replied, “And even if there was any ghosts or demons, I’ll protect you.” He ruffled my hair with teasing grin and swooped in for a surprise kiss.
“That’s sweet of you but what I mean is—” Ian’s kisses became more persistent; my voice died down within each graceful movement. I ended up kissing him back and strangely, I didn’t feel like talking back anymore. And sadly, I should’ve said something, anything, but I didn’t…
Numerous days later, Ian and I found ourselves surrounded with our friends drinking and chatting cheerfully. The lonely air that once surrounded this manor was gone and replaced with warmth. Our friends awed at the sight of our new home. “Ah!” squealed Beth excitingly, “This place is unbelievable! This is what I call a dream house.”
I nodded in agreement. However, Matt disagreed, “It can be as dreamy as you girls say it is but it’s so far. Couldn’t you have chosen a closer location?”
“Eh?” shrugged Ian, “The price was right, so was the scenery. Though, the only thing is we haven’t gotten all of our stuff delivered here. So, we’re still unpacking. But it’s no biggie.”
“You got it obviously to fulfill ‘this person’s’ dream. Didn’t you?” Zac emphasized as he poked my arm.
“Hey!” I yelped annoyed.
Everyone chuckled. “Well whether it’s that reason or another, I’m just happy I’m here to see you guys be so happy and to eat these delicious hors d’oeuvres.” Harper claimed as she eagerly ate.
I wryly grinned. The sight of all these lovely familiar faces made my heart grow warm. It was just like old times; Zac and Harper drank to their hearts content and eventually ended up asleep on the couch. Ian and the rest of us all played billiards as we exchanged pleasant stories and occasionally drank whiskey. Soon enough it was ten minutes before midnight. I showed everyone into their designated rooms and said goodnight. Ian placed his hand on my waist and led me into our room. “Did you have fun?” he asked a bit weary.
“Yeah!” I answered satisfied, “They’re all quite the party animals.”
“With all the alcohol they drank, yeah a bit too much.” He added. We both laughed. Ian tiredly plunged his body onto of the bed and sighed with his eyes closed; a tiny smile on his lips. Meanwhile, he rested I was desperately trying to get my necklace off. Seeing it was impossible I asked Ian for help and just as I turned my back to him my eyesight caught the dresser nearby. “Ian!” I shouted frantically.
“What?” he startlingly exclaimed.
I rapidly pointed towards the top of the dresser, “Ian that vase…” I stuttered nervously. I quickly sauntered over there and examined the dresser carefully. There was an old golden vase that wasn’t there before. And our picture frame… was flipped facing down? “Did you move that vase here? It was at the table over there just yesterday and our picture?”
He tilted his head disconcertingly. He reached for our picture and seriously replied, “No. I didn’t. I swear. Are you sure it didn’t just fall over? And that vase, maybe you forgot and set it there by accident? We’ve been very busy so a thing like that wouldn’t be easy to remember.”
I shook my head. “No Ian I would remember that, busy or not.” 
Ian sighed and left to the bathroom. I quietly washed my teeth and tried shaking off the heavy feeling in my heart. We got into bed and turned off the lights. Ian wrapped his arms around me like always. We were ready to fall asleep when suddenly the tranquility of the night was pierced with a strong-odd bang. “What the…?” spoke Ian hoarsely. 
My stomach was a knot. No matter how hard I tried telling myself logical explanations my worry was inevitable. Within each second that passed each sound became more vivid. Having insomnia take over our bodies, Ian and I stood up exasperated. I asked him with hesitation, “What day is it again?” I rubbed my forehead groggily.
He shot me a strange look as if my question had nothing to do with the situation, but still answered anyways, “It’s September 27th, why?” his eyes peered at me apprehensively.
My left eyebrow twitched. My face had gone pale; I leaned on the wall with despondency. Ian rushed to my side upsettingly. My knees went weak and he quickly supported my body. He tried talking to me. But I was rendered speechless. Ian’s voice seemed so far away. He shook my shoulders muscularly. “Ian. I’m sorry.” I managed to say somewhat dazed.
“What are you talking about?” he asked discouraged, “Look at me.” he ordered as he grabbed my chin, “Look at me and tell me what’s going on?”
I drew in deep breaths. His eyes seemed like magnifiers searching for an answer and all I had to offer was my silence. I recalled each and every word Mr. Benson said. I shook my head once more. I couldn’t hide this from Ian anymore. So, I told him everything. He was silent as I explained but once I finished he exclaimed, “And you still wanted this manor? Melissa, why didn’t you say anything? Why did you stubbornly want to live in place like this after Mr. Benson warned you?”
“W-well.” I stuttered, “I didn’t believe...”
“Okay, you didn’t believe it! But now look at this! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!” he angrily shouted, “Why didn’t you?”
I turned away, “I know. I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you but I couldn’t find a way.”
“No, you were selfish.” Ian sighed disappointed, “Fine, whatever. It’s done. There’s nothing we can do.”
“But Ian why did Mr. Benson tell me that we had to keep the doors occupied locked from the inside? What did he mean by the 27th of each month was day of terror?” just as I ask, we heard a loud shriek. “That’s… Harper!” I shouted frantically.
“Looks like we’re about to find out why that is.” Ian grabbed my hand and pulled me with him; a bit of anger lingered in the way he gripped my hand.
We rapidly raced through the hallway towards her bedroom. The door was unlocked. We crept inside cautiously. “Don’t make a sound.” Ian warned me, “And don’t let go of my hand.” 
I nodded fearfully. As soon as we entered we inspected the room like hawks. The room was tidy and clean. It was impeccable, except for one tiny detail; Harper was missing. 
“What the hell was that noise?” Zac said loudly, prompting Ian and I to jump in surprise. Zac seemed unbothered by our reactions and continued, “Who screamed? And why do you have such petrifying faces.”
Along emerged Beth and Matt from the doorway. They seem utterly vexed. Ian shot me a glare. I shrunk back timidly. “Why don’t you tell them, Melissa?” he suggested coldly, “Tell them you forgot one miniscule detail to add about this marvelous manor.” his eyes were glinting with annoyance.
I heaved a sigh as I once again explained my selfish act. Everyone seemed displeased. Yet, no one else glared at me like Ian did. “Well there’s no point in blaming anyone, this is kinda unbelievable. Giving that I don’t believe in anything ghost-like.” replied Matt with his arms crossed, “I bet it’s not even a ghost. It may just be someone doing a cold-hearted prank.”
Beth agreed, “Well ghost or not what we need to focus on is trying to find Harper. She could be in serious trouble.”
“Too much serious trouble.” said Zac who motioned us to come over. He pointed at the bed sheet. “Look there, in the fold. There’s blood.”
I rushed over to the bed; indeed, I saw a small droplet of blood staining the grey bedsheet. At that exact moment, something inside me was telling me there was more than this droplet of blood. Without hesitation I lifted the bedsheet and gasped. A dark red puddle of blood soaked the bed. 
“Why is there blood?” hesitantly asked Matt, “Is… Harper dead?”
We all exchanged worried glances. None of us answered. I covered the bloody bed back with the bedsheet and addressed Ian seriously, “The realtor! Mr. Benson must know what to do. Ian could you call Mr. Benson, please? He might be the only person who can tell us how to find her.”
Ian’s eyes coldly beheld me as I asked but he reluctantly nodded. He grabbed his cellphone and began to dial. Seeing Ian looking frustrated I walked towards him. He shook his head, “No answer…now what?”
“We have to keep calm.” I replied with a serious expression.
“No!” intervened Zac, “I’m not going to sit still while who knows who… or worse, what, is trying to kill us.” He rolled up his sleeves and headed out the door, “Let’s spit up into two teams. We need to search this whole manor and find her.”
“Fine.” I remarked without hesitation, “I can’t wait any longer.”
“Wait! Before you two go doing something reckless, we need a plan.” Ian added firmly, “Once we find Harper we’re getting out of this manor. No matter what, we all leave together.”
We nodded. “Alright, Beth and I will search the first floor.” announced Zac. 
“The rest of us will search this floor then.” replied Matt.
“Please be careful you two.” I told Zac and Beth. They nodded.
We quickly sprang into action and parted ways. Ian, Matt, and I thoroughly started searching through the hallway and each of our rooms. I cautiously examined the room’s décor and furniture and luckily didn’t find anything misplaced, only a few specks of dust. I heaved a sigh at the sight of our silence. I secretly glanced at Ian, who was looking grim. Despite, the situation we were in I could tell Ian was furious with me. His eyes were unkind. But who can blame him, I kept something from him and now our lives could be at risk. I silently prayed for Harper’s wellness. 
“What are we looking for exactly? Harper could be anywhere!” stated Matt nervously. He ran his fingers through his blonde hair anxiously. “It’s not as if the person or thing that took Harper is going to be leaving clues on purpose.”
“Yeah, but if Melissa was able to distinguish the misplaced objects around the room, that must be some sort of clue. Look for something unusual.” Ian replied as he examined the carpet and bookshelf.
I remained quiet; deeply thinking as remembered Mr. Benson’s words once again. I took out my phone and called him but the operator kept saying to dial the correct number. I turned to call Matt and Ian who looked troubled. However, at that precise moment an odd noise rang loudly through the manor. The noise was so loud we pitched forward with pain with our hands covering our ears. The noise gradually stopped, “What is that?” I alarmingly yelled.
“It sounded like an electric saw… and…” Matt stopped. 
“And what, Matt?” asked Ian perturbed.
We both turned back and didn’t see Matt anymore. “Hey!” Matt’s voice loudly bellowed.
“Matt? Matt!” Ian and I yelled back desperately.
No one was there. We heard footsteps coming closer. Ian took my hand and pulled me under the desk. I was trembling with fear. Ian tightly wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close to his chest. His heartbeat was beating incredibly fast. The footsteps abruptly stopped.
“Hey? Ian? Melissa? Matt?” Beth exclaimed nervously. “Where are you guys? Did you hear that loud noise just now? Hello? Anyone there?”
Ian and I slowly came out. We sighed in relief seeing Zac and Beth. I quickly went to hug Beth. “Matt! Matt is gone!” I spoke trembling. “There was that awful sound and then he vanished!”
“What do you mean he’s gone?” Zac asked indignantly as Beth patted my back reassuringly. “What did you guys see? What happened?” 
“He was talking and when we turned to see him he disappeared. And then—" Ian suddenly stopped explaining. He sauntered over to the corner of the room; between the bookshelf and the window, the last place where Matt was standing. “This miniature globe wasn’t here a when we came in.”
Zac followed in and tried lifting the globe, “Hey! It won’t budge.” he continued pulling until his hand unconsciously pushed the globe to its side. The bookshelf opened. “What the—" he exclaimed surprised. 
“There’s a secret passageway! Like the ones you see in movies.” Beth acknowledged, “Matt! He must’ve gotten dragged there!” she took a step inside the shadowy hallway.
She turned her back to us causing me to yell, “No Beth! You don’t know what’s at the other end! Think it could be trap. We can’t risk losing you too!”
“Beth listen to her, trap or not it looks dangerous.” added Ian, who observed the hallway with an upset expression. “This place seems older than it looks. Perhaps this manor isn’t just composed of two stories. There must be other passageways around the whole manor. And if so, there could be trap doors as well.”
“And we don’t know where they lead to or what’s at the other end.” Zac worriedly spoke.
Beth shrugged and took a step farther in; her face showing nothing but determination. “I’m going.” She confidently said, “Like it or not.”
The bookshelf slowly started to move back into place. “Hey! Beth!” Zac warned, “Its closing! Get back here!”
Despite Zac’s shouts Beth didn’t back down. The hallway was no longer visible. “Beth!” I cried.
She loudly knocked on the wall on the other side, “Hey, I’m okay. It’s just too dark.” She replied. There was a moment of silence. The three of us exchanged glances and just before Ian or Zac were able to say a word, Beth added, “Hey, I found something! There’s a staircase!”
“Beth.” I warned, “Don’t go.”
“I have to, one way or another. I need to find a way out too.” She argued, “I promise you, I’ll meet you at the lobby safe and sound. No ghost is going to scare me and remember I’m a black belt, in my karate class.”
Her voice drifted farther away. And then her words sank into my logic and at the same time Ian asked me, “Did you know anything about the secret passageways?” 
I shook my head, “No, Mr. Benson didn’t say a word about it.” I paused for a quick moment, “Hey, wait a minute…Beth said she saw a staircase. Which means—"
“—That must mean there’s another floor.” Ian added.
“A…third floor? But that means the manor is a pretty big isn’t it and why on earth isn’t it occupied.” Zac acknowledged, “The realtor didn’t tell you about it?”
“No, he didn’t.” 
“But he told you about the scary legend or ghost thing, right? What an odd person…Very odd indeed. Why tell the buyer a damaging thing about the property if their job is to sell it?”
“Unless, the seller made a compromise with the realtor and was only selling the two bottom floors of the manor.” Replied Ian skeptically, “It’s a possibility that the third floor may be occupied by someone. I doubt it’s an ‘it’ who lives here. Though, our only conclusion is that we have to find a way inside and reach the third floor. There must be another way in and a way out of the third floor.” 
I nodded, “It’s a possibility, it would explain the misplaced objects. Well what we know is both rooms that Matt and Harper disappeared in had one thing in common, a bookshelf. Those shelves must be serving as doors.”
“Yes.” Ian agreed, “And the largest bookshelf is in the old office room.” Being said, we rapidly sprinted into the hallway to find that room. Ian turned the doorknob and we slowly sneaked inside the room. “Careful what you touch it could trigger anything.”
“Right.” Whispered Zac.
The three of us cautiously twisted and turned the objects on the shelves but failed to find anything. Zac grew frustrated within the minute. On contrast to Zac sighing, Ian was silent. I found myself unconsciously walking towards Ian, I softly whispered, “Ian, I know you probably don’t want to speak to me but I really am sorry. You don’t know how sorry I am.”
He turned towards me, “Melissa, you lied to me. Even when I asked you if something was wrong you denied it. Now look at us. Running for lives and hoping our friends are alive.”
“Ian, I know but—” I protested.
Zac groaned loudly, “This is useless.”
“Be patient, Zac.” Ian addressed him, clearly showing he had no interest in talking with me.
I felt my heart heavy with guilt. I grimly pulled a book off the shelf and out came an arrow shooting across the room. “Watch out!” I cried. The arrow hit the clock portrait hanging on the wall beside me. Thus, revealing the third entrance. However, because the arrow was aimed near me, I was forced to leaned against the wall and fell into the hallway. I quickly got up but the wall closed before I could walk out. I heard Ian shout my name hysterically. I hit the back of the bookshelf as hard as I could and I yelled back, “I’m okay!”
I could hear Ian hitting the other side of the surface but it was useless. Zac was trying to comfort Ian by telling him to think logically. But Ian didn’t listen. “Ian!” I said finally coming up with one conclusion, “It’s no use Ian. I’m trapped. There’s only one way for me to go. I’m going to the end of the tunnel.”
“Are you crazy?” he exclaimed with outrage, “You don’t know what’s at the third floor. What if they’re—"
“Don’t say it Ian!” I shouted back, “Besides, this whole situation is my fault. I need to go look for Beth, Matt, and Harper.” There was a long moment of silence before I continued, “Ian. I’m really sorry. I’m sorry I let my selfish desire to own a manor get you and everyone else in danger. I know I should’ve said something despite what answer you would’ve given me but I didn’t. I can’t change the past but I can fix the present so the future won’t be destroyed.”
“Melissa…” he whispered, “It’s not your fault.”
“He’s right.” added Zac, “We all wanted to come here. We all make our own choices. You didn’t pick or control our fate. These kinds of things happen. That’s what life is all about, we face obstacles and overcome them. Maybe we needed this to happen to get our friendship tested. Who knows but what we do know, what I know is that we are all best friends here and we will make it out alive. This isn’t the first time we’ve crossed a rough situation.”
I smiled wryly, “Thank Zac, thanks for being a good friend. Well you’re more like a brother than a friend and I really appreciate your words. And Ian…” I said as I imagined his lovingly eyes, “Ian, I need you to know that I love you. No matter what’s happened you always stuck by me. I feel so alive and protected at the same time. I don’t want things to end this way.”
“It won’t be the end Melissa. We’ll get through this.”
“Ian, I’m going now. Ian, I love you.” I replied with a heartfelt smile.
The wall between us muffled out his voice as I got farther away. I didn’t wait to hear him I raced down the hallway; time was running out. All I thought about was if I can just find them, then my guilt would fade and forgiveness would blossom. Afraid, I made my way through the dark trail; a small strand of light illuminating the first set of steps. The stairs ahead were twisted in a perfect spiral, like a child’s slinky toy pulled from each end. I finally reached the last step and before me stood a tall oak door. The door stood towering above me; I let out a shaky breath. The dread and anxiety deadened my mind and body. In my frozen state I released another shaky breath as I closed my weary eyes. Maybe this was the end? All that crossed my mind was Ian’s face; I may never see it again… but I had to continue. I grasped the doorknob, the cold metal sending shivers up my already quivering arm. I drew in deep breaths. My heart ricocheted off my ribcage. I slowly turned the handle till there was a crack in the door. I shook my head rapidly disallowing my second thoughts to get the better of me. Almost mindlessly I swung the door open to see the fate that waited me. Inside everything seemed to spin as countless people gazed at me; their blurred bodies creating waves on my vision.
“What the—" I spoke with bewilderment.
The farther I stepped in the more horrifying my surroundings became. The floor, the walls, and the pieces of clothing serving as doors that waved back and forth in the air, the strange built walls were a pale cream, maybe white color, and shiny material, made me cringe. It was quite the perfection of preciseness, except for that one small detail; blood. Bodies… hung everywhere. Deceased human beings hanged like clothes with eyes wide open showing despair and the sound of blood drops dripping on the floor. I was shaken. The third floor was nothing but a diabolical place filled with rooms that tried mimicking an unused hospital. “Harper? Matt? Beth?” I hollered terrified.
My voice echoed piercingly. I wandered into the nearest room and found weird machinery; in the middle of the room was a sterilized table. The smell of strong alcohol filled my nostrils. I accidently backed into a table, knocking a worn-out tin can filled with new scalpels. I sprinted into the next room without even looking. I shut my eyes tight. Footsteps not too far were heard. My heart pounded vigorously. I looked around and there before me stood a limp body which blood flowed out and splattered onto the floor. It tainted into every corner of the room and made the once beauty of the manor decay by the gore of red, flowing blood. I held my hand against my mouth. No matter how much I blinked the body was still there haunting my existence. My last attempt in opening my eyes startled me; the white cloth covering the doorway moved.
“Melissa!” spoke an overly exhausted voice.
I looked up and saw Beth. She looked mortified. Her body was trembling and so was her voice, “We have to get out of here. T-that-that man! He’s a complete maniac.” she shakily said. To see Beth, a normally strong girl quiver at such sight made me realize how grave the situation was.
“What man are you talking about?” I asked perturbed, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I fought back. I hit the man with one of his tools. But believe me we have to get out of here!” Beth quickly explained that the person behind this diabolical décor was none other than the ‘actual’ previous owner himself; Alphonso Brinton. He supposedly had a thing for young flesh and trapping people and then torturing them. He never disappeared either. He used the excuse of selling his home to draw in victims. He built the house himself and sold it to the suppose previous owner everyone thought was named Jack Murphy, his cousin. But once he killed Jack out of boredom he needed more victims to come by for a visit that’s when the manor was put on sale. Beth told me she escaped the torture chamber. “It was horrible!” she yelled as she showed me her arm which was wrapped in bloody bandages. That mad man had tried taking blood samples from her.
I dreadfully frowned. “Where’s Harper and Matt? We have to find them.” 
She nodded. We exited the room. A loud groan was suddenly heard. “That’s Matt!” she gasped.
The white cloth flung open and there he was. His beige pants were rolled up and blood dripped down from his calf. His forehead was sweaty-covered with blood as he turned and tossed. He was barely able to recognize us. A tiny smile crossed his dried lips. We managed to somehow get him into a nearby wheel chair. “Matt… stay awake. Say something? Anything!” I cried.
“Where’s Harper?” he questioned inadequately.
“Glad you ask.” said a mysterious voice startling us. “Welcome Melissa, I’ve been expecting you.”
“You…” I addressed the man unsympathetically, “You must be Alphonso. But wait how do you know my name?”
The tall slender man with a foul physiognomy and grey-black hair stared at me. He grinned, “Oh you know me? Splendid! That’ll make things easier. As for your question, how could I not know you? You’re Melissa, the woman who along with her fiancé bought my manor.”
“That still doesn’t answer my question. How do you know my name?” I menacingly yelled.
“Hmm, who could say? Maybe Benson said a word or two? Or perhaps we’ve met before? Seriously, what blurry memory do we both have!” he chuckled wickedly as he threw back his head.
“Where’s Harper? What did you do to her?” I shouted back.
He chortled. “Oh, that red haired gal, you mean? She’s over there in my torture chamber. You’re free to go get her… that is if you can.” he teased with a smirk.
I ran into the room he pointed. There she was groaning. I quickly untied the ropes cutting her wrists. Alphonso stared at me dreamingly as I did. Harper managed to wake up. “Get out, now!” I shouted as I shook her shoulders.
She nodded, still fazed. Alphonso shrugged, “Yes. Go!” he pushed her away, “I’m only interested in you. You’re my main player.”
“Player?” I asked petrified.
“Yes, you my player. You joined my game and you have to play by my rules.” He slowly approached me.
Beth and the others stared at me. I motioned them to go, “Go! He wants me. This has nothing to do with you. Go find the others.”
“But… Melissa!” they all protested.
“You’ve got to be crazy!” yelled Beth, “This psycho will kill you!”
“Psycho? How rude! Leave now! Or I’ll shred you all and rip your heads off!” Alphonso hissed with malice. “Oops, I mean please go, I’ve had my fun with you all and your faces are now annoying me!” he crossed his arms and tapped his fingers.
“But first where’s the exit?” I asked. Once Alphonso replied, I told them again to leave. They reluctantly left occasionally looking back at me with worried eyes. Alphonso wickedly smiled, “Looks like we’re all alone…you know I was ever so happy to hear a woman bought my manor. I was dying to have a guest with exquisite collarbones.”
“You’re sick.” I yelled, “You won’t get away with this.”
He tittered, “Oh geez, looks like I have. You see, I get what I want, whenever I want, and how I want. Now if you want to live and see your buddies again I suggest you do as I say? A compromise?”
“What kind of compromise?” I asked suspiciously.
“I let you live here, unbothered but in return you must make me my huge parties in the manor on the 27th of each month. Have your guest stay over and don’t worry if a few goes missing. Maybe they left early, maybe not? Just leave it all to me. So, doll what do you say? Deal or nah?”
I didn’t even need to think about his so-called deal, “Like I said.” I replied irately, “You won’t get away with this! What made you think I would lure people here just so you could kill them? I’m not your accomplice!”
He tittered playfully but his eyes were dark. “Oh-hoh, look at you! Looks like someone is being kind and isn’t being self-centered like before. What on earth happened to that Melissa who only cared about accomplishing her dream despite of putting others in danger. Huh? You didn’t think too much about it when that Benson guy warned you. You, poor pathetic girl! Don’t act like you care all of a sudden about being good!”
“I’m not like you.” I replied dejectedly, “I was wrong and I know that.”
“Oh well that’s too bad Mel, we could’ve made such a great team. You and I, alone together. Oh well, don’t take this personally but—” 
He raised a metallic object and the next thing I knew I was on the ground feeling my eyelids heavy and his insane laugh next to my ear. I opened my eyes much time later. The memories I never wanted to revisit came to mind. And to prove it was true, I was here tied down to a metal table. Blood dripped down my arm and I was defenseless. I couldn’t cry or shout. I didn’t feel like it either. Instead I was accepting what had happened. My only regret was not telling Ian. I shut my eyes in resignation. Alphonso’s face burned into my memory. In a matter of minutes, he would come back for me. I just knew it… however, there a thud. A single tear instinctively was shed. I felt a warm hand touch my hand. The familiarity warmth made me regain conscious. “Ian.” I breathed dimly.
“Melissa, I’m going to get you out.” He replied with total coolness. “Zac.” he addressed, “Everyone’s waiting outside correct?”
“They’re okay?” I sighed in relief.
“Yeah, tell me when and I’ll start it.” Zac assured confidently.
I weakly managed to walk with Ian’s supporting my body. We made our way through the hallway and there he was clapping and insanely laughing. “Melissa, leaving so soon?” he mockingly spoke, “Oh and you have two lovely men with beautiful collarbones at your side! Love it! See, you can play my game! And you do it so well!”
“Let us go Alphonso. You can’t keep doing this any longer. I won’t let you.” I declared with regained strength.
“Melissa… have you forgotten. Once you bought this manor you accepted to play my game. And sorry doll but you lost. You didn’t want to compromise with me. So, stop being a sore loser and give me those precious collarbones of yours!” he started to reach towards us. A pincer in each hand; I searched around; my eyes finally settled on the scalpels I bumped into earlier. I reached for one when his eyes darted towards Ian and Zac. I stood in front of Alphonso, who looked pleased, “Ah, good girl. Come now.”
I threw hesitation out the window and tightly grasped the scalpel in my hand I plunged it right across Alphonso’s neck. I screamed at the sight of blood dripping down his pale neck. Ian threw me on his shoulders and carried me out a beautiful oak door. Before the door was completely shut we heard Alphonso say, “My, my, such a brave little girl…my little brave opponent. I’ll never forget you my love!” He cackled wickedly, it sent shivers through my beat body. 
At some point I had lost consciousness. Ian was still carrying me and Zac was pouring bottle of alcohol around the floor. Seeing I was awake, Ian set me down. My hands were covered in blood and I shrieked again, “What did I do? Ian?”
“You did what you had to do.” he replied as he kissed my forehead. “Ready Zac.” he declared as we all took a step back. 
The main doors were only a couple feet away. Zac took something out of his pocket. He threw in his precious green lighter into the alcohol on the floor. Big flames reflected into our eyes. The three of us hurried on out; everyone else was waiting for us inside Zac’s and Ian’s car. I limped inside Ian’s car and closed the door. Both cars began to drive farther away and the flames burning the manor grew smaller and the manor ceased to exist. Alphonso may or may not be dead. I swear I saw his body plunge into the flames as we left. Though, we might never know. But one thing I do know is that none of us will ever be the same after today. I can guarantee it.
Several months after the incident, it was true none of us we’re okay. Ian and I had just paid another visit to Harper who rested in a hospital; she was brave until the last minute, but sadly she may never know that, she’s in coma. Doctors don’t know if she’ll ever recover. I pray each day that she will. Though, recovery seems farfetched. 
As for Matt, he resides in a mental institute. The situation was far too frightful for him; it caused him to fall into shock. Doctors say it’s a matter of time for him to be back to ‘normal’. From the bottom of my heart I hope he recovers.
As for Beth, despite the dreadfulness she witnessed she decided to renovate her lifestyle. She quite karate; I believe it’s because she used her skills to fight off Alphonso and it brings her terrible memories. She’s now taking pottery classes. In addition, for the last three months Beth has been keeping us updated about Matt’s wellness; she started volunteering work as well. She seems fine to this day, but I do worry about her even though she tells me not to. She says she’s fine but her eyes say otherwise. 
Zac on the other hand, fell into a deep depression. Though, thankfully he accepted to go to therapy. He’s no longer bright like before but he did manage to find a light in his life; religion. He even quit drinking as well. Zac is also dedicating his life into writing; his first novel was about that day, even though no one believes us is true.
Ian… my sweet fiancé, he finally forgave me. It’s awful to say but thanks to that day our bond grew stronger. Though, Ian never talks about what happened that day I know he’s in pain. He is often quiet and playing the piano. I know he’s changed since then even if he denies it. I can feel it every time he hugs me, kisses me, and I suppose he can feel the same about me. He knows I’ll never be okay. Guilt still swims inside me. Until Matt and Harper recover I’ll be okay, maybe not? Only time will tell. I just hope the police and other people will believe us someday as well and steer clear of that manor that now is a pile of ashes. To think I even called that home, home is supposed to be haven; it’s not a place to fear or run away. I guess it’s true what they say, life tests you in the harshest way possible but it’s not impossible to survive. 
It’s sad I barely realized it, but now I know that home is where you are, anywhere as long as the person who you love is next to you…that’s something Ian said to me that’ll I’ll never forget, as well as the third floor.
 

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