“All right, what’s wrong?”
I stared at Micah, unable to respond for a moment. What wasn’t wrong? How did I put this into words he might understand? “The place is the disease of the moment holding hands!”
I studied the collapsing house in the distance and wondered at Micah’s mental state. My brother’s best friend, he’d talked me into going on a trip to alleviate our boredom in waiting for Drake to get back. My brother had gone off to get pizzas for us, leaving me with Micah. Probably to let us carry on a conversation broader than greetings and talks about sports (blah) or beer (ick).
I preferred being bored and at home. At least it didn’t have “serial killer hideout” written all over it. The place might as well wave a flag over itself stating this hovel knew blood with room for more.
“It’s not that bad,” Micah said. “Trust me. The place is safe and plenty sturdy.”
“If you’re a field mouse.” I followed him toward the house, all the while wondering if I could get the keys from him and back to the car before he realized I’d abandoned him. “We’re normal people weight, remember? One good sneeze, much less us walking through the place, will bring it crashing down around us. On top of us if we prove really lucky.”
Micah shook his head as if he thought I was as insane as he must have been. “I’ve been here countless times, and it hasn’t fallen yet. You’re being paranoid.”
No, I was being rational. Why was I out here? Why was I following him and not going back to find a way to break into the car and practice my hot wiring? He was cute, I didn’t want to upset Drake, or I was an idiot today. Or, apparently, I was all three. Otherwise, I’d listen to something other than my hormones. I would not have been out here in the hopes of broadening my knowledge of at least one of Drake’s friends. So far, I understood Micah liked beer, baseball, pizza, and had questionable ideas when it came to fun.
Micah paused and faced me a moment later. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ll jump up and down on the most breakable looking part and prove its sturdiness.”
Sounded reasonable, I decided. “If you fall through and die in pieces, can I go home and mourn your loss?”
A smile crossed his face. “Yes.”
“Then, by all means, bounce your heart out.”
Amusement filled Micah’s expression, but he said nothing as he started toward the house again. I had no choice but to follow. I couldn’t hot wire a car anyway and would probably cut myself on the glass when I broke it to get in. I only hoped I might figure out how to pick his pocket without being caught. I’d managed it a couple of times with Drake, though I figure he let me get away with it because I’m his baby sister and took out his shin when he blabbed about it the first time.
As we paused by the house, I took a slow step inside and onto the wooden floor within. I noted the roof was half gone and lit up much of the inside, revealing utter devastation beyond the threshold. Sad, as it was probably a nice place before time destroyed it. I still didn’t want to go wandering through it to explore.
I waited a moment to let the place have a say with my presence before I chanced anything more. If something here planned to break, I wanted it to be the house and spare my anatomy. I tried not to count how many accidents this place hosted. I didn’t think the English language had the word for this high a number.
Micah brushed by me, jarring me back to his presence. I jumped away, waving my arms to keep my balance when part of the floor I ended up on proved more uneven than it looked. If I killed this jerk for his stupid games, could I make it look like an accident? They might even believe the house did it if I were good enough in my lies. I mean, story.
“I used to play here as a kid.”
Future corpse’s voice drew my attention back from my murder plot. I looked around the place and eased toward where it looked a little more solid, then back to Micah. “Doing what? ‘I dare you to touch that and not get lockjaw?'”
He gave something of a harsh laugh. “All right, so it’s a bit more rundown than I remember it. Still, it’s not going to fall while we’re here.”
That didn’t settle me in the least. “Did you get a promissory note from it on this?”
He snickered and glanced back at me. “Every time I come here. Its handwriting is improving with the practice. I’d show them to you, but it demanded I burn the notes for fear every news agency would come down here to film the great house that was and its ability to write coherently.”
I shook my head at the absurd reply. No doubt I deserved it for needling him so, but this place gave me a true case of the creeps. My skin crawled like it wanted to leave the area, my muscles doing much the same. Both called me all sorts of names for ignoring their warnings.
“There is something I forgot to tell you about this place,” Micah said suddenly.
I watched him, trying not to back away as he neared, the strange expression on his face suddenly scary. “What?”
“A lot of people say it’s the opening of some maze where creatures can be found. Though none have ever returned to tell the tale about it.”
Okay, now I knew he’d gone off the deep end. Sane people didn’t resort to this bizarre a conspiracy theory to explain things. “Really, a maze? That’s your best idea?”
He stepped a little closer, and I again fought the need to draw back. I didn’t know if the floorboards would accept my steps much longer without giving way. I wanted to leave, but I still had to get by Micah first and he didn’t look too willing to move.
Creepy pops and groans from the house reached me and seemed to all tell me to “leave now” as they did. If the house had an idea of how, it would have been nice if it shared this with me.
“Is that so hard to accept?” He gestured around him, his broad movements as he did making the house groan a protest with his shifting weight. “They’re finding all sorts of weird things all over the world. Why would a maze be so difficult to exist here?”
“We’re in America!” If I slapped him, would he come back to this realm? “The old world here didn’t build mazes. They were too busy surviving the wilds and not dying. Indians and wild beasts all over the place? Those types of things!”
Did I just hear an animal roar? I looked around, wondering about the hole I now saw behind me. Had it always been there? And why did I see eyes glowing in the darkness beyond?
“How ’bout you go ask the others who went down there before you? See what they think of the ‘no mazes here’ theory of yours.”
Before I could respond, he lunged forward and shoved me toward the gaping hole. I lost my footing and felt myself falling as I made a grab for the bastard. If I was to die, I intended to take him with me.
My fingers found only empty air as he dodged my clutching hands. I didn’t even have time to scream before I fell into pitch blackness.
I saw a fast-moving river well below me. Before I hit the surface, I vowed to not only survive this but to come back out to find Micah. How he would die when I got back to him raised many possibilities. But die he would, and painfully.
Writers’ workshop and writing group