Even as a kid, I was always trying to prove myself. I was quick to argue, to challenge expectations. I’m sure I drove my friends crazy. That might be why they dared me to walk up to that house. There was no way I was going to back down.
We stopped on the sidewalk. The walkway leading up to the porch was cracked and completely covered in weeds in some places. I was telling myself that there was nothing to be afraid of, it was just an ugly, empty house, when Charlene grabbed my arm. I jumped.
“You don’t have to do it,” she said. She looked at house and then quickly away. “It’s just a dumb dare.”
Maybe I should have taken the out when she offered it. I shrugged. “No big deal,” I said. And I started up the path.
Once I climbed onto the porch, the trembling in my legs had pretty much stopped. I was riding a surge of adrenaline, and I turned to wave and smile at my two friends. They looked farther away than I expected, and as I watched, their eyes jerked towards the window. I saw their faces fall into identical expressions of dismay, and the world seemed to slow down. I turned around as quickly as I could, but felt like I was swimming in syrup. I thought I caught a glimpse of a figure moving across the window, but suddenly things were moving at normal speed again. I tripped as I spun, and stumbled against the front door. It wasn’t latched, and I tumbled inside.
After I caught myself, I looked around frantically, certain that somebody—or something—was about to crash into me. But there was no one. The house was empty. I sat there, my eyes taking in the staircase, a large fireplace in a room beyond the front entrance, the tall ceilings and beams. I was amazed. It was beautiful.
A sudden crash from farther in the house broke my trance, and my fight or flight response kicked into high gear. Within seconds, I was outside, racing with my friends back down the street towards home. We stayed up half the night, talking about what could have made that noise, and what they had seen in the window. We swore we’d never go to that house again.
Now, twenty years later, I find myself breaking that youthful vow. Standing in front of my childhood haunt, these old memories come rushing back. I start up the path towards the porch. Maybe I’m still trying to prove myself. There’s a “For Sale” sign stuck into the yard, but that’s the only difference. With any luck, it won’t be there long. The realtor gave me a key, and with a deep breath, I open the door and step inside for the second time.
Make sure to come back next week for the 2nd installment of this 4 part story.