Four high school students encounter an evil spirit. Thoroughly cliched and hopelessly derivative.
Vanessa sat at her vanity table with her usual arrangement of the items required by the ritual, although she had since invested in higher quality stones and incense. She stared at herself in the mirror and brushed her hair for a moment. She put the brush down right away and leaned closer—she looked pale, too pale. Like those two freaks. She got up to finish dressing and applying makeup, and settled down again at the vanity.
Natalie’s mother opened her bedroom door quietly, taking care that it not creak. Natalie was still asleep; her arm was thrown over her head and the alarm radio was playing. Her mother turned off the radio and smoothed out the blanket. After the past few days, Natalie deserved to skip a day of school to rest.
How many hours had she spent in the blank hall? The walls never varied—in fact every night they seemed to become more the same, till there was no distinguishing feature. Only because the dim light, emanating from nowhere, seemed to recede down the hall, did she have any sense of direction.
She slid to the floor and drew up her knees and dropped her head on her arms. She broke down crying. The blank hall represented everything wrong with her life. Weird colored hair, weird music, weird clothes, all of it covered over her own blankness. In that hall, it was impossible to hide from the truth anymore.
She stood up and spun around until she lost her balance and fell. In the past, dizziness usually woke her up. She lay down on her face on the cold, hard floor. It always seemed odd that she could feel it. In normal dreams, you couldn’t. She cried, punched the floor, bruised her hand, mouthed a prayer. She was oddly relieved. There was no need to fake happy and cheerful. She could just lay there.
Her mother checked in again at noon. Natalie was still buried in blankets. Let her catch up on her sleep.
Chadworth’s body lay in the ashes of his desk, the melted globe on one side of him, the charred fragments of his memoir on the other. There were no staff on hand in the mansion because a highly contagious virus had spread among them, so they were all away for ten to fourteen days. No one would be around to check his room in the morning.
Chadworth wandered around the bleachers of the dreamworld stadium. Broken stones, rusted seats, melted Astroturf. There were no fans, nor even the people who had jeered him. The stadium lights were busted and the glass lay all around their bases. He picked up a torn, deflated football and carried it with him as he wandered across the scorched field. He tossed it over the broken goal post and laughed a bitter laugh.
Yes, this was indeed the wreckage of his football career. And if Vanessa had her way, and it looked like she would, his academic career would be similarly wrecked.
Vanessa picked up the photograph from the newspaper that her mother had clipped and left on her table. It was the one from the night of the football championship, when Chad let her hold the trophy. There she was in her short, sparkly dress, hanging on his arm with a big, cheesy smile. She couldn’t believe that it was taken only two weeks ago.
Morning rose, and Chadworth still lay in the cold ashes. His father had left early for a golf tournament, and his stepmother had gone to the spa.
Mikhail stood in the doorway of his mother’s bedroom. She was braiding her hair before she turned down the bed. “Good night, mom.”
She looked up. “Are you going to bed so early, Mikhail?”
“Yes. I’m feeling a bit more tired than usual.” He went around the bed and gave her hug.
“Oh, Mikhail, you’re such a good boy.” She embraced him tightly before she released him.
He stopped behind the doorway of the living room and took a deep breath before addressing his father, who was watching television. He exhaled and stuck his head into the room. “I’m going to bed now, Dad. Good night.”
His father turned around with a surprised look on his face. Caught off guard, he said, “Good night, son.”
Mikhail pressed his lips into a smile. He locked his door when he got back to his room.
Before he went to bed, Mikhail washed his face and dried it with a towel. Examining his reflection, he was satisfied that he looked better than he ever did. Once in bed, he closed his eyes with a smile on his face.
Vanessa pushed in her chair. It was time to perform the ritual for the final time. What was going to happen to Chad and those other two after it was all over? She lit the long match and, gazing at the flame as it licked the incense, the light danced in her wide pupils. Did it really matter? Depending on her mood, once she received the full power promised to her by the spirit, she might show them some mercy. Depending, of course, on her mood.