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All I could do was run. Run down this dark, foreboding hallway. The carpet was thick and heavy with dust. Wherever this was, it had not been cleaned in a while. I sprinted past eerie portraits of people that I did not know. Their pale, sallow faces seemed to turn and follow me, their dark eyes piercing my backside as I ran and ran. There were doors slamming all around me as I tried to find a way to escape. Doors that lead to other long hallways, some lead to windowless rooms. The darkness pressed in around me and made it difficult to breathe. But I had to keep running. That's all I understood. But what was I running from? I could hear my mom’s voice ahead of me, “Help! Help!” I kept running, screaming, “Mom! I’m here! Mom?” Her voice seemed to move farther away the closer I got. All the while, I could hear footsteps behind me, getting closer and closer. The same heavy, thudding footsteps. Whoever or whatever was chasing me must have been enormous!
All the while, this same sense of urgency kept gnawing at me, almost like a little dog biting my ankles, egging me on. Would this hallway ever end?! I kept running, sprinting down this unending, nightmarish hallway. All the while, the thudding footsteps were getting closer and closer. I could hear her now. She was softly calling out my name. Not my mother, but the person behind me. Her voice was almost a whisper. Then
it happened. I felt an icy hand grab my shoulder and spin me around with the force of twenty men.
I started awake with a loud scream, drenched in sweat. This was the second week in a row of the same strange dream. My mother, Amie, had been missing for three months now and the police were clueless as to where to begin. She had disappeared from her house without a trace. The car was left in the driveway. Also, it did not appear that anyone broke into the place. The house was in a secluded area, completely surrounded by woods. How did this dream tie into her going missing? The running, the hallway, Mom’s voice, and the woman chasing me. What was it all about? I laid back in my soft bed and pondered it, but could not come up with anything. I loved my mom and missed her dearly.
I was not what you would call a normal teenager. I’m not saying I was into voodoo or anything; I usually just preferred to be by myself and be alone with my thoughts. My room was filled with various odds and ends from every vacation I had been on. Everything from my wand from Harry Potter World on the shelf to the sword from Gettysburg on my wall. My walls were covered with posters of Ed Sheeran, horses, and cats. My bed itself was a loft bed. That meant that it had a top bunk, but no bottom bunk. On the bed was an odd assortment of stuffed animals (horses, mostly) and a multitude of fluffy blankets. The Christmas lights above my bed provided a soft, warm glow at night, but I rarely turned them on.
Recently, however, I had found myself being plagued by voices. Not just the normal, annoying voices of my family, but others. I didn’t know whether they were in my head or actually coming from some unseen place. Sometimes I saw people that others could not see. I was not sure what they were, but I did know that they scared me and that it was not normal to see people who were not there. So I kept my mouth shut about it.
My dad calling me broke my deep thought. I’d just have to figure out the dream some other time. For right now, the scent of crispy bacon and pancakes lured me down stairs to the kitchen. Our house was not big, but it was not small either. It was somewhere in between. There were two floors. The first floor contained the kitchen, dining area, and living room. The second floor had three bedrooms and one bathroom. Our house was not, as some would say, lavishly furnished. I guess it was more middle-class furnished. The decorations were tasteful, yet boring. All various shades of brown. Brown sofas, brown wall, brown curtains. Even the few paintings we had seemed to be brown! I attribute the boringness to my stepmother’s lack of style.
I didn’t talk to my stepmother much. Her name was Cassandra. She was a short woman, with long brown hair and an attitude that said, “don’t mess with me.” We never saw eye to eye on anything and always butted heads. I was more of a quiet, shy person. She was loud, obnoxious, and very opinionated. Almost a total opposite of my father and I. I just learned to ignore her and focus on spending time with my father more.
My dad, Scott, was more like me, in that he didn’t say much and had a kind personality. He was slightly taller than my stepmother. At this point I was taller than both of them. He was the kind of man who enjoyed working outside more than sitting inside watching sports. He was always helping our elderly neighbors with their yards, working on his cars and motorcycle, or on our boat fishing. He and my mother had divorced some years ago. I went back and forth between the two houses every other day, as they lived only five minutes from each other.
“So, there is something your stepmother and I want to discuss with you, and we want to include you in the decision,” my father stated once we all sat down for breakfast at our tiny kitchen table. The tabletop was glass, so I could see the brown, forlorn eyes of our dog, Dixie, as she stared up at me, begging for my bacon. I did my best to ignore her.
“But your opinion won't matter,” my stepmother stated flatly. It was just her way of trying to get a rise out of me. I had learned to ignore her.
“About what?” I inquired. I already had a little sister, who was an infant at the time. What else could they want to discuss with me? And why would we move when my real mom just went missing? I was starting to panic.
“Well, your stepmother’s new job is really far away from here. So we were thinking about moving. The house is wonderful. It's small, but it's on a huge piece of property. There is plenty of room for you and your sister to roam around. There is also a huge mansion there, but I was told it's not safe to go in there. What do you think?”
“But of course, no matter what you say, we are still moving there. The family said yes, so we are going,” said my stepmother. I did my best to keep from rolling my eyes.
“But what about Mom?” I asked in a panicky tone. I couldn’t just leave not knowing what happened to her.
“Well,” my father said hesitantly, “we think that it would be best if you got away from all that is going on right now. It may help you move on and get a fresh perspective.”
Later that day, I was in my room, trying to work through my emotions. No matter what I did, I could not distract myself from the move. I would be forced to not only leave the town that I had grown up in and loved, but I would leave not knowing what happened to my mother. I tried going for walks and packing up my stuff, but nothing worked. So I decided to do some research on the place we were moving to. I sat down at my desk, which was cluttered and covered in papers, clothes, and some small stuffed animals. My laptop was small, cracked, and outdated. When it finally finished turning on, I opened my browser and clicked through the meaningless pop-ups that always clutter my screen.
The property was called Hoffman Manor and was located on the outskirts of Gettysburg, PA. The house was beautiful. It had two stories, white pillars on the front porch, and two towering chimneys on the roof. The interior of the house was barren. There was no furniture, the paint was cracking, and the floorboards showed. It was used as a field hospital during the battle. This interested me a bit, as I avidly studied the American Civil War, Gettysburg in particular. Like I said, I was not a normal teenage girl. In doing further research about the house, I came upon a very interesting news article. It was an obituary entry titled “M. Hoffman found dead in stairwell of her home.” Apparently, this old woman who owned the house before we bought it had hung herself in the stairwell. However, it was suspected that there was foul play and she was murdered. Nothing came of this, though. This happened in the late 1800s. Also linked to this site were several ghost stories that people had made up about the place. I didn’t really believe in ghosts—which is ironic, because I could communicate with them—so I didn’t take them seriously. However I still felt like the house was pulling me in, almost like the supposed ghost was trying to contact me through the picture. It felt like a cry for help.
The following weekend, we packed up the car and began the long journey to our new home. We passed through miles and miles of farmland and open country. All the while, I kept thinking about our new home, and what laid in store for me.
Chapter 2: The House
Again, the same fear. The same sense of running with no end in sight, barely aware of my surroundings. I still had no idea what or who was chasing me. I hear my mother’s voice calling me as I reach the end of the hallway. Something grabs me. I scream! Only to wake up to my father repeatedly calling my name.
“We are here!” He said cheerfully, but with a worried look on his face. “Another nightmare?”
“Yeah, you’ve been screaming for the last two hours.” My stepmother was obviously exaggerating. “You nearly woke up the baby.”
You’re the only baby I see in this car, I thought to myself. I looked out the window as we pulled into our new home.
The gravel driveway was lined with giant, moss-covered oak trees, which cast a dark shadow over the road. The driveway itself was about half a mile long. As we continued down the driveway, I peered through the trees at what looked like a small field, with very long, overgrown grass. I was anxious to walk in that field and see what little creature lived there. As we passed the field, I could see a large, ominous-looking silhouette. It seemed to block out all of the sunlight as we approached. The house was even more spooky-looking than in the picture I found. But we drove by it too quickly for me to get a good look.
I will definitely be coming back here, I thought to myself as I looked over my shoulder at the ominous shadow, fading into the darkness of the trees as we approached our new home.
The house we were moving into had been a guest house. Now, it housed whatever poor souls were assigned to the upkeep of the property. I guess now it was our turn. It was a small house, made of wooden boards that looked like they had been harvested in the stone age. The chimney was made of beautiful cobblestones. It was the only part of the house that looked new and cared for. The yard was overgrown, and the garden was full of thorny weeds. Grotesque faces of angels and small stone animals, covered in weeds and thorns, stared up at me as I walked by. The inside of the house was just as unkempt. The horrible, yellow paint was chipping off the walls. The carpet was covered in dirt and stains. The whole house stank of cigarette smoke.
“Boy, the last owners really did a number on this place,” my father remarked. “But that's nothing a little hard work won’t fix”
I did my best not to roll my eyes. That meant we would all have to pitch in and help clean up the place.
I finally found my room. It was the only upstairs bedroom, and thus far away from everyone else. It was small, but not super tiny. Kind of medium-sized. It had a large window overlooking the forest, and in the distance, the main house. I stared out the window, at the imposing structure as I sat down on my new bed. I was ready for whatever new adventures awaited me here. Maybe I’d finally figure out what happened to Mom.