"It's tradition. We've all done it, and if you want to join then you gotta do it too." Madison pursed her lips together, seemingly unamused as she tossed her bleach blonde fake curls over her shoulder.
"It's not a big deal. Stop being a baby about it." Hannah piped up; the feisty redhead of the group. She smirked at the black haired girl that stood a few feet away from the four girls.
"Nothing bad ever happened. You'll be fine." Grace added in. She was the, sort of, nice one of the group. She could see how nervous the girl looked. But she also remembered what it was like to be the newbie. So, she wasn't as...callous as the other three girls. ...Yet.
"Let's go! We're gonna be late!" Layla whined from the front door. "Dylan's gonna be there, and I'm not about to miss my chance to get lucky." She looked in the mirror by the front door and made sure her makeup was alright.
"Slut." Hannah quipped with a sly smile.
"Bitch." Layla sneered before throwing open the front door and walking down the steps of the porch.
"Anyway, you know the rules. You know where the stuff is and what to do." Madison said as she turned and started out the front door with the other girls. "Don't wait up. We'll probably be gone all night. You know how Rho Gamma Beta parties can be." She stopped and looked over her shoulder. "Well, you don't. But whatever."
"Good luck, pledge!" Hannah yelled without looking back as she hopped down the steps to catch up with Layla. Madison sauntered down the steps after her, but made no attempt to catch up with them. Grace remained on the porch and turned back to face the girl.
"You'll be OK." She offered her a reassuring smile before heading down the steps to catch up.
"Well," the girl sighed to herself as she shut the front door, "at least they're out of your hair for a while, Scarlet." She told herself with a half-hearted smile.
Let's kill some time before we summon the Midnight Man to kill me... She thought sarcastically.
The next few hours seemed to tick by so slowly. There was nothing good on TV and she could only play games on her phone for so long until they started getting boring... However, when 11:50 rolled around, Scarlet felt her anxiety rise as her heart thumped in her chest. She took a deep breath and headed into the kitchen.
On the counter beside the stove, there was a candlestick sitting in a holder, a box of matches, a small piece of paper, a pen, the salt shaker from the dining room table, and a sewing needle. Scarlet shook her head and sighed. She didn't want to do this. Couldn't she just fake it and say she did it, no problems? No...She couldn't bring herself to lie.
Near the supplies, another piece of paper caught her attention. The handwriting looked familiar. She picked up the paper and recognized it as Grace's writing.
Thought you might need a reminder of the instructions:
Turn off all the lights.
Light a candle.
Write your name on the paper: first, middle, and last.
Prick your finger with the needle and add a drop of blood to the paper. Allow it to soak in.
Place the paper with your name on the floor in front of the door.
Knock on the door 22 times with the ticking in the clock. The 22nd knock MUST come at 12am! (The grandfather clock in the entryway should help!)
Open the door, blow out the candle, then close the door again. You have now summoned the Midnight Man...
IMMEDIATELY relight your candle.
Remember, don't turn on any lights, use a flashlight, or your cell phone. Move through the house to avoid him. DON'T stay in one place for too long. When he's near, it will suddenly get cold, you'll hear low whispers, and your candle will go out. You have ten seconds to relight the candle. If you can't get it lit again, throw down a circle of salt and STAY INSIDE OF IT until 3:33.
Don't worry, girl. You'll be fine!
Scarlet smiled. At least Grace seemed to be supportive. The other girls were probably laughing their asses off at how worried she seemed. She hoped this turned out OK. She and Grace would probably end up being best friends.
"You can do this. No big deal." Scarlet assured herself. She went around the sorority house and turned off the lights. As she passed by Madison's room, she briefly poked her head in and thought about subtly moving some of her things around to irritate her. As tempted as she was, she decided against it and headed back downstairs.
She flipped the kitchen light off and took a moment to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She grabbed the salt shaker and put in the pocket of her jeans before striking a match and lighting the candle. The smell of sulfur assaulted her nose. Then, she took a breath and wrote her name on the paper:
Scarlet Lana Matthews
She picked up the needle and stared at it for a few moments, letting it glint in the candlelight. Do I really want to do this? She asked herself. Without waiting to think about it, she quickly pricked her finger and hissed softly at the pain. She held her finger over the paper and let gravity do all the work. The droplet hit the paper with a quiet tick! noise.
She picked up the paper, matches, and candle in the holder, left the kitchen, and walked to the front door. The grandfather clock was ticking away, making the quiet seem less unnerving. At least for the moment.
The second hand ticked away and Scarlet placed the paper with her name on it on the floor in front of the door. She held her knuckles against the old wooden door as she stared at the clock. When the second hand hit just after the seven, she started knocking.
Tick! Knock. Tick! Knock. Tick! Knock...
It was rhythmic and, almost, hypnotic. Scarlet felt her anxiety rise with each tick of the clock and subsequent knock on the door. Her heart was hammering away in her chest so loudly that she could hear it; could feel it in her head. It nearly drowned out the sound of the clock.
The clock chimed midnight when her knuckles collided with the door for the final time. Before Scarlet could talk herself out of it, she opened the door and blew out the candle. The street outside was dark, save for a few lights coming from the house a little ways up the road.
Last chance to back out... Maybe? She clenched her teeth together and shut the door. With shaky hands, she struck another match and relit her candle. The grandfather clock was still ticking away and made her feel a little less alone for some reason.
Scarlet headed into the kitchen again and looked around. She felt really awkward just wandering around with a candle. In fact, she felt downright stupid. She was positive this was just a prank and Hannah, Madison, and Layla were all really hiding around the house ready to scare her and put the video on YouTube.
That would be so like them... She thought bitterly and shook her head as she left the kitchen. The entryway was equally as boring as the kitchen was. The grandfather clock was ticking away. She headed into the living room and looked around.
"For goodness sake... This is so dumb!" Scarlet muttered to herself and shook her head again. A door upstairs slammed shut and she jumped in fright. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and she laughed.
"Good one, girls. You got me..." She said to herself. The candle flickered as she walked through the entryway again and headed up the stairs. When she reached the top, she looked down the hallway and saw the door to her bedroom was closed. Of course it was her door...
Scarlet headed towards her room and suddenly shivered as she felt a chill. The girls were really going to great lengths to make sure she felt scared. When they came out, she'd have to really give them some props. Maybe bake them some cookies, or something. Cookies laced with a small dose of rat poison...
"Scaaaaarleeeeet..." A voice whispered in a sing-song like voice. Scarlet squeaked in fright and spun around. The hallway was empty, from what she could see. Then, the candle went out.
"Oh shit!" She cursed, fumbling with the box of matches. She got one out and quickly struck it on the side of the box. The flame crackled to life and she relit the wick again. "Jesus... They're really pulling out all the stops." Scarlet told herself. Although she was starting to doubt that the girls were behind this. But they had to be. They just had to be.
"Scaaarleet..." The voice whispered again, closer than before. Scarlet shook her head and thought NOPE! as she raced back down the stairs. Things were really starting to get weird, and she wasn't sure she wanted to keep doing this.
"Alright, Madison! You guys got me really good!" Scarlet yelled, standing in the dark entryway. The grandfather clock chimed once and she let out a startled yelp. "One A.M. already...?" It only seemed like a few minutes had passed since she started...
"Well, I guess that's good though." Scarlet nervously chewed on her lower lip. I'll be done this stupid game before long. The thought gave her some relief and she took a deep breath as she headed to the enclosed porch at the back of the house.
When she stepped through the doorway, something felt...off. The candle flickered again as she surveyed her surroundings. Her mouth fell open when she saw the lounge chairs floating in mid-air at eye level. She stood there for a moment, frozen with a mix of fear and curiosity, before the furniture flew towards her and crashed against the wall behind her.
"Fucking shit!" Scarlet swore as she scrambled back into the house and locked the door to the porch. The candle fell from her grip and crashed to the floor, plunging her into darkness again. "Shit! No!" She fumbled around on her hands and knees for a second before gripping the candlestick.
Precious seconds ticked by as the terrified girl struggled to relight her candle. She struck the match head on the box as quickly as she could. With a shaking hand, she held the flame to the wick again and watched the room become illuminated by the warm light again.
"Shit... Was that longer than ten seconds?" Scarlet worried as she walked into the living room again. There was no way she was going back upstairs. And she sure as hell wasn't going back to the porch. She'd pace through the kitchen, entryway, and living room for the next two hours if she had to.
Movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention and she quickly turned to see the flower vase on the coffee table floating several inches off the surface. Her heart was pounding and she was frozen in place again. The vase flew towards the wall across from the TV and Scarlet wondered how she wasn't having a heart attack.
On the wall, Scarlet saw something written in huge letters. Hesitantly, she stepped closer to see what it was. The candle illuminated the wall, and the creepy red letters on the surface. They were still wet... Fresh.
Scarlet... Pretty and red. Like blood...
Scarlet shivered as she read the words. This was going too far. She resolved right then that she was going to talk to the Headmaster tomorrow. This was borderline bullying. If they were pulling this shit on the other pledges, no wonder nobody was joining the stupid sorority!
"SCARLET!" The voice she heard upstairs hissed suddenly in her ear. Scarlet screamed and dropped the candle again. Once more, she was plunged into darkness. She got down on her hands and knees again and searched for the candle, silently counting the seconds in her head.
"Oh god...no..." Scarlet whimpered loudly when ten seconds passed and she couldn't find the candle. "Fuck it!" She pulled her cell out of her pocket and used the screen as a light. Inches away from her, she saw a pale white face. The mouth curved upwards into a creepy smile that nearly reached where his ears would be.
Scarlet let out a blood curdling scream.
Madison, Hannah, and Layla stumbled up the porch steps in a drunken stupor just after four. Grace was trailing behind them. Her steps slow and sluggish with the need for sleep.
"I wonder...how Scary did..." Hannah slurred in between a few hiccups.
"Scary?" Grace asked. Layla tripped up the last step and fell to the ground. Hannah and Madison both started laughing as Grace helped her up.
"Scary Scarlet... Duh!" Hannah rolled her eyes and fumbled around in the dark to open the door. Madison stumbled through the door first and threw her hands up with a smile on her face.
"Yoo hoo!! We're baaaaack!" She sang loudly. "Scaryleeeet!" Grace rolled her eyes and Layla pushed her away when they made it inside.
"Oh!" Hannah exclaimed as she pointed to the living room. "Shh!" She put her finger against her lips and tried to sneak into the room. Grace looked past Hannah and saw the lit candle on the coffee table. It was nearly burned out and melted wax had hardened in a pool around the base of it.
"Hannah... Wait." Grace said, feeling something was wrong.
"Oh... Shaddup...you." Layla slurred as she followed Hannah into the living room. Madison followed close behind. Grace didn't want to, but she brought up the rear of the line. From what she could see, Scarlet was sitting in the lounge chair facing the TV. She was quiet...
"Scarlet!" Hannah jumped around to the front, trying to scare the girl. Her expression changed instantly, and she fell to the floor at Scarlet's feet. She started hyperventilating on the floor before screaming. Grace pushed Madison and Layla aside to see what was wrong.
Scarlet was sitting in the chair. Dead. Her mouth was hanging open, lips and chin stained red with blood. She had several cuts on her face. Grace nearly passed out as her eyes trailed downwards. Her chest looked like it was ripped open with her lungs clearly visible. Several broken ribs jutted outwards; sharp and jagged like they had been broken off by hand.
Grace looked down at Scarlet's lap and fainted, finally registering the screams of Madison and Layla before her head hit the floor and she lost consciousness.
Scarlet's hands rested casually in her lap, holding her heart on display.