Mick squeezed through the chained and pad locked gates as the rain turned heavy. Rise To Remain sung through the noise cancelling headphones, blocking out the vibrations of the fence. Pulling the stolen rain coat’s hood further down, he clicked on the torch. The beam of light circled on the overgrown road.
Thick branches from a dead tree lay snapped in the tall grass and weeds. The sudden image of himself and Rohan collecting them appeared. It hadn’t been raining that night and the wood had all been dry. Mick shone the torch upwards and the light darted up the trunk of the tree in question.
Aaron appeared balanced in the branches. He’d been cutting through the limbs with a small saw when Rohan and Mick had arrived. He had explained Sam and Ty- who was sort of their leader-were trying to get a fire going. Mick could dimly recall the sounds of the sawing and the dead tree snapping. Aaron had climbed down afterwards and collected an arm full of sticks before they had headed back with their loads.
He dropped the torch back to the overgrown road. There was no point in gathering the rest of the wood, it was far too wet. Hoping there might be some dry sticks still left over, Mick started on the road. The faces of his friends seemed to join him as he scrambled through the dripping foliage. Rohan with his bright red hair in a stubby ponytail, was the shortest of the group. He also had a pinkie finger missing on his left hand and was colour blind. What had he been wearing that night? It had properly been black or dark coloured like the rest of the Goth gang wore.
Aaron, trailing behind them, was the strongest and the tallest. He went to the gym and took steroids out of habit and addiction. His dyed black hair was the shortest and he spoke very little. His boots and ripped jeans had been covered in mud. Though he wouldn’t say where he’d been and it had seemed too dry for so much wet dirt.
The road went upwards and Mick followed it, banishing his friends from his mind. A few minutes later, he stopped to catch his breath and look around. He was standing at what seemed to be the top of a large hill in a field. The road headed to his right and climbed another hill. The bushes and trees stretched out on either side as far as he could see. He shook out the rain coat, which was doing a great job of stopping the rain soaking him. However, he really was starting to feel cold and wet. It couldn’t be much further now, could it?
He moved off again and System of a Down came on his IPod and through the headphones. It was hard going on the slippery grass, but under them small stones gave his boots some stability. His torch light shook across the ground and he was finding it hard to catch his breath. He stopped on the decline and forced his breathing to steady. Opening his eyes, he stared through the growing darkness and sheet rain to see the outline of a massive structure a few feet ahead of him. System started to fade and the IPod shuffled another of their songs on.
The road met a widening driveway, which was divided by another pair of gates, half hidden under ivy. One of the gates was open slightly because the hinges were broken. Mick stepped through and gazed up at the building now in his sight. Once it had been a glorious early Victorian mansion, but now it had been left to rot. The white paint covering the roman columns had peeled away. Ivy and other climbing plants had wrapped themselves around everything. A handful of ground floor windows had been boarded up and the others were either missing or broken. An eerie atmosphere hung over the place as if it was a dead body.
Forcing away his fears, Mick walked up to the front doors just as he had done a week before. His light hit an orange glob on the floor and he aimed the torch down. Sat by the right side door, a rotting pumpkin had sunken in on itself and collapsed. He recoiled at the sight and pushed against the other door. In a flash, he could see the Jack O’ Lantern grinning at him. The candle inside had been casting burning welcoming light on to his face.
The door gave way with a loud shuddering groan and Mick, hurrying inside, pushed it shut again. Iron Maiden’s Chains of Misery echoed through the headphones, filling his head with calming notes. The foul air of the house flooded his nose with each desperate breath he drew. He still couldn’t put his finger on all the different scents that rose within the thick dust. Waving the beam of light, he ordinated himself and crept into the first room to his left.
Alongside the music in his ears, he could hear Ty’s voice telling him and the others about that room. It had originally been a guest waiting room in the mansion and had stayed that way when the house had become a school and home for mentally and physically disabled children. Mick shone his torch about. There were two long sofas and a small table set before a fireplace. This was where it had all began.
He went over to the fireplace, which contained a heap of ashes and bits of burnt wood. Off to the side was a pile of sticks, logs, newspapers and a match box. Thanking his luck, Mike began to build a fire, recalling as he did so Ty and Sam building one as he and the other two had arrived. Sam had been scrunching up balls of newspaper mismatched painted finger nails. His multi-coloured hair covered his face and his glasses were sliding off his nose. Ty had been lighting candles, his leather jacket clinking with all the metal elements adoring it. His spiked up Mohawk seemed to dominate the room and his piercing purple eyes had fixed onto them as they entered.
Removing the coat, Mick also slipped the headphones off and let the last few moments of Maiden echo in the room. He struck a match and set a ball of newspaper a lit before dropping it into a circle of more paper and wood. The flames took and licked around the wood hungrily. The fire cracked and sparked, adding its own sound track to the beginnings of a Disturbed song, which Mick only half recognize.
As he feed and watched the fire, his thoughts swirled back again. He had lied to his parents and the police, telling them he was at a Halloween night out with his friends in Liverpool. He had gotten drunk and couldn’t remember much of the latter part or what his friends had been up to. Truthfully though, he knew all the details with an odd clarity.
Mick poked a long stick into the fire, stirring it up a little, which caused the fire to hiss. They had gathered here, in this place that Ty had called his second home and had been his escaped from foster parents. They had drunk straight vodka, JD, cider and Morgan’s, had talked girls, music, movies, life, had laughed and shouted over ghost stories. Then Ty had offered around some tablets. Taking them, they had left to hit their favourite night clubs and bars. More drinks and loud music had flowed, washing together and creating a never ending night.
They had ended back here with some girls. Rolling around on the sleeping bags covered floor and the creaking springs of the sofas. Sweaty bodies shimmered in candle light, gasps and delightful cries had roamed through the room, black lipstick had coated skin and bite marks had been left behind. He couldn’t remember the girls’ names, or what they looked like clearly as it seemed they had been a reflection of themselves. Laying there, in a tangle of naked skin and displaced dust, Mick remembered one of the girls’ asking the name of the house.
Beedingwood, Ty had replied then in a smoke haze had told tales of the manor house and the school. They had listened, hooked to the horse voice as they smoked and drank. Mick tried to recall one of the stories but couldn’t. They had all sounded so legendary and mysterious. Afterwards, Ty had offered them another hit and there had been more sex. Sleep had come, restless and hot. Mick had woken from it with the soft voices of the girls in his ears. They were dressing and leaving. He lay still, listening to them until the doors had shut and their voices had faded with the remains of the night.
It was then that all the trouble had started. Mick had woken, struggling into his clothes and boots before going to relief himself. Coming back, he’d found most of the others awake with only Aaron still wrapped up in a sleeping bag. They had tried to wake him, but he wouldn’t budge. Mick had shook him and noticed his chest wasn’t moving. He had stuck a hand over Aaron’s mouth and nose and felt no breath tickling his skin. Cautiously, he had called Ty over, who confirmed his findings. Together, they had come up with a plan and they had carried Aaron out of there in a sleeping bag. They headed to his house, carefully sticking to side routes and avoiding everyone. Somehow, they had made it and arranged Aaron in his bed.
Ty had given them further instructions and gone over all the possibilities as they had left and headed separate ways. His predications had come true and the next day there police at their doors, announcing Aaron’s death and questioning them. They had all stuck to the story Ty had told them, which beside from Beedingwood, the drugs and the girls, was the truth.
Mick threw some more wood on to the fire and looked across at the sofa Aaron had died on. He couldn’t help wondering if his spirit was now trapped here, like the other ghosts Ty had talked about. Though, he didn’t really believe in ghosts or an afterlife. The police had now concluded their case as an accidently overdose via a drug and alcohol cocktail. The gang had never been to blame, but Mick knew he’d feel haunted by it for the rest of his life.