10 minute countdown

Not for the faint-hearted. A girl, a haunted house, a nightmare – stuck forever.

I remember the day like it was yesterday, a chilly Friday evening on 31st October, the day of Halloween. My friends and I drove around 20 miles to check out this supposedly house. I was dared to go there alone for 10 minutes. They were hooting and screaming in the car like we were going on a picnic and honestly, I was petrified. I hated every aspect of Halloween- the dressing up, the scary legends, the trivial pumpkins, I loathed it all. The carrot-coloured leaves had beautifully carpeted the streets, there was a radiating tinge of orange in the air as the sun was just beginning to set. I wondered why anyone would ruin such beautiful autumn weather with this horrifying festival. I had to mask my fear in front of my friends, I put up this façade of brevity, in reality my stomach was in tight knots. 

The pit in my stomach deepened with every passing minute. After a long anxious drive we finally reached the house. It was so much more terrifying than I had imagined. It was an ancient monstrous house, creepers had carved their way all the way up to the chimney. Bordering the house were a bunch of trees, the bare branches looked like monster claws. There was not a speck of colour in site as an overcast suddenly emerged making the place look even more dismal.  A sense of dread settled over me as we pulled over, my stomach churned. “Woohoooo!” my friends screeched. “What a bunch of idiots” I thought to myself, wondering how anyone could ever enjoy this. I was elbowed out of the car as my friends cheered me on to finish the dare. I mustered all the courage I had, and slowly started walking towards the dilapidated structure looming over me. The house radiated a sense of melancholic darkness. I shuddered, as a chilly breeze washed over me. I turned around, only to watch my idiot friends sniggering away. My face was soaked with fear, it definitely gave me away. I knew if I didn’t do this, I would be bullied for the rest of my life. Every muscle in my body was screaming at me to turn around. It almost felt like the house was devouring me. I reached the doorstep, gazed at the towering metal door dotted with dust. “Just a short 10 minutes” I thought to myself. I pressed start on my stopwatch, pushed the door open and stepped inside. 

It was your clichéd horror movie haunted house, the humongous living room leading up to a flight of stairs, a glass chandelier hanging low from the centre of a ceiling, a carpet which housed layers and layers of dust and the cobwebs that closely huddled in every corner I turned. My heart beat which was pumping loudly in my chest, had now begun to finally slow down. I glanced at my stop watch, still 8 minutes, time was moving excruciating slowly. My knees were wobbling like jelly so I decided to walk around to loosen them up. I took a few steps ahead only to find myself getting consumed by a morbid wave of darkness.

I stumbled back, and decided to stay put, right next to the front door so I could rush out as soon as I heard my watch beep. Just 30 seconds more, my heart soared. No one would ever call me a wimp again. I smiled to myself, proud that I had overcome an irrational fear that was housed comfortably in my head. I grabbed the door knob, it somehow felt colder than before. I dismissed the feeling, opened that heavy door and gasped. 

I was staring at that same enormous living room leading up to a flight of stairs, the same glass chandelier hanging low from the centre of a ceiling, the very same carpet and the cobwebs were in the exact same place. I had entered a replica of the first room. There had to be some kind of mistake, I looked at my stop watch. 9min 50 seconds, it read. The 10 minute countdown had re-started. “what!” “This cant be happening” I stammered under my breath, frantically tapping at my watch to make it work. I turned around and pushed the main door open, the same one I had come through, only to find myself in the exact same room again. Was this some kind of sick joke? “Amanda- Nick – Sam!” I screamed and started banging on the door hoping someone would hear me. My screams echoed through the whole house, soon the screams turned into muffled cries. I had started to sob as I pounded on the door. I opened that same main door over a dozen times only to find myself in the exact same room over and over again and my stopwatch restart the 10 minute count down every single time I stepped through the doors

I am not even sure what year it is anymore, it’s probably been decades since I walked into the house. I know it’s been a while, because I can feel the hideous wrinkles etching their way through my forehead. I also know this because I have lost count of the number of times my stop watch has restarted it’s 10 minute countdown. It is the day of Halloween today, I know because I can hear those giant ungodly doors open. I can faintly hear frightened footsteps approaching, probably another 16 year old trying to prove her worth by accepting a horrifying dare. I chuckle at her foolishness. She would be my next companion. Every Halloween, a pretentious simpleton walks through those doors. I always ensure I never let them leave, the first year all alone was dreadfully lonely. 

Ashmi Shah

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