Sam’s whole body trembled with relief; for a moment he feared that she’d been trying to kill herself. In the middle of the night, he heard her moving around the apartment, but didn’t realize right away that she left. When he checked her bedroom, he found her sheets rumpled and her bed empty. He panicked and raced out after her.

He ran like a madman through the dark streets. He wasn’t able to find her until he glanced up and noticed a white shadowy form balanced on the ledge of the church’s tower. He was stunned when he recognized the white indistinct shadow to be Shana in her snowy white nightgown. He called her name over and over again until she focused on him. It was if she’d been sleepwalking and just woke up.

He dashed up the tower stairs and found her clutching the side of the building, trying to keep herself from falling off the narrow ledge. He ran to her and pulled her into his arms. When she realized that she was safe, she began to sob. Between sobs, she explained to him that she hadn’t climbed up the tower willingly, since she was terrified of heights.

“Maybe you were sleepwalking?” said Sam. He carried her down the stairs, holding her close to his body to shield her from the cold wind. He couldn’t figure out why it was freezing cold tonight when there was usually a warm breeze blowing in from the ocean. But most of all, he couldn’t figure out why Shana—a reasonably sane woman—had climbed up to the top of the church’s tower to balance on its narrow ledge.


    door cover option
     Mike ran through town. He heard chanting noises coming from the direction of the park. He crept closer to the lit gazebo, being careful to keep close to the real shadows cast by the deserted buildings. In the distance, he was able to discern dark shapes circling the gazebo, holding hands and chanting in a strange language.
     The gazebo was lit by flickering candles and in their midst was Louise, hanging from a noose. The figures wore dark robes with hoods concealing their faces. The shadowy figures appeared to be human. This terrified him even more since he now realized that they could even be people from his own town.
     He crept away before he was spotted. He fled through the dark streets—as if the hounds of hell were chasing him. He didn’t know if the forms were from hell or from earth, but he understood that they were dangerous and deadly. He had to accept the fact that it was too late to help Louise, but he could still get help from the sheriff for the rest of his friends.



They walked into the next room, the first thing they heard was a loud dripping noise. Linda was terrified of finding more blood trickling down the walls. Instead, she found a large swimming pool, built into the floor of the huge white-tiled room, with a pump that was making the constant dripping sound.
“This must be the indoor swimming pool with the fancy Jacuzzi,” she said. She looked around at the massage tables and mud baths set up alongside the pool. Two doors at the far end of the room were labeled “sauna” and “steam room.” Thank god, the walls were sparkling white and appeared to be clean of any blood.
“The water in the pool looks frozen.” She moved closer to get a better look. She peered over the edge; only to find the pool frozen—not with water—but with blood, a lot of blood. She felt herself become lightheaded; her head began spinning. All she could manage was a small squeak before she scurried away.
Shana and Todd rushed over to her. “How much blood could have been used to fill up this whole pool? Is it human or animal blood? Forget it, I really don’t care! I just want to get out of here! Our host has a ghoulish sense of humor, and I don’t want to play his game anymore.”



      She said, “I’ll go.” She didn’t know where she got her courage from, but she was tired of being controlled by the freak who owned this house.
     She climbed the tower’s brick wall, using her hands and feet to push her body up the wall, brick by sharp brick. The farther up she climbed…the farther away the top of the tower seemed to be. She knew that this couldn’t be possible unless someone was playing tricks with their minds again—like with the water that had appeared.
     She was almost at the top when she heard a booming sound coming from above. The gate that had been lying across the top was now crashing down to one side—the side she was hanging on to. While she held on tight, she closed her eyes and prayed. The gate bashed against her, but she still managed to keep her footing. She climbed back down before she got swatted like an ant against the wall.
     “This must have been the master plan all along; that we all die in this house—one by one,” she yelled at Mike and David, who were both standing in the doorway with their mouths hanging open. Mike’s response was simply to turn around and stomp away. She was disgusted by this whole business and by Mike’s total lack of sympathy. He didn’t seem to be at all concerned that she’d almost been killed. She knew he wasn’t a real friend and couldn’t be relied upon in the future.



The steps were slippery without any railings for support, forcing them to grab hold of the slimy walls. After making their way down the wet stairs, they heard the door slam shut behind them. Mike ran back up the stairs. “Now we have to continue forward, since there’s no other way out,” Mike said with a new quiver to his voice.
Mike wasn’t so brave anymore. Louise was distracted by a cold wetness. The dampness was coming from her feet: her feet were wet. She looked down and was horrified to find herself standing in a basement filled with water—water that reached above her ankles and covered most of her leg. She couldn’t understand it; the water had not been there a second ago. A whole pool of water couldn’t just appear on a whim from out of nowhere.



Her first visit was to Shirley, the self-appointed town gossip. As soon as Shirley spotted her walking in, she hung up the phone. Who had she been talking to? And why hadn’t she wanted her conversation to be overheard?
Approaching Shirley’s desk, apologized, “You didn’t have to hang up just because of me. I only came over to gossip since business is slow today.”
“I was finishing up anyway. What can I help you with? Come sit with me on the couch.” She led Linda to the pretty flowered couch under the green-tinted front window, while she settled into the large matching armchair.
“Have you been invited to the party at End House on Friday night?” questioned Linda as she attempted to get comfortable in the mound of pillows scattered around her.
“No, of course not—only the young people of Oasis have been invited,” explained Shirley—as if this were obvious to everyone. She was looking down as she spoke…busy straightening her blouse and smoothing the pleats in her skirt. Shirley was always adjusting some piece of clothing.
Even Shirley was giving vague answers to her straightforward questions.
“Why?” she prompted Shirley.
“Hank and I don’t fit in with the younger crowd…We’re too old and our spouses have already passed on.” As she spoke her shoulders began to droop, causing Linda to wonder if she did that on purpose just to appear older and frailer.
“Both of you look so young.”
“No. We’re in our seventies.”
Unnerved by this unexpected answer, Linda stood up and bid Shirley goodbye.



Susanne Leist

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Linda was on her way to the barbeque with her friends.

The others were already there. Mike and David had moved their barbeque grill onto the beach; hamburgers and hot dogs were sizzling on the grill with buns warming on the side. Shana was setting the picnic table with a checkered tablecloth and baskets of breads. Louise, who’d brought the salads, was busy arranging them down the center of the table.
Linda noticed Todd lounging on a reclining chair, reading the Wall Street Journal. He always brought with him a large selection of wines. He never cooked or served, but observed everyone from a discreet distance. His long legs—stretched out before him—looked tan and muscular in his biking shorts. His expression appeared pensive and serious as he perused his newspaper. She turned away before he noticed her gawking at him.
Once the food was cooked and served, they sat around the picnic table. The only topic of conversation on everyone’s mind was the mysterious party at End House. They talked about it for awhile—except for Todd, who remained aloof and silent during the heated conversation. Linda wondered whether the owner of End House was also one of his many clients.
David had been the one to first introduce the topic of the party during the meal. They had been eating in silence until David spoke up. “Should we go to this party? It might not be such a good idea. We don’t even know who’s throwing the mysterious party.”
Mike said, “You always try to ruin everyone’s fun. If you don’t want to go, don’t go! Just don’t bring down everyone else’s spirit of adventure.” Mike always scolded David for his inappropriate comments. However, this time Linda didn’t believe that David had said anything inappropriate, since she felt the exact same way about the End House party.
Shana stood and pointed a finger at Mike. “Who are you to say what someone should or should not be feeling? If David is hesitant about going, then he should say so.”
“That’s right,” Linda said. “David shouldn’t be afraid to speak his own mind in front of his friends.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m also speaking my mind. I don’t want him putting unfounded doubts into everyone’s heads—before they’ve even considered it! David, I understand your concern about going to End House, but we’ll be together, and there’s nothing to fear. I hope you’ll come, or else I won’t have anyone to hang out with.”
After a long pause, David nodded his head. “Okay, I’ll think about it….”
After the meal Linda sat close to the others on the beach. They gazed out at the ocean while the sun set in the distance, casting its glittering lights on the water. Each person was immersed in his or her own thoughts about End House and its unknown owner. Todd didn’t offer to identify the owner or whether he even knew who it was. And no one dared to ask.