Chapter One

'Come out come out where ever you are!' Chandra's voice echoed around the empty house. The old decaying floorboards creaked beneath her feet as she walked through the large entrance hall. A loud clap of thunder shook the house and a second later the tall gothic windows were illuminated by a flash of blinding lightning. 'Macey!' Chandra yelled, suddenly feeling spooked. 'Christa! Come on you guys, this isn't funny anymore!'

Chandra stood still and listened for their reply, but all she heard was the sound of the heavy rainfall lashing against the windows. 'Fine!' she yelled out after a few seconds. 'If you guys want to stay in this gross old house then you do that! But I am going! Goodbye!' The willowy red head turned on her heal to leave and suddenly screamed hysterically when she came face to face with a stooped figure illuminated by the flashes of lightning.

The stooped figure lifted its head and raised it hands to its ears. Chandra realised it was a woman, an old woman, her face twisted in pain. 'Don't be cryin' out like that child, oh please....' the old woman moaned in a tormented voice. She slowly extended her weathered old hands towards Chandra, sobbing as she did so. 'Help me child, please...help me.'

Chandra recoiled from the woman in terror and raced passed her towards the door. 'No!' the woman hollered after her. 'Don't leave me here! You can't leave me here! No!' The sound of feet pounding overhead distracted Chandra and before she realised what was happening the old woman was shuffling towards her, groaning, grabbing Chandra and clawing at her arms with a strength that seemed incongruous to her small, aged frame.

'Get off me you old hag!' Chandra cried in terror, slapping at the woman, pushing her away with all her might.

'Chandra! What are you doing?!' The red haired girl looked up to see Macey and Christa stood at the top of the stair case, looking down upon her and the old woman in horror.

'Get her off me!' Chandra squealed, still whacking the old woman who was gripping on to the young girls slender arms relentlessly. Macey shot a look of complete disgust at Chandra, before hurrying down the creaky steps and putting a soothing arm around the old woman.

'Chandra,' the pretty blonde girl said with annoyance. 'It's only Mrs Madden. She's a harmless little old lady - you should be ashamed of yourself hitting her like that!'

'I was defending myself!' Chandra cried. 'Look, she drew blood!' Chandra thrust her arms forward so that Macey could see the line of bloody crescent moon shaped marks lining her pale arms where the old woman's nails had dug into the skin.

'Oh, I'm frightened child, I'm so frightened,' the frail woman said looking up at Macey who was half hugging her protectively. The old ladies eyes were full to the brim with unshed tears and wide with terror.

'It's okay Mrs Madden,' Macey said gently. 'No one's going to hurt you, you're safe.'

'What is she doing here?! This place was supposed to be abandoned!' Chandra yelled, angry that her friend had no comforting words for her.

Christa walked down the stairs and joined them at the door. 'She must have gotten out of her house somehow and wandered up here,' she said sadly. 'That son of hers is a waste of space. He's supposed to look after her, but all he does is get drunk and start fights with the neighbours.'

The old woman quivered in Macey's arms, oblivious to what the girls were saying. 'We should take her home,' Macey said regretfully. 'It's not like there's anywhere else for her to go.' The rain continued to lash down outside.

'We're going to get soaked,' Christa grumbled.

'We only have to walk to the car,' Macey replied, slipping out of her jacket. 'Here, you guys hold this over Mrs Madden's head when we get outside.' Moments later, they were helping the old woman into the back of Macey's soft top Suzuki vitara. Once she was safely inside Christa opened the passenger door and climbed in.

'What are you doing?' Chandra asked, her voice full of irritation as the rain pelted down, soaking her completely. 'Who says you get to go in front?'

'You snooze you lose,' Christa said flatly, slamming the door shut and fastening her seatbelt.

'Chandra, would you get in already?' Macey called from the drivers' seat.

'I am not sitting in back with her!' Chandra replied adamantly. 'She's crazy!'

'Chandra don't be an idiot,' Macey replied sternly.

The red heads jaw dropped, her face the picture of indignation. 'Oh, I'm an idiot? You guys were the ones who dragged me up to this creepy house then decided to run off and hide from me. So mature, guys, I mean really!'

'Just get in the car!' Macey yelled, losing her patience. Mrs Madden raised her hands to her ears again, and began wailing.

'Don't holler like that, child,' she cried. 'Please don't holler!'

'Chandra,' Macey said through gritted teeth. 'We have to get Mrs Madden home, are you coming or not?'

Chandra shook her head, beads of rain water flying from her drenched hair as she did so. 'I think I'll walk. It's such a nice night after all,' she replied sarcastically.

'Fine,' Macey replied. 'See you at school tomorrow.' Chandra slammed the door shut angrily and watched as the car sped off, its wheels spraying up small walls of water as they tore through muddy puddles. Hugging herself tightly, Chandra looked back at the house. It was large and decrepit, perched on top of a hill. It screamed Norman Bates. Maybe that was why she had freaked out so much when the old lady appeared - perhaps subconsciously Chandra had thought she was actually a crazed psycho dressed as his weird mother and was about to star butchering her with a large bread knife. Who needs a knife with nails like those? Chandra thought, carefully running a finger along the marks on her arms.

Heaving a weary sigh she began her long walk home. Christa and Macey were the only friends she'd made since moving to town three weeks ago. Befriending people had never been Chandra's strong point and when the two girls had offered to take her under their wing she had been secretly thrilled. Christa and Macey had seemed so cool, they didn't run with the crowd and were always laughing secretly about one thing or another, like co-conspirators who knew something totally wild that on one else did. Plus they had legions of male admirers. Macey was petite, blonde and had the perfect good looks of a soap star. Christa was curvy, with wild brown curls and flawless coffee colored skin.

The two girls had mastered the cool aloofness that Chandra had been trying to perfect for years, and upon first glance, given the choice of joining one of the many cliques at her new school, Macey and Christa's exclusive union was top of Chandra's list. Having got to know them a little better, the shine was starting to wear off. While Macey was perfectly nice - most of the time - Christa had rapidly grown increasingly cold towards Chandra, and she got the feeling that the invitations to go to the movies and window shopping were soon going to dry up. Then she'd be totally alone in this town.

That was why Chandra had agreed to come along to check out the creepy old house. Christa was planning on shooting a short horror movie for one of the extra curricular clubs she belonged to and had thought that the old Masterson house up on the hill would be the perfect location. The girls had gone to take a closer look at it. Now Chandra wished she hadn't.

Upon her arrival home she was greeted by the sound of canned laughter floating out of the den. She didn't have to go in and take a look to know that her parents and little brother Todd would all be sat around watching one of their beloved sitcoms. Chandra did not share their affection towards the genre. In her experience life was rarely funny, so why pretend that it was? With a small grunt of agitation she kicked her muddy shoes off and sprinted up the stairs to her bedroom. Slamming the door behind her Chandra picked the remote control off her desk and pointed it at the stereo. A Good Charlotte song blared out of the speakers and Chandra began to shrug off her wet clothes, leaving them in a crumpled pile in the middle of the floor.

Quickly, she walked over to the door leading to her bathroom and grabbed a clean towel off the rail. Maybe if I'm lucky, she thought to herself as she rubbed at her sopping hair, I'll catch a chill, get really sick, and not have to go to school for the rest of the year. Or even better I'll catch pneumonia and die. With that cheery thought in mind she tossed the towel on the floor and flung herself onto her bed.

Chandra was shocked to realize that the small cuts Mrs Madden had inflicted on her were still sore, stinging slightly. Trying to ignore the pain, she threw back her covers and got into bed. Good job I've had my tetanus shot, she thought absently. Who knows what gross diseases that crazy old bat could have infected me with.' Picking up the remote control, Chandra turned off the stereo, before reaching over and flicking off the switch on the lamp beside her bed. An early night was what she needed. A nice, long, restful night's sleep. Maybe in the light of a new day her life would seem better. Maybe she wouldn't feel like such a jerk about the way she had acted back at the Masterson house. Maybe Christa and Macey would have forgotten all about it. Maybe, Chandra thought as she drifted off to sleep. Anything's possible.