I

"For over sixty years Crimson Mansion has been abandoned in Crimson Forest, rumored to be cursed, haunted, and even, in some cases, evil. I, along with three other people, will be spending the night in Crimson Mansion to prove whether or not this abandoned mansion is haunted."

"Perfect," Liv said, winking as she shut the camera off. Emerald grinned at her, and looked over at her twin, Ruby, and the only boy of the group, Vinny. Ruby gave Emerald a thumbs-up and Vinny ignored her. "Quit pouting, Vinny," Liv said, rolling her eyes. "You're just jealous because you're not the host."

"Shove it, Owens," Vinny said, scowling. "I get just as much camera time as the little host, probably even more."

Liv sighed. She hoped the whole trip wouldn't be like this. She looked at Crimson Forest, eager to start the two-hour hike up to Crimson Mansion, perched on the top of a steep mountain that overlooked the forgotten village. It was nearly Halloween and Liv wanted her Halloween themed documentary to be the best. When Mr. Ward had given them the assignment, Liv knew exactly what she wanted to do and exactly who she wanted to do it with. The Evans twins, Ruby and Emerald, were both known for their strong belief in the supernatural and obsession with the Crimson Mansion legend, as well as for their good looks which would make them good for on-screen appearances with Ruby as the believer of ghosts and Emerald as the host for the documentary which Liv had ultimately decided to call Crimson Corridors. Vinny Matarazzo was a skeptic by nature, therefore a good person to have as the skeptic of the legend, and was, like the Evans twins, good-looking as well as arrogant, another good person for the camera.

Liv was pleased with the people she had chosen, even Vinny although he could be a bit pouty sometimes, knowing the three were just as pleased to be chosen. Liv Owens was known for her brains and straight A's. She had never once gotten below a B on any assignment and she never planned to. She was involved in as many extracurricular activities as she could handle with her busy schedule and still managed to hold a part-time job at the local fast-food restaurant.

Liv shivered in her faux leopard print jacket, feeling a brush of cold wind against the back of her neck, and burrowed deeper in the coat, deciding to pull out her long, black scarf. Following her lead, the others all pulled out their coats and scarves. The twins wore matching outfits, as usual, Ruby in red, Emerald in green. The twins loved to play up to the matching-twin stereotype, using their jewel inspired names to their advantage.

Liv pulled a black wool cap over her short, red hair, pulling the neck of her black turtle neck higher so it was up to her chin. Liv liked to play into the French chic look of the nineties, with black skinny jeans, black turtle necks, black scarves, berets, and sophisticated shoes. She had dressed like this since she was thirteen but for the hike she had been forced to abandon the shoes for a pair of hiking boots but she couldn't help but choose black boots. The only piece of clothing that had color was the leopard print jacket she wore.

"Ready to go?" she asked, hoisting her pale cream colored back pack over her shoulder, complete with flashlights, extra batteries, and the tape recorder Ruby wanted to use to see if they could catch any ghosts on the tapes. The three nodded and Liv turned on her camera, ready to start the hike.

Emerald and Vinny each had their own camera as well, in case they decided to split up so they could have their own footage, but Ruby claimed her tape recorder was good enough for her.

Liv looked at the little screen on her video camera, watching it more carefully than she watched her steps, and imagined the delighted look on Mr. Ward's face when she handed in Crimson Corridors, complete with a cover for the DVD case and maybe even some bonus features if she had the time.

"Can we pick up the pace, Owens?" came Vinny's obnoxious voice from behind her. Liv sighed and walked a little faster, not wanting to rush.

"I want to get good footage of the hike," Liv said, "so shut up or you'll screw it up."

"When we're almost there I want to get out the tape recorder," Ruby said. "Maybe we'll get Theodore Sullivan to talk to us."

"Theodore Sullivan?" Vinny repeated, obviously trying to hide his curiosity with unimpressed amusement.

"Yeah, the father of Dana Sullivan," Emerald piped up. "When Dana was used as the Pure Maiden in the Crimson Ritual the ritual failed and the gods became angry and killed everyone in the village. Theodore tried to escape and made it into Crimson Forest but apparently he was killed there and his ghost haunts the woods near Crimson Mansion."

"Here," Liv said. "Let's use this spot for a bit of talking." She looked around the clearing they had made it to. The leaves were entirely red, not a single orange, yellow, brown, or green leaf. Just red. "It's perfect."

"What do you want me to say?" Emerald asked.

"The introduction to the Crimson Ritual, why everything's called 'Crimson This' and 'Crimson That,'" Liv said with a shrug. She pointed the camera in Emerald's direction as Emerald shrugged off her own backpack and positioned herself in front of a tree.

She stared solemnly into the camera and Liv silently applauded her for her quick change from cheerful Emerald to spooky host. "Crimson Forest has been called by the same name since the founding of Crimson Mansion. What many don't know is that this was not the first name the forest was given. Before the English settlers came to Crimson Forest it was called Greenstown Forest because of the town of English settlers not far from the forest. When the new settlers arrived, however, and built Crimson Mansion the name was changed.

"The Crimson Ritual was what inspired the names for the mansion, forest, and village the new settlers inhabited. Legend says that the Crimson Ritual was performed only twice in the two hundred years that the village was occupied. Some say that the deaths of the Steward family in 1951 were the Crimson Village's ghosts' vain attempt to perform the ritual once more.

"The villagers believed that when the leaves of Crimson Forest were all red it was the gods' demand for a sacrifice, thus the reason 'crimson' was used in nearly everything having to do with Crimson Village. The ritual, Crimson Ritual, was the sacrifice of a pure maiden no younger than five and no older than fifteen. The Pure Maiden had to be willing to be the sacrifice or the ritual would fail. Four days after the sacrifice of the Pure Maiden, the Red Sun was said to rise and with the rising of the Red Sun the ashes of the Pure Maiden were to be smeared onto every house in the village. The villagers would not know if the ritual was a success until the next morning. The sign that the ritual had worked was the disappearance of every crimson leaf in Crimson Forest."

Liv nodded and turned off the camera. "You should seriously look into becoming a pro host, Em," Liv said. "You're totally good at it."

Emerald shrugged. "I'm okay," she said. Liv knew it was no good trying to convince Emerald that she was better at being a host than she was at acting – Liv had seen her in plays and, honestly, she thought Ruby was much better at acting – but Emerald would never be swayed. It was her dream to be an actress, it always had been, and Liv didn't want to mess with people's dreams.

"Let's get going," Vinny said, a small hint of nervousness in his voice. "It's getting dark, we don't want to get stuck out here at night."

"We're going to be stuck in Crimson Mansion at night," Liv reminded him, rolling her eyes. "Don't get cold feet now, we're halfway there."

The four continued the hike, the sky growing increasingly darker until Liv was forced to bring out the flashlights and turn on the light on her camera. The path to the mansion was slightly overrun with weeds and fallen branches, red leaves that had fallen from the trees littering the dirt path, being crushed into the earth. Every once and awhile the group could hear the rustle of leaves in the wind, the sound of footsteps – Liv assured them it was probably just the echo of their own footsteps bouncing off the mansion which was sure to be nearby, although the footsteps did make her a little nervous as well – and once or twice they heard the howl of a wolf, though it was too far to worry any of them, even Vinny.

Liv looked at her watch and sighed. It had been close to two hours of hiking and still she couldn't see the gate to the mansion. As though sensing Liv's impatience, Ruby stopped them.

"I bet we're almost there," she said optimistically. "Let's get the tape recorder out." There was a bit of noise as she searched her backpack and finally a triumphant, "Ah-ha!" marked the discovery of the tape recorder. She clicked the "Play" button and said softly, "This is Ruby Evans's voice. Are you there Theodore Sullivan?" She waited, silently, still as could be. Emerald was just as frozen as Ruby, standing still and straight. For a full minute they were completely silent. Liv exchanged a glance with Vinny and he rolled his but said nothing. At least he respects what they're doing by being quiet, Liv thought. "Theodore, are you lost?" Another minute of silence. "Are you angry? Afraid?" More silence. "Who killed you, Theodore?" Liv's heart skipped a beat. She felt a shudder go through her and a strange feeling of dread, rising up in her throat. The feeling passed and Liv shivered. "Thank you, Theodore." Ruby clicked the "Stop" button and stuffed the tape recorder in her back pocket, shooting everyone a grin.

"Think he answered?" Liv asked, preparing to start walking again. She lifted her camera up and faced it toward Ruby.

"I think so," Ruby said with a nod. "I felt something. Didn't you?"

Emerald faced her camera toward Liv so they could catch her answer. "Yeah, I think I did," Liv admitted, thinking about the shudder and feeling of dread. "I felt, like, sick. Nauseous almost."

"It's just your imagination," Vinny said, his hands on his slim hips. "You think there's something there and your body reacts. It doesn't mean there really is something there."

"Well, when we get to the mansion we can check the tape recorder and see if Theodore really was there," Emerald said, flipping her mane of blond hair over her shoulder.

Again, they were off, Liv leading the way, shining her flashlight straight ahead of her so she could see the gate first. She looked at her watch once more. It was nearly eight in the evening and autumn had sent the sun down quickly. It was nearly pitch black and they weren't even at the mansion yet.

Liv was about to say something to the three when the light of her flashlight caught something. For a split second she thought it might by the gate, but she realized it was the figure of a person. She stopped and immediately focused her camera. "Look!" she hissed, pointing. "Is that a person?"

The figure turned, looking straight toward the camera. It appeared to be a man, his clothing old-fashioned. "Hello?" Liv called out, praying it was a ghost. The figure began to walk toward them.

"Shit," Vinny muttered under his breath.

"Oh my God, it's Theodore!" Emerald said softly, her voice excited. "Ruby, that's fucking Theodore Sullivan! Oh my God…"

"No," Ruby said, "that's not Theodore. Theodore had black hair, that guy's blond, look."

Liv didn't say anything, just tried to focus on the man. He walked slowly, but with purpose. Liv zoomed and it appeared his mouth was moving, as though he were talking. "Shut up, guys, try to get him on your camera. Ruby, the tape recorder!"

Ruby reached into her back pocket and there was a faint click as she turned it on. "We're seeing a man, blond, average height, probably in his thirties. He's coming toward us and he seems to be saying something." Ruby stopped talking and there was only silence.

The blond man came closer and closer until he was just ten feet away. Liv felt her hand shaking, willing it to stop. Get a good shot, she willed herself silently. She took a deep breath, studying him. His clothes were tattered and muddy, his face scarred beyond recognition. She couldn't tell if he had ever been good-looking during his life but the way his hand twitched uncontrollably and the flicker of his appearance, as though he were shaking, gave him an eerie look.

"Fucking joke," Vinny muttered. "This is so easy to pull off," he said aloud.

"Shut up, Vinny," Liv said irritably. "Shit, he's getting close." She took a step back.

The man touched his face gently. "It hurts…" he said softly.

"Oh my…" Liv almost gagged, the feeling of dread becoming nearly overpowering.

"Hurts," the man whispered. "Make it stop…It hurts."

"Shit," Emerald muttered. "Let's go."

"No," Liv snapped. "This is why we came here!"

The man suddenly turned and Liv jumped, silently cursing herself, knowing the footage would be horrible. He walked away slowly, touching his face, muttering to himself as he went, and with him went Liv's nauseous feeling of dread.

"Oh my God," Ruby whispered. She spoke into the tape recorder. "The man has just passed, he was about ten feet away from us and now he's leaving." The man disappeared behind a tree and didn't come through the other side, as though he were hiding back there for the next set of people. Like a ride.

"That wasn't a ghost," Vinny said, his voice oddly calm after his shaky, nervous mutters.

"What was it, then?" Emerald asked, aiming her camera toward Vinny.

"Haven't you guys ever seen Scooby Doo?" Vinny asked, rolling his eyes. "It was a holograph projection, or whatever. Didn't you see how its image flickered a couple of times? That thing wasn't real. If it was it would have been completely solid, or at least looked completely solid."

"People have reported ghosts looking like they were flickering," Ruby argued. Emerald and Liv shifted their views to Ruby. "Especially since modern technology has been getting more and more powerful. Ghosts are manifesting themselves through electronic devices, such as computers, cell phones, etc., so they appear to be an electronic manifestation themselves, like a computer game that's left the computer, except these are real."

"Right, so what we just saw was a ghost that appeared out of my cell phone?" Vinny summed up sarcastically. "I'm so sure."

Liv looked at her watch. "It's eight o' three," she said. "And we just had our first experience." She looked into her own camera, recording the observations. "Ruby believes what we just saw was a ghost, Vinny believes it's just a prank, maybe a sort of holographic projection."

"Who do you think that was, Roo?" Emerald asked Ruby.

"Well, he was blond…probably in his thirties," Ruby said softly. "I'm not sure. There weren't that many people in their thirties or forties in Crimson Village. Most were either young, from infants to twenty-year olds, or either fifty and up. Not a lot of in-between's."

"So he's just a nobody?" Liv asked.

"Scarface," Emerald dubbed him softly. "He's Scarface."


Author's Note: So there is the first chapter of Beautiful Crimson Corridors. The title was inspired by a song I sang in choir a few years ago called Autumn. I am currently working on the second chapter but until then please review and leave some advice to help make this story better!

Much love and big kisses,
Steph