A/N - Alriiigghhtt! So this is a pretty ancient story, but I suddenly got the urge to clean it the hell up. It's now twenty thousand words longer than the original, with a little more work done on characterisation, plot and back story. I hope you like it - By the way, it's completed, so I'm going to put up one chapter a day for 12 days. Be sure to put this on alert if you like it, because the story will be 100% certainly coming regularly.
And to the people that loved the original - enjoy!
P.S - I'm keeping the reviews up, so I'd advise not reading them if you don't want spoilers!
Grenstone Clinical Psychology Centre
Callum Harlan Matthews
Dates of Evaluation: 14/01/09 _ 16/01/09
Case No.: 146,487
Building No.: 16
Date of Report: 17/01/09
"It started about a year ago.
There were three of us, back then. Well, there were more of us in the group. The popular guys, I mean. Maybe, ten? No, probably closer to fifteen. But it was us three that were the closest. Me, Ben and Cole.
I was always the follower, in my opinion. I've been told it, and I believe it. I mean, look at me. I'm not buff, I smile like a retard, and I'm only a little good at footy. I got here by default; I've been friends with Ben since I was little. Like, six or seven.
Ben; he's the one who makes up for me. He's what you'd expect; tall, gets his pick of the girls, is on the footy and the basketball team at school... but he still comes around mine to play playstation and stuff.
I reckon the only reason those guys still talk to me is I'm good at parties. I mean, I'm always the one who's smashed by- we don't drink. Nah, it's just an expression. Smashed, you know, like... ready to go. Ask anyone.
Anyway, so there's always been me and Ben, and then there's Cole. He's the cocky one. Cocky, but everyone loved him. He was a good guy, fair bit of charisma, just... he was awesome and he knew it. Like, you can't really understand people like Cole until you've met them. Maybe you've already met one, I dunno.
We didn't choose to get close to him, me and Ben. Nah, he was the one who chose us. Fuck knows why. We were, what, twelve? And he started... school, I mean. Our school. And he was part of the popular guys from day two or something, and then he was just always with us. I dunno how these things work; I'm not the fucking psychologist, mate.
No, you're right, no need for language.
We were good guys. All three of us. There was the whole shoplifting thing, yeah, but we've already apologised for that and stuff. It doesn't mean anything. Besides, you don't know how much pressure there is to stay cool in that school.
We stuck together. Helped each other out in school; I was good at maths, Ben had Biology down, and Cole read music better than he read English. We were each other's wingmen at parties, went to each other's games, hung out almost every night of the week.
Until Cole met Holly."
I looked uninterestedly at the boring scenery that passed. So many people constantly remarked on the beauty of the Australian environment, but I personally found it dull. I liked vibrant greens filling my vision, not wishy-washy, pale greeny-blues surrounded by dust. It was alright in Adelaide, though. The scenery there wasn't an eyesore, at least, unlike the Australian bush. And I had always been partial to the city.
This, among many other reasons, was why I was so excited to be heading to Adelaide. Not to mention, for an entire weekend, as well as with my two closest friends.
We all had a good reason to escape. The other two had lived in Caper River their whole lives. I had lived in Adelaide until a few years ago; it was kind of necessary to be as close as possible to a decent hospital in those days. I'd been shuttled off to Caper River, population twenty thousand or something ridiculous, when Mum died. When it came to relatives, all I had was an Uncle, and he had enough on his hands following up his midlife crisis without an orphaned teenager being placed in his hands.
In other words, I was brought to foster central. Well, in a town with a crime rate like that, it was kind of expected to have a flourishing foster program. I met Katherine and Emily at the centre, while the three of us, along with others, waited to be placed. Emily had been circulating foster families since she was eight; her Dad had left the family, and her mother couldn't handle Emily alone. Katherine was the one with the real sob story, though; two alcoholic parents that lost custody of their daughter through intervention by child protection services.
Emily was sixteen, like me, and sat in the front passenger seat of the car. She, unlike me, seemed to be enjoying the trip itself, and chattered animatedly to Katherine, pointing out several riveting sights, such as sheep and… grass.
Katherine, the driver, mostly just nodded while smiling and placing a new CD into the car stereo. She was only slightly older than Emily and I, having just turned seventeen the week before, but she still liked to act as though she was above us in some way. She was always so serious, so in command. It was one of the reasons we loved her.
While quieter than the other two this trip, and not particularly enjoying the endless drive, I had to admit that I was just as enthusiastic at the thought of a weekend away from the home as the other two. We were in the latter half of our teenage years now, and we couldn't be expected to stay in Caper River twenty four seven. We needed to see some other sights, you know?
Caper River was actually quite a strange name for our little town. The main reason for this was the fact that the so-called 'river' that the town was based on was barely twenty centimetres thick.
I had decided in the past that one of two things must be the explanation for this. Either the founder of the town had some sort of mental issue that involved exaggeration and bragging, or the river had gotten an awful lot smaller in the last hundred years or so.
"I'm tired," I spoke up, bringing about annoyed sighs from the front of the car.
"How can you be tired when we aren't even moving?" Katherine turned back from the wheel to look at me in exasperation.
"Well, I'm cramped then. Or whatever," I shrugged. "Can we get out for a break?"
"Not yet, let's wait till we get to those woods up ahead!" Emily suggested eagerly. "We can look around them, it'll be awesome!"
I rolled my eyes. "Ever heard of the Blair Witch Project?"
I eyed the woods ahead sceptically. It didn't quite resemble the woods in the movie, as it was mostly made out of very tall, skinny and pale trees. I didn't know the name of them, and I didn't particularly want to. It was hardly my area of expertise.
"Unbelievable, low budget fail," Katherine said promptly. "Worst movie ever."
"I really liked it!" I drew my eyebrows together indignantly. How could she even think to say that about the masterpiece that was Blair Witch? "It was because it was so low budget that it looked so real."
"I've never seen it," Emily piped up. She was rather more sheltered than the two of us. Her foster parents were extremely strict and religious; friendly, but not the type to bring home horror movies after a trip to the video store. "What's it like?"
"Stupid story about some college kids who go into the woods or whatever, trying to shoot a documentary on this witch, and lo-and-behold, she shows up and eats them." Katherine rolled her eyes and drew her left leg onto the seat.
"It's not stupid. They interview people at the beginning, and the stuff they say starts happening!" I leaned forward to bring myself more or less with Emily, who was twirling a strand of light brown hair, listening with interest.
"Like one of the guys goes missing, and then they find twigs with his supposed insides in the middle, only it looked more like tomato sauce and an unpeeled grape to me." Katherine was smirking at me now, obviously enjoying herself.
"And they can't get out, because even when they go straight they end up where they started. Then they find this house-"
"Stupid idiots… if they really believed there was a witch, they wouldn't go into it to save a friend," Katherine scoffed.
"Well, maybe they were born with a conscience, Katherine." I raised my eyebrows, and she pulled a face at me. "And then they all die inside the house, and it's really awesome. Especially if you pay attention right at the end-"
"That is, if you aren't already asleep, Alicia" Katherine added brightly.
"Time to get out!" Emily interrupted hastily, as trees started to surround us. She undid her seatbelt and had opened her door before Katherine had even stopped the car. She stumbled a little as soon as she hit the ground, but managed to catch herself. Apparently she had misjudged just how dead her legs would be after five hours on the road so far.
I got out of the car more carefully, and looked up at the trees. They towered above my head majestically, causing me to crane my neck right upwards in order to attempt to see the tops. I decided that these trees must be one of the few perks that Australian flora had to offer.
"If it was a grape, they would have peeled it," I said suddenly to Katherine.
She looked at me as though I'd suddenly sprouted an extra head. "What?"
I suddenly couldn't be bothered explaining. "Never mind." I leaned against the car, allowing my head to fall back against the metal while I massaged a thigh.
Emily began to wander off away from us and in amongst the cover of the trees.
"Where are you going?" I called out to her.
She turned around and grinned. "We're going to go for a walk in the woods."
I made no move to follow her, so she simply waited patiently, playing with the zip on her jacket.
Katherine smiled and began to head after her. I scowled at their backs, in no mood for a scenic bush walk.
"You're the one who said you wanted to stretch your legs," Katherine said, without even looking back at me. Her ability to sense my reaction without even looking at me unnerved me.
I sighed, and followed them half-heartedly. There came a point where I had lagged so far behind them that I could barely see them. Then, the distinct smell of salt water filled the air, and I grinned instantly. It had been awhile since I had seen the sea. When my parents were still healthy, they used to take me to the beach almost every weekend. They used to mix it up, visiting a different one depending on whether I rated my need for decent waves or ice cream higher that particular day.
Katherine and Emily disappeared from sight, and I hurried forward to catch up with them. All at once, I had broken free of the trees, and I found myself facing the ledge of a steep cliff.
I approached the edge cautiously, and looked over the side. Far below me I could see waves crashing against smooth, worn rocks. It was particularly windy up there, and I took a step back just to be safe. I didn't fancy falling.
I looked to my right, and froze momentarily. How it had missed my sight before, I had no idea, but there stood an enormous, broken down mansion. It had to be about three or four storeys high, and it took up acres of land.
Many windows were broken, and the roof looked in ill repair. There were several dry looking vines that wove their way around it, but instead of making this look homely or beautiful, it simply made it look as though the house was being devoured by the land around it.
And pushing open the rickety front door was Emily, with Katherine right at her heels.
Were they retarded?
"Whoah, guys, what the hell are you doing?" I yelled after them, but my words were blown away with the wind.
I had no other choice really but to run after them and up to the mansion. Trying delicately to avoid the spider webs, I pushed open the door and entered gingerly.
I screwed up my nose when I entered. It was dark, smelled rather bad, and there was dust everywhere. A thin layer of dirt, blown in through the broken windows over the years, covered the floor, and there seemed to be spider webs everywhere I looked.
I hated spider webs. They clung to you and stuck to you, and if they had a spider attached you were usually in trouble.
"OI!" I shouted, and my words echoed around the room. I was actually surprised to see furniture filling the room. It wasn't exactly in good condition, and some of the material on the arm chairs was moth eaten, but it was clear that I was standing in a former lounge room.
Katherine came into the room, looking annoyed, closely followed by an excited looking Emily.
"Shh!" Katherine sounded antagonized, and she glanced around her with a nervous look.
"What am I being quiet for?" I demanded. "There's obviously no one here."
"Touch wood," Emily joked. I looked around, but all the wood was covered in an inch of dust. I decided I would pass on that particular superstition.
Katherine, however, wasn't smiling. "It just doesn't feel right being loud in such an empty house."
Well, that was just ridiculous. I rolled my eyes at her. "IT ISN'T EMPTY ANYMORE!" I roared right at her, causing her to jump.
I threw my head back and closed my eyes. "WE'RE HERE NOW, AND IF THERE ARE ANY GHOSTS WHO DON'T LIKE NOISE, COME HERE AND DEAL WITH IT!"
I opened my eyes again, and grinned at the other two. Suddenly, the house let out a loud creaking sound, and the three of us let out short screams. All at once we began to laugh at ourselves, and this time I lead the way out of the room.
"This is all so weird. I wonder why it was just left." I began to head up a wide staircase covered in a dirty brown rug that must have once been red. It had to be about ten metres wide.
"I guess it's pretty out the way. Maybe the last owners couldn't be bothered selling it, and just moved." Katherine's voice was still a little shaky, and she spoke significantly softer than I did. "They were probably rich enough to do it."
"But they just left all of their furniture," Emily commented, trailing a hand on a dusty tapestry that hung on the wall as we passed it.
"Like I said, rich," Katherine shrugged, running a hand through her shoulder length, dark hair.
"I'm surprised it still hasn't been knocked down." I pushed open a door and entered the room curiously, the girls following me closely.
Emily let out a girlish exclamation of delight when she saw the room's contents, and I smiled as well. It had once been a bedroom, and was surprisingly well kept compared to the other rooms we'd seen so far. I noticed the window wasn't broken, and realised that that probably had a lot to do with it.
The bed was four-poster, and adorned with a lovely pale green bedspread. There was an old fashioned, mahogany wardrobe alongside it, as well as a dusty gas lamp. Next to us stood a beautiful vanity table that sported no possessions, only a very slightly streaked mirror.
I headed over to the wardrobe instantly, hoping against hope that there would be old fashioned clothing in there. I placed my hand on the wood, when Emily let out a shrill scream. I instinctively screamed as well, looking around wildly for a spider. When I didn't locate one, I whipped around to see what we were shouting about.
Standing in the doorway was a boy a little older than Katherine. He was smiling belligerently. His hair was dark brown, with a slight tinge of auburn in it, and his eyes were a brown even darker than that. He was wearing what appeared to be a black school uniform, including the blazer, and in his left hand, he held a gun.
I stared at him for a moment in silence, my mouth agape, before I managed to force out a scream, which Emily and Katherine promptly added to.
The boy waited patiently for a few moments, and then raised the gun, pointing it at me. "Be quiet," he said simply, still smiling oddly. The three of us fell immediately silent.
He didn't speak again, but kept his arm straight with the gun pointed at me. I couldn't bring myself to speak, and Katherine and Emily both shot me wild looks from the corner of their eyes.
We stood like that for perhaps half a minute, perhaps longer, before Katherine drew her head up. "Who are you?"
I was impressed; if she was terrified, it didn't show in her voice this time. She didn't take her eyes off of the gun, which the boy slowly moved to point at her.
"I'm the ghost who doesn't like noise," he smirked, raising his eyebrows.
I blinked. "But… you're not a ghost?"
I have no idea why I felt the need to clarify this fact, but I still said it. Maybe I was just at a loss for anything else to say.
The boy rolled his eyes contemptuously. "Thank you for pointing that out. The stereotypical dumb blonde, I take it?"
"No!" I felt immediately defensive. I would have continued, if I hadn't caught myself in time. Probably not wise to forget the position we were in.
"Right." He was still grinning, still holding up the gun, but his voice was pleasant enough. "So, what are you ladies doing in the mansion?"
"We were lost," Emily said in a small voice. "We wanted to come in and have a look…"
"Blondie's idea?" The boy nodded towards me, causing me to glare at him.
"No, it wasn't," I said stubbornly.
He raised his eyebrows again, obviously amused. "Well, anyway, that's beside the point now, isn't it? The point is, you're here." A wider smile this time. "And here you'll stay."
Katherine let out a nervous laugh, seemingly encouraged by his grin. "What do you mean? You can't just… like… keep us here! We don't even know who the hell you are!"
He pondered this fact for a moment, before replying "Harlan."
None of us replied to this, and he twirled the gun absently. "Excellent. Now you know who I am, I take it I'm at the liberty of keeping you here?"
"Well, it's not like you have a say anyway," Harlan laughed. "I'm the one with the gun, aren't I?"
None of us replied, and he took a step further into the room. "I think it would be a good idea to reinforce that concept," he said mildly. Suddenly, his head snapped up. "Sit down!" he ordered.
"But there aren't any chairs." Emily looked around the room meekly, and I was glad she had said it instead of me.
"Sit!" Harlan barked, looking as though he was enjoying himself, as we lowered ourselves onto the floor warily.
"Now stand," he said pleasantly. We complied, all eyeing the gun. "Now, how hard was that?" he asked. "Again. Sit."
"Sit… stand… sit… stand… sit."
"No!" I exclaimed, folding my arms furiously as Emily and Katherine lowered themselves once again onto the floor. "What is wrong with you?"
"This gun is loaded, Blondie," he remarked casually, looking me dead in the eye.
"Alicia," I snapped, averting my gaze. He made me feel extremely uncomfortable.
"Alright. This gun is loaded, Alicia."
"I don't care," I shrugged. I didn't have a death wish. I had decided by then that he was almost certainly bluffing anyway. It probably wasn't even a real gun; if it were, there was hardly a chance he knew how to use it.
With that, Harlan shrugged, and a bullet flew past me so close to my head that I was on the floor instinctively before I even knew what was happening, only really aware of the shrill screaming of the girls.
Harlan looked disappointed, holding the gun up to study it closely. "Damn. Missed."
I looked up at him from the ground, shaking hard. Katherine inched closer to me, her breathing heavy.
"I gain nothing from keeping you alive, other than a little amusement." Harlan bent over to lock eyes with me, allowing a few dark strands of hair to fall in front of his hard eyes, entirely at odds with his smiling lips. "Don't think you're safe because I'm your age. Because I assure you, you're not."