Here we go, going in alone

Into the dark and wonderful

Unknown.

- Ingrid Michaelson, "Wonderful Unknown", Lights Out

Ooo0ooO

There was always talk about the house at the end of the lane, which stood at the edge of a dark, deep forest.

Like many large, rambling houses that stood still and silent, it was believed to be haunted. Some said it was haunted by the ghost of its last owner, an owner that was said to have never left its grounds. His bones nourished the earth, allowing the rose garden to bloom on through the winter.

Others believed it was occupied by creatures that would slink into the woods at night, and would return when the sun rose. Then there were those who scoffed at those stories, claiming they were nothing but nonsense that the children told each other to have a good scare.

But soon they would learn that when you stared at that large house long enough, you got the feeling it was staring back.

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Chapter One: The Rose Garden

The deep red roses that grew along the fence of the house provided a startling contrast to the white snow that blanketed the ground in winter. Their petals would fall and, from a distance, would look like drops of blood dotting the pure, untouched landscape.

Crows would make their nests in the trees that loomed over the rose bushes, and with dark, beady eyes, would watch over the ever blooming flowers like scarecrows watching over a field of wheat. The birds added more to the cold, haunted feel of the land, since their cries were the only sound heard for miles. Of course, that was during the day.

At night, their calls were joined by another- the howls of a wolf pack, a pack that had never been seen.

Over the years, the only guests the house saw- besides the crows- were the teenagers and local kids, all of them daring each other to see who would get the closest to the looming structure. None made it past the front porch before they would either lose their nerve or something scared them off. One young man claimed he heard the snarling of dogs when he got too close; another stated he felt a chill go down his spine before he heard this high, shrill laughter, like a witch's. These were discredited as vivid imagination and possible drug use- for who would believe these stories as truth?

It wasn't until one year, when the ground was softening under the new spring sun, when the house found itself occupied once again. It had been many years since the townsfolk recalled seeing someone live there- that is; if you believed that the previous owner had been a real person. Whether you believe the other part, about his body providing food to the rose garden, that is your choice to make.

The house became a new home for a group of four- a young couple, a pair by the name of Mia and Sam, Mia's sister Bailey, and their friend, Zach. Mia had been the one who found the house, charmed by its older appeal, undeterred by the ghost stories that surrounded it like a dark cloak. She had taken one look at the peeling gray paint, the termite eaten shutters, and the rose garden with the hungry, eager eye that every artist possessed and had fallen in love. Her vibrant green eyes had sparkled when she showed the others pictures of the house.

"It's so…" Zach had trailed off, glancing towards Bailey.

"Old," Sam finished, in her usual blunt manner.

Mia rolled her eyes. "It's rustic," she argued.

"Mia, does it even have running water?" Bailey asked, giving the pictures a worrisome glance.

Waving a dismissive hand, Mia pulled out a stack of papers from her large satchel. The pages were crinkled at the edges from sitting in the bag. Mia fanned them out in front of the others.

"Sign on the dotted line," she said with a grin as she handed her sister a blue ballpoint pen.

Realizing there was no use arguing with her, Bailey had sighed and signed the page in her neat script. The others followed suit, and with an excited sweep of her hand, Mia had declared them all official homeowners.

Ooo0ooO

Author's Note: This story was inspired by several pieces of literature, and the title was inspired by Ingrid Michaelson's "Wonderful Unknown"- all credit goes to her for that. Hope you enjoy!

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