~Intro: Hey there! This is a "Choose Your Own" story, inspired by the Give Yourself Goosebumps book structure, and a dumb stupid paper I had to write on interactive narratives. At the end of each chapter, you'll be prompted with 2 options and directed to a new chapter accordingly, each leading to a different story. There are 65 scenes, 24 endings, and 114 possible paths to take from beginning to end. Each full story is an average of 8 scenes long.
This. It may sound pathetic, but this is the night you've been waiting for - the moment you've been waiting for - for months. Waiting for the right weather, your schedules to line up, and of course, the arrival of your new Sony Alpha 7II, your gorgeous new camera which absolutely decimated your savings, but is so worth it.
You plant your feet just outside the wrought-iron gates and raise the viewfinder to your eye to take a photo, but you have to pause at the sight. The old abandoned high school, dark bricked and covered with snaking vines that seem to reach from the highest points of the roof to the gates at your feet, looms over the four of you. Light pollution from the nearby city highlights the edges of the light grey clouds, which occasionally cut the moon from sight. Absolutely stunning, and the sensor on the camera will pick up amazing low-light shots, but this one calls for a long exposure. You unstrap your tripod from your backpack and start to set it up, but a voice farther down the fence calls, "Got a way in!"
You hadn't even noticed Alexis wandering off, and apparently neither had Sebastian or Ty. She was crouched in the weeds with a pair of wire cutters, next to a new gap in the chainlink fence.
"I think we could've climbed it…" You start to say, but Ty is already following her through the hole, and you pack up your tripod quickly so you're not left behind.
"Still can!" Sebastian takes a running jump at the worn-out fence, vaulting himself over with one hand and clearing it, though he misses the landing and drops into the weeds. "Aah!"
You crawl through the hole Alexis made, and shoot her a look. You'll never understand her tendency towards vandalism. In fact, she's only here tonight with her spray paint so she can "leave her artwork" somewhere in the abandoned building. You are strictly against defacing property and marring the beauty of natural decay, but she's the only other 18-year-old here besides yourself, so you can't tell her what to do. Sebastian and Ty are both 17, though to be fair Ty looks like she's even younger. Alexis doesn't even notice you glaring, distracted, and you follow her gaze to Ty.
Short as she is, Ty is hauling even more equipment on her back than you are, and seems to carry the weight with ease, reminding you that you should probably work out more. Her ghost hunting equipment is packed into a large camping backpack, and when she turns away she just looks like a backpack with legs.
"What's that?" Alexis asks Ty, pointing to a squirt gun looking contraption in her hand.
"PKE." Ty says absently, aiming the device at a nearby broken window.
"Nasir, watch this." Sebastian runs up to the massive limestone steps leading up to the front entry, takes three stairs at once, then does a backflip to the ground. You cringe as he narrowly misses a patch of slippery moss.
"Careful, man. We don't need anyone leaving here in an ambulance."
"Get a picture!" He lines up to do it again.
You know he's just here for the parkour opportunities, and maybe to film some flips for his TikTok, so you take out your camera. As your best friend and neighbor since elementary school, he tagged along mostly as a favor to you, so the least you could do is film his backflip.
Ty bumps into you as she pushes past, following something on her meter. She starts up the front stairs and Alexis follows, stepping out of her way to crunch a discarded can of beer.
Though you think Ty's ghost hunting equipment is mostly bullshit, secretly you're hoping she finds something. You want it to be true. She's been working on equipment and methods for years, she's been labelled "ghost hunter" since 4th grade, and you've seen a lot of what she shared with the lunch table last year. Potentially promising stuff, you hope.
Alexis's vandalism on the other hand, is pretty new. She's had a rough go of it after her best friend died last summer, though she seems to be getting worse recently and you're not sure why. But you also think that's the reason she came with tonight, because that best friend also happened to be Ty's older sister.
You've been trying to figure out if Alexis's recent interest in Ty is because she misses the family, if Ty reminds her of Lilly, or if she genuinely just wants to be friends. And frankly, it's none of your business, so you've never brought it up. Right now, your business is capturing this stairway from the right angle.
The grand front doors are boarded up, but there's a small animal-sized gap in the plywood.
"Too small for me." Sebastian flexes a muscle - you're 98% sure his cockiness is a joke. "Tiny could probably fit in there."
"Not with my backpack." Ty adjusts her glasses.
Alexis gently arms them both back, then kicks at the plywood repeatedly with her boot. After a few tries, the wood snaps inward, but you're worried the noise will attract unwanted attention.
"Go, quick." You say, hoping to usher everyone in before someone in the trailer park across the street looks out the window and calls the cops.
Sebastian pushes the rest of the way through, clearing splinters with his sneaker, and finally you climb in last.
The darkness is disorienting. Slivers of light from outside glint off various scattered items you can't make out. Ty clicks on her flashlight at the same time you snap on your camera light, flooding the massive entryway in two very different lights. Old dusty clothes, papers, and ceiling plaster litter every inch of the once beautiful floor. Your light is a much cooler and more powerful LED, while Ty's flashlight is warm and relatively weak. She doesn't seem to mind, already wandering off into a branching hallway, stepping over broken tiles that used to spell the school's initials.
"Wait, guys," You start, figuring you should have a plan before you go wandering off, especially since your phone signal is spotty. You have Sebastian and Alexis's attention, but Ty keeps going as if she didn't hear.
"Ty!" Alexis calls. Ty stops.
"We should plan our route." You say, having at least been urban exploring a few times before.
"I'm not exploring with you guys." Alexis says. She shakes a rattling can with a hot pink cap. "I'm going to find a place to paint." She gestures up the grand staircase, where natural moonlight casts the hallways and floating dust particles in an otherworldly glow.
"I want to find the basement. That's where most of the reported activity is." Ty says, aiming her flashlight down a dark and damp-looking hallway, completely void of outside light due to most ground-floor windows being boarded up.
"I'm going with Tiny." Sebastian says, "The gym is on this floor. Which way're you headed, Nasir?"
~ To GO UPSTAIRS WITH ALEXIS, proceed to Chapter 2
~ To GO WITH SEBASTIAN AND TY, go to Chapter 3