End House appeared through the mist: a massive daunting
shadow silhouetted against the black sky. The house stood
tall and imposing before its invited guests.
That was how End House appeared to Linda. Her first
glimpse of the foreboding house caused her body to shiver.
The house resembled all the scary houses in her imagination
and in every Gothic novel she’d ever read. But having to face
it on this dreary and isolated hilltop, with the wind blowing,
sharp branches slapping them across their shocked faces, made
the encounter more real and much more horrifying.
Tom, Edward, Mike, and David were already walking up
the gravel path, while Gregg, Judy, and Ryan were waiting
for them by the massive front door. It was a very quiet group
that stood close together…staring up at the dark, menacing
The front of the house faced the mountain with its wrap-
around porch, wide stone steps, and thick white columns,
while the rear had its large patio and built-in pool facing the
crashing waves of the ocean. A tall black iron fence—its pointy
spikes jutting upward to the sky—encircled the house and
pool before following the stairs in its straight descent to the
deserted beach below.
Todd heaved open the huge steel door and walked in first.
He disappeared inside, leaving them no choice but to trail
along behind him.
Huddled together as one, they entered the house and stood
in the dark hall.The only light came from two lines of lit candles traveling up the banisters of the marble staircase, and a third row of candles hanging from wall sconces in the right hallway. The sconces served to illuminate this hallway, while leaving the second hallway to the left of the staircase in complete darkness.
No one was there to greet them or to tell them where to
go. The group stood still, in awe of the sweeping staircase with
its majestic red carpeting. Todd returned from somewhere in
the dark recesses of the house and suggested that they split
up into two groups. He directed Linda, Shana, Gregg, Ryan,
and Judy to proceed upstairs with him, while Mike, David,
Edward, Tom, and Louise were told to follow the long line of
candles along the right hallway.
Louise was upset that she was stuck with Mike, David,
Edward, and Tom—when she really wanted to be with Todd.
Todd had arranged the two groups, purposely placing her in
the second group. How much worse could this evening get?
Her group followed the flickering candles, which cast ee-
rie shadows from their elevated positions on the hallway’s left
wall. The dark paneled walls made the hall feel smaller and
David was lagging behind the others. He stopped walking
and said, “It’s not too late for us to leave and return home. I
don’t want to be here anymore. We should just—”
Mike tugged hard on David’s arm. He said in the annoyed
voice that he reserved for David, “Don’t whine like a baby,
David. And try to have some fun.”
“Yeah, right,” David said and pulled his arm away from
Edward and Tom assumed the lead and were following the
wavering lights. Faced with two closed doors on the right wall,
Edward opened the first one and walked in.
The room before them appeared to be a large, cavernous
living room, empty except for the enormous unlit marble
fireplace on the opposite wall. The wallpaper was dark and
stained; the wood floor was dull and dirty. A connecting door
led them into the dining room, which turned out to be a large
room dominated by a long wood table without chairs.
The bleakness of this room and all the other rooms in this
house made Louise feel uneasy. The house was very dismal-
looking with its dark paneling, and it lacked any furnishings
that would have made it feel more like a home.
And where was everyone? Where was their elusive host?
This was supposed to have been a party for them, but the house
looked deserted—as if it hadn’t been lived in for a long time. She really didn’t want to see any more of it. Who knew what could be lurking behind any of the closed doors? Now she was just scaring herself with her own gloomy thoughts. She caught up to the others, who were standing in the hallway waiting for
As they continued along the long hallway, the candles in
front of them lit up…while the ones behind them went simul-
It was leading them somewhere but where? She didn’t want to find out.
THE DEAD GAME