Friday, October 28, 2016

Free Fic: The Deadly Double Dare

With Halloween just around the corner, today's free ficlet is going to go in the direction of spooky, creepy, and deadly.

It's not a romance, but it is about friendship, and making good choices.


Bruce regretted rising to the bait of the double-dog-dare taunt.

He should have said nothing. He should have walked away. He should have argued more. He should have argued more persuasively. He should have done something else--anything else--other than accept Rodney Coopersmith’s dare. Now Bruce was not home, safe, where he should be, eating apple pie that his mom would be baking because she didn’t know what else to do with all the extra apples brought home from apple picking. He was not warm and cozy, and he was not happy.

He was cold, getting colder, and soaked to the skin. His raincoat kept most of the chilly rain off him, but it dripped in at his face and the cuffs of his sleeves. The water sloshed and gathered on the ground. His mesh sneakers were soaked and his socks were too. The bottoms of his pants were wet nearly to the knees and all across his thighs.

He was also on the very bottom step of the impressive, steep staircase that led up to the porch and front door of the Old McMahon Mansion.

The mansion was old and ugly. It sagged in a lot of places and parts of it had fallen off. A big sign on the door told people to buzz off, no trespassers. But there wasn’t a notice about condemning the building, so Bruce continued up the steps, one at a time.

Except for the droning of the rain, nothing could be heard. Not even other cars drove down this street. No other houses were nearby, and certainly nobody was walking down the sidewalks in the lousy weather. Bruce had an hour to get home before his mom would start calling around looking for him. And home was a half hour walk from the mansion. He needed to hurry.

His feet squished in his shoes as he stomped up the stairs. At the top, he crossed the porch, grateful that at least it had a roof to keep the water off his head. He pulled his jacket hood off his head. He shivered. He was cold. And maybe a little scared.

Bruce grasped the knob of the door, but as soon as he did, the door swung open. Bruce took a step back in surprise. A man stood there, dressed in a tuxedo. He had gray hair and a bemused expression. Behind him, it looked like a party was in full swing.

Bruce could hear the music--the sort of music his grandparents listened to, and he could smell cinnamon and orange. Warm air wafted out of the house and across his face. Other men walked by, also wearing tuxedos, and women were in pretty dresses. Everyone had a drink in their hand, and there was a silver tray nearby with little bites of food. Bruce was too far away to tell, but he thought it was mushrooms with toothpicks stuck through them. He really didn’t like mushrooms.

“Well, sir?” asked the man at the door. “Will you come in, and stay?”

Bruce swallowed. He did not like the way the phrase “and stay” had been tacked on. “No-o-oo,” he chattered, “thank you.” His lips were a bit numb. He was colder than he’d realized. Then, he turned and ran. He bounded down the steps and nearly collided with a someone his own size at the bottom.

“Mikey,” he said as he saw who he’d run into. Michael Delvecchio was in the same grade, but they had different classes most of the time.

“Bruce,” said Mikey. He looked determined, and very frightened.

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you?” Mikey threw back.

Bruce shook his head. "Being stupid," he said. "I shouldn't have come, but Rodney dared me and I didn't want to back down."

“Rodney dared me, too,” Mickey said.

“Jeez,” Bruce said. Rodney must have been going around taunting and challenging everyone. He grabbed Mikey by the arm. “You ain’t going up there. Trust me. It’s not safe.”

“I’m not scared,” Mikey insisted.

“And you ain’t an idiot, either,” Bruce said. “That place is bad news. Come on, my mom’s got apple pie. You want some, don’t you?”

Mikey shrugged. “Yeah.” He looked up at the house, his face showing a glint of determination warring with fear, but mostly he looked relieved that he wasn't going to follow through on the dare.

Bruce pulled him away. “Come on. I’ll tell you what I saw. And why you don’t want to go up there.”

He guided Mikey away from the house, then started running. “Come on. Before we get so wet they make us take a bath!”

Mikey ran with him nearly all the way to Bruce’s house. His mom was just pulling something from the oven. Although it was apple muffins and not pie, it was just as good. Mikey called about staying for dinner, and his mom came to get him later.

They didn’t mention the mansion again all night. Bruce wasn’t sure what they’d tell Rodney in school on Monday, but it might be forgotten about after the weekend. He hoped so.

The next morning, Mikey called.

“Yeah?” Bruce asked, still half asleep. He wandered into the kitchen and peeled back the lid on the container holding the muffins. He could smell the apples and cinnamon.

“Did you see the news?” Mikey asked, breathless. “My dad watches the news in the morning. Did you see the news?”

“No,” Bruce said. “I just got up.”

“It’s Rodney,” Mikey said. “They found him.”

“What? Found him? What are you talking about?” Bruce took a bite of a muffin. It’d been better warm last night, but was still really good.

“In the Old Mansion. He fell through the floorboards and died.”

“What?” Bruce’s fingers felt numb. He dropped the muffin onto the counter.

“I think--” Mikey paused. “Do you think--” He was silent for a long time.

Bruce couldn’t say a word. He listened to Mikey breathing on the line.

“Do you think he snuck up there ahead of us to hide inside and jump out and scare us?” Mikey asked.

It was the sort of thing Rodney would do. Rodney liked a dirty trick. He thought things were funny even when nobody else did.

“Do you think he was already dead when we were there?” Mikey’s voice came out in a squeaking whisper.

Bruce thought about the party he’d witnessed. If he’d stepped through the door, would he have gone through the floor too? Had Rodney been invited “to stay”? If Bruce hadn’t convinced Mikey to turn around, would he have fallen through, too?

Mikey was waiting on the other side of the phone. Bruce didn’t know what to say.

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