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by Brittany Billingsley
"I’m not so sure about this…" Rebecca trailed off. She looked up at the forbidding, gray building that stood alone, looming over her and her friend. The dark windows stared back at them like the eyes of the dead. Rebecca hesitated for a moment on her trek between the jam-packed parking lot holding her SUV and the three story building now directly in front of them.
"Oh, come on Becca!" Victoria groaned as she impatiently pulled her brow-haired friend’s arm. "It’s just a building with walls and windows and most likely bad insulation. And inside the building is just something for us to entertain our thrill-ride and horror-story loving minds – "
"Your thrill-ride and horror-story loving mind," the other corrected.
"Whatever. Now come on!" Victoria cried, swishing her dirty-blond hair as she continued on to the house.
"And to think I turned down and offer to take my brother trick-or-treating and the chance to get some free candy for this…" the young brunette muttered to herself. "Wait up Vic…I’m coming…"
* * * * * *
Rebecca would never forget how the whole thing began. It had been a wonderful, sunny afternoon the day Rebecca and her self-proclaimed best friend of 12 years decided to take Becca’s visiting cousin, Chris, on a tour of the town. It wasn’t a big town, just comfortable. Successful in Tool and Die, and with a cable selection that had more home-shopping networks than news stations, it was a nice place to live…despite all the wackos and lowlifes that were there as well.
They had passed through a few street shops to look around at the gifts inside. More than once, Rebecca declined to enter some shop or left the building to get outside as soon as she could. She would follow this behavior with some lame excuse like, "I feel kinda dizzy," or, "It’s too hot in here." Other than these few times, the day went rather well.
To Rebecca, it was nice that her cousin was able to come and visit for a short while. Since he lived in Danville, California, she didn’t get to see him very often. It was especially nice for her buddy Victoria, who had (and forever would have) a major crush on Becca’s tall cousin. At least, that’s how Becca saw it.
Laughing, joking, and "rearranging" Chris’s crew cut, the small group leisurely made their way to the local market. All of a sudden, Rebecca stopped and squinted into the glaring sunlight above her. She gasped, stopping the other two and their incessant chatting, then point into the sky. There, in stark contrast to the azure background, a bright object twisted and convulsed as the currents buffeted it.
"Is it a bird?" Rebecca asked.
"No, it’s Superman," Victoria commented sarcastically. She was rewarded with a very unladylike face from her friend.
"Well, it ain’t Superman…and if you’re right, Becca, that is one messed up birdie," Chris commented to the other two. He shaded his eyes to look into the sky. As they spoke, the object fluttered down from aloft and landed unceremoniously at their feet. Bending over, he picked it up and read the black print aloud, "The Light, October 31st. One night only."
"The Light? Never heard of that before…" Becca commented.
"Why would anyone have a show for only one day?" Victoria asked. Her friend shrugged. Turning back to Chris, she inquired, "What’s it for?"
The tall boy silently read a bit more before continuing. "’Let us show you fear through darkness’…Then it gives the address."
"It’s probably one of those Haunted House things we go to every year…"
"I don’t know, Vic," Rebecca said as she brushed a few flailing strands behind her ear. "Why’d they call it ‘The Light’ if it’s ‘fear through darkness’ and why would they only have it one night if it’s a Haunted House or thrill ride?"
"Who knows," Victoria shrugged, "But it sounds cool. Wanna go?"
At this, Rebecca’s cousin groaned, "I can’t. I have to fly back on the 29th. Sorry…"
"Goodbye Hicksville, hello jet lag," Becca said dryly.
"Yeah well, I’m trying to figure out which is worse," Chris said smiling. His comment earned a few insulted remarks from both girls and a stinging slap on the back.
"Well, I can go, I know that," stated Rebecca, as she looked the orange pamphlet over, "but I’m not sure if we should."
"Oh, come on…Please?" Victoria begged, giving her best kicked-puppy look. Rolling her eyes, Rebecca reluctantly agreed.
* * * * * *
"I’m still not sure about this, Vic."
"Look," the other girl said turning to face her hesitant friend, "Let’s just pay the fee, go in, and if you get freaked out, we’ll leave. Okay?"
Becca bit her lower lip. She was nervous, that she was positive of, but it wasn’t the usual butterflies-in-the-stomach nervous. It was something more…She had felt this feeling before but it was never this strong. The teenager looked up at the building that they had approached. It looked as vile, and as wicked, as it had a minute ago. Something about this place…it was evil. Quietly, she answered her friend, "I won’t freak out…"
Victoria smiled and replied, "Right…"
The two friends managed to make it up the cement stairs leading to the large building. Victoria had to reassure, then practically order, her friend along every 30 seconds. "Those doors look like something out of one of those old monster movies," Victoria commented mindlessly as her shorter friend gulped loudly. She reached out to push the doors open, but was beaten to the job as they creaked open from the inside. The girls looked at each other, then into the darkness.
A hand, thin, gray, and plastic-like, stretched out from the darkness of the foyer and beckoned them to the loud, boisterous group of people already inside. Shrugging, Victoria began to follow the unseen body inside but was grabbed back by her friend. "What is it now?" she complained.
"This isn’t right. Something about this place is…wrong…"
"Oh please, Becca. Come on, you have the money. Let’s go before the lines get really long," Victoria pulled her unwilling and unwitting hostage inside with her. Rebecca watched the door as if the last traces of freedom were to be shut away from her forever. The mouth of darkness swallowed them whole.
* * * * * *
After paying what to the girls seemed like an outrageous amount of money, they were led through darkened hallways that wound first left then right like a snake. After a few minutes and once Victoria had lost all of her patience, they arrived in a room.
Dozens of candles gave the circular room an eerie effect. The light from the petite flames danced along the walls like spirits. After turning a complete circle to see the whole room, and all the while looking for all possible exits, Rebecca’s eyes settled on the other occupants of the room. Expecting vengeful ghosts, she was relieved to find simply a family of four and two teenage boys.
A balding man sat on one of the chairs inspecting an orange pamphlet not unlike the one the three teenagers had found a few days earlier. A woman, most likely his wife, stood resting against the arm of a dusty couch. Following the woman’s gaze, Becca found two children, a girl and a boy, sitting on the couch. They occupied themselves by swinging their feet, which didn’t quite reach the floor, and bouncing on the couch’s worn springs. The boys were older than Rebecca, possibly college students. One lounged lazily in the large chair while his friend stood against the wall. The second guy was fooling with his silver eyebrow ring, trying to relieve the oppressive boredom.
"If they’re here, it must not be that bad," Rebecca thought to herself. "Definitely can’t get scared now…especially with those guys here."
As a door opened and shut, the group of six looked up simultaneously. There stood a young woman, and she wasn’t the least bit frightening either. This fact boosted Rebecca’s confidence a bit more. The young woman, not much older than Victoria or herself, wore her dark hair down and it draped down to her hips. Her skin was golden even in autumn and she was lithe like a cat. When she spoke, her voice sounded like leather and silk against Rebecca’s ears.
"Before you begin, it is strongly suggested that you deposit all loose change, jewelry, and other items that may be snagged or pulled here," the woman instructed them as she held out a box for each person. When she retrieved her own box, Rebecca noticed the strange woman had her eyes closed…and did not open them. The young teenager quickly averted her eyes. She knew it was rude to stare at someone, especially someone who was blind, but something made her uncomfortable about the woman. It was as if the woman could see them through her eyelids…and that if she could, she would be staring directly at the young brunette.
Rebecca shivered but walked back to the seat where Victoria had placed her own box so she could remove the necklace and earrings she had been wearing. "Something isn’t right," Rebecca muttered softly to her friend. Victoria sighed.
"You said that already. Just do what she says and we can get on with this."
Rebecca sighed heavily at the comment and removed her wool sweater and jewelry only hesitating a moment before removing her gold crucifix and placing it in the box as well.
After the group was noticeably less accessorized, the tanned woman beckoned them through the large wooden door through which she had come. Once through the large portal, Rebecca and Victoria found themselves in a hall lined with what appeared to be large, metal doors. The two girls gazed up and down the endless, darkened halls. They were startled out of their hypnotic reverie as two cold hands dropped onto their shoulders. Jumping, the girls whirled to find the young blind woman standing behind them. "Strange," thought Rebecca as she looked up at the woman. "I didn’t even hear her approach…it’s like she materialized out of thin air."
"Please go to Cell C159," the lady gently said as she dropped her hands and pointed to one of the many gray doors. Victoria shrugged as she watched the family of four and the cute college students go into different "cells." Looking warily at the dark-haired woman towering above them, the blond pulled her sputtering friend to the specified door. Hesitating only a few seconds, Victoria opened the door and walked inside. What the two friends found surprised them.
The girls stood in the doorway to what looked like a brightly lit, metal 6x4x6 box. Rebecca looked around the cell in confusion. The door behind them immediately shut, causing her to jump about three feet in the air. At this, her taller friend laughed at her reaction to the sudden sound. Just then, the fluorescent lights in the cell flickered and died, leaving a solitary, dim light glowing above.
Over an unseen loud speaker, came a voice that grated against Rebecca’s ears with the undertone of evil. "What is fear? Is it simply a stimulated reaction of the brain to nerves or fluids? An emotion shedding light on dreadful anticipation? Or is it something more? Something…dark…Something that could only be cast away…by the return of the light." Right on cue, the small light in the room withdrew its comforting rays and plunged the room into inky darkness.
"Well this is different," commented Victoria. Rebecca on the other hand, was far from confidant.
"This is wrong. We shouldn’t be here…I have to get out of here, Vic…" the shorter girl said anxiously as she started to turn in steady circles, seeing nothing but blackness. Her breath came in harsh panting gasps and beads of sweat gleamed on her forehead as they ran down her neck, making her skin crawl. She started shaking violently and she felt sick to her stomach. She could tell she was becoming more and more disoriented.
Victoria rolled her eyes and sighed, "Look, don’t worry. What are they gonna do to us?" Those were the last normal words Becca heard.
Just as the fateful words left her mouth, an enormous hand reached out from inside the walls and grabbed her around the waist. Victoria shrieked as she tried to fight it off. Rebecca struggled against similar appendages. The wall had become blackened water and the creatures under the surface growled and snarled as they reached up searching for something to pull into the darkness.
"Hands…so many hands…" thought Rebecca as she desperately tried to free herself from the death-grip of gnarled fingers which were quickly joined by two other hands that attached themselves to her leg and arm. Before she could bite the hand that hovered over her mouth, they disappeared and she backed away from the wall only to be grabbed at again. She could feel the skeletal digits tangling in her mass of brown hair. Fingernails raked across her bared arms and she could hear across the oblivion her friend scream in fear as more and more hands tried to pull them into the darkness.
Reaching out for Victoria, Rebecca was only met with more gloomy darkness and the oily hands that pulled at her in all different directions.
She was beyond terrified. Rebecca’s voice went hoarse from screaming for someone…anyone…and had not been answered. She could feel tears poor down her cheeks in frustration and fear. They were fighting a losing battle; there was no way of escape. Except…
"We gotta get up higher! Use your legs and shoulders as to brace yourself above the floor!" she called into the darkness hoping her blond friend understood her. Following her own advice, Rebecca pushed off the floor with her shoulders and feet propped against either side of the four-foot wide box. She managed to shimmy up slowly as the hands clawed at her legs, face, and chest trying to make her fall down to certain doom. Slightly lower than her, Rebecca could hear Victoria grunt as she started her own ascent.
The hands continued to grope for them, their slimy fingers tugging their clothes and hair. Rebecca raised herself as high as she could as the palms reached up looking for her. Every now and then she or Victoria would yelp as one of the things managed to grab an ankle and jostle them loose.
Minutes seemed like hours to the two girls as the hands kept up their attacks. Victoria gasped and cried, "I’m slipping!" Rebecca felt her own muscles spasm and she fell a bit down. She tried to heft herself up higher once again but her body was too fatigued.
More hands were grabbing them, only hastening their fall, and right as it seemed the hands would have them for their will, the girls fell into the darkness –
-- Only to land hard on the floor. "Ugh," Victoria grunted as she sat up with her head in her hands and looked at Rebecca.
"Is it over?" Becca inquired, crouching on hands and knees. A flicker of light caused the girls to look up at the ceiling. Sure enough, a black light lit the room with its eerie, violet glow. As they watched, the light turned to a hue of red. Bloody light seeped from the ceiling down to the girls below as they looked nervously at each other.
Shrieking, a woman’s head and arms reached through the constricting walls at them. Her hollow eyes stared back at them; her skin grayed from death. The girls jumped back against the opposite wall as more people lunged through the other walls to them. Men, women, and children screamed out curses and damnations as others screamed in immortal terror and agony. Children cried out for salvation only to be pulled back by the demons of Hell. The peoples’ cold, dead hands stretched out and grabbed Rebecca and Victoria’s arms trying to pull them into their world of eternal darkness. The girls fought the people off even as their shrieks brought tears to their eyes. A unified scream traveled through the cell and the people disappeared not unlike the hands that preceded them. The sanguine light returned to black and the girls once again looked at each other. Their eyes were nearly comically wide and their mouths gaped like fish.
"You said you wanted to leave, right?" Victoria asked softly.
"Uh-huh," Rebecca replied, nodding her head numbly.
"I think I wanna go now too – " she was cut off as the ghostly light faded and the two young girls clung to each other nearly weeping in fear before anything had begun. They waited…and waited…and waited. Nothing happened…until Rebecca realized that she was panting…and it wasn’t in fear.
"Vic…" she whispered, "C-can you breathe?"
"Of course I…" the taller blond stopped and felt herself panting. "What are they doing?"
"I have no idea!" Rebecca whimpered as she let her friend go placing a hand to her chest. Looking around she noticed something. "Vic…"
"Th-the walls…are they…?"
"Oh my God! No…no…no…no…!" the taller girl chanted as she started to bang on the walls, looking in vain for an escape from the tomb they were imprisoned in. She started to shriek like a banshee as she thrashed against the walls trying to get someone to come to them. "Please! Please! Someone! Anyone…!"
Rebecca closed her azure eyes drunkenly tilted her head up to the ceiling. She could just barely see the light, the light that would end this. "Please come on…" she thought as tears started to fall once again. Pain filled her chest as her lungs franticly seeked oxygen. "Please…"
Victoria collapsed next to her friend on the floor, her strength sapped. "We’re trapped. No one hears us. No one’s there. No one hears us…" Rebecca whispered as regret raced through her. She closed her hazel eyes, welcoming death.
Rebecca watched in the darkness as the walls came down towards them to the point of breaking. The air was nearly gone. "Oh, God, how’d we manage this?" Rebecca asked to the falling walls and ceiling. She closed her eyes as the walls toppled down on top of them –
-- And suddenly felt a hard slap across her face. Blinking rapidly, she looked up.
"Snap out of it!" Victoria cried as she hovered over her friend. "Please!"
"Wha-what happened?" the young teen stammered as she slowly sat up holding her pounding head.
"We walked in the room, the door shut, and you collapsed on the floor…" Victoria started.
"Your friend here called for help. We came in and brought you out here to the front lawn," the blond guy commented as he stood over Victoria’s shoulder. "Mike left to call an ambulance when we couldn’t bring you around."
"How long was I out?" Rebecca asked from the lawn.
"About three minutes," answered the balding man from across the room where he sat comforting his frantic wife and children.
"I could’ve sworn it was longer," Victoria mentioned.
"So could I…" Rebecca murmured as she saw the flashing lights and heard the shrieking wail of the siren as the ambulance approached.
* * * * * *
"In all my years of psychiatry…" Dr. Martin stated, "I have never seen anyone react like your daughter, Rebecca has." The gray-haired woman sat behind her large, oak desk as she twirled a blue pen between her fingers. She watched the couple and their daughter sitting on the brown, leather couch as they listened to her diagnosis. "She has all of the symptoms of claustrophobia," continued the doctor as she sat forward in her seat, "Sweating, accelerated heart rate, hyperventilation, shaking, light-headedness, nausea, fainting, fearing bodily harm in the most mundane of places…I’m surprised no one’s noticed the signs."
"Well," replied Rebecca’s mom, "We’ve noticed some things. Like how she hates large crowds and how she doesn’t like dark places, but we thought nothing of it."
"That’s not uncommon. People often do ignore these things."
"Is there a cure?" asked her father.
"Yes, actually, there is," stated the elderly psychiatrist. "Seeing your daughter’s condition I think that medication may be the best way for her to fight this phobia."
"Well, for various reasons, but the predominant one is that the other forms of treatments and therapy sessions may harm more than help. Is medication a problem?"
"Oh…no…how long will she be on it?"
"Well, it always depends on the patient. Probably between 8 to 10 weeks."
"Alright…" muttered the woman.
"Do you wish her to be an inpatient or an outpatient?"
"We’d prefer her to be home with us," confirmed the blond woman glancing quickly at her daughter to affirm her decision.
"Alright. Here’s the prescription," the gray-haired woman behind the massive desk said as she ripped off a slip from the small prescription pad. "My secretary will show you out."
"Rebecca, I hope you recover quickly."
"Thank you again. Bye."
"Yes Dr. Martin?"
"Are you sure you can’t remember anything about those scratches on your arms and the backs of your legs?"
"Sorry Doctor, I have no idea where they came from, and at this point, I don’t want to know…"
Author’s Notes: For all the stuff on claustrophobia, go to this site which is the site I used for the stuff in the story: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/
Sometimes, when you make an omelette, you have to kill a few people...