The front door
stood ajar. It bumped gently against the jamb in rhythm with the evening
breeze. The screen remained wide open and was bent precariously around the aluminum
frame. Pieces of broken glass from a shattered light bulb above had scattered
across the porch, leaving behind a shadowy darkness draped across the front of
the small house.
neighborhood remained quiet; the light blue one-story cottage eerily so. No
outside illumination or motion lights flooded the front area. The blooming
climbing vines and perfectly manicured bushes were eclipsed by the darkness.
small, dark vehicle pulled into the driveway. Waiting a moment before turning
off the engine, a woman pushed open the car door and stepped out. The young
redhead was dressed for the evening, in a sparkly blouse and tight black pants.
Wavering a moment in her spiked sandals, she looked at the house in
curiosity—and then in disappointment. Quickly grabbing a warm jacket from
inside the car and slipping it on, she walked up the driveway.
where are you?” she whispered and headed to the front door, ignoring the
shattered light bulb on the step crunching under her feet. She knocked on the
door. “Jeanine,” she said, more loudly, leaning closer to the opening. “We
waited for you… you missed a great party.”
front door pushed open, revealing a darkened interior.
woman hesitated but seemed to be pulled by an unknown force. She stepped over
the threshold, not bothering to close the door, and moved through the living
room. Confused by the darkness, she turned on a lamp sitting on a small table.
The room lit up instantly. Everything seemed in place. The oversized beige
couches with brightly colored throw pillows, the dark mahogany coffee table
with neatly stacked magazines and books precisely centered appeared usual for
Jeanine’s house. It was always neat and organized.
the woman said again. “Are you here?”
woman walked around and checked the kitchen and small bedroom, but there wasn’t
any sign of her friend. She eyed a piece of paper on the counter and decided to
leave a quick note, scratching out that she had stopped by and asking Jeanine
to call her when she got the message.
suddenly noticed a strange high-pitched whistling noise coming from the other
side of the living room. Curious, the woman moved closer to the sound. The back
sliding door was slightly open. The crack was enough for the wind to invade and
make a strange noise.
foot touched something. A tall turquoise vase that had been sitting on a shelf
nearby was now lying on the carpet. It seemed strange to her that it had been
knocked over. She bent down and picked up the vase, replacing it on the shelf.
retrieved her cell phone from her pocket and tried calling Jeanine again. It
rang numerous times and then went to voicemail where Jeanine’s upbeat voice
said, “Hi, sorry I missed your call but please
don’t hang up. Leave a message and I’ll get right back to you.”
greeting was followed by a quick beep.
it’s Mandy again and now I’m standing in your living room. Where are you, girl?
Everyone was asking about you tonight. Hey, and you left your front door open.
Call me.” She ended the call.
was about to head back to the front door to leave, but something stopped her—it
didn’t feel right—and instead, she stood at the sliding door staring out into
the large backyard where dense rows of pine trees and acacia bushes huddled
around the house’s boundary. During the day, the property appeared green and
lush, but now it looked gloomy and foreboding.
flipped on the outside light, but it only lit up the patio areas directly
outside the house, and the extended wooded region still looked dark.
pulled open the sliding door and the wind whipped through the house. It chilled
her. Goosebumps scuttled up her arms. Worry now set in and she didn’t know what
to do. Redialing Jeanine’s number, Mandy listened to it sound again and in
unison heard the faint, far-off ringing of a phone somewhere in the distance.
stepped outside, trying to decipher where the ringing was coming from.
“Jeanine?” she said, noticing that one of the outside chairs had been toppled
over and lay precariously on its side.
off the stone patio and pulling her jacket more tightly around her, Mandy
slowly trudged toward the trees, a bit wobbly in her shoes. She turned on the
flashlight mode on her cell phone and moved forward.
dialed Jeanine again. This time, she heard the distinct ringing of the cell
phone coming from the trees—low at first and then it rang louder.
“Jeanine,” she said, with barely a whisper. Her voice sounded oddly
down, she saw where there were crushed weeds and small broken branches as if
someone had walked back and forth recently. Still, she kept moving forward,
into the trees, swinging her cell phone back and forth which only illuminated a
tiny patch of ground in front of her, creating dense shadows outside its beam.
fluttering on a bush caught her eye. She leaned closer, focusing. As she moved
the cell light beam nearer, it revealed a piece of white fabric with a
mother-of-pearl button still attached.
wasn’t the fact that she had seen Jeanine wear that pretty white blouse on so
many occasions, it was the droplets of crimson spattered across the fabric that
shoved a spear of fear into her gut.
of dread and horror-filled scenarios ran through Mandy’s mind. Urgently, she
pushed the redial button on her phone again.
sound of Jeanine’s ringtone rang in the darkness. This time it kept ringing and
there was no cheerful message.
walked further into the dark realm of the trees, still hoping that there was a
logical explanation. Stepping over old branches with loud crunching noises and
sidestepping bushes just before reaching the back fence of the property, she
managed to make her way to the sound of the ringing phone.
stood a foot from the phone lying on the ground. It mesmerized her. She slowly
bent down to pick it up. With a startled gasp, she stepped back, dropping the
phone as she stared at her hand. It was covered in blood.
a frenzied panic, Mandy ran past the phone and continued along the low
wrought-iron fence. The flashlight feature dimmed and she couldn’t see where
she was going. Slowing her pace, she glimpsed something white and moving
What’s going on?” She spoke in a strained whisper.
to catch her breath and calm her hammering pulse, Mandy approached. Her cell
phone flashlight surged and shone brightly on the blood-soaked white silk
blouse, now shredded from Jeanine’s right shoulder. She reeled back at the
sight of her friend.
couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horror. Her throat constricted as her
breath trapped in her chest. She staggered backwards, taking in the entire
scene—unable to turn her focus away.
friend’s upper body was impaled on the iron fence penetrating from her back
through her ribs, and her throat was slit open. Her head flopped down, lifeless
eyes trained on the ground. Her long brown hair fell forward, some strands
sticking to the blood seeping from her chest. Her arms hung at her sides, legs
crooked, like a marionette waiting for someone to pull the strings. Blood still
dripped from her body, sliding down her arms to her fingertips before
collecting on the ground—the wet crimson almost matching her fingernail polish.
The body was shoeless and Jeanine’s feet were dirty and bloody—as if she had
been running through the woods barefoot.
was the sight of Jeanine’s face that made her sob in terror. Caked in grotesque
makeup, making her look like a caricature of herself—a hideous broken doll. Red
lipstick drawn heavy around her lips, dark purples for blush on her cheeks, and
dark blues for eye shadow made her look like a circus clown instead of her
Jeanine’s body, a necklace hung on the fence. It was a small locket that she
always wore, which her mother had given her when she turned sixteen.
Mandy mouthed the
word “Jeanine” but no sound escaped her lips. Realizing she still had her cell
phone in her hand, she tried to dial 911 but fumbled a few times with the
buttons before she heard the words, “Nine-one-one,
what’s your emergency?”