“Forget it... I don’t do dares.” That was Gwen’s mantra for the six weeks she had been friends with Holly. No one had ever convinced her to take a dare.
“Just come see. It’s the weirdest thing!” Holly grabbed her hand and tugged gently. “Please.”
“I’ll come and look so I can prove it’s nothing to have your knickers in a twist about.” Giggles floated down the hall like bubbles as the twelve-year-old girls scampered down the hallway. The eerie shadows of the dank mansion withdrew its talons in fear of the joy-filled laughter that enveloped the girls.
The grizzled old man who owned the mansion lifted his eyes from ancient documents and listened to their footsteps tapping overhead. He gripped his cane and rose slowly, and then haltingly limped over to the window. “Durn bright in here lately. Sunniest summer I ever remember... enough to give a man a headache.” He pulled the heavy curtains shut against the cleansing light and shuffled back to his creaky chair.
Upstairs the two girls slowed to a tiptoe as they neared the end of the hallway. Gwen didn’t believe Holly had seen anything except shadows, but she still shivered in excitement. Their hands clasped tightly, they eased up to the attic ladder. A dark hole opened at the top, both beckoning and repelling.
Gwen looked at Holly.
Holly looked at Gwen.
Gwen’s face twisted into a spunky grin and her blonde braids dangled almost to the floor as she bent over to grab the hem of her dress and tuck it into her waist so she could climb without tripping. Then she was up the ladder and swallowed by the attic before Holly could reach for her own skirts.
“Oh my… there is more to Gwen then I ever realized. How awful if Gwen had not lived next door to Uncle Graham.” She shook her head at the chilling thought and scrambled up behind her friend and neighbor.
Gwen stood at the window in the attic. Light haloed around her making dust specks sparkle like snowflakes. Holly felt a chill tickle her spine. What was she getting them both into? What if something awful happened?
She looked at the rafters again. Yes. It was still there. She beckoned to Gwen and grabbed the rope that hung from the darkness up above.
Gwen turned from the window in time to see an odd expression cross Holly’s face as she stared at Gwen. Was it fear or just excitement? She watched as Holly’s face set with determination and they both turned to gaze into the rafters.
Gwen squinted into the shadows. Something moved… like a wave, or grasses swaying with a breeze… but it was solid wood above.
She grinned as she watched dainty, girly Holly grab the dusty old rope and start climbing. Who knew this depressed and shy slip of a girl would turn out to be such fun? Gwen had never done such exciting, daring things as she had since Holly moved in. At first, she had just been trying to make Holly smile; losing both parents in a train wreck was horrible. Gwen had never been adventurous but something in Holly drew it out of her. She had been firm about not accepting dares, but Holly had other ways to get her to play along with her schemes. She had to admit… it wouldn’t take much to get her roped into this one either.
Gwen grabbed the rope, hooked her legs around it, and climbed to the beam where Holly perched like a sparrow.
They both stared at the rope dangling above them. It seemed to be hooked to nothing. There was no start to it. It just faded into a dim glow that sparked and hummed with energy. Different colors faintly danced and a fresh outdoors smell tickled their noses. Holly sneezed.
She turned to Gwen and grinned. Gwen grinned back at the mischievous light in Holly’s green eyes. Holly flipped her auburn braid over her shoulder and grabbed the rope. She shinnied up into the haze and slowly disappeared. Then her lilting voice tumbled back down. “I dare you, Gwen Anderson!”
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