A/N: With Halloween rapidly approaching, I was recently hit with the inspiration to write a spooky(ish) SSX one-shot. The idea behind this piece is based on a real place here in my hometown called Devil's Hollow. Just like in my story, Devil's Hollow is a stretch of land that is home to an old abandoned house that is rumored to be haunted. I'm way too chicken to ever venture out there and check it out for myself, but I did a little research on the lore of Devil's Hollow and I got to wondering: What would happen if I was ever brave enough to go there? And because of how obsessed I am with SSX, that thought quickly turned into: No, what would happen if the SSX characters went there? Then this sort of happened, and... well, it's just funny how these things play out sometimes.
Anyway, enjoy, and tell me what you thought of it if you have the time!
EDIT: This turned into a two-part story (obviously) when I realized that the first draft of it was garbage and made very little sense as a standalone. It might still be garbage now, but at any rate...here you go. I think it turned out to be a fun little story. The following is the final draft.
"Allegra, I don't want to do this!" Griff cried. "I'm scared!"
Allegra Sauvagess rolled her eyes. She'd been walking alongside Griff for all of ten minutes and already the little twerp was starting to grate on her nerves.
"Yeah?" she said, turning to cast her companion an unsympathetic look. "Well, sometimes in life you've gotta do things you don't wanna do. Didn't your parents ever teach you that? I mean..."
She trailed off, pausing as instantly she was struck by the utter stupidity of what she had just said. After all, it wasn't as though she and Griff were on their way to school or to the dentist or to fulfill some other mundane, yet necessary life obligation. No, they were out on a dare, of all things. It was dumb, and Allegra still couldn't believe she'd ever agreed to it. She couldn't believe Griff had agreed to it either, and by the looks of it, he was starting to regret it even more than she was. The kid was this close to losing his nerve, Allegra could tell it. She had to admit it was somewhat amusing to watch.
"You're almost 13 years old, squirt," she said lightheartedly in an attempt to make up for her idiotic comment. "Have a little sense of adventure for once. Okay?"
She continued onward with a high head. Icy wind whipped all around them, threatening to throw them off balance, though every step Allegra took was one of confidence, as if to show that she wasn't the least bit afraid of whatever awaited them over the hill. Griff, on the other hand, couldn't so much as feign bravery. Frankly, he probably didn't even try. "But what if Psymon's right?" he murmured, treading awkwardly in the deep snow as he tried to keep pace with Allegra. "What if there really is a ghost in that house?"
Allegra sighed heavily. "There's no such thing as ghosts, Griff. That's something else I would hope your parents taught you at some point-"
"Yo! What up, homies?" A familiar voice shouted at them from across the way. "'Bout time you slow pokes decided to show up!"
Allegra looked ahead. She cupped a gloved hand over her eyes, squinting against the orange sun setting in the distance. Immediately she spotted their friend and fellow SSX competitor Mac Fraser. He was dressed in his usual baggy pants and red hooded sweatshirt. His hands were jammed in the front pockets of the hoodie as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Standing next to him were two other members of the SSX circuit: Elise Riggs, who had her sleek blonde hair tied back in a tight ponytail and, of course, Psymon Stark, the one who had thought up this ridiculous dare in the first place. He was wearing a jumpsuit and had a spiked dog's collar strapped loosely around his neck. While such a strange choice of attire might normally cause one to raise an eyebrow, Allegra didn't so much as give his appearance a second thought. Throughout the course of her first year on the SSX circuit she had learned very quickly that, where Psymon was concerned, it was simply best not to ask questions.
Looking beyond the trio, Allegra was finally able to spot their destination: an abandoned two-story house that was so dilapidated it seemed as though it would topple over if someone did so much as sneeze in the front yard. Allegra wrinkled her nose. She supposed the place looked spooky enough, even from a distance, but really, was it any creepier than any other old building she'd ever seen? Not in the slightest.
"Hey, dudes," she said once she and Griff had joined the others. "So, what's the deal? We doin' this, or what?"
Psymon spoke before anyone else could. His enormous blue eyes bulged from their sockets as he glanced at each of his friends with what was almost an accusatory look. "Heck yeah, we're doin' it!" he shouted. "Ain't none of you pipsqueaks gonna be weaseling your way out of it now, not on my watch!"
Allegra only stared at him. For about the hundredth time that year she found herself wondering what kind of drugs Psymon did...and where she could get some for herself.
Next to her, Griff shivered fearfully. Mac, on the other hand, let out a derisive snort. "Yeah, yeah," he droned, waving a hand near Psymon's face. "Whatever, man. I'll go through with it. You just had to pick tonight, though, didn't you?" He gave his head a slight shake. "I'm peeved, dude, not even gonna lie. It's Halloween night, and I wanted to go trick or treating!"
Elise snapped her head in Mac's direction. "Oh please," she spat. "What are you, ten? We're all way past the age of trick or treating..." She stopped herself with a quick glance at Griff, her dark blue eyes softening apologetically as she added, "Well, maybe except for Grommet-"
"Hey, this is free candy we're talkin' about here, dawg," Mac said seriously. "I gave up an entire bag of free candy just to come out ghost hunting with you idiots!"
Elise rolled her eyes at that. "Oh yes, we're the idiots. Tell me, Mac, what year did you graduate from high school again? Oh, wait, I forgot...you didn't graduate, did you?"
She sneered, and Mac made a movement toward her, his brow furrowed with a look of indignation, but before he could say so much as one word Allegra swiftly stepped between them. "All right, enough. You're both idiots. Now," she said, turning to face Psymon, "let's leave it at that and get this stupid thing over with before these two kill each other and Griff pisses his pants."
Immediately everyone turned to Griff. He laughed weakly. A forced smile stretched across his freckled face, though Allegra wasn't the least bit fooled. And, apparently, neither were the others.
"You know, Griff," Elise said, "you can stay behind if you want. It's okay if you're scared. I totally feel you. When I first came to BIG Mountain, I was spooked by all the stories about this place-"
"Aw hell no, he's not stayin' behind!" Psymon yelled before Elise could continue. "We all agreed that we would meet here on Halloween night and follow through with this operation. And now look at us, standing outside yappin' like a bunch of weenies!"
"Yeah," Mac said carefully, "but it is a really old house we're dealing with here, dawg. I've been thinking: What if we get inside and the floor, like, caves in on us or somethin'?"
Psymon heaved an exasperated sigh. "The house isn't that old-"
"Uh, yeah it is," Elise was quick to interject. "It was built over 100 years ago. Some even say it was the first house ever built on BIG Mountain."
Griff gulped. He glanced nervously up at Allegra, his brown eyes meeting hers with a look that almost made her think that he wanted her to hold his hand. She sidled away from him so as to not give him any ideas. "Wh-who built it?" he whispered.
Elise shrugged nonchalantly. "Supposedly some nutjob and his wife who wanted to get as far away from civilization as they possibly could. They thought they could endure the wintry conditions out here, but they were so wrong. The mountain is cold—bitterly cold—and, if nothing else, unforgiving. We all know that better than anyone." She cleared her throat before resuming. "Anyway, in one version of the story, the man froze to death while he was out chopping wood one night for the fire. His wife found him the next morning and was so devastated that she turned to witchcraft in order to try and raise him from the dead. Some say she was successful. Others say that's all a bunch of hogwash and that she died a few days later herself. Nobody really knows. What's undeniable, though, is that some pretty strange things have gone on here over the years. People have been found hanging from the rafters on the porch. Kids have claimed to see ghosts and evil spirits hanging around this area. This one group of high school students said they brought a Ouija board inside the house once, and that when they opened it-"
"Ugh!" Griff covered his ears. "Don't say anymore! Please, Elise, please. I'm begging you!"
Allegra glowered at Elise. The blonde gave another small shrug. "I'm not saying any of those stories are true," she defended. "I'm just telling you what other people have told me. If I'm being honest, I've always thought it was all a big joke—just a bunch of dumb stories people tell in order to scare the shit out of each other. At any rate, they only started calling the place Devil's Hollow in the last twenty years or so; it's been abandoned for almost a century, though it wasn't really proclaimed 'haunted' until relatively recently." She winked at her friends' dumbfounded expressions. "Google. It's a wonder of the world. It really is."
The others frowned thoughtfully as they mulled over everything Elise had just said. Psymon, on the other hand, seemed completely unimpressed by her historical recap of the old house behind them. "Pfft. Whatever," he muttered. "The stories aren't dumb. They're facts, pure facts, and we're about to see as much for ourselves tonight!"
Allegra glanced at Griff out of the corner of her eye. His entire body was quivering, and she knew that it wasn't from the cold. Feeling badly for him, she decided to try and shift the subject again. "Actually," she said. "I really don't think it's the ghosts we need to worry about. It's the cults."
Mac gaped at her. "Cults? Yo, what the heck are you talkin' about?"
"She's right," Elise said. "Sometimes cults come out to this place to perform rituals, particularly on Halloween night. It's kind of like a secret base for them. Which I guess makes sense, given...you know, it's supposed connection to the occult and all that crap."
Shaking his head, Mac turned to Psymon. "I don't know about this, dawg. Cults?"
Psymon hissed. "I knew it. You're all a bunch of wimps!"
"I don't care, dude!" Mac yelled back at him. "I don't want to walk in there and run into a bunch of freaks making human sacrifices!"
"Sacrifices?!" Griff shrieked, gripping Allegra's arm. "I'm not going in there, guys! You can't make me!"
Elise said, "Of course we can't make you. In fact, at this point, I'd say that the whole thing has pretty much been called off."
All eyes were on Psymon, who sighed in irritation after a long, tense moments of silence. "Oh, fine," he snapped, his voice low and hostile. "I always knew you guys were weenies."
Elise arched an eyebrow, looking thoroughly amused by his childish insult. "Well," she chuckled, "excuse us for not wanting to become human sacrifices."
"And excuse me for leavin' you guys here and goin' trick or treating instead," Mac said abruptly. He took several strides forward, then stopped, slowly turning to glance at the others over one shoulder. "Unless, of course, any of you guys'd like to join me?"
Allegra looked down at Griff. He was still shaking uncontrollably, and his eyes were rimmed with tears that were sure to spill over at any moment. She sighed in defeat. "I guess me and Griff'll come." She started walking with Mac. Griff blanched, looking shocked, then quickly raced to catch up with them.
"I'll walk the neighborhoods with you guys," Psymon could hear Allegra saying when they were a fair distance away from where he and Elise were still standing. "But I am not going to any doors. Or putting on a costume." She paused for a moment, as though considering. "Unless, of course, you can find me a sexy one..."
Her voice began to fade out as they disappeared over the snowy hill. Psymon growled. "Fine, then!" he screamed after them. "You all can just be a bunch of chickens." He bent his elbows and began to flap his arms wildly back and forth. "Bawk, bawk, baawwwk! Oh yeah, that's right, you heard me!"
Next to him, Elise was shaking her head. "I don't think they really care," she told him.
But Psymon was nowhere near finished. "CHICKENS! Oho, look at me, I'm Mac and I'm so cool. I talk like a gangsta!"
"Well you know what, Mac? You're not cool at all! You're nothing but a pussy! And don't even get me started on you, Griff!" He chuckled maniacally to himself. "What kind of moron drafted a little sissy pants like you to the SSX circuit, huh? Oh yeah, that's right, I said it-"
Elise side-swiped one of Psymon's cheeks with the back of her glove, not hard, but enough to jar him from his rant. "Give it a break, would you?" she said. "If they want to be a bunch of losers, that's on them. I, on the other hand, would much rather not waste the momentous opportunity to check this place out."
She turned then and began walking toward the old house, fresh snow crunching under her boots with every step.
For a moment Psymon just stared at her, shock-still, his jaw jutting open in disbelief. "Uh, wait," he finally spoke. "So...you're still going in?"
Elise stopped, though she did not turn to face him. "Of course. What does it look like I'm doing?"
Psymon stood motionless for another moment, blinking, as though he had not comprehended her words. Then he shook his head vigorously and began to hurry after her. "So, uh, what made you change your mind all of a sudden?" he asked.
Elise pointed straight ahead. "The snow," she explained. "There aren't any footprints along the house's perimeter. And it hasn't snowed in the last 48 hours, so unless someone's camping out in there, we can be pretty sure that we won't run into anyone. Well, anyone living, that is."
Psymon nodded. "Smart thinkin'," he admitted grudgingly. "Any reason why you didn't point that out to the others earlier?"
Elise kept walking. "Isn't it obvious?" she said. "I didn't want Griff coming with us. He would've ruined everything with his whining, not to mention Mac is annoying as hell. And Allegra? She probably would've just complained the whole time. The way I see it, it's better if it's just the two of us."
She stopped then as suddenly they came upon the old house. It looked even worse up close than it had from afar. The front door was closed off by two wooden planks that had been nailed crudely across the entrance in the shape of an "X." Most of the windows had been boarded up in a similar fashion, though the porch was what made the place look especially run-down. The wood on the steps leading up to the door was almost completely rotted; the steps themselves looked as though they would snap if even the smallest child happened to place a foot on them.
Psymon scratched his chin thoughtfully as he surveyed the house. "Hmm. You sure you wanna go in there?"
Elise sighed and threw her head back dramatically. "I knew you'd chicken out, too," she said, her tone one of disappointment. "How typical. You, like so many other men I've known, are all talk and no action..."
She trailed off as she realized that Psymon had already leaped over the steps. The wood of the porch groaned beneath his weight as he moved toward the door, though luckily it appeared sturdy enough to hold him. Elise smirked triumphantly as she watched on, though she chose to remain where she was on the ground with her arms crossed tightly over the front of her parka.
Psymon used all his strength in attempting to pull the planks away from the door, though it quickly became apparent that entering that way was not going to be a possibility. "Well, doesn't look like we're gonna be able to get in," he announced. "It's a shame, but-"
"Please," Elise cut him off. "We'll just go in through a window. There are plenty of them."
Psymon craned his neck to the left, then to the right. "Uh. All the windows have boards on 'em too."
Elise extended her hand toward him in a sweeping gesture. "Follow me." She began walking around the side of the house. When Psymon didn't move, she motioned again for him to follow, and after a brief moment of hesitation he trudged after her. She led him to the backyard, where they immediately found that there was one small window that, conveniently, did not have any boards or planks nailed around it. Psymon stepped closer to the window to inspect it. The glass, naturally, was shattered; there were a few remaining shards jutting out near the bottom, though Elise did not appear to be the least bit daunted by this fact.
"It's a bit of a step," she warned Psymon as she swung one leg over the window sill. "But we're about the same height, so I think you can manage."
Psymon stared at Elise as she hurdled over the window. Something was bothering him, something he couldn't quite put a finger on. Then, long at last it hit him. "Have you, like...been here before or something?"
Elise eyed him strangely through the window. "Why would you say something like that?"
"I dunno. You just kinda seemed like you knew this window was back here."
Elise waved one of her gloved hands. "Cults get in here all the time, Psy. Don't you remember me telling you that? It was obvious there had to be a way in somewhere." She turned so that her back was to him. "Well? Are you coming with me, or not?"
Something still didn't feel quite right to Psymon. Why was Elise acting so strangely? Earlier she hadn't seemed the least bit thrilled at the idea of entering an old abandoned house. But now? Now she was all confidence and poise, as though this entire thing had been her idea to begin with. It certainly hadn't, though. It had been Psymon's idea, and now, ironically, he found that he was the one who was beginning to feel like maybe it wasn't such a great one after all.
"Elise?" Psymon realized suddenly that the blonde had disappeared into the dark house. "Elise? Where the heck are ya?"
There was no reply.
Psymon fidgeted. This couldn't be a good sign. "Elise?"
He poked his head through the window, straining to see something, anything, but it was no use. The inside of the house was pitch black.
Psymon rummaged through his pockets, hoping to find a flashlight. He pulled out a box of matches, a 25 cent rubber ball, two quarters, a plastic wall socket, and finally, a small penlight. He clicked the button several times. Thankfully, the battery was still good.
"Elise?" He growled. "This better not be some kind of trick..."
He climbed over the window with ease, holding the penlight directly in front of him. From what little he could see, the house was almost entirely empty. There were several odds and ends scattered about—a rusty spring, an overturned chair with a broken leg, a stuffed animal with half of the stuffing pulled out of it, and glass. Lots and lots of glass. And splintered wood. Psymon shone the light in every corner of the room. The floor had caved in several areas, though he knew that it was something he could easily avoid so long as he watched his step.
"Elise?" He continued to call out to her, slowly edging forward. "Hellooo?"
That's when suddenly he heard a scream somewhere inside the house. The high-pitched sound echoed off the rotted walls, and Psymon's heart skipped a beat. "Elise?" he shouted, frantic. "Was that you?"
He hurried to the next room as quickly as he dared. "Elise?" he shouted, though once again he was met only with silence.
"All right. Enough of that!" His tone had turned uncharacteristically serious. "This was a bad idea, all right? I admit it. Now will you stop trying to scare the freakin' crap out of me already? If something happens to us, I swear-"
His speech was stifled when pair of large, bony hands seized him from behind, digging harshly into his shoulders.
Psymon jumped about a foot in the air, letting out a noise that sounded like a combination of a yelp and a gasp. "Holy shit-!"
He spun to face his attacker. Immediately he breathed a sigh of relief. It was only Elise. "Jesus," he exclaimed. "What the hell do you think you're-"
"Psymon, we need to get out of here." There was an urgency in Elise's voice as she spoke. Psymon peered more closely at her face, and was shocked to find that there were actually tears streaming down her cheeks. He resisted the urge to slap himself across the face. Elise Riggs, crying? Impossible.
"Please," she said. "We need to leave now."
"All right, all right." Psymon took her by the arm and began to lead her out of the room. "Come on, let's go-"
"No!" Elise yanked him backward forcefully. "We can't go that way!"
Psymon frowned. He didn't know whether he ought to be more angry or confused. Or frightened. "What are you talking about?" he demanded.
"It's true, Psymon." Elise's voice was shaking. "The stories about this place...I never believed them, but they're true." She swallowed hard, biting back a sob. "I can't believe I'm saying this," she choked. "But...you were right."
Psymon's eyes widened. He'd never believed the stories about Devil's Hollow himself. Earlier, when he'd been going on about the hauntings, he'd only been trying to scare the snot out of little Griff. Now, though? Now he wasn't so sure. He'd never seen Elise so hysterical before.
"Okay, okay. Whatever. We're leaving." Psymon began leading her toward the nearest window. He was pretty sure that he would be able to kick the boards in if he tried hard enough. "We'll go out here through this window-"
Before he could say another word Elise let out another blood-curdling shriek. Immediately Psymon jerked his head back around. When he saw what had startled her, he swore. "You've gotta be fucking kidding me."