“Are you sure we aren’t going to get into trouble?” Penelope called out to the boys while she climbed into the open window after them.
“Stop being so afraid all the time. It’s boring.” Mason answered. He was tired of always dragging Penelope along with them. Ben had insisted that she come and Mason knew exactly why. Ben was hot for her. Everyone knew it. So lame. She was the biggest goodie two shoes in their neighborhood. Well, Mason was going to have fun and he didn’t care if those two sucked face in the corner, not that Penelope Gooding ever would. He sure hoped they did, though! Then they’d be distracted and he could sneak up and give them a good scare. This old house was the perfect place to do it, too!
Ben reached for her hand and helped her around some old furniture. “It’s okay, Penny. Kids sneak in here all the time. This place is amazing! There’s only one rule.” Ben said.
“Oh, please. Shut it! You know that crap is made up. Don’t even start…” Mason yelled. He didn’t want to bother with kid stuff. He was looking for something to steal or break.
Penny asked cautiously, “What’s the rule?”
“Never, never take that painting off the wall.” Ben paused only a moment as he motioned toward a large painting of a teenaged girl above the fireplace in the grand living room. The girl was well dressed in a gown and had bleach blonde hair that almost matched the pail shade of her dress. Her blue eyed gaze seemed to examine the whole room and keep close watch of all who were in it.
Penny shuddered a little as she studied it. The girl’s eyes were so penetrating, as if she could see right into the depths of Penny’s soul. “What’s her name?” Penny asked while staring at the gaudy gold frame that held the painting in place.
“Her name is Camila Worthington. She lived here decades ago with her father and her disabled aunt.” Ben began. “The family reported that she slipped and fell down these stairs, dying at 16 years old. It’s rumored that her aunt became jealous of Camila’s beauty because the aunt had a skin disorder that was very painful and made her look wrinkled.”
Continuing his story, Ben stepped toward the middle of the room and closer to the painting. “The rumor is that the aunt pushed her down those stairs on the night of Camila’s first school dance, because of how beautiful she looked in the formal gown. Her father was so distraught, he had her painted in the gown she wore that night, so he could always remember his beautiful daughter.”
“See, I told you. A load of bull crap, plain and simple. A stupid story to keep us out.” Mason yelled from the kitchen while he rummaged through old cabinets and drawers.
Penny’s gaze had shifted to Ben now. Feeling totally captivated by his story, she asked, “What happened to the father and aunt? Why did he lie to protect his sister?”
“Camila’s father pitied his sister so he didn’t turn her it. She never left her bedroom after that, though. People aren’t sure if she felt guilty and never left or if he locked her in there out of anger. She died in the top left bedroom of this house, an old woman with wrinkled, bleeding skin. Camila’s father died a few weeks after his sister, carrying on about how his daughter’s painting was not to be moved from its place of honor above the fireplace.”
Now completely invested in Camila’s story, Penny asked her final question. A question she would soon regret asking. “What happens if you take the painting down?”
“This!” yelled Mason as he smacked the bottom corner of the painting, sending it crashing to the hardwood floor. Camila’s painting hit the floor right on the corner, cracking the frame, and landed with a loud bang that echoed through the house.
“You idiot! You broke it!” Ben yelled at the top of his lungs, the look of panic and terror plastered all over his face. Penny screamed a high pitched scream as the painting landed, her eyes darting around the room for whatever was surely lunging at them from a dark corner.
Penny screamed again when she felt something grab her hand forcefully, only to see it was Ben. “Come on! Help me put it back!” he yelled as he dragged her toward the broken painting.
“Let’s just leave. This place is freaking me out!” Penny begged.
“It’s not enough to just leave. She’ll find us! She’ll come after us until we get this thing back in its place on the wall. Please. Help me.” Ben was looking into Penny’s eyes now and pleading for her help. She was terrified by the complete and total fear that seemed to engulf him.
“What will happen?” She yelled as she crossed the room with Ben and kneeled down beside Camila’s face.
“She’ll be in your dreams and in your bedroom and at school. She will constantly grab at you and drag you back into this house until you fix her painting. A couple homeless guys died in here a few years ago. They were ripped apart but that damn painting was hanging on the wall with their blood smeared on one side. They died trying to get it back up here. Now, help me!”
“Wow, dude. You’ve hit a new low. This is a level of pansy I didn’t even think you were capable of. And I know what a baby you are about this place. You guys do what you want. I’ve had my fun. See ya.” Mason said while walking out the front door of the old house.
Penny heard Ben whisper a quiet “Oh no” as he stared at Mason walking across the overgrown lawn. Mason got exactly halfway across the lawn before one of his feet suddenly flew out from under him. He screamed with surprise as an invisible force began dragging him back toward the house by his leg.
“Now! Quick!” Ben yelled. He pushed the corner of the frame back together but it wouldn’t stay. The small nail that held it in place was missing. “Where’s the nail?! Find it, quick!” Ben called to Penny, who was searching the floor with her hands, groping for the small bit of metal that stood between life and death.
Just as Penny yelled and held the little nail up in celebration of her discovery, they heard Mason being dragged up the wooden stairs and across the front porch. Ben grabbed a nearby book and used it to hammer the nail in just enough that it would hold the frame together, allowing it to be hung up, once again.
Ben grabbed one side of the painting with Penny on the other side as the front door shook and rattled with the sound of Mason’s body being slammed up against it. Whatever had him was throwing him against it in an effort to get him back inside the building. Another loud hit came as they lifted the painting up, startling Penny enough to almost cause her to drop the painting. This loud thud at the front door was followed by a groan of pain, no doubt coming from Mason. Ben was sure Mason wouldn’t be making fun of him anymore. If he even survived.
Ben and Penny snagged the nail in the wall with the painting’s wire just as a third bang shook the whole house and threw the door wide open. Mason’s body came lurching toward them and stopped in its tracks as soon as their hands released the painting. Hanging once again in her place of honor, Camila seemed to look smugly down on the horrific scene she had caused.
Penny ran to Mason as he moaned and turned onto his side, gripping his left arm in pain. Ben stalked angrily over to his friend and yelled, “See what you did! I don’t even feel bad for you. You’re just lucky you lived. How are we supposed to explain this? Your arm looks broken, man.” Ben was completely over Mason’s crap. “You climbed that tree in back and fell out of it, okay? You hit a couple branches on the way down. Got it?” Mason moaned an “Okay” in response and Penny just stared, wide eyed, at Ben.
“We don’t have time to argue about this. Let’s get the hell out of this freaky house. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me.” Ben scolded Mason as they helped him to his feet and out of the old house. Finally onto the sidewalk, the air felt lighter to them. This would not be a day any of them would soon forget. The day Camila Worthington’s painting fell from the wall.
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