Marty knew they were testing him. He was the new kid. He’d lived in town his whole life, but he had gone to Mountain Heights Elementary while most of the other kids had attended Lincoln Elementary. Now they were all together at Montgomery Middle School.
Brian and Nate had let Marty hang out with them at lunch right from the beginning, but the relationship was still new and he didn’t want to jeopardize it over something so stupid.
When Nate and Brian started talking about the haunted house, Marty was silent.
“You’re not scared of a haunted house, are you Marty?” taunted Brian.
“No, guys. We’re just a little too old for ghost stories. It’s just an old house.” His reserved tone told them otherwise.
“Just an old haunted house,” Nate added.
“It’s not haunted.” Marty didn’t sound like he believed it.
“No?” said Brian, ”I dare you to go in there.”
Marty knew he was screwed.
That’s how they ended up in front of the house at sundown on the Tuesday before Halloween. They stood on the corner of 13th and Switch and proclaimed it creepy as ever. Ancient trees loomed over the derelict structure, set back from the road just enough to leave most of it to the imagination.
“You guys coming?” Marty asked, heading for the front door.
Brian and Nate exchanged a look of surprise, then followed Marty as he strode up the porch steps and pushed open the door.
Nate and Brian hesitated at the threshold, watching Marty fade into the darkness of the living room. Their bladders shrunk when a specter glided toward Marty and a wavering voice called out, “Mmmaaaaarrrty.”
The last thing both boys heard as they ran screaming from the porch was Marty’s cheerful voice.
“Hi, Grandma. I brought some friends.”