“Theo!!! Put me down!!!”

    He only laughed at me and spun me around several more times. His booming laughed echoed through his chest and into my back, rattling my chest just like when I stood too close to the bass drums during pep band.  Theo set me down but kept his arms wrapped around me.

"How much farther is it?" I asked as the others caught up to us. We were heading to a very special location that was off the trail. The originial road had been blocked off a long time ago, but there was a gravelled path that lead up to the abandoned Finster Mansion. 

    “You almost ran past it,” he whispered into my ear as he turned me towards a patch of overgrown wild grapes and bushes. I almost asked what he meant until I looked closely under the thick, old vines. There appeared to be a very old and worse for wear, wooden gate with an overgrown trail leading uphill.

The pathway was dirt with pebbles placed strategically about the path. The reason was unclear until I noted that the path had a gradual incline that would have risen a concern for heavy machinery, especially in winter. Any sort of ice or snow would have made the path nearly impossible to climb without some sort of grip, like gravel or pebbles.

“So, it's at the end?” I was the only one who had never been to the house before which 

“The Founders' Mansion,” Wade confirmed, but my curiousity must have shown on my face, since Lacey decided to explain in the only way she knew how, with her overly-dramatic documentary voice.

“The Finster Mansion, belonged to the prestigious Finster family, who owned a number of businesses in Finster Hill, from the mid-late 1800s to the very early 1900s. Jonathan Finster and his wife, Mary Finster, were the last known owners of the mansion before it became Finster Hill Convent in the 1920s and then converting to the Finster Hill Asylum in the 1950s. The asylum wasn’t shut down until 1989 when it was discovered that patients there were being horrifically mistreated. Many patients were so malnourished that many didn’t survive long past the closing of the institution. Since then, the mansion had gone through dozens of owners including that of Saint John’s Church, which attempted to transform the building into a private school. After the first week of renovations, the school was closed due to some non-disclosed incidents,”

“It’s said that during the course of 1930’s to 1980’s, the mansion had seen the deaths of over 300 people. Not including the people who died after the asylum was closed. Of course, and who could forget Sophia Mae,” Nina added with a creepy voice.

“Sophia Mae? The girl that disappeared last year?” I asked, clearly surprised. She was in our class. An A+ student that had the lead to be validictorian; that is until she disappeared, making the race to become Validictorian a three way tie. Apparently, around that time, four students from Saint John's High School that were last seen with Sophia Mae had also gone missing. There bodies were found in a ravine a week after they were reported missing. It is believed that either Sophia Mae killed the other students, she was kidnapped, or her body was scattered by animals.

“And Jessica Polls,” Nina added.  She had been in Nina's older brother's class. The class of 2005 lost five students during the year of 2004. Jessica Polls's body was found three years ago, drowned in a river. Her body was the only body found.

“ And Robert Schober,” Theo finished. Some people say that Robert Schober decided that transcendalism was the life for him since it was his van that the found in the marsh behind the Abel farm. Other's think that he ditched the van because it was involved in some crime. There was even a rumor that it was Robert that was killing these teens. His parents still believed that he was infact kidnapped. He disappeared in 2000.

I could feel my body suddenly tense, as though something was wrong. Nothing was wrong, was it? They're just urban legends to keep children from playing in the abandoned house; Like we were all just about to go do. Nobody was ever actually found in the house. In all actuality, they were found on the other side of town were the trail ended and Vach Woods started.  Just stories to keep kids out of the house. “We aren’t children,” I remind myself. “We know what we’re getting ourselves into.”

"Who knows, maybe you'll be next," Nina stared right at me. God, I hated her. Somehow I got the feeling that she hated me more than Garfield hated Mondays.

    “Nina, stop it. Stop trying to scare Amelia,” I heard Theo scowled from behind me. I must have missed something.

    “I didn’t have to try too hard,” I heard her mutter under her breath.

    “Nina,” Wade said in a voice that was pleading but wasn’t too harsh. Wade, our swift but gentle wolf, he wouldn’t stand up to someone as assertive as Nina or Theo but would stand up for someone as quiet as Lacey or me. However, I almost wished he hadn’t when she turned on him like a cat in a cage. Her eyes pierced him as she glowered at him.

    “Sweet, innocent Amelia, needs to have two protectors. Everyone is always on her side, but nobody is on my side; not even my own boyfriend will side with me!” Nina hissed with her arms waving around her as though she was a bridezilla.

    “Come on, guys, are we just going to stand here and wait until it gets too dark or are we going to go up there?” Lacey, ever the mediator. 

"Yeah, it's now or never." I said twisting out of Theo's arms and climbing over the vine covered fence.

 

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