Jake could feel his heart thumping in his ears as he scratched at the wood. It was pitch black, without even the faintest suggestion of light to show him where the door was. His frantic paws finally landed on the doorknob, and with a relieved gasp he twisted it. It wouldn’t open.
He hadn’t locked it. He knew he hadn’t. He couldn’t have, because there was no lock and no key.
“C’mon, open... please, please, just open...”
The red Kougra rattled the doorknob, but it wouldn’t budge. Maybe it was jammed, or maybe there was a lock he hadn’t seen. Maybe he was trapped in here.
Jake’s already racing heart quickened at the thought, and he wasted a few frantic seconds pulling and shoving at the doorknob, but without results.
“Calm down, Jake,” he whispered to himself, more for the comfort of hearing a voice than anything else. “Okay, so you’re locked in a wardrobe. There’s no reason to panic. Ma will get back from the festivals in a few hours, and she’ll be able to get you out.” Unless she’s too late, a voice in his head suggested morbidly.
Jake turned slowly to look behind himself. Black. Nothing but dark, unforgiving, cold blackness. Tentatively he stretched out a paw and leaned forward to touch the back of the wardrobe, but could feel nothing. Just cold, cold darkness.
Breathing heavily, Jake reeled back against the comforting wood of the door. No normal wardrobe went on for that far. An icy draft came out of nowhere, darting past his face and sending shivers down his back.
Jake swung back to face the door and with new desperation rattled the knob and shoved against the wood. He had been a stupid, stupid fool to come up here on Halloween. He should have gone with his mother to the festivals; he would have been safe there. But, no, he had had to stay here; and, of course, he had to check out the wardrobe, just to prove to himself that the stories weren’t true.
How he wished that he hadn’t.
- - -
Her class was just settling down as Mrs Langley rustled into the room, giving everyone a toothy smile. “Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Mrs Langley,” the students replied in a monotone. It was the first period of the day- geometry- and most of them were already missing the weekend. Mrs Langley, with an amount of perseverance that did her justice, opposed the lack-lustre atmosphere by starting the lesson in a bright, perky tone.
“We have a new student today, class. Jake, why don’t you come up here and tell everyone a bit about yourself?”
The red Kougra jumped up and walked to the front of the room to stand beside his new teacher. “Um, Hi.” He raised his paw briefly, and was met by a slightly bored silence from the class. “My name’s Jake Carcheo, and I moved to Mystery Island from the Lost Desert just yesterday. We bought the house in Travelle Road...”
An unexpected murmur ran through the class. Eyes widened and friends turned to whisper to one another excitedly. One tiny Wocky stared at Jake as though he were a ghost. “But isn’t that the...”
“That’s enough, class!” Mrs Langley rapped her desk and frowned at the pets. The room quieted.
“What?” Jake looked from the pets to his teacher.
Mrs Langley forced a smile. “It’s nothing, dear. There were a few rumours floating around a while ago, but it’s nothing. Why don’t you take a seat, and we’ll start the lesson.”
- - -
Jake closed his eyes as terror overrode the memory of that morning, only a week ago. They’d called them rumours. Now, Jake wasn’t so sure.
The fur on the back of his neck prickled as he felt the sensation of being watched, and he swung around. Blackness. He’d never seen anything this dark before. A frightened whimper escaped his lips.
Outside the door he heard an old grandfather clock strike. Struggling against the suffocating fear, he pressed an ear to the wooden door and counted the chimes.
Pete had been right. He should have stayed away from this place.
Halloween. Why did it have to be Halloween?
Not midnight, please, not midnight...!
Jake held his breath, terror making his heart beat painfully quickly, and waited. Silence. The clock had stopped at eleven. It was eleven at night, on Halloween. He had an hour.
Gasping with relief, Jake sank down onto the floor of the closet and touched the wood of the door. An hour. He had an hour to get out. Would Ma be back by then? Not likely. An hour. Sixty minutes. Mary Ives.
- - -
As soon as Jake walked into the cafeteria, his ears were assaulted by the sounds of happy pets eating. Pulling his lunch out of his backpack, he looked around for somewhere to sit. An Ogrin at one of the tables saw him and waved.
“Hey! You’re the new kid. Jake, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Jake said, walking over to him.
“Grab yourself a seat,” the Ogrin said, smiling. “My name’s Pete. I know what it’s like moving into a new school. I’ll show you your way around, if you like.”
Jake grinned thankfully and sat down. Pete looked like a friendly sort of pet, with a broad, honest face, and he instantly liked him.
“Are you new here, too?”
“Relatively.” Pete shrugged. “I’ve been here almost a year now, but I still feel a bit like an outsider. There’s just so many families here that have grown up together, it’s a bit hard to slot in, if you know what I mean.”
Jake nodded. He’d noticed that the other pets at the school tended to stick together in groups.
“So...” Pete looked at the Kougra intently. “You moved into that house in Travelle Road?”
“Yeah,” Jake said. “What’s so important about it? What were the rumours?”
Pete hesitated. “I’m not sure if I should tell you. You just moved in there, I don’t want to make you worry. They’re only rumours.”
“No,” Jake said quickly. “I’d like to know.”
“Alright. But it’s not a nice story.” The Ogrin leaned forward and began in a hushed voice. “Apparently there was a girl who went to this school a long time ago called Mary Ives, who lived in what’s now your house. On Halloween twenty years ago, she disappeared in the middle of the night. The police were called, of course, and the whole town was searched—but no Mary Ives. The hunt went on for three days until her parents finally discovered a hidden room in the house. The room was empty except for a wardrobe in the corner. Inside they found Mary Ives, dead.”
Jake sat back, feeling sick. “A girl died in my house?”
“That’s not all.” Pete sighed. “The parents couldn’t stand living there after that, so they moved away. The house remained empty for a couple of years until a new family moved in. They had a kid, too, called Red. On Halloween night, he and a couple friends were having a sleepover, and were exploring the house. They found the secret room, and Red went into the wardrobe to explore. From what the other boys said, the door slammed shut on him, and refused to open again. The clock struck midnight, and the other boy heard Red scream... and the door opened, to show an empty wardrobe.”
Suddenly all of the sounds of the cafeteria sounded hollow and surreal. Jake stared at Pete. “Is it true?”
Pete shrugged. “It was ages ago. Everyone says they’re just rumours to scare kids.”
“And what do you think?”
Pete paused. “No, I don’t think they’re true. Everyone likes a bit of a story; they’re probably just campfire tales to scare us kids.”
Jake nodded and smiled, feeling a bit better. “They’re cool stories, anyway.”
Pete laughed. “Yeah. And they’ve been enough to keep that house empty for the last eight years, at least.”
The bell rang, signalling the start of class. Jake and Pete stood up and threw their rubbish into the bins. Jake had started up the hallway towards his class when he felt Pete’s hoof on his shoulder. “Jake?”
“If... I mean, if there is a room... don’t go in there, 'kay? Just in case.”
- - -
Jake slammed his paw against the door in frustration. He’d been so stupid! Of course, being left alone in the house on Halloween, he’d gone looking for the room. By chance, he’d found the door hidden behind a painting. He’d entered, of course, and made his way towards the wardrobe. It was a big, solemn thing made of dark wood and set into the wall. The door was open, but the light from the hallway wasn’t strong enough to show what was inside it. He’d convinced himself the stories weren’t true. How could they be? He didn’t believe in ghosts.
And to prove it to himself, he’d stepped into the wardrobe. Stupid, stupid mistake. His actions had seemed reasonable in the light of the corridor, but now they seemed nothing short of insane. Before he could do anything, the door had slammed shut behind him, and he’d found himself trapped in the cold, inky darkness. And now, it was nearly midnight. And at midnight...
He was cold. He was terrified. His heart beat loudly in his ears as he shoved his shoulder into the door and tried to twist the doorknob. Nothing worked, so he sank down onto the ground and covered his eyes in an attempt to block out the menacing, invasive darkness.
How long had it been? He didn’t know. Time had no place here. He wanted nothing more than to get out, and never return. His mother... what would she think, when she got home and found he wasn’t in his room? How long would it take them to find him? Would they ever find him?
And then, from outside the door, came the deep, sombre chimes of the clock. It had started its count to midnight.
Jake felt his heart freeze inside of him. He clawed at the door, willing it with all of his might to let him out, but it stayed firmly shut.
The Kougra risked a step back into the darkness to get a bit of momentum, and jumped at the door, slamming into it. He succeeded in doing nothing but bruising his shoulder.
His throat tightened as he realized the hopelessness of the situation. Beating at the door, he began to whimper. Hopeless. It was hopeless.
“No... please, no...” he whispered. Behind him, he could feel the darkness moving.
He turned to look into the blackness. It almost seemed alive now. Every noise echoed through it, through and down into its hidden depths. His heavy breathing, his heartbeat... and the sound of crying. He no longer knew if it was his or some unseen being’s.
Mary Ives... the thought drifted through his mind. Mary Ives...
“Mary Ives!” Desperation had seized him, and he grasped at the only option he had left. “Please, Mary Ives, if you can hear me, help me!”
Tears appeared in his eyes and rolled down over his face. “I have a family! I don’t want to be left here.”
Jake held his breath and listened. Silence assaulted him.
The darkness was definitely moving now. Shifting and twisting and... becoming. He didn’t know what. He didn’t want to know.
“Please,” he whispered as tears fell down his cheeks. “Please, Mary Ives, let me go. I’ll never come back. Just... let me go. Please.”
With a terror-stricken moan Jake closed his eyes and braced himself.
A gust of icy cold air brushed past him. The door clicked and suddenly, mercifully, Jake fell outwards and found himself sprawled on the ground outside the cupboard. Looking up he met the gaze of two sad, ice blue eyes. Then, the clock struck midnight, and the door to the cupboard slammed closed. Jake found himself alone in an eerie, empty room, with only the reflected light from the corridor to show him the outline of the cupboard.
He did the first thing his mind told him to do. He ran out of the room, slamming the door behind himself, and after turning on all of the lights in the house, sat huddled in the living room to wait for his mother’s return.
It was, after all, midnight on Halloween.