The next day on the way home from school Jack stared at the window; really stared, as if willing the light to come on to prove he hadn’t imagined it. Nothing happened. He really wanted to tell the guys what he thought he saw. He didn’t know why he was afraid of them thinking he was an idiot. They were his best friends. Every other day one of them thought the other was an idiot. What did it really matter if today was his day to wear that badge?
“Guys,” said Jack. “Stop a second.”
Henry and Kevin stopped where they were. Henry took out a pack of cigarettes and lit one as they waited for Jack to tell them why they were stopping.
“Did either of you happen to notice anything weird last night?” asked Jack.
“Weird? Like, what?” asked Henry in reply to Jack’s question, exhaling smoke. Kevin stood there with a look on his face like he was trying to remember what he had done last night and what he would have seen while doing it.
“Last night when we were running away from 327, I turned around and thought I saw a light on in the middle window. Did either one of you happen to see that?”
They both shook their heads. Henry: “Dude, I didn’t turn around, I was haulin’ ass to get outta there.” Kevin: “Me, too. Sorry, bro.”
The reaction was nothing like he thought it would be. Actually, they both seemed to believe it was possible that a light had been on in the window.
“You really think you saw a light in the window?” asked Henry. His curiosity peaked. Jack could tell by the way he was looking around to see if anyone was near them when he asked the question. “I’ve always been curious about that place man.”
“Me too,” Kevin joined in. He was never one to be left out even if he was a little bit scared of the house.
“I’ve never heard anyone talk about that old place. It just seems to be an abandoned house that everybody accepts,” said Henry.
“Do you think it’s possible that somebody was in there last night? I mean it could’ve been a reflection from the streetlight, but it looked like it was coming from inside,” said Jack.
"We've traced the calls...they're coming from inside the house!" Henry said the line from When a Stranger Calls with whispered creepiness that only needed a campfire and glowing flashlight under his chin to make it creepier than it already was.
A little freaked out, Kevin said, “I don’t wanna start being the voice of reason guys, but.” Henry and Jack started to laugh at the words “voice of reason” coming out of Kevin’s mouth.
“What’s so funny?” asked Kevin.
“Dude, you and “voice of reason” are not two things I would put together in the same sentence,” laughed Henry as he and Jack high-fived followed by their signature fist bump finger explosion.
“Okay, okay, I get. So I’m not always the smartest guy, but let’s face it, do you think somebody was actually inside that creepy place? I mean come on. It’s probably full of rats and spiders and it’s probably crumbling inside,” said Kevin.
He did have a point. I mean they were 17 years old and that house had looked like that ever since they could remember. Which means it was deteriorating, year after year. It probably was crumbling in there. Who knew if there was even a way to get to the second or third floors of the house?
“I have an idea,” said Jack. “Why don’t we sit out here on the sidewalk tonight after dark and see if it happens again?”
Henry and Kevin looked at each other. Kevin had already decided that he would do it if Henry did it. Henry gave a shrug of his shoulders and said, “Why not.” Which prompted Kevin to reply that he was also game.
So it was settled. The three of them would meet on the sidewalk, opposite side of the street from 327, 9pm. They didn’t know if anything would happen, but Jack hoped to see the glow of light again.
At 9pm, Henry and Kevin joined Jack who was already sitting, staring at the house. Jack was anxious and excited. Maybe it was because it was getting him out of the house. Maybe it was because it was something different to do besides homework and old movies. It didn’t really matter. He was there with his two best friends. They hadn’t thought he was an idiot. In fact, they were indulging him in what might be a waste of time and a silly plan. It didn’t matter. Hanging out with each other was never a waste of time in any of their minds. Sitting around, doing nothing was a perfect use of time for the three of them. And, truth be told, any time spent with Henry outside of school was exciting for Jack. Not that Henry could know that, but still.
“Hey guys,” said Jack as they stopped next to him. He was sitting on the sidewalk looking up at the two of them. He watched as Henry looked across the street at 327 and them back up the road to see if anyone else was out-and-about. The street was deserted
“’Sup,” Kevin sat down next to Jack.
“Hey,” Henry sat down on the other side of Jack.
“How long you been out here?” asked Kevin.
“Just about 5 minutes,” replied Jack. “I was excited; couldn’t wait.”
Henry pulled out his cigarettes and offered one to the other two guys. With nothing better to do but sit and wait, they each took one. Henry lit all three of the cigarettes. They took a nice deep inhale and exhaled the toxins that continued to give them a rush. Kevin pulled out the flask. He still had it from the night before. He had never put it back in his father’s drawer. It seemed only natural to bring it with him on a night like this. If for nothing else, he would probably need the calming down the amber liquid inside could provide for him.
“Dude,” said Henry, holding up his hand for the “nice job” high-five. “Pass that over.” Kevin was always so proud of himself when he received any kind of praise from Henry. This was one of those moments. Kevin’s sense of belonging there was apparent on his face as he passed the flask to the one of them that he looked up to the most. His shoulders relaxed as he settled into the moment.
Henry took a swig and then offered the flask to Jack. Jack bit down on his lower lip, nodding his head, a smile forming on his lips as he took the flask and took his own drink. He grimaced. Every time, he grimaced. Whiskey was bitter and rough and it burned. It was a good burn though. Cigarettes and whiskey; euphoria was underway.
They sat there for what seemed like an hour smoking cigarettes and taking sips from the flask. They were talking about girls and about biology class and the tastefree food they had eaten in the cafeteria that day. Jack started talking about the Beowulf poem they had been assigned to read in english class. The other two guys looked at him with the same squinty-eyed, gaped-mouth look. He was the center of their “shut-up-or-I’ll-kick-your-ass” sandwich. He laughed a little and immediately changed the subject back to girls. He didn’t really get much action himself, but he had listened to Henry and Kevin tell enough stories to be able to at least start the conversation and then let them take it over. They did think they were experts on girls after all.
Just then they noticed an orange glow in 327. It wasn’t a light coming from the window on the second level. It was a glow coming from the ground level. It looked like a light that was covered by a very old, yellowed shade. They could see it to the right side of the front door. It looked like the light a person might turn on if they were walking up or down the stairs at night. The boys just sat there watching it. They didn’t even blink. They were mesmerized by the fact that there was indeed a light on in 327 that had not been on just moments before.
Without looking away Jack asked in a very steady voice, “Do you guys see that?”
“I see it,” replied Kevin. He was scared of the house already and the light only made it worse.
“Me too,” said Henry. “Do you think it’s on a timer?”
“I don’t know,” replied Jack.
If anyone had driven by at that moment, they would have done a double take at the three boys sitting on the sidewalk, unmoving, unblinking, staring at the house across the street.
Then the light went off. There was no movement inside the house. There was no movement on the sidewalk across the street from the house. The boys just sat there.
Jack felt relieved that he had seen another light in the house and Henry was intrigued by what the light meant. Kevin was just scared.
The three of them got up from the sidewalk and walked back to their respective homes. A little faster than normal, but still a walk. They didn’t really talk about the light as they walked the block. Jack’s was the driveway closest to the beginning of their road. He was the first one to leave them.
“You guys saw it right? That orangey colored light really came on?”
“Yeah bro, I saw it,” replied Henry. Kevin just stood there nodding his head.
“Okay,” said Jack. “See you guys tomorrow.”
“Later,” said Henry and Kevin in unison as they walked home themselves.
©2010 Michael Rohrer