Above us was the fixture where some sort of light must have been set. A chandelier, maybe. But whatever had been there was gone now, leaving an empty circle in it's place, like an [[eye socket|orwait]] glaring at [[us|empty]].\n\n
"Yes, of course."\n\nHer lip twitched at the corner. "You can always stand watch outside."\n\n"I'm <i>fi</i>ne!" Even if I wasn't, I knew standing alone outside was a thousand times worse than [[following them in|enter]].
Spite at [[her|hated]].\n\n
I'd like to say it was some irresitable, intangible force that lured me up that staircase, but truth be told, it was mostly [[spite|hate]]. Spite at my sister's manipulations, that even at that young light-blinded age I could tell was not quite right. Spite at her stupid troupe of boys. \n\n
Because deep down, I hated these nights. I hated them and wanted to lash out at her in some way, whatever way I could. And by going up those steps, I knew I could scratch her pride in two places: by going against one of the rare rules she insisted I [[follow|afraid]],
The House With Nothing In It
<center>[[p l e a s e|help]]</center>
<i><center>[[p l e a s e|woah]]</center></i>
there was nothing there.
And despite everything, I could not stop myself from taking [[one last look back|onelastime]].
Yes, it would be very foolish for me to put my foot on the [[first step|1]].
Things sat [[at the edges of the room|allways]], hunched under [[white sheets|whitesheets]].
Around the eyes, the darkness bulged. The [[voice|come]] was moving.
It would be astoundingly stupid to ascend to the [[second step|2]].
I did not uncover any of [[them|furniture]].
An empty attic with an obvious rickety floor. A floor missing boards and bleeding pink insulation through the cracks.\n\n"If you had stepped out on that," my sister said, "[[there is pretty much no way it wouldn't have given out under your weight|woah2]]."
My sister sighed quietly through her teeth.\n\nAt that point I decided it would be a good time to take [[my leave|escape]].
<p style="text-align: right;">I [[ascended|spite]].</p>
Slowly their voices dissappeared [[behind me|M]].\n\n
I remember the quivering shadows of my knees against the unkempt grass, my mind half a world away and anxiously noting each second ticking past our curfew. [[My sister|sister]], with her shiny black hair and shiny white smile, had roped in a few boys to come along for her latest “expedition." They smelled strongly of adolescence and nervousness, but all in all were highly generic. They were props, a backdrop to the real star of the show, the urban explorer.\n\nAnd me.\n\n
"...what? Why are you all looking at me like [[that|whatdid]]?"
Yes, stairs. Simple and wooden, and leading to an unseen second floor. Well, the house had looked pretty large, it only made sense for it to have a second floor.\n\nConsequently, it made very little sense for me to visit it. My sister had warned me about the stairs of old houses. They could be [[dangerous|firststep]], she had said, fragile.
<center>[[p l e a s e|darker3]]</center>
[[But, of course,|nothingatall]]
The walls were as bare as the floor, but upon a closer look I could see faint squares on them, an equidistant amount of space in between each one. The spaces where paintings or photos must have hung, I realized. It felt strange to register that this place had not always been an abandoned ruin--someone had lived here, walked down the halls, swept the floors.\n\nUsed the [[stairs|stairs]].
What was I still doing [[here|ok]]?
"What," hissed the space by my ear, "the <i>fuck</i> are you [[doing|hand]]?!"
<i><center>c o m e \n t o \n [[m e|shift]]</center></i>
"Are you afraid?" she had asked.\n\n"Yeah," I mumbled to the ground. "How did you know?"\n\nShe snorted. "You’re always afraid." It was less malicious than it should have been—she said it with [[endearment|sister2]].
I held the trembling light of the phone out in a feeble attempt to ward off the darkness. "S...stay still." I tried to sound more sure than I felt. "I'm [[coming|inhale]]."
I shifted on my feet. The voice-- [[the person|stuck]], it had to be a person, what else could have a voice? Something was strange in their words, they drew out the sounds slightly too long...but couldn't that just be some effect of drug or drink?
The same boy snorted. "Man, the only thing we're going to <i>experience</i> in here is [[abstinence|dot]]."
My sister turned away from me, and for a handful of heartbeats, the arc of her flashlight's beam swung [[into the furthest corner of the attic|despite]].
I looked between the attic and her eyes. I [[swallowed|nothing]].
"So." The tallest boy cleared his throat. "Can we go in now?"\n\nMy sister looked to me. "You [[coming|yes]]?"\n
and stepped towards [[the darkness|lack]].
Far too many times my twelve year old self was found standing outside yet another unfamiliar house at midnight. \n\nThose nights always saw me in my usual role: a cling-on, fingers in a vicegrip around my older sister’s wrist as if she were a lifeline. She with her obsession for exploration, she with her total defiance of words like “danger” or “fear.” Those nights she had always promised me that nothing would ever happen to us, and true to her word, [[nothing|but]] ever did.
Almost like a [[mouth|inside]].
Hallways crept outward in two directions, but wherever they led was obscured by [[the darkness|chandelier]].
[[I took a deep breath|into]]
[[I stood at the top of the steps|dark]].
And it would be an extraordinarily massive lack of logic that would lift my foot to the [[third step|3]].
What if they were stuck? What if they were [[hurt|here]]?
"Damn straight." The space between her eyebrows crumpled, and for one moment I thought she was going to cry. But an instant later her face was smooth. "Damn straight it was nothing."\n\nA heavy sigh left her lips. "The boys are right downstairs. [[We're going home|turn]]."
"You know, that [[powdery shit|asbestos]] that makes you sick?"
"Damn, there's like, nothing here," a boy said. "Just an old empty-ass house."\n\n"That's the point." Here in the night was where my sister would begin to sound a little impatient. "The point is exploring an abandonded place. The point is the <i> [[experience|experience]]</i>, not finding stuff."\n
<i>It's furniture</i>, I thought to myself. <i>If you [[uncovered them|undercover]] you'd find nothing but some fancy chairs or a sofa</i>.
But once—and only once—[[nothing|storystart]] came close.
\nThe boys, I suspect, came along because they figured she might make out with [[one of them|boys2]]. (She never did.)
"Asbestos, abstinence, whatever you call it I don't want [[any part of it|sigh]]!"
Her flashlight shone to where I had seen something shifting under the darkness.\n\nBut nothing was there. Just [[an empty attic|attic]].
"Shit, it's really dark in here." A boy's voice floated put of the blackness. "Maybe we should have brought [[flashlights|light]]."
<center>The door \n\ns w u n g [[open|open]]\n\n \nsmoothly, silently.</center>
<center>It was [[darker|darker2]] than ever.</center>
Somehow some part of me expected the eyes that threw back the faint light of my phone. What I hadn't expected was the [[soft, vaguely slurred voice|please3]] that accompanied it out of the darkness.
I loved that light too, and she knew it. That's how she got me to keep quiet about these late-night expeditions. Our parents would have just about dropped dead if they knew how many times we had snuck out of the house to muck around abandoned buildings--but not before slaughtering us.\n\nI knew it was bad, more importantly, I knew <i>why</i> it was bad--Mom always said how places like that crawled with drug addicts and wild-eyed men who were capable of doing the most terrible things to children. I knew fully [[what we were risking|sister4]], sneaking into those places at night, but never was I once able to summon the nerve to protest.\n\nI guess that light blinded me too.
When you're that young teenagers look like titans to you. My sister's friends were goddesses of long legs and rolled eyes, but my sister was something entirely different. It wasn't just a trick of my twelve year old eyes--everyone knew she had a certain something that just made people like her. \n\nIt wasn't until a few months after that still night that I would find a name for that certain something: <i>charisma</i>. She exuded it like [[light|sister3]], and backdrop boys would flock to her like dizzy moths.\n\n
Mind you, she wasn't <i>stupid</i>. She knew the risks too--that's why we always had an entourage of her friends accompanying us. Though, "friends" may have been stretching it. Her friends typically thought of her love of exploring as a charming (if mildly dangerous) quirk to be politely ignored. No, the boys that came with us those nights were typically random track team members and football players she knew in vague passing.\n\nThough looking back on it, I vaguely suspect she brought them along not so much for protection as much as she did to have witnesses for her power. To prove to herself that she could simple ask anyone she pleased and have a [[crowd of groupies|boys]] to follow her like the teenage queen she was.\n
and by going to [[the one place|top]] she was too afraid to go.
"How many times!" My sister's beautiful face was contorted, the crease between her dark eyebrows emphasised by her shaking flashlight. "How many times have I told you to not go off by yourself, and ABSOLUTELY do NOT go up [[old stairs|stairsfine]]?!"
"I...I didn't..." My head was spinning. "The stairs were fine."\n\n"For the love of..." I had never seen her this angry. "For<i>get</i> the damn stairs," [[look|look]]!"
We stood in the middle of a square of dusty bare floor. Probably some sort of [[living room|furniture]]. \n\n
"Do you understand why I'm so angry? Not to mention there might be rabid animals in places like this, rusty nails, tetanus...Jesus Christ, [[what on EARTH could have made you want to try walking into that?|swallow]]"
My footsteps were soft on the floor. \n\n\nSlowly the darkness swallowed [[me|phone]].
"[[What did you|malproper]]..."
<i>Or maybe a mouth,</i> my mind [[whispered|chandelier]].
A rough hand yanked me [[backwards|howmany]].
I slipped my sister's phone out of my pocket, giving myself a tiny ball of dim light. The screen reported that it was 12:33.\n\nThe [[hall|hallwayagain]] was quiet and empty.
<center>I</center>\n<center>n</center>\n<center>s</center>\n<center>t</center>\n<center>a</center>\n<center>n</center>\n<center>t</center>\n<center>l</center>\n<center>y</center>\n\n\n\na beam of light split the darkness. Someone near me jumped. "You really think I didn't consider that?" My sister's smile floated above the flashlight's glow. "I've got a few in my bag, we can split them up."\n\nA few more spots of light joined my sisters, and the boys began trailing their flashlights around the house. As I had been given the lofty postion of Holding The Cell Phone, I decided to pass on asking for a flashlight. I was content to watch where the boys aimed [[their lights|hallway]]. \n
"If you're sure." She turned to the others. "Alright, I scoped this place out before. No locks or alarms or anything, it's totally free to go in and out without a fuss."\n\n\n\n\n\n\n"There's [[nothing|enterforreal]] to worry about."