The frosty, howling wind – rips through the abandoned house, causing the loft trap to bang profusely. Jam turns to Max and lets out a nervous chuckle – ‘scared?’ – Jam shrieks. Max looks like a deer caught in headlights – his lime green eyes have doubled in size. He pulls the loose cord on his purple hoody and tightens the hood around his woolly ginger hair; until only a small slit – hugs his red-raw cheeks. Max holds his numb fingers to his lips, forming a V sign as he breathes out a deep breath of bitter winter air; ‘let’s do it’ he exclaims.
‘One, two, three – jump!’ – shouts Max as Jam leaps onto his shoulders and reaches for the dangling loft rope, which spins like a tornado in the windy old building. As Jam tips his head back and stretches tall – he swallows a cool, thick, mouthful of saliva – which seems to involuntarily shoot back up, narrowly missing max, who appears to turn into a ninja as he skilfully evades the green slime. In his warrior moment, he forgets he has his six-stone-friend on his shoulders, and the pair tumble to the ground – both giggling as they narrowly miss a pile of crushed beer cans.
The old, abandoned mansion precariously stands at the end of an overgrown, remote field, near the village woods – a dog walking hot-spot. Thick brown branches and a heavy winter mist hang over the glassless windows like giant steaming fingers. A soggy coating of light-yellow leaves sticks to the crumbly roof, occasionally sliding through the rotten crevices – decorating the interior. The front door no longer exists; just a few steps lined in empty spray-paint cans and smashed tiles. Bright yellow letters line the front of the building – announcing ACAB and NWA to anyone who may come knocking. To the rear of the building, now past its prime – sits an old swimming pool; once the highlight of a summer day; now a stinking, stagnant swamp – with newts, toads, and frogs all living their own little village life.
Attempt number two complete – Jam tightly grips the rope and pulls the perilous ladder from the hatch. The pair unfold the wooden steps and prepare to see if the rumour is true – boxes of “human bones” found hidden in the eerie old building. ‘You first’ Max announces – ‘pussy’ Jam retorts as he steps onto the ladder. The pair gingerly make their way up the creaky steps as Jam’s torch illuminates the ominous loft hatch. Jam reaches the top of the ladder, and hoists himself inside, clinging onto a wooden beam. Max follows and Jam helps to pull him up – pretending to see a ghost in the process; ‘Idiot!!’ echoes throughout the entire building, as Max quivers like a scared canine.
A musty, damp smell fills the biting cold air which chills them to their fragile bones. The pair stay close together as they carefully inspect the loft – using Jam’s torch. An old leather bags sits in the centre of the room; filled to the brim with patterned crockery, which Max can’t resist tipping onto the floor. The satisfying sound of smashing china lightens their mood as they have a game of plate frisbee – using the wall as a partner. ‘Look at those boxes!’ Jam announces as his torch glows up a high stacked pile of square shapes, pushed into the far corner, ‘cool!’ Max retorts. They carefully tiptoe towards the boxes – trying their best to stay on the wooden boards; ‘please don’t slip, please don’t slip’ Max mutters as he thinks about his funeral. They make it to the boxes in one piece and dive in like it’s Christmas day.
Jam tosses the contents of the biggest box onto the floor; more crockery, a few old books, and some photos lay messily at the pair’s feet. Max swipes up a handful of photos and shouts – ‘gimme some light!’. Looking through the black and white photos – they see a married couple’s collection of wedding and holiday photos. Jam flicks through the pictures – admiring their felt hats; he announces – ‘I wish I had one of those hats’. Max begins to feel spooked as the (happy) photo memories appear to get darker, and the tall, handsome man in a suit, and dolled up young woman – become a bitter looking old man and unhappy, disconsolate looking woman. Max is sure the man is staring him directly in the eyes; with a murdering looking countenance. He turns to jam and shrieks – ‘can we go now’ – ‘five minutes’ retorts Jam.
Searching through another box – Jam finds a small harmonica, not much bigger than his little finger. He hands his torch to Max and begins to play a sweet-sounding tune; slightly resembling someone in pain, nevertheless – the spooky atmosphere is lightened once more. Max stuffs the torch into his pocket and digs his frozen fingers into the box – pulling out an old flowery duvet, which is wrapped around something firm.
Violently shaking the duvet – a knocking sound – like hollow wood banging together – echoes through the room – causing Jam to stop his soothing melody. He snatches the torch back off Max and shines the bright light at the floorboards. Jam and Max’s eyes witness what appears to be two long, thin, chalky bones – possibly femurs; sat beside a perfectly shaped skull, which looks like it’s grinning – with its felt hat on. The pair pierce the air with a scream, worthy of any opera ballad – and advance towards the hatch.
‘The ladder’s gone!’ shrieks Max as he grabs hold of Jam like a frightened toddler; Jam shines his torch through the gap and sees the wooden steps in a heap on the floor. Was it the wind? Was it a ghost? These thoughts race through the kids’ minds – causing adrenalin to shoot through their veins, sending them into a paroxysm of panic. ‘Throw the blanket!’ Jam exclaims; Max complies – and he tosses the flowery old bedspread out of the hatch – landing directly below the gap. Like an agile monkey – Jam dangles from the edge of the loft and counts to three – then lands as gracefully as a ballet dancer as he dusts himself off. Max gets ready to jump as Jam shines the torch at him; until the battery decides to end its life, leaving Max uncontrollably shaking, petrified, and surrounded by an oppressive darkness.
Max’s mind is a jumble of horror scenes; mostly – the man slicing his wife’s legs and head off – burying her – and keeping her bones as a memory. He closes his eyes and the photo comes to life as the Man stares at him, opens his mouth, and shouts – ‘Get out my house!!’ Max doesn’t hang around; he makes a conjectural leap for the hatch and hits the duvet, stumbling and landing on the pile of beer cans. The pair appear uninjured and make a run for the front door (gap). It’s now getting dark as Jam turns to look back at the fading house – he’s sure the graffiti now says HAHA.
A haunted house, or pranking kids? – either way – the pair make the most of the adrenalin rush and sprint home – as Jam announces – ‘I’ll bring an extra battery next time’.
A.T Hawthorn – 21.8.19