Monsters: Chapter 1
There are 7000 residents in the town of St Argent and life remains in a constant state of normalcy, but a group of teens are about to discover this town is about to be host to 7001.
The clock on the mantlepiece clicked quietly in the background as the flicker of the television screen filled the dark room with brightly coloured light. The floor was like that of a landscape in the late evening as the sun began to set, mounds of blankets like rolling hills, their occupants unmoving and fast asleep. The only thing in the room that moved was a tall boy, who sat on the edge of the sofa, enamoured by the movie he intently watched.
“Swallow the bullet, asshole.” Came a heroic voice on the screen, before a loud bang echoed across the room.
Terry reeled back against the pillow of the sofa as the bright light shone with a florescent red, the sound of blood curdling filling the boy’s ears. He smiled and reached out at thin air until his hand made contact with the coke can on the side table, bringing it excitedly to his lips and taking a big gulp. He heard from below him a muffled groan, as a thin shape began to twist and writhe beneath the blanket. Then, a face, groggy-eyed and puffy-faced appeared from the sea of material and looked confusedly up at Terry.
“Terry? What time is it?” Alex croaked, looking from the electrified face of Terry to the television screen, which now showed a large man cleaning the end of a revolver and looking charmingly into the sunrise. She waited for a while, debating whether Terry had actually heard her. “Terry?” Her voice was course but loud enough to snap him out of the trance he was in.
“Huh? What?” Terry looked down at his sister, his thoughts still on the movie and how awesome it had been when the monster’s head had exploded with blood and gore.
“What time is it?” She asked again, frustration now growing on her face.
“3:30 last time I checked.” His face had already resumed its stare at the television once again, the light making his face look like smooth wax and his eyes glow with a blue obsession.
“And when was the last time you checked?” She asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Ten minutes ago. Maybe twenty.”
Alex huffed and got up from her nest of sheets, lazily walking over to the light switch before flicking it on. Terry recoiled like a vampire in sunlight, throwing his arms over his eyes and mumbling a few swears. Alex then made her way around the room, kicking the other heaps of blankets on the floor.
“Come on, guys. Wake up. It’s time for the game!” Alex said, followed by new groans and muffled outcries as shapes began to contort on the carpet.
“It isn’t a game, AJ! Loads of people on the internet are using the app and finding some pretty creepy stuff.” Said Terry, Alex turning to shoot him a quick glare. Terry quickly remembered why he shouldn’t call her that in front of her friends, threatening Terry with broccoli for a month if any of them found out her middle name was Janet.
Alex walked quietly out the room and down the hallway until she reached the kitchen at the back of the house. Her hand trailed against the smooth wall for a brief moment before finding the light switch, the room buzzing to life in a flash. It was a small room with old oak counters that had seen better days, which had ended sometime in the mid 1960’s, and yellow wallpaper which peeled in large clumps up and down the wall. Even the refrigerator, which was only a year old and had been transferred straight from Queens where Terry and Alex’s parents lived in their luxury 1 bedroom apartment, held a murky white colour that almost made Alex puke right there in the doorway.
Alex’s gaze then fell upon the pile of dishes, which sourced a foul smell that soured in her nostrils and made her feel even more sick than she already felt. Next to the dishes was a tall stack of pizza boxes, small ends of pizza sticking out like the remains of fallen soldiers in a large casket. For a moment she stared at the mess, wondering what to tackle first, but yawned widely and resigned to doing the washing up later. Instead she made her way lazily over to the coffee machine, clicking the many glowing buttons before watching her mug fill slowly with dark brown liquid.
She could now hear her friend’s voices coming from the living room, all sounding less than impressed about having to get up at 3am in search of ghouls and ghosts for her brother’s 14th birthday. It had taken a lot of persuasion and bartering for Alex to get her friends to all come along for his birthday, as Terry didn’t have any friends of his own and often spent his birthday with his sister, their parents hardly ever making the effort to travel down to come see them.
“Come on, Terry, isn’t there something you’d rather do? Maybe in the morning at a reasonable time?” Grumbled Monty, Alex’s boyfriend, who had moaned repeatedly about the nightly escapade.
“Button it, Monty! We’re going.” Alex called from the kitchen, plunging a spoon into the mug of coffee and swirling it apathetically.
She took hold of the cup and made her way back into the living room, now filled with a mass of slumped over figures, all rubbing the sleep from their eyes and yawning profusely. The room was small and seemed even smaller filled with her friends and brother. In the corner sat the TV, now hidden slightly behind her friend Milly, who was brushing the knots out of her hair and staring thoughtlessly out into the room. Next to her sat Todd, a scruffy boy with a face full of hair that guarded a smile of crooked teeth and an uneven nose which pointed and curled like that of a fishing hook. Milly and Todd had been dating since nursery and were almost inseparable, except from the nights that him and Monty would meet to smoke pot in the old Jefferson Garden in the centre of town.
Alex’s gaze then naturally trailed to look at her boyfriend, who was lazily sat leaning against the foot of the sofa, sparking up a cigarette and watching the swirling smoke drift lifelessly from his nostrils, eventually blowing out a solid plume from his mouth. He huffed, his eyes drifting up to meet Alex’s. They were the colour of cooked almonds and always held a cheekiness to them, which Alex liked. Then came the usual crooked smirk, which usually meant Monty’s mind was making some sort of joke about her in his head.
She rolled her eyes and gazed down at Pete, who was still laying half asleep by her feet. His mouth was agape, and he breathed in deeply, prompting another slight kick from Alex, his eyes flying open in half-dazed confusion. His skin was even darker than usual in the fake light of the television, a tattoo of his family’s initials reading from the base of his neck down to the centre of his chest. Alex slowly read each initial from the almost invisible ink, having always envied Pete for his family and how they always supported each other.
Thoughts began to whirl inside her head and settled on the memories of many Christmases and birthdays spent alone with only her brother for company. It was her and Terry against the world, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything. Her brother was everything to her and she knew they’d do anything for each other. She noticed her thoughts trailing and so looked casually over to the sofa to see her excited brother almost vibrating where he sat with building elation.
Alex took a seat next to her brother and nudged him. “Happy 14th birthday, champ!” She said, giving him a wide smile and grabbing at his cheeks, making Terry twist and turn with embarrassment.
“Thanks Alex.” He said through a toothy grin.
“Right, how do we play this game then?” She asked, getting out a phone from her pyjama pocket.
“So, you open the app and then click on Reaching Out. When it asks, speak into the phone and tell it whatever you want to find.” Replied Terry.
She clicked on an app which made her screen go pitch black, a large and mysterious looking logo fading in slowly from the darkness. The logo was creepy, a skull smiling up at her with glowing red eyes and a mouth featuring rows of sharp, pointed teeth. Then a menu appeared with many different options and games to play.
“In this case, I think we should look for something tame, like a haunted house, just in case ol’ soppy bullocks over there gets scared.” Terry continued, gesturing over his shoulder at Monty, who was still mesmerised by the smoke that arose from the many holes in his face.
“You better watch it. If he hears you, he’s gonna want to lock you in the basement again, and I’m not stopping him this time.” Alex mused, taking a sip of her coffee and feeling the warm liquid slowly pull her from the depths of lethargy.
“I’m 14 now. And I’m almost a foot taller. He won’t be able to pick on me for much longer.” Terry said, puffing out his chest like one of the superheroes he liked to watch on TV.
Alex laughed and looked back down at her phone. There was definitely something eerie about the way the app was displayed and made her feel a little uneasy. She held the phone close to her mouth and spoke the words ‘haunted house’ into it, watching it remain quiet for a long moment before displaying a set of coordinates and at what time to visit. Alex looked at Terry with a questioning look, trying to convey the question for the final time of whether he really wanted to do this, but with the face he stared back with the answer was very obvious. Yes.
It didn’t take long for the group to get ready, as all of them, bar Terry, wished to get the activity over and done with as quickly as possible. Terry was the first one out of the door, walking down the garden path before stopping short, taking in a big deep breath of the night air and letting it fill him with an unseen energy. Alex watched from the threshold of the door, seeing Terry observe the surrounding lifeless houses of the cul-de-sac.
One by one the others made their way outside and stood at the end of the garden, all talking amongst themselves except Terry. After Alex had made sure the door was locked, the group slowly made their way down the road, following the maps on their phones to the coordinates.
It was unusually chilly for a September night, the slow wind piercing Alex’s fur jacket and whipping at her skin. There was something about air in the middle of the night that stung at the nostrils and stabbed icily at the throat. It was untouched air. Air that hadn’t been tainted. It was creepily still on the roads and the houses sat lifeless as they passed, only the occasionally barking of a stray dog or the hooting of an owl to remind them they weren’t alone in the wild land of the night. Alex took in a breath that almost exploded her lungs and she felt like she could walk for miles on this air, coursing through her like a drug in her veins.
She gripped tighter at Monty’s hand and then grabbed for Terry’s, half skipping down the road as she felt a new type of adventurous spirit overcome her.
“You’re excited about this?” Monty asked, looking at Alex with a mix of disgust and confusion.
“And what if I am. It’s kinda exciting exploring somewhere that may hold something spooky.” She gleamed.
“See, now you’re getting it, Alex! This is what life is all about.” Said Terry, taking her hand in his and adopting the same bounce she had in her step.
Their trek took them into the shallows of the large forest that sat at the edge of town, a small path being the only thing to guide them in the sea of woodland. It was pitch black now and the tall, looming trees shrouded them from the light of the moon, which had helped guide them for most of the way so far. Slowly, lights began to shine from each member’s phones, revealing the sand path beneath their feet. Alex could tell the others were nervous about what they might encounter, huddling tighter to one another as time went on and occasionally shining their lights into the void of the forest, finding nothing but rows of thick trunks, disappearing far into the wilderness.
Milly gripped at Todd’s arm and seemed to react with every sound that echoed out into the night. Monty looked from tree to tree, his hands becoming clammy with a cold sheen in Alex’s clasp. Pete was the least phased by the night, as he still seemed half asleep, sometimes stumbling over a stray rock, which everyone else had managed to avoid. Alex had known Pete longer than anyone else in the group, as the two had grown up on the same street and often played together after school. She was 11 when he had moved to the other end of St Argent, but it didn’t stop her from making the trek across the large town to see him.
Alex and Terry had lived in the town mostly all their lives, half of which was spent on their own. Though the town was the largest in the area, roughly around 300 square miles and hosted a large woodland that was popular amongst hikers and river explorers, the town was home to only 7000 people, often referred to as Washington’s ghost town. Alex liked the town’s emptiness. Everyone knew each other here and there was always a sense of neighbourly friendship between one another.
Terry felt otherwise though, never able to find someone like himself. Alex had always felt bad for Terry, often coming home to find him covered in bruises from the other kids who had tormented him for being different. Alex knew Terry would never accept St Argent, and feared that he may never leave the town, spending his life wishing for a different one.
She felt sadness overcome her for a moment and from it came an anger for their parents, who abandoned Terry when he needed them the most.
Alex gripped Terry’s hand tighter and quickened their pace, seeing the familiar streetlights of Jointer Avenue glare out into the darkness.
“I think we’re here, T.” Said Alex, looking down at her phone and seeing the two dots that indicated their own position and their destination getting closer and closer.
The group gathered on the curb, one by one looking down at the illuminated screen. Realisation slowly dawned on each of their faces as they saw what street they were standing in. They all looked up the road, past the newly built houses, toward a large, blackened house that had been stained with age and weathering over the hundred years it had stood there. It lay utterly lifeless, bar a single window which glowed with the orange hew of candlelight, flickering brightly against the old walls inside.
“Well, we’ve definitely found your haunted house, Terry. I don’t think you needed the app to tell you that though.” Chuckled Milly, though her laughed seemed forced and fell flat after a few seconds.
“I told you it was a waste of time, Alex.” Spoke Monty, reaching into his pocket and returning with a pack of cigarettes, pulling one lightly from the packet with his teeth.
Alex stared at the large house for a long moment, its looming presence in the street making her feel depressed and sombre just by looking at it. The house had been one of the first to be built around the town and belonged to a family called the Roswells, a powerful and rich family who had helped build the town from the ground up. Alex had been told the many folktales and legends about the house and how it had been host to devil worshipping and wicked murders but had never believed in them herself. The most believable story was that the father of the family, Mathew Roswell had committed suicide due to rising debt that he and his family had collected, forcing the family to sell the house and relocate.
The house was now owned by Jefferson Colt, an old man who would chase anyone away who dared to trespass on his land. He was a hulking man and boasted large, thick arms and broad shoulders, his face heavily scarred and thick with a sharply cut beard. He had sent a kid to hospital with a broken rib once for simply grabbing a ball on his property.
Everyone was scared of the man and for good reason. Alex swore she would never venture anywhere near the house and now, staring down at the hulking mass in the witching hours of the night, she felt an icy chill run down her spine which made her stomach feel like it was falling right through her and down to the floor.
“I guess we should just turn back then?” Alex said, putting her phone back into her trouser pocket, trying desperately to tear her eyes from the house.
“Well, I definitely ain’t going into the Roswell House. No way.” Said Monty through slitted lips, everyone giving nods of approval around him.
Terry went to say something but before he could, the sound of screeching tires echoed down the street, sending the group running into the bushes along the side of the road, ducking so they wouldn’t get caught. They watched as an old, busted-up mustang rumbled loudly past where they crouched, a boy with long, curled black hair hanging out of the driver-side window, analysing each house through dark tinted glasses before focusing on the Roswell house at the end. His car lurched forward and in seconds the car was parked impetuously on the long driveway.
For a moment, the night returned to its still silence, the group looking from one to the other in astonishment of the bravery of the strange young boy in the car. Then, like the sound of nails on a chalk board, the door to the car creaked open, the boy leaping out and slamming it shut, the sound like that of a gunshot. With a small rucksack around his shoulder, the boy casually walked up the path and knocked sluggishly on the door, his hair waving rapidly in the growing wind.
Alex watched as the door sprung open, the boy pausing to analyse the detail of the house before stepping into the darkness, the door slamming shut behind him. Then the night was quiet once again and even the members of the group couldn’t find any words to say and simply stared at the house at the end of the street.