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Truth or Dare?

by Maegan Heil

By Maegan HeilPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 4 min read
AI-Generated Image by Maegan Heil

I was no scaredy-cat.

“Dare,” I said to the balloon of Bubble Yum covering most of Steph’s face.

Smack.

Steph peeled the pink wad from her nose and tossed it back into her mouth. “I dare you to go into Uncle Herb’s room.”

I groaned.

“Yes!” Steven hip-bumped his twin sister and held up his hand for a high-five.

Steph rolled her eyes.

“Shoulda ch-chose Truth. Shoulda ch-chose Truth.” Lenny circled around me like he had to go to the bathroom.

“Chill out, Lenny,” Frankie said. He hooked an arm around Steph’s neck and threatened to rub a noogie. “Come on, Steph. Pick a new one.”

Steph broke free from Frankie’s grip and stared me in the eye. “I double-dog dare you,” she said and trotted down the hall.

The rest of our pack followed.

The five of us were cousins, related on my mom’s side. Frankie was the oldest, Steph and Steven were the twins, Lenny was the runt, and I was the youngest.

“You know, chewing gum is bad for dogs,” Steven called from the back of the line.

“Woof,” Steph said without turning around.

We huddled around the door to the basement which was now Uncle Herb’s room, thanks to Mom taking him in last spring. He was the only one of Mom’s siblings who didn’t have kids. We joked it was because he ate them, but Mom insisted Uncle Herb would be good to have around—like a watchdog. Dad said he seemed more like a scavenger.

Steven folded back his arms, pecked his head at me, and made a clucking noise.

“I’m not chicken,” I said. I pointed at the two-by-four jammed across the door—Uncle Herb’s makeshift lock. “Besides, he’s not even down there.”

Some watchdog.

Steph cocked her head. “Then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“It’s not a problem.” I stepped forward and reached for the wood.

Steph darted in front of me and batted my arm aside. “Wait, there’s rules. You can’t just run down and back. You have to stay for at least ten minutes and bring up a memento.”

“A memento?” I said.

“You can’t be serious— Frankie started.

Steph's eyes narrowed. “How else are we gonna know he didn’t just sit at the top of the stairs the whole time?”

“Yeah,” said Steven.

“Y-y-yeah,” said Lenny.

I shrugged like it was no sweat and nudged Steph out of the way.

“Lenny, go get the timer,” Steph barked.

Lenny scurried to the junk drawer and retrieved an egg-shaped ticker. Steph cranked the top half and held it in place. “Ready when you are.”

I lifted the stud and leaned it against the wall. Heat from Steven’s breath dampened the back of my neck as I twisted the knob. I threw an elbow into his ribs. “Give me some room, will ya?”

Steven yelped and hobbled away.

The door creaked open.

Light flooded the stairwell and my shadow elongated before me. I watched it distort with each step and didn’t turn around until I had met up with my normal-shaped silhouette at the bottom.

Steph waved bye-bye like a two-year-old then clicked the door closed.

I held my breath and peeked around the wall. In the fireplace, a leftover pile of smouldering coals barely illuminated the room. In front of the hearth, a fur rug warmed the floor. A clock ticked above the mantle.

Eight-thirty.

In the corner, a rickety bookcase full of junk teetered like the last move in a Jenga game. I inched my way towards it, bypassing the obstacles strewn about the floor. Books with chewed-up bindings. What was left of four single slippers, of all different sizes. The remains of a baby blanket—wait, my baby blanket—with holes in the middle and a torn silk border. A stack of tattered newspapers. A picture frame covered in dust.

Bingo.

I wiped the glass and studied Uncle Herb’s photo.

What big eyes…

Eight thirty-six.

I rubbed away the remaining grime.

What big ears…

My foot caught a bump in the rug and the frame went flying.

The bump grunted.

Uncle Herb?

Uncle Herb rolled onto his back, and his muzzle flopped open, exposing a set of pointy canines.

The better to eat me with.

I bolted for the stairs and Uncle Herb stirred behind me. He rose on all fours and shook out his matted coat. I galloped up the treads three-at-a-time, then shoved the basement door open so hard that it bounced off the wall and banged itself shut. I jammed the two-by back into place, ran to my bedroom, and slammed the door behind me. The hinge pins popped loose and the slab fell cockeyed.

Steph didn’t even look up from her book, and Frankie, Steven, and Lenny were down on their haunches playing Mouse Trap.

“We have to get out of here.” I panted. “Uncle Herb is…is—I don’t know what he is, I just know we need to go!”

Steven fumbled with a plastic lever and a steel ball went flying. “This game’s lame!”

“Hey!” I shouted. “Didn’t you hear me?”

Steph winked at me. “Settle in, Buster.” She extended her hind leg and scratched behind her ear with a furry toe. “There’s a full moon tonight.”

Frankie, Steven, and Lenny tilted their snouts in the air and howled at the window.

I dashed for the opening but stopped short in my tracks. A beam of moonlight cast a mirror in the pane, and I caught a glimpse of my own reflection.

And I looked just like them.

Short StoryHorror

About the Creator

Maegan Heil

Maegan Heil spent her childhood searching for quarters between the seats of her family’s movie theater. All that time around the silver screen sparked a love for story and a passion for writing.

For more Maegan, click here.

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Comments (1)

  • Kendall Defoe about a year ago

    Wow. I think I might be a scaredy cat... :)

Maegan HeilWritten by Maegan Heil

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