It's crazy how one event can change the whole course of your life. One bad decision, one mistake, one action... it can can change everything. It's scary to think about. When I was younger, I would walk through life like everything would stay the way it was. Boy, was I wrong.
It was the beginning of Summer, and my best friend, Gavin, and me were looking for a Summer job. I had come across a job opening as a groundskeeper at an old castle. I ran to Gavin's house and opened the door.
"Gavin!" I yelled from the bottom of the steps.
"Don't you ever knock?" He asked, walking from his room.
He came down the stairs and I showed him the job.
He looked at the job description and looked at me.
"A grounds-keeping job? At an old castle? In the summer?" He asked, looking at me.
"Do I even have to explain to you the dangers? We're going to be working outside in the summer. What if one of us gets a heat stroke? And as for the old castle, you never know what kind of creepy crawlers are in there." He said, and shivered.
"We need jobs, and it seems like a good change from flipping burgers." I said.
He sighed and scratched his head.
"Okay, I guess let's apply." He said.
"I already did. We start tomorrow."
He looked at me and growled.
"You're lucky you're my best friend."
The rocks crumbled under the tires and I drove to the castle. A man was standing by the gate. Gavin and me got out of the truck and walked over to him.
"You two must be Dylan and Gavin." He said.
"Yes, sir." I said as we all shook hands.
"Okay, so, today, you guys need to pick weeds, water the grass, and trim the hedges."
"You got it." Gavin said.
"The tools are in that shed over there. And do not, under any circumstances, go inside."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Some people say it's haunted, but I just say it's dangerous." He said and left.
I put on some gardening gloves and a bag and began to pull weeds while Gavin watered the grass.
After about two hours of pulling weeds all around the building, I stood up and wiped my forehead.
Gavin ran over to me, grabbed my arm, and dragged me to the front of the building.
"What are you doing?!" I asked.
"There's a bear!" Gavin screamed.
I saw a giant bear running towards us.
"In the truck!" Gavin yelled.
"No, Gavin! It'll tear the truck to shreds. In the castle!" I said.
"The man said we can't go in there under any circumstances."
"Gavin, a giant bear is about to attack us, I don't think we have a choice!" I shouted and we ran into the castle. I shut the door and locked it. I fell to the ground, breathing hard.
After a few minutes, I stood up.
"Do you think it's gone?" Gavin asked.
"I don't know. We should stay in here just to be safe, though."
Gavin took out a flashlight and pointed it down the hall.
"You have a flashlight?" I asked.
"Better safe than sorry." He replied as we slowly walked down the hallway.
The hallway led to a big living room. There were antique couches and a large, red rug in the middle. An unlit fireplace stood in front of the couches.
"Whoa..." Gavin said.
"This is amazing." I said in awe.
A grand piano stood at the bottom of a large staircase.
We slowly walked up the stairs.
A painting of a man was hung on the wall. He had a pained look on his face. His eyes were narrow and he was wearing a jacket. An engraving was below.
"Henry Dixon-Harrison: Our king, in life and death." I read aloud.
"That's not creepy at all." Gavin said.
We continued to explore.
"Tell me again the reason why were are looking around." Gavin asked.
"You have the flashlight. You led us up here." I said.
"Should we go back?"
"What? No! Are you crazy?"
We walked into a room with paintings covering the walls.
"These are amazing." I said.
Gavin and I stopped at a painting. It was of a small boy. He had blue eyes and dark hair.
"Why are you staring at that painting?" Gavin asked.
"I don't know."
As I stared at the painting, we heard a door slam. I kept my eyes on the painting.
"Dylan, what was that?" Gavin whispered.
"What?" I asked, looking away.
"I heard a loud slam. You didn't hear that?"
"How could you not hear that? It sounded like it was close. If this is some joke, this isn't the time."
"Gavin, I'm telling the truth. I heard nothing."
"Well, come on." Gavin said and pointed his flashlight towards the hall.
"It sounded like it came from over here." He said and carefully walked down the hall.
Another slam echoed through the halls and I jumped.
"Did you hear that?" Gavin asked.
"There has to be someone in here with us."
"Yes, a ghost!" Gavin shouted.
"No, I meant someone living. Don't jump to conclusions." I said.
"Dylan, who would be in here with us?! This castle has been empty for the longest time!"
"Well, don't tell yourself it's a ghost. You'll freak yourself out. Thinking like that makes everything ten times creepier."
"Let's just go see if the bear is gone." Gavin said and we went back down the hall. When we got back outside, the bear was gone. When I drove home, Gavin kept talking about the ghost.
"Gavin, it's not a ghost. I think you're overreacting." I sighed.
"Something is in there!"
"It's an old castle. You're going to hear noises."
That night, I was awakened by a screech.
I quickly sat up and looked everywhere, my eyes darting from one side of the room to the other.
I sighed and walked into the bathroom to rinse my face. I picked up a towel and dried my face, but when I put the towel down, I looked in the mirror.
A small child, the exact same child from the castle painting, stood behind me, a blank expression on his face.
I screamed and turned around to see nothing.
I didn't go back to sleep. I stayed awake, drinking coffee.
Gavin walked in and I looked at him.
"Damn, what happened to you? You look like a hairless bear with bags under his eyes."
"Thanks." I sighed.
"No, I mean, you're flushed, you have bags under your eyes, and your eyes are bloodshot."
"I didn't get much sleep. I've been awake for the past seven hours." I yawned.
"Oh. Well, come on. It's time to go to work."
As I was driving to the castle, Gavin was talking my ear off from the passenger seat.
"Gavin, can you please be quiet for one second?" I asked.
"I'm tired, like I said earlier." I sighed.
"Why didn't you get any sleep last night?"
"Oh, uh, heartburn."
As Gavin was working around the back of the castle, I sneaked inside. I had my own flashlight this time. I went straight to the room with the paintings. I walked over to the painting of the boy and studied it.
A thousand questions were running through my mind.
Who was he? Why did I always come back to this exact painting? What was his story?
Soft cries echoed through the hallways.
I followed the sound, my heart beating faster than a train.
The crying got louder as I entered a specific room.
In a corner was a little boy with dark hair. He was holding his knees to his chest.
He was sobbing gently now.
I opened my mouth, but no words came out.
I inched closer, my whole body shaking. I stood over him, my heart about to beat out of my chest.
He looked up at me and a loud shriek came out of his mouth.
I fell backwards and got up. I dashed through the halls and down the stairs.
I got to the door but it wouldn't open. I pounded on the door, frantically trying to get out.
Footsteps approached behind me and I turned around, tears flowing from my eyes.
I pointed the flashlight at his face to see no eyes.
He kept coming closer and closer.
The door opened and someone pulled me out of the castle. I fell on the ground and the castle door slammed. I looked up to see Gavin.
"What were you doing in there?" He growled.
"It's a long story." I sighed.
He stared at me, expecting me to tell him already.
I stood up and dusted myself off.
"Okay, so last night, a loud screech woke me up. I live alone, so I just thought I was imagining things. I went into the bathroom to splash water on my face and after I dried my face off, the little boy from the painting was in the reflection. I looked behind me, but nothing was there. I guess I just wanted answers. When I went in there, I heard crying, and the same boy from the painting and my bathroom was huddled up crying. When I got closer, he shrieked and I ran down the stairs to try to get out but the door wouldn't budge. He kept getting closer and closer." I said.
He looked at me in silence for a minute.
"You didn't believe in ghosts before this, did you?" He asked.
I shook my head.
"And now, you're admitting they're real and that something is in there?"
I nodded my head quickly.
"And you're a stubborn asshole and you never admit you were wrong unless shit gets real, so it must be true." He sighed.