Just like any other day, Corbin grabbed a lunch tray and walked over to the shade under the big tree. His friends were already there, munching on their lunch and casually chattering. Enoch and Lena were arguing again about something while Lavina was just watching them in amusement. Violet sat to the side on her phone, rolling her eyes at the dumb argument.
“What’re they fighting about today?” Corbin plopped down on the grass next to Lavina.
“Some party,” Lavina shrugged. “Apparently, we were all invited to a party, and Lena wants us to go.”
“Wait,” Corbin opened his bag and shifted through his papers. “Is it this?” He held up a blue card that read House Party This Friday in big fancy letters at the top.
Lena jumped up. “Wait, yay! You got it, too?”
“I guess so? It was stuck in my locker this morning,” Corbin replied.
“Can we go? Please?” Lena whined to Lavina, knowing she could convince the others to go if she went. “It’ll be fun!”
“I don’t know, Lena.”
Lena quietly added, “You know, this could be good for you. You haven’t been out since… your mom’s accident.”
A loud silence shadowed over the group. Violet raised an eyebrow — really?
Lavina spit out a dry laugh and said, “Guys, it’s fine.”
Before tensions could rise, Corbin quickly added, “Lena, how do you know if it’s not some stranger pranking us? We’ve never been invited to an actual party before. It’s kind of suspicious to me.”
“But this is our chance!” Lena exclaimed.
“Our chance at what?” Violet finally asked.
Lena ignored her question and instead said, “Look,” she read off the invitation, “Casey, Wesley? I think he’s in our math class, Enoch.”
Enoch scrunched his nose and peered over the invitation in Corbin’s hands. “Oh, yeah. He sits in the back.”
“Enoch, come on!” Lena shifted her focus. “You love to check things out.”
Grumbling, Enoch finally replied, “Fine. I’ll go with you. Just because I’m curious about what kind of party Casey would throw. But you’re driving me there.”
“Yes!” Lena yelled into the air. “What about you guys? Come on!” Corbin, Lavina, and Violet all exchanged glances before shrugging.
Soon after the bell rang, signaling the end to lunch. They all stood up, threw their leftovers away, and waved at one another.
Corbin and Lavina headed to anatomy class together, wondering why they were invited to a house party.
Violet stepped out of her brother’s car at exactly 8:00 p.m., squinting toward the house. It was huge. The house was black, light shone outward from the windows, vines ran up the bricked walls, and loud music could be heard from outside.
“Don’t get into trouble!” Violet’s brother yelled at her before speeding away.
Violet sighed, wondering what she was doing here. She brushed her hands against her jeans. She’d worn her casual school clothes, as she was unsure what everyone would be wearing. Only now she grew conscious of what she wore. Violet sent a text to the group asking where everyone was but got no response. Finally, she decided to lean against the gates until they arrived.
About five minutes later, a small car arrived that Violet recognized as Corbin’s. Corbin and Lavina stepped out, chatting. They also had casual outfits on; Violet sighed, relieved.
“Oh hey, Violet.”
“Hey,” Violet replied to both of them. The three decided to wait for Enoch and Lena to arrive before heading in, all of them pretty nervous and uncomfortable. Soon the two remaining arrived, and the five friends headed for the house.
Stepping into the house, the first thing the group of friends saw were blinding lights and tons of people milling around the living room. Though the living room seemed big enough for thirty, people overcrowded the room. There were people standing around a bar at the back, sitting at the small couches around the room, dancing on the middle floor, and just talking to each other over a table of drinks. They definitely did not look like high school students. Instead, there was a wide range of ages. The friends stood in silence, hit with the confusion and shock of seeing a forty-year-old woman and a twenty-year-old girl at the same party.
The walls were all painted black, and golden design patterns of dragons covered over them, throwing a tint of color into the darkness.
The walls were all painted black, and golden design patterns of dragons covered over them, throwing a tint of color into the darkness.
A DJ was at the front of the living room, a man in his thirties who seemed to be having the time of his life. The music, however, was slightly horrifying: old pop songs that were popular a few years back.
“Lena,” Lavina quietly said, “Are you sure this is a school party?”
Lena nervously stuttered, “Yeah. Most likely. Probably. Maybe?”
Lavina groaned, shaking her head.
Corbin glanced at Lavina to check if she was okay; she seemed fine in the moment. Now that it’s been a few weeks since the funeral, he had started to see signs that she was getting better, and he was truly glad. Lavina’s mom’s death had hit her hard. Lavina and her mom had always been close, like best friends. Sometimes the friend group would even joke that Lavina’s closest friend was her mom. Corbin had believed that their friends wouldn’t be able to convince her to go out at all, let alone to a party, until a while later. It’d only been a few days since she’d returned to school and talked with people again.
“Where’s the Casey guy?” Enoch looked around the room in hopes of finding the blonde. A girl with long brown hair walked past them, and Enoch quickly reached out to tap her shoulder. As he began to ask her where Casey was, Lena inspected the girl’s earrings. They were cute, small dragons.
Enoch came back to his friends and shrugged. “She didn’t know who Casey was.” Lavina, Violet, Corbin, and Enoch all looked toward Lena, pursing their lips and squinting their eyes.
Lena’s eyes grew big. “Don’t look at me! That’s what the invitation said.” She threw her hands up in surrender.
The friends were still standing about the entrance of the living room, awkwardly swaying on their feet. For Violet, the minute she spotted the bar, she stepped away from the group and headed for a drink. Grabbing one of the nonalcoholic drinks, she looked around the dining room, still lost on why they had come here in the first place. She didn’t want to be at some weird party, she wanted to be home watching movies with her brother. Violet sighed and found a stool near the couches to sit on, deciding to just wait there until her friends were ready to leave this useless party. She sipped the drink. Gross.
After Violet left, it was almost as if the tension broke and Lena quickly ran over to the dance floor. Lavina trailed behind her awkwardly, making sure Lena won’t get into any trouble. Enoch and Corbin separated too, as Enoch quickly found a group of guys in their twenties to talk to.
The sound of the doorbell rang in the distance.
As for Corbin, he slowly walked around the edges of the living room, watching the party from afar. He felt that the party was quite strange, but maybe he was just not used to parties in general. All of a sudden, Corbin noticed from across the room sitting on one of the red couches a teenage girl with dark red hair, wearing a shimmery dress, waving at him.
All of a sudden, Corbin noticed from across the room sitting on one of the red couches a teenage girl with dark red hair, wearing a shimmery dress, waving at him.
He raised an eyebrow, looking around him. He pointed at himself. Me? he mouthed. The girl nodded, still waving at him, and motioned for him to come over to the couch area. Steadily, he walked toward the girl, still a little puzzled about who she was and why she was calling him over. As he reached the couch, the girl suddenly jumped up and wrapped her arms around him. Startled, Corbin leaned backward, knocking a drink out of someone’s hand.
“Watch where you’re going!” The guy pushed him.
Murmuring a sorry, Corbin turned back to the girl. The girl looked about thirteen, like a middle schooler, and she had a bright smile on her face. “Sorry, do I know you?” Corbin said, slowly pushing her away. The redhead’s face grew grim, and her lips pointed downward as she unwrapped herself from him and stepped back onto the couch.
“You don’t remember me?” she scoffed, squinting at him. “Corbin, right?”
“Yeah, that’s me, but…” Corbin frowned, “What’s your name again?”
The red-haired girl made a face as she rolled her eyes and sat down on the couch once again.
“Never mind,” she replied, completely pretending as if he weren’t still standing there.
Okay? Corbin thought to himself. He turned back toward the party and observed everything like an outsider. He noticed that a few people had similar-looking tattoos on their necks, hands, or arms and wondered if they were all a part of the same club or organization.
Violet had been at the same spot on her couch for the past hour, ignoring everyone and everything around her by clicking away on her phone until she figured she could get another drink. She walked over to the bar at the back, her eyes still glued to her phone, and half-heartedly asked the bartender for a Sprite.
“Sure thing,” the man replied.
Looking up from her phone to grab the drink, Violet noticed he had a small tattoo of a dragon near his ear. Hmm. Cool, she thought. She thanked the man and backed away as more people pushed forward for their own drinks.
As she turned around, she noticed the back of Lena’s head a few feet away on the dance floor. Violet walked over and tapped her shoulder.
“Hey, do you know when —” Violet started to ask.
Lena turned around with a confused look on her face. “Can I help you?”
Violet blinked rapidly. Why was I talking to a stranger? she thought.
“Oh, sorry. I think I’ve mistaken you for someone else.” She headed off toward the couch again.
Enoch was hanging out with a group of men he met near the bar when he noticed some teenagers come out of another room near the back of the hallway. The door of the room was painted a dark green, and as his curiosity kicked in, Enoch decided to check it out. He slinked away from the conversation and walked over to the room. Looking around to see if anyone would notice, he quickly opened the door and stepped in.
Enoch was hanging out with a group of men he met near the bar when he noticed some teenagers come out of another room near the back of the hallway. The door of the room was painted a dark green, and as his curiosity kicked in, Enoch decided to check it out.
Click. The sound of the door closing behind Enoch surprised him, making him jump. The room was pitch black, and he couldn’t make out a thing in the dark.
“Um… hello?” Enoch cried out, staggering on his feet. He quickly stuck out his arms to avoid crashing into anything and kept walking forward with tiny steps. He began waving his arms around when his right hand touched something sticky.
“Ah!” Screaming, Enoch quickly took back his hand and cradled it in his chest. “What… what was that?” he asked the unknown.
Scrambling at this point, Enoch walked back to where he thought the door should be. He reached out, searching for the handle, but couldn’t find one. All he could feel was a cold concrete wall with rough patterns against his fingertips. Shivering, Enoch faced away and slowly slid down the surface, bringing his knees up.
After his encounter with the strange girl, Corbin started to look for his friends. Glancing about the room, he found Lena and Lavina on the dance floor talking to some other people. Corbin quickly walked over to where they were and tapped Lena on the shoulder.
“Oh, hey, Corbin! How’s the party?” Lena smiled.
“Uh, it seems cool but I think we should go now.” Corbin’s eyes darted around the room. Lena quickly said, “What do you mean? We can’t go now, we’ve only been here for like thirty minutes!”
“What? What do you mean? It’s been hours.” Corbin shook Lena’s shoulders, “Are you okay? Did you drink anything weird?”
She shook his hands off her, saying, “I didn’t drink anything, what are you talking about?”
A feeling of uneasiness crept up on Corbin.
“Lavina! Let’s go!” Corbin abruptly called out to Lavina, who was still chatting with other people. Lavina raised an eyebrow, set down her drink on a bar table nearby, and waved bye to the people she was talking to.
“Woah, watch it!” Lena grabbed Lavina’s drink that she’d just put down, as it almost slid off the table.
“Okay, let’s go. Now,” Corbin urged the girls, pushing them toward the hallway they came through.
“Wait, what about Enoch?” Lena said aloud.
Corbin turned, “What? Who’s Enoch?”
Lena squinted, “What do you mean, who’s Enoch? You know, Enoch? Our —”
Lena shook her head, “Never mind.”
Marching down the hallway, Lavina suddenly halted, causing Lena and Corbin to crash into her back.
“Ouch, what was that for?” Lena cried.
Lavina turned toward them quietly, “Guys? Where’s the door?”
Corbin shook his head, “Lavina, what?”
“It’s right —” He looked down the hallway, pointing toward the end, before realizing there was no end.
“Lavina. Corbin. Stop playing around,” Lena nervously said. She began to walk farther down the hallway, glancing around for the door.
For the next few minutes, the three friends wandered around for the exit together, looking in every hallway. Lavina was the one who finally broke the silence.
“Guys, there’s way too many hallways in the house. Lena, how about you go ask one of the people in the living room where the door is?” she suggested.
“That’s a good idea,” Lena replied as she walked back to where the music was coming from.
Reaching the living room, she searched for someone who seemed to know the place. Lena spotted one of the girls she was talking to on the dance floor earlier and quickly walked toward her.
“Hey,” Lena started asking, “Do you know where the front door is? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.” She laughed at how dumb she must sound.
The girl didn’t answer her question and instead shoved another drink into Lena’s hand. “Going already? Why don’t you enjoy the party a little more? There’s going to be fireworks.” She wiggled her eyebrows, trying to entice Lena.
Lena laughed. “No, it’s okay. I should head home.”
The girl suddenly grabbed Lena’s arms and dragged her onto the center of the dance floor where people were dancing and singing loudly.
After trying to playfully resist, Lena finally gave in and decided that her friends could wait a while.
Meanwhile, Lavina and Corbin kept wandering around the house, brushing their hands against the wall as they walked, wondering if the door was just camouflaged with the wall.
Lavina quickly turned around, hearing her name. It reminded her of her mom’s voice from a few months ago when she whispered her last words, but Lavina knew it couldn’t be her mom.
“Did you hear that?” she asks Corbin quietly.
Lavina pursed her lips, “Never mind.”
A few moments later, she heard the same voice again. She tried to ignore it at first, but as the voice kept calling out to her, her ears started ringing, and she quickly became irritated. “What is that?” Lavina loudly demanded.
Corbin turned around, giving her a weird look, and sighed, wondering if all his friends were going insane.
Lavina started walking off toward the voice as Corbin questioned, “Where are you going?”
When she didn’t answer, Corbin grumbled about her having listening problems. Lavina stormed off toward the voice, clearly distressed.
“Lavina.” The voice slowly got louder and louder to Lavina, almost like she was getting closer. When it got to the point where it felt as if the voice was coming from in front of her, Lavina had walked all the way to one of the entrances of an office-looking room in the house. She slowed down her pace and glanced around inside the room. She was sure that the voice was coming from here.
When it got to the point where it felt as if the voice was coming from in front of her, Lavina had walked all the way to one of the entrances of an office-looking room in the house. She slowed down her pace and glanced around inside the room.
Lavina waited for the voice to call out to her again. “Lavina.” As it did, she walked closer and closer to the voice, until she was standing directly in front of one of the walls in the office. This particular wall was covered with a wallpaper with designs of the same gold dragons that they saw in the living room. Now that she was up close to the wallpaper, she noticed that it seemed flaky and old, and the corner was tilting forward, as if it was almost starting to fall off entirely. The golden dragon designs showed several pairs of dragons that were almost entangled in each other. The design was so intricate that she could clearly see that the creator of the design had put a lot of thought and detail into the dragon scales, drawing the golden scales with delicate fondness. The faces of these dragons, though, were blurred like someone touched the paint as it was drying and smeared it across the area of the faces for each one. Lavina thought the design was incredible and suddenly remembered her art project. For inspiration, she pulled out her phone and snapped a few pictures. When she clicked on the photos, she saw that the design was very blurry, even though the wall came out clear.
Lavina tried snapping a picture again, but the designs again came out quite blurry. After a few tries, she gave up and put away her phone.
“Lavina.” Her mother’s echoing voice abruptly reminded Lavina why she was there in the first place. Lavina’s heart pounded, her breath hitched, and she took deep breaths, trying to remind herself of the exercises her dad told her about. She reached out toward the wall and put her ear against it.
It’s coming from this wall, she thought. Maybe I’m going crazy. She contemplated whether she should listen harder or just go back to Corbin and help him try to find a way out. She had almost decided to go back when her desperation to hear her mom’s voice again, even if it was just her imagination, kicked in. Lavina shook her hands and feet, trying to relax her anxious and scrambled thoughts. She turned toward the wall with determination as she clenched her fists. Frantically, she began to pick at the wallpaper, digging her nails into the wall.
Looking around the office, her eyes caught on the little hammer on the table.
Corbin sighed, “Where is everyone going?”
After spending what felt like an hour of just wandering around and desperately pushing walls, Corbin noticed he’d walked too far into one of the halls and was, in fact, now lost. He was suddenly hit with the realization that he was stuck in this weird house they knew nothing about with strangers. His friends were gone, and he had nothing to give him a sense of safety. An overwhelming sense of panic and frustration arose in him, and he began to frantically walk faster toward where he’d come from.
“Lavina? Hello?” he called out. “Are you back yet?”
The lights above him flickered, creating dark shadows in the hallway. Corbin jumped in surprise and slowly looked toward the chandelier dangling above his head. “Okay…” he said to himself, his voice shaky and unclear.
The lights above him flickered, creating dark shadows in the hallway. Corbin jumped in surprise and slowly looked toward the chandelier dangling above his head.
He frantically searched his pockets for his phone. It was gone. He couldn’t find it anywhere. Realizing that he didn’t even have a phone or a friend with him anymore, he truly felt lost. It didn’t take long for Corbin to feel the walls moving in, closing in on the hallway and sucking the air away from his lungs. His palms started sweating, and he felt his face grow red with alarm. The uneasy silence made his skin crawl with tension and caution, and he began quickly tapping his fingers together in a pattern, an anxious habit he’d had since he was young. His vision began to tunnel in as his thoughts became a never-ending ramble. What if no one looks for him? What if no one comes through this hallway? For hours? For even days? What if he can’t get out, ever?
Corbin wrapped his arms around himself, suddenly feeling cold, and began to shrink down in the hallway.
In the middle of spiraling into a panic attack, Corbin heard chains clashing against each other in the hallway. He looked up toward where the noise was coming from and saw the chandelier dangling above him with an uneasy swaying. He scurried across the floor away from the chandelier, never taking his eyes off the tinkling lights. Clank. A row of chains from the chandelier abruptly dropped down, sending the entire chandelier into a big rocking motion.
Corbin shrinked toward the corner of the hallway, as far from the chandelier as possible. Instantly, he fell over, toppling into the dark, yelping.
It took a while for Corbin to realize where he was. He was in the front yard, where the friends had crossed to get to the house. He finally let out a sigh of relief. They were free! Okay, I need to get my—
Where was I again?
Michelle Park is a high school student in Orange County, California. She attends the Orange County School of the Arts Creative Writing Conservatory and began to professionally write in the ninth grade. Park has previously been published in Friday Flash Fiction, and she likes to spend her time reading and annotating her favorite books. She can be reached via her email, email@example.com.