Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…
“…Soulless black holes where her eyes and mouth should be, with blood pulsing out of every orifice and dribbling down her withered face…”
Karen runs her fingers down her face as she speaks, pulling the skin beneath her eyes down and rolling her eyes back until all we see are the whites of her irises. “She’ll trap you a net made out of her hair, slither out of the mirror and shred your face up. After you’re dead, her jaw will unhinge and she’ll suck your soul into the mirror.”
“That’s disgusting. Stop it.” Nancy’s focus is on the road, but she briefly glances over to the passenger seat to share a knowing smile with Karen. “So, will you really do it?”
I say, “Sure.”
“You have to stay inside for thirteen minutes and we’ll padlock the door from outside to make sure you can’t chicken out.” Even with makeup, Karen possesses an uncanny resemblance to her twin. My heart flutters and I can’t help but return her dimpled smile. Karen says, “Are you in, or are you out?”
Nancy parks the car a few minutes later.
We all step out, into what appears to be the perfect opening scene for a horror movie. The wind whistling through the night is frigid, but sticky. There’s no street light, the nearest house is half a mile away and our destination looms before us.
“Chamberlain’s House” is one of the real estate properties Nancy’s mother is currently in charge of. Its market price is seven figures, but nobody is willing to purchase it for even a fraction of its value because of the circulating stories about the house’s previous occupants.
Accordingly, Mary Chamberlain’s ex-husband threw acid on her face and ran away with their daughter. After Mary committed suicide out of grief, her grisly looking spirit lingers to wait for news about her baby girl and will devour the souls of those who summon her.
Nancy sweeps her flashlight to a large tree and whispers, “That’s where Mary Chamberlain hung herself.”
Gnarled branches reaching out from the dead trees cast moving shadows over the desolated yard as we traverse down the path and up the porch. Nancy fishes the house keys out of her pocket and the door creaks open with a rush of stale, musky air.
Karen comments, “Smells like AP bio in here.”
Leaving the front door open, we venture into the hallway, and down a set of crumbling stairs. The tiny bathroom in the basement is barely bigger than a walk-in closet. Nancy shines her flashlight over a cracked toilet, a dusty mirror, a porcelain sink and a rusted bathtub.
After I hand over my cellphone, Karen offers two candles and a lighter. “Do you remember what to do?”
Stepping into the windowless room, I glance around again and nod. The door closes behind me, robbing me of all light. Most urban legends are nothing more than imbecilic nonsense inspired by embellished truths, but the ambience isn’t working in my favor.
…I’m about to summon an evil spirit in a cramped basement bathroom in this God forsaken house just to impress Nancy and her clique of cool girls. Fuck me for having such an enormous crush on Karen’s brother, right?
A padlock clicks into place outside the door. The candles cast a reluctant glow on the bottom half of the mirror. Not even bright enough for me to fully see the details of my reflection or the sink underneath the mirror. Loud enough for them to hear me through the door, I chant:
I wait. No ghastly woman pops out of the mirror to scratch my face up and devour my soul. In the ensuing silence, I hear faint footsteps and a drip-drip-drip sound. The footsteps come from the ceiling and, after a moment, I recognize the squeaks. Someone is walking down the hallway above my head.
“I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…”
Startled, I look at the mirror. And I shriek.
Whipping my head around, only the shrouds of pure darkness greet my vision, but the apparition is clear in the mirror. She’s behind me. A hovering little girl with wet, stringy hair mat to her face and forehead. A foul smelling liquid drips from her frilly pink dress, pooling under her and soaking through my sneaker.
“Nancy!” I holler. Rushing the two steps over to the door, I pound on the wood. “Karen! Let me out!”
The padlock knocks against the door, but no one answers.
“…They left you…”
If Nancy and Karen left…
“There’s no air… There’s no air… There’s no air…”
Whether or not this little ghost girl kills me right away, there isn’t enough air in this windowless, sealed room to last me until dawn. This must be how it feels to be buried alive. My shoes make splashes as I thrash around the room in blind panic, pounding my fist on whatever I can reach.
An idea suddenly strikes me.
I had fire and the door is made of wood. I click the lighter on, but strings of icy dampness douse out the flicker of fire. Reeling away, I turn my frightened eyes toward the mirror and cringe away from the translucent apparition.
The girl hasn’t move. Her blue eyes are intensely focused on me, but she isn’t chasing me or reaching for me with skeletal fingers. The only pain I experience is from a splinter in my hand, inflicted by myself. Gradually, the pounding in my ear lessens until I can hear her again.
“…If you help me escape, I will help you escape…”
I have no idea what she means, but I stammer, “S-sure.”
The little ghost girl nods, once. Slowly, she lifts her hand and points. I can’t see what she’s pointing at, but I recall from my memory that that’s where the bathtub lies. After I stumble over, both candles dies and the room becomes completely dark.
“…I’m here…No fire…No fire…She’ll see…”
The police arrives half an hour later.
According to the sergeant, the station received an anonymous emergency call with a lot of static and traced the number to Chamberlain’s House. Thinking that it was a prank and hoping to confiscate some illegal substance from the teenagers who frequently trespass to party in the house, they drove here.
“You sure can holler,” the sergeant adds with a wry smile, “we heard those ‘help’ from the driveway.”
Huddling under the jacket they gave me, I have no idea what they’re talking about but nods anyway. Someone hands me a cup of hot chocolate, but I can’t hold it because my hands are shaking too badly. Gulping in fresh air, I say, “I thought I was going to die in there.”
“You sound different,” says one of the other officers. “The scream was crisp as new leaves and clear like a summer day. I thought we were going to break the door down and find a little girl.”
The sergeant turns to me, “How did you manage to call us?”
Truly confused, I stare. An emergency call I didn’t make. Couldn’t have made. A little girl’s scream. If you help me escape, I will help you escape. Throwing the jacket off, I try to run back to the house, “The bathtub! You have to investigate the bathtub!”
They find the remains of a young girl in a tank of formaldehyde and methanol underneath the bathtub. As they drain the chemical, the sergeant tells me, “You’re lucky you didn’t try to use that lighter to burn the door down. Would’ve combust the whole place before you make it out.”
The truth unravels: Mary Chamberlain accidentally drowned her daughter, hid the body underneath the bathtub and killed herself. I attend Anastasia Chamberlain’s funeral that weekend. As I lay flowers on the casket, a voice as crisp as new leaves and clear as a summer day sings in the wind.
Nancy and Karen are charged with reckless endangerment, but released on the premise that I was found uninjured. Just a prank gone awry. After the incident, Karen’s twin brother stops by my house to bring me some homemade chocolate chip cookies, fuss over my wellbeing and leaves me with his number.
While embellishing Michael’s name on my contact list with a pair of hearts, my phone rings.
The number looks different from the phone numbers we have today. After accepting the call, I hear nothing but distorted static. Then, a raspy, gargled woman’s voice bleeds into my ear.
“…Give me back my daughter…”