Dance With Me
by: M.J. Orz
My friends laughed when I told them that I thought the Campbell House was a load of crap. I was the new guy around these parts, only living here in this tiny hick town for about a year and wasn’t sold yet on the urban lore that lingered around these parts. However, of all the creepy little tales that kids my age like to tell, The Campbell House was definitely one of the most popular.
The supposed story is that there once was a family living in the house – the Campbell’s, obviously. They had a beautiful little daughter who had her room on the third floor of the large home. One day a fire broke out and the parents tried to save their daughter from her bedroom, but to no avail. The little girl died in her room on the third floor and the parents moved far away to escape the guilt they felt from not being able to save their daughter. Now the kids in the neighborhood takes turns going into the remains of the house – which was still held up surprisingly well – and dare each other to go up onto the third floor. As far as I have heard, nobody has been able to make it all the way up without running down in fright, saying they could’ve sworn they heard music and footsteps above them.
I was never the type to believe in this kind of stuff, so when my classmates all bet that I couldn’t make it all the way up, I chuckled and agreed to go into the house the following night. One of the boys that was “sealing my fate”, as they called it, asked the rest of the group:
“How will we know if he actually made it up there?”
I tried to tell him that it wouldn’t be a problem and that I could assure him that as long as there was a way up there, I would make it, but they wanted some type of proof. They told me that since all of the other people who tried to make it heard music, that I should see if I could find the source of it and bring it to them. I shook my head with a smile and agreed, saying that I’d bring down whatever I could.
The night came and all of us made our way to the Campbell House, which I never realized was so big from back on the road. Standing in front of it, I couldn’t help but be in shock at how big this place really was. These people must have had some serious money to be able to afford a place like this. My friends all patted me on the back, some of them shivering, which I had a hard time deciphering whether it was from the November air or genuine concern. I took my first step onto the porch, turning around and flexing my skinny arms to jokingly show off to the rest of the group who didn’t dare come even close to the steps. I turned back around and faced the giant wooden door.
Grabbing the brass knob and twisting it to the right, it caught me off guard how easily the door opened. So I stepped on in. For a house that had supposedly had a deadly fire, there wasn’t a whole lot of damage to the great hall that welcomed me as I made my entrance, shutting the door behind me. The place smelled old, which was to be expected since it was obvious that nobody had been here in what I imagined was years. I turned on my flashlight that I had brought along and peered around the room, cautiously looking into every corner. I must admit, this place certainly was creepy. I could see how some dumb high school kids could get frightened out of here.
Right in front of me was a grand staircase, leading up to a landing that lofted overtop the first floor. This might be easier than I thought. I’ll just head straight up, get my souvenir, and come back down; it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Besides, I knew the small crowd would be outside waiting for me to come out shrieking my head off, or possibly in tears, so it would be perfect if I came out, prize in hand, and laughed in their faces for being afraid of something so stupid.
I climbed the staircase which was pretty sturdy – a lot more than I anticipated – and made my way up to the landing. As I walked around the loft, I started trying some of the doors to look for a way up to the third floor, but many of them were locked. I wanted to find the quickest way up, but wasn’t about to start attempting to put my foot through any doors, so I just kept moving across the landing.
The floor narrowed as I left the great hall and found a second floor hallway lined with more doors. These must have been bedrooms and bathrooms, none of which really interested me. I could clearly see that, at the end of the aisle of wood and brass, stood an open door, which had to be the stairs to the third floor. I casually walked towards them, not even thinking about checking around me, which was pretty foolish seeing how I was just meandering around a condemned house. I didn’t care though. I just wanted to get my proof and get back out a hero.
As I approached the opening, I felt my feet stop in place and my stomach drop like a brick. Was that music? No, I told myself. There’s no way. I was imagining things. I tried to move my feet, but I was stunned with fright. That was most certainly music coming from upstairs. I stood and thought about the logic behind it all and realized that the guys were probably playing a prank on me. I bet this whole thing was a setup to pick on the new guy and I fell for it. Of course. With that in mind, I felt my feet lighten up and I called out into the dark.
“You’re not scaring me, guys!”
And just like that, the music stopped. I listened for a moment, but it didn’t return, which actually made me feel more unsettled than I had been when it was playing. I turned the corner into the opening and, just as I had thought, there was the last set of stairs. Holding my breath I climbed up slowly, step by step, waiting for these jackwagon friends of mine to jump out and try to make me squeal. At the top of the stairs, there was one last door, but this one was much more charred than anything else in the house. If the story was true, this must’ve been the little girl’s room.
I wrapped my hand around the knob and found it to be warm, like someone else had just been holding it – I knew my friends were pulling my leg at this point. I swung open the door and looked into the room with my light. Nothing but burnt furniture and old toys, some still holding onto the little bit of pink coloring that survived the fire. But what caught my attention sat at the edge of the room on an old blackened nightstand. A record player. How perfect was this? I walked over and picked it up, a record still sitting in place with the needle floating above it. The player seemed to be in decent shape, compared to the rest of the room, like maybe it had been protected from the flames. I smiled, holding the player under my arms and started down the stairs. Then I heard it.
“Won’t you stay and dance with me?”
I jolt my head around, looking back up the stairs to see what looked like a girl, but missing so much. Her hair was a melted mess on top of her head. The right side of her face was blood red with bone showing through, allowing me to see where her teeth connected to her skull. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen. The clothing destroyed. I screamed at the top of my lungs and booked down the stairs, across the landing, down into the great hall and out the front door to see all of my friends standing outside, waiting for me, laughing.
They came up to me and I threw the record player into the hands of the boy standing closest to the stairs. He stared at it in shock.
“What was that?!” I asked feverishly, trying to catch my breath. Nobody seemed to have any clue what I was talking about. They all shrugged and said that they had planned to try to scare me on the first floor, but they had chickened out themselves. They told me that there was no fire and that they didn’t think anyone was ever killed there – that it was all a joke they would play on people. They were shocked that I found the player in the house because the music thing was all a lie; a story that one of them had made up on the spot. I told them about the girl and they all cracked up, handing the record player back to me, calling it my “trophy” and told me to go home and get some sleep.
I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t slept at all. Last night, I placed the record player in my room, thinking maybe I’d try to fix it up this afternoon after school. But it doesn’t need fixing.
It played all night. Even when I stopped it. And from under my covers, where I stayed in utter fright, I could hear a voice.
“Will you dance with me?”