A couple of Halloweens ago, my then-girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to a haunted house with her. I agreed, but with reservations. Haunted houses, and we're talking about the temporary kind that advertise in the local paper around Halloween, scare me. They might even scare me more than actual haunted houses, because, unlike ghosts in an actual haunted house, the residents of "Mister McFright's Terror Mansion," are paid (or, much worse, volunteer) to freak you out. I told her as much.
"Don't worry," she said. "I promise to protect you."
And foolishly, I believed her.
It was only a week later, while being stalked by fake monsters in a formerly abandoned South Milwaukee office building, that I realized her promise meant squat. Not only did she fail to intercept any incoming frights, but she eventually got tired of me trying to use her as a human shield, and ditched me in a dark hallway all by my lonesome.
The hallway was little more than two enormous pieces of plywood propped on their sides, and a third, smaller piece of wood, about five feet square, that had been grafted onto the left wall at the far end of the hallway. I was under no illusion that it was anything other than a trap, that should I walk by that makeshift door (and I was certain that it was a door), it would burst open, and a surgeon with a bloody, rubber saw would pounce on me. But I had come too far to go back. I had to go on. So, I did what any half-insane, borderline feral man-child would do. I ran to the door as fast as I could and slammed my entire body up against it.
I immediately felt someone (or something?) push at the door from the other side. I didn't budge. The longer I held the door in place, the more insistent the pushing became. Still, I held my ground. I was not going to let this happen. I was not going to allow whatever wanted to get out, to get out.
Then came the sounds: a muffled roar of fury, followed by shrieks and curses the likes of which have seldom been uttered this side of Hell. The pushing gave way to a pounding. The door creaked under the onslaught of beating fists (or hooves?). I stood, paralyzed with fear, desperately wanting to run, but unwilling to move lest the terror behind the wall escape.
Suddenly, and at great odds to my current predicament, a calm swept over me, which I understand now to be the sense of peace that coincides with one's acceptance of inevitability. No matter what choice I made, I was doomed. I was just one man. I couldn't hold out forever.
Wearily, I peeled my sweaty back from the door, and turned to face my executioner.
The door exploded outward, revealing, as I'd expected, a pitch-black cavern that undoubtedly led to the Fiery Chasm itself. And from its depths marched a four and a half foot, sobbing teenage boy in a plastic demon mask and a brown velour track suit. He raised a shaking finger at me.
And this is what he said:
"You don't EVER do that!"
The next day, I broke up with my girlfriend.
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