I never enjoyed going to parties, especially ones in which I would be meeting strangers. On the other hand, my friend, Jacob, loved going to them. Pretending to be his date for the night was rather uncomfortable. I couldn't see him as anything more than a friend, but I promised to go along with it because he couldn't find an actual one. We had known each other since we were innocent children in elementary school. Now we were full grown adults, almost through our collegiate years. He went off to some small school a couple states away, majoring in a geeky field of study that I've never heard of. I stayed in my home state of Kansas, going to school in Lawrence, which was a few hours away from the dumpster of a hometown, where I was studying to become an accountant.
"Thank you for coming to this party with me, Maddie," Jacob said as he kept his eyes focused on the road.
"It's not a problem," I lied while wearing a fake smile. We had only left from my parent's country home a few moments earlier, and I was already uncomfortable. Even though Jacob was one of my closest friends in high school, we lost touch of each other ever since we graduated. We turned into different people. I didn't know who he was and he definitely didn't know the least bit about me.
"How much longer are you going to be staying in town?" Jacob asked, trying to make the car ride slightly less awkward.
"Only a few more days. School is starting on Monday and I want to make sure I'm ready for whatever my professors decide to throw at me."
"You're a lot more dedicated to school than I've ever been," Jacob chuckled.
We escaped the dim streetlights of our small village and drove under a blanket of stars shining down on us. I looked up through the windshield of his car and admired the overhead beauty. The glittering night sky gave me a small amount of nostalgia. As a little girl I would lay in the cool grass with my dad and we'd gaze into the heavens, trapped in its allurement. Even though the nights were cool, I could still remember the warmth of being home.
Jacob turned onto a bumpy dirt road and the car jumped up and down, tossing my frail body. The rough seatbelt burned my neck and clamped onto my hips. When the car came to a halt, we sat in front of an iron gate in the middle of a tall, brick wall. "I'll be right back," Jacob said. Then got out of the car and walked to the doors of the gate. He peered through, trying to see what was inside. He tried opening the doors by violently shaking the bars of the gate, but to no avail. After his failed attempt, Jacob returned to the car and said, "This is where the invitation told me to go, but I couldn't see anything inside the gate. I'm sorry for dragging you all the way out here." I didn't say anything in response. At the time I was frustrated that I invested time and effort into looking so nice, just to turn around and go home. Jacob put the car in reverse, but before he moved there was a loud clang from outside the car. We both froze, intently listening for any other sound. A piercing screech resonated through the air and I saw the doors of the gate open in front of us. Jacob sat still for a moment longer, trying to use his headlights to see if anyone was standing behind the gate. When he saw that nobody was there, he shifted into drive.
I quickly snatched his thin, hairy forearm and asked, "Are you sure about this? It seems like bad news to me."
"Where's your spirit of adventure?" Jacob replied with a sly smirk. "We'll just see what's inside the gates and if it still seems shady, I promise I'll turn back." I agreed to go along with it, although my instincts told me otherwise. Jacob slowly proceeded through the gates, squinting his eyes in an attempt to pierce through the darkness. Even though my sight was hindered, I was able to see a dark forest on both sides of the dirt drive. The path wasn't quite as bumpy as the road leading to the gates, but it was coarse enough to force the car to tremor. Once we made it through the forest, the drive weaved in and out, leading up to a mansion sitting on the top of a hill. The mansion was eerie and dark, as daunting as a mausoleum. It had to have been hundreds of years old, with black bricks weathered by time. As we approached, the mansion swelled until it was a towering skyscraper brooding over us like a black cloud.
Jacob pulled his car into the driveway, where four other cars were resting. Even though I dreaded this moment, I got out of the car and followed Jacob to the front steps of the mansion. None of the windows had lights emanating from them save for the windows on both sides of the front door. Jacob reached for the brass knob on the middle of the door and beat it against the wooden door. Three solid drums pounded and then we anxiously waited. At first, there was nothing but thick silence, but then I heard footsteps clapping from inside. The door's lock clicked and the heavy door creaked open.