The Dare by Jason Darrell

With the delectable Debra Tait urging me on, no way would I have refused the dare.

In hindsight, I should've baulked.

But I was convinced this decrepit, rambling house was empty. Rumours of an old hag inhabiting it? Old mothers' tales to deter us, surely?

Apparently not.

It started well. I avoided rusty spikes climbing over the iron gate. The seemingly rotted-closed front door opened with the deftest touch.

But no sooner was I inside, the door slammed shut behind me, fusing with the frame.

Then, the unruly ivy twisted into thick, bark-covered bars outside the windows.

Trapped, I frantically checked ground floor rooms for egress...

...that's when I heard shuffling upstairs.

From the kitchen I could see two of the reception's three grand staircases; neither bore a soul.

I tiptoed out, hiding in the third staircase's stairwell. The hag passed within feet, trailing lavender, musk, and another smell my brain subconsciously recognised.

My footsteps' random patterns in the dust confused her, thankfully taking her away from my hidey-hole.

It's been a game of cat and mouse ever since.

Now, I'm in a bedroom, a full-length mirror angled so I can watch the landing.

No, she's coming! I can't squeeze into a tighter ball...

...hang on; didn't this gap once conceal more of me?

She steps in and whispers, “So that’s where you’ve been hiding.”

My head shakes uncontrollably; her gnarled hand grips the mirror, begins turning it towards me.

That perfume again! And that face, that misplaced familiarity!

The room flashes by in the mirror, stopping directly facing me.

Through rheumy eyes I see myself, wearing rags that resemble a tracksuit I'd worn years ago.

White hairs sprout sporadically from between liver spots.

I look up again, her face now two inches from mine; "Hello, Debbie," I say.

Published in Issue #20

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