by Taylor Maguire '24 on October 20, 2022
“Hey Juno,” he says, walking up to me along a mahogany staircase.
Avery has little dimples and dark brown eyes with shaggy brown hair that just revealed a little scar that lingered along his forehead. He was a senior, the year above me. He wore his fraternity’s vintage letterman jacket from the 90s, jeans, and a pair of beat-up Reeboks.
“Avery,” I smile.
“Look who decided to come to the big Halloween Bash after all,” he says.
“It’s a little bro-y for me,” I reply.
“I know, Sigma Alpha is just like that. You look the sorority part with the bunny ears and all,” he says, referring to my bunny costume.
“Juno!” my friend Aurora calls. She’s by the pong table wearing a devil’s costume with glittery red horns. I watch as her boyfriend, Brad, shoots his arms into the air, yelling, “Let’s go boys!” His fluffy white angel wings move in sync with him. He looks over and smiles at me, waving me over. I ignore them both and turn back to Avery.
“And what’re you supposed to be for Halloween anyways?” I ask.
“A ghost.” He smiles.
“I thought we agreed to meet at the bar. You know, away from some of the freaks,” Aurora says, intruding the conversation with her cherry colored Go Go boots.
“Let me get you guys a drink,” he says. I nod and watch as he walks toward the bar.
“He’s a weirdo, Juno,” Aurora says when he’s out of earshot.
“He’s in the same frat as Brad,” I say.
“Brad says he’s a freak. He can’t even remember why they let him into Sigma Alpha in the first place,” she replies, tossing her hair behind her shoulders.
“Like you and Brad are so perfect,” I say, shooting her a look. Brad was the captain of the football team. But he also had a knack for roofying freshmen’s drinks while Aurora was out of town or at one of our sorority gigs. I brought it up to her once, but she hissed that I was just jealous and didn’t talk to me for a week.
“At least Brad doesn’t ruin the freshman rituals,” she says.
“Oh, you mean Avery doesn’t haze?” I ask.
“Whatever.” She sighed. “Juno, just consider dating someone normal.”
Aurora was skinny, but not that pretty. Her dad made all her Cs magically transform into As after Blair University got a new library. Despite the bitchy persona Aurora curated for the college audience, she was a sweet person deep down. Just insecure and scared.
“Enjoy your freak. Don’t get surprised if he goes all Bundy on you later. Brad wants to talk to you, by the way,” she whispers as Avery returns.
“She doesn’t like me,” Avery says, handing me a red Solo cup.
“No, she just likes her boyfriend more,” I reply.
He nods. “Brad, you know him well?”
“Not particularly, but Aurora tells me all his dirty secrets,” I reply.
“Anything worth sharing?” he asks.
“Just that he wets the bed frequently,” I say. “Claims to have nightmares.”
“Ghosts like you,” I reply sarcastically.
“Hey, can I show you something upstairs?” he asks.
Suddenly another member of the frat, wearing 70s clothes, appears from thin air.
“Avery, it’s going to happen now,” he says.
“Just give me a second,” Avery says.
“We don’t need her,” the 70s boy hisses towards me. Confusion strikes me across the face, but I wave it off.
Avery ignores him and takes my hand, leaving him on the staircase. We walk into the room across the hall. The wall is lined with photographs of those who died in the frat while enrolled at the school. Framed in golden lining, an inscription reads, “forever lying in the arms of the brotherhood.” I look at each picture.
“He kinda looks like the kid in the 70s outfit downstairs,” I say, stopping at one portrait in particular right in the middle of the hallway.
Avery just studies my face but doesn’t say anything. Another kid wearing 50s clothing appears before me. He has slicked-back hair and a comb poking out of his pocket.
“Avery, it’s time.”
“Juno, I need to tell you something,” he says, ignoring him and taking my hand.
“This is bullshit; we don’t have time for this,” the 70s boy says, suddenly appearing to my right. I didn’t even hear him come up the stairs.
“Listen Bunny Ears, Brad comes from a long line of psycho killers. The Gordons. Each generation, hazing goes south under the leadership of a Gordon, and their family money covers it up. Every generation has a son, and every son attends Blair University and joins this frat. They kill an incoming freshman as a way to secure their wealth and power with the gods.”
“This prank isn’t cool, it’s fucked up,” I say, looking at Avery. Fear crawls up my arms and grips my shoulders.
“It’s not a prank Juno, it’s us,” Avery says. “The kids in these photos.”
“Can’t you see, we’re all dead,” the 50s boy says. “Avery, there was no point in bringing her up here. What’s she gonna do? Call the cops and tell them where our bodies are hidden?”
“Your bodies are in the house?” I say, horrified.
“We can show you if that’ll convince you,” the 70s boy says. “We’re mostly decayed, our flesh eaten by maggots.” He shuffles closer
“How do we know she isn’t with him? She’s in his book after all,” one of them says. He stands so close the vomit I thought was fake on his shirt wafts towards my nose.
A realization clicks in my brain. “I read about you. In the newspaper. You drank too much, slept on your back. Choked to death on your vomit.”
“That’s what the newscasters said, right? That’s what they read from the report?”
Avery steps in between the two of us. “Stop,” he says to the kid in the 70s getup.
“How come you’re here if you’re dead?” I ask.
“Everyone who dies in this house can’t leave. If you don’t believe me, fine, but go down to the last portrait in the hall,” the 70s ghost replies without looking at me.
I hear Avery sigh. I listen and head toward the open window. Avery’s own black and white photograph stands looking back at me. It was a photo of him with a fall scene as his backdrop.
“Avery Cunnings. You died in 1993. Fell down the stairs and knocked your head into the last step,” I whisper.
The 70s ghost sighs. “He was pushed, actually. By Brad’s father. An even bigger dick than Brad.”
“So who is he going to kill next?” I ask.
“You, Juno,” Avery replies, “Your name was in his book.”
“Any old freshman won’t satisfy the centennial ritual. He has to kill the thing he loves the most,” Avery says.
“But he loves Aurora,” I say.
“No, I don’t. I love you, Juno,” Brad’s voice says suddenly, filling the air with fear.
Everything goes dark.