“Come on Brooke, it’ll be fun!” I sighed and rolled my eyes for what felt like the dozenth time that day. When Mia got an idea in her head, she was hard-pressed to change her mind.
“I just don’t see why we can’t have a sleepover at your place while watching horror films all night like we always do for Halloween. That’s fun, and it’s tradition!”
“But that’s kid stuff now, Brooke! Come oooooooon! They say the old Milligan house is actually haunted! The lock doesn’t latch right and kids sneak in there all the time! They say it’s scary as shit! My sister swears she felt a cold wind on the stairs and heard whispers in the back bedroom. She said it was super spooky!”
Honestly, I didn’t really have any qualms about some innocent B&E to take a look around a creepy location. And I sure as shit wasn’t scared. I’d always prided myself as somewhat of a horror-genre afficionado. It actually sounded kind of fun. The problem was that Mia’s sleepovers, while being filled with way more crush-talk than I cared to tolerate in a single evening, were a girl-only affair and relatively harmless. If anyone got a bit too close and cozy I could at least zip up into the protective shell of a sleeping bag to give me a bit of space. But I knew that this little haunted house excursion she had planned was going to be different. She’d invited a small group from school… guys included. And knowing Mia…
She’d been only too forthcoming all week about her suspicions that Dax Westfall from our Chemistry class kept “giving me that look” and pestering me “how I felt about it.” And I kept dodging the topic, because just like every time she brought up talking about her latest crush-of-the-week, and asked me the burning question, “Oh Brooke, who are you into?” and I answered honestly by saying no one, she always got this piercing look in her eye and asked, “Why are you holding out on me? I’m your best friend, aren’t I? Can’t you trust me, of all people?” It wasn’t like I was lying. I’d never considered Dax, or any other guy in our class — or girl for that matter — as anything more than a friend. I just… don’t get crushes. I don’t even watch Supernatural and think to myself, like every other female on the planet, “OHMYGODINEEDSAMANDDEANSBABIESNAO!” I have never been that way. Sometimes, I feel like my lack of romantic grandeur seems to be a personal offense to Mia, who has so many teen idol posters plastered around her room I can’t even keep all the groups straight anymore. And I do try. She is my friend, after all.
I was still hesitant. “Who all is going? You know I–”
“–Don’t like big groups, I know, I know. I only invited a few people, Brooke. Haunted houses are better when you don’t have a large group anyway. We’re meeting at 9 p.m. in front of the Milligan house. Please come!”
I felt so utterly defeated. “Okay, but if it’s lame, I’m not going to stay.”
“Oh, you think you’re going to get scared?”
“Oh, and wear your costume!”
“To go through a musty old house?”
“But… it’s Halloween!”
…I couldn’t argue with that.
I had to admit, the old Milligan house looked slightly foreboding against the cloudy evening sky.
…But nothing felt as foreboding as the fact that Mia had, indeed, invited along Dax, as I had suspected.
“It looks even creepier up close,” Mia commented as she stared up at the rickety mansion.
“If it’s this creepy on the outside, just imagine what it must be like on the inside,” Nathan smirked as he clicked on the flashlight.
Sure enough, the lock was rusted through and the door pushed right open.
“Woah, look at this place! You’d think this was actually a spooky mansion staged for the season, but this is… well… the real deal!” Dax remarked as he gazed at the dusty interior.
“Oh God… is that a rusted shovel hanging on the wall next to a gargoyle? Why would someone put that there? Guys? Guuuuys?” Mia was already clearly freaking out, her bunny ears quivering on top of her head.
“Yoshi, this is pretty scary… you’re going to protect me, right?” Jayla had wasted no time to use the situation to start clinging to her boyfriend.
“Y-Ya, of course. You know I’ll protect you, babe.”
“You’re looking a little tense yourself, bro,” Nathan quipped over his shoulder before proclaiming, “Woooah, guys, check this out!”
There was a collective gasp as the flashlight illuminated a small alcove from the hallway.
“Eww, let’s get out of here!” Mia said, poking Nathan on the shoulder to press forward.
“Hey, Nate, shine the light over here!” As the flashlight filled the study with light, Mia approached a desk. “Woaaaaah, there is some sort of case file here! Jeffrey Rowe, tried for murder… Guys, listen to this!”
As interesting as Mia’s discovery must have been, my attention was focused on what I swore was the sound of creaking floorboards coming directly above us, causing me to jump slightly.
“You okay?” Dax asked, reaching out to take my hand. “It’s pretty awful isn’t it, what that man did to his daughter.”
“Huh? Oh. Ya.” What? I jerked slightly at the sudden contact, fingers laced with my own. It felt… odd. My brain was trying to catch up. As my eyes glanced over at Jayla and Yoshi enjoying tightly gripping each others’ hands and giving each other googly eyes, it just made me realize even more how much I really wasn’t enjoying having that hand holding my own, even though it was warm and gentle and comforting. I suddenly felt guilty. You should be fine with this, so why aren’t you?
Disgusted with myself, I shook off Dax’s grip and hurried into the next room, needing to clear my head.
Dax was on my heels. I wanted to scream, and the haunted house had nothing to do with it.
“Heh, let them have some alone time,” I could hear Mia’s voice say from the other room. I swear I could actually hear her winking.
“Oooooh,” Yoshi said. “Riiiiiiiiight.” There was a fake cough. “So did they ever find the body…?”
“Are you all right?”
I let out an exasperated sigh.
“I’m fine. This musty air is just giving me a headache.”
“Are you sure this place isn’t just giving you the creeps? It’s okay to be scared, Brooke. Even someone like you can get scared sometimes. It’s kinda cute.”
I felt petrified when Dax’s arm went around me. My whole body turned to stone and my heart started hammering like a jackrabbit.
Oh, I was scared, all right. I was fucking terrified. It just wasn’t in the way he was thinking.
Dax was one of the most attractive guys in class. Lots of girls were interested in him, and would feel all aflutter to have his attention. But I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t look at Dax and see a teen heartthrob. I didn’t feel his arms around me and turn warm and goey. It just felt wrong… and I didn’t like it.
I’d always heard that a kiss is supposed to ignite sparks. Instead I only felt a sloppy, uncomfortable wet feeling in my mouth, and I wanted it gone as quickly as possible.
“I’m sorry. I don’t feel that way.”
It took all my willpower to not break down in tears right then and there.
I had to get away. As the tears started to leak from my eyes, I escaped at a full run up the main staircase and hid myself into the very back room.
And then I just broke down, really broke down.
“Ya… but it was like kissing a dead fish, you know? There was just… no response at all.”
“Woah… sorry dude.”
My safe haven was no safe haven at all. It was directly above the room my classmates were gathered in downstairs, and the rickety old house was crap at keeping the sound out. I could hear everything.
“Don’t feel bad, Dax, she’s never shown an interest in guys to me… you know… I’ve suspected for a while now she might be a lesbian, actually. She just won’t tell me. And I’m her best friend! I just wish she’d come out, you know?”
My tears poured down my cheeks. “But I’ve never found girls attractive either!” I blubbered to myself. “I’m not… I’m just… I’m just messed up! There’s something wrong with me! I feel so alone… No one understands…”
“I understand what it feels like to be alone. No one understands me, either.” There was a soft voice in the room, much too clear to be coming from the room below, and it had a sort of wispy tone… like a strained whisper, desperate to be heard.
I looked up through my blurry, tear-filled eyes. At first, I gasped, my heart stuttering. There was an ethereal figure in the room. This was the real deal. My instincts were telling me to run… because we run from what scares us, right? But right now… I was even scared of myself, because I didn’t understand myself. Maybe all this spirit had ever known was people fleeing because they didn’t understand, too.
Her face seemed friendly… but also carried a forlornness about it.
“Hi, I’m Brooke. What’s your name?”
“Christina. Christina Rowe.”
“You’re lonely, Christina?”
“Well, I can always use more friends. Want to come hang out at my house?”
She was more excited at that prospect than I’d expected, and couldn’t stop enthusiastically asking me questions as I went back downstairs.
“Brooke! Did you find anything upstairs?” Mia asked, likely trying to divert the topic from my failed romantic encounter in front of the group, though I could see in her eyes she was absolutely dying to get the details from me.
“Err… sort of…”
“Uhhhhhhhh… guys… I think we’d better–” Nathan was already bolting toward the door.
“YOU KIDS! EVERY YEAR YOU COME SNOOPING AROUND MY HOUSE WITHOUT PERMISSION! GET OUT BEFORE I GET THE SHOVEL!”
Christina and I became the closest of friends after that night. I really feel like I can open up to her about anything, which is why when I discovered AVEN and began to identify as an asexual, she was the one that really helped me through it all. In a world that still tends to believe by and large that asexuals “don’t exist,” she just… understood me. “Most people don’t believe in ghosts, either,” she would say with a chuckle.
Now I find it weird to even call her just a “friend.” She just feels like something… deeper to me, like our bonds are stronger than that. But I wouldn’t call her a girlfriend, either. It isn’t like we kiss and cuddle and all that sappy stuff. Obviously, I’m not comfortable with that… and well, this kind of works out, since she doesn’t have a physical body and all. For a time she was very self-conscious about that, until she realized I truly don’t mind. This bond we share together… it’s a love that works just fine for us, just the way we are.
But you know, when she’s really hurt, or upset, or scared… I’ll always comfort her, in the only way I know how. I may not exactly be a very physically intimate sort of person, but she says that when I put my arms around her, she can feel my body warmth pressing around her essense, and it soothes her. And that makes me feel all warm inside, despite the icy wind against my body.
This was written for the October Monthly Short Story Challenge from the Sims forums, which tasked folks to write a story in 500-2000 words using 1-15 screencaps using the theme “So Spooky.” I used 1,970 words and 15 screencaps. It is a completely stand-alone story, not using any characters from any of my other works (though there are many cameos from some of my other short stories… can you spot them all?)
This short story was also written for Asexuality Awareness Week 2016, which was celebrated October 23rd to 29th 2016. Asexuality Awareness Week is “an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to our community and our allies around the world.” As an aromantic asexual myself that has gone through many of the feelings of confusion, guilt, loneliness, misunderstanding, and wondering just “What’s wrong with me?” that I tried to convey with Brooke in the limited amount of words I had, as well as being told, “You don’t like guys? Oh, you must be a lesbian!,” a common response many Aces get fed that Brooke’s friends immediately jumped to, this was an important story for me to tell. And there was so much more I wished I could’ve included, but there just isn’t the space in the short story format.
If you don’t know anything about asexuals (you wouldn’t be alone; it really is true most folks think we “don’t exist”!), I highly recommend you check out The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network or this great, very quick educational video by swankivy that gives a hit-and-run of many questions on the topic. Also, check out CathyTea’s Asexuality Awareness Week 2016 Tribute as well, where she interviews four of her Ace Sims!