Rebecca still wasn't sure exactly how it happened, but she had agreed to be part of the Wilsons' annual House of Horror. Sure, she had heard it was one of the biggest things in Andersville and considered a great honor to be asked to participate, but she had never participated in Halloween activities before and had always considered the holiday pretty barbarous in concept. And now she was going to be part of it!
Once that fact sank in, some dread started to creep in. She started remembering some of the comments of her students she had overheard, comments about how realistic the monsters looked and acted, and how some of the dungeon scenes looked so real and how previous participants had screamed, sounding as if they really were being tortured.
And yet, everyone she talked to who had taken part had only good things to say about the experience. Still, she also knew that they wouldn't speak about it in detail. When pressed, the only response was that they had solemnly promised never to divulge anything about that night. Something about not giving up the secrets behind the 'magic, ' whatever that was supposed to mean.
So, Thornton High School English teacher Rebecca Sampson, known to her students and fellow teachers as 'that heartless bitch, ' sat in her lonely apartment and wondered how the hell she had gotten into this.
It was barely two months 'Ms. Sampson' had been at the school, yet the reputation was acquired in less than two weeks. It was telling that despite being only in her late 20's, she was considered an 'old battleaxe.' Strait-laced wasn't enough to describe her. She definitely personified the 'my way or the highway' school of thought.
She had already reduced seven kids in her freshman class to tears, including two boys, and her junior/senior class of special students were all carrying 'f' averages. When called to the Superintendent's office, she explained that if a student was taking a class, he or she needed to do the work that class entailed. No scaling down. Another teacher took over and she was given an extra study hall.
When asked why the school system had hired someone who had already been dropped by four other schools, the reply was 'she was the only qualified teacher to apply for the job.'
At first, there were a couple kind-hearted souls that cut her some slack, thinking there must be a good reason for her actions. Eventually, nobody was able to put up with her. She was considered a lost cause.
A month before, Betty and Thom Wilson had sat at their kitchen table, discussing possible invites to this year's House of Horror. The list was a bit longer than usual - it had been a tough year in town, and there were several real candidates for that special night. But the one name that kept coming up was Rebecca Sampson.
Normally, the recommendation of a teacher taking part was taken with a grain of salt. After all, of all the authority figures kids were most likely to have issues with (besides a parent), a teacher was number one.
But with Ms. Sampson, the addition of adults and the nature of the recommendations made her an intriguing candidate. What clinched it for the Wilsons was that Bob Roth, one of their previous participants, actually put her name forth. Bob, while one of those that praised the experience the most, had also vowed never to recommend anyone.
And so Betty did her thing and convinced Rebecca to take part.
Despite her fears, Rebecca found herself in front of the Wilsons' huge castle-like home at 4pm on Halloween. Betty ushered her in and took her to a room off the back of the kitchen to get her into her costume. Rebecca shuddered a bit looking at the coarse material of the dress, which had some long, reddish brown streaks running down the back.
"Why do I need to wear this?" Rebecca asked.
"Because it fits the scene you will be in," Betty replied rather matter of factly.
After thinking about it a moment, Rebecca timidly spoke again. "Ju, just what scene is that?"
"You will be hanging from a whipping post."
"Oh," Rebecca squeaked. "And the streaks are, are to make people believe I'm being whipped?"
Betty smiled, but it wasn't exactly a friendly smile. "You'll see when we get down there."
"Down there? Down where?"
"In our dungeon, of course. That's where we have the house of horror."
Rebecca was pretty sure she didn't want to do this anymore, but somehow found herself in the dress and following Betty down a dank set of stone stairs.
It was a dungeon, all right. In a way, it was almost too real for Rebecca. After all, as an English teacher she spent a lot of her time reading, and mythology and medieval times tended to dominate her 'free' reading time.
She wondered at the high ceiling. She didn't think they had gone down that many stairs. And then she saw Thom, standing next to an eight foot tall pole that appeared to be about a foot around. There were heavy chains attached and the pole itself appeared to be scored in many places, some deeply.
Thom smiled as they walked up. "I'm all ready for you. Just come up to me, face the pole and raise your arms above your head."
"Already?" Rebecca asked. "I thought the doors didn't open until five. And where are the other participants?"
"I'll explain in just a moment. Please. Put your arms up here."
Rebecca found herself unable to refuse. In moments, she was locked into the chains, which stretched her arms around the pole, forcing her to turn her head so her nose wasn't squashed.
What she saw when her eyes focused caused her to scream! There, in front of her eyes, was a demon! At least, that's what it had to be - snakes around his arms, pointed ears, bluish skin and a hammer clutched in one hand.
"Now, now," Betty cooed, "That's just Thom in his costume. Don't get too excited, deary."
Rebecca turned to look at Betty and screamed again! Suddenly, the nice matronly woman was now a harpy, with dark wings and the body of a vulture.