Fear. This wasn’t in Briar’s dictionary. It was like.. Like he didn’t feel it. Immortality to a simple emotion that so many others felt… He just didn’t feel it at all. Not that it really bothered him in the slightest. In fact, he seemed to use it to his advantage more than anything.

Briar Hill was only a teen, a stupid one at that. He sat at his familiar spot in the schoolyard after school, his papers sprawled in front of him, rustling along with the leaves under them in the autumn breeze. It wasn’t homework though, it was photos. Of houses. House, after house, after house. Not any houses, though. If Briar actually accepted the use of the word haunted, then that would be the word to describe these places. His fingers ghosted the papers, shivers creeping up his spine as his eyes closed.

“Briar,” a friend of his, Brendon spoke softly, kneeling next to the boy. “Snap out of it.. You know the teachers don’t like you sneaking out back here. You should get back to the lunch room..”

“No.. I-I’m fine.. It’s.. You know they don’t look for me anymore. I don’t like the lunch hall. It’s crowded. I can’t focus. Just leave me be, okay Brendon?”

It wasn’t uncommon for his friends to come look for him, they were just perturbed. About what, he didn’t know, nor did he really care. Briar was content with his own company and that’s what mattered.

“Briar, c’mon.. Don’t be like this-” Brendon was cut off with a harsh groan from Briar who had a distraught look now.

“Be like what? You know what time of the year it is, Brendon. It’s fall. And what’s in fall? Halloween. You can say they’re just myths- the old wives’ tale’s of people putting out the jack-o-lanterns to scare away the evil spirits, but I.. I know. I know they’re not superstitions. It’s reality, and you just can’t see that,” his voice neared a mumble toward the end, his gaze dropping back to his papers, to which he studied carefully.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Briar. You know you just make yourself sound crazy talkin’ like that? Maybe that’s why Lyn-z didn’t want to date you,” he muttered, standing up and brushing himself off with a sigh.

“Whatever. You know as well as I do that she’s just prejudice against misfits,” he retorted with a snort and rolled his eyes.

Without another word, Briar’s friend walked off, the leaves crunching beneath his worn down Converse, a sigh of his own escaping his pink, chapped lips, the air seeming to tense around him. This was just another reason he seemed to be much more content on his own- no one to get on his every last nerve, just as everyone seemed to want to do. Honestly, it was nothing but a bother for Briar to have friends, and he truthfully didn’t know why he kept them around. Maybe as reassurance that he wasn’t completely insane.

A week went by, and it went by a lot faster then Briar had hoped it would. Because now he stood in front of the only house he’d ever dreaded. 7 Oaks ave. His cerulean blue eyes fell shut, a sense of dread strangling him causing him to cough a bit, his icy breath twisting around his pinkened nose and up to the grey skies. It was colder today then it had been the last few weeks, the leaves curling in on themselves as if it was going to keep them warm, their color draining to a dull brown that no longer gave him a warmth he couldn’t explain. He felt a deep disappointment pang in his chest, shaking his head a little in spite of himself.

With a brisk wind surrounding him, he stepped up to the door of the house that filled him with images of his childhood. A winded gasp escaped his lips as a choked sob followed it, his body trembling gently. He felt like he was choking, death’s cold grip around his throat, strangling every bit of life left in him, the only thing assuring him that he was alive being the horrible sense of apprehension eating at him. He stood up shakily, gripping the doorknob of the house, ungracefully tumbling into the house that had it’s own aura to it.

Briar’s eyes shut temporarily, his phone buzzing, to which he shoved his hand into the pocket it was in, pressing the answer button, “H-Hello?”

“Are you going to go in the house or what?” Was the response, and he recognized the voice to be his friend Ryan’s.

“What do you mean? I’m in the house,” he muttered, the floorboards creaking underneath his feet, his knees trembling with unease.

“Are you going mad? You’re standing outside the house.. You’re waving at me.”

“Ryan, I’m in the house. I.. Don’t come any closer to what you see, okay? It’s not me.. It’s not.”

His eyes darkened, his pupils expanding as they tried to adjust to the eerie darkness of the house. His heart pounded in his chest and he himself tried desperately to regain his sanity. Why did he think this would be a good idea in the first place? He should’ve known better.

“Briar.. We’ve been waiting…” Voices came from beyond the shadows, causing his hands to tremble, the flashlight in his hands flickering. “So long.. So long since you visited us. Didn’t you care? Didn’t you care about us? Were we not in your mind? Begging to be free? You finally came though. You finally bothered to visit.”
A door slammed behind him, causing him to whip around, a weak squeal emitting from his quivering lips. The floorboard creaked once more, but he knew it wasn’t him making them do so. Something was with him, and it wasn’t something good. He couldn’t talk to them. He couldn’t fall for their tricks… You were never supposed to respond to the dead. It was forbade.

“Why won’t you speak to us?” It was yelling now, it seemed to be swarming him, and he felt his throat constrict, tears welling in his eyes. “We were your friends! We kept you from insanity. We begged you to be free, to let us go. We’re not ghosts, Briar. We’re your demons. You let us free. This is your doing, Briar. You did this to yourself. You used to hold us close, but now you try to drown us. And look where that’s gotten you. We’re not the ones drowning anymore, you are. This could’ve all been avoided.” The voices seemed to berate him, screaming in his face for his wrong-doing.

He sniffled, turning away from what seemed to be the source of the yelling, closing his eyes and running towards the door, but it wasn’t there. The door wasn’t there anymore, it was a mirror now, in its spot. His fingers graced the dirtied surface, looking deeper into the reflection. Though, it wasn’t his own reflection.. It.. It was him, but it wasn’t him. The eyes of the Mirror Briar were dark, they showed nothing, and the teeth.. They were anything but human, pointed and long, daggers. The skin of the reflection was littered with purple and yellow bruises, water seeming to pour from the pores of him.

“Well, Briar Hill, drowning us will not work. Your mere attempts to rid us are futile, and we refuse to be pushed away again. You should’ve never came back. Didn’t your mother teach you your manners?”

“Don’t talk about my mother!” Briar screamed, dropping to his knees and whimpering.

“Didn’t she teach you? Don’t talk to strangers.” And with that, he watched the corners of the reflections lips curl up into a vile and sick smile that made Briar’s blood run cold.

And now all Briar could do was watch from the mirror.

Didn’t your parents teach you?

Don’t talk to strangers.

Credit: Trinity McKeon

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