“Go on, you yellow-bellied chicken liver.” The words of the fifth-grade bully echoed through Hayden’s mind as he tread carefully on the creaky porch step of the abandoned house at the end of Blake Street. There was barely enough light to show the outline of two small broken windows at the top of the front door, flanking the bent and rusty knocker, barely hanging by one equally rusty nail. The shifting shadows of light and dark threw themselves into an everchanging kaleidoscope of distorted faces on the door—mouths opened. Screaming, howling in silence, these flickering ghosts of light and dark seemed to watch him as he approached.
Hayden stepped onto the porch. Stopped. Right foot in front of the other, he took one more step toward the door. The wood beneath his feet screeched and strained, then broke through under his weight. As Hayden crashed through the rotting porch wood, the scent of death and decay rushed into his nostrils, filling his lungs. Just before his head hit the dirt beneath the porch and the darkness came, Hayden felt something hard and icy cold wrap around his ankles.