The Valore's House, picture taken in 1997, one year before it burned to the ground

Spring, 2001

At the time, I never realized exactly why the Valore family was so popular, or why they acted regretful during their kindest actions. There were 3 of them, Casey, Angela, and Bella. There were the sweetest people I've ever known. Especially Bella, she was in my grade and probably one of my best friends, and being me, that's saying something. I've always had a disliking for people, especially school kids, and it was always hard for me to make friends, or any in general. I only had about 5 friends, including her, and Bella was my favorite.

The Valores, in general, were basically the richest people in school. They always had the newest gadgets, whatever it is, or the hottest toys, whatever it was even if it was not exactly for their age group. Bella had to be the most social of the family, every time she had a party at least 15 people were there, and all of them were her greatest friends.

That night was no different, especially when my phone rang and the caller ID showed her name, I got very excited, as she was someone I liked. I never told anyone about it, not even my best friend at the time, Hayden, but I loved Bella. She was always a beacon of hope to me, and she would always be friendly and nice to me, even if I wasn't doing the same to her. One thing that would always interest me of the Valores is their love to travel, of course, them being rich, they could travel basically anywhere they could.

Except, it wasn't ever the trips that would interest me, no, it's not like she ever invited anyone to them. Actually, it was more of what she would bring back from these trips. The things brought back were always... strange to say the least. Artwork, old manuscripts, dolls, black magic, voodoo kits. It was fascinating to play with these, and each to see what either 'fortunes' or 'predictions' we could conjure up. It was always thrilling and we were filled with a sort of childhood feeling that accompanied these actions and thoughts.

Innocence is the reward of childhood. There are no terrors in life; there is no death, no tragedy. One day though, this will always be shattered one way or another. It is always with the same results, a feeling of inescapable fear. That's exactly how I felt with these items, innocence, but, not always. Sometimes, when we would play with items of darker origins, I would never feel... safe. Something would always be tingling at the back of my neck, and it would never seem right. I don't know why, but it was quite satisfying. It was as if I was getting adrenaline pumped through me. That's strange to me, as normally it takes a large thing to excite me; really, I've never been the most fun person to hang out with, to say the least.

That night she called me, and I gladly picked up the phone once my mom saw who it was on the caller id, like I said before. Now, once I picked it up, she explained to me that she was going to be 14 this weekend, and she wanted me to go to her sleepover that Friday night. It was all planned ahead of time, once school would end, her dad would pick me and about 3 other kids up, and we would drive to her house, where other kids would show up. This actually felt unnerving to me, and for this whole time I never understood why. Looking back, I think it was more of her voice in that call. It sounded like her normal, insane self, however, this was different. It wasn't her.

It sounded like a recording, as if it was already set up, similar to a telemarketer. It had a tone of uncaring. It might have been small, but to me, this is all I needed to get me suspicious about her for one reason or another. It was almost as if, she was planning something, menacingly the idea began to support itself with all sorts of ideas, each one more and more odd than the last. I wanted to believe it was a coincidence, but something was eating away at my subconscious, and I couldn't tell what it was. I was very reluctant to go at this point, but I wouldn't resist a chance to see my other friends, and then I left with everything needed, and yet, the feeling of regret and paranoia filled the dark, voided regions of my mind.

The party that night was boring, to say the least. It was about 2001 at the time, so there wasn't many things in the field of technology. Sure, she had a computer, but it wasn't anything like today's standards. There were games, and we were able to play with the kits that she got from those trips she had taken as fore-mentioned. Still, I was feeling strange. It was like I was being watched from afar. Then I noticed something I hadn't seen before. The house behind the Valore's was non-existent. In most scenarios like this, the people live in the remote wilderness. No, Bella and her family lived right in the middle of suburbia Grand Rapids, Michigan. The houses in this neighborhood stretched miles, so then why would the house directly behind The Valore's be the only one missing?

Then another thing was unnerving to me, the whole house just seemed too calm, and out of place. There were no messes. When I say that, you'd think of the overly strict parents who are horrified at every stain. However, this was not the case. Nothing was in sight, really. Everything was locked up I guess I was looking alone and confused at the sight, as Bella noticed and approached me.

"Asher," She began. "Are you okay? You look afraid, or confused." I wanted to respond, but as soon as I turned to look at her, I froze up. This was not Isabelle Valore. This was not the Bella we all called her. Something in her eyes said this. There is no way this was her. She looked cruel and evil, unlike the innocent and outgoing girl I had always seen.

"Bella, are you okay? You don't look right yourself." Her eyes widened, she had realized I had a feeling weighing on her. A mental thought was slashed across the room right into my mind, and then it slowly dawned on my consciousness. The voodoo items, Black Magic. It all began to make sense. I opened my eyes in a horror. I began to sweat. What was this occurrence? Fate? Karma? Or an evil trick. However, the pieces began to fit together like a puzzle. The Valore's fascination with such dark arts, maybe, if I was correct, came from the fact they were satanic worshipers, and this was their home-base for all the evil acts.

I immediately shook the thought from my head. What the hell was I thinking? The Valore's were not satanic worshipers, nor were they plotting our downfall, it was all ludicrous! I began to laugh quite audibly at the realization of what I had been fearing! I wanted to tell Bella the whole crazy mindset that I had just a few seconds ago! I looked up, and stopped instantly at what I was looking into.

She was staring at me, now with a look of such pure malice and hatred. "Asher, what is it that you are thinking. I know it's not something I wouldn't like if you told me..." Slowly, as I looked, her eyes and her body movements looked more and more, fake. Her arm slowly moved backed up as I began to fear what was happening, I asked slowly. "Bella, what, are you doing?" She, or whatever it was, slammed my face with its fingernails, and it cut into my skin, with the wound instantly swelled larger and larger, and the blood slowly escaping from the gash in my face, making it grow larger by the second while Bella just kept on staring at me.

As I lay clutching my face, Bella began to laugh. It was a small giggle at first, but it grew louder and louder, increasingly turning in more of a death screech than a laughed. It was one of the cruelest and hate-filled sounds I had ever encountered, I wanted it to stop, just make it stop and have it done! The more I prayed, the louder it seemed to get, and I thought for sure that everything would break soon. The rest of the party-goers just began to stare at her as she laughed; becoming more and more beast like every second it continued. They backed away, all of them with a grizzly expression of dread and shock implied onto their faces.

I had enough, stop the laughter, stop howling in such a grotesque manner! Just shut the hell up already! As these thoughts pounded through my mind, they took over my body, and I acted on instinct. My hands slammed onto her abdomen, and she was disoriented as she fell backwards. Her head crashed into a lamp, which fell off its pedestal and smashed onto the ground. She looked up again, with a surprise expression on her face. She turned to her dresser, and made a run for it. I screamed at some kids to stop her, and they tried. Bella then yanked out and pulled a drawer section completely out of the frame and Bella let it fly. Random things showered us from it, and one smashed into my shoulder. I quickly lost my balance and doubled over from the pain. Moving my head, I saw Bella moving over to what she was wanting. It shimmered as she held it up. Once I focused in on it my blood froze, and I went pale. Bella smiled as she brandished a long, incredibly sharp hunting knife that was hidden in the drawer.

Her faced twisted into an evil, menacing smile. I was petrified at what I was looking at, but I had nearly no time to freeze. Bella charged at me, emitting an otherworldly shriek. I ducked down as she jumped, and the blade was lodged nearly 3 inches into the wall. I realized that this girl was seriously intent on murdering me now. I began to call for help, but as I turned my head to call, I realized I was alone. Everyone else had ran out of the room as soon as she had pulled the knife out. In a sudden rush I could feel drywall and dust falling on me, meaning that Bella had gotten the knife out of the wall, leaving a wicked hole. She let out another horrifying scream as she threw the knife down. I wasn't so lucky this time, it pierced my shoulder and caused widespread agony and pain. She took it out, now covered in blood, and went for a kill blow. I blocked it with my hand, causing it to get stabbed in the process. Blood was dripping out, and the more I struggled to disarm her, the more she cut me.

I finally knocked the knife out of her hand, and it skidded across the floor before it clinked against the wall. I kicked Bella out of the way as I went for it, still in shock from the blows. I grabbed it and got onto the bed. She went up next to me and pounced again. Losing my balance once more, I threw the knife at the ceiling, where it lodged itself. Bella's eyes widened in horror, all determination and courage before was now lost in a sea of fear. She looked at me as the knife fell out of the ceiling, bringing drywall down with it, along with a vase. It smashed on impact, and Bella keeled over in terror, grabbing my arm and dragging me down too. She turned my head so I was staring straight into her pleading, desperate eyes. She spoke slowly, with tones of false strength in her voice.

"Asher, it's done now, you've destroyed what little calmness that could the workings of our world. It has begun, and you cannot grasp what it is."

We both ran out of the room. I didn't get a chance to know what was happening. I heard he sounds of burning, tortured screaming, and destruction behind us. Turning around, I jumped and began to run faster as the wall of pure black flames were chasing us down the hallway. Every step we took made the flames come twice as close to us, Bella then stopped in place. I shouted at her to run with me. Was I crazy? She just tried to murder me! Now I wanted to save her? It didn't make sense, but I knew she had to be safe. She paused before running again, albeit slower, and the fire was almost touching her. As soon as we ran out of the house, it was gone. Black Flames were rampaging over the premises.

There, everyone was, her friends and family, were all waiting outside and gaping in awe at the graceful and danger of the flames. We both ran up to them, and they were shot out of their trance. Many of them were wondering how I hadn't been killed, but I said that wasn't important. We needed to put this out. Bella then spoke. "Things have to be settled. It's time for this to end, and not in the way you all would want it." She then sprinted towards the house. She went right into the flames. The rest of us were all shocked and simply terrified at what we just witnessed. We heard splinting noises as the flames died down. Her family said they must do it too, and before anyone could stop them, they all walked single file, right into the flames, more splinting noises ensued and the flames gradually died down.

The flames had calmed for a second, before exploding in a most dazzling spectacular. From the moment it materialized, I knew it wasn't normal. It moved in the way flames never could, as if it was possessed. I never thought about it until later, but Bella had possessed it at the time. She had shed her mortal body and took a much more deadly, eerie form of a pure, black fire, trying to fight out whatever evil spirits were kept inside there. Shaking, a large blast of the flames separated from the main group, aimed right at us, as if the was fireballs. Everyone scrambled for safety as the flames exploded, I don't remember exactly, but I don't recall there any fatalities of 8th graders that night.

The fire was being distracted by the water hose of the fire department when we escaped, if that makes any sense; we all climbed the fence to the next house, and ran. We heard a large squealing noise behind us and a loud POP as a blast of smoke and fire blasted near us. The flames spread towards us faster from the impact zone of the fireball as we sprinted away from the houses into the street. Destroying all the houses and buildings it crossed along the way. I never looked back. I never went back, and once we got in the ambulance and it drove off, I never looked back. I never want to know anything more about the Valore's, or their secrets. 7 houses burned down that night, before fire crews put it out. But, I read in later reports that as the fire was dying, strange screaming noises could be heard. I don't want to know what it was, or what it means.

5 Years Later

It's been a while since I moved out of that town north to Grand Rapids. I have the nightmares of the event every so often, each of them worse than the last. Therapy isn't helping too much either. It began to dawn on me a while ago, and only now have I recognized the cause of it all. The fact I couldn't make friends easily is because of the fact I have, not exactly a power, but a sense of danger and mystery towards liars and the mysterious. Bella always managed to hide this from our friend group, and the things she collected help hide it better. Recently, the reports have surfaced saying The Valore family was a supporter of the voodoo and dark arts. It was always something I never thought of. All my life though, I've recognized, but just never could say identify it that magic could possibly exist. But that's not the point, I think I'm going insane. I hear the TV turning on and off while I'm out of the room, and the phone calls of nothing other than strange languages I cannot identify, along with the knocks on the doors. When I answer, I can hear the air whispering, even if there is no breeze.

There are people standing outside my new school. Kids my age, and they are always out of sight to identify them, they follow me. I never notice them until they are close enough where I can hear their footsteps.

Even so, I can hear footsteps when I'm home alone upstairs. The knocking and phone calls have gotten worse, and now I've started developing hallucinations of large black flames raging on the horizon. Coming closer and closer every time I look away and back again.Laughter rages across the house, and now it's being noticed by my parents. Object have been appearing, and I have no idea of an origin of where they're coming from. I do have an older sister, but she would never collect these types of items.

The visions get worse every night. It's caused so much stress that I've been skipping school. That doesn't help in the slightest. It only makes the anomalies worse, more repeated, more strange, more consistent.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from someone with the caller ID "Bella Valore".

That's impossible though, Bella died in the fire, at least, her physical body did. As I answered it I could clearly hear her voice on the other end, albeit distorted and fuzzy, she said the words clearly "Hi, I can say that these will not be accidents, nor are they the work of a natural human." There's been a string of arson murders near my neighborhood. It's not adding up. It's all ludicrous, this can't be happening, but it is. The voices and visions keep getting worse, and worse, and worse. Sometimes I believe they're actually happening, even though they're not.

The black flames are slowly creeping up the walls. I can't be sane anymore.

The phone just rang again, Bella's calling. I shouldn't answer, I won't answer. I will though, and it's not a thing I can avoid, for now at least.