Driving through the snow is particularly nerve-racking for Hayden Dillon. As a high school senior, she only recently received her official driver's license and driving, even on an empty road, unnerves her. Let alone through unforgiving blizzards of winter that sting her skin with iciness even while wearing a warm furry coat, thick pants, fuzzy boots, and red earmuffs that contrast with her number 2 pencil colored hair. She's just approaching the gates of Hartmann's Valley Community when she receives a call from her father's co-worker and friend Mr. Carver.
“We're getting ready to leave. The kids are anxious to meet their new babysitter. You almost here?”
“I'm already at the front gate, Mr. Carver. I'll be there in a few minutes to babysit, alright?”
“Okay, thanks again for taking this job, Hayden. We really appreciate it. We really needed a night out to relax.”
“Don't mention it.”
Hayden doesn't have a full time job yet, so in order for her to be able to completely pay off her internet bill she needs some extra cash, and therefore agreed to babysit the children of her father's friend. Hayden is initially apprehensive about babysitting kids in general, since she doesn't want to put up with annoying and bratty troublemakers. She doesn't hate children, she just has no desire to have her own, so if her parents want grandchildren they can rely on her brother and sister.
Hayden approaches the Carver residence which is adorned with colorful neon Christmas lights. She parks her car by the sidewalk without blocking the driveway. As she steps out of her car and walks toward the house she begins to admire the snow-adorned community. The sight is overwhelming. The labyrinthine nature of the neighborhoods is intimidating, she could never walk through the suburban area and not get lost almost immediately. Ringing the door bell she is welcomed by Garrett and Lacey Carver with warmth and hospitality even though it is obvious they are ready to get going with their jackets covering their fancy clothing.
“Okay, so we have reservations at Lavernia's Kitchen for 7:30, and we also planned to catch a movie at the theater afterwards. We left our numbers on the kitchen table along with the restaurant's number just in case. If you need anything you can call us, and if we don't answer at around 9:00 we are probably at the movie theater. You can call the restaurant just to make sure, okay?” instructs Garrett.
“It's so convenient to be able to find a babysitter at the last minute. We needed to go out and enjoy ourselves for once. I can't remember the last time we even went out together,” says Lacey.
“Oh! I almost forgot, the kids are already bathed and dressed in their pajamas, and they are just watching TV in the living room. You have to prepare their food and make sure they get to bed in time. Our son Raymond is just recovering from a fever so he needs his rest,” finishes Lacey.
“I'll make sure to do that. You won't regret hiring me, I guarantee it.”
“It's nice to hear such reassuring words. We'll just go and say goodbye to the kids and we'll be on our way,” says Garrett.
Both parents say their goodbyes to the kids, telling them that they will be home soon and to be nice to the babysitter. They also remind Hayden that she is welcome to eat any snack from the fridge or cupboard before going on their way.
As Hayden puts down her things, she begins to explore the house, examining every little detail. She notices the silky and warm brown color of the wallpaper, the brightly colored vases that resemble a pile of candy, and the seemingly endless upstairs hallway containing everyone's rooms which paves the way for a large window where the hallway finally ends. Although unlocked, the window tightly wards off the cold weather from entering. She peers outside and sees a white atmosphere vaguely concealing what looked like a metal roof, probably their patio. The Victorian style paintings in the hall are so lifelike in detail that one would think that they had souls. The house might as well be made of glass with how delicate and loved it appears to be.
Hayden is also very appreciative of the warmth that spills from their fireplace which alleviates the punishing cold she just encountered outside. She proceeds to hang her warm coat among the countless selection of jackets on their coat rack, and approaches the living room across the fireplace where the kids are.
“Hey guys, while your parents are out for dinner I am going to be watching over you as your new babysitter. I'm Hayden Dillon.”
“Hello. I'm Raymond, but everyone calls me Raymie for short.”
“My name is Drew. I'm his older sister.”
“Nice to meet you guys.”
“Do you wanna watch a movie?” asks Drew.
“Sure, what's on TV tonight?” asks Hayden as she sits down on the couch with the children.
“Jem and the Holograms,” responds Raymie.
Hayden grew up watching the cartoon as a child, and is skeptical of the film version at first, having a bad history of being disappointed by adaptations of her favorite work by Hollywood. Watching the film, it's not as bad as she feared it would be, but it still doesn't compare to the cartoon. The kids seem to like it, however.
As the movie draws to a close the kids start to get hungry and ask Hayden for food, so that they can play a board game. Looking in the cupboards to find their favorite macaroni the power suddenly goes out for a few seconds before returning almost immediately. The kids are startled by the sudden power outage.
“I'm scared. Will the lights go out for the whole night?” asks Raymie.
“Don't be nervous. If the lights go out for a little while chances are you will already be asleep by then, and the lights in your bedroom will be off regardless.”
“We could just turn on the flashlights and pretend we're camping,” suggests Drew.
“That's not so scary after all,” replies Raymie.
As she finishes preparing their dinner, she happily agrees to sit down and eat with them as they exchange personal stories and begin to bond slowly but surely. Raymie also shows Hayden his favorite bell, a memento from his grandmother, and rings it giving off a sweet and mellow tune. After finishing up they return to the living room and play through a game of Scrabble. Although Drew and Raymie both beat her in the game it is only because she let them. She is liking them too much to see their heartbroken faces at losing. They spend the rest of the evening playing with toys, shelves of board games, and Uno playing cards. Raymie also dusts off a few more old-fashioned games that were lying around in the nearby junk closet to play with such as Knuckle Bones and a glass Chess set. Hayden begins to enjoy herself a bit more.
As it was getting closer to their bedtime, Hayden walks them to each of their rooms. While Raymie quickly falls sound asleep wearing his favorite bell like a necklace, Drew is having trouble doing so and asks for a bedtime story.
“I can't sleep without listening to a fairy tale. Can you pick one out and read it to me?”
“Okay, I'll just look through your bookshelf and pick out your favorite story.”
Alice In Wonderland is her last choice out of all the books on the shelf. She begins reading the book to a giddy-looking Drew and watches her enthusiastically follow along as she tells the tale of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and encountering mythical creatures on her journey. She is only part-way through the book when Hayden realizes that Drew has finally fallen asleep. With a warm smile Hayden pulls up the blankets and puts away the book while quietly leaving their room. This isn't so bad for her after all. She can get used to this.
As she walks down the stairs to the living room it only takes her a few moments to realize that, excluding the sleeping kids, she is all alone. She is slightly unnerved at the realization but relaxes herself on the couch with a chocolate Popsicle and potato chips anyways. Out of boredom she decides to look through the Blu-ray shelf, finding the typical children's films like Finding Nemo, Cinderella, and Labyrinth along with the more grown-up films like Die Hard, Collateral, and The Silence of the Lambs. As she's browsing through the collection she is suddenly interrupted with a phone call.
“Hey Hayden, it's me, Mr. Carver. We just called to check on things at the house. How are the kids?”
“Sound asleep. I made sure that they were fed and I kept them occupied with games until their bed-time. They were well behaved and didn't give me a hard time.”
“Oh that's good to hear. Thank you, Hayden. By the way, after we finished the movie we stopped by a friend's house to hang out, so we might not be back until almost midnight. If you're uncomfortable driving alone that late at night you're more than welcome to stay over. We have enough room for one more person. All you would need to do is tell your parents”
“No thanks. I can calmly drive back home, it isn't that far away.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I'll be fine, I promise.”
“Alright then, we'll be back home soon, okay? Just sit tight.”
The electricity starts to fade in and out again after she hangs up the phone. The snow's interference is both annoying and unsettling. Hayden begins channel surfing, watching various shows throughout the hours. After settling on re-runs of CSI she hears her phone ringing. Taking a look at the caller ID it just said anonymous. Out of curiosity she answers the phone call.
No answer comes through the other end.
“Is someone there?”
Still no response. The person then hangs up.
She is initially confused but brushes it off as a wrong number. Hayden continues to channel surf and play on her phone until she is startled by yet another phone call from possibly the same anonymous caller. With confusion and hesitation, she answers the call.
No response, all that can be heard is raspy breaths inhaling and exhaling.
“Are you the same person that called before?”
The person continues breathing, and finally says, “Little C-Connie, don't say a...word Connie, don't say.”
“We loved them, pretty Connie, sweet children.”
“Mr. Carver, is that you?” asks Hayden.
The call ends.
It's a stretch, but she's hoping it's a familiar person calling. It can't be Mr. Carver, though. He never calls with an anonymous caller ID, and even then she still doesn't know who the hell Connie is, so it can't be someone she personally knows with that name. In a desperate attempt for an answer to the peculiar phone call she dials Mr. Carver to debunk her suspicion.
“Hi Hayden, do you need something?”
“Mr. Carver, did you call me some minutes ago?”
“Um, no, why do you ask?”
“I have an unidentified caller who repeatedly called me with no answer until he finally responded with a question asking about children, I think.”
“Well, it wasn't either of us.”
“This makes me nervous. Should I call the police? I don't want to get into some serious trouble with some random creep.”
“No, not yet. As long as you're not in any real danger you shouldn't make such a drastic move just yet. All you would be doing is just wasting their time. Listen, I most certainly think that this prank caller is just one of the neighborhood kids trying to mess with us again, this isn't the first time it has happened. Until you feel threatened or in danger just remain calm and sit tight, we'll be home soon.”
“How could they have my number, though? That part is what creeps me out the most,” says Hayden.
“You have come to this community before to visit your friends, so it's possible that they obtained it then when you were visiting.”
“Some of my friends do have sneaky younger siblings that could have overheard me giving my number to friends. I guess I'll give them a little scare myself next time I see them.”
“Alright then. Listen, before I hang up could you go check on the kids just to see if they are alright?”
“I will do just that.”
“Thank you, bye,” finishes Garrett.
As soon as he ends the call Hayden glides up the stairs and quietly looks into each of their rooms. Both kids are sound asleep, but Drew has dropped her doll dressed in a pink gown. Hayden gently tucks the doll in with Drew and sees her lovingly embrace it like a family member. Afterwards, Hayden carefully walks down the steps into the living room. From the atmosphere permeating the house with looming hallways, glaring portraits, and a grandfather clock being the only thing breaking the deafening silence, it's a setting practically begging for someone to just break the quietness. To distract herself she grabs her laptop bag and heads out to the patio to work on school work, bringing an electric heater with her from the living room to give her a comfortable area to concentrate in. It isn't helping to literally be intimidated by the same house providing shelter from outside forces.
Hayden relaxes herself under the metal roof of the patio with the smoky air from the heater, a nice view of the foliage, plastic playground, and crystalline pool through the screen-protected walls and door, not that any bugs would be flying around in this weather anyway. She just needs some fresh air to work on her report. As she's typing on the computer she's interrupted by a phone call. The sound makes her skin crawl as she checks the caller ID, which says anonymous. Hayden reluctantly answers the call.
“Damn it, who's calling?” demands Hayden.
Still no response. As she's about to hang up the phone a voice finally comes through.
“God, Hayden, do you think you're talking to your ex or something? It's me, Lindsay.”
It's only her good friend Lindsay Clark, thankfully.
“Sorry, I just dropped my phone under the couch and was trying to grab it. Anyway, why are you so agitated? It's only babysitting,” says Lindsay.
“First off, why is your caller ID private?”
“I got a new phone, remember? I haven't adjusted the ID yet.”
“Okay then, as I was about to answer that isn't why I'm worked up. It wasn't as bad as I initially thought. I just have some creep who thought it would be hilarious to scare someone tonight with prank calls. It's the Christmas season, not Halloween, for god's sake.”
“What? I used to love prank calling our neighbors for shits and giggles! It was hilarious when the crazy cat lady couldn't figure out it was me trolling her.”
“You definitely were an annoying little shit when you were younger,” retorts Hayden. “This is the same girl that would steal my toys and pour glitter on Megan's hair in art class.”
“Piss off, Hayden!” responds Lindsay in a sarcastic tone, receiving a chuckle from Hayden. “You weren't so innocent yourself. We were awful as kids, and you know it. Anyway, what are you doing right now?” she asks.
“I'm just out on the patio typing my essay for English class. The children are asleep and I have the whole house to myself until the parents come home,” answers Hayden.
“I guess that's not a horrible way to spend the weekend. So the kids didn't give you any trouble or something of the sort?”
“No, actually. They were sweet and entertaining and quickly fell asleep. For once I actually enjoyed working,” responds Hayden humorously.
“I'm still not jealous. I get to stay in my house and binge watch Netflix shows,” quips Lindsay.
“These people have Netflix too, smart-ass. I could never get bored here.”
“Are you sure there's no catch?" questions Lindsay. "This seems too generous."
“Yes, there are no strings attached,” answers Hayden.
“Lucky. Anyway, have you studied for your chemistry project with Ms. Beckman? Remember it's this week coming up.”
“Please don't remind me. You already know who I'm paired up with.”
“Oh well, it won't be for the whole year, just one week, you can get over it,” says Lindsay.
“Easy for you to say, she's not your arch-nemesis.”
“Oh cry me a river already. It won't kill you to be within even an inch distance of her.”
Hayden started receiving another call.
“Hold on a second Liz, I have another call.”
“Hi, sweetheart, it's your dad. I just called to see how you're doing.”
“Oh thanks, Dad. Actually, I didn't hate myself while watching the kids,” says Hayden amusingly.
“I didn't think you would. Garrett is a good man, so why would his kids be any different?”
“I'm sorry I was so aggravated about this, dad. I was just frustrated and it was in the heat of the moment.”
“It's okay. I was exactly like you when I was your age.”
“Thank you. If you're wondering I'm just working on my essay for English class. I already fed and kept the kids occupied until their bedtimes, so I'm just relaxing until their parents come home. I'm also talking to Lindsay.”
“Sounds good, honey. I'm proud of you. Anyway, I have to go now. I have to get back to my work, but I'll see you later, okay? And tell Liz I said hi.”
“Bye dad, I'll make sure to tell her.”
Hayden ends the call with her father and resumes the one with Lindsay.
“Sorry about that. My dad was just checking in on me, and he also wanted to say hello to you.”
“That's fine, I'm grateful he acknowledged me. I always found your dad to be kind of hot if you ask me,” teases Lindsay.
“Hey watch it! That's my dad you're talking about not some random jock from P.E. Class!” hisses Hayden.
“Wow, if you're this annoyed right now you'd probably claw my eyes out if you caught me staring at your father's hot ass every time I came over. By the way, tell him to keep those black jeans, they make it look even sexier,” jokes Lindsay.
“Fuck you, you already have a boyfriend and you're still thinking those perverted thoughts about my own dad! You know I might just claw your eyes out when you come over again,” retorts Hayden. Lindsay always had a silly crush on her father, even with a boyfriend now she seemingly hasn't grown out of it.
In a fit of laughter, Lindsay replies, “I'd like to see you try. Anyway, I have something on the stove cooking, so I'll talk to you again on Monday, alright? Bye Hayden.”
“See you Monday, Lindsay.”
Hayden resumes working on her report and occasionally getting distracted by YouTube videos, a bad habit of hers. She's half-way done when she receives yet another call with an anonymous ID. She answers the call, weary but a little more confident.
Silence responds to her.
“Are you calling me again, Lindsay?”
“....Connie, you didn't have to see this. Innocent child, you'll forget in time. Run off to bed now, I'll r-”
In frustration, Hayden immediately ends the call. She's not putting up with any stranger's bullshit tonight anymore. Someone else can deal with their crazy instead. She refuses to be threatened and made to feel unsafe in the very guest house that provides her with safety.
Hayden packs her stuff and brings it back inside. She proceeds to collapse on the couch with the TV on. She thinks about napping while she waits for the parents to come back. While an episode of a sitcom is concluding Hayden nearly falls asleep when she's startled by a knock on the door. Confused, a groggy Hayden walks up to answer the door. Who would be at the house this late at night? She looks through the peephole and sees a cloaked figure rush towards a car parked outside. Cautious and now nervous, Hayden unlatches the stubborn hinge pin and looks outside. Before she can investigate she hears a voice call out to her.
“Hey girl! Get your skinny ass over here! It's Christie.”
Hayden breathes a sigh of relief. It's her good friend Christie King, buried underneath layer after layer of clothing, visible even from the car. She approaches her car and stands in front of the window.
“Who's car is this? I don't remember seeing it any time I came over.”
“I stole it from my uncle.” After Hayden gives her a confused look, Christie laughs and confesses.
“I'm kidding, it's my boyfriend's car. He let me borrow it to pick up some friends so we can all hang out together. This is Elise if you remember her from Biology class,” explains Christie.
“I do, she used to copy off my work because her lazy ass couldn't do it herself,” responds Hayden jokingly.
“You know I'm awful at science, Hayden, cut me some slack,” responds Elise sarcastically, “I managed to pass the class because of you.”
“I can only imagine what would've happened if I didn't let you. Anyway, what are you doing here? I'm just babysitting the kids right now,” says Hayden.
“I was wondering if you were in the mood to come over to my boyfriend's house to chill if you're not busy right now. I assume the kids are sleeping? I knew you would be in the community so that's why I came over.”
“Well, they're asleep but I'm not comfortable leaving them alone for even a few minutes, so-”
Hayden stops mid-sentence when the girls are interrupted by the sight of a hooded figure just staring at them from across the street. Still and stationary, he just continues to stare in their direction ominously.
“What's that guy's deal?" asks Elise. "He's just staring at us.”
“I don't know, but he looks a little scary,” answers Hayden.
The figure then walks down the street to where they are and gives them a threatening glare as he walks past them and disappears down the road.
“Well that was weird. Should we be worried?” asks Christie.
“He didn't threaten us or attack us, so probably not for now, but man he looked angry,” answers Hayden. “Anyway, as I was saying, I don't want to leave the kids alone so no, I won't come over.”
“Okay then. By the way, remember not to miss my Christmas party, girl. It's gonna be a blast!” says Christie.
“When my family dinner is over I'll make sure to stop by," answers Hayden. "Okay then, I'll see you guys later,” she finishes as her friends say their goodbyes while driving away.
Hayden walks back inside and towards the couch to resume her nap. About to fall into a deep sleep she is alerted with another phone call. She's now a little concerned that she may have provoked the caller before, though she decides to give him a piece of her mind anyway. Maybe they'll leave her alone if they feel insulted.
“What the hell is your problem, asshole!? Call someone else if you're looking for a good laugh!”
A raspy voice soon replies after a brief pause “You misbehaved, little girl. Do you want me to go away forever, little Connie!? Is that what you want!? I did all this for you and you only!”
Although she has to give credit where it's due, this caller is a pretty creepy actor. They have actually managed to freak her out just a little bit. She decides to test her previous theory and starts to try and receive a reaction from the prank caller so they can confess who they really are.
“Jeremy, you just blew your cover. You probably just got this from one of those horror movies you like to watch constantly,” she taunts. Maybe he would get nervous and spill the beans.
“What did you do?!” says a deep but feminine sounding voice. “I-I'm sorry mother, this is my mercy, we'll be together again,” says a more masculine voice.
Hayden is starting to become more tense. This person has never played around with voices prior. Still she tries to pry for a confession from them.
“Jeremy, that's not very original. Just admit that you fail at this game, or I'll tell your big brother that you've been scaring me today.” It sounds very empty as a threat, but she hopes it does something. Jeremy is only a pre-teen after all.
“Remember, God is always watching!” says a voice that sounds like an older man.
“Hmm. I call your bluff then, Timmy, if this happens to be you.” She is making quite an effort not to sound disturbed by what she has just heard.
She then proceeds to pace around the open house, in front of any possible visible openings. She's starting to sweat a little bit and is trembling as the phone is slightly falling through her sweaty fingers. This caller is actually getting to her. She shakes her head as she makes one more effort to press on and get this person to blow their cover.
“If you happen to be watching me trying to get a glimpse of me scared, it won't work, but I'll test that bold attempt. What am I doing right now?”
She starts to wave her hand at her waist and twist and turn.
“Well? What am I doing?”
When no response comes through the phone, she breathes a small sigh of relief and is about to end the call when a voice finally comes through.
“I can't-t-t sleep without a f-f-FAIRY TALE!!!”
When just those words come through the phone, Hayden becomes stuck in complete paralysis, her breath runs short, and she trembles everywhere. This person was most likely stalking her this whole time, since there was no other way they could have heard those words. Does this mean the caller could have been inside the whole time? She feels the spacious house closing in on her, suffocating her. She could have a heart attack this very moment.
“What did you just say?” It takes all of her strength to spit out those words.
“We could turn on flashlights and pretend we're camping!!!” the voice says sadistically.
Hayden feels that she can just shut down and go into a medically induced coma at this point. In her state of panic, this labyrinthine house is just closing in on her along with the punishing ticking of the grandfather clock, the only other thing making noise. As if it's an out-of-body experience, Hayden rushes to every opening that could serve as an entrance and proceeds to lock all doors and close all windows, including one that's suspiciously open by the backyard patio entrance. She intentionally avoids the upstairs hallway, since she doesn't want to frighten the children awake. The window at the end of the bedroom hallway is probably locked anyway.
She finally awakes from her unresponsive state after shutting herself in when she sees a silhouette approaching through the stained glass window of the front door. The very sight is enough to break Hayden and spiral her into uncontrollable panic, staring at her possible impending doom helplessly as a voice mockingly came through the phone at the same moment. She still has it in her hands.
“Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, TOCK!!!” It speaks simultaneously with the grandfather clock.
At this point she stops questioning how this person knows her surroundings and just instinctively jumps into the junk closet across the living room and tightly locks it. She envelops herself in the wardrobe and hides until no trace of her can be seen from outside, with only one peephole through the clothes to see her surroundings. Thank god this closet is spacious so that she can comfortably hide and wait until the parents arrive. A thought that finally occurs to her, why are they not here yet? For once in this entire day she's begging for them to finally come back home. Waiting in the closet she hears the front door unlock and someone step in, sending a shock wave of dread through her body.
After waiting a few minutes (or what feels like hours to her) she finally hears the door close. The suspense is killing her as that can mean anything. Did the stalker finally leave after finding no one, or are they waiting it out for her to carelessly appear? She impatiently waits for something to happen, and occasionally hears footsteps pacing about.
She hopes that the children are okay. She feels immensely guilty for leaving them behind and just prays for the best, though not hearing any child-like screams gives her a smidgen of hope that they are alive. This person seems too sadistic to silently kill them. Hayden's blood freezes when she sees and hears what looks like shifting clothes and a muffled voice in the clothing across from her. She's not alone in this closet.
All of a sudden, more paranoid thoughts are running through her mind. Is there more than one intruder? Have these people all been hiding in the house this whole time waiting for the perfect opportunity for an ambush? Is that why there are multiple voices on the phone calls? Her train of thought is interrupted when a voice comes through her phone, which she just realizes that she never hung up when she stuffed it into her pocket.
“I'm scared, will the lights go out for the whole night!?”
The chance to have some sort of response is intervened with when across the closet something finally comes out from the rustling clothes. A large shovel and bucket tip over from within the confines of the folds. Screaming in response to this is nullified when she viciously bites her tongue and covers her mouth as she bursts out of the closet and shuts it behind her.
She's greeted with an ugly sight. The elegant paintings that once draped the wall have their eyes and mouths painted over in hideous designs on the glass frame with a red substance. She doesn't want to figure out what it is. It takes her several seconds to awaken from the view of this sick vandalism before she's finally able to take a deep breath. She doesn't feel calmer, however. She's still glared at by paintings that are now even freakier than they already were when she first saw them. Only a few seconds after escaping the closet and being distracted she hears another voice come through.
“For once I might actually ENJOY WORKING!!!!”
This voice cuts much deeper into her psyche, but not because it's coming through the phone. It is coming from the same space occupied by Hayden, in this very same house. Simultaneously, the power finally gives out and every electronic appliance dies along with it, leaving Hayden petrified and blind in the complete darkness of the spacious house. Wetness is pooling in her sight at that very moment.
The first thing that comes to mind is to immediately call for the police or some sort of help, but her hopes of safety are ripped from her soul when a combined weak signal from the weather and a near-dead battery render her phone useless. She throws it across the living room in defeat before her moment of anguish is replaced with the thought of children. She hasn't checked on their safety yet. With little concern of her surroundings and the total darkness, Hayden rushes up the steps instinctively to protect the children under her care and to make sure they get out of this hellhole safely. They don't even have to know that there is danger, she can just make up a half-assed lie to get them to calmly leave the house, she doesn't want to frighten them with news of danger. Effortlessly looking through each of their rooms including their parents' rooms spawns a horrified reaction from her that nearly causes her to collapse in the hall right then and there. Neither child was present in their bedrooms. Sleeping, hiding, not a trace of them.
These kids are her responsibility, and now they are out of her sight. They could have died already and she didn't even notice the entire time she was in the backyard patio or in the junk closet or living room. She failed them and would probably not even be able to protect her own life, and if she were to live how could she face their parents and tell them that she let them die? Why would she want to live if that would be the case? Hayden took no notice of the tears finally cascading down her face.
Still not giving up, Hayden goes downstairs again to begin a search and avoid any impending danger when she spots something in the corner of her eye on the kitchen counter that wasn't there before. Although still frightened, curiosity gets the best of her and she carefully approaches the counter and examines the contents of a mysterious box, thinking of the worst when it comes to what could be inside. She notices a note taped to the top and rips it off to read. Her skin burns after she finishes reading it. She feels like she is on fire:
“I just came to return some of your appliances, Lacey. Thanks again for letting me borrow them! I promise I'll get my own when I throw another cocktail party. Your sister, Cheryl.”
She looks inside and finds a mixer and a blender. The person who entered the house was not even an intruder, just a family member stopping by. She had a chance of escape and completely blew it by hiding out of her sight. She was just a few inches away from safety. The anger she feels makes her blood boil. She swiftly searches the drawer for a weapon and takes a kitchen knife with her. She approaches the front door and turns the knob. Her rage is soon replaced with terror again as her eyes widen in surprise. No matter how much strength she puts into it, the door refuses to open. In a flurry of emotions, Hayden wrestles with the door knob, desperately attempting to force it open, but it won't even budge regardless of her strength.
After the struggle to force the door open proves futile, Hayden just stands in the middle of the house entirely petrified, her mind going completely blank. Somehow this stalker has blocked the door from the other side and prevented escape. It takes only a few seconds before she finally realizes the true cause of the jammed door. She approaches the lock and sees a puzzling and intimidating sight. It's jammed from the inside, because the creep tampered with the hinge pin and bent it in a crooked shape. It's unable to properly slide across and she is incapable of prying it open. Where was Cheryl when the stalker did this?
In a cesspool of conflicting emotions including rage and hysterics, Hayden turns around and walks away, weakly trying to form ideas on what to do to escape with her life and the children, wherever they may be. Her eyes then take notice, in an already vandalized room of paintings and other misplaced items, of a suspicious looking coat rack in the corner of the wall with something in particular sticking out. It then tips over that very moment and a cloaked figure proceeds to dart in her direction.
Hayden's reflexes are useless when this cloaked stranger ferociously tackles her to the ground and nearly snaps her arm in half, wrestling her knife out of her hand after she slices his trench-coat and cuts the skin of his waist beneath. He then pockets the weapon in a seemingly bottomless pit in the dark layers of his coat. Despite what feels like a bad concussion she can still make out a few details of his look. This stranger is almost completely hidden with a metallic muzzle covering his mouth, a fedora hat concealing his wood colored hair, which is tied behind his neck and hidden under his coat, which is accompanied by black gloves and what looks like a rope around his neck. Only his eyes are exposed, a dull gray color mercilessly peering into her soul. He pulls out a flip-phone from the coats and tauntingly waves it at her before snapping it in half and pocketing the scraps. Hayden can only weakly glare as he envelops his leather hands around her neck and applies pressure, squeezing every bit of life right out of her.
In a sudden rush of adrenaline she punches him in the eye and proceeds to try and gouge his eyes out. The stranger violently reacts and throws her to the side, and she strikes the wall with sharp recoil. He begins to blindly swing at her, knocking over and moving furniture in the process. She takes the opportunity to grab a ceramic vase and throw it at his head, shattering it. His muffled screams grow angrier. She gets a head-start and runs up the stairs. The window is likely her only hope of escape as he would be too bulky to carefully climb out and follow her without falling. Speeding up the steps she snatches one of the paintings, and as he is about to grab her, she miraculously strikes the stranger with it, shattering it to pieces. She did it by the skin of her teeth as he had caught up to her and she only had a few seconds chance to make the move.
She makes her to way to the window which she realizes is thankfully unlocked. Her grand escape is immediately cut short when something strikes her leg. She falls over on her hands, taking notice of excruciating pain on her leg. She looks at her right calf which has a large dark purple bruise on it. She can barely stand on that leg. She looks up and sees the stranger is now standing and is effortlessly swinging what looks like two large metal bells, which make no sound, on each end of a thick rope. Before she can react he strikes her in the head with the swing of a bell. The stranger then picks up her defeated body and slowly carries it across the hallway.
When Hayden finally awakens from her daze she sees the direction they are heading towards, and it isn't down the steps, but toward the window. When she finally realizes what he's going to do she starts to thrash and kick, desperately trying to escape his grip. Her screams make no noise, incapable of making any after having been strangled. The stranger then throws a resistant and retaliating Hayden through the window, shattering it as she strikes the metal roof of the patio before landing on the concrete underneath, the crystalline pool slowly becoming a dark red color from the nearby redness spilling into it.
Some time later...
“I'm sorry I accidentally locked the keys inside the car, we shouldn't be back this late,” apologizes Lacey.
“Don't worry about it, Hayden will understand. After all, she'll still getting paid for this, so I doubt she'll complain too much,” says Garrett.
“I still don't get why she didn't answer our call,” says Lacey.
“Probably a multitude of reasons. Occupied with something, dead battery, napping. It's also worth remembering that the service is probably non-existent due to the poor weather.”
“That's probably it. Well at the very least, we got to bond with our friends a little more over trying to pry open a car door,” chuckles Lacey.
“Yeah I guess so. I didn't end up liking Michelle that much more, though. She can be sweet, but damn she's annoying with her constant chatter.”
“Yeah, I have had to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying something to offend her or her husband. She's a good person, but she just needs to calm down!” says Lacey.
“So did you like the movie? I was curious to watch Moonlight because I had seen the original play it was based on,” says Garrett.
“It was pretty depressing, but wow it was emotionally tense. I wouldn't mind watching it again.”
The Carvers pull up to the driveway and stretch their sore limbs after stepping out.
“I'm just ready to collapse into bed and finally get some sleep. This was a long night,” says Lacey.
“Oh, but I wanted to collapse into bed for a different reason,” insinuates Garrett.
“Hm, maybe next time, it might actually give you something to look forward to when the time comes,” teases Lacey.
“Aw damn. Anyway, I have to get the money ready to pay Hayden and send her on her way. I really appreciated what she did for us tonight.”
“She's a good girl,” says Lacey.
The couple walks up the front steps but something catches the corner of Lacey's eye before they can try to open the front door. She sees a car down the driveway.
“Hey isn't that my sister's car? What is Cheryl doing here this late at night?” wonders Lacey.
“Maybe she finally got around to returning your stuff after a century of holding on to them,” answers Garrett sarcastically.
“It took her long enough, I've been needing that damn blender for days, maybe she is just inside talking to Hayden.”
Garrett unlocked the door but it refuses to open after turning the knob multiple times, he starts to get irritated before Lacey intervenes.
“Maybe it's just locked from the inside with the pin, knock and see if anybody answers.”
Garrett proceeds to knock a few times. No one comes to the door.
“Hayden? We're back home. You can open the door now, it's locked.”
“Cheryl? Hayden? We're outside, please open the door?”
Out of utter confusion and eventual worry, Garrett decides to break the door open with a kick despite Lacey's protests after spending probably a half-hour calling for them. It takes a few kicks before the stubborn door finally gives in and swings open. The couple is greeted with an ugly and worrisome view. The house is completely ransacked with shattered vases, scattered furniture, and vandalized paintings. It looks like a tornado has just blown threw the house.
“Oh my god! Were we robbed? What the hell happened?!” exclaims Garrett in utter shock.
“Where was Hayden during all of this!? And, oh god, where are my babies?!” cries Lacey.
The two scour through the first story of the house searching for the three kids and any indication of what happened in this complete mess of a house.
“I need to find our kids, my precious babies, WHERE ARE THEY?!” cries Lacey.
“Honey, calm down! We'll find them. I'm sure they are probably hiding around here somewhere with Hayden.”
“Upstairs bedrooms, we look there first!” demands Lacey.
The Carvers practically tripped over each other trying to climb up the steps and proceed to turn every bedroom, including their own, upside down looking for their missing children and finding absolutely nothing. Lacey and Garrett frantically look one more time before walking out in exhaustion and terror.
“Where are my kids? I'm not leaving my babies behind!” chokes Lacey in a fit of tears.
“Okay, I have an idea. You go look and see if they are in the garage while I check the living room one more time, okay?” suggests Garrett.
Both parents go to search each respective location. As Garrett is beginning his search he hears something fall over in the junk closet. It could be a sign of danger, but saving the children is his top priority now, so that doesn't matter. He carefully approaches it and enters.
He begins to look through one side of the closet, inspecting through the hanging clothes shrouding the walls and the discarded junk before he nearly trips on a bucket. As he turns around he notices the moving clothing, probably where the bucket fell from. As he cautiously approaches the other side and looks through the folds he's met with a shocking discovery. He finds both of his children lying in the corner bound with duct tape and with garbage bags over their heads. Garrett hastily rips off the bags and finds that they're still alive, much to his relief. They had torn mouth holes in their bags at some point.
“Oh thank god you're okay! It's alright now kids, your parents are home. We're going to get you out of here safely!” exclaims Garrett while tightly hugging and kissing them.
“But daddy what about the coat man? Is he gone?” asks Raymie.
“Dad, is he still out there? The stranger in the big coat? I'm scared. Where's Hayden?” asks Drew.
Utterly confused and a bit more frightened now than ever before, Garrett shakily asks, “W-what are you talking about? W-who's the coat man? Please tell me now!”
The kids have no chance to respond when an ear splitting scream echoes throughout the house scaring everybody in the closet. The three of them rush out to find the source and reason for the scream and discover a trembling Lacey helplessly staring at a gruesome sight. They all turn in the direction she's facing, and see Hayden's mangled corpse lying out in the backyard, having fallen to her death with her bodily fluids staining the pool with a deep shade of crimson.
“Oh god, please don't look, d-don't look at it!” says a shaken Garrett as he forcefully turns the kids away and covers their eyes. “Please, for the love of god don't look.”