Smile

Oh, stop looking at this little box and just read the story.

This is a dumb idea. Yeah, it took You this long to realize it, but now that You did, it's too late to turn back.

Like every idiot hero in every horror movie ever filmed, You've accepted a challenge from your friends to climb up the hill, break into the abandoned mansion and come back with a souvenir, a little reminder of Your bravery.

No such thing as haunted houses, You told Your friends nonchalantly. This isn't a stupid movie or a book, You firmly reminded them. You were the "skeptic", the one who would always bring them back to reality. Your friends would believe anything they saw or anything they read about. You were their anchor to the dull, the mundane, the boring.

But every group needs someone like that, You think. One can't spend all day being scared of things that go bump in the night. So when they nervously joked about breaking into 'that big old house on the hill' in class, You laughed and said "Sure, I'll do it."

They shouldn't have been surprised, with Your reputation as the skeptic and all, but they stared at you anyway. You smiled.

"I'll do it," You repeated. "Come on, it's not really haunted," You said. "Just show me where this 'haunted house' is and I'll show you guys myself."

Maybe it was Your confidence, that devil-may-care attitude of Yours that won them over. The murmurs of disagreement were soon drowned out by laughter and claps on your back. And then came the icing on the cake.

"That would be an awfully brave thing for you to do," says Kate Ronan, the prettiest girl in class. This is the first time she's talked to You all year. You feel a lead weight drop into your stomach, but you keep calm.

"Oh, it's nothing," You begin modestly, but she interrupts.

"I'm serious, it's really brave of you to do that," she insists, her deep blue eyes shimmering. You lose yourself in those eyes for a couple of seconds, thinking, I'd do anything to get her to notice me.

"Uh, well," You say, trying not to stammer. "I could, uh, bring something back from the house if you'd like."

And before You knew it, You're standing in front of the gate of the huge house. Suddenly, the immense size of the building strikes you. It always looked big from a distance, but up close, it's gigantic. Definitely over a hundred years old, with a distinctively Victorian look, creeper plants grow on every exposed surface, covering the brown dirt-stained walls with green.

You feel an air of malevolence surrounding the house. No wonder people were so quick to call it haunted.

"Breaking in" is ridiculously easy. A small tree grows just outside the walls. You climb up, shimmy over to the branch that ends on the other side of the wall, and jump down.

Almost as if the tree had grown there for that purpose, You think absentmindedly.

Suddenly, the wind picks up. The leaves start rustling as they flutter towards You, and at that moment the sun sets, and almost immediately, darkness falls on the grounds.

You panic for a second, as everything is obscured by the dark, but then your eyes adjust and you begin to see normally. Your breathing slows, and you suddenly feel a sense of warmth despite the cold.

You think that walking into the house is a bad idea. There's no telling how long that building has been neglected, and a roof could easily collapse on you. No, it's better to skulk around the expansive garden, and see what you can pick up.

You walk around to the back of the house, marveling at how beautiful the grounds are. Even though the place has been abandoned since the Sixties, and the flowers are long gone, replaced by weeds and overgrowth, you still feel that this garden was once grand. The air of malevolence fades away. You imagine what it must have been like, being a child in this garden, playing here. How happy it must have been.

Suddenly a thunderclap brings You back to reality. The lush, beautiful garden You imagine is once again the overgrown monstrosity you are standing in. It's quite a shock. You don't usually go into flights of fancy like this. 

It starts raining, a slow drizzle at first, but it soon builds up. You're soaked. Better do what needs to be done and get out of here.

You're behind the house now, in what must have been a courtyard. You walk on, Your feet crunching on the gravel, or stepping onto one of the broken tiles. The feeling of happiness slowly subsides, as if the rain is washing it away.

Haunted, You think again. You quickly shake your head. No such thing as haunted. 

Something white flashes at the corner of your eye!

You snap your head in it's direction. It's an owl. It stares at you indifferently. You breathe a sigh of relief. You walk on, chiding Yourself on how easily-

You feel something brushing against Your shoulder!

This time you jump back, started. It's a low hanging branch from a tree. Your heart is racing. What's wrong with me? You think.

And that's when You see the statue.

You're surprised. How could You not have seen it before? It's exquisite. Carved in what looks like marble, the statue is stained and brown from the vegetation growing all over it. You approach, curiously, and as you do you see the vines hanging from it's arms, rooted firmly in the ground. Upon closer inspection, you find that it's a statue of a woman, with a long, flowing dress and long hair that reaches past her shoulders.

The detail is amazing, even after so many years. As you look at her face, you see timeless perfect features, and beautiful lips locked in a smile. Vegetation clings to her whole body except her head, as if the Earth is reclaiming this statue.

But You feel as if something is wrong. You look at her arms again. They look like they've been straining against the vines.

That's strange, You think. If this was carved before the house was abandoned, then-

And then the penny drops. You look at her face once again. Before you can think another thought, the rain becomes even heavier, and a bolt of lightning flashes across the sky.

The light is so intense, You can't see anything for a few seconds. When Your vision clears, You see a beautiful woman, with flawless, fair complexion, in a long, flowing green dress and perfect blond hair that reaches past her shoulders. She examines herself, and then she looks at You with green eyes. Then those perfect, full lips begin to smile.

You experience a surge of emotions. Fear, desperation, madness. This must be what it's like to have been a statue in this courtyard for so many years.

The woman, now alive, begins to walk away. You call out to her, wanting to ask her to stop and explain, but You can't speak. Suddenly, You feel something tying Your arms down. You try to fight it, but Your arms don't respond. You try to move Your legs, but they remain perfectly still.

You try to scream, but Your voice doesn't obey Your commands. You can't turn your head, so You are forced to look at the woman walk away.

As she walks away, she turns to look at You, and You see the mad grin on her face. Realization dawns on You that You are smiling as well, Your face set in stone in a faint, never-changing smile.

The End

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