Chapter Two
 

The unhaunted house stood menacingly at the end of a flower-edged pathway.  Its windows were neat and square, and not a single one had so much as a crack in the glass.  From deep within the house came nothing but silence - no moaning or howling or even the slight rattling of chains.  The whole structure was painted in a cheery combo of red and white. 

As Cal approached, tiptoeing up the clean and modern walkway, he gulped.  Then, he startled, for what lay ahead of him was too terrifying for words.  Cal shrieked and tore back down the path.

He was nearly flying when he stumbled and fell heavily against something slimy.  Namely, Aileen, whose failed attempt to catch him only resulted in her dropping the portable device she used to record Earthling phenomena.  Both Cal and the recording device hit the pavement and at least one of them had its components severely rattled.

“What is it, Cal?” asked Aileen.  “I am curious as to what specifically provoked such an intense fear reaction.”

“D-d-d-”

“Next letter, please.”

“Doormat!” he shouted.

Vince rolled his eyes.  “You sure are.  Now get back there.”

“Bu-bu-but - They had a doormat!”

That made Mia laugh.  “Don’t be silly, Cal.  Doormats don’t exist.”

“Yes, they do!  I saw one.”

Lucas’ eyes opened wide.  “Was it straw?” he asked.

Teary-eyed, Cal nodded.  “I think so.”

“Did it say something creepy on the front?  Like ‘welcome’?”

 

“Lucas,” Mia scolded, “you’re just encouraging him.”

“Yeah,” said Vince.  “Why would anyone write ‘welcome’ on a mat?  You write ‘go away’ in blood on the walls.  Everyone knows that.”

 

Cal sat half-cross-legged on the ground like a two-year-old.  He folded his arms and pouted.

“If it’s so important to you to see that stupid unhaunted house, then why don’t you go?”

“Because,” Vince said matter-of-factly, “you took the dare.  You said you’d do it.  Now, avante.”

“What?”

Avante.”

“You vant a vhat?”

Vince shook his head.  “I want you to go into the unhaunted house, or else I’m going to call you Scaredy-Cal for the rest of your afterlife.”

Cal got to his feet and brushed the dust off the sheet he was wearing. 

“Fine!” he said.  “I’ll go!  But you are all uninvited to my Apparition Day party.” 

And with that, he stormed up the walkway.  Careful not to step on the eerie welcome mat, he noticed the lack of a scary-faced knocker.  There didn’t appear to be any decoration on the door at all; just a plain doorknob and nothing more.  Cal jabbed at the doorbell and recoiled at the cheery sound.

He waited a moment longer, just to be sure no one would answer.  When he was certain that the coast was clear, he wandered around the side of the house.  Tiny flowers grew all around in neat rows.  Cal tried not to think about it as he concentrated on floating.  He swung his arms a few times for momentum and then floated up towards an open second-storey window.