In a classroom covered in dark decorations, a teacher stood in the front of the chalkboard overlooking the bored students. Today was a rainy day. Recess had to be conducted inside. Normally, this meant most of the class fought over who got to use the row of computers at the back of the class, but the weather was so bad the power had been knocked out. According to a school announcement, it would be another hour before the issue could be fixed. Being late October, the teacher attempted to entertain the children with some Halloween themed activities while they waited. Fortunately, there were candles in the storage closet for an activity later in the week. The teacher had already lit up the candles and passed out craft supplies to keep the children busy, but about half of them pulled out their cells before the teacher finished. To try to get them back to the spirit of the holiday, the teacher came up with another idea. "Since it's almost Halloween and we can't go outside today, why don't we take turns telling ghost stories?" The teacher asked. Some students groaned and others rolled their eyes. One, not looking up from his phone screen, said, "That's stupid. Everyone knows ghosts aren't real." The teacher took the phone from the boy's hand and shut it off. "Is that so? Then, you can consider this an exercise in fiction writing. Why don't I go first?" "Give me my phone back! I'll tell my mom!" The boy yelled. The teacher put the phone away in the storage closet and locked it shut. "You can have it back when school hours are over. Now, let me begin...it was twenty years ago..." The boy ignored the teacher and got out his 3DS instead. The teacher continued despite the boy's rudeness. "Twenty years ago...I met Alice. You may think I'm making up this story, and I don't care if you do. After all, half the fun of a scary story is wondering if it was real or not. This is a memory of mine. From when I was around your age. The first time I saw Alice was on the day my family moved here. She was staring down at me from a hill top behind my house that lead into the woods. Her hair was the same color as the tall grass that swayed along the hill. Not a golden color...a sort of washed out yellow. I remember her face looking so stern and aggressive, like a wild animal protecting its territory. She didn't say anything to me that day. She only stared at me, standing completely motionless on that hill. School was about to start soon, so I didn't pay her any mind. I had far too much to worry about. In the two weeks right before school started, I'd see her on occasion up there. The more time passed, the less she watched me. I expected to see her in class when school started. Back then, this place barely had enough children around to call itself a school. My entire grade fit into one classroom, and you could see the whole student body at lunch. I didn't see her that day. I assumed she must have been skipping, but I never once say her there. When the first month of school ended, she finally spoke to me. She called out to me from up on that hill. 'Hey! How come you only play down there?' she yelled. 'Cause it's my yard.' I said back. 'No, it ain't.' She wrinkled her nose. 'It's the Jameson's house. Always has been.' I didn't recognize that name back then. When I came back from college, I learned from one of the older staff that the Jameson's hadn't lived in that house in nearly a decade before we moved there. There had been three other families that lived there in between us. Since I didn't know any of that back then, I thought she must have not known the house had been sold. She seemed like she was looking for a fight, so I ignored her. When I wouldn't respond, she angrily watched me until I went in for dinner. It was pretty amusing to see her sitting on top of the hill huffing and pouting with her arms crossed. It took everything in me not to laugh at how silly she looked. I couldn't for the life of me understand why she cared so much about that. Around October, she became really persistent. For a full week, she'd be at the top of that hill trying to get me to talk to her. At this point, I figured she was homeless. I never saw her in class, and she always wore the same clothes. The clothes themselves were in a pretty sad state. She wore a pair of embroidered overall shorts with a dingy tank top. The overalls had lost one of the front buttons, leaving the left side of it to hang down. On that same side, she had a huge hole in her shirt. For a girl, I was surprised she wasn't embarrassed to wear a shirt with a hole so big right there. She didn't wear shoes either. Her feet were always covered in dirt. I wondered if she ran away from home, or if her parents died and she'd been abandoned by her other relatives. I felt a little sorry for her, but I was a kid. You all won't understand this yourself now, but children are quite cruel at times. Despite my sympathy, I didn't really think deeply on what her life likely was like. To me, she was only an annoyance. Fed up with her nagging, I finally went up there. When I actually got close to her, she ran away. I didn't see Alice again for a full week. It was midway through October then. I was busy working on my Halloween costume. Back when I was a kid, at least around here, you couldn't just up and buy a costume from the store. You had to make one yourself. I know the kids from the city used to go back out to buy one, but most of the kids around my age did it themselves with whatever they had around. My costume was going to have a lot of bits and pieces that needed to be glued on, so my mama told me to work on it outside. Alice was at the top of the hill, yelling at me again. 'Hey! Whatcha doing with all that?!' Alice would never come down from the hill. I didn't understand why back then. 'Making my Halloween costume.' Alice sat down on the hill and groaned. 'Halloween?! Awe, that's for babies!' I wasn't in the mood for her annoying me. I ran up the hill. As soon as I reached the top, Alice had already disappeared into the woods again. The last time I saw her when I was a child was on Halloween night. I was going trick-or-treating with a lot of the other kids from my grade. Around eleven, we hit the last of the houses but no one really wanted to go home yet. After all, it was a Saturday night too. It was time to get up to some mischief. Like kids do, we snuck away from the view of any adults. One of the boys knew of a secret trail that went up to a haunted house. Sure enough, the trail was real and the house was everything a kid could want in a creepy setting. The front door was completely gone and all the windows broken. The floor creaked with every step. We only had one flashlight between us and a couple of glow sticks. Everyone gathered in the living room, sitting in a big circle on that dirty floor. We each took turns telling a scary story. The boy who brought us there went last. His story was about the house itself. I remember the crooked grin on his face when he told it. 'This is the story of the girl with no heart.' He flashed the light on his face. Standing in the middle of the circle, he lowered his voice. 'Years ago, a family once lived here--a little girl and her mama and papa. The parents spent so much time at work they were almost never home. They were so attached to their jobs that they didn't bother with checking in on each other. Each thought the other was taking care of the little girl. The little girl was left alone in a house with no food and no family. They say she survived off of what she could find to eat out in the woods. She was a mean-spirited kid and would torment anyone who entered her woods. Having raised herself without knowing anything about happiness in life, she thought of nothing but protecting her precious woods from intruders. One day, her neglectful parents split up and each moved into a new house. They hadn't officially divorced yet, and both still thought the other had the girl with them. They sold the house without once returning to it, since they had never really cared about anything inside it anyway. The girl hid in the woods when strangers came and moved into her home. She stayed hidden there, not wanting to be picked up by the state and forced to live outside her woods. She tormented the new residence until they moved away, and every other family that tried to move in. They say she got so obsessed with the house and the woods that she began to torment the people who lived around the edge of the woods. Strangers weren't allowed anywhere. Tired of the little girl scaring away people, the people in town went out to track her down and put her in foster care. Some boys found her near the river not far from here and tried to catch her. She wouldn't come with them, or listen to anything they said. She would yell and scream and throw things, but the moment they got close to her to try to grab her, she ran. They tried to warn her not to go that way. It was dangerous. The girl didn't believe them. She couldn't comprehend someone protecting her. It had to be a trap, she thought. She ran up the river bank until she got to an old fallen tree that went across the river. Despite the boys' warnings, she got onto it. They rushed even quicker to her, afraid for her life. The tree took her high over the river, above the most dangerous part of it. The water rushed underneath her, the sharp pointing rocks sticking upward like daggers at her...she was almost to the other side when... She slipped and fell off the tree right onto one of those rocks. It pierced her right here.' The boy clutched his left side. 'Right through the heart, where her parents had already long broken her before. They say that those who come into the woods sometimes see her, still trying to keep people out and disappearing just as fast as she appeared.' The boy put the light directly on his face. 'There's a chant you can say to call her out. But be warned. If she catches you from behind, she may take your heart to replace her own.' One of the girls asked. 'What's the chant?' Some of the other kids giggled and whispered about Bloody Mary. The boy smirked. 'Alice, Alice, come out of hiding Alice, Alice, we've all been waiting Alice, Alice, who came down falling Cut out my heart and you will be running' At that moment, his flashlight went out. The entire group screamed and ran. Just as I was nearing the doorless entrance, someone grabbed me from behind. 'Whatcha doing in my house?' Alice stood behind me. 'Nothing. We were just...' Before I could finish my words, I noticed how cold her hand was. It was like sticking my entire hand in a bucket of ice, so cold it almost burned. It dawned on me then who she must be. 'Alice?' She stepped back into the darkness, a cruel looking in her eyes. Her fingers slid down across the hand so tightly her nails dug into my skin. I ran and passed the river. It might have been my imagination, but I swear I saw a bed of bones covered in denim laying in the water. The moon was so bright that night, the whole woods were lit up. But I was so scared, I could have been seeing things. When I got home, my hand was covered in blood and scratched. After that night, I avoided the woods and my backyard for years. I stopped looking for Alice on the hill and switched bedrooms so my room was faced the front of the house. When I finished high school, I went away to college. As time went by, I thought the whole thing must have been some strange dream. To prove it to myself, I went back to the woods after I graduated. And there she was, same as before. She yelled at me from that same spot on top of the hills in her broken denim overalls and ripped shirt. 'Whatcha doing?' She didn't recognize me at all. To her, I was another stranger. I told her I lived there, but she told me she'd never seen any adult looking like me around that yard before. To her, the ten year old me and the twenty-two year old me were completely different people. I tried to get closer to her to convince her I was the same person, but she disappeared the minute my foot touched the hillside. I don't go over there anymore. Alice is someone who can never be happy. Too desperate for attention, too afraid to let anyone near. Her happiness was stolen long ago. I don't know if Alice really steals hearts or not, but in the time I was away at college, that boy who led us there that night was murdered. He was found on the banks of the river, stabbed through the chest. No one knows what happened to him. He was never a good kid, by any means. He was always messing around in things he shouldn't. For along time, the police assumed he'd simply gotten himself involved in some shady business he couldn't handle. I don't know what really happened that night, or to that boy, but Saturday night, you kids best not be going where you ought not to be. The world is a dangerous place, especially for a child left alone." The light returned as the teacher finished the story. Some of the children whispered amongst themselves about the tale. Most of the students played games on their phones and handhelds, only looking up when the lights came back. The teacher sat down and opened up the day's lesson plan for English. The teacher sighed. "Children never listen."
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