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Authors note: For those who would still want to press charges after all these years, I’d say this was a work of fiction. For everyone else, I solemnly swear the following events are true to the best of my memory.

By Reid Wright

It was the crisp and colorful fall of 1999 — our junior year in high school.

Back then, my generation was a dangerous concoction of brains, hormones and rebel spirit. We weren’t malicious in our actions, we just loved to have fun as much as we loathed authority.

The four of us were a motley bunch of friends — a kind of a social asteroid formed from the leftovers of all the other high school cliques.

We often threw parties out in the boonies with enough booze for 50 people. No one would show up, so we’d drink it all ourselves and wake up in our sleeping bags covered in frost and vomit, unable to piece together the previous night’s events.

Cody chased pretty girls with the fervor of the young track star he was (and for reasons that baffled the rest of us, he often got them). Joe was always in search of enlightenment and new ways to freak the shit out of the rest of us with his wicked-smart antics. Russell sought notoriety and popularity at his new school in a larger town nearby. I guess I was just along for the ride.

We always wanted to throw an epic party that would go down in the history books. That Halloween, the winds of chaos shifted in our favor and we got our chance.

We gathered our customary shopping cart full of liquor and headed out to a local haunted house located miles out of town where the bean fields drop off into the dusty canyon of the ancients.

The abandoned house was massive but only halfway built. Rural legend had it that a man was building his dream home on an ancient Indian burial ground. In the midst of construction, he was driven mad by Anasazi spirits. He slaughtered his family and hung himself from a beam inside the house.

I liked a good ghost story, but I didn’t buy it.

As the sun went down, we set up the bar and chatted with a young cowpoke who happened to be there nursing his own bottle. He said he and his buddies sometimes used the house as target practice, returning a few days later to discover the bullet holes in the stucco walls had healed up. At night, sounds of construction could be heard coming from the house.

It grew dark, and we drank on, not really expecting anyone to show up. We were surprised when a pair of headlights emerged over the distant hill. Then, another pair and another.

We climbed up to the second floor and began counting. 60 cars full of high school kids showed up. Even the cheerleading squad was there.

We cranked up the music and passed out the drinks. It turned into a hell of a good time. I even had a cheerleader coming on to me.

The girls got cold and Russell the backpacker decided it would be a good idea to build a campfire inside the house. Sure, red flags went up and I thought it was a bad idea, but then he and Joe drug over some bags of dried concrete and dumped them out on the wooden floor to build the fire on top.

The room warmed up with an orange glow. I went back to my cheerleader and was thrilled when she leaned across me to get a better look out the window and her breasts touched my leg.

The fire quieted down to coals and Russell leaned in to poke it with a shovel. It collapsed through the  floor, an enormous  hole opened up, and an angry inferno erupted from it — as if hell itself were rising to swallow us whole.

60 cars full of high school kids vanished.

The four of us were left to fend for ourselves in the blazing smoke of the nightmare house. We stumbled around shouting out to each other.

“Get the stereo!”

“Someone called the cops!”

“Where the fuck is Cody?”

“Save the booze!”

Joe tossed the stereo out the window and Russell caught it. I dragged a case of beer out in threw it in my car. Cody was nowhere to be found.

For some reason, we had all brought our own cars. We decided to split up and run for it.

I was one of the last to leave and more than a little buzzed as I bounced down the dusty double track road in the sagebrush.

I’ll never forget looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing the house completely engulfed in flame. I thought I saw a figure standing in the upstairs bedroom window, silhouetted against the flames — watching me leave.

I drove like hell, winding through the gravel backroads of farm country. It was the only time in my life I’d driven drunk and it terrified me so much I’ve never done it again. Suddenly a figure appeared in my headlights, dashing out into the road and waving its arms.

Had my reflexes been any better at the moment, I probably would have pissed myself.

After slamming on the breaks and finally skidding to a halt, I figured out it was  Russell trying to get my attention. I followed him to the lake, where we spent the night.

As always, it was poor Joe who got caught. After driving into a fence, Joe was cornered by a woman from the fire department until the police could arrive.

The cop asked Joe how much he had to drink. Being the honest guy he is, Joe proceeded to give the cop a complete inventory of drinks for the night — four bottles of this, six shots of that, ect.

The cop just shook his head and said, “He’s clean,” and let Joe go. I guess he didn’t want to fill out the paperwork on an underage drunk driver who had potentially just committed arson.

The next day the fear had finally subsided. We met up and learned that Cody, the rat bastard,  had been rescued and  pampered by the cheerleaders. Joe’s parents had heard about the incident on the police scanner. After laughing and teasing him mercilessly, they grounded him indefinitely.

Against our better judgment, we returned to the scene of the crime a few days later.

The house stood completely intact and uncharred.

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