I wish we never came to this farmhouse.

“I wish we never came to this farmhouse,” I muttered, shaking off the clinging mud from my new sneakers. Frustration and regret seeped into my words, reflecting the haunting atmosphere surrounding us.

Turning to Nai, a glimmer of hollow hope danced in my eyes as I spoke. “It’s not too late to catch the movie.” My voice carried a tinge of longing, a silent plea for her to abandon our exploration and embrace the comfort of ordinary, mundane fun for once.

Her mocking laugh told me all I needed to know.

I couldn’t have predicted that a little poking around would spiral into a cosmic mind-bender. It kicked off on a night drenched in moonlight when my girl, Nai, and I explored the notorious haunted farmhouse. The woods did their thing, whispering about weird noises, ghostly sightings, and folks vanishing like last week’s leftovers. However, skepticism fueled my desire to experience the truth firsthand.

As dusk settled, we stood before the decrepit farmhouse, its weathered facade shrouded in mystery. The moon illuminated the scene, illuminating the broken windows, peeling paint, and tangled weeds surrounding the structure. Nai’s eyes sparkled with excitement and nerves—she’s got a soft spot for the unknown, and I’m just here, along for the ride. And because my car was our ride.

“We’re really doing this, huh?” Excitement and nerves bubbled within me.

“Let’s see if this place lives up to its ghostly hype,” Nai chirped with excitement and a smidge of second-guessing in her voice.

We tiptoed through the groaning front door with flashlights, cameras like extra limbs, and a backpack loaded with snacks (because paranormal investigation apparently requires snacks). It creaked like it knew the horrors hiding inside. The air grew acrid with a pungent smell, a sickly sweet combination of rot and decay.

The interior of the farmhouse was a creepy reflection of its exterior. Each step we took sent disconcerting creaks reverberating through the floorboards beneath us. Once adorned with life, the walls were now marred with patches of mold and dirt, as if the house itself had succumbed to the burden of its haunted past. The furniture, cloaked in dust and cobwebs, stood as silent witnesses to the passage of time.

A chill shook me, causing an involuntary reflex to tighten my grip on the jacket wrapped around me. The eerie atmosphere of the place seemed to seep into my very being, intensifying my unease. I voiced my discomfort with a quiet admission, almost like a ghost’s whisper. “This place gives me the creeps.” The words slipped from my lips, carrying a tinge of vulnerability and apprehension, a testament to the unsettling nature of our surroundings.

Nai’s face broke into a mischievous smirk. “That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Let’s find out if these ghost stories hold any truth.”

We plunged deeper into the rabbit hole, flashlights casting spooky shadows on decaying walls. Every groan and creak from the old house gossiped about ancient secrets, amping up the tension. Dread and excitement held hands as we spelunked through every nook, taking pics and making this haunted expedition the best ever. As much as I complained whenever she dragged me to explore an abandoned building or supposedly haunted space, I came along willingly.

Nai and I cautiously explored the vast expanse of the farmhouse’s ground floor, our footsteps echoing through the empty rooms as we encountered nothing but remnants of a forgotten past. Broken objects and fragmented memories lay scattered, a testament to the decay and neglect that had claimed this place. 

With Nai leading the way, we ascended to the second floor, my anticipation waning as more desolation awaited us. Ready to concede defeat, we turned to head back downstairs to call it quits when a door at the end of the hallway seemed to glare at us with an unsettling presence.

As we approached the door, my gaze was drawn to a line of grainy dust, resembling salt, that had accumulated at the threshold. Its presence sent a shiver down my spine, a warning whispered by unseen forces. A sense of foreboding gripped me, but I was met with a greedy, ear-to-ear grin when I looked to Nai for agreement.

“We should open it,” she declared, her voice rushing with excitement as she retrieved a crowbar from her backpack. “There could be something interesting hidden inside.”

My stomach tried to run but was confined by my body. A shiver shook me as I tried to calm myself. “Maybe it’s where the farmer had his kill room,” I suggested, desperately hoping to deter her. “I’ve heard the murders here were so gruesome, they couldn’t clean it completely.”

Nai rolled her eyes, dismissing my concerns with a wave. “If that were the case, they would have burned it down or demolished it like that house on Broad Street they turned into a memorial park.” She pointed to the door, her face a mask of unfettered glee. “I think this is where the cult used to gather. Remember all those stories about the rescued girls?”

“They found those girls in a field,” I countered, my voice laced with skepticism. “There was no confirmation there was an actual cult, so there’s probably just nightmares behind that door. Nightmares or something super sad like a child’s bedroom left unchanged.”

I watched her process and consciously ignored half of my suggestions. “Farms have fields,” Nai retorted, determination flashing in her eyes. “Come on, enough guessing. Let’s check it out.”

A sense of unease settled within me, the locked door in this abandoned building warning us that we should leave well enough alone. “Personally,” I suggested, my voice filled with trepidation, “I feel like a locked door in an abandoned building is a sign that something should be left untouched. But that’s just me. If I abandoned my house, I wouldn’t bother locking the doors unless there was something I wanted to keep hidden even after I was gone.”

“Or you didn’t think to make sure your house was accessible to strangers you weren’t expecting because you abandoned it.” She gave me that look. The look that told me to get on board or get left behind.

I wasn’t about to get left behind. I shrugged and gestured for Nai to take the lead. 

Nai’s determination prevailed as she stubbornly pried at the door, her brow furrowed in concentration. She looked back at me, her frown demanding my assistance. We worked in tandem until a resounding crack filled the air. The door swung open, revealing a room cloaked in darkness and layers of dust. We cautiously shone our flashlights into the space, my breath catching in my throat as I gasped at the sight that unfolded before us.

In the middle of the room, a big wooden table stood, its imposing presence drawing my eyes towards it. On top of the table, there lay a clay tablet, adorned with a captivating display of intricate symbols and writing. The patterns on the tablet resembled a language long forgotten, evoking a sense of ancient times buried deep within the pages of history.

The room emitted an ethereal ambiance, as if it acted as a gateway to a realm beyond human understanding. Gentle candlelight flickered, creating captivating shadows that gracefully moved across the walls. Books and various occult items were haphazardly strewn about, adding to the mysterious atmosphere that permeated the air.

However, it was the giant pentagram that commanded my attention. Painted boldly in what seemed to be blood, it held a prominent spot on one wall . Its eerie glow seemed to infuse the room with an unsettling aura. The amalgamation of these elements produced an atmosphere that both fascinated and unnerved me, stirring a blend of curiosity and apprehension.

I couldn’t help but feel a surge of skepticism as I took in the scene before me. It seemed all too convenient, almost as if pranksters or amateur filmmakers had beaten us to the old farmhouse, leaving behind this unsettling and foreboding setup for unsuspecting explorers like us to stumble upon. The rational part of my mind dismissed it as a mere fabrication, an attempt to play tricks on our senses. However, a lingering unease gnawed at the back of my mind, refusing to let go completely.

As I continued to take in the scene before me, the tension in the room grew denser, wrapping around me like a crushing cloak. The scent of burning incense mingled with the musty odor of decaying wood, filling the air with an unsettling combination of aromas. A shiver coursed down my spine, a physical response to the menacing energy that permeated the space. The hairs on my neck stood on end as if sensing an unseen presence lurking in the shadows.

“What the hell is this?” I whispered, my voice barely audible, trembling with curiosity and trepidation. Fear clutched at my heart, its icy grip tightening as I stared at the unsettling tableau. The scene’s authenticity was suspect, but each detail etched itself into my memory with vivid clarity. The unease within my core remained unyielding despite my attempts to rationalize and dismiss it.

Not believing that this was genuine didn’t make it any less unsettling. The thought of some ghost or supernatural entity appreciating the effort to create this peculiar setting sent a chill down my spine. The mere possibility of a spectral presence taking notice of the space and deciding to make this place its new home filled me with a deep sense of unease. Like a haunting whisper, the unsettling notion lingered in my mind, casting a shadow of doubt over our presence in this mysterious space. 

I scolded myself for successfully convincing myself the scene wasn’t real, only to convince myself that real danger may inhabit the fake scene.

“It’s like some ritual room or whatever,” Nai remarked, her voice a mix of curiosity and excitement. She marched toward the table, her steps purposeful and unyielding like a place was set just for her. “Maybe someone was trying to summon something interesting here.”

“Interesting things don’t get summoned,” I interjected, my voice laced with a caution born from instinct and self-preservation. “Dangerous things get summoned.” My lingered, a reminder of the potential perils lurking within this room of occult practices.

Nai reached out to pick up the clay tablet, her fingers touching its weathered surface. In that instant, a jolt ran through the room, causing my breath to hitch in my throat. A shiver raced down my spine like an icy current emanated from the object. The air around us clotted as if the room held its breath in anticipation. My mind was a whirlwind of warning bells, urging caution and sounding the alarm. I tightened my grip on the table’s edge, my knuckles turning white, desperate to ground myself amidst the mounting unease.

“Hey, be careful with that,” I choked out, my voice strained with concern. “We’re treading deep into weirdness territory here.”

Nai, however, brushed off my worries with misplaced confidence. “Don’t worry. It’s probably harmless. I’m not a witch or whatever,” she replied, her voice a mixture of curiosity and a hint of reverence. Her hands betrayed a subtle tremor as she read aloud the ancient words inscribed upon the tablet, her voice carrying a sense of wonder that danced within the dimly lit room.

But as the last syllable left her lips, the room erupted into chaos. Candles wobbled precariously, casting flickering shadows that seemed to mock our foolish curiosity. A gust of wind, laden with an otherworldly chill, howled through the open window, carrying a haunting melody that whispered of forbidden knowledge. The very walls of the house groaned in protest as if trying to warn us of the impending doom that loomed.

Nai’s grip faltered, and the tablet slipped from her trembling fingers, crashing onto the floor with a resounding clatter. Panic surged through my veins, propelling us into a frantic scramble towards the door. But just as we reached for salvation, it slammed shut with a deafening thud, sealing our fate within the confining walls of the room. 

Frantically, we pounded on the door, our fists bruising and our voices raw from screaming for help. Yet, our cries were swallowed by the suffocating silence that enveloped the outside world. The air crackled with an ominous energy, electrified with an unseen malevolence. 

Turning with dread, our eyes widened in terror as a dark, ethereal figure materialized before us, rising from the very floor itself. Its humanoid form was warped and contorted, adorned with twisted horns that curled like tendrils of malevolence. Tattered wings stretched out, casting a haunting silhouette against the dim light, while razor-sharp claws flexed in anticipation. Its eyes burned with a hellish red glow, piercing our souls, while a wicked grin spread its mouth, revealing a macabre display of row upon row of pointed teeth.

In that chilling instant, our frightened gazes met the horrifying embodiment of the unleashed demonic powers. The full magnitude of our curiosity unfolded, revealing a nightmarish scenario that surpassed the bounds of our imagination.

“Thank you for freeing me, mortals,” the demon’s voice slithered through the air, its tones a sinister blend of amusement and malice. It wrapped around my senses like serpentine darkness coiling around my soul. The pressure of its words settled upon us, its presence suffocating and suffusing the room with an unsettling energy. “When I walk the earth once more, I shall awaken my brethren from the depths and bathe this world in fire and anguish. You have done me a great service. As a reward, I will grant you one wish. What is your desire?”

Terrified and speechless, the reality of our situation crashed over us like a tidal wave. Fear tightened its grip on my heart, rendering my voice feeble against the gathering storm. The air crackled with an electric charge that infused the very fabric of our surroundings. The room seemed to pulsate with a malevolent glow, casting eerie shadows that danced and perverse in macabre delight.

“We… we didn’t mean to disturb you,” I stammered, my words barely a whisper amidst the thickening tension. The weight of our predicament pressed upon me, squeezing the breath from my lungs. “Please, just let us go. We need nothing from you,” I added, my voice carrying the desperate plea of one trapped in a nightmare. More accurately, I wanted nothing to do with a demon and its perverse rewards.

The confined space echoed with the eerie laughter of the demon, its chilling melody sending shivers down my spine. Each note carried a sinister pleasure, serving as a haunting reminder of the control it possessed over our destinies.

“Disturb me? No, you have freed me. I am honor-bound to repay you… whether you like it or not,” the demon hissed, its voice dripping with venomous delight. Its smile stretched wider, distorting its features into a grotesque visage. With a slow, deliberate wag of its finger, it taunted us like a wicked fairy godmother. “Your wish shall be my repayment for the gift you have bestowed upon me. Choose wisely. Now, you must make your wish for our business to conclude.”

The room seemed to shrink around us, its walls closing in like a trap sprung shut. The air felt like fog, suffused with the immensity of our impending decision. Fear hung in the heavy and oppressive atmosphere as if the walls absorbed our terror, amplifying it with each passing moment. The demon had come to claim what was rightfully his, leaving us with a choice that carried unimaginable consequences.

With that foreboding proclamation, the demon dissolved into the floor, leaving us in solitude within the dimly illuminated room. The air became filled with an unsettling energy, heavy with the weight of our choices. The dancing light cast eerie shadows on the ancient symbols that decorated the walls, their distorted shapes appearing almost alive, as if murmuring secrets of forbidden power.

“Must? We have to make a wish?” I managed to breathe out, realization dawning with a sickening clarity. This was no benevolent offering; it was a cruel game, a trap disguised as a choice.

The demon’s sneer contorted into something more wicked, more supernaturally grotesque. Its lips curled back, revealing rows of serrated fangs, a macabre display of its true nature. The sight gave me a chill, a primal instinct warning me of the horrors lurking within this creature. “Or forfeit and choose to be my… well, we’ll see what I make of you when we get to know one another better,” it hissed, the promise of unspeakable horrors lacing its words. Its eyes glinted with a wicked fire, anticipation dancing in their depths like flames in the abyss.

We locked eyes with each other. Nai’s fear reflected my own back at me. Whatever we wished for, this diabolical being would undoubtedly twist it into something out of a hellish fever dream. The thought sent a chill through my veins, mingling with the tendrils of dread that wrapped around my heart.

“Please, give us a minute,” Nai squeaked, uncertainty clinging to her voice like a fragile thread. “We need to brainstorm.”

The demon nodded, its eyes gleaming with a sinister satisfaction. It reveled in our predicament, confident in its superior intellect. “Sure thing. I will give you until midnight to decide,” the demon said, its tone mocking. “But remember, if you don’t make a wish by then, you will suffer the consequences. Tick tock, tick tock. The clock is ticking. Choose wisely.”

Anger swelled within me, fueled by the realization that we had fallen into its trap so easily and that it relished in the belief that it outmatched us. As I thought about what to do, I heard his mocking intonation of the word mortals in my mind. He spoke to us as though we were foolish to even exist in the same space as him. I agreed, but it wasn’t a choice we made. Well, it wasn’t a choice I made.

The demon melted away into the floor with that ominous proclamation, leaving us alone in the suffocating silence.

We checked our watches, the digital display reading 11:45 pm with a stark reminder of the impending deadline. The minutes ticked away like the slow approach of an impending storm, each second carrying foreboding our captivity. Dread and regret swam in Nai’s eyes as we clung to each other, seeking solace in the face of our entwined fate. The demon’s grin lingered in the air, a haunting specter that seeped into our very beings.

“Time’s up,” the demon whispered, its voice emanating from all directions, piercing my mind with bone-chilling finality. Its presence settled upon me like a dense fog, smothering my hopes and drowning me in despair.

In desperation, I blurted out the only wish that came to mind, my voice carrying hope and desperation, “I wish we never come to this farmhouse!”

Suddenly, darkness engulfed us. The world melted away, the disorienting sensation wrapping around us like a choking embrace. Blinking back to reality, we stood outside the farmhouse again, bathed in the ethereal glow of moonlight. The time displayed on our watches read 10 pm, the same time we had arrived earlier.

“It worked!” Nai exclaimed, a glimmer of hope reflecting in her eyes. “We’re back before we went inside!”

Relief surged through my veins as we ran towards the safety of my car, the desire to escape this nightmarish ordeal propelling us forward. But as we neared the vehicle, a dark cloud materialized, enveloping us with malicious amusement. The demon stood before us, its presence tangible and malevolent.

“Did you really think it would be that easy?” it laughed, each note sending shivers down my spine. “I granted your wish, but I will not imprison myself to free you two. If you never came to the farmhouse, then who would release me? Get back in there, unlock my door, and make a better wish.”

Fear and frustration mingled within me as we faced the reality of our predicament. The gravity of the situation weighed heavily upon our shoulders, pushing us to make a decision that could seal our fate. With a mix of determination and resignation, I spoke the only wish that could grant us respite, however fleeting.

“I wish for this demon to be imprisoned again and not our problem,” I declared, my voice laced with urgency and a desperate plea for salvation.

Everything went black. A jolt of pain surged through my body, and then… nothingness. For a fleeting moment, I thought the void of death consumed us, but I was wrong.

We woke up in my car, parked outside the farmhouse, the world resetting to 10 pm again. Confusion and fear seeped into my voice as I turned to Nai, searching for answers in her eyes. “What’s going on?” I asked, the words laden with frustration and despair, unsure of what awaited us in this unending loop of torment.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I just want out of here,” Nai muttered, her frustration and exhaustion evident in her tone. She turned the key in the ignition, but the car protested, refusing to budge. It seemed as if even the vehicle had succumbed to the grasp of this nightmarish place.

We climbed out of the car and gazed towards the looming farmhouse. It stood before us, a foreboding presence in the moonlit night. A strange, inexplicable pull tugged at my very being, a compulsion we fought against but couldn’t resist. Nai held out her hand, and I grasped it, our fingers intertwining as we walked towards the front door as though entranced.

Entering the farmhouse, we repeated the same steps as before, trapped in an unending cycle of fate. We were like puppets on invisible strings, forced to hit all the same marks in this twisted act, regardless of our desires. Nai’s frustration boiled over, and she lashed out, flipping furniture and breaking adornments in anger, but our attempts to resist or alter our course proved futile. The demon’s curse held us in its relentless grip.

We retraced our steps inside the farmhouse, navigating through the ground floor, ascending to the second floor, and inevitably reaching the cursed locked room. The putrid stench of decay that tainted our senses. The clay tablet awaited us, its presence an omen of our recurring torment. Nai hesitated before reading it. Again. 

I watched as she fought against the compulsion until the words fell out of her like she was sick after a house party, and we were trapped once more.

The demon materialized with a sinister smile, a silent spectator to our recurring ordeal. The demon caught us in a nightmarish loop, our choices echoing through time like a haunting melody.

“We already did this!” Nai yelled, her voice echoing in the confined space.

The demon’s amusement gleamed in its eyes as it teased us, savoring our torment. “You did it wrong,” it taunted, its voice dripping with wicked glee. “Now, run out of time or make a better wish. Hint: stop trying to change the past. Wish for something normal. Something covered by one of the deadly sins, I suggest.”

We were trapped in a demonic game, our choices limited, our hopes dwindling. As we faced the demon’s challenge, desperation and resignation settled upon us, leaving us to search for a way out of this nightmarish cycle.

“Fine,” Nai said, her voice carrying the inflection of a defiant toddler. “I wish–“

“Wait,” I interrupted, a surge of realization coursing through me like lightning. “What happens if we wish for money or power or something? What are the strings attached to those wishes?”

“That depends on the wish, I suppose,” the demon replied, a sardonic smirk curving his lips with wicked amusement.

“But there will be strings and consequences?” I pressed, my voice marked by skepticism and caution.

“Of course. I’m a demon, not a genie,” the demon retorted, the impatience evident in his tone.

“Why even bother with the fucking wish?” Nai demanded, her frustration boiling over, her words laced with anger and exasperation.

“I didn’t make the rules,” the demon whined; his held a hint of bitterness that only exacerbated my anger. “You did something for me; I have to do something for you so that our slate can be clear and we can be done with each other.” The demon’s eyes gleamed with a deceptive glint of anticipation as he gestured toward an imaginary wristwatch. “Or,” he drawled, his voice laced with a sadistic delight, “you can pass on your payment and pick a cage from my shelf.”

Nai’s voice mirrored my doubts as she voiced our shared skepticism. “So, you either torture us or trick us?” she asked, her words dripping with disdain.

“Yes,” he replied simply, his voice so plain it felt more threatening than his outright threats. “So, hurry and make a wish so I can stop blocking the d–” The demon’s impatience flickered in his eyes as he cut himself off, a sinister smirk playing upon his lips. 

Nai shook her head, a sardonic chuckle escaping her lips. Defiance radiated from her as she held up her middle finger to the demon, a defiant gesture of resistance. “I wish we had never entered this farmhouse,” she declared, her voice filled with determination. “See you in round four, draft stopper.”

The demon’s eyes narrowed; his amusement was replaced with a flicker of frustration. He had made us his playthings, his toys until we made a wish that would either release him or seal our fate. But we were resolved to ensure that he would be just as stuck with us as we were with him, a defiant act of defiance against our captor.

We found ourselves trapped in an unyielding loop, our futile attempts to break free becoming a desperate cycle of hope and disappointment. With trembling hands, we attempted every variation of wish we could muster within the bounds of our fear and hope, but each effort proved futile. Our hopes were dashed against the unyielding wall of the demon’s power, drowning us in a sea of despair. The demon reveled in our suffering, its sadistic delight fueling our growing sense of hopelessness. Its sinister and haunting laughter echoed through the endless cycles, a constant reminder of our entrapment.

“We’ve tried too many times, demon! Just let us go!” Nai’s voice quivered with dread and frustration, her words a desperate plea.

The demon’s eyes flared with a seething rage, its patience stretched thin to its breaking point. “You test my limits, mortal. Each repetition deepens your torment. Make your wish—a reasonable wish that doesn’t necessitate my imprisonment—or suffer the consequences!” Its voice dripped with venom, the threat of unimaginable horrors lurking beneath its words.

“Well, now he’s pissed at us,” I muttered to Nai, my voice laced with resignation as if stating the obvious would somehow ease our predicament.

“He’s been pissed at us,” Nai retorted, her tone weary and tinged with defiance.

“Not in a real way. He’s been pissed because he’s a demon, but now he’s pissed because we’re wasting his time,” I explained, attempting to clarify the shifting dynamics of our torment.

“It’s true. I am pissed about my wasted time,” the demon interjected from its corner of the room, its voice carrying a mocking tone that made my skin crawl.

“All his wasted time is time that people get to live without him creating Hell on earth or tormenting us,” Nai argued, her words laden with accusation as if she thought I was siding with the demon.

“I’m not siding with him. I’m just saying—” I began to defend myself, but Nai cut me off with a sharp gesture.

“Say less,” she interrupted, her tone final and resolute as if further discussion was futile.

We were trapped in a state of overwhelming fear, paralyzed and desperate for an escape from this twisted encounter with the demon. The very idea of yearning for anything else, even a flicker of hope amidst our dire circumstances, felt burdened with the potential for catastrophic consequences and the release of unimaginable horrors upon the world. The demon relished in our vulnerability, its sadistic pleasure intensifying with each fleeting second.

“This is all your fault!” I shouted at Nai, my fear morphing into misplaced anger in the face of our nightmarish predicament. “I wanted to go to the movies. I wanted to leave the locked door alone. I wanted you to resist touching everything you saw. I-” I paused, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. “I wish we never came to this farmhouse,” I murmured, my voice laden with resignation. A wince escaped me as the consequences of my wish hit me, and with it, tears and pent-up emotions flooded out of me.

Nai’s shoulders slumped, the defiant fire in her eyes dimming to a flicker of distress and exhaustion. “I just want this to be over,” she whispered her voice barely a whisper in the overpowering atmosphere.

Pulling her close, I held her tightly, seeking solace in our shared despair. “I know. But compared to the alternatives, this is one of the least horrific versions of Hell I could imagine,” I murmured, attempting to inject a hint of humor into the bleak situation. When Nai laughed, her laughter muffled against my shoulder, I couldn’t help but smile. “And, hey, we’re kind of heroes, right?” I added, hoping to lighten the burden that threatened to drag us under.

Nai withdrew and stood upright, her swollen, tear-filled eyes meeting mine, mirroring our shared weariness and emotional strain. The passage of time became indistinct, a vague notion as we endured the confines of two hours until midnight, desperately seeking any possible means to break free from this ceaseless nightmare. Frustration and fatigue descended upon us like a suffocating mist, burdening our souls and dimming the faint glimmer of hope that persisted.

Once again, at 10 pm, Nai and I stood outside the farmhouse, our eyes exchanging a resigned acknowledgment of our entrapment. The demon’s malicious laughter reverberated in the background, a chilling symphony punctuating our predicament.

“You think he’ll ever get bored and offer us a compromise?” I asked Nai, a glimmer of hope flickering within me. “Like, we just wish for him to stop tormenting us and not destroy the world, and he’s like, ‘Fine, let’s be done with this endless repetition.'”

“I mean, we haven’t gotten bored and given up yet, and he’s immortal, so… no.” Nai’s response held a bitter realism, her voice tinged with weariness.

Lost in despair, an unexpected sound cut through the air, a series of melodic tones that seemed strangely out of place within the cursed confines of the farmhouse. The peculiar chiming persisted, drawing our attention, until a figure emerged from the shadows. It was a girl, appearing to be in her late teens or early twenties, clad in thick black tights as pants and a college sweatshirt.

The strange sound abruptly ceased as the girl manipulated a small device in her hands, then raised it to the side of her head like a phone. Her voice reverberated through the empty halls. “Hey, yeah, we’re exploring that haunted farmhouse off 18. We’ll be home late. Yes. No. Obviously. I will. We only open unlocked doors, I promise. Okay. You too.”

Her words hung in the air, a glimmer of hope shining through the darkness. Could this unexpected visitor hold the key to our salvation? We exchanged glances. Nai’s face mirrored the curiosity and fear swirling within me as I contemplated the possibility of an ally in this nightmarish game.

Stepping forward, I attempted to offer a word of caution, and my voice shook urgently. “Wait, before you go any further, there’s a room with a clay tablet. Don’t touch it! It summons a demon—”

But my warnings fell on deaf ears as the girl and her friends, blissfully unaware of the impending danger, pressed on into the depths of the farmhouse. The device in her hand now served as a makeshift flashlight, illuminating their path. A boy trailing behind her wielded a similar device as if capturing their exploration through the lens of a camera.

Nai and I exchanged a knowing look, the realization dawning upon us. We had become the very thing we had come to find — specters haunting this forsaken farmhouse, forever linked to its dark secrets.

The demon, momentarily forgotten in our awe of the arrival of these unsuspecting visitors, reappeared with a triumphant grin etched upon his face. He held his clawed middle finger up at Nai and mouthed his silent taunt, “Good thing you already unlocked the door for them.”

I turned to Nai with resignation and determination in my eyes. “I wish we had never come to this farmhouse.”

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