Read Annie's Room Online

Authors: Amy Cross

Annie's Room

Copyright 2015 Amy Cross

All Rights Reserved


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, entities and places are either products of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual people, businesses, entities or events is entirely coincidental.


Kindle edition

Dark Season Books

First published: September 2015

This edition: July 2016


This book's front cover incorporates elements licensed from the Bigstock photo site.


1945 and 2015. Seventy years apart, two girls named Annie move into the same room of the same remote house. Their stories are very different, but tragedy is about to bring them crashing together.


Annie Riley has just broken both her legs. Unable to leave bed, she's holed up in her new room and completely reliant upon her family for company. She's also the first to notice a series of strange noises in the house, but her parents and brother think she's just letting her imagination run overtime. And then, one night, dark forces start to make their presence more keenly felt, leading to a horrific discovery...


Seventy years ago, Annie Garrett lived in the same house with her parents. This Annie, however, was very different. Bitter and vindictive and hopelessly devoted to her father, she developed a passionate hatred for her mother. History records that Annie eventually disappeared while her parents were executed for her murder, but what really happened to Annie Garrett, and is her ghost still haunting the house to this day?


Annie's Room is the story of two girls whose lives just happened to be thrown together by an unlikely set of circumstances, and of a potent evil that blossomed in one soul and then threatened to consume another.



Throwing myself through the open doorway, I land hard on the porch and let out a cry of pain as I feel something snapping in my chest.

Probably just another rib.

I haul myself up, pushing past the pain in my abdomen as I start dragging myself toward the top of the steps. My legs, encased in the plaster casts, are starting to ache but I don't have time to stop. When I get to the first step, I heave myself over the edge and then try to protect my head as I rattle down and slam into the mud at the bottom. I catch one of my legs in the process, but the pain is secondary as I start pulling myself across the garden, desperate to get away from the house. Rain is falling all around, filling the night air with a constant, growing hiss.

Digging my fingers into the mud, I try to pull myself along, only for my hands to slip. I try again, and this time I'm able to get a few feet further. Out of breath and shivering cold as mud soaks through my shirt, I look forward for a moment, but with no moonlight to guide me, all I can see is the row of dark trees at the far end of the garden, marking the start of the forest. I reach out and dig my right hand deeper into the mud, and once I'm sure I've got a decent grip I try pulling myself along.

I have to stop after a moment. The pain in my abdomen is immense now, filling the left side of my body with a throbbing ache that's at once both numbing and agonizing. Barely able to breathe, I take several deep, hawking gulps of air, but I feel as if something is partially blocking my airway, most likely as a result of the tumble down the stairs. Realizing that I need to find some more strength from somewhere, I take a few more breaths before turning and looking over my shoulder, back toward the dark house.

She's there.

Standing in the doorway, barely visible, her silhouette is just about visible. A moment later, she steps out through the broken door and onto the porch, and although I can't make out any of her features, I know it's her and I know she's coming from me.

“Mom!” I scream. “Help me!”

I turn and start dragging myself further across the mud. Every second feels like it might be my last, as if I might collapse, but each time I manage to find some more strength from somewhere. My body body is wracked with pain now, and I can feel cold mud seeping under the edge of my plaster casts and dribbling down to my knees. Heaving myself onward, I try to summon the energy to get a little further, but finally I drop down hard against the mud, some of which splashes into my open mouth. Crying out, I spit the mud away as I raise my face into the rain, and a moment later I realize I can feel someone getting closer.

I turn and see that the figure has come down off the porch now and is following me across the mud.

“Leave me alone!” I shout, with tears running down my cheeks. “What do you want from me?”

Turning, I continue to drag myself away from the house. I know it's hopeless, I know she'll catch me, but I have to keep trying. Sobbing but somehow managing to continue, I reach out and rig my hands once more into the mud, pressing the fingers deep into the sludgy mix in the hope that I might gain a better hold, and then I let out a cry of pain as I manage to drag myself a couple more feet. I quickly do the same again, feeling the cold mud against my belly as rain pounds down onto my back. Stopping for a moment, I feel for a few brief seconds as if I should just give up and accept what comes, but that sensation quickly subsides and instead I reach out, grabbing more mud and hauling myself forward, and then I reach out again...

Only this time, my right hand pushes down into the mud and finds something a little way beneath the surface. Something cold, and hard like... bone. I feel my fingers slipping into two sockets, and my thumb presses against a series of coarse, raised bumps that can only be teeth. I freeze, telling myself that I have to be wrong, before finally using my left hand to drag myself forward as I raise my right hand from the mud. My fingers are still pushed deep into the sockets of the human skull, and I stare in horror as I watch rain lashing down, washing mud from the bony surface and from my hand too, revealing the dead face staring back at me.

Suddenly the cold, which had been soaking through my shirt already, becomes much, much colder, as if it the mud and rain has found a way to penetrate my skin and soak down to my bones. I stare in horror at the skull in my right hand, but although I want to cry out and throw it to one side, I can't manage to make my fingers obey. All I can do is crawl closer until I'm staring directly into the skull's eyes, and then I set it down in the mud and finally manage to let go. Rain pours down onto us both, washing away more flecks of dirt from the skull until it stares back at me.

Sensing movement nearby, I slowly turn and look up. The dark figure from the house is now standing directly behind, looking straight down at me.



Five days earlier


“You just had to do it
week, didn't you?” Mom sighs as she switches off the ignition. “Both legs, on the exact same day we were scheduled to move house.”

“I'm sorry,” I tell her for the hundredth – no, the
– time. “I didn't exactly fall off my bike on purpose.”

She turns to me, and although she's clearly annoyed, there's still a weary smile that lets me know I'm not really in trouble. “On the plus side,” she mutters, “spending so much time with you at the hospital meant I could leave the actual moving work to your father and Scott, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.” She looks down at my legs, both of which are encased in plaster from just above the knee all the way down to the ankle. “And you didn't 'fall' off your bike, Annie, you
off it. At speed. Into the side of a truck.” She reaches over and ruffles my hair. “For God's sake, you could have been killed.”

“I'm sorry.” Glancing out the window, I see the new house towering high above the driveway, and I'm immediately struck by how dark and brooding the place looks. Seriously, it's as if my parents set out to find a house that would drive visitors away. The wooden walls are gray and worn, as if the place hasn't been renovated since the year zero. “Is this it?” I ask, keen to change the subject. “What are we, The Addams Family?”

“It's a lovely house,” she replies, opening the door and stepping out of the car before heading around to the trunk so she can take out the fold-up wheelchair. “It just needs some care and attention, that's all. Would you rather live in some soulless, airless modern construction?”



“And we're out in the middle of nowhere,” I mutter, turning and looking back along the barren driveway. “We're miles from civilization. The nearest house is, what, five miles away? Ten? What exactly am I supposed to do all summer, commune with nature?”

“First you'll have to get your legs healed,” she replies, setting the wheelchair next to the car. “Until then, you know what the doctor said.”

“Yeah, but we're not actually going to listen to him, are we?” I say with a smile, before realizing that she's serious. “Mom? No way, I can't
be confined to bed!”

“It's an essential part of your recovery.”

“But -”

“No buts,” she adds. “Annie Riley, you're going to follow the doctor's orders to the letter, and that means resting in bed while your legs heal. You'll be up and about eventually, but these things take time and if you don't like that, I only have one piece of advice for you.”

“What's that?” I ask, feeling a sense of doom as I look back up at the house.

“Don't break your legs again,” she continues, reaching into the car and patting my shoulder. “Now let's try to figure out how to get you into this wheelchair. Your father's inside, maybe I should go and get him to help. I'm not quite sure how we're going to get you upstairs.”

“Upstairs?” I reply, my eyes widening with shock. “You have to be joking!”

She sighs. “Annie -”

“You can't put me upstairs! That's insane! I have to be downstairs!”

“There's no room,” she explains, already sounding as if she's ready to drop. “Annie, please... Once you're up there, it'll be fine. I know it's not ideal, but your father and I have talked it over and it's really the only way we can manage.”

She pauses, watching me with a hint of concern.

“You know we won't just stick you up there and forget about you, right?” she asks finally, forcing a faint smile that in no way hides her frazzled exhaustion. “Trust me, after a few hours you'll be
us to leave you in peace!”

“Great,” I mutter, looking down at my useless, plaster-clad legs, “I guess summer's canceled. I probably won't see the outside world again until winter.”




“And this is your room!” Dad says proudly, pushing the door open and wheeling me into a small, undecorated space on the top floor. “What do you think?”

“I think there's been some kind of mistake,” I reply. “My name is Annie Riley and I live in New York. I'm not a country bumpkin.”

“That's the spirit.”

“There's mold,” I point out, sniffing the air.

“There's no mold.”

“I can see it. Over there, by the window, there's mold growing up from the floor.”

“That's just some old wallpaper,” he replies, wheeling me to the side of the bare, metal-framed bed. Reaching over to the wall, he scratches at the mold, causing some of it to flake off. He takes a sniff of his fingers and immediately recoils, clearly disgusted. “Well, whatever, I'll get rid of it. It's not the dangerous kind of mold.”

“Can you at least open the window?” I ask. “I'm worried about fumes.”

“There's not
much of it,” he says, although he opens the window as far as it'll go before coming back to my wheelchair. “It's an old house, you have to expect certain... unusual features. One of the reasons we moved all the way out here was to get away from the sterilized apartments of the city and give you kids a chance to explore the real world.”

the sterilized apartments of the city,” I tell him, wincing slightly as he reaches around from behind and takes hold of me, ready to lift me onto the bed. “I was very comfortable in the sterilized apartments of the city. I liked not having random patches of dirt and straw in the corner of my room.”

“Huh?” He looks over at the far corner. “I'll get rid of that too.”

It only takes a few seconds for him to lift me from the chair and set me on the bed, and when he asks if the move hurt my legs at all, I lie: I tell him I'm fine, that they don't hurt, and that he should stop fussing. The truth, however, is that as he gently lifts my plaster-clad legs onto the bed and then wheels the chair to the corner, I feel like a prisoner who's being placed in a new cell. Sure, that might be a slight over-reaction, but back in New York I had a whole city on my doorstep, and now all I have is a window that offers a fine view of some distant trees. Plus, the air smells clean, and I'm not used to that at all.

“You're not stuck in bed forever,” Dad says, grabbing a hold-all from the floor and setting it next to me on the bed. “Three or four weeks, tops, provided you actually cooperate.”

“And then we can move back to New York?”

“And then you'll be up and about, and you can explore Dunceford.”

“Dunceford,” I mutter with a sigh. “Even the name...”

“You've got rolling countryside for miles in every direction,” he continues. “Fields, fresh air, a forest... I'd have given anything to grow up in a place like this. You're fifteen years old, Annie, you should learn to get about in the natural world.”

“But what if I've evolved to
smog?” I ask. “What if my body has become optimized to city living and I end up dying in a clean environment? What if clean, fresh air is actually toxic to me? That's a very real possibility that no-one seems to be considering.”

“Plus, you have this.” He slides my laptop from the bag and places it on my lap. “I made sure it wasn't buried away in one of the packing crates when we arrived yesterday.”

“Thanks,” I reply, opening the lid and hitting the power button.

“And we should have internet by Wednesday next week.”

I smile, amused by the joke, before turning to him as I realize he might be serious. “What?”

“They have to lay some new cables or something.”

I'm trying not to panic, but... “We have no internet?”

“Relax,” he says with a smile, “it
possible to live without being online.”

“But -” Staring at my laptop as it powers up, I suddenly feel as if I've been ripped away from the real world and dropped into the Dark Ages. No streaming music, no streaming video, no ebooks or websites, no instant chat, no social media, no news, no forums, no access to my short stories and other stuff in the cloud. I swear to God, I feel like I might actually burst into tears.

“We have DVDs,” he adds. “I'll bring some up.”

“DVDs?” I reply. “What is this, the Victorian age?”

“The house is older than that, actually,” he explains, heading to the door. “Sorry, Annie, I know it's not exactly ideal to spend your first weeks here in bed, but if you hadn't fallen off your bike -”

“I know,” I reply, trying and failing to hide my irritability. “It's all my fault that I'm bedridden.” Sighing, I close the laptop lid. I can tell I'm coming across as some kind of bratty teenager, and I don't like it. “And I'm sure I'll thank you and Mom for moving us out here eventually,” I continue with another sigh. “I'm sure I'll learn to love it here, I just have to adjust to the change of pace. And I need to be able to -”

I look over at the door, suddenly aware that someone was watching us. Whoever it was, they've slipped out of sight before I get to see them, but I figure it was probably my dumb little brother.

“I need to be able to walk again,” I add, turning back to Dad. “That's what I need the most.”

“I'll bring some more things up as we unpack,” he replies. “Hold tight, it's going to be great in this new house, I promise.”

I nod, but as soon as he's left the room I find myself sitting on the bed with no idea what to do next. My phone was lost in the bike accident and I still don't have a new one, and now the lack of internet means I'm cut off from the world. Sitting up a little more, I crane my neck and look out the window, but all I manage to see if the trees that line the far end of the lawn. I know it's great to 'connect' with the natural world and all that stuff, but still, a short vacation would have been enough. I really don't get why we had to move hundreds of miles and come live in the sticks. Still, it'd be a lot better if I wasn't confined to bed, and that part at least I all my fault.

Damn me.

Feeling an itch around my right knee, I look around for my scratcher before realizing that Mom and Dad forgot to bring it up for me. When I try to slip a finger under the plaster cast, I realize that there's no way I can reach the itch without help, although I try digging my finger deeper and I swear I'm

Hearing a bump nearby, I turn and once again see a faint shape slipping out of view in the doorway.

“Scott,” I say, not amused, “can you go get my scratcher from Mom and Dad?”

I wait.

No reply.

He's blatantly out there on the landing, but I guess he thinks he's being funny.

“Scott, can you cut the games and just fetch my scratcher? Please?”


“Damn it,” I mutter, leaning back on the bed as I try to banish the itch using the power of my mind. I have no idea how I'm going to survive being holed up in this room for a couple of weeks, but if I'm to stand any chance at all, I
a scratcher to deal with the itches under my plaster casts. The worst part is, this really
all my fault. If I hadn't come off my bike last week, I'd be able to go explore the new area, and that
be kind of neat.

Instead I'm stuck here, in this bare little room, listening to the sound of my family unpacking boxes in the room below.




“You guys didn't have to eat up here in my room with me,” I tell them later, as I take another slice of pizza off the plate, “but... Thanks.”

“We couldn't leave you up here by yourself,” Mom points out. She, Dad and Scott are sitting on uncomfortable-looking wooden chairs next to my bed, and they've set up a camp table to hold the pizza and soda bottles. It's actually kind of cute. “It would've been sad to be eating downstairs while knowing you're up here alone.”

“It'd be funny,” Scott mutters with a grin.

“Maybe I could get up a little,” I suggest. “I mean, I'm not crippled, I just have these casts on and we have those crutches...”

“You saw the stairs, honey,” Dad replies. “Even
crutches, you'd have trouble maneuvering. Besides, the doctor said you need to stay in bed and let your legs heal properly. That was a condition of letting you out so soon, remember? He actually wanted to keep you in until the weekend.”

“Sure,” I reply, “but -”

“But nothing. Be a good patient.”

“I just don't know what I'm going to
all day,” I reply, looking over at the window. Night has fallen outside, and after just one afternoon and evening of being in this room, I'm already starting to go stir crazy. My laptop is useless without an internet connection, and Mom still hasn't managed to find any of the boxes with my books. “Seriously,” I continue, turning back to them, “what am I going to do tomorrow? I'll be here in this room all day, and you guys are going to be busy, so what am I going to

“Scott'll come and keep you company,” Mom suggests.

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