Blurred Lines Between Reality and Imaginary
"Of course we end up coming to a place like this, don't we?" John mused, looking at the creaking, quaking, dilapidated building in front of them.
"Lestrade was too frightened to come on his own."
"Was that it, then?" John replied, looking behind them at the long lane. "Bit spooky, really."
"Oh, please. The stains on the fence back there were obviously fake. Probably corn syrup with red food colouring left to stain."
"Thanks," John muttered lowly. He hadn't noticed the stains on the fence.
They were at some commercial haunted house, according to Lestrade. The murder suspect actually ran the haunted house. The haunted house doubled as the suspect's actual house, so here they were. Although John couldn't fathom why someone would want to live in a haunted house, much less a house that actually looked haunted.
They were back about a mile, a gravel lane enclosed by a fence on either side. It was eerily quiet, as they were surrounded by a forest, and as equally dark. (Why had they come here after sundown, anyway?) It was a bit spooky.
It was the perfect place for a haunted house.
"Let's get this over with," he said, striding ahead of Sherlock towards the deteriorating front door. The haunted house aspect didn't really frighten John. He was a soldier; he'd seen a lot worse. Did he believe in ghosts? Not particularly. He believed in people jumping out from behind tapestries or hiding around the corners. That wasn't to say he was entirely comfortable with the setting, but it was cold, it was dark, and it was quiet. Ominous.
Sherlock curled his fingers around the heavy door knocker, rapping it against the door easily. The door creaked open.
John looked at Sherlock slowly. Sherlock returned the look before scoffing, pushing the front door open.
"Don't relate real life to your terrible collection of favourite movies, John," he said, stepping into the hallway.
"Charming," John murmured as he followed him in, looking around the house. Immediately in front of them was a corridor leading straight back. A bit to the left was a staircase. On either sides of the room, two doorways were visible, leading into what John imagined would be a kitchen and a sitting room.
"This is a brilliant place for a murder," Sherlock muttered, his breath forming a cloud of condensation.
"You would think so, wouldn't you?" John replied, reaching for the doorknob to pull the door shut. It clicked into place with a definitive latching sound. (No, John, you are not locked in! That only happens in movies, like Sherlock said. You do not need to try that door; now leave it alone.) "It looks like it hasn't had inhabitants in years," he said a bit louder, looking around. He took a step forward, brushing his finger against the banister of the nearby staircase. Dust coated his fingertip when he pulled it away. Wrinkling his nose, he wiped his hands on his pants. "So, what now?" he asked, turning back to Sherlock to find the detective slinking away down the hall. "Sherlock!" he hissed, following after him.
Well, this was fine. The last thing he needed to do was get seperated from Sherlock in this dingy old place. It was a rather large house, of an older age, no doubt. It probably had all sorts of nooks and crannies and interesting baubles around. On top of spending an hour driving out here with Sherlock and getting the chills, there wasn't even the suspect to show for it.
"Someone's been here..."
"What?" John looked at Sherlock closer, to be sure he had heard what he had thought he had. "Someone can't have been; look at all the dust."
"It's not embedded in the carpets like it should be after a long absence. It's been... placed here. The atmosphere's been replicated for the sake of the haunted house."
"So, what, someone keeps a great lot of dust around to sprinkle on the floor here? Come on, Sherlock."
Sherlock came to a standstill in the doorway at the end of the hall so quickly that John nearly walked into the back of him.
"What are you doing?" he muttered, attempting to peer around Sherlock into the room ahead. "What is it?"
Sherlock held up a hand. John blinked, waiting.
All of a sudden, Sherlock put a hand on John's shoulder and all but shoved him to the floor. The surprise caught him off guard and he went down, inhaling a mouthful of the dust on the carpet. His surprised was heightened, however, when twin knives went flying past, directly where they had been standing not moments before.
"What-" John started, but Sherlock had already scrambled onto his feet, taking off at a sprint into the room ahead. "Sherlock!"
The man always went barrelling towards danger, John's mind complained as he stood and took off after his flatmate. He skidded into the room, which appeared to be a study of some sort. It had four doors branching off from it, all open, leading into what appeared to be more corridors. Sherlock just doubled back from one, running into the other.
"Sherlock, wait up," John called, starting after him, but before he had hit the door, Sherlock was already back into the study and into a different corridor. "Sherlock!"
After a moment, Sherlock rejoined him in the study, sighing heavily. "Lost him."
"Lost who? Sherlock, what just happened back there?" John demanded, even though he doubted that even Sherlock knew. The detective looked frazzled and annoyed, and John's own heart was still beating a mile a minute within his chest.
"This was a trap," Sherlock stated calmly, eyes darting between each doorway in the room. "Someone made sure that Lestrade thought this place was our man's residence. It's all been planned- and now they're out to kill us."
"Oh," John replied, his breath leaving him in a rush. "Okay, so, let's get out of here before they can."
"An accomplice to murder is running around here, John, we can't leave-" Sherlock said, but he didn't finish before the echoing thud of a door met their ears.
"Only one door can be that loud..." John started.
Sherlock darted back into the hallway, presumably going to check the front door. John stayed where he was, looking unhappily into the dusty mirror in the room. Great. Someone was planning to murder them, inside of a haunted house...
"... Sherlock, where are you?" he called, quickly making the decision that he didn't want to be alone here. Sherlock met him just in the hall.
"Someone went out. Apparently they didn't want to overexert themselves in their attempt to murder us."
"Oh, well. Good for us, bad for them, I suppose," John said sarcastically. "We can go, then. Report all this to Lestrade, yeah?"
"We're also locked in."
John paused at Sherlock's offhand statement, refusing to look back at him. He was probably just messing with him; he knew John watched too many horror movies. "Sorry?" he asked, glancing back absently. "Didn't catch that."
"I said," Sherlock replied, annoyed, "that we're locked in. By the front door, at least. I'm sure there's another door. I'm personally more intrigued by the study..." Sherlock continued, brushing past into the study again.
"We're locked in?" John fired back, whirling on his retreating flatmate. "We're really locked in, and all you're concerned about is the stupid study?"
"Well, it's not as if I have a key," Sherlock replied calmly, from the study.
John stared incredulously into the gloomy room before turning, striding back down the hallway to the lobby. Sherlock said they were locked in, but he wasn't exactly sure if he believed him. If he could bring himself to believe him.
But, in the end, they were locked in.
He walked back to the study to find Sherlock laying on the floor. The sight pushed John over the edge.
"We are bloody locked in this dilapidated, old, possibly haunted building, and you're deciding to have a kip? What- oh," he muttered, pressing the heel of his hand against his eyes. "What am I doing? I'll just call Greg, tell him what's going on-"
"Nicked your phone, no service, though. You can have it back, by the way, it's in the coat," he said, nodding to the discarded Belstaff on the ratty couch.
"You nicked my phone?" John repeated, crossing the room and tearing his mobile from Sherlock's coat pocket.
"Yes, obviously. I'm not having a kip, by the way. I was looking," he said as he stood fluidly, taking his coat from John and shrugging it back on. "There's no dust in here, obviously, so I was looking for any mud or dirt that may have been dragged in by other shoes."
As the mention of lack of dust, John looked around. Actually looked. And the room was clean, when it came to the oh-so-eloquent dust. "So, the dust..."
"Was actually spread about the house for design, yes." Sherlock wiped his hands on his coat, looking up. "Well, no use standing around. Let's go up," he stated, doubling back into the entrance corridor.
"Up? I thought you were interested in the study corridors."
"Two corridors are fake, roundabout ways into the first two rooms which are the kitchen and the sitting room, respectively. The other two lead back into the master bath, master bed suite, which are, of course, connected with a door. Useless."
"Oh, wait, how do you know nothing's in the bedroom?" John asked, trotting after him. His anger had come and gone. He didn't know if he was more tired or more unsettled at the moment, but, either way, it hadn't made for a particularly nice moment when he had found Sherlock all but sprawled out on the floor like he hadn't a care in the world.
"Considering this was all a ruse, anyway, I highly doubt that we'll find anything pertinent to the original case," Sherlock said calmly. "Avoid the fifth step."
"But what about the case of Person Trying to Kill Sherlock and John?" John muttered, following Sherlock up the stairs. His mind was caught up on the new case at hand and he didn't watch what he was doing until Sherlock locked his hand around John's arm suddenly. "What?" John asked, looking at him quickly.
"I said not to stop on the fifth step. I knew you wouldn't listen." Sherlock released John's arm. "Now step over it," he said, as he took a step over the fifth.
"Oh, sorry," John replied, following Sherlock's lead. "Why did we just do that?"
"It's a trick staircase. The fifth step activates a slide."
"Oh," John said, frowning as he looked back down the stairs when he reached the landing. "How did you know?"
"I didn't know, I saw," Sherlock replied, looking left and then right. "Come on."
John had only taken a step when the floorboard creaked underfoot; he glanced down just in time to see fingers reaching for his ankle.
With all the dignity of the soldier, he jumped back with a yell. Sherlock's head snapped back around. It took John a slow second to realize that the fingers grabbing at his ankle had been fake, the hand coming from the floor had been-
"Spring loaded. Designed to react to pressure, the floorboard springs back and the hand grabs the ankle of an unsuspecting victim," Sherlock announced, meeting John's gaze afterwards. The look on his face just read you're ridiculous.
"Sorry, I'm a bit jumpy; in case you forgot, someone tried to kill us," John hissed, irritably kicking the fake hand aside. It hit the far wall with a pathetic thump.
He sighed heavily, shakily, turning to follow retreating Sherlock when-
The house was flooded in darkness.
John frowned, blinking into the sudden darkness. "Sherlock? What the hell?"
"Don't act like I did it," Sherlock replied curtly, his voice becoming more distant as he, assumingly, walked away.
John was torn between wanting to stumble after the consulting detective and being afraid to move at all, what with the darkness and liable traps.
"Sherlock, where the hell are you going?" John brushed a hand against the wall, using it as a guide to follow Sherlock down the hall. Unfortunately, he hadn't really looked at the landing when they had stopped and he had no idea if Sherlock had gone to the left, the right, or straight ahead.
He wandered straight ahead for a few seconds, attempting to see through the pitch black to no avail. Eventually, his fingers caught the edge of a doorframe and he peered into the room to his right.
As though a magic switch had been flipped, light flooded the rooms again. John blinked against the sudden light, and when he opened his eyes again, there was a woman standing in the room in front of him.
"Who are you?" she asked in a melodious voice, her head tilting to the side in a confused fashion.
John blinked again, half expecting the girl to vanish. When she didn't, he shook his head, starting forward. "Uhm, John, John Wat-"
His voice was cut off by the roaring sound of something that sounded like-
The whirling blade of a chainsaw cut clean through the neck of the girl in front of him.
John yelped and fell back, scrambling out of the room without pausing to see who was holding the chainsaw.
"John?" Sherlock's voice travelled down the hallway, his head poking through the doorway of a room at the end of the hall.
"Sh-Sher-" John gasped, half falling into the detective. Sherlock caught him around the shoulders, steadying him.
"Is that blood? What happened?" Sherlock asked crisply. John couldn't form a legitimate reply, only felt like doing something like fainting or vomiting or maybe wiping blood off his face from where it had splattered.
The revving of the chainsaw made John jump; he grabbed the sleeve of Sherlock's coat and all but dragged the detective down the hall.
"What is that? Is that a chainsaw? John," Sherlock hissed, attempting to pull away.
"Just stop it...!" John choked back, his voice pitching with fear he hadn't felt in a long time. In a very long time.
Sherlock's brows furrowed; he gave up on struggling and allowed John to pull him into a bedroom. There was a walk-in closet that John decided was going to be the best refuge for them now. He pushed Sherlock into the closet and swung the door shut after them, scrambling to the other end afterwards.
"John." Sherlock's voice wasn't curious, but merely a demand as John met Sherlock's eyes painfully. "What happened, John."
John opened his mouth to respond, but found he couldn't speak the words; his vision swam for one, terrifying moment (if he passed out now, Sherlock would leave him and that would be bad, so bad...) and his knees buckled.
Sherlock caught him and they both slid into a sitting position, John placing his head in his hands. There was blood on his face; it was warm and wet under his fingers and, in another sickening moment, he had to swallow back his own vomit.
He scrubbed his sleeve across his face harshly until, at some point, Sherlock caught his wrist and gave him one of those soul-searching looks. John stared back at him, desperately trying to not think about what was going on around them.
"Tell me what happened," Sherlock stated calmly. He started to say something else, but was cut off by the sound that John was sure was going to haunt him in his nightmares.
He flinched violently at the revving, seeming to feel Sherlock jump as well. The detective's attention snapped to the closet door and John fought the rising nausea; they didn't need extra noise to draw attention to themselves. He pressed a hand over his nose and mouth, his other hand seeking purchase of Sherlock's fingers against his own.
John Watson had known fear. The war had had too many close shaves for him to not understand fear. Fear of death. John was quite sure that they were going to die in that instant, or else, in a few, short moments.
He didn't recall making any sudden breath, but he must have, because Sherlock looked sharply at him, eyes concerned. And John really thought that they were going to die, because Sherlock Holmes was never concerned.
John felt pressure on his fingers and he had the blind assumption to squeeze back, although he was quite sure that Sherlock didn't need or understand the sentiment in the motion.
The noise was loud, too much loud and much too close.
The door flung open after what seemed a lifetime. Time seemed to, inexplicably, slow.
John flinched, reflexively turning towards the only other human source in the room as he hid his face against Sherlock's shoulder. Call it cowardice, because courage was taking a bullet to the chest, not the back, but John didn't want to watch his own death via decapitation coming at him. Surely the exception made sense.
Sherlock's reaction, however, wasn't John's immediate idea of how he should have reacted. John half-expected Sherlock to flinch away, to attack their attacker or fend him off, but there was nothing in the room, at all, that would have made a lick of a difference.
Sherlock didn't move. So, Sherlock was resigned to fate, as it were, as well.
Except, Sherlock did move, the slightest bit, and John felt the detective's hand on his shoulder, pulling him closer into what would, on any other day, have been Sherlock's saving grace. Almost as if he was trying to... shield him...
"Happy Hallow's Eve!" barked a voice in the door as the chainsaw suddenly cut off.
John's head snapped up, attention snapping to the door. Pulling a ski mask off was none other than Detective Inspector Lestrade, grinning a full-blown grin at them.
Both John and Sherlock were frozen on the spot, although Sherlock snapped back to business quicker than John could have ever managed.
"What the hell was that all about?" Sherlock demanded, his hands finding their way, unobtrusively, back to their own person as he stood. The sudden lack of support made John slump down against the wall before Sherlock cottoned on and caught the doctor before he could end up on the floor entirely. "He'll be in shock, Lestrade," he said, dryly.
"Did we frighten him that badly?" came a voice from behind, and the smirking face of Anderson appeared over Lestrade's shoulder.
"We got you, too, Freak," followed the ever-familiar tone of Sally Donovan as she followed Anderson into view. "We saw you flinch. There's cameras up there." She pointed towards the corners of the closet.
John blinked slowly, shaking his head. He attempted to get to his feet, surprisingly, with help from Sherlock and then Lestrade before frowning.
"But wait... the girl... The blood..." He blinked again, raising his fingers to the blood still on his face.
"Mannequin. And the blood's corn syrup. It's a right strike of luck that you didn't get any in your mouth," Anderson replied quickly, smirking.
Sherlock shot him a fantastic look of pure loathing. "Perhaps they could have used your body as the mannequin instead. Pity to waste corn syrup when you were a fine candidate."
"You okay, mate?" Lestrade asked, peering at him closer. "We would have stopped if we thought you were that scared."
"How could you not see that he was terrified?" Sherlock griped, pacing away from John and Lestrade. "So, this- this was all a ruse, was it? A Halloween treat?" He sneered. "I must admit, your joke was rather tasteless." He turned suddenly, walking back to John. "We're leaving now."
"Ditching the party so soon?" Anderson sneered. "Have to go home and change your trousers?"
"No, because when John's small mind actually catches up to what you three've just done here, he's going to be rightfully angry. And I daresay that if he tried to throw punches at you, I would not be the one to stop him," Sherlock replied quickly, placing a hand on the small of John's back and pushing him towards the door.
John took the stumbling step, half frowning at Sherlock. "You just insulted me. Didn't you?"
"No, John, what gave you that idea?" he said, giving John another shove to the door.
"Okay! Just... stop pushing," he grumbled, looking back ahead before glancing, again, at the three watching them.
"It's what I do best," Sherlock replied, stepping into the corridor with John and all but dragging him to the front door.
"We're locked in, remember?" John muttered, but then he paused. "... They did that, too, didn't they," he asked, without really asking.
Sherlock nodded curtly. "We'll be fine getting out now."
John sighed heavily, pressing his fingers against his eyes. He had... a very slight idea of what in the hell had just happened. But, apparently, it was all just one big, tasteless joke? They were fine. They were safe.
"I think I decided something," he said shortly, as they reached the main staircase.
"I, officially, hate Halloween."
To his side, Sherlock only huffed.
This turned into something that I didn't even intend it to. Anyway, yes, Hallow's Eve fic [Oh, Hallow's Eve is in two months! The department stores already have the Hallow's Eve-y decorations out!] inspired by a dream. Poor John; he's really left with a fog over his mind.
Your reviews are appeciated! Thanks for reading!