calm sea during golden hour


Valerie Arden {Installment #2}

This is the second part of the thriller, Valerie Arden.


7/3/20233 min read

woman in brown coat standing brown house
woman in brown coat standing brown house

In middle school, Valerie Arden had been known as the girl who never refused a dare. Well, as long as it was within limits, of course. It just wasn’t in her vocabulary, the word ‘no’. And even here, within her best friend group, she felt annoyed with herself for refusing such a great dare- it would lead her to feel small all year, this small dare, that was her fare.

Penny giggled mischievously as Valerie said it. As they went back into Val’s room to settle down for the night, Will, Penny and Im in sleeping bags and Val on her bed, Penny whispered something to Will, which caused them to laugh ceaselessly. Valerie didn’t dare to meet Imogen’s eyes, but when they did, she saw a shadow in them, and felt ashamed- she knew Im was only concerned about her safety, but it was a dare, for Pete’s sake, and dares were her particular forte. They fell asleep almost at once- but at around 3 am, she was woken up by a strange feeling.

Val opened her eyes and nearly screamed. Imogen sat on the side of her bed, intently staring into her soul.

“Im- Imogen, what are you doing?” she cried.

“The Crypt Woods aren’t for public consumption.” Imogen said as if in a trance, her black curls on her shoulders like vines. “There are bad things there, it isn’t a tale. Take heed, and intense care if you want to stay alive. And keep out!”

Saying this, Imogen sprang off the bed, and sank into her sleeping bag, falling asleep at once. And Valerie, shocked and assuming it was a dream, tried to too. But sleep didn’t come easy, and spirits haunted her twisted dreams.

The next morning when she woke up, everyone was already at the breakfast buffet her mother had arranged. Over pancakes and maple syrup, her friends chatted away. Valerie tried to catch Imogen to ask her about what happened last night, but she knew Imogen was prone to sleepwalking and would probably get offended, since she didn’t remember her episodes.

“Why’re you so quiet, Val, sweetie?” her mother asked, who, a moment before had been chatting away about the new Icelandic café with Willow, whose brother had opened it, drizzling a considerable amount of banana syrup over her pancakes.

“Er, nothing, mum, I was just thinking about something.” She said quickly, pretending to rearrange her waves to buy herself some time. “I guess… I was worried about how I would spend the summer break.”

“Kids grow up so fast.” Her mother smiled. “Well, you girls can hang out in the backyard until your parents pick you up.”

Penny and Will practically dragged Im and Valerie out to the backyard, Imogen looking sulky.

“So we’re doing it tomorrow!” Penny squealed.

Imogen raised one eyebrow. “I know where this is going, Penny.”

“Im, we love you to death, but don’t you think you’re being a little bit emo-Wednesday fan right now?” Will said, grinning.

“I don’t like that series, and besides, I don’t care if you three go dancing into the woods the first chance you get. There are things in there, like shit you don’t know. I’m not going to be there to save your backs.” Imogen said nonchalantly.

Imogen had been Valerie’s first friend at ACER School and High. Sure, she felt terrible betraying her like that, but anyway, it was what she wanted, and wasn’t your choice what made you yourself? She knew Imogen wasn’t a big fan of Penny or Will, but…

“So, Im, Will, Valerie has to run into the woods, to our treehouse, sign it, and come back after scouting it out. Deal?”

The treehouse had been where all three of them had met at first grade. It was an old wooden treehouse made of weathered but steady fir planks with square windows and a sloping roof. It had been built by all four of their older brothers, making it sort of a heritage thing. When they first discovered it, it was at the edge of the forest, not intertwined with the trees but still 10-15 feet away from the thick trios of massive oaks that had been the norm then. 8 years had meant that the forest had reclaimed the treehouse and now surrounded it with vines and trees-it was now deep in the forest.

Imogen shrugged. “Fine, then.”

“Great!’ Penelope socked her on the shoulder, hard. Valerie shrugged when Imogen shot her a look.