Don't Wake Dr. Lewis
Yeah, I was there when it happened.
I mean, not there there, cause I did NOT kill him. But I was there as in I was in the same house.
9 Lewis Lane.
What happened to Danny was tragic. Really, it was. Believe me, I’ll be haunted by the image of those fucking scratched-out eyes for the rest of my life.
I know I’m gonna get a lot of shit thrown my way the next couple days as the others go public with their sides of the story. The others are gonna try to pin Danny’s death on me, and, frankly, I get it. I’m the good-looking, small-town football captain hanging out with a bunch of nerds—clearly, I was the odd man out.
Here’s what happened. What really happened.
I’d been trying to hang out with Jenny for a while, so when I bumped into her in the library that morning and she mentioned that she and Pam were wanting to organize a game night, I jumped at the opportunity.
I figured that if Pam was gonna be there, that would mean her BF Danny would be there, which I was totally fine with. I didn’t know him well, but he seemed cool. What I did not realize, however, was that Danny’s psychopathic little brother Steven would tag along too.
I’m telling you right now, if I have to blame anyone for Danny’s death (aside from the house itself), it’s Steven.
Jenny mentioned that she and Pam were organizing a game night and wanted to know if I’d come. I said yes.
She told me the plan was to play Scrabble in her parents’ basement.
First of all, I’m not a great speller and would only be made to look like an absolute fool playing Scrabble. Second of all, how many stories of dudes getting laid start with ‘first we played Scrabble at my parents’ house’?
I didn’t say any of this at first. I only politely accepted, then started formulating my plan. When school let out, I met Jenny in the East Foyer. She was already with Pam.
“So, you’re coming to Scrabble night, huh Brad?” Pam said.
I looked between her and Jenny, then stepped in close. “Have you guys heard of—”
Danny snuck up behind us and picked Pam off her feet, swinging her around like a fucking chick flick.
“We doin’ Scrabble night or what?” Danny said, nudging me on the shoulder. “And starting quarterback, Mr. Brad is joining us?”
I smiled awkwardly.
“I’ve got another idea for a game,” I said. “Have you guys ever heard of Don’t Wake Dr. Lewis?”
Pam and Jenny glanced at each other nervously.
“You mean the game that opens a portal to hell?” Jenny said.
“Rumored to open a portal to hell,” Danny said.
Danny, who was clearly embarrassed about his previous enthusiasm for lame-ass Scrabble and not wanting to be demasculated in front of his girlfriend, doubled down on his support for my idea.
“I don’t know, Brad. My parents are super religious. They’d freak if they knew I went to 9 Lewis Lane,” Jenny said. “Not to mention, I’d be banned from hanging out with you forever.” She grazed my shoulder with her hand.
My heart rate picked up.
Man would I love to get her alone in a creepy old mansion. Not in a predatory way, mind you. Just in a hold-me-I’m-scared kind of way.
Danny jumped in, again to my defense. “It’s just an urban legend, Jenny. Come on. Not to mention, we’re all seniors. It’s tradition for seniors to play Don’t Wake Dr. Lewis at least once before they graduate.”
“That most definitely is not a tradition,” Pam said. “But I do think it sounds fun.”
“Seriously?” Jenny said, now outnumbered three to one.
“You want to study architecture in college, don’t you, Jen? Why don’t you take this opportunity to study one of Mayberry County’s oldest, most historic homes—the infamous 9 Lewis Lane?” Pam said.
“Kids have died there, for chrissake,” Jenny said.
God, she was cute when she got mad.
“That was like a million years ago,” I said. “Ok, how bout this, we go explore the house just for fun. We don’t even have to play the game. If you want to leave after a few minutes, we can go back to your house and play Scrabble.”
Jenny pursed her lips and looked between the three of us for a minute. “Ok, fine.”
“Hell yeah,” Danny said, pumping his fist and kissing Pam on the cheek.
It is true that kids had died at 9 Lewis Lane while playing Don’t Wake Dr. Lewis about ten years earlier, but everyone thought it was just a stupid, small town urban legend. I mean, find me a gaudy Victorian mansion lived in by a 19th-century experimental surgeon that doesn’t have an urban legend tied to it, right?
At 8 pm that night, the group pulled up in front of my house in Danny’s hatchback. Pam was in the front seat, Jenny was in the back next to an unidentified kid who appeared to be at least a couple years younger than us.
I came to quickly find out that this was Steven—Danny’s unruly little brother who was grounded from hanging out with friends that night. Since Danny was going to play an innocent game of Scrabble at his girlfriend’s house, Steven was authorized to tag along.
“Wow, Danny, I didn’t know you were friends with the legendary all-state football player, Brad Meyer,” Steven said when I got in the car. “Tell me, Brad, is it true that your overt attempt at masculinity is to compensate for your tiny purple wiener?”
“Good God, Steven, please shut the hell up,” Danny said.
“Sure is, kid,” I said.
We drove eleven miles to the edge of Mayberry County with Steven roasting everyone in the car in very creative and very vulgar ways.
If Steven was the one who died, it probably would’ve been me who killed him. Fucking prick. But unfortunately, he wasn’t the one who got his eyes clawed out and bled to death that night.
When we finally found the overgrown Lewis Lane off Highway 44, everyone in the car—including Steven—fell silent.
Then, I kid you not, Steven said the following words as we rolled up to 9 Lewis Lane. “Someone’s gonna die here tonight.”
“Again, Steven, shut the hell up,” Danny said, putting the car into park.
I will say 9 Lewis Lane lived up to its reputation. Impossibly old, impossibly ornate, and impossibly creepy. Although Jenny was originally hesitant about the venture, as soon as we crawled through the twisted steel gate and beheld the mansion, she became giddy with excitement.
“It’s amazing,” Jenny whispered, briefly gripping my arm.
“Oh, I see. So, you two are a couple then?” Steven said from behind us.
Jenny released my arm.
I’ll admit, in that moment, I felt two things: One, I wanted to sock Steven a good one. Second, I wanted something scary to happen in that house, cause I liked the feeling of Jenny gripping me like that. Never in a million years would I have imagined the horror that was to come though.
The front door and front windows were boarded up, but one of the boards was loose enough for us to sneak in.
The strong moonlight combined with the tall windows allowed us to take in the scene. The building was nothing short of amazing.
As we moved through each room, Jenny became more excited, commenting here on the architecture. Danny and Pam got touchier, I noticed, which seemed to get under Steven’s skin.
I was quiet during the initial walkthrough cause I was on the lookout for one thing and one thing only: Don’t Wake Dr. Lewis.
Rumor is, it’s a board game hidden somewhere in the house. Part of the urban legend is that it will present itself if its seeker is worthy—some bullshit like that.
We finished exploring the main floor to no avail and moved to the second floor, wandering down the dark, musty hallways that seemed to stretch on forever. Our group had two flashlights, I had one of them.
The longer we went on, the more I felt in sync with the house. I don’t know how to explain it better than that. I felt almost as if I was accepted in the house—welcomed. I don’t know if it’s just because I felt more comfortable or what, but things suddenly felt right.
“Stop!” I instructed the group, holding my hand up.
“Yessir captain fratboy,” Steven said.
I closed my eyes for a moment, and in the complete silence, I could hear something just beyond the wall. I want to say it was like a creaking, but it was more than that. I understand now. It was something moving into place—getting ready to be discovered.
“Okay, everyone stay here,” I said.
“Where are you going?” Jenny said.
“Just hold on,” I said, opening the door just up the hall.
Pam whispered something in Danny’s ear.
The door opened up to a mezzanine level of the incredibly vast library. It was truly a haunting sight. I ran my hand along the worn, dusty bookshelves until coming to a rest about halfway down the landing. It’s here, I thought, scanning the old books and debris on the shelf.
Then it fell onto the ground in front of me.
DON’T WAKE DR. LEWIS the bold blue font on the box’s cover read.
To my surprise, the game box wasn’t old and antiquey like I was expecting, it looked like your everyday Candyland or Sorry. I picked it up and looked it over, half expecting to see a Hasbro tag on it somewhere.
“Brad?” Jenny called in the distance. “You okay in—holy shit,” she said, stepping on the library mezzanine.
“This place is unreal,” she said smiling. When her eyes found what I was holding, her smile disappeared.
I held it up for her to see.
“It is real,” she said under her breath.
Danny and Pam came in.
“Wow, okay,” Danny said.
Enter Steven. “We doin’ this orgy thing or what?”
I turned to Jenny. “What do you think?” I said. “I mean, not about an orgy—the game?”
Jenny looked around the group carefully with a smirk. “Why not? Let’s do it. Looks harmless enough.”
“Alright, you spin the wheel, then move your piece to the color you land on,” Pam said, reading the instructions on the back of the box.
The board was laid before us, a trail of colored slots weaving around a crude drawing of a sleeping doctor. About half of the slots were accompanied by numbers. There was a plastic button on the center of the doctor’s chest and a small stack of cards next to it. Our five game pieces were lined up at the start.
“What about the button, babe?” Danny said.
“Yes, if you land on a numbered slot, you have to push the button that many times,” Pam said.
“So, if I land on a three, I push the button three times?” I said.
“Wow, fratboy is also a math genius,” Steven said.
I pursed my lips. “What does the button do, Pam?”
Pam looked over the box, eyebrows furrowed. “No idea. It doesn’t say.”
“Lemme see that,” Danny said, reading it over.
“Ok, well what about the cards?” Jenny asked.
“If you land on a number, you also have to draw a card. These are the challenge cards,” Pam said, holding the box again. “It looks like if you don’t complete the challenge, you have to move to the start AND you lose your next turn.”
“Moral of the story is don’t puss out on the challenges,” Steven said.
“Watch your goddamn mouth in front of the ladies, Steven,” Danny said.
Steven scoffed. “…in front of the ladies. What is this, 1955?”
“I’ll go first,” I said, taking the spin wheel.
The old window in the second-floor bedroom we sat in creaked loudly, making us jump, and causing me to prematurely spin the wheel.
It landed on red.
I moved my piece to the first red slot, which also contained the number 4.
“Luck runs out on the first turn. Bummer,” Danny said.
I moved my finger over the button in Doctor Lewis’s chest. I took a deep breath and pushed it. One, two, three, four. The five of us sat still staring at the button.
“Don’t wake Dr. Lewis,” Jenny whispered.
“The buttons. The more we push them, the more they agitate Doc—”
Something creaked loudly below us in the house.
“Shit,” Steven whispered.
The old window in the room slammed shut with a crash. I jumped to my feet, inadvertently knocking the flashlight over. The girls screamed.
I ran over to the window and pulled it closed.
“Just a window,” I said, catching my breath.
After another moment, everyone in the room busted up laughing. Well, everyone except Danny.
“Jesus, we are not gonna last this long if we’re all so jumpy already,” Pam said.
“No kidding,” Jenny said. “Though, you were ready to fight that ghost, weren’t you, tough guy?” She nudged my arm and leaned against my shoulder.
And this is why I wanted the house to be scary.
I smiled nervously.
“Now take a challenge card,” Pam said.
I know I play the tough role, but I’ll admit I was scared. It wasn’t the slamming window that got me, it was the creaking before the slam. It was almost as if something waswaking.
No Brad, you don’t believe this shit.
I drew my card with shaking hands and held it up to the flashlight. The card was titled, THE MANNEQUIN ROOM with a crudely drawn mannequin sitting in a chair in the same style as Dr. Lewis on the game board.
“The Mannequin Room,” I read. “Find the Mannequin Room in the East Wing of the first floor. Go alone. Close the door behind you and sit in the viewing chair. You will stare at the Mannequin unmoving for ten minutes. Whatever you do don’t break eye contact or you lose the challenge. The game will resume when you return to the room.”
“Good lord,” Pam said. “Take the flashlight at least.”
“I certainly will,” I said.
“In case you don’t make it out alive,” Jenny said, then leaned in and kissed me softly on the lips. She smiled as she pulled away.
“Get it, girl!” Pam said.
I turned bright red. Thank god it was dark.
Danny cleared his throat. “Be careful.”
I retraced my steps back through the deceitfully large house to the main entry then found the east wing.
Initially, I thought Danny was telling me to be careful for my own sake. But that’s not what he meant. He meant be careful as to not wake Dr. Lewis. The house was already getting into Danny’s head.
At the end of the hall was a worn ornamental wood door with rusted hardware. Spray-painted in red paint were the words MANNEQUIN ROOM. I held my breath for a moment and took in the deafening silence of the house before pushing the door open.
Dusty moonlight filtered in through the old windows revealing a room roughly the size of the one we were in upstairs. Papers, books, and broken furniture were scattered around the floor except for a high back wood chair with gold finishes on some sort of stage near the end of the room. In it was a light gray mannequin with a tattered red robe covering its body. It had cheap sunglasses on its face.
I closed the door behind me.
An empty chair sat in the middle of the room, about five feet from the mannequin. The back of it was spray-painted VIEWING CHAIR.
I stepped carefully toward the chair and sat down. I started the stopwatch on my phone, sat up straight, and locked my gaze with those horrible sunglasses.
The branches outside occasionally bobbed in the wind, casting odd shadows on the wall behind the mannequin.
I thought about where this mannequin must have come from. Was it here when those kids died here ten years ago? I almost looked away out of reflex to better survey my surroundings but didn’t.
Why did Steven say that? That someone was gonna die here. Was he just being an asshole per usual or did he have some sort of sixth sense? I hoped he was right as long as he was the one dying.
I can’t believe Jenny kissed me. Just like that. What the hell was that about? I mean sure, I’ll take it, but would she have done that under normal circumstances, or did she really think this might be the last time I’d see her?
The house was completely silent. Shouldn’t I be able to still hear the others? I mean, I know they were on the other side of the house, but still. It was too quiet. Too damn quiet. What were they doing up there?
“Wake me up,” the room whispered to me.
My heart was pounding. “You don’t believe this shit, Brad. You don’t believe this shit,” I whispered to myself. My eyes started burning in anticipation of tears.
The sunglasses on the mannequin slid down its nose half an inch.
I jumped in my chair, all the while maintaining eye contact with the cursed mannequin. You don’t believe in this shit.
At that point, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I set the stopwatch on my phone to keep track of the time, when I should have set a timer or an alarm. I’d have to look at my phone to know how long I’d been there—something that was against the rules if I was under the ten minutes.
“Bradley,” a voice whispered.
“What—who the hell is there?” I said. “Steven, is that you?”
Branches scraped against the window. The mannequin sat motionless, staring at me, gazing into my soul.
“Why don’t you believe?” the voice whispered.
“This isn’t real, this isn’t real,” I said. I felt hot tears streaming down my face. Cause it was real. I swear to God something was happening.
“STOP!” I yelled.
The mannequin’s glasses slid further down its nose. My breathing grew shallow. How long had it been? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Fifteen? Do I risk looking at my phone?
The wind stopped blowing again, leaving the house in complete silence. I stared at the mannequin’s face intently. Did the sunglasses really move or was it in my head?
What do you want?
The mannequin’s glasses slid off its nose, cracking on the ground. I held my breath waiting for the reverberation to fade away.
“It’s not fucking possible,” I whispered.
Its face was a blank, smooth plastic, just as you’d expect from a mannequin. Only, something was going on underneath its surface. I don’t know how I knew, I just did. Whatever was behind those pale, plastic eyes pulled me in. Deep.
Next thing I knew, there was pounding on the door behind me.
“Brad, let us in, man. We can’t get it open,” Steven yelled.
“Please, Brad, what the hell happened to you?” Jenny yelled. “My god, he’s dead in there, isn’t he?”
I snapped out of it and looked at the stopwatch on my phone.
It had been 42 minutes.
I stood up abruptly and ran to the door. I swung it open to find Steven and Jenny standing there, Jenny with tears running down her face. Danny was sitting in the hallway rocking back and forth like a child. Pam was fanning him with her hands.
“What the hell, man?” Steven said.
“I don’t know what happened,” I said. “The mannequin—its eyes.” I turned to look back at the mannequin. The sunglasses were still on the ground, its blank plastic face completely exposed.
“Its eyes, what?” Steven said.
“The sunglasses were on it when I started. I swear. They fell off somehow. I don’t know, there’s something with this house,” I said.
“Let’s just get out of here,” Jenny said. “I think we’ve had our fun.”
Next thing I knew, we were back in the second-floor room, all of us huddled around Don’t Wake Dr. Lewis with Steven spinning the wheel.
I don’t know how or why, but there we were.
Something with that house—that board game—had gotten inside my head and was somehow bending reality. Well, my perception of reality, I guess.
I vaguely remember the others’ taking their turns. I remember the house groaning more. I remember the frustration of dealing with a crumbling memory that seemed to get worse by the second.
Then, of course, I remember the conclusion of the game, when we found Danny in a pool of his own blood, his eyes scratched out of his head.
God help me.
Listen, I know that the others—those still living anyway—are going to go public with their stories too. And I know my story may sound bonkers, but I DID NOT kill Danny. I couldn’t keep my train of thought consistent long enough to talk, let alone brutally murder someone.
Even if the murderer was one from our group, I think there was something else at play.
I think we lost the game.
I think we woke Dr. Lewis.