Double Dare You by Faith Allington




In the fire’s flickering glow, the bones in Sasha’s face stand out like she’s a figurehead on a ship. Above her, the stars crowd the sky in a way they never do in the city. The air smells of woodsmoke and frying donuts. And magic.

“What’s your name again?”

“Alice,” I tell her, heart pounding.

“So, Alice, are you ready to play?” She locks eyes with me. “You know the rules, right?”

My head bobs up and down. Every year, I’ve been dying to play, watching from the sidelines. This is it. I’ll finally have someone to do everything with–making friendship bracelets, staying up watching movies, sneaking into the kitchen to steal candy.

“You give me a dare and then I give you one. No backing out, no matter what.”

“Exactly.” Sasha lifts her slender wrist to show me her bracelet with its spiral green shells. “You just have to get one of these shells.”

“No big deal,” I say. I turn towards the distant sea, already plotting a route over the fence surrounding the camp. It’s off-limits to campers, but I’m willing to risk it. I have to admit, I thought this dare was going to be harder.

“Uh uh,” she laughs, waggling a finger. “You have to go through the cave.”

“It’s only a hundred feet or so.” Maria smirks, her eyes calculating as they sweep over me, judging my cheap white sneakers and overalls. “Scared?”

“Nope.” I shrug one of my shoulders, projecting a confidence that I don’t feel. They tell us about the cave every year at the start of camp, the counselors warning us not to go near it. Campers have gone missing before.

But mom keeps telling me to try harder to make friends.

“Good.” Sasha smiles and squeezes my shoulder. “And don’t worry about the rumors, Alice. You’ll be fine.”

“No one believes that stuff.” But my voice comes out shaky and rushed, and I hear Maria giggle.

The night fills with the sound of crickets and our feet brush against spiny plants. When we get to the hollow, I can just make out the gaping maw of the cave’s entrance, far below the rusted chain with the no trespassing sign.

This is it. I could back out, but the thought of another year watching from my tent is worse than the fear. I scramble down the rocks, scuffing my new sneakers. When I look back up, Sasha’s outline is sharp against the night sky.

I step into the waiting dark and all the noise cuts out. I didn’t think to bring a lantern, but Maria will just call me a baby if I go back for one now. A hundred feet or so. How hard could it possibly be?

I hold my arms out in the utter blackness, dust swirling up each time I stumble. The air is hot as I wade through it, the taste collecting like dirt at the back of my throat. My fingertips brush against the surface of the walls, rough as new bricks but more irregular. The passage is definitely getting narrower.

My footsteps start to squelch as the clay melts in the damp. The air shifts to salt, the moisture like curtains of steam. It has to mean I’m close, though time stretches and drifts down here. It feels like hours have passed.

The walls begin to leave a residue on my fingers, sticky as old blood. My sneakers lose traction as the clay turns wet. My legs ache as I keep yanking my feet up against the pull of the mud. Beneath my grasping hands, the walls are disintegrating.

I freeze on the brink, my body sensing the drop even if I can’t see it. There’s something down there. A weird whispery calling that could be the sea. But I can’t do it. I don’t care if Sasha and Maria don’t let me join their circle. I want out.

I tilt one foot backwards when the floor gives way. I scream as my hands claw at the walls but there’s no purchase. The walls come down with me, swelling into a river that sweeps me right over the edge and into the belly of the dark.


Sasha looks the same as she did last year, her hair lifting and swirling in the wind. That same bracelet hanging from her wrist. She turns to Maria. “Let’s do the cave again.”

Maria hesitates. “Maybe we should hold off for a bit, after what happened last year. I thought we could dare her to go down to the beach.”

“Don’t be lame,” Sasha says. “What happened was a tragic accident.”

Maria looks unconvinced but a short girl in pigtails strides up to them. Her eyes are huge in the dark and hope glistens visibly on her face. She looks younger than the others but determined.

“Uh, hi. I’m here,” she says. “This is when you said to be here, right?”

Sasha smiles. “Are you ready to play?”

“Yes, I’m ready!”

Sasha starts to explain the rules when I step out from behind the tent. As I make my way towards the three of them, my feet squelch and squeak. Maria is the first to turn and I watch her smug expression crystallize into terror.

The new girl is the next to spot me. “Is this part of the dare?”

“What?” Sasha’s voice is impatient, and her head turns, sharp as a hawk looking for prey. Her eyes lock on me again, just like they did, all those nights ago.

I know what she sees. A girl in clothes swollen with mud, hair matted with leaves and twigs, face bloodied. I stare at her, waiting for her to recognize me. I smile and open my mouth, mud dribbling out of my nose.

“You have to finish our game first, Sasha.”


Faith Allington is a writer, gardener and lover of mystery parties who resides in Seattle. Her work is forthcoming or has previously appeared in various literary journals, including The Fantastic Other, The Quarter(ly), Crow & Cross Keys, Bowery Gothic, tiny wren lit and FERAL.

Published 8/23/23


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