This haunted house requires you to either enter alone or with the co-worker to whom you once told a joke and they just stared at you, unblinking. Both options are terrifying.
You go in solo, of course. This is scary, but the alternative may have literally made you die of embarrassment. At the entrance, the character that greets you is not a chainsaw-wielding murderer or some deranged clown but a college tour guide. You need to keep up with her enthusiasm for the history of the cornfield next to the haunted house. Every time she asks if anyone has questions, she stares at you until you say something, anything. You cannot continue until you think of a worthwhile question to ask.
Before you venture farther, you can use the bathroom. While it appears fine, you have a strong feeling that a snake or eel or disembodied hand could dart out of the toilet at any point. You take a long time figuring out how to safely squat-hover over the seat, and now the tour guide thinks you were doing number two.
When you get back, the guide takes you to a room filled with people. You’re relieved at first — maybe you won’t have to travel through the house alone after all. But as you look around, your relief changes to fear. Everyone here is someone you’ve definitely met before but whose name you cannot for the life of you remember. They talk to you familiarly and say things like, “Oh my God, wouldn’t Claire hate this?”
As you walk through dark hallways, the people who jump out are bloodied, ghoulish and wearing the worst graphic tees you’ve ever purchased. This is including but not limited to the rhinestone Kohl’s clearance rack shirt you had in elementary school that said, “Why do boys like smart girls? Because opposites attract.” As you’re wondering if that’s kind of a perfect T-shirt, someone jumps out and yells, “You never texted that one person back!” You let out a yelp so loud it startles both of you, and you fall to the floor and black out.
When you wake up, you see you’ve separated from the group. You’re seated at a table for two. It starts to set in that this is no ordinary haunted house; it doesn’t obey the rules of time and space. What could be scarier than time travel being real and you having no control over where and when you go? This: You’re stuck on a date with a guy who can only talk about the new “Joker” movie. He keeps saying things like “cinematic masterpiece” and “cultural significance” and “are there even any good female directors?” Every time you try to say something, you projectile vomit. A waiter arrives with your dinner (a warm cup of mayonnaise), tells you to enjoy your meal, and your mouth impulsively shrieks, “You too!”
“Speaking of which,” your date begins, “did you see the Facebook post I wrote on how #MeToo has gone too far?”
You try to escape by running to the bathroom and find yourself in a doctor’s office. There are large needles and trays of scalpels but your nightmare greets you in the form of an empty cup. You have to give a surprise urine sample and, no matter how much water you chug, you cannot pee more than a drop. The lab tech to whom you hand your sad pee cup is extremely hot.
The hallway leading to the next area is one long changing room. Every five feet, your mom is standing there, head cocked, saying, “Hon, do we need to talk about shaving your armpits?” At the end of the hallway, there is an exact replica of your high school biology classroom. You need to stand in front of the class and explain mitosis through — gulp — a solo improv scene.
You manage to get through the room unscathed, and finally, you’ve reached the end of the haunted house. Your armpits are drenched. You wonder if you have shame-induced asthma. As you walk to the exit, you see your worst fear realized. You must pass through a final door that will only open with a password: the last five search terms you typed into a private browser.
As you walk back to your car, you can still hear your grandma sobbing, saying, “I didn’t even know that those can go there.” You reach for your car keys and pull out an unfamiliar key chain with a frequent shopper card for Spencer’s Gifts. When you hit “unlock,” you hear a beep from a Hummer. You immediately know who it belongs to.
You contemplate what’s worse: having another conversation with the “Joker”-loving misogynist, who you’re hoping has your keys, or having to drive around in … that. Neither option is good, but what puts you over the edge is that you never said “thank you” to the college tour guide. That would have haunted you forever. You head back to the house to start the journey all over again.