We all relaxed and began to chat about what we'd seen in the building. We all agreed that it seemed like a movie set-up, but then what about all the bottles of alcohol in the basement and the kids' drawings on the kitchen floor (they really looked kid-drawn) and the squatter mattress in the middle of the room?
The moon was out and we were only a few meters away from the house when we realized that a truck was driving up the long road towards us. The driveway was the length of the farmer's field, so we had lots of time to kill our flashlights and dive into the woods.
The truck got closer and closer and then stopped just about where we had jumped into the bushes. No one got out. The engine just kept running. We lay on our stomachs and watched. Then the truck slowly started to back away down the long driveway.
The bubble of tension burst and we all started running back through the woods. We ran as fast as we could, not caring if we were making a terrible racket. My boyfriend, who was a horticulturalist, got distracted by some rare flowers and stopped to pick them. He ran the rest of the way out of the woods carefully holding the plant.
When we got to the edge of the highway, we looked carefully in both directions before leaving the woods. John had been smart and parked his car far away from the property. We found the car and put as many miles between us and that old building as possible.
A few years later I went back there by myself. Emily was in grad school, my boyfriend and I had broken up, and John had gotten a job in Northern Canada. The building was still the same, but the window into the basement was securely boarded up. The sun was shining, and it was just an old abandoned house in the middle of a farmer's field.
I've researched the house since then and found that it was one of the oldest buildings in the area and had passed from hands to hands with no one really living in it. We had been too afraid to notify the police about what we'd found that night because we were guilty of trespassing, but I sometimes kick myself for not calling just to be sure there was nothing dark going on there. This was a decade ago, and I still wonder if it was a set-up or old movie set or place where teenage tresspassers freaked themselves out. Or maybe....the ghost of Miranda is still watching us (dun, dun, dun!)