[Story] Story a Week 44

[[ Prompt: A story that takes place the year you were born

The year reference is really very subtle in here, I didn’t want to make it super obvious because it’s not really relevant to the story. Technically, it’s before the summer camp slasher movie entered the collective consciousness, but that’s kind of the feel I was going for. ]]

The flashlight illuminated Susan’s face from below, lending her features an eerie and sinister air. “And in the closet was… a skeleton!”

Scoffs were heard from around the darkened cabin. “That’s kid stuff,” Tammy said, from her bunk.

“Yeah, not scary,” echoed Lori.

Mary, huddled inside her sleeping bag, thought it was scary enough, but she didn’t say so. She didn’t want to seem like a baby or a scaredy-cat. The cabin was scary enough as it is, in the middle of the pitch-black forest with its weird and unexplained sounds. The counselor always said it was animals, but Mary had never heard any animals like that in her neighborhood. And having to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night? Forget it. She’d rather just hold it. The other girls liked telling scary stories though, each trying to out-do the others. Mary thought finding a skeleton in the closet while baby-sitting was scary enough, even if the others claimed not to.

Julie grabbed the flashlight. “You girls want to hear something really scary?” she asked, the shadows twisting her smile into a demonic leer. Julie was the oldest in the cabin, almost thirteen, and the leader, though none of them had really decided it. That was just the way it had gone. She was from the city, had been to a lot of places, she even claimed to have made out with a boy and seen his thing. Mary wasn’t sure she believed all of Julie’s boasts, but the others sure did, so she didn’t say anything.

“The other day… when we were cleaning up the grounds, I found…” here Julie paused for the best dramatic effect. “A haunted cabin.”

“Yeah, right,” said Tammy.

Julie seemed prepared for the skepticism. “I’ll take you there, right now,” she boasted.

Mary glanced at the others. It was too dark to see much other than their silhouettes.

“Right now? In the middle of the night?” Susan asked.

“We’ll get in trouble,” said Lori. “The counselors will hear us.”

Julie had already kicked out of her sleeping back and was lacing up her boots. “They won’t,” she said. “It’s far back from the trail.”

Mary didn’t really want to see a haunted cabin. She wanted to stay right here in her warm sleeping bag and think about nice, happy things instead. The camp had a big party planned for the 4th, Mary was a little sad she was missing the Bicentennial parade back home, but there would be one at the camp, complete with a cookout and ice cream. But the others were already lacing up their shoes, grabbing flashlights from out of their bunks. Mary didn’t want to be left behind all alone, and she definitely didn’t want to be called a baby. She heard it enough from her two older brothers, and even her parents thought she wasn’t old enough to do stuff on her own. She’d had to beg them to let her go away to this camp.

They put their hands over their flashlights to dim them as they passed the other cabins, including the counselor cabin. They usually stayed up later, the girls could see the lights and hear them talking most nights. But now it seemed dark and quiet. Mary wondered what time it was. Julie led them on the path that led up to the outhouses, but veered off. Mary could hardly see the trail at all, so she wasn’t sure how Julie even knew this was the right way, but she followed the shape of the others. Every leaf rustle and twig snap seemed impossibly loud, sure to draw all of the wild forest animals to them. Mary heard the rustle of bats overhead, and shivered.

“Almost there,” whispered Julie back to them. How could she be sure?

They ascended a small hill, then turned around another bend in the trail. “There,” Julie said, pointing her flashlight beam at it. Mary heard the others gasp quietly. It was an old cabin, all right. The wood was aged and cracked, and the entire thing was almost completely covered in vines. The whole thing looked like it was about to fall down at any moment, but Julie walked up to it and started looking for the door.

“What are you doing?” Lori asked, echoing what Mary was thinking.

“Don’t you want to see what’s inside? We came all this way.”

Susan shook her head. “Probably nothing. Just some leaves or something.”

Julie tugged some vines away from the door. It hung loose and creaking on its rusted hinges. “Only one way to find out for sure.”

“If there are rats,” Tammy said, “I’m going to scream.”

Mary thought she just might scream anyway. But there was no way she was going to wait out in the forest alone. There were probably just some spider webs, that’s what she assured herself as she followed the others in.

A thick layer of dirt lined the floor, dead leaves accumulated in the corners. It smelled bad, too, a sort of musky animal odor that Mary couldn’t quite place. Like a wet dog, but worse. “It stinks,” Susan said, covering her nose.

Their flashlight beams bounced around the abandoned cabin, searching it. “Whoa, look at this,” said Lori, touching the wall. They all moved closer to look. Names and dates were carved there, from other girls who had slept here. There were some sayings too, names of singers and little rough drawings. A lot of them were dirty. It gave Mary an odd feeling to think about the people who must have stayed here; where were they now? What had happened here? Did they stay up late at night telling each other scary stories too?

Julie moved further into the dark corners of the cabin. Mary heard a little shriek, and for a moment she was sure it had come from herself, but it hadn’t. Julie stood still, her flashlight pointed at the corner. “Look,” she whispered. She sounded really scared, not like when she was trying to freak them out with a story, but actually, genuinely scared. Mary was afraid to look, but she had to see. The corner was strewn with bones, real bones, not fake Halloween ones. Mary could see the bits of flesh still clinging to some of them, and it stank, the worst smell she could remember. Something had eaten all of the skin and muscles off of them. She thought she was going to throw up right there.

“They’re not–” Tammy gulped. “Are they human?”

Mary didn’t want to turn around and look again. They -could- have been, and that was enough. She wanted to leave, right now.

“I don’t–” Julie started to answer, but something rattled the cabin with a huge thud. Dust clattered down from the ceiling like rain. It was on the roof! They could hear the wood creaking as something walked heavily across it.

Mary did scream then, but the others were too, even Julie. If they ran outside, whatever was on the roof would surely see them, but they couldn’t stay inside either. They would be trapped, or the roof would collapse, both were bad. Mary wasn’t sure if she’d rather be crushed inside an old cabin, or eaten with all of her bones sticking out. Neither sounded very good. At least they’d have a chance if they ran, if she could run faster than the others… but it was dark outside, and she didn’t remember the way back. There were no lights on at the cabins, she could be wandering the dark forest all night. And then what? Then that thing would eat her and put her bones in the corner with the rest. Mary wanted to cry. She’d never see her parents or her annoying brothers or her pet cat again.

She felt Tammy tugging on her arm. “Come on!” she whispered. They were going to run for it. On the count of three, all the girls burst through the door, screaming and clinging to each other. Whatever it was never followed, and the next day the counselors went out to look and they found nothing, not even the pile of bones. They said it was just their imaginations getting away from them.

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