(Collaborative work) Clarice and Nicolas Wright are new members of Evington County.
|[Introduction] This campfire is written in first person by my writing partner, Raven Sharp and myself. This was originally started as a potential contest entry based on the story prompt of an initiation ritual, but we decided not to enter and to keep on writing instead. The characters in this story are twins, Clarice & Nicolas Wright, called Klay and Cole throughout. We write separately, I through Cole and my partner through Klay, alternating entries between ourselves, so the viewpoint does switch around a little. The first entry is written from Clarice's point of view.|
"There!" I am extremely satisfied with myself for getting the zipper of my bag zipped. Finally. Then it rips open. "Mom," I call down the stairs. "I think the bag broke." I hear Cole's laughter inside of me. Before a minute had passed he stood in the doorway to my room.
Cole is my twin brother. We look fairly similar, the same hazelnut haircolour, the same leafy-green eyes, height of 5.6 feet and fair skin. Our faces mirror eachother, the same pointy chins, straight noses, cheekbones, etc. The main difference is that I am a girl, and he is a boy. I myself have a short haircut, a bob that frames my face. I keep the bangs out of my face with a barett, of which the color matches my eyes perfectly.
"Klay, you don't have to bring enough for a week, it's just overnight." He starts. (Klay is what he called me when I was little and it just kept going that way, my real name is Clarice.) "And besides," he adds on, "it's outside." I can't help myself. "Well, what do you suggest?"
Before he can stop himself, "Two pairs of pants you don't mind getting messy, two shirts you don't mind getting messie, a hoodie you don't mind getting messy, a pair of p-jays and anything else you need. It's not that hard." Oh yes, what in the world had I been thinking. Easy peasy. I just needed to limit the books. "Fine," I mutter angrily, but I know I lost that one. "I didn't break the bag!", I yelled down to mom. Cole chuckled as he walked away.
I myself restarted the packing. I did as he said, adding the extras. I took along one book, a notebook, a pencil, a pen, a flashlight, and most important of all, the camera. I had recently been recruited in the school newspaper. One out of two photographers. Since my cameras were expensive I had borrowed moms automatic camera, it wasn't the best quality but fine for this purpose. I couldn't risk any of my own cameras getting hurt.
I can't help but laugh as I head downstairs. Leave it to my sister to bring a library on a camping trip.
I leave her packing her clothes I head out into the yard. The sun is warm as I settle down on the porch steps to wait. My own rucksack, which I'd already packed hours ago, is resting at the base of the steps, just waiting for our lift to arrive. As usual my sister is the last to be ready.
Klay is about as quiet as an elephant as she bounces down the stairs a few minutes later. I lean back and wave and she comes out to join me on the steps, tossing her bag down next to mine.
Our mother calls out from the kitchen as she passes, her voice carrying through the open door. "Guys, lunches. Don't forget."
Klay rolls her eyes, but she's smiling about it. "She's probably packed enough to feed a small army, as usual."
"You going to go get it or you want me to?"
She eyes my bag and shrugs, "I'll let you carry it." She says, as if the task is a privilege well earned.
I haul myself up and make my way to answer the summons. As expected our mother has managed to pack enough food to feed a small army. She's crammed it all into a cooler box which is sitting by the kitchen door. I crack open the lid to look inside. A bunch of sandwiches, multiple packets of crisps, biscuits, an eight pack of some kind of fruit drink - the kind that comes in cartons with straws that always seem to go missing. I grab two before I clip the lid back into place, hiding them behind my back before my mother can notice and berate me for it.
"I swear you're as bad a Klay." I tell her. "We're only going for one night you know; we're hardly going to starve."
She fixes me with a stare as I pick up the cooler box. At least it isn't too heavy. "That box had better come back empty, and I don't mean you should feed it to the birds." I make a noise that she takes as acknowledgement as I sidle out the kitchen door.
Lugging the thing out onto the porch with the rest of our stuff I stash the box in the shade and rejoin Klay on the steps. She's shielding her eyes with one hand and watching the road as I sit down beside her. I pass her one of the salvaged drinks.
"So, you sure you haven't forgotten anything?" I ask, half jokingly.
"Of course not", I say. Then I remember my reading light is upstairs. Oh well, I think to myself. It's much easier than the flashlight. I'll have to do without it. I am not letting myself be embarrased again... today.
I stick the straw in the drink. A smooth, sweet, strawberry tasting juice flows into my mouth. I am glad of the shade that’s on the porch. It is a warm, bright day.
I look down the street. We haven’t lived here for so long, we moved barely after our 16th birthday. It’s a quiet, but friendly street. The front yards are pretty well kept.
”I hear something”, Cole says. Sure enough, a gray minivan swerves around the corner. When it halts to a stop Heath steps out.
Heath has brown hair, but it’s lighter than ours. He has a short, boyish haircut, that matches his boyish face. He is sixteen, like us, though.
”Hi Klay, Cole,” he greets us. We greet him back, then help him load the things into the back of the car. When he takes a look into the cooler his face splits into a huge grin. ”Seriously?”, he asks in a happy voice. ”Seriously”, we answer back in unison, this ”seriously” more serious than the other one. We must have gotten our message through, that this was normal with a mom like our mom.
When we got in the car, we sat in the middle, the others were already there. Pearl, a half Japanese girl, was sitting in the back, Heath in the passenger seat, Brayden, 15 years old, was sitting next to Cole, and Jaye, the oldest of us at age seventeen, was driving.
The car itself was Heath’s mother’s car, I heard from Pearl. We girls must be allowed gossip at least a little.
The AC felt nice at first, but then it got too cold. I don’t like AC so much at all, and since I had left my hoodie in my bag, in the back, I felt colder by the minute. ”You okay?”, Cole asked, knowing of my hatred at AC.
The car bounces off the kerb as Jaye pulls away from our house. Today's camping trip is into the woods on the outskirts of town; it's a journey of a few miles so we can expect to be sitting in the car a while. My sister shivers under the cool air from the AC but when I ask about it she merely shrugs her shoulders and says she's fine. She's not, I can see that, but I'm not going to be the one to ask Jaye to turn the AC down so the rest of us can slowly roast in the heat. I figure that she'll speak up if she wants to.
I settle back and watch the town roll by through the window, or as much of it as I can see past Brayden anyway. It's a small town, much quieter than the city we are used to, but I like it here. We've only been here a few weeks but already we've made new friends, though I kind of miss my old ones. I was nervous to start with and leaving our old place was hard, but we never had the chance to go on weekend camping trips like this one when we were living in the city. It was a tolerable trade off.
"So, what's this place like?" I ask, leaning forward to talk to the guys in the front. "You said they had some kind of adventure assault course thing?" Heath, sitting in the passenger seat, twists around in his seat.
"You'll see when you get there. That's the whole point right? It's an initiation, kind of spoils the fun of it if you know what to expect."
I glance at Klay and try to catch her eye. Neither of us are too keen on surprises, but we'd wanted to join the club and Heath had insisted that to do it we'd need to come along on one of their special initiation nights. It made it sound like some kind of creepy secret society rather than an outdoor adventure club, but I was willing to humour them. It wasn't as if we'd had many chances to do this kind of thing in the city.
"Tell me you at least brought tents?"
He laughs. The seat in front of me bounces as he throws his weight back into it. "Yeah, we brought tents. Don't worry, you're not going to get rained on in your sleep."
Realizing that I'm not going to get anything more out of our fearless leader and his sidekick I turn my questions to the other two in the group.
"So what about you guys? You ever been out here before?"
I am glad to listen to other people talking. It provides a distraction, though I'm starting to get used to the temperature anyway. Brayden is the one that starts talking. Pearl seems more timid. I only really got to speak to her once, but once you got her going she was an incredibly interesting person.
Brayden has firey red hair, blue-gray eyes and freckles. He looks to be more on the bold and strong side. "I lived here my whole life", he states proudly. "I was just normal, though I wanted to try something new. Apparently it's this group I ended up in, and it doesn't seem all to bad, just yet."
I couldn't help but laugh a little on the inside, even though it's true. We all have yet to wait and see. Pearl speaks in a more hushed voice, and im glad the engine is pretty smooth, otherwise we wouldn't be able to hear her.
"I've lived here since January. My parents moved here for a job. And I'm fifteen..." She slowly withdraws into her own world, and we all stare out the windows until the car stops.
The conversation trails to a halt and the rest of the journey passes in silence. I find myself wondering whether this is what the whole weekend will be like, trying to draw stilted conversation from a bunch of shy fifteen year olds.
The car eventually draws to a halt, bouncing over the rough uneven surface of a makeshift parking lot. I duck my head a little to peer out of the window, past Brayden's head but all I can see are trees on all sides.
The engine idles for a time then dies and Jaye and Heath waste no time in jumping from the car. The doors slam loudly, rocking the car from side to side, but the rest of us hesitate before slowly unbuckling our belts and stepping out to join them. Gravel crunches underfoot as I step down from the vehicle. We are parked in what looks to be the middle of nowhere. Behind us the road curves back toward town, but out here we can see only trees. Great tall redwoods reaching up toward the sky, their outstretched branches so high above I have to crane my neck back to see them properly. The ground beneath them is patterned with alternating light and shadow. Standing out in the open sunlight I can feel the back of my neck growing warm. It seems wise to grab our things and head into the shade before we burn.
"Grab your stuff guys. It's a bit of a hike from here."
I turn at Jaye's shout, the first time I've heard him speak since climbing into the car with them. Heath drags out a long heavy looking bag from the boot of the car and drops it at my feet. He shoulders the other himself.
"Two tents?" I ask, "There's six of us..."
"Girls in one, you and Brayden are sharing the other. Unless you want to sleep out in the open."
I open my mouth in protest, but Klay beats me to it. "What about you two?" she asks.
"We have our own place. Cabins are members only. You're the initiates, so you get to rough it for the first night." He thumbs Jaye over his shoulder. "If he'd had his way you wouldn't even have that."
I kick the packed tent over toward Brayden who is only just climbing out of the car. Klay seems to be managing fine in digging our own stuff out of the boot. I catch the rucksack she tosses toward me and reach in to snag the handle of the cooler box. Then, with everyone suitably loaded up like pack mules, Jaye secures the car and we make our way into the woods.
The path is narrow, overgrown in places but clear enough to follow. We don't manage to lose anyone on the journey up at least. Brayden complains now and then about having to carry the tent along with his own gear, but since he doesn't seem to have brought much to begin with I figure he's just griping. Between us Klay and I tote the cooler box full of food up the track, alternating it's weight between us. Despite it's weight I think about the lack of tents and start to believe we were right to bring it after all.
Jaye hadn't been joking when he'd said it was a hike - it takes us a good hour and a half to make it through the woods, wandering along the increasingly overgrown trail. When we finally make it to the clearing Klay and I drop the cooler box with a sigh of relief. I can hear Brayden puffing along behind us, muttering about being left behind, while Pearl and the other two are already waiting for us as what I assume is the camp site.
I'm huffing when we finally reach the clearing. At least we only have to carry our own stuff, that means the cooler and our own bags. I'm glad I took a backpack. The clearing is filled with weeds, small stuff like dandelions, but not overgrown. It seems mowed regurlarly enough.
There was an area for tents, an area for trailers and an area with cabins in rows. The main building seemed to have bathrooms, showers, and a main room for eating.
"Half an hour to put up the tents", Jaye announces for once. "Then lunch, which the Wrights have gladly provided for us. While you put up the tents we will be hiring canoes."
Pearl had carried our tent. I was glad of it, because I had had enough to carry during the hour long walk. It was in a bag with two straps, when you pulled it got tighter, they got longer. If we wanted the tent we had to carry it. She had carried it on her back together with a bag in one hand. I appoached her on the campus.
"Where do you want to put up the tent?", I wonder. "It depends on if you want to in reach of the boy's pranks or not", she answers.
We pick out a spot near the edge of the clearing in the shade of a redwood. "So, how do you like it here?", I asked.
"It seems nice enough. I've been looking forward to this weekend; I've heard about this place but this is my first time getting out here." The girl's voices fade until they're out of earshot entirely. I watch them as they go, laughing to myself at Klay's offhand comment.
Behind me Brayden finally drags himself into the clearing. I arch an eyebrow as he drops the tent at his feet, his eyes going wide as he looks around. I think perhaps he is as taken aback as I am. I'd been expecting a hut by a lake or something equally primitive; the sight of the shower block and a main building staffed by actual people is surprisingly reassuring.
"I think the girls want their own space. Want to set up on the other side, near the cabins?"
The younger boy shrugs and I look around for a spot that won't put us too close to the girls. The furthest edges of the camp brush up against the forest; it looks welcoming enough in the daylight but I wonder how those shadows stretch once the sun goes down. The girls seem to have picked a spot near the trees, so we end up settling near the row of cabins instead. It's an area that promises to be slightly less creepy come nightfall than any of the alternatives.
Brayden turns out to be about as skilled at putting up tents as I am, which is to say not very skilled at all. In the end Klay and her new friend come over to help us out, having already seen to their own. We eat lunch together in front of our tents and, since Jaye and Heath take so long to get back, manage to eat our way through most of the hamper without them.
The two older boys finally come back with details on the afternoon's excursion.
The nearby river is calm and clear and we return to camp some hours later, laughing, soaked to the skin, and in high spirits despite the cooling temperature. The stifling heat of the summer afternoon has begun to turn chill as the sun drops behind the trees. The electric lights, powered by a combination of solar panels and a back up generator behind the main building, flicker on with a low electric hum. The camp is illuminated in sporadic pools of artificial light. The light nearest to the girl's tent flickers on and off in rapid staccato, its temperamental bulb jittering enough to give an epileptic fits.
"There's showers in the main block if you want." Heath tells us, "It's only half nine, so go fine some dry clothes or whatever and meet us at the cabin in about half an hour." He points toward the end of the row of wooden huts, "Number five. Don't take too long; they turn out the main lights at midnight and you don't want to be trying to find your tents in the dark."
"Did you bring a flashlight?" I ask Klay. She nods.
"Midnight's two and a half hours away though, what could possibly take that long?" Her voice is a low whisper. Then she seems to dismiss Heath entirely as something catches her eye behind him. She points to two figures on the steps of the main building. "What do you think they're up to?"
I follow her gaze and recognize Jaye talking with a woman in the dark blue uniform of a camp employee. They're too far away to pick out any words.
"Not sure... Maybe they're planning for tomorrow?"
"Maybe..." Klay doesn't seem convinced. A third figure joins the two on the steps. I watch them, distracted, while Heath continues to ramble about his plans for tomorrow, not seeming to notice that half of his audience is no longer listening.
I drag my attention back to reality just as Heath is winding down his speech. "Alright, half an hour. Cabin number five. Got it?"
We all nod, some of us with more enthusiasm than others, and then scatter to our tents to gather our belongings and find some clean, dry clothes.
I can't help but be suspicous about Jaye. Why was he with that woman? At first I thought boyfriend, but then a third person joined the discussion. Like the secret societies in my books.
I was glad to shower off the water from the lake. The water was warm, thankfully. After that I pulled on gray sweatpants, a white T-shirt and a brown hoodie. Then I waited for Pearl.
Unlike me her hair was long, black and dull. She usually had it in a braid down her back. Her eyes were the same color as her hair, but they shone, the exact opposite of dull. Her skin was bronze from the summer sun.
She wore gray jeans and a dark turquoise shirt, the sleeves went barely past the elbows.
"Come on", I say. We walk side by side. "What do you think we'll do?"
"No idea", she answers. "But we'll find out soon."
Heath has started a campfire. We sit on some dry logs around it. The boys (somehow) managed to get finished before us. Cole passes us a bowl of chips. They're from the bag that didn't get eaten up during lunch. We also get to roast sausages around the fire.
We chat, laugh and tell jokes. Somehow the subject turns to spooky stories. We compete to see who tells the scariest story. Suddenly Jaye, who has turned up out of nowhere starts to tell a ghost-story.
"Once upon a time, yes once, long, long ago, there was a house here. Right over there, you see where the main building stands today.
The people that lived there weren't farmers, but they did have bunch of animals. There were cats, dogs, hens, cows and horses.
The people there lived a happy life, and they took lovingly care of the animals. But then the mother died. It seemed she had tripped over something, and fallen into the river while picking the blackberries that grew there.
The cats were sad, the dogs were sad, the hens were sad, the cows were sad, the horses were sad and most of all the children were sad.
The husband was sad, too, the first nights. He grieved the loss of his wife. He grieved about that there was nothing he could've done to stop it. It was with that thought that he realised somebody else could've stopped it. Whoever his wife had tripped had tripped over.
He couldn't get the thought out his mind that it was a living thing his wife had tripped over, and then fallen into the river. She who couldn't swim had drowned. It drove him mad.
The chidren heard squeals in the night and noticed that the animals were disappearing one by one. There wasn't anything they could do.
Their father locked himself in his room during the day. They heard banging from his room, and they all did their best to stay out of his way.
One night there were only three of them left. Kelsie, the youngest one, had crept into her older brother's bed to sleep. She still couldn't sleep. The noises from outside were especially scary. Owls hooing and crickets chirping, then an even stranger noise.
Crrrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaaaak, the door opened slowly. Then a step into the room. Another step. They came closer and closer, and then stopped. Then they started going the other direction.When the door shut again Kelsie woke her brother. She points to the door. Then to Calvin's bed. Kelsie's brother, Ivan, gets up with Kelsie and they go out.
They hear the door shut quietly. They slide on their robes and slippers, and walk out. They see a man walking towards the river, carryingsomebody in his arms.
Kelsie and her brother creep along quietly, folllowing the man down. When he reaches the edge of the river he stops.
The siblings watch as the man cries out:
"Oh, love, another one for you."
A giggling noise comes from the river. "My love, come to me", a womans voice calls out from the river.
The man drops the child which falls into the river. He wades in.
"Follow me", the woman calls out. The siblings hear a splash, and then only the river's gurgling.
"Come on", Ivan says and grabs Kelsie. They run to the river. They manage to get Calvin out. Then they see a beautiful black horse standing across the river."
"Oh, come on", Pearl pleads. "That wasn't all, was it?"
"Oh no, it wasn't", Heath says in a mocking scared voice. His eyes open up wide. "A child almost drowned here but a month ago, he said he saw a horsie."
"Heath", Jaye says tiredly, but seriously. "Leave it to me." Then he turns to us. "We want to see if you can spot the horse. Don't stay up past midnight though." He turns to leave.
I look at my watch, surprised to see it is only 22:30.
A shiver runs down my spine and I wrap my arms about my legs, drawing my knees close to my chest. I don't put much stock in ghost stories, but I still find myself staring at the tree line and wondering. The shadows there are dense and dark. Perhaps it is only the atmosphere and a strange kind of contagious fear; no, not fear... just an unsettling feeling that seems to spread through the group despite the fact that we all know it's just a story. The main building looms over the camp site and I fight to pull my eyes away from it before I can start imagining the presence of ghostly revenants hiding in its shadows.
I look toward my sister instead. Klay seems to have been captured entirely by the spell of Jaye's story but she shakes her head as it ends, the illusion shattered by Pearl's demand for more. I roll my eyes at Heath's answer to her exclamation and shuffle closer to Klay.
"Do you believe any of that?" I ask her.
She glances toward the tree line but gives me no answer. As she continues to stare fixedly at the trees the silence grows uncomfortable. I try again, "Good thing you brought your camera isn't it?"
That seems to work. She flashes me a smile and leans closer toward me, her voice only just carrying above the crackle of the fire. "Can you even t -"
"Do you think it's safe to be going down to the river at night?"
Brayden's voice drowns out her words. Klay swallows her question with a grumble and as we turn as one. Brayden backs up and raises his hands, almost flinching under the force of our collective glare. "What? It’s a valid question. Fast flowing river, deep water… in the dark… What if one of us falls in?"
"Then we can tell everyone the water spirits got you, can't we? You'll be another cautionary tale to warn people of the vengeful ghosts of the drowned family... Whoooo." Heath leans forward and waggles his fingers at Brayden. I hear Klay snicker at my side as the older boy pushes himself to his feet, presumably leaving us to carry out our task alone.
As he and Jaye make their retreat Brayden mutters something beneath his breath. I don't catch his words but the gesture he makes toward Heath's back is unmistakeable.
A thought occurs to me.
I stand up so suddenly Klay, who had been leaning against my shoulder, almost topples over. "Wait." I raise my voice, trying to catch the attention of the two boys before they can leave the circle of light. They half turn at the edge and look back at us, "What does the horse have to do with the drowned family? Shouldn't we be looking for evidence of the ghosts instead? I mean, they're the ones drowning each other right?"
Klay makes a noise and jabs me in the leg. "You can be so dense sometimes."
"Oh, don't worry", Heath says unexpectedly. "There is a little sandy shore about half an hour to the right of here. That's where it usually is spotted, or well, we don't really know, but that's where most people have been found..."
"Heath", Jaye calls out sharply. Heath stops like he was stabbed in the back. "Anyway, you'll be quite safe down on the shore, especially if you stick together."
This was exciting, but there was an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I shook it off though. I couldn't let the boys miss all of the excitement, all the acusations they were making. Brayden seemed the most reluctant, but Pearl... She was eager. She somehow had a mischevious glint in her dark eyes.
It wasn't completely dark, though it was dark enough for flashlights. We took two along, in case of emergencies,but decided not to turn them on otherwise or perhaps we would care the horse.
Soon we got into an argument, or well, Brayden and Pearl did. It was getting quite serious over the matter of somebody tripping, and thereby making noise. At last I dragged Pearl off with me, and Cole dragged Brayden off. That was how we got split up. It took a while before we realized the boys had both the flashlights. Luckily Pearl had eyes like a crow's.
The forest also seemed quite rustly for a night without wind. Pearl's head kept darting around, like she was sensing something, seeing something that I didn't. And then Pearl and I gasped.
The horse, standing there, right there. It was so pretty. I took a step forward.