by Than Pence
A campfire draws Bridget into the woods.
|Looking to the moon, Bridget sighed. She missed her friends back home. Summer camp used to be something she enjoyed, but the friends she’d made in summers past never came back the next year, leaving her to quickly age out of people she could relate to.
She walked along the tree line, listening to the occasional pine cone crunch under her feet. When she was far enough to only hear a light murmur from the counselor’s hut, Bridget noticed a campfire in the woods.
Flashes of torrid movies her parents claimed had been scary last century bubbled up as she contemplated going to see who was having unscheduled campfire time. She gave the main campgrounds one last look before chewing her lip and plunging into the woods.
In no time at all, she was at the modest site. The wood crackled calmly. An owl hooted nearby. Looking in the small clearing, she realized no one was there. Did I scare them off? She knew if she’d been in the woods and something came trudging out of the gloom, she’d probably be a little frightened—
“Hey,” came from behind her, making her whelp once. She covered her mouth and turned. A boy she didn’t recognize was there. He wore a faded camp tee-shirt and she assumed he worked there. “You lost?”
The boy sounded rude but looked handsome. He smiled, his teeth glinting stolen firelight. “No, I’m where I need to be.” She looked him up and down, noting his jeans when most boys wore shorts. “Who are you?”
His smile didn’t waver. “Kyle. You gonna tell on me?”
“’Tell’? We’re not little kids here. But I won’t narc, either.”
Kyle nodded and brushed past her to drop a few twigs onto the flames. She turned, briefly admiring his teenage frame outlined by the crackling fire. For a second, her hormonal body wanted something her parents wouldn’t approve. I should go. But he smiled again and she found herself sitting on a log and talking with Kyle deep into the night and forgetting about whatever had even called her to walk the tree line in the first place.
After what felt like hours, Kyle looked at Bridget and said, “Wanna hear a scary story?”
Her skin prickled; tingles shimmied up her spine. He had plump lips that stretched over his teeth perfectly when he smiled. Bridget nodded absently and he started.
“Sixteen years ago, exactly on this day, a young boy was caught by a camp counselor out in these very woods. He was sixteen. She was nineteen.”
Bridget felt flush all of a sudden: she wasn’t a counselor, or nineteen, but the other similarities coupled with his sexy smirk made her thankful the firelight didn’t reveal a blushing hue.
“Well, she saw what she wanted, which was a sixteen-year-old piece of meat. Him being a teenage horn-dog was more than happy to oblige.
“On the last night of camp, the boy went into the woods to meet her one last time. Instead, her older, meaner looking real boyfriend was there. The boy was scared to death. The guy, he was twenty-three or something, said he was gonna stop messin’ around with his woman, or else.”
“Or else what?” asked Bridget, rapt with attention and a strange desire.
“Or else he’d kill him.”
Bridget’s heart skipped. “Kill him?” Kyle nodded. “What’d he do?”
“Hoo,” cried an owl.
“Who?” asked Kyle.
“The guy, the teenager: what’d he do?”
“Oh. Well, he acted like a fool and threw a rock and ran like a jackrabbit being chased through the desert. Tee boyfriend caught him and… proved he wasn’t a liar.” Kyle stopped smiling and stared into the flames.
Bridget breathed deeply, realizing she’d been holding her breath. “He… k-killed him?”
Reaching his hands forward, Kyle made a choking motion as if an invisible man was before him. “Just choked the life outta him. And dumped the body. No one ever found out who did it. The kid’s parents were all torn up.”
Bridget sat up straight. “Wow. That is a scary story.” She looked to the fire again before looking at Kyle once more. “That true?”
“Hoo,” cried an owl again, most likely the same owl.
Kyle only shrugged, his grin sheepish.
“Well, it couldn’t be true,” she said. “’Cause how’d you know about it, right? You said no one found out who did it.”
Kyle said nothing. The air became still with only the crackling of the weakened fire to fill the void. Bridget looked around and heard a loud branch snap behind her.
She shot up, turning. “Who’s there?”
The sound of dried leaves being shuffled by feet sounded and Bridget’s pulse quickened. “Bridge,” cried a girl’s voice, Cynthia’s voice. “That you?” Bridget’s tension rolled away and she beckoned her bunk mate to the campfire Kyle had built.
“What’re you doing out here?”
“Just talking, hanging out.”
The owl said, “Hoo.”
Cynthia looked around slowly, deliberately. Bridget turned: Kyle was gone. “H-he was right… here,” she said, pointing to the log. “He was sitting right here.” She put her palm to where Kyle had just been: the log’s surface was ice cold.
“You okay, Bridge? You look like you seen a ghost.”
She said nothing.
The owl said all it could say.
Bridget’s head started to spin when she thought of Kyle’s story. Looking at Cynthia, she said, “I think I did.”
Word Count: 905