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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest · #2265520
Two brothers plan a pre-Halloween prank. It didn't go exactly as planned...
Ghost Story

The land had been a steal, 36 acres high in the mountains a few hours north of Phoenix, Arizona. It had many improvements - a well, a bunkhouse, a chicken coop... the list goes on. It had quickly become a favorite camping spot for the entire family. Five miles west of the nearest highway, and sitting behind Weaver's Peak, it was very isolated... which made it perfect for Dave's little joke. He had a surprise for his grand kids, a bit of scary pre-Halloween fun.

Situated northwest of the intersection of two dirt roads, Drover Road and Appaloosa Trail, there was no lack of morning sunlight. Evening was a different story. The sun quickly dipped behind Weaver's Peak, casting the area in subdued twilight as the sun went down fully. It made early evening a great time to sit around the campfire talking, playing games, or perhaps making S'mores for the kids. But, when it got dark, it was fully dark. The stars always shown brilliantly at night this far away from the city, but there was no natural light at all, except when the moon was full, and even that was just pretty to look at. On this night, there was only a half moon. It was perfect for what Dave and his brother Bill had planned.

Fall in the mountains delivered easy, cool to warm days, but when the sun set, the temperatures dropped rapidly. In late October it got very chilly. We always kept the fire high and crowded our ring of camp chairs as close to it as possible. On this night, just about a week before Halloween, Bill and I set our plan in motion.

Not long after our supply of graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows had disappeared, we set out the lanterns, and I asked," Have I ever told you all that our house in Glendale had been haunted?"

"No," Teagan replied, a tense wonder in her voice. The youngest of my granddaughters held tight to her sister McKenzie's arm.

"Oh yes," I said. Kaitlyn and Caden, the oldest two grandkids looked on skeptically. Jason and Shawn, their fathers, watched me begin the tale with an amused twinkle in their eyes.

As Dave's wife Diana looked on with a bit of a disapproving frown, he began. Walking to the wood pile, he grabbed two smallish oak logs and returned to put them on the fire. The flames rose a bit higher as the logs began to burn. "You all know the house," he said. "You all lived in it at one time or another."

Dave and Diana had owned that house for a very long time. It was a good house.

"But you may not be aware, "Dave continued, "of the strange noises heard in the middle of the night, the noises that began not long after we moved in."

Kaitlyn, Dave's oldest granddaughter, looked on with a smile, Caden was struggling to contain a laugh, to maintain a straight face.

"Laugh if you will, Caden," Dave said. "I think your mother heard the sounds one night too. Ask when you see her next." At this his smile dropped a little, his face suddenly still in silent contemplation.

"The noises started not long after we moved in," Dave said, restarting his narrative. On cue, Bill stood up and said,
"Sorry folks. Nature calls. I will be back in a few minutes. Don't wait on my account," he said as he walked toward the bunkhouse.

The plan? Bill would walk through to the door on the other side of the bunkhouse and exit as quietly as possible. He would then swing wide of the vehicles to come up in the dark, just behind the fire pit, but far enough away to remain in darkness. Once there, he would wait for the verbal cue and then scream at the top of his lungs. We were both sure there would be pandemonium and craziness to follow.

"One night, in the summer of the first year we had lived there," Dave began again as he relived the memory. "Diana and I were asleep upstairs. I don't remember exactly what time it was, somewhere around two or three in the morning. I was suddenly awakened by a loud thump. I had heard it clearly. I had no doubts. Sitting up, I listened intently, hearing nothing. Rolling out of bed, I walked onto the upstairs landing, looking down into the living room."

"Again, I stopped and listened. Still, I heard nothing." As Dave talked, he was walking around the fire, intentionally getting close to all, so he could look into their eyes, hoping to imply that this was a serious story.

"From that angle, I could see through the blinds covering the window beside the front door. There was no one on the front porch. I listened a while longer and then went back to bed."

Circling back around to his own chair, Dave sat down, leaning toward the fire to warm his hands. "About a month later, I heard the noise again. It was roughly the same time of night. As before, I got out of bed and stared down into the living room. I still heard nothing. I was a bit concerned that something loud enough to wake me up did not bother the dogs at all."

Dave looked around and then continued. "Again, I went back to bed." Getting up and grabbing a long stick that was on the ground, Dave began to stir the coals, stoking the fire. Dropping the stick, he then walked back the wood pile, selecting another log to add to the fire before sitting down once again.

Knowing he was getting close to the coup de gr/I>ce, Dave stepped up his game, trying to seem more serious, and even a bit scared.

"I was up late again a few months later, playing a game on the computer. You remember that computer and desk, don't you, Jason?"

"It was in the dining room, or what we called it anyway," my son Jason replied. "It was in the corner, right beside the stairs."

"Indeed, it was," Dave replied." "I could see the whole kitchen from there. Remember that, it will be important soon."

Standing up, Dave began to walk around the fire again. He crouched ever so slightly and spoke in a hushed voice. "Anyway, at around midnight, maybe 1 o'clock, I clearly heard the refrigerator door open and close. I froze. Turning my head to look into the kitchen, I saw nothing unusual."

"Getting up out of the chair, I walked into the kitchen. I went to the refrigerator and opened the door, looking inside. Nothing up in there, I thought. I looked into the living room, scanning and listening... nothing once again."

"With this I returned to the computer. Nothing else happened that night."

"Two days later I was up late again. And again, I heard the refrigerator door open and close. I froze, the hairs standing up on the back of my neck," Dave said softly. He hoped he looked very scared. Looking at Teagan and McKenzie, he could see them holding tight to each other, half-covered by a thick blanket that Shawn had laid over them earlier. They both looked frightened. Kaitlyn was showing new interest, and even Caden watched him with anticipation.

Here it comes, Dave thought, smiling inwardly, the final play. "I walked back over to the desk and sat down. I was spooked. We had heard strangle stories about the people that had owned the house before us. The husband and wife had both disappeared, but at separate times. No one ever saw them again."

"As soon, as I turned to the computer, I heard the door to the garage open. I froze again, my heart began to race." Caden leaned forward, his gaze intent. Teagan had pulled the blanket up over head. McKenzie looked on, the fear plainly visible on her face.

"Then I heard the first heavy footstep, and then another. Stiff with fear, I looked down the hall, toward the laundry room and the exit to the garage..."

Suddenly, they all heard a loud thump, like something heavy hitting the ground over behind one of the trucks, followed by a loud groan. Dave looked up in confusion. That wasn't the plan at all. Bill was supposed to jump out and scream as loud as he could, to try and make it sound very scary. Before anyone could move to investigate, a screeching howl rent the air, up the hill from the main campsite, toward the high gate to the property.

Dave jumped. Jason had been leaning back in his camp chair. He jerked so violently that he fell over backwards. Teagan pulled the blanket tighter around her head. McKenzie was very pale, gripping the edge of the blanket so hard her knuckles were white. Shawn jumped up and went to stand by his daughters, hovering over them protectively. Diana had also risen, looking up the hill, pointing at something she saw.

Looking into the darkness they saw a large shape, its outline barely discernable at the edge of the light. Two glowing yellow orbs seemed to watch them from where a head might have been. Caden jumped up as a low moan escaped from Kaitlyn.

The scream had not stopped. It wound ever higher, ululating in an ever-increasing crescendo of terrifying sound. I instinctively reached for my gun and found I had not put on the holster. Carrying a sidearm was practical up here. It was common to see deer, javelina, coyotes, and once even a small black bear.

Just then, the screaming stopped. The shadow seemed to turn, and the yellow eyes disappeared.

The silence was deafening. Dave could hear the pulse pounding in his ears. Jason got up and walked over beside him. He had pulled out his Glock. "What was that?" he exclaimed.

"I have no idea," Dave said worriedly.

Just then, Bill came limping up behind them. "What in the H, E, double hockey sticks was that!"

What happened to you?" Dave asked, still looking up the hill toward whatever had been there.

I tripped on a rock and fell just as I was about to jump out and scream, "Bill said. "I fell hard, it knocked the wind out of me. I couldn't get up for a second or two."

Caden joined them. Kaitlyn had gone to Diana, and they were hugging each other. "I think we need to go up there," Dave said. "To where it had been standing."

Jason and Caden accompanied Dave, each holding a lantern to push away the darkness. Nonetheless, there was nothing there to be seen, no footprints, no disturbed ground, absolutely nothing. They rejoined everyone else, telling them they had seen nothing at all.

Though it was bedtime, no one wanted to try to go to sleep at the moment. Caden piled more wood onto the fire to keep it high, burning brightly. Sitting there quietly, they spent several more hours talking. Teagan and McKenzie had both fallen asleep. Bill sat there thinking, rubbing a sore knee. Jason, Shawn, and Caden were talking football, wondering if the Cardinals would ever be more than a basement-level team. Diana and Kaitlyn sat whispering to each other.

"Well," Dave thought as he sat in contemplative silence, it looks like I may have a new story to tell next year..." Then, remembering the terrifying howl and those burning eyes, he reconsidered. "Or then again," he thought. "Maybe not."

1923 words

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