Hurricane

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It was coming. Atlanta could hear the gale force winds rattling the storm shutters and the rain pelting the roof. She held her breath and hugged her dog, Greg, tighter. He didn’t seem to mind but then he was old and deaf.

They was sat in a small yellow tent set up in the far corner of the cellar. Dim amber fairy lights in the shape stars cast some light down, but it wasn’t enough to do anything by. Atlanta’s didn’t really mind though as long as she wasn’t in the dark.

‘I’m safe. Everything is fine,’ Atlanta muttered.

Every since she had heard about the high chance of the hurricane last week, she had be preparing. All the kitchen and basement cupboards were stocked with bottled water, long life food, matches and extra gas canisters for the camping stove. She had double or triple camping equipment items and a whole range of lighting; battery and candle lanterns, torches and spare candles.

Atlanta picked up her headphones which were top of the range noise cancelling and selected some loud classic music from her ipod.

‘There’s nothing else to do now it’s here,’ she said aloud.

She rubbed Greg’s ears then wrapped herself in a thermal sleeping bag and began waiting out the hurricane.

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Summer Ends

I looked up at the starry night and sighed. Tomorrow it would be hard to tidy away this sanctuary that Charlie had built for me. I shut my eyes but then I heard him moving behind me.

‘Come to bed,’ he whispered.

‘Okay,’ I mumbled.

We crawled inside the tent and lay in each others’ arms. He kissed my head and said, ‘Sophie, will you marry me?’

I looked up in shock as he held out his great grandmother’s wedding ring.

‘Yes!’ I cried and slipped the ring on.

And so ended my perfect summer.

(https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/08/23/25-august-2017/)

Werifesteria #atozchallenge

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Werifesteria; to wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery 

Walking through the trees in the dimming daylight I was careful to stay as quiet as possible. There was a beast hiding in this forest and I was determined to gather enough evidence to prove it’s existence. My heart knew it was here and my head went along with it because of all the reported sightings throughout the years.

Having done my research, I’d found the records went back to 1809. The first report had been by a miller owner. He’d been passing through the forest in the early afternoon on a autumn day to delivery flour to the next village.

He was attacked by a beast which he described later as having long brown fur, kind of like a bear but not. It was standing on two feet and had long claws and sharp teeth, both stained with blood. The beast had thrown his cart over then killed his horse and carried it off into the trees.

Of course, the surrounding village men had all searched the forest but nothing had been found. Perhaps the miller was mistake? Or lying?

I had double checked him, like I had done with all those who’d claimed attacks. He’d been a very religious man with a wife and two children, they’d been more but they had died, he earned a good enough income and had respect from many. There was no reason for his account to be wrong.

I stopped by the river and took a long drink. I also filled up both canteens that I was carrying. Looking at the sky, I knew I’d have to set up camp soon. I’d been out here for almost a week now. I hadn’t found much; a few broken trees, a large footprint that I’d dismissed as an actual bear’s and an abandoned rusting car which had been so far gone it was hard to make out what make it had once been.

I knew I was getting closer though. It had been hard to map the points of the beast’s attacks. They were scattered across the whole of the forest and of course over the years the forest had grown, shrink and moved place. The river though which was a constant feature on all maps helped.

Pulling out my map of the forest which I had written across and made dots were the attacks had happen in a colour key, I worked out where I was.

A few miles ahead was one of the areas were most of the attacks had happened. If I could make it before the light faded I could camp there and perhaps I’d see the beast! Rushing off, I crossed the river on some slippy stones and carried on walking forward.

The trees were dense and the blocked the weak light from the setting sun. I stumbled over roots and clumps of bushes. The calls of animals began to fade and the wind dropped.

Twice I checked the map and saw I was still on the right route. Night came on too fast though and I didn’t make it to the centre of the attacks, instead I had to stop on the edge. Disappointed, I set up my tent and built a small fire to warm up some soup. Then siting in the tent doorway with my lantern, I read through photocopies of the most recent beast reports.

The latest one had been only a week ago; Miss Ivy Jameson, twenty-four, had been coming home from a friend’s house and had cut through the forest to enter her back door which faced the edge of the treeline. She had heard growling but thought it only a dog.

Then something had knocked her off her feet and as she rolled, she describe a creature with long shaggy brown fur, standing on two legs with large claws. It seemed to be like a human dressed in an ape costume. Only, it wasn’t.

Ivy had survived only because she had thrown a rock at the beast eyes and dashed off towards her house. There her family and the police had searched, however nothing had been found.

I suspected the chief police officer had covered it up though. I’d heard within hours on the radio of the attack and I came straight out to it.

I found broken tree branches which made a trail away from Ivy’s house. The ground had been really disturbed, almost as if someone had tried to remove something and there were jeep tracks too.

Going further into the forest, I found that police had given up a few miles in. There were the reminds of their tape clinging to a tree trunk and fluttering in the breezy. I had walked on and found undisturbed evidence; more broken tree limbs and trodden dirt. Following that on had led me to the path I was now walking. Luckily, I had been prepared for this hunt.

I settled down for the night and as normal it took my ages to sleep. I didn’t want to waste any power though, so I lay in the dark and just listened. I like the sound of the owls and other birds, the howling and yowling of other animals and the scampering of the small rodents. I had never heard the beast nor any strange sound that could be it.

How many more days could I last? I began tallying things and came to about three days. Maybe five at a push but then I’d have to return home after. That was a disheartening thought! To be so close and to have to give up….I couldn’t do that. Suddenly feeling well awake. I got up and went outside the tent.

It was cold and damp outside now, it was drizzling and also pitch black. Not great hunting weather. Looking around, I couldn’t see anything. Ignoring the urges to grab some light, I just stood there and listened.

‘Where are you beast?’ I whispered.

The cold and rain woke me up further. I felt I was so close to seeing the beast that I almost walked off into the trees. Standing my ground, I let the minutes tick by. Then I was too wet and cold, so I went back in the tent and changed my clothes.

Getting into my sleeping bag, I lay there once again again and listened to the night. Slowly, I fall asleep, hoping that tomorrow I’d see the beast.

Dear Diary #27

Dear Diary,

It’s raining heavily and it’s really windy too. It sounds like a storm is happening outside and I wonder if there’ll be lightening and thunder. I might not see it though as I’m currently sat in my sanctuary tepee. The sound of the weather’s making me feel strangely calm, which is useful after the day I’ve had. Nothing has gone right today, diary. I was meant to be brave and go outside and met my friends for a day out shopping.

I got up and ready. I put on wool tights, my black wool skirt and my new fluffy blue jumper. Then I brushed my hair loose and put on make up! I was so happy and bouncing to go. I left way too early. Maybe that was apart of the problem. The bus was late and packed and I was soaking wet. My umbrella’s useless in this kind of weather!

Only a few minutes into the bus ride, I felt the edges of the first wave. People were too close and touching me and I didn’t want them too. The engine was vibrating under my feet so loud and my stomach went all wobbly. I shut my eyes and tried hard to fade into my music. I told myself that it was just nerves about seeing everyone again. I thought about what I’d buy from the shops, what we’d eat and talk about.

The wobbles settled a little, but I could still feel this panic growing with me. When we arrived, the bus emptied fast and I was caught in this tide pool of stampeding bodies. I knew I had to break out because I was being taken in the wrong direction. So, I scuttled to the side and pressed myself into the corner of the bus station. I was like a crab, desperate to avoid what was the incoming tide.

Why I’m thinking so much about the sea and beach today? Perhaps, because I know that helps. Anyway, so I get out of the bus station and on the street. It’s still rain and there are just people with umbrellas everywhere. I decided not to put mine up and just walk quickly to the shopping center. I ignore the people and just focus on where I’m going. That’s always a good technique to use. Then though, whilst I’m waiting for the light to change, someone bumps into the back of me.

I never saw his or her face. They were gone fast, over the road and around the coming cars. Of course, they couldn’t know how this simple act would effect me, but suddenly I felt like the bubble had burst. I become aware of all the people around me. The press of bodies as the crowd waited to cross over, office workers smoking outside their building, the flow of people across the street. I smelt car fumes, cooking food, the dirt of the city center. I felt the cold rain more sharply on my skin, the wind wrapping around my legs and touching my hair.

I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t move. Tears were appearing in the corner of my vision. The feeling of being gripped grew and I felt the urge to run. It wasn’t safe here. There were too many people, too much going on, it was too loud and I needed, NEEDED to be away from here!

The light changed, people crossed and no one noticed me still standing there. I felt them bumping into me with elbows, bags, bellies, whatever, as they all past me by and went on in their own worlds. A car horn blared. I panicked and ran across both sections of the road, not even looking. I think I hit someone with my bag or my hand, but then I was racing to the side door of the shopping center.

I felt better once I was inside. I took a few deep breaths and really calmed myself down. I must have looked like a victim of some kind of attack though. I was standing with my back pressed to the wall, clutching my handbag and umbrella, looking all panicky. Once again though, no one from the passing people stopped even though I must have met eyes with a few of them.

I went to the bookshop. It was the perfect place, even though it was busy. I went into the one section that is always empty- history and art. I placed my stuff down, grabbed the nearest book and sat in a small over stuffed square chair. I took my dripping coat off and ran my hands over the book cover. It felt smooth and cold. Weird how I can recall such things when I come out of an anxiety attack.

I flipped through the pages of the book. It was about Greek art. I looked at the photographs and read the captions. I felt calm. Normal. It was like nothing had just happened to me. After awhile, I got my phone out and made connect with my friends. They came and met me in the shop. There was seven of us all together; me, Bridget, her boyfriend Ryan, Connie, Alex, Tom and his girlfriend Molly.

It felt like a party! Even though there were so many of us, I felt okay because I knew them all. We went for some lunch and I had a really nice jacket potato, cheese and salad. I felt way better after that and the giggly chatter of the girls was pleasing. We did some shopping, well it was more like window shopping and drifting, but it was fun and the conversations were flowing.

Then though, something happened. We were walking down market street. There were people everyone walking or standing in half circle shapes to look at the street entertainers. We were just passing a religious group who were yelling about human sins and God’s wrath, when I felt it. I got this terrible feeling, like something bad was going to happen. I stopped walking and just stood there.

A part of me was totally aware that I should just keep walking, but I couldn’t move. I was struggling to breath and I felt like crying. One of my friends came back to me, I can’t remember who and they were asking if I was okay. I shook my head and looked at the floor. I told myself I was being silly! This was stupid! Why was this happening? Nothing was going to happen. There was no danger. But in that moment it was so real to me that there was nothing else I can do.

More friends came over. I can’t remember what they said, but then Tom had taken my hand was leading me away from everything. We went into a empty shop. A vintage clothes shop were some strange wind chime music was playing and the scent of incense hung heavy in the air. I took deep breaths. My face was wet and I was crying softly. Someone put a tissue in my hand and I felt Tom rubbing my back and saying it was all okay now.

The attack past. I felt so embarrassed. I wiped my face and now that I could think clearly again I thought of something to tell my friends which would make sense. But I couldn’t describe what had happened. I knew it had been real in that moment, but it for everyone else hadn’t actually been real. I was like I had seen a ghost and was trying to declare it. No one was going to believe me.

Tom asked if I was feeling better. I said I was, but needed a drink. Then I told everyone I was sorry and I didn’t know what happened back there and it was silly. They were concerned, but took it well. We walked out of the shop and went to a cafe. I felt better after, but then I decided to go home.

We said goodbye at the bus stop and I left them all to carry on shopping. I did wish I’d stayed though, but to be honest I didn’t want to face their questions and also another attack was too likely. I got home and got sorted. I had a hot bath. God, I needed one after all that being cold and wet. I felt better again, but I still had a niggly feeling.

I can’t help but wonder what my friends thought of it all. I texted Bridget and spoke to her a little. She said it was fine and everyone knew I’d had a panic attack. It was probably those religious zealots, she said. What they were saying about the earth burning and everyone going to hell, ‘my gran is always getting upset by that kind of thing,’ Bridget had added. I also texted Tom and thanked him. He said it was okay, his younger sister also has anxiety and he understood.

Reading that did help. Perhaps, I do feel a bit better now. I’m sure I just heard thunder…Maybe it was a plane. Hard to tell in here. I should get out anyway and go to bed. Tomorrow is another day and I promise to try harder. It’s not silly either. It is a real thing, but it’ll pass with time. I just got to take it easy.

Here We Stand (Part 3)

Religious Statue in Greyscale Photo

I had a tent but there was nowhere safe to put it up. Plus, if I had to escape it’d get left behind. I stopped in front of the large window and looked up. The drizzle was falling against a still light evening sky. There was still time for me to go and camp in the woods.

The effort of popping up my two-men tent was too much through. I choice the dry-ish corner next to the blocked up door and began nudging around the rubble with my boots. It was a surprisingly deep pile of wood and plaster. I slipped off my hiking bag and could almost hear my back and shoulders begging me not to but it back on again.

I cleared a wide space on the floor. The work using the rest of my energy to do so. Juggling the glow stick so I could see in growing darkness, from my bag, I took out a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, my water bottle and a zip lock bag of dried fruit. I sat down and rested my head against the cold wall of the church. It was the first time in about six hours that I had sat down.

I sipped some of the nearly clear water that I’d gathered from a trickle of a steam in the woods. Then ate a handful of the dried fruit by putting each piece into my mouth and chewing as many times as I could. Lastly, I sipped some more water and put my stuff away. I settled down, keeping all my clothes on and my hiking bag close to my side.I threw the unzipped sleeping bag over my lower body and shuffled down. I put my hands behind my head and rested against the wall again.

In the background, I could hear the drip drip of the water from the sink. What sounded like an owl screeched and a dog started barking. I put the glow stick under my bag which left me in darkness but meant I couldn’t be so easily seen if someone walked in. Shutting my eyes, I tried to rest. I knew sleep wouldn’t come, my mind was still on alert even though the rest of me was crying out for a solid night’s sleep. I tried to think about other things, especially mapping out the town I was now in.

The dozing came over me in fits. I would fall into a light sleep than jerk awake. Each time, my eyes would snap open and I’d be transfixed with finding the danger that had to be near by. I listened carefully each time, but could hear nothing other the normal night sounds. Sometimes, I would watch the rain falling in through the holes in the roof or coming in through the windows. It seemed to grew heavier each time and everything but my spot became wet.

Waking for the final time, I watched light creeping into the church like a beggar. The rain had stopped for the moment to let dawn in, but drops were still falling. I stretched out, feeling just as exhausted as when I had lay down. My body creaked like an old man’s and for a few minutes I stared up at the ceiling. There was nothing special about it. Not like I had seen in some other churches were the ceiling was nicely boned and sometimes painted.

Even though I was running on little food, water and sleep, my body still demand a normal release. I gathered my things; folding my sleeping bag and sleeping mat up and into my hiking bag. Then I spent a few moments moving some of the rubble back to hide my tracks. the now useless glow stick I hid at the bottom. I picked up my bag and tried to get it on my back, but my arms were too stiff and I couldn’t left it.

I tried again, despite my protesting back and shoulders. Heaving the hiking bag on, I walked like a hunchback to the other side of the altar. The spiral staircase was dark, but I couldn’t waste another light source. I felt my way down, listening to my bag scrapping the walls. Reaching the bottom, I felt out the bathroom and did what I had to do. Strangely the toilet still flushed.

I turned the tap on and washed my hands in what I guessed to be still iron red water. I washed my mouth out then drink a few handfuls. It tasted as it had done yesterday, earthy and rotten, but still sweet. I turned the tap off and wiped my mouth. Walking sideways out I came to a sudden stop as I hear voices above me.

Just Be

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Looking down at the tarot card in her hand, Moon thought it was too much of a sign. The Queen of Swords was sat upside down in a Gothic style throne and frowning as if she was very disappointed in Moon. The Queen’s long sword pointed upwards in a threatening manner as if it was questioning Moon too.

Setting the card aside on the purple velvet covered circle table, Moon shut her eyes and tried to block everything out. Still though, she could hear the arcade staff setting up for the day, their voices mixing with eager cries of children waiting outside and the sea waves splashing against the wall. She breathed in deeply, focusing on relaxing and opening herself to what the universe was saying.

Letting out a deep sigh, Moon opened her eyes again and looked down. The Queen of Swords was still there. That frown looking deeper then before and the eyes more piercing. Of course, she knew what the card meant. There wasn’t one in the whole deck she did not know. It was just that…She was having an hard time taking in the message.

The sound of the arcade’s doors opening drew her attention. She stood from the small high back chair and took a few steps to the side. Trying to make her skirt and bangles not jangle so much, Moon peeped out from the heavy purple curtains that surrounded her little box and watched people entering. There was only a handful; a few local kids with no where else to go during the summer holidays, grandparents with their grandchild, a tried mother with her trio and two very elderly women.

Moon let the curtain fall back. She was not due to open yet, even though she was desperate for the money but she knew none of those people would come to her. Stepping back and sitting down again, she looked at the Queen of Swords then picked the card up.

‘I shall try to be more myself,’ she whispered, ‘though being less like any female in my family is hard. It’s difficult to find your own path when someone’s already cut it out for you. Looking at all the different angles might help though.’

Moon placed the card back with the others, shuffled the deck and placed them into the small wooden box again. Placing that in her bag and picking it up, she left the tent. The curtains that had been muffling the sounds and smells of the outside world settled behind her and Moon walked away.

Going out of the arcades bright red painted doors, she turned and walked alongside the sea wall. Breathing in the fresh, salty air, she took a few minutes to think deeply about things. The Queen of Swords was firmly fixed in her mind’s eye and Moon could almost hear the Queen’s voice telling her to listen to her inner self.

‘What do I want?’ Moon said aloud without meaning too.

A nearby seagull squawked at her and Moon turned to give the creature a dirty look. The bird took flight, flapping large white and grey wings across the sea’s choppy surface. Moon rested her arms on the wall and looked out. The morning sky seemed full of promises and it was beckoning anyone willing enough to travel towards the horizon a chance to take one of those promises.

How difficult can it be to reach out and take what I want?  Moon thought.

She looked back at the arcade and beyond it the wooden pier. She could just make a few people all ready walking down towards the funfair and the theater at the end. Turning back, Moon watched the waves knocking against the wall. The water seemed to be asking her to let it in and in her mind, Moon let it in.

 

Wash Out

Water, Priroda, Drops, Rain

They awoke in the early hours of the morning to find their tent had been flooded. They had not choice but to huddle in the car and wait till they could rescue their things.

Camp Fire Story (Part 3)

People, Children, Child, Kids, Girls, Women, Woman, Man

Cody stopped and stared at the shimmering shadow which stood out against the surrounding darkness. He thought about running back inside or bolting for the tent, but he was fixed to the spot. He tried to tell himself it was nothing, just an animal maybe? Or moonlight on the water?

He looked up and began searching the pitch black sky for the moon and stars. The crying drew his attention back and he felt the urge to go and actually prove that there wasn’t anything there. Once again, picking the shimmering shape out, Cody stepped slowly down the steps and went up to his tent. Stopping again, he tried to utter an hello, but nothing came out of his month.

Swallowing and licking his lips, he tried again. His voice was less then a whisper. He put his hands together, then decided he couldn’t let this go. What would he tell Luke? He disliked his cousin calling him a baby as it was. Slowly, he shuffled off again, feeling the dry loose soil and small patches of grass under his bare feet.

Wishing he had a torch, he made it close to the edge of the lake. There he stood still, listening to the water lapping on the small outline of sand. He couldn’t see the dark shimmer shape now, nor much else. Shrugging, Cody turned and made to leave.

The girl’s crying came loud in his ears, startling him so that he almost tumbled over.

‘Who are you?’ he shouted.

‘Who are you?’ a girl echoed his words.

‘I’m Cody. What do you want?’

‘Abigail,’ came the whispered voice.

‘I have to go,’ Cody gushed and made to leave.

A small, icy cold hand grabbed his.

‘Don’t. I only want someone to play with me. Do you want to play?’

Cody shook his head, ‘no.’

‘Why not?’ the girl’s voice pressed.

‘It’s late….I should be in bed.’

‘But I’m so lonely…Will you be my friend?’

Cody screwed his face up, not sure what to answer the invisible girl. He thought about trying to move his hand, but it was numb all ready and he couldn’t feel his fingers. He wiggled them and tried to remember what his mum had said about telling people nicely about not wanting them to be friends.

‘You don’t want to be? Okay…’ Abigail said sadly and let his hand go.

‘I don’t…’ Cody scrambled for the right words, ‘I’m sorry, it’s just…’

He stopped and waited, but the ghost seemed to have gone. Shivering, he went into the tent and woke Luke up again.

‘What’s it now?’ Luke mumbled.

‘I just saw her and spoke to her. She wanted to be my friend!’ Cody rushed.

‘Who? What?’

‘The drowned girl!’

‘You were dreaming. It’s a story. It’s not real.’ Luke moaned.

‘No!’ Cody snapped and started shaking his cousin.

‘Okay!’ Luke shouted and scrambled out his sleeping bag, ‘Show me. Where is she?’

Cody pointed outside then, headed out again. The tent flaps rustled against him and he heard Luke making the same sounds. Then the torch beam flickered on and lit a line down to the lake shore.

‘Turn it off. She might not like it,’ Cody said.

Luke shot him a look and walked down to the edge of the lake. He shone the small torch about, the light picked up some small rocks and the gentle waves. Nothing shimmered under the beam and they could hear only the lake and an owl hooting somewhere.

‘You lied,’ Luke shouted, ‘there’s nothing here!’

‘She was here. She touched my hand!’ Cody countered back.

He held up his hand and Luke shone the chair on it, but his hand looked normal.

Luke pushed him hard and Cody hit the ground with a thud. He cried out and felt sharp pebbles grating under his palm. He looked up, but Luke was all ready heading back to the tent, the torch beam bobbing before him.

Cody wiped his face, catching the start of tears that had watered his eyes. He got up and decided there was no way he was getting back into the tent again. He stumbled up the porch steps and opened the back door again. Going into the welcoming glow of the lights, made him feel better and he went quietly up the stairs.

At the top, he went into the bathroom and turned the light on. There before the mirror, he saw his red flushed cheeks which looked damp. He held up his hands and saw the imprint of pebbles and flakes of dirt. He washed his hands then went into his bedroom. Putting the light on, he crossed the small floor and got into the far single bed.

He turned on the lamp and turned off the main lights. He got into the bed, feeling safer and warmer. He settled down and tried to tell himself it had all been in his head. Rolling over, he shut his eyes and tried to get back to sleep.

‘Hello?’

He stirred at the voice and slowly opened his eyes. He wasn’t sure how long it had been or who had spoken.

‘Your friend isn’t  very nice, is he?’

‘What? Who’s there?’ Cody uttered.

‘It’s me, Abigail. Remember?’ the girl’s voice whispered.

‘What are you doing in here?’ Cody gasped.

He sat up and clutched the duvet right up to his chin. He peered out trying to see her. Was that a really dark shimmer near the wardrobe? He couldn’t be sure.

‘I came to see you…Is that okay?’

‘I guess.’

‘I could go and haunt him, if you want? I do a really good moaning sound,’ Abigail spoke.

‘No. It’s okay…What do you want? I don’t think we can be friends…you being a ghost and all…’ Cody trailed off.

‘Maybe, you could set me free though?’

‘How?’ Cody asked.

He released his tight grip on the duvet and let it slide down. He could see her now; an eight year old girl in a torn up dress and long loose hair, though she still seemed to be a black outline. She was at the foot of his bed, looking over the railing at him, though Cody couldn’t see her eyes or any features of her face.

She sighed and seemed to wave her hands around, ‘I don’t know,’ she finally admitted.

Cody lay back down and looked up at the ceiling. He thought deeply, trying to recall what he knew about ghosts.

‘Maybe, you have to do something, like settle something…’ Cody said aloud, ‘or we need someone who can talk to ghosts. I don’t know what to do.’

‘It’s okay…actually, I kind of like it,’ Abigail replied.

‘You like being a ghost?’ Cody asked.

‘It’s not so bad, but it is lonely.’

‘I guess.’

Cody yawed and rubbed his eyes.

‘I should go…’ Abigail stated.

Cody mumbled a reply and shut his eyes.

The morning felt too normally. Cody woke and for a few minutes whilst he was in the bathroom and dressing, he couldn’t remember anything. Only at breakfast, when asked by his mum why he had come in, did he recall Abigail. Deciding not to tell, he lied about coming in to get some water then going upstairs instead of back outside.

Luke shot him a look, but carried on eating cereal. The girls seemed too sleepy to care or maybe they hadn’t heard. Cody didn’t add any more, but let the sounds of breakfast fill the air again. He looked over at the back door and wondered if he’d see the ghost girl again.

Camp Fire Story (Part 1)

People, Children, Child, Kids, Girls, Women, Woman, Man

Cody stared out across the water of the lake, lost in thought. The setting sun had turned the blue water pale pink and the seemingly invisible crickets were too loud. Distant voices called to each other, their words fading amongst the trees.

Cody looked down at the stones under his feet and felt his cousin, Luke’s words coming back to him, ‘they say Rose drowned hundreds of years ago. Her mother did it and she claimed the Devil told her to do it. Rose haunts the lake now.’

Cody shivered and muttered, ‘it’s just a story.’

He kicked the pebbles and walked back to the cabin’s porch. Two small tents were set close by and he could see the beam of a torch waving against the roof of one of them. As he got closer, he heard whispering voices.

‘Rose appears as a shadow next to the lake and makes strange demands to the people she stops,’ Luke’s voice drifted out of the unzipped tent flaps.

‘What’s she say?’ squeaked Cody’s little sister.

‘No!’ Cody yelled and threw open the flaps.

Luke and Connie stared up at him, shock and puzzlement on both their faces. Luke dropped the torch, the beam flashing around a mess of sleeping bags and pillows. Connie buried her face in her toy rabbit’s ears and sniffed.

‘Why? You scared, baby?’ Luke cooed.

Cody shook his head and grabbed his little sister. He yanked her out of the tent and shoved her into the one next to it. They both tripped over the curled up form of small girl, hiding in a pink sleeping bag.

‘Is the story over?’ Luna, Luke’s younger sister, asked, peeping out at them.

‘Cody didn’t let him finish!’ Connie explained, pointing a finger at her brother.

‘It’s not real,’ Cody uttered to himself.

He sit in the far corner of the tent, seeming to have forgotten about the two girls.

‘It’s a scary story,’ Luna said, ‘I don’t like it.’

‘How does it end?’ Connie wailed.

Luna shook her head and pulled the edge sleeping bag into her face.

The tent flaps moved slowly and they all heard a low moaning sound. Cody raised his head and opened his mouth to declare that it was only the wind, but nothing came out.

‘It’s me, Rose,’ a low, but still child male voice hissed, ‘you must do as I say or you’ll end up like me…woo.’

Luna screamed and Connie joined in. Cody put his hands over his ears and shouted at them to stop.

‘What is going on? Girls? Stop screaming. Luke, did you scare them?’

Cody dropped his hands and crawled out of the tent. The girls screams fading into soft crying. He got out and stopped up to see his mother before Luke, who was staring at his feet. On the porch his father stood, holding open the door and looking slightly worried.

‘We were just telling camp fire stories,’ Luke responded, ‘it’s not my fault they got scared.’

‘No more stories. Bed now.’

Nodding, Luke turned and walked back to his tent. Cody hugged his mum then trailed after his cousin. Behind him, Cody heard his mum comforting the girls and settling them down again. Feeling a little better, Cody got into his sleeping bag and turned away from Luke, who all ready his back to Cody. Rubbing the edge of the pillow between his fingers, he listened to his parents talking then the door shutting.

Crickets and the lapping water of the lake filled the air once more. Cody felt Luke shift slightly and heard him mumble something. Deciding not to ask, Cody shut his eyes and thought about the promised boat trip tomorrow.

Darkness pressed against the tents. The crickets had long been silent and now the gentle waves of the lake against the pebble shore and wooden jetties were all that could be heard. Cody’s eyes fluttered and opened. He could see nothing but blackness. He wiggled in his sleeping bag, wondering what had woken him up.

He eyed the side of the tent and saw what seemed to be a fleeting shadow moving around outside.

‘Connie? Luna?’ he whispered.

No voice replied, but he thought he heard a small crying.

Wondering if his sister or Luke’s sister had gotten up, Cody got out of his warm sleeping bag and unzipped the tent. He called their names again and stepped out. A cool breeze wrapped around his bare arms. Cody shuffled over to the girl’s tent, blinded by the darkness and after feeling around, found their tent still zipped.

Shrugging and deciding it was nothing, he went back into his tent again.

To Be Continued…

Tent

Tent, Camping, Woods, Camping Tent, Travel, Vacation

Listening to the hailstone outside, he gave thanks for the tent. Looking up, he made out the shadows of the ice balls cast by the street lamps from the bridge above. The hailstones were falling either side of the road bridge, safely away from him.

Wiggling further down in the sleeping bag and feeling warm drifts of air coming up, he settled down again. Shutting his eyes, he thought about his distant family and their refusal to help. The memory weighed heavily on his mind, like his parents’ deaths.

A car horn blared into the night followed by shouting voices. He awoke, heart hammering and fear spiking through his stomach. He listened, but couldn’t work out what the distant, disembodied voices were saying. Once they had faded and the background noises of the city fell into place again, he took some deep breaths and calmed himself.

It took him ages to fall back to sleep and what little he got was restless. The sound of heavy rain yank him awake as well as his bladder. Sighing, he got out of the warm sleeping bag, put on his shoes and unzipped the tent. A gusty wind sent goosebumps up his skin and caused him to shake. He got out on his hands and knees then stood up and looked around.

The early morning light seemed to have forgotten the space under the bridge. In the gloom, heaps of rubbish, an abandoned metal bin, boxes and black bags with thrown along the sides. There was a strong smell of decay and dampness. He got up and went to the wall, casting quick looks around. There was nothing but raising hills of thinly grassed soil at either side.

Above, the bridge shook as a trunk went passed. He did what he had to do then hurried back to his little camp. He got back inside the tent, tugging off his shoes and wrapping himself in an old blanket to bring the warmth back. He looked at the only things he now possessed and with a heavy heart saw that it was time to move on again.