Screamscapes: Tales of Terror (30 page)

BOOK: Screamscapes: Tales of Terror
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Black Door

T
his summer has been a hot one – the kind that shimmers with a heat that looks like water puddles on the pavement. I can’t remember the last time it rained. A month? Maybe three?

I wiped the sweat from my forehead with the back of my arm, and realized that I was now stuck with a sweaty arm. I dried it on the side of my shirt. Even without the rain, the air somehow managed to still be full of sticky moisture; my clothes became soaked with sweat the instant I walked outside. The whole world felt like a giant dog was breathing on it.

It’s still early in the morning, but already it’s so hot the trees in my back yard look wilted like celery that’s been in the refrigerator too long, all shriveled and limp.

As I looked at the brown grass that used to be our lawn, I listened to my two brothers arguing as they packed for camp upstairs. Being the middle child, I usually mind my own business and let the two of them fight things out.

The three of us are in for one hot week in the woods at summer camp, though. I better make sure not to forget to take a fan.

I looked at my watch and realized dad had better get moving or we were going to be late. We were supposed to be at Camp Eustace for sign-in at ten o’clock sharp. Mom had gone to visit our Aunt Wendy for the weekend, and left us at home alone with Dad in charge. If we were late getting to camp, I knew he’d never hear the end of it when she got home.

It was almost eight in the morning already, and the drive to the campground took at least two hours – and that was if the GPS took us there the fast way. It almost never did.

“William – come get your stuff, we’ve got to go!” Dad yelled from inside. His voice sounded a little panicky; he must’ve realized how late it was getting.

Finally.

I stepped back into the house and the chill of the air conditioning made goose bumps rise on the back of my neck. I bet Dad was glad it was us boys headed off to camp this week and not him. A week of peace and quiet home alone with the air conditioner was probably all the adventure he could handle, anyway.

As soon as I got inside, Dad started really putting the pressure on for us to hurry.

“Come on guys, we’re going to be late!” he yelled up the stairs. “Don’t forget to bring everything you’re going to need. Once you get to camp, what you’ve got is what you’ve got!”

My two brothers, Ethan and Aidan, came barreling down the stairs like a herd of buffalo wearing cargo pants and baseball caps, duffel bags over their shoulders, sleeping bags under their other arms. The three of us were chock-full of summer excitement and the promise of thrills that a full week at adventure camp held for us.

Ethan, who was eleven - barely a year older than me - came down first; as he ran he somehow managed to simultaneously toss his hair with a strange twitch of his head that he thought looked cool. I don’t know how he was able to do it without losing his balance and falling down the stairs.

“I call front seat!” he yelled as he shoved his way past me into the garage where the minivan was waiting.

This taunt caused an immediate spike in the stress levels of our youngest brother Aidan, who was following hot on his heels. They practically crawled over and under each other as they raced to the car, barely slowing each other down in the process.

“It’s not fair!” I shouted. The fact that I was carrying at least my own weight in supplies didn’t mean I should be unjustly relegated to the back seat for the entire two-hour trip to camp. The advantages in life my older brother gets for doing nothing more than being born earlier than me are totally unfair.

“I CALL FRONT!” Aidan’s thunderous voice blasted inches away from the back of my head as he pushed his way through the garage door. We got stuck there for a moment; it was more bags and boys than the doorway could digest.

“Ethan already called it!” I hissed bitterly, enforcing the rules of shotgun with resignation even as they worked against me.

“Nuh-uh, I just did,” Aidan insisted, with the truly innocent obliviousness only a seven-year old can muster.

“No Ethan did BEFORE you! BEFORE YOU!” I growled, as we popped out of the doorway, stumbling into the garage.

“Rotten eggs! Rotten eggs!” Ethan heckled in a muffled sing-song voice from his perch in the passenger seat, where he sat smiling and victorious.

I heard Dad let out a loud sigh in the kitchen as he scooped up his wallet, keys and sunglasses. It was going to be a long ride to camp. Mom had been smart to go visit our Aunt Wendy out of town. It meant she got to miss this magical weekend.

Dad locked up the house and tossed our bags into the back. In a few minutes we were on the road, headed to Camp Eustace.

This was the first time we had gone to summer camp at Camp Eustace. It was the third year in a row Ethan and I had gone to a week-long summer adventure camp; Aidan had gone with us for the first time last year. We all loved Camp Cherokee, but the campgrounds there had been overrun with an infestation of poisonous snakes and had been shut down for the entire summer.

Mom heard about Camp Eustace from some of her friends. From the pictures on the internet, it looked as though it might be even better than Camp Cherokee. For one thing, it actually had a pool; one with a water slide and a diving board, at that. We were also going to get to do some pretty fancy activities.

By contrast, Camp Cherokee was pretty much some woods with a few shacks, and a big mud puddle they called a lake. It had been fun, but I was ready to try something new.

Dad pulled onto the interstate and typed the address into the GPS. The GPS calculated the trip information: two hours and seven minutes it predicted – if all went well, we would get there right on time for sign-in.

The drive did go well. We talked about all the things we hoped to do this year at camp, about what girls might like us, about how we hoped Camp Eustace had Mello-Yello in the canteen like Camp Cherokee did.

There was barely any traffic on the road and after an hour Dad pulled off the interstate and took a left onto a back country road. We were headed straight for a mountain range that was looming on the horizon. Dad said Camp Eustace was in the woods somewhere below those mountaintops in front of us.

The direction from the GPS started changing rapidly as we drove - a “left in 200 feet” here, a “TURN RIGHT NOW” there – it seemed like the GPS was having a hard time deciding which way to go.

Each turn Dad made took us onto smaller and smaller roads, and I noticed the houses we passed were getting further and further apart.

I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was 9:57 a.m. We should be at the campground in less than ten minutes, but I still hadn’t seen a single sign for it yet.
Shouldn’t we have passed at least one of those blue street signs with a picture of a tent on it by now?
I wondered. I was starting to wonder if we were lost.

“At the next intersection, make a U-turn”, the GPS bleated cheerfully in a pleasant computerized female voice.

Make a U-turn?
That didn’t sound good. I noticed Dad was frowning.

“What’s wrong, Dad?” Ethan asked, looking up from his music player.

“Are we lost?” He said.

“No.” Dad lied.

“WE’RE LOST??” Aidan bellowed from somewhere behind me after hearing Ethan’s question. His brown eyes were wide with alarm.

“We’re not lost, Aidan,” I tried to reassure him.

“We’re lost,” Ethan whispered to him, hoping Dad wouldn’t hear.

“I DON’T WANT TO BE LOST! I WANT TO GO TO CAMP! I DON’T WANT TO BE LOST!” Aidan’s voice was so loud it was like having a grenade go off inside the car. It made my ears ring, and my whole body felt hot.

“We’re not lost!” Dad repeated, as he turned the car around to go back the way we had come. I hoped the GPS knew what it was talking about.

“We
are
lost, aren’t we?” Ethan asked calmly.

“I don’t know, I think we missed a turn. We’ll be fine – don’t worry,” Dad said, trying to keep his cool as he drove back the opposite direction.

“WE MISSED A TURN?” Aidan’s shrill voice pierced my throbbing head again.

“I
told
you we were lost,” Ethan whispered smugly. Dad ignored him and stepped on the gas, hoping to make up for lost time.

“At the next intersection, make a U-turn,” the GPS cheerfully said again. I think it sounded more confident this time.

“We are lost,” Ethan concluded aloud to no one in particular.

Then the car started to chime. I looked over Dad’s shoulder at the lights on the dashboard; the words LOW FUEL were lit up in red next to the fuel gauge.

Great. We were never going to make it to camp this year. Mom should have stayed home.

“Take a left at the next intersection,” the GPS suggested randomly.

Dad turned it off and pulled the car off to the side of the road, and turned the engine off. He gripped the wheel, breathing hard with frustration. He didn’t look like he was feeling well.

“What are you doing?” me and my brothers all said in unison. We were feeling alarmed now – maybe Dad was trying to send a message when he read us the story of Hansel and Gretel – it was one of his favorites after all. Maybe we should have packed some pebbles and breadcrumbs in our pockets.

After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Dad spoke up.

“Well, guys – it’s like this: we’re almost out of gas, the GPS doesn’t know where we are and neither do I. The closest gas station is at least thirty miles behind us. We probably don’t have enough gas to make it to the gas station, even if I knew how to get back there, which I don’t - thanks to this stupid GPS.”

“What are we going to do?” Ethan asked. All traces of smugness had vanished from his voice.

Dad turned around to face us. He looked anxious and that made me feel worried.

“I guess we’re going to sit here until someone drives by. Hopefully I can wave them down and they can give us the right directions to camp, it’s got to be nearby.”

He pointed out the window. “You see those mountains right there? The camp is at the bottom. If we can at least make it to camp I’m sure they’ll have enough gas to get me back to the gas station. Then I can drop you guys off and get back home just in time for your mom to say ‘I told you so!’”

Just then, a loud rapping on the car window behind me made us all jump. Through the windshield just over Dad’s shoulder I saw that a car had parked on the side of the road right in front of us. A woman was holding a screaming baby in the passenger seat, but the driver seat beside her was empty.

At the window behind me stood a man, motioning for us to roll down the window. He looked like he was maybe in his twenties, and he was wearing a dirty straw cowboy hat that looked like it had been sat on one too many times. He had long stringy hair, and a tattoo of a snake crawling around his throat. Sweat was dripping down his neck, and it made the snake look like it was crying.

The man wasn’t smiling, and kept spinning his finger in circles – he was saying
ROLL DOWN THE WINDOW
in homemade sign language, apparently.

Not wanting to keep him waiting any longer, Dad turned the key in the ignition halfway and rolled the window down to talk to him.

“Hi!” Dad said as cheerfully as he could muster.

“Fancy car,” the man said matter-of-factly and then spit a long gooey string of spit down his chin and onto his shoe. “How much did it cost?”

“What?” Dad said, clearly confused.

“So you guys need help or something?” he asked, abruptly changing the subject. “I don’t normal talk to strangers be act suspicious like you, but my booboo there made me stop an’ ask.” He tipped his head in the general direction of the woman waiting in the car parked in front of us.

“Thanks so much,” Dad said in the friendliest voice he could manage. “We’re looking for Camp Eustace and can’t seem to find it. I think it’s nearby, though.”

The man stared at Dad without blinking for a whole minute, not saying anything. My brothers crowded around me, no doubt to better ogle the man.

The man stared back at us with dead eyes. He started to spit out another brown loogey, but evidently he decided to save it for later, because he sucked the spit back into his mouth the second it hit his chin.

Finally, the man blinked – and spoke.

“Yep.” He said.

Another awkward pause followed.

“Could you give me directions for how to get to the camp?” Dad asked hopefully.

“Yep.”

Then more silence.

Then he started talking, his words all jumbled together and hard to make out. Dad grabbed a pencil and paper and started scribbling down the directions as he said them.

“Ain’t hard, don’t write it down, jus’ listen – go that way two miles,” he pointed over his shoulder in the direction we had been heading. “Take a right on Steely Branch road. Stay straight a half a mile, then left on Mule Creek. Go over the bridge and then left at the fork. Camp’s a couple miles past that. Got it?”

“Right, left, left?” Dad repeated.

“Yep.”

“Thank you so…” Dad started to offer his profound appreciation, but stopped talking when the man spit a big gob of brown goo right onto the side of the minivan and then walked away, mumbling words we’d get a spanking for saying.

I heard the man screaming “SHUT UP!” at his booboo as he climbed into the car and drove away, leaving us in a cloud of dust.

The man’s personality wasn’t much to talk about, but his directions were perfect. Dad took a right on Steely Branch, then a left at Mule Creek. We went over the little bridge. A deep ditch ran along both sides of the dirt road, barely protected on either side by intermittent fence posts with rusty barbed wire strung along between them. I couldn’t quite figure out the logic behind that type of protection; wouldn’t being wrapped up in barbed wire be much worse than getting stuck in a ditch?

A little past the bridge we arrived at a fork in the road – right in the middle of which stood a faded sign that read:
“Camp Eustace arrivals, stay left. Two miles ahead.”

We all cheered.

“We made it! Yeah boy! We’re at camp! WOO-HOO!” Ethan danced a little victory dance in his seat as he sang.

For a minute we all forgot about our little adventure, and Ethan and Aidan started discussing all the things they wanted to do this year at camp. As I listened to them talking, I noticed Dad was still keeping a nervous eye on the fuel gauge. Hopefully we wouldn’t run out of gas in a long line of cars waiting to park and unload.

“I’m going to do archery,” Aidan declared.

“You’re not old enough,” I reminded him.

“Yes I am,” he insisted.

“No, you’re not,” Ethan turned around to offer his opinion as the resident expert on the subject.

“I told you,” I said.

“I
AM TOO
old enough,” Aidan said again, refusing to yield. “You were seven and you got to do archery.”

“That’s because I’m
mature
,” I said, with the type of condescension only a slightly older brother can muster. “You’d hurt yourself – or kill somebody.”

“I WOULD NOT!” Aidan roared.

One mile to go, one mile to go.
Where are all the other cars?
, I wondered, realizing I hadn’t seen a single car anywhere down this road so far.

“Yes you would, Aidan,” Ethan opined in his older-therefore-much-much-wiser voice of complete and total certainty. “You would.”

I figured I’d go ahead and push Aidan off the precarious emotional ledge from which he was dangling. I smiled at him and spoke in my best fake-friendly voice.

BOOK: Screamscapes: Tales of Terror
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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