Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Short Story: Campfire Meal


If you have ever been camping in the great outdoors then you must have, at least once, sat around a big ole campfire and swapped tales and tunes. Well, roasted marshmallows then. Okay, moved from position to position trying in vain to outwit the smoke pouring from the inferno - but there must have also been one good ghost or horror story told at some time in the darkness of night. Well, if you've never had the pleasure you can read this story or relive your own experience all over again.

Oh, and this is a true tale - scout's honor . . .


Campfire Meal
by Paul Darcy

"Gather round, gather round, and I'll tell you a tale." Bob Gisome, leader of the boy scouts called from his seat on a log around the blazing campfire. After a few minutes the twelve boys were seated also on logs around the fire.

"What kind of story are you going to tell us?" Asked John, the youngest.

"Well, it's a very dark night. I think it will be a horror story, and a true on at that." He glared crazily at each of them setting the mood as best he could. The twelve boys loved Bob's stories and remained quiet waiting for him to begin.

"This is a very special night boys. I've never told this tale to anyone. It has been a long time and I hope I can recall all the facts. It is a tale of something horrible which happened in these woods before any of you were even born. I myself was only about your age when it happened. You see, there is a creature in these woods. It is old, very old. Some say older that the mountains to the north where it was supposedly disturbed and awakened forty years ago, exactly to this day. You all know of Ned Parkins camp across the river?" The boys nodded in unison. "Well, it's not very well known anymore. In fact it was even hushed up at the time it happened, but forty years Ned's father Ralf went to the mountain on an errand known only to him. There were twelve campers staying in that camp across the river that night."

Bob stopped and looked at each boy in turn, letting the number twelve sink in. A log snapped loudly in the fire sending up a shower of sparks and the boys took in a sharp collective breath.

"Those twelve campers never came home again," Bob continued, "and one by one they disappeared. Some said Ralf called them to the mountain. That was not entirely true." Just then, one of the boys got up and stepped out of the ring of light cast by the fire. Probably to go to the bathroom thought the others.

Bob hesitated a moment then began with more animation in his voice. "You see it was Ralf that disturbed the sleep of the creature, and when he did the creature awoke and became very hungry. Ralf would have been eaten immediately had he not made a deal with it. Ralf told it where it could find twelve, healthy bodies to eat if it would let him be." Another boy left the campfire and headed into the woods. The first hadn't returned yet and the remaining ten were feeling a little uneasy.

Bob's loud voice startled them out of there thoughts, "So boys, this creature made a deal with Ralf, but never meant to keep it. After it had eaten the twelve it was going to eat him also."

A third boy left the fireside.

"But old Ralf was not as foolish as the creature thought and had made plans before his trip to the mountain."

Two more boys left the fire, one after the other rather quickly and wandered off. As yet none had returned. The remaining seven were getting suspicious of a prank.

Bob continued. "So it was on this night forty years ago that the creature crawled down from the mountain and into the camp. It hid just at the edge of darkness, with scarcely a sound." Suddenly a twig snapped and six boys hearts jumped then settled as they saw it was a seventh walking away from the campfire. He had happened to step on a branch.

Bob started again more excitedly than ever. "The bodies of the twelve campers were never found. Of Ralf, nothing more was ever heard and Ned would give no clear account of that night to the authorities. It was years later when Ned confided in me the truth of what happened that night."

Another boy got up and left. The final five moved closer together as though that would bolster their courage.

"You see, the creature was not from this world. It came from a time and place outside of that which we know." Three boys intent on the story hadn't noticed a fourth get up and leave.

"It found humanity to be weak and useless. Good only for sport as playthings." Two boys watched in terror as a third got up and left. They looked at each other. Where were the others?

"This creature's mind had the power to control humans. It could make them do as it wished, then when it tired of playing it would shred the bodies and hide the pieces deep in the mountain." John watched in horror as the last boy rose as the last boy beside him got up and walked away.

Bob's voice startled John back to attention. "Yes, John. The truth is that every forty years the creature must feed, and humans are most enjoyable food. But John, one thing I forgot to mention. There was not only one creature, but two." With this outburst Bob leaped up, his body hideously deforming and as John tried to turn and run he was clamped in a fierce grip from behind.

***

The bodies of the twelve boy scouts and Bob were never found, though nobody ever thought to check deep in the caves of the mountain to the north.
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