Rainy Nights, p.1Justin Camp
A Compilation of Short Stories
Copyright 2010 by Justin Camp
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Manufactured in the United States of America
THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS
By Justin Camp
The stranger knocks at midnight and on the third night he comes for you. The children living at 143 Baker Avenue were about to find out that the words of this bedtime story their father had told them were not words of fiction.
Johnny and Susie Walker loved scary. Scary movies, scary stories, scary games. You name it—if it was scary—they wanted to be a part. But after what they were about to experience, they wouldn’t be so fond of scary much longer. Johnny was twelve and his sister, Susie, was ten. They lived with their father, Larry, in the small town of Gadsden, Alabama. Their house was placed on a two acre estate with the woods running along either side.
One night before bed, Johnny asked his father to tell him and his sister a scary story.
“I don’t know if you two need to hear a scary story before bed,” Larry answered. “It might give you nightmares.”
“No, it won’t Daddy,” Susie spoke up. “We aren’t scared.”
“Ok, if you insist. But I’m going to warn you, this is a true story. Once I tell you this story, certain actions are put in motion that can’t be stopped. The events in the story will come to pass.”
“Yeah, whatever, Dad. Just tell us the story,” Johnny said.
“Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” said Larry. “This is the story of the stranger in the woods.”
A long time ago there were two children about your age. They were brother and sister and their names were Max and Lillie. The children lived in their home by the woods with their mother, Sara. One night Max could not fall asleep. He was tossing and turning and his mind would just not stop. Then, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling, he heard a loud knock at his window. It was the window on the side facing the woods from which the knock came. Max looked at the clock and saw that it was twelve o’clock on the dot. He went to Lillie’s room to see if she had heard it, but she was fast asleep. Max figured it was just some animal that had come from the woods. If he had only known the ironic truth in that statement. The boy finally fell asleep and didn’t wake until morning.
They had pancakes and milk for breakfast and after that Max and Lillie spent the whole day playing. That night Max could not sleep again. He had a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Then at midnight the knock at his window came again. It scared him this time. He felt that even though some animals are creatures of habit, they were not smart enough to do the exact same thing at the exact same time two nights in a row. He slowly walked over to the window and looked through the blinds. However, Max didn’t see anything but deep shadows. He climbed back in bed and fell asleep once again.
At breakfast the next morning, Max told his mother about the sounds he had heard the previous two nights. She told him that he was just being paranoid and that the house creaks and pops sometimes.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Sara assured him.
Once again Max and Lillie spent the afternoon playing and swimming. For some strange reason a calm had come over Max that night. He just knew there would be no knock at his window. However, he waited until twelve just to be sure. When the clock struck twelve there was no knock at his window, but what did come was far worse. A dark shadow came for Max that night and he was never seen again.
“The stranger knocks at midnight and on the third night he comes for you.”
“Wow, that was a good one, Dad,” Johnny said.
“True stories are always the best,” Larry answered.
“Whatever, Dad. You’re just trying to scare us,” said Susie.
“If that’s what you think,” said Larry. “But they say once the story is told, the stranger comes. Okay. Time for bed.”
Johnny and Susie had adjoining rooms at the right end of the house. They each had a window that faced the woods. That night Johnny could not go to sleep. All he could think about was that stupid story. And then at midnight, the knock at the window came. Oddly, he had half expected it.
“My dad is so pathetic,” Johnny thought to himself. “He would go this far just to scare me.”
Soon after this, Johnny lay his mind to rest and went into a deep sleep.
The three sat down to breakfast the next morning at nine o’clock. Their father was off this day so they all ate together. Wanting to appease his father, Johnny started telling Susie of the events of the past night, even acting scared.
“Susie, last night someone knocked at my window! I think it was the stranger.”
“Are you serious?” Susie asked unbelievingly.
“Dead serious,” Johnny answered in a low tone.
Their father just smiled. Susie didn’t believe him because she figured Johnny was just trying to scare her.
Other than scary, Johnny and Susie loved sports. Baseball was their favorite. They liked watching the Atlanta Braves play on T.V. The two of them would go outside and imitate the line-up and pitch to each other. That afternoon they were doing just that.
“Giles is up to bat. Two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Runners on the corners,” Johnny said before the pitch. “John Smoltz on the mound……and the pitch.” Johnny threw a wild pitch that went over the back stop.
“Dang it!” Johnny yelled angrily.
Susie ran to get the ball and Johnny threw his glove down in pure frustration. When he looked toward the corner of the woods, a wild pitch was the farthest thing from his mind. He saw a dark shadow of a man standing there. In his mind he thought, “The stranger knocks at midnight and on the third night he comes for you.” Quickly, he looked at his house, still thinking it was his father. But he could see his father through a window moving about in the house. As he looked back at the woods, the shadow was gone.
“Johnny, I got the ball,” Susie said walking up to him. “Are you okay?”
“Oh yeah. Sorry Sue. I just got distracted for a sec. No big deal.”
“What was it?” she asked.
“Nothing, uh, don’t worry about it,” he answered.
That night before bed, Johnny was still thinking about the knock at his window and what he had seen in the edge of the woods. But tonight he had an idea that he had to try—just to be sure. He walked into Susie’s room and asked for her help.
“Hey Susie,” Johnny said kindly, “Will you do me a big favor?”
“Yeah, what is it?” she asked.
“I think Dad is trying to scare me so I want you to act like you’re scared and go sleep with Dad tonight.”
“And Sue, make sure he stays in bed.”
At bedtime Susie went to her father’s room and did what her big brother had asked of her. Now all Johnny had to do was wait. He lay in bed with his mind racing, thinking about everything that had happened and all the ‘what-ifs’. At midnight the knock came once again. As soon as he heard the knock, he ran to his father’s room and, to his surprise, he saw his father sying there with Susie by his side. They were both fast asleep.
Johnny awoke the next morning with Susie sitting on the foot of his bed. “Did Daddy try to scare you last night?” she asked excitedly.
“No Sue, he didn’t. You did a good job though. Thanks,” Johnny tiredly answered.
“No problem. Anytime big brother.”
That morning they watched a movie—Pirates of the Caribbean. That afternoon they played their baseball game again. After that they were hot so they swam. But no matter what they did, the stranger was still lur
At supper, Johnny could not eat. His stomach was in jumbles. For some reason he felt like this would be his last meal. He climbed into bed knowing it would be his last time doing so. He just laid in bed and waited for the inevitable. As the time drew near, he watched the minutes tick away. Eleven fifty-seven, eleven fifty-eight, eleven fifty-nine, Midnight. He looked past his clock to the doorway of his room. What he saw made his body go numb. A dark silhouette of a man was standing there. He was ice cold. He had never felt fear like this before. As he lay there, paralyzed, he heard the shadow speak in a low growl of a voice.
“The stranger knocks at midnight and on the third night he comes for you.”
The stranger stretched out his arm towards Johnny and started to walk forwards. As he got closer Johnny knew his life was about to come to an unnatural, early end. When the stranger reached Johnny’s bed he grabbed the boy with amazing speed and……
Johnny Walker woke up in his bed, wet from a cold sweat. “What on earth would make me have such a weird dream?” he thought to himself. “The stranger in the woods, that’s crazy. My Dad doesn’t make up stories that good.”
As most people do when they wake up from a deep sleep during the night, Johnny looked over at his clock on the nightstand. Immediately, the clock struck midnight and the words, “The stranger knocks at midnight and on the third night he comes for you,” ran through his mind. Just about that time he got an unsettling feeling and then…
He heard a knock at his window.
Dim, dark clouds blow across the sky, cutting off sunlight from the ground. A strong, stiff wind whistles through the trees, rustling leaves as the breeze dances upon the tree limbs. There’s a brilliant flash of lightning followed by low rumbling thunder. The black rain is coming and there is no way to stop it. As the storm clears and the thick fog is rising from the ground, you know someone else has disappeared.
Brian Helms grew in a home that had no justice. His father was a drunk that abused Brian’s mother. She finally left when he was fifteen and she couldn’t take the beatings anymore. Brian hated his father for driving his mother away and never could find forgiveness in his heart. When Brian was twenty-one, his father died. The alcohol had turned his liver into shriveled mush. As far as Brian was concerned, his father got his. Seeking justice at the young age of twenty-four, Brian became a deputy in his tiny country town of Black Rain, Mississippi.
This little town got it’s name from the weather. It might only rain twice a month but when it does—it’s torrential. There is no such thing as a light rain. Even if it is in the middle of the afternoon, it gets black as night.
Years passed by and Brian enjoyed his job. There wasn’t much crime at all in town but the little things that did happen, he found an inner calm in righting the wrong. At the age of forty-one he was promoted to Sheriff of Black Rain.
Two years in office went by without a hitch. A few drunken disputes, a domestic disturbance, and of course old lady Johnson’s cat getting stuck in the tree was all easily handled. Then one summer day, the clouds rolled in and brought an evil that this town had never seen. Something the towns people would never even dream of—something that could never happen in the little town of Black Rain did happen.
The call came over the C B radio around seven forty five in the morning. Brian was finishing his first cup of coffee when hi heard the dispatcher’s rattled voice.
“Yeah, Sherrill. Go ahead.” The town was so small it only had two or three dispatchers so all the officers knew who it was when they heard the voice.
“Um…we got a disturbing call just a minute ago.”
“You sound kind of freaked out Sher. Tell me what happened.”
“Dot Taylor just called. She said Steve is gone.”
“Gone? What do you mean—gone?”
“She said he’s missing, vanished into thin air, gone!”
“Okay. Well tell her to come down to the station and we’ll talk. I’m on my way. Over and out.”
The rain had just stopped about a half hour before the alarming CB conversation. The roads were still slick and Brian was in a fight with the car to keep it on the road. Every time the car hit a puddle, it wanted to slide off the pavement. On the drive to the station Brian was lost in thought. It perplexed him that someone could just up and vanish. He was a down-to-earth person. The thought of a supernatural pehnomenon was the furthest thing from his mind. His name was not Fox Mulder and ghost hunts and alien abduction were not on his agenda. After a drive that seemed to have last an eternity, Sheriff Helms pulled into the police station.
There were anxious looks on the faces of his officers and secretary when he walked in.
“Mornin’ Nancy. You alright?” Brian asked.
“I’m a little weirded out. This sort of thing don’t happen around here.” She replied.
“Now don’t worry your pretty little face about anything. Everything is gonna be okay. Steve probably just had a little too much to drink or went for a long walk or something.” He said that with the utmost confidence but deep down he knew there wasn’t a syllable of truth in what he had just said.
“Alright, I’ll try to stay calm, Sheriff. Dot is waiting for you in your office. It’s gonna take more than words to calm her down.”
Sheriff Helms turned and started walking towards his office. As he got there he stopped, grabbed the handle, took a deep breath and entered.
Dot Taylor’s back was facing the door but when Brian walked in, her head swung around in such whiplash speed it gave the moment an “Exorcist” feel to it and Brian almost took a couple of steps back.
“Oh thank God you’re here!” She exclaimed. “I think I’m going out of my mind.”
“Can I get you anything, Dot? Coffee, water?” He asked.
“No. I wouldn’t be able to keep it down. I just want my husband back.” Her eyes started to fill with tears.
“Ok. Just calm down and start from the beginning.”
“Alright. Well, yesterday afternoon he had been out in the fields preparing for the storm. He came in around five o’clock and read until suppertime. We ate fried chicken, green beans, and okra. After I washed dishes, we sat on the front porch and listened to the crickets. Everything was fine. We went to bed about nine-thirty. The rain started around four in the morning and I felt Steve get up. However, there was nothing unusual about that because he always gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I went back to sleep and didn’t awake until morning. Steve was nowhere to be found.”
“Well the next thing to do is take a little ride out to your house and let me have a look see. Come on. We’ll take my car.
Although calm and collected on the exterior, a strong uneasiness was growin in the pit of his stomach.
Once at the Taylor’s home, a classic farmhouse with a decaying picket fence in front, Sheriff Helms tried to get a feeling of what Steve might have done. He went in the bedroom pretending he was Steve sleeping. He went to the bathroom trying to reenact the path Mr. Taylor might have taken. A thorough scan of the bathroom turned up no clues. Next he went to the kitchen, then to the back porch. Any footprints there might have been had been washed away by the black rain. As he started to walk back inside, he heard the Taylor’s dog, a light brown retriever named Goldy, barking. Brian turned around in time to see Goldy come out of the fields and something read in it’s mouth caught Brian’s attention. As the retriever got closer and finally was on the porch with the Sheriff, it dropped a large red bedroom slipper from his mouth. Brian’s heart skipped a beat and he lost his breath.
“This can’t be,” he thought to himself. He rushed into the fields screaming Steve’s name but knowing he would get no answer
All the years of injustice came back to Brian in one exasperating disappearing act. Now, Steve Taylor only existed in the minds of those who cared about him.
Weeks passed and Brian still beat himself up for not being able to save Steven Taylor. Then it got worse. The black rain came through again. This time a little girl went missing, Jessica McArthur. It was the same deal—only a pile of clothes where her body had been before she vanished into thin air.
Two and a half weeks passed before the black rain came through again but this time no locals disappeared. Sheriff Helms sighed in relief but was still terribly shaken inside from the recent tragedies. A week later he received a phone call from a woman named Jennifer Bone. She informed him in a horrified voice that her husband, Oliver, called her from a pay phone in this little town on his way home from a business trip but never made it home. He had placed his call the day of the last storm. Brian could not move. The only words he was able to utter were, “He’s gone.” He hung up the phone as she started to cry. Brian sat down at his desk, pulled out his service revolver and chambered a round. He finally realized there would never be any justice in this world, so he opened his mouth and swallowed a silver bullet in hope of finding justice in the next.
Whether you’re planning to visit this little town or you’re just passing through, my advice to you is to turn on your radar and check the forecast. Even though so much is still a mystery, one thing is forever a certainty. When the dim dark clouds blow across the sky, as strong stiff winds whistle through the trees, and a brilliant flash of lightning followed by rumbling thunder makes your very soul tremble, you know the black rain is coming and there is no way to stop it. As the storm clears, deep down inside you the disquieting knowledge is there. SOMEONE ELSE HAS DISAPPEARED!
Rainy Nights by Justin Camp / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on32 votes