Bible camp, p.1
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       Bible Camp, p.1

           Ty Johnston
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Bible Camp
When a group of young people are sent by their church to clean up an old bible camp in the mountains, none of them knows the secrets of the tragedy that happened there decades earlier. Meeting with the camp’s caretaker, they soon learn some of the tale, but it’s only when night falls and death strikes that they discover true pain and terror.

  As they are slain one by one, those left struggle to survive, racing through the camp and the woods while searching for safety.

  But when axes fall, throats are cut and heads removed, can any hope to live through the night?

  This is the first story in the “Bible Camp” series of horror tales.

  Bible Camp

  a short story of horror

  an Eight Hour Fiction Challenge story

  by Ty Johnston

  for Gina

  Yanking open the glove department box, Ken tossed his phone inside before slamming the little door closed. “This place sucks!”

  Taking her eyes off the gravel road in front of them, Mary glanced in his direction. “What’s wrong?”

  “No cell reception,” he said, glaring out the window to the thick forest flowing up and down hills on either side of them. “And we’re in the middle of nowhere. I should’ve known better than to let you drag me up here.”

  “It’s for a good cause,” Mary said with a frown, looking ahead once more. “The pastor wants this place cleaned up before they bring the kids here next month.”

  Ken grunted. “Yeah, whatever. The only reason I’m here is because you begged me, and because I’ll be graduating soon.”

  Mary’s eyes misted. “I thought you came because you loved me.”

  Rolling his eyes, Ken looked over at his girlfriend. “I’m going to need a job, aren’t I, at least until you graduate next year? One of the deacons is boss at an investment firm. Anything I can do to look good in his eyes will be worth it.”

  Steering around a hole in the middle of the road, Mary reached up and brushed away her tears. “I thought you cared for me.”

  Ken sat there in silence for a few moments, staring at her with a look of disgust on his face. Then he reached over and petted a shoulder. “You know I do, babe. I just get caught up in all this stuff.”

  She forced a smile and glanced at him again. “It’ll be better once we reach the camp, I promise.”

  “I hope so,” he said. “The others shouldn’t be too far behind. If this place is like you said, maybe we can get in some swim time before they show up.”

  “Maybe, but we’ve got a lot to do. I’ll have to check in with the groundskeeper or caretaker or whatever he is.”

  “Well, if there’s a caretaker up there, we shouldn’t have much to do, now should we?”

  Mary ignored the question as they came to a bend in the road. She slowed and kept her attention straight ahead.

  Rounding the bend, the woods opened up ahead of them and the road ended in a circular gravel driveway. A rotting wooden sign on the right of the road proclaimed they were entering “Jacob’s Bible Camp.”

  “Place looks like a dump,” Ken said as they came to a park at the far end of the gravel lot.

  Directly ahead of them stretched a path of packed earth with bushes and tall oaks close up against either side. Beyond in the distance could be glimpsed the blues and silvers of flat water glinting beneath the sun.

  Putting the Explorer into park and turning off the ignition, Mary looked all around. “I don’t know. It doesn’t look that bad to me.”

  Ken groaned his disapproval and added more rolling eyes as he climbed from the vehicle and slowly looked in all directions. To their right was the first of several cabins made of concrete blocks, in the back of the building another such structure and so on and so on. From what Ken could see, there were at least five of the buildings, each big enough to house at least a dozen people. To their left stood a single log building, one story but long with a flat roof. A sign on the entrance door told this was the office for the camp’s counselors.

  All of the buildings looked old and worn, but they appeared to be in working condition. They also appeared to be lonely, as if not inhabited in years, a sensation added to by the eerie silence that echoed throughout the place.

  “I thought you said there was a caretaker,” Ken said as Mary exited the vehicle and pocketed the keys.

  She pointed off to the left of the counselors’ building where a small trail snaked back into the woods. “It should be over there. At least that’s what I remember.”

  “You grew up around here, right?” He didn’t look happy to have a girlfriend from the sticks.

  Mary smiled and nodded. “The next county over. We came here a few times when I was kid. Just to fish and swim, though. We never stayed the night. I don’t think anybody did.”

  “Why not?”

  She shook her head. “I’m not sure. I think there was some kind of accident a long time ago, back before I was born.”

  “So nobody’s stayed here since ... when?”

  Again, she shook her head. “I don’t know. At least twenty years, maybe longer.”

  Ken opened his mouth to grouse some more, but a honking horn caught their attention and they turned to face the gravel road they had just driven up.

  Bouncing along the road and approaching them was an old, rusted Jeep. Several figures could be seen crouched behind the windshield, but another blowing of the horn showed the driver and passengers were friendly.

  “They’re here,” Ken said, again not looking pleased.

  Mary laughed and rushed forward as the Jeep came to a halt next to the Explorer.

  “You guys made it!” she shouted.

  The Jeep died and doors popped open, spewing forth four more people in their early twenties.

  “Idiot here almost got us lost,” said a girl with short, dark hair and a darker demeanor. She jabbed a thumb towards a tall, skinny guy with a mop of brown, curly hair atop his head.

  “Hey, I knew where we were all along,” he said with a chuckle.

  “Sure you did, Lance,” the dark-haired girl said. “Sure you did.”

  From around the other side of the Jeep lumbered a portly youth sporting freckles, curly red hair and a Superman T-shirt.

  He laughed as he came up to Lance. “Abby can be a real bitch sometimes, can’t she?”

  “Screw you, fat boy,” the dark-haired girl said, flipping both of them the finger.

  Mary didn’t look pleased with the conversation, but Lance couldn’t help but laugh.

  Another young woman climbed out of the back of the Jeep, cursing as her hiking boots hit the ground.

  “What’s up with you, beautiful?” Ken asked.

  Again, Mary did not look happy, especially with her boyfriend so boldly complimenting another woman. Yet there was little doubt the last one of out the vehicle was the most attractive of the girls.

  Gloria stood straight and stretched her arms over her head as if she had just woke, shaking her long, blonde hair out. Then she looked around and cursed again.

  “Not much to look at, is?” Ken asked.

  Gloria turned on him. “No phones, not even a gas station for miles. I bet the nearest Starbuck’s is at least an hour away.”

  “Hell, I bet the nearest house is an hour away,” Lance joked.

  “It’s just a few miles to the nearest farm,” Mary said, coming to stand in the middle of the pack while defending what she felt was her home region.

  Gloria looked stricken. “Farm? Oh, my God. I bet there’s not even Wifi here.”

  “I don’t even see any old TV antennas,” Russ said, shielding his eyes from the sun as he glanced at their surroundings, “not that they’d do us any good.”

  “Hey!” Mary stamped a tennis shoe on the gravel. “We didn’t come up here for fun and games, you gu
ys. We’re supposed to be helping the church.”

  “Church, shmurch,” Abby said, yawning beneath black eyeliner as if bored. “I came up here to get away for a few days, nothing more. Brought a good book with me. That’s all I’ll need.”

  Russ lightened up, his jaws dancing. “And I brought some comic books!”

  A moan rolled through the rest of the group, other than Abby, who gave a glance to the big guy.

  “What do you have?” she asked.

  Once more Russ’s face light up. “I’ve got the Hulk and the Fantastic Four and Spawn and --”

  “Okay, that’s enough.” Ken waved off the list of comic book heroes with a look of distaste. “Like Mary said, we’ve got work to do. The sooner we get to it, the sooner we can have some playtime.”

  “I’m telling you, I’m not doing any work,” Abby said, reaching through an open window into the Jeep to withdraw a hefty paperback. “It’s just me and Stephen King this weekend.”

  “But we’re all supposed to help,” Mary said.

  Abby ignored the words and moved away from her friends, looking around for someplace to sit in the cool shade. Spotting an old tree stump beneath hanging branches, she marched off in that direction, her nose already deep into the horror novel.

  Mary cried out in frustration and moved to go after the other girl, but Ken stopped her with a hand on an arm.

  “Let her go,” he said. “She doesn’t want to work, she doesn’t want to work. She’d just complain the whole time. It’ll be easier on us if we go on without her.”

  “I guess so,” Mary said, giving up.

  “Well, I don’t want to help either, if she’s not,” Gloria said, her bottom lip stick out, her eyes appearing cold.

  Seeing Mary’s face become more downfallen, Russ said, “I’ll pitch in. My comics can wait until tonight.”

  “Thanks, Russ,” Mary said.

  Lance couldn’t help but laugh some more. “Oh, what the hell. I’ll lend a hand. Maybe the two ladies will realize they’re not too good to help.”

  “I heard that!” Abby shouted from her perch, her nose still in her book.

  “And I don’t think I’m too good,” Gloria said, looking wounded, “but it’s not far if everyone isn’t going to help.”

  Letting out a heavy sigh, Ken pointed Russ and Lance towards the nearest of the cabins.

  “All this is getting us nowhere,” he said. “You guys go check out the cabins while Mary and I go see this caretaker.”

  “Won’t they be locked?” Russ asked, nodding to the cabins.

  “Probably,” Ken said, “but we’ll get the keys.”

  “Not much for us to look at if we can’t go inside,” Lance said.

  Groaning his frustration, Ken jabbed a hand at the cabins. “Would you guys just go on? I don’t know, make sure there aren’t any snakes around the places or something.”

  Fear sprang into Gloria’s features. “Snakes?”

  “Come on, Mary,” Ken said, grabbing his girlfriend by the hand. “Let’s go find this caretaker.”

  The couple stormed off, taking the trail next to the counselors’ building.

  “Well, aren’t those two a little huffy,” Gloria said to their backs.

  Lance and Russ laughed and moved off to the cabins. Even Abby let out a snicker.

  ***

  “Idiots,” Ken said, pulling Mary along.

  “Don’t be like that,” she said, her arm extended to his as she trailed in his wake. “I’m sure all of them will help out once we get started.”

  Forging ahead on the dirt track, Ken dared a glance back at her. “Are you kidding me? They’re a bunch of screw ups. I don’t know why you even asked them to come along.”

  “They volunteered.”

  “Volunteered? Great. A bunch of losers with nothing better to do.” He faced forward again and continued on. “I don’t why the church didn’t just hire somebody to come up here. And I don’t know why they even needed to since there’s this caretaker.”

  “But we’re here to help,” Mary said, Ken not seeing her hurt look.

  “Help? How?”

  “We’re saving the church money since they didn’t have to hire somebody, and we’ll make the place nice for the kids.”

  “Yeah, whatever.”

  They slowed as they came to a clearing. The woods continued to surround the area as a small yard gave way to a pale clapboard house that looked as if it might have been white once upon a time but had faded to a grimy gray over the decades. Stained curtains hung behind windows, and a front door stood open behind a torn screen.

  “Holy jeez,” Ken said. “This place looks worse than the camp.”

  “Go knock on the door,” Mary suggested.

  He gave her a stern look, then let go of her hand and marched towards the door.

  He never made it.

  A figure loomed from within the house and an old man appeared, pushing the screen open before he stepped out onto a cracked concrete slab.

  Ken came up short and almost brought his hands up into fists. The old man’s intense gaze looked as if he held no love for the young people before him. Worse yet, the old man appeared about half crazy what with his gray hairs sticking out at all angles beneath a holey Fedora that had seen better days. Also giving evidence to his lack of sanity was the stained white shirt beneath a dusty black vest atop black pants and tied-up work boots with nearly as many cracks as appeared in the old man’s face.

  From the back, Mary let out a gasp.

  “You kids from the church?” the old man asked.

  “That’s right,” Ken said, taking a step back. Mary came up to him, taking his hand once more.

  “I guess this means your preacher ain’t giving up on the idea of opening the camp again?” the old man said.

  Mary’s voice stuttered as she said, “The pastor said he sent you a letter with details. You’re Mr. Tucker, right?”

  The man said nothing for a moment, his harsh glare flowing over the two youths, then he turned his head and spit off to one side.

  “And you’re an Isaacs girl, ain’t ya?” he said.

  Ken glanced down at Mary. “You know her?”

  “I know of her family,” Tucker said. “Been around these parts for years.”

  “I’m sorry,” Mary said, “but I don’t remember you, Mr. Tucker.”

  “Well, you’re young, and it’s been a long while since you visited, I reckon.”

  “That’s right,” Mary said. “My parents used to bring me here when I was a kid.”

  Ken huffed and threw up a hand in frustration. “This little history lesson is fine and all, but we’ve got work to do. Do you have the keys to the cabins?”

  The old man pointed back the way the two had come. “They’re in the head counselor’s office, hanging on the wall. I left the main building open for you all.”

  “Thanks.” Ken waved and turned to leave, tugging Mary along.

  “You know this place hasn’t had any overnight campers in thirty years, don’t you?” Tucker said to their backs.

  The question jerked Ken to a stop, and he pulled Mary up next to him. Looking over a shoulder, he said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  It seemed impossible, but the old man’s features grew more menacing, tight, like a skull looking out from behind a silk curtain. “It means I wouldn’t venture out at night if I was you all. These woods are a wild place. All kinds of critters and the like get up to things around here.”

  “We’ll, uh, we’ll take your advice,” Ken said.

  “And be careful with the fires,” the old man added, “especially the fires.”

  Squaring his shoulders, Ken turned to fully face Tucker. All this cryptic talk had riled the young man.

  “What’s all this about fires?” he asked.

  Tucker’s eyes widened as he stared directly into Mary’s face. “Didn’t you tell them?”

  She didn’t know how to answer, so she shook her head.

  Tucker
pointed to Ken. “It’s why the camp has remained closed.”

  “Why?”

  “Thirty years ago, there was a fire,” the old man said, pointing back toward the cabins. “There used to be a lake house. Bunch of the counselors were drinking and carrying on in their heathen ways. They started a fire in a barrel to keep warm at night, but then they got caught by one of the children who had been woken up.”

  Ken looked to Mary, more than a little fear in both their faces.

  Tucker went on. “Them counselors, they was afraid the boy would tell on them, so they tied him up and gagged him. Then they all passed out on their devil’s drink. Somehow or other the fire got out of hand, and when those drunks woke up, they forgot about the boy. Saved themselves, running into the night screaming, but they forgot about the boy..”

  “What ... what happened?” Ken asked.

  “The lake house was a loss, and the boy burned, of course,” Tucker said, spitting again. “There’s some who say he tore loose of his bindings and jumped into the lake to save himself, but the police never found out for sure. They never found a body, you see?”

  “No body?” Mary asked.

  “Nope, and some think he might still be out there, hiding out in the woods, waiting for his chance for revenge.”

  The clearing had become as still as stone, the day’s heat roasting the flesh of those standing there. Not a sound could be heard, not even the buzzing of insects or the singing of forest birds.

  Then Ken snickered. “You almost had me there, old man, trying to scare us off.”

  “I’m not trying to do any such thing,” Tucker said with heat in his voice. “I’m just letting you know why the camp has been closed. The old church kept it that way out of respect, but then you all come along and buy the place and decide to change everything. Nothing good is going to come of it, I tell you.”

  “Come on, Mary,” Ken said, turning away and pulling his girlfriend along. “We’ve got work to do.”

  Mary gave a last sorrowful glance to the old man, then she disappeared as she was pulled around the bend in the trail.

  Tucker stared in their wake for a few more moments, then he turned back to the house.

  As he neared the entrance, a large shadow moved within, causing the old man to stop just outside the door.

 
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