Bible camp, p.3
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       Bible Camp, p.3

           Ty Johnston
 
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Only Mary continued to look displeased. “Should she be alone out in the woods?”

  “Let her go,” Gloria said. “Serves her right to be alone for the way she’s been acting.”

  “Ken?” Mary looked to her boyfriend, who only said, “Let’s just eat.”

  ***

  Tucking her book under an arm, Abby continued to go deeper and deeper into the woods, grumbling as she went, the burning oil lamp held before her.

  Once the voices of her friends faded, she paused, letting out a sigh while she dug the crumpled remains of the joint from a pocket. Popping the bent wrapping into her mouth, she flipped open the oil lamp and leaned into it, puffing as she lit the end of the joint with the tiny flame. A second later she was inhaling and giggling.

  “Bible idiots,” she said to herself with a disdainful look over a shoulder.

  She found she could not only not hear her friends, but she could also no longer see the glow from their cooking fire.

  “Fine,” she said under her breath, then turned and continued to walk further into the woods.

  To her left the forest continued to grow thick and heavy, practically none of the starlight nor the moon having a chance to shine through. But on her right only a thin row of tall weeds separated her from the brightness of the lake, the moon high above revealed in duplicate upon the jouncing waters. Of sound, there was little, only the lapping of the waters. The woods were dead silent, not even the night bugs chirping.

  Abby ignored all of this as she continued on her way. Thoughts of the scenery were far from her mind.

  Which was why she barely registered the hulking figure that appeared from the shadows only a few feet ahead of her.

  One moment she was walking along alone, and the next this monstrous form stepped out of the darkness, Abby’s lamp revealing the ends of tattered jeans and worn leather boots.

  She gasped and halted, then tried to lift the lamp to see who was there.

  She never got the chance.

  A swishing noise sounded, followed by a thunk, and Abby gasped again, then gurgled. She dropped her lamp, the glass shattering but the small fire still burning, then she herself dropped next to the flame, her book plopping down into weeds next to her.

  Before a heavy boot came forward to stamp out the light, the glow of the flames showed the silver of a hatchet buried in the young woman’s forehead, a thin stream of crimson curling down to drip onto the forest’s floor.

  ***

  “We should have said a prayer before we ate,” Mary said, sulking with chin in hand as she stared across a table to where Lance and Ken held a chugging contest, pretending their sodas were beer.

  No one seemed to pay her any mind, and a moment later the two guys slammed their empty aluminum cans down onto the picnic table.

  Then each of them burped.

  Lance let out a chuckle. “It’s a tie! You want to try again?”

  Ken rubbed at his stomach while his mouth formed into a distraught twist. “I don’t know, man. I think three is enough for me.”

  “Then I win!” Lance shouted, jumping up from the table with his arms high overhead.

  Ken didn’t look pleased with the turn of things. “Now wait a minute. You didn’t win.” He stood as if to reproach his friend.

  It was then Russ came forward from the shadows, a dark flashlight in one hand.

  “You guys,” he said, “Abby has been gone for a long while. Think one of us should go check on her?”

  “You’re welcome to it, fat boy,” Lance said with another laugh.

  Keen seemed to lose interest in Lance’s gloatings, so he sat again across from Mary. “Yeah, you go and heck on her, Russ.”

  “Mary?” the big guy said. “What do you think?”

  “Somebody should check on her,” she said.

  Russ turned to Gloria, as always, sulking by herself at the next table.

  “You want to come with me?” he asked.

  “Me?” she said.

  Russ’s lips quivered as he glanced over into the woods. “Well, yeah. We should probably stick together, you know, so nobody else gets lost.”

  Gloria snorted. “I doubt little miss dark-and-brooding is lost. If you’re worried about her, you go check on her.”

  Looking to the rest of his companions, Russ saw no one else appeared interested in going with him, not even Mary.

  “Mary?” he said.

  “You’ll be all right,” she said with a nod to the woods. “I’m sure she hasn’t gone far. Probably just reading her book.”

  “Yeah, that’s right,” Russ said, forcing a smile. “She’s probably just reading her book.”

  With those words, he turned away from his friends, flicked on the flashlight and took tentative steps towards the dark of the forest.

  ***

  Russ hadn’t gone far into the woods when his flashlight began to blink out.

  “Piece of crap,” he said, batting at the end of the plastic light.

  The light flashed again, then off and back on several times before leveling out and remaining on.

  Russ squinted through the gloom and let the flashlight lead the way as he continued forward.

  After traveling a couple of minutes, he could no longer hear his friends back at the camp, but he also hadn’t run across Abby.

  Still, he continued forward.

  Until his light went on the fritz again.

  Cursing, Russ shook the flashlight, but with no luck. The bulb simply would not come back on.

  Cursing again, he called out, “Abby? You there?”

  There was no response.

  “Hey, my light has gone out,” he said to the darkness. “If you’re there, I could use some help.”

  Still, there was no answer. Yet he thought he caught a whiff of smoke upon the air.

  “Abby, I know you’re there,” he said, his voice a little angry. “I can smell you smoking pot.”

  It was then the sound of something crunching through the forest ahead came to his ears.

  “Abby?”

  Yet again, there was no response.

  “Stop fooling around,” Russ said, nervously shaking his flashlight once more.

  The sounds of movement drew nearer, louder. It sounded as if Abby were walking heavy or had put on a lot of weight.

  Still shaking his flashlight, Russ spouted, “This isn’t funny, okay? You don’t have to --”

  The flashlight flicked on.

  At Russ’s feet was Abby’s head. A splintered crack of red gore nearly split her skull. The rest of the body was not to be found.

  He pissed himself.

  Then turned and ran.

  ***

  “We really should have brought some beer,” Lance said, draining another can of pop.

  Across from him at a picnic table, Mary squinted her dislike for the topic while Gloria shrugged and pulled another drink from the cooler next to her feet.

  “Yeah, it would have been good,” Ken said, roasting another hot dog on a stick, “but I didn’t want to chance it since not everybody is old enough.”

  Lance looked surprised. “Who isn’t old enough?”

  Gloria snorted. “Russ, for one.”

  “Russ?” Lance asked.

  “And Abby,” Gloria added.

  Lance brought forth more laughs. “Hell, no wonder those two aren’t any fun.”

  “I’m not twenty-one yet,” Mary said. “I won’t be for another few months.”

  Lance chuckled again and stood, walking towards Ken. “That explains a lot.”

  “Hey, watch it,” Ken said, his gaze steady at his pal. “That’s my girlfriend you’re talking about.”

  “I know, I know,” Lance said. He looked to Mary. “Sorry, girl. I just call them as I see them.”

  “Yeah, well, okay.” Mary shrugged.

  Gloria was about to interject her own words, when a crackling noise came from the woods, a sound like someone walking. All heads turned in that direction.

  “Russ, that you?”
Lance called out. “Abby?”

  “Shush.” Ken gestured for his friend to be quiet.

  “What’s your problem?” Lance asked.

  “There’s no light,” Ken pointed out. “Russ had a flashlight, and Abby had a lamp.”

  “Good point,” Lance said. He leaned down and picked up a hefty branch fallen from a tree, then he stood. “If it’s somebody trying to be freaky, I’ll let them have it.”

  “Don’t hurt anyone,” Mary said. “It might only be Mr. Tucker.”

  Ken didn’t look overjoyed. “That old man gave me the creeps.”

  The sound came again from the forest, and Lance stepped forward hefting his makeshift club over his shoulders.

  Ken picked up a flashlight from the table and brought it up, shining it in the direction of the noise.

  For a moment there was nothing to be seen in the light, but then some branches shook and into view stepped Russ, his eyes glazed, almost crossed, his arms dragging, his legs barely moving.

  Lance lowered his club. “Russ, you okay, buddy? Did you find Abby?”

  Russ didn’t say anything. He just stood there staring straight ahead, his knees slightly bent as if weak.

  “Russ?” Mary asked.

  “I don’t know, guys,” Russ finally said, his words soft, barely more than a whisper. “I ... I think I had an accident.”

  He dropped forward, face-down in the dirt. Ken’s light revealed a hatchet protruding from the back of Russ’s skull.

  Everybody screamed. Lance dropped his stick and jumped back, almost bouncing into Ken, also rushing away from their dead pal. The girls kept screaming.

  After a moment, Ken seemed to get a hold of himself. “Everybody, shut up!”

  The girls stopped their screaming, but they continued to sniffle as they moved towards the boys.

  “Holy fuck,” Lance said, his breathing coming hard. “What are we going to do?”

  Ken took charge. He looked around the clearing, flashing his light. When nothing untoward presented itself, he turned to Lance.

  “We get the hell out of here is what we do,” he said, reaching inside his pocket. “I’ve got the keys to the Explorer. Let’s go.”

  Before he could move to the trail back up to the cabins and the vehicles, Gloria asked, “Where are we going to go?”

  “And what about Russ and Abby?” Mary said.

  Ken paused, looking back at his friends. “We’ll go straight to the police. I saw a state troopers’ office just as we got off the highway.”

  “Man, that’s thirty miles away,” Lance said, shaking his head.

  Ken lost his cool. “That’s all I know to do. Our phones are out, so we’ve got to do something, and the longer we stand around here in the dark the better our chances are of being picked off by this psycho.”

  Ken grabbed Mary by a hand and pulled her along as he trudged up the incline leading to the vehicles.

  “Psycho?” Gloria asked, following after the other two, Lance right behind.

  “Who else could it be?” Ken said, huffing slightly from the gentle climb. “Probably that Tucker guy. He looked like a serial killer to me. Probably has bodies all over these woods. No wonder nobody has camped here in years.”

  “But Russ?” Gloria asked from behind.

  “And Abby?” Mary added.

  “There’s nothing we can do for them now,” Russ said, still moving. “We’ll have to let the cops deal with that.”

  “Maybe Abby is okay,” Mary said.

  “I kind of doubt that,” Lance said.

  “Doesn’t matter.” Ken brought them out of the woods and off the trail into the area between the cabins and next to the vehicles. “We’ve got to think of ourselves first. If Abby is still out there, her best chance is for us to get the cops.”

  “Then let’s get the hell out of here,” Gloria said.

  They ran forward, separating into two groups, Gloria and Lance on the passenger side of the Explorer, Mary and Ken on the other side.

  Handing off his flashlight to Mary, Ken lifted the keys, inserting one into the lock.

  Then he caught himself.

  “Wait,” he said.

  “What?” Lance said.

  “For God’s sake, get us out of here,” Gloria nearly screamed.

  Ken pulled out the keys and looked to the others. “I forgot something.”

  “What the hell is it?” Lance asked.

  “Come on.” Ken turned and sprinted towards the counselors’ cabin.

  “Crap!” Lance took off after him, the girls right behind.

  At the entrance, Ken paused only long enough to throw the door open and to reach inside and flip on a light switch. A ceiling lamp revealed a comfortable front room, a thick rug on the floor, comfy furniture made of logs and covered with plenty of pillows, an old television on a stand against one wall, and Ken and Mary’s packs resting atop a couch next to another door.

  Ken shot across the room to the packs.

  Right behind him, Lance and Mary and Gloria entered the room.

  “What are you looking for that’s so important?” Gloria asked.

  “This.” Ken pulled a hand from his pack to hold up a large, silvered pistol.

  “Holy jeez, man, where did you get that?” Lance asked.

  “And why did you bring it with you?” Gloria asked.

  Ken shrugged. “I always take it with me on trips. My dad gave it to me when I was a teenager.” He flipped off the safety and pulled on the slide, jacking in a round.

  Lance laughed, but it lacked humor. “At least I’m glad you’ve got it.”

  “Okay, okay,” Gloria said, near frantic, “but now can we get out of here?”

  For some while, Mary had been quiet, but now she spoke up. “What about Mr. Tucker?”

  “What about him?” Ken asked. “He’s probably the one who killed Russ, and probably Abby, too.”

  “We don’t know that,” Mary said. “He might be up there alone. Or he might be hurt. Or maybe he even has a phone. We didn’t think to ask.”

  “She’s got a point,” Lance said. “There might be a land line.”

  “No.” Gloria stamped a foot on the wood floor.”No, no, no. We get the hell out of here and we do it now. We don’t stop for anything.”

  “I think she’s right, guys,” Ken said, passing his friends and approaching the still open front door. “We’ve got to think of ourselves first.”

  He turned to exit, the pistol up before him.

  A heavy, meaty noise sounded and he stopped, swaying on his feet.

  “Ken?” Mary asked.

  Slowly, as if it took all his energy, Ken turned around. An axe head had been struck into his stomach, the handle sticking out to one side. Blood poured down and intestines bulged where the thick steel had been imbedded through flesh.

  For the longest moment, Ken could only look down at his wound. Everyone else seemed frozen by the sight. Then slowly, gradually, he looked up, his gaze a mixture of fear and confusion.

  “Mary?” he said.

  Then he collapsed, the gun and axe crunching beneath him.

  Gloria and Mary shrieked, cringing away while Lance stood like a stone, his jaw hanging.

  The steady drum of footsteps came to their ears from outside.

  Lance blinked and spun to the girls. “Out the back!” He pointed to the inner door next to the couch.

  “The gun!” Gloria pointed to Ken’s body.

  Lance glanced toward his dead friend between him and the open door and took a step in that direction, then a shadow loomed outside.

  “Screw that! Let’s go!” He ushered the girls towards the back door.

  The three piled out the back of the building, finding themselves knee deep in grass and weeds, the moon and the flashlight in Mary’s hands showing a dirt path off to their left.

  Gloria grabbed Lance by an arm. “The keys! The keys to the cars.”

  Slamming the door closed behind them, he took the flashlight from Mary. “Scre
w that. I’m not going back in there.”

  Footsteps once more sounded, this time from inside the cabin. Each step was slow, steady and heavy, pounding at their ears and at their hearts.

  Gloria became more frantic, nearly clawing at her checks with her fingernails. “What are we going to do?”

  “Mr. Tucker’s,” Mary said, pointing to the dirt path. “It’s our only choice.”

  “She’s right,” Lance said, grabbing Mary by a hand as he lead the way towards the trail.

  When Gloria didn’t follow, the pair stopped and looked back at her. She stood there running her hands through her hair, her eyes wide and full of tears and fright. It was obvious Gloria had reached her breaking point, that she could run no more, that it was beyond her.

  The cabin footsteps were louder, just the other side of the door.

  “Come on,” Lance said to Gloria with a wave of his flashlight.

  “We’ve got to get the keys,” Gloria said, her voice dulled. “It’s the only way.”

  “Are you out of your mind?” Lance asked.

  But Gloria never got the chance to answer. The back door burst open, nearly broken from its hinges, and a dark form seemingly the size of a bear sprang forth, wrapping long, muscled arms around Gloria, enveloping her as she screamed, and pulling her back into the cabin’s darkness.

  Lance and Mary did not wait around. They turned and took off as fast as they could up the path, though they hesitated when they heard a last, pain-filled cry come from the counselors’ cabin.

  “Poor Gloria,” Mary said, weeping.

  Lance didn’t allow time for further crying. He tugged her along and the two of them charged forward across packed earth.

  Breathing heavy from all their exertion, they came out of the woods in front of the ramshackle home of Mr. Tucker, as before the front door open behind a screen.

  “Is this it?” Lance asked with a glance.

  Mary only nodded, then they ran forward.

  Stopping outside the entrance, Lance used the flashlight to bang away at the wooden frame around the screen door. “Mr. Tucker! Are you there?”

  The sound of the forest at night was the only answer, the muted cackle of distant birds, insects chittering away beneath the underbrush.

  Lance hit the door again. “Is there anybody in there?”

  Still, no response.

  Lance looked to Mary, both of them shaking and nervous.

  “What do you think?” he asked.

  “I ... I don’t know,” she said. “I’m afraid to look.”

  “I know what you mean,” he said, “but even if something has happened to him, we’ve got to look. Maybe there’s a phone, or even a gun. All these old guys have shotguns or hunting rifles, don’t they?”

 
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