Short story from Candace Meredith

Horrors at Summer Camp

Candace Meredith

“It’s not a good summer camp without the scary predator lurking in the woods is it?” Janelle said as she used her fingers to crawl spider-like down her sister Daphne’s spine. 

“Wait,” she laughed, “like Jason or Freddy…”

“More like lurking in the woods rather than our dreams…”

“Okay, so Jason…”

“Yeah. Like Jason.”

Then a sudden loud scream interrupted their banter. 

“Josh!” Daphne wailed. 

“What?” He laughed uncontrollably while the girls looked for their flashlights, thankful Josh had his where they could see his face.

Summer camp wasn’t the Yogi Bear resort for teens but a real trip away from home, nestled in the woods, staying in cabins and other nights in tents, and getting a real feel for the great outdoors. Camp City was called Camp Madness by the teens who go there because the whole experience was intense. Rocky owned the camp for the past decade; he built the place for teens who didn’t live much outside of their New York style condos. They weren’t all rich but many were; their parents sent them to camp when they were at their last resort; Rocky welcomed the troubled kids and made sure they learned a little about a hard knock life and a bit about survival. The camp was without electric, cell phone service and flushing toilets; Rocky had a thing for the authentic. 

Their day began when the sun was still down and the only running water was the nearby creek. They literally had to collect water and boil it to purify its contents. The girls, Daphne and Janelle, struggled at first but then Janelle got a real thrill at night telling horror stories. 

It was the first night Daphne stayed in her sister’s cabin when Janelle entertained the idea of the predator with the chainsaw. 

There were at first taps upon the window when Daphne began to stay there. Janelle rolled over in her bunk and snarled, “go away creep.” She knew Josh was always up toying with them. As the taps grew louder still she got out of her bunk to confront him; she opened the cabin door expecting that Josh would leap from the bushes at any minute but instead her piercing scream rang through the camp and Daphne awoke with chills down her spine. 

She went out first to console her sister who she fathomed had a nightmare; Janelle used to sleep walk as a child. Daphne’s bare bottoms of her feet touched the grass and moss to find that her sister was not there. The camp lights went on - mere lanterns that sat out the doorway for late night bathroom breaks. 

The campers filed out their front doors to find out what Janelle screamed about when Josh approached Daphne. 

“What happened?” He said groggily. 

“My sister’s scream.” She was familiar with that scream. 

Rocky arrived late. He peered into each cabin to find Janelle hopefully somewhere among them. 

The camp was a place of strict confinement for troubled youth. But Josh concurred that someone went too far this time around. 

When morning broke they formed a search party that spanned the distance of the camp ground. There were bear tracks that were seen pacing the camp.

“Must have drug her away.” A camper said when Daphne began to panic. 

“Shut up.” She scolded Ricky who shrugged. 

Some of the youth were callous as troubled as they were.

Ricky was one among them who dared to be so bleak and his impatience made Daphne want to scream back at him. 

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep searching,” Josh tried to console her. 

Rocky initiated a buddy system for going outside the cabins. A night duty was up through the night in the cabin’s office and a missing person report was filed. 

A search team was organized outside of the camp after the confines of the camp were thoroughly searched and Janelle was reported as not being there. 

Daphne slept in her bunk entirely restless when her folks did not bring her home. They were hippies who were getting stoned and after the meth lab experience Daphne didn’t want to be there; she was being turned over to the custody of Social Services once the camp ended. 

The troubled youth mostly came from a troubled home. Rocky gave them a means to escape the life they were given. Boys like Josh and Ricky wanted the city but the camp gave them an alternative focus from the streets. 

Nothing out of the usual had ever occurred at the camp. 

“Can you tell us exactly what happened?” The officer asked Daphne.

“I heard her scream.” 

The idea of her sleep walking did not alarm the officers who were reported for duty and the open case made them restless as a coyote, bear or wolf could be near. 

That night without Janelle made Daphne feel restless when the tapping upon the window returned and she sat up in bed; for a cabin that sleeps six it appeared no one else heard the tapping at the window.

“Stupid bird.” Daphne assumed there was a woodpecker behind the pecking on the glass. The tapping continued and was too piercing to ignore and Daphne stepped out of her bed and tried to awaken one of the girls, “do you hear that?” 

Tessa shoved her shoulder, “no jerk.” She wasn’t fully awake. Daphne sighed and then she heard her screaming but no one was waking. 

Outside the wind whipped her face; the dry air made her feel like she was suffocating. She grasped at the base of her neck as though she had begun choking; she got down to her knees when she heard the breaking of twigs in the brush. She crawled to be back inside the cabin but she became weighted like an anvil, as if she were dragging her entire body through the muck, and she gagged. The air around her began to smell of raw sewage because she hadn’t known the scent of death and decay. 

Her sister’s scream continued still and she felt as though she were dying; as if she were being pushed into the dirt; as if the land before her would part and she would cave into the fiery pit called hell; she knew not why but she felt the eyes of a demon cutting through her and into her soul but she could not get the demon out of her. 

She choked more, trying to hold back vomit, as the stench of her sister’s rotting corpse permeated the landscape; her sister was all around her then. In the form of something demonic and gruesome. She thirsted for water as if that alone would lessen the intensity of the heat she felt.

This wasn’t Jason. It was something like a demon but this time it wasn’t all a dream; her demise wasn’t of flesh like Freddy; Daphne gasped for a breath but her lungs filled with a fluid - a substance like bile and blood that was curdled.

She didn’t know if the demon had taken her sister; she couldn’t see anything tangible but she felt it all like an all-encompassing evil; the stories in the books gave it no justice. 

She felt the skin on her back as it began to tear like knives for claws slit her skin in a smooth and rounded edge as her blood began to seep into the ground that was giving way beneath her body. The look of terror on her face was insurmountable as Josh went to her but she was feigning death as far as he could see when the air around her became more stagnant and she thought he was coming to her possibly in a dream - perhaps all she needed to do was awaken - why couldn’t Josh see her - or what did he see?

Her sister’s screams grew louder like a piercing hum from the reverberation of an old motor like metal on metal. Josh stood before her but as though he was looking through her when he parted his trench coat and from beneath the cloak was a pick ax and Rocky came to him from behind the brush; Daphne wanted to scream like her sister but this time her cries were stifled in blood and vomit. She wanted to call for help - there’s no fucking bear! She thought to herself in a mind that could be her own worst enemy. 

Could she awaken? Was it all a dream? 

Rocky took the pick ax from Josh and together they turned toward her and stopped as if by command when the force of a demonic entity seemed to enter her. 

She began to convulse and her eyes turned to a milky white when everything around her turned to a haze. Through the opaque lens in the complete blackness of night she did not become a voice; the sheer terror of hell’s inferno ablaze in her mind’s eye was the only moment of lucidity. 

The beast was the demon, or the hound of hell, she could not know the difference and her blood curdled from her mouth like a cheese in the mix of heat: the stench was putrid and Josh and Rocky were unfazed as they entered the dark night and said they would have their way again- this time the victim would be more alarming. 

“Must have been some bear.” Josh said from beside her hospital bed; but that hospital was unlike the others. She could not move from the straps that bound her to the bed and every night before sleep she heard the tapping of nails on the glass pane and the screeching cacophony of her sister screaming was beyond the nightmare. An intense scream that no one around her acknowledged. No one but her seemed to notice and so was the end of peace or life as she knew it. She was in hell.