Summer Games

Authors note: This is the short story I wrote in July that was rejected. The story had to be under 1k words ( mine is 998 ) and it needed to feature something about camping. Camping for me was a huge part of my childhood. I attended a Christian camp in Wisconsin for many years. Digging back into those memories was wonderful. Finding the scary hidden within was delicious.  

lake

The lake was black and hid many secrets. The only light offered came from the hanging moon above but it could not penetrate the lakes obsidian depths. But it did provide enough light for Brody Fitzmore to see the outline of the peer that floated silently in the distance.

Brody gulped the velvet summer night and crunched his toes deeper into the sandy shore. It was a funny thing to see the place that offered laughter, games, and splashing under the summer sun become so dark and ominously corrupted under the waxing moon.

The buckling ribs of the cicadas, the croaking of something bulbous and slimy just beyond the tall reeds, and the scratchy wool air made 12-year-old Brody, who was crowned bravest of the first-year campers, think only of the horrible hungry things within.

A voice slipped through the dark of the trees that leered behind him like great sentinels of summer.

“It’s the last night of Camp Wonder, Brody.”

The soft chattering of his fellow campers buzzed somewhere between the trees.

“That means this is the last chance  to win the Craw-Man Patch.”

Another wave of exciting chattering followed as this crucial fact fell upon Brody and his doubting thoughts.

He needed to do this. If he failed, the counselors would win the coveted patch and he would never be able to return.

Gritting his teeth, Brody took a step into the inky water. The midnight lake felt cold and treacherous. But the chattering turned into cheers, and Brody was filled with courage.

Emerging from the forest was first-time camp counselor, Ellen Roberts, his competitor. Her red one-piece swimsuit seemed to glow as Brody’s eyes quickly traced her.

“You ready,” she said softly looking down at Brody with more concern than competition.

Brody focused his eyes forward. He dare not look at her completely. If he looked at her he would be distracted. He needed to focus. This was life and death stuff.

“Little more than a hundred yards. First one back gets the patch.”

Ellen smiled at him and took a step into the water. They were side by side. Equals in the pale moonlight. All the games. All the blood, sweat, and tears led to this very moment.

Heck, the entire summer depended on this, thought Brody as he balled up his fists with determination.

“It begins when the fire starts. And remember, beware of the thing that sleeps below!” commanded the voice in the forest.

Brody and Ellen went into a running position. A few clean steps and a perfectly executed dive would be the determining factor without question.

From behind them someone was breathing, moving sticks on sticks, pouring a tin of liquid, scraping a match, and then the whoosh of fire and heat. The final camper vs counselor challenge began with a cold splash.

Brody felt he had taken a better dive but he couldn’t be sure because he did not expect the awesome darkness of the lake. His heart pounded from his arms cutting madly through the water but also from the terror that soaked his very bones.

This must be the feeling the elders talked about last night as they sat around the fire. The water was truly filled with microbial fears that bubbled up from the fathoms below.

My God, thought Brody. How deep is the lake? And what of the slimy, blind, oily things that hide amongst the forest kelp below?

Did something just grab him?

Brody kicked violently with his legs. It was probably just his imagination but it could have been the thing that sleeps below! Another layer of gooseflesh covered him as the horror-filled his mind. Must stay focused-

TTHUNK!

Brody’s head cracked against the floating wooden deck. He made it! Ellen splashed close behind him. Without even trying to clear the stars from his eyes, Brody hurled himself on top of the platform so he could dive back towards the blazing shore. The damage was done.

“Brody! Your head. Your bleeding!”

Brody turned to see Ellen lifting herself up onto the deck. She looked like how he imagined a siren to be. Flowing hair, piercing eyes, smooth skin. Then one of his eyes went dark. With the back of his hand, Brody wiped at it. More hot sticky blood plopped into the water.

Ellen gently tilted his head to the right and examed him. The blood gleamed silver under the spell of the moon as it continued to drip on the deck and fall between the planks.

“It’s not bad. Just a bad scrape,” she said softly.

They locked eyes as she pressed Brody’s hand over it.

“Kinda silly to get hurt over something like this, huh?” She said as her eyes stared out at the bonfire onshore.

“You think your too old for summer games, don’t you?” Brody said with a chord of defiance in his voice. “ You don’t believe in the thing below, do you?”

Ellen looked at Brody with silent teenage knowing.

“It’s all just silly summer camp games, Brody.”

Brody looks at Ellen with a smile. Taking his hand, he wiped the blood across his entire face as if it was warpaint.

“I hit my head on purpose,” he said with wide, unblinking eyes of madness.

“Why’d you do a thing like that?”

“To bleed.”

“Why did you want to bleed, Brody?” said Ellen nervously.

“Because it’s drawn to blood.”

Suddenly Brody started pounding on his wound. What was once a scrape turned into a cascading gash. Blood flowed freely.

Then it came – A tall shadow with cherry-red eyes and moon drenched claws that clicked and snapped behind Ellen.

Smiling Brody turned and dove back into the black water as the thing that sleeps below violently grabbed Ellen with ancient hunger.

As Brody neared the shore the sound of Ellen being ripped apart was replaced by triumphant cheering from his fellow campers. The fear that nearly conquered him was all but gone. The summer was saved.

The campers had won!

The Visitor

Note: Below you will find a rejected short horror story. The story needed to be under 600 words, feature a post-apocalyptic setting, and have a theme of love and loss. Though it was rejected I enjoyed the process. It was challenging but very rewarding. Enjoy!

The man who hated the world stared out the ash-covered window of his decaying house. Walking up to the house was a raggedy girl wearing tattered clothes. She was no more than 10 years old but she carried herself with great familiarity. The man pursed his lips in thought. 

Why is she here again?

When the seas dried up and the sun faded to an ashy smudge, a sickness fell upon humanity. It did not take long for the world to start eating itself. The rule of flesh was all for one and one for all. So the man would forever watch from the shadows of the house to make sure these murdering madmen stayed away. But sometimes they sent children. 

When the girl entered the house of ruination she did so without fear. The man, hidden in shadow, watched her with great curiosity. Careful to not make a noise, he followed as she gingerly walked up the broken staircase. That is when he saw the crude shiv in her pocket. She was surely one of the flesh-eaters.

He waited for her to reach the top of the staircase. Like she always did, she took a left and entered a room. The man gritted his teeth and followed. 

In the past, he had allowed this little girl the freedom to explore and take, but now, after seeing the knife, he had to but a stop to it. He had to kill her before she killed him. 

Before the greying of the world, he was a man of science and not a murderer of children. But was it not him who gave it to them? Thus, making him a murderer of worlds? The reminder sent a shot of anger and guilt through him as he reached the room upstairs. 

He waited and listened carefully. Was she…crying? 

Of course, thought the man. This little beast was well trained. She knew he was there. This was a trap. The man shifted his view so that he could peer through the crack of the door in hopes of seeing the would-be assassin. She wasn’t hiding. She was sitting Indian style in the middle of the floor, crying and holding something.

He should go inside and strangle her. That’s what he should do. Just get it over with. But, his old-world self could not find the strength to act. But why?

Her crying. It reminded him of what was and what could never be. The floorboards groaned as the weight of this thought made him shift with unease. 

The girl stood up and looked back at the door. The man froze as he saw her dirty and tear-streaked face. 

“Hello?” called out the girl. 

Silence fell between them. The man dare not move. 

“Are you there?” said the girl again. 

A voice from downstairs interrupted.

“Rose, time to go!”

Before the man could move, the girl named Rose opened the door and walked through him. 

Turning, she looked briefly towards the man. Her eyes searching.  

The man, perplexed, watched her leave before turning to the room. It was a child’s bedroom.

His eyes moved to a moth-eaten mattress where a skeleton lay holding a rusted gun. The man’s eyes fell to where the child was crying. On the floor was a picture of him holding the girl called Rose in a field of summer dandelions. 

Suddenly, he remembered the good: the smell of spring rain, the sounds of summer, the goodnight butterfly kisses. 

But then he remembered the betrayal,  the bullet, the loneliness. And suddenly the ghost of the man hated everything once again.  

The Phantom Neighbor

I am currently the only resident in my 3 unit apartment. For the last two nights someone has been trying to open my apartment door.

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I never investigate it. But I know it’s real because as I write this my door knob is slowly shaking. I can hear the groaning of the wooden entry door as if someone is pushing against it.

I’m sitting on my couch. I have a stupid pocket knife from 5 Below in my hand as I watch my door being tried. I’m careful not to make any noise.

The world is a mad, mad place. Some people kill for money or drugs. And some people kill for the hell of it. Whoever was fucking with me obviously fit amongst these types of people. But I sure as hell wasn’t going out without a fight. That is if the the door was breached. It wasn’t. Thank God. All I need to do is keep absolutely silent.

And that’s when my phone started to ring…