I popped the top off of 3 cold beers and closed the lid to the ice chest. This was my favorite part of every summer. We worked hard all year in school, and it was time for our annual camp-out to begin. It was special this time though. We were seniors now and no matter how much we tried to act like we could keep the tradition alive, I think we all knew this was the last time we would be doing this. Jimmy was choking hard after taking a huge hit from the bong and I walked up right in time.
“Here man, wash it down with this.”
I handed him a brew and passed the other to Mike before taking my seat on the other side of the crackling fire. I took a sip and exhaled deeply while looking around the fire at my friends.
“What is it Aaron, looking for this?” Jimmy smiled as he held up the bong towards me.
“Nah man, it is just… This is it you know? Time for a whole new chapter. You are going to the State University, Mike is leaving for one 2 states over, and I will be here at the local community college.” I took another sip and stared into burning fire, feeling a bit down after putting it all into words.
Mike noticed the somber tone in my words and chimed in. “Well, why don’t we tell some ghost stories for old times’ sake? That’s always been one of our favorite traditions, and we’re right here around the campfire! Ready and in position. I know one of you guys has a good one to start, Jimmy?”
Jimmy sat the bong down and took a long drink from his beer. He looked pensively toward the fire. “Nah man, why don’t one of you guys go first… I’ll sit on it for a minute.”
His reaction struck me as strange, he seemed so serious and withdrawn with the topic. Usually, he was all for rattling stories off left and right. He once swore that it was a ghost who moved the ketchup bottle in his refrigerator and would hear nothing of our claims that it was definitely just a family member.
I decided that I would start to show them that I wasn’t so down in the dumps as they might have thought. “No problem, I think I got a pretty good one. The other night, I woke up to take a leak. I was walking down the hallway when I heard a loud thump from the other room. I stopped in my tracks and when I did a cold chill surrounded me. I totally freaked out and ran back to my room without even going to the bathroom.
Mike laughed and responded to this story. “Oh, come on Aaron, that noise could have been anything. It was probably your cat, and you know that there is an air vent in that hallway. I’m pretty sure that summertime in Texas y’all had the AC on.”
“Alright, alright. I’m not gonna lie I thought of all that the next morning, but it scared me like crazy that night and one of us had to get these stories started right?” I chuckled and then shot a challenge back at Mike.
“Why don’t you go next? Since you are such a hard to please skeptic tonight.”
Mike replied snidely to this with an upturned nose and holding his pinky out off the side of his beer. “Gladly, peasant.”
I motioned a quick jerk with my free hand and responded sarcastically. “Oh please, bless us with your incredible stories.”
“Alright, so a few weeks ago I was at the gym late one night. There was hardly anyone there and when I made it to the locker room it was completely empty. I went to take a quick shower and then heard the water cut on in the stall a few doors down from me.
I thought it was weird but still finished up my shower. On my way back to the lockers I looked under the bottom of the door while walking by. I couldn’t see anybody’s feet, there was nobody there at all. I was so freaked out, I hurried up and got dressed and left. I didn’t see another person in the locker room the whole time!”
Now I was the one who was laughing before coming back with a quick-witted response. “Dude, you know that someone was probably just turning the water on so it would get hot right? Even if you didn’t see them, they probably just went into the other room to use the toilet or something. That story was WEAK!”
Mike looked a little shocked by my statement at first, but then just laughed it off and took a swig of his beer. “Yeah, I guess I didn’t think about that. You are probably right. What about you Jimmy?”
Jimmy had been oddly introspective for the entirety of both of our stories. Just kind of zoned out and appearing to be lost in thought. I spoke up as well, hoping to break his trance-like state.
“Yeah man, why are you being so quiet over there? You are usually all into this part of the campout.”
Jimmy seemed to snap out of it and tried to play it off like nothing was bothering him.
“Oh yeah, sorry. I was listening, I have just kind of had a bunch of pretty crazy ones this past year. I’m ready to go though, if you guys don’t have anymore?”
Mike responded before I could get anything out. “Oh, you’re really hypin’ it up this year. You must have a good one for us. Come on then, let’s hear it.”
“Ok, well I’m not really sure where to start. When I would be laying down to go to sleep, I would hear footsteps in the hallway. You guys know it is just me and my parents and it is not like them to be on that side of the house at night.
I would call out and sometimes even be brave enough to go look, but there was nothing. Just footsteps, and a few times there would be a loud bang afterward on my door or my wall.
The lights would flicker sometimes, no matter how new the light bulb was. I would change them out just to test it. The creepiest of all though was when I would hear whispers right in my ear.
Sometimes it would be my name or something I couldn’t understand. Other times it would say some evil disgusting things I don’t even want to repeat.”
He sat back and looked at our shocked faces before adding one last thing.
“I don’t know if this is related at all, but I have been having the same dream like every night. There is a face, right in front of mine. Like they are on top of me in my bed and just staring at me from an inch away.
They don’t blink or move, and the dream lasts like that for the entire night. It almost reminds me of when I used to get sleep paralysis from time to time. Only this is something extremely weird and different.”
I tried to gather myself and not leave my jaw completely dropped as it had been. I was the first to say something after his stories that stunned both Mike and me.
“Holy shit dude, are you being serious right now? I don’t even know what to say to all of that. I probably would have pissed my pants if any one of those things had happened to me.”
Mike expressed his shock as well. “Yeah, man. Wow. I had no idea you had been having all that stuff happen. Why didn’t you ever say anything at school?”
Jimmy shook his head and answered. “It’s just, it’s kind of weird you know? Not the usual offhanded topic. Didn’t want people thinking I was going crazy or something.”
He shoved the bong into Mike’s chest and laughed in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“Here bro, I wasn’t trying to kill the mood or anything. We got a long night of partyin’ ahead of us. Aaron do you still got that chill playlist on your phone?”
I took it out and unlocked it but saw the 2 words that I dreaded I might.
“No service, crap.” I shoved it back in my pocket and turned to Mike as I found it to be my turn in the rotation.
Mike was coughing but managed to respond to this. “I have one downloaded on mine, I thought that might happen out here.”
The music came on and we were back to talking about the school year, girls, and many other things spanning all the way back to middle school when we all first met. It was an incredible time that none of us would ever forget and before we knew it the flames began to die down along with our stash of “party favors” for the evening.
I was the first to admit defeat, as I usually was and told them all that I was going to head into the tent. They gave me the usual breaking of the balls but were not too far behind in joining me once I crashed. I was out as soon as my face hit the pillow, wrapped tight in my sleeping bag.
I woke up to a loud screeching howl. A guttural and animalistic bellowing, that sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Mike was up in his sleeping bag as well, and between us lay the empty sleeping bag of Jimmy.
I looked at him in terror. “Shit man, Jimmy is out there. What if he went to take a piss and whatever is out there is about to get him?”
Mike was frantically rummaging in his bag and pulled out a large hunting knife along with a couple of flashlights. He handed me one of them and hopped up out of his bag.
“We won’t have much time if that’s the case. Follow me, dude, hopefully with two of us running up on it the thing will just run away.”
My heart was pounding out of my chest, but I nodded to him and followed right behind. There was no way around it, we had to find our friend.
We stepped outside of the tent and only heard the wind rustling through the trees. The campfire had declined to nothing more than an ashen pile of embers. The only light within the complete darkness of the woods were our two flashlights skimming through the trees.
Mike called out, “Jimmy! Where are you at? We got your back, just get away from whatever that thing is now!”
We walked a bit further from the campsite towards where we heard the terrible sounds coming from. That is when our flashlights came across something that I will never be able to forget.
It was Jimmy, but he wasn’t right. His eyes were rolled back into his head and his face was drained of all color. He appeared to be shaking violently and after just a moment of being in our gaze he cocked his head back and let out a violent shriek.
It was the same noise we heard from the tent, there was no doubt about that. It made no sense that such a sound could come from a human being, but I saw it with my own eyes. As my blood ran cold with fear Jimmy dashed to the side away from the light of our flashlights at an inhuman speed.
“Oh my God dude, what in the world is wrong with him. What are we going to do?” I whispered in a panicked and wavering tone to Mike.
He responded trying to sound confident, but still obviously shaken by what we had just seen.
“I don’t know man, I mean. We may have to do whatever is necessary if he comes at us all crazy like that. I don’t want to, but you saw him, man, I know you just saw that.”
He held the knife in his hand ready to strike as we moved into a back-to-back position and continued scanning the woods for any sign of Jimmy. I made another comment that was as full of fear and uncertainty as the first.
“You can’t do that man. He is obviously sick or something. We have to get him help. Maybe we can just take him down and tie him up or something?”
Mike seemed offended by the statement and shot back quickly.
“Sick? Fucking sick? Really? Did that look like Jimmy was sick to you? Because if it did, I am starting to wonder if you are sick.”
We heard some branches crack over to the left of us and both turned to see what it was. We directed our flashlights and scanned the area but saw nothing. That is when we heard from behind us a voice that belongs nowhere but in the nightmares of the criminally insane.
It was a voice that spoke with 2 voices. One shrill and high pitched that had the screeching effect of metal against metal, rattling the eardrums. The other was the most deep and demonic sounding voice that I have ever heard or will ever hear again. It vibrated my very bones and seemed to shake the ground beneath my feet, though it could have also been my trembling body playing tricks on me.
“We have taken your friend, we will use him for whatever we wish until he is of no more use to us. We will be coming for you next. There is nowhere to hide.”
After this warning, the thing that used to be Jimmy let out another ear-shattering howl and took off into the night. We stood there in awe for a bit and trying to wrap our minds around what we had just witnessed.
When I was sure enough that we were alone, I grabbed some wood from beside the fire pit and stoked the flames back into full life. There was no way that I was about to fall back asleep, and there was absolutely no way that I was walking through these woods at night with whatever had taken over Jimmy possibly lurking in the darkness.
It seemed that Mike had the same idea as he took a seat across from me by the fire. He put his hands on his head and just kind of sat there reeling from the night’s events. We sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Adding sticks and logs to the fire to ensure that we had enough light for our surroundings.
When morning came, we packed our things as well as Jimmy’s and started to make our way out of the woods. As soon as one of us could get a signal we would have to call the cops, our parents, and Jimmy’s parents to tell them what we had seen. We decided on that while packing up. Mike was not so sure at first, afraid of what people might think or what they would do to us. I convinced him though that if we were honest there were far more positives than if we decided to lie.
The police did not believe our stories for a second, and our parents tried to be supportive, but we could see in their eyes that they felt the same. Jimmy’s parents were devastated for obvious reasons and we did our best to assure them that we would be able to find him. He had to be in those woods somewhere, right? Although, I felt that they might have seen through to our disbelief the same way that we had seen through our parents.
The police found beer bottles and some traces of marijuana. That was all they needed to mark this one off as some kids getting all high and crazy in the woods. It completely discredited anything that we were trying to tell them about what actually happened. Our parents were very disappointed as well and everyone started to think that he must have wandered off after getting too messed up and gotten lost.
The search went on for weeks. Jimmy’s parents put up fliers, went with the police to comb the woods for as long as they would let them, and called all his friends who they thought he might have been staying with for one reason or another. After a while we all just kind of kept going on without Jimmy. We all kept operating through our mundane tasks with a hole in our heart, with one of us gone missing.
I have heard that these things never really go away, they just kind of stay there buried deep within you until something brings it back into your mind and it is like you are reliving it all over again. I can agree that it is kind of like that. Jimmy was like a brother to Mike and me. We had always done everything together. Sleepovers, sports, we even all took our dates to the school dances together. Things will never be the same without him.
The only thing harder than losing Jimmy is having to always have in the back of our minds the last words we heard him say. That the thing that had taken over him, whatever it was, was coming for both of us. We live in constant fear of what may happen when the thing is done with him.
I am beginning to fear that my time is coming much sooner than I had anticipated. Every night this week I have heard that same howl that we saw coming from out of Jimmy’s mouth. That terrible shrieking howl. As I write this in fact, I can hear the howl approaching. It is coming closer than it has any of the other nights that I have heard it. I’m afraid I won’t be able to give any more details at this time. I am going to go and call Mike. He needs to know that after tonight he must stay away from me. He needs to know that Jimmy’s time might be coming to an end and that I am next.