Leaves made their way down from the tall trees as fall was setting in. Santa Barbara was evolving into everyone’s favorite season. Fall. It was a perfect night for camping out, but it was too good to be true, and something just had to go wrong. And of course, it did.
As part of a last-minute decision, the five college grads rolled up to the campsite in the mud-splattered truck. Jake, Caleb, Tim, Mike, and Oliver trudged out of the truck after a long graduation day and pulled their equipment out of the bed of the truck, barely opening their eyes. While unloading their equipment, a light breeze came in and cooled down the 80-degree weather. Their drooping eyelids vanished as soon as Mike blew an air horn at the boys.
“Cut it out, will you,” Tim groaned.
“Come on, guys, this is going to be a fun night.”
“I have to say, guys, this is a pretty shady place you picked, Caleb,” admitted Mike.
“It’s going to be fine, you big baby,” teased Caleb.
Mike defended himself, “Whatever”
As the boys were finding their way to a good place to put their tents up, the wind picked up, but not too much, just enough.
“This is good,” Tim said as he fell to the ground panting.
“We were only walking for two miles, toughen up a little,” Jake said with a grin reaching the trees above.
Oliver whispered under his breath,“Athletic geek,”
They carried on putting their tents up and sleeping bags out. Oliver went out and got some wood for a fire. Tim peeked his phone out of his pocket.
“That reminds me, Tim. Hand over your phones. All of you, this is going to be a no phone night,” grinned Mike.
Mike tossed all the phones into a bag and threw it into his tent.
Oliver came back with wood. The boys made a fire with quite a struggle. After 20 minutes they were all seated around the fire sharing laughs. Their laughs and giggles danced up into the air. As the stars came up, shining their bright light, the boys were still laughing and talking away.
“Remember that time when you d-,” said Tim.
“Oh, I remember that that was so funny!” said Caleb.
As their laughs floated up into the cool air and faded, a rustle in the distance was ignored by the boys. A shadow appeared in the distance, and in no time there was a little girl standing right behind Caleb. The blonde little girl was wearing a purple nightgown and holding a polka dot blanket in her hand. Jake, Tim, Mike, and Oliver stared in horror at Caleb. The eerie silence filled the air. A bone chilling feeling crept down the boy’s back.
“D-do you s-see h-her too?” Mike stuttered.
“I see her.”
Caleb put his s'more down. He slowly turned. Meeting the girl’s deep eyes, he froze. Everyone’s silence was as loud as the air horn that got blown just hours before.
“Oh my god,” Caleb said in horror.
“I think she’s sleep walking, you guys,” said Tim.
“Hey little girl, where are your parents?” Caleb asked her.
She pointed straight out into the woods.
“Oh, my…” Oliver said.
The little girl woke up frightened by the boy’s loud whispers. Surrounded by men, she started crying. Caleb calmed her down. The little girl’s cries echoed through the woods. Caleb fetched his headlight from his tent.
“I'm going to go look for her family. you guys stay here.” said Caleb.
“Okay, be safe, man,” warned Mike.
Caleb walked off into the woods. Branches snapped as the wind howled around. Caleb noticed a pale, blank look on the little girl’s face.
“What’s your name, sweetie?” Caleb asked.
There was no answer from the little girl. Caleb continued to search for a trailer or lights. The woods became completely silent. Caleb froze in his tracks. It was too silent. Caleb swished around and she was gone. No trace. Nothing. Two little footprints, and that’s it.
“Hello?” Caleb yelled. ‘Helloooo?“
A branch snapped. He whipped around. Nothing. Just the woods closing in on him. Whispering and laughing at him. At that very moment, he wanted to disappear from all of this.
“If you guys are out here playing a prank on me I swear-,”
Caleb felt eyes staring at him. He turned around. There she was. A pale, deceiving face just staring at him.
“Ok, let's go,” said Caleb.
Her cold ice blue eyes stared into his soul. He turned and started walking. Something is very wrong about her. He thought. Maybe she’s-
“Possessed,” the little girl interrupted Caleb’s thoughts.
He turned and faced her. What felt like years they stared at each other. Caleb followed his instincts and ran. He ran as fast as he possibly could. After a few minutes, he looked behind him. She was gone. Devils aren’t real, Caleb. they can’t be. It’s impossible that she’s….possessed-
Oh no it isn’t. The little girl’s voice echoed through his head. A small, but powerful high pitched whisper. Just remember, Caleb. You’re never alone. Not anymore.
Caleb couldn’t believe it. He spun around and there she was. She ran behind a tree and disappeared. Your mind is playing with you, Caleb, this is all just your mind tricking you. Just breathe.
“Hate to break it to you, but this is all real. No tricks.” The girl smirked.
He ran. He ran and looked for something. Anything. Lights, voices, trailers. He couldn't get the vivid image of the ruffled night gown that little girl was wearing out of his head.
Back at the campground, the boys paced. They paced back and forth. Caleb had been gone for hours. It was pitch dark outside, the stars giving only a little light. The boys were getting anxious. There were howls in the distance.
“I’m really worried, you guys,” Tim continued. “What if…” Tim’s mind wandered onto a dark side.
“Don’t say that, man,” Mike said anxiously.
Jake and Oliver stayed dead quiet, leaving the wind to do all the talking.
Meanwhile, back in the woods, Caleb was still searching. Trudging through the woods. Branches snapping as his feet pounded the cold, hard dirt. The trees whipped by him. Making everything blurry. Each step Caleb took, he shivered. He shivered with the thought of that girl. He thought, What if I never make it out of here? He heard voices. Friendly voices. There was light. He ran as fast as he could, the voices getting louder and the light becoming brighter. When he reached it, he made out a trailer in the dark. Heavily breathing and panting, he took a few minutes to catch his breath. The door of the trailer creaked open. There was a woman with blonde hair and crystal blue eyes peeking out.
“OH MY GOD!” the woman screamed. “I thought I'd never see you again, sweetie!”
Caleb spun around and saw the little girl in purple, with the most innocent face he had ever seen. Caleb backed away from her.
“Mommy!” the little girl screeched.
“Sweetie!” The lady lathered her with hugs and kisses. “Thank you so much for bringing her home,” the lady thanked Caleb.
“Excuse me, ma’am, I am a little lost.”
“Oh, sweetie!” said the woman. “Come on in, it’s getting cold out.”
“Oh, why, thank you.” Caleb stumbled into the trailer to find a tall, bearded man with broad shoulders.
The woman locked the door behind her and slipped the key into her pocket. The trailer smelled of chemicals and something rotten.
“Oh, how rude of me,” exclaimed the woman. “My name is Barbara, and this is my husband, Marcus. Thank you so much for bringing Cassandra home.”
“Not a problem.”
There was a long, uncomfortable silence between the four. Barbara poured some tea into a mug and handed it to Caleb. Caleb, feeling extremely uncomfortable, with the couple’s faces very close to his, backed away.
Meanwhile, back at the campground, things weren’t going too well.
“That’s it!” shouted Mike. “I’m going to go look for Caleb. The doof has been gone long enough. You guys can follow me, or stay.”
The rest of the boys, except Oliver, stood up. Oliver hesitated a bit, sighed, and stood. They ran through the dark, threatening woods, looking for anything that had a silhouette other than a tree. Finally, they stumbled upon a trailer with four shadows inside.
“I should go,” Caleb said, reaching for the door knob.
Barbara threw herself at the door. “NO!” she said harshly. “I mean, stay for a little bit.”
Marcus approached Caleb, his feet pounding the trailer floor, swung his arm at Caleb’s face. He was out. Just like that.
Mike knocked on the trailer door. An old lady answered.
“Was a tall, young, blonde man here, by any chance?” asked Mike.
“I’m afraid not, sweetie.”
“Oh.” Mike’s face fell. “Thank you.”
Caleb woke up with a pounding headache, blinking repeatedly. Standing around him were the three, oh so welcoming hosts, wearing white gloves and masks. Their eyes burned with the color of fire, giggling and smirking. Opening his mouth to speak, he found he couldn't. His mouth was taped, arms and legs wrapped with thick rope behind him. Marcus walked over to a closet and slid it open. Caleb was in awe. About a dozen people were piled up on each other. Clearly not breathing or moving. They’re gonna kill me and stuff me! thought Caleb. He started screaming, but all that came out was muffled moaning. Still, he tried as hard as he could. They started to undo the knots.
On the other hand, the boys kept searching. They came across a trailer with four shadows inside. From inside, there was screaming. Oliver picked up a rock and ran to the trailer and swung open the door. Everyone froze. No one had even flinched.
“Get out,” Barbara snarled. “NOW!”
“Give us our friend back!” Oliver protested.
Jake stepped forward, clenched his fist, and swung at Marcus, knocking him out.
Barbara and the little girl had shown no emotion towards Marcus, the two of them just standing there. Jake pushed through and grabbed Caleb.
“RUN!” he screamed.
Just like that, the boys were gone. Arriving at the campfire, After the panic had left the air, the boys began laughing. They laughed endlessly. Finally, they stopped.
“Boy, do I have a horror story to tell you guys!” said Caleb.
They gathered around the campfire, and the night picked up where it had left off.