by mICHELLE cEASAR dAVIS
“Brayden, do you need anything before Daddy and I leave?” Stephanie Hogan asked.
“I’m ten,” he said, tossing his duffel bag under the bunk bed. “Would you please stop calling yourselves mommy and daddy?”
“Be nice to your mom…” Ryan Hogan stopped himself before saying the second syllable. “This is your first time at camp.”
“But I’ve spent a week at Nana’s before.” He rolled his eyes and then turned to look at his mother. “Why is this so hard for you?”
“That’s enough, young man. Some mothers can’t let go of their children easily.”
“Damon’s parents let him ride the bus up here.” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“They also have three older sons. You’re our only child. Let us enjoy these last years of your childhood before you become a teenager.”
Brayden scowled. “I thought this would be easier on her since this is where you two met.”
“Camp Wa-Kaw-Gee will always have a special place in my heart,” Stephanie said. “We hoped you would enjoy your time here as much as we did.” She reached out to clasped Ryan’s hand.
“If I promise to make lots of memories and life-long friendships,” Brayden rolled his eyes again, “will you leave?”
“We’re going,” Ryan said. He turned to Stephanie. “I’ll meet you outside in a few minutes.”
“I have a few words I wanted to say to him.” She raised and lowered her foot in a silent stomp.
He didn’t flinch. “There are some things a dad needs to tell his son.” He sighed deeply. “I got this.”
“Fine. I’ll wait outside then.” She turned back to Brayden. “Is it too much to hope for a hug goodbye?”
He stood there, motionless, until Ryan gave him a small push toward Stephanie. His initial squirming increased the longer she held him. Ryan finally put his hand on Stephanie’s shoulder and she let go. She sniffled a few times, pulled a tissue out of her purse, and left the cabin.
“Thanks, Dad. I didn’t think she would let go.”
“You’re getting older, and she’s having a difficult time accepting it.”
“I thought going to camp was a rite of passage for kids.”
“Not for your mom. She thinks you aren’t going to need her anymore.”
“Of course I need her,” Brayden said. “She needs to make my food, do my laundry, drive me places.”
“That’s not the same.” He shook his head. “Do me a favor. Write her a few letters this week. Call her on Wednesday. Tell her that you love her, that you miss her.”
“Fine. Anything else?”
“Remember to have fun. And don’t bully any of the younger kids.” He scratched his moustache. “We’ll be back up next Saturday to get you. Try to be excited to see us, to see your mother, when we get here.”
“Okay. Be safe. Be smart.” Ryan patted his son on the back and left to join his wife outside.
He wrapped an arm around her waist.
“How did it go?” she asked.
He pressed his lips against her ear. “He bought the whole thing.”
“So, what do we do now?”
“We’ll walk away slowly, turn back to the cabin after about twelve feet, wave, and then keep walking until we’re out of sight.”
“I’ll follow your lead.”
They followed Ryan’s plan exactly, including turning back to wave, until they could no longer see the cabin. Stephanie pulled Ryan behind the infirmary cabin, hiding then in the trees immediately behind the structure.
“Why are we back here?” Ryan asked. “I thought we were going to stop for a completely adult dinner on the way home.”
“And enjoy the quiet of a house without a video game enthusiast present.” She pressed her index finger against Ryan’s lips. “We will. It’s just that well, being here,” she bit her lower lip, “I’ve been thinking of other things as well.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What kinds of things?”
“Like when we were last here at camp.” She grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him closer.
He lowered his mouth to hers. “Like when we snuck out of our cabins to go skinny-dipping under the full moon.”
“Yes.” The word came out nearly as a breath.
“Any other memories you’d like to share?” He shifted and moved one of his legs between hers.
“The last time. At the shed. Abandoned. In the woods.” She clawed at Ryan’s shirt, her short nails dragging against the fabric.
“Then let’s go.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer to the edge of the building.
“Can’t … remember … where …”
He kissed her deeply. “I remember where it’s at.”
They nearly ran the fifteen minutes through the woods to the abandoned shack. Ryan turned the door knob but the door didn’t budge. He turned the knob again and leaned heavily against the door. Still it wouldn’t move.
“Let me.” Stephanie turned over several pots of decaying plants under the lone window until she located a key. She slid the key into the lock and door opened with a rusty groan.
She turned to Ryan and grinned. “You never had to wait?”
“Never waited in the building.” He gestured with his thumb over his shoulder. “Always waited in the woods.”
She grabbed him by the belt and pulled him inside. “There’s no waiting outside today.”
Alice Jordan took a deep breath, taking in the smells of pine, oak, and fish mixed with freshwater and algae.
They were smells she hadn’t experienced for nearly twenty-five years.
Not since she got locked into the house after the…
Only the room.
Only the silence.
The big man made a mistake today.
A big mistake.
He got distracted.
By the noise.
Where did the noise come from?
Went to find the noise.
He left the door unlocked.
Must find something.
Alice ran straight for the door, straight outside. She passed a baseball bat in the hall without stopping. She ran until she reached the garden shed and found her favorite form of protection.
The wood handle felt smooth, familiar in her hands. She ran her thumb along the blade. Yes, it was as sharp as it the last time she wielded it.
She tossed the axe in her hands several times before she ran into the woods towards that place.
Stephanie pulled Ryan’s shirt over his head and threw it against the dirty window. A cloud of dirt moved through the small building, settling on the canvas covered cot and Ryan.
He turned away from her and coughed for nearly a solid minute.
“What did you do that for?”
“Sorry, babe. It’s just so, I don’t know. I don’t want anyone to find us in here, you know, in the middle.”
“With your pretty lil ass in full view?” She half-heartedly tried to turn away from him. “Don’t worry. No one is going to find us out here, not even the new camp counselors who want to use this shack.” He put his hand on her waist and undid the button and zipper on her jeans. He eased the pants below her hips and lingered on her buttocks. He traced a line up one of her cheeks and she shivered. “Why, Mrs. Hogan, are you wearing a thong?”
She purred against his throat. “The nude lacy one.”
“A sheer bra and lacy thong. It’s almost like Christmas.”
Alice wandered in the woods for nearly an hour before she found the old wooden shed. Her father posted No Trespassing signs on the building every year but the young people at Camp Wa-Kaw-Gee thought the property belonged to the camp.
That’s what he thought.
Tried to tell him.
Tried to say no.
He didn’t care.
He said he cared about…
Maybe he did.
Said it was a special place.
For special people.
No one else.
But there were others.
Knew about them.
Didn’t care until…
Tried to tell him about everything.
Only cared about her.
Stephanie moved her head slightly to the side and screamed. Ryan bit his lip.
“There is someone out there!” She pushed him away and grabbed for her clothes.
“You’re just edgy.” He started to rub her back. “C’mon, we both know there is no one out there.”
“I saw a face in the window, Ryan. Do you hear me? A face!”
He rubbed his ear. “Seriously, it’s just you and me and a few hundred mosquitos out here, that’s all.”
She pointed at the window. “A face!”
He sighed loudly. “You imagined it. Your eyes saw the leaves and then your brain arranged them to look like a face.” He cracked his back. “It’s probably from all those Alice and her axe stories they were telling at camp.”
“They don’t tell those stories during move-in and you know that. Hell, if the campers knew about Alice right away, no one would stay there.”
“Still, you’re being ridiculous.”
“I saw a face in that window.” Stephanie pulled her jeans on. “And if you don’t believe me, then we don’t have anything else to talk about.”
“I’ll prove to you that no one is out there.”
The door is opening.
Key is in hand.
Don’t need the key.
It’s always him.
Rivers of blood.
The local police went to Camp Wa-Kaw-Gee the next morning to alert the campers and staff that Alice Jordan, a known axe murderer, had escaped from the family home. All she took from the house was her axe. The police and her family thought Alice might be hiding somewhere in the woods and wanted to organize several search parties to find her.
The campers and counselors stayed in the dining room while deputies and townspeople walked through the woods. Every person in the search parties carried at least one weapon.
Thirty minutes later, a deputy-led group of townspeople found the shed. The deputy tried to count the number of dead, as body parts were scattered throughout the building and the heads were missing. The local wild game processor viewed the scene and vomited until he had the dry heaves.
The woods were searched for two days in the hopes of finding Alice.
She’s still out there.
About the Author
Michelle Ceasar Davis has contributed to several Jolene/Pen & Muse showcases, including the e-book anthology Dark Carnival: An Anthology of Horror. When she’s not writing, Michelle likes to read, watch scary movies, and bake. She, her husband, and several fur-babies currently live in north central North Dakota (though they visit Canada a lot).
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