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#SummerofScreams

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Beware the Icepick Killer

by Jamie Rusovick-Smith

 

“This is gonna be a summer you’ll never forget,” Brook sings—loud and crazy— over the wind rushing in through our car windows.

I tug at my blood-red Camp Moore-Saine shirt and curl my lip in disgust. “You might love this place, but there’s a reason I’ve never been camping before, dear cousin.”

The main reason being I hate the great outdoors. Bugs, sleeping in a dirty bag on the floor, and food burnt over the fire just doesn’t do it for me like it does for Brooklyn.

We screech into the dirt lot, kicking up a thick cloud of dust, and hop out onto the crunchy dirt.

Brook takes a deep breath and pushes her sunglasses up and into her dark curls. “Can you smell it, Paige?”

I slam my door, and try not to choke on our dust cloud. “Smell what? Dead fish? Sweat? Bad cooking?”

“Geeze. Could you be any more of a drag?”

“Give me a few hours.”

Brook rolls her eyes and shoulders her duffle. “Come on. Let’s sign in.”

I follow Brook past endless trees and fellow campers towards the registration table. It’s just a glorified card table, resting next to the camp’s welcome sign— a weather-beaten monstrosity with the words ‘Camp Moore-Saine. The Summers of your life.’ Only it’s been vandalized to read, ‘Camp Moore-Saine Screams. The ^ Last Summers of your life.’

I scoff and give my name to scowling woman with a clipboard. She flips through the papers and says, “Paige Peña? You’re in cabin 13, The Boondocks. Bunk 5. Happy camping.”

“Or something,” I mutter.

The tallest, blondest girl I have ever seen in my life grabs me by the shoulders and pushes her perfect face into mine. “Did I just hear that you’re in cabin 13?”

“You did indeed.” I wiggle out of Barbie’s grip, but she just beams at me. I nod towards Brooklyn, and say, “My cousin’s in The Boondocks, too.”

“Hi.” Brooklyn accepts a hug from the Barbie and makes an oh-yeah face. People excited about camping are her kind of people.

“We’re bunkmates! Jess, by the way,” Barbie/Jess says. She whips around and hollers to some girls behind her. “McKayla! Cody! Come meet our new roomies.”

A stocky girl the color of a copper penny runs over and punches me in the arm. “I’m Cody. Nice to meet ya.”

“McKayla,” says a freckle-faced girl behind her. She tosses her red fishtail over her shoulder and offers me a handshake. “First time camping?”

“My first time, yes.” And I hope it’ll be my last.

“Not mine.” Brook holds up her wrist full of twisted bracelets— one from each of the camps she’s attended over the years. “I’m an avid.”

“Nice,” the other girls say, giving Brook appraising once-overs.

“Well.” Jess claps and nods her head towards the lake. “Let’s drop off our stuff and go for a dip, yeah?”

“I’m so in. Already got my suit on.” McKayla lifts up her shirt and flashes a leopard print bikini that barely covers her ample curves.

I swallow my blush, mumble something about yeah, sure, I’ll swim, and that gets me another enthusiastic punch from Cody. As we tromp towards cabin 13, Brooklyn loops her arm around my shoulder and kisses my cheek. “Come on, Paige. Camping is great once you give it a try. And this is the perfect opportunity to forget all about what’s his name. You can do better.”

What’s his name. I dated Greg for 18 months, until he dumped me right before summer break, and Brooklyn pretends not to remember his name. Nice. But as my gaze falls on McKayla’s swaying hips ahead of us, my heart picks up speed, and well, maybe Brooklyn is right. Maybe this camping thing won’t be so bad after all.

“Okay,” I sigh. “I’ll try to have fun. But this better be a camping trip I’ll never forget, or else.”

 

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After a day in the sun, my bronzed skinned gleams darker, my eyes are bloodshot, and I’m so hungry I could eat one of everything from the mess hall, no matter how gross it smells. When I drop my steaming plate onto the splintered table in between Brook and Cody, their conversation halts—so does Jess and McKayla’s—and everyone tucks into their food.

It’s deafening with all the people here. My heart pounds, and oddly that sounds louder than all the raucous. “Did I miss something?”

“Nah,” Brook says around a mouth full of creamed corn. “Just want to finish up so we can hit the fireside tonight.”

“Fireside?” I take a bite from my hotdog, dripping mustard onto my bare thigh, and flinch when Cody doesn’t miss a beat to lick it off.

“Sorry.” Cody laughs. “I’ll use a napkin next time.”

“Yeah, they’re doing S’mores and ghost stories by Lake Vista in a few.” McKayla’s baby hairs curl around her face and her burned cheeks glow apple red. “We can snuggle if you scare easy.”

My tongue swells but I nod.

“Gah.” Jess scratches at her neck and then her arm. “Why can’t I stop itching? I swear, I’ve got these red bumps everywhere.”

“Uh oh.” Cody grabs Jess and examines her forearm. “Babe, I think you’ve got poison ivy.”

“What? No!” Jess pulls away and scratches some more. “It’s only the first day…”

“Told you not to lie too close to those bushes.” Cody shakes her head. “Go see the nurse. Maybe she’s got a cream for that.”

“Thought you’d want to lick my wounds, but fine. I’ll go to the nurse.” Jess pouts and slumps out of the mess hall.

“Poor thing.” McKayla glances at her cell and squeals. “We’re gonna miss the fireside. Come on!”

“What do you have your phone for?” Cody gestures with her chin. “Not like you get any service.”

“But it still tells time,” McKayla says, waving it in her face. “And the fireside starts like, now.”

 

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My stomach knots up as McKayla drops next to me on the log by the fire—she smells like lake water and chocolate. I lick my lips. On my other side, Brook waves to someone sitting across from us, and Cody hands over the S’mores makings. I spear my marshmallow, then let it hang over the white-hot coals.

“Is this when it gets memorable?” I ask.

Brooklyn laughs. “Careful what you ask for. You might end up like Jess. Or worse.”

“Could be lots worse.” Cody points to a dead squirrel a few feet away, and McKayla says, “Ewe.”

When everyone’s settled and eating, a camp counselor with glasses and black hair, stands and clears her throat. “Good evening campers. Welcome to Camp Moore-Screams. You know why they call it that, don’t you?”

Cody raises her hand. “Because it’s the playground of the Icepick Killer.”

“That’s right.” The counselor steeples her hands under her chin and grins. “Since the camp opened in 1988, we’ve been haunted by the Icepick Killer. We find trees with hooks imbedded in them. Animal blood—or at least we hope it’s animal blood—splattered on the cabin walls. And sometimes, our campers go missing.”

I roll my eyes. “Isn’t that a legal nightmare?”

Brook elbows me and the counselor shoots me a look.

“Sorry.” I stuff another S’more in my mouth and try to vanish into the log.

“I thought it was funny,” McKayla whispers against my ear.

I suppress a smile. The fire crackles and a gust of wind ruffles through the bodies. Smoke distorts the air around us, making everything hazy and grey in the already dark night.

The counselor straightens her shoulders and continues. “Rumor has it the Icepick Killer was actually the owner of the camp. Mr. Moore-Saine himself. But, during the first week of the first camp, he was burned trying to put out a fire a camper had caused. He sustained severe injuries, but help never came, being so far out in the wilderness, and he lost his mind in his pain. Since then, he’s wreaked havoc on those foolish enough to stay out after curfew.”

“Well,” Cody whispers. “If that isn’t a plug to stay in your cabins after 10pm, I don’t know what is.”

The counselor shoots another disapproving look at us. “Every year he strikes. And he always comes for those in the cabin he was burned inside of—cabin 13.”

Cody chokes on her S’more. “Did you say cabin 13?”

The counselor nods. “Best watch your back this week, Boondock girls.”

 

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The Boondock girls, sans Jess, are the only ones still sitting around the campfire, when the curfew bells toll over the loud speaker systems, followed by an obnoxious recording. “Curfew Campers. It’s Curfew Campers. Back in your cabins until the cock crows. Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Brooklyn makes a gag-me motion and sips from her water bottle. Still leaning together, McKayla’s fingers dance dangerously close to mine, and I don’t want to stand up yet, just in case…

Cody eats a fifth S’more and sighs. “We probably ought to get back. We need to check on Jess anyway.”

“Yeah fine.” Brook stands and yawns. “I want to go canoeing in the morning anyway. Ooh, we can even wake up early and watch the sunrise over the lake.”

“Sounds romantic.” McKayla winks at me.

My cheeks flush again, but I stand too, and wipe the woodchips from my legs. “Can you believe that stupid story the counselor told? I mean, how cliché can you get?”

“It’s not stupid.” Cody’s face is dead serious. “The Icepick Killer is real.”

I start to say, sure he is, but then McKayla looks over my shoulder and screams. The sound catches me off guard. Sets my teeth on edge and sends my heart into overdrive. When I turn, I come face to face with a masked figure—tall, dressed in a black trench coat, holding an icepick.

 

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This can’t be happening. This isn’t real. I ate too much garbage at dinner and now I’m hallucinating. I back into Brooklyn and McKayla but Cody stands firm in front of us. A barrier between her friends and a possible killer.

“You—you can’t hurt us.” All she’s got for a weapon is the spear she used to roast her marshmallow, but she wields it like she’s going to impale this guy.

The masked figure’s shoulders shake, like he’s laughing. Then he lunges, and bright red blood sprays from Cody’s body as he tears out her throat. She falls to the ground in a gurgling heap, and a scream rips from my lips.

This is real. I’m not imaging this, and we’re going to die.

“Run!” Brooklyn grabs my hand and we sprint into the night, McKayla close on our heels. The humidity sticks to my skin and a line of sweat rolls down my back. I choke on the heavy scent of fish and mulch, and branches cut into my face as we sprint through the woods. I risk a glance over my shoulder. The Icepick Killer limps ever forward, but he grows smaller as we put space between us.

“Should we—get help?” I gasp.

“Working on it.” Brooklyn veers left and I follow.

McKayla skids up beside me, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die.”

If we weren’t running for our lives, I would stop and kiss her. I would tell her it’s going to be okay, and when this is over, I want to take her out. I want to tell her these things, but I can’t. I don’t know if it’ll be okay. I don’t know how this story ends.

“This way.” Brooklyn pulls me through the tree line and we tumble out in front of the counselors’ cabin. Brook pounds on the door, and screams, “Help! Let us in!”

The whispering wind is the only reply.

McKayla tries to rip open the door but—“It’s locked. Where the hell are they?”

“Out,” Brooklyn groans. “I heard them at dinner, talking about drinking themselves stupid. I thought they were kidding.”

Damn it. “We need a payphone or something. Isn’t there anywhere on this stupid campsite with cell reception?”

“The hill.” McKayla points to a smallish mountain on the far side of the lake. “If we can reach the top, we might get a bar or two.”

“We only need one to call the police.” I pull my cell from my pocket and press the home screen. “Hurry. My battery’s almost dead.”

“Of course it is.” Brooklyn shakes her head and glares at me. “I hope you’re happy.”

“What the hell?” I ask. “Why would you even say that?”

Brook shoves her finger into my chest. “You wanted a memorable time. You brought this on us.”

I open my mouth to argue, but she’s right. With all my pouting I basically asked the universe to mess us up. I wanted this to be my last camping trip, and now I might just get my wish.

 

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We half-jog-half-run, hugging the side of the lake as we make our way towards the hill. Brooklyn runs in front, me in the middle, and McKayla in the rear. As we pass a cluster of trees, something rustles in the bushes. A chill crawls up my spine. Then the Icepick Killer lunges and pulls McKayla into his arms.

She screams until he covers her mouth and drags her backwards, her eyes wide and wet.

“No!” I reach for her but Brooklyn pulls me back. “Let me go.”

“So he can kill you too? I don’t think so.”

McKayla’s scream pierces the night, and then the Icepick Killer emerges, wiping blood from his hook.

Rage boils in my gut. I want to tear his eyes out, and break his neck, but Brooklyn tugs me away, screaming, “It’s too late! Come on!”

I clench my teeth and sprint after her. She leaps over boulders, ducks under branches, but try as I might, I struggle to keep up.  I trip over my feet and great, heaving sobs rack my lungs. McKayla is gone. She’s dead, and it’s all my fault. I force myself to run.

We pass a trail marked ‘Sunshine Springs’, and Brooklyn pulls up short. She grabs me by the shoulders, and says, “The storage closet.”

“What?”

“I just remembered, there’s a landline in the storage closet. I snuck in there with a hot counselor last year and—ugh, we don’t have time for this. Just follow me.” Brook darts down the path.

The moon climbs higher in the sky and despite the quiet, screams still ring in my ears. Cody, gone. McKayla, gone. I glance over my shoulder—the Icepick Killer is nowhere in sight. But I doubt we’ve lost him. He’s probably limping in the woods even now. Smelling out our trail. Planning his next move.

At the end of the trail sits a crumbling wooden building. Brook shoves the door open with her shoulder and we’re met with utter darkness. I hold up my cell for light, but it’s weak—already on low battery mode. The dusty room hosts a million different camp things. Brooms, mops, and buckets. A torn up volleyball net. Rows of deflating basketballs, and piles of canned goods. Brook feels her way towards a desk draped with a tarp, cluttered with old paint cans, and—“A phone!” Relief blooms in my chest. One step closer to safety.

Brook picks up the receiver and spins the rotary dial. Nine. The thing squeaks and sputters as it pulls back to zero. “Come on. Come on.” One. An eternity passes before it returns to zero. Before Brook can pull it to one again, something scratches outside. The sound of a hook grating against wood.

“He’s here,” I whimper.

Brook shoves me under the desk and follows me in. We crouch, hidden behind the tarp, our breaths labored, and my body convulses with shock. He’s here. There’s only one door and— it creaks open. “Shit.” Brook covers her mouth and her eyes well with tears.

Maybe he doesn’t know we’re in here. Maybe he’ll look around and leave. If we just sit quiet enough… The Icepick Killer lurches through the room, his shoes scraping the floor with an uneven gait. Thump. Draaaag. Thump. Draaag. Closer, then farther. Then closer again. The door creaks. Then closes.

I hold my breath. Ten seconds. Twenty.

Brook wipes her eyes, then says, “I think he’s—”

A hand shoots under the table and drags her out.

“No!” I scream and launch myself at her. I grab her arms, and she holds to my elbows, but the Icepick Killer grasps her waist in a vicelike grip. He backs up towards the rear of the storage room, away from the door. If I can get her loose, we can make a run for it. Sweat beads on my forehead, and I bite my lip. “I’ve got you.”

Tears stream from Brook’s dirt-stained face. “Let me go, Paige.”

“Never.” I shake my head. Behind Brook, the Icepick Killer’s shoulders bounce. He’s laughing at us. “You son of a bit—”

“Let go, now!” Brook wails, and she kicks me away.

I thud to the floor with a jolt of pain, splinters embedding themselves in my palms and cheek. I rear up and yell, “Why?”

“Save yourself.” Brook claws at her attacker, but he raises the icepick and—I can’t watch.

Brook’s strangled cries choke my ears as I stumble from the storage room, and into the humid night. I jog around the building, one hand on the wooden walls for support, but then I pass a window, and it splatters with bright red liquid. I vomit on my shoes, and scream, because it doesn’t matter anymore. The Icepick Killer knows where I am.

He already killed Cody,

and McKayla,

and now Brooke.

Even if I somehow survive this night, I will never be safe again. Never feel safe again. Not outside, not among friends. Not even in my own mind. No matter how tonight ends, the Icepick Killer has already won. Of the five Boondock girls, I’m the only one—wait.

“Jess.” I wipe my mouth and frantically look around. There has to be sign. A path.

There. A wooden sign stamped, “This way to the cabins, Campers!” I sprint down the dirt trail, my ribs yelling in protest as my lungs swell against them. The counselor said the Icepick killer would take out all of the girls in cabin 13. And while he’s been chasing four of us, Jess has been stuck in bed with poison ivy all night. She didn’t watch the others die. She might still be alive, and if I can keep her alive, then one of us can make it out of this nightmare in one piece. Unscathed. Unscarred.

My heart pounds, and the air whooshes past me as I plead with my feet to take me to Jess—faster, faster, faster. My face is already cut and I don’t even wince when I’m scratched by a handful of low-hanging branches. Blood drips down my cheeks, dribbles into my open mouth. I run faster still.

The moon-dappled path breaks before me and I tumble in front of cabin 8. Across the way is cabin 9. Next to that cabin 11, and then—“Cabin 13.”

I practically sob with relief when my fingers catch on the handle and I wrench open the door. The bug-zappers light up the beds in nearly perfect squares through the windows. Aside from my wheezing and the occasional zap of an insect’s life ending, it’s quiet.

“Jess?” I step forward and the floorboards creak under my weight. “Jess, where are you?”

My eyes adjust to the remaining dark, and I gasp. Her bed is empty. Like she was never even here. But where has she been all night?

“Jess?”

The door creaks open and my shoulders deflate. Somehow, some way, he’s here again. And now there’s nowhere for me to run, and nothing to run for. He probably got Jess before she reached the nurse. I whirl around and come face to face with my killer.

“You want me?” I hold out my arms, reveal my chest, and tip my head back. “Come and get me.”

He raises his icepick. I close my eyes. Any second now, steal will meet flesh. My blood with cover the floorboards, and the life will drain out of me. Will it hurt for long? Will my mother forgive me? Whose face will be the last to flash behind my eyes before the darkness overcomes me? I lick my lips and think of McKayla’s. It’s as good a face as any.

The pick rests against my chest, directly over my sternum. Cold. Hard. No pressure though. No fight behind it.

“What are you waiting for?” I ask.

“Open your eyes, brat.”

My eyes whip open. Jess grins above me, dressed all in black, holding the icepick like a lollipop to her lips.

Behind her stands Cody.

And McKayla.

And Brooklyn.

“What the hell?” I cradle my head in my hands, as they all burst into laughter. “I saw you die! I saw—”

“What we wanted you to see.” Brooklyn puts her arms around me and squeezes. “Did you really think we were getting chased by a serial killer?”

I shove out of her arms and fold my own. “I’m losing my mind. I swear. How did you do this?”

Cody holds up an empty bottle of corn syrup. “Stole this from the mess hall. Mixed with ketchup and it looks a lot like—”

“Spraying blood,” I say. Which is why she wasn’t facing me when ‘the killer’ got her.

“And you never technically saw me die.” McKayla kisses my cheek, and I’d shove her away too if I weren’t so damned relieved to see her alive.

I turn to Brooklyn, all filthy but beaming, and shake my head. “The window of the storage room was covered in blood. Your blood.”

“Red paint, actually.” Brook picks at her hair and grimaces. “Maybe we should have thought of something else. This isn’t going to come out easily.”

“Red looks good on you,” Cody says and blows her a kiss.

“Thank you, darling.” Brook opens her arms to me again, asking for a hug this time, and I let myself fall into her embrace. “We just wanted your first time at camp to be memorable.”

“You scared the hell out of me.”

“I know.”

“I might be traumatized for life.”

“Nah. You’re resilient.” Brook exhales and starts laughing again. “You smell atrocious. Like sweat and pure fear.”

I laugh too. “Could you blame me if I wet myself?”

Brook cringes. “No, but we seriously need to get cleaned up.”

“Any one up for a midnight swim?” McKayla peels off her tank top and waggles her eyebrows. She’s still wearing that leopard print bikini.

“I’m game,” Jess says, and she shrugs out of her coat, revealing rash-free arms. The faker.

“Must be sweltering in that getup,” I say.

“It was.”

Cody opens the door to the cabin, bows, and gestures with her hands to the outdoors. “Ladies.”

McKayla and Brook link arms with me and we traipse into the moist night, with Jess and Cody following behind. The moon lights up the path towards the lake, empty, save for a lone figure swaying in the breeze. Upon seeing us, it raises a hand. In it is clenched an icepick.

I scoff. “Come on, guys. I’m not falling for this again.”

But around me the girls have fallen statue still.

“Guys?” I look at Brook as her mouth falls open in fear.

“Not us,” she whimpers. “Not a joke this time.”

The figure with the icepick looms near. We should run, but my feet won’t budge. It tilts its face towards the moon—no mask this time—and I glimpse the face of a flame-scarred madman.

He smiles. “Goodbye, Boondock girls.”

 

About the Author

Jamie-Smith-Author-Pic

Jymie was born in southern California, which instilled in her a love of sun, surf, and all things beautiful and outdoorsy.

In college, she had a full scholarship to study Theater Arts, but changed her major to Library Information Technology after she got sick of the drama in drama.

She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband (when he’s not on rig), four children, and pet rabbit: Bugsy. (Although they’re debating getting a pet fox and a pug, to be named Sherlock and Watson.)

When she’s not homeschooling, working, reading or writing, you might find her shaking her groove thing in a Zumba class, baking cupcakes, or taking her brood to enjoy anything and everything fun within a fifty mile radius of their home.

(This paragraph is reserved. One day, it will *hopefully* talk about my books, and my fabulous agent, that I haven’t met yet.)

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