“Did I ever tell you guys what happened here last year?” Janice asked cupping her hair behind her ear.
“No,” Eddie said. “What?”
Billy smiled, sensing Janice was in the mood for a ghost story. She wanted to write when she grew up, preferably scary stories like Stephen King. He’d been seeing her steadily for the past week and a half, almost since the day he’d arrived at Youth Camp. They had become quite adept at sneaking out of the dorms on nights like tonight, to sneak a kiss beneath the moon and spend a few quiet hours together. Every once in a while, his best friend Eddie came along just to hang. Often, she would entertain them with a ghost story, or a Halloween story-anything that was bound to produce nightmares.
“A pair of kids got murdered,” Janice said, then stopped.
“No way,” Eddie said.
“Shouldn’t you do a little build up before springing the whole plot on us?” Billy asked. He knew she was always experimenting with different story techniques, but he expected a little more from her. Last night, she had told him her favorite Halloween ghost story-a particularly gruesome one that actually did give him nightmares.
“No, I’m serious,” Janice said. “It really happened. I knew one of the kids, not well, mind you; but I did know her.”
Billy did a double-take. She was being serious.
She leaned toward him, her voice dropping to a whisper.
“There’s a rumour in our dorm that ever since Mr. Sidkins became the camp director three years ago, there’s been a murder every summer.”
“Impossible,” Billy said. “They would have closed this place down.”
“Or arrested Mr. Sidkins,” Eddie added.
“Well, they didn’t. He’s still-“
A scream ripped through the night cutting Janice off. She jumped, reaching out to clutch Billy’s arm. “What was that?” she asked.
“That sounded like it came from your dorm,” Billy said, standing. “Come on. Let’s investigate.”
“Do you think that’s wise?” Eddie asked. “What if something happens?” But Billy ignored the question and began walking toward the girls’ dorm. Reluctantly, Eddie followed.
Janice rushed up and once again clutched Billy’s arm.
Billy squared his shoulders, swallowed nervously, and tried to sound brave. “It’ll be all right. Just think of something nice.” But Billy couldn’t even take his own advice. He kept thinking about her ghost story, and that didn’t help at all. Tonight was the perfect night for one. Full moon. Eerily clouded sky. The shadows of scurrying branches flickering across the ground like spiders. He shuddered and turned his flashlight on. Halloween is months away, he told himself. And there is no such thing as ghosts. Outside the cone of light from the flashlight and the dim glow from the full moon, the darkness rose up like a thick black curtain, drawing strength from the encroaching trees and increasing his discomfort.
Ahead, someone shouted an alarm. Then he heard someone running in their direction. A moment later, Mrs. Stenton, one of the girls’ counselors came racing toward them.
“Mrs. Stenton, what-” Billy began.
“Go,” Mrs. Stenton said, her face pale. “Run. Hide.” Then she disappeared down a darkened trail. Further down the path in the direction from which Mrs. Stenton had come, a twig snapped.
Billy heard a deep-throated growl, then the sound of something moving toward them.
Turning, Billy said, “Come on. We have to move.” He matched actions to words and ran down the trail after Mrs. Stenton, stumbling over twisting roots and lichen-slicked rocks.
Shortly, the path forked and, not knowing which way to go, he veered left. Several minutes later, he stopped, cursing.
Ahead lay a gorge, four hundred feet deep. The only way across was an old, rickety rope ladder. While he pondered the obstacle, Janice appeared beside him. He waited another minute. Then another.
“Where’s Eddie?” he asked.
“He must have gone the other way,” Janice said.
Somewhere behind them a long, mournful, howl rose toward the opalescent full moon. A minute later, it sounded again, but closer.
“Go,” Janice said, pushing him toward the bridge.
He started across, holding the ropes on either side and testing each plank before putting his weight down. The depths yawned beneath him; the cliff sides gleamed in the silver light. Dizzy, he looked away and concentrated only on moving forward one step at a time.
Halfway out, a plank broke and he nearly lost his grip and fell. Heart pounding, he tried the next plank, but it, too, ruptured beneath his weight. This time, when he scrabbled back to the safety of the unbroken section of the bridge, he said, “Back. We have to go back.” He turned.
“We can’t,” Janice said, pointing.
There at the edge of the bridge stood Mr. Sidkins, or something that was once Mr. Sidkins. His body, covered with thick black fur, rippled with muscles. His long-fingered hands ended in vicious black claws that dripped red. His head, though somewhat reminiscent of Sidkins’ facial structure, was contorted into a bestial visage of nightmare with long lupine jaws and two pairs of extraordinarily long pointed teeth stained pink with blood. The thing stood at the edge of the bridge and howled once more at the full moon, blood-flecked spittle spraying the bridge planks in front of it.
“We’re trapped,” Janice said.
All Billy could think to do was pull her to him and hold her.
The beast took a step out onto the bridge-it swayed ominously. It took another. Then, another.
Suddenly, with a loud crack, the planks beneath its feet gave way and it disappeared into the abyss, yowling as it fell.
Billy, exhilarated to still be alive, let out a long sigh of relief.
Janice looked to the gap in the bridge ahead, then the gap behind. “Now what do we do?” she asked.