Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The four of them were gathered around the fire. It was warm, and the soft orange-yellow glow of the flames was a welcomed contrast to the darkness of the cold night that enveloped them with its overbearing presence. Abigail, in particular, was very thankful—she was terrified of the dark.

Charlotte was seated on the log across form her own. Her flaxen hair was pulled back into a high ponytail and she had a perfectly toasted smore in her hand. She’d looked just about ready to take a bite when Emma suddenly spoke up. The brunette seemed ecstatic—as if she’d just thought of the most amazing thing since Pop-Tarts. Even Felicity, who was seated beside Abigail, turned away from messing with the firewood and focused on their, all of a sudden, bubbly and boisterous friend.

“We should tell scary stories!”

Abigail was sceptic, and she wasn’t afraid to show it. She raised her brow in question—leaned forward, as if to ask Emma if being serious. Charlotte seemed giddy, obviously enjoying herself as she mulled over the suggestion, but Felicity was equally curious as she was. Emma shrugged in response, but Abigail didn’t let her get away with it. She popped a gooey marshmallow into her mouth and slowly began to chew. Her eyes never turned away from Emma’s.

“I just thought it would be fun.” The other girl relented. “I mean, we’re in the woods, there’s a campfire. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on camping trips?”

“Emma, you hate scary stories.” Felicity pointed out. The way the light bounced off of her red hair added quite the dramatic flair to her statement. “The last time we tried having a horror movie marathon, you had to sleep next to Charlotte because you thought something kept tickling your feet. Do you really think this is a great idea?”

“Horror movies are more graphic than scary stories, Felicity. I’m not gonna freak out, I promise.”

Somehow, Abigail doubted that. Emma was pretty imaginative, and, sometimes, that tended to blur her sense of reality. She could blow a minute detail by large proportions—to the point where any rustling sound could become a cause for worry and concern. Abigail was just about to voice this concern when Charlotte butted in and spoke up, agreeing to Emma’s outlandish suggestion.

“Let’s do it!” The blonde said. “I’ve got a really terrifying one. I bet I could have you on the edge of your seats.” She winked, poked Emma, teasingly, on the side, and returned her attention to the fire. Charlotte’s eyes were already glowing with that familiar glint of mischief, and Abigail sighed as she sagged on her log and leaned onto Felicity’s shoulder. This really was a bad idea, and they really should be considering the consequences of what they were about to do, but there was no talking Charlotte out of anything she’d managed to set her mind on. It was like asking for a wall to budge.

Then again, the wall would have probably been easier to deal with.

Emma squealed, settling down and making herself comfortable as she turned towards Charlotte and urged her to start. Abigail could feel, rather than see, Felicity roll her eyes. The blonde hadn’t paid this any mind, though, and did as the brunette had suggested and began her tail. It started out kind of generic.

“There was boy who wandered into the woods late at night. There were warnings, of course, all over his town that you were never supposed to do that. The elders, especially, made sure to remind everyone that the woods were no safe hunting ground—rather, it was more possible to get hunted in them than to actually hunt anything. The boy should have listened, but as all little boys were, he was curious.”

Emma made an ooh sound, and Charlotte shushed her as Felicity mocked a yawn. Abigail didn’t say a thing, just nodded her head to show that she was listening and to urge Charlotte to continue. The blonde didn’t need much coaxing.

“So he sneaks out of his room, makes sure to check that his parents were too distracted to notice, and then cautiously makes his way to the woods. At first it was kind of cool—he’d spotted a doe in the distance, and he’d managed to come face to face with a snowy owl. The boy was kind of giddy, especially because it seemed like all the elders had been going on and on about rubbish. What would be hunting down the town’s folk? A couple of herbivorous stags? It didn’t seem bloody likely.”

Then Charlotte picked up a random twig from the ground. Abigail was kind of curious at this point, and Emma was sinking back into her seat. Her face was turning an ashen white—she practically screamed when the blonde snapped the piece of wood in half.

“Then he heard that. That odd snap that meant something was trudging nearby. The boy didn’t know what to do. Should he run? Should he look? He wasn’t sure. But, as all little boys are, he was curious, so he went to have a look. He really, really should have started running.”

Using one half of the stick, Charlotte began drawing in the ground.

It was a circle at first, followed by the telltale squiggly lines of hair. She drew the sordid body of a woman next—the naked form of what looked to be a voluptuous silhouette. Emma was on edge, unable to look directly at the scandalous image, and Felicity finally began to look interested. Abigail, for her part, spared the drawing before looking back up into Charlotte’s eyes.

The glint of mischief shown louder than ever. Her lips settled into the slight, nasty, curve of a malicious smirk as she continued to talk. Abigail could have sworn that a cold chill ran from the nape of her neck to the base of her spine. One could never say that Charlotte that wasn’t an engaging storyteller.

“It was a woman, just like this one—” She used the stick to distort the crude stick figure she’d drawn earlier on. “—and she was just as naked. Well, the boy, he may have been young, but he wasn’t that young. He was old enough to appreciate a woman’s physique. He did. He stared, and the woman just stared back at him with the most mesmerizing pair of silver eyes he’d ever seen. He didn’t even know that he began walking closer until the mysterious woman had her arms around his shoulders. And then—”

“And then she dismembered him and ate his organs to regain her youth. Right?” Abigail interjected. “Wasn’t that the plot of The Witch? That movie about that girl with the brothers and the talking goat?”

“You’re just no fun at all!” Charlotte contested, picking up some dirt and throwing it in her general direction. “You could have let me finish the story, you know! There was more to it than he was gutted. It could have been more dramatic!”

“Emma looked ready to cry. I needed to tell her, at least, that you were just rehashing a movie plot.”

And it was true. The brunette looked close to tears. Her face was a deathly pale, and her fingers were already digging onto the log they were sitting in. Emma looked like she could have been sick any minute, but she’d steeled herself. She’d actually managed to send Charlotte a glare for laughing at her obvious terror.

“It’s alright, Em.” The blonde comforted, patting the girl on the shoulder. “It was just a story, sheesh. I thought you said you could take these kinds of things?”

“I can!” She protested. “It’s just unfair because I could imagine everything because I watched that movie! I just didn’t recognize it right away…”

Charlotte rolled her eyes and Felicity laughed. Abigail shook her head.

“Why don’t you tell the story then,” Felicity suggested. “I mean, it can’t scary you if you’re the one telling it right? And, besides, this was your idea anyway.”

“Fine!”

Charlotte leaned close to Emma. Felicity slouched a bit, causing Abigail to have to find a different resting position. She put her elbows on her knees and rested her chin in the palms of her hands. Emma coughed, trying to be comical, and then threw dust into the fire to make it grow for dramatic effect. It was all very Are You Afraid of the Dark? in her opinion.

“You know how you find those weird thrift stores while walking around sometimes? Some of them have some secondhand stuff, probably worth the cheaper price, but you walk by enough and you notice that a couple of them actually have some pretty cool antiques. And this girl, she couldn’t refuse having to look around, you know? So she entered the shop. The item on display by the counter practically drew her in.”

Emma began picking up twigs of her own. She chose a long stem first, then tied five smaller splinters at the top with some string that she’d had in her pocket. She raised the item up when she was done, a smile of triumph displayed on her face just as she began talking again.

“It looked kind of like this. It was an arm, sort of, and it had five fingers that looked as thin and as fragile was little twigs. The girl, she was around seventeen, had absolutely no idea why it caught her eye. At first sight, it looked disgusting, but there was something about that just kept intriguing her. If it had a voice, it would practically be calling out he name—that was how strong she felt the connection.”

“But then the shop keeper came out and asked her if she wanted to buy it. She should have said no, heck, she didn’t even know if she had enough money for it, but nodded. It was given to her for free, and that really should have been her first clue that something was off. But she didn’t bother. So she went home, and she tucked the thing in her drawer. She kind of just assumed that she’d eventually forget about it.”

“Then she made a wish, right?” Abigail piped up. “Some random wish that changed everything.”

Emma pouted. “My story, Abs! But yes, she did make a wish. And she then she heard a snap—” The brunette snapped a corresponding small twig on her makeshift arm. “—and when she looked at the hand, she noticed that one of the fingers had broken. The girl hadn’t thought much of it until she woke up the next day and realized that her dream had come true. That her life had changed and it was all because of this.”

Emma raised the assortment of sticks. “So she kept making wishes, and with each wish a finger broke. Snap, snap, snap—” And she did just that. Snap, snap, snap. “—until she was left with just one. But, you see, she had one more wish, and she thought that was perfect. One last finger, one last wish—the fates must have been smiling down on her. But, just as she’d whispered her wish, the hand—”

“The hand wrapped around her neck and strangled her to death. Right?” Both Charlotte and Emma groaned. “What? The Monkey’s Paw is a pretty popular story? I’m shocked you two didn’t know it!”

She pointed to Charlotte and Felicity both, but Emma just kept pouting.

“You suck, Abs.” The brunette said. “Couldn’t you have just let me finish the story? What harm would that have done?”

“I was getting bored…?”

Emma harrumphed, quickly turning towards Felicity and practically ordering her to get another story going. Charlotte and Emma were both glaring at Abigail to shut her mouth, and all she did was roll her eyes and raise her arms in surrender.

Felicity shrugged before moving to the ground and spreading out her legs. She was facing the sky, her harms extended, just as she began to talk. Her fingers were spread apart, almost like she was way-finding, and she hadn’t looked at any of them as she asked them a question.

“Do you think aliens exist?”

Abigail could have groaned, and Felicity, Charlotte, and Emma seemed to have noticed her obvious lack of interest. Maybe a little peep of it escaped her lips—she really couldn’t control it. All three of them sighed, facing her, as Abigail returned their looks with confusion.

“Well, if none of ours are good enough—” Charlotte started. “—might as well tell us one of yours.”

“I don’t really have one.”

“Liar.” Felicity retorted. “You’ve always got a story about anything. Now, cough it up or I’ll tell my story about aliens and you’re gonna have to shut-up for the rest of it.”

“I hate you.”

Emma laughed as she and Charlotte linked arms and settled side by side and on their log. Felicity maintained her sprawled out position and leaned her head back on Abigail’s thigh. The girl coughed, throwing an extra log into the fire, before rolling her eyes.

“There were four girls.” She started. “They were seated around a campfire, just like this, and they were telling scary stories too, just like us. It was to have a bit of fun at first, but then the last girl began telling her story and things got a little weird. But that was because they didn’t know—they didn’t know that the fourth girl hadn’t been actually there at all.”

Emma raised her brow as Charlotte snorted. “You call that scary?”

“She told them a tale, about how, in the very woods they were in, the same things tended to happen. There would be a snap of wood in that direction—” Abigail pointed towards the thicker wood. “—because a lumberjack would be strolling around and looking for that same forth girl. He was her father. He was supposed to be her protector. But, you see, that guy? He was her killer.”

Felicity practically laughed. Emma seemed ready to raise her hands and call it a not. Charlotte wanted to call Abigail on her bullcrap. But then that twig snapped in the same direction she’d pointed. Abigail didn’t look the slightest bit bothered.

“And, for some reason, every night they replayed this hunt. She’d hide, he’d seek. She’d run, he’d follow. And on the off chance that she found people, the lumberjack was always angry. Because, then, he couldn’t get to her. Not until the next night, at least. Not until the night when she was all alone again, and he could find her and chop her into little small pieces.”

There was the soft whimper of a little girl in the distance. Abigail didn’t stop.

“So whenever she found people, she decided to confuse them a bit. She’d blend right in. She’d be their friend—just for the night. Just to escape him for the night. And they would know none the wiser. He wouldn’t come for them—wouldn’t harm them. But he’d stay nearby, watching from the distance, wondering if there would be an opportunity to get the girl alone.”

Something like a growl echoed in the distance. A man’s low rumble that couldn’t have been mistaken for any other sound. Charlotte visibly gulped. Felicity lifted her head and stared, wide-eyed, as Abigail looked at all three of them with stares that didn’t betray a single thought running through their head.

“Hey, Abs, I don’t know how you’re doing that, but we get it, you’re the queen of creepy stories.” Emma said, practically whimpering. “Make it stop now.”

Abigail looked at their panicked faces. She stared at their blown eyes and pale faces.

Then, she burst out laughing.

“Oh my gosh! I can’t—can’t believe I got all of you.” Emma squeaked, Charlotte groaned, and Felicity hit Abigail across the legs. “You’re all so gullible, I can’t believe you all fell for it!” She was laughing still, rolling around the ground and letting them all watch her in both relief and annoyance.

“I’m going to bed!” Charlotte shouted, standing and stomping over to her tent. Emma followed suit, with Felicity going next and reminding Abigail to shut out the fire before she called it a night.

When they woke up the next morning, there were three of them left. The fire seemed to burned until it died out on its own. And there was no trace of Abigail at all.

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