written in Lovecraftian/Howardesqusue style
school boy invites a girl to go camping with another couple, the do so , find old ruins camp there for the night, awaken an ancient evil. Get caught after dark.
In the summer of 1988, on the Fourth of July weekend, four individuals went backpacking in the hills of Western North Carolina and were never seen again.
All were students of Brevard College taking classes during the summer semester.
Robbie, a somewhat shy sophomore, was taking several courses relating to marketing, for he wanted to major in business and have a thorough knowledge in that field as well. But mainly, he liked branding and image appeal. Being a beta male, he had for months, thought of subtle means to get more intimate with Carla, a beautiful sophomore, who had transferred from the University Of Maine the spring semester before. Of course, all his endeavors and plans had been failure's thus far, perpetually caught in the thought of “Why don’t chicks did nice guys like me?”. He had never been bold in his mind and thus had never attempted any one on one communication with her. It was hard enough for him to communicate with her even around other people, his always nerve crumbled when he was around her in the presence of their mutual friend, Joseph and his girlfriend, Shannon, thinking that his nice guy persona would win her over.
Both Joseph and Shannon realized Robbie's affection, though his actions, or lack of, his disposition and mannerisms whenever Carla was around. And because he had professed his undying love for her. And both wondered why he had never approached her. Neither were aware of Carla's attitude toward Robbie , and both felt that a direct question concerning that subject, directed to Carla would be too obvious and akward. And if she felt different from Robbie, the realization would be crushing.
Since Joseph and Robbie both enjoyed backpacking and both Carla and Shannon's eagerness to try backpacking, Joseph’s suggested that the four go on a weekend trip to a secluded section of the state designated wilderness area west of Brevard. Weeks ago, when Joseph suggested and presented the idea to Robbie, glee and gratitude were evident from him when he gave Joseph a bear hug for appreciation of an ingenious plan to pair he and Carla up and a chance that he may be better acquainted with the apple of his eye and she him. When both Carla and Shannon agreed on the plan, saying it sounded like fun, Robbie was ecstatic and it seemed the weekend would not come soon enough.
Thursday after classes, they all loaded themselves and camping gear into Joseph’s Jeep. Joseph took to the road, at a moderate rate, driving in a north west direction, further into the mountains. The drive was a pleasant one, with everyone participating in the various conversations and providing pleasant different views on disputable subjects.
When all fell silent, Joseph looked in his rearview mirror to the two in the backseat, Carla and Robbie. He could ascertain by Robbie's demeanor that he longed to share a backseat conversation with Carla, but his fear prevented him. And he could detect from Carla's action's she needed something to occupy her time with, for she seemed uneasy with the silence of the jeep. After fidgeting her hands and glancing out the window several times, she reached in her bag and pulled forth a book and proceeded to read. He gave it no thought, for they had all weekend to get better aquatinted. And besides, if Robbie couldn’t strike up a conversation with a girl in the backseat, how was he ever to expect to get to know her.
Minutes of silence later, Carla looked up from her book and inquired as to their destination.
Joseph, while driving tried to point out on the map, the area where the planned to go. His efforts were to no avail for it was difficult to accomplish such a feat. To simplify things he handed the map to Robbie and said "You remember where we're going, right?"
Robbie took the map, located the wilderness and pointed it out to Carla, saying nothing.
She gave a curious glance at the map and studied it a bit.
After taking the map from Robbie, she continued to scrutinize it with a look of perplexity.
“What is it?” Joseph said from the front, having noticed the obvious perplexed Carla in the rear view mirror, wondering why Robbie had not picked up on this and asked her. Sometimes, he felt like he had to hold his friends hand to get him to do something.
"Well, this past spring, semester I was especially interested in a course entitled Folklore of North Carolina. I was able to get into it and one of the topics concerned the area where we're going." she said, pointing to the map, indicating their destination, as if for emphasis.
Robbie gave her an interested reply as he looked up "Really?" His gaze lingered on her face.
Looking up from the map, she caught his gaze. Both in embarrassment leveled their stare to the chart of the wilderness. "The region has long been shrouded in mystery. The Indians avoided it like the plague, claiming that an evil spirit inhabited the place. They named it something like "Hills of the Meadow Devil. Or Grass Devil. The translation was not that good.” Occasionally Indian braves and warriors would go there, but never returned. Supposedly a band of Spanish explorers lost half there men in that area. When settlers moved in the area, they also learned to stay away, adhering to the Indians warnings. Later people have been reported missing in that area, like hunters and curiosity seekers. Some have gone and come back, not having seen anything. Then it was said that either in the late part of last century or the early part of this century that a group of pagans, maybe it was devil worshippers, would go there and practice rituals. It's always been told that one can hear a humming noises originating from the area. Once, the professor took a few students p there looking for a supposed small temple or alter that supposed to be there, but never found anything. I don't know how true it is."
Robbie's stimulation grew for what the weekend might bring, for this new information added a bit of extra excitement and opportunity. Evident of her apprehension as to their destination, Robbie envisioned her coming to him, out of superstitious fright, for comfort and protection during the weekend.
He also admitted that he felt an inkling of that superstitious fright. Yet in the face of that fright, he refused to let it show. He would comfort her if she came to him, he thought courageously.
"Ya, Well, I’ll admit, that’s kind of why I picked the place. I took that class year before last and always was curious about the area. And the fact it would be cool to camp in a meadow which the area is dotted with.”
At four thirty, the jeep, having traveled Forest Road 486 in a continuing north-westerly direction for the past half hour pulled to the side of the road when Joseph saw the appropriate trail marker sign marked a trail-head that lead into the wooded hills. Beside it was an ancient tree that had been struck by lightning long ago. The tree, still alive, was gnarled and blackened
Without much ado, the four campers unloaded the vehicle of their camping gear and burdened themselves of the heavy equipment. Carla's apprehension of wondering, since the advent of the trip, if her stamina would support her load on the trail, was evident in her. "If I die of exhaustion ten minutes into this, just leave my body."
"No joke." Robbie was too quick to agree.
The trail was overgrown and had not seen much use in the past few years. It’s as if the forest service had neglected it, thus people also did. . Only a few people had used in. Those that new of the history of the area were they brave, foolhardy or ignorant hunters, fishermen or campers like themselves.
Carla, to perpetuate her own fear and in the others said the last known disappearance of a person was a decade ago. Two hunters had come seeking deer. Becoming separated due to a bad storm, only one emerged from the woods. One had not. A small search party was petitioned, but few went, for fear of the unknown.
For dramatics, Joseph said as they started on the trail “No turning back now!”
Fifteen mere minutes into the walk, Joseph blasphemously exclaimed, stopping.
"And, what prey tell is the matter?" asked Robbie attempting to be cute, He stopped as well. The two girls vacated a felled tree.
"I can’t decide which why to go. The trail is so faint and splits off here and looks like there.” He said pointing. ”Do you want to take point?" he asked his friend, hoping to relinquish the responsibility and designation of leader, hoping that Robbie would man up and take a little charge in something.
"Why don't we do this the American why? Let's vote." Robbie instead suggested.
To roll his eyes, Joseph had to turn his head. Even then, holding his hand, Robbie couldn’t take charge.
"Well" Joseph asserting himself, taking back control of the situation stated the obvious in his assessment of the situation, "we can continue straight, which seems that it leads slightly downhill. Go left, which is uphill which is pretty steep." He looked to the girls, wondering their opinions.
"I can go on." Carla announced. "This is not as bad as I thought. I don't care to go up that hill." she said indicating the steep incline. “I vote that we keep going straight."
"I'm with Carla.” Shannon announced. "This isn't too bad. I could go for another few miles."
“I’m with them!” Robbie announced, simply to agree, being nice.
"Fine with me that we keep going straight." he looked to Robbie.
"Sure." he remarked.
As Joseph predicted, the way straight did continue decline slightly, much to everyone's already fatigued legs delight. But he failed to foresee that the trail yielded itself to the wild and became obsolete. When he expressed his concern on this matter, everyone's sense of adventure and excitement overshadowed reason when the girls chanced to uncertainty, trudging, past Joseph, through the unmarked wilderness. Despite his friend’s rambunctiousness, Joseph blazed the path the girls were creating, so all could return whence they came from.
The way straights simply deviated from the direct route in that the excited adventurous campers varied from the way straight. Shannon lead the group down the slight slope for bit.
Following impulse, Robbie proclaimed himself as "they’re the fearless leader" and took the group along a zig-zag obstacle course around trees and outcroppings of rocks, attempting to be fun.
For once, he was taking charge, but in a foolhardy, reckless manner.
Their heedless track continued for another fifteen minutes when they came upon a large gorgeous glade by a stream. Joseph, having given up on marking the route they had traveled, leaned against a tree at the edge of the opening, looking back, attempting to reinforce the memories of the way they had traveled . The others, also tired from the rambunctious flight through the forest, ceased the gleeful dash, removing their now weighty packs and walked about the glade and listened to the sound of the running water, investigating it.
Carla commented how beautiful. Robbie agreed, not for the mere sake of complying with her comment, for he was actually awed by the splendor of the secret place and the tranquility it filled him with. And he thought Carla never looked more beautiful now than ever in this setting as he looked over at her.
Tt was Joseph that suggested that they set up camp there in the glade. Everyone agreed that it was the perfect place.
"Well, we may want to go ahead and set up the tents, even though we still have plenty of light, we have to start supper and collect fire wood." Joseph stated the obvious, but felt a need to do so for he feared the others would piddle the time away until dusk and there would be a rush to get things in order for the night’s stay.
He turned to Carla and addressed her, "We may have a little problem, Shannon and I were wanting to share a tent and we were wondering if you would mind crashing in Robbie's tent. If that's not okay just say so and the girls can have a tent and Rob and I can sleep together." he said this seductively, sidling up next to his friend and putting his arm around him. He did this more for a tension breaker. "Now he's a nice guy and I can assure you he won't try anything, unless it’s with me"
"Ya, that's fine." she said and smiled nervously.
Robbie couldn't decipher if there was any anger to that smile, but he was excited never the less.
Pulling the tent from the bag, Robbie obliged Joseph by setting his tent up out of moaning distance of the other. He heard Carla approach with her back pack, which she'd laid by a tree. "If your not comfortable with the sleeping situation just tell me, I can crash outside." He said, his face cringing with the expectancy of a negative response.
"No, it's all right, I'm fine with it."
"Okay, if you change your mind, just let me know." Robbie acted like a sweet gentleman, now suddenly nervous with the fortunate turn of events.
"Okay, thanks" She said and was silent a moment then asked, "Why don't we set it up by the stream. It'd be nice, listening to the water; it would put us to sleep."
Ten minutes later, with the help of Carla, Robbie had their tent erected and began preparing the site for the kitchen. He unpacked his cooking gear, which included aluminum plates, a light weight, compact stove, and utensils. He then dug in the bottom of his pack, he removed a weighty sack that contained food for two, he and Carla, since he had agreed to prepare, pack and carry her food. Gathering good size stones, he helped Joseph and made a fire ring for the camp fire.
The young ladies emerged from the woods with twigs in their arms, having begun their quest for fire wood. They set the wood brought by the fire ring.
Joseph upon seeing the small amount of wood that the ladies had gathered, remarked teasingly, "We won't have much a fire with that. Come on Robbie, lets show them what kind of a fire we can build."
"Right on." Robbie eagerly remarked.
Off the four journeyed, in to the woods, with the last light of the days sun beginning to fade.
They started collecting the wood from the perimeter of the clearing but as the findings being sparse, they proceeded to go deeper in the forest. Taking the first armloads back to camp, they continued on their collection expedition and continued yet further into the forest.
It was the ladies that came upon it first. They had separated from Robbie and Joseph, who were sixty yards to the east. Carla was asking questions concerning Robbie, and Shannon was attempting to answer them when the embarked upon the second clearing and what it held.
This particular clearing was different than their clearing, in the sense that grasses and other growth seemed to be struggling to establish a foothold. Young pine saplings grew deformed and dwarfed along the edge. The maples that bordered the clearing, seemed to get no l higher than two feet and those taller had dead dry leaves or no leaves at all. The evergreens, no taller than the pines and maples, had no to little life in them. What insignificant ground cover that existed did not flourish, but was like the struggling trees in that it was stunted and suppressed. Nothing bloomed or flowered. It was barely evident that photosynthesis even took place here, for all things that should be green, had a horrifying bland yellow brownish tint. It was if death had resided in the area for a spell and had left it tainted.
But what was most obvious, most predominant, most glaring was the temple that seemed to grow out of the hillside towards the back of the clearing. Mostly organic, seemingly to be an architecture that was spawned form the earth, rock outcroppings fifteen feet tall, housed a large cave mouth. Man’s hand on the scene were evidenced in the symmetry of the cave, forming a round void, not normally found in nature. Other evidence was the crudely constructed aspect of the structure: large block stones, not native to the region, placed on one another. Yet it was sturdily built for the ravages of time were evident upon the rock indicating that it was eons old. What signified it as a temple were the other blocks of the same black stone, almost monoliths, arranged in two rows, leading to the entrance of the cave , like columns. Directly before the entrance was another block of the same a type rock. It stood, between he two rows of pilasters, alone, as if it were an altar.
The ladies stood, saying nothing for a moment.
Then Shannon spoke up, braking the eerie silence. "Oh my god, this is the place you were talking about!"
Carla, still momentarily stunned, finally managed to say: "I think your right."
Neither were reluctant to not moving, not advancing on their find.
Shannon called to Robbie and Joseph.
A few moments later, the two came upon the clearing and the two were speechless and immobile, just as the young ladies had been.
"Holy shit!" Robbie exclaimed he said, taking in the sight.
"I'll be a goddamned son of a bitch." Joseph swore. He looked to Carla "This is it."
She nodded with uncertain fear.
Respecting the ancient sacredity of the place, Joseph refrained from advancing.
Robbie on the other hand, overcome with fascinated curiosity and a strong determination to win over Carla, boldly stepped forward. He stepped on the dead grass’s, it crunching beneath his feet.
Joseph, not wanting to look inferior in the face of the girls to this beta male Robbie, likewise stepped forward. He thought suddenly Robbie was fearless and had transformed into a man, finally. And he wondered what had come over him, thinking he was bolstered by the promise of spending the night in the tent with Carla.
Robbie stalwartly swaggered among the columns.
Meanwhile Joseph, almost timidly, walked to the first block, jutting from the ground. He was grateful that his back was to the girls, who were still standing on the edge of the clearing, for he knew his eyes showed fear. He was terrified for some reason he could not place his finger on. He started to lean against the black slab, but the thought that if he did, he would contaminate himself by merely touching the rock.
Robbie hoisted himself on the alter like rock and sat, legs casually dangling over the edge. "Well, come on!" he eagerly waved to his friends.
The girls hesitantly stepped beyond the border of the forest and into the clearing. Joseph mingled among the columns, being weary not to touch any of them.
Sensing the hesitation, Robbie said "Chickens!" and bounced off the alter and advanced towards the large opening.
"I don't think that's a good idea." Carla called to Robbie
"Oh, I'll be alright, I ain't afraid of no ghost." he played off Carla's warning and proceeded.
"I wouldn't go in there." Joseph also gave caution.
Robbie ignoring the warnings, walked the few steps to the temple entrance. For a moment he hesitated at the threshold as if from uncertainty and fear. Shadows, like a shroud, cloaked all beyond the entrance with darkness. It was if the late afternoon sunlight was repealed by the dark in the temple.
"Joe you got the flashlight?" He asked.
Joseph pulled the flashlight from his back pocket. Fumbling with it, he hesitantly walked it to Robbie. He tossed it the last few yards, not wanting to go bear the alter.
"Thanks." He said, taking the battery operated light and cast it's beam into the shadows. Joseph took a step back, fearing what wild animal may spring out or what inanimate object may rest peacefully in slumber, ready to be awoken.
The beam of light played along the walls and stopped on the inanimate object that rested atop the pedestal, almost another alter, in the center of the room.
"Holy shit!" Robbie said ducking his head, he hastily stepped into the ancient house of the unholy. Robbie quickly stepped the three strides that brought him to the base of the waist high pedestal and picked up the object.
It was an image, carved in a deep green stone. The size of his hand, it was nothing more than an oblong block in which deep lines had been etched to create the likeliness of a cricket or grasshopper.
Over come with curiosity, Joseph was at his side, examining what Robbie held in his hand. "It is true then. I can't believe it, I can't believe it!" he stammered.
Now in the center of the room, the two boys having examined the small statue, Robbie directed the flashlight around. Oblong stones, on the sides of the cave, about a foot and half high circled the pedestal, almost as if for an audience beam to what lay beyond the pedestal. He turned the beam beyond the pedestal. Instead of hitting a wall like he expected the light to do, it simply faded, darkness swallowing the light. “"There's a hole!" he exclaimed.
Stepping to it, there was an opening in the back of the temple. Shinning the light through it, he discovered that the hole angled down into the earth. "Don't even think about going down there!" Joseph said from behind him, still holding the idol, suddenly feeling like he needed to wash his hands. He put the idol back on the pedestal.
Robbie began to respond, but was interrupted by shouted inquiries from the girls.
Eager to put distance between him and the dark tunnel, Joseph stepped to the entrance of the cave "What?" he asked the girls, trying to be cool. The girls had not advanced much further beyond the edge of the cleaning.
"Ya'll come out of there!" Shannon said, "This place is giving me the creeps."
"There's a tunnel back here!" Robbie shouted out. "Come take a look at this place." he said excitedly, going to the entrance of the cave, joining Joseph in the sunlight.
"No way! Let's go back to the camp." The girls replied.
A startled look was expressed on the faces of Robbie and Joseph as they distinctly heard the noise, more like a call. Both looked at each other, not sure if what they had heard had only been in their own heads. Then they looked over their shoulders towards the mouth of the tunnel from which the sound had emerged.
Shannon noticing their sudden drastically changed disposition called out "What is it?" When she got no answer, she shouted "What is it you guys?"
Straining their ears to the tunnel, both simultaneously turned and shouted for her to shut up.
Sensing the urgency in their voices, she complied.
Then they heard it again.
It was a low wail, inhuman and not of any known beast. Full of bass, it clicking, vibrating call, reverberated slightly off the walls and their now trembling, fearful hearts. Lasting a mere three seconds, to Robbie and Joseph, it seemed they endured it for an eternity. This time, the call was more distinct, more loud, because it was closer.
Neither of them needed the either's approval to that the initiative to put distance between themselves and the creator of the call; both quickly stepped from the temple.
Robbie’s face was a look of terrified fear, his false bravado gone. Joseph’s alpha male personality was shelved, his survival instincts took over, which knew that it was time to run.
As the fading sunlight bathed their faces in an act of purgence of the confines of the temple.
But the secure feeling of cleanliness was quickly smashed as from the mouth of the tunnel, once again the beholder of the voice, called out, even closer this time.