For Mark Reale
“And then the alien’s claws reached around the door.”
The fire crackled as Joe’s voice hitched excitedly. Leanne chuckled; we were all enjoying the game.
I should never have joined in. It all started last week when Jimmy won an RV and a camping trip in a drawing. He’d invited us all along. I’d agreed, but that had been before the week I’d just had. The worst week of my life. We had agreed we were going to follow all the camping tropes, hit all the high notes of camping. As city people, we’d all gotten excited at the idea of the great outdoors and some drunken carousing. Of course, now… I definitely was no longer in the mood.
A few minutes ago, the six of us had been gathered around the campfire gossiping when Penny had started it by saying, “It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was creaking through the trees in the moonlight.” My gut had dropped, worried she was going to tell a ghost story. No. Let it be witches or monsters… I prayed silently to myself.
Then Joseph had added the next line, “The dark of night was suddenly broken as a spacecraft crash landed deep in the woods. The only thing nearby was a cabin with six friends who were camping.”
I had relaxed; aliens were a safe subject. Joe raised his eyebrows at each of us and pointed in a circle to really drive home his point that he was talking about us. It was ridiculous enough that I’d even grinned. I really should have walked away, but I was interested in hearing the story, and it seemed safe enough.
Marla sitting just to Joseph’s right had bounced up and down in excitement as she realized it was her turn, “Um, okay! Hmmm… They had no idea the danger they were now in, but they heard the noise and went to investigate.”
Marla then gestures to pass the torch to me, and I’d added, “The UFO appeared to have been cracked in half from the impact, but the driver’s seat appeared empty as the six friends approached.” This was getting fun, and we were still on the subject of aliens, so I was letting my guard down. Foolish.
After the week I’d had, I should have had no interest in hearing any scary stories. After all, I’d been living one. But, we had agreed that we were going to follow all the typical camping tropes, and really get the most out of our free camping trip. And of course, the campfire tales were one of said tropes.
In retrospect, I should have warned my friends. Or stayed away, or told them what the gypsy had told me.
It was finally Leanne’s turn, and she added, “They all wandered back to the cabin, disappointed that they had not found any alien visitor… And…. now they were planning to call the authorities about the UFO. However, when they returned, they found that a tree had knocked out the phone and electric. It was as dark as night inside the cabin, and their flashlights did little to brighten the gloom.”
“Nice one, Leanne,” Jimmy complimented her. The two of those were probably finally going to sleep together if left to their own on this trip. If I knew Marla, she’d be watching to divert one or the other of them. We had all agreed years ago it was a stupid idea to let them sleep together, and she’d been their unwitting chaperone ever since. So far so good, we figured.
Leanne batted her eyes at him, and then downed her third beer in one long gulp. Uh oh.
Penny watched in amazement, and then realized it was back to her now. “That’s when…” and gestured to Joseph.
“Aw that doesn’t count!” Marla stood for a second. “Needs to be longer than that!”
“Too bad!” Penny laughed and leaned back. No arguing with her. It was Joseph’s turn.
“Okay, let me see.” I got worried that Joe was going to change the topic.
“And then the alien’s claws reached around the door.”
I watched Marla as the story circle reached her. Suddenly I realized, as I watched an ethereal spooky look cross her face, that she was about to change the subject matter entirely.
“No!” I whispered, terrified my friends would learn my new secret.
But Marla’s words were coming out anyway… “And that’s when the ghost appeared.”
And it did. Oh boy did it.
I crumpled to the ground, passing out against my will. I watched, horrified and disembodied, floating above the events as my own form rose from the ground, white and semi-transparent, completely transformed into the appearance and presence of Lady Arabella Forester, the angry woman who had been living within me for the last six days. I hadn’t meant to become her host, but damned if I could completely get rid of her.
As she tromped around the fire, scattering embers and screeching nonsense at my friends, I desperately tried to figure out what to do! What could I do, as a disembodied self, I wasn’t that skilled at helping. I tried getting back into my head, but Arabella is quite fiesty. She really doesn’t like to share; my body being male doesn’t seem to stop her.
It took all five of my friends to get me back into the RV and lock Arabella away. She banged around the RV quite a bit, bruising and slamming my body around, quite distressing to say the least. My friends were trying to work out what to do, and what had even happened.
“What the heck is wrong with Paul?” Marla said.
“Hell if I know,” Jimmy added. “Maybe he’s possessed?”
Joe added, “He’s lost his fucking mind is what’s wrong with him. Your story freaked him out.”
“My story?” Penny said, in disbelief. “We all did that. It’s just a ghost story, for god’s sake!”
I floated disembodied above them trying to tell them to speak the spell. I should have spoken earlier. I should have told them the gypsy’s spell. Dammit! Too late now.
I finally pushed my way into Leanne’s body. She twitched hard. Leanne fought me tooth and nail, trying to force her way back up to the surface, but I managed to get all the words out. “Fleeby Taboora Pamnacht!” I said, even though it sounded ridiculous, because I knew it would work. It sounded strange in Leanne’s drunk voice. But hey. The only way to do it.
Joe started freaking out that now it was happening to Leanne, but the banging in the RV stopped, and I turned to the others, in Leanne’s tiny little body. I whispered that it was safe to open the doors, but no one was allowed to mention ghosts again around me. They all nodded, stunned into silence.
Leanne’s body passed out and I went black. A few hours later, when I woke up, I was in my own body.
Jimmy and Marla smiled at me, while Joe handed me a piece of chocolate. “S’more?”
Everyone looked shaken up, but thankfully no one mentioned anything. I sat up and asked for graham crackers, the fire warm and comforting to watch. I really was glad we were all getting together.