The Campfire | Short Story

Inches away from the campfire, Callum could feel his arm slowly getting seared from the flame’s radiating heat, but he couldn’t move. He was too scared. Why was he scared, you may ask? He was frightened because he knew someone -no, something– was behind him.

This all started less than 48 hours ago when Callum’s parents dropped him off at a local summer camp. Was he happy to be there? Not really. Did he hate the summer camp more than home? No. So camp it was. Walking down the pathway towards the cabins, he noticed that it was in the middle of nowhere. The closest gas station was over an hour away, and he didn’t see any cars driving by either. ‘That’s weird…’ Callum thought but decided to put it out of his mind and at least TRY to enjoy the 3 weeks he’d have to spend there.

Finally getting to his assigned cabin, he was shocked to see that Johna wasn’t sitting on the bench. Jhona was your textbook definition of a mischief-maker but wasn’t that bad when you overlooked the smugness and lousy attitude. Something he would never do, though, is flake on someone. He and Callum made a pact: they’d both come to summer camp and escape their turbulent home lives for the short period of 3 weeks. As if the universe was reading his mind, Jhona showed up with a playful slam on the back.

“Hey,” Jhona exclaimed with a hearty laugh.

“Hey yourself. I almost thought you stood me up,” Callum replied rubbing his back. “Have you seen this place?” He asked while he looked around the isolated field the campground was in the middle of. “It’s a bit eerie, don’t you think?”

“Eerie?” He replied cocking his eyebrow and letting out a little laugh. “Is the little boy scared of spending the night away from home?” Jhona mocked in a baby voice. Scoffing, Callum entered the cabin and unpacked. Secretly, though, he was happy to have his friend with him.

They spent the day chatting, getting to know everyone at the camp, and most importantly trying to find somewhere where they could get a good WIFI connection, but to their dismay, there was no such place.  The day passed in a blink of an eye, and all of a sudden they were at the daily campfire dinner. All throughout the day, though, Callum felt as if someone was watching over him, and not in a protective way. There was something wilder and predatorial about it. It uneased him to the point where he couldn’t even walk to the bathroom alone.

Hours after everyone fell asleep, Callum was still wide awake and staring at the ceiling, trying to calm himself down enough to sleep. Counting backward to a hundred seemed to do the trick because he shortly fell asleep after that.

Groggily waking up the following morning, he climbed out of his bunk in a zombie-like trance only to be met with an angry Jhona.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe these counselors! They’re onl-” Jhona droned on, but Callum stopped paying attention. His eyes drifted to a  little drop of red on the hardwood floor. He bent down to examine it.

“Are you even listening to me?!” Jhona asked, but then threw up his arms in anger and left to vent to someone else. Callum couldn’t care less, what really grabbed his attention was this spot. It hasn’t dried all the way up, so it must have been fresh. It was apparently blood unless someone spilled an extra-concentrated cup of strawberry juice.

Walking straight out the door and into the counselor’s office, he relayed the whole story to him.

“Long story short, you found blood on the floor and think someone has been murdered. Is that right?” the counselor said in an unbelieving tone while crossing his hand and reclining back into his seat.

“Y-yes,” Callum stammered out. Now that it’s been said out loud, it sounds slightly unbelievable. Well, very unbelievable. “Actually, just forget about everything. I think I just imagined things. I didn’t sleep that well yesterday, so that might be why…,” he wrapped up quickly walking out of the office.

“What in the world was I thinking,” he laughed. “A monster in camp. Out of all the outrageous things I could’ve chosen, I had to go with that. Ugh, I must be going insane…,” he said to himself while heading to the cafeteria.

The rest of the day was just average; he met up with Jhona, read a book, ate, etcetera. That feeling of being watched still persisted though, it never left him.

At the end of the day, he walked to the campfire and sat down at his usual spot next to his friend. They talked, as usual, the argument from earlier was long forgotten. Since Callum didn’t get any sleep the previous night, he decided to lay down right there and close his eyes for a few minutes next to the relaxing fire. A few minutes lead to an hour-long nap.

Slowly waking up, he noticed the wet sound of footsteps behind him. His instincts told him that he should just act like he was asleep. The footsteps receded, so he opened his eyes. A gasp almost escaped his pursed lips, but he controlled himself. In front of him was a scene no-one should ever see. It was something straight out of a horror film. The lifeless bodies of his camp-mates were all propped up on different seats facing him. Blood was still slowly running out of the slits in their throats and pooling around the already drenched bodies. At this point the fire was so close, it was burning his skin, but he dared not move a muscle. He was so concentrated on the scene in front of him that he didn’t notice the footsteps returning.

“I know you’re awake,” a raspy voice that belonged to no woman nor man croaked out, “It’s your turn now.”

Much love, Rawan 🖤 …