by Jennifer Ann Margaret Patino
Brandon and Jamie shine their lights up into the treetops. The night air is sweltering and David swore he heard a sound up there.
“Chicken shit, as usual,” Jamie sighs and let's her backpack fall to the ground. A dust cloud rises up around it. Brandon shudders thinking of the ghost story.
“Well, whatever,” David crumples into a heap, backpack and all. The dust around him doubles the amount the pack created. “This is the place.” He shines his light upwards as if trying to reach his beam to the moon.
Brandon is chugging from his canteen and his eyes nod in agreement. He swirls some in his mouth and spits it out. “Better start a fire then.”
Jamie is already collecting kindling.
Later on, after dinner (Doritos, Mountain Dew and some baked potatoes with King Size Kit Kats for dessert) the three sit silently by their small fire and David is close to nodding off when Brandon pulls out a cigarette pack from his backpack.
“Right on...” Jamie's squeal of delight is too much for an almost 15 year old.
“I could only nick four,” Brandon says lighting one of the menthols. “We share.”
“Aww, man...” David groans. “Jamie's lip gloss always makes them taste funny.”
“Shut up, you tool,” Jamie blows her smoke over towards him and he just shakes his head.
When the cigarette is finished there is another fifteen minutes of silence from the trio. Somewhere, a night bird of some sort squawks. Crickets croon.
Then there is the sound of three gasps in unison. Joining the nocturnal symphony, at just the time the old ghost story they all knew said it would happen, is the sound of twinkling laughter.
“You guys are screwing with me,” David whispers.
“No-shh!” Brandon is standing now staring off into the direction of the light laughter. Jamie jumps to her feet fumbling with her flashlight. Her face looks paler in the moonlight. Brandon's hand steadies hers so her beam can stop making those extra shadows through the trees.
“Story says we follow it,” Jamie's voice is monotone.
“Come ON,” David whines. “That's enough proof for me.”
“You said we were in this together!” cries Jamie.
“Will you two shut the hell up?” Brandon is still staring into the trees.
His heart is pounding in his head but he still hears the laughter and it definitely is drifting away from their mini campsite.
“If the other part is true about those were-witches or whatever being back there you guys can forget it-”
“David, shut up,” Jamie shuts off her flashlight and points.
They all can see her. She's standing right in front of them. She's laughing and the sound of it is still drifting away, yet she's coming closer. Brandon's brain struggles to find a logical explanation but can't.
“Stop right there!” he yells. It seems appropriate.
The woman in white stuns them by listening. She stops moving. She stops laughing. Her dark hair is covering her face just as the old legend described.
David panics then and starts to try to run but stumbles. He pants heavily and by the time he is back on his feet the lady has disappeared.
“Where did she go?” Brandon sounds upset. “Damn. What do we do now?”
“Check it out,” Jamie turns the flashlight back on and starts walking toward where the woman appeared just at the edge of a few trees out of the moonlight's path.
“I'm staying right here,” David says as Brandon hands him a cigarette after lighting his own totally forgetting the sharing rule.
Jamie is shining her light into the forest. “Oh wow...come here, you guys...” she says and then starts banging her flashlight because it's dying. “Hurry! I'm losing light!” she calls to them.
“Chicks,” David shakes his head and Brandon agrees with a sigh.
The boys make their way over and Brandon's flashlight starts to lose power. He bangs against it as Jamie did and then turns to David to see if he has his.
“Oh, it's back there-”
“Forget it,” Jamie says as they draw closer. “We know where the fire is, if I can see it, you can too.”
“See what? Is it the ghost again?” Brandon squints to try to see what she's looking at so intently. It's almost as if she's in a trance.
“I think you're both just crazy and we should definitely get out of here.”
Those were the last words of young David.
The woman in white appears again behind the three and breaks David's neck in one snap. Before Brandon can even try to make a run for it his neck is broken the same way.
Jamie turns her flashlight back on and shines the beam on their horrified expressions. She can hear the bristling of many white dresses behind her as the others make their way to the clearing. The woman in white stands before her smiling, her blackened eyes shining.
“Very well, daughter. You did very well. Run along now. The rest of the ritual you will learn and experience as each new year passes until your Induction Ceremony. We can take it from here.”
Jamie doesn't argue. “See you next year, mother.”
The woman smiles and is joined by four other women in white all smiling at Jamie as well.
Jamie extinguishes the fire and picks up her backpack ready to make her trek out of the forest.
She glances back and the women are still staring at her waiting for her to leave.
She is halfway back to civilization and still hears the sound of howling and ripping flesh.