Creek Wood, October 31, 2018
rating: +2+x

Creek Wood, October 31, 2018, 6:00 PM.

Somewhere on the West Coast of the United States, in a town called Creek Wood, a peculiar Halloween was taking place. It was six o'clock in the evening, the sun was slowly setting and gangs of little kids dressed as superheroes, elves and other creatures were strolling the streets with the traditional "Trick or Treat" hoping to fill their bags with goodies. The traditional decorations in the form of pumpkins with candles decorated the fronts of several houses, in addition to many other festive decorations.

It was the last year of studies they’d share together, a few months away from graduation, an awaited moment, yet shunned. The next year the world would expect everything from them, there would be no more room for jokes or mischief, this year should be the grand goodbye. The gang was made up of five dreamy souls, dressed according to their tastes.

Phil in a James Dean style with a leather jacket, tight jeans and hair covered with greasy gel was in the lead, carrying an open backpack with a couple of rolls of toilet paper hanging over one shoulder; Charles dressed as a skeleton in the style of the villains in Karate Kid was on his left side with his face painted black and white, in one hand he carried a six pack of cans, in the other a market bag with a few boxes of not-so-fresh eggs; Amira was on Phil's right side in a witch's costume, with the beaked hat, purple lipstick and eye shadow and a short dress revealing her legs covered by mesh stockings, on her back she carried a slightly old backpack; Dan was after her, his costume consisted of only a prop arrow through his head, he wore the school uniform colored blue with white and a badly gestated red-and-black eagle on his back, he carried his hands in his pocket and a carefree step; the last one was Marcus, with his athletic body covered by a black spider-man costume with a red cap on his head, he also carried a small backpack on his back.

At the high school the costume party was taking place under the watchful eye of the instructors, avoiding inappropriate behavior to their eyes, however, away from the hustle and bustle, away from the cloying music and games that were novelty in the '70s, a small gang was heading to the cemetery, to celebrate in their own way as they knew it was their last Halloween together.
Out of obligation they attended, they went and settled in a corner hiding their contraband properly in a hedge on the outskirts of the orange and red decorated hall. The music was generic, there was no alcohol and the pubers talking about the games coming out at Christmas took away from the mood they were looking for. They also didn't have the luxury of checking Twitter or Instagram. No cell phones, as it was the only rule they agreed they would abide by. That night was theirs and no one else's. After 9 p.m. the party was dying down and taking advantage of the fact that the crowd was leaving, they escaped behind the stage where the amateur band was putting on a mediocre show.
The quintet moved through the streets, telling each other some silly jokes and gossip from the cafeteria, although they preferred not to talk too much about school as it depressed them. It had been their habit since they were 13 years old to do the "pranks" on people they knew they would not expect reprisals from, be it the old lady living alone at the end of the street, be it the loner living on the edge of town. In these five years of their exploits they were unscathed, except for the occasional call of attention from the police to their parents. But before starting their rounds they would make a special stop at the cemetery.

Part of the Halloween ritual they did every year was to go into the city’s cemetery and set up a small camp to tell each other strange and spooky stories, although they always ended up bursting into laughter. The usual thing was that after that camp they would do some pranks taking advantage of the anonymity, throwing rotten eggs at cars, papering the trees of some obnoxious neighbor and other misdeeds typical of teenagers eager to show their courage and daring. However, this was not a year like the others, this was one way or another, this was the last year they would share adventures together.

It was the last year they would be together, then they would be far, far away from each other. Hopefully at least two of them would still be in town a year. This year had to be the big goodbye. A night in jail could be the worst they would get. But the experiences would last a lifetime, and the criminal record, although they didn't think about it at the time. This was better than the party that was brewing at the high school, a mock costume party with the principal and other teachers watching for unseemly scenes. For 12 or 13-year-olds it was fine, for youngsters about to pass adulthood, it was just too little.

They started around ten o'clock at night, after jumping over the low perimeter fence, throwing the rolls of toilet paper over the funeral cypresses that surrounded the cemetery. The evergreen cypresses were now decorated with a white cellulose streamer, losing some of their solemnity. The weeping willow was not spared either, nor were a couple of oak trees whose bare branches now retained such undecorated adornment.

Then it was the turn of the tombstones, especially the older ones, moldy and deteriorated. As if the passage of time were not enough, they now endured a little target shooting competition with fermented eggs under a radiator. An unpleasant layer of rancid yolk and white now covered the names of people decades dead, as laughter and self-praise took place that night. When the eggs were gone, empty beer cans followed, clinking loudly against the old tombstones. It was a few minutes past midnight, and it was time to start closing the party. Sitting in a circle, in a somewhat cozy spot in a cemetery, the group celebrated with bars of red and dark licorice and of course, alcohol.
“All right, all right, we're almost out of beer so let's get to the stories. Who's starting?” Dan asked with the enthusiasm of alcohol decorating his voice.

“Me! And I brought something special to set the mood.”

From her backpack, the young woman disguised as a witch placed a whitish skull in the middle of the circle without announcement. Its grim appearance and the dull white of its teeth suddenly dampened the laughter, a shiver ran down more than one's spine at that moment. Marcus, the young man disguised as a black spider-man was the first to break the silence.

“Hey… Where the hell did you get the skull? Damn, you sure know how to kill the moment woman.”

“It's Halloween, plus you wouldn’t be scared of an old bone, would you?”

To feel fear would have been an affront to their bravery, so with resignation they simply decided to stay put. Besides they were already in a graveyard, surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of bones.

“I suppose it's legal, isn't it?”

“More or less, I mean, yes, it's from my father's studio, but I borrowed it without telling him… Tomorrow it will be in his back office as if nothing happened, heh.”

“Whatever…” said Phil bringing the beer can to his lips and throwing it against a grave with a loud click “So, what's the story you're going to tell us? Did you read something in that weird club of yours that surfs the internet?”

The young woman pouted for a moment, suddenly changing to a mischievous smile.

“No, this one was told to me by my cousin, the one who lives in New York. And it happened during last year, so it's fresh…”

“Here we go…” Charles said as he started pulling the rolls of toilet paper out of their packages, ready to be tossed in a moment.

“Well, well. It turns out that about a year ago a girl named Coronel went missing, remember? It was in the papers and even the teachers gave talks to the girls about how to take care of ourselves and stuff….”

“Yeah, they almost put us in the same bag as those perverts.” Phil said with a certain tone of bitterness, he hated being labeled as exactly that.

“Stop interrupting and listen! Well, as I was saying, this Coronel girl was killed and raped in a club and then these guys don't go to prison. Typical pretentious rich kids who get away with it. Or so they thought…”

Picking up a flashlight she shines it on her chin, giving her face a strange look.

“The thing is, they are found not guilty. So they were letting them go. And there was someone watching everything from afar. This dead girl's sister. She was not only her sister, she was her friend, her life partner, they shared the good and the bad times. The girl went crazy as she listened to the judge's words, as she saw the mocking face of the lawyers, as she watched the faces of the five go from fear to relief. She cried out for revenge."

A sudden windstorm hit the town of Creek Wood, directly affecting the small cemetery. The treetops swayed menacingly, shaking their branches as if struggling to get rid of the toilet paper that would ruin their somber and stately bearing, a small nervous laugh came from the group.

“Keep going Amira, before a storm comes,” said Charles holding the can to his lips.

“Yes… A year passed, they changed schools, the case was no longer talked about, it was something taboo. And this girl's sister started to see… Things. Books about demons, angels, fleshless spirits, ancient gods, all of those called for vengeance. She went into occult forums and prayed and implored many things and names. And her prayers were heard. Something heard her weeping, her pleading and wailing. She was beyond this world and yet lives within us. They called it the Ghost of Vengeance, or so I believe. An unclean spirit that takes the form of a victim and makes it’s victimizers disappear. It's Celtic or Roman, I don't know."

"They started disappearing, one by one, but it wasn't the only fact that they disappeared, it was how they did. One was in the gym, went into the showers and disappeared. Another was locked in his room and vanished, and in a week they all were gone, leaving no trace or anything. But a few days later, some men in black came and exhumed the body of this girl. They took everything and disappeared. Some say they were from the FBI, others say they were from the CIA, the craziest ones say they were from a secret agency of the government or the UN that discovered something…

An uncomfortable silence, only interrupted by the wind howling furiously over their heads, clouds were gradually covering the moon and the stars.

“The thing is, this girl's sister was entangled with this spirit that understands neither reason nor logic. It is passion, pure unbridled passion. The spirit was forgotten years ago and now it came back to this world, and it did not want to leave. So this girl is now bound with this spirit to take revenge against the wicked, defending those who cannot defend themselves, not because of the sense of justice, but because the spirit wants to satisfy its hunger for revenge…”

Once the story was finished only a couple of applauses followed with a certain sarcastic tone.

“Good story Amira, it was a bit "meh" but at least it was entertaining. Although I like vampires and werewolves better.” Dan said with a mocking tone.

“It's true I tell you, my cousin and her schoolmates are scared.”

“Yes, yes, your cousin's stories…. By the way, it looks like a storm is coming, the wind is blowing hard. I'd say let's finish the day in the garage at home. Let's pack up and go.”

“Yeah, you're right. By the way, where's my skull?”

“Inside your head," Charles replied with a chuckle, kicking an empty can into a bush.

“Seriously guys, where is that skull? It's my dad's and I wouldn't want him to even know I took it.”

“It was with us while you were telling us the story, maybe the wind blew it around here,” Marcus rationalized. “It didn't just fly away.”

“Come on… help me find it. I can't go home without it.”

The small group of costumed individuals proceeded to search and rummage through the weeds and other types of debris for the missing skull, their search being in vain. As the minutes passed, the wind became more and more violent and the sky was covered with a layer of pink clouds. And the patience of the boys was running out.

“Damn it Amira, can't we take one out of the ossuary and give it to your father?” Dan asked with some frustration in his voice with his hands dirty from moldy dirt.

“That skull is his souvenir from medical school. Plus he had it engraved at the base, imagine what the police will say tomorrow when they come here and find it.”

“Damn it!” Phil exclaimed in exasperation, his hair covered with gel and some leaves and dirt from the cemetery. After taking a moment to breathe, he calmed down, he thought, and spoke. “Okay, we can't leave without that damn skull, the wind is blowing hard and it could be anywhere among these crypts. So the best thing to do is to split up so we cover more ground. Charles and Amira with me, we'll look north. Dan and Marcus, you'll look south. Come on people, the less time we take the sooner we go home.”

In other circumstances they might have argued about the division of the teams, but Phil's unfriendly face and Amira's face about to burst into tears cancelled out any attempt at a discussion. As soon as they had separated is when, from the air above their heads, something came to them.

The melody was soft, resembling a female voice's ululation. It sounded like a "larala lala larala larala, larala, lala, lalala, lalala" coming from no specific direction and from all at once, sometimes sounding close and sometimes sounding far away. A real feeling of terror ran down their spines. It was too much for Dan to bear and he threw the prop arrow away from his head.

“Fuck this, I'm out of here.” he said separating from the rest.

“W-wait, we're in this together,” said Marcus trying to restrain his friend, being pushed by a punch until he fell to the ground, dirtying his spiderman suit with mud and greenish dirt.

“You guys said it, this is the last time we see each other. So, fuck you, I'm out of here and I'd rather go to jail than spend one more minute here.”

“Don't do this Dan, we've been doing this for six years, it's just the sound of the wind against the cypress trees, don't tell me you're afraid of the sound of some fucking trees,” said Phil with a certain authoritarian tone.

The disadvantage of this statement was that besides from that song, the whistling of the cypresses was sounding, giving more mystery to the origin of that voice.

“Fuck you Phil with your orders, fuck you Charles, fuck you Marcus and above all fuck you Amira. You brought that garbage with us and you fucked it up. It's your problem, I’m wash my hands from this. Goodbye.”

Unable to do anything else, the four figures with flashlights in hand fell silent, silence interrupted by the hooting that hovered whimsically in the air.

“Okay, Charles and Marcus to the south, Amira and I to the north. We'll meet here in half an hour.”


Dan

The boy moved between the old graves taking hurried steps. The wind was hitting his face forcing his eyes to shut. The strange hooting sounded far away, but still persisted, as if struggling to make itself heard. It seemed that the more he struggled to get out of there, the more and more graves there were. His consolation was to see the perimeter grove approaching.

But his consolation turned into horror as he got closer.
The toilet paper they had thrown just a couple of hours ago was taking on whimsical and fanciful shapes. Whether from the wind and the branches, whether from the alcohol now in their brains, the strips of paper now took on the appearance of frayed shrouds, figures standing against trees or huddled on gravestones. The sound of the cypress trees against the wind sounded different from that hooting, but not necessarily any less horrifying.

Behind those trees, however, was the wall, and behind that wall was the street leading into town. Less than 20 meters separated him from the longed-for freedom.

Making poise and calling for courage, Dan ran between the stonecrops, avoiding the wayward bundles of paper and the menacing tree branches that waved furiously, as if they wanted to strike him. He successfully crossed the courtyard of gravestones, through the tops of the oaks and the first row of cypress trees. Something grabbed him by the edge of his jacket, he let out a scream of terror.

Courage was gone, panic overtook him. Run, run away, that was all he had in his mind. With a jerk he threw off his blue, white and red jacket and started running towards the wall, preparing his muscles to take the leap to freedom. What he thought was a floating strip of toilet paper thrown at him from the nearby tree proved too much resistance. It looked more like a strip of silk than weak cellulose. The white strip imprisoned his neck, blocking his windpipe, wrapping around him more and more as if a diabolical will controlled the material.

He wanted to scream, but felt his lungs bursting as he could not release the trapped air. Slowly it began to lift him, inch by inch, breaking branches with the punches and kicks he threw. His eyes turned red as the capillaries in his eyes burst. The last thing he saw was a crouching form, intermingled with the canopies, with its crimson shroud.


Charles and Marcus

The two young men heard Dan's distant scream. Then silence was interrupted by the hooting.

“Dan!” Shouted Marcus being stopped by a shove from Charles, in his skeleton costume.

“Forget Dan, he left us to our own. Besides, he's probably on his way out of the cemetery by now…”

“And why would he scream then? Maybe he fell into an open grave somewhere.”

“Let's look for that skull and once we have it, we'll look for Dan. One thing at a time Marcus," Charles said with some nervousness in his voice.
Dan was about to say something, but a pungent, nauseating smell suddenly reached his nose. The smell was so intense that it made him vomit, making his eyes water from the unpleasant aroma. It was similar to the smell of the rotten eggs they had thrown a few hours ago, only much more potent. Between touches, they could barely speak, but the decision was final. They had to get out of there.
“L-let's get out of here… let's look for James and Amira…” Marcus said choking as he leaned against the gravestones.

“Yeah… They can't be far, they went north I think….”

Before he could finish speaking Charles felt himself suddenly sinking into the ground. A legion of hands, or rather claws and paws, grabbed his ankles and feet dragging him rapidly. Skeletal, rotting fingers sank into the young man's soft flesh, tearing the skin and the skeletal clothing he wore, he wanted to scream but could not, as he had been literally swallowed by the earth in just a few seconds. Marcus, horrified, could only throw off his mask that was obstructing his vision and run away.

“Guys! Help!” he ran screaming in terror. He couldn't see who or what hit his friend. Whoever or whatever hit him did it from behind, taking advantage of the distraction. In the distance he heard Amira's voice, calling out to him and Charles.

A pale shadow rolled in front of him, making him fall into a sitting position. A bundle of paper and twigs flew out, similar to a tumbleweed, hitting some old gravestones still wide with stale albumin. He stood up, preparing to continue his flight from the prowler. A horribly sharp blade held by a crimson figure ended his existence before he could finish getting up…


Phil and Amira

Amira had finally burst into tears and Phil was comforting her, sinking his fingers into her black hair. They were both standing on the courtyard of the ancient tombstones, somewhat away from the grove. The hooting above their heads was more intense than before.

“It could only end like this…” Phil said at last with a somber tone, without stopping hugging the young woman, his eyes were closed, he didn't dare to open them for fear of seeing what for which they came for.

“But… but they are our friends, we have known them since we were twelve years old or before, why them?”

Dan's shout was heard in the distance, in the direction of the grove. Then accompanied by Marcus' shout calling out to his friend.

“And that's why we must give them up, we must give up what we love to pay off the debt.”

“But they are only three, we need five to finish this….”

“No, you only need one….”

In the distance they heard the scream of Marcus, running towards them, in panic. Amira answered his call, only to be stopped by Phil's powerful hands.

“No, this is yours and yours alone. I can't live like this anymore, not knowing what happened… I can't live knowing what we did to Charles, Dan and Marcus.”

“No… Carmen summoned him, I'm sure she can stop it…”

“Didn't you read the book with me? If the debt is not settled before dawn today, the debt must be paid by the next of kin…. Do you want your little sister to go through this? Or your other cousins?”

Silently, the young woman cursed her cousin who had invoked a calamity that dragged her and not only her family, but her friends, to finish paying off a debt that, one way or another, should be paid off. Tears ran down her cheeks running her mascara, giving her a pitiful look.

“Phil, I…”

A finger rested on her purple-painted lips. A sad smile was painted on the young man's face.

“I didn't believe you at first. I thought it was like those creepypastas and other internet nonsense, plus that book of yours about myths. But then you showed me the pictures your cousin sent you, then the dreams, then…. No. If this is our last moment together there's no need to stir this shit up, let me enjoy your face one last time.”

“Phil…”

Without giving her time to react he made his lips collide with hers. She entwined her fingers in that hair covered with gel while she had her eyes closed, she wanted to enjoy it, at least one last time. Then she felt something heavy in her hands. When she opened her eyes she noticed the young man's body lying down and holding his head in her hands.

“…”

Behind her she felt a presence, something, slowly approaching. The hairs on the back and nape of her neck stood on end. She was afraid to even breathe. She felt deep inside her, a primitive impulse telling her to run, to flee, to hide from it. What she had read in that book said that she should stay still, not turn to it or speak to it. Her gait was clumsy, she dragged her feet on the leaves, the only thing it did was its horrifying hooting that, the more she paid attention to it, the less human it sounded, as if it were something clumsily trying to pretend to be something it wasn't. She felt a sharp knock on a tombstone from behind and then silence. An unnerving silence and stillness, the feeling of dread followed, concentrated in his lower back, as if he expected a blow or something. Then she did something she would probably regret, something she read would only bring calamity to her life. She spoke to it.

“I-I will fulfill Carmen's pact. Before dawn you will receive your payment.”

Something she felt stirred, a strange vibration in the air. Now Amira was alone with that strange entity, with the silence interrupted only by the wind. A hollow, hoarse, inhuman sound rang out behind her. The terror was too much, she even wet her underwear. It seemed that the thing behind her spoke, a strange tongue, a tongue of demons. Its tone seemed compelling and threatening. She didn't understand a word, but the message was clear. She had to fulfill what she had said.
The hooting returned and again it shuffled away like an old woman, moving clumsily back toward the tombs. When the minutes passed and she felt the hooting much more softly, caution gave way to curiosity and she turned around to see what it was.

It was less than thirty meters away, illuminated by a full moon that refused to disappear behind the clouds. It was just over five feet tall, its back was hunched and on its head it wore a sort of crimson hood or pointed hat wrapped in strips of white. Its right hand resting on a monolith was of a bluish or violet hue with abnormally long fingers. From the sleeve of the red shroud it wore on its right arm protruded a simple bronze-colored blade, stained with the blood of her friends. Its gait was slow, leaning against the tombs, looking like an old woman, but there was something in its movements that said it was a simple performance, as if it were struggling to contain itself.

As the being turned towards one of the mausoleums Amira could see part of its face. Its mouth was open in an inhuman way, as if his jaw had collapsed, the color of the complexion was similar to its hand, of a purple or bluish color. A few fine white locks fluttered over its forehead, moving unnaturally despite the devilish wind blowing. And its eyes, its eyes were two reddish fathoms that glowed in a malicious and devilish way. It continued its slow walk and simply disappeared among the tombs of the ones who had died many years ago. And on one of the tombstones, half a meter behind Amira, was the firmly placed skull, staring its empty sockets at her.

She had no time to scream or cry. She knew she had until before dawn to fulfill the debt, she wouldn't have to get her hands dirty, only the intention was needed, tell the story by presenting that strange fetish and that would take care of collecting the debt. Not far from her, on a tombstone next to Phil's body laid the white skull, its empty sockets watching her expectantly. She knew she had hours left to finish the contract.


Creek Wood, November 1st, 2018, 2:00 A.M.

A man was sitting in front of his television, cup of coffee in one hand. His dark complexion had a bluish tint as it reflected the navy color of the program he was watching. He watched the clock expectantly, waiting for his little girl to return from her party. Yes, it was true that she was not his little girl anymore, she was almost an adult, next year she would start her life far away, maybe in California or Oregon, or at least he hoped so. At least he would not be alone, his other two daughters would keep him company in this new stage of his life.
A door rattled loudly, the sound of the wood hitting the frame was too loud. The man set down his still steaming mug on the small table and expectantly walked over.
What he observed caught him completely off guard. She was a mess, looking almost like a different person from how she had come out a few hours ago. Her eyes were red from crying, her makeup smeared across her face, her clothes stained with greenish mud and reeking of rotten eggs. In her hands she held a pearly skull, immaculate, its empty eye sockets staring back at him. And her gaze was haunting, it was a look of hunger.

“Amira, daughter, what…”

“Dad, I have something to tell you, it's about cousin Carmen…”

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