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Just One More

by Chad McClendon

A girl stumbled into Bertram’s trailside camp early in the evening. They began to talk and, as time passed, they exchanged stories around the campfire. Bertram thought she was the cutest little thing. “You mentioned the scariest story ever told. A real ghost story,” he said as she prodded the fire with a long stick.

The girl twisted around silently and watched the flames flicker across his features. “You’re sure you’re ready to? It’ll turn your blood cold,” she warned in a singsong voice that was made more eerie in the small copse where the campsite was situated.

“I’m not going to be scared at all. Go on.” He motioned with his hand.

She placed a log onto the fire and, as the flames rose, she started the tale. “Every small town in Kentucky has its own legends. Nobody really knows how most of them start or how true they are. But everybody knows this one, where I grew up.”

* * *

Four boys went camping in the fall of the year 1980. They were just entering their last year of high school and very happy to be about to leave their small town in Lewis County. As they sat around their campsite they began to tell stories, loving the cold shower of fear that drenched them with every passing yarn.

They began to play and grew increasingly louder as teenage boys commonly do. I suppose they didn’t know just how loud they’d gotten, because they soon saw a movement in the bushes nearby.

They hushed and were startled to see a young woman emerge carrying a lantern. They talked after a brief introduction and learned that she was camping nearby. Being a lover of ghost stories herself, she agreed to tell them a tale.

“Long ago, when this county was just being formed in the early 1800’s, emigrants came from the north and began to chop down this forest.”

“Various Indians, or Red Men as the settlers called them, knew this place as a home and were reluctant to give it up.” A log snapped in the fire.

“The children of the Red Men were killed, along with their parents. In what seemed like no time to some, the area was torn from the hands of the Red Men. However, it was also not long before stories began creeping into the towns.

“Accidents started occurring with far greater frequency. People were sometimes crushed by equipment in the local mills, people were found brutally murdered with pine splinters shoved into their skin.

“Rumors began to circulate about a hostile spirit roaming these woods. People began to suspect that it was a spirit of the slaughtered Indians, who would stop only when the number of people killed equaled the number of Indian deaths.

“They say,” she concluded, “that if you listen close you can still hear the screams of the victims on nights much like tonight.”

“One of the boys exclaimed, ‘But that was almost two hundred years ago! The numbers gotta be even by now! Why would it keep happening?’”

“The girl smiled. ‘I reckon I gotta be pretty close to finishing.’ She stepped through the campfire with a mad gleam in her eyes.

“The next morning the four boys were found, some burned, all of them dead. Pine splinters were shoved into their skin, all of their faces fixed in states of horror. The town was torn up about the occurrence; nothing like it had been reported for a long time.”

* * *

“It all happened right here in these woods,” the girl concluded. “And just like the story, they say if you listen close you can still hear the screams of the damned.”

“So you told me before this was a true story?” Bertram asked. “If it’s true, where do the stories come from? And why do you look so happy?”

She looked back at him smiling. A clump of pine splinters dropped from her hands and were illuminated by the fire. Bertram flinched.

“I’m the main character,” she said, rising up from her kneeling position by the flames. “I know every detail. And at long last, you’re the final one.”

And before Bertram’s scream left his throat, her subtle laughter filled his ears. It was the last thing he ever heard.

Copyright © 2015 by Chad McClendon

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