* * *
The ghosts of Camp Tekonichia were not crawling in the literal sense. They only did that on the rare occasions when sneaking down through one of the caves to where a stash of old nudie magazines had been abandoned by a smuggling camper many decades ago. Sure, they could just faze through the rock and stroll into the cave, but walking through stuff was an uncomfortable sensation. Art had once said it best, comparing having other objects occupy the same space one’s body to feeling like you really had to poop, but like… everywhere.
They also were not crawling in the sense that Topher had meant. Currently active in Camp Tekonichia were three humans ghosts, a multitude of animals ones, and a few wisps that floated in and out of existence around the woods. Wisps were ghosts or ghasts that had slowly faded away without every moving on, leaving only a few strands of ectoplasm about. They were the ghosts of ghosts, in their own way, and were incredibly rare save for in a few spots around the world. Camp Tekonichia was one such spot.
Art and Clinton were not wisps, though, at least not for a while yet. They were both proper spirits, having died on the job while working as counselors and finding themselves unable to move on. Clinton had gone out first, falling down a ravine he’d been scaling in the dark while on the way to a midnight hook-up with a fellow counselor. Art had died roughly a decade later, flipping his canoe after downing half a handle of whiskey and inspiring the creation of the camp’s “No Boating and Boozing” sign. They’d both been dead for long enough that to reach peace with their early-end to mortality and shed many of the trappings that the living carried around. Clinton and Art had found peace in their deaths.
The same could not be said of Irwin Pistole, who was currently sitting on the edge of the dock glowering at the frogs nestled on the creek bed. Every few days he would try and grab one, or a rock, or something of that nature, only to end up howling in frustration as his intangible fingers refused to find grip. Irwin was newly dead, scarcely gone over a year, and he was far from the realm of acceptance.
“Something up with the island?” Clinton probed gentle, pointing to the island in the center of the lake where campers had once rowed to in order to splash around on the banks. Despite the fact that it was early afternoon, a light mist seemed to have settled onto the center of the landmass. It might be real, but it might also be a spectral manifestation. Clinton has long ago lost the ability to distinguish between what realm he was peering into. Then again, given that he’d died in the seventies, Clinton had been seeing altered-realties long beyond he actually crossed out of the limited physical realm.
“It’s fog, obviously,” Irwin snapped, glancing up for a moment. He disliked the other spirits, not because they were cruel or unwelcoming, but because they could do things Irwin couldn’t. Somehow these two idiots had found a way to manipulate physical objects, albeit only a little bit. Few things irked Irwin like the sensation that someone might be better than him, despite the fact that countless people objectively were, which explained both his life’s near-friendless existence and his former employment with the TSA.
“Don’t look like fog to me,” Art added. He wore shorts well above his knees and a pink polo with a whistle around his neck, the counselor uniform at the time of his death and his burial shroud when the waters pulled him under. A touch of envy burned in him toward Clinton, who’d died in later summer while wearing pants instead of the silly shorts.
“The word is “doesn’t” and of course its fog. What else is it going to be? A magical gate opening up and finally letting us out of the cursed place?”
“Could be,” Clinton said, plopping down next to Irwin on the deck. “I always figured that day we moved on would be something sort of like that. A big grand gate opening into the sky, pulling us right to the throne where Jesus sits.” He waved a massive hand into the air, pointing to the throne amidst the clouds with his long fingers. Once upon a time, Clinton had a promised sports career ahead of him. That was before trying to make some extra cash for “extracurricular” and falling down a ravine chasing a pretty piece of tail.
“Nah, I doesn’t think it goes anything like that,” Art correct, dropping to a seat on the other side of Irwin. “I think we just float up in a ball of energy and merge back into the universe.”
“You mean ‘don’t.’ You don’t think,” Irwin corrected.
“I thought you said the word was ‘doesn’t’ a few seconds ago.”
“It was that time but the second time it was- oh fuck you.” Irwin jumped up from his seat on the edge of the dock and adjusted his royal pants that rode down just below the top of his ass when he sat. The matching shirt didn’t help to cover it up, as it was a size too small as well. The Irwin Pistole who’d first joined the TSA was a few inches slimmer than the one who’d choked to death on an egg-salad sandwich just as his plane was flying over Camp Tekonichia, but he’d lived in just enough denial to avoid ordering a new uniform.
Art and Clinton flashed each other a grin while he fumed. Once they’d learned Art’s deep-country dialect annoyed Irwin, and how prone to fits he was, they’d allowed themselves the occasional indulgence of fucking with him. Even for ghosts, several decades in one spot got pretty boring.
“Settle down,” Clinton suggested. “We’re trying to figure out what the weird cloud is.”
“Who cares what it is? Who cares about any of this shit? Unless it’s going to finally let me out of here I don’t give a dead polar bear’s asshole what the cloud is, mostly because it’s just fog!” Had Irwin possessed a body, he’d have worked himself into a sweat and be breathing heavily. As it was, he just stood there, glaring at his fellow inmates.
None of them knew why, but Camp Tekonichia was a prison for spirits. They couldn’t get more than half a mile into the forest before it felt like they were walking through molasses, and soon even that was impossible. Clinton and Art had always assumed it was because they had died on the grounds and were stuck haunting it, but Irwin’s arrival had cast some serious doubt on that theory. Technically, he should be stuck haunting his plane, at least from the way they figured. Death, like life, didn’t come with any sort of instruction manual.
“It’s different,” Art said at last, looking away from Irwin and toward the fog on the island. “Different don’t happen round here much, specially since the camp got closed. Different is interestin’ and we like that when we can find it.”
“You know what would be different? Getting out of here, how about that?”
“We’ve tried, Irwin, and so have you,” Clinton reminded him. “Art and I covered every inch of the border looking for a way out, and we’re still here. Try and find some enjoyment in the little joys of your time here, else you’re likely to lose yourself.”
“That might be fine for you two burnouts, but I wasn’t supposed to end up here. I was a government agent, I was important. There’s probably a special section of heaven waiting for people like me, I’ve just got to get to it.”
“Good luck with that,” Art said, his voice surprisingly sincere. “Clinton and I are going to watch the island fog, see if we can figure anything out.”
“You two are insufferable,” Irwin said, storming off in a manner that would have been stomping if he’d had the ability to stomp.
Clinton and Art sat in silence as Irwin left, idly watching the slight swirls and shifts in the mist creeping over the landmass.
“You know, I thought he’d be a little more curious, considering the weird thing about the island,” Clinton ventured.
“Yeah, me too,” Art agreed.
None of them had any clue what it meant, but none of the three ghosts had actually come to consciousness anywhere near their bodies when they passed. Despite dying in different locations across the camp, each one had awoken on the island that was now covered in fog. It was their private mystery, the wrinkle in their brains that each puzzled over when feeling intellectually adventurous.
But soon, it would neither be a mystery, nor private.
* * *
Half a mile up the road, just at the corners of Camp Teckonichia’s eastern border, a beat-up sedan pulled off to the side of the road. From the passenger’s side emerged a single person, draped in a large purple coat and carrying a black duffel-bag. From the short, copper-colored, hair and gently rounded face it was clear the figure was female, even though the coat obscured most of her body.
She leaned back in through the window and said a few words to the driver, who nodded in agreement. That done, she slapped the hood once and the car pulled back onto the dusty road nearly over-grown from neglect. The woman moved carefully through the brush at the road’s edge, thick boots easily pressing down the wild vegetation.
After a few moments of walking, she encountered a chain-link fence with a very prominent “No Trespassing” sign. This was hardly surprising, as similar signs were posted at intervals every few hundred feet. The woman reacted to this sign as she would have any of the others: by producing a pair of bolt-cutters from her duffel bag and ignoring the sign as she tore open an entrance.
A bit of effort and a few minutes later, the chain-link fence now boasted a sizable hole in its defenses and Camp Tekonichia had its first living visitor in over twenty years.
-Re-check Irwin’s dialogue in a few days. While he isn’t meant to be loveable, make sure that he’s coming through as appropriately frustrated by his death and imprisonment. If he’s all pointless anger then he’ll be two-dimensional.
-Open the next scene on Topher prepping for the trip. Need to show his serious-side, so maybe it will be just him.
-The ghosts need to be shown again before camp is reached so that the reader knows the situation is escalating before Topher & Crew arrive. Doesn’t need to be long, maybe it can be used as a break between other segments.
-End Chapter here, you're a little over 3k but not too bad.
Day's Wordcount: 1709. Total Wordcount: 3591