* * *
The New Mexico sun beat down on the SUV with such intensity that, in spite of the late-winter season, the air-conditioning had to be run at full-blast. This, thankfully, kept the inside of the car cooled, even if the tempers weren’t quite as sedate.
“You should have let me drive. We’d be there already,” Kay complained. She was sprawled out on the rear seat, while Topher rode shotgun and Auggie steered. Between the two, a GPS device chirped infrequently, losing signal, then gaining back exactly long-enough to tell them they were way of track, then losing it again before it could offer any helpful assistance.
“I watched you down five drinks in a flight that lasted less than an hour. There is no way on earth I’d let you behind a wheel. Where did you even get that many drink coupons?” Auggie asked.
“Fuck if I know, just found them in my purse a few weeks ago.” Kay moved in her seat, bringing herself to a diagonal position so that she was propped against the window. “Besides, I’m fine to drive. That much booze isn’t going to affect me.”
“Tell that to the policeman who makes you do a breahtlyzer.”
“No cop would bother breathalyzing me,” she retorted. “For one thing, I know how to work my flirt like a pro when I need to. Plus I don’t have a license, so they’d be waaaaay more pissed about that.”
“We’ve let you drive on jobs before,” Topher recalled, a small shiver racing up his spine at the realization. “Dozens of times.”
“I don’t need the man to tell me I know how to drive. That’s fascism.”
Auggie’s eyes went wide and he began sputtering. “That is not… you are… I-”
“Turn!” Kay barreled forward, grabbing his shoulder and pointing to a small, nearly imperceptible break in the trees that signaled the existence of a small dirt road.
On instinct Auggie jerked the wheel to the side, nearly flipping the vehicle but putting them on the new course. He stomped on the brakes almost as soon as he turned, suddenly aware of a gigantic obstacle in their way. Immediately before them were a set of locked gates under an arched sign reading “Camp Tekonichia: Where memories live forever.” There was a sharp electronic ding as the GPS fired up its speakers one last time.
“You have arrived at your destination.”
Auggie tightened his grip on the steering wheel and tried to convince himself that the machine wasn’t capable of being a sarcastic asshole. The same could not be said for Kay.
“Told you I’d get us there.” Her arms were crossed and smug expression rested on her smirking face.
Before Auggie could react, Topher’s joy overpowered his frustration, as the bigger man leapt from that car and ran forward in excitement. He darted forward, taking in the scents and sense of nature as only a boy raised in suburbia is capable of. They’d gone to a lot of remote locations over the years, yet Topher found each one to have a unique aura that radiated off of it. Here, he was almost bowled over by the spiritual energy in the air. It could have been bottled and sold, it was so thick.
“Auggie, come check this place out. The whole area is full of energy and it’s not even dusk yet.” Topher stood in the road, hands outstretched as he turned in small circles.
Auggie and Kay emerged from the rented vehicle after killing the engine. He had to admit, it did seem a bit extra creepy around here, though that could easily be from the late-afternoon sun filtering through the tree-tops. It surrounded them with shadows, long and black against the red-brown dirt of the country road.
“We’re going to get stabbed to death, aren’t we?” Kay asked. She lowered the tops of her over-sized sunglasses, this time worn for appropriate lighting conditions, and surveyed the scene. “Like, some dude in an umpire’s mask with a machete for a hand is going to come barreling into my tent and carve me into pieces.”
“Come on Kay, we’ve done investigations in places way scarier than this,” Topher reminded her.
“Yeah, but this is a summer camp. Give me one example of when summer camp plus paranormal doesn’t result in a shitload of murdering.”
Neither of the men could think of an example to disprove her theory, so Auggie just changed the subject. “You knew what you signed up for. What did you imagine investigating a purportedly haunted camp would be like?”
“I don’t know… a spa? I was sort of only half-way paying attention when you told me.”
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Topher assured her. “Spirits aren’t violent by nature; they’re just lost and confused. As long as we respect them, they’ll respect us.”
“I know the deal with ghosts, Topher, I’ve been to like a shitload of haunted places with you. I’m scared of masked killers.”
“Oh, well then you’ll still be fine. Those movies all happen in summer. This is March. Still technically winter, so we’re fine.”
Auggie braced for another round of objections, but to his surprise Topher’s logic placated the messy-haired young woman.
“Huh, I didn’t think of that. Alright, I’m in, but let’s still avoid doing anything too killer-tempty. Just in case.” Kay took out a phone that couldn’t possibly have service and opened a camera function. She may as well get some good shots of the entrance and the sign while the place was good and creepy.
“So, you never said anything, but what do you think?” Topher asked, walking over to Auggie. “Don’t tell me you can’t feel the spiritual energy rippling through the air.”
“I don’t feel energy Topher, I just feed it into the machines.” Auggie noticed his friend’s face beginning to fall and quickly backpedalled on instinct. Topher knew Auggie wasn’t a believer, that didn’t mean he should rain on the blue-haired man’s parade. “But I’ll say that this area does look like it has a high amount of potential. Even if we don’t capture anything, the scenery and ambiance will still lead to a very interesting episode.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist; I’ve got a great feeling about this place. I bet we capture all kinds of evidence. Heck, by the end of this weekend I might even be able to make a believer out of you.”
“Topher, I respect you and what you believe, but I’m a man of science. You could spend the entire life of our sun trying to convince me that ghosts and spirits are real, and it still wouldn’t succeed. I’m simply too rational to accept supernatural entities as real,” Auggie said.
It would be roughly four more hours until Auggie was not just a believer in the supernatural, he was bitterly setting himself on how to fight it.
For a camp abandoned two decades past to the wilderness, the area wasn’t nearly as derelict as they’d been expecting. It seemed the current owner employed some sort of property management company to keep the greater forces of nature at bay. The walkways were grassy, but not overgrown; the fence encircling the perimeter well-maintained; even the gates they’d unlocked and driven through worked with a minimum of pushing from Topher.
The cabins hadn’t held up quite as well, the duo of time and weather battering them heavily. Local wildlife certainly hadn’t helped much either, at least judging from the claw and tooth marks present in the wood and intermittent intervals. However, they were all still standing, though some could more accurately be described as leaning, which spoke to either the proficiency of the builders or the weakness of the local elements.
“Let’s do some opening shots there, and there, and by the dock,” Topher rattled off excitedly as he, Auggie, and Kay meandered through the area. This was their initial assessment, a chance to scan for areas that would be the best to film in. While Topher looked for things like places ghosts would be most likely the congregate, Kay checked for locations where she could get great images and video even through the lens of the night-vision cameras they’d be using. Auggie was on watch for spots with high capacities for danger or structural integrity issues. Topher and Kay were both led by their guts (and perhaps with Kay, the flammable contents therein), so it was up to him to determine if an area was safe to shoot in or not.
As Topher talked, Auggie scribbled in his notepad and Kay snapped pictures on her phone. Some were undoubtedly going to be stills for the lead-in, but many were just several as reminders of where she wanted to look at once the sun set. Whenever possible, they tried to spread this out to a two-day process so they had ample time to check lighting and set-up equipment. Topher had, unfortunately only managed to book them the one night, and with what he’d had to pay Auggie refused to go back and try and haggle for another. They’d made it work in one night before, they’d just have to do it again.
“And we’ll do some check there,” Topher said at last, gesturing to a dilapidated cabin that had one wall partially caved in. Auggie scribbled a furious note not to let that happen. “Okay, that’s probably enough to start. You guys ready to set-up home base? We’re going to the use the old main hall. It’s got offices, a lunchroom, I think even a garage. Should have all the outlets we need.”
“I’m ready,” Auggie agreed. “These bugs are particularly aggressive, so I’d love put something between they and I besides my insect spray.” To punctuate his point, he pulled a small can from the fanny-pack draped across his hip and let the aerosol dance across his skin with a thin “psssst” sound.
“That stuff is terrible for you, there are all sorts of chemicals in it,” Kay lectured. She took a flask out of the cowboy boots she was wearing beneath her willowy skirt and knocked back a few hefty glugs.
“Do I even need to point out the hypocrisy of your statement while you’re ingesting alcohol, which, by its very purpose, is toxic to your blood?”
“This is water, smartass. I just didn’t have a canteen. Dehydration is a serious concern in any outdoor environment, so I thought I’d play it safe.” Kay screwed the cap on and stuck the flash back in her left boot.
A soft blush ran over his skin as Auggie blinked in surprise and, just a touch of, embarrassment. “I’m sorry, that was presumptuous of me. You were being prepared and I leapt to conclusions.”
“Apology accepted,” Kay replied. She reached down and pulled a different, much larger, flask from her right boot. “Anyway, this is my walkin around flask. Want some?”
Auggie’s mouth opened and closed several times, nothing actually coming out of it besides strangled sounds that seemed halfway between a choke and a scream. Finally, with a flourish of his hands, he gave up and stormed off toward the main hall where they were going to make home base.
Once he’d made it over halfway there, Topher turned to Kay. “Be honest, how much of that is you just messing with him?”
“Depends on the day. Like, sixty percent on the high ones, maybe fifteen on the low ones,” Kay admitted readily. “He just makes it so fun.”
“Try not to go overboard tonight. I think he’s already pretty annoyed with me for booking this place last minute.”
“Yeah yeah, I’ll ease off for a bit.” She took a deep draught from the right-boot flask, then noticed Topher staring at her. “What? I’m already in trouble in for it. May as well do the crime if I’m going to do the time.”
That made a strange bit of sense to Topher, who took it as a cue that he should probably stop talking to Kay and get to work. “Let’s go, he’ll probably have calmed down by the time we get there,” Topher said. The two headed up the same path Auggie had stormed up only a few moment prior.
Neither was aware of the entity who stayed behind, having witnessed their whole conversation from the unseen vantage point of directly in front of them. Art shook his head as they walked away, uncertain of what to tell the other two. It was possible that them showing up only a few hours before the fog would stop growing was a coincidence.
Possible, but damned unlikely by Art’s reckoning.
- Next scene should show Velt watching everyone. Establish that she’s still around and undetected.
-Building toward sunset as the first major plot shake-up point, so have a few dominoes set-up to fall when it finally hits. Get the ghost investigators out and about.
-The ghosts are established enough as characters that they don’t need a cut-back scene until sunset. Since they’d just be standing around watching more, it will slow the pacing down significantly.
Daily Wordcount: 2106. Total WordCount: 7516