“So we need to take the picture now that the sun is setting,” I said, looking around the group for a sign that someone brought a camera.
“Right here,” Kevin said, holding up his IPad. “I have a clear signal from the hotel nearby, so I have the internet and everything. We’ll take two pictures: one where I’m holding it, and one where someone else is.”
“Yeah yeah, I get it.” Todd said, pulling Chris to his feet from where they’d finally gotten comfortable around the fire. “I’ll hold the camera for you when your turn comes up.”
“Thanks,” Kevin replied, motioning for everyone to move in real close around Gregory the Gargoyle.
The statue was of a fierce looking slab of granite in the shape of a humanoid figure, wings extended from its back as it knelt down low, one clawed hand spread out in the dirt. A stone tail coiled like a serpent at its feet, completing the terrifying look that so many teenagers spoke about when they came to the Onion House. I stood next to Alexis, and to my surprise she pulled my arm around her shoulder, smiling up at me with those emerald eyes and pouty lips.
Just as Kevin was taking the picture I leaned down and captured her lips, initiating a kiss that caught both of us by surprise, though she seemed to be interested as well if the way she moaned into my mouth was any indication. Kevin called out for Todd to switch places with him and ran up just as we separated, choosing to stand in front of us. He turned his head slightly to look back at us.
“Knock it off, or Todd is going to make a scene!” Kevin whispered. It was no secret that Todd was grossed out when straight people kiss, and made every effort to mock it when he got the chance. The only thing that calmed him down was a beer or two, allowing him to relax a little.
“Okay, everyone make funny faces!” Todd said, holding the IPad up, adjusting a few measures on the camera.
We all did as we were told and smiled when Todd mocked our faces. The picture ended up being one of us laughing, holding our sides from his acerbic remarks. I would swear even Gregory smiled a little at the teen’s puns. Brad walked over to me, arm slung over amber’s shoulder and winked.
“So you two finally come out of your shells?” Amber asked, placing a hand on Brad’s expansive chest.
“Told you one of them would make a move tonight,” Brad said, earning a swat from Amber.
“What? I was right, wasn’t I?”
“If only for a second,” Alexis said, smiling. “He just got me with one of his Gypsy curses, forcing me to kiss him like that.”
I smile at the joke and waggle my fingers at her, causing everyone to laugh. “Now you have the curse again, and my lips are the cure.”
“Yeah, well, I’m gonna wait a while before the cure this time.” Alexis said, sashaying off to where Amy was standing near a break in the wall, her arms crossed over her windbreaker jacket.
Brad turned to me and nodded. “You bring anything for us to drink? Because I got a cooler of beers in the van if you wanna help me carry it over here.”
“And I made sure to pack some hot dogs we can roast over an open fire,” Amber added, squeezing Brad’s midsection and letting him go. Patting him on the rear, she walked back towards the fire, stopping to chat with Amy and Alexis.
“Guess that means we have to get that cooler now. Come on and help me, would ya?” He asked, to which I nodded.
He was parked in the hotel parking spaces, so we had to climb up the slope and over the chain that marked the Onion House as protected property. His van was newer with a few scrapes on the white paint, and a dent in the rear. The cargo door opened just fine, revealing a long plastic cooler that felt cool to the touch.
“See what I mean?” Brad said as he leaned in to grab one side. “I could probably carry it myself, but I’d mess my back up something fierce. Just grab the other end and we’ll carry it down the slope at the end of the chain, much easier that way.”
“Alright,” I nod, grabbing one end of the heavy cooler, grunting as I pull it out of the van. Brad takes a second to close the cargo door, pressing a button to lock it, before he begins walking backwards towards the slope.
We make it back just in time to hear the group complaining about the lack of drinks, Todd being the loudest.
“Look no further gentlemen, we’ve arrived with refreshments!” Brad announced, breaking through the underbrush, walking a few more steps to set the cooler down a few feet from the fire.
A low howl echoed in the distance, causing all of the teens to look up and listen. The howl of some strange beast tapered off after a few moments, leaving them with the sounds of a crackling fire. I choose to take their mind off the howl (probably a coyote) by opening the cooler and tossing cans of beer to the girls. They laugh and crack open the sudsy drink while Brad pulls out an unopened package of hot dogs.
“Now all we need are sticks,” Chris said.
“I’ll look around for some,” I said.
“I’ll help you.” Alexis said, patting Amy on the hand as she stood up, leaving her friend on the log that had been turned over to serve as a seat.
We make our way into the underbrush, where I begin picking through fallen branches of oak trees. The knotty wood is hardly ideal for roasting hot dogs, but from the high treetops I can make out an Elm tree near the back wall of the Onion House. I mention it to Alexis and we begin forging out way there.
“So you’re a Gypsy,” Alexis said, starting a conversation.
“I am,” I reply, not really knowing what else to say.
“Can you do the things like other Gypsy’s can, in the movies?” She asked from behind me.
I shake my head. “You mean curse someone to get thinner or sick a demon on them?
"Yes, if properly motivated.”
“Really?” She sounds amazed.
“Really. In fact I prepared something for tonight, but it can only be done at midnight.” I pull back a low hanging branch and snap it off, thinking it would make good timber.
“What is it?” She asked.
“Ah-ah, that would be telling! Suffice to say, you’ll all have a blast when I do it, and be able to tell your grandchildren you really saw a ghost the night you stayed in the Onion House.” I chuckle, thinking of the spell crumpled in my pocket.
We finally reach the elm tree and thankfully find several narrow sticks littering the ground. We also find graves, or at least headstones. Five of them.
“Did you know anyone was buried back here?” Alexis asked, a tremble of fear ion her voice.
I shake my head. “Had no clue.”
We both swivel our heads when we hear a rustling in the bushes some twenty feet to the right, something big moving about. I grab the sticks and Alexis’s hand and begin pulling her back towards the fire. She pulls on me, but my grip is strong.
“Don’t you want to see what that is?” She asked, looking back at the shaking plant life as it slowly advances closer towards us.
“Maybe by the light of the fire if it keeps following, but not out in the dark. Nothing good has ever come from a mysterious noise in a graveyard after dark.” I said, tugging her along. She sees reason finally and begins moving with me, no longer struggling. I hear the sounds of rustling leaves begin to fade away as whatever was following us decides to give up the chase.
We make it back to the fire just in time, as Brad is slicing open the packet of hot dogs. I grabbed enough sticks for everyone, and toss the oak branch onto the fire, smiling as the flames lick at the pollen covered wood.
My smile dies when a humanoid face rises from the smoke, a silent wail leaving its lips as it rises above the flames, staring at me with lidless eyes. “Go back,” it mouths at me. “Leave this place!”
I stare at the head as it rises into the night sky, the smoke it’s made of breaking up on the soft breeze. Looking around my friends, I can see none of them saw what I just saw.
A warning… father would say we should heed it, while grandmother would say that the dead hold no power over us, I think as I spear a juicy hot dog onto the end of the branch, holding it out over the crackling fire. Alexis presses a beer into my hand, which I crack open thoughtlessly. Would they even believe me if I told them the spirits were trying to warn us off this land? Best to stay with them and see this night through, so that we can all leave together in the morning.
Hopefully nothing terrible happened here…