“Come on man, you’re not coming to believe all this bullshit, are you?” Andrew asked, slugging Fred in the arm. “Look, there aren’t any actual death certificates of a man being killed here, or any newspaper clippings, or any sign that it happened at all! It’s all nothing but a story.”
“Yeah man and we’re going to prove it to Uncle,” Jesse said with a wicked smile, pulling out a short, but sharp, hunting knife from his back pocket.
“What are you going to do?” Liz asked, zooming in on Jesse and his knife.
“Nothing actually, seeing as we already did it!” James laughed, moving behind the tree and squatting down to gather something in his arms. Standing up, he revealed a long length of rope that had been sawed through, along with a dozen or so pieces of parchment hanging from the ropes, idly turning in the slight breeze. “This was around the tree when we first found it, and we figured we could sell it to Uncle for a pretty penny, seeing as he likes to collect this stuff.”
“You cut that off the tree? What if those papers actually mean something?” Liz asked, shocked at their behavior.
Fred put a hand on her shoulder, shaking his head free of the sense of doubt creeping into his mind. “No, what they did was petty vandalism, that’s all. The papers are just from the Chinese families that visit here on occasion, probably prayers or something.”
“Still… won’t they notice it’s missing?” Liz asked, unsure about the prospect of stealing the thick corded rope and its various adornments.
“Not until we’re long gone,” Jesse assured her, hoisting the rope up over his shoulder with a grunt. “By then we’ll have this to Uncle Boon and have ourselves a little spending money.”
“Or more weed.” James chimed in, helping to roll up the thick rope up and around his brother’s arm.
“Just… just take it out to your car now so we don’t have to lug it in the morning,” Fred ordered, shaking his head.
“You got it!” The two sang out, marching through the tall grass, carrying the massive rope between them.
“Let’s go set up camp for the night then, shall we Guzman?” Andrew asked, slapping Fred on the shoulder. He shuddered as a chilling wind swept past them, rustling the leaves of the trees and the dry grass for a few seconds before slowing to a standstill.
“Yeah, that’d probably be smart,” Fred said, looking up at the sky. “I doubt it’ll rain, but it should be nice and cold tonight.”
The next few hours were spent in relative peace as the six teenagers all went about the task of preparing a campsite in the middle of a graveyard. Fred and Andrew pitched the tents between worn headstones while Claire and Liz walked about the graveyard exploring. Jesse and James dug up a fire pit and cleared away all the dry grass within ten feet of it, piling up the yellowed vegetation at the bottom of their pit, which the lightly drizzled with lighter fluid, before lighting it aflame around dusk.
Now, seated around the roaring fire with sticks ending in hot dogs in one hand, and chilled beers in the other, the group sat and talked animatedly about the various ghost stories they’d heard over the years. Claire yelped at the climax of each story, snuggling closer to Andrew, who didn’t seem to mind, while James and Jesse passed between them a pair of joints, their half-lidded eyes eagerly watching as their hot dogs sizzled and popped above the fire.
Liz had resumed her camera work, filming them all as the sun slowly set over the orange-hued horizon. Fred meanwhile sat pensively, smiling at the jokes and passing out beers when asked.
“Are you okay Fred?” Liz whispered to him after a while, once the stars had become visible and the chill of the night began to creep around the edges of the dancing flames.
“Huh?” He said, eyes snapping from the center of the flames to Liz, blinking wearily as he stared at her.
“I asked if you were alright,” Liz repeated, looking at him with concern.
“Yeah, just… just feeling a little weird is all, I don’t know. Can’t explain it…” Fred replied, wrapping his long arms around his jean-clad knees and pulling them closer to his chest. “Just hoping we can find something that’ll prove to my uncle that this place isn’t haunted, y’know?”
“Why does that matter to you so much?” Liz asked, the rest of the conversation dying down at her question.
“Uncle Boon’s always been a kooky one, Liz,” James said, holding in a lungful of smoke as he passed the joint to his brother. Letting breathing out a cloud of acrid smoke, he considered the fire. “He believes in all this crazy shit, like ghosts and demons. Kind of runs his whole life based on it.”
“He’s such a smart guy too,” Jesse added, puffing on the joint slowly. “But all he does is collect strange things for his shop, jars of ghost tears and demon nail clippings and whatnot. We just want him to wake up and smell the coffee, y’know? Realize that all of this stuff is bogus, so he can go about his life.”
“This place is where it all started, according to grandpa,” Fred said, looking at Liz and the camcorder. “He said that when he was a boy, Uncle Boon came home, white as a ghost, calling the police. After Lychee’s father was arrested he just… started believing in all of this stuff.” “If we can prove to him that nothing is here, then maybe he’ll finally have some closure over this.” Jesse finished, throwing the end of the joint into the fire before taking a long pull from his beer.
“Well,” Andrew said after a few moments of silence, pushing himself to his feet, “I’m gonna take a leak. Claire, watch my hot dog for me, would ya?”
“Sure babe,” She said, rubbing her hand up his leg affectionately before he turned and walked off into the darkness, stretching his sleeveless arms above his head.
“So why are you and Andrew here Claire?” Liz asked, zooming in on her with the camera.
Claire shrugged. “Andrew is in the same Atheist club as Fred, and he wanted to help out a friend. I just wanted to see a haunted graveyard.”
“So, you believe in ghosts?” Fred asked face scrunched up.
“Oh, for sure! Tons of people see ‘em all the time, what other explanation could there be for all the sightings?” Claire claimed, leaning back on her hands as she spoke.
“Well, just because we can’t explain what it is people are supposedly seeing doesn’t mean its ghosts. It could be any number of things.” Fred began, Jesse and James nodding in agreement.
“Like it could be ghosts!” Claire said with a smile, crossing her arms behind her head and laying back, ending the argument.
The rest of the chatted about school and upcoming exams, pulling the searing hot dogs from their sticks with quick fingers, happily eating while washing down the hot meat with a cold beer. Claire even joined in once she realized that her food might be burning. Looking up, she raised her eyebrow and looked over her shoulder.
“Babe, your foods ready!” She called out to Andrew, taking a bit of her hot dog right off the stick before quickly cooling her scalded tongue with a swig of beer. “Ack! Dammit, that hurts!”
“That’s why we all pulled ours out a minute ago.” Liz teased before turning her camera towards the direction in the darkness that Andrew had walked. “Where is he? Does it take this long for a guy to take a leak?”
“Not normally, though with the right STD’s…” James chuckled before ducking beneath a rock thrown by Claire.
Liz, curious, pressed the button that turned on the night vision filter, allowing her to see out into the darkness with ease. What she saw did anything but ease her mind, however.