“Come on, you guys! Get in on this! Come here!” I smiled, trying to get my friends to crowd in together for another selfie photo at this lonely looking gas station by the side of the road. “Come on, Mike! David! Duncan! I wanna get a shot of this!”
David groaned, “You want to get a shot of everything, Brian. Seriously, I’m all ‘selfied’ out, dude.”
“What?” I asked. “TELL me that you don’t want to document every last detail of this trip, dude! This is amazing! It’s our first time going out to the cabin alone, I want to remember this!” My friends and I practically grew up together. We’ve known each other since we were ten years old, and even though it’s been almost ten years since we first started running around the fifth grade playground… we never lost that kind of closeness that we had when we were little. Even if we tend to bitch about it a little bit more.
“I can’t believe that you guys allowed him to bring his celly with him.” Duncan said. “Rule number one for this weekend, dude. *NO* cellphones! What did we say?”
Mike said, “Technically, that really was the first rule we discussed, Brian.”
“I know, I know. But, trust me, you guys are going to be glad that ONE of us has a link to the outside world once the sun goes down. I don’t even exist without my celly, bro. Not for a whole weekend. That’s just insane.” I said.
David said, “You know, all of humanity was able to exist just fine without those things for many many centuries. Right?”
“True, but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t anywhere near as fun.” I said, and then just took a quick selfie of myself throwing up a peace sign with the gas pump in the background. Looking good! I took a few more, just in case. There’s always a chance that I might get a sexier shot out of this. “Nice.”
“I topped the tank off at 35 bucks, even. So give up some cash, bitches!” David grinned.
“No cash, man. You know I don’t carry cash anymore.” I turned my cell screen around and showed him my debit card app for making payments on the road. “Cash gets lost. This is safer. See? Technology!”
He rolled his eyes, then collected cash from everybody else and wadded it up, slamming it into the palm of my hand. “There. Now you’re carrying cash. Go pay for our gas, will ya?”
“Hold up.” Duncan said. “I’m coming in with you. Just wanna grab some snacks.”
Looking at my screen, I checked the time. “Cool. Let’s get out of here quick, though. It’s already, like, four o’clock. We should have been there by now, and I was hoping we could get settled in before it gets dark.”
“We’ve got plenty of time, don’t we? It’s no biggie.”
I swiped over to look for the weather and the sunset time. “It says that it’ll be a little cloudy, but sunset is at 6:43 PM. I think we’re still over an hour and a half away. Doesn’t give us much time to work with.” So Duncan nodded and walked over to the snack aisle to grab something to munch on for the rest of our road trip. I took a moment to fix my hair, and turned my phone on myself to shoot a short video for my YouTube account. “Ok…so this is me again. We are almost up at the cabin now! We’re definitely going to make it before sundown, and we’ll build a fire in the fireplace and get everything warm and toasty for the rest of the night. It’s a full moon, so that’s cool. And something tells me that this will be a vacation that we won’t forget. So many memories, you know? Wow!” I panned the camera around the store for a few moments, and said, “This is probably the last bit of real civilization that we’re going to see for a while. So wish me luck people. Because ‘roughing it’ is SO not my thing anymore. Ugh!”
I ended the video with a kiss, and figured I’d grab a soda and a few bags of chips myself. Couldn’t hurt, right? It wasn’t until I saw Duncan go up to the front counter to pay for his stuff that I saw the titanic size of the guy at the register ringing his stuff. Greasy looking, brown hair and a double chin with a growth of coarse, stringy, beard standing up at prickly attention beneath it. Feeling a little mischief run through me, I held up my cellphone and took a few ‘unappealing’ photos of him without him noticing me.
Hehehe, I grabbed the worst looking one, and I uploaded it onto my Twitter with the caption, “It’s good to see the actor who played Jabba The Hut getting work after his role in Jedi!” And I ended it with a wicked smiley face. I’ll check back later to see who re-tweeted that one, but I knew a bunch of my followers who would get a real kick out of that one. Hahaha! I’ll add it to my Instagram later too. Oh, and Facebook! Speaking of which, let me check my FaceBook! I posted a comment on last night’s episode of “Billy Chase” on Netflix, and I want to know what they thought. I’m only half way through Season 9, but I’m sure I’ll binge watch the rest when I get home. I need that app that’ll let me watch it while I’m in the car on the road. I could have watched three or four more episodes on the way down here. Ah, well… maybe next time.
OOH! I got two ‘likes’ already! Hahaha! I knew they’d find it funny!
Duncan and I got our snacks and I made sure to pay for the gas with my phone before we left. The four of us climbed back into the car and checked everything out before taking off for the open road again. David was driving, and he looked back over his shoulder to say, “This is it, boys! The last real bit of bullshit civilization before we get back to the good old outdoors!”
Mike grinned. “Can you believe it’s been almost ten years? Really? We were tiny little runts the last time we were there. It’s gonna be SO different now!”
Duncan was munching on a Rice Krispy square when he said, “And we’ve got the whole weekend! Can you imagine?” Then he added, “And let us all give thanks to Mike’s older brother, Johnny, for sneaking us a case of beer to keep on ice too! How’s that for changing things up this time around? Huh?”
There were a few cheers and all from the others, but I was already putting a small playlist together on my phone so I’d have some music to listen to the rest of the way. Ooh… I got another ‘like’ on my account. Along with a message that said, “LOL! Totally!” I need to make more posts like this one. Just to keep the momentum going, you know? It made me smile.
“Brian! Dude, what the fuck, man?” David grunted.
“WHAT? What did I do?”
“Can’t you put that damn thing AWAY for a while?”
“I AM!” I said. “Well, I will! Just give me a second, ok? I’m taking this pic and putting it on my FaceBook. You guys wanna say anything?” They all sighed in unison. “Fine. Whatever. This is the last post. Ok? Annnnnd… THERE! I’m done! Are you guys gonna shut up about it now?”
“Finally…” Mark said.
“Alright, so we just follow this road down to…” Duncan said, beginning to unfold a roadmap.
“Don’t worry. I got it.” In a few seconds, I was able to use my GPS function to plot out our route. “It says we follow this road and get off at the ‘Dead Forest’ exit. It’s a long way off though. Do you want me to turn on the voice alert so it can remind us later?”
“NO!!!” Everybody in the car said.
“Whatever. You guys area bunch of haters, I swear.” I just leaned back and finished my playlist. Mike bugged me about using my phone again, but I didn’t care. “I’m just getting my music together. Then I’m done. I seriously don’t see what the big deal is.”
“You have an addiction. That’s the big deal. You need to just stop it.” David told me. “Geez, ONE weekend is all we asked you for! ONE!”
“OKAY, already!!!” I shouted, and hit play on my music playlist, putting my ear buds in while I sat back in my seat and put my phone in my inside jacket pocket. “I’m done. Alright? Is that ok with you?”
“Whatever, dude.” David said, and went back to concentrating on his driving instead of trying to meddle in my business. Gawd! You know?
The car kept racing down the road, with nothing more than a few trees and the occasional cornfield to entertain us the entire way. I was actually good for about ten minutes or so, and I heard an alert on my cellphone in my pocket. Mike and Duncan gave me a dirty look, so I didn’t touch it. I don’t know what the hell their problem was, but screw it. I didn’t take it out of my pocket. I let it go.
About a minute or two later… another ‘blip’ sounded off from my phone. Then another one right after it.
I am NOT addicted to my phone, ok? I’m not!
But I got this really itchy feeling inside. What if it’s my mom? She might just be trying to contact me to make sure that we were doing ok. Or maybe some more people liked my Twitter post. Or maybe they were responding to my FaceBook. Or maybe something important is happening that I need to know about. Something BIG! I’ll be the last to know if I don’t at least ‘check’, right? What if it’s a good friend who’s trying to get in touch with me? He sent me three texts already, and it’s been over five minutes. He’s gonna think I’m deliberately ignoring him if I don’t at least text him to say that I can’t text right now. Ugh… what time is it? If I check the time, they can’t fault me for that. I’ll just take a peek at my messages and see if it’s anything important and then I’ll put it away. I promise. Just… three messages is a lot, isn’t it? It could be an emergency. I need to check. Fuck their dirty looks, I’m gonna check. I’ve got a LIFE dammit! They should just leave me alone and let me have my access!
Once another text message notice came through, I just reached into my pocket and pulled my cellphone out again. I opened it up with my password and saw a few messages waiting for me to answer. Yeah, I heard moans and groans from my friends, but it was just gonna take me a few minutes. So who cares?
I had a few new posts on my FaceBook profile, which were cool. I answered two of them, but I was trying to be quick about the whole thing, so I left it at that. Then I went to my texts and saw a few messages there as well.
"LOL @ your Jabba post! Lovin' it!"
“Where are you? Did you guys leave for the cabin yet?”
“How’s the trip going?”
They were all from different people, and I thought about not answering. I shouldn’t. My friends and I planned to make this road trip a special experience. Just us. I didn’t want to drag 500 other online entities with me and avoid them while answering my phone every 12 seconds. But… it’s really HARD to have someone ask you a question and not answer them. You know? Besides… what else was I going to do in that car before we got to the camp grounds? It’s just a few simple questions and a comment, right? I’ll just take care of these and I’ll put it away. Except for my music. And the clock. And the GPS… because we need that.
I sent a few answers back…
"Hehehe! Thanks! I know, right?"
“We’re on our way to the cabin now!”
“The trip hasn’t really started yet! We’re still driving…”
“BRIAN!” David scowled.
“I’m DONE! Jesus!”
“Everybody in the car can hear you typing and typing and typing with those annoying ass sounds on your phone!”
“I just said that I was done! I got a couple of texts, and I answered them. I’m done. What’s the big deal?” Just then, another ‘blip’ sounded out over my phone. “And this ONE alert! It says that the new ‘Imagine Magazine’ issue is out a day before Halloween! That’s it. Ok? I’m finished.”
“Well, give me your phone then.” David asked.
“You said you were done, so you won’t need it anymore. Right? Hand it over?”
I held it back from his reaching hand. “This is our GPS, dude! And how will we know what time it is?”
Mike said, “I’ve got a watch on, actually.”
Duncan said, “Me too. We both got watches.”
I said, “I don’t know what you guys have against me taking pics and video of our trip and stuff…”
“That’s not what you’re doing. You’re totally obsessed with talking to people who aren’t even here with us right now. And that totally defeats the purpose of us being here right now.” Duncan told me. “Come on, man? Seriously… this is real life. It’s our special weekend. Can’t the rest of the world just WAIT until you come back on Sunday night? What’s with the big urgent need to get your attention right NOW, at this very moment? Are they being attacked by WOLVES or something? Are you a paramedic? Do you need to immediately deliver a fucking BABOON heart to someone in need right now? Whatever trivial daily gossip they have to share with you right now can wait until later while you enjoy an ‘unplugged’ life for a few days. Stop jumping up and turning flips like a court jester every time somebody sends a three word sentence to your inbox. Ok? I MEAN it. Let’s do away with that crap. Just for a few days?”
Just as he said that, I got a return text. Followed by another. And I’m NOT addicted to my phone! I just… I just wrote to them, you know? And that’s probably them writing back. What am I going to do? Ignore them now? They KNOW that I have my phone in my hand, because I just texted them. I said, “Look… I’m just going to write them back and tell them that I’m busy. Ok? I’ll tell them I’m busy, and that I’ll be back on Sunday night to tell them how things went. That’s all. Then I’m done.”
But David protested. “NO! Somebody take his phone!”
“WHY??? Get off of me! I’m not giving you guys my cellphone! Why should I?”
David said, “Because you’re going to tell them you’re busy, and they’re going to ask ‘busy with what’, and you’re gonna tell them what you’re busy with, and it’s going to start this stupid, super long, drawn out, back and forth, conversation where neither ONE of you wants to be the first person to just shut the hell up and STOP TEXTING already! And the rest of us are going to have to suffer through another hour and a half of annoying blips and bleeps and alerts while we try to tune it out and pretend that it doesn’t bother the ever-loving SHIT out of us that you can’t carry on a simple conversation with the people you’re actually riding in the goddamn car with unless your reaching for your phone every 90 seconds!”
I thought he was overreacting in a major way, but as Duncan and Mike seemed to be giving me the same excruciatingly offensive looks… I just took my punishment and let it go.
I said, “Ok. I’ll just… I’m gonna do ONE more thing, and then I’ll just listen to some music and put it back in my pocket.”
“Oh GOD!!!” David wailed. He was SO frustrated!
“ONE THING!!! Jesus! You’re my friends! I’m just gonna post a good message on the FaceBook about how much I want to have a good time this weekend, and that I won’t be around to talk. It’ll let everybody know, all at once, and then I won’t need it anymore. Ok? If I thought you guys were going to be such babies about it…”
Mike said, “Just post the damn message and turn it off. Ok? Turn it OFF!”
“FINE!” I said. “Done! Ok?” That said, I didn’t turn the phone off, but turned my playlist on scramble and just left one earbud in to listen to it as I leaned my head against the window.
About 45 minutes go by as we continued down the road, the lingering cloud cover turning the afternoon skies a dingy shade of gray. Despite the big fuss about me putting my cellphone away in lieu of social interaction, there really wasn’t all that much of it after the first ten minutes of driving. The car got quiet, and I looked out at the passing scenery with only a wall of trees and an unfortunate clump of roadkill to catch my eye every few miles or so. I wondered if I could check my phone really quick, just to entertain myself. Get on YouTube or read an ebook. Or maybe just check a few people’s tweets to find out what was going on with them at that moment. I felt so disconnected from everything. I hate to say it, but I felt…kind of lonely.
I decided not to chance it though. God forbid they jump all over me about it. Better to sit here and pout in silence the rest of the trip. I don’t know, maybe I am on that phone too much. I can let it rest for a few days, right? I came to be with my buds and I should be able to do that without getting distracted. It’ll be fun.
I should keep it charged though. Just for emergencies.
“Hey, you guys? I’m not going to start texting or anything, I swear, but can one of you plug in my charger for me? I’m running kinda low on juice here.”
“No can do, bro.” David said. “Cig lighter’s broken, and the charger was behind it.”
“Broken? How did it get broken?”
“Don’t ask me. This is my brother’s shitty car.”
I took my phone out and went to Goggle. Mike asked me what I was doing, and I said, “I’m looking to see if there’s a place around here where I can charge up. It’ll only take me, like, ten minutes. Fifteen minutes tops.”
“Are you kidding me? We’re not getting off the main road to charge up your phone. We’re almost there.”
Duncan said, “You’re the one who was all worried about getting there before dark, weren’t you?”
“Doesn’t one of you have a ‘plug in the wall’ charger that I can borrow for later? Like, for when we get to the cabin?” I asked.
Mike said, “Nope. Because we followed the first rule of the weekend, and you did not. So suck it up, tech wizard. You’ll just have to rely on your wits this weekend.”
“You guys are going to be awful sorry when a friggin’ bear runs us up a tree or something and there’s no way to call for help.” I joked.
David grinned, “A bear’s not running me up a tree! We’re hauling ass towards the highway if he comes after us.”
“Do you honestly think that you can outrun a bear?”
“I don’t have to outrun the bear. Just have to outrun you. Hehehe!” He said. “Don’t worry. I’ll bring flowers to you every Summer. Promise.” I gave David a playful little shove and leaned back in my seat. I don’t usually like for my battery to get under 10% power without a recharge, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out when we get there. Somebody in the area will have a plug in charger. Ugh! I should have brought both. I don’t know why I would Trust David’s brother’s car to do anything but guzzle gas and kick up dust.
When we finally turned off the road and moved further into the forest, I looked at the clock on my phone again. It was just after 6 PM, and the sun seemed to be in a rush to dip down below the horizon today. Almost as if to beat its own schedule. We made plans to build a small fire just outside of the cabin before it got too dark for us to find any good firewood, and it looked like we were just going to make it.
I was feeling a little bit drained at the moment. A bit of a lag from a long trip, I guess. However, just before turning my screen off, I noticed that the battery power had gone from 10% to 9% already. What the heck for? All I did was check the time, for crying out loud. I decided to shut it off and save what little power I had left. I was definitely cutting it close now.
We traveled further into the middle of nowhere, and finally came to the entrance to the campgrounds. It was a small little booth that sat on the side of the rocky trail that headed off into the thick of the woods. No bigger than a large walk in closet, honestly. With a flimsy fence, and a big window on the side to show a rather strange character on the inside. He was somewhat tall, with a salt and pepper crop of scraggly stubble on his chin and halfway down his long and slender neck. Hair that oozed down from the top of his head in thin, greasy, strings… just a little below his jaw. Dark, sullen, eyes… each with a puffy bag of sleepless skin beneath them, and slightly bloodshot in the corners. Had it not been for his wrinkled ranger’s shirt, we might have doubted that he worked there at all. He didn’t look like a ranger. He looked like an axe murderer who killed a ranger and took his clothes.
He stepped out of his booth to greet us as David pulled up to the gate and rolled down his window. “Help you boys with somethin’?” he said, his voice raspy from a dedicated routine of smoking and drinking, I’m sure.
“We made a reservation for cabin 19. Down on Lake Meadow road? Last name, Tennon.” David answered.
The guy was sooooo creepy looking! I’ve GOT to get a picture of him! Hehehe, nobody would believe me if I didn’t have a picture. I reached into my pocket again and pulled out my phone. I didn’t want to be too obvious about it, but I definitely wanted a clear shot of his face. Honestly, they should make Halloween masks out of this guy!
I turned the phone sideways, put it right into position as he leaned in towards the driver’s side window, and took two quick shots of him. Just a little something for me to post on Instagram later.
The moment he heard the ‘click’, the old man’s eyes suddenly fixed themselves on me, his head snapping in my direction with a sudden jerk.
His lips briefly curled up into a scowl, displaying a row of yellowish brown teeth and blood red gums. It was the kind of look that could make your blood run cold. And then…
“BOO!” He shouted, causing all of us to jump and giving him the satisfaction of scaring a car load of teenagers. “You boys hang tight. I’m just going to check out your license and put you in the books.”
My heart was still pounding as he walked away from the car. “Whaaaaaat the fuck was that about?” I said, giggling nervously as my body tried to find an outlet for the fear it had just experienced. The others in the car started to snicker as well, but I could tell from the trembling vibrato in their voices that they were just as startled as I was.
Duncan said, “Dude, let’s get the hell out of here. No ‘sane’ person would be out here looking like that. I mean it.”
Mike added, “The sooner the better. Just drive, dude.”
David whispered, “He’s got my driver’s license, man. Just chill. Shhh!”
When the man came back to the car, he handed David his ID back and a stamped sheet of paperwork to prove that we were staying in that cabin legitimately for the weekend. I think they were going to just take off and not say much else, but I leaned forward from the backseat and asked, “Say, you wouldn’t happen to have a cellphone charger back there in your booth or whatever, do ya?” I saw David cringe and grip the wheel, as I was evidently keeping us engaged with the creepiest guy on Earth for a few moments longer.
“A cellphone charger, eh?” The man said.
“Yeah. Just… something that plugs into a wall socket or something? I’m running really low. I’m already down to…” Looking at the phone again, it had jumped down to 7% now. But… but it wasn’t even on this time. What the hell was draining the battery now? “…Anyway, I was just wondering if you had something back there that could help me out. Or if maybe you had one of your own I could borrow? I’ll bring it right back.”
“Don’t have one of those fancy gadgets, I’m afraid. Don’t have a need for one,” he said. He coughed once or twice and leaned further into the window, causing David to lean away from him before their faces touched. “You know… being out here in the woods… it ain’t exactly the wild, but you’ve got to have a survivor’s spirit to exist out here. Not prissy little ‘do-it-all’ machines that keep ya from using your own brain. Gotta keep yourself thinking. Thinking is what keeps us all here. That’s what my daddy, the Reverend, taught me.” What the heck was this freak talking about? “You wanna make it out there in them woods… you need a survivor’s spirit, boy. A survivor’s spirit.”
“Um… okaaaaay. Thanks. I think,” I said, leaning back again.
The creepy guy gave David the key and we started to drive forward before the old coot pulled a dead bird out of his pocket or something. He was SO strange!
I turned around to look out the back window of the car, and I saw him standing by the fence, right in the middle of the road, with a tiny smirk on his face. Then, ever so slowly, he began to wave goodbye to me as the car’s rear red lights bathed him in an eerie light… his ghoulish frame soon swallowed up by the darkness. The people who own this place certainly weren’t picky when they picked a guy to work the outpost, that’s for sure.
it only took us another five minutes of slow driving down the lumpy, uneven, road before we reached the cabin itself. My heart began to flutter as it looked no different than it did when our parents brought us here as kids. I heard Mike grinning from the seat in front of me, nodding as we pulled into the driveway. Then David said, “Here were are, boys! Our official home away from home!”
A mellow round of cheers rang out in the car, but my smile faded slightly, as I could have sworn that I saw a dark figure standing on the front porch of the cabin. I couldn’t make out any features, and I rubbed my tired eyes in an attempt to focus. And then it was gone. Simply gone.
We all got out of the car to unload our stuff, but as soon as my feet hit the ground I noticed a feeling of weakness in my legs. In fact, once I stood up straight… my head began to spin. Duncan asked me if I was alright, and I told him, “Yeah. I think so. I’m just… I’m feeling a little exhausted, that’s all. I’ll be fine as soon as I stretch my legs and move around a little bit.”
“Good.” Duncan said, “Because if you pass out first tonight, we are going to draw a record breaking amount of penises all over your sleeping face. So keep that in mind.”
I got my bags out of the back. I don’t remember them being this heavy before. It’s not like I packed all that much for a single weekend. And yet, I heard myself grunt as I tossed my bag over my shoulder and headed towards the steps.
Was Duncan kidding about the ‘penises’ thing or…? Ummm, best to not put that to the test. Not with Duncan.
As the sun began to disappear, David and I volunteered to get some good kindling wood to start the fire as the others set up a mini pit for us to work with. The night sky was approaching rapidly, but it’s not like we’d have to travel out too far from the cabin, or collect too much material to have the fire burn for a good long while. Which was good, because I felt as though I was getting weaker by the minute. I’m sure I’ll get my blood pumping once we crack open that case of beer. A whole night alone with my best friends in the world and not a parent in sight. This is gonna be amazing!
I have to admit that I was a bit touched when David grabbed a few dry branches from underneath a nearby tree, and he said, “You know… I really am glad that you came out here with us this weekend. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. It would have been like breaking up the Beatles.”
“Heh… I’m glad I came too.”
“And I hope you don’t think I’m giving you too much of a hard time about your cellphone. I’m not really mad, it’s just… we all started our first semester of college, and we were all in different places. It was fine to talk online and stuff and keep up with each other when we didn’t have any other choice, but… I kinda wanted this weekend to be different, you know? I didn’t want to waste the whole weekend with us slamming our faces into a bunch of digital screens when we could be having some real fun.”
“I know.” I said, picking up a few dry sticks myself. “Honestly, you’re right. Maybe I get a little attached to it sometimes…”
“HA!” he said. “That’s an understatement!”
“I know, I know! Whatever. But… I’m putting it away. Alright? No more.” He gave me a sideways look and I promised him that I’d be ‘present’ for the whole weekend. No technology. Just good friends and good times. Nothing else. However, I also said, “I have to admit though… I keep having the urge to just take a peek, you know? I try to ignore it, but I just have this feeling like I’m missing something that’s happening right now, and everybody else is reading about it but me. I know some folks don’t understand, but… I use my phone for sooooo many things these days that it’s like… it’s like…”
“I know,” he groaned. “You don’t even exist without your celly. I get it.”
“I guess, I just feel so disconnected from everybody when I can’t reach for it when I need it.”
That’s when David looked at me and said, “Good. Now you know how we feel. Hehehe, you have no idea how hard it is to compete with your little technological ‘life partner’ there.” He picked up some more sticks, tucking them under his arm. “But that’s what this weekend is all about, right? Getting back to the real shit!” Then he made a creepy face and dragged his foot with a limp, curling his fingers up into a sinister set of goofy claws. “After all… you’ve got to have a survival instinct to make it out here, BOY! Hehehe!”
“You got it!” I smiled.
“Hey, you remember back in the day, when we would all circle up around the fire, and Duncan’s dad taught us how to make those s’mores?” I chuckled at the memory, but felt my eyelids getting heavy all of a sudden. I didn’t know why. A wave of fatigue washed over me, and I stumbled for a moment, working to regain my balance. “His dad just had us picking up any old dirty stick off of the ground and use it to roast marshmallows over the campfire. We wanted to make them soft and gooey, but we just ended up burning the shit out of them instead. Hehehe! Then Mike was trying to find a way to poke a hole in the chocolate bar to see if he could melt that too. What the hell was he thinking?”
I knew that I was listening to him. I could hear every word clearly. But for some reason it was like… I couldn’t really connect to the memory with any kind of recognition. I know that I was there for it, but… everything in my head seemed so fuzzy. I must have been more worn out than I thought.
“You know what I mean? Right? Remember?” David asked me.
“Huh? I’m sorry, what were we talking about?” What was I doing? I’m holding dry sticks from off the ground. What were doing with sticks? God, I’m so sleepy.
“The s’mores? Come on, dude, you’ve GOT to remember that?”
“S’mores? Oh! Right. Yeah. Totally. I remember.” But did I? Who were we having s’mores with?
“Righhhhht…” David gave me the strangest look. Then he said, “Well, we’ve got about enough. Grab a few more and meet us over by the cabin. Nobody starts drinking until we all start drinking. Cool?”
“Yeah. Sure. I’ll catch up in a minute.” I felt so strange. It was hard to explain, but I was feeling increasingly ‘out of place’ with my surroundings. Am I coming down with some sort of illness? I absolutely refuse to get sick this weekend. I refuse.
“Are you sure you’re going to be able to find your way back to us without some kind of high tech GPS telling you where to go? Hehehe!”
“I’ll find my way back just fine, smartass. You just go back and wait for me to get there, alright?”
“Don’t keep us waiting!” David smiled. “Love you lots, dude. Buds forever.”
“Damn straight. Love you too, man.” And with that, he was gone.
The full moon above was taking a brilliant priority over the falling sun that came before it. I didn’t want to waste too much time, I just wanted to shake off this drowsy feeling before going back to the cabin again. I had collected more than enough wood, I’m sure, but found it difficult to keep in mind what I was collecting it for. It was like those few dreamy moments before you fall asleep for the night. When your mind kind of lets go of rational thought, and your brain just drifts from one incoherent scenario to another. I found it difficult to focus on much of anything. I reached into my pocket for my cellphone to look at the time, and saw that my remaining battery power had gone down to only 5% now. It was sooooo low. I didn’t want to keep it on for too much longer. I might want to take at least a couple of photos where we were all together or something.
But then… I heard a sound.
Nothing overly menacing, mind you. But it was the sound of something stepping down on the twigs and rocks of the forest ground. Approaching me from the shadows of the woods.
Calling out, I said, “Whatever, guys! I’m not falling for it. Just give me a minute and I’ll come back to camp.”
I heard a few more crackles and pops as there was movement in the surrounding area. This time, it sounded closer.
“I’m not scared, you know?” I said. “You guys are so corny for even trying.” More noises. Like footsteps. But very… very… slow.
I turned my phones ‘flashlight’ function on and held it out at arms length, hoping to catch one of those goofy bastards peeking at me from behind a tree. But no such luck. Instead, I heard more footsteps heading in my direction. Some from in front. Some from behind. Some from the left. Some from the right. Their slow paced shuffling was surrounding me, and I thought for a moment… “There’s only four of us out here. Me included. From the sounds I’m hearing… I’d say there were ten or more people out in these woods.”
I spun around in all directions, holding my phone up to see what I could see. But everything that wasn’t obscured by trees and darkness was quickly being covered by a slow rolling fog that had seemingly come from nowhere. The fog was ice cold, but swiftly moving in to surround me. I would have thought that it was excess smoke from the cabin campfire from the way it encircled me… but it was much too thick for that. Frigid. Odorless. Almost ‘alive’.
“Guys? What is this? What’s going on?” I called out again, but the footsteps kept getting closer. Snapping twigs and crushed leaves, dirt being smashed down by something of considerable weight. What was it?
What was it?
“You guys have a really weird sense of humor.” I said, but began walking away from the center of this… ‘movement’. I moved into the fog, heading back in the direction of the cabin… but I couldn’t see the light. I couldn’t hear my friends voices. I couldn’t even see the trail that David and I had just been walking on anymore. Just the glare of the full moon and the overwhelming darkness.
I quickened my pace. I had to hit the main road eventually. I HAD to. We hadn’t traveled all that deeply into the woods to begin with. Where was it? Branches began to swipe up against my arms and legs, almost as if they were reaching out for me. My shoulders, elbows, and knees, bumped into random tree trunks as if they were moving to stand in my way. And the footsteps. The ever approaching steps. Always moving closer. And closer. No matter how far or how quickly I moved in any direction… they were always around me. On all sides. And closing in. So close. So very close. I could almost feel them raising goosebumps on the back of my neck.
“David??? Mike???” I called out. “Duncan? Where are you guys? Call out so I can find you!” Nothing. “Guys?” I felt my heart race as my limbs continued to get weak. My cellphone beeped, and I saw the battery life being drained down to only 3%. It was the only light that I had in the woods. I had to find the road! Where’s the damn road???
I kept trying to move forward… but I was so tired. So drowsy. My legs felt like wet clay, my feet becoming loose and clumsy. What’s happening to me?
“Guys? I can’t… I can’t find you guys. Where are you?” I said. I fell to my knees, dropping the phone to the dirt in front of me. 2% battery power left. I found it hard to breathe. Why didn’t the others bring their cellphones too? I could call them and tell them to come find me. I’m lost. What was I doing out here? It’s hard to think. Hard to remember. It was like… my thoughts were being scattered. I wanted to call out for my friends again, but… my voice had been taken from me. Not much more than a whisper. What were their names again? Donnie? Mitch? Devin? Why are we in the woods? Where am I? I have to call somebody. I have to find out my location. Where’s my phone? Where is it? Where did it fall?
THERE! There it is! My phone! I’ll get help! Everything will be alright now! Everything will be fixed now that I have my phone…
But when I reached for it… it was as if my hand wasn’t much more than fuzzy blur before my terrified eyes. My skin had turned a ghostly white… then a light blue… and then it was as though I could see my phone right through it.
My mind began to drift away. I couldn’t concentrate. I was beginning to lose myself, and I didn’t know how to get back to a single train of focused thought anymore. It took a great effort to remember that I was trying to call for help, and reached out again for the phone on the ground, but my fingers went right through it. I couldn’t pick it up. What’s happening? What was I doing? Oh! Right! Call for help! I need help! What were my friend’s names again??? There’s my phone! Reach for the phone! My hands went through it! Wait… did that just happen? What was I doing? Oh right! Call for help!
The constant loop seemed to tire me out even more. I watched as the rest of my arms became as translucent as my desperate hand, clutching at a device it could no longer hold.
1% Battery power.
The tiny sliver of red began to blink on and off, warning me of a shut down.
Then… while watching the screen, a bluish white face appeared. A ghastly hooded figure with long hair and wrinkles in its faded skin. It hissed loudly at me with skeletal teeth, and I snatched my hand back from the phone completely.
The footsteps were all around me. Finally closing in on their target. More ghoulish figures emerged from the fog and shadows. Long, tattered robes and bony fingers with rotting skin. I rolled over onto my back, barely able to move. I had nowhere to move to if I could. I looked into their soulless eyes and saw nothing but static. Like… old television static. Nothing else. In one hand, they each held up a cellphone of their own. New models and old. Screens lit up, but completely blank. And they all began to ring in unison. Over and over again as they crept closer. And closer. And closer still.
I looked down to see my cellphone battery light going out. There was nothing left. And I rocked back and forth amongst an army of ghosts as I whispered to myself, “I can’t live without my cellphone. I can’t live without my cellphone. I don’t even… ‘exist’… without my…”
A full weekend of camping has left a handful of college boys feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. A reunion that they planned to do time and time again in the future. Perhaps even annually. As David packed the last few bags into his brother’s car, Mike called out to find Duncan so they could all get back to civilization. “Dude, are you ready? What are you doing?”
Duncan seemed to be brushing something off with the sleeve of his shirt. “Hey, look what I found.”
“Is that a cellphone?” Mike asked. “Where the hell did you find this?”
“I dunno. It was just laying on the ground, right over there. About 20 steps from the fire pit.”
“Well, who’s phone is it?”
“No idea. It was just laying there.”
David asked, “Is it password protected?” Unfortunately, it was. “Ah well. It’s not going to do us any good. Whatever. We’ll drop it off at the ranger’s station on the way out. Whoever it belongs to, I’m sure they’ll come back for it. That thing looks super expensive.”
They locked up the cabin and got in the car. Mike said, “This is exactly what we needed, you guys. The Three Musketeers. Just like when we were kids. Buds forever?”
Everyone smiled and said, “Buds forever!”
Driving up to the gate, David saw the same creepy old man from the night before, and made sure to go down the checklist of stuff that had to be done before leaving the campgrounds. Once a receipt was given, David handed the old guy the cell phone Duncan had found. “Yeah, it looks like somebody dropped it or something. Probably somebody from one of the other cabins around here. I figured we could just leave it here with you.
The old man reached for it and smiled. “Much obliged.” Then he told them, “Pleasure having you around these parts. If you boys ever decide you want to get away from it all… you be sure to head this back way. These woods have a way of… bringing you back to yourself. If you let it.” The boys seemed a bit confused by the comment, but before he even had much of a chance to wave… the car was traveling down that lumpy trail and headed back out to the road.
The old man looked down at the cellphone.
It was fully charged now. Nothing more to worry about.
He tossed it into a cardboard box… filled with cellphones. Every make. Every model. All recharged.
The old man sat back in his chair with a satisfied grin, waiting to rent a cabin out to the next group of teenagers that had made an appointment for the next few days. Mumbling to himself…
“Gotta keep yourself thinking. Thinking is what keeps us all here. Yep… that’s what my daddy, the Reverend, taught me.”
“You wanna make it out there in them woods… you need a survivor’s spirit. A survivor’s spirit.”