By now, you know that I am not a brave person when it comes to things which maim or could cause an untimely departure. Or anything that causes the dry heaves, for that matter. Just writing the word “heaves” conjures up an invisible fur ball in my throat. Ick.
My reluctance to engage in scary adventures never caught on with my friends like I thought it would. This probably explains why I found myself in the dark and chilling woods of a boys’ camp waiting in line one October night for a haunted adventure to begin with three pals of mine from the office. I gripped a yellow emergency lantern in one hand and a fistful of my friend’s hoodie in the other. We were only at the entrance gate.
Deana had left the company a couple of weeks prior and now she and Mary were cheerfully catching up as we paid our admission price. The two friends chatted away as a pleasant young man directed us toward a small group of strangers also waiting for the evening tour to begin. I quickly scanned their faces thinking that theirs might be the last I would ever see. I wasn’t alone in my uneasiness. Gloria wasn’t overly thrilled with the thought of meeting a scythe-brandishing shadow person, either.
The trek into the woods began with a man’s gentle voice uttering, “Okay folks, it’s your turn”, followed immediately by his traitorous shout of, “FRESH MEAT!” The other two ladies marched ahead arm in arm, oblivious to the reign of terror going on around them, while Gloria and I became a melded mass. My head split with pain over the terrifying shrieks that blared into the muddled air. To be perfectly honest, we became unglued. We began screeching uncontrollably, attempting to break the eardrums of faceless ghouls hell-bent on obtaining our souls.
Out of the woods they seemed to float. Three, then four hooded phantoms sidled next to us until so close that the reek of polyester and sweat from their morbid costumes filled our nostrils. They never spoke. They must have sensed our fear (our screaming, the biggest clue), for they circled the two of us in a chilling shroud of silence. We ran, tripping over thick tree roots that pulled at our ankles conscripting us to serve with them in the underworld. Other phantoms emerged; five, then ten more. It was too much! We were grown women, darting in and out of sapling trees too small to navigate without lacerating our hands and faces. Shriek, dart, run, breathe; Gloria to the left, I to the right, like baby gazelles being pulled from the safety of the heard and pounced upon by a hungry lion. How was this a fun girls’ night out? I committed to becoming a hermit then and there if I made it out alive.
Eventually, Gloria and I made it through to the other end of the forest. She tripped over a tree trunk and knocked me to the ground just beyond the reach of a bloody, chainsaw-wielding woodsman who had flown out of a cabin when he heard our desperate cries for help. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was going mad.
Gloria panted in disbelief. I could only groan, for breathing and squeezing my brains back into my head were occupying my critical thought process.
“Oh, that’s was fun!”
Mary said standing over us when she and Deana finally caught up, unscathed. “Why are you two on the ground?” she asked.
Why are you two acting like you just took a stroll along the Seines, while your two other friends were hunted down like antelope?
It was a legitimate question, though my mouth no longer worked and the thought remained silent as I stood to leave.
The parking lot of the “Halloween-Hunt-You-Down-and-Kill-You-Jamboree” was no picnic either. Some clown relocated the arrow on the exit tree, and we ended up being the first of four vehicles on a cow path meant only for the power company’s utility trucks. It was a dark and moonless night. The headlights from the cars in our little line to nowhere were our only security.
“Oooooooo… Maybe it was the ghouls,”
Deana teased as we wondered what judgment-deficient person would do such a thing.
I wasn’t laughing as my head continued to entertain Desi Arnaz and his conga drum. Then, Gloria stopped the car. We had come to the end of the road. The surrounding terrain was severely sloped on both sides making it nearly impossible to rotate the vehicles without harm. We had no other choice. Gloria jumped out and had a quick meeting with the drivers in the cars behind us. With precision and patience, each agreed to make the necessary 317-point turn until all the vehicles had circled toward safety. We would be last. While we waited for the others to about-face, I opened my backseat window behind Gloria, and entertained myself dancing the flashlight beam into space. When it was our turn, Gloria expertly turned her sedan around. She did not drive too close to either edge or send us plummeting to our death. Consequently, what happened next is completely on me.
Into the desolate landscape I scanned with the yellow emergency lantern. As our car moved forward, so too did my aim, and I inadvertently pointed the flashlight beam into the center of the driver’s side mirror. We were supposedly the only car remaining on the dead-end path, but with nerves and sensibilities shot, Gloria instantly sourced the illumination as that from the vehicle of a serial killer, lying in wait to take down wrong-turning idiots like us. She let out a bloodcurdling scream that finally did cause my head to explode into tiny pieces. She floored the gas pedal snapping my skull into the backseat while she cried, “THERE’S A CAR BEHIND US!”
That’s when I screamed and dropped the flashlight out the window.
“THEIR LIGHTS JUST WENT OUT!”
Gloria updated tearfully.
I shuttered, only then daring to spin around and look out the back into the depth of
darkness. “What if they ram into us?” I panicked.
Gloria bawled. “AAAAHHHHHHHH,” I screeched and willed the car to fly.
When she thought she had placed enough distance between us and the stalker, Gloria pulled over. By then, we were back in the parking lot of the “Little Shop of Horrors in the Woods”.
Would this night ever end? We noticed it was terribly quiet on the right side of the car. Deana, in the front passenger seat and Mary, seated next to me in the back, were staring at us.
“Are you two for real?”
Deana asked, shaking her head in disbelief.
Were we for real..? Was she kidding?! “You two weren’t scared?”
I replied skeptically.
Mary laughed; “hooded wood creatures and a wrong turn on a road?”
“They chased us with CHAINSAWS!”
Gloria refuted irritably. “And for all we know, someone was coming after us on the utility road!”
“The haunted walk was fun,”
Deana snapped dismissively, “and there wasn’t anyone hiding out on the road. Kath turned her flashlight into your side mirror and you freaked out! And then she freaked out, and dropped the lantern out the window!”
Oh. Well that certainly wrapped the night into a tidy, little package. Perhaps now my cranium would piece itself back together and life would go on without the scent of gasoline-soaked tree saws and images of human carnage. I should sleep like a baby.
The night had at long last ended. With enough medication, so did the headache. It was a hard adventure to live down. Perhaps because Gloria and I fully immersed ourselves into the experience while the other two merely observed.
It matters not, the safe distance that time and perspective provide. That night in the backwoods of terror remains for us one of the funniest memories of our lives.
Image Source: HalloweenWeb.co.uk
Author’s note: All names except for my own, have been changed to protect the privacy of the other scaredy cat from that night and our two friends who carried on so nonchalantly in the face of doom.