Thursday, October 23, 2014


Genre: Horror

By Daniel Skye 

          The wind ushered in a cacophony of cries from the encompassing wildlife; animals that had yet to become acclimated to the harsh winter temperatures.
          The boys all huddled around the fire pit that Roland Everett had dug and filled, rubbing their tiny hands together for warmth. Three hours had passed since darkness had fallen and the boys took shelter in Greenkill National Forest.
          Roland had busted his knee up something awful in the accident, but he always came prepared. Stashed in the trunk of his wrecked Oldsmobile Supreme was an emergency kit with flashlights, ponchos, tents, bottled water. There was also an assortment of tools–wrenches, screwdrivers, ratchets, pliers–that were useless in this situation. No wrench was going to repair the damage to the front end.
          But the flashlights and tents proved useful when they found themselves stranded with no houses or shops for miles in either direction. Roland examined the map and discovered Greenkill was just a quarter mile east from the crash site.
          “That’ll be a good place to hold up for the night,” Roland told the boys with darkness fast approaching. “I can pitch the tents and get a fire going. At least we’ll be warm and dry for the evening. In the morning, I’ll walk to the nearest town and get help.”
          “What if someone drives by and sees the car here?” Roland’s brother, Robert, had asked. “Shouldn’t we leave a note?” Rob was always thinking. At an age where the boys were maturing and were interested more in girls and sports than academics, Rob was the egghead of the group.
          He flourished in all his classes, and scored brownie points with the teachers here and there by bringing them gifts and doing extra work that wasn’t even assigned to him. An attendee of the seventh grade, Rob was already reading at a twelfth grade level and often surprised his brother with bits of knowledge even Roland failed to possess.
          “This area is pretty deserted, pal,” Roland told his brother. “But you’re right; I’ll leave a note just in case someone passes through and sees the wreckage.”
          Roland scribbled a note on a blank page from one of Rob’s notebooks and pinned it down with the windshield wiper. Even on a trip upstate to see his first rock concert, Rob had brought his books along to work on his weekend homework assignments.
          The boys were Roland’s responsibility. And if the parents found out what had happened, they’d probably be mortified. So on their quarter mile walk to the forest, Roland begged them not to say anything. “Promise me you’ll tell your parents we made it to the concert and everything was all right.”
          “What do we get if we cover for you?” Tim Johnstone asked. He was a gutsy little punk that Roland loved to hate. “Will you let us have some of your beer?”
          “In your dreams, puke-face.”
          “Fine, I’ll tell my parents you gave us beer anyway,” Tim threatened.
          “This is going to be a long night,” Roland muttered. He let the boys walk ahead of him a bit as he hobbled along. His leg wasn’t broken, but he found it difficult to bend his knee or put his full weight on it.
          “Why don’t you just call for help?” Casey Fisher asked Roland.
          “I forgot my cell phone at home,” Roland told him. “Do any of you guys have a cell phone on you?”
          “I don’t have a cell phone,” Jamie Strode said.
          “Yeah, his parents didn’t feel like wasting the money on him,” Tim laughed.
          “Does anybody else have a phone?” Roland’s question garnered no positive response from the boys. With no car, no phone, and no help for miles, they’d surely miss the concert. But that wasn’t Roland’s primary concern. His concern was being stuck with these hell raisers for the night.

          Once Roland lit the fire, he gathered around with the boys and asked, “Who wants to hear an old campfire story our grandfather used to tell me?”
          “Is it scary?” Jamie Strode asked, his timidity showing.
          “Scaredy-cat,” Casey Fisher teased Jamie.
          “Am not!” Jamie said defiantly.
          “Are too!” Casey fired back. Roland remembered this escalating game from when he was a kid. And listening to the two boys bicker back and forth, he realized then just how annoying this so-called game could be.
          “Knock it off you two and listen to my story,” Roland told them, his scruffy face illuminated behind orange flames. “The Grukins were an ancient tribe of nomadic creatures who used–”
          “Nomadic?” Jamie repeated the word.
          “It means they moved around from place to place,” Rob explained.
          “That’s right,” Roland said. “And the Grukins used to prowl through the forests, hunting and stalking their prey. What did the Grukins hunt, you ask? Why humans, of course. You see, Grukins, like vampires, survive on the blood of the living. They especially love the blood of children. They can smell your fear from a mile away.”
          These alleged facts sent shivers down Jamie’s spine. Even Casey Fisher was a little freaked out.
          “What did the Grukins look like?” Jamie couldn’t help but ask.
          “Nobody knows for sure,” Roland told them beside the fire. “Nobody ever lived to speak of their encounters. But the legends vary. Some claims the Grukins are as tall as a house. Other people say they’re smaller, predatory creatures with the external structure of amphibians. One thing’s for sure, they only come out to hunt when it’s dark.”
          “Bull crap,” Tim Johnstone called him out. “You probably just made that story up on the spot.”
          “Fine, don’t believe the legends,” Roland said. “Find out for yourself. Go wander the forest and see if you make it back in one piece.”
          Tim gulped. “I think I’ll pass.”
          “That’s what I thought, smart ass” Roland grinned.

          With that chilling tale, Roland let the fire burn out and pitched their tents. With only two tents at their disposal, Roland let the boys share one and took the other, smaller tent for himself. He insisted he wanted to give them their space to talk, joke, play games. But really it was just an excuse to be alone in his tent and smoke pot and drink cheap malt liquor.
          An hour passed before Roland heard the scratching on his tent. He opened it up to see Jamie Strode standing there with a frightened glint in his eyes.
          “I’m scared and the boys keep making fun of me,” Jamie told him. “Can I sleep in here with you, please?”
          “All right,” Roland sighed. Jamie got in and Roland sealed the tent again.

          “My brother is the coolest,” Rob boasted in the boys’ separate tent. “I know we didn’t get to go to the concert, but at least we got to hang out with him and hear his stories. Isn’t he awesome?” Tim and Casey had grown weary of Rob’s vaunting, but they were too exhausted to demur.
          As they dozed off, Rob decided to let sleeping dogs lie and abandoned them to join Jamie in his brother’s tent.
          Roland unzipped the tent when he heard Robert’s calls and closed it up again once Rob was inside with them.
          “Great,” Roland muttered. “What did I do to these kids with that story?”
          “What’s that smell in here?” Rob inquired as he tried to make himself comfortable in the cramped tent.
          “It’s incenses,” Roland lied to cover up for the odor of pot.
          “It smells like marijuana,” Jamie pointed out. “My brother got caught smoking it in our garage last year. I know what it smells like.”
          “I’ll give you both five bucks if you promise not to tell,” Roland said, biting his upper lip.
          “Make it ten,” Rob said.
          “Why you little–” Roland’s sentence was cut off by a strange din that emanated from beyond their tent.
          “What was that?” Jamie asked.
          “Nothing,” Roland assured him. “Probably just Tim and Casey trying to play a prank on us.”
          “Maybe it’s a Grukin,” Jamie said, shuddering.
          “It’s not a Grukin!” Roland said emphatically.
          From the second tent, Roland and the boys heard the bloodcurdling screams masked by an even more terrifying sound. The petrifying shriek of a Grukin.
          The tribe had lived on…and the survivors were extremely famished.

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