‘I can’t believe my parents said yes!” Badrika jumped up and down, copied by her friends, Casey and Chats. 3 excited girls were packed and ready to go in Casey’s honkey-tonk which barely honkey-tonked along the road and the girls loved it. Battling to pull off with a boot loaded with tents, food, hidden booze and camping equipment they headed off their heads sticking out of the windows like Basset hounds.
2 hours later, they paid a pimply, blushing office boy for their camping spot and picked one away from the only other tent at the Park. The camping ground at Borky Park was clean, unpopular [it had no pool] and above all else cheap. The girls didn’t care, they wanted a weekend away from family, chores, homework, boyfriends and every other pain in in their lives.
Unpacking was noisy and disorganized. A frustrated Badrika managed to get the tent and gazebo up, with help from an immaculately manicured hand, lent by Casey.
‘Case dammit! Help put these chairs up.’ Badrika shouted.
‘I’m connecting with nature.’
‘Chats – shut up for once and finish setting up, stop living up to your name!’ Badrika shouted again.
‘I’m also connecting with nature’ Chats said.
‘Connect later! Both of you.’
With a huge sigh Casey and Chats started unpacking the food and equipment, Badrika sat on her arse and watched.
‘And now?’ a cocked eyebrow from Chats who was standing with her hands on her hips. ‘My turn to sit and connect with nature’ Badrika wiggled in her chair and gave her own sigh.
‘Finished, it’s time to partay!’ Casey said packing the last of the kitchen stuff onto the table. Pulling 3 cold beers from the bottom of the cooler, she handed them out then poured herself into her camping chair.
‘Listen to that.’
‘What?’ all 3 girls listened. Nothing. ‘That silence’ Badrika said. They could feel themselves relaxing.
‘No little brother. No TV.’ Chats said.
‘No family, no phone.’
‘What? I need to tell my mother I’m alive.’ Badrika said holding up her phone as if the sky would send her a connection. It didn’t.
‘She knows there’s no connection here.’ Chats said standing. ‘I gotta pee.’ She headed off towards the bathrooms, barely visible through the trees and brush.
Supper was heated creamy mushroom soup and fresh ciabatta with real butter.
‘Divine.’ Chats said, burping her appreciation.
‘Gross’ the other girls shouted in unison.
‘Turn up the music Bads,’ Casey said wiggling her hips. She loved to dance and lost herself in music. The 3 girls danced away singing at the top of their voices. They felt released, relaxed and more than a little drunk. It was heaven.
Chats stopped abruptly, causing Bads to trip over her foot.
‘Who’s that?’ she said, fear tinging her voice.
‘Where?’ both girls looked around. A man was standing in the bushes between them and the bathroom block.
‘Hey!’ Chats said. ‘Can we help you?’
The girls tried to see his face but it was in the shadows.
‘Is the music too loud?’ Badrika said. He just stood there, staring. Finally he put his hands in his pockets, whistling he turned and walked away leaving the girls feeling spooked.
‘Asshole!’ Chats said, making them laugh. He stopped. All 3 girls froze, aware now that they were completely alone. The only other person that they had seen was the pimply kid. Eventually he took off.
‘Oh don’t worry about him, he’s gone and this isn’t bloody Hicksville.’ Chats picked up the beat again and started dancing. Bads leaned over turning the music down.
‘Leave it Chats, we don’t want any trouble. How about another beer?’ Opening the ice box, Bads got the girls another beer and they settled down chatting in the firelight until the yawning got too much. Heading off to the bathroom, Casey pointed out where the man had come from.
‘How do you know?’ Bads said.
‘It’s the only other tent.’ The girls looked around finding comfort in the office being within shouting distance with lights on.
‘Come on, we’re fine.’ Chats jumped onto Bads’s back and they half ran back to the tent and snuggled in for the night. The fire burned low.
His silhouette flickered against the tent where all 3 girls were fast asleep. He stood there listening to their sleep noises. Taking his hunters knife, he used it to clean the dirt from under his nails, flicking the dirt against the tent. He planned what he would do next, his crypt-black eyes holding no emotion in his insipid face. Muscles flexed under his t-shirt decorated with yellow armpits and pin-prick holes. The fire popped and his silhouette disappeared. Nothing would happen tonight, let them sleep. They would need their strength tomorrow.
Badrika woke first, taking in a huge breath of fresh air, and gave a satisfying fart – glad that the others were still sleeping. She needed to pee. Stepping carefully over the others, she made it outside with her jersey and boots in hand. Stretching, she enjoyed having time to herself. She dressed and headed to the bathroom, planning breakfast in her head.
By the time it was cooked, she had had enough of the two lazy bones she had come with. Sticking her head in the tent she shouted ‘Goooood morning gals’. Greeted by moans and groans, she insisted that they get up and have coffee with her. ‘Come on its such an awesome day, grumpy pants,’ Bads said.
By 10 they were awake, fed, washed and ready for an easy trail around the park. There were 3 trails to choose from and Badrika would have preferred the one to the top of the gorge but couldn’t face the complaining. They set off carrying water in the cool mid-morning while dappled sunshine tickled their bare arms.
‘Isn’t this amazing?’ Bads said. Chats nodded. ‘I would rather be watching a movie, but this isn’t bad.’ She took a huge breath, then coughed. ‘I need a cigarette.’
‘Nooooo,’ the other two girls grabbed her between them and ran her along the path, giggling. They walked for a while longer just enjoying the surroundings when Chats insisted that they stop for a bit. Off the path was a huge, flat rock. They sat, grateful for the cool water. Chats lit up a smoke and the girls lay flat, watching the sun through the trees. The only sounds were the birds and insects buzzing in the heat.
‘Hey. Do you smell that?’ Casey said sitting up. The others sniffed, unhappily noticing the smell too. ‘Eeyuk!’ Bads said. ‘What died?’ Chats gagged, pushing out her cigarette on the rock. ‘Let’s go see. It must be a dead animal.’
‘No! Why?’ Bads asked horrified.
‘Come on.’ Chats said. ‘Death is a part of nature.’ Chats hopped off the rock towards the thicker trees. This part of the forest seemed darker, quieter. Reluctantly Bads followed, keeping a mental note of which way the path was. Casey dragged her feet, also reluctant to see a dead anything. Creeping forward they moved into heavily shaded woodlands.
‘Don’t make a sound, there may be predators around’. Casey snorted ‘What? Tigers?’ They all laughed. The trees opened into a small clearing and all 3 girls stopped in horror.
Hanging from the trees were every kind of small forest animal. Skunk. Rabbit. Weasel. Others that the girls couldn’t identify. Dripping with flies, maggots and stinking fluids, at least 15 poor creatures hung by their necks. The forest was deathly quiet, apart from the buzzing flies and a crow which squawked scaring the hell out of them. It felt like a graveyard. Casey immediately vomited her breakfast on the ground, unfortunately splashing on all of them. Bads jerked the 2 girls by their arms and they ran out of the clearing towards the path, the horror of what they had seen, giving them speed.
They hauled ass back to the tent. Falling to the ground, the girls were winded and frightened. ‘What the hell…’ Chats said. ‘Who does that kind of shit? Must be a freak.’ The girls looked at each other seeing the fear on each others pale faces.
‘That would be my farm. I sell the maggots to fishermen, they make excellent bait.’ Turning in shock, all 3 faced the man from the night before. His face still pasty despite the sunshine. He casually held a knife in his hand. His eyes were hard and black, a small smirk curled his lip. Fear licked at the girls.
‘What the hell do you want?’ Chats said. Her tone was rude and confrontational. ‘Get out of our camp.’ He never moved, still staring. Bads realised that this could go horribly wrong, she stepped forward.
‘Sorry my friend was being rude. I hope we didn’t keep you awake last night with the music.’
Pointing with his knife he said, ‘the music wasn’t a problem. Which one of you called me an “asshole”?’ Chats paled. ‘I…I’m sorry.’ He gave a low laugh ‘too late little girl. You will be sorry.’
Bads tried again. ‘Sorry for my friend, she didn’t mean it. Please just leave us alone, we are packing up now and will go.’ He picked at the dirt under his nails again, grossing the girls out.
‘Let’s play a game.’ He looked at each of them. Bads went cold with fear, the look in his eyes…
‘You run and I chase you.’
‘W…what?’ Casey said. He looked at her as if he didn’t know she was there.
‘It speaks. You run and I chase you… The first one I catch, I kill.’
‘You must be joking.’ But there was no humor in his face.
‘We won’t do that!’ Bads said, defiant, trying to hide her terror.
‘You will and you will do it now. I’m counting to 3. 1..2..3..’ he stepped forward lifting the knife. The girls bolted towards the office, screaming. Tripping to get through the door at the same time, Chats landed face first in something wet and stinky. It was pee! Lifting her head she stared straight into 2 dead eyes. It was pimple boy, he had been sliced from belly-button to chin. She opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out.
‘Use the phone’ Bads shouted. Casey picked it up. Nothing. She jiggled the receiver as if that would help. Nothing.
Hearing whistling, the girls froze.
‘We’ve got to get out of here.’ Bads said. They crept to the door and peeped out. He was coming.
‘Follow me’ Bads said. They crept out, away from the creep and their tent. Bads was thinking that they would divert around the camp, grab their keys and leave in the honkey-tonk. Keeping low, they ran through the bushes sounding like a heard of elephants, but they were too panicked to notice. Running around they headed back to their tent. He was waiting.
‘Looking for these?’ he wiggled his finger with the keys. Chats burst into tears.
‘Please just let us go. I’m sorry I insulted you, it’s all my fault.’
‘And I’m rude and horrible, I…I’m sorry.’
‘OK – you can go.’ The girls froze and looked at him. Was he serious? What would they have to do to get those keys?
‘Only 2 of you can go.’ he said. His face was hard. Black eyes bored into theirs. ‘Pick among the 2 of you, come get the keys and go.’
Bads stepped forward ‘We cannot leave one of us here, please…’ he shook his head. ‘Then you better start running. 1…2.’
‘PLEASE?’ Chats screamed, shocking them all.
‘1…2…3…’ he stood making the girls take off at a run towards the path they had taken only a few happy hours ago, before this nightmare began.
They quickly disappeared from view and kept going. Turning, Bads ran a ways into the forest and crouched down, winded and terrified. The others followed and gratefully sunk onto the cool forest floor, Chats wept.
Hugging each other, they listened for whistling. Nothing. Only sounds of the forest could be heard and they were grateful.
‘What the hell do we do now?’ Casey whispered, here eyes huge in her head. They looked to Bads who had no idea what to do.
‘Can we make it to town?’
‘I think we should run.’
‘Maybe pimple boy has a gun?’
‘He’s gonna kill us.’ Chats voice sounded hysterical.
‘Stop!’ Bads said. Putting her hands up, she tried to think. Options ran through her head she dismissed them one by one.
‘We have to get away here and its impossible to walk to anywhere. We don’t know our way through the forest or which direction to take. And who knows how far the closest help is.’ Bads said.
‘The keys?’ Casey sniffed and wiped her tears. ‘How do we get them from him?’
‘We have to fight.’ Bads said. Both girls looked shocked.
‘Do either of you have a better idea?”
‘Yes’ Chats said ‘lets hide here until someone comes looking for us.’
‘When? Late Sunday night? What about water and food? Casey’s left her breakfast at the farm?’ Casey looked down embarrassed, realizing she was hungry. The thought of staying in the forest with no food or water until they were found wasn’t an option.
‘He’s going to hunt us. We’ll need weapons’ Bads looked around as though 3 machine guns would be propped on the tree behind them. Rocks and branches would have to do. The girls stood, searching through the woods as quietly as possible and each found a weapon. They were comparing these when Bads suddenly stopped and dropped. She heard whistling, closeby.
The 3 girls huddled together terrified, praying that the shade would hide them. It did. He came into view, ambling along the path and whistling. Twirling the knife in his hands, the glinting sun caught the girls faces but mercifully he didn’t see them. Waiting until he was out of sight, they headed away from him back to camp. Running through the forest took too long and was noisy so they crept back onto the path when they could. Terror gave them energy and they were soon back at camp.
The girls went to the office first. Carefully skirting the pee and dead pimple boy, they searched but there were no guns, not even a taser. They found a working torch and several bottles of water which they put into his grubby backpack. Casey found some cutlery but no steak knives. Good luck trying to butter him to death, Casey thought. They were disappointed but they had to keep going.
Peeping out the door, there was no sign of him and they again headed around camp to their tent. Crouching in the bushes they watched. Nothing. Praying that he was still on the path, they grabbed what they could carry.
‘Hurry, hurry’ Bads said.
This time they took the path to the gorge, hoping it would confuse him and give them a better view of the surrounding areas.
‘Stop.’ Chats said.
‘Move it Chats, this is all your fault. If you weren’t damm rude to the man, none of this would have happened.’ Bads said. Chats paled.
‘Its not my fault. How was I to know he’s a psychopath?’ Chats stopped, putting her hands on her knees and breathing too fast. She started to cry.
‘OK, come let’s take a break.’ Again they moved off the path as much as they could, they had the gorge wall to their backs and were almost at the top. It was cool in the shade and they sipped their water slowly.
‘Let’s not blame each other, we have to get out of here alive.’ Bads said, they nodded. Bads was a reluctant leader, she always had to be the voice of reason, it made her mad. Why couldn’t they also be responsible?
They carried on finally reaching the top of the gorge. It would have been beautiful if they weren’t being hunted by a madman. There was nothing but forest for miles. The road they came in on snaked out of sight over a hill and that was it. No other building, not even a hut. They were stuck. Bads allowed herself to tear up, sinking to her knees. She had so hoped…
‘Run’ Bads said. They did, circling round back to the camp as soon as they could. It was rocky and hot but they made it.
‘The sun is setting’ Casey said. ‘We’ve been running for hours.’ Exhaustion showed on their drawn faces.
‘Check your weapons, we need to get our keys.’ Bads said. ‘We can hide from him and attack when he falls asleep, it’s our only chance.’ The other 2 looked terrified but knew they were running out of alternatives.
They each found a hiding place, within sight of their tent. They waited.
Each girl dealt with their terror in different ways. Bads was a fighter, she had 3 brothers and was grateful she had grown up tougher than the other 2. Casey had 2 sisters, was weaker but had a strong survival instinct which she unknowingly called on now. Chats was different. Being an only child, she was spoilt, lazy and expectant. She would do the least she could get away with in any situation. Her mouth had gotten her into trouble in the past and again today. This time she made trouble for all 3 of them.
They dare not breathe watching as he came into sight. He sat down in Chats’s chair and put his head back. They waited. Maybe he would sleep. It didn’t take long for his light snores to start. It sounded like a buzz saw and would have been funny if the situation wasn’t so tense.
Bads signaled and they moved forward. Casey pointed at Bads to try his pockets, she desperately didn’t want to. Fear pulsed through her body making it shake. She leaned in, ready to run. The snores continued.
Bads felt keys in his front jacket pocket. Slowly she slipped her hand in, taking care to keep it off him slightly and not daring to breathe. As she touched the keys, his eyes opened. Grabbing her hand, he stood and pushed her backwards, she fell. The other 2 girls attacked but it was useless. He swatted them away and they fell too. He twisted Bads’s arm and she screamed in pain.
‘I’m getting mighty sick of this shit!’ he said. ‘Which one do I kill first?’ Bads cried out in pain as he turned and twisted her arm further. She felt the muscles tearing and waited for the snap. Looking at her he dropped her arm.
Screaming and crying, the girls begged for mercy.
‘One of you stays, two of you go. Pick now.’ He dropped Bads’s hand, crying she rubbed the bruised flesh.
‘We can’t!’ Much crying and begging later, they gave up.
‘S…Sir?’ He turned towards Bads.
‘What happens to the girl who remains?’
‘What!’ Chats and Casey said together. ‘You can’t be serious.’ They looked aghast. Bads came to a decision, it was a tough one.
‘I’m not gonna die here, not because Chats has no manners.’ Bads said. Her voice was shaking but determined. Chats paled even further.
‘You can’t…you mean… I must stay?’ Bads nodded.
‘We will go get help, as quickly as we can. I’m sorry.’ Bads tried to take Chats hand, but she raised it and slapped her, her head snapped back.
‘Why can’t you stay?’ Terror made her words shake and Bads’s cheek turned scarlet.
‘Because its Casey’s car and your fault!’
‘I’m not staying’ Chats turned to run. He easily grabbed her and lifted her off her feet. All 3 girls were screaming and begging again.
Throwing the keys over his shoulder, he walked towards the forest with a hysterical Chats struggling and kicking.
‘Let’s GO.’ Sobbing they ran to the car, started the engine and pulled out, throwing out sod and dust behind them. They were crying so hard that Casey couldn’t see and narrowly missed crashing into the pillars at the gate.
‘Stop it Casey. Focus. It wont help us to have an accident now, we have to get help!’ Casey slowed, wiping her streaming eyes and nose on her dirty shirt. The trip into town took forever.
Sergeant Baker was starving. He had just taken delivery of his kickass cheeseburger when he heard screaming. Dropping it, he ran into the reception area, hand on gun to see 2 hysterical teenagers. The desk clerk was just as shocked and stood there trying to make sense of what they were shouting.
‘Stop.’ They did.
‘Now what is the problem?’ They both started talking at once, there was obviously something very wrong but he couldn’t understand them. Walking through the swing door, he put a hand on each of the girl’s shoulders and squeezed.
‘For me to help, you have to tell me what is going on.’
Bads gulped air and started again.
‘Our friend, he has her hostage at Borky Park. He chased us and threatened to kill us. He MADE us leave her behind, please she’s in danger.’
‘OK.’ Baker released their shoulders. ‘Who has her and who is she?’
‘There’s a man, we think he lives there. Friday night we were noisy and Chats called him an “asshole”, yesterday he came back’. Bads eyes filled with tears. ‘He’s been chasing us around and threatening to kill us. He said 2 of us can leave and 1 must stay, we tried to fight…’ Baker believed her. Barking orders he got his men together, they checked ammo and left.
Baker’s stomach reminded him of his cooling hamburger as they sped away. ‘Damm.’ The journey back was much quicker.
‘Stay here’ he said. The girls had no problem complying, they were clinging to each other in the back of the police car. The park was quiet, nothing but birds and wind to make a noise.
The police checked the girls tent area, it was empty. The other tent although filthy was devoid of any life. One of the officers called Baker, they had found pimple boy.
‘Oh we didn’t even think about telling Sergeant Baker about him.’ Bads felt guilty.
He made his way back to the car. ‘There’s no-one here. Did he have a car?’ The girls looked at each other, neither had seen one, they shook their heads.
Sergeant Baker spoke into his mic, ordering all available officers to do a perimeter search and inform the morgue. 2 hours later they still had nothing and it was starting to get dark.
‘Sergeant?’ Bads had remembered the animal graveyard. He said it was his farm, maybe she was there. Bads explained to Sergeant but couldn’t explain where it was.
‘You’ll have to show us’ he said. Bads paled.
‘We will be right there with you – we are armed. You’ll be safe.’ A terrified Bads agreed, she had no choice really. The path was black, their lights showing the way only a few meters in front. Baker went first, then Bads followed by 2 officers. They were all on high alert. Very little happened in the Borky area so this was unusual, interesting and scary as hell for the officers.
Bads tried to pick out landmarks to find the farm, but they missed it at first. After doubling back, Bads caught sight of the flat rock. She struggled to believe that it was only yesterday that they sat on that rock without a care in the world. Creeping forward, the officers took the lead, Baker walked with Bads.
‘Quiet and slow men, this guy is dangerous.’ Baker said.
They moved through the dim shadows taking care not to make a noise. As they got through Bads was relieved to see Chats in the clearing in the dim light. She was standing against a tree, waving at them. Bads burst into tears.
‘Chats, Chats I’m so sorry…’ Something was wrong. She didn’t speak and didn’t react to Bads, apart from the waving.
Baker pushed Bads behind him and cautiously approached. 10 feet from her, his heart sank. She was dead. Chats had been posed against the tree, her hand tied to a branch to look like it was waving when the wind blew. Her mouth was stretched open in a macabre grin. She was fully clothed but her feet were filthy, she must have been made to walk all this way without her shoes.
He turned to Bads. The expectant look on her face turned to horror when she realized.
‘Noooo. Nooooo.’ Bads tried to run to Chats but Baker grabbed her and walked her away. He felt sick.
They never found out the identity of the man. He disappeared without a trace, leaving 3 shattered families and a frightened community behind. Baker hoped that he was just passing through and never came back, he could do without the headache.
Chat’s parents arranged a service when they eventually got her body back from the morgue, the girls were heartbroken. They sobbed inconsolably and would take much time to get over the horror of her murder.
That night in the graveyard he stood at her grave. It was raining slightly and the damp earth smelled rich and woody. He turned away.
‘Casey and Badrika. I’m coming.’