Site icon Bloody Twine – Bundle of Horror

SHIMMER ON THE WATER

Ah, summer-camp hijinks.

Arnie picked up a stick and swung it in the air. He was at the very edge of the forest with his friends, right behind the cabins. Breakfast hadn’t started yet, so they had a few minutes to goof off before going to the cafeteria.

He was there with his best friends at Camp Olenglade, because this was where the parents of the nearby town of Keywell sent their kids for the summer. It wasn’t like they wanted to be here, but it was better than doing nothing for the first eight weeks of their time away from school.

All of them wore the white T-shirts and forest-green shorts for the ’76 campers at Olenglade, so Arnie felt like he was part of a team when he was with his friends, a united front against the world. Being united in something was important for thirteen-year-olds, even if that world was just summer camp.

“Have you seen that new Pepsi can?” asked Gordon.

Gordon was the biggest of them, stocky and broad-shouldered, the muscle of their team. Arnie likened him to their bully protection, their shield against getting picked on, but it wasn’t like Arnie was a coward. He was their unofficial leader, after all. If there was ever any trouble, he and Gordon were first up and first in.

“Everybody’s seen the new can,” said Donnie. “It’s the bicentennial.”

Donnie was quick and scrappy, kind of a smart-mouth, but he was a good and loyal friend. Arnie could always count on him to come up with a quick retort.

“That’s boring,” said Arnie. “There’s got to be something else to talk about while we’ve got a few minutes. I mean, we can talk at breakfast, but it’s not the same. It’s not just us there, you know?”

“No kidding,” snorted Gordon. “We can’t talk about anything we really like.”

“Yeah,” said Miles. “I can’t talk about science fiction at all. I really wish they’d come out with a Star Trek movie.”

Everyone else groaned.

“Not this again,” frowned Donnie.

Miles was…well…the different one of their group. He wore glasses and was into reading science fiction and comic books. His interests were a little esoteric compared to everyone else. He mainly just tagged along with them, probably because no one else would take him.

“You’re the only one who ever watched that show, Miles,” said Arnie as he rolled his eyes.

Watches,” corrected Miles. “I catch the reruns when I can.”

“It’s been what?” asked Gordon. “Like ten years since that show aired? Let it go. Watch something else…like Kolchak.”

“Yeah, The Night Stalker,” said Arnie. “I liked that series. Too bad it got canceled.”

“They always cancel the good ones,” said Donnie. “Remember Night Gallery?”

“Barely,” said Arnie. “There’s nothing ever playing on TV anymore.”

Jaws was awesome,” said Gordon.

“Yeah, but you’re the only one of us that’s seen it,” said Donnie. “Plus, you had nightmares for weeks last year. Serves you right for getting your mom and dad to take you on opening night.”

“Shut up,” frowned Gordon. “That movie is terrifying. You have no idea. No shark should be that big.”

“Is scary stuff all you guys ever watch?” asked Miles.

“Pretty much,” shrugged Arnie. “Heck, if investigating the supernatural was a real job, that’s what I’d be doing when I grow up. I’d be investigating ghosts and witches and stuff like Kolchak.”

“It’s gotta beat selling cars,” frowned Gordon. “That’s what my dad does. He wants me to come help him out at the lot after camp is through, but I don’t want to do that.”

“My old man fixes cars,” said Donnie. “He’s a grease monkey.”

“Yeah,” nodded Arnie in facetious interest. “One sells ‘em, one fixes ‘em. Heard it a million times, guys. Miles’ dad is a lawyer, and my dad is—”

“Hey!” called out an unfamiliar voice.

They all froze.

An older boy came walking up, this boy about fifteen or sixteen or so. He was tall, with short blond hair and blue eyes, and he wore a Camp Olenglade T-shirt, but his shirt was dark green like his shorts. Arnie had never seen him before.

Arnie was sure the others were thinking the same thing he was…Maybe they were all in trouble for something. Maybe they weren’t supposed to be out here before breakfast.

“We’re going to breakfast,” said Arnie quickly. “We were just on our way.”

“Eh, I don’t care about that,” said the older boy as he waved off Arnie. “No, I thought I heard something about scary stuff.”

“Yeah?” asked Donnie. “What’s it to ya?”

“I just wanted to know if you liked scary stuff,” shrugged the new kid.

“Yeah,” said Arnie carefully. “Who are you anyway?”

“Who are you?” asked the older boy.

“I’m Arnie,” said Arnie. “This is Gordon, that’s Donnie, and that’s Miles.”

“Well, I’m Casey,” said the new boy. “I know everything about this camp…I even know about the Witch’s Isle.”

Now, this sounded interesting. Arnie had never heard of any “Witch’s Isle.” None of them had.

“Witch’s Isle?” asked Gordon.

“Yeah,” grinned this new boy, “Casey.” “It’s supposed to appear somewhere on the lake whenever there’s a full moon.”

“Full moons are for werewolves, not witches,” scoffed Donnie.

“Oh, so you know your stuff, huh?” asked Casey. “Well, they say that the Isle is never in the same spot twice, and there’s only one way to find it.”

“Oh, yeah?” asked Donnie. “What’s that?”

“You have to follow the spooklights,” nodded Casey.

The older boy’s blue eyes were wide as he nodded twice in eerie confirmation, a freaky grin on his face, but Arnie still had no idea what Casey was talking about. Arnie had never heard of any “Witch’s Isle” or any “spooklights.” In fact, he suspected this was just a prank anyway. Older boys liked to scare younger boys, especially at summer camp. It was an initiation thing.

“This sounds like a pretty weak ghost story,” smirked Arnie. “We’ve heard ‘em all. You’ll have to do better than that.”

“Yeah,” said Donnie. “We watch horror for a living.”

“Is that right?” asked Casey. “Well, what I’m talking about isn’t a story…It’s real.”

“B.S.,” said Gordon. “I’ve never heard of any ‘Witch’s Isle.’ Have you guys ever heard of this?”

“Nope,” said Arnie and Donnie at the same time.

They looked over to Miles, but their nerdy friend simply shrugged.

“It’s there,” nodded Casey. “It’s there, and it’s going to appear tonight out on the lake.”

“Right,” said Arnie as he rolled his eyes. “So, if it’s there, how come no one I know has ever found it?”

“Because it’s not common knowledge,” said Casey.

“Then how do you know about it?” asked Donnie.

“I know everything about this camp,” grinned the older boy. “I’ve been here every year since I was ten. That’s how I know about Camp Olenglade’s deepest, darkest secret.”

“Yeah, yeah, mysterious isle, spooklights, whatever,” said Donnie. “What’s so scary about this ‘Witch’s Isle’?”

“The witch, of course,” said Casey.

“And?” asked Arnie. “We’ve heard ‘em all…uhhh…Casey. You can’t scare us.”

“Is that so?” asked the older boy. “Well, I bet you’ve never heard of Jenny Greenteeth.”

“No,” said Gordon flatly. “Are you gonna tell us about her?”

“Yeah,” snorted Donnie. “Fill us in, smart-guy.”

“Jenny Greenteeth is an old swamp hag that preys on the elderly and the young,” nodded Casey. “She has green skin like a toad, long green hair like swamp mush, black claws that rake and rend, and sharp green fangs.”

“Hey, it’s your girlfriend, Donnie,” chuckled Gordon.

Arnie laughed right along with Miles at the impromptu dig, but Donnie was not appreciative of the joke.

“Yeah, yeah,” said the wiry kid. “Eat a dead squirrel, Gordie.”

“Anyway…” continued Casey. “Anyway, you can find Witch’s Isle by following the spooklights that appear over the lake. Once you’re on the Isle, you can follow the spooklights some more, and they’ll lead you to Jenny.”

They simply stared at the older boy as if he were full of it, which was what he was. There was no “Witch’s Isle,” “spooklights,” or anything else like that.

“I’m going out on the lake tonight after lights out,” said this new boy, “Casey.” “If you guys wanna tag along, I could use more people than just me. I’m going to look for the spooklights to find Jenny.”

“Right,” sighed Arnie. “If this were real, somebody would have found this ‘Jenny’ by now…uhhh…Casey. We wouldn’t be the first ones to do it…This is just a prank. This is a snipe hunt, or at best, looking for Bigfoot.”

“Oh, so you are scared,” grinned Casey. “I knew it.”

“We’re not scared,” frowned Gordon. “This is just a prank anyway. We weren’t born yesterday.”

“Okay,” shrugged the older boy. “I guess I’ll go by myself, then. I’ll just grab a camera, take pictures, and be a star. Why should I share the credit anyway?”

He turned to walk away, but Arnie thought better about his story.

“Wait,” said Arnie. “Wait a second.”

Casey turned around and gave Arnie a slight smirk.

Yeeeeees?” asked the older boy.

“Are you just going by yourself?” asked Arnie.

“Yep,” said Casey firmly.

“Eh, I guess I can go,” shrugged Arnie. “There’s nothing better to do here anyway…What do you guys think?”

“Yeah, whatever,” said Donnie. “How ’bout it, Gordo?”

“Yeah, okay,” said Gordon. “We don’t have a camera, though.”

“Miles has a camera,” nodded Arnie.

They all turned to look at their least-associated “friend.” Miles had a startled look on his four-eyed face, like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Don’t be a chicken, Miles,” sighed Arnie. “We’re all going, and you’re the only one with a camera. There aren’t any spooklights or a Witch’s Isle anyway. We’re just taking a cruise out on the lake.”

“But it’s after hours, and—” started Miles.

“Oh, you baby,” frowned Donnie. “Everybody screws around after hours. I saw Darryl Grouper and Millie Furley just last night. They were going out behind the cabins to fool around.”

“Were you spying on the counselors again?” asked Gordon. “That’s gross, Donnie.”

“That’s how you learn,” shrugged Donnie.

“No thanks,” frowned Gordon. “I walked in on my parents one time. Scarred me for life.”

The older boy, Casey, laughed, and everyone else but Miles followed suit. Miles looked nervous and sweaty over the entire conversation, but Arnie just chalked that up to him being chicken.

“I don’t know, guys,” said Miles.

“Seriously, don’t be a chicken, Miles,” frowned Arnie. “If you wanna hang out with us, then you actually have to hang out with us…We need you anyway. You’re the only one with a camera.”

“I…guess,” said Miles slowly, but Arnie could tell he wasn’t convinced.

“Just show up at the docks tonight after lights out,” said Casey with a timely intervention. “We’ll all meet up at the docks tonight and take out the canoes…You boys know how to row?”

“Of course,” snorted Donnie. “We already told you…We weren’t born yesterday.”

Arnie nodded and grinned. They were going to have themselves a little adventure, something to spice up camp life and something to talk about later on. It was going to be fun, the type of fun they rarely got to engage in…well…anywhere.

Arnie had been skeptical at first, but now he was looking forward to this nightly outing. In fact, it was a shame society didn’t have summer camps dedicated to paranormal investigation.

But breakfast and the rest of the day awaited them. As much as it was a downer, they all still had to engage in “legitimate” camp activities. It’s what their parents had paid for anyway.

**********

Arnie showed up at the docks with the others, lantern in hand. They all had their lanterns, though Miles had brought his camera as well.

Casey was not there yet, so they waited by the canoes, those canoes painted a bright red for visibility purposes.

“Guess he’s not here yet,” said Gordon.

“I told you this was a prank,” said Donnie.

“We all thought it was a prank,” pointed out Arnie. “Let’s just give him a couple of minutes.”

“I don’t know about this, guys,” said Miles.

They all groaned at Miles’ reticence. He was really beginning to bug them.

“Don’t chicken out now, Miles,” frowned Arnie. “We’re all here, and we’re in this together.”

“That’s right,” said Casey.

The older boy’s voice ambushed them from behind.

Startled, Arnie turned and nearly dropped his lantern. Casey was standing on the dock with them, right by the canoes, but Arnie could have sworn he hadn’t been there a second ago.

“Good grief, man!” barked Donnie. “Don’t sneak up on us like that!”

“How did you even get around us?” asked Gordon in disbelief.

“I have my ways,” grinned the older boy. “Now let’s stop wasting time…Come on, ladies…Adventure awaits.”

Gordon and Donnie took their lanterns and immediately boarded one of the canoes.

Arnie stepped into his own canoe and looked over toward Miles, but the four-eyed kid hesitated. He would not follow for some reason.

“Miles,” frowned Arnie, “hop in.”

“I…I don’t want to do this,” said Miles.

“Just get in the canoe,” said Gordon. “Don’t be a wuss.”

“No,” said Miles with a shake of his head. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“Oh, come on!” sighed Arnie. “Just get in the boat!”

The boy shook his head no and set down his lantern. He pulled off his camera he was strap carrying and handed it to Arnie.

“Here,” he said nervously. “You take the camera. I’m going back to the cabins.”

“You wuss!” said Donnie.

“Something’s not right about this,” said Miles. “You guys can go. Just take pictures and show me.”

“Come on, Miles,” grinned Casey. “Join the fun. We’re going to have fun.”

Miles shook his head no again as he picked up his lantern.

“Something’s not right,” said the boy. “I’ve got a bad feeling…You…You guys shouldn’t go, either. We should just go back.”

“Pah,” said Arnie as he waved him off. “You’re no fun…Fine. We’ll go and show you the pictures we take.”

“I really don’t think you guys should go,” said Miles. “Something’s bad here. I’ve got a bad feeling.”

He stared directly at Casey, a stare that made Arnie pause for a second, but Casey simply grinned at Miles. It was like there was an unspoken message between the two boys, but what that message could be, Arnie had no idea.

“The only bad feelings you get is when you touch yourself at night,” scoffed Donnie.

“Now, now,” smiled Casey. “There’s no reason to get crude, guys…Let him go. We’ll be the ones to have fun. It’s clear he doesn’t want to have any.”

Miles continued to stare at the older boy, but the four-eyed nerd shook in place, trembling, and Arnie could not help but wonder what had his friend so anxious.

“What’s going on, Miles?” asked Arnie. “We’re just going out on the water. It’s not a big deal. It’s not like there’s a Witch’s Isle anyway.”

“You shouldn’t go,” said Miles. “I don’t think you should go.”

He continued to stare at Casey, but this was a little unnerving, even for someone as steadfast as Arnie.

“Let’s just go, boys,” grinned Casey. “Miles can go on back.”

Yeeeeeah,” drawled out Arnie.

He was sensing something was off here, as if Miles knew or understood something he did not.

But Arnie was still going. He was not going to miss out on this. It was way too much fun.

“You just go on back, Miles,” said Arnie. “We’ll catch you when we come back and fill you in. I’ll get your camera back to you.”

He turned his attention back upon their older chaperone.

“It looks like you don’t have to take your own boat, Casey,” said Arnie. “You can come with me.”

There was nothing more to say after that. Arnie put the strap of the camera around his right shoulder, and there was a certain finality to that action that no one else could argue with.

The older boy, Casey, entered Arnie’s canoe, and they all pushed off from the dock without another spoken word.

They rowed onto the lake, but Arnie took a moment to look behind himself, and there was Miles, still standing on the dock, lantern in hand, staring at them all, watching them leave. That chicken was acting as if he’d never see any of them again…It really was unsettling.

“I wonder what’s gotten into him?” asked Arnie quietly. “It’s like he’s spooked or something.”

“He’s just a wet blanket,” said Casey. “Ignore him.”

They rowed for a bit, the two canoes in close proximity to each other, and then Casey nodded toward the distance, out toward the middle of the lake.

“Speaking of spooked, look out there,” he said in a hushed voice.

Arnie squinted as he tried to peer through the darkness. They had their lanterns in their boats, and that was good, and the light of the full moon was out, and that was also good, but it was still difficult to see.

There was a shimmer on the water at first, and then an orb of golden light appeared over that water, rising up from the depths, a crackling of lightning in a ball that could not be heard but could definitely be seen. It was big, bigger than a basketball, and Arnie could tell that size even from the distance they were at.

“Holy crap!” he barked out. “Are you guys seeing this!”

“Of course, we’re seeing it!” barked back Donnie. “What are you waiting for! Take a picture of it, dingus!”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Arnie.

He took off the lens cap, adjusted the flash meter, and raised the camera viewport up to his right eye. It was a good thing he knew how to use a camera, or he’d have probably left the lens cap on or the flash off.

He snapped a couple of pictures of the ball of light in the distance.

“That’s a spooklight,” said Casey. “We need to follow it to find the Isle.”

“There may be a spooklight,” argued Gordon, “but that doesn’t mean there’s any Witch’s Isle.”

“Then let’s find out if there is one,” said Casey.

They rowed closer to the orb in the distance, but Arnie thought better about something, something he had missed before.

“I thought you said you were bringing a camera, too,” he said.

“I did,” said Casey.

The older boy produced a camera in his right hand, one that was very similar to Miles’ camera, right down to the same type of strap. In fact, Casey had the thing strapped around his shoulder, but Arnie could have sworn he had not seen any such thing before just now.

“Where did you get that?” asked Arnie.

“I’ve had it the whole time,” said the older boy. “You’re not very observant, are you?”

Arnie shook his head at that. His memory was playing tricks on him.

The older boy took a moment to take a couple of pictures of the glowing orb in the distance.

“Let’s go after it,” he said after lowering his camera.

The four boys grabbed the oars of their canoes, and they were off after that, off toward following the mysterious orb of crackling light hovering over the still waters of the lake.

It was not long before the orb began to move, but they were only halfway to it.

“Row, Donnie!” huffed Gordon.

“I am!” huffed back the wiry boy.

Arnie did not waste any breath giving any kind of comment or order. No, he rowed as hard as he could, keeping up with Casey’s rowing as best he could.

“We’ve got to…got to catch it,” huffed Gordon.

They rowed for the ball of light in the distance, but it continued to move across the lake, always just out of reach. Nevertheless, none of them were about to give up now.

“There it goes!” huffed Arnie. “It’s turning right!”

They all struggled to turn their canoes as the ball of crackling energy made a swift turn right, hovering for a second as if waiting for them, and then it took off again toward the east side of the lake.

“It’s like it’s got a mind of its…of its own!” huffed Donnie.

“Just row!” huffed Gordon.

“I am!” barked Donnie.

“Push it, guys!” ordered Casey. “We have to follow it!”

Arnie rowed and rowed until it felt like his arms were going to fall off.

The ball of light moved into a stationary position. Its electric, golden glow lit up the gnarled trunk and arms of an old, leafless, withered tree, but there was only one problem with this…They were all still in the middle of the lake.

“What the hell!” huffed Gordon.

“I see it!” barked Arnie.

The older boy, Casey, turned and shone Arnie a wide grin.

“There it is,” said Casey. “The Witch’s Isle.”

“This is insane,” puffed out Arnie.

They rowed until they could clearly see the edges of the tiny isle out in the middle of the lake.

“Let’s get closer and get some pictures,” said Arnie.

They rowed up to the edge of solid land.

They were now closer than they’d ever been to the glowing orb, its large shape crackling and streaming light without any sound, right next to the dead tree in the center of this isle, that tree a mere thirty feet away.

“There it is,” whispered Donnie.

“Everybody, out,” ordered Casey.

Arnie stepped out onto dry land without thinking twice. The others exited the canoes, and all four of them dragged the canoes far enough onto the mild shoreline so that the boats did not wander off.

Arnie took his lantern from the boat as the others removed theirs. They were going to need some light source other than the moon and whatever that weird orb was.

They all stared at the ball of light hovering next to the old withered tree, and they stared at it for a full thirty seconds before any of them said a word. It was Donnie who broke that silence, because the wiry kid could never keep his mouth shut for long.

“Is this real?” asked Donnie.

“I don’t know,” said Arnie. “If it’s a trick, it’s a really elaborate one.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” asked Gordon. “You’ve got Miles’ camera, Arnie, and Casey has his own camera, so let’s go check this thing out.”

“Yeah,” agreed Arnie.

They took a few steps toward the tree in the distance before their outdoorsman shoes sank into thick muck. Arnie pulled back his foot and looked down at the film of green algae that had formed over what had to be thick water and mud.

“Ugh…” he said unhappily. “This is some kind of marsh or bog or something.”

“No pain, no gain,” grinned Donnie as he waded right in.

The boy waded waist deep into the greenish water without batting an eye. He made it about five feet before he turned and gave everyone else an irritated look.

“Well, are you coming or not?” asked Donnie.

“Yeah, all right,” said Gordon.

The big kid waded in after Donnie, so Arnie waded in after them both.

He could feel the cold of the water sink into him.

“Whew!” he said as he shivered. “This is bracing!”

“No kidding,” said Gordon. “Let’s hurry and check this thing out. I wonder if we can touch it?”

“I don’t know,” said Donnie. “We should be careful about that.”

“Yeah,” said Arnie. “Baby steps, guys.”

He held up his lantern in his left hand and Miles’ camera in his right. It was going to be tricky taking a picture this way, but he’d figure something out. He’d just get Donnie to hit the snap button, now that he was thinking about it.

They waded out close to the tree, but the going was somewhat slow.

Donnie came within five feet of the orb, but he stopped as he gazed upon it.

Gordon came up beside him and looked over the bright ball of crackling luminescence.

“There’s no sound or heat or anything coming from it,” said Donnie quietly. “It just feels…cold.”

“Yeah,” said Gordon just as quietly.

Arnie sidled in next to Donnie, and he could feel the drop in temperature the moment he had come within that fateful five feet. There was definitely a pulse or aura of cold air coming off of this thing, as if he were standing directly in front of an air conditioner or an open refrigerator.

“What is this thing?” he asked in a hushed voice.

“Take a picture of it,” said Gordon.

“Donnie, you’ll have to hit the snap button once I have the picture lined up,” said Arnie.

“Right,” said Donnie.

Arnie was about to raise Miles’ camera to his right eye when he was interrupted by the sound of Casey’s distant voice.

“Hey, boys!” yelled the older kid. “You forgot something!”

They turned around, and there was Casey, still on the shore near the canoes, his lantern held high, his face etched with a weird grin.

“What!” yelled back Gordon.

The older boy replied to Gordon’s query, but his voice took on a quiet, sinister tone. As quiet as that sinister reply had been, Arnie could still make out what Casey was saying, and he did not like the implications of it one bit.

“You forgot about Jenny,” grinned the older boy.

Arnie turned and looked toward the orb he had been about to take a photo of. The large ball of crackling, golden luminescence sank down into the mud right next to the old withered tree, and then it was gone, vanishing without a trace.

“What in the—” began Donnie.

The wiry kid made a jerking motion, dropping his lantern into the marsh. He disappeared beneath the green-slicked water after that, only to pop up gasping for air a second later.

“Donnie, what the hell!” cursed Gordon.

“Something bit me!” yelped Donnie.

“Stop screwing around,” said Gordon angrily. “You dropped your lantern, and now we have to find it!”

“No!” screeched Donnie. “Something bit me! There’s something in the water!”

“You’re only doing this because I watched Jaws,” frowned Gordon. “Cut it out, you—”

Donnie did not reply, at least, not in the way that Gordon had wanted. The wiry kid disappeared under the water again, vanishing into that green-slicked muck, and then he popped back up, splashing and sputtering, gasping for air. The boy screamed a second later, his body was thrashed about left and then right and then left and then right again, and then he vanished altogether as he was pulled beneath the thick green water.

“Donnie!” yelled Gordon.

Arnie’s adrenaline spiked to the moon. His fight or flight kicked in, and he acted without thinking.

“Run!” he yelled, but wading through thick marsh was the best he could do.

He turned and willed his muscles to move his body through the mire.

“Donnie!” yelled Gordon again.

Arnie briefly turned to view the big kid still looking for their friend, Gordon’s lantern held high in his right hand, his chubby face a mask of shock and fear.

“Run, Gordie!” yelled Arnie. “He’s gone! Donnie’s gone!”

The black and green water in front of Gordon erupted in an explosion as something burst from the bog and then splashed back down into it. For a mere half-a-second, Arnie wondered if Donnie had reappeared, but that wondering vanished in a puff of stage smoke as Gordon lazily turned around in a half spin.

The right side of the big kid’s face was raked open, a rending of red lines and torn flesh, his right eye dangling slightly out of the right socket, and then he fell forward, pitching into the muck to splash and sink into the green bog.

Arnie waded back toward the shore without another word, wading back toward the watching form of Casey, the older boy simply standing there, lantern in hand, that weird grin still plastered across his handsome face.

“Help me!” yelled Arnie.

No sound came from Casey as the older boy morphed from his shoes up, glowing and changing simultaneously, and then there was nothing but a large and crackling golden orb where he had once stood.

Arnie could hear a faint laughter as the golden orb ten feet away from him moved back out onto the lake, leaving behind a faint shimmer on the water.

Arnie briefly turned to look back toward where his friends had sunk into this miniature marsh, but as he spun around, his lantern light revealed the green and brown face of the old hag, that face surrounded by a mop of marsh-muck hair, her grin a wide row of sharp, moss-green fangs glistening with the sanguine crimson of fresh blood, her skin bumpy and green like the armored leather of an alligator, her spindly and knotted fingers bedecked with long, razor-sharp, blackened nails.

The was a shimmer on the still and black waters of the lake, a loud and pitched, piercing scream echoed across the night, and then a silence descended, not so much the croak of a frog or the buzz of a mosquito to fill that void.

**********

The two counselors, Daryll and Millie, had Miles sit down in a wooden office chair. Daryll sat down behind the office desk in his own chair, and Millie planted her butt on the edge of that desk. Both counselors gave Miles the staredown, but Miles could not stand their damning gazes for long.

“Where are they, Miles?” asked Daryll.

“We know you know,” said Millie. “Did they go out on the lake last night? There were two canoes floating out—”

“Yes!” broke Miles.

It was, unfortunately, easy for him to break. He simply couldn’t stand the pressure…He knew he’d never make it in prison.

The two counselors stared at each other for a second before staring back at Miles…He really couldn’t withstand those damning gazes.

“I think you’d better tell us everything,” said Darryl.

Miles began to spill his guts in rapid speech, a vocal typing out of verbality by his mouth moving upon its own accord.

“We were all talking yesterday morning,” he rattled off, “and then this new kid walked up, and he was fifteen or sixteen, a couple years older than us, and he talked about some mysterious isle that appears on the lake every full moon, and he said his name was Casey, and he just appeared out of nowhere on the docks, and I saw him just appear out of thin air—”

“Whoa, wait, what?” asked Daryll. “Slow down, Miles. Take a deep breath. You’re going too fast.”

“Wait…Did you say Casey?” asked Millie. “As in Casey Olen?”

Miles shrugged. That boy had never mentioned his last name.

“He said his name was Casey,” he repeated. “That’s all I know. There was something creepy about him. I got a bad vibe from him.”

The two counselors looked at each other for a moment, and then Darryl shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“Is that old ghost story still going around?” he asked.

Miles felt his heart stop for a brief second.

“Ghost…story?” he asked slowly.

“The ghost of Casey Olen has been going around since the fifties,” said Millie. “They were still telling that one back when I was your age.”

“Wha…What ghost story?” stammered Miles.

“There’s no one at camp named Casey,” said Darryl firmly. “That’s one of the other kids pulling your leg. The camp founders’ son Casey disappeared back in 1952. He’d gone off looking for some vanishing island that supposedly had a witch on it. Everybody was convinced he’d run off, but there’s been a persistent story that he found his island and the witch got him.”

“And now he haunts the camp grounds,” nodded Millie. “The whole thing is really stupid. It’s just a campfire tale.”

Miles felt his blood pressure drop as he paled from this revelation.

“Hey, are you okay?” asked Daryll. “Miles?…Hello?…You look pretty pale, buddy.”

Miles was in a daze over all of this, but his mouth still spoke without his own volition.

“I knew he’d just appeared out of nowhere,” he said slowly. “I knew it. I saw him appear out of nowhere…He just popped into existence…I saw it…I saw it, and I told them not to go…but I didn’t…I didn’t stop them…”

His breathing quickened to the point where he could no longer breathe, a counterintuitive process in his own mind, and then Miles’ vision went black as he fainted dead away.

**********

Abbie kicked up a pile of leaves and sighed. She was at the very edge of the forest with her friends, right behind the cabins. They had a few minutes before breakfast started, and this was wasting time, but it wasn’t like there was anything to do here anyway.

“This is soooooo boring!” she groaned.

She’d made some new friends here at Camp Olenglade, but even they couldn’t stave off the sheer drollness and “ugh” of this place. It wasn’t like any of them wanted to be here, but this was one of the few real summer camps left in the state, so this was a natural place to ship off a kid when parents wanted the summer to themselves.

All of them wore the light-green T-shirts and forest-green shorts for the ’22 campers at Olenglade, so Abbie felt like she was part of a team when she was with her friends, a united front against the world. Being united in something was important for thirteen-year-olds, even if that world was just a godawful summer camp.

“Did they have to confiscate our phones?” asked Angela.

Angela was the pretty girl, tall and slender and blonde, the representative of their team. Abbie likened her to their get-out-of-jail-free card, their shield against getting in trouble, but it wasn’t like Abbie was ugly. She was their unofficial leader, after all. If there was ever trouble, she and Angela were first up and first in.

“It’s because of that whole stupid camp experience thing,” said Madison as she rolled her eyes. “We’re supposed to be roughing it.”

Madison was the quick-witted one of their group, kind of a foul-mouth, but she was a good and loyal friend. Abbie could always count on her to come up with a quick and dirty insult.

“That’s boring,” said Abbie. “This whole camp is like being in a coma. There’s nothing to do here, and what makes it worse is that our parents actually shelled out money for this. Now I feel like I can’t waste the big bucks they paid for these eight weeks of babysitting.”

“Yeah,” sighed Gina. “I really wanted to binge the Gilmore Girls again over the summer. I was going to do a marathon starting with the pilot.”

Everyone else groaned.

“Not this again,” frowned Madison.

Gina was…well…the different one of their group. She wore glasses and was into reading romance books and manga. Her interests were a little esoteric compared to everyone else. She mainly just tagged along with them, probably because no one else would take her.

“You’re the only one who ever watched that show, Gina,” said Abbie as she rolled her eyes.

Watches,” corrected Gina. “I like to watch it when I can.”

“It’s been what?” asked Angela. “Like over twenty years since that show aired? Let it go. Watch something else…like Stranger Things.”

“Yeah, Stranger Things,” said Abbie. “I like that series. Can’t wait for the next season.”

“It’ll probably get canceled,” said Madison. “They always cancel the good ones. Remember Grimm?”

“Barely,” said Abbie. “There’s nothing ever streaming anymore.”

Freaks was awesome,” said Angela.

“Yeah, but you’re the only one of us that’s seen it,” said Madison. “Even though it was made in the 1930s, my parents won’t let me watch it…Ugh. The rest of us don’t have access to the better stuff. Plus, you had nightmares about it. Serves you right for getting your mom and dad to let you see it.”

“Shut up,” frowned Angela. “That movie is terrifying. You have no idea. No woman should ever end up like that.”

“Is scary stuff all you guys ever watch?” asked Gina.

“Pretty much,” shrugged Abbie. “Heck, if battling the supernatural was a real job, that’s what I’d be doing when I’m an adult. I’d be fighting ghosts and demons and stuff like Sam and Dean from Supernatural.”

“It has to be better than working at a big company,” frowned Angela. “That’s what my mom does. I’d rather be an influencer than do that.”

“My mom’s in retail,” said Madison. “My dad makes all the money. He’s an IT technician.”

“Yeah,” nodded Abbie in facetious interest. “Everyone’s a corporate zombie. Heard it a million times, guys. Gina’s mom is a lawyer, and my dad is—”

“Hey!” called out an unfamiliar voice.

They all froze.

An older boy came walking up, this boy about fifteen or sixteen or so. He was tall, with short blond hair and blue eyes, and he wore a Camp Olenglade T-shirt, but his shirt was dark green like his shorts. He was very cute in the face, a real hottie, but Abbie had never seen him before.

Abbie was sure the others were thinking the same thing she was…Maybe they were all in trouble for something. Maybe they weren’t supposed to be out here before breakfast.

“We’re going to breakfast,” said Abbie quickly. “We were just on our way.”

“Eh, I don’t care about that,” said the older boy as he waved her off. “No, I thought I heard something about scary stuff.”

“Yeah?” asked Madison. “And?”

“I just wanted to know if you liked scary stuff,” shrugged the older boy.

“Yeah,” said Abbie carefully. “Yeah, we do…Who are you anyway?”

“Who are you?” asked the older boy.

“I’m Abbie,” said Abbie. “This is Angela, that’s Madison, and that’s Gina.”

“Well, I’m Casey,” said the new boy. “I know everything about this camp…I even know about the Witch’s Isle.”

Now, this sounded interesting. Abbie had never heard of any “Witch’s Isle.” None of them had.

“Witch’s Isle?” asked Angela.

“Yeah,” grinned this new boy, “Casey.” “It’s supposed to appear somewhere on the lake whenever there’s a full moon.”

“Full moons are for werewolves, not witches,” scoffed Madison.

“Oh, so you know your stuff, huh?” asked Casey. “Well, they say that the Isle is never in the same spot twice, and there’s only one way to find it.”

“Oh, yeah?” asked Madison. “And what’s that?”

“You have to follow the spooklights,” nodded Casey.

The older boy’s blue eyes were wide as he nodded twice in eerie confirmation, a freaky grin on his face, but Abbie still had no idea what Casey was talking about. She had never heard of any “Witch’s Isle” or any “spooklights.” In fact, she suspected this was just a prank anyway. Boys liked to scare girls, especially at summer camp. It was a flirtation thing.

“This sounds like a pretty weak ghost story,” smirked Abbie. “We’ve heard ‘em all. You’ll have to do better than that.”

“Yeah,” said Madison. “We watch horror for a living.”

“Is that right?” asked Casey. “Well, what I’m talking about isn’t a story…It’s real.”

“Nonsense,” said Angela. “I’ve never heard of any ‘Witch’s Isle.’ Have you guys ever heard of this?”

“Nope,” said Abbie and Madison at the same time.

They looked over to Gina, but their nerdy friend simply shrugged.

“It’s there,” nodded Casey. “It’s there, and it’s going to appear tonight out on the lake.”

“Right,” said Abbie as she rolled his eyes. “So, if it’s there, how come no one I know has ever found it?”

“Because it’s not common knowledge,” said Casey.

“Then how do you know about it?” asked Madison.

“I know everything about this camp,” grinned the older boy. “I’ve been here every year since I was ten. That’s how I know about Camp Olenglade’s deepest, darkest secret.”

“Yeah, yeah, mysterious isle, spooklights, whatever,” said Madison. “What’s so scary about this ‘Witch’s Isle’?”

“The witch, of course,” said Casey.

“And?” asked Abbie. “We’ve heard ‘em all…uhhh…Casey. You can’t scare us.”

“Is that so?” asked the older boy. “Well, I bet you’ve never heard of Jenny Greenteeth.”

“No,” said Angela flatly. “And?…Continue, please.”

“Yeah,” snorted Madison. “Tell us about this ‘Jenny.’”

“Jenny Greenteeth is an old swamp hag that preys on the elderly and the young,” nodded Casey. “She has green skin like a toad, long green hair like swamp mush, black claws that rake and rend, and sharp green fangs.”

“Hey, it’s your girlfriend, Maddie,” chuckled Angela.

Abbie laughed right along with Gina at the impromptu dig, but Madison was not appreciative of the joke.

“Yeah, yeah,” said the foul-mouthed girl. “Go choke on your mom’s fat—.”

“Anyway…” continued Casey. “Anyway, you can find Witch’s Isle by following the spooklights that appear over the lake. Once you’re on the Isle, you can follow the spooklights some more, and they’ll lead you to Jenny.”

They simply stared at the older boy as if he were full of it, which was what he was. There was no “Witch’s Isle,” “spooklights,” or anything else like that.

“I’m going out on the lake tonight after lights out,” said this new boy, “Casey.” “If you ladies wanna tag along, my friends and I could always use more people. We’re going to look for the spooklights to find Jenny.”

This boy was out of Abbie’s league, but not out of Angela’s. It would be awkward if they all went out witch chasing with him, because her friends were seriously competitive when it came to a hottie like Casey, and she already knew Angela would win him over pretty quickly anyway, but…

“Wait a minute, Casey…Did you say friends?” asked Abbie.

They heard the crunching of outdoorsman shoes on leaves and twigs. They all turned to view three new boys walking up to them, though these boys were the same age as they were, not older, not like Casey.

An athletic redheaded boy with a cute face walked up to Abbie and smiled.

“Hi,” he said in a friendly tone. “I’m Arnie.”

Abbie smiled inside. This boy was cute and definitely not out of her league. It occurred to her that Angela could have Casey, and Madison and Gina could fight over the other two. This was like a perfect match for them all out of nowhere. In fact, this summer camp hell was turning out to be fun after all.

“Witch chasing with you guys?” asked Abbie. “Sounds like fun! Count me in!”

Shimmer on the Water Copyright © 2022 Matthew L. Marlott

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