We sit around the fire, enjoying ourselves thoroughly. We have been camping for a week now, and we have two more weeks to go. “And then I was like, ‘excuse me, ma’am, but do you sell these?’ and I held up a picture. Then the girl goes, ‘I don’t know. I just work here, what do you expect me to know?’” We all start laughing. Monica was telling the story of how she had gone to J.C.Penney’s with Matt and the girl at the customer assistance didn’t know what she was doing. Monica and Matt have been dating since freshman year, and we’re seniors now. “Stephanie, are you even listening?” I blink and look up from the fire. “Hm? Yeah, you were saying how the girl was asking you what you expected her to know, even if she worked there.” I’ve heard this story so many times I can tell it straight to you by heart - it’s Monica’s favorite story to tell.
What I have really been staring into the fire for was answers. I’ve been hearing noises every night, once everyone else was asleep. Monica seems to know what I’m hearing, but she’s refusing to tell me. Refusing to explain. She tells me I’m dreaming them up.
I know I’m not dreaming up the noises, because when I hear them I’m not even tired. I’ve told Monica this, too, but she told me that I wasn’t tired because I was asleep. Except, she said before that people forget their dreams within thirty seconds of waking up. She forgot that’s what she told me, and she refuses to admit it. “Okay, well, it’s getting late. Let’s go to bed.” Everyone stands up and mutters good night’s to each other and shuffling off to bed.
I bury myself under the blankets in the camper I’m sharing with Matt and Monica. I sleep on the top bunk, which is perilously high and thin. Monica is terrified of it, and refuses to sleep on it, and Matt’s shoulders are too wide for him to fit in the small space, so it’s only me who can sleep up there. Monica sleeps below me, on a slightly wider bunk, and Matt sleeps on the bed on the other side of the closet that we share. I only have my face peeking out from the blankets, so I can breath.
I wait, listening as Matt and Monica’s breathing slow. As quietly as I can, I slip out from under the blankets, barely pressing any weight onto Monica’s bed for there was no ladder, and I slip through the doorway into the other part of the camper. I walk in an almost dream-like state to the small kitchen and open the refrigerator, taking out a bottle of Gatorade. Just as I take the first sip, the noises start. The pleas for help.
I stand extremely still, hardly daring to breath. Not blinking. The noises that can’t be human, the grating voices begging me to help them. Help them how? “Help us stay. help us stay. help us stay.” It’s all they ever say. I don’t know how to help them stay - I don’t even know if I want to.
I guess now’s a better time to find out than never. Ever so slowly, I put the cap back onto the bottle and set it on the table. I slide open the window steadily, holding my breath. Outside, I see nothing. Just as I breath out a sigh of relief and raise my hand to close the window, a face materializes outside the window. The face is a pale grey, seemingly made of mesh in the design of muscle.
I scream and leap backwards, away from the window, and fall on my butt. The mouth of the face slowly opens, and the other voices stop speaking. Then a thin, high-pitched, grating noise emits from the now gaping hole in the bottom of the face. I scoot myself against the wall, not taking my eyes away from the creature. It keeps making the strange, lengthy noise.
The noise pauses, and I scream again. How is no one else hearing this? Matt stumbles out of the bedroom in his sweatpants, his hair bedraggled and chest bare. I would have found him cute if I wasn’t scared out of my mind - and if my best friend wasn’t dating him. The creature’s mechanical caterwauling begins again, and I scream. “Woah, woah, what’s wrong?” He asks, kneeling onto the floor next to me. Is he insane?
“Can’t you see?” I shriek, pointing at the window furiously. “Can’t you hear?” Matt looks at me like I’m the crazy one, when really it’s him. If he can’t see or hear the creature, he’s either lying or lost his marbles. “It’s just sitting their, shrieking! It’s mouth is gaping open!” He continues to stare at me. Why won’t he answer? Unless… “You’re one of them!”
Matt yanks his head back in confusion. “One of what?” I growl, pushing myself off the ground. Maybe there is a glare on the window that makes him unable to see. Yeah, that’s it. He had turned the light on when he came in.
I point vigorously towards the window. “Stand up! Stand up and you’ll see it!” Matt stands up, not taking his eyes away from my frenzied face. “Look!” He turns slowly to look out the window. “It looks like a camp site. What’s so scary about that?” My shoulders sag. He still doesn’t see.
“I’m going out there, and I’m going to prove something’s there.” I slide open the little window on the screen door that opens to the door to the outside, and I grab the handle, taking a deep breath. Here goes. I push down on the handle and the door swings open. A whole swarm of creatures stops moving, and turns to stare at me. There is nothing but silence in the still night air.
Then the one who was at the window, apparently the leader, let’s out a chilling call and they all surge towards me. I scream, falling off the front step. Matt comes to help, but I had barricaded the door with a spatula. There was no way they were getting out anytime soon. That doesn’t stop him from rattling it like a madman.
The creatures are getting closer, and I grab a steak knife off of the counter that hangs off the side of the camper. Matt keeps rattling the door. Then the creatures start to attack. They claw at my face, and I slash at them with the knife. They seem unfazed by my slashing, that is, until one of them grabs the knife from me.
“NO!” I yell. The creature looks at it for a moment, then slams it into my thigh. I scream out in pain, and behind me the spatula between the door handle and the handle next to it starts to bend. The creatures keep advancing on me. The spatula bend enough for Matt to get his hand through the crack in the door, and he yanks the spatula out.
Just as the door flies open again, I lose consciousness. I’m falling into blackness, deeper than ever before. I can’t stop falling. I’m not even sure if it really is dark - my eyes might just be closed. But whenever I try to open them, the wind glues them shut again.
I awake to an annoying beeping noise. I try to open my mouth to tell whoever is making the noise to knock it off, but I can’t. I try opening my eyes, and they don’t open either. Why can’t I move? Was I paralyzed by the creatures?
That gets me moving. I sit bolt upright on whatever I’m laying on, screaming. I try to move my arms, but only cold metal digs into them. I scream louder. “HELP! THEY’VE GOT ME! THE CREATURE’S HAVE GOT ME! HELP!” I hear pounding feet.
Help or harm? I can’t tell, so I scream ever louder. “HELP! I’M IN HERE! HEEEELP ME!” The feet sound so close. “Ma’am, you’re alright! You’re safe here, ma’am! There aren’t any creatures here!” A woman says. “But they’re holding me down by my wrists! I can feel their cold metal hands on my wrists!” I whimper, struggling as hard as I can against the creatures.
It doesn’t help. I start to thrash every part of my body against the creatures holding me down. “Keep her down so we can sedate her!” The same voice from earlier says. “NOOOOOO!” I feel small pinprick of pain in the crook of my elbow and I start to feel so… so sleepy… I fade into unconsciousness for the second time.
When I resurface I can’t move. I can’t even open my eyes. “We’ve looked at her records and it appears that she has Paranoid Schizophrenia. Do you know what this is?” I hear movement. “Very well. And does she have medicine for it?” More movement. “She had the medicine for the day, but she forgot her night pills when they went on the trip.” My mother’s voice.
“Alright then. We can inject her with some medicine, and when she wakes up you can check her out and take her on home. Make sure she stays off of her leg for a while, at least until the wound clears up. I can prescribe you some medicine for the scratches on her face?” Movement again. “Alright. I’ll go do that now. You have a nice day.” Day? How long have I been out? I hear more movement than before, and the scraping of chairs. That annoying beeping sound is still there.
“Mom?” I croak, finally getting my eyes to twitch open. “Stephanie? Oh, Stephanie thank goodness you’re awake! We were so worried you wouldn’t wake up! The doctors told us you had a little fit two days ago, and you’ve been out since. We were downstairs when it happened, but I don’t think they would have let us stay in here anyways. They say you were putting up quite a resistance against them.” My mom wastes a million words in one breath, like usual. “Mom, those weren’t the doctors. Those were the creatures.” Her smile falters. “Honey, you imagined the creatures.” I shake my head. “They were real. I heard the nurse. She said that there were scratches on my face and a wound in my leg - the creatures did that.” Her smile fades completely. “My poor little baby… oh sweetie you did that to yourself…”