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The Stuck Window
Ally’s cell phone rang on the kitchen table. The caller ID showed it was her friend Lesette. They had just graduated high school the day before. Ally glanced at the clock and smiled.
It’s only noon, she thought, Wouldn’t Lesette still be sleeping?
Ally answered the phone. “Hi, Lesette.”
“Hey, Ally,” Lesette said perkily. “Doing anything this weekend?”
“Nothing important,” Ally responded. “Why? What’s up?”
“Anthony, Danny, and I are going camping tonight and want to know if you wanted to come.”
“Well, yeah, I’d love to go. But I can’t just pack and leave tonight.”
“Sure you can,” Lesette said simply. “We are. C’mon, Ally, we just graduated. We’re officially adults! It’s gonna be a blast.”
“I guess,” Ally said hesitantly. It was true, she did not have anything to do. She planned to go job hunting, but that could wait until after the weekend. “Okay. Where are we going, who’s driving there, and what should I bring?”
“Anthony’s driving,” Lesette said. “We’re going up to his family’s place. You know, the cabin up in the woods right off the lake. We were there when we were fifteen, remember?”
Ally smiled at the memory. During the summer after their freshman year, Anthony invited them all up to the cabin for a week when his sisters were going. That had been seven days and six nights of nothing but pranks, teasing remarks, and nights to remember around the campfire. During that time, the most unfortunate yet hilarious events happened to each of them. Lessette lost her swimsuit bottoms jumping off the rope swing. Danny found a squirrel in his bed one night. Ally got a whole gooey marshmallow stuck in her hair while they were talking around the campfire. Anthony got attacked by a couple of angry crayfish while standing in the lake. It was a week no one would forget, and not just because of the photo albums they all made on Facebook.
“Just bring the usual camping stuff,” Lesette continued. “If you have time, run and get some snacks and extra s’mores stuff. You know how much the guys eat.”
“Great,” Ally said. “Where are we meeting?”
“Anthony’s just picking us up,” Lesette said. “We’ll be at your place around three thirty.”
“Awesome,” Ally said. “See you later.”
By six in the evening, Anthony, Danny, Lesette, and Ally were all up in the north woods in the small two-bed log cabin. They had already decided who got which of the four beds when Anthony suggested the build a fire. The last orange rays of the setting sun hung on the horizon as if unwilling to leave the group unattended. Eventually the stars and moon took over.
Anthony literally threw bags of marshmallows at each of them after coming back to the fire with long branches. Danny deflected his with his hand to protect his guitar.
“Come on, Guitar Hero,” Ally teased. “Are you really afraid of a bag of marshmallows?”
“No,” Danny said with a smile, “but my guitar is.”
They laughed and talked, ate roasted s’mores, and Danny strummed out a few country songs on his guitar. After a few tunes, they teased him about playing “real songs.” Lesette screamed when an owl rustled the branches above them, and Anthony found it was the perfect opportunity to put in a ghost story.
“It’s only the oldest camping tradition,” he said before started. He put on a mock-serious face and started. “Did you guys know there’s a legend about this cabin and this area?”
“OMG!” Lesette said in fake horror. “No!”
Anthony nodded. “Yes. It’s the reason they guy sold it to my dad.”
“What happened?” Ally asked.
“Well, one night,” Anthony started, “the guy that sold the cabin to us--”
“Let’s call him Joe,” Danny suggested. “For the legend’s sake.”
“Okay,” Anthony said. “Joe was up here with his daughter…Lizzie.” He looked at Lesette with a smile. “They were sitting here, just like we are now. It was late, and Lizzie was tired, so she went to bed. Joe stayed out here with his wife, Alice. Lizzie was asleep, and Alice and Joe were out here. The fire was dying, so Joe went to the woodshed to get some more firewood. The same woodshed that’s outside the window in the room Ally and Lesette are sleeping in. When Joe got there, he saw the window was open, and there were two sets of bloody footprints leading in to the woods. Lizzie had disappeared.”
“So, Jason’s up here?” Ally said.
“Pretty much,” Anthony responded with a shrug, breaking the mood. “Watch out when you go to bed tonight.”
“Even if there was something out here,” Lesette said, “nothing can get in the window. I tried to open it, but it’s stuck.”
Danny yawned. “I’m getting kind of tired. What about you guys?”
The rest of them nodded. The yawn passed from Ally, to Lesette, then to Anthony, making them laugh at the chain reaction.
“We’ll try to open that window for you,” Anthony offered.
They doused the fire, leaving smoke floating above the burned logs. Anthony and Danny tried to pry open the window, but, as Lesette said, it would not budge. They left it, and went to sleep.
The clouds parted in the sky above the cabin, revealing a shimmering world of stars, with the moon ruling the territory. Nocturnal animals and bugs buzzed in the forest. The lake was calm. A shadow passed by the window to the girls’ room, and hovered there, unmoving.
The next morning, Anthony and Danny decided to play a wake-up prank on the girls. Anthony took out his iPod and speakers, and they crept silently into the room. When they got there, the bunk beds were empty, and the window was open. Blood laced the edge of the windowpane. Three pairs of bloody footprints staggered into the woods.