“Hurry up, dude!”
“Shut up, I’m just about ready.”
Today was the day and unlike most other days this one won’t suck. We have it all planned out right down to the semicolon. Our plan is simple, get to our vehicles, battle our way through the student parking lot, stop home to get what we need, and pick everybody up. Nothing could go wrong anyway as we are teens and impervious to just about everything, except Sunday morning hangovers and the occasional coughing fit.
“I’m so pissed about having to park in the student parking lot,” Carson ranted as we neared the lot. “I don’t want my Jeep sitting out in the open where some kid can back into it or, God forbid, open their door and swap paint jobs, I like the way the color is now and I don’t want to change it, thank you very much.
I laughed, “Word, dude. I love how they waited this long to tell us to stop parking in front of the school. I guess we weren’t cool enough to keep our spots.”
“I know, it's complete bullshi... what the hell?”
I wasn’t paying much attention to Carson as I threw my bag into the back seat of my Jeep, but I had to investigate when he didn’t immediately hop into his and turn the ignition. So I walked back to where Carson was standing.
He was staring at his rear view window and what appeared to be a circle with an X going through it. The pollen count was abnormally high and caked everyone’s cars, which led to countless cases of explicit drawings of male genitalia, but Carson was telling me today at lunch about how much it cost him to go through the carwash yesterday. How could I forget that lecture? Anyway, his windows were clean of pollen, but the odd drawing wasn’t made from pollen or even dirt. It appeared that the window tint was changed; the drawing was just a lightening of the tint. It was strange how noticeable it was, even stranger was how someone would go about doing such a thing unnoticed in a school parking lot, but what was most strange, almost scary, was that Carson wasn’t ranting. He didn’t yell, threaten, or make calls.
My attention was now drawn to him. Carson was a taller guy and carried himself. If you didn’t know him personally you would think he was a grade A badass with his cargo pants, sleeveless shirts, and backward baseball hat which had a hammer and cycle pinned to it. If you did know him personally you would know he is slightly more complex. To see him slowly turn pale as if being drained of all sense of happiness and security was alarming. Just what the hell is going on?
“You good, dude?” I asked.
“I’ll call you when I’m good,” he replied as if he was ready for something.
“Ok,” I said as if nothing just happened. “Are you driving us or am I?”
“I’m going home, then to Emily’s, then to Jake's. Just meet us at my house,” Carson explained as the color returned to his face.
“Okay, dude, see you then.” We got in our vehicles and drove off. I couldn’t help but think about the circle with the X going through it and how Carson reacted. “I’m over analyzing,” I told myself and soon forgot about the whole thing.
I first stopped at my house to grab a hoodie so I could give it to McKenzie in case it gets cold tonight. “Gotta love clichés,” I thought. I soon rolled a J full of the sticky icky icky and called McKenzie. She told me she was ready so I grabbed my keys, but before I left I took a look in the mirror.
Staring back was some slender kid with brown hair and blue eyes. “I’m not arrogant; I’m just the best looking tool around.” While laughing at how I amuse myself I noticed an unsightly pimple. I moved closer to get a better look, but my breath started to fog everything up. Something started appearing in the mirror and caught my eye, but it soon faded away. Out of curiosity I turned on the hot water and waited for the steam to hit the mirror. Boredom soon kicked in so I walked into my room and checked Facebook. I saw Jake’s status which read “waiting for douche bag to get here.” I smirked and saw McKenzie’s status just below it.
“Aww,” I said out loud
"Waiting for Brennen."
“Oh damn,” I said, rushing back to the bathroom. “I almost forgo… what? That can’t…” dumbfounded I took a closer look at the mirror. The steamed revealed a circle with an X going through it. I turned the water off slowly, just staring. “This doesn’t make sense,” I told myself and jumped when my phone rang.
It was Carson, but I could barely understand him. His voice kept cutting out. I was trying to ask him what the hell was going on when the bathroom lights turned on and then dimmed. I started to go into a panic attack when I thought I saw someone out of the corner of my eye, I was supposed to be the only one home. I turned my head to the left, out to where the stairs met the upstairs floor, and saw something.
An extremely tall, black figure stood on the last step. It resembled a human, but its limbs… its limbs were abnormally long and thin. Its body was slender and its face was a blur. I was terrified and couldn’t do anything but slowly focus on its details. This thing had to be human, it wore a black work suit and tie along with jet black pants, but its face… I still couldn’t focus in on it. A distorted shriek pierced my head and I felt my very soul grow dim. Everything slowly went tunnel vision. What were probably seconds felt like hours. Slowly my peripheral grew darker and darker and my body colder and colder until the only thing I saw was the slender being’s unfocused face. I was now completely numb, the only thought in my head was a snapshot of this horrible thing and the only thing I can hear was the piercing shriek. And then nothing.
“Brennen, Brennan, Brennen!”
“I’m leaving now, McKenzie.”
“Ok see you when you get here.”
“Wait,” I said to myself, puzzled at what was going on. I was in my Jeep with the keys in the ignition, seat belt on, and had my cell phone to my ear. The screen on my phone showed that I just had a three minute conversation with McKenzie. I tried to think about what we just talked about, but drew a blank. Checking my call log I saw an incoming call from Carson, about seven minutes ago, and apparently we talked for 2:23. I couldn’t remember a single word from that conversation either. Confused I got out of the car and went to check the front door. I felt more and more uneasy with every step I took towards the house, so when I saw that the door was locked I hurried back to the Jeep, started the engine, and quickly backed out of the driveway. The farther I got from the house, the better I felt and when I was off my street a feeling of relief overcame me.
I picked McKenzie up and without even thinking about it we drove over to Carson’s.
“So what is this place called, the Crack House?” McKenzie asked
“No Crack Shack, it’s this one room house thing in the woods. You’ll see when we get there,” I replied.
We got to Carson’s and saw that everyone was waiting in his vehicle.
“Bout time you guys got here, Jesus,” Carson yelled from the driver side window. I grabbed my hoodie, locked the doors, and laughed at the giant penis that took up Carson’s entire back window. Carson was not amused and hit the back windshield wipers, but it didn’t work.
“What the hell?” Carson complained.
“Come on man, let’s just go,” Jake said impatiently.
Jake was sitting behind Carson and I asked if McKenzie wanted window, but Jake asked if he could sit in the back back. When Carson asked why, Jake retorted that his Stupid Ugly Vehicle had the space for groceries and that he was wasting quality grocery space. After a brief volley of words, Jake was allowed to sit in the back back of the Stupid Ugly Vehicle.
“If we get pulled over, it’s your ass” Carson warned
As we sat down, I started to get that uneasy feeling again. It felt like something was right behind me, other than Jake. I honestly thought he was messing with me, touching the back of my head or blowing on my hair, but when I would look over, he was doing his own thing on his phone.
“Yo, dude, can you pass the ashtray cup thing?” I asked hoping a cig and that cliché people say about teens that smoke and something about being a cool, badass, untouchable or something along those lines would steady me. I tried focusing on McKenzie’s blonde hair and her pretty eyes as we talked but to no effect. As Jake asked for the ash-cup, as he called it, McKenzie noticed my fingers were shaking. She saw the white of cigarette shaking almost violently and asked what was wrong. I was trying to stop it, but just couldn’t so I said that I get driving anxieties when I’m not the one driving. This wasn’t entirely untrue and it even helped me.
“Aw,” she said in a playful voice as she moved in close to rest her head on my chest as I got into a sort of laying kinda position with one leg on the seat and the other on the car floor. It really helped ease me, until I saw Jake giving hand jesters. I really want to burn him with my cherry.
Everyone was laughing and cracking jokes about this and that. We told old stories, which apparently we had a lot of. Carson even told the girls the famous salvia story. Jake managed to get Carson mad enough to pull over. We turned that into a short pee break, which soon turned into a cigarette break, which then turned into the perfect time to spark the sticky icky icky which only Jake and I enjoyed. We were all having a good time and I managed to push my "anxiety" out of my head for a while.
We managed to get onto the topic of what scares us. Carson said he was afraid of windows, not windows themselves, but just being afraid of someone looking back at him. Emily said she was afraid of spiders, that their long skinny legs freak her out. Jake said he gets very uncomfortable when someone is behind him. McKenzie is afraid of being alone, but I don’t know exactly what she meant by that. Finally, it was my turn.
“I’m terrified of things that pop up suddenly. Like, you know those screamer videos on YouTube, they freak me out. Or when in movies, the person closes the medicine cabinet and there's something in the mirror, I hate that shit.”
Thump Thump! We were on the dirt road.
“Almost there,” Carson said.
“Careful, Carson,” Emily cautioned.
“Don’t worry, I got this,” Carson said in an irritated voice.
I picked up on this and sat up. McKenzie moved to her window and looked into the woods that were only a few feet from the door, it was starting to get dark out.
“How long are we going to be here for?” she asked sounding much like Carson, but more gentle.
“For a little bit,” I said. “We hittin' up your house for the night, Jake?”
“Ya,” Jake simply said. Something was up, was everyone feeling the same thing? We must be, ten minutes ago we were talking about the time Jake skated down Yale Street naked and now it was straight silence.
After eight or so minutes of driving on the dirt road, we finally made it to the shack.
“Here we are,” Carson stated. “First time we’ve been here this year.”
“Wow, where has time gone?” I said. “Remember coming here blaring Operation Ivy and chillin to Wu-Tang?” I asked trying to get some sort of emotion out of Carson and Jake.
“Yeah,” they both said in monotone.
We parked in the usual spot, in the tall grass in front of the shack and just sat there for a minute.
“Well did we really drive all this way just to side here or we going in?” I asked annoyed at how lame this was turning out to be. I opened the door and was welcomed with a sudden chill that went straight to the bone. McKenzie joined me and was instantly shaking. “Here, babe,” I offered her the hoodie. As she put it on I started to think about what I did when I got home early today, it was still a blank.
McKenzie and I made our way to the front of the car. “Are you coming or not?” I asked.
“Ya, let me pack my cigs and I’ll join you two in a sec,” Jake answered as he reached for his unopened pack. He was still in the back end of the Jeep, but we heard him through Carson’s window which was rolled down so his smoke could escape.
“Carson, you coming?” I asked again, towards Carson and Emily.
“In a minute,” he said.
I was slightly annoyed, but at least I could show McKenzie the Crack Shack. We held hands as we walked into the windowless one room shack. She seemed just as timid as I was.
“OK?” I asked
“Ya,” she said sounding almost tired.
“We won’t stay for too long,” I reassured.
She looked into my eyes and I did the same. We had that corny moment and I was about to go in for a kiss when I noticed something. It was her necklace that she had kept tucked into her shirt up until when she put on my hoodie. It was black with a black rectangle and on the rectangle was a white circle with an X through it. I froze and asked where she got it in a cold tone.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, looking puzzled, “You gave me it when you picked me up.”
“OK,” I said as calmly as I could. “We need to leave,” I said again, as calmly as possible. Something was wrong, I didn’t know what it was, but something was definitely going on. I reached for McKenzie’s hand, as I looked down at our hands I saw something beneath our feet. It was the very drawing that had been haunting me all day.
I instantly remembered everything from earlier that day, Carson’s window, the horrifying thing that was in my house, and now I remember finding the necklace in my hand when I came to. I still don’t know what Carson and I talked about on the phone nor do I remember exactly where I got the necklace.
I went to look back up to McKenzie, but she was gone. I was looking at the shack from inside the passenger side of Carson’s Jeep. In my right hand, another cigarette, Carson was to the left. Confused and scared, I looked at Carson.
“You remember the salvia video, I told everyone that during the trip I was in a car crash. I made that up. I thought I was looking out of Jessica’s window and a man wearing black was looking back at me.”
I thought back to that night. I remembered recording everything on my phone and everyone laughing as Carson was, for a lack of a better term, tripping the fuck out. He had just smoked a bong of salvia and even though he tried it once before, he wasn’t ready for what was in store for him. We all tried salvia a few times, normally we just laugh uncontrollably and felt as if we were in a dream, but Carson was on a whole new level but Carson was on a whole new level.
Carson continued, staring at the Crack Shack.
“When I started to freak out, he was in the room and all I saw was black. I didn’t see you, Cootes, Jessica, Jake or Dew, just that thing and total blackness. I had never been so scared in my life, dude. After that night I kept seeing him out of the corner of my eye, man. It drove me crazy, but I never told anyone. I couldn’t.”
“Where is McKenzie?” I interrupted, trying to understand what was going on. He still didn’t look at me.
“It all stopped for a while, and then I saw his symbol for the first time in two months. It’s his mark man; I used to see it everywhere.”
I was dumbfounded.
He continued, “Look outside, dude, look at the time, it's 11:30. You get so used to it that you just go along with it.”
Carson was right, it was pitch black outside and according to the clock we had been there for two and half hours.
“I don’t know what he wants or why he does this.”
“Carson, who is he?” I asked, now sweating. I still didn’t know where McKenzie was, Jake and Emily missing too.
“He calls himself The Operator. He never speaks, you just hear him in your head. At first it just sound likes distorted noise, but soon you start making out sentences.”
“Where is McKenzie, Jake, and, Emily Carson? Where?” I interrogated him as I panicked.
Carson finally turned his head and looked me straight in the eye as he said, “In the woods, consumed by the darkness.”
I looked just past his head and my throat sank.
“Don’t turn around, Carson.”
The creature was standing on the opposite side of the window. Carson was sweating and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to me. I immediately placed it in my right pocket and looked back at Carson.
“I’m doing this for you guys,” he boldly said. Carson put his hand on the handle and opened the door, throwing his entire weight behind it. “Wake up, Brenn.” I slowly opened my eyes, but my vision was blurry. Slowly coming into focus was McKenzie; she was in some bright white sleep wear. I found myself on a couch; I was in Jake's living room. Sun was coming through the window and the whole room was bright, too bright for my eyes.
“Finally you’re up,” she said playfully, “I’ve got eggs frying, unless you’re feeling groggy from last night.”
“whaa?” I asked as my stomach twisted and the faint taste of alcohol, that seemed to have been fermenting in my mouth, escaped into the room. McKenzie laughed slightly,
“You need to rest.” A full minute passed and the spinning room slowed to a Merry-Go-Round speed.
“What happened?” I was finally able to ask.
“You don’t remember? I completely understand. We came back from the Crack Shack and had our small party,” she explained. I heard Jake’s stairs creek and sure enough, he was now in the living room, shirtless and in flannel bottoms.
“Hey, party animal, how ya doing?” Jake asked while he moved to the kitchen.
“Where is Carson?” I managed to mumble out.
“Carson? He was busy yesterday, remember?” Jake explained as he came back with orange juice. “He didn’t go with us, but last night you were asking for him, saying we gotta go back or some nonsense like that, but you were completely gone at that point.”
“Who drove to the Crack Shack?” I asked as I sat up.
“You did, hun,” McKenzie replied walking back with a plate of eggs. Completely puzzled, I got up, my head pounding. I heard the stairs creak again; I looked up and saw Emily. She was wearing one of Jake's tops which went down to her knees. I was going to ask her if she remembered anything, but I think I already knew the answer. Did I really get so dysfunctional that I made an entire day? I suppose it’s possible, that… thing seemed like it was from a movie. Maybe we watched a movie and I had a crazy dream.
“Well, what’s today?” I asked McKenzie. She put the plate of eggs down on the coffee table and picked something up.
It was a black necklace with a black rectangle which had a white circle with an X going through it and replied, “Babe, it's Sunday..."