When witches go riding
and black cats are seen
'tis four days
Hello my pretties and welcome to the final edition of Creepy Campfire Tales. This blog series started in June and ends as we all sit around the last campfire of fall. It was great fun. I had super scary and very well written stories by all my guest authors and today's tale is no exception.
I've never met Dave Benneman in person, but we've been friends on FB for a while and he is one of the nicest guys you'll ever come in contact with. He loves horror, writing, and Labrador Retrievers (and I'm going to guess all animals) so we get along just fine.
Without further ado...
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Screams
T’was a night much like this, on a desolate section of dunes between the old coast road and the Pacific Ocean. The full moon rose and forced the sun below the horizon. Phil came to document the rising of the largest super moon of the decade. Poised on a tripod, his Nikon exposed a frame every three seconds. Minute adjustments kept the moon in frame as it rose up out of the dune grass. Once the moon hung aloft in a predominately clear sky his attention drifted. He fancied himself a visual musician, but now his role was relegated to that of a Roadie. It was time to pack up.
They called it a blood moon, but in truth it was orange-yellow. The light cast an otherworld feel to the familiar surroundings of sand, surf, and grass. The decision to lug his gear across a half mile of sweeping dunes for the shot now seemed questionable. Thousands of cameras around the world were filming this event.
A dark cloud appeared from nowhere, obliterated the starlight and pushed a spearhead across the face of the moon. The hideously large, orange circle now wore an interesting detail. One appealing enough to photograph. With his attention back on the view screen his finger clicked the wireless remote for each exposure.
The wind kicked up and sang a discordant tune. The sand hissed as it sailed through the tall grass. Something moved in his peripheral vision. He remained riveted to the spectacle. The spearhead blunted and the moon gradually disappeared. He held his breath. The perfect fingernail crescent photograph approached the threshold. He took a rapid blast of photos just as the lights went out.
“I’m such an idiot!” His gadget bag lay ten feet away with fabulous sources of artificial light, but in this, bottom of the cave-like darkness, it might as well have been miles away. He chose this location because there would be zero light pollution to spoil the shot. Once the moon and the stars were blanketed he lost all reference of time and space. The deep sand and tall grass were difficult to move through in full sun, in total darkness he feared falling on his face, or breaking an ankle. He waited, frozen to spot knowing the cloud cover would pass.
A whispering sound filled his head. Something moved through the grass. A lot of somethings. Not in the clumsy way a person stumbled around. This was lithe, graceful, and delicate. It came from everywhere and nowhere, which unsettled Phil.
The dark held court and the sounds he heard were foreign to him. Rivulets of sweat started down his face in spite of the October breeze blowing off the Pacific. He waited. The alpha Phil wanted to throw caution to the wind and grope for his gear bag. The beta Phil said, “Be quiet asshole or we’ll be stuck here all night with a sprained ankle.” Beta won.
The sound moved off toward the ocean. It sounded like a thousand single blades of dune grass slithering through the sand.
Alpha Phil, “Do something you pansy.”
Beta Phil, “Doing nothing, is doing something.”
Alpha Phil is not equipped to have an argument that employs logic. Round two went to Beta Phil on points.
The edge of the cloud took on an orange glow. The moon strained to be seen. Phil’s eyes, which had become accustomed to the complete darkness, could make out shapes. With the promise of impending light he felt around for the equipment bag. The hissing sound grew louder. He turned toward the beach. Hundreds of creatures moved about like a modern dance troop. They were long and lithe, like bundles of vines, some trailed out to their sides using them like a dancer uses their arms.
The orange glow cast shadows around them making it difficult to discern shadow from dancer. “Beautiful,” he whispered. “Camera idiot.”
Phil pulled his camera close and started taking photos. He dialed in his most light sensitive settings to capture the ballet. Frantically he captured the whole group in some shots and close ups in others. He didn’t know how long this phenomenon would continue.
A shape moved across his lens. The moon shone a little brighter. One of the creatures leaned over him. It was reedy, over six feet tall, slender, more like a bunch of roots entwined around each other. Fine sand clung to it glistening in the moonlight. It had no distinct head, arms, legs, or face. Still it seemed to be looking into the lens inquisitively. Blood battered through Phil’s chest. His heartbeat thudded in his ears drowning out sound.
“I guess I’ll be going now.”
At the sound of Phil’s voice the creature slithered into the sand as if it were standing on a cloud instead of terra firma. Relief flooded through Phil. Still he felt he’d overstayed his welcome. He slung the tripod over his shoulder and took a step toward the gadget bag. His foot sunk deeply into the sand. His second step was awkward and he slid deeper still. He struggled for balance. That’s when he became aware of something entwined around his legs. It tugged him down. He tossed the tripod away and grasped the dune grass pulling and ripping at it he fought to keep himself from sinking. He kicked harder at the creature dragging him into the dune.
He struggled for breath as he battled for his life. He bellowed rage until his mouth filled with sand muffling his final scream.
The only witness to Phil’s demise lay a few feet away. Slowly disappearing under the drifting sand.
Here's actual footage of Phil before he was pulled into the dune...
Oops, sorry, it's Dave photographing the rising full moon through the Oregon dune grass and being inspired to write this story!