I opened my front door and scowled at the black jeep parked inelegantly in my driveway. Four pairs of arms waved at me from their windows and I made my way over. I tossed my bag in the back and it landed on top of Carly’s fluorescent pink bag before climbing in the front seat.
“You could have at least put some effort into getting ready this morning instead of just rolling out of bed,” Carly snipped from the backseat.
I glared at her side braided hair and fake eyelashed face.
“Not everyone was up all night working in a brothel,” I retorted.
“I don’t work in a brothel!” Carly snapped. She crossed her legs and her mini skirt that was cleverly disguised as a belt rode up. Seeing her facial cheeks was bad enough so I turned to the front before I could see any other kind of cheek.
“Let’s just enjoy our holiday together,” Pete said and I saw his reflection sending me a warning glare.
Sarah pulled out of the driveway and began the three hour drive to Harmony Hills. When we got there we were in for a rude shock.
“What do you mean we don’t have a booking?” Sarah screeched. “I rang last week!”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” the portly ranger said as she searched the booking list for the third time.
“I rang you myself. It was confirmed and booked under Sarah Bricklin.”
“I’m afraid you are not in the system Miss Bricklin. We are completely booked for the next two months.”
We all groaned and Carly slammed her perfectly French manicured hand on the desk.
“I did not just spend three hours in a dirty, sweaty jeep to turn around and go home. There is a fault in your system and we have all paid beforehand. Find us somewhere!” she shrieked.
The ranger began tapping wildly at her keyboard and suddenly stopped after a few seconds and smiled.
“There is a camp spot free in the grounds. A family have just made a last minute cancellation. We will waive the equipment hire fee due to our...fault. Section twenty one is free for you. You can get your camping equipment at the ground gate.
“Thank you,” I said as I pushed Carly out of the room and into the jeep.
“I’m not camping,” Carly sniffed pitifully as we set off towards the fields. Pete wrapped his arms around her and she snuggled against his chest.
“Then you can walk back home,” Lucy said as she looked out of the jeep window.
Another ten minutes later we drove up a steep hill and it was getting close to dusk. At the top of the hill a man staggered on to the road and Sarah hit the brakes but still knocked into him. Gary scrambled out and ran to the man’s aid.
“Oh my god!” Gary yelled as he stood up. His hands were soaked in blood. Everyone got out and crowded around him. The man had a stone axe lodged in his back and he was scalped. Blood was smeared all over his face and looked truly grotesque. A red feather was tied on the axe where the stone met the wooden handle. The man was twitching and I ran to the side of the road and threw up. Carly looked like she was going to faint and Pete held her steady. Lucy grabbed her phone but it was dead.
“Damn!” Lucy cried out.
Gary and Sarah crouched down next to the victim. He looked at them with wide eyes and opened his mouth. All that came out was a gargle and blood bubbled out from his lips.
“We’ve got you mate,” Gary panicked and reached out to hold the man’s shoulder. Large shadowy hands grabbed the man and began to pull him down into the tarmac. Gary and Sarah jumped back in shock, Lucy screamed, Pete held Carly who had actually fainted and I doubled over and threw up again. The man’s eyes were wide and pleading as he was absorbed into the road. The sound of crunching bones echoed in the abandoned air and the man finally spoke before his head disappeared, “run.”
“What the hell just happened?” Pete squeaked as he tried to wake Carly up by tapping her face. Lucy stepped away from the jeep and full on slapped her around the face and Carly woke up with a start.
“We have to leave,” Carly whimpered and clutched Pete’s chest and began to tear up. I was still shaking and looked at the bloody body outline on the tarmac before I threw up one last time. Rain pelted down so hard that it felt as if we were being pricked by needles. The jeep clicked and began to roll backwards and down the hill.
“The jeep!” Sarah cried out. It was too late, the hill was steep and the jeep rolled down into the river at the bottom. I struggled to see through the thick rain and saw an outline of what looked like a cabin.
“There’s shelter over there,” I called out and pointed in the direction of the shadow. We all began to run towards it as the rain bit into our skin and the wind slapped our faces. The air got colder as we approached and I saw a barn, lake and an old fashioned well close to the cabin. It looked peaceful and welcoming. The outside was dark wood and had a stone chimney. The window panes were white and the door was a light brown colour. I reached the door first and wrenched it open and everyone piled in. A fire danced in the fireplace and two oil laps were lit. The cabin was warm and wooden with not a lot of furniture. Gary and Pete each picked up a lamp and we walked around the place. There were two bedrooms with old and mouldy twin beds and a simple kitchen and dining room. The wind howled and rattled against the windows.
“Is anyone here?” Lucy called out but no one replied.
“I’m sure whoever lives here won’t mind if we stay just until the rain clears,” I said. Carly looked at me like I just told her lavender was a shade of green.
“And when do you suppose that will happen?” She snapped. She looked furious as Pete led her to the fireplace and sat her there to get warm. I rolled my eyes and gasped as something caught my eye above the stone fireplace. I ushered the whole group over and Gary raised the lamp to see what looked like a poem written in blood on animal hide.
Welcome to our home
We hope you like what you see
Not everyone will leave
Who will the remainder be?
One by one you may go
One by one you may stay
Danger lurks all around
Throughout the night and day
The rules we give you now
Will help you to survive
Rule breakers heed this warning
You will not make it out alive
Do not answer the door
When you hear the bell
If you ignore this warning
It will not end well
The barn is out of bounds
For horrors are in store
If we find you in here
An accident may occur
The lake here is forbidden
To swim, bathe or fish
Do not touch the water
Unless drowning is a wish
At the table you will dine
Together you must be
A solo diner is greedy
A full table must be at tea
So now you’ve read the rules
Whether you follow is up to you
What happens if you don’t you ask?
This poem has the clues
“What does that mean?” Pete asked as he scanned the poem again. “I don’t follow rules, besides how can they catch us if they aren’t here?”
“I have an uneasy feeling about this place,” I confessed. Carly sneered at me but Sarah caught my eye and nodded in agreement.
“We can’t stand out in the rain,” Lucy said. “How about we just follow the rules? Better to be safe than sorry, right?”
There were a few knocks on the door and we all jumped. The door creaked open very slowly and everyone held their breath. It flung open unexpectedly and slammed against the wall and wind and rain barrelled into the cabin. Sarah and Lucy fought against the door to shut it and Gary got up and helped them shut and lock it.
“I think we should just settle down and sort out what we are going to do in the morning,” Pete said, surprisingly sensibly. When you date or hang out with Carly, your brain usually turns to mush. Glad to see he has some commonsense. I hope my brain stays in one piece for the duration of this weekend.