The girl didn’t like ghost stories but she listened nevertheless, feeling fright take a slow insect crawl up her pant leg. She hadn’t shaved in days and now the hairs stood up prickly on her calves. She scratched.
The fire blazed. It looked like a hungry orange mouth with smoky black lips. She wished they could be done with this, wished they could get back to making S’ mores, but the Miller kid had all these tales to share and he was drunk and still drinking. Depending on the story, he made himself a bear or a ghoul or a headless lumberman. He was good at becoming other people and she guessed he would end up an actor someday if he didn’t kill himself first.
Afterward she couldn’t sleep. It was too cold in the cabin, too quiet. The boys slept in a hut across the yard. A tetherball pole stood between the two structures and in the morning someone, Miller probably, had switched the ball for a girl’s head. It wasn’t real, the head, but it looked it. The mannequin had blonde hair like hers and glass aquamarine eyes.
Miller jumped out from nowhere. “Scared you!” he said. “Didn’t I? I scared you.”
She should have gone to bathroom before but her rhythm was off and now she saw the wet stain across her crotch. Miller watched it spread. His eyes were lit like lanterns.
She left camp the next day. Miller waved to her from the turnaround drive. His mother had hung herself on Halloween but you would never know it. He wasn’t afraid of anything and the girl wondered how anybody could be so fearless.
Years later she married a decent man with warm eyes and soft hands. When she found out she was pregnant she went through a weeklong stretch dreaming of the Miller kid. He hadn’t aged. He still looked on the cusp of savage, his long hair curled almost in dreads.
One morning after her husband had gone to work, she went through his medicine cabinets. She threw away his moisturizer and tweezers, his nail clippers. She chucked vitamins and fiber pills. She looked at herself in the mirror, made her hands into bear claws and said, “Boo!”
Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with an eagle and three pesky beavers. He first started submitting fiction in May of last year and now has pieces in over sixty lit journals including such places as JUKED, decomP, ELIMAE, MUD LUSCIOUS and others.
Motivation: I wanted to write about how fear can transcend story into real life, and how fear can often times be liberating as much as intimidating.