© Copyright Photograph by Shazz and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Barry sat beside the main road, waiting for his mate Callum. It was a fairly cool summer night, a good night to go camping. Barry closed his eyes as he let the pleasant breeze blow through his bright red Mohawk hairstyle. He looked down at his torn jeans, covered in various patches and safety pins, then he looked behind at the dark wooded area adjacent to the road. It was a creepy-looking wood, that’s what he liked about it. The reason Barry and his friends went camping here was the same reason most people watched horror films, it was entertainment with a hint of fear. It was also convenient as there was a Tesco only a short walk away, on the other side of the road where he sat.

A car pulled up next to Barry with a familiar face inside. Callum opened the door and greeted his friend, complete with a handshake and a half-hug. Callum was carrying a large rucksack with a tent inside.

“See ya later Chris, cheers for the lift mate.” Callum said through the car window.

“Be careful in those woods mate, a lot of weirdos about.” came a reply from the car.

“Don’t worry mate. I’m the scariest thing in these woods.”

Barry clenched the Tesco bags full of booze and handed one to Callum. They both began to walk into the woodland, without a care in the world. The two nineteen-year-olds talked about general issues and the usual chatter. They were both usually keen to get into a serious debate about something political, but tonight they did not. Tonight was all about trying something new.

“Did you eat those seeds I gave you?” Callum asked.

“Yeah man.” Barry replied. “They sell them in Guildford you know. In some legal high shop.”

“I had heard yeah. Prices are extortionate though, these are from an international plant trader, they do the same thing.”

“What’s the chemical in them?” Barry asked.

“LSA. It’s related to LSD but it’s not illegal. You feeling anything?”

Barry thought for a second about his state of mind. He didn’t feel completely normal, but not high. A little queezy, he thought, but mellow.

“Nah, not too much at the moment. You?”

“Nothing.” Callum responded. The two continued into the woods.

Callum stood at about six foot and had short brown hair. He held a cheeky smile of anticipation as he looked forward to tonight. Callum had no fear of these woods, he knew them like his own house, he claimed it was his home away from home.

Half an hour had passed since Barry met Callum. They were deep in the woods and darkness surrounded them. Barry looked around nervously, the never-ending mass of deciduous trees was creepy and unnerving, more than usual. As the two marched onward through the squelching mud and leaf litter, they spotted a light. It was the warm comforting glow of a fire, welcoming them.

Barry felt like the warmth was embracing him, he had a heightened sense of awareness. The pair continued towards it. Seconds later they came across a wire fence at waist height. A small metal gate was all that stood between the young men and their beloved area of the forest they called their own. Callum pushed open the gate and walked into a bushy area. Both men then huddled around the fire and greeted the others.

There were two others at the fire: a pale girl with black hair named Annette; and a South African male with a black ponytail named John. Barry sat next to Annette and put his arm around her. They had been seeing each other for nearly a year now and had grown very close. Barry cared a lot for Annette, and she did him. John was their friend, and the three of them had travelled from Guildford, ten miles from Aldershot where they camped. Callum however, lived in Aldershot.

“Did you get Strongbow Barry?” John asked.

“Yeah man.” Barry replied opening up the bags. “Help yourself.”

The four of them grapped a Strongbow each and opened it.

“Wait everyone.” Callum halted them. “As it’s tradition everytime we camp, let’s gather together and down it in one. Where is Jacques?” Callum looked around.

“He was doing Tai Chi somewhere.” Annette answered. Not a minute later a figure strolled into the bushy area where they sat. The figure was Jacques. He smiled and grabbed a can. They all chucked the cider down their throats as quickly as possible, racing.

“How have you been Jacques?” Callum asked. The fifth member of the group: Jacques, was of similar height to Callum. He studied in Guildford and that’s how he came to meet the group. The peculiar thing about Jacques was that he suffered with schizophrenia, recently out of hospital for the second time. He used his illness to pursue studies, as the fees were always paid for. He had the tendency to say the most obscure and random things, one of the reasons he was so popular.

“I have been very well thank you Callum. How are you?” Jacques responded.

“Yeah good, cheers.”

The atmosphere amongst the friends was good. An hour had passed. Barry found himself staring off into the distance while Annette and John talked. Jacques sat silently thinking as he often did, and Callum was up a tree. Barry liked their little campsite. There was a fire in the centre and a few tents surrounding. There were also random bits of junk, souvenirs from drunken missions raiding the local stock-car racing ground. A metal fence, used as a people barrier, a chair, many tyres used as seats and a huge metal cylinder used as a bin. Barry and Callum insisted they respect nature whilst in it’s presence, which is why they had bird feeders dotted about, refilled every night of camping. Barry loved it here. He loved the company and the surroundings, creepy but intriguing. Everyone served their role of collecting firewood when needed and it was fun. Barry focused his attention back on the group, as John was talking about his experiences in Africa.

“I was camping in the bush. It’s a good feeling camping out, surviving in the wilderness.” John rambled.

“Yeah I know, popping to the all-night Tesco in the morning.” Barry mocked.

“No, no. I’m talking about actual survival, no shops or anything. We don’t have any trouble surviving here.” There was a thud beside them as Callum jumped from a branch.

“That’s if the squaddies don’t get ya.” he said.

“What the fuck is a squaddie?” John asked.

“Soldier. Comes from the term squadron.” Barry replied.

“Well what do they have to do with anything?”

“Look around.” Callum told him. “Everything you see for miles is their training ground, it’s open to the public but I doubt they’d appreciate us being here.”

Annette looked nervously at Barry.

“Don’t worry Annette, that’s why we have the axe.” Barry joked. The group laughed as Callum brandished a small hand axe he used to chop wood. It was denty and dirty but did the job. He threw it to the floor and strolled off.

“I’m off wood collecting.” he said.

Everyone had taken the special seeds that Callum and Barry had spoken about. Barry especially felt the effects. Everything felt fuzzy and warm but when he looked off into the darkness, he had a sinister feeling. They wind howled through the trees and shook the leaves.

“Jacques tell us a joke.” Barry said. Barry, Annette and John looked towards Jacques in anticipation, as his completely irrevelant one-liners were famous.

“There’s a man” Jacques said to them, “and he’s falling”. The others continued to look on. “he’s falling through space. But is he falling up or down?” The group fell silent. It was a bizarrely thought-provoking statement with no answer or punchline and yet, due to its surreal nature it invoked a surge of giggles throughout the group. Barry fought through the laughter to speak.

“That’s really insightful and philosophical, that’s not a joke.” The group continued to laugh, including Jacques. Then, without warning, Jacques stood up and ran off. No one asked him where he was going, even if they did, he probably would not have answered. They liked him for who he was, and although at times it seemed as though he was a sideshow. They cared about him.

Barry stared into the warm amber glow of the firelight. His mind filling with random thoughts. Ember glows the colour Amber, he thought. This made him giggle. The smell of woodsmoke filled the area. Barry liked this.

“Where did all this stuff come from?” John asked, referring to the metal gate and chair.

“We stole it from a stock car racing track, not far from here in the woods. It’s fun because we’re not sure if there’s an overnight guard in there. There are guard dog signs up, and a twelve-foot fence to climb. We’re hoping they don’t notice. I don’t think the owners would be too happy.” Barry explained.

“Can we go there?” John asked.

“Yeah we’ll grab Callum and go, he loves going in there. He’s always come out with random junk.”

“Where is Callum anyway? Wasn’t he collecting wood?” Annette called. The three looked around. Jacques walked in behind them.

“Jacques can you find Callum please?” Annette asked. Jacques wandered off again, as the remaining three called out Callum’s name.

“Callum! Callum!” Barry’s voice echoed into the night, bouncing off the trees. John added his voice to the call, shouting louder. They continued to shout, standing on the edge of the camp area, but there wasn’t a single whisper back. There was just silence.

“I’ll go find them.” Barry said.

“No Barry don’t! What if you don’t come back? Annette was panicking. Barry’s head was buzzing and everyone’s heart-rate had turned up a notch. A mixture of the chemical in the seeds and the events unfolding sent fear through the threesome. It started with Annette, the only girl in the woods. She was panicking more than the others and imagining terrible things that might have happened.

“What if they have been jumped by squaddies? Callum said this is their land. They might have been killed!” her voice was hysterical and she began to cry. Barry comforted her and looked over to John. John’s eyes were wide open and scanning the area. In his right hand he gripped the axe so tightly, he could see the veins in his arms bulging.

“Callum!” John screamed. “I’m not fucking around if anyone jumps out on me, I’m gonna hit them with this axe. This isn’t funny.”

“Jacques!” Marcus called out. Still no answer. Annette continued to worry. It had been five minutes since Jacques had left, and about half-hour since Callum went wood collecting. Neither of them were anywhere to be seen or heard. Marcus attempted to call both Callum and Jacques by phone, but the phones just rang until voicemail answered. Neither’s ringtone could be heard.

“Come on we have to go.” Barry ordered. “We’ll go to Tesco?”

Annette stood up and Barry held onto her. John held her the other side and they put out the fire. John still had hold of the axe. Barry picked up a large stick and held it. He led the way out of the cozy area, insisting everyone hold onto each other. Traipsing through the mud, Barry relied on his experience in the scouts to think cautiously. Every tree looked menacing, every puddle looked dangerous. At times the clouds parted, giving the forest an eerie glow, and at other times the clouds covered the moon, making everything almost pitch black. When the wind blew, it sent a chilling howl and rustling through the forest, and when it didn’t there was a deathly silence.

Barry looked behind, and in the distance could see a small ember glow of the extinguished fire. The three could not work out which was the scariest: the silence; the howling of the wind; or the darkness. Suddenly another event added to their fear: they heard a car engine, getting nearer. They hurried alond frantically, as the path they walked along had army-truck tire-tracks on it. In the distance ahead they saw headlights moving perpendicular to them. Barry led the other two off the path and into the woods where they ducked down and hid. Bizarrely, the headlights passed through without stopping, so they continued to hurry along.

All sorts of thoughts rushed through Barry’s head. He wanted to hang around and find his best mate Callum, but needed to protect Annette. Horrible thoughts occurred. What if Callum and Jacques are dead? How could this happen? Was it his all Barry’s fault?

Barry focused back on reality as he came across a path with a twelve-foot fence. It was the stock-car racing track. In fear of this, the trio carried on running. Barry’s eyes filled with tears, he hadn’t cried in years, but he was scared, they all were.

Reaching the main road where Callum was dropped off, the three relaxed as John took out his phone and called the police. John explained to the operator that two friends had gone missing in the woods and that they might be dead. The operator had told him that someone would be out once all the murders and rapists were caught, suspicious of a hoax, then hung up.

Annette wept into Barry’s arms. The main road was completely empty, and Barry’s fuzzy mind had toned down. He felt more normal, they all did, but they were still scared. Barry took out his phone and called Callum. No answer. He tried again, and this time there was an answer.

“Hello” a voice answered. It was Jacques, on Callum’s phone.

“Jacques. Where are you?” Barry angered.

“Here. Where are you?” he replied.

Struggling to get a straight answer out of him, Barry asked him to put Callum on.

“Barry?” Callum asked.

“Callum what the fuck? We’re at Tesco’s. Annette’s been crying her eyes out. Where the fuck are you?” Barry was furious, like a mother to a runaway child. He listened and heard a strange grunting sound.

“Barry?” Callum asked again. He sounded in a rough way, as if ill. “Barry!”

“Callum! What’s going on?” Barry asked, confused.

“Barry where are you? Jacques just tried to kill me.” Callum responded.

“Jacques just tried to kill you?” Barry’s voice was full of concern, and for good reason, Jacques had taken the hallucinogenic seed too, and the result was unpredictable. “Where are you?”

“At camp.”

“Okay stay there, we’re coming back.” Barry assured him.

Barry led the trio as they rushed back into the woods. Finding themselves back at the campsite, Barry proceeded with caution. He tread carefully through the bushes, and maneuvered around the guard-rail. There were mixed emotions as Barry laid eyes on the camp. The fire had been re-lit, with large glowing logs on it. To the left there was Jacques, sitting on some tyres, smiling to himself. To the right was Callum, rolling around in the leaf litter, completely naked, giggling. Dirt was smeared all over his body so that his skin looked a tone darker.

“He was fire-walking.” Jacques proclaimed.

“Callum, what the fuck? You had Annette in tears, we all thought you were dead. Why didn’t you answer?” Barry shouted.

Callum looked up at Barry laughing to himself. He couldn’t control it. “I was sending you messages with my mind! To see if you could follow my directions. I was a shape, morphed into the wood.” His voice was slurred and interrupted bouts of laughter. “Jacques found me. He got the messages.”

Barry looked down at Callum’s dirty face and could not stay angry. He knew a lot of people who tried new drugs, but this was different. Callum was such an extrovert that he acted out his vivid hallucinacions.

“I have been reborn Barry! Reborn of the woods!” Callum told him as he crawled around on all fours bearing his teeth and growling. Barry laughed.

“I can’t stay mad at you like that. But don’t do that again, alright? I cried because I thought you were dead. And what’s this about Jacques trying to kill you?”

Callum held a finger to his lips and made a long shushing sound. “He had control! Of my mind! But he’s not here right now.” Callum told them.

Barry looked to his left to find Jacques sitting there, without a smile this time, with an expression of anger.

“He’s right there.” Barry argued.

“That’s not Jacques. That’s Jacob, the first man that God spoke to.” Callum explained.

Jacques, or Jacob, sat staring with a frown.

“Oh right, Jacob.” Marcus said. Assuring John and Annette as he reminded them that Jacques was schizophrenic. Jacques stood up and addressed the group with a sinister, angry tone.

“I am Lucifer!” Silence fell, and Callum giggled. “What? You don’t believe me? Well fuck you then!” His voice was even angrier as he stormed off into the woods. Not wanting to upset him further, the group let him be. It was then that Callum arched his back and let out a terrible choking sound. He tried to speak, but was interrupted by his throat muscles contracting. He tried to vomit, but the bile came out slowly and Callum could not force it out. It dribbled down onto the leaves below and the others gathered round. John rubbed his back.

“That doesn’t look like normal puke.” Barry said. They all looked but in the firelight could not wor out the colour. Callum continued to try forming words.

“Barry if there is blood in that we’re calling an ambulance right now.” John told him.

Callum continued to choke and spluttered and his face was red, looking ready to explode. He spotted Jacques standing by the fire, but looked away into the darkness. Barry used his phone to check the vomit for blood, but the luminous blue glow gave no indication. John continued to rub Callum’s back, assuring him everything would be fine. Tears filled Annette’s eyes, as she had never witnessed anything like this before. Callum reached out grabbed the dirt, coughing and spluttering, trying to speak. In between the choking he managed to form a few words.

“Jacques!” he struggled, “Please don’t kill me Jacques!” he begged. Jacques looked away from the darkness and towards Callum. His mood had changed rapidly and he answered.

“Okay.” and with that Callum stopped choking, coughing and spluttering. The vomit ceased to dribble out and Callum dropped to the floor beside the fire, his face returning to normal colour, his breath slowing. He closed his eyes and rested.

“Thank you.” He whispered as he relaxed. Without a single word from his lips, Jacques sat down. The rest of the group left Callum to rest, and continued drinking silently. Barry sat staring at the fire as his hair shone bright red. He contemplated the events of the night and wondered which parts were real, and which parts imaginery. For all he new Jacques could have been the devil. One thing he was certain of was the emotion he felt, the fear he endured. He didn’t mind though, coming here was like watching a horror film.

 

By Jambo Stewart

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