The crowd of strangers looked up from their camp fire. Someone or something was rustling around in the woods.
It took a moment but suddenly the form of a man appeared, with jet black hair that came to his shoulders. He didn't seem to notice or didn't acknowledge the group of people around the camp fire but continued in a direction away from the fire.
"Hey man, are you lost?" one our group yelled out to him.
"What is he doing? Maybe we should follow him for a second, make sure he's all right." said Kyle. The others nodded in agreement.
We all started to walk in the direction he was heading. He was by no means travelling very quickly, but we were having trouble keeping up as he would disappear behind branches and foliage.
"Hey, slow down! Please!" Tina yelled out.
Finally the woods changed and we came to a small scrapyard with mounds of trash covering a compacted dirt floor.
We could see his pale face peeking over one of the mounds, looking at us. He climbed a little further and we could see he was wearing a long sleeve button-up shirt and sweat pants.
"What are yuh doin man? Did you have something to drink? You doin okay?" asks Kyle.
"This place is dangerous. There are tons of jagged pieces of metal, glass, and of course wild animals. Why don't you come with us?" as soon as I asked the question the young looking man descended out of view.
The three of us turned to one another. "What in the fuck?"
As we made our way around the pile of rubbish, we could see his form in the darkness. As the flashlight fell on his back I could see he was swaying slowly side to side.
At this point neither of us knew what to do.
"Yeah. Yeah. That sounds good." came a voice.
We all hesitated again, looking over at one another.
"Where do you live? You live around here?" asked Tina.
"I'll go with you." was all he responded with.
He swiveled around to face us. His eyes looked like he hadn't slept in an entire week. Purple and almost black beneath hazel eyes. Perhaps it was just the lighting, but his skin looked like the color of white egg shells.
His lips quivered, staring at us, waiting for a response. He then made small burping sounds as if he were about to throw up, lurching forward, his head swinging down near the ground.
"Why don't you come and hang out with us? We've got a camp fire and some food." I said, trying to act like I wasn't thoroughly psyched out by his behaviour. I could feel my palms starting to sweat.
He pulled up out of his stupor, with this halfhazard smile on his face, as if he were having some kind of difficulty moving the individual muscles of his mouth. Finally his lips tightened up again as he closed his sleep deprived eyes. Again his body began to churn in a circular direction.
"You feel sick?" asked Kyle, and the instant he said it he knew it was the wrong thing to say.
His eyes flicked open. He began to look like he was chewing something in his mouth, a small scowl pressuring his face, his eyes darting around the piles of trash behind us.
"Have you all been out here in the early morning?" he spoke few octaves too loud, his voice seeming to boom, reverberating from the trees surrounding us.
"It's just not the same. It's not peaceful. Nope."
Again we didn't know how to respond.
"The worst is when you don't have any food. The worst is when you don't have any water. The worst is when you're frozen."
At this point I wanted to back away slowly and let this pale faced stranger go his own way.
"I'm not sure if I understand." said Kyle, trying to be rational.
"Do you all still live with your parents?" he asked us, with seeming normalcy.
"Yes. Me and Tina do. Look, not to be rude but you're frightening us. We would love it if you would back to the camp fire with us." I said, trying to control the shakiness in my voice.
"Fuck your fire, and fuck all of you!" the stranger screamed, the flashlight flew out of Tina's hand and one of the large piles of trash started to come tumbling down.
"Oh God, oh God, OH GOD!" yelled out Tina, scrambling to pick up her flashlight.
We heard his footsteps as he darted around the piles of trash, at random times little clinks and noises rang out as he made his escape farther and farther from us.
"What just.... what just fucking happened?" I asked, realizing suddenly that I felt incredibly sick to my stomach. I had also started to pant and could hear the heavy breathing of everyone else.
"It's way too cold to be out here alone. Goodness." said Kyle.
We headed back to the campfire.
Sitting around it, we tried to laugh off what he had just experienced. Someone had a good idea to cook s'mores.
"Do you hear that?" asked Tina.
"No, not really." I said.
"Listen!" she said, shushing us.
It was a tinny dinging sound. At first it seemed far off in the distance, like the sound of hitting a mason jar.
It then would stop for a moment.
"Let's get the fuck out of here." said Tina.
"We've got to put out the fire first." said Kyle.
"Fuck this fire, let's just GO!" said Tina, nearly in tears now.
The sound started up again.
"Hurry, let's just be fast, we can go but let's put out the fire." said Kyle.
"How are we going to do that?" I asked.
Kyle searched around for a moment. Then he looked downwards just fell silent.
He didn't answer.
"Just chill out!" he snapped back, this horrible grimace on his face as he grabbed his hair and pulled it back, frantically massaging his temples.
"What's wrong, dude?"
"The creek is back that direction. We would have to go back over there to get some water to put this out."
"No, no. Let's just leave. Fuck this camping spot, let's just go." Tina is whaling at this point, rocking herself back and forth.
"Maybe we can stay in the car for tonight, and just watch the fire."
Then the banging started to get louder.
What had first been intermittent clinking sounds was now almost a constant beating of metal on glass.
"Please, KYLE! Let's just GO!" Tina protested, getting up to pace, walking towards the car and then back towards us.
Kyle looks at me and starts grabbing a plastic bin full of camping supplies.
"Okay let's tear down the tent." he says.
Then there comes a voice from the woods.
"As if following me would fix this mess."
It seemed to ring out, resonating and almost humming.
"You wanted me to come with you? You wanted ME to come with YOU?"
We could hear him laughing, and laughing.
"Oh my God. Oh my God." Tina whispered under her breath.
The sounds were closing in, what had seemed a mile or two away seemed at the tree line.
"What would YOU have done? What would YOU have?"
The back window of our car exploded. Stepping out from behind it was the slim, pale figure of a man with a metal pipe in his hands.
He was smiling, this time a full smile, and then another window shattered into pieces as he swung the pipe.
"Just go the fuck away! We don't want any trouble." yelled Kyle.
"We didn't mean to upset you, we're sorry." I chimed in.
"You didn't want me to enjoy the fire. You wanted me to BURN." the man spat at us. "Why couldn't you go meddling somewhere else, some other night. You wanted to help me? You really wanted to help me?" He screamed at us, taking out another side window of the car.
Before I knew what was happening I heard a gunshot. Kyle had a small pistol in his hands and was aiming it at the intruder. He fired again, and again.
The black haired youth grabbed at this chest, dropping the pipe. His eyes narrowed to slits, and his lip curled with disatisfaction.
"I was going to show you where we all end up."
As he spoke, the young man turned around. He hunched slightly, his breathing jagged and his body heaving.
With his back to us he began to limp away toward the road leading out of the camping spot, his body quickly becoming covered in shadows, and then the sounds of his footsteps disappearing.
We decided to leave as quickly as possible, only minimally doing what we could to put out the fire.
We sped away from the camp site, ripping down the dirt and gravel roads.
Suddenly there was a loud thump as if we had run over something.
Kyle slowed for a moment.
"Keep driving." said Tina with a harshness in her voice.
"I might of messed up the..." Kyle began to protest.
"KEEP DRIVING!" she screamed.
Tina was turned around looking behind us. I turned to look the same way and I could see the outline of a man lifting himself up off the ground, the moon reflecting off an equally pale face peering our direction.