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by Gerard DiLeo 4 months ago in supernatural · updated 2 months ago
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The Last Campfire Story of the Night (with stage directions)

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. The flame of orange and yellow had a strange, fine bluish undulation just over the top of the wick. Through the window bluish, almost iridescent, shadows danced on the stone walls within.

"How could this be?" the man asked.

He was a newlywed, and he and his wife had driven up to the cabin to have a secret weekend honeymoon. They had eloped, you see, after a whirlwind romance of only a few weeks. They had hoped to really get to know each other, off-grid, as it were.

The cabin had sat unused for a long time; in fact, it was kept confidential by the family. Except for the simple furniture left, draped with sheets, it had been left empty, overly secured, and even undetectable by air because of the thick trees around it which camouflaged it so effectively.

"Who lit the candle?" his pretty, new wife asked. "Did you have someone come to service the place before we got here?"

"No," was his answer. She noticed that he often answered in monosyllables and wasn't sure if she liked that.

Servicing it would have been nice, she thought. She was a complainer, you see, always looking at the downside to everything. Especially when it came to her creature comforts. The man, though, had grown quite immune to her complaints. "When you suggested we honeymoon here," she grumbled, "I had no idea it would be so...so...desolate. And what's with the candle?"

"It's quaint, not desolate."

"Don't change the subject. It's decrepit, derelict, and dilapidated. Decayed." She was an English teacher, you see, and often embraced things like alliteration. "And did I ask about the candle?"

"Are you finished with the Ds? Don't forget dreary," he told her.

"Filthy and foul and," and then she made it a point to sniff the air, “and feculent."

"You skipped right over the Es," he told her. The man had found that challenging her was a pretty good defense against all her complaints.

"E? O.K.," the woman said, and added, "especially filthy and foul and feculent.”

"You cheated! Especially doesn't count."

"And the candle: especially eerie. And you're the one who cheated," she told him. Something had changed in the exchange. Their tones sharpened, becoming terser. It was their first fight, you see, and I don't think they had any idea how to get through it. He was a bit irritated, and she was about to cry.

"How did I cheat?"

"This is no honeymoon," she said to him. She explained that he had said it would be private and picturesque and romantic. Now that it looked like someone was there, lighting candles and whatnot, she added, she urged him to call 9-1-1. That's when she swatted her leg the first time. "Ow. Great! Something just bit me."

As any of you could probably tell, this honeymoon was not going very well.

"We should go inside," he offered. "It's after sunset, and the insects get a little ravenous about this time."

"Oh, good. And the candle?" She swatted her other leg. "I can't stay out here--" swatting herself a third time, "and I sure as hell won't go in."

"Look," he told her, "I don't know a thing about the candle, and--" but then stopped to check his abrupt tone. He fancied himself the head of a family now, you see, the protector of the hearth, and the champion against evil. So, he reconstituted his demeanor. "I will unlock the door, sweetheart," he announced calmly. "The place is small, nothing more than a big room. I will look around and take all the sheets off of the furniture. And, assuming there is no one hiding underneath, we can let the candle be our omen for our life together. And I promise to figure out how it got lit.”

"Still trying for quaint and romantic, I see," she said, softening a bit. She even managed a forced smile.

The man jingled the keys in his pocket and pulled them out. There were at least 6 or 7 of them on the keyring. It had been a keychain for all of the unused and forgotten keys that had accumulated in his kitchen's junk drawer, you see. And, as we all know, you can't have an official junk drawer without a few mystery keys in it.


He had to try three of them before finding the right one, and just in time, because the young woman was getting visibly exasperated anew.

He cracked open the weathered wooden door and peaked in, head-first. After a brief moment, he pulled back to smile at her reassuringly, and then he entered. The woman took a step back and waited. In fact, she turned away from the cabin altogether, wondering if she had been too hasty to marry this man. That's when she saw it.


Alright, alright, there were no sharp claws, no salivating fangs, none of that kind of stuff. But you don't have to imagine impossible or supernatural things to scare yourself, do you?

What do you think she saw?



What she saw was fluffy, mottled, and, except for the shallow breathing it did, motionless. It was a rabbit, but not the kind she was used to--not the white, fluffy ones kids sometimes pester their parents to buy around Eastertime. It was a country rabbit, brown and white.

She muttered, "Oh no, oh no..." She stooped down and looked closely. The poor little thing was breathing very quickly and then alternating with no breathing at all. The no-breathing parts started to outlast the rapid breathing parts, and she realized the poor little guy was dying.

She went back to the car to retrieve a towel she had hooked on the window to block the sun while they were traveling north. The low, Western sun was glaring through the window and had given her a headache. She complained about headaches all the time, you see.

In the cabin, the man had taken advantage of the candlelight to find the light switch on the wall. He illuminated the cabin dimly, with two of the three incandescent lights long burned out, and then removed the sheets off of the furniture—slowly—just in case there really was someone hiding.

He removed the first one, then the second one. Sheet after sheet was yanked away, each one now more quickly than the last as the danger seemed to trail off and his courage seemed to build. Although he was not surprised that he'd found no one--no one at all--still he had no explanation for the candle, which he now blew out, as if to settle the issue.

The young woman had wrapped the poor rabbit tightly and offered it tactile comfort on her lap when she had returned to the front of the cabin and sat on the single step to the porch. She was by no means an expert, you see, but she could tell that the dying animal was young--certainly too young to be dying. She stroked its fur on the top of its head, back, and short, cottony tail, and there seemed to be no obvious injury; and it seemed well-nourished. The little fella wasn't starving, f'sure.

She began examining her--she felt it was female--and she turned it over to see if she was right, opening the towel to examine her bottom. When she did, something or some things flew out at her, stinging her face and eyes. She shook her head defensively, and when she looked again at the animal, she gagged.

Then she screamed.

Her new husband heard her, even though he was inside behind a closed door and windows. It was her finest scream, one she had never thrown out into the world before; one seldom heard in the world ever, anywhere.

Her husband's spine rippled up his back when he heard it. At the same exact time, suddenly, the power went out and the cabin went dark, except for the wavering glow coming from the relighted candle.


The man felt around for where he remembered the light switch was, but when he flipped it up...nothing happened. At this point, he fumbled for the door in the dim glow of the candle and opened it. Even with the candlelight, it seemed the outside nighttime was brighter than inside the cabin, which was a relief, because he was still rattled by the shrillness and terror of his wife's scream. On the way out, he heaved a strong puff at the flame on the candle and it went out again.

Outside, now on the porch, he saw her standing above the single porch step, her hands in front of her, fingers extended and stiff, and trembling. On the wooden slat of the step lay the rabbit on the towel.

"What! What?" he asked her. "What the hell happened! Are you O.K.?"

She did not answer but just stood there, pale, inert, and trembling. He walked close to her and stopped, following her wide-eyed unblinking line of sight to the step, to the furry animal laying on its back. He fetched a flashlight from the front seat of the car and returned to shine it on the animal.

"It's breathing," he said.

"I know," she whispered, more to herself, barely audible.


"I said I know!" she shouted at him.

"We've got to get rid of it before it dies. The flies will be here very quickly."

"That's not funny," she said sternly.

"Why would that be funny?" he asked.

They were no longer speaking to each other like a man and woman in love. They had been yanked into another stratum of couple altogether--keenly focused on shortcomings and each with an idea of how a man and woman in love should be treating each other.

"We've got to do something," she said.

"Like what? Drive to the nearest vet emergency clinic on a Fright night? Spend a thousand of our honeymoon dollars on this animal that's obviously gonna die anyway?"

"Yea," she seethed, "we'll burn through money really fast here, won't we?"

He did a compassionate reset. "My love..." he began. She glared. "...we wouldn't even be able to find a vet around here. Much less one that knows rabbits. They don't fix rabbits around here; they hunt them. Look at its breathing. Fast, then slow. Even if we did find some type of rabbit vet, we'd never get to him before it was too late."

"We'd never get to him?" she challenged him. Their whole marriage went back three steps.

"I don't know. Him...or her. It. Does it matter? C'mon, now, you know what I meant."

"Well, we've got to do something, " she insisted. He wanted to please her, to defuse the peril she felt in her heart for the animal. But what could the man do, really?

He shined the light on the rabbit and looked closely. Then he jumped. "Oh, my God!"

"I know," she responded. Then she turned, crouched, and threw up.

On the lower underside of the rabbit, the fur was all gone and the top layers of tissue had been skinned. Atop this area were countless--probably hundreds--of maggots, squirming in a frenzy, stripping away the rabbit alive. They were through the skin, fat, and muscle. With each rapid series of breaths the internal organs protruded, as the animal tried to emit what it could of a scream--instead huffing out as a soundless surrender. Its eyes were glazed and fixed ahead, and had maggots on them and in them, as well.

The man opened the trunk and retrieved some work gloves. He donned them and then carefully collected the towel holding the rabbit. He lay it down behind to the back tire.

"What are planning to do!" she shouted.

"Mercy," he answered. "I'm planning mercy. Do you have the car keys?"

"No way!" She walked over to the towel and collected the gory presentation, wrapped the rabbit again in a swaddle, and then found a faucet on the side of the cabin. She opened it wide and pulled the cloth away to expose the rabbit's affected area, eyeing the lit candle through the window in her peripheral vision. Go to Hell, candle, she thought. She placed the rabbit's bottom under the forceful water, but nothing happened. The maggots held firm. She reached down with one hand and picked up a rock and began scraping its underside.

That worked, but it also removed the tissue upon which the maggots were feeding. Also, the more maggots that seemed to fall away, the more there seemed to be deeper into the animal. Her hands remained freshly bloody as fast as the water swished the blood away. And the maggots. They never ended.

The man swatted his bare right leg, beneath the hem of his shorts; then he swatted his bare left leg. He looked at the cabin and the candle, which he, like his wife, saw was lit once again, wavering a feeble beacon to something. The bluish filament of dancing undulation amidst the yellow and red flame seemed to be some type of call-to-action. For someone...

...or something.


He heard a buzzing and hissing sound and looked up, seeing a small, dark cloud of flying vermin swarming over him, hovering. And growing. Like the dark cloud that seems to follow a doomed man. The sound grew louder, not unlike the warning of a poisonous snake's rattle. He looked at his wife again, and there she was, hands and rock and water and rabbit, excoriating the animal feverishly, like in a frenzied trance. Now its bottom; now its eyes; now its bottom again. She would soon be scraping away through the animal to her own hand.

"Stop!" he yelled. She did not stop. "We must get inside," he urged her, eyeing the hovering swarm over his head with periodic cautionary glances upward. She ignored him. She was deaf and blind to anything in this world but her need to rid the animal of its parasites. Then she stopped. She was out of breath, in the respite of no breathing at all.

She closed the faucet and calmly lay the rabbit on the ground. It wasn't much more than a pelt with hanging entrails by this time. She walked over to her husband. Its eyes were gone, the concave sockets filled with only another wave of maggots.

"My God," she said, "it's still alive! It's still alive!"

"No!" her husband replied. It's not. It's gone. It's nothing more than a pelt now. The only thing left alive are maggots."

She showed her realization that he was right by how the expression on her face morphed from panic to acquiescence, then to extreme grief.

"It's dead. I tried. Oh, how I tried..." she cried. He closed his hand over hers, but the sound of insects above them reached a new volume of danger, and he led her to the cabin. He closed the door behind them.

"I know," he comforted her. "I know you tried. You did as much as anyone could do." She collapsed into his arms and sobbed. She was his little girl again.

Then they heard another sound.

The door seemed to be struck by countless grains blowing as if in a sandstorm. Then the windows, of which there were two, started suffering the same strikes. With the sound of the strikes was an ever-growing sound of buzzing and whirring. They each wondered if the glass would hold.

But it seemed to. They were safe. Or, were they really? They each swatted an arm simultaneously, then looked at the open fireplace, the last direct route into the cabin.


No one's ever lit a fire so quickly, ever, in the history of the whole, wide world, and soon the soft glow from it dwarfed the illumination coming from the candle. The man walked over to it, with every intention of blowing it out yet again.

"Oh, forget it," the woman said. "Our mysterious candle. I really don't care, though. I'm not scared of the stupid candle. Horrified beats out scared anytime. I'll never be able to un-see what I saw tonight." She swatted her leg again, as did he.

She found the sink and began scrubbing her hands with some old rust-stained soap lying in a metal tray. The man scratched his crotch through his shorts.

She dried her hands with an old stiff hand towel near the sink, and she began rubbing between her legs.

"Honey," she said. "I'm kinda itchy."


"That's just your nerves," he reassured her. "Y'know, you see ants on an anthill and you start feeling every little naughty nerve firing off. It's natural." But he continued to scratch himself.

"No, it's not just the itch. It hurts, too. Really bad." She arose and slipped down her shorts, all the while scratching at the skin underneath vehemently. Then she let her underwear fall.

The man screamed.

It was his finest scream, one he had never thrown out into the world before; one seldom heard in the world ever, anywhere.

His horrified gaze rose in an attempt to look into her eyes but, because of what he saw there, she couldn't look back. Suddenly and simultaneously, as the sight he could never unsee inserted itself indelibly into his psyche, the flame on the candle sublimated, as bright as magnesium, a juggernaut of bullying photons that mercifully blinded the man to the sight that otherwise would hold him mute and crippled in incapacitating chains of panic and terror until there was nothing left of her to see.

The brightest flame burns the quickest; after the blindsiding, radiant burst came the heat rush. It was as if he had touched a hot stove, but with his entire body; there was no reflex that could allow him to jerk himself away as he might do with just a hand: he burned, but it wasn't his skin that was burning. What burned, burned deeper inside of him.

As if part of a life cycle, the candle--hidden somewhere in the plasma of light and heat and assault--contracted quickly until it could no longer maintain combustion, leaving an airborne legacy of wispy, blue smoke.

There followed a cold--cruel--quiet that, amid the pops of bark in the flickering fireplace, allowed him to hear his wife's breathing begin to race, as did his, as he kept scratching his crotch--his shorts now threadbare. His retinas hadn't yet recovered from the blinding impasse, but his own eyes began to feel prickly from hundreds of sharp, writhing, gnawing points. He scratched and scraped at them, as well.


Y'know, we never really could conquer the world. The best we could do is build our own world and wall it off from the rest--from the furry animals, the slithering beasts, the fanged predators, and the swarming insects, spiders, fleas, scorpions, and ticks. From the leeches. From all of the other parasites.

But every now and then, you have to wonder if the outside world has anything to say about the inside world we keep to ourselves and police with window screens, brooms and mops, and pest control companies.

We live in decency and air conditioning while all else lives in food chains and the ravages of nature--the changing seasons and forest fires and floods and the next predator who--itself--is alert to its own next predator. You see, we can relax, which is a human exclusive, while everything else is eating yet everything else as a way of life. And here we are, ourselves, eating leisurely, with pleasure, over a spit or a campfire.

So, you really have to wonder...when you're all tucked into your sleeping bags tonight, snug as a bug in a rug, could there be a bug snug with you in your rug? Or a million of 'em? Perhaps, Lucilia sericata, or the green bottle fly, which can lay its eggs--over 200 at a time--to hatch in just hours--before you even wake up. 200 times however many of them have picked you to feed their little maggot children. After all, here we are, venturing out into that outside world...for fun...for adventure...for the quaintness and romance of a campfire, and sleeping in a tent. We're out in their world, you see, so we're not alone out here at all, and I ask you...just who are the intruders? And where will we fit into their food chain? Pleasant dreams...


"Wait, don't move..."



About the author

Gerard DiLeo

Writing full time now in Phase II of his life. Tangential thinking and hippocampal reality from left to right on the page.


email: [email protected]

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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  • Babs Iverson3 months ago


  • Flystrike is actually a thing. FYI

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