Darren emerged from his RV. Wisdom edged into his face, his story begging to be heard. He strode over to the group of youngsters encircling the firepit, glasses of merlot clutched in their hands.
“Tonight seems like the perfect night for a campfire story.”
“Tell us one then.” A spirited blonde teased.
“This is the camp host, Darren.” Lyle pointed out to the group. “Come on then, tell us a scary story.” He laughed as he motioned for him to sit.
“I have to warn you…” Darren positioned himself on a log. “What I am about to tell you is not some fairytale. It is all real. Happened to me when I was around your age.” He looked around sternly as a few in the group snickered.
“It was back in 1983, a bizarre summer day that I’ll never be able to forget…”
“Where are you taking all that food Darren?” My perpetually hungry roommate questioned me as I loaded a picnic basket.”
“I have a date.”
“A date?” My other roommate looked up from his newspaper with an eyebrow raised.
“Yes, I met a really cool broad down at Erol’s Video Club last night. We reached for the last copy of Poltergeist at the same time. Ended up having an awesome conservation about horror movies.” My roommate shook his head, disapproving of my horror obsession.
“Sounds great.” He replied sarcastically, returning his gaze to the newspaper.
I added a bottle of merlot and some glasses to finish off the basket before loading it into my car. Upon pulling up at Mauve’s house I saw that she was already waiting outside. Propped against a brick fencing, she wore a pink satin top with a grey corduroy miniskirt, her strawberry blonde hair blowing subtly in the wind.
I stepped out of my car, running my hand through my mullet.
“Nice car.” She beamed examining my 1970 Dodge Challenger in plum crazy purple.
“Thanks.” I opened the passenger door grinning as she shimmied in.
We cruised to Forsythia Park, asking each other the typical first date questions. The windows down and the essence of summer immortalizing every moment.
“This park is gorgeous”. She shielded her eyes from the glaring sun, looking into the distance. Weeping willows swayed lightly in the breeze, Lake Forsythia shimmering in the distance.
“Yeah, I used to come here as a kid.” I grabbed the basket from the trunk and we strolled to a grassy knoll near a deep-rooted tree.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, she was absolutely stunning, and had a roguish demeanor unlike any woman I’d met before.
“So, Darren what kind of trouble do you have hiding in that basket?”
“Well, I got pastrami swiss sandwiches, onion dip, crudités, and grapes.
“Oh, we got a Chef here,” she jested.
“As well as this.” I pulled out the bottle of merlot.
“An Oregon merlot, sounds perfect. May I?” She gestured to the glasses. I watched as she delicately filled them with the deep purple wine, her pink lips pursed in perfection. We sat savoring the notes of mocha and vanilla, hints of plum lingering behind. Munching on food, we asked silly questions and discussed our mutual adoration of the horror genre. Before we knew it the sun began to set, casting shadows in areas of the park. Mauve moved closer to me as the chill of the night stole the warmth from the day. Just as I was about to put my arm around her, I gasped.
“I just… I thought…”
“Nothing.” I shook my head. “I thought I saw something run by, but it was probably just a big dog.” She examined me curiously.
“Well maybe it’s time to pack up then.”
“Ahhhhhh! Help!” Screams came from the other side of the park. I jumped up and helped Mauve to her feet.
“What the hell?”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“We can’t just leave!” She pulled out a buck knife and began running. I followed, surprised by her gallantry, fumbling to retrieve a small flashlight from my pocket. We ran past a slew of forsythia plants, the bright yellow seemingly fluorescent in the flashlights beam. Beyond them lay a creature so awfully terrorizing, it was a torment to even gaze upon. A petrifying grey, rangy, with an arched back, long claws coming off its fingers and toes, with extra-terrestrial like spikes adorning its spine. It was ferociously draining the blood of a man who was long past saving. It must have sensed our presence as it craned around and looked straight at us with gleaming red eyes that radiated evil.
A car horn sounded in the distance causing the creature to run off with the speed and agility of a cheetah. Mauve started to race after it.
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
“Did you see that thing?”
“Yeah! I did, and that is why I am certain we need to get out here. Now.”
“Come on Darren. A real life monster. I think it was a chupacabra.
“A chupacabra. Some know it as a goat sucker that feeds off the blood of animals. While others believe…” Her face twisted in excitement before she continued. “That they are alien pets that have gotten loose during their visits and that they feed off human blood.”
"If we can capture it...”
“Capture it? Are you insane? It just killed a man.”
“All the more reason to stop it. If we go to the police, they’ll just think we’re crazy. I think we’ve seen enough horror movies to prove that”. She tossed her hair and gave a small smile.
I was taken aback by her frivolous reaction to what we had just seen, but also allured by it. A sense of adventure was difficult to dislike. “Fine, wait here”. I ran to my car and retrieved a headlamp and a crossbow. I handed her the flashlight and fastened the headlamp to my head.
“He went this way.” She pointed to a locked iron gate which led to the old part of downtown that was no longer accessible to the public.
“It’s locked.” I sighed as I began to walk away. She laughed as she began scaling the gate, jumping off and firmly planting her feet on the other side.
“Come on! Hurry!”
I couldn’t believe what I was doing. It was as if I’d jumped into a movie, everything was amplified. We crept through the ancient downtown. Passing a derelict fountain, crumbling statues, and the skeletons of shops past. The ground crunched beneath our feet as we navigated through mulch that hadn’t been cleared in ages.
“I think I saw something in there.” Mauve pointed to a dilapidated house. We tiptoed inside, both of us wielding our weapons whilst scanning the dusty interior.
“It’s going out the back!” She began in its direction.
A keycard shined on the table, standing out from everything around it. I placed it in my pocket and ran outside. Not seeing Mauve I began to panic. I moved my head feverishly, yielding the headlamps light with my movements. I balanced myself after nearly slipping on a wet patch. The cobblestones were drenched with blood. Following the trail of crimson liquid, I came upon an opening between two derelict structures. Two bodies lye lifeless on the grass. A woman in professional attire wearing a similar keycard to the one I’d found, and a younger man in a security uniform.
“Mauve,” I whispered. Hearing steps behind me, I whipped around. The chupacabra was just feet from me. Perched on its hind legs, the menacing eyes set upon me whilst saliva dripped from its razor-sharp fangs. It dashed at me, not giving me time to aim my bow. Mauve jumped out of an abandoned shop and plunged her knife into it. A horrible shriek emanated from the creature as it shook frantically before dashing towards the woods.
“Are you okay?” Mauve brushed a mess of hair out of my face. Her full lips and shimmering eyes so close to mine it was almost possible to forget everything else.
“Yeah.” I grasped her hand.
“I know you probably want to get out of here, but I got him in the eye. He’s badly injured, we-”
“I found this.” I handed her the keycard. “There were two more dead bodies. One of them had the same keycard on them.” She shook her head, biting down on her lip.
“I think we might have stumbled onto something much bigger here.” She slipped the keycard around her neck.
“I think you’re right.”
“I saw a cleared path back there. We have to see where it leads.”
The night continued to darken as we traversed deeper into the unknown. Mauve seemed to have no fear in her, only curiosity and vigor.
“Look over there.” A shrouded bridge peeked from the shadows; the dark water of the lake below now cloaked in a veil of misty fog.
“We don’t know how sturdy-” She was already crossing. I cautiously followed, feeling as if I was going to fall through a crumbling mass of stone. On the other side a massive granite building stood in the distance, several lights shining within. There were various large signs heeding various warnings. ‘No Trespassing’, ‘Restricted Area’, ‘Danger Keep Out.’
“Mauve.” I clasped her arm turning her to face me. “We can’t. This looks like some kind of government facility. If we get caught, we’ll end up missing or with some kind of lobotomy.”
“Darren.” She grabbed my hands and bore her gaze into mine. “If we don’t, we’ll spend the rest of our lives wondering.” She got on her tiptoes and leaned forward, planting a sugary kiss on my lips. I couldn’t help but smile before I followed her towards danger. Nearing the building we heard voices, causing us to duck behind a row of gnarly bushes. We watched as two men in full biohazard gear carried out a large mass covered in a sheet, eventually tossing it into a pit. Watching them disappear into the building, we carefully emerged and crept to the aforementioned spot.
“Oh my gosh!” Mauve turned to me with shocked eyes. I gazed down at the hole. Twenty to thirty of those hideous creatures were piled hastily within.
“Do you think they are here trying to hunt down these creatures? Some kind of emergency team, but didn’t want to panic the public?”
“Are you kidding me? Darren, they are clearly doing some shadowy stuff here. They must have captured some and were breeding them, or… they created them.”
“Watch out!” I turned just in time to see the savage beast pounce on me. It swiped at my chest, leaving a set of bleeding gashes. Mauve screamed, trying to stab the creature, but it didn’t seem to even register the blade impaling its flesh. It raised its claws aiming at my throat, when a gunshot pierced the air. The creature stilled and then slowly fell sideways, twitching in the dirt.
“Darren are you okay?” Mauve knelt beside me examining the claw marks that had decimated my shirt.
“Stay where you are!” A group of men in tactical gear ran towards us. “Hands behind your back!”
We spent the rest of the night being vigorously interrogated. They tried to influence us that we had just seen a rabid dog and dared us to say otherwise. We did end up saying otherwise of course, but no one believed us. By the next day the facility was just an abandoned building, with no evidence to be found. The guy in the park had been attacked by a mountain lion, the other two bodies never existed. We were just crazy college kids looking for attention. But I know what I saw, and I know that there are more of those chupacabras out there…
Darren arose from the log, brushing off his pants. "Well, I better call it a night."
“That wasn’t a true story!”
“Oh yeah?” Darren unbuttoned his plaid shirt revealing a chilling scar that shone in the campfire’s flickering blaze. The eyes of everyone in the group widened, some looking over their shoulders into the woods.
“You all have a goodnight.” Darren winked before retreating to his trailer.