The 'Last Supper'
A Campfire Ghost Story.
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. The candle, much like the man who lit it, was a lingering piece of history, which had been all but swallowed by the flow of time. Few still living remembered how to use manual implements anymore; and certainly not one as antique as a candle.
But this man was an exception.
This man, a silent sentinel, was the lone keeper of hope for the future—or so he had seemed to the woman who had trusted him with what dimming light she had left in her heart.
Maria watches him move, admires the steady expression on his face, his knowledgeable click of the lighter, and when he wraps her in an embrace, sitting behind her on the floor, she allows her mind to wander into solemn reverie as the flame dances before them.
The day she and her lover had found the abandoned cabin eight years ago, with its well-stocked bomb shelter, Maria thought she'd descended into the afterlife. It was too good to be true, a paradise too long sought after. She had accepted from the start that the haven wouldn't last. In imitation of the earth itself on a smaller scale, its resources were finite. There was no sustainability here—even if they had the tools required to sustain themselves and the safety to use them. But for now, like the wick in the last, slow-burning candle, her world was illuminated and full of warmth.
Something is approaching.
One likely assumes that the end of humankind will come slowly, a gradual dying out of the species. Geologists, like Maria, knew better. They examined the span of time on the scale of eons; humans have existed for the equivalent of a fast blink.
When the disappearances first began, neighbours blamed neighbours. When they didn't stop as the weeks ticked by, police soon ran out of resources, so did the military: it's hard to fight an enemy you can't see, let alone harm with modern technology. Hopelessness set in; people prayed to their gods, grew desperate and prayed to the older ones.
It didn't matter.
Nothing could have stopped the relentless hunting.
The time had finally come when humans were no longer at the top of the food chain.
The footsteps grow louder. It is more than one pair of feet.
Maria toys with the vial of cyanide in her hand. It had taken multiple harvests of apple seeds to make the fast-acting poison. An ancient method of death; history repeating itself—the sardonic mirth is not lost on her.
She wishes they could make love one last time by candlelight, but the risk of being snatched is too high. After all this time, there is no way the couple will let that happen. No way will they scream out in agony from the pain of being shredded apart and eaten while still alive—like how an orca tosses a bloodied seal.
Those are not the normal sounds of night animals.
It was ironic that just as humans had overhunted, overeaten, and overfished, now the same was happening to their population. Only, there were no rules about throwing pregnant females back into the sea, limiting the killing to specific seasons, or capitalist-driven maximum consumption. There were certainly no vegans or other movements of social reform.
There was nothing but the snatching, the chewing, the screams and the gorging on flesh.
Low growls, twig snapping, and lip smacking echo in the dark as soft as drops of rain in a well.
The only hope was hiding in areas away from cities, like this cabin, the same way animals retreat and retreat and retreat as their habitat is consumed. However, just as happens with animals, the pair had always known that one day there would be no safe habitat left from the Scavengers.
They had survived longer than most, but Maria understood this was the end of the road. Not even her silent sentinel could save them now: beyond the cabin lay the ocean, and there were no boats to cross it.
In a way, they had arrived at the edge of the world.
All they could do now was hasten their deaths.
Death would be on their terms.
The sun is almost set. Maria's spine stiffens. He tightens his embrace and pleads with her to have courage. Soon now.
The creatures never snatched in the sunlight, but the daytime hours were shrinking. Autumn had once been Maria's favourite season. She couldn't decide whether it was life coming full circle that she would die during the turning of the leaves or a cruel twist of fate mocking her for daring to hope she would live long enough to give birth.
They had both heard the rustling in the woods that day, listened to the faint sounds of steps and the salivating breathing, smelled the rotten stench of their teeth wafting in the cool, autumn air; master chameleons, there was no hope of glimpsing them.
And what would it matter?
Perhaps it's better if you can't see your predator when you have nothing to fight back with nor hope of evading capture. And so they sat locked in each other's arms, staring at the candle in the window as it flickered while the wick approached its end and the wax spilt away onto the floor.
They are so near. Maria holds in her tears and opens the cyanide vials.
The darkness closes in around them.
The rustling and lip smacking grows louder.
The smell grows more potent.
Maria gazes into the eyes of her sentinel one last time.
Then they cross arms, the loving cup pose of marriage toasts, and pour the poison deep into their throats. It isn't a moment too late.
While his death comes swiftly, her poison fails! His last sight as he is helplessly convulsing, frothing and spasming, is the terror on Maria's face.
The cabin door crashes in.
They have arrived.
Maria wails in despair like a child.
And the candle,
About the Author:
Les primarily writes children's and YA fiction, though she'll happily delve into anything that gets the swirling words out of her brain. Les' geographical background may have played into this story. She hopes you enjoyed her campfire tale and suggests it is best served on a cold, autumn camping trip, when the fire is low and it is near time to return to your tent. Beware the sounds of the night!
Her first book, Owl in a Towel, may be purchased here. Her next book, Carrie and the Curious Caticorn Caper, is expected ~August 2022.
This story is entered into the Campfire Ghost Story Challenge on Vocal Media. The challenge requirement was the same first sentence, and to scare the pants off you. If you are now scrambling to get dressed, please tell me in the comments! ;P
First published June 25, 2022.
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme