The fire was warmer than Henry thought it ever could be. This close, it was something beyond heat; it was a dry pain, a wrapping skin melt. And he couldn’t move away from it, that option was even more dangerous. The shiny metal this close to his neck promised a much warmer and wetter pain should he make the attempt.
“You didn’t like my story, huh?” Finn asked, pressing the knife closer. With the light casting on his face, he was the second brightest thing in the forest of barren trees. A fox ran by and cracked twigs, and both boys–even if not consciously–noticed it.
“It wasn’t scary,” Henry replied, his eyes wide. “But I didn’t not like it.”
“What’s wrong with my ghost story? You want to see scary? I can show you scary!”The fire was baking Henry’s back, prickling his flesh, searing him down into his atoms. Sweat slicked and dripped down his spine. He struggled against Finn, but could not do much with the knife right there, right up to his throat.
“No… that’s okay,” Henry said. “Actually…I-I liked it, v-very scary.”
Finn narrowed his eyes and then pushed. Henry had little chance to react beyond a sudden and guttural yell before that heat moved unto him. Several parts of him went numb while several other parts chose to feel everything much more than any other sensation he’d ever experienced.
His hands came up over his face, and angry red skin stung, and his clothes pressed and dried and turned to yet more heat. Whatever lessons he’d been taught about how to deal with being on fire failed to mention what to do about being in a fire.
Finn took a step back, alarm on his face. He did not help, just backed up further and further. His knife dropped to the ground and stuck into the dirt, blade down and wooden handle shiny in the firelight.
Henry rolled and dragged his body toward an escape before his hair then caught fire. The smoke destroyed his eyes and lungs, and the fire finished the job. Lost and alone–from his perspective–Henry coughed and screamed and burned.
Finn leaned back on the log, satisfied with the look on his friend’s face. It was subtle, but Henry was unnerved. You could tell: he always fiddled with his hands when he got nervous.
“That’s fucked up, man.” Henry shivered and glanced off to the side. “When I suggested you tell a story, I thought it would be some dumb ghost thing.”
“Nah, I have to do better than that, dude,” Finn said, and smirked. “I can’t scare the scary kid with weak stuff.”
“I am not the scary kid,” Henry snapped back. He leaned away from the smoke and the fire. He flinched a bit when the flames drifted a tad closer to him. “I am just a fan of scary stories.”
Henry glanced back at Finn. “Though not ones where I die, preferably.”
“Well, did I scare you?”
Something, a fox no doubt, ran by and snapped a twig. Both barely noticed it, a twinge on their mental landscape.
“Yeah,” Henry said, “you really did. Well done.”
Finn stood up, bowed, and widened his smirk. “Glad I could be of some service after you bothered to take me all the way out here.”
Henry continued to look off to the side. “Yeah, well, it was no problem. Honestly, these camping trips…I missed them since I broke up with Sarah.”
“Well, glad I could help.” Finn’s voice softened. “Really, I am.”
The fire produced more smoke, and Finn scratched at the top of his head in the silence. After a few seconds, he reached for the bag of marshmallows and prepared a few on one of the metal sticks they’d brought for such an occasion. “So, what did you two do with each other out here, anyway?”
He paused for a second, sat back down, and chuckled. “I mean before the obvious.”
Henry chuckled too, but he remained transfixed by the darkness. “We actually didn’t do that, not out here. Not enough privacy for it.”
Finn raised his eyebrow and cocked his head. “Not enough privacy? What would you need? Being on the moon? Dude, I don’t mean to…Sarah was sexy though, how did you not bone?”
Henry let out a sigh but still did not answer. Finn eyed him. With the silence still holding, and the sugar nearing black, he plucked the marshmallow off and blew on it.
“We didn’t come alone,” Henry said, his voice quiet. “We always brought a third person–so not much tent time.”
Finn spoke around his sticky, sugary mouth. “Why did you bring a third person? What friend? One of her friends?”
“No, not one of hers.”
“George then? Kevin H.? Kevin Y.? I hope you didn’t try and get a threesome going with one of the girls back in town.”
Henry brushed away the words and still refused to look at Finn. His voice came out a tad gruff like he was holding back other words. “Sometimes it was a girl, sometimes it was a guy. We brought people with us.”
Henry then pointedly looked at the bag of marshmallows. He leaned forward and got one, but threw it right into the fire, letting the flames eat it alive.
“People no one would miss.”
Finn stopped chewing. With little time at all to think, he worked at his own uvula, desperately wedging his mouth open and prodding at the back of his mouth. White goop stuck to his teeth, and soon his fingers.
Henry stood up slowly.
Finn succeeded in his task, and a slurry of food and beer from earlier splashed out of his mouth, most of it being absorbed into the dirt. He gagged and tried to induce more vomiting, unsure of how hard it would be to vent poison.
It was while his head was down that Henry speared his own roasting stick through the back of Finn’s neck. Precise it was, and sharpened, the action instantly paralyzing, and left Finn gasping. Henry pushed down with the rest of his weight until he heard a distinct crack.
Finn laughed and pointed an accusatory finger. “Dude, you are totally the scary guy. That was fucked up.”
Henry waved away the words. “Well, it was better than that stupid ghost story. Why would a ghost have a spear for a foot?”
“I don’t know,” Finn said. “It’s just a dumb story. All horror stories are dumb.”
Henry narrowed his eyes, and Finn sighed. “Okay, no they’re not. But they are hard to tell right, okay? I can’t be spooky all the time.”
“You pushed me into a fire, that was pretty scary.”
“I did?” Finn asked, cocking his head. “I don’t remember saying anything about that.”
“Wait, really? You just told me it. You pushed me into the fire, and I burned to death. It was by far the scariest thing you’ve told.”
Finn stood up and opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out, only a faint breeze. “I didn’t,” he finally choked out. “I didn’t say anything like that, dude. Are you doing okay?”
Henry also paused, and glanced off to the side, as if he’d heard something. “Now that you mention it, I do feel kind of off. Do you ever get the feeling something is watching you?”
Finn froze but thawed quickly. “Okay, no, you are not pulling that shit.”
“What!?” Henry turned back to him, and he stood up as well. “I am not. I really mean it. Fuck, dude, I would not mess with you about this. I think something is out there.”
A fox came by, and both boys watched it scamper along, red tail moving behind it as it ran from one brush to another brush. Its eyes reflected the fire, making it glow like two fiery marbles. A little yipping noise sounded out before it fully disappeared out of sight.
Henry breathed a sigh of relief, his fingers moving away from his pocket. “Okay, sorry, I think I just heard it moving or something. The woods, man, maybe we should not be making up fucked up stories out here, not now.”
“You’re right…we should have them happen instead!” Finn yelled and swung his switchblade at Henry’s neck. It moved with a swish of air as it missed by an inch.
Henry pulled out his multi-tool, the knife already extended. His blade plunged into Finn’s gut at the same moment the switchblade punctured his shoulder.
Both jerked back, with the knives still sticking into them. They eyed each other, breathing hard, pain ignored by the need to survive. The outside world, already mostly still, seemed to lose all its remaining motion–the wind, the animals, the bugs, and the fish all freezing or evaporating from reality.
Long lines of red moved from each wound, and both, at once, pulled out their opponent’s weapons and flung hot blood on the ground. As soon as they did this, they both stumbled. Pain flared, the dam that was the puncturing weapon no longer held back the flooding gushes of blood.
They circled each other, daring each other to make the first move, before both of their eyes rolled up into their heads and they dropped, going into sudden and extreme shock. Finn slumped on the log; Henry fell flat on the ground, dust and dirt covering his skin.
A fox sat by the fire, enjoying the safety of the light. Its eye twinkled with intelligence, and it swished its tail back and forth. On the fur of its mouth, was a ring of sticky red. It gave out a languid yawn but still wandered off after that, back into the woods.
At the firepit, two skeletons sat staring at each other.