THE DEAD GUY
By Melissa L. Webb
My uncle sat across from me, his face pale in the flickering firelight. “So, you want another story?” he asked, looking around at all of us surrounding the campfire.
My friends nodded eagerly as I grinned. My uncle was a hotshot journalist who traveled all over the world. He would always return with wild tales of the supernatural and my friends loved him for it.
“Okay, I’ll tell one more story,” he said, glancing up at the cabins we had rented for the week and then over at me. “I’m sure your parents don’t really care how late I keep you guys up.”
I nodded in agreement. My family did this summer ritual every year. My uncle would come home, I would grab as many friends as I could, and we would join my family on a weeklong camping trip. We would hike, fish, and relax along the river during the day and at night my uncle would entertain us with the stories he collected from all over the world. This trip was no exception.
“Okay, the other stories I have told you tonight have been ones I heard from the people I’ve met, but this one I know is true,” he told us. “This one happened to me.”
There were slight gasp around the campfire as my friends digested that. My grin grew even larger. I wonder what my uncle had up his sleeve. He always loved to end his story sessions with a bang.
He looked around the circle once more, his eyes searching our faces. “I have a question for you first. Do you believe in curses?”
I watched as my friends shifted on their logs under my uncle’s scrutiny. “It depends,” my best friend Matt spoke, “On what the circumstances are.”
My uncle nodded. “I guess that’s true. I suppose all of you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you, but I do. I know curses exist,” he said softly as he stared into the flames. “I know, because I have been cursed.”
There were light chuckles as my friends tried to lessen the dread that had settled around us at my uncle’s words.
He smiled, his lips completely devoid of humor. “Go ahead and laugh. It’s not an easy thing to believe. I know it.”
“Come on, guy,” I told my friends. “Let’s hear him out.” I turned to my uncle. This was the first I’d heard of a curse. I wanted to know. “What happened? Where did this curse come from?”
He sighed. “It happened six months ago. I was in Africa at the time. I had some downtime and decided to a little sightseeing. I went with a group of people to Victoria Falls. They snuck us out to Livingstone Island, where we spent the night partying.”
“Awesome,” several of my friends spoke in admiration.
“It started out that way, but several people decided to swim out to the Devil’s Pool.”
“Devil’s Pool?” I asked. Now I knew he was making stuff up.
“Yeah. It’s a safe pool where you can swim right next to the falls. Everything would have been fine, but they had been drinking too much. One of the guys started drowning. The others shouted for my help. They knew I had been on the swim team and could handle myself in the water.” He looked away from us, a darkness creeping into his eyes. “I panicked. I had been drinking just as much as the guy had, maybe more. I didn’t want to end up in trouble, too. So, I stayed there on the bank and watched the whole thing. I watched that man die.” He looked back at us, his eyes bright with unshed tears. “I might have been able to save him, but I decided my life was more important than his.”
“You were cursed because of that?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yes. Essentially, I killed that man. Something like that always comes with a consequence.”
“It’s all in your mind, man,” Matt told him. “There’s no curse. It’s only your guilt eating away at you.”
My uncle shook his head. “I wish that’s all it was. Two nights later, I was in a hotel in Zambia, trying to come to terms with what happened. It was late at night and I couldn’t sleep.
I kept seeing that man drowning every time I closed my eyes. I was catching up on work, trying to occupy my mind with other things, when I heard a shuffling outside the door of my hotel room. I ignored it at first and it stopped.” He took a deep breath. “It started again. This time it was coming from my bathroom. I got up to investigate, not knowing what the sound could be. Before I could even cross the room, the bathroom door slammed open and that man stumbled out.”
“The dead guy?” I asked him in shock.
“Yes, it was him. His body was bloated and water ran off him as he moved, soaking the carpet underneath him. He reached his hand out as he closed in on me, his mouth opened as words formed. ‘Your life is mine,’ he said to me. I grabbed my things and hurried out of that room before he could take it and I’ve been running every since.”
I stared at him, dumbfounded by the story I had just heard. It explained a lot, like why we hadn’t heard from him in the last six months or why he had been acting so jumpy since we got here. But it couldn’t be real, could it? It was just one of his great campfire tales.
“Do you really think he wants to kill you?” Matt asked him.
“Yes,” my uncle replied. “It’s only fair, isn’t it? I could have saved him, but all I was thinking about was myself. I let him die. That creates something. Something that won’t rest until it’s revenged.”
“Come on, that story’s not real,” one of the other guys spoke up. “Ghosts don’t really exist.”
My uncle shrugged. “I told you not all of you would believe this. But it is true.” He turned and looked at the dark woods surrounding us. “I know he’s out there right now, watching and waiting. He’s looking for the perfect opportunity to get the vengeance he so desperately craves. And he will get it. I’m sure of it. My days are numbered.” He rose slowly from the log he was sitting on. “That dead man will kill me. He might go after anyone nearby when he does, just to satisfy his anger,” he spoke softly before looking back at us. “Good night all. Hopefully I’ll see you in the morning.” He turned around and headed for the cabins, slipping in one for the night.
I sat there, staring at the guys around me. What had just happened? Had my uncle told us his deepest and darkest secret or had he just woven one heck of a ghost story? I wasn’t really sure and I could tell my friends weren’t either. A twig snapped in the darkness around us, causing us all to jump. It was going to be a long night.
© 2011 Melissa L. Webb
- Coastal Offerings- Friday Flash (melissalwebb.wordpress.com)
- The Girl Who Isn’t Me- Friday Flash (melissalwebb.wordpress.com)
- Lost And Found- Friday Flash (melissalwebb.wordpress.com)
- The Message- Friday Flash (melissalwebb.wordpress.com)
- What The Fates Decide- Friday Flash (melissalwebb.wordpress.com)
- A Token Of His Affection- Friday Flash (melissalwebb.wordpress.com)