Road Trip. Short Story.

“This better be worth it.”
“It will be, trust me.”
“Yeah, yeah, you two can think what you like, but we all know, deep down, that nothing is going to happen.”
“Why did you even come with us if you’re going to be like that?”
“Like what? The voice of reason?”
“No, a killjoy.”
Stacy sighed, “Call it what you like. You know why I came, it’s a nice day and I had nothing better to do. Besides, I figured this place might be good for a few pictures.”
“You’ll definitely see something worth photographing.”
“I’m sure.”
Stacy looked out the window, letting the trees blur together as they sped past, they had been driving for at least an hour now and she was starting to get a little bored. The music was fun and all, but the conversation was less than stellar. All they wanted to talk about was this stupid ritual. She wasn’t surprised that Eric was into it, but it seemed so unlike Todd. He was always the one advocating caution and saying maybe it’s time to reign it in a little, while everyone else pounded down their next tequila shot or tried to find a good after party. She hoped it would be worth it, if not for the pictures, than for the funny story she was going to get out of this, she already had enough here to tease the two of them for years to come. Why not see it to the end?

She wasn’t supposed to know about this, she knew that much after she walked in on them having a fervent discussion. They had both shut up immediately, but she had pried it out of them. Well, mostly Eric. Todd was good at keeping secrets, but all you had to do was wind up Eric and he’d blurt out anything of importance. She had made a few gay jokes, finally starting to leave with a parting, “Fine, I get it, new lovers wanting to explore each other.” When Eric had angrily told her all about it and as soon as it was explained, she was in. Not because she believed it of course, but because it was just a little too ridiculous to pass up.

“You never told me what started this all off, like I get that you like to spend a lot of time on weird sites, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything close to convincing out there.”
Eric sighed, Todd just shrugged, “She’s already here and she knows what we’re doing, why not just tell her?”
“Because I know exactly what she’s going to say.”
“Do you? I don’t even know what I’m going to say, maybe you’re onto something if you’re becoming psychic.”
“See, that’s what I mean. You’re just gonna laugh and joke about it but it’s serious.”
“I promise I won’t laugh.”
Eric thought for a moment, “Ok, but if you do laugh, or make fun of me I’m ditching you at the side of the road. Deal?”
Stacy shrugged, “Sure.”
“Also, you might want to lay off the jokes for a while, I’m you’re ride home.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, you have the power blah blah, get to the good bit.”
Todd grinned, Stacy knew they wouldn’t abandon her out here in the middle of nowhere, if they did everyone would be pissed at them and Eric wouldn’t get invited anywhere, he was already on thin ice after the whole “I can totally hold my booze” incident. At worst they’d drive away then come back ten minutes later.

“Ok, so I was in the library to get some books, I was going through the stacks and ended up towards the back in this tiny little alcove, because I got all turned around. It was a bit creepy, but mostly because they needed to change a few of the lights. I turned around and my bag hit against a shelf and I heard this bang, I turned back to pick up what ever book had fallen but there wasn’t anything there. It took me a second, but then I noticed something sticking out at the bottom, so I bent down and pulled out this old book, like really old, eighteen hundreds type stuff. It looked kinda cool and I figured I might be able to use it in the essay so I brought it with me. When I was going through it later I realised it wasn’t part of the library, there were no codes or anything on it. It talked about all this weird stuff, and I just thought it was a really cool book with some creepy drawings, so when I was leaving I just took it with me, stacked between the other books I’d checked out. I forgot about it for a while, then I found it again when I was cleaning up. I sat down properly and started reading it and things just started to make sense. It all clicked in. I knew it was real.”
“Uh huh. And how did you know this?”
“Well, it isn’t written like someone crazy wrote it, theses detailed drawings of everything, steps are clearly written out, so I tried one of them. It was a joke at first, just to see what would happen. I set up everything like the book said, circle, a few ingredients and a candle, then I read out the incantation or whatever and the candle lit itself.”
Todd was nodding along.
“I freaked out, not gonna lie. I didn’t really think it would work, I was just bored and a little stoned. I tried to do it again, but it didn’t work, you can only do one spell a day usually, you need time for the energy to build.”
“So you just blew your energy wad all at once?”
Eric reddened slightly, “No, you have to do it once to get it kick-started. Like your body forgets how to use it and it just wastes away. It’s like a muscle, the more you do the more you can do.”
“Ok, so why didn’t you just light a candle for me?”
“Well, I lit one to show Todd.”
Todd nodded again, “Yeah, it freaked me out too, but I swear to god it happened.”
“And I couldn’t do it for you, the spell I’m trying today takes a lot of energy, you need to store it up for a few days before hand.”
“And this isn’t all just some complicated plot to get me out in the middle of nowhere, is it?”
“Ha. Ha.”

“Just seems a little convenient that you can’t do it and you didn’t video record it or anything.”
“Well, um, that was my fault. When he showed me I insisted on recording it, but when it happened I kinda dropped my phone, so the video doesn’t actually show anything.”
Stacy shook her head, “ok, well, I’ll just do some exploring while you two do whatever, but guys, don’t be too pissed when it doesn’t work ok? I vote we stop off somewhere for pizza on the way back.”
“Ok, but it will work. You’ll see.”

They drove for another half an hour before they took a turn down an old dirt road, it was rough going, grass was growing in long stretches along it and the road seemed to be more potholes than actual road. Finally they pulled up in front of an old church. No one moved to get out of the car.
“Are you sure it’s safe out here?”
“Totally, it’s abandoned. The last caretaker died like twenty years ago or something. It needs to be a church, somewhere that was once sacred but is now abandoned.”
“That sounds really dark. You know that right? This is the part in every horror movie where you go inside and either summon some uncontrollable evil, or you walk inside and get attacked by some uncontrollable evil.”
“No, it isn’t evil. The land was purified, nothing evil can go inside, but wilder magic has flourished since its abandonment.”
“Ok, whatever, lets get this over with, I’m starting to get hungry.”
Stacy stepped out of the car, the air was warm and quite pleasant, the smell of wildflowers filled the air. The church was made of stone, the windows were still intact, thought they looked incredibly dirty. A few random stones dotted the ground near the walls, fallen from the church itself. The doors looked like that had started to collapse on the weight of themselves. To the left of the church was an overgrown cemetery, the headstones just visible over the tops of the long grass growing among them. Stacy stretched and took a deep breath of the clear air. Behind her she could hear the others getting out of the car.

While they approached the old church, Stacy set off, camera gripped tightly as she tried to decide what she wanted to capture. She paused, then turned to look at the other two, there was a loud creak, then a boom as the door fell inwards, sending up a plume of dust, the two boys started coughing and spluttering. After a second they ducked inside. Stacy raised her camera and took a picture, she quite liked how the church looked with the missing doors. Almost like a huge, yawning mouth. She took a few more photos, changing the angles slightly each time, later she would go through them all and pick out the best ones. The graveyard caught her eye next, even if it wasn’t good for photos the tombstones would be interesting enough by themselves. She made her was through them, pausing at some to try and decipher the words on them. After a short while she looked back towards the church, she had heard nothing since they had broken in, she felt a faint chill race down her back. What if this was some kind of prank? She’d go in and then they’d jump out and scream, or one of them would be wearing a demon costume. She looked around again then called out, “How’s it going in there guys?”
One of them cursed, probably Eric as he called back “We need to concentrate!”
She muttered “Sorry” then turned back to the graves just in time to see a bumblebee flying by, its gentle hum filling the air. It really was a lovely place, once you got used to the old church. She looked back at it, it didn’t seem that creepy anymore.

From the corner of her eye Stacy saw someone watching her, gasping she spun around, then laughed at herself. She had thought she had seen a young girl in a white dress, but the white dress was just some white flowers on long stems and the brown hair were a stalks of grass behind them, she shook her head. Eric’s story had gotten to her after all, even if it sounded like the beginning of some B-movie, or a crappy TV show.

Stacy left the graveyard and went into the church, inside was much cooler than she expected and it took her eyes a minute to adjust from the brightness outside. Old, rotting pews were placed around the room, in the centre Eric and Todd had cleared a circle, she looked passed them to the open alter, wondering why they didn’t set up shop there. The circle looked complicated, symbols were drawn around it and candles were placed at twelve different points. They were muttering to one another, not chanting, probably trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. The air had a faint smell of rot which was mostly covered by the scent of the candles, which was vanilla and a light smell of cinnamon. Really, they couldn’t get unscented candles? She suppressed a chuckle and moved closer, trying to be quiet so as not to distract them. She raised the camera and took another photo, the flash illuminating the room. Eric glared at her, she shrugged “oops. Sorry.” She turned the flash off and took a few more, hoping it was bright enough to see anything. She turned in a circle, the entire place was brighter than she expected, the doors allowing light to flood in. She moved around the circle and made her way to the stage, which seemed to be made of wood, she placed one foot on a step and pressed down lightly, when it groaned she stepped back. In the centre of the stage was a baptismal font, beside that was a lectern. The baptismal font looked heavy, like it was made out of marble, she was surprised it hadn’t crashed through the floor yet. She stood on her toes and looked in, it hadn’t been emptied after the last time it was used, the water looked dark and almost rusty. As she moved by she wondered if that was bad luck for whoever was baptised last. She approached the left wall, it looked like someone had scratched something into the grime. She peered closer, squinting, then shook her head. It read, just barely legible, “Doug sux cox” the wall looked quite grimy, she reached out and touched a small bit, pulling her hand away immediately, it was squishy and damp. She rubbed her hands against her jeans quickly, trying to get rid of the feeling. Behind her two voices rose in unison, chanting what sounded like Latin. Stacy turned to watch, could either of them even speak Latin? How did they know they were saying it right? They spoke faster and louder, reaching a crescendo, a gust of wind blew into the church, Stacy shrieked as something crashed behind her, she spun around to see that the baptismal font had, finally, gone through the floor. She turned back, cheeks red. Eric was flicking through the book, Todd was looking around. Trying to slow her beating heart, Stacy walked closer, “So is it a bust?”
“No, not yet. We must have done something wrong.”
Her stomach grumbled, “I’m really hungry.”
“Me too.”
“C’mon Todd, can we just try once more?”
Todd sighed, “I think we should leave it. Look, what ever happened in your room, it isn’t going to happen again. I dunno, maybe it was just an accident, maybe it was a trick. I don’t care. I’m tired and hungry. We should go.” Todd stood and stepped outside the circle, “No wait, please!”
“C’mon man, it isn’t going to work.”
Eric was still flipping through the pages frantically as Todd and Stacy stepped outside.
“How many times did you try?”
“That was the forth attempt.”
“Well, at least something happened.”
“Yeah. I guess. I dunno. I swear to you that candle lit itself.”
Stacy shrugged, starting to feel bad for them both, “Maybe it was just one of those things. Like something acted like a magnifying glass and focused the light from outside.”
“Yeah. Maybe.”

He shook his head. “Man I was so nervous coming up here, my hands were shaking when we started. I was so sure it was going to work.”

From inside the church came a yell of rage. “We did everything right!” followed by a thud.
“Should we go in?”
“Naw, let him get it out, otherwise he’ll just be grumpy on the ride back.”

“What was supposed to happen?”
“We were supposed to summon something, like a servant that would do small tasks for you, like getting things and stuff.”
“Doesn’t sound too shabby.”
“Yeah. Though it only lasts for twenty four hours, unless you’re willing to sacrifice an animal to it, then it becomes the animal. Like a witches familiar, but there was no way I was going to go kill something.”
“Yeah, good call on that one.”

Eric stomped passed them, book clutched in one had, it looked even more battered than Stacy remembered.
“You ok?”
“Yeah. Lets just go”
“We still getting Pizza?”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Awesome. Well, I’m buying anyway. Least I can do for you guys dragging me out here. I think I got some cool shots of the place. It’s worth at least a few slices.”
Eric smiled, “If you’re sure.”
“Yeah, of course.”
Stacy smiled at him, she had decided already that she wasn’t going to mention this to anyone. Not after seeing how bummed out Eric was. Well, she wasn’t going to say anything for a while at least. Maybe in a few months when it wouldn’t be so raw. They’d all laugh about it then. The trio started walking to the car, Eric got in first, followed by Todd, as Stacy sat in she paused, “Did you hear that?”
“What?”
“It sounded like a baby crying or something.”
“Don’t joke.”
“I’m not, I swear to God. Listen, there it is again.”
A wind picked up and just faintly they could all hear it.
“Where is it coming from?”
“It sounds like the church.”
Eric got out of the car and started walking back towards it.
“Uh, where are you going?”
“To check it out.”
“It’s probably an animal or something, like a fox. Forget I said anything, c’mon lets go.”
“What if it is a baby?”
“A baby? All the way out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Well, stranger things have happened.”
“Yeah well, I’m not going anywhere near that place. It’s probably just a recording or a doll.”

“No harm to check it out.”
Eric stopped outside the door, Todd was standing beside Stacy, both of them looking at him.
“It’s definitely coming from inside. If it was asleep all the noise must have woken it up.”
“Listen to yourself dude, how the fuck would a baby get all the way out here? We barely touched those doors and they collapsed. There was no other way in, just leave it.”

Eric looked into the church, then back at them, Stacy looked at Todd, “This isn’t a prank is it? You guys didn’t put a doll in there, did you?”
“No. We didn’t.” Todd was pale and shaking slightly.

“I’m going in. If I don’t come back in five minutes, wait a little longer.”
Before either could say anything Eric ducked into the church.
“He’s messing with us, right?”
“Yeah, that has to be it.”

“Should we go in?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but no.”
“Good, because there’s no way I’m going in there.”
A moment later Eric walked out quickly, glancing behind himself every few steps.
“We’re leaving, c’mon get in the car.”
“What? What was in there?”
“Nothing man, nothing, just get in the car.”
Eric got into the car and started the engine, Stacy and Todd looked at each other, then got in. As soon as the door was closed the car started moving, he drove in a wide circle, then went down the road, glancing into the mirror every few minutes. He ignored the questions that Todd and Stacy were asking. He seemed to relax slightly when the reached the actual road.

“So? What the hell was it?”
“Nothing. Just someone’s idea of a joke is all. It was freaky.”
“Well, how?”
“I went in and I could hear it, it was definitely a baby, but it was louder, like way louder than it should have been and it was coming from the front of the room. I walked over and it sounded like it was coming from the hole, where that heavy thing was.”
“And?”
“And nothing ok? Nothing could have been down there, it must have been a kids doll and the bang screwed with the batteries or something.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I am, now lets just drop it ok?”
“Ok, fine.”
“So where are we going for pizza?”

When they got to the pizza place, Todd and Stacy were chatting away, they got out of the car, “I’ll be in in a second, ok?”
Stacy and Todd glanced at each other, Eric had been unusually quiet on the trip back, “Yeah, ok. Do you want us to order you a drink or anything?”
“Coke would be great.”
“Ok. We’ll be inside.” They started walking towards the doors.

Eric reached down into the pocket on the side of the door and pulled out the book, he looked at a trash can, then got out of the car, better to just throw the thing away and forget about all of it. After a seconds hesitation he put it back in the pocket. No. It would be a good idea to keep it. Just in case. He looked around quickly, it was still a nice day out, but the sun was starting to set, casting everything in long shadows. He didn’t know what the hell that thing in the church was, but it was only supposed to last twenty four hours, right? And even if it was going to last longer, exposure would surely kill it. He closed the door gently and started to walk into the pizza place. They were going to be fine. He took a deep breath, then tried to push it to the back of his mind. He’d go back in a day or two, maybe even convince Todd to come with for the company, maybe claim he lost some keys or something, he’d go in and make sure that it was gone. He released the breath and opened the door to the restaurant, telling himself it was fine, that everything was going to be ok, but no matter how many times he repeated it to himself, he never truly believed it.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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