Four of them sat around the fire telling jokes when the rattle started. Tony had been in his tent since they left him their, and his breath was heaving, each exhale sounding more forced than the last, as if trying to clear something from his lungs.
"Yo, he don't sound very good," Mark pointed out.
"He's just fucking wasted, he'll be fine."
Lucas was sure of this. Despite the irregularity in the breathing pattern, he was not concerned. And after the way Tony had been acting, none of them were about to open his tent anyhow. When the raspy choking ended, they did not bother to check on him. In their inebriation, once the noise stopped it was easy to forget about Tony and his tent altogether.
As a joint was passed around, Lucas had an idea.
"Did you bring your NVGs Jesse?"
"I only brought one pair, I couldn't find batteries for the other."
This pissed Lucas off, since it ruined his thought. "Fuck man, why would you even bother bringing one pair, then? Fucking four of us... jesus."
Yet another traditional part of their camping trip was going out in the middle of the first night to scour the nearby campground for "unattended goods" left outside while everyone slept in their tents or leantos. There was a designated camping area not far from where Lucas and company set up their camp. Space for around twenty tent camps were marked around the area, as well as a row of leantos on the pond. In past runs they had scored prizes like ipods, acoustic instruments, food, and beer.
The previous year they had brought this kid Billy, who had a bizarre obsession with women's underwear. He dug a little too deep into a tent for some panties and got himself caught. Lucas, Scott and Tony had all been there but managed to get into the trees before being seen. Billy had his ass kicked by some girl's Dad and was detained until the rangers showed up and escorted him out of the park, directly into the hands of the authorities.
Lucas had really looked forward to Jesse being on this trip almost solely for the night-vision goggles, and his disappointment in the insufficient quantity of goggles was obviously etched into his face. Jesse, who was on this trip to make an impression, was quick to offer a solution.
"Two of us could go, you can have the goggles. It'll be sorta like the blindfold game, I trust you will not lead me into the pond, Luke."
Lucas was, in fact, intrigued by this plan. The opportunity to punish Jesse for only bringing one pair was tempting, but since it had been Jesse's idea, he would have to come up with something other than walking him into the water. Regardless, Lucas had reached the peak of his drunkeness, and was ready to infiltrate and seize.
"Let's do it. Scott, twist us up a J for our mission, we'll be back before sun-up."
When Jesse and Lucas were gone, Scott and Mark sat on either side of the fire. Mark repeatedly brought up this girl, Sandra, and his follies around asking her out. Scott was not a bit interested in talking about girls, but even more so not really interested in talking to Mark. He listened for a while, playing the part of a good friend.
"I'm pretty sure she knows I am only flirting," Mark blabbered. "But Tuesday I pinched her too hard and she might have cried."
Scott wasn't a hideous man, but his looks had never really gotten him any attention from the ladies. He focused most of his attention on drugs and alcohol and having fun, and sometimes situational awareness at the coffee shop which he worked a few hours a week. The one time he had set his sights on a girl, she came in to the shop with some older asshole, with whom he would never compare.
When you live in the woods, the ladies all date on a five to one age scale. They want a man who goes to work instead of school. They want a man who can swing an ax and down a forest in an hour. They want a log cabin built, where they can hide out and give birth to future bastard-children. Then they want you to go the fuck away, and send a quarter of your pay to them for each child, every week. If all goes as she plans, this ends up being far more than you actually earn.
Scott knew this all to be a fact, as he had seen it with his own father. He had five siblings, of which he really knew nothing. Since he was the youngest and most of them emancipated themselves at the earliest possibility, he had really only met them in passing. He remembered one going off to military school when he was very young. Up until he was about nine or ten years old, there was another one that beat the shit out of him regularly. Other than that, he had a sister somewhere, and he knew that his oldest brother was a grandfather.
His father drove a truck, and Scott saw him once every six months or so, when he was coming through town. His mother was battling lung cancer these days, which she would inevitably lose. Scott hated his mother so much that he thought it for the best, else he, like his brothers before him would have left a couple years ago. Instead he stayed home and, despite his overwhelming lack of motivation, kept the house in tip top shape. Lucas helped him build a deck in the back last summer.
Mark, on the other hand, came from a perfect family. Perfect for North-American Woods white-trash, rather. Both of his parents had jobs, which automatically rocketed them to the highest income bracket in the state. There were plenty more families than not where neither parent worked.
Also unlike Scott, Mark thought about almost nothing as much as girls. He obsessed over them in an emotional sickness. Until he was sixteen years old he had a crush on his adopted sister. She was well aware of this and made his life miserable for it. He could rarely walk around his own house without a hard-on. It was when he heard what a fucking slut she was at college that he finally averted his eyes. These days he doubted she could get him up with even a touch.
These days Mark's obsession turned from the one girl to every single other girl. He fell in love "at first sight" more times than a fat-kid at a cheesecake factory, and indulged just the same. It was hard for him to be out on this camping trip, surrounded only by penises. The drunker he got, the more he wanted to fuck. He considered running to the campground, the festival... fuck, even back to the gatehouse. There were girls in this forest, somewhere.
Scott, eventually beyond exhausted with girl-talk, pulled a few baggies out of his pocket. Mark's eyes popped at the sight of the cocaine and he lit up. Scott knew better than to give any more coke to this kid right now. He wanted him to shut-up, at least about this drama bullshit. Cocaine had never shut anyone up. Except maybe for Tony that one time, he laughed to himself.
"I've got this bag of mushrooms. I was gonna save them for tomorrow," He said separating a baggie from his wad of them. "Fuck them for not taking us with 'em."
Mark hesitated on the mushrooms. He thought back to the last time he had eaten them, when he puked all over some poor naked girl beneath him. It was a scene bad enough without him continuing the intercourse afterwards. He had definitely chased off a few girls in his day, but that one fled like she was on fire.
"Fuck it," Mark said, "I'm gonna go find some bitches."
And so he did. As he disappeared down the trail away from the fire, Scott threw a handful of mushrooms in his mouth and cracked another beer.
The major disadvantage to having only the one pair of NVGs, was that Jesse could not walk quietly when he couldn't see anything. He had wrapped a t-shirt around his head to prevent random branches from tearing at his eyes. Sure, when his eyes were well adjusted he could see in some areas, but when the clouds passed over the moon or they were under heavy foliage, he couldn't see shit.
Lucas, on the other hand, was having a great time. Once his eyes adjusted to the green hues of the goggles, he could see plain as day. There were a few times he was frustrated by his partner's handicap, and he wanted to break into a run leaving him behind. His nerves would never let him rummage the campground alone, however. Lucas always needed a partner in crime, preferably multiples.
The branches were intentional. Lucas chuckled to himself as he found thick sticks hanging low, and snapped them back so they whipped at Jesse. He had also successfully covered both of Jesse's boots in wild animal feces.
As they reached the campground Jesse was granted some vision. Light from a fire that was still lit was too bright through the goggles. Lucas pulled them up off his eyes and rested them atop his head.
Scott shook his head, chuckling, "You can't tell me you didn't everyone to be passed out."
"They always are at this time, every fucking year. " Lucas whispered back.
"Well what do we do now?"
There were four people sitting near the fire. They were drinking and singing terribly out of tune. Lucas was angry at them for being awake. Every year the campground run had provided them with whatever they had failed to bring sufficient amounts of, or forgotten altogether. In his head, without the ransacking they would be out of beer by noon tomorrow.
In his hatred for them, he offered up a new plan. "We shoot the motherfuckers."
The were both carrying air-powered assault rifles. Jesse carried his XM8, while Lucas preferred to terrorize with an AK-47. Jesse shrugged and nodded in confirmation. The two opened fire.
They blasted the campsites with BBs. The campfire attendees dropped to the ground at the sound of gunfire, though considerably quieter than the real thing. Shots hit tents, sometimes breaking through. BBs rang off cans and cars as they sprayed down the area. Victims awaking to the noise or ammo piercing their tents were screaming. Jesse and Lucas belted war-cries and laughter until the guns clicked empty.
When Lucas said, "Now we run!", Jesse realized he was unable to do so. Lucas set the NVGs in place on his eyes and took off, leaving Jesse in the dark.
Mark was lost. He staggered around in the dark, looking for light from anywhere there might be people. His only light source was a lit cigarette, which he maintained at all times. At first he was aiming for the campground, but somehow ended up completely off the trail. He had walked so far at this point that turning around was not a sure way to go back, so he kept moving forward. Almost like an oasis in the desert he would see lights on the horizon, which he was never able to reach. He was thirsty and tired of walking, but he pressed on regardless, until he was sure he heard music.
Not much longer after the buzz of the shrooms kicked in, Tony let out a moan, reminding Scott that he did not want to be alone with that kid. Paranoia very rarely overcame Scott, but as he sat by the fire by himself he was scared stiff. Between the marijuana and the psilocybin he could not stop considering the possibility of a vampire sleeping in a tent behind him.
He jumped up to switch seats to allow him to keep an eye on Tony's tent. As soon as he rose he heard another moan.
No response. He sat down again opposite his previous spot, and listened. With a moaning grunt, Tony's tent shook.
"What the fuck!"
Tony stood inside the tent, his head hitting its peak and lifting the rigging out of the ground. As the tent fell around him he looked like a blue-sheet-wearing ghost. And he fucking moaned like one, too.
Scott had rid himself of the paranoia, and now felt pure fear. He started at the tents uprise and almost fell backward. He stepped back from the fire, yelling at his friend.
"What the fuck are you doing, man!? Tony!"
The tent-ghost slowly dragged itself towards him. Apparently it did not consider the fire an obstacle. Scott was forced to back himself further when the nylon and the fire met. The entire tent ignited around Tony, and still he walked, now like a ghost with a sheet of flame.
Scott out maneuvered his burning friend with ease and rounded the campfire, again ending up on the opposite side where Tony's tent stood. He watched as Tony continued on his straight path until walking face first into a tree and falling. Tony hit the ground as the fire had died out, melting the tent-fabric and portions of his clothes to his flesh. Smoke seeped from him, and the smell made Scott nauseous.
Scott was barely catching his breath, hoping for Lucas or Jesse to come back soon, when Tony started to lift himself. Scott's heart sank into the fear again when they met each other's gaze. Tony seemed to be looking through him. Maybe into him. Again Tony started walking towards Scott, and once again through the fire, undaunted.
Tony had obvious hunger in his eyes. He moaned through a mouth that never closed. He was reaching for Scott. Burned and bloodied he walked through fire towards Scott.
"What the fuck, man, can't we just be vampires together?"
There was no doubt now. Scott was sure he would have to face his now undead friend and put an end to his pending reign of terror. It had all come down to this moment. Tony had waited until Scott was alone to strike. Scott had been chosen as the one who would fight the monster this day. He was determined that when the others arrived back at the camp, they would see the victorious Scott standing over the seared corpse of their former friend.
He reached down near his foot and grabbed a tent-stake.
"Tony, I will drive this fucking stake through your heart if I have to. Stop."
Tony did not stop. He still walked, although at an incredibly low pace, directly towards Scott.
"I'm serious man. I don't fuck around with blood-sucking mother-fuckers. I will end you."
Tony groaned out in reply, and just before getting his hands on him, Scott plunged the stake where he thought a heart should be. It broke through Tony's ribs and buried itself. The force was so great the point went completely through him, showing just underneath his shirt in the back.
Tony staggered a step backwards, and looked down at himself. He reeled his arms in and fumbled around the head of the stake, which was just barely showing in his chest. His next vocal noise was a kind of inward groan, though to say he drew his last breath would just be wrong. Tony had drawn his last breath hours ago.
Scott stared at his friend speechless. He watched as Tony fell to his knees, still grabbing at the stake with the proficiency of an infant. Tony fell face first from his knees forward, hitting the ground hard. His head fell almost between Scott's legs, who himself then fell backward from reflex.
Scott expected Tony to burst into flames or just melt-away. Perhaps to be lifted away in some kind of ray of light. There was nothing, just a body. Slaying a vampire had not gone quite how he imagined. When the sun came up, he supposed that would do the trick. Scott was going to wait for it to happen, and he really hoped the other guys would be back in time to see it.