It is my pleasure to present to you the first of three 3rd place winners from the July 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest, Heather Kindt’s “Cabin 5″
Heather’s story was fun to read.
Have a good time reading this story. I’ll give you my reasons for why I liked it at the bottom of the post.
THIRD PLACE WINNER
Brittney hefted her duffel bag from the trunk and swung it onto her shoulder. It must’ve been a half-hour on a one-lane dirt road to get out to this hellhole. She glanced down the hillside—cabins, canoes, and a lake. Everything that screamed camp to her. And it was exactly where she didn’t want to be.
Her stepdad didn’t even bother getting out of the car, just took a long drag on his cigarette before flicking the ashes out the window. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Cal smirked before spinning out his tires on the gravel driveway and taking off.
She loathed her stepdad, and her mom for that matter—sending her away to a stupid camp to work for the summer.
“Howdy-ho.” A guy stood by the side of the road—tall, lanky with thick-rimmed glasses. He had a whistle around his neck and his pale white legs extended out from his khaki shorts. A clipboard was in his hands. “You must be Brittney Cahill.”
“How’d you know that? Stalk often?” She swept her blonde hair off her neck and up into a messy bun using the tie around her wrist.
He raised an eyebrow before pointing to the paper on his clipboard. “No. You’re just the only female counselor missing.” He turned his back to her as another car pulled up. “Head down to the mess hall and get your cabin assignment.” The dork called over his shoulder.
Anything to get away from you nerd. This place had to get better.
Brittney longed for her gas station job from last summer. Even though living at home with her mom and Cal drove her crazy, she had discount cigs, free Slurpies, and of course Bobby—the number one reason she was sent away this summer.
The mess hall was down the hill from the parking lot and closer to the lake. No one was around when she pushed on the creaking door that she let slam shut behind her. A disheveled old man, walking with a slight limp, entered through a side door and lifted his glasses to his nose. He appeared frail and Brittney worried he might keel over at any moment.
The man sat down at a circular table and sifted through a stack of forms. “Name please.”
“Brittney Cahill.” She remained standing even though there was a metal folding chair across the table from him. Brittney shifted her weight from foot to foot.
He inspected her, making her wish she hadn’t worn her daisy dukes and tight tank.
“I’m Ben, the caretaker of the camp. You’ll be in cabin 5 in the village. No smoking, no drinking, no cellphones and no mixing with the male counselors. Staff meeting’s at four, before dinner.” He slid a box toward her. Numerous cellphones were inside.
Well, what kind of fun was this place going to be? She placed her phone into the box. “Can you define mixing?”
Ben straightened his papers. “I think, Miss Cahill, you know what I mean.”
The creaky door slammed behind Brittney and she jumped, her heart racing. A tall, dark-haired guy entered—sunglasses still on. He was tan and his muscles were evident even through his loose t-shirt.
“Hello, Marcus.” Ben started sifting through the forms.
Marcus sauntered over to the table giving Brittney a tiny grin. “I’m guessing I’m in Lakeside eight again.” He emphasized his cabin number and lifted his sunglasses, before winking at Brittney.
“Yes, and same rules apply.” Ben pushed himself up from the table, letting his chair scrape across the floor. “Don’t want a repeat of last summer.”
“No, we wouldn’t want that.” Marcus smiled at the as Ben hobbled back into the other room. He turned to Brittney. “I’m Marcus, and you must be . . . “
“Brittney.” She set down her bag. Her hand instinctively ran through her hair and released her locks from the hair tie.
His eyes took her in from head to toe. “Nice to meet you, Brittney. Maybe we can catch-up later.”
“Um . . . “ She twisted a strand of her hair around her finger. “Do you know how to get to the village?” Anything to spend more time with him. She knew she could use the poor, new girl tactic at least for a few days.
“Past the road, hang a left, and then go across the field. You can’t miss it.” He grabbed his bag, gave her one more look-over, and was out the door.
The new girl. It had been a while since she’d played the role. Now, she was forced into it by her mom and her frickin’ stepdad. Neither of them wanted her anymore. Her mom said it was so they could have a healthy environment. Her mom and all her new age, yoga mumbo-jumbo was driving her crazy. They couldn’t have Brittney’s smoking habit around. The second reason she was sent away—they wanted to replace her with a new baby.
Brittney crossed the dirt road alone and frustrated. She kept her head down, not wanting to make contact with anyone at this stupid camp. A large field spread out next to the parking lot. At the far end of the field was a wide, muddy path that led into the woods. A communal bathroom was on the left after the first cabin. She turned her nose up at the cobwebs clinging to the screened door and cringed at the foul odor that hung in the air.
Brittney climbed the stairs to cabin 5, the furthest cabin out. A spider darted across the wood causing her to let out a muffled squeal. She flung open the creaking door and jumped inside to avoid and further encounters with the insect world. She clutched her duffel bag to her chest, her heart beating wildly as she drew in a deep breath. Three bunk beds lined the walls of the musty room. The windows were mostly screened, so a few flies buzzed near a dim light. A single twin bed was to the left, next to a beat-up, brown dresser. She set her bag down on the bed with a sigh—her home for the next two months. Despite the forested, wild world of spiders and other nasty, creepy-crawlies outside, the cabin was fairly clean, and with a few Brittney touches would be passable.
A loud bell clanged in the distance a few hours later as Brittney checked out her work—heather gray bedspread with dark gray and pink furry pillows, pictures in matching black frames on the dresser, and a small area rug on the floor. The bell rang again.
She was at the edge of the woods, when another girl called out to her.
“Hey, wait up.” The girl fell into step next to Brittney. “You must be the new girl. I’m Rachel.”
She wore a Camp George t-shirt and ripped jeans. About an inch taller than Brittney, Rachel had dark French braids knotted in different color hair-ties. Her mocha-colored skin was flawless and her eyes shone bright set in her dark lashes.
Brittney swept a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Brittney . . . Maybe you could call me that instead of new girl?”
“Sure.” Rachel made an indentation in her bottom lip with her teeth. “Where you from?”
“Cromwell.” Brittney thought she should add a little bit more to the conversation, so she didn’t seem like a complete jerk. “It’s in Connecticut.”
“I know.” Rachel waved at another girl exiting a larger building behind a grove of pine trees. “I’m from Hartford.”
“Oh.” Brittney twisted the string bracelet on her wrist with her finger. “What’s this meeting about anyways?”
“For the group leaders it’s so everyone can meet each other and to go over the rules and everything.” She waved and gave a wide smile to a guy hanging a towel outside one of the lakeside cabins. “Plus, it’s a way to check out the new guy counselors.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Marcus was pretty hot, but she wasn’t tied down to him yet.
The small staff lounge was in the same building as the mess hall, but they entered through a different creaky door. Most of the seats on the couches were already taken, so Brittney squeezed in where she could find a spot.
She introduced herself to the two people next to her and then took a few moments to scan the room. There were a couple of guys that caught her eye, one being Marcus. He smiled at her, so she ran the tip of her tongue over her cherry coated lips. His eyes grew wide.
Brittney turned her focus away from him and onto another guy with light-brown hair. She knew how to flirt and planned on driving Marcus crazy. She lifted her arms above her head to feign a stretch, revealing her more than ample assets.
She heard him cough across the room. Perfect.
“Hello, everyone. Welcome to Camp George.” A woman with long, dark hair pulled into a ponytail stood at the front of the room in front of an old TV. “I’m Amy and I’ll be the women’s group leader this summer. This is Kevin and he’ll be in charge of the men.” A hefty man gave a half-wave from his chair next to the beat-up television.
“We know we’ve hired the best staff and we’re ready to have a successful camp and forget all about last summer.”
The room erupted into a bunch of side conversations.
Brittney turned to the girl next to her. “What happened last summer?”
She kept her eyes on Amy as the group leader started up again. “It’s all in the past and no one has anything to worry about. Ben has been here all winter and he’s assured us that the authorities have gone through this place with a fine-toothed comb.”
Brittney stared around the room, trying to get a clue from someone about what Amy was talking about. Every set of eyes was either set on their feet, their hands, or on Amy.
“Whomever, or whatever was causing the . . . disturbances last year has left and I’m sure if we all follow the rules, there won’t be any problems.”
Disturbances? What disturbances? Vandalism—a sexual predator—a serial killer? Brittney wanted to raise her hand, but she didn’t want to be such a new girl.
“So without further ado, Kevin is going to go over the rules for this camp season.” Amy sat down in her chair near the front of the room.
“Welcome, counselors. It’s so good to see so many of you returning this year. Especially after . . . well, you know.” Kevin’s face reddened before he continued. “We’ve added two new rules this year. As usual, no drinking. This goes for on or off camp grounds. And yes, even if you’re twenty-one.”
Groans sounded from a few counselors on the couches.
“No smoking anywhere. It might just be your summer to quit.”
Brittney could already feel the twitch deep down for one of her cigarettes buried in her duffel bag beneath her bed.
“No men in the women’s cabins and no women in the men’s cabins, even on the weekends when the campers are gone.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow at Brittney. She uncrossed her legs and then crossed them again, staring at him the entire time.
“And here are the new rules. No walking around camp by yourself at night and no swimming by yourself.” After a couple of protests, Kevin added, “You need to use the buddy system this summer. It may be long gone, but we want to be safe.” He chuckled. “Yeah . . . I know we’ve slacked off on they buddy swimming rule in the past, but this year it will be strictly enforced. No exceptions.”
What may be long gone? What the hell happened last summer?
Brittney twisted a loose string on her shorts. She couldn’t be the only new counselor who didn’t know what Kevin and Amy were talking about. At the moment, Brittney longed to be back at the gas station sucking on Slurpies.
Amy stood back up. “We have two new staff member this summer. Colton Hewes from Worchester, Massachusetts.”
The guy with the light brown hair gave a half-wave to the other counselors. When he glanced in Brittney’s direction, she smiled at him.
“And Brittney Cahill from Cromwell, Connecticut.”
Brittney smiled at the other counselors. “Hey.”
The clipboard counselor from the parking lot rolled his eyes. Definitely not her new BFF.
“So, you all got your cabin assignments. Tomorrow, we’ll be assigning your stations for camper rotations and planning out the first week of camp with your coworkers.” Kevin rubbed his hands together. “But for now, let’s go get some grub.”
The group rushed through the door to the mess hall. After going through the line, Brittney brought her food to an empty table and sat down.
“Is anyone sitting here?” It was Colton, the other new counselor.
Brittney held her hand out to the spot. “No, it’s all yours.”
He punched open his milk carton and poured it into the plastic cup. As Colton forked his pasta into his mouth, Brittney saw some type of football championship ring on his finger.
When he stopped mid-scoop with his mouth hanging open, she smiled. “Either you don’t eat much, or this is the best spaghetti you’ve ever eaten.”
“Missed lunch today.” He set his fork down. “So, you’re the other newbie.” Colton glanced over his shoulder before he leaned toward her. “What do you think happened last year?”
“I don’t know.” Brittney lifted her napkin to her mouth as Marcus walked in their direction. “But I intend to find out.”
“Can I sit here?” Marcus set his plate down.
“Sure.” Colton went back to inhaling his food.
“So what happened last year?” Brittney pushed her noodles around with her fork, but then looked at Marcus. “Because all this talk is really starting to creep us out.”
Marcus leaned in this time. “Can’t tell you. Classified information.”
“What do you mean?” Brittney crumpled up her napkin and tossed it at him.
“But . . . I can come to your cabin tonight and let you in on a few camp secrets.” Marcus grinned and then tossed the napkin back at her.
Colton shook his head, picked up his plate, and walked away.
Brittney ran her finger along her lips. She knew what he wanted, but maybe he’d let her in on what she really wanted to know.
“I’ll see you after lights-out?” She smiled.
“Wouldn’t miss it.” He reached out and drew circles on her wrist with his finger. “What cabin are you in?”
“Oh.” He pulled back his hand and jumped out of his seat. “I forgot. I’ve got bathroom duty tonight. Got to make sure those toilets sparkle.”
Brittney drew her eyebrows in, her mouth hanging open. What the hell just happened?
The bell rang for lights-out around what Brittney assumed was ten o’clock. She carried her toiletry bag up the hill to her cabin and set it in one of the drawers of her dresser. Even though it was hot and muggy outside, she felt a chill run through her. She was sleeping alone in a cabin at night with only screens between her and the creatures of the forest.
Brittney slipped under the sheet and reached over to turn off the small lamp on her nightstand. She drifted off to a restless sleep.
The noise that woke her sounded like it came from outside the cabin. The leaves crunched just beyond the screen. Brittney’s heart rate increased, but she didn’t move an inch. Maybe if it was a bear, it would go away. Was the door locked?
The crunching noise grew louder and closer. She gripped the sheet tighter around her body. The sweat from the humidity encompassed her and suddenly turned cold.
She had to take a risk before her heart gave out on her. “Marcus?” Her whispered word sounded like it was shouted from a megaphone in the silent world.
The crunching retreated away from the cabin. What happened here last summer? Was she going to be the next victim of the mysterious assailant?
Brittney reached over and pulled on the door handle to make sure it was locked before pulling her sheets over her head hoping to deter any knife-wielding intruders.
First thing the next morning, she dug through her dresser for a t-shirt and shorts before reaching for the top drawer to take out new underwear.
She slid open the drawer, the thoughts of the midnight noises still fresh in her mind.
A bloody, severed finger lay on top of her pink thong, rolling back and forth.
Brittney screamed, adrenaline pumping, and slammed the drawer shut. She collapsed down in front of the dresser, her face in her hands and tears streaming from her eyes. She had to look again to make sure.
Edging the drawer open, she closed one eye and peeked again at the finger. The football ring was there. She hurried down the steps of her cabin and through the field, not stopping until she reached the mess hall. Marcus leaned against the building next to the door as she stood there, still trembling.
“Village 5?” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Catherine was there last summer. Broke rule 3. No hanging in guys’ cabins. Didn’t last two weeks. How long do you think you’ll last, newbie?”
She flung the door to the mess hall open and every eye turned in her direction. It was silent. Brittney’s eyes were wide as she searched the room for Colton.
Amy stepped forward with a stack of pancakes on her plate. “Looking for somebody?”
He had to have been put through the same type of initiation.
“Where’s Colton?” Louder this time, more frantic.
“Oh, you only broke the first of the new rules.” Amy placed a hand on Brittney’s arm. “You know it’s very dangerous to go walking around camp alone at night, even to your cabin. Make sure you don’t do it again. Colton broke both of the new rules.” She let out a soft laugh. “Thought it would be safe to go for a midnight swim.”
It was only then that Brittney noticed Amy’s hair was wet and her jean shorts appeared damp. Brittney looked from face to face to face around the room, her mouth hanging open.
Amy wagged a finger at her. “Just make sure you don’t break any more rules. At the end of the summer, we want to send you home in one piece.”
What did I like about this story?
What spoke to me?
DAN ALATORRE: I became a fan of Heather Kindt‘s writing a year ago in a contest of mine that she entered, but she doesn’t get a free pass. She delivers what is promised, has a fast pace, and writes fun characters. There was intrigue afoot from the opening lines of this story, which drew me in and made me want to read more to find out what happened next – and as one thread got developed, another was added.
There was good tension and a fun horror plot, with a good horror ending – just what you want in a horror story.
For me, this very talented writer continues to improve, and that means the best is yet to come, but she says it all in her profile tomorrow: this wasn’t her genre so she wasn’t going to enter. We have to build those writerly muscles, folks. It’s not always easy, but good things are found when we do. This is one example of that.
Heather brings together an interesting story idea with intriguing characters and a fast, fun pace, which isn’t just why I like her stories – it’s what every reader wants in a story.
This was a terrific story, as I’m sure you agree.
Join us tomorrow for a profile on Heather
Come back the next day for our next 3rd place story
then our next winners profile
and much more! We’re just getting started!
Right now, please join me in congratulating our first of three 3rd place winners, Heather Kindt!
See you tomorrow!