I don’t know how we all crushed ourselves into that van, but we were 1/2-drunk so it didn’t matter until one of us got sick.
She almost didn’t make it out of the van in time. She really shouldn’t have had all those brats during the party. Heartburn and booze? Bad combination. Meredith (Merry) was always trying to impress people. She was kinda awkward, but she was a good kid. She joined us in the van at the last minute and none of us had the heart to tell her she wasn’t invited. She wasn’t the youngest of us…she was a retread. Yes, we were sophomores in the same Lit class, but she started back to school after her divorce.
“He just up and left! No note! No explanation, or a call! He just LEFT me!” she’d sobbed. She said it took her almost 5 months to gather up her courage to start back to school. She didn’t have any kids, thank God, but she was devastated. She said she cleaned him out in court! Turned out he’d been having an affair for years, so she took his retirement, his house, 1/2 his income… And after she’d paid off all his gambling debts (that he’d made in her name!) she had money left over and decided to go back to school.
Teddy, the driver, stopped and let her out and then he and the other guys went to water the trees. Stewart was a loud drunk and described everything from the bushes, and Leroy, the angry drunk, kept punching him and telling him to shut up.
Laura was squirming, but wouldn’t pee in the woods. She was afraid of poison ivy! Magda was going to wait until the guys got back, but after a couple of minutes, she too ran out of the van to the woods on the other side of the road.
“She’ll be SORRY!” said Laura. I wasn’t quite as drunk as the rest, I hadn’t had more than 2 beers and went to the bathroom before we left on our “adventure.” Meredith crawled back into the van, flushed and embarrassed. The guys got back, and finally, Magda crawled in.
“Merry? Where’d you get sick? I didn’t see anything when I went out.”
Leroy turned and gave her a puzzled look. “Why would you even LOOK?!”
Everyone thought it was funny.
Teddy said the cabin was just a couple miles down the road. We hit a rock or something and the tire went flat. Of course, Leroy, Teddy, and Stewart thought they could change the tire while all of us were in it. In the dark. On the dirt road. We got out of the van and started Kibbutzing on the side.
Nobody could find the jack. We followed Teddy toward the cabin because he thought there might have been some tools in the shed. It was farther than he thought. Or maybe he was lost. I turned around and Meredith was gone. I called out for her and she said she had to throw up again, and then we heard gagging noises. Well, THAT was disgusting! Magda went back to hold her hair, but none of the rest of us wanted to stick around. They were afraid that the sound and the smell would cause the rest of them to hurl, and I didn’t see any reason why Magda would need help. Dang that Meredith, trying to impress people with her iron stomach and then spewing all night.
Finally found the cabin. NO ELECTRICITY! We’d all used our phones as flashlights on the way up, and Stewart and Laura had been playing games all the way up in the van. They were nearly on 0 power. I turned mine off. Teddy went in back to see if there was a generator, but it was gas-powered, and we had no gas. Then he went to the shed to see if there was a jack. There wasn’t one, but there was an ax and some firewood stacked up. He brought in the firewood, and of course, we couldn’t find any matches. Teddy’s phone gave out. Leroy passed out, but we couldn’t use his phone. His was one of those password-only phones, so no fingerprint, no face ID.
It had been a while and Laura asked, “Where’s Meredith and Magda?” I texted them to see if they were ok. Meredith replied that they’d gotten a bit confused and were trudging up the road now. Magda replied that Merry was a mess and wanted to clean up first. Magda doesn’t usually care how people look. She’s a bit of an emo. She likes the black fingernails and the pink hair under the black…you know so when she flips her hair, you get that flash of color. But she never makes comments on how people look. Laura, on the other hand, has no other thoughts going through her head…fashion, hair, makeup and image take up the entire space between her ears.
It was getting cold. Teddy found some blankets and we all cuddled together. Wow! Did those things smell! Mine brought tears to my eyes. And, they itched! Of course, Leroy had to complain, LOUDLY. Stewart yelled at him, “Yeah? and do you have any better idea?”
Leroy said, “Well, dumbass, we could go back to the van and start it up. At least it had heat.”
Teddy remarked that the gas wouldn’t last all night and if they did get the tire fixed, we wouldn’t be able to get back home.
Leroy gave him this evil look. “You mean to tell us you didn’t fill up before we left?”
“Where was your gas money? Oh yeah, you spent it on the beer!”
Teddy and Leroy shared a room, and apparently the gas for the van. Teddy’s van, Leroy’s gas if he wanted to go somewhere. Lately, he had not been contributing, saying that since it was Teddy’s idea to go places, he should also pay for the gas. This was a bone of contention most of the semester. Woohoo! I used “contention” in a sentence! Doctor Will would be proud. (Doctor Pressledge loved Shakespear and peppered all his lectures in Lit with quotes from the Bard. What a dork! So we called him Doctor Will.)
Suddenly Laura jumped up and asked Teddy if the toilet was indoors or outdoors. He pointed her to a small building behind the shed. She ran out as if her bladder was about to burst. She was not concerned about toilet paper at this point. I was about to pass out when I heard the scream.
We all ran out to see what was the matter, and there was Laura–sobbing and shaking. She’d heard some scrabbling on the roof of the outhouse and when she got out there were these weird, glowing eyes staring at her. Teddy started to laugh.
“It was probably a possum!” he said, and then laughed some more.
“So? Did you pee?” I asked under my breath. “How’s the smell?”
“The smell isn’t bad. I guess it hasn’t been used much, but I didn’t get inside. You know, alien on the roof…”
We shared a bit of a laugh. She went in, and I headed for the cabin.
I lay down again and was almost asleep when I heard Laura make a yip. The wind blew the trees around and some leaves were hitting the windows. I drifted off.
Stewart shook me awake. “Hey, the girls aren’t here,” he whispered.
“Huh?” I said, verbosely. (Haha! another bonus from Doctor Will!)
He looked me straight in the eyes and I could tell he was scared.
“The. girls. aren’t. here! Magda, Meredith, Laura…they’re not here.”
“What time is it?” I asked.
Stewart checked his phone, then remembered he had no juice.
“How the hell should I know?”
Well, shit. I got out my phone and turned it on. “2:37”
“They should have been here by now right? And did Laura fall in, or is she afraid to come out of the outhouse?”
The wind was still blowing the leaves around and it looked like we were going to get wet. There was lightning. It was in the distance, so you couldn’t hear the thunder.
“You wanna check it out, Stew?”
“Yeah, I’ll head down the trail for Magda and Meredith, and you check on Laura.”
The temperature had dropped a bit. It was in the 60s and the wind had picked up. I grabbed my blanket and wore it as I headed toward the outhouse. I figured I could kill 2 birds with one stone and get some “business” taken care of while I was there. I got to the outhouse and called Laura’s name. Nothing. I knocked on the door. Not a sound. I went in and sure enough, there was a catalog for use afterward, but no sign of Laura. It smelled slightly sweet…Laura’s perfume and something else. Baby powder? And of course, the usual stuff you smell in an outhouse. I remembered my grandma always told me never to use the glossy pages in the catalog, and now I know what she meant. I thought it was metaphorical…”Never use something fancy to do a plain job…” or something else along that line. Wrong again. I got out of the door, and then looked around to see if there was any sign of Laura. I called out her name and walked about 20 yards around the outhouse, and then around the shed. The shed door was open, but there wasn’t anyone inside. I headed back to the cabin, but Stew wasn’t back yet. Teddy and Leroy were snoring like loggers, but I was so tired, I just fell asleep on the couch.
The thunder hit with the suddenness of a bomb. I swear I hit the ceiling. Teddy and Leroy were cursing. The rain came down in torrents and it was accompanied by lightning and thunder. We couldn’t talk at a normal volume and be heard. The wind had picked up and we were hearing branches hitting the cabin. Teddy looked around and yelled, “Where IS everyone?”
It was just Teddy, Leroy and me. Stew was now gone too. I explained that Magda and Meredith never came up to the cabin and neither was answering my texts. Laura hadn’t come back from the outhouse, and there was no sign of her outside, so I had gone to look for Laura and Stew had gone to look for M & M. I tried to turn on my phone, but apparently, I hadn’t shut it off. It was now 4:45 or thereabouts. Laura and Stew’s phones were dead, and Magda and Meredith weren’t answering texts. My phone call went directly to voice mail. We decided we’d wait for the storm to pass, then when it was light, we could look for something to patch the wheel, or call for a tow or something. I supposed that Stew had gone all the way to the van and just stayed there to wait out the storm.
I went back to a fitful sleep. The storm made everything creepier.
About 7:30, it was lighter out, and though there was some drizzle, it wasn’t raining cats and dogs. There was no lightning or thunder either. It was time to make another hike to the outhouse. Still no sign of where Laura would have gone. I was rather worried now. I went back to the cabin and Teddy said that Leroy had gotten a text from Magda that Meredith had gotten them lost and they were at the van. Leroy went ahead and Teddy decided to wait for me so we could go down together. Teddy said he hadn’t found a jack in the daylight either, but he had found some matches. They were all wet. There was a leak near the fireplace.
The road down to the van was muddy and slick. You could tell Leroy had taken the scenic route. There were slide marks that went into the ditch and we couldn’t tell where he came up again.
“God, he couldn’t still be drunk could he?”
“Well, hungover at least!”
“I’ve never seen him so plastered!” said Teddy with a snort.
Then, we heard it. It was a moan. It seemed to be coming from the ditch on the other side of the road. We walked over and called out Leroy’s name. There was the moan again. There weren’t slide marks or anything so we kept going down the road, calling his name. I grabbed a downed branch and stripped off the little twigs. Now I had a proper walking staff. If we had to go down into that muck, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get Stuck there. We heard the moan, slightly louder up ahead. There were still no slide marks or footprints. Teddy started down into the ditch. It was pretty steep, and on the other side of the ditch, there seemed to be quite a drop-off. I was glad I had my staff! I was about five yards from Teddy, and the underbrush was thick. There didn’t seem to be a path.
Suddenly, Teddy lost his footing and slid down, out of control, about thirty feet! Then he yelled! He must have broken something… his arm, his ankle. I thought, “I’m NOT going to carry his sorry butt up the hill to the van!” I thought I saw him through the trees, but when I got there, it was Leroy! His shirt was bloody and his face was squashed like he’d hit every rock on the way down. His hands were seriously malformed and bloody. There was a rock not far from his head that was all bloody too, but it was downhill from where Leroy had landed. It was clear that he was dead. But…who was moaning then?
I heard movement behind me and just as I turned, I felt a slash on my arm. The adrenaline was pumping at high speed when I looked and saw Meredith. She was looking at me with this insane grin, her clothes all bloody and torn. She had a very big knife and was screaming, “You weren’t supposed to have a stick! You bastard!” She lunged at me and I dodged. I swung the staff to catch her in the side. I heard something crack. The wood was kinda green, the twigs had been hard to pull off, so the crack must have been a rib or two. She screamed again. Then she started to laugh. That must have hurt with the bruised or broken ribs because she caught herself and grabbed her side.
“What’s funny Merry?”
“Age and Treachery, you son-of-a-bitch! Age and Treachery!”
I was bleeding profusely, but I couldn’t think about that now.
Teddy moaned again and I turned my head for just a second. She rushed me again and was inches from impaling me before I clocked her in the jaw with my elbow. She went down hard. I landed on her back and tried to wrestle the knife from her. She lifted her hips and I started to tumble down the hill. I dropped my staff to keep my balance with my hands and she stabbed my leg. I started rolling down the hill and she followed me. I hit a tree on the way down and it bruised me in the chest and knocked the air out of me. I scrambled over to a fallen log. There were bees in the log. There was a big rock and I grabbed it, I backed off from the log and she spotted me. She ran at me like a crazy woman and stepped on the log just as I threw the rock with all my might into the beehive. The log splintered where she stepped and the rock frightened the bees out of the hive. She was covered in seconds. I backed off. She lost her footing fighting off the bees and started to roll down the hill. She disappeared into a hole and I heard a splash.
I carefully maneuvered my way down and saw she’d fallen into a water-filled cave. She wasn’t moving. I slowly made my way up the hill to the last place I saw Teddy. Sure enough, his ankle was at an odd angle, but he had a knife wound in his heart. I would call 911 and, oh no! My phone had fallen out in the struggle. I checked for Teddy’s and though he hadn’t lost his phone, it was in pieces. I had to rest. I was bruised, cut, stung, and exhausted. I tore a part of my shirt and bandaged up my arm. I took the sleeve of Teddy’s shirt and bandaged up my leg. I grabbed another stick I could use for a staff and plodded up the hill to the road. I got to the van and discovered that the flat tire was flat because there was a hole where the air nozzle was supposed to be. Meredith must have cut it when she said she was throwing up. Magda’s body was thrown carelessly to the side of the road. Her phone was missing. Meredith might have used Magda’s phone to send the message to Leroy.
I took stock. No Stew, No Laura, Teddy, Leroy, and Magda dead. Meredith would have taken both her phone and Magda’s into the cave. I knew I couldn’t go down there to retrieve them and they’d be ruined by water anyway. Teddy’s broken. My phone was missing. Leroy might still have his. I was sweating and weak. But this was my only chance. I headed back to Leroy. I had to stop every 2 or 3 minutes because of the pain and I was getting dizzy. I finally found the place where we’d gone down to look for Leroy. It wasn’t as easy this time. It seemed farther than I remembered. I found myself wondering how I was going to get back up the hill. There was Leroy. I sat down beside him and started to look for his phone. He HAD it! I picked it up, and it showed some life. I tried to open it, but I was suddenly faced with the realization that I had no idea what his password would be. I started to cry tears of frustration. I wanted to just lie down and die. I crawled painfully over to a tree so I could sit. I closed my eyes just letting the life drain out of me.
Then, this damned squirrel dropped a nut on me. And then another one. And then ANOTHER ONE! I looked up at him and he chattered at me. I looked over at poor Leroy and saw something shiny near the rock that had killed him. The squirrel chattered again and I replied, “OH, ALRIGHT THEN! It’s not like I’m Ace Ventura or Dr. Doolittle.” In serious distress, I dragged myself over to the rock and there, covered in blood and leaves and dirt was my phone! Was it broken? Nope. Did I have a signal? 2 bars. I called 911. Two hours later, the ambulance and the police showed up and I told them where Teddy and Leroy were, and where Meredith had fallen. I’d lost nearly 2 pints of blood by then and I don’t remember the ride to the hospital.
What I didn’t know was that Magda was an undercover cop and had discovered Meredith’s secret. Merry, or whatever her real name was, decided that if Magda died, the rest of us would have to die too, and since no one knew Merry had gone with us, she could disappear and pop up somewhere else.
What she had done was kill Magda and use her phone to let us know everything was OK, and then had spent a little time in the van. She headed up to the cabin to see if she could catch anyone else by themselves. Laura was grabbed just as she stepped out of the outhouse. Merry didn’t see me go into the outhouse because she was dragging Laura into the woods. She followed Stew as he came down the road calling for them and came up behind him and stabbed him just a half-hour before the rain started. She hurried down the road as the wind started up and the lightning and thunder got closer. She held up in the van and sent the text from Magda’s phone to Leroy. She waited for him to come down, but then the storm started in earnest. The next morning, she waited along the road. Leroy was pushed down the hill and when he didn’t shut up, she slashed his throat. She hadn’t ever slashed anyone’s throat and didn’t know how loud it could be if she did it wrong…and she did it wrong. So she beat him with the rock. She heard Teddy and I calling out to Leroy and talking about his moaning, so she continued to moan to lure Teddy and me into her trap. She’d reached out and tripped him with a branch and caused him to fall down the hill, then stabbed him in the chest. Then she saw me over by Leroy. I was her last obstacle.
I understand she’d never been divorced, she’d had her husband declared dead after 7 years and had collected on the life insurance. They found Meredith’s husband, stabbed and cut up and buried under her vegetable garden. She had beautiful tomatoes, though. After a little digging, it was discovered that this wasn’t the first time she’d murdered her way into money.
I don’t go to parties anymore. I hate lightning storms. And a relaxing vacation in a mountain cabin is not in the cards. Ever.