Even though Ryan was leery of Cal’s intentions, he decided he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to Jessie. He headed out for Silver Lake with butterflies growing in his stomach.
He found a group of parked cars just off the side of the road about twenty minutes into the park. A small group of teenagers stood idle just inside the first band of trees. At least Cal hadn’t lied about everyone meeting up here.
Ryan jumped out of Old Betty and headed for the group. His breathe made a heavy white cloud in the air. The biting wind from the afternoon was in full force.
Reaching the group, Ryan immediately saw her. She was bundled up in a dark coat talking to Briana, another girl from school.
Ryan felt a hard hand land on his back. “Glad you made it!” exclaimed Cal as he came up beside him. “It’s a bit cold, but we’ll get the fire started soon enough.” He grinned. “Let’s get a move on!”
Cal started into the woods with Steve close behind. Two other guys that Ryan had never met followed behind them and then Jessie and Briana. Ryan took off closely behind them.
Only a few minutes in, Ryan heard heavy footsteps. He glanced behind him to see Jake jogging up to the tail of the group.
“In a rush?” asked Ryan.
Jake slowed down as he caught up with Ryan. “No, just didn’t realize you guys had taken off. Don’t really want to get separated in these woods.” Jake gave a quick glance around. “I didn’t realize you’d be joining us this evening. Cal told us he was going to try to get you to come for Jessie, but I didn’t think you would even step foot out here in these woods. Not even Jessie’s worth that.”
Ryan raised his eyebrows. “I’ve heard the stories about Silver Lake before, but thankfully I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“There are more than ghosts out here….much more,” Jake stated. “I heard this story once about a guy coming out to the lake to camp for a night and the next day they found him floating dead in the lake. His heart was cut out, nowhere to be found. They said it was the work of the witches they killed here a couple hundred years ago.”
“Yeah, yeah, the Wilkes sisters. I’ve heard the stories, “ Ryan rolled his eyes. “There’s no proof for that stuff. Personally, I think it’s just a bunch of lies, branded by some park ranger to keep people out of here at night. ”
Jake turned to Ryan, the whites of eyes shone through the dark. “Maybe they have a good reason too.”
Ryan sighed. He didn’t want waste time dealing with skeptics.
A thick fog had started settling around the trees as they got closer to the lake. The tops of the trees whipped around and the leaves hissed in the wind.
The group made their way to a circle of logs a few yards from the lake, an old burned out pit was the center. Cal and Steve got to work on the fire while everybody took a seat. One of the two guys Ryan didn’t know, a tall redhead, started handing out beer from his backpack. “Ice cold!” he said as he handed one to Ryan.
Ryan managed to grab a seat next to Jessie. He tried to use his keys to pop off the bottle top with no success.
“Here, it’s just a twist off,” Jessie chuckled as she took the bottle from Ryan and popped it open.
Ryan smiled, “Thanks.” He took the bottle and took a zip. The beer had a strong sourness to it. Ryan winced as he swallowed.
“This is your first time drinking, isn’t it?” Jessie asked.
“Maybe,” Ryan shrugged.
Jessie giggled, “I don’t think it’s ‘maybe.’” Jessie scooted a little closer to him. Ryan could feel a nervous heat rising in his body. He chugged the rest of his beer.
Jessie gave him an apprehensive smile and handed him another. “It’s really a nice night once you get deeper into the woods.”
Ryan nodded, “Yeah, this fog is pretty dense, though. If it wasn’t for the fire, I don’t think I could see ten feet in front of me.”
“That’s one of the many things that makes this lake so mysterious and beautiful. It was one of my favorite places to go as a child. My sister and I would always come up here to hunt for imaginary fairies and dancing butterflies.” She stared out towards the lake. “It was our safe haven.”
Four beers in and Ryan was starting to feel his balance sway, along with his concentration.
He had on and off conversations between Jessie and the tall redhead, Dan. Any cold he had felt from the night was gone as the alcohol warmed his blood. The nervous tension was gone, too.
Cal jumped up from his seat across from Ryan and stretched. He let out sigh. “I think it’s time for a swim. Anybody else up for it?”
“Cal, the water is freezing. That’s insane,” Ryan blurted out, surprising himself.
Cal tilted his head and shrugged. He removed his coat and headed towards the lake. Steve, his pupil, quickly did the same. Within a few moments, Dan and his friend did the same.
Jake looked at Ryan, “I guess I’ll leave you with the ladies. I’m feeling a swim myself.”
Ryan looked around bewildered. “Do they normally do this?” he asked Jessie.
“On occasion, “ she stated. “In fact, I better go watch them to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble. Come on, Briana.” She stood up and headed towards their direction.
Ryan stared at the campfire. The tips of the flames grasped upwards for air. He gave a quick glance around and shook his head. He sighed and decided to go see if the water was worth taking a dive, though even drunk it would take some convincing.
He started to move towards the lake, listening for voices to guide him through the heavy fog. After walking around for a while he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere near the group.
“Cal?….Jessie?” he called out; he swayed as he stood. He could feel the beer bubbling in his stomach. At no response he dropped his head back on his shoulders. “Great,” he muttered.
He flipped around and crossed his fingers, hoping that he would get back to the camp.
With his next step he heard a loud cracking noise from within the fog. His breathe quickened and he gave another shout for the group, “Jake?” No answer.
Ryan felt a curling sickness in his stomach that began to rise in his chest. He could start running in a direction, but who is to say that it’s the right one? The Silver Forest covers thousands of acres; it could be days before he is found.
Another loud cracking noise was heard to his left.
“Alright, who’s there?” he said, tensing up his stance. “This isn’t funny, getting a guy drunk and bringing him out here to get lost in the fog. It’s a good joke, Cal, but a person could really get out of their mind out here.” Ryan concentrated on listening for more steps, was he really just a brunt of elaborate joke?
After a few seconds, steady steps could be heard approaching his direction. His heart began pounding.
He let out a loud sigh; it was Jessie. “Yes, I’m over here…I’ll…I’ll just stay put till you find me.” Jessie emerged from the fog, her green eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
“I’d though we lost you. It’s enough to worry about the crazy lake swimmers,” she said.
Ryan laughed, “Thank God you found me too, I was starting to lose it in this fog. I even thought something was watching me. Ridiculous, I know.”
Jessie raised her eyebrows, “Something?”
Ryan nodded, “Yeah, pretty sure it’s the alcohol making me uneasy. Let’s just go back to camp.”
Jessie smiled and took Ryan by the hand.
“Are you sure it’s the alcohol?” she asked as they walked, Jessie leading.
Ryan shook his head, “I should have never mentioned it.”
Jessie looked over her shoulder at him and stopped. “I don’t know, Ryan, there are a lot of lost souls wondering here.”
Ryan gave her a quizzical look. “You mean people get lost here a lot? At these get-togethers?”
She tilted her head like she always did. “No,” she tightened her grip on his hand, “I mean we’ve had to make a few sacrifices over the years. Every thirty years is what we promised them, or cursed them rather.”
Ryan’s eyes widened as he tried to steady his mind on what she said. The alcohol worked against him.
“You believe in that witch stuff?” he asked.
She gave him a sweet smile and took his other hand.
“The stories have been a bit puffed up over the years, but there are still some reams of truth to them. Would you like to hear the real story?”
Ryan was unsure of what Jessie meant but nodded her on.
“It was one of those beautiful days. My sister, Briana, and I were out at the lake enjoying the beauty. We escaped there often because of the hatred we felt in the village. They had even started a new trend of spitting on us as we walked by. We stuck it out, though; those two-faced mothers would come to us for the remedies and we would gladly help. But that day, something bad had happened. The preacher woke up to his youngest hanging from the rafter’s of the church. It was our fault, they all said. Only evil could create such darkness in a young man, he would never bring it upon himself.”
“They came up to the lake screaming. They had already set in their minds that we could receive no mercy. We were the work of the Evil One and evil is what cause the young son’s death. They surrounded the lake with us still in it. We didn’t know what to do. We just stood there, waiting.” Jessie looked back out into the fog. Briana had appeared at her side placing a hand on her shoulder.
“We watched as they filled sacks with stones from the shore and tied off the tops. I remember the look in the preacher’s eyes as he commanded three men to go fetch us out of the water. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, “you’ll get to go right back in.’”
“They tied our ankles and wrists and then proceeded to tie the weighted bags onto us. Briana began to scream at this point. She realized what they were intending. It’s a cruel thing, to force someone to drown.” She stared into Ryan eyes. He could feel her anger burning through him.
“But,” she said, “before they put us in, I made a promise to the old man. I told him, for his own evil, he would pay the price of a life every thirty years. A young life, just like his own son.” She paused, “One of his own blood.”
Ryan froze. He knew the story of his Uncle Ted being mercilessly killed at the lake as a teenager but had never believed in the horror that was told. His mother had always broke into tears when her brother was mentioned, blaming his death on her decision to stay home and not go with him on that trip. He knew they found him here, in the lake. Kids walked around telling the story all time of the mysterious death of his Uncle, but Ryan had always blown it off. Just some over proportioned story that was just an accident to begin with. His heart wasn’t actually removed; the police just told people that to keep them away. To stop them from coming here alone.
Jessie’s hold had become so tight she was starting to break the skin on his hand. He tried to pull it away but she only pressed harder. Had she known he was Ted’s nephew?
“Look, Jessie, this isn’t funny. C..Can we just go back to the camp?” he stuttered.
She pulled Ryan close and brought her lips to his ear, “You’re never going back. I can smell his blood in you from a few feet away. It draws me and recoils me at the same time. I need it to keep our souls walking, feeding off the promise.”
Before Ryan could speak, a knife plunge through his back and pierce his heart. A sharp pain spread through his body. He felt Jessie’s breathe on his neck as fell to his knees, chanting in a language unknown.
The next day, it was reported to the police by a group of local teenagers that a body was seen floating in Silver Lake, unresponsive. Hearing tales of what was found fifty years ago, the police were leery of recovery. They fished the body out the lake finding it to be a young man whose heart had been gruesomely removed. A short investigation followed. Many of the teenagers were questioned, but they informed the officers that they had been out for a party by the lake and had found the young man the early morning when he hadn’t reappeared to the campfire. All witnesses claim to have been sleeping when the young man left the camp. No sound leads were ever found. The case was written off as unsolved and filed under the Silver Lake Killer.