Previously on Ghoul:
Ghoul acted upon an urge to vacation at a local Kampgrounds of America and roped Sam along for the weekend. They noticed that something was off when they arrived; a grey haze shrouded the entrance, concealing the campground and everything else around it. Kurt B., the K.O.A.’s day manager (who is also a hipster, one of Sam’s mortal enemies), met them at the gate. There was something off with Kurt, with the whole place, but they continued anyways, because that is how the story is going to go.
Then this happened….
We passed through and a sudden wave of fatigue pulled me under. The light around me darkened, slowly at first. There was a pressure, too, building in my sinuses. I was on an uncontrollable dive, slipping away into the abyss. If I looked, would there be tentacles dragging me below? There was this warmth inside me and time lulled, slowing to a peaceful mosey. Unconsciousness neared, sleep awaited, and a voice so distant above the surface spoke. “What the hell you doing? How does this even happen,” it said.
“Quick nap will do the trick,” I replied through a heavy drowse. “Just gotta get over this hump.”
I felt a stutter of pain in my spine just before a set of grotesque hands clasped onto my shirt with firm assertiveness. Ghoul jostled me around in the driver’s seat until I had enough energy to shove him off.
“I thought I lost you,” Ghoul stammered.
“Dammit, Ghoul. Just dammit,” I yawned, too tired to formulate anything else than those words.
The engine was running and we were in park. I was driving a few seconds ago, I thought. Then I fell asleep when we… when we entered that haze. I tuned to Ghoul, who was comparing printouts of the campground to what was in front of us.
“I don’t know what’s goings on, but this is definitely not what they offered on the website.”
My eyes ached with a post-slumber burn. I massaged them with the balls of my hands until my vision was ready to withstand the sights.
“Oh my goodness, we found paradise.”
The K.O.A. was as I expected: strikingly below mediocre. Not to mention bland. Everything within sight had that dull grey about it, too. The sky above, grey. Trees to either side, also grey, only darker. It felt awful crowded, too, like the haze went through a growth spurt by absorbing nearby life.
I crept along, fearing I’d run into a tourist, hopefully a hipster named Kurt. A fingerpost (yup, that was grey too) with two wooden arms pointed in either direction of the road appeared on the right. The arm forward read Moose Lodge, and the one behind, was blank.
“They can’t even finish the lettering on that sign,” Ghoul scoffed. He was jotting something down on a notebook.
The road widened, and a building formed ahead.
“Must the place,” Ghoul guessed.
Even though the spooky ghost-mist shrouded Moose Lodge, I could still determine that this place was a sort of woodsy reception that drooled local flare like a shitty corporate restaurant chain. The one accommodation, though, was lacking insufferable waitstaff that bubbled like two dollar champagne.
A fence popped out of the haze and instinct forced me to swerve. I yelled, “Watch were you’re going,” but we were alone and I was hollering at a fence. I pulled on the grass, off the road. Killed the engine. Looked to Ghoul, who looked to me.
“What?” he asked.
“Am I going blind or something? Why is everything still grey. Even your face is a new level of ashen.”
Ghoul surveyed the immediate area with a quick scan. He shrugged, then said that he didn’t understand why it was a big issue or anything.
“We should probably go find someone, get some directions. Maybe get some non-Kurt service.”
“What, are you afraid his beard will smite you down? Hah, you’re such a terrible person,” said Ghoul as he stepped out of the passenger seat.
Ghoul had a point: I was uncomfortable around hipsters, especially over the top ones like Kurt. And there was something unsettling about his beard. Thinking about it brought a tinge of awareness clawing at my insides.
“You coming?” Ghoul asked.
Ghoul slammed the door. I noticed him then set his arm back into place at the elbow. Must have popped out again, I thought. But shouldn’t I have heard the door hit?
I was out of the car, stretching my arms to the sky and inhaled through my noise. “Do you smell that?” I asked. “And why is it so quiet? Where are all the people?”
There was no aroma of pine or smoldering wood or bug spray wafting on the breeze; not even my own body order… nothing. The K.O.A. was absolutely desolate. I felt like I was colorblind, searching with fool’s hope for foliage in still photographs. Ghoul was ushering nonexistent scents to his nostrils like a chef smelling his prized marinara recipe.
“I don’t smell anything. But then again, I am undead. Sometimes the old senses misfire,” he said, then was back to his notebook.
“What are you writing in there?” I asked.
“Doing a write-up of campgrounds in our state. Thought I’d start here. Some asshole named Yelp has a secure grasp over online reviews, so I am digging in for some of the pie.”
I thumbed the lock on my keys. Heard nothing, turned, then tried again. The taillights flashed but the double chirp of the alarm was muted. All I could hear was our voices, and of course that bellowing that erupted from Moose Lodge.
“What is that sound?” I asked.
“Must be some sort of tribal call, kin to the Native Americans that called this region home.”
The mist ominous grey mist transformed once more. Ghoul paid no attention to it, as he was busy noting alternative history for this alternative world. Visibility quickly reduced and I strained to hear my own gasp when I caught one final glance of the lodge. Red and black long-sleeve flannels, manbuns and glitter beards rushed from it’s entrance.
The hipsters were headed our way.
© Copyright John Potts Jr. 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.
To the next tale of ridiculousness!