** In the spirit of Halloween, this post and the next two week’s will be a new short story called A Cursed Witch. Hope you enjoy it!**
News anchor Johnathon Sharp straightened out his blank pieces of paper on the desk and looked up at camera one with his picture-perfect grin as the light above it turned green.
“Welcome back folks. As we wrap up tonight’s broadcast, we’d like to remind everyone of the tragic anniversary that falls on this weekend. Two years ago, the Cherry family went camping near Orange Peak and were never found. Volunteers searched for seven days until a storm wiped out any possibility of following a trail, but they found no trace of where they could have gone. One year later, Sylvia Bryar went on a hike with a university club and her group lost track of her and her three sisters near the same area. Similarly, there was no sign of where they went.
“We have also been tipped off that the authorities have re-investigated other missing persons over previous years, and they all have two things in common; the time of the year and the location. The officials have released a statement warning anyone to avoid Orange Peak this weekend or to postpone their camping trips altogether. Police presence will be high every night for the next two weeks to prevent any more disappearances.”
Trey switched the television off and smiled around at his friends. “So, it’s true then.”
Andrea rolled her eyes. “Of course, it’s true. I know how to do research.” She slouched back into the ratty brown couch in Trey’s living room and picked her phone back up.
Adam comically rolled his eyes in a dramatic impersonation of Andrea, which was spot on since they were twins, and then he laughed and flipped through his notebook. “Okay, so we’ve found the trails and the camping sights, and they’re all marked with flags. We went up last weekend. Did you guys get the gear?”
Steven nodded. “I borrowed the tents and shit from my uncle. He’s super proud of me for wanting to ‘get in touch with nature.’ Or something like that. Fuckin’ hippy.”
Trey hooted with laughter.
“And you?” Adam asked.
Trey calmed down and pointed to the kitchen. “Food and water are ready to go. Just gotta pick up ice on the way out of town for the coolers.”
“Good.” Adam checked off a list in the notebook. “And we have the cameras ready and extra batteries charged.” He rocked forward and smiled. “This is going to be so awesome.”
“Do you really think we’re gonna find anything?” Andrea asked. She was the least excited of the group, but always tagged along with her brother’s crazy adventures. “So, a bunch of people have gone missing over time in the mountains. It’s not that strange. Just a coincidence with the timing and location.”
“Aw, come on sis. You saw the reports with your own eyes. They find other missing people. Or at least parts of them. These people completely vanished.”
“Whatever. I’m still coming. I’m just saying not to get your hopes up is all.”
Dave and his son Johnny stood at the back hatch of the family SUV and stared at the pile of supplies strewn across the driveway. Dave kept looking back and forth as he made his plan of attack, but Johnny looked skeptical.
“You sure this is all gonna fit in there, dad?” He asked.
“Sure. It has every other year.” Dave picked up the tents and lined them up against the seatback.
“Yeah, but every other year Sasha wasn’t a pre-teen girl. Look at her suitcase.” Johnny picked up the pink bag that was twice the size of every other member of the families. “Does she think we’re going to a be up there for a month?”
Dave laughed. “Okay, you’ve got a point. We’ll save her bag for last, and if it needs to be downsized, we’ll handle it then. But I’d like to post-pone her freak out for as long as possible.”
Johnny shrugged and grabbed the grilling supplies to load into the car.
The moon, two days from being a full, hung in the sky and taunted Eris where she stood in the mouth of her cave. Her prison. Her milky eyes stared up at the moon and she chanted under her breath. Her hair, twisted into tangled knots and entwined with leaves and grass, hung at the base of her neck and seemed to spark with electricity with every word that fell from her cracked lips. Soon she would be free of her cage to hunt and replenish. Soon, so soon, she would be beautiful again.
Behind her, the sound of people at work raised her spirits. Her small army hammered and shaped her tools into perfection. The knives gleamed. The nets were strong. But best of all was the new fire pit they had crafted for Eris. Even larger than last years, she’d be able to sacrifice seven at a time now. She’d appease the gods’ appetites with more efficiency and then drink her fill of their pleasure. And maybe this time, they would forgive her slight and she’ll be freed from her curse.