Robbie sat back triumphantly on the sand and wiped the sweat from his brow, slicking back his long blond hair in the process. Anna, his girlfriend walked over and placed a hand gently on his shoulder while adjusting her own dark, pixie cut hairdo with her other.
‘Well done honey, you stuck some sticks in the ground.’ She said sarcastically
It was true, Robbie had spent the last half an hour since the group had arrived at their campsite hammering some wooden stakes into the ground at intervals, creating a perimeter about fifteen feet around the two tents.
‘Yes, they are sticks in the ground, but once I wrap this string around them, it will create a fence that will stop us wandering off into the desert if we need to move about at night, it will likely be getting quite dark at night.’
‘Well that is what tends to happen at night. The sun goes away!’ came a voice from one of the two tents surrounded by the wooden perimeter. A few seconds later Robbie’s best friend, Kevin appeared from the tent, clutching a pair of beer bottle in one hand and a bottle opener in the other. He was tall but unlike Robbie who was well built, Kevin was scrawny. His short dark hair, like Robbie’s was slicked with sweat and his clothes were slightly too large on his light frame. As He approached Kevin managed to trip on what must have been the only rock they hadn’t cleared from their area and almost managed to fall on his face, barely managing to save himself at the last moment. When he reached his friends, he offered one bottle to Robbie before popping the top off his own and tilting his head back for a big swig. Anna coughed dramatically to gain his attention.
‘And where is mine?’ she asked sweetly
‘You had one when we arrived.’ Replied Kevin as Robbie popped his own bottle and took a swig
‘So, I can’t have one now?’
‘We’re out here for five days sweetie and there is only so much beer.’ Replied Kevin
‘To be fair…’ chimed in Robbie, ‘The cooler will only keep it cold for so long, might as well drink it all tonight or it’ll be warm by morning and warm beer is just gross’
‘Thank you, Baby,’ said Anna, quickly pulling the bottle from Kevin’s hand to little fight and taking a quick swig.
Robbie chuckled and held his hand up to Kevin who helped pull him to his feet.
‘I know you are going to side with your girlfriend Rob, but just remember we have known each other longer’ joked Kevin
‘I know man, but you need to learn to stand up for yourself, can’t just let her push you around cos she’s a woman, now help me with this string would you.’
‘I’ll get it for you’ said Anna, handing the now half-finished bottle of beer back to Kevin and walking off back to the tents.
Robbie started to walk his perimeter again but Kevin watched Anna as she went. Her long-tanned legs climbing up to underneath her white shorts which were cut to show off just enough of her backside to be enticing, her hips swaying slightly as she walked. Kevin felt his temperature rising and decided it best to move on before Robbie saw his looking.
‘So, the rope gets wrapped around the sticks?’ he said as he jogged up to where Robbie was standing staring out into the desert.
‘That’s right, and then if we need to go for a piss or the like during the night then we won’t go too far out else we’ll walk into it, plus if we need to find then tents all we need do is follow the rope around and it’ll pass by the back of them.’ Replied Robbie with a smile
‘Thanks, wish I could say I was the one who came up with the idea.’
‘Don’t worry, I didn’t accuse you of having come up with it.’ Laughed Kevin
‘Hey, screw you too’ replied Robbie, giving Kevin a light punch to the shoulder.
The pair laughed and Kevin rubbed his shoulder, hoping that he was exaggerating it enough to hide the fact that it actually had hurt.
Night had started to fall by the time the trio had managed to get their camp fully set up with a small generator running some camping lights and their truck had been unloaded of all their recording equipment which was now placed around their perimeter at various locations to try and get them the best coverage. By the time everything had been finished and a small fire had been set to cook over many more beers had been consumed by all parties, most notably Anna who now was helping Robbie paw over the map while Kevin kept an eye on the sausages and tended the fire, occasionally glancing up at the couple when they weren’t looking.
‘Hey Kev, you’re one hundred percent sure we are in the right place, right?’ called Anna, exaggerating the E sound in his name.
‘Right place right’ chuckled Robbie, quietly repeating what she had said.
‘Shut up’ cried Anna, laughing too.
‘Don’t touch the markers, I’m one hundred, hundred percent sure we are in the right place. I’m the map guy remember!’ replied Kevin
‘Oh, sorry Mr Map Guy’ laughed Anna as she sauntered over to the fire and sat down, rather harder than she had intended, in her chair.
‘Don’t call him that, it’ll just add to his ego’ chuckled Robbie, taking his chair next to Anna rather more gracefully.
‘Well then you can call me Mr Food Guy as I serve up the first plate of hotdogs!’ called Kevin triumphantly as he managed to flip a sausage surprisingly deftly into a bun and passed it to Anna who cheered.
‘Hey Kev, feeding my girl first? Trying to make a move?’ Said Robbie, trying to keep a straight face but failing after a few seconds.
‘Wouldn’t dream of it Rob, I only gave Annie that one because I’d burnt it slightly, but don’t tell her that.’ Replied Kev, managing to get another sausage into a bun and passing it to Rob.
‘Aww Kevvie you’re breaking my heart. You’re really not trying?’ said Anna in a whining tone.
‘I…feel like there is no right way to answer that question’ replied Kevin, laughing
‘Pretty sure that’s the right way to answer it’ replied Rob and the three laughed.
Kevin tried to go three for three on sausage flipping but this time managed to miss his own bun and the sausage padded softly to the floor. His two friends booed as Kevin shrugged and got to his feet, giving the sausage a clumsy kick out of the perimeter, spraying sand up into the air, before carefully skewering a fourth sausage and carefully placing it in his bun before sitting back down with a thump.
‘Always have a spare’ he said with a chuckle.
‘Hey Kev, didn’t you say there was an old ghost story about this place? When we were riding in’
‘Yea there is, there are a bunch to be fair but only a few of them are widely told.’
‘Oh go ahead, tells us a story Kev’ Said Anna who had slipped out of her seat and was now cross legged on the sand by the fire.
‘Right Ok then. Well, you know we are in the middle of the Oregon Trail right? Well not right in the middle of course we would be more along the…’ started Kevin.
‘You can spare us the really nitty gritty details Kev, just get to the gruesome bits.’ Interrupted Robbie who had slipped down to sit beside Anna and placed an arm around her.
‘Right well, there was a group of pilgrims on their travels, maybe about ten or so and when they reach this desert, some of them start getting sick.’ Continued Kevin also slipping sown onto the sand so that his face was partially hidden behind the dancing flames.
‘So a small group of these ten, two guys and a girl in face. They decide they don’t want to get sick and they are going to split off and go back, find another group to travel with as they can’t go ahead with just three.’
‘How were they getting sick? What were their symptoms?’ asked Anna between a sip of beer. Her eyes were starting to glaze a bit as the alcohol started to take a greater toll.
‘It’s a ghost story Anna, I don’t think the clinical details of their illness is the main issue’ laughed Rob pulling her closer to him.
‘Well you don’t know do you’ she replied belligerently.
‘Don’t worry, Annie, it’s not’ chuckled Kevin
‘Spoilers’ muttered Anna as she snuggled closer to Robert.
‘The spoiler is that I’m not going to finish this story if you keep interrupting’ said Kevin with another smile and Rob covered both his and Anna’s mouths with his hands.
‘Thank you, now, where was I? Well these pilgrims, they were trying to head back, and something happened down the road and in short, one of the pilgrims was married to the woman, but he felt that the other man was, essentially, having an affair with his wife. He starts to pull their caravan of course, leading them around in circles so that they could spend more nights out in the desert so that he could have more chances to catch the two being adulterous…’
The duo of Rob and Anna are silent as they curl up together listening to the story being told, letting Kevin get into his grove as he built towards the climax of the story.
‘Finally, the man catches his wife talking with the other man and he loses his temper, attacking his friend and in his blind anger he kills the friend but in doing so his wife is knocked into the fire they had set up for the night. Screaming she runs off into the desert flailing and the man chases after her and to this day it is said that the ghosts of the three prowl the deserts, seeking each other out. The legend even says that everyone and a while a group will be traveling out here and will disappear. Their stuff will be found, but they will be gone.’
There was silence over the group for a small while as Kevin takes a bit from his hotdog. Finally, it is Anna who breaks the silence.
‘So, the guy just sees his wife talking to their friend, goes crazy and kills them both?’ she asked cautiously
‘Well it’s never made clear how they were talking. They may have actually been having an affair, maybe they were just talking about the fact that the husband had gone crazy, leading them around in circles.’ Replied Kevin.
‘And so, a woman was set on fire and decided to run off? Not stop drop and roll?’ Said rob mockingly.
‘It was the 1800’s dude I don’t think they had invented fire safety yet’
‘You’re full of shit’ laughed Anna
‘Well it is a legend, nothing says it has to be true.’ Replied Kevin
‘Well I still don’t get it, what kind of disease do you get in the desert?’ asked Rob
‘Oh shut up’ replied Kevin
The trio laughed and joked with each other for a few more hours, as more beer was drunk and they progressively got crazier. Anna flicked on the radio they had brought and the soft tones of music wafted across the desert around them as they danced under the moon and the stars. It was about one o’clock when they decided they had better turn in. Kevin used his flashlight to give all the recording equipment a final adjustment, making sure the cameras had a good view of the sky before he at last climbed into his tent. Throwing himself down onto his unfolded sleeping bag and passing out without even getting undressed.