IT WAS the hottest summer anyone could remember at Camp. It was between sessions and that meant the staff was left there all alone for a peaceful weekend.
Unknown to them, another bus – a gray prison bus – was winding along the road outside of the camp, transporting a single prisoner. The man was criminally insane, according to the tag on his prison uniform, and the two guards assigned to him believed it. He was very tall and strong, so his hands were manacled in huge handcuffs and his legs were hobbled close to each other with a chain. To keep him from running or kicking out at anyone, the Warden had added an old-fashioned ball and chain, which he’d found in a prison storeroom. That kind of thing hadn’t been used since the 1920’s. The chain was clamped to the maniac’s right ankle, and the heavy iron ball was on the end of the four-foot chain.
The maniac was sitting quietly with his eyes closed, smiling that same simple smile he always smiled just to keep the guards wondering. Thinking that the maniac was asleep, the guards weren’t being watchful enough. As the bus swerved on a tight mountain curve, one guard slid off the wooden bench and fell against the prisoner, who wasn’t asleep at all. He quickly grabbed the guard by the neck with the short chain on his handcuffs.
While they struggled, the other guard got up and went after the maniac. The prisoner dropped the strangled guard and lunged at the other one. The guard tried to draw his pistol, but the maniac had picked up the iron ball and thrown it before the guard had so much as a chance.
The maniac found keys on the guard to remove the cuffs and the leg irons, but he could not find a key for the ball and chain. He picked up the iron ball again, smashed the wire glass window to the cab of the prison bus, and grabbed the driver by the throat. The bus swerved all over the road and finally crashed into the deep ditch beside the road, coming to rest against a large tree. The maniac was out!
Back at the Camp, the Staff had swum all afternoon and were now back in their tents on staff row, reading or listening to the radio. There wasn’t a TV anywhere in the camp. The sun went down and the owls began to hoot scarily off in the distance. Suddenly someone screamed! Everyone came running out of their tents and met at the assembly ground.
Missy the swimming instructor was missing! The other four ran to her tent. The zipper was open and there was a pool of blood on the floor. The Staff gasped, then suddenly became very quiet.
“Ssshhh! Whispered David. They all strained to listen. In the trees, somewhere nearby they could hear:
Step… Drag… step … drag… step … drag…
“Let split up and look for her!” said Tim. They all ran off in different directions into the dark woods. After a few minutes David yelled for everyone to come to him. It was hard to follow his voice in the underbrush; it was hard to believe that the woods in camp were so thick and impenetrable. Soon Tim and Chris found David staring up into a tree. There in the moonlight was Colin. He was hanging by his head in a fork of the tree branches; his neck must have broken.
Off to the south they could hear noises in the under-growth: Step… Drag… step … drag… step … drag…
Tim climbed the tree and lowered the body to the others. The three of them carried the limp corpse back to the mess hall. Once inside, Tim hurried to lock all the doors with big wooden boards. “You all stay here”, he said, “and lock this door behind me. I’ve got to get to the office where the phone is.”
The others objected, but Tim went out the front door and slipped off in the darkness. The others dropped the wooden bar back into its metal brackets, to prevent anyone from entering. After a few minutes the lights suddenly went out. The staff started to scream, but then they realized that whoever had cut the wires might not know where they were. The held their hands over their mouths and hid under the serving counter.
Suddenly, something rattled the front door. It must be the maniac! The Staff huddled together. Next they heard something outside the window just above them, something dragging along the ground, going: Step… Drag… step … drag… step … drag…
The double doors rattled again. Tim whispered, “Hey dudes, let me in!” The dragging sound was moving around the building going toward the back door. Tim gasped louder, “Let me in!”
David ran from the Counter to the door and lifted the bar. Tim darted into the mess hall like a scared cat.
Just as they got the double doors shut, the dragging sound came around to the front. Just as they dropped the wooden bar into its brackets, something huge and heavy hit the door, cracking the wood.
Tim and Chris ran across the room, tripping and stumbling over chairs in the dark. The object hit the door again, and the wooden bar cracked with a loud noise. The two staffers looked under the serving counter. David wasn’t there! They ran to the back door.
“The phone lines must have been cut whispered Tim. “The phone was dead”. The heavy weight hit the front door again, breaking part of the doors upper half. Tim and Chris lifted the bar from the back door and swung it open. Another crash at the front door told then the doors were about to give. The two slipped into the tall pantry and closed the door.
Back in the mess hall, the double front doors gave way in a burst of splinters and broken boards. A deathly silence followed. The two staffers hardly dared to take a breath. Suddenly, they heard that sound out on the wooded floor: Step… Drag… step … drag… step … drag…
The sound stopped right outside the pantry door. Chris gasped. Tim cupped his hand over his mouth and the two held their breath. Tim was afraid the thing outside could hear his heart beating.
Suddenly there was a terrible scream outside the pantry.
It was David! He had moved to another hiding place, leaving Tim and Chris on their own. Now the thing, whatever it was had found him. There was another scream and the sound of something going out the back door.
Then everything was quiet as a graveyard.
The two waited all night, hardly breathing. The sun began to come up; they could see light coming in through the cracks of the wooden pantry. A morning dove was calling softly in the woods.
Then they heard a sound. Someone was coming in the front door. Slow footsteps crossed the floor, along with the sound of something dragging along the boards. The sound came closer to the pantry.
Suddenly it stopped, right in front of the pantry door as if someone was waiting.
Chris could not stand it anymore. He screamed.
The Pantry door swung open, and there standing over them was a tall, muscular form, lit from behind. The man bent over.
He took off his wide-brimmed hat and shows them his badge. “I’m the Sheriff”, he said, dropping the heavy bag of weapons and bulletproof vest he had been dragging. “THANK GOD YOU TWO ARE ALL RIGHT!”