“Your turn, Nico. You tell a story.”
“OK, I’ll tell you a story.” Nico filled his cup from the bucket of clean lake water, fresher than any water you’d get in town. “I’ll tell you a story you’ve never heard anything like. And it’s true. All of it.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just tell the story, asshole.”
Nico shut up for a moment, took a deep breath. His eyes moved to Gerald, then back into the fire.
“There was a forest, pretty similar to this one. A forest where no one knew what lived and lurked. It was too dense, too strange, too dark.”
Gerald giggled. “Yeah, just like this one.” Nico sent him a glare. His smile faded. “Go ahead.”
“One night, a hunter went into the forest, walked far and long, looking for beasts for trophies. He went where no man had ever walked before. He found a lake. There he waited for the beast.”
“What kind of beast?” Bill was enjoying the story
“Any kind, just as big as possible. The biggest, fiercest beast in the woods.. And he waited. The sun went down.”
The darkness was getting denser. Gerald put some more logs on the fire. Nico stared into the shadows between the trees.
“He heard a roar. A deep, dark roar from somewhere far into the woods. He smiled in the darkness, knew the time had come. He got his horn out, blew it. It made a long, organic sound. The sound of prey.”
They heard something in a distance. A bear, maybe. Or a Puma.
“Hey, sound effects! Awesome!”
“Will you just let me tell the story, please?”
“Jeezzz… Go on, go on.”
“The hunter heard the crack of a breaking stick right behind him. He turned around. He had become the hunted. It was no bear. No feline. He lifted his rifle. He knew his bullets would not take down something this big. The beast knew it would hurt. Neither one moved.”
“It’s closer now, isn’t it?” Bill straightened his back, looking around from side to side. “It sounds huge!”
“Don’t worry.” Nico looked from one of his friends to the other. “The fire will keep it away.”
“So what happened?” Gerald was listening now, Nico had got his attention.
“They both knew the fight would be hard, so they made a deal.”
The snap of a breaking stick. Bill got up on his feet.
“There’s something here!”
A movement between the trees. Too fast to be a puma. Too big to be a bear.
“What is that?”
Nico said nothing, still sitting by the bonfire. He turned the bucket over. The fire went out.
Bill screamed in the darkness.
“Bill! Bill, where are you? Fuck, Nico, why did youaaaaaaaahhh!!!”
Alone in the dark, Nico laid back to rest. It had become so easy, to make new friends and lure them into the forest. He was even starting to like it.