|This article, Haloween: Tales From The Campfire, was written by Ajax 013. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
During a training operation on Onyx, Team Shiv go off on their own, disobeying orders. Setting up camp, the Spartans decide to share ghost stories, but soon, things get a little out of hand.
“Shiv, report in?”
“This is Falchion 1 to Rapier 1, Shiv is nonresponsive.”
“Trident 2 to Rapier 1, Shiv was on our six, they’ve gone now. Did we lose them in the woods?”
“No visual. Shiv, respond.”
Cora pulled on the power chord for her radio pack, disconnecting it with a distinct crackle feeding back through the earpiece. She looked to her team mates, each having disconnected their radios.
“Shiv, we’re officially off the grid. Holiday time starts now.” She smiled
The rest of the team let off an uneasy smile. They’d been planning this for weeks, but weren’t confident of success. Upon finding out they’d be doing a two week wilderness mission, they figured out it’d be a good excuse for a break. They’d ditch the other units and climb into the highlands, find a nice spot to camp and relax. Aaron had stolen a substantial amount of marshmallows from the mess, and Jace had further taken some desert rations. They’d worked like dogs for months now, and it was time for them to relax, kick back and enjoy some down time.
Cora dug her hands into the rockface, pulling her body up. They’d found this spot in a previous exercise. It was secluded, wooded, satellite scans couldn’t pick them up, they couldn’t be seen from the air, or the ground. It was the perfect get away. Finally reaching the precipice, she pulled herself up and quickly turned on the bare stone face to take the hand of Karl, pulling his large frame up. The remaining three Spartans clambered up, and onto the cliff top. Heading under the cover of the pine trees, they pressed forward, navigating their way through them in near zero visibility. Finally, they broke into a small clear. Ezra ducked low ahead of them, and took the fire lighter from his pocket, firing it up. A small wisp of fire escaped from it, and he pressed it to a prepared fire pit. The wisp of fire caught, lighting the kindling, quickly resulting in a small blaze. Licks of orange flame went up, illuminating the five children, who quickly got to work with military precision setting up their camp.
Within a few minutes, the Spartans had established five small tents, already began preparing food, and all huddled close to the fire for warmth. It was an eerie, moonless night, leaving no illumination aside from the licks of flame in the fire pit. Now settled in, their worries melted away, as they began preparing their marshmallows, skewering them on sticks and lighting them over the flames. The Spartans were silent, exchanging uneasy longs between one another. Their trainers would come for them, try to hunt them down, but this was their vacation, and nobody would ruin it for them.
Cora looked to her team mates, and a sly grin spread across her face.
“On a night like this, you know what we should do?” she asked “Tell some ghost stories!” “Hey, I got one! A true story too! I heard it from a very reputable source” Aaron began
“Who? Jace asked bluntly
“Petty Officer Beta Oh-Niner-One.” Aaron began, matter of factly
“Lucy. Have you ever heard Lucy speak. She never says anything.” Cora asked, leaning forward
“Well, see, she wrote it down for me. It’s a true story, happened right here on Onyx too.” He began “It happened to a team of Spartans, out all alone, just like us, in woods, just like this, on a night, just lik-”
“I swear to god, if this contains the words Zone 67, Team X-Ray, and they were never seen again, I’ll personally throw you off that cliff.” Karl growled
Aaron stopped, his face furrowing in confusion “I... I....”
“NEXT.” Karl yelled, causing Aaron to jump
“I’m up for the plate then.” Jace grinned, leaning forward “This is a story back from my old colony, near my home town.”
A man fresh out of college had decided he’d take a vacation, travel the world, see the sights. He’d travelled across most of the continent during his trip, visiting numerous landmarks, but was now heading for the coast. He’d planned to camp as much of it out as he could, but one night he’d damaged his tent, and was immediately followed by a down pour. Seeking shelter, he headed into town, and found a small inn just outside, and a little bit excluded. Coming into the house, he was dripping wet, and soaked through. The sweet little old lady told him they had one room available, at the end of the hall. Paying for the room, he went upstairs and headed to it. Like she said, it was at the end of the hallway. He opened it up and for the first time in weeks collapsed onto a soft bed. He lay back, comfortable and began to doze off to sleep immediately. That’s when he heard it. It was faint, but he could definitely hear scratching next to him. Since it was the outer wall next to him, he figured it was a bird, or insect against the wall. Shrugging it off, he turned over and went to sleep.
Waking up feeling refreshed, he headed to his curtains and opened them up. He was immediately dismayed by the tree blocking the view of his window, but he shrugged it off. Getting showered and changed, he headed downstairs and headed into town. He booked in a three day stay, so he could enjoy his visit a little better. As he left the hotel, he got a good view of the seaside, and lamented that he couldn’t see it himself from his room. Turning back to look at his window, he saw the tree blocking it, but noticed something strange. The hotel extended further along, past his room. There was even a window. But his room was at the end of the hall, he couldn’t understand how that was possible. A little shaken, he shrugged it off and went into town. While he tried his best to enjoy himself, the thought of the room next to his overshadowed his enjoyment. He heard scratching through a room that should be unoccupied. Maybe an animal got in there, or something? Too many thoughts ran through his head. When he got back to the hotel that evening, he went to talk to the sweet old lady about the history of the hotel. She told him her husband bought it twenty years ago when the original owner committed suicide. It was a sad affair. His daughter had ran away, and so distraught with it, he took his own life. He then asked her about the walled up section and she just smiled. It was likely to dodge an old colonial taxation law about the number of bedrooms in a building. A silly tax, it was still in place, so she and her husband never bothered reopening that room.
Somewhat assuaged by his talk with the old woman, he went back to his room to retire for the night. He slept peacefully, barely stirring, until the moon was high in the sky, he was awoken by a sound. He could hear the scratching again. At first annoyed, assuming it was some animal in there, he rolled over, trying to ignore it. As it got more and more noticeable, he put his ear to the door, trying to hear exactly what the animal was doing in that room. That’s when he heard it. It was just audible, and barely above a whisper, in the voice of a young woman.
“Let me out.”
He backed away from the wall, his face pale from the shock. He curled up, his body slick with sweat. The scratching stopped, but he couldn’t stop shaking.
Morning came, and he hadn’t slept. The hotel owner’s wife came to see him, since she hadn’t seen him come down today and thought something was wrong. He told her through the door he felt a little under the weather but he’d be okay. He lay in his bed, frightened of what lay next door. The scratching resumed, and he reached his limit. He had to know what was next door. Opening the bedroom door, he looked down the hallway to see if it was clear. Putting his ear to the wall, he attempted to listen through it for more clues, but as he shifted his weight against the wall, it gave way in front of him, and he collapsed through it. Looking back, he saw the wall wasn’t bricked over as he thought, but plastered. Hastily getting up, he observed the corridor ahead of him. It was dusty, and had been sealed for years, with the wall paper peeling away, and the windows blackened with dirty. He stepped up, and walked to the only door, connecting to the room next to his. Touching door handle, he gave it a little rattle. It had been locked from the outside, and had now seized with rust and time. Giving it a squeeze, he managed to force it to unlock, and opened the door. Holding his breath with apprehension, he looked it. The room was totally empty. Nothing on the walls, nothing on the floor, no furniture, no decoration. Nothing. He took a step into the room, looking around, attempting to find something, anything. His breathing was shallow, and the pressure of the room felt heavy, like it was a forbidden place. But there was nothing here. Finally breathing out, he sighed. He’d been so frightened of nothing at all. Turning to leave, something caught his eye at the edge of the room. The wall paper had began to peel in here too, and on the wall adjoining his room, a tiny sliver had peeled, revealing something beneath. Stepping closer, he pulled it away a little to see beneath. Against the wall were four scratch marks, going down. He pulled more of the wall paper away to find more of these, with the marks growing erratic, then bloodied. They were scratch marks. Somebody tried to get out of here. As he pulled away another sheet, it revealed something scrawled on the wall.
“Let me out.”
His breath short with apprehension and terror, he began to pull more and more of the wall paper away, revealing this phrase, and the frenzied scratch marks, across the walls. The door had been locked from the outside, and the hallway walled up. Somebody was walled into this room. Somebody was trapped, and slowly died in here. He began to slowly back pedal, backing up towards the door, when he bumped into something. His blood went cold in his veins, and all warmth seemed to leave the room.
“I’m free.” The soft voice spoke
“I think Aaron here was shivering.” Karl laughed, slapping Aaron on the back. He jumped at this, then batted Karl’s hand away from him
“I was not scared, its cold out!” he yelled, curling into the blanket wrapped around him
“Sure thing sport.” Jace smiled “Now who’s next?”
The group looked to one another, before settling on Karl.
“Fine, I have one, I just don’t like telling the story.” Karl said, shrinking back a little
“What, are you scared?” Aaron asked, coming out of his blanket a little
“No, but I’m worried it’ll make you cry.” He smirked “Well, it takes place in a little town, a nice idyllic little place.”
The young boy looked over his shoulder at the gaggle of bullies. They stopped following him now, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t still worried. He reached his hand to his forehead and touched it, pulling it back to see the small dash of crimson on his hand. Their barrage of rocks had left him bloodied and bruised. He just sighed, walking along the park, gripping to his books. He didn’t know where he was going to go tonight. He didn’t really have any friends to play out with, but he didn’t have any will to go home, since his home life wasn’t much better. Walking through the back streets of the suburb, he stopped dead in his tracks. He had reached a cross roads, not an unusual coincidence, but something felt wrong, felt cold. He looked to his right, down the alley, and he saw him. He looked like a soldier in his uniform, carrying a heavy rucksack. He walked in front of the boy, then down the alley on his left. Something seemed wrong, like he was out of place. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it was impossible for a soldier to be there, but he couldn’t remember why.
Carrying on, he came to the next crossroads between the houses, and turned to his left. Another soldier was walking from his right again. Had he been turned around? He was pretty sure he was heading in the right direction. So what was this man doing here? He passed him and headed down the alley on the left again. Something felt unapproachable, wrong with this man. Hurrying away from him, the boy wracked his mind, about why this scene was so wrong, then it hit him. Most of the young men around here had been conscripted, and trained nearby, then headed out on a troop transport. The troop transport was hit by the Covenant, the ship was totally destroyed, lost with all hands and passengers. It had been big news, lots of people in his neighbourhood had been mourning since they’d lost sons or brothers.
He got to the next cross roads and looked to his left. A third soldier approached him. But this one was different. He recognised him. Was he the next door neighbour’s son? He looked so different with his long hair shaved off. He stopped, he looked at the boy, then burst into flames. The fire consumed his body, burning away clothing, and flesh, until a flaming skeleton collapsed to its knees. The boy didn’t hesitate, he just ran. Passing the scene, he ran as fast as his legs would allow him, until he reached the main road. Heading down, he met the junction that turned onto his housing estate, and got to his house, flying through the gate, scrabbling to unlock the door, and then sprinting upstairs. He didn’t say anything, he just ran under the covers of his bed and wrapped himself up. His mother, concerned about him, came upstairs, tugging at the edge of his covers. “Are you okay son?” she asked, concerned “Have those boys been hitting you again?” “No... I... I think I saw a ghost?” he said, his voice trembling “Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as ghosts.” She smiled warmly, sitting by his bed to pet his head The boy looked out of his window. He could still see a column of smoke rising from the young man he saw burning. The boy wasn’t so sure about ghosts anymore.
“That was creepy.” Cora said, tucking her knees to her body
“Yeah, well.... that really happened to me...” Karl said, wrapping his blanket just a little bit tighter around himself
“You’re joking me?” Jace asked, sitting forward
Karl shook his head. He did seem visibly shaken having just relived it.
“In some cultures, 4 is a number representing death. Cross roads are thought to be passages to the afterlife.” Ezra said, his dry voice being heard for the first time tonight.
Everybody looked to Ezra, a little confused by his sudden outburst, but Cora just smiled.
“Fine then, I think Ezra just volunteered to be next.”
“Fine. I heard this one from some of the freighter captains coming in to the spaceport near where I lived.” He said, his tone barely changing from his usual deadpan voice
Campo was two weeks out of Tribute on his freighter run, heading towards Skopje. It had been quiet, and mostly uneventful, and he was thankful for that. He was running some bits and pieces for a company, nothing major. Campo had gotten out of bed to check his current course and make minute corrections. Everything seemed fine now, so no need to worry. Looking up from the command console, he looked out across the vast darkness of slipstream space. The console blipped softly, causing him to look at it. The sensor display showed there was something, passing just in front of him. This was a busy space lane, so it was likely he wasn’t the only one out here right now. He ignored it and looked on.
Leaving the bridge, he headed down the stairs, and was prepared to enter his room when the ship was rocked by a sudden and violent explosion. Almost thrown on his ass, he grabbed a hold of the railing to steady himself, and then drag himself back to his feet. Struggling to stand, he looked ahead as smoke began to fill the cabin. Taking an oily rag from his pocket to cover his mouth, he headed down, past the smoke, into the source, the engine room. There was a colossal blaze burning out of the life support system, and the fire suppressant system was trying to combat it, blasting gases to smother the blaze. Fighting his way past the heat and smoke, he got to the console for the life support system, and immediately shut down the system, cutting off the supply of oxygen for the fire. However, there was enough oxygen in the room to keep that fire going, and going strong, so he had to do something drastic. Holding on to the console, he vented the air from the room. The fire was sucked from the room, trailing through the airlock he opened and being sucked out into the void as a lance of flame. Sealing the airlock, he fell to his knees, deprived of oxygen. Reaching for the cabinet next to him, he fumbled, opening it, then pulled out the mask and oxygen tank. Pulling the mask over his face, he flicked on the tank and took in a deep gulp of air. He got to his feet unsteadily and looked to the life support system. It was totalled, and non-functional. Heading to the bridge, he took stock of the situation. With the life support gone, he only had a finite supply of oxygen for the ship, which would run out in under two hours. Cryonic suspension was his only option, but it left him vulnerable to being cast out in space for all time, and he wasn’t quite prepared for that. Heading back to the bridge, he took another oxygen mask for when his tank ran dry. Sitting in his chair, he leaned against the console in despair, his breathing slow and shallow. Just then, as if an answer to his prays, the console blipped again. The ship he encountered was just in range, and moving slowly ahead of him. Adjusting his course, he set the ship to full burn to catch up with it. He picked up the radio and opened up the channel, on all frequencies.
“Unknown ship bearing six-seven-niner-three, please respond. My vessel is in distress and I am in need of immediate help, please respond.” He pleaded down the radio, but the only response was static. Pulling his ship closer, he got his first good look at it. He didn’t recognise the classification, but it was definitely a freighter. The hull was pristine, white, and unblemished, like it had barely made any journeys in its life. Pulling closer, he read the name of the ship emblazoned along its side. The Star Wayfarer. He audible gasped. And spacer worth their salt had heard of the ship. It was a ghost ship, probably the most famous one. It disappeared over two centuries ago, with a complement of eight crew and ninety passengers, to never be heard of again. There’d been numerous sightings, but no one had ever been this close to it. He thought those sightings were just fairy tales, but this was all too real. His freighter pulled alongside it, matching its speed and heading. Campo pulled back from the console, and leaned back in his chair. Was he so desperate that he’d attempt to board a cursed ghost ship? He didn’t have a choice. He whispered a pray to Bloody Elisa and made his choice. He’d take the Wayfarer and use it to tow his own ship back to port.
Refilling his oxygen tank, he headed down to the port airlock, giving him a good view of the ship. He picked out a airlock he could board. Stepping into the airlock, he hooked a safety line to his belt so he would be able to get to and from the ships. Venting the airlock, the door opened with a creaking sound. He took a deep breath, steadied his nerves, then leapt out. Carried across the gap by his own inertia, he slammed into the hull of the ship. Initially bouncing, he scrambled to find purchase, his hand getting a good grip on it. Pulling himself along the hull, he reached a point where he could anchor his safety line, then opened the airlock and pulled himself in. Closing it, he heard the air rush in as the cycle finished. He removed his mask and breathed in slowly. It was certainly air, but far from fresh. It was stagnant, and tasted wrong, almost coppery. He couldn’t disagree with oxygen though. He switched off his rebreather and hung the mask off his hip. Pulling a flashlight from his belt, he flicked it on, and looked around. While dark, the ship seemed to be in good condition. Navigating his way through, he reached the bridge. While there was a thick layer of dust, it was still functional. Programming in a course for Skopje, matching the pre-programmed heading of his own ship, he looked to the ship’s internal sensors. There was some kind of ping down in the cargo bay, making him curious. He was suddenly disturbed by a shuffling sound behind him. Turning around quickly, he saw a small girl, with a dirty face and bloodied clothes, and tangled brown hair. Startled by him, she ran, Campo immediately following. Shouting for her to stop, she darted through the labyrinthine corridors until they hit the cargo bay. Campo skidded to a stop, just in time to avoid falling thirty feet into the bay below. The gantry had collapsed from age and poor care. Carefully climbing down, he called out for the girl, his torch scanning the high stacks of crates to each side of him. He took another step forward, and something crunched under foot. His torch came down to illuminate the ground, and show the horror at his feet. There were hundreds of bones on the floor, their bodies tangled with one another. Scanning around, he saw more and more, some skeletons held together with one another in an embrace, some clawing at the doors and walls. Were these the passengers of the ship? Taking sharp, short, ragged breaths he backed up, and then climbed back up the gantry. What on earth had happened on this ship? As he climbed, there was a hissing noise. The room was decompressing. He realised then, this is the fate those people suffered. Slowly suffocated to death as the cargo bay was vented. Clambering faster, he pulled himself through the door and sealed it behind him. Resting against it, he desperately tried to catch his breath. His entire body was slick with sweat brought on by terror.
Searching for answers, he headed back to the bridge. Accessing the system logs, looking over them to find out who had tried to kill him in that cargo bay. There was no relevant entries, but there was an entry for the first occasion, two centuries ago. He clicked through it, then accessed the captains written log, which he kept on the system. The freighter crew were poor, poorer than the refugees they were shipping. They figured it was better money to collect the life insurance on their passengers than the payment their passengers had already given them and killed them. The crew was going to cash it in when they began squabbling with one another, and killed each other. The captain, driven insane with what he wrought, shot himself out of an airlock. So who was that little girl? Looking through the picture logs, he found her, amongst the passengers they killed. Thats when he heard it. Another shuffling sound. Expecting the little girl to be behind him again, it was instead a much more ghastly apparition. The ghosts of the crew, their tattered uniforms clinging to their decomposed bodies, rotting flesh sloughing off their bodies. Taking a step back, Campo was consumed by a terror he had never known before. Reaching out their hands to take a hold of him, he grabbed the bridge fire extinguisher and pulled it free of its holding, he swung it, hitting the first crewman in the face, then jabbed it forward, hitting a second, sending their shambling forms stumbling away. Barging through them, he charged down the deck, and sealed the door behind him. He had to get off the ship, he had to escape. Between his furious panting, he had a moment of clarity. These ghosts wouldn’t rest until this ship was destroyed. He knew what he had to do. Racing down to the engine room, he found the engine still in good working order. He could hear the shambling behind him, approaching quickly. Accessing the console, he initiated a huge fuel dump into the reactor, then cut off the coolant supply. It would soon overload and explode dramatically. Taking another fire extinguisher close to the console, he smashed the console so it couldn’t be reversed. Turning to see his pursuers already crowding the door way, he knew he couldn’t exit that way. He instead turned to the airlock. Racing to it, he began to cycle it, draining the air from it. Returning his mask to his face, he switched on his oxygen tank and took a deep, relieving breath. The ghosts clawed at the door, their decomposing flesh leaving trails of putrid fluid on the window. The exit opened, allowing him to exit the ship. Stepping out, he clawed desperately at the hull, using his inertia and any grip he found to propel himself along. Reaching the safety line, he took a hold of it, and climbed along it, back to his own ship. Looking back he could see the ghosts following him. Clambering as quickly as possible, he didn’t slow until he reached his own airlock. Taking out his survival knife, he frantically sawed through the cabling. The creatures crept closer and closer until He finally sawed through the cable. Snapping, he threw it away, the zero gravity causing it to tumble back to the Wayfarer, the ghosts carried with it. Shutting the door, he raced to the bridge, opening it. Adjusting his course, his freighter pulled away, just as the Star Wayfarer was engulfed in a fireball, forever destroyed. Collapsing against the console, he just laughed. He had survived the greatest ordeal of his life. Readjusting his course to put him back to Skopje, he then put the ship into standby mode, with as many non-essential systems shut down. He morosely walked through his ship, to the crew bay. He activated a single cryopod and climbed in. Remotely activating it, he removed his survival gear and put it down gently outside, and lay to rest. The pod door closed and began activating the process. Looking out one last time, he saw the girl again. She shook her head, and the ghosts of the crew appeared behind her. Campo was frozen in a state of horror as the corpses closed around his pod, the cryonic procedure freezing him in place.
The entirety of Shiv par Ezra shuffled uncomfortably. Jace, Aaron and Karl all felt a chill run down their spine, each disturbed by his tale.
“Too Scary?” Ezra asked, leaning back casually. The team didn’t respond, with the exception of Cora. Chewing at a toasted marshmallow, she smiled and flicked on her torch on, illuminating her face in a frightening manner.
“Now it’s my turn to frighten all the little boys and girls. This is a story about a team of Spartans, that ventured out alone.” She smiled devilishly.
Right then the wind began to pick up, causing the trees around them to rustle. The Spartans shifted again. Something felt wrong. Then Ezra leapt to his feet, mouth open to shout something when a shot rang out. A bullet slammed into Ezra’s chest, splattering red gore across him. He fell limply across the log he was using as a seat. The team scrambled to ready positions, but each were cut down by a precise hail of rounds, blood splattering from the wounds. Cora stood up, reaching for her rifle, but took two to the gut. Falling down, clutching her abdomen, she let out a few, shallow breaths. Were they ambushed by an assailant? Who had found them? Touching her wound again, she pulled her hand back. Her blood didn’t have a strong, coppery tang, like that of regular blood. Instead it had a strong, acrylic smell to it. The consistency was too wrong as well, it wasn’t thick, it was runny. “Paint rounds?” She asked, half delirious from adrenaline and panic. Sitting up, she saw a figure enter the clearing. This creature was more monstrous or terrifying than any terrifying night stalker they could imagine it. Its gnarled, grizzled face looked at each of them with a contempt few even had the capacity for.
“There’s only one thing for you kids to be afraid of out here.” It growled “Me.”
Cora leapt to her feet, giving a sharp salute “Chief Mendez!”
Mendez responded with by hitting her in the gut with the butt of his gun. Doubling over, she gasped for air, then stood back up, trying to maintain her position.
“You little runts are going back to Currahee right now. Any deviances from that route will result in me shooting you with something more lethal than paint rounds, is that under stood?” he barked
The Spartans, finally back on their feet, saluted and followed him, not saying a word. Each was more deeply terrified of this man than anything they could imagine. There wasn’t a need to frighten each other when Mendez was far more frightening. Each Spartan followed him back, for the long trek back to the camp. Each exchanged a few glances. Nobody would be forgetting this night any time soon.