CHAPTER 1: GHOST STORY

Cleveland, Ohio.

In one of many Cleveland campgrounds, a group of four teenagers sat around a cackling campfire. The full moon was high in the sky peering down peacefully, lighting up the little clearing. The two girls were wrapped in blankets because even the fire in front of them couldn't chase away the cool chill of the night. The two boys seemed indifferent to the cold, wearing only a flannel jacket over their t-shirts.

The two boys were laughing, the dark haired girl shot the boys a glare while the blond cringed.

The blond spoke up, "That's not funny."

"It's not supposed to be funny, it's a ghost story." The boy with shaggy dark hair retorted, "It wasn't even that scary. Brayden has the best ghost story I've ever heard, don't you, Brayden?" The boy turned to the other boy.

The boy addressed as Brayden had brown eyes that glowed with the reflection from the firelight. He stared at his skater shoes before speaking up, "It's not a story, its life."

"What do you mean?" the dark haired girl asked.

Brayden continued, "I meant that it actually happened."

"How could you know?" the blond asked.

"Because it happened to me," Brayden said.

"Tell us," the dark haired girl spoke up.

"It's not my favorite story to remember." Brayden absently kicked some dirt around.

"Please?" The boy next to him asked.

"Fine," Brayden said, his voice gaining a harsh tone, "but don't come crying to me when it gives you nightmares." He looked around at the other three faces around him; he wished his friend hadn't brought the subject up. He told the story anyway, "It happened a while ago, I was nine. My best friend from the t-ball team-"

He was cut off by the dark haired girl, "You were on a t-ball team?" she had a smile on her face, she never expected Brayden to do anything in regards to sports.

Brayden ignored her comment and continued, "My best friend from the t-ball team was having problems at home. He saw how his mother would come into the house late at night, dragging her feet, her eyes half closed from working two jobs. He told me how his mother would drop the keys on the counter and walk past the ever increasing pile of bills, and the flashing answering machine that would be filled with the voices of angry bill collectors. See, his father had taken off with one of the divorced moms of one of the kids from my t-ball team. The man even changed his name and everything to avoid being found by my friend or his mom. She never got any child support payments, because, in a sense, he didn't exist anymore. But things turned south."

"They got worse?" the blond asked.

"Yea, much worse," Brayden continued, "One day they got a letter in the mail, it was from the woman my friend's dad had run away with. It explained how the man had been killed in a car accident. A couple days after getting the letter, police are all over their yard, lights flashing, an ambulance showed. Paramedics went inside and came out with a body in a body bag. The mother was taken away in cuffs, screaming that she hadn't done it on purpose."

"The mother killed your friend?" the dark haired girl asked, "That's horrible."

"It gets weird," the boy next to Brayden said, he turned to Brayden, "Tell them about the court trial."

"So, in court my friend's mom told the jury that the kid wasn't being his usual self. She explained that they were having a heated argument that escalated real big real fast. She'd been making dinner and turned to face him and yell to his face when he walked into the knife she'd been using."

"That's horrible." The blond spoke.

"It's still murder in a gruesome way." Brayden spoke, he glanced around at their confused stares, he continued, "Here's the scary part, there's this story that says that when a child is murdered gruesomely by their mother, they can turn into a vengeful spirit." He paused to let it sink in, "But not just any vengeful spirit, a death omen."

"Seriously?" the dark haired girl asked, "A death omen? Don't tell me you believe in that crap."

"I do, and it's not crap." Brayden argued.

"Persuade me," the dark haired girl continued, "persuade me that they really do exist, spirit boy."

"I've seen them."

"What?" the blond asked.

"The kids who become this death omen were murdered by their mothers, just like my friend."

"Your friend is now a death omen?" the dark haired girl asked, the tone of her voice said that she didn't believe.

"Let me explain." Brayden said, once he had their undivided attention again, he continued, "It was a couple months after my friend died. I loved to write horror stories, even then, and was trying to figure out what I wanted as my monster for the next story I would write. I told my mom that I was going to stay overnight at the hotel we own in the room my friend and I always played in. I always got the best inspiration when I stayed there, my friend was always good at coming up with new monsters for me. You guys have probably been to the hotel; you know that the rooms are heated by wood-burning fire places."

They nodded.

"I walked in the abandoned room and after placing my writing gear in the middle of the room, I started a fire. I lazed on the floor and just watched the flames dance. I must have fallen asleep; I thought I was having the most bizarre dream. I looked at the fireplace to see it was completely extinguished. Bright yellow light was coming from behind me. I turned and saw my friend standing before me, he was enveloped in flames. I was frightened; I wanted to get my feet underneath me, to bolt out of there, but I was held there. My friend hadn't moved. He just stood in front of me, smiling the smile I knew so well. I felt his fiery eyes stare deep into my soul, as if he were searching for something. I was frozen, I couldn't move, I just stared back at him. Minutes flew by, and then he finally moved. My friend took a step towards me, I finally found the sense to move out of his way, fearful if he touched me with his radiating self, that it would sear into my flesh and burn me. He turned his attention towards the fireplace, and strolled over to it. He stepped into the ashes of burnt-through wood, turned back to face me. He held my gaze for a shorter time, and then disappeared from my vision. Instantly the spell holding me still broke, I got my feet beneath me and bolted from the room. I ran into the hotel lobby, panic was showing through my face and even clearer through my eyes. My mother saw me, and asked why I was so frightened. I told her everything, I expected to scoff at me, tell me how silly I was, but she believed me, even when I had no evidence."

"So that's why you guys don't rent out the room." The blond said, there was no hint of fear in her voice, just understanding, but she clutched tighter at the blanket surrounding her, the dark haired girl had inched closer to the boy sitting next to Brayden, she made no attempt to hide her fear.

"Sometimes we don't have a choice but to rent it out, but we always make sure the fire is lit. There only seems to be a problem when the fire goes out."

The fire in the middle of their odd circle flickered as a gust of wind came through the trees. All four teens shuddered at the thought of the fire going out.