The Last Summer Vacation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A child spends his summers with his aunt and uncle. However this may be the last summer vacation they spend together.

Submitted: September 23, 2010

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Submitted: September 23, 2010

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The Last Summer Vacation

As a child I spent every summer with my aunt and uncle. They lived inside the grounds of an old university that was steeped in history dating back centuries. My uncle was the caretaker of the university and during the summer vacations the buildings were always left vacant. Each night throughout the summer my uncle, Brian, would do a quick walkthrough of the buildings, much as a security guard would. I always wished to go with him, as a child it seemed so exciting to me, but I was never allowed. Every night on his return we would sit by the open fire, he would smoke his pipe and pour himself endless amounts of whiskey, and enthusiastically recant tales of the ghosts which inhabited the university. There were hidden passages and tunnels underneath the building, leading to the nearby harbour, built to smuggle slaves into the country. He claimed that he had, on more than one occasion, heard what sounded like singing, echoing through the empty corridors. He had heard it so often, that it no longer frightened him. “Singing ghosts?” he would exclaim, “They should learn some modern songs so I can join in!” I believed his stories. They weren’t gruesome or scary ghosts; they were friendly ghosts who sang. It made his patrols seem even more exciting to me. I wanted to hear the singing. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised, ghosts of slaves would not be happy.

After hearing the stories for years, my uncle finally agreed to take me with him. I think he would have taken me sooner, had my aunt not always been so against the idea. My aunt was staying with friends one night. My uncle did not want to leave me alone in the house, so he had to take me with him. I overheard him tell my aunt that he would hire a babysitter for the few hours the patrol would take. He didn’t. Instead he had bought me a small flashlight of my own so I could be a security guard. I remember putting on our coats, hats and gloves. Even in the summer, nights can be cold. We took our flashlights and made off to the main entrance of the building.

The walk from the house was short, lined with tall trees as old as the university itself, maybe older. During daylight it was beautiful. Despite the city being less than fifty feet away, it felt like a different world. So quiet, and full of wildlife. I spent the rest of the year living in a busy city, wildlife was scarce. Maybe the occasional bird early in the morning, but this place was something entirely different. I spent hours sitting underneath the trees, watching the animals scurrying around. Squirrels, rabbits, foxes, badgers and so many strange, colourful insects that they were so new to me. The squirrels, however, were my favourite. Each time they leapt from one branch to another I would fear that they would miss their target and fall. Only one ever did fall. It hit the ground with a thump and I sprinted towards it. I pulled my jumper off, wrapped the still body up and rushed back to my aunt at the house. She took the squirrel away from me, she told me to wash my hands and she would take it to the vet. I sat waiting in the house for her return, hoping and praying the little creature would be ok. She came back and assured me that the squirrel was alive and that the vet was going to release him back into the grounds once he had fully recovered. She took me out to lunch and told me that she without me, the squirrel would have surely died. I was so proud of myself. However, I am certain now that the squirrel did die. Although I think that I would have been inconsolable had my aunt told me that when I was seven. But I was always prepared from that day on if another were to fall. For the countless hours I spent daydreaming under the trees, I never once, until now, stepped foot amongst the trees after the sun went down.

They seemed to be taller at night, stretching endlessly into the black sky. Even the smallest noise of animals scrambling through the branches echoed through the trees menacingly. Each noise made by an unseen creature tens of feet above our heads. I was terrified. One minute into the patrol and my skin was crawling with fear of everything that could be running around my feet or above us. In this blackness we would never see any would-be attacker. My uncle put his hand on my shoulder and stopped me from walking. “Turn your torch off,” he whispered. I thought he was crazy for suggesting such a thing. The thin beams that shone from our flashlights were, in my mind, the very things that were keeping us safe from any horrors that were waiting in the darkness. I very hesitantly did as I was told. In a few seconds my eyes became adjusted to the dark. I could see my uncle beside me; I could see the outlines of the trees. Everything was so much clearer, less terrifying. But that is not to say that I wasn't still terrified, just a little less terrified. He raised his arm out and pointed into the distance. I followed his direction and stared into the darkness. A small dark silhouette moved slowly across our path, maybe twenty feet in front of us. It stopped still. I lost my visual on it in the darkness. Two bright dots suddenly appeared. “What is it?” I asked, trying to cover the hoarseness in my throat. “Ssshhh,” my uncle replied as quietly as he could, “It’s a fox hunting, probably looking for mice.” The fox turned his bright gaze away from us, and continued moving away from us. Within a few seconds he was gone, my uncle flicked his flashlight back on and continued on towards the building that lay just through the trees. I quickly followed him. Having encountered one of the mysterious creatures that lurked in the darkness, I felt safer. I began looking for more bright dots, hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of any other animals that were wandering around on the hunt for food. I especially kept an eye in the trees. The rustling through the leaves above still made me feel uneasy. Every few footsteps I would shine my beam into the tangled branches ahead, hoping that I wouldn’t see the bright dots of any hidden tree-dwelling attackers. Finally the trees became sparser until we were in the clearing before the main entrance.

The buildings were shrouded in darkness. The jagged outline, which in the daytime is an amazing feat of architecture and engineering, now looked plain evil. The air was still and silent. All the fear I had felt when we first walked amongst the trees flooded back.

He unlocked the old heavy door and pushed it open, the empty silence broken by a deafening creak. Our footsteps echoed loudly in the hallway. I turned to my uncle but he had disappeared into the darkness somewhere. I clicked my flashlight back on and shone it all around the hallway. On the walls were pictures of the founders of the university, plaques and trophies. Suddenly the chandelier above me lit up, the light shimmering of the crystals. The darkness quickly transformed into an almost blinding light. I heard footsteps behind me, “It’s not so scary with the lights on!” he laughed. All the fear I had vanished with his laugh. We began to walk the corridors. I had been through the university many times, but this time my uncle gave me a running commentary of every room we passed. I guess it was to make me feel safe, and it worked. Before I realised it, we had completed the entire patrol. I was slightly let down. There had been no ghosts. Nothing exciting to report back at all. The short walk back to the house wasn’t even scary now. It all seemed so boring and mundane. Although I still had to promise I would never tell my aunt.

I lay in bed until I heard my uncle going to his bedroom. Quietly I snuck out, down the hall and into my uncles study. From the study window I had a perfect view of the university. I stared. The building had terrified me as long as I could remember, and now it seemed like just another building. I began to think that all the stories my uncle had told me were just stories that he had made up to get me to sleep. A light flickered on, along the top floor of the university. My heart stood still. The light slowly dimmed until the room was filled with darkness once again. The light flickered on again. Only this time as the light dimmed, the room next to it began to light up. I darted to my uncles room, banging on the door to wake him up. “Uncle, Uncle, there’s lights on in the university!” I screamed. “What? Lights on?” He was wide awake before he’d finished his sentence. Still in his pyjamas, he rushed to the window in his study. He lifted a pair of binoculars from the desk drawer and held them intently to his eyes. I remember wanting to ask what he could see, but the expression on his face forced me to remain silent. He set the binoculars down on the desk and walked into the kitchen. I followed like a lost puppy. I’ve seen my uncle deal with break ins before; he reports it to the police, gets his jacket, his torch, his baton and goes alone. He hasn’t even put on his shoes yet. He was dialing a number on the phone when I entered the kitchen, he turned to me “Go put your shoes and your jacket on. We have to go.” Obediently I ran to my room, getting my shoes and jacket. Walking back towards the kitchen I passed the study. My uncle is on the phone, I could hear him speaking. Quickly and silently I walked to the window and lifted the binoculars and looked off to the university. Each room along the top floor had a light on, but I could see nothing of what was inside the rooms. The lights began to dim. As I lowered the binoculars, thinking the show was over, three of the rooms became illuminated with bright red light. Binoculars were straight back up. Peering into the distant rooms, I could see movement. There was a black shape moving in the middle room. It looked more like a cloud of smoke than a person. The red light grew more and more intense, beginning to burn my eyes through the lens. I dropped the binoculars, my uncle hearing it, sprinted into the study and grabbed me. “What did you see?” he was shaking me by the shoulders, “What did you see?” I shook my head, “Nothing. There was a black cloud in the room and a red light. Then my eyes got sore”. “We’re leaving now. The stories I told you are all true. But the spirits they’re not quite as happy as I led you to believe. Sometimes, there’s things that happen in the university that we don’t understand. The best thing to do is leave. We’ll come back tomorrow and everything will be fine.” He took me by the hand and led me out of the house. After he unlocked the car door, he walked to the side of the house a little, staring at the university. The colour drained from his face. “What are you doing? We have to go!” he ignored me, transfixed on the red light beaming from the windows. I ran to him and began tugging and shaking on his sleeve, but couldn’t make him budge an inch. His face was so pale he looked as if he were dead. Suddenly his arm swung out, knocking me to the side and began walking briskly towards the university. “Where are you going?” I screamed after him, but still he ignored me. I looked up to the building ahead. Once again the building filled me with fear. The entire top row of rooms now glowed with the deep blood red light. Chasing after my uncle, calling him, begging him to stop. Finally, I caught up with him, clinging on to his arms, trying to stop him. He violently shook his arm, sending me tumbling through the air, landing hard on my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. Almost approaching the main entrance, running out of time. I sprinted towards him as fast as I could, my legs feeling almost out of my control as I powered towards him. Closer and closer, I threw myself towards him, wrapping my arms around his knees, sending us both rattling to the ground. Quickly I jumped back to my feet and got by my uncles side. He was lying still. There was a small gash on his forehead, probably from me rugby tackling him, but at least he wasn’t still trying to get into the university. His eyes slowly opened, he looked up at me, “What just happened? Where are the lights?” I took his hand and pulled him to an upright position, “Why are we at the entrance? If there's lights we leave. That's the rule. That's always been the rule. We have no business here.” He pushed himself to his feet.

In the distance, back across the path beyond the trees next to the house, a car was arriving. The headlights continued past the house and eventually stopped right in front of us. A man in his late sixties stepped out of the car, his face steeped in shadow, a deep voice slowly began to speak, “It’s too late, you have both been seen by the light. The time to flee has passed.” His arm reached into his long trench coat and pulled out a revolver, “Now you’re going to go inside. Open the door” He ordered. My uncle looked at me then back at the old man, “He’s just a child. Let him go. He didn’t see anything!” he turned back to me, “Did you? Did you see anything?” I vigorously shook my head, “No, I saw nothing”, my voice was shaking with fear. “Liars!” He bellowed, “They have told me, they have seen the child. They want the child. Now get inside the god dam building!”. My uncle reached down and took my hand, I looked to him, “It’ll be ok, don’t worry. Nothing’s going to happen to you.” I knew everything that was happening was out of his control, but I still believed him. The door creaked open, inside was pitch black. Noises echoed all through the halls and stairways, indecipherable noises. Whispered screams. As we walked forward, we heard the old voice croak behind us, “Go up the stairs, straight ahead until the top floor.” We did as we were told. The more stairs we climbed, the more intense the whispering became. It was not loud, but there were so many different screams and voices crying for attention, too many to listen to. It was disorientating and confusing. We reached the top floor. Silence. A long, narrow corridor lay ahead of us. “Keep moving!” shouted the old man, “We can’t keep them waiting any longer.” I felt the grip around my hand loosen, and turned to see my uncle clutch at his chest and fall to his knees, gasping for breath and writhing on the floor. The old man stood over him, tilting his head, assessing the seriousness of the fall. Out of nowhere my uncle lunged forwards and grabbed hold of the revolver. The old man stepped back and raised his hands into the air, “You won’t kill me. They won’t allow it.” He smirked. My uncle pulled himself back to his feet, keeping the gun aimed steadily on the old man, and we backed up to the stairs and began our descent. As we moved farther away, our pace quickened until we were sprinting, taking two stairs at a time. Behind us, the old man was laughing, screaming incoherently - I’m not entirely sure his words were English. A deafening screech that felt like a dagger scraping my brain blasted through the halls, dropping us both to our knees, covering our ears. The front door lay just ahead in the darkness. A faint red glow began to beam down the corridor ahead to our left. It grew brighter and brighter until the area we were in was entirely illuminated. A cloud of thick black smoke rushed through the room, circling my uncle’s feet. He began stamping and kicking at it. It started spiraling quicker and quicker around his feet, gradually gaining speed and height then it sped away from him up to the ceiling then shot back towards him. The cloud engulfed his entire body, his screams ringing out. The mysterious smoke dispersed and my uncle was gone. The red light dimmed and darkness rapidly refilled the lobby. I stood alone. And scared.

The front door was within my grasp. I heard my uncle call me. If he was still alive, he was escaping with me. Following the sound of his voice down the corridor to the left, I passed so many things that I cannot fully explain. The corridor was lined with rooms along both sides - each door was open, every room was occupied. Each room had a different happening, each more twisted than the last. Torture, sexual deviance and cannibalism. The details of the rooms I cannot describe as I have spent a long time trying to forget those sights. The red light pulsated behind the only closed door. The light seeping dimly out through the gaps around the frame. The door slowly swayed open, the light beamed out of the room filling the hallway, blinding me. I heard my uncles voice again, calling, from within the light. I stepped forwards. My eyes quickly adjusted to the brightness. My uncle was in front of me, still alive. Barely. His body dangling in the air. Four thick chains hung from the ceiling, at the end of each was a large solid hook. At the end of the hooks swung my uncle. Our eyes met. He shook his head, crying, and tried to speak. As he opened his mouth, blood spilled out onto his chin and the floor below. His tongue lay in the puddle beneath him. The tears flooded down his face. Wriggling his body against the hooks, ripping his own flesh more and more with even the slightest bit of movement. The hooks physically stretching and pulling at the skin. The skin on his left shoulder ripped. He let out such a piercing scream it made me feel like these horrors were happening to me. Before the blood from the wound has time to flow, a new chain, a new hook shoots down from the ceiling and buries itself into his body again. I ran forwards and began fumbling with the hooks, trying to release him. The chains holding his shoulders tighten, lifting him into an upright position. Startled, I jumped backwards. Frozen to the spot with fear. My body suddenly felt cold. So cold. An unseen force ripped his shirt off. A thin wound began to appear, running down the centre of his rib cage down to his navel. The chains clink and his body is tilted slightly forwards. The blood flow began to increase, the line became thicker and thicker. His face twisted in agony. The chains move again, moving him back into a horizontal position. As he wrestled against the hooks, his internal organs begin to poke through the gash bit by bit until they finally splat onto the ground below in a pool of blood. My uncles head finally dropped for the last time. His pain was over.

Suddenly released from the grip of fear that had held me during his gruesome death, I turned and quickly fled down the corridor towards the main entrance. I could feel the smoke spiraling around my feet as I ran. Each step I took dispersed it a tiny bit, only for it reappear, each time thicker than the last. The door handle to my exit was almost within my grasp. I stretched out, twisted the handle and tumbled through the doorway onto the hard, cold ground outside. Blood curdling screams escaped through the open door into the cool crisp night. Nearby animals scurried away, unsettled from their night’s sleep by the unnatural events within the university. Quickly picking myself back up, I continued running away from the university towards the house. Too scared to look behind me for fear that the smoke was still in pursuit. Running through the trees, I kept my eyes strictly focused on the house ahead. I tripped on a branch of an old sycamore tree that had burst through the grass. I rolled in the darkness, coming to rest lying on my back, staring up at the stars through the trees. For a brief moment, I forgot where I was. The stars peacefully shining down on me through the trees. Footsteps. Reality, my senses flooded back. I turned and saw the old man running out the door and onto the path towards me. Behind him, smoke was billowing out from the university. Flames dancing in the darkness, flickering through the windows. One by one, the glass in the windows shattered, spitting shards of glass through the air. Shattering with such ferocity that fragments of the broken glass were landing beside me. The old man was a lot closer than I was. A cloud of glistening glass dust showered down all around him, slicing him into ribbons as the dust pelted down upon his face. His body fell to the ground; I could hear his screams of pain. Flames had now engulfed the entire building, nothing would be left but ashes. Back on my feet and running again. I moved my focus past the house and locked onto the main gate. All around me I could hear noises, everything had been disturbed tonight.

The gate. Finally. Exhausted, I slowly climbed to the top of the twelve foot fence. I paused momentarily at the top and looked towards the burning building. The walls collapsing, the entire structure giving way to the fire. I faced back towards the road, I could hear a faint familiar voice calling my name, “Jack! Jack! What the hell’s going on? Where’s Brian?” I was so glad to hear my aunts voice. She reached her arms up to me and helped me down the last of the fence. She looked deep into my eyes. I was certain she knew every detail without me speaking a word. She threw her arms around me, crying and kissing my head. “Uncle Brian didn’t make it. There was a break in, and then a fire. He saved my life.” A tear trickled down my cheek. Not for my uncle, but that I knew I could never tell my aunt the truth of what happened.

She led me away from the gate and towards her car at the roadside. “Look, here come the fire engines and police. You look exhausted, come and we‘ll find you somewhere to sleep.”


© Copyright 2020 Allistair Bell. All rights reserved.

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