A group of kids filtered out of the archery pit across the road. They marched out with the instructor, holding onto their big plastic bows.
Simon looked out at the group and stood up. His hands shook and his face turned white. “I gotta go.”
“Wait,” I said, grabbing his arm. “What’s the secret?”
I stood up with him and noticed Brandon walking over to us. I forgot he had archery as his first activity. He strutted over with his shorts halfway down his legs. I hated his walk. He looked like a penguin with a baseball hat. “S’up, Wesley.” he said, pulling the string back on his bow.
I wanted to tell him to get lost, but I knew if I started anything with him, it would ruin the rest of our trip. Brandon was the type of guy that would hold a grudge for weeks. “S’up,” I replied.
Brandon pointed his bow at Simon and pretended to fire an arrow at him.
I half grinned and followed Simon over to the road.
“Whatcha doin?” Brandon dropped his bow down to his side, dragging it in the sand. His weasley little eyes looked at Simon as though he were the scum of the earth.
“We were just heading back to the hill,” I said.
“Got it,” Brandon replied. He spit at Simon’s feet and tucked the bow under his arm. “Enjoy hanging out with your new friend.”
Brandon’s grudge over Simon had been advertised all over school and online for the past year. Brandon didn't really talk about it much with me, but it had something to do with a fight between their dads. All I know is that Simon had to live with a foster family as a result. Brandon made a point of reminding the guy just how much he hated him. It was just too bad no one had the guts to tell him to leave the poor guy alone.
That night, the grade eights were invited to hangout by the fire pit to roast marshmallows and play trivia games with the instructors. Chaz and a girl instructor named Roxanne hosted the evening entertainment. They had pulled out a sound system and blasted music for the first twenty minutes while we all chatted with each other, taking turns dipping our marshmallows into the flames.
I sat with Brandon, Clay, Markus, Gus and Michael. We located ourselves near the back, of course, and picked pieces of marshmallow from our collection and tossed them at some girls near the front. I knew Brandon liked one of them, but he never wanted to make it known to us.
“Okay folks, before we start our trivia game, I have a cool story I want to share with you.” Chaz turned off the music and stepped through the crowd and sat down next to Michelle and her ex-friend Sarah Livingstone. “Raise your hand if you have heard of Riley Grayson.”
We all shot up our hands and muttered to one another. I think everyone had a different version of what happened to Riley. All I know is that he was here - somewhere, stuck in some sort of limbo.
“This is gonna be lame,” Brandon muttered. He slipped on his earbuds and plugged it into his phone. “Let me know when it’s finished.”
I shook my head and focused back on our lead instructor.
“The year was 2013, on a cold September night,” Chaz began. He wore his white staff shirt sweater, tight enough to show off his chiseled arms. "I had just started working here after spending the summer travelling overseas. I couldn’t sleep you know, and decided to go for a walk along the beach. The lake was calm that night...real calm, like...like a black sheet of ice glistening from the full moon. A gray fog hovered just over the surface. I had loads on my mind that night and needed to get out of those stuffy cabins. After about half an hour, I sat down on that rock over there, see?." He pointed to a large object about fifty yards away. The light from the fire bounced off its jagged edges. He stood up and walked back to the table and put the microphone down. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"What's he doing?" Gus whispered beside me.
"Dunno," I replied.
Chaz turned to us and continued. "I still get shivers when I think about this next part." He picked up a stick and poked the logs in the fire. "I...I must have been sitting on that rock for about ten minutes when I saw it. At first it looked like a candle floating out in the water, as though someone had placed it on a tiny raft. But when I looked again, I could see something else."
"What did you see?" Megan Riversley asked. "Was it Riley?"
“I wasn’t sure. At least not at that moment. I had to get closer. So, I grabbed a canoe from the dock and paddled out to the point.”
The fire crackled and snapped as one of the logs shifted under the glowing embers. I looked around at my friends - at the rest of the grade eights - at Simon Partridge. Everyone’s eyes were glued to Chaz.
I tapped Brandon on the arm and waited for him to take his earbuds out. “You might want to listen to this,” I said.
Chaz jumped up onto one of the rafts, docked on the beach and pointed to a cluster of rocks. “That was where I paddled to,” he said. “That was where I saw it - him.” He stepped toward the water. “I reached my paddle out and guided my canoe along the rocks. Under the water, a strange blue light radiated up from below. Around me was nothing but darkness. I couldn’t take my eyes off the light, as though I was in a trance.”
Brandon slowly tucked his earbuds into his pocket. He leaned forward.
Chaz walked back over to us, stepping through the crowd and sitting back down beside Michelle and Sarah. “I leaned out over the canoe,” he said. “dipping my hand into the warm water. The light grew brighter, shining up through the fog and into the trees around me. For some reason I had trouble breathing, as though the air was being sucked out of my lungs. Below me, a young boy lifted out over the water, pulling himself onto the rocks in front of my canoe. The blue light glowed around him. I knew right away who it was. I looked right into the boy’s eyes. I had seen his picture in the paper, on the news - he was all over the internet. I can still remember his face, like I had a photograph stuck inside my head. There he was, he was real, only...he wasn’t. For the first time, but not the last, I was looking directly at the ghost of Riley Grayson.”
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