A Chapter by Louis McKraker

I knew as well as any kid in town not to mess around in the woods near the old playground. The Forbidden Playground, as we all called it.

On the night of my twelfth birthday, however, my friend Polly and I defied this rule.

We never expected the horror we would encounter after we ventured into the woods beside the local park�"in search of an old, rundown playground.

We would have never guessed how the horror would spread throughout our circle of friends.

My name is Cameron Wheeler, and in my defense, it was all the fault of this homeschool kid named Nick Vander.

Well, mostly.

By the end of my story, you’ll surely see it my way.

It was nearing the end of summer vacation and it was hot.

We were riding our bikes in my backyard. We were having great fun too, jumping the ramps Marcus and I set up the day before; until that Nick kid called us out.

“So you’ve never gone there? None of you?” he asked my friend Squire.

His name is really Steven, but everyone calls him Squire.

“No,” Squire answered. “No one our age has. Have you?”

No one in town had been into the woods there, or so they would say, since our grandparents were young.

The old playground was the only place in our town that everyone seemed to agree was truly haunted. A million years or so ago, a man they called Old Man Peters built the playground.

Two of the headstones beside the playground are his children. One of the headstones belonged to Mr. Peters himself, and the other to his wife.

“I have,” Nick responded proudly. “It’s nothing, really. I mean, it didn’t scare me.”

“What was it like in there?” my other friend, Taylor, asked.

I squeezed my brakes after coming off of one of the ramps, coming to a stop just beside Nick.

He was a couple of grades ahead of anyone in our circle of friends�"not that he would ever be a part of it. For one reason or another, he would never quite cut it.

The kid came along to my birthday party with Polly. She met him a day or so before, in her mom’s shop. Her parents own this antiques store in town.

I imagine Nick must have been as out of place among the relics in their shop as he seemed among me and my friends.

I suppose, since it was my birthday party, and not Nick’s, I could be considered to have been a little jealous. Seeing all of my friends gathered around him�"and not me.

But that’s really another story, if you ask me.

“It was old,” Nick continued. “Really old… And there were a lot less headstones than I expected. I heard someone in this rickety town say there were more than a hundred graves there. That is bogus, though. A gross overstatement.”

“How many are there?” my other friend, Marcus, asked.

“Four,” Polly chimed in. “Mr. Peters, the man who built the playground, his two children, who died of the flu, and the boys’ mother.”

“And you don’t go out there because you think it’s haunted?” Nick questioned.

“It’s not that,” Squire affirmed. “Everyone in town knows it’s haunted.”

“There is a picture of Mr. Peters’ ghost in the Chamber of Commerce,” Taylor reminded us. “The image was captured by some guy just beyond the tree line.”

“And then, there are the lights,” I added. “Lots of people have seen strange lights just beyond the trees.”

“I didn’t see any of that,” Nick assured us. “But it sounds like nonsense to me… A bunch of superstition the town adults have spread.”

“It’s all from reliable sources,” Polly responded defensively.

“I see,” Nick said cynically. “Well, I guess it’s really your loss that none of you have the courage to venture in. It’s really neat, if I do say so myself.”

“No one said we don’t have the courage,” I chimed in.

It was that moment something bold came into my mind. Now that I thought about it, there was no other place in town that our tires had not been. We had mastered our town, the same as we had mastered our universe.

The old playground, I now considered, was the only exception to this. We had treated the area as if it was diseased, only because we were told to do so. More like we were advised to do.

And by superstitious adults, at that.

Like that, I volunteered.

“I’ll go,” I said.

All of them looked at me. Polly, Squire, Taylor, Marcus, and even Nick looked shocked for a moment.

“Why?” Polly asked.

“Because,” I answered, “Nick is right. It is kind of cowardly of us to steer clear of anything in this town. Is it not ours and ours alone?”

“I suppose,” Polly agreed reluctantly. “But, what if the area’s still somehow contaminated?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Marcus said, and Polly punched him in the shoulder.

“When do you want us to go?” I asked Nick bravely.

He thought about it for a brief moment, and then grinned insidiously.

“Tonight,” he answered. A sinister gleam was in his eyes.

“Okay,” I agreed.

“We all will meet at the park at midnight,” Nick said.

“Why midnight?” Squire asked. “There’s a chance our parents could really ruin our summer if we get caught out that late.”

Of course, by ruining our summer, Squire meant they could take away his video games. That’s all he really ever does in his free time�"summer days and school days alike.

“Polly and I will be there,” I volunteered. “We will go in�"even if these babies chicken out.”

I had no problem volunteering Polly to go along with me. After all, it was she who brought this kid to my birthday celebration anyway.

“Why me?” she screeched, tucking a long strand of her blond hair behind one ear.

“Come on,” Squire cheered. “Be a sport, Pol. Go with your boyfriend into the Forbidden Playground.”

Then Polly struck Squire with a fist, as well.

“Well, Polly?” I asked. “Are you with me or not?”

She paused, her fist drawn back, about to hit Squire a second time.

“I guess so,” she sighed.

“I’ll be there,” Nick assured us.

“We will be there, too,” I declared in a confident voice.

© 2020 Louis McKraker

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Added on June 21, 2020
Last Updated on June 21, 2020


Louis McKraker
Louis McKraker


My name is Louis McKraker. I was born in Central Alabama and began writing at age nine. I don't have much to say about myself, except I'm a Piscean. I prefer poetry over prose. I love storytelling... more..

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