Sharla Ferguson asked to use her father's old tent for a Halloween sleepover. The trunk that held it was a pandora's box that stirred up something evil that her father was unwilling to face.. again!
CHAPTER ONE - BATS
Sharla Ferguson's birthday was October thirty first, Halloween. Trick or treating had been the highlight of every birthday up to this one. She was turning thirteen, and as a brand new teenager, she decided she was too old for that anymore. Since Halloween hit on Saturday this year, she asked her parents if she could have a sleepover in the remains of the big garden behind the house. They agreed, and Sharla's dad offered to help them set up the big old canvas tent that he had used for camping and fishing years before she was born.
Sharla and her twelve best friends trooped toward the carriage house that had been converted to a machine shed for seasonal equipment. Sharla's dad Gary, led the way. The stone building was over two hundred years old, the remnants of a country estate that had dwindled down to the house, the shed and five acres. There was now a set of double overhead garage doors where the wide open area for the carriages used to be. When they all arrived in front of the doors, Gary tried to open them with the remote. Nothing happened. He tried the manual keypad on a side door post, and the door opened about a foot, then stopped.
"I thought you got the doors fixed dad?" Sharla remarked.
"I did, and it worked yesterday when I put away the lawn mower, and got the snow blower ready for the winter. Come on girls, there's enough space to get our hands under the bottom. If we all lift together we should be able to open it."
The thirteen girls positioned themselves along the door with Gary Ferguson in the middle. They all squatted and put their hands under the door.
"Alright ladies, on the count of three. one... two.. three.. lift!"
Shrieks of terror shattered the quiet morning as the doors rolled up and a huge black cloud of bats descended upon the girls!!
"AAAAHHH bats! I hate bats! "
Sharla ran back away from the doors. She bumped into several of her panicking friends who were also running away.
Gary leaned against the door post, and laughed as he focused his camcorder on the stampeding girls. Some of the bats had landed on them, and had been flailed away as they ran. Sharla stomped on several bats before she realized that they were awfully flat for bats. She picked one up by it's mangled wing tip and yelled at her friends.
"Joanie, Lisa, Allison, Colleen come back! They're only paper!"
She went to join her friends, carrying several of the black construction paper origami bats. The cleverly created three dimensional flying rodents were examined carefully, as if they might suddenly come to life and take flight. Sharla stalked back to her father.
"DAD! That was not funny! "
"It wasn't supposed to be funny, It's Halloween. It's supposed to be scary. This year's video is going to be the best yet.You're thirteen now, I thought you'd be harder to scare, so I had to come up with something really special that you would never suspect."
"Well you got me, as well as my friends. Happy now? You can play your stupid video for the whole family tomorrow and laugh at how you scared the crap out of all of us!"
Sharla had enjoyed the annual Halloween stunts that her dad had always staged for her and her friends. Those had been a little bit scary, but mostly funny. This one had actually scared her. She was not impressed.
Gary grinned as he watched Sharla's friends giggle while they threw the paper bats at each other.
"Still mad at me punkin?" Gary leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. Sharla shrugged and grinned.
"No, I guess not. It was a really good stunt dad. It's going to be all over school on Monday. Are you done now? Can we get that tent and set it up please?"
"Okay, but help me clean up the bats first."
Gary went into the shed and brought out a package of large leaf bags. The girls had a good time playing 'throw the bats in the bag' as Gary held the bags open to receive the paper missiles.
When they were finished, Gary led the group up to the loft of the old carriage house which used to hold harnesses, traces, and other trappings required for carriages and the horses that pulled them. It was now used for storage.
There were squeals of disgust as spider webs and mouse droppings were unearthed during the search for the tent. It was eventually found in a very old steamer trunk, which was carried down the loft stairs by several of the girls. When they finally got it out to the lawn, Gary pulled the tent out of the trunk in folds.
"Alright girls, each of you take a handful and spread out. We have to make sure it hasn't decayed or mildewed over the last thirteen years."
"Thirteen years dad? It's been in here since I was born?" Sharla spoke up.
"That's right honey. You weren't expected for two weeks yet, so I"d taken it up to the North Woods to go fishing with Felix that weekend. We ended up coming home without staying a whole night. By the time we got home your mom was in the hospital having you. I packed it in here the morning you were born."
" There's cell phone reception in the North Woods?"
"There might be now. There wasn't then."
"How did you know that mom went into the hospital then?"
"I didn't. We came home for another reason."
"What was the reason dad?"
Gary stopped pulling folds of tent out of the trunk. His brow furrowed with the attempt to dredge up a long forgotten memory. A sharp look of fear clouded his eyes and he shuddered. He started pulling the tent back in as quickly as he could. The tent was suddenly pulled out of the grip of the girls. They weren't expecting the abrupt absence of canvas in their hands.