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Updated: Dec 21, 2023

A shadow appeared against the flap of their blue and lime tent, a shadow connected to no one. The red light of the Rem Pod flashed as an unseen force pushed against Doirin’s grip on the zipper.

Ailis and Doirin MacEachairn parked their car outside the woods, known to locals as a haunted, off-the-beaten-path camping spot for those who want to enjoy the wilderness without the stress of tourists. Most enjoyed the solitude of an almost private camping experience, while others craved the thrill of searching for a spirit rumored to wander the unkept forest.

With only one other vehicle parked in the parking lot, Ailis and Doirin knew they would have the woods to themselves. They checked their ghost hunting equipment, locked their blue, dented car, and the two young women ventured into the woods, ready for their annual trip. High in the sky, the sun shined bright white cones of light between the trees. The shades of leaves waved in the cool October breeze.

Ailis knelt and tightened her black and white sneakers. “You think the ghosts will be chatty this year?” she side-glanced at Doirin, standing up and walking down the path with her sister. They stepped around the closed gate with a faded Closed For The Season sign posted across it.

Doirin, distracted by her thoughts, took a breath and shook herself awake. “Like we did last year?”

Ailis watched her sister. “Yeah, that was a very haunted tree.” They stepped off the path and walked into the woods.

Doirin pointed at the first landmark. “Shall we go to our usual spot?”

“Of course, the deer should still have a trail nearby. I’d love to see them again.”

“Oh! What about a demon deer? Think we’ll see one?”

“No, then it’d probably be Satan, and we saw him three years ago. We don’t want to spook him.”

Doirin laughed. “Right, right, I forgot he’s shy.” The laughter didn’t reach her eyes, the bright expression fading.

Ailis put a hand on her shoulder. “Try to forget what happened. We can’t do anything about it.” Doirin gave her a slight smile, nodding.

Using the sun and a few landmarks to navigate, the two girls found their spot, a shady clearing in the woods, and began setting up their camp. Within a few hours, their tents were up, and their firepit was dug.

As the sun went down, their fire went up. The sisters unfolded their chairs and began cooking for the evening, talking late into the night. Doirin struggled to keep the conversation going but soon eased into a comfortable back and forth. As darkness settled on the forest, they retired to the tent.

Ailis woke in the night, hearing something in the woods. She quietly unzipped a small hole in the tent and peeked out, noticing a dark shape moving behind a tree. Something crunched in the pitch black. Ailis grabbed her electromagnetic field meter, known as an EMF meter.

“What is it?” Doirin asked.

“I don’t know. It might be an animal.” The figure moved, stepping on a branch, crunching it and disappeared into the night.

“Satan, come back!” Ailis hissed through the gap.

“Are you trying to get our tent haunted?” Doirin playfully pushed Ailis.

“You aren’t?”

“No, I want to sleep. They can haunt us tomorrow.” Doirin flopped back down.

“Fine.” She put the EMF meter back in her bag.

Come morning, the two women climbed out of their tent and prepared for their day of exploration, scouting the area for animal tracks while planning their ghost hunting investigation. They found large hoofprints in the dirt a few yards away.

“Satan’s visiting us again this year.”

Doirin followed the tracks into the woods. “It could be a minotaur.”

Ailis followed close behind. “No, they prefer mazes. What about a satyr?”

“That’s too big for a satyr.”

“Maybe a different demon? They all have hoofs. I think.”

The two sisters walked through the woods, the trail leading them deeper in and passed a stone wall. Dark, decayed wood crunched beneath their feet.

Ailis lifted her EMF meter, and the green light flashed. “See, something’s here.” She checked the hoof prints, the yellow light flicked.

“A haunted footprint?

“I hope so. That’d be rad.”

Doirin stopped and stared into the woods. She spotted a second campsite in the distance. A rough, familiar, lime and blue sun-bleached tent was adjacent to a smoldering pile of wood in a pit with camping chairs similar to theirs. The hoof tracks led to the edge of the camp.

“We have neighbors.”

“It doesn’t look like anyone’s home.”

Ailis lifted her EMF meter and pointed at them, “Nope. No ghosts there.”

“Don’t be obnoxious.”

“Nobody’s there!”

“You don’t know that.” She took a second look at the campsite, staring at a long stone slab at the center, resting next to the fire pit. “They’re probably in the woods.”

“Or they were murdered.” Ailis grabbed her unamused sister. Doirin pulled her arms in, glaring at her.

“Not funny,” Doirin snapped. “Let’s go.”

They spent the rest of the evening exploring the woods. Ailis marked possible investigation spots based on how reactive her EMF meter became.

The two sisters returned to their camp as night fell, retrieving their ghost hunting equipment. Doirin had a Rem Pod, a device with a motion sensor attached and an EMF meter with five lights: green, yellow, orange, red-orange, and red, indicating the intensity of the electromagnetic field. Ailis had the same EMF meter, a digital voice recorder, and a spirit box, a small radio-like device that picked up spiritual voices. Doirin stuffed the EMF meter in her tiny blue jeans pocket, they both clicked on their flashlights and set off into the woods.

Using the map she’d marked earlier, the two women traveled to various ghost-hunting spots, getting little to no response. They eventually reached their favorite location and began their next session. With the voice recorder in hand, Ailis clicked the record button and asked questions to the air. The EMF meter blinked yellow.

Ailis shined her light into the woods, scanning the brush, “Okay, Satan, I know you’re following us.”

Doirin grabbed her shoulders, “The spooky ghosties are coming for us!”

A branch crunched. Ailis swept the woods with her flashlight, stopping as it lit their campsite. Their blue and lime tent leaned, disheveled and loose. Its unzipped flap fluttered in the wind. Their clothes lay scattered across the ground. A stone slab rested next to their fire pit. They looked at each other, confused. They weren’t supposed to be this close to camp.

Ailis stopped the recorder, rewinding it and listening as they crept toward their camp. Garbled noise played with indistinguishable words.

Doirin gasped, “It said hit.”

Ailis tilted her head, leaning her ear closer and replayed the recording. Amidst the garble, she heard a male voice say, “Hit.” They looked at each other.

The girls shined their flashlights, searching the trees, tent, and clearing, looking for whoever had trashed their camp.

“Hello!” Ailis called into the darkness. No response.

Doirin stared at the dilapidated tent. “Do you think anyone’s there?”

Ailis shrugged and walked over to it. “Hey, anyone here? We’re just nerds trying to ghost hunt.”

Doirin, hesitating, followed her. They shined their flashlights into the tent. Their lights reflected on two sleeping bags and backpacks lying in disarray. “Why would someone do this.” She mumbled, searching around the ground, stopping and taking a sharp breath when she saw a tire imprint in the dirt.

Ailis jumped with a quiet squeak. A broken body lay across the sleeping bag.

“What? What?” Doirin cried out.

“Oh nothing. I thought I saw someone.” Ailis lied, taking a second look at the sleeping bag. Nothing was there.

“Hey, wherever you are, we don’t have anything worth stealing!” Ailis shouted.

“Why would you say that?” Doirin hissed at her sister.

Something moved in the underbrush, and the girls whipped their lights to the sound. Two figures in the dark, their long hair blowing in the wind. Ailis’ EMF meter flashed from yellow to orange.

“We don’t want any trouble!” Ailis trained her flashlight toward the figure as they slid behind the tree. Leaves rustled behind them. They spun around as a third figure moved away from them. Its disjointed body disappeared into the darkness. Ailis’ EMF meter flashed up to the red light.

“Sis, we need to go,” Doirin hissed, pulling Ailis. They sprinted out of the campsite, running desperately into the woods. Minutes passed, and soon, they arrived back at their original camp, still intact with no stone slab. They looked at each other. A branch cracked in the woods, and they darted to their tent. Doirin grabbed her Rem Pod, flicked the on-switch and set it outside as they scrambled into their shelter.

The little motion-sensing device squealed as Doirin zipped the flap back open, peeking through a tiny gap at the top. The Rem Pod’s green light flickered on as it whined, but no one was in the camp. The green light turned yellow as something moved closer. She spotted a figure in the woods.

Ailis reached into her backpack, grabbed a can of bear spray and crawled to her sister. “What’s out there?”

“I see someone in the woods, but the Rem Pod is going off with no one near it.”

“Of course. We’re getting stalked when I finally found a ghost.”

“Is that really what you’re worried about?”

Something pushed against the tent’s zipper. The Rem Pod’s whine increased pitch as the purple light flickered to life. A shadow appeared against the flap of their blue and lime tent, a shadow connected to no one. The red light of the Rem Pod flashed as an unseen force pushed against Doirin’s grip on the zipper. Ailis pulled the phone from her pocket, dialing 911. The phone trilled as it rang, and then the call failed as the phone died.

As the whine of the Rem Pod increased, hoofprints dug into the ground around it. Doirin struggled to hold the zipper steady. The strength of whoever pushed against it overpowered her, ripping the tent open. No one was outside. The figures stood in the treeline watching them and only moving when Doirin shined her flashlight, one of their blue jeans becoming noticeable in the light. The whine of the Rem Pod reached a fever pitch as the red light flicked on and off, then died.

Crouching at the entrance to their tent, Ailis gripped the bear spray, scanning the campsite, ready to fire should anyone get too close. “I knew we should’ve brought the gun.”

Doirin remained silent, cowering, as she moved back into the tent. She blinked and saw the image of someone lying on the ground, bloodied and broken. Ailis screamed as the back of her shirt burned away, the skin underneath turning red, forming the words, “LIVE DEVIL.” The word “devil” burned deeper into her skin. An invisible force pulled Ailis out of the tent, and the zipper shut.

Doirin struggled to pull it back open. When she did, her sister was gone. Hoof and shoe prints in the dirt led back into the tree line. Doirin turned in the direction of their car, wanting to run, then turned around and followed the footprints.

“Ali!” She screamed, watching a figure appear around her as she ran. A searing pain shot across her back as if it was on fire. “Ali!” She screamed louder. Nothing responded.

The footprints ended at their campsite once again disheveled. Their clothes, bloodied and torn, lay across the ground. Their tent crunched down with tire marks indenting the dirt around it. The dark figure, his arm jagged and broken, his chest caved at an odd angle with ribs poking through his shirt, his clothes fluttering loose in the wind. As Doirin approached the clearing, he followed.

A damaged Rem Pod sat in front of the tent, its red light flashing and a spirit box flipping through channels. A garbled report of a hit-and-run accident played over each channel. The reporter said a blue car was spotted fleeing the scene. The victim had multiple broken bones and would later die in the hospital.

Doirin followed the footprints, which trailed past the Rem Pod and stopped at another shadowy figure. This one still had some detail—a young female with long hair, a blackened shirt, and cargo pants. Doirin couldn’t see the face, but she recognized the black and white sneakers. Her sister wore those.

“A Devil lived while an innocent suffered.” She spoke in a soft, empty tone. Her relaxed, emotionless gaze focused on Doirin.

“She who watched and did nothing shares the sin of murder, but the scales are balanced. A life for a life. Your evil may live.” The shade covering her sister’s face crept down her body, engulfing her until she was nothing more than a featureless form. The dark around the figure with the broken ribs faded as his bones cracked back into place. Doirin stared at the man’s pale face, the blood covering him evaporating. Doirin saw flashes of someone tumbling over her car, Ailis screaming as she almost swerved off the road.

Shrouded in shadow, her sister turned and left the campsite. The man with the pale face disappeared as if he had never been there. Doirin blinked and found herself at the center of a clearing with a stone wall. Old, charred wood littered the ground around a single stone slab, a skeleton with a single, rusted knife poking through his sternum laying on it. The disheveled tent, the bloody clothing, and the tire tracks were all gone.

Dorin stumbled as her feet crunched the old wood. She kicked a hard object, a stone wrapped in cloth. She crawled away, knocking the object hard enough to unravel the weathered cloak and reveal the broken remains of a statue depicting a goat-like entity.

Doirin staggered to her feet, ran out of the woods, and returned to her car. There she waited, hoping her sister would find her way back. Light-reflecting in the rearview mirror caught her attention. Doirin used it to look at her back and saw the words “LIVED EVIL” burned through her shirt. However, only the word “LIVED” was seared into her skin.

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