Ben tossed the marshmallow he had decided not to eat into the fire. “Hey you guys,” he said to his fellow students, “I've got one.”
Ben and his classmates were on their annual school camping trip. They had piled into a school bus early one Saturday morning and had driven most of the day to reach the campground, now dotted with several multicolored tents.
Though there were at least three teachers along for supervision, the boys were mostly left on their own. The teacher's tents were a good sixty yards away, far enough from the students to give them the feeling of independence.
Now, Ben and his buddies were taking advantage of their freedom, and were staying up long after the teachers had gone to bed. They were trying to terrify each other with the scariest stories they could think of.
Henry and Shaine had already told some pretty scary ones, but Ben felt sure his would really rattle their wits. “I won't tell you how I heard about this,” he started, his face was eerily lit by the dancing flames of their camp fire, “but I promise that what I'm about to tell you is a true story.”
Henry snorted, but was promptly hushed my the others. The students had a “golden rule”, which was that each storyteller had a fair chance, so Ben just ignored Henry and began.
“There was this kid,” he said in a hushed tone. “We'll call him Mark. He lived alone with his dad at the edge of town, real close to the forest were his dad worked as a lumberjack.
“Sometimes Mark's dad would be gone for a few days at a time, so Mark had learned how to take care of himself. He wasn't afraid of the woods, in fact he was always goofing around among the trees, setting traps and fishing. Pretty soon, he knew his way around better that most anyone else.” For a moment, Ben looked over his shoulder at the woods behind him for some dramatic effect. Then he continued in a eerie tone.
“Anyway, one night while his dad was gone. Mark was sitting on his front porch and was staring at the night sky through his telescope, when all so a sudden he saw a falling star. He watched it shoot across the sky, then he turned his telescope so he could track it as it made its way. Soon it got so close that he didn't need the telescope to look at it anymore. In fact, it was getting so near him that he could feel the heat...especially since it was coming right at him!”
“Bam!” Yelled Henry, clapping his hands together loudly.
The boy sitting next to him jumped and every one laughed and pointed. Then Shaine, the class science nerd, had to step in and ruin the mood.
“You know that's not really possible,” Shaine said. “Actually I happen to know allot about falling stars. Did you know that according to-”
“Shaine!” the other boys shouted him down.
“Nobody likes science lectures”
“Are you guys through?” Ben said, pretending to be the adult of the group, and tapping his foot on the ground. Only after every one was quiet, did he continue with his story.
“Mark didn't wait a single second, he took off towards where he had seen it go down. It wasn't hard for him to find it. All he had to do was follow his nose, the disgusting smell of bunt rubber permeated the air.”
“When he reached the crash site. The trees were smashed and broken, and in the middle of the newly created clearing was a huge pile of dirt that had been pushed up like a wave. Mark decided to get a closer look at what he was sure was a meteor.
Except that it wasn't. It was something silvery and round and was glowing.”Ben paused for a moment, then said in a whisper, “It was a spaceship.”
Shaine guffawed. “Yeah right. And you said this was a true story.”
Once again every one hushed the boy and bade him to be silent.
“Well, needless to say, Mark couldn't believe what he saw,” Ben began again. “So he jumped down into the small crater and landed on top of the ship. The surface was shiny, smooth, and warm to the touch. Mark figured that most of it was buried since it didn't look very big.
“Anyway, he was standing there, wondering what to do, when suddenly he heard a faint knocking sound. At first he thought it was the sound of the ship cooling, but then he realized that it was coming from inside. The knocking grew louder, and then-crack!-a big gash opened up in the metal hull!”
Everybody flinched and the guy that Henry had scared earlier gave a tiny yelp. The others teased him unmercifully, but Ben knew they were just trying to laugh off their own fright. When they had quieted down again, he jumped up and began pacing around the fire.
“The crack grew wider, and out of the hole in the hull, vapor poured out around Mark's legs. The smell was horrible, and made Mark so light headed that he could barely stand.
“Finally the crack stopped getting wider, so Mark inched his was closer to the doorway. His heart was pounding so hard he could feel it in his ears, he reached the edge of the opening and slowly leaned forward. He licked his lips, now dry with fear and excitement. He was going to be the first human ever to meet an alien!”
Ben looked around at his audience. He really had them, but knew he'd better get to the scary part pretty soon. He made his voice sound ominous and spooky, “First Mark saw some blinking lights on the inside wall. Next, he saw something that looked like a tunnel into the center of the ship. He leaned a little further...and there it was-a dark shape lying in the middle of the tunnel
“Suddenly a tentical shot out! Before Mark could scream, it wrapped around his throat, cutting off his air. Gasping, he found himself being pulled into the ship. The thing-a hideous cross between an octopus and a spider- had him..and it was pulling him closer to it's mouth!”
Ben held up his hands about a foot apart, “Mark was this close to going down the slimy things throat. Then it's tongue-with millions of tiny spines on it-snaked out. It swirled across Mark's face like sand paper, tearing into his cheeks. Then, just before he blacked out, Mark saw small tenticals ooze out of the alien's head. Although he tried, he couldn't fight off the alien as it sank one of its tenticals right into his skull and bored through it like it was a coconut, heading straight for his brain.”
Ben paused while his audience made appropriate sound of disgust. Then, before they had time to speak, he held up his hand.
“wait a minute. There's more. You see, some time later Mark woke up. But he wasn't exactly Mark anymore. The alien had taken over, or assimilated, his body...and his life.”
“What?” one of the boys gasped.
“Thats right. Once it was comfortable in its new body, the alien set his space ship to self destruct. Then it used Marks memories to find the house he had lived in. There it waited for its' new human parent-Mark's dad-to return.
“The worst part of the whole story is that poor Mark, even though he didn't have a body anymore, still had enough consciousness to know what was happening. He watched as the alien took over his dad. Then it went to town, and the more humans it assimilated, the more capable it was of reproducing itself over and over again. In time it would control the planet, and Mark had to watching silent horror knowing he had brought about the doom of the human race.”
Ben's voice had dropped to a whisper as he finished. The stunned silence was everything he could have hoped for. He waited as his classmates slowly began to breath again.
A boy named Sam sighed heavily. “It's just like that movie I watched last summer. These scientists in the north pole, they were digging and found an alien that morphed into another scientist, AN din the end, the scientists couldn't tell who was real and who was the copy.”
Henry rolled his eyes. Of course he had to be the one to try to knock Ben's story down. Henry was always the first to have something negative to say.
“I thought you said it was a true story,” he accused. “That story was no more true than a fairy tale.”
Ben looked at him innocently. “It is true.”
Henry shook his head. “Uh, uh. No way.”
Ben tried not to smile. Someone just had to figure it out. “Okay, smart guy,” he challenged Henry, “why is there no way it could be true?”
“There's no way 'cause there was nobody around when the kid went into the spaceship,” Henry said, pouncing on what he was sure was the flaw in Ben's logic. “If the kid never came out, and the alien blew up the ship, then there's nobody to tell the story and no evidence that it even existed.”
“That's true,” Ben admitted. “But you missed one important point.”
Every one was listening closely to see how Ben would defend himself.
“There is one person who knows the whole story,” Ben said, nearly whispering, “but his name isn't Mark.”
Suddenly Ben pulled open his shirt. “It's me!” he yelled as thick, black tentacles shot out from his chest. Everyone screamed. It soon looked like a grenade had exploded, as the boys jumped, crawled, or rolled away from the monster that had once been Ben.
“What is it?!” Yelled the teachers as they came racing over from their tents.
Ben was kneeling in front of the fire, breathless with laughter. Tears were streaming down his face, the tenticals bounced and swayed as he moved, looking suspiciously like black nylons stuffed with some thing springy.
“Whats going on?” Demanded one of the teachers.
Ben managed to catch his breath, but the site of his fellow students slowly crawling back to the fire made him break out laughing again.
“Ah, nothing , Mrs. D,” said Ben's best friend Zack, who had kept quiet throughout Ben's story.
“Nothing?” She repeated, “You were all screaming like it was the end of the world!”
Ben had finally recovered enough to explain. “You see, we were telling scary stories, and I guess mine was a little too scary.”
Shaking her head, Mrs. D pronounced that it was late and time for everyone to go to bed, in fifteen minutes. True to Mrs. D's wished, fifteen minutes later they were all in their tents, although not exactly asleep. Whispering could be heard with muffled laughter form every tent.
“Wow,” Zack said in a low voice from one his side of the tent that he and Ben shared, “you nailed us all with that one.”
Ben smiled. “You know, I think Henry almost had a heart attack.”
Zack clutched his chest and fell backwards. The two laughed and spent the next few minutes telling jokes about who they thought was the most scared. After their laughing fit had past, Zack leaned over close to Ben. “Where did you get that story from, anyway?” he asked in a whisper.
“Why?” Ben whispered back.
“I mean, did you get it from that movie that kid was talking about?”
“What makes you thing I made it up?” Ben asked, suddenly serious.
Zack was silent a moment. Then he said in an angry tone, “Come on Ben. I really want to know where you got the story. Stop goofing around.”
Ben didn't answer right away. Finally the breath Ben had been holding exploded out of his mouth in a bark of laughter. “Of course I made it up! What do you think-it really happened?”
There was a strange sound from Zack, as if his sleeping bag was being torn open. “Good,” he sneered as he clamped a hand tightly over Ben's mouth. “I was worried for a moment that I'd been discovered.”