It was a stupid bet to make, Jake knew that. Anyone would tell you that of the bunch Jake was the easiest to scare. In fact, that’s part of the reason why these bets were made so often. If someone jumped out at him it was good money he’d startle. He knew his friends weren’t deliberately trying to be mean, but it had started to wear on him none-the-less.
So it was he, and not them, who had come up with this wager. He bet all of them that he could spend the night in the 'Deadly Forest' all by himself without shitting his pants. He knew the same stories as they did- that the little girl who was found dead there back in the 70’s still haunted the place, searching for her killer and trying to find a way out. But he figured that a forest tucked in between the recycling plant and the police station couldn’t really be that dangerous. And he hadn’t quite made up his mind about the whole ghost thing, anyway, he was hoping he’d prove intelligent enough not to believe in such things.
His friends were more reluctant to take the bet than he would have thought. They expressed genuine concern for him, after they got the hysterical laughter out of their systems and concluded he was serious.
“You? Are you kidding me? There’s no way you’ll make it a whole night. You’ll literally die of fright!” they’d warned.
“I don’t believe in ghosts, that’s stupid,” he’d chided.
“Ghosts or not- you’ll be scared. YOU will scare yourself even if there isn’t anything to be scared of!”
“Maybe I’m not as much of a scaredy cat as you think. Without you assholes jumping out at me I’d be fine!”
“Ok, dude. Your funeral.”
He couldn’t help but think about that conversation as he set up the campsite. He trained the camera on his sleeping bag so he wouldn’t have to adjust it when he went to sleep. He checked the sound, started a fire, and sat. He was perfectly happy to read and listen to his discman until the crepuscular dim made it too dark to read. Then he decided to get up and stretch.
He checked the camera, the red light was blinking consistently letting him know that all was being recorded. He stopped his discman and took off his ear buds out to listen to the sounds of the forest. He could hear the nocturnal animals coming out- the hoot of an owl, the scamper of a rabbit running through the brush, something climbing up a tree. He couldn’t resist the urge to advertise the fact that he wasn’t scared of the noises and the dark.
“Oh, boy- it sure is getting scary out here,” he taunted the camera. “Don’t know what I’m going to do!” He chuckled and gave the finger to the camera. “This is so dumb, but hey if you guys are stupid enough to shell out fifty bucks just for me to do a sleepover in the woods that’s your bad. I’ll be enjoying my gametime on God of War and laughing when you guys can’t afford it for yourselves."
There was a sudden snap like a twig breaking and he couldn’t help but snap his head around to see where it came from. His eyes wouldn’t let him make out anything other than the shape of tree branches and vines. His heart sped up into his throat for a second until he closed his eyes and forced himself to realize what an idiot he was being. The biggest risk he ran in these woods was running across a skunk and so long as he had the flashlight from his cell phone he’d be fine. Logic revived him and he opened his eyes again. Nothing had moved, the shadows were where they had been. He laughed at himself and settled his ear buds back in place and slipped into his sleeping bag, content to watch the red blinking light on the camera. Why his brother had invested in a camera with night vision he never understood, but he was glad for it now.
In spite of his fear he was able to focus in on the music and it lulled him to sleep, just as he had planned. He slept soundly, or at least as soundly as one can when resting on leaves in the middle of the woods. The night went on as it usually did. Mice ran through the underbrush, hungry foxes chased them, the occasional owl hoot echoed through the clearing. At one point Jake came unknowingly close to his greatest fear as a curios skunk walked disturbingly close to his sleeping bag and then moved on. Jake slept undisturbed by all of it, dreaming of pulling off awesome combination attacks in God of War.