It was the end of summer 1982. My friend and I were enjoying one last bonfire before school started the following week.
The sky twinkled with a billion stars, and there was a nip in the air indicating Fall was at our doorstep. Even though it was a moonless night, the sky was mesmerizing over the inky black water.
Lazing around the blaze listening to the boom box crank out hits like Eye of the Tiger and Abracadaba from a mix tape, we talked about our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. We were both excited and nervous about the coming school year.
It had been a wonderful summer full of experiences including floating around in the rowboat soaking up rays, learning how to waterski, and working at my first summer job.
As the hours slipped away, it became more depressing knowing it was the last fire of the season. After having such a good summer, neither of us wanted it to come to an end.
By midnight, the flames were doing little to keep us warm, even though we were bundled up in layers of sweatshirts and thick jackets.
“I guess it’s time to go in.” I said, clicking off the music to hear the steady swoosh of waves lapping up on the sandy shore.
“Yeah, I’m freezing,” Amy agreed, stomping some circulation back into her legs after sitting too long in the sand.
So we each grabbed a bucket and headed out on the dock to scoop up some water to put the fire out.
Being the water was really shallow on the east side of the lake, we had to walk far enough out on the dock to get a bucketful without a bunch of sand in it. But the further we got away from the flames, the less we could see where we were walking.
Returning with the first buckets of water, I couldn’t help ruminating about the eerie quiet of the shoreline. Already dormant for the coming winter, it felt dismal and forgotten when just last week it was bustling with happy revelers enjoying the last weekend of the season.
Throughout the summer months, you could see nothing but bonfires lining the shoreline, and hear the cacophony of summer vacationers enjoying themselves along both sides of our beachfront.
Now it was dead silent except for the waves.
All of the picnic tables and outdoor lawn furniture had been put away for the season. Most of the docks had been pulled out of the water and stacked neatly along property lines for the winter. And there wasn’t another soul to be seen or heard anywhere.
With every bucketful, it felt as though we were snuffing the last bit of life out of the place, leaving a grim skeleton as the only evidence of a once happy past.
As I scooped up another bucketful of water, a peculiar feeling came over me, causing the goose flesh to rise up on my arms. It was a different feeling than the chill in the air. More like the feeling you get when someone or something is watching you.
A little scared about dipping the bucket into the water again, I laughed off the foreboding feeling by saying, “Wouldn’t it be so scary if something came out of the water and tried to grab us right now?”
“Oh my gosh!” Amy confessed, “That would scare the crap out of me!”
After mentioning the ‘what if,’ we were both especially nervous when walking out on the dock again.
Lifting out another bucket of water, I said, “These last two should be enough.”
Amy scooped up her last bucketful and followed me back to the bonfire when our worst nightmare came true.
The moaning roar of some kind of creature surging out of the water had us both screaming bloody murder and bolting towards the shore. Glancing over my shoulder, I was stunned to witness two dark figures covered in seaweed hurtling after us.
The buckets of water dropped and forgotten, I yelled, “RUN!”
Amy being younger, I waited for her to get ahead and took up the rear, both of us shrieking, and scared out of our minds.
Without the light from the fire, the property was cast in complete darkness, and it felt as if we were running blind. Dodging obstacles as best we could, I worried about running into the flagpole that I knew was planted somewhere in our path.
The nearest house was a summer cottage closed up for the winter, but we both aimed that way wondering if we had enough time to make it to safety before the swamp monsters overcame us.
I could tell by the shrill of her screams that Amy was scared out of her wits, but I wasn’t prepared for her to suddenly drop to the ground.
"Did she trip in a hole or something?" I wondered.
The pounding of heavy footsteps behind us had me grabbing for her hand and trying to drag her to safety.
“Get up!” I urged, instantly at her side.
Huddled in a small ball, she seemed cemented to the ground,“I can’t!” she panted between frightful sobs.
“Come on!” I cried, trying to get her to move.
“I can’t,” she cried again.
“I just peed my pants!” she sobbed.
Then I heard the two swamp monsters howling with laughter.
Peering through the darkness, I could make out the two large figures rolling around in the sand near the bonfire pit hooting hysterically at the two of us fraidy-cats.
“We got you guys so good!” my brother exclaimed.
“Oh man, that was perfect when you started talking about monsters!” my cousin interjected. “Did you like our finishing touches?” he asked, pulling a wad of seaweed off his shoulders.
“You scared the crap out of us!” I charged, but had to admit… it was a pretty good prank.
“It was perfect!” my brother laughed. “You guys had no idea!”
My cousin added, “If you would have come down the dock just a little further, I could’ve grabbed your arm when you reached into the water."
I couldn’t imagine how scared I would’ve been had someone grabbed me, but I’m fairly certain I would’ve peed my pants too!
Poor Amy didn’t find the boys’ prank funny in the least, and it wasn’t until the two left that she finally got back up and marched home, mad as a wet cat.
After that summer, it seemed that life had changed for everyone. The times of leisurely bonfires, and childhood pranks were all but over. With the coming years, we experienced more grown-up type responsibilities leaving the days of hanging out at the beach far behind.
But I will never forget the night of the Swamp Monster Attack!
What was the scariest prank someone played on you?
Thanks so much for reading!
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