"I don't know about this Butch, maybe we should go back."
"Don't wimp out on us now, Lisa, it's just a little further." Butch pulled her along behind him, the trembling in her hand having nothing to do with the chill in the sea air.
"We could have at least brought a flashlight with us, man," Jay said.
"What do we need a flashlight for? There's a full moon tonight," Butch told him.
"Yeah, where's your sense of adventure?" Tiffany giggled and clutched at Danny's arm as she stumbled over the rocky path.
"Do you know what they call the moon that rises this time of the month? The bone moon."
"C'mon Ashleigh, don't start that mystic shit tonight," Jay begged.
"Fine!" she snapped. "But just remember I tried to warn you."
"Chill, you guys. We're here."
They reached the end of the path down the cliff side and the rocks gave way to a fine, white sand. The moon cast more than enough light to see the empty crates Butch had dragged down earlier in the day to use for seating. He'd also gathered a respectable pile of firewood and dug a fire pit.
"Danny, you want to start the fire while Jay and I break out the beer?" Butch had just had his birthday, which took all the fun out of going on a beer run.
The driftwood was dry and caught fire easily. Butch handed Danny a beer and he took his place in the semi circle around the fire pit, looking out over the ocean. "This is great, man," he said. "The perfect way to celebrate the end of the summer."
"I'm cold," Lisa whined.
Butch put his arm around her. "Don't worry, babe. I'll keep you warm."
"We're not going to get into trouble for being here, are we?"
"Stop being such a drag, Lisa," Tiffany told her. "No one ever comes here, so no one's going to catch us."
"I wonder why they don't come here," Danny said. "This place is great, nice and secluded."
"I think I can answer that, young fella," a voice called out of the dark, startling the six trespassers.
"Jesus! Give a warning next time, would you?" Butch snapped. "Who the hell are you?"
An old man stepped closer to the fire.
"Name's Henry. I was beach combing down thataways earlier today and fell asleep. Just on my way home. Sorry to have disturbed you."
"Wait, Henry," Danny called as the old man shuffled past them and into the dark again. "You said you could tell us why no one comes here. Why don't you join us for a beer, maybe tell us the story?"
"Well, I suppose a beer or two couldn't hurt," Henry said, shuffling back over. Jay and Danny made space between them for him to sit down and Butch handed him a beer.
Henry took a swig of his beer and then started his story. "Well, it would have been about fifty years ago this happened." He glanced up at the moon and back down again. "Would have been fifty years ago exactly, on the night of the bone moon."
"See?" Ashleigh dug her elbow in Jay's ribs. "I told you it was the bone moon tonight."
"Quiet," he told her.
"This was a popular spot back then, specially with teenagers wanting to have a little privacy, if you get my drift."
Butch tightened his hold on Lisa and grinned.
"There was this group of teenagers, not much younger than you youngsters, who decided to spend the night on the beach, celebrating the end of summer or some such nonsense. Next morning, first ones arriving on the beach found what was left of them. There was the bones of one of the boys, tied up with some twine, but only the skulls of others were left."
"Oh my God," Tiffany said. "What happened to them?"
Henry shrugged. "No one knows. There was no footprints, no blood, nothing. Not even a sign of a struggle. Just the tied up bones and skulls. But . . ." his voice trailed off.
"But what?" Danny asked.
"There was this legend . . ."
"What legend?" Lisa asked, fascinated in spite of herself.
"This here is called Imp's Cove, 'cause there was said to be an imp bound to it. You know what an imp is, one of the devil's minions. Every fifty years, under the light of the bone moon, the imp needs to feed."
"And they think he ate those people?" Tiffany asked. "All of them?"
"Well, you'd be mighty hungry too if you only ate once every fifty years."
"But why didn't he just eat the last one," Danny asked. "Why leave the bones all tied up?"
"The imp feeds on fear just as much as he feeds on flesh," Henry said, looking at each one of them in turn. "He ties up the strongest of the lot, 'cause their fear is the richest, and lets them watch while he feasts on the others. Then he sucks the fear-filled flesh off the bones."
"I don't get it," Butch said. "Why didn't the others just run away?"
"They couldn't," Henry said, the moonlight reflecting off his eyes. At least Butch thought it was the moonlight. "The imp used the magic of his eyes to paralyze them."
There was no sound from the others. Butch tried to move his head to look at them, but it was like he was frozen in place. Horrified understanding filled him as Henry's form began to elongate, to morph into something inhuman.
"It's all right if you want to scream," the creature said in Henry's voice. "There's no one else to hear, and I quite enjoy a little music with my dinner."