As the sun crept over the trees, it slowly fell upon a campsite hidden in the woods. Silently it crept down the tree line until it encroached on the tents, illuminating them individually and causing those inside to stir. Where the light touched, the heat followed the final straw that caused those inside the tent to wake. Sweaty and physically exhausted from the night before, people emerged from their tents and met one another by the fire pit.
“Good morning, all.” Adam called out as he stirred a pot that was sat atop a small fire.
“How long have you been up?” Eden asked as she sat down next to Adam, leaning over the pot for a smell.
“Just an hour or two, doing some of the setup for tonight.”
“What are we doing tonight? You have been very vague on all of this.”
“And yet you all came, which I do appreciate. I also do appreciate the fact that Fox and Ox managed to exceed my already high expectations of them. Speaking of the devils, here they come.”
Fox and Ox both slowly crawled out of their tents, stretching their backs out as they slowly made their way to everyone else.
“Morning.” Fox groaned as he sat down, still trying to fix a muscle that had tightened during his sleep.
Ox just slumped down and started stretching his back against the log behind him.
“Okay, now that everyone is here, I guess I can start you all off with some information.” Adam said as he started to hand out the bowls of soup. “As you all know, I have been looking into some of the more strange occurrences that have been happening. From the miscreation penitentiary, an insane asylum in the middle of the woods that appeared seemingly overnight, to the four-year-old who murdered his friend, all the way to the incident at the secluded beach.”
“Can we not talk about that one.” Eden interrupted, everyone else nodding along. “Odd or not, what happened at the beach is just a little much for me.”
“Yeah, I agree with Eden; even the little kid one is too horrible for me to want to talk about it.” Ox chimed in as he sat up.
“I respect that; they won’t be brought up again. Just making the point that that is what I have been researching, and that is the reason we are here.”
“Don’t tell me we are going to have to kill someone.” Declan said grimly.
“No.” Adam laughed. “Nothing anywhere as serious as that. I am hoping that we will witness a very special event tonight. Because I have reason to believe that something very unique is going to happen tonight, and that is why I need all of you.”
Fox groaned and rolled his head in frustration.
“This is like a terrible radio show; you will never believe what happened to me on the weekend. Tune in next week to know.”
“Interdimensional travel.” Adam said plainly as he looked at everyone gauging their reaction. “Nothing, seriously? I think there is going to be some science fiction stuff happening today, and all you can do is sit there drinking your soups?”
Declan put his soup down and leaned in Adam’s direction.
“To be fair, if you had said zombies or something equally unlikely, I don’t think you would get a different response. Because I don’t think any of us thinks it will happen.”
The others nodded in agreement and murmured words of affirmation towards the statement.
“Well, thankfully, I don’t need you to be believers for this to happen; it is happening if you want it to or not.”
“Well, that is if it does happen.” Eden laughed.
“I mean, worst comes to worst, we have a night out camping, and it is a great time.” Fox said, trying not to offend Adam.
“Alright, show of hands. Who thinks that despite what I think, what I have researched, that no one from another world is going to show up tonight?” Adam asked as he started to sip from his own soup.
Hands slowly raised one by one until Adam was the only one with his hand down.
“Alright, that is fine.”
“Come on, man, don’t be like that.” Eden said as she disagreed with the tone in Adam’s voice.
“Don’t be like what? That was a sincere statement.” He laughed. “I know how crazy this all looks; I don’t expect people to just be on board, I know I will have to show them proof, and that is fine.”
The camp fell silent as no one knew how to continue the conversation. They took sips from their camping mugs and sat in silence for nearly a whole minute before Fox downed his soup and stood up suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention.
“Okay, well, this party is not gonna set itself up, so what are we doing first, Adam?”
“I like the enthusiasm, and I appreciate the dedication to my cause. The first thing we need to do is make this look a little more like a war camp, I did some of the prep work over the last few days, but the extra sets of hands will be welcome.” Adam said, finishing his soup and heading off.
The others followed suit, helping Adam set up what he thought would be necessary. They put up spike poles in the dirt, dug tripping runs, and set up flame torches on stands within the camp. They worked all through the heat of the sun, getting tans and burns before the sun decided to move away from their camp. They draped lightweight cloth over their tents to make them look like they were made of some sort of hide as a finishing touch.
“The final thing we need to do is to be ready. So let me see what you guys brought.” Adam asked as he looked at the others.
Eden started to empty her bag out as she spoke.
“So I went with no shoes like you said; I went and bought some fancy face paint for us to use as well. Then I got my friend to help me stitch together a burlap skirt and top. It is a little itchy, so I am wearing my exercising skin underneath.”
Declans brought out two haggard-looking pieces of clothing.
“I brought an old shirt and pair of pants that I cut up and rubbed some dirt on.”
“Not as cool as Eden, but I still like it.” Adam said excitedly. “Now, you two, what on Earth did you bring in those massive bags?”
Fox looked to Ox, and they gestured each other forward before Ox took the lead.
“We brought EVERYTHING!” He shouted as he turned his bag upside down and poured its contents onto the ground. Fox stepped forward and proceeded to do the same. “And what he didn’t bring, I did.”
Everyone watched as tribal masks, sticks, scrap cloths, bones, and many other random items fell from the now-empty bags. The last of the goods clattered down the side of the mountains that had been created.
“What do you think, Adam? I think we more than makeup for Declan’s poor performance.” Fox said with a fistful of cheek behind each word.
“Hey, unlike you, I don’t collect crap. I only have nice clothes and no spoilable goods.” Declan defended as he shook his handful of tattered clothes. “Speaking of which, why do we need these dirty clothes?”
“Because in all accounts of the strange people, they have been wearing torn and dirty clothes, usually made of crude materials, and have been seen sporting bones and other charm-looking things on their persons. I want us to look as like them as possible; I want them the feel like that maybe we came from the same place.”
“I guess, but what if we find someone who hates people from their world?”
“Well, there are more of us.” Adam said so uncertainly that the others could feel his discomfort. There was a moment’s pause before they spoke again. “Okay then, let’s all get dressed up; then we can head to the tree.”
Declan stopped Eden and, under hushed-toned, asked her. “What tree? I don’t remember a tree being mentioned.”
“It must be where the interdimensional being is coming from. A magic tree, Oooo.” Declan slapped Eden, and they both giggled as they went off to change into their outfits.
Sometime later, they all emerged, shoeless, with torn clothes, small charms, face paint of made-up runes and handprints. Gathering by the fireplace, they waited on Adam, who was staring at the watch on his wrist intently. Taking it off, he tossed it to the side and looked back at the group.
“It is time, and you guys all look so great!” Adam smiled with unease as he led the group into the tree line.
Only a hundred meters in, they stopped just before a large, burnt tree that had strange growths on it.
“Near a lot of the strange occurrences, a poisoned, burnt tree stands. I believe that it is an indicator that something is about to come.” Adam said as he rose his flaming torch to illuminate the tree better.
“Or maybe it is a sign of something that has already come.” Ox said.
“In that case, that means the oddity has already happened.” Fox added.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Eden asked as she stared at the still tree.
“Witching hour.” Adam answered.
“What is the witching hour?” Declan asked as he turned to Adam.
“There are some arguments over when exactly it is, but roughly it is 2am to 5am. It is the point that night is coldest and darkest. This is where the phrase, the night is darkest before dawn is derived from, so it is not only a motivational speech but also a fact. During those hours is when most elderly people will die in their sleep, and originally it was time where the witches would do their witch magic.”
“Damn, that is a lot of stuff for what? Three hours of the day.” Fox said, shocked. “So we have to wait here for three hours; how do we even know if anything will happen?” He continued.
As his words left his mouth, the front of the tree started to groan, and everyone faced the tree with shock and anticipation. Adam stepped to the front of the group as the trunk of the tree cracked, echoing out into the forest; the nearby birds took flight and left the area. The groaning stopped, and the tree stood still once again.
The group broke out into laughter as the grin on Adam’s face faded.
“My god, I thought we were going to fucking die.” Ox said from the ground as he attempted to catch his breath.
Declan leaned against the nearest tree with his hand resting upon his chest as he calmed his heart rate. Eden stood wide-eyed, whispering okay under her breath over and over. Fox fell to his knees dramatically and struck the ground with both fists for a spectacle.
“I, think, I, shat, my, self.”
Adam stared at the tree with disappointment, his eyes glossing over as the excitement from the moment passed.
Over the next few hours, the group sat with one another, chatting, eventually taking out a speaker and playing music. Together they danced and had fun dressed in their tribal outfits; out from a separate pouch in their enormous bag, Fox pulled out an enormous bottle of alcohol from his bag and raised it into the air, just to be met by a choir of cheers. The rest of the night quickly faded for everyone except Adam, who remained sober and still focused on the tree, but even he slowly fell away to sleep as all his friends did before him.
Collectively the friends awoke to see Adam sitting on the ground, staring up at the tree.
“You okay, Adam?” Declan asked as he pulled himself up from the grass.
“Yeah.” He sighed. “I was just so certain that tonight was going to happen. I guess it really shouldn’t be surprising.”