Ghost Night Page 1


South Bimini


The sound of the bloodcurdling scream was as startling as the roar of thunder on a cloudless day.

Vanessa Loren immediately felt chilled to the bone, a sense of foreboding and fear as deep-seated as any natural instinct seeming to settle into her, blood, body and soul.

So jarring! It brought casual conversation to a halt, brought those seated to their feet, brought fear to all eyes. It was the sound of the scream, the very heartfelt terror within it, which had been lacking during the day’s work.

The ocean breeze had been beautiful throughout the afternoon and evening; it seemed almost as if the hand of God was reaching down to gently wave off the last dead heat of the day, leaving a balmy temperature behind as the sun sank in the western horizon with an astonishing palette of crimson, magenta, mauve and gold.

The film crew had set up camp on the edge of the sparse pine forest, just yards away from the lulling sound of the ocean. The Bahamian guides who had brought them and worked with them had been courteous, fun and knowledgeable, and there was little not to like about the project, especially as night fell and the last of the blazing, then pastel, shades faded into the sea, and it and the horizon seemed to stretch as one, the sky meeting the ocean in a blur.

A bonfire burned with various shades from brilliant to pale in the darkness, and the crew gathered around as it grew dark. South Bimini was sparsely inhabited, offering a small but popular fisherman’s restaurant and little more, unlike the more tourist-friendly North Bimini, where numerous shops, bars and restaurants lined what was known as The King’s Highway in Alice Town.

They had taken it a step further than South Bimini, choosing to film on one of the several little uninhabited islands jutting out to the southwest. One with a name that had greatly appealed to Jay.

Haunt Island.

A long time ago, there had been a pirate massacre here. Over the years, truth and legend had merged, and it was this very story that Vanessa had used in her script for the low-budget horror film they were shooting.

So infamous years ago, Haunt Island was currently just a place where boaters came now and then. An island filled with scrub and pines, a single dock and an abundance of beach. Out here, tourism wasn’t plentiful—the terrain remained wild and natural, beloved by naturalists and campers.

There had been more people in their group, but now they were down to ten. There were Georgia Dare and Travis Glenn, the two actors playing the characters who remained alive in the script; Jay Allen, director; Barry Melkie, sound; Zoe Cally, props, costumes and makeup; Carlos Roca, lighting; Bill Hinton, and Jake Magnoli, the two young production assistants/lighting/sound/gophers/wherever needed guys; their Bahamian escort and guide, Lew Sanderson; and Vanessa herself, writer and backup with the cameras and underwater footage.

It was all but a wrap. The historical legend filled with real horror that was sure to be a box-office hit on a shoestring budget had been all but completed, and they’d been winding down, crawling out of their tents to enjoy the champagne, laughing and lazing against the backdrop of the sunset and the breeze.

And then the sound of the scream, so much more chilling and horrible than any sound Georgia Dare had managed to emit throughout the filming.

Until that moment, Vanessa Loren had enjoyed the project. It was simple enough—a low-budget horror flick that actually had a plot. She had written the script. In addition, she and Jay were financially committed to the project, which made them both willing to work in any capacity. She was ready to do instant rewrites as needed because of the actors and the environment, and she could film underwater shots and even pitch in as second camera for many of the land shots.

Jay, the director, was planning on making a bundle; he was counting on the success of such films as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal State. Vanessa and Jay had known each other forever, and had both gone to film school at NYU. He’d contacted her while she was working back in Miami after she’d gotten her master’s degree at the University of Miami. He’d talked the good talk on getting together and finding a few investors to finance a really good low-budget flick.

Luckily, she had just been nicely paid for work she had done writing and filming an advertisement for dive gear. It had been one of the few projects she had worked on that hadn’t been rewritten by a dozen people before coming to fruition—and it had been a sixty-second spot.

Jay agreed with her that if they were going to do the project, an independent endeavor, it had to be done really well. However, they were also looking for commercial success. So the script was well written but also included the usual assortment of teen-slasher-flick characters—the jock who counted his conquests with scratches on his football helmet, the stoner guitar boy, the struggling hero, the popular slut coming on to the hero and the good-girl bookworm. So far, two characters had been killed in the water, two had disappeared from the boat—and two had to fight the evil, reborn pirates on land and sea and somehow survive until help could come to the patch of sand where they’d been grounded in the Atlantic.

The scream.

Vanessa had been sitting by the fire, sipping a glass of champagne and chatting with Jay, Lew and Carlos. They’d broken it open just a few minutes earlier, taking a minute to relax before they all gathered to cook dinner over the fire and the camp stoves they’d brought and finish off the rest of the champagne.

At the scream, she, like the others, stopped what she was doing. They looked at one another in the eerie light produced by the flames in the darkness, then bolted up and started running toward the sound.

Vanessa was in the lead when Georgia came tearing down the beach toward them. Vanessa caught the young woman, trying to hold her, trying to find out what had happened. “Georgia! Stop, stop!” Georgia Dare, a stunning twenty-one-year old blonde, stared at her with eyes as wide as saucers. “Georgia, it’s me, Vanessa. What’s wrong?”

“Nessa…Nessa…oh my God, oh, no, no…!”

Georgia started to scream again, trying to shake Vanessa’s hold.


By then, everyone had come, bursting out of their camp tents, forgetting whatever task they had been involved in.

The others gathered behind her while Jay came forward. “Georgia, damn it, what the hell kind of a prank is this?” he demanded. Once, Georgia had tried to pretend that a stunt knife was real and that she’d been stabbed by a woman from the Retirees by the Sea trailer park back in the Keys.

“The bones, the bodies…they are alive, they don’t like us, they’re going to kill us…they’re angry…we’ll all die!” Georgia blurted.

“Damn it, I’ve had it,” Jay said with disgust, turning away. Most of the others did the same.

Vanessa didn’t. Georgia was shaking violently. And that scream! The sound of that scream still seemed to be chilling her blood.

“They’re going to kill us all. Kill us all,” Georgia said. Her eyes fell directly on Vanessa’s then, and she was suddenly as strong as a sumo wrestler, breaking free from Vanessa’s hold and gripping her shoulders instead. “They’re real! They’re going to kill us, don’t you understand, we have to get out of here! They’re coming out of the sand. I saw them…the arms, the hands, the skulls… I saw them, coming out of the sand.”

“Georgia, Georgia, please, stop it. Hey, come on, we’re filming a horror movie, remember?” Vanessa asked gently. “The guys probably set up some of the props to scare you,” She frowned suddenly. “What were you doing alone, way down on the beach?”

“Travis and I…Travis and I… Travis is gone.”

Travis Glenn was the male lead, an exceptionally beautiful if not terribly bright young man.

“Okay, where is Travis?”

“Gone. Gone. The pirate took him.”

“The pirate?”

Georgia shook her head. “Maybe he wasn’t a pirate. I didn’t see him very clearly. But he was evil—he was like an evil shadow, skulking in the darkness. Travis was yelling, and he went after the shadow. He was mad. He thought you all were playing tricks. And then this monster came out of the sand, but he wasn’t right, he seemed to jerk around, like his bones were put back together wrong. And he took Travis and I started screaming and ran.”

Jay came back, hands on his lean hips, chest glistening in the darkness. “Slap her! Nessa, don’t look so damned concerned. She’s jerking us around and it isn’t funny. Damn you, Georgia. Look, I realize this isn’t anything major-budget, but the crew has worked hard and everyone is tired—and you’re acting like a complete bitch! It’s just not the time for practical jokes. Slap her, knock her out of it, Vanessa!”

Vanessa glared at him and shook her head. Georgia wasn’t that good an actress. She had disagreed with casting the young woman, but she had looked phenomenal on film.

“Let’s go down to the beach and see what scared her,” Vanessa suggested. She looked back at Lew, a big, broad-shouldered Bahamian man who had been one of their guides. “Do you think there’s anything down at the beach, Lew?”

“Sand,” he told her.

“Let’s go see.”

Georgia jerked away from her, shaking her head vehemently. “No, no, no! I am not going back there. I am not going back!”

Carlos Roca, their lighting engineer, came toward them. He’d been close to both actors, and Georgia liked him. Vanessa did, too. He was a nice guy—even-tempered and capable. He took Georgia’s hands. “Hey, hey. I’ll stay here with you, and we’ll sit by the fire with the others while Lew, Jay and Vanessa go check it all out. How’s that?”

Georgia looked up at him. Huge tears formed in her eyes and she nodded. “Travis is dead,” she told him. “Travis is dead.”

Jay looked at Zoe, who worked with the props, makeup and buckets of stage blood they’d been using. He glared sternly at her, then turned to Bill and Jake, the young production assistants, earning credit from the U of Miami. “Hey, you guys didn’t rig anything, did you—any practical jokes?”