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the outing
by collette mcfarland 
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I couldn't get over it! I was used to my daughter, Cindy, text messaging people when we were alone in the car together, but tonight she had a friend with her and they were both text messaging and conversing with each other at the same time. I hope they didn't get their verbal and electronic conversations mixed up! I was just the taxi driver taking them to the camp grounds where I’d hoped to escape from all things Halloween, a holiday I’d deemed totally non-Christian. At least I had Scruffy, my reliable terrier, in the passenger seat to keep me company. I glanced at him only to find he was text messaging Mr. Sandman. Oh well, at least I had a warm body next to mine. I reached over to scratch his favorite spot...anywhere on his body...to receive a grateful lick on the hand before he readjusted himself.

The back seat conversation stopped. Then griping started. The phones were losing signals. Great, now they'll have to have an old fashion conversation where two people talk to the only two people present, (obviously I know better than to include myself). They were on untested territory now.

It was so dark I couldn't see the street let alone any street signs. We were way past any major housing area or shopping malls. Way past any street lights. Way past the reach of moon light. We should be near the state park with the comfortable cabin I had rented for the night. But no, I suspected we were lost. Again. My GPS was telling me to turn back, go right, go left, back up, go forward and recite the Gettysburg address while patting my tummy and rubbing my head. The useless piece of plastic was malfunctioning. Hmmm, the cell phones, now the GPS.

The wind picked up and Lightening flashed across the sky. One, two, three. Then thunder followed. The storm was three miles away. Great, if I couldn't see on a starless, moonless night, seeing in a deluge will be .....challenging. I loathed challenges.

Cindy screamed. The next lightening/thunder episode sent her into panic. She hates storms. I hate her screaming, but the light streaking across the sky illuminated the ground enough for me to see a break in the horizon were a building stood. A lightless, dark silhouette. I pulled off the road, literally, and aimed my car beams into the field. The car lights went out. Of course, what else. We bumped over rocks and gravel while tall grass brushed against my rear view mirror.

The car stopped (did the battery just die?) in front of an old wooden plank house, two stories tall with broken windows, and open doors swinging in the wind. Cindy and Ginger just stared at me as I stepped out and grabbed my duffle bag.

"What are you doing?" Cindy asked.
"Ever hear of getting out of the rain?" I retorted.

Lightning flashed. One. Thunder. This motivated my usually sublime Scruffy into action as he leapt past me, up the steps and through the doorway. I was close behind. Cindy and Ginger considered staying in an empty car in the dark and rain for about one, two...{lightening, thunder}, seconds. Having left the car after me, they got into the structure before me. Oh, to be young and agile again. And terrified of thunder.

Dust and old furniture was everywhere. None of that covered stuff like you see on TV. Just dusty furniture and cobwebs. Leaves, animal scat, broken planks, pieces of the ceiling and peeling sheet rock were scattered over the floors, I flicked the light switch on. Guess what? They didn't work. Go figure. Old, empty house, no electricity.

I pulled out my flashlight-radio-TV-tool box combo I got for Christmas one year. I remember thinking, I'll never use this, but more than one happenstance has forced me to eat my words. Then I said, "Let there be light!" The flash light worked for nano seconds then went dead. I couldn’t get any action on the TV or radio either, to determine the strength of the impending tempest about to overtake us.

"Lets go back to the car!" Cindy pleaded. Scruffy was sniffing around and whining. His hair was standing on edge. Not an encouraging behavior from a pet with extra sensory perception.

"I don't know about you, but I'd rather be inside on a night like this. I'm going to go get our food and grill. You guys grab the sleeping bags and other gear. This is where the trip ends tonight kids." I announced with determination.

"What!" Cindy wailed.

"Hey, we just wanted to get away from the "trick or treaters" tonight. I doubt any will show up here!" I declared. I hope I can get a refund on the cabin.

Ginger nudged Cindy and whispered in her ear. Cindy didn't look receptive to whatever the secret was but she shrugged in resignation. Might as well, kiddo, I wasn't going to change my mind.

The house was perfect for our campout. My small gas powered grill was well ventilated in this spaciously airy room and gave some light. The rain poured outside...and indoors. It was just like camping out. Really. I could make the best out of this. After a nice meal of hot dogs, chips and Mrs. Bairds pastries Scruffy and I went in search of sleeping quarters using a small flashlight that flickered unpredictably. Cindy and Ginger's whisperings told me they wanted to be alone...together. I don't know what they had up their sleeves but it wasn't going to include me. Hurt feelings? Na. I spent enough nights with girlfriends talking about boys, I just hoped tonight Cindy could get some gospel down Ginger.

I found a sofa in the next room (by jamming my foot into it) where I laid my sleeping bag. Scruffy yawned and crawled up on my lap. Even though he slept through the car ride and most of dinner he was still able to find dream land, and he brought me along this time.

I don't know how long I was out but an odd cold blast woke me. Of course I didn't remember where I was, after all I'm old with short term memory deficits, which comes in handy when you're raising teenagers. Scruffy was sitting by the door, growling. A shadow passed in the hallway, then another, followed by another blast of cold air. I doubt this house had airconditioning, it didn’t even have electricity.

Cindy and Ginger must be exploring. No. That wouldn't make Scruffy growl. I shivered. If I was dead I'd say someone was walking on my grave. I tugged on the zipper to free myself from my sleeping bag and made my way to the door, careful to not jam my still aching foot into any more pieces of furniture. Scruffy kept his eye on me, ready to flee in the opposite direction at any sign of hesitation. Good guard dog.

The girls were huddled over a game board illuminated by our butane lamp. I felt like we weren't alone and Scruffy's uneasiness wasn't helping.

I crept up on the duo and peeked over their shoulders. All I could see was some board with alphabets on it. They were holding on to some triangle thing that was sliding around.

I brushed against Cindy, badly startling her."Don't do that!" she cried.

"What are you guys doing?"

Looking at each other for confirmation that is was okay to divulge their activities they both talked at once,"We're talking to the owner of the house!"

"The phones are working again! Great. I'll call your dad to tell him we're okay." I said, digging my cell phone out of my jeans.

"No. We're talking to them through this board. " Cindy explained as if I was an ignorant child and she was a newly enlightened being.

"Mom, this is cool. Ginger brought this for fun. It's called a Ouija board. You ask it questions and it spells out answers. We're communicating with the other world! It's great. We're learning about what happened to the lady that used to live here." Cindy was really excited. I was really shocked. I had learned in church years ago that Ouija boards were worse than playing with fire. They were tools Satan used to ensnare humans into the occult. ‘This wasn't good’ was my last thought before............the gas powered lamp went out and we were in utter darkness again. (Except for the occasional lightening burst)

A flame sprang up in the ancient fireplace preceding some howling. Lots of howling and scary laughter. Don't let anyone tell you laughter is always good for the soul, because my soul shriveled up at the sound of this particular laugh. Two wispy apparitions stepped out of the roaring blaze an ran through the room; a lady in a cotton dress, house shoes and an apron, with a huge gash in her back dripping blood, being chased by a rough looking man with coveralls, a t-shirt torn in the underarms and an old hat, carrying a butcher knife, dripping blood. Presumably the previous owner and her killer. Scruffy, ears flattened, poked his nose at the throw rug on the floor and glided under. The rug trembled. The air chilled considerably. How can demons from a fiery hell cause such a chill?

As I said before, the two visitors ran through the room, literally. They came out of the south wall and vanished through the north wall. Then back through the south wall to the north wall. A perpetual ritual performed just for us. It only took six performances before we were able to get our feet to cooperate and.....run. We toppled all over each other in our rush to the exit.

Jumping in the car we all slammed the locks down. Okay, we saw the phantoms go through walls but we still locked the doors to keep them out. No logic was involved.

"Yap, yap yap, woof, woof!" Scruffy ordered. (Translation: Hit the gas, lady!") Then he made a heroic dive under the front seat, pulling his tail in after him. My poor brave baby.

"Come on mom, let's get out of here!" Cindy pleaded.

"Can't " I wailed. "My keys are in my purse!"Cindy and Ginger looked recklessly about for my purse, crawling into the trunk and hurling things."It's in there." I sighed, “In the house!”

Cindy and Ginger moaned and we all stared at the house, paralyzed, mentally and physically. What to do? What to do? I sure wasn't going back in there? I could send Cindy, after all, I was still young, I could have more children. No. What was I thinking? I could send Ginger, she wasn't mine.

Scruffy wiggled out from under the seat. He was in control now; I could see assurance in his demeanor. Clamped firmly between his canines was an old New Testament that had found it's way under the car seats. I don't even recall owning that book, but I do recall the words that came immediately to mind upon sight of the little green cover (were the words god-breathed?) "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world".

"I've had enough!" I stated opening the car door and marching up the steps. Cindy and Ginger had no idea what I was doing, being in the back seat on a dark night in the pouring rain, they didn't see what I retrieved from Scruffy's mouth. They did see and hear me leave the car, much to their terror. They felt compelled to follow me, not wanting to be forsaken in the car. They were such wimps, I reflected.

Marching up the steps I pitched the door open and met the shadow people head on. They were now in their true forms, not victim and criminal but cohorts in evil. They drifted towards me, unsuspecting of their predicament till.....they saw it. The book! But it was the expression on my face that unnerved them. I was angry. I was not scared. I was convinced I had authority over them!

Wispy arms covered their faces as they screeched their protests. They were goners and they knew it.

"Get out of here and leave us alone!" I ordered waving the Word of God about like a sword. Then added, "In Jesus' name!” I foolishly felt as though my shoulders had little cheer leaders dressed in white perched on them, waving feathery pom-poms and cheering me on. I could actually hear their little voices in my head, encouraging me. “Rah, Rah, Rah. Go, girl, go.”

Oh my gosh. The demons squirmed. They squealed. They painfully disappeared. Scruffy, hot on my heels,(I use the word hot carefully) ran over to the abandoned Ouija board and, snatching it in his mouth trotted over to the dying blaze in the fireplace and tossed it in with a flourish, then yapped good riddance to bad trash.

The flashlights and radio I had tried early blared on, and my phone starting ringing. Hubby had been frantically trying to contact me. Sure I was fine, I informed him, why wouldn’t I be? I winked at the girls; it was too long a story to divulge right now.

We actually finished the night off in peace and quiet, teaching Ginger about Jesus and his power over evil, boy was Satan mad we were able to bring good out of his evil intentions. Having seen the worst of the invisible world, Ginger was able to accept the magnificent story of redemption.

The next morning while we repacked the car, a teenage boy on a bicycle rode up. "You guys didn't spend the night in the old Crammer house, did ya'?” he asked incredulously. “It's haunted!"

"Not anymore!" We all said in unison as I started the engine up and we headed home leaving a very stunned and impressed lad staring after us.

Scruffy, standing with his paws on the passenger’s window, watched the porch fade from view. A porch that held two glowing cheerleaders, dressed in white, holding feather pom-poms. The same heavenly cheer leaders who had given him the bible when he was under the car seat to remind me of my connection to the Ruler of the Universe. They looked upward and with a single leap faster than a bullet they went home, mission accomplished.

Lev. 19:26
Duet. 18:14
Micah 5:12
Gal. 5:20
James 4:7
1 John 4:4

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