Lizzi is a Deep Thinker, Truth-Teller and seeker of Good Things. She’s also silly, irreverent and tries to write as beautifully as possible. She sends glitterbombs and gathers people around her – building community wherever she can.
Here’s a sample of Lizzi’s writing — inspired by the Campfire Tales, about afterlife justice/vengeance.
What is Left to Fear?
From the corner of your eye there’s a swift flash. A movement of something passing by – someone is definitely there. Or they were, at any rate, because by the time you turn, they’re gone. All that remains is the empty space where someone was watching you.
Which would be fine, but here in the woods, around the campfire, it’s only the area touched by light which is safe. There’s something wonderfully comforting about the smoky, golden glow and the sound of the crackling flames, even if your fireside companions are bleached almost beyond recognition by the light.
That’s also kind of fine, because they’re something of a gruesome lot. But that flash was worrying.
The trees draw around as you listen to the tales of horror and woe as each member of the group shares how they came to be here, now, in the middle of the woods, under the stars (pretending there’s nothing unusual about such a gathering, or the calibre of person it might attract). After all, once you’re dead, what is there left to fear? At least the tales can still thrill the imagination and send the hairs prickling along the back of your neck.
Perhaps you didn’t mean to be here. However you arrived, though, you’re welcome. Think about it for a moment – everyone’s done it, haven’t they? Everyone’s at least considered it. Some have allowed plans to form in their minds, whilst others have just suddenly snapped, lost touch with reality, and done it on a whim.
The current storyteller is Annelise. She’s of the latter kind – she snapped one day after a row with her boyfriend. Silly, teenage stuff, you might think, and the result of a kid too self-obsessed and under the influence of her emotions to be able to think sensibly about the consequences. Sure, there were bullies at school, but you’ve stood up to your fair share of assholes in your time, right? They’re a sad fact of life. Even in concordance with an argument, they shouldn’t be given such power. The kid was weak, you conclude, after all, anyone who can break the mould by threatening to jump off a tower and then who actually does it is certainly someone who doesn’t deserve the loving people they left behind.
As long as she had a loving family. Which you don’t know because you got lost in your thoughts and missed it. She looks a little happier; relieved; chatty – her gorgeous face shining with relief. Stupid kid. It rankles that she got to be popular when she was alive, and had the best of everything handed to her on a plate, and she still threw it all away. Now she’s here, behaving like a damsel in distress and almost fainting with the relief at all the acceptance.
Your mind goes back to the way you conceived to try, and thrills a little to know that it worked. Now, you had a reason. A damned good one! You tell that tale first, but know that they’re going to want to know more about your experiences – how you got from your first step through the veil to here, in this forest.
Saved by the flash! It happens again, and this time a few of the others notice.
They bluster it out, calling to the apparition to show itself. No fear once you’re dead, but the tension and suspense have not yet been replaced with the zen-like calm most are imbued with – that ability to talk someone down from the rafters, because the more who join us, the greater the power we can collectively wield.
You’re not sure though. Something about this one seems… there’s an unnatural darkness which seems to pervade where it was, hanging around and sending out tendrils of negativity; loneliness; shame; anger… you don’t like it.
It doesn’t appear, though, and you share your story and are well-received. Then someone else takes a turn. Then another. And there a small upset of being this way, you discover; those small comforts you’ve been used to – the tea/coffee/cake is all done with. Forever. And the stories have gotten a bit samey – all “I was sad/scared and then I died and stuff” with no real issue to latch onto to somehow make you care.
You roll your eyes impatiently and stand, enjoying the curious sensation of being a prism in human form, as the shining from the fire fills you right up and turns you to gold from the middle outwards. You grin and decide to brave the darkness (if anyone’s coming along, they’re probably plotting ways to keep entertained and having fun – other than the incessant stories, or haunting (or pranking) as you now know to call it, there’s very little to occupy your time.
Stepping away, you hum to yourself, because there’s nothing to fear when you’re dead.
Beyond the line of trees, you stumble and stop short, heart suddenly pounding in your chest; absolutely pinned to the spot with horror – the flicker has turned human; but what a human!
You stare, not knowing if it’s male or female, and it looks at you with eyes so lonely they could drown the world in sorrow. And a snarl on her broken mouth, so full of poison and hatred that you feel from here that the emotional world where you (mostly) now exist, just darkened several shades.
“Don’t you dare!!” it hisses, intuitively guessing that your instinct was to seek back-up from one of the others. It paces, watching for an opportunity. You curse still being new-ish to the afterlife and wonder what will happen next. It’s okay – you have a ringside seat.
You can’t decide by looking, whether the being before you is male or female. It walks like a woman, yet its attire and its shape are both decidedly masculine. It is muscular and covered in fine, flyaway hair. The head is lumpen and its angry eyes are small and close together. They glow a vile green, sending a pallor out around the ghost. It looks strong enough to go ten rounds in the ring, and you suspect in the end, that it was probably a girl, because the hips are wide and the thighs are unfashionably thick. But on its chest, where (you presume) its breasts should have been, are two gaping, ragged-edged holes, now crusted with black blood forever.
To keep things light, you ask it the same question you’d been using (and hearing the answers to) all evening – “How come you’re here?” It grimaces, showing uneven teeth and wrinkles which never had the chance to get established.
“They made me – it was all the doing of the Beautifuls”, it replies in a grating, lacerated voice, as bubbles of remembered blood spill from its lips and fleck its chin with red as they pop.
“They said I was an in-between, and that no-one could ever love me. They turned their backs unless they could ridicule me. They took joy in shunning me, one after the other, to see who could do it best. And one night they were wild and bored and they pushed me too far. So I took my revenge – I transformed myself in front of them, the way they wanted me to. I took a knife and cut away anything which made me like a girl – that charming, feminine girlie-club I didn’t belong to – I stripped for them and one by one I stripped myself of those lying appendages which falsely proclaimed that I should be desirable.
Horrified, you gasp out a response – how had she convinced them to watch? Surely even bullies would call the paramedics or the police or someone to help a person who was clearly in so much distress.
“No”, comes the reply. “I gave them no chance. I tied them into the circles they so loved, and then one by one I took their eyelids. They had to watch.
“They watched as I cut away my useless breasts, which no child would ever suckle, for how could that ever happen? They watched as I took my womb, which no seed would ever seek. They watched as I chewed rocks and brutalised my face, which no lover would ever kiss. They watched as I sawed away everything between my legs, for why would I ever need it? That kind of thing is for the Beautifuls and they had told me for long enough that I didn’t belong.”
“But even now they’re not leaving me alone”, her voice cracks with anguish “Some of them are right here – making their way into the freedom I thought I had given myself” She fixes her eyes on Annelise.
The mood darkens and although there is still firelight behind you, and you can see everyone continuing to question the dainty, tragic newcomer to the group. But on this side of the protective aura you feel the hatred begin to store energy beside you, like a massive charger waiting to be deployed.
Eventually you can stand it no longer, and with knees buckling beneath you, you call out your apologies and stumble as fast as you can back into the light of the fire. Everyone turns to look.
“Annelise, be CAREFUL!” you yell, hoping that your effort is enough, and that this poor, broken girl doesn’t fall under any more terror. But it is too late, and in a couple of lithe, fierce movements, the girl from the forest has flitted across the distance to face Annelise.
Your stomach churns as you see the forest-girl open her mouth as wide as she can – impossibly wide: her cheeks have been slit into the most macabre Cheshire grin, and all of her broken teeth shine brightly – yellowy-white, tipped with red – in a flash, her jaws snap together…leaving Annelise crumpling to the ground, her beautiful face just…gone!
But…ghosts can’t shake in terror. There’s nothing to fear once you’re dead!
You feel a visceral, almost tangible warmth down the inside of your leg as the forest-girl finishes chewing and then turns to face her violent eyes on you:
“Now, why did you try to warn her…?”