Single file, Annabel, Butter, and Cami hiked into the rising purple. Annabel, naturally, was in the lead. She was the bravest of the three friends, the bravest person in Dauphin Falls, and possibly the bravest person on the planet. She cuts her own bangs. Cami, with her long lean legs, strode closely behind Annabel matching her steps. Further behind, Butter marched at her own pace taking in the mountain laurel and larkspur. Butter’s government name was Berenice after a much beloved mustached ancestor. Her family called her Bertie, but the first day of first grade Annabel christened Berenice Butter Fly Girl and the name and the friendship stuck even a decade later. Cami slowed down to walk beside Butter. Cami, an army brat, had moved to the Falls five years ago. They were the Alphabet Three.
Cami and Butter started a lopsided kick ball change, off kilter from their backpacks.
They crested at the abandoned quarry. Saffron and blush blossoms dotted the flinty stones. Annabel’s dad had taken her here with her brother years ago. She remembered its strange beauty. That memory had been folded and refolded, tucked in a pocket of her heart. Annabel wanted to share her treasure with her friends. She realized she had been missing them even though they saw each other at school. Annabel turned. Cami’s smile was incandescent. The tall girl spun ala The Sound Of Music.
“This is mad fire,” Cami shouted still spinning.
Annabel noticed Butter seemed distracted and drawn into herself.
“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening,” Annabel asked Butter. “Mariposa, you in there.”
Butter shook her curls and gave an over wide smile. “Mos def, it’s just…getting dark.”
Soon there was a campfire, a tent, cheap hard seltzers, and an abundance of candy bars. Their laughter floated in the quarry’s velvety black sky. Holding her sides, Cami laughed herself into hiccups.
“Guys don’t make me pee.” Another riot of laughs bounced up from the quarry’s edge.
“Wait what’s that?” Cami pointed to a dark patch on the other side of the rim, a man shaped dark patch. The three stopped and stared. The darkness had no features, its outline seemed to blur and reform. It was blacker than black, the theft of light, vantablack.
Annabel stood and let loose a string of profanity. Cami searched for the high powered flashlight. She found the light under the cooler and turned it on. Her hands trembled as the bright beam stretched across the quarry to reveal nothing.
Cami swung the light blindly. Annabel steadied her, holding Cami tightly against the darkness. The beam fell across Butter. Her face was pale, her eyes hooded.
“It’s back. I’m sorry. It has been with me since I can’t remember when. I’m sorry I never thought—“
Annabel hauled Butter to her feet and Cami drew them all into a tight circle against the night.