Johnny Kreps watched his uncle Todd put the final coat of wax on his vintage Dodge Charger. He bent over the hood, giving it a once over from side. Todd wasn’t young anymore, but he still embraced motors and mayhem. Grandma Gloria said Todd never would grow up. They had sat around that little round table in the kitchen talking about sports, cars and how to catch a good size catfish. Grandma and Uncle Todd were all the family that Johnny had left since his parents died in a car crash years ago when he was little. He always liked to hear of Todd’s daredevil days as a teenager, and how Grandma Gloria put him in place. Then they would have a bowl of popcorn, the smell of melted butter wafting through the halls as the evening sun settled outside the window falling softly over grandma’s rose bushes and the bed of larkspurs on the west side of the house. Home was a special thing to Johnny, it kept him grounded, made him happy. He could never understand his friends that hated their families, the ones that wanted to run off, the ones that never wanted to go back. Home was more than that, it was the sum of the three of them, and Johnny was glad he had it.
“Do you really think Pinky’s Cave is haunted?”
“Naw, it’s a bunch of silly stuff. It’s dangerous though, even without spirits. Don’t you be thinking about headin’ out there.”
“Oh, I’m not, but I know you hung out there some, you know, back when…”
“That’s how I know it ain’t haunted, but people can get hurt out there. You don’t need to see no ghost to get hurt. That’s why you make sure you stay away….”
Johnny stuck his cap on his head nonchalantly. He never like disobeying, and he was a bit uneasy. He stared straight ahead, he could see the concrete entrance beckon to blackness.
“Why are you taking so long?” asked Trent.
“Yeah, you scared of somethin?” said Kyle.
“No, I’m not scared. It’s just an old concrete cave. A long time ago, it might have been something, but it ain’t nothing now,” said Johnny.
A brisk fall wind blew a gray tumbleweed over the street above the boys as they walked through the ditch heading for the entrance to Pinky’s Cave. There was a light mellow feeling on the street level, but as Johnny and his friends descended into the ditch, he felt a heaviness that seemed to swallow the souls of his feet as small beads of sweat gathered on his upper lip in spite of the coolness in the air.
His uncle Todd had told him stories of the cave when he was a teenager and used to skip school. They would go down and have parties through the afternoon back in the day when he was easier to walk out of class than it is now. Todd had told him of the time his girlfriend had driven his Trans Am down there and gotten stuck. The gold paint had been scraped in long scratches on the side of the car trying to get it free. Todd was talking about the cave one time, then he stopped, and said simply, it was okay to hang out then, but not anymore. He said it had been taken over by gangs, drunks and druggers. It just wasn’t a place to be.
“You are dragging your feet, man!” Kyle looked at him harshly.
“We gonna film this cave or not?” asked Trent.
“We are,” Johnny said.
The boys headed into it. Kyle flashed the light on the wall, and there among the obscenities and a long log of who had been there and when. There was aslo a warning:
Stop Now! Or Pinky’ll Get You
“Who was he, that Pinky dude?” asked Kyle.
“I don’t know. Some kid who drowned down here like in the 1950s or something before they built this under here, when the streets used to run up and down.” said Johnny.
“I heard if he follows you, you don’t look back. Or you’re doomed,” said Kyle.
“And I heard the water used to run like the Colorado River down here. Good thing it ain’t rained in a year,” said Trent.
“Ya’ll stop gawking…full speed ahead,” said Kyle.
The boys walked past the ominous sign. Everything was dark and silent like a cruel brand of death melted over with concrete. They were going into the depths of Pinky’s Cave to dispel rumors of a restless youth, expose the comedy of a haunted hideout, gather evidence of cowards and collusion. Drainage pipes jetted from the sides of the walls like paths to unseen catacombs. Johnny felt a bit of nausea in the pit of his stomach. They inched onward but seemed to be swallowed. In no time, the deep clutches of the cave seem to embrace them, stroking their hair, pulling them forward. That’s when they heard it. A faint moaning that started low and began rising like the wail of a lost soul, like a creature too wayward to care. Kyle’s fingers trembled on the flashlight causing small beams of light to dance on the walls. There was no turning back now, there was nowhere to run….