My friends and I walked down a narrow dirt road just before night fell, following the lead of our friend Jake, who was excited to show us something.
Jake was the disc golf guy in the group. He tossed a disc in the air and caught it repeatedly as we walked. Alice walked right next to him, hanging on his every word, pretending to be interested. I was holding hands with my boyfriend Mark and just generally enjoyed each other’s company as Jake rattled on about his favorite sport.
Jake told us he knew about a private golf course just through the woods, and he wanted us all to go there with him. With nothing else to do on a Thursday night, we agreed to come along. We made the turn into the forest and hopped a short fence to find the course.
We discovered a vast, well-maintained field of short-trimmed grass just beyond the trees, with not another soul in sight. We spotted a clubhouse near the edge of the field and made our way over to it. I remember seeing a sign near the clubhouse listing the rules of the course. One of them was “No Smoking” and there was “No Cell Phone Use”. I was confused by that one. Don’t people use cell phones on the golf course all the time? Then, at the bottom in bigger letters than the rest, “Replace your divots”.
Mark told me that a divot was a hole in the ground made by swinging a golf club too low and taking a clump of dirt with it. They certainly seemed to be sticklers.
Jake opened the door to the conspicuously unlocked clubhouse and flipped the light switch. The walls were lined with what could be thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of golf equipment hanging up in racks. Alice commented that they really should lock all of this stuff up, especially at night. Racks of golfer apparel stood on the floor, from golfing shoes to shirts and shorts. Confused, we walked past all that. We weren’t there to loot the place.
Jake finally found a circuit breaker. It snapped smartly as he pressed the switch. Looking out the window, we could see the field lights dimly light up, then gradually grow in brightness as they warmed up, humming to life.
The sense that we shouldn’t be there only grew as we walked out onto the lit field, our bodies casting shadows in four different directions under the lights. Jake stood at the tee-off, a disc already in-hand. He beckoned us all over and offered us each a disc from his backpack. He excitedly explained, at length, what the properties of each disc were and how he had obtained them. Once we all had two discs, a “driver” and a “putter”, we started playing.
Alice, Mark and I were pretty terrible, as we had never so much as touched a golf disc before, but watching Jake perform some pretty impressive shots helped us improve. After a while, the fifth or sixth hole, Jake mentioned it was already getting late, and he would be getting a call from his mother any minute, asking where he was. I told him that his mother doesn’t need to know where he is at all times, he’s a grown man. He shrugged, turning away to walk toward the disc he had just thrown. As he neared the disc, something horrible happened.
The ground beneath Jake erupted suddenly and violently, throwing earth 20, 30 feet in the air. Jake’s body was ripped apart, his legs torn away from his torso and his neck twisted into a sickeningly awkward angle as he flew away from the point of the explosion. We watched horrified as his lifeless body smacked the ground with a hideous thump.
Mark and I stood there in complete shock. Alice screamed at the top of her lungs. “Jake!” she screamed, and started running over to where most of him landed.
Mark quickly figured out what was going on and he yelled at her, “Stop! Don’t move!”
Alice came to an abrupt halt right on the spot, bawling her eyes out.
Mark, clearly severely shaken, still had the presence of mind to realize what had happened. “We must be standing in some kind of minefield! If we don’t move… we won’t disturb the mines.”
Alice sat on the ground cross-legged where she stood, just a few steps away from Jake’s twisted, ruined corpse and cried profusely into her sleeve.
I didn’t dare move a muscle as I looked to Mark for any idea of what to do next. He looked pale and was shaking aggressively. Wide-eyed, he stared at the tall cloud of fine dust still lingering in the air from the blast. He popped a cigarette out of his pack and lit it, sucking down almost half the cigarette in one drag. He looked down at his feet and said, “OK. Nobody move. We need to call 9-1-1. We’ll just wait for the police to arrive.”
Alice, through heavy sobs, pulled her phone out of her pocket. She dialed 9-1-1 and put the phone up to her ear.
Once again, the ground burst open, this time right beneath Alice. Her head was violently thrown one way, her body was thrown in a different direction. Her eyes popped out of her sockets and her spinal cord was partially torn from her body. Her legs and arms were contorted and split, her flesh ripped from bone in several places. Pieces of her body were blown high into the air and landed scattered all around the field.
Whatever color was left in Mark’s cheeks had drained as he stared, mouth agape, at the carnage. His cigarette hung on his lip for a second before dropping to the ground.
I was beside myself in a state of panic, covering my head with my hands, screaming, fighting the intense, primitive urge to run as far away as possible.
Mark was dumbfounded. He kept saying “She didn’t even move,” to himself repeatedly.
As my brain started working again, I suddenly remembered the sign I saw earlier. No cell phone usage. I called out to Mark, “It’s the phones! The mines must be activated by a cell phone signal!” I quickly chucked my phone away and watched Mark do the same. “Now let’s get out of here!”
Mark started toward me, but stopped when he saw something in the woods behind me. I turned around and saw what appeared to be an old man with a wheelbarrow full of dirt, and another one carrying various yard-working tools. In fact, there were rough-looking elderly people all around us, slowly approaching from the woods. They wore dirty, ragged work outfits and brought all sorts of equipment.
“Groundskeepers?” Mark asked himself as they surrounded us from all angles. “Hey guys, we don’t want any trouble,” Mark called out. The groundskeepers ignored him completely, continuing their slow shambling toward us. There was something off about these people, they didn’t seem real. They didn’t move like human beings; their movements were jerky and… wrong.
There was no way out, they had formed a complete circle around us. A circle that was gradually shrinking. I ran to Mark and we stood back-to-back, each looking for any opening to escape.
I was struck with an idea. Without warning, I sprinted in the direction of the cell phone I had tossed away. I scooped it up and unlocked it.
“Are you out of your mind?!” Mark shouted. He watched in absolute horror as I dialed the number 9-1-1 and tapped the call button. The instant I tapped the button, I hurled the phone as hard as I could at the groundskeepers. I could hear the voice on the other end of the phone ask, “9-1-1, what is your emergency?” as the device flew through the air, landing at the feet of a wheelbarrow-pushing old man.
The explosion tore a gaping hole in the groundskeepers’ formation, the wheelbarrow flipping end-over-end. Three of the unsettling beings were utterly destroyed, their bodies coming apart easily, bits of them strewn all over.
Mark wasted no time, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me through, diving into the newly-formed crater and climbing back out again, yanking me the whole way, then we both ran at top speed along the cleared path to the clubhouse.
We ran into the clubhouse and slammed the door behind us, just in case some of those freaks were still after us. We collapsed to the floor, breathing heavily, having just run the longest and fastest sprint of our lives. We hugged each other tightly, just happy to be alive.
“Now let’s just sit tight, and wait for the cops to show up. We’re gonna make it, babe.” Mark half-smiled at me reassuringly.
I couldn’t bring myself to smile. I was still thinking about what had happened to our friends, and what kind of sadistic maniac would come up with traps like that.
Mark’s hands shook as he placed a cigarette in his mouth and carefully lit it.
My eyes widened. “The sign said no smoking! Put that out quick before something else happens!”
Mark exhaled a puff of smoke before looking back at me, concerned. “What sign?” he asked, genuinely confused.
“The rules!” I continued, “We need to follow the rules, otherwise—”
I was cut short when we heard an incredibly loud alarm go off. I clamped my hands over my ears as the clanging bell pounded in my head like a hammer. Mark and I exchanged worried glances for a second before we felt a shower of rain. The sprinklers had kicked on.
I stared at Mark’s face for a few more seconds, watching it become soggier, and finally cracked an uncertain smile. He chuckled as he realized we were going to be safe, and I laughed with him. I leaned in slowly and kissed him on the lips. Something was wrong, though. It tasted wrong. I smelled the water coming from the sprinklers. It smelled like… kerosene?
“Mark! We need to get out of here NOW!” The both of us were absolutely drenched in the flammable liquid and Mark still held the lit cigarette between his fingers. “Get rid of that!” I slapped the cigarette out of his hand, which flew across the room and ignited the floor. The kerosene stung as it dripped down into my eyes, partially blinding me. I yelled for Mark to follow me as I ran for the door and wrenched it open. I stumbled outside and fell on the ground, screaming for Mark.
I heard Mark still inside the building, bellowing his lungs out. Somebody slammed the clubhouse door while I tried to rub the stinging liquid out of my eyes. His screams turned to horrified, pained wailing. I threw myself at the door and tried to pull it open, but it was locked. The tears streaming down my face started to rinse my eyes out and my vision began to gradually return. I could hear Mark pounding ferociously at the door, the handle soon getting too hot to touch as I continued to yank on it.
Mark’s pounding became weaker and weaker until it stopped altogether and I heard him slump to the floor of the blazing building. “NOOOO!” I shouted, my pained voice echoing across the fields and woods. I collapsed back onto the ground and cried, all energy and will to live leaving my exhausted body.
After a a few minutes, the entire building was engulfed in flames. The temperature was becoming unbearable. I weakly stood up and turned around. The groundskeepers already had me surrounded, and one of them grabbed me by the wrist. In a depressed haze I walked with them, allowing them to lead me back onto the course.
They led me to a large crater in the ground where they finally released me. I looked around, confused. There were two other holes on the field that the groundskeepers were diligently working on. They filled the other holes with dirt, working manually with shovels, rolls of sod all ready to go. One of the creatures put a shovel in my hand and spoke for the first time. “Replace your divots,” he spoke in a frail, hoarse voice.
I fell to a sitting position and hung my head. I knew there was no way out of this situation. The creatures were all around me, watching. “Just kill me already.”
This time many of them spoke up in unison. “Replace your divots.” I dropped the shovel and laid on the ground, curling into a fetal position.
I watched as a groundskeeper approached the hole with a wheelbarrow. He dumped its contents down into the center of the crater. I curiously peered down into the hole and saw Jake’s wrenched, destroyed body. “Oh no no no…” I pleaded pathetically, another groundskeeper tossing his severed leg in along with a dirty, torn-up golf disc bag.
A second wheelbarrow dumped a much more damaged body, more like an assortment of bloody body parts that tumbled into the crater. When the half-collapsed head rolled down to the bottom, I saw the twisted, shocked expression of Alice’s face.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, a third body was dumped in. This time, the blackened skeletal remains of my boyfriend Mark fell to the bottom, his charred flesh still cooking, smoke rising from his corpse.
I smelled Mark’s sizzling and popping flesh and vomited. I screamed at the groundskeepers “Why?! What’s the point of all this?!”
It was just then I saw a tall man walk through the crowd of creatures. He wore a neat suit and tie, and his hair was slicked back. He had a long, well-groomed mustache that tapered upward. He looked like he had just walked out of the 1920’s or something. He stood smartly before me, looking down his nose at my crushed soul.
He said to me, “You have broken the rules.”
My face burned as it contorted into a tortured scowl. “The RULES?! All of THIS over your stupid rules?!”
The man’s head cocked to the side very slightly, maintaining his blank expression. His mustache turned upward as he pursed his lips before continuing in a calm voice, “The game is over. You have won. At least, you would have won if you hadn’t broken the rules.” He stared deeply into my watery eyes, my vision of him blurred with tears. “That is, if you leave, you will have broken the rules.” He motioned his hands toward the crater. “You have created a divot. You must replace it.”
I gave him the most evil look I could muster. “Why should I do anything for you? I’ll probably end up dead anyway.”
The man’s mustache turned downward as he frowned. “That’s not how the game works. Follow the rules and all will be made right. Like it never happened.”
I glanced down to the pile of bodies in the hole and growled, “Except my friends are dead…”
The man sighed heavily. He made a slow, exaggerated motion with his arm and pointed a finger toward a spot on the course. “Watch,” he said simply. He was pointing to the hole where Jake was standing when this whole nightmare started. As I watched, clumps of dirt and sod moved quickly on their own back into the hole they were expelled from, as if time was rewinding. My mouth stood agape as the ground repaired itself, and standing on top of it, alive and well, was Jake. He looked confused and disoriented.
The man reiterated, “All will be made right. Now will you…”
“JAKE!” I screamed, interrupting the man and immediately catching Jake’s attention.
Jake turned to look in my direction. “W-what’s going on?”
That was all either of us got out before the man snapped his fingers.
Exactly as before, Jake was killed instantly by the force of the explosion. I squeezed my eyes shut and screamed, not being able to bear the sight of losing him twice. Dirt and gore rained all around the course.
Finally, the mustachioed man looked down at me and spoke up again. “Please replace your divot. Then all will be made right.” He turned on his heel and calmly walked back through the crowd, the creatures parting out of his way.
I took a deep breath and tried to pull myself together. “All will be made right…” I repeated to myself as I picked up the shovel and embedded it into a fresh pile of dirt next to the crater. Immediately, I began to scoop shovelful after shovelful of dirt back into the hole, with a newfound sense of purpose and conviction. “All will be made right,” I repeated to myself, keeping myself working on filling the hole, even as my fingers blistered and bled.
I had nearly finished covering the hole with dirt and was about to start working on the rolls of sod when I looked up and saw flashlights waving in the distance. It was still dark and I couldn’t see who it was, so I hurriedly continued working. The people with flashlights called out to me, “Police!”
“Oh, no no no…” I muttered, shoveling the last of the dirt back into the hole. I ignored the people, running over to the rolls of sod.
“Police!” the voice barked again. “Hands where I can see them!”
I still ignored him, feverishly trying to finish the work.
The police quickly caught up to me and forced my hands behind my back, arresting me on the spot. I begged and pleaded with them to let me keep working just for a few more minutes as they slapped the cuffs around my wrists.
They took me to jail while they excavated the hole again and found three bodies buried there. So now I’m sitting here, a victim of circumstance, while they’re trying to get me on charges of arson and three counts of murder, along with a slew of other charges.
Now you see why I need to get out. I need to get back there and replace my divot. Once it’s filled in, this will all be made right, I know it. Just give me one day. One afternoon. I need to replace my divot. All will be made right. I just need to replace my divot.
Written by Glisario