This campfire reminds me of the story of the four-year demon. No one knows why, but right around election time, November every four years, a demon returns to these woods. The earliest account was recorded in 1894, but people think it happened before that, too... without survivors to tell the story.
Every time it's the same. A few hikers are up here, backpacking out in the woods, and late at night when their campfire is getting low like this one, an unknown hiker stumbles into their camp in need of help. A lot of times he looks like a handsome young man, and almost always he tells a story about being in his tent when a bear rips in and attacks him. His story of the narrow escape is always believable--remember, Kim had a bear in camp last year, right? And the group take him in and let him stay overnight and promise to get him to safety the next day.
In the middle of the night, though, the stranger disappears, and one of the campers with him. No one hears a thing, no one wakes up. And no one ever sees or hears from either of them again. There's never any sign of struggle, and all the stuff is still in the missing person's tent.
And it's always the prettiest, youngest woman in the group that gets taken.
They call him the demon because one group claims they saw him put his hand right into the blazing coals of the fire without any pain or burns. They think he takes his victims back to Hell with him, just one beautiful young woman every four years. So all you beautiful ladies... you might consider not staying alone tonight. Stay in my tent with me and you'll be safe.
Hold on... what's that?
A stumbling, crashing through the undergrowth takes everyone's attention. From the darkness emerges a lone hiker breathing heavily and collapsing to the ground just inside the ring of dim firelight. As he flops, one hand falls right into the coals, and it's a second or two before he withdraws it. His face is to the ground as he pants out, "Bear... there was... a... bear, chased me half a mile, attacked me in my tent..."
His sleeve, smoldering, now catches fire but he seems not to notice. His hair pokes out in gray blobs from under his black, wool cap. As he lifts his head, his eyes flicker red and orange in the firelight. Everyone gasps as the unmistakable muttonchops come into view. And I think to myself, "Guess I'm sleeping alone tonight. Probably walking home alone tomorrow, too."