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  • Danni Petrilak

It's Just an Actor

This story was inspired by my first trip to Reapers Revenge back in 2014 or 2015, I can't recall. It was so much fun and I had a blast with my friends, but I couldn't help but shake the wicked idea of what happened if there was a killer out there, too? None of the customers would know. There's plenty of fake blood and weapons and people screaming and acting hurt around to notice something "off," and from that day forward I've worried and wondered if that had ever happened in history, either recent or far. With all that in mind and a college assignment to write, I wrote this idea down and only revisited it later when The Haunted Horrorstorian reached out to me looking for some horror stories! I hope you enjoy their audio recording of my story, It's Just an Actor, published on Spotify in October 2021.



“Mike, come on, it’s just a hayride!” Nash nudges me hard in the side from the driver's

seat, keeping his eyes on the narrow, foggy road ahead.


“I don’t really care. I hate this horror stuff. It’s just plain creepy.” Shivers make their way

up my arms and against the back of my neck. Growing up, my family blatantly forced horror

movies and books down my throat. I remember being nine years old and crying while I watched the girl from The Ring climb out of the well and out of the Tv. I couldn’t sleep for weeks.


“Oh, don’t be such a little bitch.” Nash snickers, turning up the radio blasting rap music

through the old truck as we barreled down the long dirt road. “Besides, there’s gonna be a lot of terrified girls lookin’ for a big strong man to protect them from the creeps.”

Lights grab my attention as we pull into the parking lot. The outline of the lot in the

middle of a cornfield was lined with Christmas lights covered with little ghosts and pumpkins.


The music turns to static. “Well, looks like we’re in the middle of nowhere.” He chuckles,

turning off the car. “Seems legit for a horror attraction.”


“Yeah, well, whatever.” I sigh, knowing all too well that I signed up for this and there

was no backing out now. I needed to be a good friend to him. No one else wanted to go and Nash was really excited about it. Why should I be the one other person to turn him down?


“Let’s just get this over with,” I mumble, stretching my legs and stepping out of the car. The cool breeze hits my neck and I pull the collar of my jacket up and around my neck just enough to block it from the whisper on my neck. He locks the car and we make the trek up the lit path where dozens of other people are heading to.


Ahead, a coffin with a skeleton holding the sign reading, “Reapers Revenge Admissions”

We wait in the long line, the night getting darker. I look behind me, taking in the surroundings. The line ends at the end of a bridge. I look down at my feet, seeing we were standing in the middle of an old wooden one-way bridge. Around me, the woods seem to close in on me, pushing against my chest and making me start to shake- not from the cold, but from fear. Across the edge of the bridge on the other side of the water, little red eyes lined the treeline, blinking every few seconds.


“Hey, those bat eyes over there are really cool. They aren’t creepy, though. They should

have tried to put an actor over there who moved around every once in a while. Now that would be scary.” Nash pulls his phone out of his pocket, the light blinding us momentarily. It was ten at night. Just in time for the place to open.


The line moves forward, picking up the pace as we reach Halloween decorations lining a

wire zig-zag path in front of the ticket booth. Around the area, people were laughing and

listening to the band playing on the other side of the park.


Suddenly, people start screaming. I can’t help but jump, fear creeping up in my chest.

Nash laughs at me, pushing my shoulder lightly with his. “Dude, this is going to be

amazing.”


We reach the end of the ticket line, Nash giving the woman behind the counter the

printed tickets his mom has bought him for his birthday. It must be nice, liking the scary stuff

and not being afraid of it like me.


Continuing through the area, food trucks display corn dogs, popcorn bags, and the friers

filling the air with nothing but the scent of grease. Stands containing beanies and shirts with the logo of the hayride littered around it up for an expensive price creating a crescent around a small sitting area surrounding a campfire. I smell the smoke, the ashes burning my lungs. We hurry past the firepit, entering another line that starts the attraction.

Ahead of us, a group of people make small talk, asking each other if they’ve been here

before. Nash joins the conversation, pulling me along next to a girl with long brown hair.

“Hey, you been here before?”


The brunette blushes, turning her face towards the dirt. “Yeah, I’ve been here before.” A

blonde across from her speaks up, her large glasses encasing her face with a slight glow, almost like a halo. “It’s awesome. You guys are gonna love it.”


The other girl sighs, shifting on her feet. “Whatever you say, Becca.”


Becca clicks her tongue, laughing off the other girl’s blatant uncomfortableness. “Sam,

I’m not like you, okay? Horror stuff freaks me out. You know that.”


“But you’re the best-est friend ever for coming with me!” Becca hugs Sam tightly,

squeezing her with a high-pitched squeal. Nash laughs, striking up a casual conversation with Becca.


I shove my hands in my pockets, looking down at my feet. My black hair falls slightly in

front of my eyes, so I shake it away, out of the corner of my eye seeing Sam staring at me. She catches my gaze, immediately turning away and looking towards her friend.


I clear my throat. “You know, I hate this stuff, too.”


Her green eyes light up, a smile painting its way across her face. “You do?”


I nod. Our small group steps further down the line, getting closer to the entrance of the

attraction with each step. I step closer to her, smelling a faint scent of flowers and hot chocolate. I smile. “Yeah, this stuff has always freaked me out.”


“You know, I only agreed to this because she did me a favor before. Now I guess it’s just

a form of ‘repayment.” I laugh, knowing exactly what she meant.


Becca’s voice erupts from in front of Nash, catching us both off guard and sending me

jumping out of my skin. “You guys know the actors are allowed to touch you! That’s sick!”

Except she didn’t mean ‘sick’ as a bad thing.


“Nash,” I shutter, feeling the chill and terror creeping up my spine again. “I-I don’t know

how I feel about this man...I don’t want them to get any closer than they have to be.”


“Mike, come on man, don’t be such a little bitch.” He opens his eyes wide, giving me the

signal to stop talking.


“Next!” I don’t even realize we’re next in line. The staff member leads us onto a large

hayride. We take a seat close to each other, Sam and I pressed against each other. I turn my head, attempting to get some distance between us. I don’t want to make this complete stranger uncomfortable.


“Alright, people, listen up!” A woman dressed as a zombie climbs in the middle of the

hayride, her hands in the air. “I’m gonna explain the rules of Reapers Revenge and then I’ll send you off, alright? Good. So the actors can and will touch you, we just ask that you don’t touch them or hurt them in any way. They’re getting paid to scare you, and you paid to get scared so understand this is all under the agreement you signed when buying your tickets.”

I hadn’t realized Nash’s mom had to sign a waiver for us to be here.


“Also, with that being said, others have paid to be here so don’t ruin the experience for

them and keep your comment, phone, and anything else to yourselfs. May God save you sorry bastards.” The woman jumps off the back of the hayride, turning her head to the side and waiving slowly at us as the tractor jolts into movement.


“Jesus Christ.” I look down at my shaking hands, attempting to stop them from quivering

so much. Maybe it is a mix of cold and terror. Who knows.


The darkness ahead blocks my vision and I find myself turning all around me, attempting

to point out anyone who could be there waiting to scare me. Nash whoops in excitement, getting a laugh from some of the other people on the hayride. “I’m so excited man. This is gonna be great!” Becca joins in with his excitement.


The tractor stops in front of a television planted in a tree. My heart sinks. “No.” I find

myself whispering, unable to turn away from the television. The Tv flicks on, static playing

across the screen and the sound throughout the air around us. Suddenly, I’m thrown into The

Ring all over again. The three-minute movie that was the whole plot of the movie plays across the screen, gore, images, sound, everything. I’m sent back to the nine-year-old boy who almost shit himself while watching his movie.


I look down at the hay we sat on, the only one looking away but I didn’t care. The whole

thing was just wrong. This isn’t something someone should pay to see, no one should pay to be terrified. The movie ends, and we abruptly move again. I sigh in relief, happy to be away from the horrible movie, only to be thrown into a worse fear.


The well.


The damn well was right behind me, illuminated by two spotlights. The tractor stops. I

can’t turn away from the well, my whole body shaking in fear. An arm flies up and out of the

well, followed by a head of black hair covering a woman’s face. I turn away, holding back tears.


I suck in and let out fast breaths, hyperventilating and stopping myself from breathing.

How is this happening? How can the first thing on this hell ride be Samara? Groaning is

heard right behind my head. My heart stops. I can’t breathe. People across from me point to me, laughing, with smiles across their faces, and huddle closer together.


I turn, slowly, hoping that she wasn’t there. Breath tickles the back of my neck.

I scream, crawling fast and away from her standing inches from my body and into the

people laughing and having a grand old time. The ‘actor’ dressed completely in white, tarnished by the dirt and grime from inside the well, climbs up on the rails of the tractor and into the center of the ride. I pull my feet towards me, getting no traction and kicking away at nothing for support.


I don’t even realize Nash, Becca and Sam are laughing and watching from behind her. I

close my eyes tight, hoping she’ll leave me alone and go to someone else when she sees how scared I am. Instead, her hands tightly grip my left leg. I open my eyes with a snap, a scream escaping my throat along with it.


The actress smiles, turning her head and clicking her tongue, a groaning sound erupting

from her throat. Her bones crack and joints pop as she pulls on my leg, dragging me to the end of the hayride and at the stairs. I grab onto the cold metal handrails, my heart pumping too fast for my body. Am I going to have a heart attack?


My hands slip from the rails and I’m pulled out of the safety of the ride, hitting my head

roughly against the dirt and gravel. The engine on the tractor starts up again. They start driving away and all I can think about is what that woman said. They’re just actors. They’re allowed and are going to touch you. You can't touch them. You paid to be here.


“Hey, wait! You can’t leave him there, he’s a customer like we are!” Nash’s voice reaches

my ears. I wait, desperately for him to be at my side, but instead, a pinch in my chest takes all of my focus.


I crane my neck to look down at my chest, staring at a long silver knife sticking out of the

left side of my upper body. Everything is warm. I’m not shivering anymore. Why am I so warm?


“Mike! Holy shit, Mike!” With Nash’s yell, pain rushes over me, and I can’t breathe. The

pain encased me in a pinch pressed into my skin with the force of a baseball bat. My vision

fades, shaking and distorting everything around me into waves and static and darkness.


Before I close my eyes, Samara leans over me, grasping the handle of the knife in my chest. She whispers, “We can touch you, but you can’t touch us.” She pulls the knife out of my skin in one fell swoop and all I see is darkness.

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