Thanks for reading! Hanging in there, hope you all are too. See you next time!
"A simple jaunt up West Hill's footpaths to the hawk watch at the cliffs above the camp," said Paige, sweeping out one arm to gesture at the yawning darkness, "that's all I ask of you. If you can reach it in one piece, well... it is such a lovely view. You leave proof you came and went—carve your initials or some such—and we'll have proof that there's no Horror in the woods."
Mina scoffed. "Will you? That's hardly a rigorous application of the scientific method."
Paige carefully pitched her own scoff to negate Zarei's entirely, an advanced mean girl technique. Getting talked down to by a nerd, and a MORTAL one at that, was starting to strike a nerve. "Okay, JSTOR," she snapped, "keep the fallacy tally to yourself until teacher's done talking, got it?" Her eyes flashed red, reflecting firelight too keenly for just a moment.
Paige instantly realized she'd lost her cool when Gage started gleefully kicking and gurgling like a horrible highchair gargoyle baby. That was, of course, no good. She was so close to having these spectral suckers do her dirty work for her. Paige took in a deep breath's worth of unbreathing death ghoul stillness, counted to 666, and once more forced her friendliest fanged and vaguely sinister smile.
"Trust me," she said, "On a night like this?" Her gaze directed everyone's attention upwards to an unremarkable waning crescent moon. "With four morsels like yourselves out and about?" A hint of earnest amusement curled at the edges of Paige's fake smile when Isabel reacted with unease. "If there IS a West Hill Horror... it'll find you." Satisfied she’d located her softest target, Paige finished with one last twist of the knife. "Unless you're too scared to accept my challenge, that is."
A scowling Mina muttered something hurtful and entirely true about teenagers in Farsi under her breath, while Jean's attention was mostly focused on Youth Culture, who had begun to sniff his neck. Spender, however, was starting to come around on the whole situation. If anything, the lack of scientific rigor present in this Horror hunt's parameters suggested that what they were actually being subjected to was simply an elaborate prank. Send the hapless campers down a darkened forest path, sneak ahead with a shortcut, lie in ambush... and then BOO! Jump out in a monster costume or whatever. Teens their age were always doing Scooby Doo stuff like that, especially weird little freaks like these three. At least, Spender assumed they were; he himself had spent his senior year nose-deep in doomed prep school prep in a fit of dad approval desperation.
It was with that thought still in his mind that Isabel's next words reached Spender's ears, resonating with it in a way he couldn’t place. "I'm NOT scared," she announced, gripping her flashlight so tight its plastic creaked. "I’ll go! I'll do the challenge!" She swiftly looked to Spender for permission, or a sign of something, pride, perhaps reproach—startled, the best he mustered was a shaky smile. She turned away just as fast, back to Paige, defiant. Spender couldn’t help but feel he’d failed some sort of test.
"Lovely," said Paige, unfurling the word with such dark delight that it sounded like it was spoken in cursive. "Jean knows the way, and you all have your flashlights... We'll wait for you here. SOMEONE has to tell your story once the West Hill Horror gets you."
"This is ridiculous," Mina grumbled, but minutes later she was in the woods with the rest of them.