Posted October 15, 2021 at 02:37 am

*EDIT* No update this week; a member of my partner's family passed away and my focus was needed elsewhere. Please get vaccinated against COVID if you haven't yet, and encourage all your friends and relatives to do so as well. Thanks for reading! Tell someone you care about that you care about them imho. See you next week!

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[Transcript]

"The West Hill Horror?" Jean turned to give Paige a look of utter incredulity cut with pure "you're better than this" sitcom dad disappointment, held it for a few seconds, then swiveled back to stare at the others. "All right let's hear her out," he said, folding like origami. Spender and Mina both let out a ceremonial groan, mourning their united front's collapse.


Paige rose to her feet with a bow and a satisfied smirk, exactly the triumphant flourish of a stage magician who's just realized it's their job to lie to children. "The West Hill Horror," she began, "is something of an urban legend here at Camp Lakeside."


"Heh. More like a rural legend, am I righ—"


Paige cut off Gage's interruption with a withering glare. He licked his lips like a creepy little toad man by way of an apology.


"They say it's stalked these woods for years," continued Paige, resuming her slow trek around the fire, "although no one's seen the beast itself..."


Click! Paige stomped to a sudden halt in front of Spender. Simultaneously, a flashlight she'd had hidden on her sprung to life, blinding him from below. He barely had time to lament the fact that his sunglasses had failed him the one time it would have been practical to be wearing them at night; Paige's eerily underlit face quickly occupied his full attention, not to mention an impolite percentage of his peripheral vision.


"...Only the carnage that it's left behind," she finished with a grin, handing the flashlight over to a Spender subdued by bewilderment. 


Paige kept up her clockwise saunter, this time addressing Mina. "HUGE footprints leading to and from its hunting grounds..." Another flashlight was extended handle-first. Mina took it, leering when Paige held it with tug of war strength for half a second before letting it go.


"Great gashes on the cabin walls here at this very camp..." 


"I thought that that was bears," Jean mused dully. "Well I thought that that was you guys but I told management it was bears."


Paige answered with a beam straight in Jean's eyes, another flashlight. Click! She turned it off and tossed it to him. Jean caught it, despite still squinting, with reflexes that seemed a tad uncanny. "...Where are you getting all these flashlights?"


"And then, of course," continued Paige, ignoring him, and she swung around to loom high over Isabel, "there are the KIDS that have gone missing." The faint popping of spectral energy armor forming reflexively on Isabel's fists and then instantly failing brought a shame-fueled flush to the six-year-old's cheeks.


"I thought that that was bears," said Jean, and all eyes besides the vampires' shot to him in horror. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Nobody's gone missing, don't listen to her."


Paige shrugged. "Artistic license," she replied, producing one final flashlight from some unseen pocket of ambiguity provided by the void of pure imagination that is prose, "but you could be the first." Isabel poured all her focus into looking defiant. She snatched the flashlight as soon as it was offered to her, clinging it close to her chest.


Now Paige addressed the whole group, flickering her attention from one listener to the next in sudden jumpscare jolts. "After all, the REST of it is true. There really is something strange in West Hill's woods. Something HUNGRY. Something... supernatural."


Mina looked to Jean, who held up his hands in a "don't look at me" gesture. Spender, who'd dismissed that particular possibility offhand, still couldn't help but consider that, if Paige wasn't just messing with them, it would have taken a poltergeist of significant power to leave gashes and footprints behind. Something old and angry, maybe even a grudge...


...But he was getting ahead of himself. Every bump in the night was an evil spirit nail to a man with a haunted hammer, and what's-his-name's handy-dandy razor suggested "complete fabrication" long before it reached the coup that was "a normal bear." They were here to have fun, not to scour the forest for a fight... besides, he had Isabel to consider—


"BUT," Paige called out, all blasé theatrics, "I won't ask you to take my word for it. To that end... I propose a challenge."