[Story] Fairsong Academy – Terellion’s Journal

The new guy that Hethurin hired to help me outside is always going around with his shirt off. All the time! I wanted to talk to him about it, but Hethurin said he doesn’t notice. I don’t notice either, I mean, not like that — it’s difficult not to when we are both outside all the time though. I said he was probably distracting some of the students like that and it’s improper, Hethurin doesn’t think so. I bet there are some girls (and guys) looking out the windows. At least it will start getting cooler and rainy soon, so he probably won’t want to go shirtless then. And I have to say he’s doing okay, he hasn’t pulled up any of the wrong plants or trimmed things wrong, which I kind of expected him to do. He’s also good at moving rocks and dirt around, so he’s actually been pretty helpful. I guess as long as he’s not actually doing anything besides not wearing a shirt, it’s okay.

The big thing is that I’m going to have two  new siblings, not just one. I’m a little worried that they won’t be able to take care of two at once, especially if Isturon is off at the clinic all the time. I know how hard it was with Narise and Galandil, and Narise wasn’t even a baby then. Hethurin said we should keep one, I think he meant just for a while, at least I hope so. It’s kind of strange to think that they’ll be both our siblings. I thought maybe I was going to catch up to him until I remembered that he’s getting two more, as well. I don’t know if they will be boys or girls, I think it would be neat to have brothers because I’ve never had one, but I like my sisters too. Telaena is really excited because she’s never got to be the big sister. She’s made up a big list of names already and she’s wanting to help to decorate their room. Elthanni has already been a sister before so it’s not such a big deal, but I think she’s excited too — she just isn’t as obvious about it. I really hope Isturon doesn’t try to give them some silly names, but Hethurin said he named Ara, and her name is all right.  I’m trying to think of some good gifts, of course now we have to get two. My mom doesn’t have very many baby things anymore, so she will probably need a lot.

I need to start planning the autumn ball with Tik. Hethurin suggested maybe another mystery,  which was really fun but I think it might be difficult to make with so many different parts. Some people wanted to have a part last year and they didn’t, so we’d have to include everyone. I think it would get pretty complicated and I know I can’t write a story like that, maybe Tik could but he already has so much to do. I think we decided on a simpler theme, like a haunted forest. At first I thought about actually having it outside in the forest, but it’s usually quite cold and muddy by that time of year, so instead maybe I could bring in some of the cut branches to look like trees.  Everyone could dress up as spooky haunted forest animals. I think that would be pretty fun. 

I wanted to ask Tik if he plans to go to the dad club, too. My mother was telling me about how the older dads meet for coffee and talk about dad things, but Tik is always too busy to go. I think it would be good for him to do things other than just work all the time, and to spend more time with his son. Hopefully since we have more staff now, he’ll be able to do that. I thought maybe if the group had a cooler name, Tik would want to go, but neither of us could think of one. Coffee Dads was the best one we thought of. My mom’s talking about making one for the women, except it wouldn’t be on the same day as the dad’s, because it would get too crowded and also because having Tik and  Lilithel together probably wouldn’t be good. Hethurin said he and I should make a morning tea club for just him and I, and I like that idea. We’re going to call it the Hethter Tea Club. No one else is invited.

[Story] Hands

[[ Readers on this blog might not know (because I don’t think I ever posted about them) but I became a tarantula owner over the summer! Mine are all still babies or juveniles, my largest is only about 2 inches across. The one in this story is a Brachypelma albopilosum, and I have one too! Despite their scary appearance they are actually very shy creatures and mostly just want to stay in their hole and eat food all day. ]]

Every day after school, the first thing that Jake did was to peer into the glass aquarium on top of his dresser. That was the home of his tarantula, Curly Sue. He had picked the name after remembering a weird old movie they’d watched on TV one night, because his tarantula had long hairs all over that stuck out at funny angles. He picked up the little plastic tub of crickets and carefully plucked one out to drop in. Crickets were Curly Sue’s favorite food, and Jake’s favorite thing was watching her grab onto one and hold it in her furry legs. She was surprisingly fast for such a big spider, but most of the time she sat still, either in the corner or on top of her log.

This afternoon, Curly Sue was in the center of her tank, on her back. The first time this happened, Jake frantically went to find his mom, worried that she was dead. But a quick search online showed that she wasn’t dead — quite the opposite, she was molting and growing into her bigger self. She’d molted a couple of times since then, so Jake wasn’t worried about it anymore. He took the cricket out and put it back into the tub with the others — it was safe for now. He went and turned down the lamp so Curly Sue could have some privacy; she looked vulnerable out in the open like that. He’d read that it was best to leave them alone during this time, so he also made sure to close the door of his room so his mom’s cat couldn’t come in. He didn’t really think that Maggie would hurt Curly Sue, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Jake had Curly Sue since he was eight, when he’d launched an intensive campaign to convince his mom to let him have a tarantula. Though he liked Maggie, she was really his mom’s cat, and he wanted a pet of his own. And he was obsessed with bugs, so a tarantula was a logical choice. It did take several months, but after he brought home a report card of all A’s, she finally agreed to drive him to the pet store and get one. She’d been quite a bit smaller when Jake had first got her, growing with every molt. She was now about five inches measured diagonally, a truly impressive size but not quite fully grown. Jake loved showing her off to his friends, they were always amazed (and sometimes a little scared) of his enormous spider. 

After dinner, he returned to his room and peeked in to see how she was doing. Jake had read that molting could be dangerous for tarantulas, that he should keep an eye to make sure she hadn’t got stuck and she wasn’t struggling. He could see the old carapace split along the abdomen and the paler color of her new exoskeleton emerging from within. It looked like everything was fine, so he went to do his homework at his desk. In his little notebook he noted that Curly Sue was molting, and the date.

Bedtime arrived, and she still was on her back, though he could see her legs freed from the confines of her old skin. It was pretty amazing to see, the molt looked exactly like a whole spider, fangs and all, except that it was hollow inside. In the morning he’d remove it and maybe take it in for show and tell the next day, except he wasn’t sure Miss Garcia would be too excited about the idea. She always encouraged Jake to write and talk about Curly Sue, but he got the idea she wasn’t really a very big fan of spiders.

Jake slept a little later than he meant the next morning, so he was in a hurry to gather his things for school and get dressed. He did pause to see how his pet was doing,  however. The molt lay crumpled and abandoned where it was the night before, but Curly Sue had moved to her favorite perch atop the log. Her tiny black eyes regarded him as he looked in at her. Jake was relieved to see that everything had gone well, and her new carapace looked bright and shiny. But something seemed off to him, and it took him a moment to comprehend what he was seeing. At the end of each of her eight furry legs was a tiny black hand, complete with a thumb and four fingers. 

Jake uttered a cry of alarm. He’d definitely never read about this on any site.

“Mom!” he shouted into the hallway.

“You’re going to be late, Jake, hurry up.”

“But Curly Sue–”

His mom appeared with two Pop-Tarts wrapped in a paper towel. She gave them to Jake. “You can see her when you get home from school, sweetie. We should be leaving now.”

Jake furrowed his brow worriedly. They had library at school today, so maybe he’d be able to do some searching. The school librarian might even have some tips, she was really good at finding things online. That is, if she even believed him. A tarantula with hands was like something out of one of those bad old black and white movies. He glanced back at Curly Sue before he left his room, making sure to lock the door today.

Curly Sue waited until the morning sunshine warmed the corner of her aquarium, the place where she usually liked to sit. She would have preferred to wait until her exoskeleton was hardened — she was more vulnerable now, and she could not eat — but time was of the essence. She had to act now. Carefully, she scaled the smooth glass walls of her enclosure, reaching the black plastic cover. She’d already probed and tested it dozens of times when she was younger, but things were different today, weren’t they? She extended a delicate leg out through one of the holes meant for tubing, and felt around. Aha. Her new hand found the plastic latch. She tugged on it and it came loose with a soft snap. Patiently, Curly Sue went around to each of the corners and released all of these plastic clips. Then, bracing herself against the side, she pushed up on the lid with her body. For a moment she thought it might not move but then it did, and the gap was just tall enough to let her squeeze through. 

The door, even locked, was no obstacle either, and she found an open window in the kitchen. She climbed down the wooden exterior of the house, feeling the sun warm on her back. In the garden, she felt the fresh soil beneath her new hands, the breeze ruffling her hairs. The boy had not treated her poorly, not at all — she even enjoyed watching his strange habits. But what she had to do now was far too important, she could not wait any longer. She headed north, along the side of the road, crawling patiently but persistently, toward the zoo. There she would find the others, and she would teach them.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Zaelle’s Journal

Tik is working  hard to get the school ready to open for the fall term, which means he needed Malora to help out with some of the cleaning. Which meant that I had to go help Sorhorn in the morning. I was nervous about it because I don’t have any experience with anything like that, and I was worried it would be really awkward. (It was.) His house really isn’t designed well for him at all, there are several stairs going down to the path and they’re pretty steep. It’s also probably far too big for just two people, but it was probably an existing one that the headmaster just had open that he could move into. No one’s going to complain about a free house, are they? But I wonder if mine might be better, I could suggest we switch but then I’d have far too much room. I don’t even have anyone else living with me, I certainly don’t need all that space. 

His room isn’t really set up well for him either, his closet is too far away from the bed so he had laid things out the night before. It would be a lot easier if he could reach it without having to get up though. I helped him up which was really awkward too, I think my ears were bright red. Not that it was bad, just awkward. And then he tried to get dressed with me there so I hurried out to the kitchen to make coffee. Once he was dressed and came out, things were a bit more normal.

We talked about the school and how unbelievable it was that we were here at all, and how things were like before. He mentioned that he recognized Professor Firewind, they used to live near him I guess. I know some of the new people are from the Row, they were people that we recommended. Sorhorn thinks I could be a teacher instead of just the laundry person, because he could do it. I guess as long as it’s not anything too complicated, I might be able to. I’m just afraid I’ll be really terrible at it, and ruin Irael’s chances here. Then Sorhorn suggested I could assist him this year, and have my own class next year. I guess that might work, I could practice while having someone else there to help me. I wouldn’t mind spending more time with him either. He commented that I’d never come over to help him  before. That’s true, I hadn’t, and probably I should have. But I didn’t know what he’d think about it, or maybe he’d think I was being nosy or something. 

He wants to go to dinner in the city, at one of the fancy restaurants. Since I have practically no expenses here, I have a good amount of money saved up, so I could afford it. But I’d need to buy a suitable robe, the ones I have are for working and not going out to a nice dinner. Then he suggested going with me to shop, because he wanted to get one too and he said it was more pleasant than going with Tik. I was surprised by that, but I said that of course I would like that. We could even go to the place that Irael is always talking about for lunch, they have sandwiches and it’s right on the corner of the market so you can sit and watch everyone. I also thought maybe they would like to go to dinner with us, so he’s going to suggest that Fel invite Irael. I think she’d be more excited than if I just asked her. 

I don’t want to assume anything, but it must be good if he’s wanting to do things like going to dinner. I’m not exactly an expert though, and it’s not like things ended well with Irael’s father. I’m afraid I’ll say something wrong or be too forward or not forward enough. His wife died in the attacks, so hopefully he has a better idea of how things are supposed to go. Sorhorn also told me there’s a group of older guys who meet at the coffee shop, like a little club. I bet I could ask some of the older ladies if they’d like to have a club, too. Except we need a better name than “the old ladies’ club”. I could invite Braedra, and Lilithel, and Anorelle, maybe the woman who lives in the girls’ dorm too. I bet they would have some good advice for me.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Menissa’s Journal

Hethurin’s sister is back from Pandaria, and I guess she’s planning to stay here a while. I saw her out in the garden practicing, she does that pretty often. I might have taken my book down there so I could watch her, because my window doesn’t have a good view. I might also have taken the red dragon book, I’ve read it before like four times, but it’s good and I thought I could tell her about it if she asked. But she didn’t. Maybe she doesn’t like those books. Anyway, she made these practice dummies out of a piece of wood and an old bag stuffed with hay. It doesn’t look much like a person really, but I guess it works. There’s always hay everywhere that fell out from when she kicked and punched it. 

I still don’t understand exactly what it is she was studying there, she says it was meditation, I know what that is. That’s where you sit quietly and think about things, trying to let your mind be free and open. But I don’t know what it has to do with kicking things, which she seems to do a lot more often than meditating. I also don’t know what kind of job you could do with that, although she had the idea of teaching us how to play sports and do exercises here. I think that would actually be a good class to have, I mean, I don’t really like doing sports but neither do any of the students so it would be useful to learn. Most of us just spend all of our time reading books and practicing magic, so we probably should exercise more. I bet she would make it fun, and we could even go swimming at the beach when it’s warm. That would be fun too. 

I always feel like I’m pestering her when I try to talk though, like I’m just some annoying kid. Which I guess to her, I am. I asked about what it was like in the place in Pandaria, she said there were a few other elves but it was mostly pandaren. That would be pretty weird I think, not having other elves around, but she agreed that the food was really good. She said she wanted to help Tik cook Pandaren food more often, which I think is a great idea. She thought she might also help Braedra with the babies, but it’s hard to picture her doing that. Also, I wonder if she’d teach the  babies all how to kick and then we’d be in trouble. I asked her if she’d ever thought about learning magic, and she said she was tested but couldn’t do any of it. I think it might still be possible, it would just be really difficult, but I don’t know. She said she wanted to be a ranger instead, I said she could do that too, but she seemed like she hadn’t really decided. I just figured when you are older you already know what you want to do, but maybe not. I knew I wanted to be a mage, but a lot of people I knew in school weren’t sure yet. 

She also said that Hethurin is going to have a house built for her, which I guess means she’ll be staying here a long time. But the builders are already really busy and it’s getting to be the end of the summer, so it might not be until next year. I hope her room isn’t too far from mine. Then we could accidentally bump into each other in the hallway. That also means she’ll be here for the dances, but I don’t know if she likes dancing. She’s really strong and can kick really well, so you’d think her legs would be good for dancing. But maybe she just doesn’t like it. I know she doesn’t like to wear dresses. I think they’re okay, but mostly I like seeing all the dresses that everyone else wears. Some of them are so pretty, I don’t think I could wear them though. I just feel like a weird elekk in a dress or something. She’d probably like the mask party, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like wearing a costume. And there’s always lots of candy and chocolate there. Although maybe she doesn’t like those either. I’d ask the headmaster but that would be weird and I don’t know how to make it sound like I’m not being a snoop. I’ll just have to try to talk to her some more, maybe when she’s practicing isn’t the best time.

[Story] Coffee

[[ Maybe you can tell… I don’t like it either 😉 ]]

“How do you take your coffee, miss?” the waiter hovered above her empty mug with the steaming pot in hand. 

“Oh, no thanks,” Ivy said, shaking her head. “Just water is fine for me.”

Her boss sat across the booth from her, framed by his briefcase and stacks of documents. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like coffee,” he said, picking up his own mug.

“Well,” said Ivy primly. “Now you do.”

In truth, she got a little tired of explaining that she didn’t like coffee, or why she didn’t like coffee, especially in a city that boasted stands on every corner — and a few on each block. Sure, something warm was nice on a grey, rainy day, and caffeine was a nice little boost in the morning. Personally, Ivy found a brisk morning walk was more than enough to wake her up, and she looked forward to her trips around the neighborhood in the early hours, while the world still sat groggily at their kitchen tables sipping at cups of that awful bean juice. That was the simplest answer, really — it tasted plainly horrible. No matter how much other things she tried putting into it, that acrid, bitter taste remained. People said that she’d get used to it, but even after three decades, she had not. And she didn’t have any particular urge to learn now, either. I mean, whose idea was it to crush up beans and then drink it, anyway? What a strange thing to do, once you really thought about it. 

At her desk, Ivy found sparkling water was more than enough to satisfy her thirst, and on chilly days she might make a cup of tea. She kept her own little box of teabags in the office, and as far as she could tell, no one ever took any other than herself. The coffee pot, however, was in regular use all throughout the day. Part of the appeal was social, Ivy assured herself. You met your co-workers at the coffee pot, had a few minutes to chat while you prepared it just how you like. People met for coffee at shops, sat together and caught up, or even at dingy diners for lunch meetings, like this one. She’d seen those mugs “Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee” or “Coffee is life”, but she couldn’t really relate. Sometimes Ivy felt as if she was the only one who had escaped from coffee’s clawing grasp, avoided being drawn into its charms. 

They were sort of like zombies, weren’t they? Maybe they exaggerated a little bit, but Ivy had seen how tired and ragged some people looked in the mornings. Did coffee really make that much of a difference? Perhaps, but Ivy believed that a good walk would have the same result, none of them ever seemed willing to try it out, though. They gathered around the coffee pot as if it was a sacred font, pouring its magical elixir into their eagerly waiting mugs. Suit yourself, thought Ivy, though it seemed that they sought ever stronger and ever more potent brews. The old stuff just wasn’t doing the trick anymore, they needed to raise the stakes. The names of the blends on the bags were slightly alarming — Killer Coffee, Death Wish Coffee, Biohazard. Why would you willingly drink something like that? Ivy couldn’t understand, but everyone else seemed to love them. It was something of a competition among the other employees to see who could bring in the most potent concoction. Even the smell of it turned her stomach at times and made it difficult for Ivy to work, not to mention the way it lingered on everyone’s breath for hours. 

And who knew exactly what was in those bags? Surely it seemed their eyes grew brighter, their breathing quicker, their pace more frantic. They paused to study Ivy, it seemed, as she went to refill her little bottle of water at the jug. She’s different, the look seemed to say. Not one of us. Ivy didn’t want to explain herself, any more than she’d done a hundred times before, but the questions seemed more urgent, more prying. Why don’t you just try it? They’d ask, pushing a mug toward her. It’s amazing, they insisted. Life-changing. Eye-opening. Still, Ivy declined, as politely as she could, but in truth the pestering was beginning to irritate her. Maybe she’d bring it up with HR, except as she walked past the open office she could see a big mug steaming on the desk. Full of coffee, of course.

She started to notice it everywhere. People had it with them while they drove on the highway, in the little console between their seats. They carried it with them to their kids’ sports games and shopping for groceries. Even on airplanes and in the movies, they could not wiggle free from the grasp it had on them. And what to do with those who hadn’t been caught? Surely not let them go, no, it was coffee’s world. Ivy was only living in it. Something had to be done — join the faithful, or be left behind. Those were her only options. Her hands trembling, Ivy peered into the mug. Streaks of cream and sugar moved languidly through its depths, lazily surfacing and submerging again. Ivy held her nose, and took a sip.

[Story] Thorns – Temperance’s Diary

I went to the picnic with Nash today. Usually I don’t go outside very much during the day, I still wore a hat with a ribbon just in case. It was so sunny and nice out, not too hot and not cloudy at all. It will be fall all too soon and then it gets very rainy, and then winter when it’s grey and cold. I probably should go out walking while it’s still nice, but I always worry something will happen to me. I went to the cheese shop to get some for our picnic, the people there recognize me now and they always suggest things I might like. I like that, it feels like it’s special just for me. And him, I suppose. I also bought some bread and jam in the market, and a bottle of wine from one of the wineries here. I don’t know anything about wine at all, so I just picked one that had a nice picture on the bottle. Nash said it was good though, unless he was just saying that to be polite, which is certainly possible.

We sat on a cliff overlooking the harbor, it was so busy down there with everyone unloading and loading the ships, and putting fish in barrels and  tying ropes and things like that. It’s strange to think about how much is happening around a city, even if you don’t see it. Nothing very much happens in the cathedral, mostly writing and reading, and praying of course too. I bet Silvermoon is busy, Nash doesn’t seem to want to go back there at all. I would like to, someday, but I don’t think it would be safe to go alone. I don’t know how much they like humans, let alone someone like me. There are probably orcs and trolls there too, and I’d be afraid if I saw one of those. 

He told me about all the bad things that happened to him there. I know he’s not lying, I just find it hard to believe that people could be so callous. People in the cathedral always say things like, “The Light wills it” or “It was meant to be”, but I don’t think so. How could the Light will someone to have a terrible life, and to suffer? I couldn’t imagine the things he’s been through. I wouldn’t say those things. In fact, I don’t know what to say at all, which probably doesn’t help him feel any better, but I am not sure if I could anyway. He said those things happen here too, I want to think that’s not true but it probably is. Why don’t the guards stop it then, isn’t that their job? I could at least try to make things better for the people here, even if I can’t change what happened to Nash in the past. I’m not sure how though, and it is in the dangerous part of the city where criminals go. I’m sure they wouldn’t just let me walk around there alone. 

I used to do that. Even in Duskwood, where dark things lurked in the woods outside of the lamplight, I wasn’t afraid. Unlike Nash, I do wish I could go back, but I know it wouldn’t be a good idea. I stay here not because I want to, but because I have to. I just try to make the best of it. Certainly things could be worse, I’ve learned a lot in the cathedral and I have a place to stay. It’s just not what I ever pictured. 

Nash said that I could write to the sin’dorei who visited the cathedral and tell him about the history. I’m sure he already knows everything, and besides, I wouldn’t know his address. Nash said he knows his wife’s and I could just send it to her, but I don’t know. They probably wouldn’t like some human they don’t even know sending them letters. He said they might visit again though, I guess I could try then. It would be nice to meet some more elves, maybe I could talk them into helping Nash to get home too.

[Story] River

Kyle was far more excited about camping than Lucy was. She’d never actually been camping, but the idea of sleeping outside on the ground surrounded by bugs and bats and eating powdered food didn’t sound appealing at all. Still, they’d only been dating for a few months and she looked forward to being able to spend the whole weekend together. Kyle had all of the equipment already – and there was far more than Lucy would have imagined was necessary. He had three different tents, folding camp chairs, a little stove that folded into a box, a portable toilet (allegedly; this didn’t look at all like a toilet to Lucy). He brought out a stack of topographical maps and carefully drew the trail they’d be hiking, and the part of the river where they’d camp. Lucy listened as Kyle excitedly told her about unusual animal sightings in the area.

Kyle was a smart guy, he studied economics in college, but he had a keen interest in cryptozoology — meaning Bigfoot and other unexplained animals. Lucy privately thought it was silly for anyone to believe in that stuff, especially someone as educated as Kyle, but it wasn’t really any weirder than any other hobbies. He watched the shows on TV and the clips on YouTube, he had a notebook full of pictures and articles he’d saved, and even some plaster casts he’d poured himself on one of his camping trips. In preparation for this trip, he’d made a recording of weird hoots and sounds and planned to play it in the woods, after he’d let Lucy listen to it, of course. Frankly, if there actually were any animals out there, Lucy figured they’d probably bust out laughing after hearing that. 

The trail was a lot steeper and rougher than Lucy expected, but Kyle had helped her buy a good pair of hiking boots and she’d spent the last couple of weeks breaking them in. Her legs ached, but in the good kind of way after a long workout. There were some bugs, but they left them alone for the most part, and Lucy even saw a deer, which was exciting. She had to admit, being surrounded by the chorus of bird calls and the towering trees, she could understand the appeal. Kyle pointed toward the river, and in the forest’s silence they could hear the rushing of water in the distance. More amazingly, Lucy could smell it, which she didn’t even know was possible. They made their way down the steep hillside into the valley that cradled the river. 

Lucy helped him put up the tent — mainly she just held the part that Kyle told her to hold, and put all of their gear inside of it. They had a separate smaller tent just for all of the equipment and the stove, in case it rained. Then Kyle wanted to go down to the river to play his animal sounds and look for tracks. Sure, why not. He eagerly pointed out the animal footprints along the muddy banks; they saw raccoon tracks, fox, and deer. Lucy had never really seen animal tracks either, aside from cats and dogs. It was weird to think those animals were all close by, just hidden from their view. The river itself was much larger than Lucy had expected it to be, wide and fairly still on its surface, but Kyle assured her that the water beneath was moving quickly. Jagged rocks stuck out above the surface in places, and the current churned and roiled in little pools. There were probably animals in there, too — certainly fish, maybe otters or giant bugs or something. Lucy wasn’t in a hurry to find out. She stayed far up on the banks, though they were muddy, she felt more secure on solid ground. 

“Hey, look at this!” Kyle called, excitedly waving her over.

Lucy looked down to see an impression in the mud. “What is it?”

“It’s a track!”

She could see that, but it didn’t look like any of the others they’d seen so far. For one thing, it was a lot bigger. “Is it–?” she asked, hesitantly.

Kyle took out the plaster kit from his pack. “I don’t know. But I’m going to cast it.”

Lucy watched as Kyle mixed up the powder with some water from his bottle, then poured it into the track and let it set. It only took a few minutes. She had to admit, it was pretty exciting. What if they really had found something undiscovered? They would be famous, and she could say that she had been there. 

“Let’s play the call,” Lucy suggested. 

Kyle pried the dried plaster up and rinsed the dirt off in the river. “Good idea.” 

He turned the volume all the way up and held the phone aloft. The strange sounds reverberated off the trees and stones, but though they listened intently, they didn’t hear any reply. “Oh well,” sighed Lucy. “Maybe they’re just busy.”

Sleeping on the ground was as bad as Lucy had imagined. Though Kyle had found a good site — the ground was relatively soft, and he’d cleared all the large stones out from underneath — it was still not her mattress at home. Kyle slept peacefully, snoring lightly, and she didn’t want to disturb him. She also had the urge to go to the bathroom, which was at least something to do other than lie awake. But the idea of going out to the little canister alone was frightening, especially at night. Lucy felt around for her flashlight and clicked it on. The night was alive with sound, crickets and frogs and some large animal calling in the distance. It sounded a little like the thing on Kyle’s recording. Lucy really hoped it wasn’t a bear. She slipped her shoes on and went toward the spot where Kyle had set the canister, past the supply tent. No toilet paper, no soap, how did people do this? She’d have to remember to wash her hands well in the morning. 

Lucy jolted upright as she heard a branch snap nearby. She hadn’t moved, so it had to be something else. Someone else. “Go away!” she hissed. Probably just a deer, she assured herself. Hopefully not a bear, or a puma, or something that could eat her. She could smell something, too — a wet, green kind of smell, like the smell of rain but somehow stronger. Lucy tied her pajama pants and clicked the flashlight back on, sweeping it over the forest in front of her. She thought the beam of light glinted on something shiny, but when she looked again, it was gone. She didn’t like this at all. She’d get back to the tent and wake Kyle, and he would tell her it was a squirrel or something. She heard it move again, but it was the sound of something heavy dragging over the ground and leaves, something large but it was moving quickly. 

“Kyle!” she whispered, struggling to get the zipper on the flap open. “Kyle, wake up!”

Behind her, she heard the creature’s cry, very much like the sound on the recording. But it had a wet, sibilant quality to it, as if it had been under the water for a very long time. Perhaps on the bottom of a river, waiting there for someone to stumble into its territory.