It was surprisingly chilly for a summer night. I was glad to have worn a sweatshirt.
It was Wednesday night. After another great but completely exhausting day, it was now time to play the night game. Brenna and Lauren raved about it. Everyone in my cabin who had heard stories had talked all day about it. As for me, I was skeptical. I would’ve preferred to be asleep in our cabin, but I tried to keep up my positive energy and have a good attitude. Our chapel speaker had talked a bit tonight about being joyful in every circumstance, not just when things were going exactly our way, because God had a wonderful plan for each and every one of our lives that would turn out for the best in the end.
As we strolled toward the woods, which were pretty far away from all the cabins, the camp staffers handed out glowsticks. When we reached the edge of the woods, we paused. One of the staffers stepped up onto a podium to explain the rules of the game. The crowd below hushed as he spoke.
“All the staffers are the aliens,” he began with a grin. “The aliens do not have glowsticks. If one of the aliens tag you, you will become an alien as well. That means you put your glowstick into your pocket so that people can’t see it and go out and try to tag other humans. The game will end when you see the fireworks in the air. When you see those, come back to where we are now.” That was the basic summary of the game. With those words, we ran out into the woods.
Our cabin spread out. Rebekah, Kristen, Rebecca, Taryn, and Ashley stayed in a group and followed the majority of campers down the widest trail. Completely unsure of what to do, I followed Mia and Joy down a smaller trail. We walked in silence for a few minutes deeper and deeper into the heart of the woods until finally, we stopped in the center of a clearing of trees. Joy looked around at the various paths. The forest was eerily quiet except for the sound of voices far off every once in a while.
Mia shivered. “I’m not sure where we should go,” she murmured softly, breaking the silence.
Joy glanced decidedly down a path to our left and led us down that way. We walked on until we reached the edge of the forest. I glanced up at the sky. The fireworks hadn’t gone off yet. The game seemed to have gone on forever already. I was tired and sweaty. All I wanted to do was shower and go to bed. How long would the game go on?
Beside the forest there was a road. We strolled along the edge of it. Out here, everything was quiet. The only sounds I could hear were the chirping of crickets, cars passing by occasionally, and our own footsteps. The sky was a beautiful hazy shade of dark blue. The full moon showed brightly, which I was thankful for tonight. Besides our glowsticks, it was the only light we had. There weren’t many stars visible in the sky tonight because of the clouds. The trees almost looked dark and sinister. I wondered how a place like this could look so normal in the day and so enchanted at night.
We looped back into the forest and came to a bridge over a small creek. Once we crossed it, Joy sat down, leaning against a nearby tree. I joined her.
Mia glanced at the path ahead. “I think I’ll keep going,” she whispered. As she walked slowly out of sight, Joy let out a long but contented sigh. “It’s been a good week, hasn’t it?”
I nodded. “I don’t want to leave. It’ll be strange when I go back home after all this.”
“But you’ve learned something. When you go back home, you’ll have the chance to—” a twig snapped a couple yards away. A human emerged from the trees and ran toward us. I hadn’t noticed the sound of voices growing louder. I heard a scream nearby.
“Run!” Joy cried. Without thinking twice, I jumped to my feet bolted ahead, only to run into a large group of people… without glowsticks. A boy faster than most of the group immediately gave chase. I darted down a smaller side trail and ran on until I was sure I’d lost him and couldn’t hear voices anymore. My lungs were burning. I stopped, grabbing onto a tree, still panting. I glanced up uselessly into the sky again.
I rolled my eyes. I was more than ready to be done by now. On both sides of the path, I could hear people, so I decided to cut through a field behind me. It was a good choice. As soon as I ducked into the field, intending to move speedily away, the boy who had chased me here passed by, followed by a few others. I held still, hardly daring to breath for fear that they would hear me. I waited for what seemed like an eternity until finally, they left. When the sound of their footsteps died away, I hastened through the field. There were more thorns in the area than I had anticipated, and I could feel them pricking my skin. I was thankful when I emerged from the field on the other side. I continued to pace through the woods for a long time. I had no idea where I was going and didn’t really care. It would’ve been nice to have someone to keep me company, though.
The thought caused me to stop dead in my tracks. For the first time, I realized just how alone I really was. Not only was I without a group, but I hadn’t heard voices for at least twenty minutes. I turned slowly around in a circle, as if someone would be there to greet me. But there was no one. Not a single camper or counselor or even the faintest whisper of a voice. Panicked, I walked on. But still, there was no one to be found. I paced more quickly, now. But everywhere in the forest looked the same. I didn’t know where I was going. How far away was the spot where the instructions had been given? Was I even in Twin Lakes Camp anymore? Where had all the people gone? Where was I?
“Hello?” I called tentatively, then more loudly, “Hello?!”
No answer. Nothing. There was no denying it.
I was lost.
(to be continued)