While everyone else huddled together under the stars, at the Camp Kincaid amphitheater, readying their wishes ahead of the meteor shower, three of the Cayuga girls raced from the woods to their cabin, hoping no one noticed their absence. They were out of breath and giddy when Casey, their fourth roommate, let them in. The girls collapsed to the floor in a roar of laughter, untangling their leftover supply of fishing lines and nets, knowing they’d need to return them in the morning.
Instead of joining them, Casey climbed back into bed, and said, “I just don’t get why anyone would stalk a camp for kids of finals girls. It’s like asking to get got.” She waited for her cabinmates to finish giggling before continuing. “Besides, this place is brand new. It’s not like there’s a tragic backstory. Every slasher needs a backstory.”
“Maybe it’s an A Nightmare on Elm Street kind of thing, get revenge on the parents through the kids,” Erica replied.
Casey rolled her eyes. “Careful, you’ll pull a hamstring with a stretch like that.”
“Aw, don’t be mad, Case,” said Denise, the frontrunner to win the Spirit of Friendship superlative at the camp’s closing ceremony. “We’re only trying to keep everyone safe.”
Having organized the expedition, Hannah had no time for the touchy-feely stuff. After removing a knot from the tangled-up fishing line with her teeth, she said, “Don’t bother. The wallflower’s just afraid she’s going to get in trouble.”
Casey said, “No, I just think it’s a stupid idea to boobytrap the woods to catch some would-be Camp Kincaid stalker.”
Hannah asked, “Then why’d you stay behind to be our lookout?”
“Peer pressure,” Casey replied, in her best Matthew-Lillard-as-Stu-Macher voice, before firing a pillow in their direction.
The tension broke, but uneasiness hung like humidity in the July air, sticking to their clothes and their skin and their hair. They all felt it, having inherited from their moms an acute awareness of their surroundings. Whenever branches rustled, they jerked their heads toward the window.
Talking because talking made her feel better, Erica bumbled on about how both were right in their own ways. “If the counselors found us sneaking around, we’d be dead. They’d probably send us home. But I don’t think you skipped stargazing because of peer pressure, Case. You think something weird is going down, don’t you?”
She shrugged as non-committal of a shrug in the history of shrugs.
“Come on, Casey, it’s a textbook camp slasher!” Hannah said, leaping to her feet. “That counselor who no-showed, you know where she is? Not back in home in Jersey! Her body’s probably in the woods, pinned to a tree with a bowie knife through her throat.
“Or how about the whistling we all hear, but can never actually place? Or the feeling that somebody’s watching us when we’re alone? You said it yourself, Casey, you’ve noticed it. I mean, that’s right out of Sleepaway Camp. It’s the patented slasher-cam! We’re being stalked, plain and simple.”
“Fine,” Casey said, “I’ll admit things are a little weird here. Like, they’re overdoing it with the whole, ‘Safest summer camp in America’ thing. And yeah, there have been some coincidences, but what do you expect when you bring a bunch of kids like us together? We were born paranoid. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going to bed. And unlike you, I’m going to enjoy my sleep, because I don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to return a buttload of crap used to make boobytraps.”
She shut the lights before anyone else could answer.
None of the girls fell asleep, not even Casey. She replayed the evening in her head on an endless loop. Like a coach studying tape, she picked apart areas where she came across as awkward and thought of the zingers she should have used instead.
It was on her third go-round of the part about the camp lacking a backstory that the whistling started. Casey thought she was hearing things at first, the power of suggestion messing with her ears. But even in the dark cabin, she could see the other girls tossing and turning. They heard it, too.
Then came the scream.
And not the shrill scream of a girl chased through the woods by Jason Voorhees, but a man’s scream. An oh-shit scream.
“It worked!” Hannah said, practically beaming.
The three of them pulled on their sneakers, grabbed their flashlights, and made their way out the door. “You coming?” Erica asked Casey. She thought rolling over served as her response, punctuated by pulling the comforter up over her head.
After the door closed, though, curiosity got the best of her. She had to know who was out there. “Wait for me!” she said as she chased them into the woods, well aware that any distance between them represented an invitation to danger, especially if this were a two-killer getup like Scream.
Casey met them at the perimeter fence, where they stopped for some reason. It wasn’t to let her catch up. No, they were staring at something. Or, more accurately, the absence of something. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Sonny,” said Denise.
“The dog?” Casey asked as the color drained out of her already-pale complexion. “What happened to him?”
Hannah explained that on their way into the woods, to lay the trip wires and hang the nets, they saw Sonny moseying around the fence. A bit of a space cadet, the black lab passed his time by staring at shrubbery. Instead of acting like his usual goofball self, though, he barked into the darkness, like he was trying to scare someone away. And now he was gone.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, I thought you were going to tell me somebody killed Sonny! He probably just saw a possum or something. I bet he’s back at his cabin sleeping, you know, like we should be.”
The girls shook their heads. They knew that no one was safe in a slasher, especially pets.
“How far did you go?” Casey asked as they trudged through the brush.
“Not that far,” Denise replied, swinging her flashlight around in a jittery zig-zag.
“Don’t tell me we’re lost.”
“We’re not lost,” Hannah said. “See?” She aimed her flashlight up into the trees. The nets were still there.
“If the nets didn’t go off, then who did we hear?” Erica asked.
Hannah was the first to notice him.
He was face down on the ground, dressed in a flannel shirt and hiking pants. Blood pooled around him. Nearby lay a map and a guide to the meteor shower. He went down over the trip wire and busted his head open on a rock.
“Is he dead?” Denise asked.
Hannah bent down and checked for a pulse at his neck. “Uh huh.”
“Well,” Casey said, “I guess Camp Kincaid has its backstory now.”
Tyler Norton is a horror writer from Upstate New York. A fan of all things slashers, his favorite monster is Jason Voorhees.