My grandmother has a sign that hangs in her guest room; it's a quote by the Dalai Lama. It reads "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.He must have been a camp counselor at some point“Willow, the bugs are nipping me again,” Katy, my youngest camper, says from the middle of the small, dark cabin.“Pull your sleeping bag over your head and they’ll leave you alone,” I say. It was only the third night of camp and I was already looking forward to the end of the week.“But then I won’t be able to breathe and I’ll die,” Katy whines.I get up from my bed, sheet in hand, and make my way through a maze of discarded running shoes, sweaters, and crafts. I drape the sheet over the tiny girl and tuck it under her head. “Now go to sleep.”I get back in bed, my own mosquito defense gone, and will myself to sleep. I’m just teetering on the edge of total relaxation when I hear the unmistakable sound of rocks on the window pane. I sit up and peer out the window just in time for a flashlight beam to blind me.Who the hell is that? I get out of bed as quiet as humanly possible and sneak out of the cabin.“Hey Willow,” a deep voice says. He lowers the flashlight and my heart begins to thump.“Oh, hey Matt,” I say.Matt is easily the hottest counselor at Emerald Lake, and he is standing outside of my cabin.In the middle of the night.In his swim trunks.“I couldn’t sleep and thought I’d take a dip, wanna come?” Matt smiles easily.“Sure!” I say. “I mean, ya, that sounds fun. Is anyone else coming?”“Just you and me,” Matt says. I see a six-pack of beer dangling from his other hand.“Ok, I’ll be right back.” I sneak back into my cabin and sneakily change into my skimpiest bikini – the one I’m only allowed to wear on weekends.I manage to make it out again without waking any of the little monsters and we take off down the winding trail that leads to the lake.“So, Willow, what’s your deal?” Matt says from behind me.“What do you mean?” I stare down at the ground, careful not to trip on any of the exposed, twisted roots.“Do you have a boyfriend back in the city?” Matt says.Holy crap.“No, we broke up before the summer started. He didn’t want to be tied down or something.” My foot finds a dip in the trail and I stumble forward. I hear the sound of aluminum clinking together as Matt sacrifices the beer to catch me around the waist.“His loss is my gain,” Matt says.His face is so close to mine that I can smell the chocolate from the s’mores we made earlier. This time the beer wins and he lets me go to pick up the now shaken cans.“Thanks,” I say.We make it to the lake in one piece and suddenly I’m aware of how alone we are.“Ladies first,” Matt says as he gestures toward the lake.I put my toes in and sigh.“It feels warmer now than it did during the day.” I wade in until the water sloshes at my hips before sinking down to my shoulders.“That’s because you were way hotter this afternoon,” Matt says, releasing two beers from the plastic slings. “I mean temperature wise. You’re way hotter in that bikini then in our dorky yellow camp t-shirts.”“Thanks.” I think.I stand up when Matt reaches me and take a beer from his outstretched hand. I hate beer but I pop it open and sip it anyway.Neither of us say anything for a few minutes.“So, I like your hair,” Matt says. “It was brown last year, wasn’t it?”“Ya, I dyed it before camp. I’ve always wanted to be blonde,” I say as I tuck a wavy tendril behind my ear.Matt crumples his can and tosses it on the beach before taking a step closer.“Are you going to finish that?” He points to my nearly-full can.“You can have it,” I say. I pass him the can which he promptly drops into the lake before pulling me into his arms. His mouth is on mine before I have the chance to object, not that I was going to, and his tongue is in my mouth in two seconds flat.I thought he would be a better kisser.I awkwardly tip my head, open my mouth a little more and try to match his pace. Things get a little smoother then his hands race down and grab my butt.Easy tigerFinally, after a sloppy, wet two minutes, he releases me.“You’re a great kisser,” he says with a smile. “I’m gonna get another beer, want one?”“Sure,” I say.But only so I can wash your spit out of my mouth.I swim out a little farther and dive down, only swimming as deep as the moonlight will penetrate.I come up thirty seconds later and swim back until my feet can touch the muddy bottom.I scan the shore but it’s empty. “Matt?”I wait a few seconds before I call out again. “Matt!”Finally, he appears from the trees. I sink down in the water as he approaches the beach and stifle a scream when I realize it’s not Matt.It might not even be human.An impossibly tall man-creature stands on the sand, staring out into the water. He is thin like a reed, but his limbs seem too long.They dangle in the breeze as he peers at me.The wind picks up and pushes away the few clouds that were veiling the moon.His skin is pale and almost glows, and he has dark slits for eyes, and nothing else.No nose.No ears.No mouth.I take a breath and disappear underneath the water. I swim along the beach, putting as much distance between me and the man as possible. My lungs burn but I take another few strokes. I surface as slowly as possible, barely causing a ripple, and look back to where he was standing.He is gone.My entire body begins to shake as I try to rationalize what I just saw.I hear a twig snap and look up. He’s right in front of me, scanning the water.I sink down as far as I can and swim into the reeds that plague speedboats and terrify our younger campers.I grit my teeth to keep them from chattering and wait.And wait.He stands still, though his body bends in the wind, and watches.How has he not noticed me?Suddenly, his head snaps down and he stares at me with his empty, black holes.I scream, hoping Matt will hear me and come to save the day, and swim backwards as fast as I can.He remains still.I flip onto my stomach and swim like my life depends on it.Because it does.I dare to slow down and look over my shoulder.His back is to the lake and he’s walking into the woods.It’s then I notice possibly the most terrifying part about him.He’s wearing a suit. I stay in the water until I’m sure he’s gone, and then I run. Sticks and sharp rocks stick into my bare feet but I don’t care. I curse myself for skipping gym class, and switch to a pathetically slow run. And then my foot finds that stupid dip.A searing, ripping sensation tears through my foot and I eat dirt.“Shit!” I say as I struggle to turn over.I pull my leg out of the hole and the pain almost causes me to pass out. It’s already starting to swell. I poke at it, hissing in pain, but I can’t feel any bones out of place. I grab a low-hanging branch and pull myself to my feet and attempt to walk.This is going to suck.I find a long, thick branch and use it as a crutch. I hobble along the path, each step causes another wave of pain to crash over me. My head constantly swivels even though I wouldn’t be able to outrun the man even if he did appear. I come to a familiar bend and I’m so close to the camp I can almost smell the lingering campfire smoke. I slow to a walk, my ankle hurts so bad I’d probably chose death over running anyway, when I hear a groan.“Matt?” I say into the pitch black woods.I hear another groan and I make my way down a small, overgrown path.The scent of blood hits me before I see him; the copper smell is so thick I can practically taste it.Matt’s body is impaled on a crudely snapped-off branch. His knees have buckled, and he’s sagging forward onto the bloodied limb. I rush forward, ignoring my ankle, and lift his head up.“Matt, can you hear me?” I say. I swallow three times, forcing the hot vomit back down my throat.“The man, get out of here.” Matt coughs, his blood sprays from his mouth and onto my face.“I’ll go get help,” I say as tears begin to streak down my face. They turn pink before they fall to the ground.“Too late,” Matt gargles. Thick, crimson blood spews from his mouth and coats his chest. It forms little pools in the branch that’s protruding from his stomach. Then he is still.I think I’ve held it together long enough.I let a shockingly loud, blood curling scream loose and I fall to my knees, vomiting until there’s nothing left.Suddenly footsteps come down the trail, and I turn to meet my death.“Willow, oh my God, Willow. What happened?” Wendy, our head counselor, says.“A man, there’s a man in the woods. He killed Matt,” I sob.“Wendy, get her out of here and call 911,” Frank, our camp director, says calmly.How is he so calm?Wendy pulls me to my feet, not noticing my ankle, and hauls me down the path.Within ten minutes, the camp is full of cops, paramedics, and the parents that happen to live close. I’m sitting in my cabin watching Wendy help my campers get their bags packed. Katy sits next to me, her face buried in my pillow, and I can hear her muffled sobs. I automatically reach over and rub her back, even though I’m the one that needs the comfort. A paramedic comes into the room to wrap my ankle and passes me a warm, wet cloth. I wipe my face and swallow again; I don’t think she’d appreciate being barfed on.Two hours later the camp is empty, and the moon has once again disappeared behind the clouds. “So, this man, what color of hair did he have?” Henry, an older police officer, says as he pulls out a notepad.We are sitting in my living room sipping earl grey tea, staring into the fire my Dad built in our stone fireplace.“He didn’t have a face, let alone hair,” I laugh. Hysteria makes its way into my cackle and my Mom hustles upstairs. She’s probably gone to get me a valium.“And you said he was tall….Like six feet-ish?” The officer scribbles down a few notes before looking up.“More like eight feet, at least,” I say. I shiver even though I’m in front of a fire, under a blanket, drinking tea.“So you saw an eight foot, faceless man, wearing a tuxedo, in the woods, and it killed your friend?” Henry leans back in the recliner and tucks his notepad back into his shirt pocket.“Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes,” I say.Henry turns to my dad. “She’s obviously in shock. I’ll have someone pop by tomorrow and take her statement then.”My dad walks the officer out and returns to the couch.“Wanna have a bath or anything?” He rubs my arm soothingly.“I think I’ll just go to bed,” I say, getting up from the couch.I climb the stairs to my room and find my mom setting a glass of water on my nightstand, accompanied by a small, white sleeping pill.“I thought you might have trouble getting to sleep,” she says. She pulls back my blankets and I climb in. I take the pill, chasing it with the water, and fall into a deep, troubled sleep.I’m running down the path again and my ankle is on fire. I turn left, hoping to throw him off my path, but no matter where I go, or how fast I run, he’s always right behind me.I come to a clearing with one, giant tree. My camp girls, my parents, and Matt all are stuck to the tree like butterflies pinned to paper.Thin, icy fingers wrap around my arms and my stomach bursts through a hole in my spine as I’m skewered onto a thick, pointed branch.I wake up, coated in sweat, screaming. My bedroom light flicks on as my mom rushes in.“Willow, what happened?’ She says as she reaches into her housecoat pocket, pulling out a handful of tissues.“I had a dream,” I say, my voice thick with sleep. Something warm drips onto my lip and I instinctively poke out my tongue to taste it.It’s blood.“Well your nose is bleeding all over the place,” Mom says as she sits next to me and presses a wad of tissue under my nose. “You’re going to have to change.”I look down, which causes my nose to bleed harder, and find the collar of my pajama shirt damp with blood. I sleep through the next day, missing both the police officers first, second, and third visit as well as the sun. When I get out of bed it’s only to go downstairs to the couch. My entire body aches and I can’t stop coughing, the lake must have been colder than I thought.“Your father is going out to pick up dinner. Do you want him to pick up some cold medicine?” Mom asks after my latest coughing fit. I quickly wipe my hands on my black sweat pants, hiding the bloody spit.“Sure,” I say weakly as I sag into the couch cushions. I reach for the remote and flick on the TV. News stations show footage of the ambulance leaving the lake, and tired reporters regurgitate internet myths about what happened.A flicker of movement catches my attention and I swear I see a leg pass by the basement window.You are just being paranoid.I stare at the television until my eyes cloud over. Matt’s face flicks on over and over again, so I turn the TV off. I hear soft footsteps come down the stairs and I pretend to be asleep. I love my Mom, but I’m too tired to be force fed soup. I hear her come into the room and stop once she’s near the couch. I let out a sigh and snuggle further into the couch. She doesn’t leave.“Mom, I’m not hungry. Can I eat later?”She doesn’t answer.I crack open one eye and find the suited man standing above me, the black pits are staring. My other eye flies open but before I can scream, he’s gone. He vanished in thin air.Was he even here? My parents force me to eat, and when I jump for the fourth time – this time because of the microwave timer, they force me to bed as well.Another glass of water and sleeping pill are set on my night table, this time they’re with a box of tissues. I climb into bed, turn off the lights, and focus on happy things. An hour, possibly two, pass and I finally drift off, that is until the noises begin.The first is a door closing, my parents I’m assuming.The second is a tree branch scraping across my window, but it’s enough to make me sob.Then third is the faintest drip…DripDrip.Drip.It’s worse than the tell-tale heart. I climb out of bed, dizzy from the sleeping pill, and crank every faucet to the right.Drip.Drip.Drip.I walk into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of juice, double-checking that the faucet isn’t leaky. It’s not.A flash of green catches my eye and I peer through the kitchen window, into our backyard. It must be the garden hose.How did I hear that in my room?I slip my dad’s sandals on and shuffle into the backyard. I make my way to the side of the garage and twist the faucet shut. The dripping stops.Thank God.I turn around and begin to walk back toward the house when I hear a twig snap. I turn around slowly and find the tall, thin man, standing by the hose. His limbs sway as he slowly walks toward me.I squeeze my eyes shut. “You’re not real.”His fingers lock around my arms and he lifts me off my feet.I scream but no one comes.And then everything goes black. **** “They found her in the woods behind her house three days later. She was leaning against a tree, her organs placed in bags forming a circle around her. They blamed a local serial killer but everyone knows it was the tall, thin man.” Kelly says to the dozen small, tear-stained girls sitting around the camp fire.“Is that man real?” Molly, the youngest, asks.“No one knows, but if I were you, I wouldn’t sneak out of your cabin.”
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