“Why do I have to do this again?” she asks.

“Always leave a trail of bread crumbs,” I tell her. “It’ll help us find our way back.”

“From where?” Krystal says.

“I’ll know it when I find it.”

The ground slants upward as we walk, slightly at first, the incline hidden under a sheet of amber leaves that fell the previous autumn. We’re aware of the rising land only from the warm ache in our legs and the growing heaviness of our breath. But soon the landscape becomes more obviously steep. A sharp, steady rise that can’t be avoided. We press on, shoulders hunched, legs bent. Along the way we pass whippet-thin saplings, grabbing them for support, hauling ourselves higher.

“I want to go back,” Krystal says, huffing out the words.

“Me, too,” Sasha says.

“I told you there would be hiking,” I remind them. “Hey, let’s play another game. Instead of Two Truths and a Lie, let’s just do truth. Tell me, in all honesty, what you’d like to be doing twenty years from now.”

I look over my shoulder to Sasha, who’s quickly losing steam. “You start. Any ideas about what you want to be doing?”

“Plenty,” she says with a nudge of her glasses. “A professor. A scientist. Maybe an astronaut, unless everyone’s already colonizing on Mars. I like to have options.”

“And what about you, Krystal?”

She doesn’t need to think about it. The answer is obvious to all.

“Working for Marvel. Hopefully illustrating my own superhero series. Someone cool that I came up with.”

“Why do you like comic books so much?” Sasha asks.

“I dunno. I guess because most of the superheroes start off as regular people just like us. Nerdy and awkward.”

“Speak for yourself,” Miranda chimes in.

“Just like everyone but you,” Krystal says, placating her. “But something happens that makes these average people realize they’re stronger than they thought. Then they believe they can do anything. And what they choose to do is help people.”

“I prefer regular books,” Miranda says. “You know, without pictures.”

She’s passed Krystal and Sasha on the way up the incline and now walks beside me, the only one of us not fazed by the climb.

“Ever think about becoming a writer?” I ask her. “Since you like to read so much.”

“I’m going to be a police detective like my uncle,” she says. “Why write about crimes when you can solve them in real life?”

“Um, that’s called a superhero,” Krystal says with no small amount of satisfaction.

Miranda forges ahead to where the incline finally levels off into less wearying terrain, waiting impatiently for the rest of us. Once there, we pause to catch our breath and take in the scenery. On our right, slivers of blue sky peek through the trees. I move instinctively toward them, following the light, emerging from the trees onto a thin strip of craggy ground. Beyond it, the land drops away, and for a dizzying, disoriented moment, I think I’m about to drop with it. I wrap an arm around the nearest tree, steadying myself, my eyes aimed at my feet to make sure I remain on solid ground.

When the girls reach my side, one of them—I think it’s Miranda—whistles with appreciation.

“Day-um,” Krystal says, stretching the word into two syllables. She sounds beyond impressed. Awed.

I lift my eyes to the horizon, seeing what they see. I realize we’re atop the ridge I’d spotted from the canoe, overlooking the stone-walled cliff. The view it affords us is stunning. Lake Midnight spreads out below us, the water dappled with sunlight. From this height, I can see the full shape of the shoreline curving inward, the spot in the distance where it narrows toward the dam.

Across from us, hazy in the distance, sits Camp Nightingale. It looks so small from here. A miniature. Something placed in the center of a model railroad.

I dig the map from my pocket and give it a quick peek. Vivian drew nothing to indicate the cliff where we now stand. From what I can gather from her crude markings, we’re close to the raggedly triangular rocks. Sure enough, when I turn away from the water and point north, I get a glimpse of rocks through the thick forest.

I’m getting closer. To what, I still have no clue.

The rocks on Vivian’s map differ greatly from the ones I see in person. These are boulders. Dozens of them. Massive ones that only get larger as we approach, their weight palpable, so heavy and unwieldy it’s a wonder the earth can support them. They sit in a line running up a sharp rise similar to the one we’ve just climbed.

The girls spread out among them, scaling the boulders like kids in a playground.

“I bet these rocks used to be part of the mountain’s peak,” Sasha says as she clambers up a boulder twice her height. “They froze and broke apart, then glaciers took them down the hill. Now they’re here.”

Explanation aside, the boulders still unsettle me. They make me think of the rumored survivors of Lake Midnight’s creation. I picture them when the moon is full, creeping around these very boulders at night, searching for new victims. To push away the unease, I check both the compass and the map, making sure this is where we should be. It is.

“Hey, girls,” I call out. “We should keep moving.”