But it’s only Franny who comes forward. She stands at the edge of the lake, her bare toes this close from the water.

“Emma?” she says. “What are you doing out here? Are you hurt?”

You don’t answer. You’re unsure how.

“Em?” It’s Theo, whom you still can’t bear to look at. “Come out of the water.”

“Go back to the Lodge,” Franny snaps at him. “I can handle this.”

She enters the lake. Not wading like you did. She marches. Knees lifting. Arms pumping. Nightgown darkening at the hem as it sucks up water. She stops a few feet from you, her head cocked in concern. Her voice is low, strained but calm.

“Emma, what’s the matter?”

“They’re gone,” you say.

“Who’s gone?”

“The other girls in the cabin.”

Franny swallows, sending a ripple down the graceful curve of her throat. “All of them?”

When you nod, the light in her green eyes dims.

That’s when you realize it’s serious.

Things move quickly after that. Everyone spreads out across the camp, going to places you’ve already looked. The fire pit. The latrine. The cabin, where Theo opens each hickory trunk cautiously, as if the girls could be inside them, waiting to spring out like a jack-in-the-box.

The hunt turns up nothing, which is no surprise to you. You know what’s going on. You knew it the moment you woke up in that empty and silent cabin.

A search party is organized. Just a small one—an attempt by all to pretend the situation isn’t as dire as everyone fears it truly is. You insist on tagging along, even though you’re in no condition to be roaming the woods, calling out the names of girls who may or may not be missing. You march behind Theo, trying hard to keep up, ignoring how the chill of the lake water lingers on your skin. It makes you shiver, despite the fact that the temperature has inched past ninety degrees and that your skin is coated with a thin sheen of sweat. You search the woods that flank the camp. First one side, then the other. While marching through the forest, you picture Buchanan Harris doing the very same thing a hundred years earlier. Blazing a trail, armed with just a machete and willful optimism. It’s a strange thought. Silly, too. Yet it takes your mind off your tired feet and sore limbs and the fact that a trio of dead girls might be waiting for you just around the next bend.

No girls appear, alive or dead. There’s no trace of them. It’s as if they had never existed at all. Like they were a figment of the camp’s imagination. A mass hallucination.

You return to Camp Nightingale during lunch, with all the remaining campers in the mess hall, picking at plates of sad, soggy pizza slices. Everyone looks up as you hobble inside. Various emotions swirl in their eyes. Hope. Fear. Blame. It’s that last one you feel the most as you make your way to Franny’s table. It heats the back of your neck like a sunburn.

“Anything?” Franny asks.

Theo shakes his head. A few of the campers begin to weep, their sobs breaking out all around you, disrupting the otherwise quiet of the mess hall. It makes you hate them all over again. Most of these crying girls barely knew the missing. You’re the one who should be crying. But you look to Franny for guidance. She’s not weeping. She’s calm in the face of this unfathomable storm.

“I think it’s time I call the police,” she says.

A half hour later, you’re still in the mess hall. It’s been cleared of crying campers and their equally moist-eyed counselors. The kitchen staff has been shuffled outside. The whole place is empty except for you and a state police detective whose name you’ve already forgotten.

“Now then,” he says, “how many girls seem to be missing?”

You notice his choice of words. Seem to be missing. Like you’re making the whole thing up. Like he doesn’t believe you.

“I thought Franny already told you everything.”

“I’d like to hear it from you.” He leans back in his chair, crosses his arms. “If you don’t mind.”

“Three,” you say.

“All staying in the same cabin?”


“And you’re sure you’ve looked everywhere for them?”

“Not the whole property,” you say. “But the entire camp’s been searched.”

The detective sighs, reaches into his suit coat, and removes a pen and a notebook. “Let’s start by telling me their names.”

You hesitate, because to identify them is to make it real. Once you say their names, they’ll be known to the world as missing persons. And you don’t think you’re ready for that. You bite the inside of your cheek, stalling. But the detective stares you down, getting peeved, his face pinkening ever so slightly.

“Miss Davis?”

“Right,” you say. “Their names.”

You take a deep breath. Your heart does several sad, little flips in your chest.

“Their names are Sasha, Krystal, and Miranda.”




The detective writes their names in his notebook, thus making the situation official. My heart completes another sorrowful flip-flop in my chest.

“Let’s go back to the beginning,” he says. “Back to the moment you realized the girls were missing from the cabin.”