Skeletons in the Closet

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Fox of Spades

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Skeletons in the Closet

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On the day he broke his leg, Matthew Lyons saw something in the White Woods. A flash of orange and a strange shadow that clung to mossy flesh like a second skin, it was just like Kelsey said. He wasn’t superstitious, and he wasn’t one to believe in silly urban legends but he’d seen what he’d seen. There was something in the woods and Kelsey was still missing. It was a thought that ate at Matt’s peace of mind, and the muggy October morning did little to alleviate his growing fear.

The parking lot outside the Red Copper Bed and Breakfast was a ghost town. Bellwoods was by no means a bustling city, but it was rarely ever this quiet. Matt chalked it up to it being the 31st. It was Halloween and both kids and adults alike were probably at home and preparing for the later festivities.

He turned to the bed and breakfast, a small three storey wooden house. The first floor housed the diner itself while the two upper floors housed the rooms for rent. Most of the people who rented rooms were students from the nearby university, this was where Kelsey had lived before she vanished.

Gosh, it was October 31st already – 10 whole days since Kelsey had vanished.

Sitting on the steps with Joseff to his left and his crutches to his right, Matt couldn’t help but feel sick to his stomach. He lived in Bellwoods long enough to know that those who went missing were never found.

Chris Bluefield and his sister in 1996, James Sunder in 2001, and Allana Wake in 2010 – the list went on and on, and the thought of Kelsey’s name being just another addition to the ever-growing record of missing people – he felt the nausea hit.

Out of habit, Matt ran his shaky fingers over Joseff’s smooth fur.

“I’m glad you’re back, Jo.” His dog had found Kelsey’s beanie. “What do you think happened to her?”

Joseff looked up at him with kind brown eyes, and there was a moment of silence before his dog nuzzled into his side and began to whine. The soft whimpers gave Matt goose bumps.

The day Joseff went missing, Kelsey had seen something… a dark shape against the foliage.

Somehow, he felt like a part of this fiasco was all his fault. She’d gone off to look for Joseff on the 21st, and after that, no one had ever seen her again. Kindle and Ethan were the first to notice and they notified the police and her family the very next day.

Matt was in the middle of fending off another guilt-fuelled breakdown when he noticed a familiar face walking off the road and onto the parking lot that led to bed and breakfast.

It was Ethan, and the moment Joseff noticed the young man, he darted off to greet his friend.

Matt watched as the Shiba Inu began running circles around Ethan. To Joseff, it was just another normal day in Bellwoods Hollow. He’d been missing for 16 days, and yet, he was absolutely fine.

“Hey, Ethan.” Matt reached for his crutches and struggled to his feet. “I got Kindle’s text. He’s said he's grabbing something important? How… so how are Kelsey’s parents taking the news?” He couldn’t even begin to imagine how much of a nightmare this was for her family. “Are the rest coming? And, uh, Ethan… how are you? I mean, how are you holding up? I… I can’t stop thinking it was my fault, you know? She was out there looking for Jo then suddenly she’s gone and he’s back with her beanie but not her. It’s freaky as fuck and it’s kind of driving me crazy. This whole thing is so unreal. I just hope she’s okay”

Eight days ago, a group of police officers made their way into the White Woods to look for Kelsey. When they returned with empty hands, Kindle decided to organize a search.

It wouldn't be long until the rest of the search party started to arrive.
 
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Haru Nyan

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“They’re...devastated to say the least.” Ethan groaned and scratched the back of his head while giving out a heavy sigh. He glanced at Matt and couldn’t help but feel absolutely sorry for the poor guy. He looked disheveled, and out of sorts, the whole ordeal wasn’t a pretty one but among those who were affected, Matt was one of the ones who had it the worst. Living with that kind of guilt? Ethan could never bear it, let alone live with himself for so long.

The strapping young man put his hands on his pockets and kicked the pavement from where he was standing. He glanced sideways, trying to avoid the gaze of his friend, yet their eyes would meet ever-so -often and Ethan couldn’t help but just feel forlorn, not just him, but for both of them. “I uh…I’ve been better.” It was a lie, just a little white lie, but no matter how many times he said it to himself, Ethan just felt all the more down. The young man sat down beside Matt and hooked an arm around his shoulder, nudging him closer. Ethan flashed a big and wide smile and reassured him that they’ll get Kelsey back, no matter what happens. “Don’t blame yourself! Kelsey will be back before you know it.” False hope was better than no hope at all—better to be consumed by chasing shadows than be consumed by despair after all.

Trying to lighten the atmosphere, Ethan gave Matt’s back a light pat and urged him to look at the brighter side of things; Joseff came back with her beanie, that’s something. It was evidence that she was still alive at the very least, and no matter how guilty he felt, everyone else would be there to help him through.

Now all that’s left is to wait. Whether it was for the inevitable or uncertain remained to be seen.
 

Cartoonicat

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October 31st - the infamous day of socially acceptable cosplaying London looked forward to every year - had finally arrived. Yet, instead of fall victim to a lack of sleep working on her costume, London found herself staying up nearly all night for a different reason. An unofficial search party, formed by the citizens of the town, had been going on since Kelsey vanished. After much deliberation, for London wasn't a fan of the outdoors by any means nor did she care to interact with others, she caved and decided to join. Spent the entire night researching information on the urban legends of Bellwoods Hollow, hoping to find something she’d missed. Anything that might help the search party find Kelsey; or, better yet, find Kelsey and get out of the woods without incident. Her search proved fruitless, as there was very little information to comb through that London hadn’t already forwarded to Kelsey and Marten before.

Had it been some random girl from town who’d gone missing, London never would have agreed to such a thing. Selfish, maybe, but honest. Would have been content to hole up in her room, finishing her Wonder Woman costume. (London knew she wasn’t anything like Diana - ‘cept maybe the hair.) The missing girl was Kelsey, though - her friend. When London heard Kelsey went missing it had been more than a little earth-shattering. She didn’t have many close friends to begin with, and ten days ago one of them just up and vanished. London had liked to joke that Kelsey would get herself into trouble one day - either her or Marten, what with their adventurous attitudes - but didn’t actually think it’d happen. The joke wasn’t funny anymore, for obvious reasons.

Without a word London slipped out of her house around ten-thirty in the morning, quiet so as not to wake the other resident of her house. Nineteen years old or not, if her mother knew she had plans to gallivant around the woods she’d never allow it. Mom was as superstitious as they came and London had never been a good liar. A lack of in-person social interaction had made sure of that.

During her walk London alternated between eyeballing the slower morning traffic (she didn't want to get clipped by a car and have to explain to her mother why she'd been walking along the road toting a wooden katana prop and a backpack full of canned coffee, junk food and bug spray) and perusing social media apps on her phone. Contrary to popular belief, London did like socializing. Just... not in person. Scrolling down, she saw a recent conversation between Ethan, Kindall, and Matt. London frowned.

They were going into the woods? That was stupid. Then again, that's exactly what she was about to do, wasn't it? She was kind of the pot calling kettle black, there. Tucking her phone away, London turned in the direction of the B&B. If she was going to search for Kelsey, she'd rather do it alongside people she was familiar with instead of strangers she hardly knew at all.

It took her approximately thirty minutes to reach the Red Copper Bed & Breakfast, though that was only because she’d stopped for coffee along the way lest she fall asleep walking. Darkest roast, no sugar, no cream. An ungodly amount of caffeine. Even on nights that she did get more than three hours of sleep - which hadn’t been last night - London still needed her coffee. Helped keep the bags of sleep deprivation away. (No it didn’t, and they’d practically become a permanent fixture on her, anyway.)

London noticed the two figures in the distance as she walked towards the bed and breakfast. Sipped on her coffee, the steam warming her insides just as much as the nerves. Recognizing the two guys, London felt the coil of nerves loosen just a bit - especially at the sight of Ethan. So, they hadn't been kidding about the search; this was actually going to happen. Absently, she wondered who else would show up - if she even knew all who would eventually be there. She had more friends than just him, Kelsey, Kindall and Marten but things always seemed to go smoother in-person when she was with one of them. A safety blanket for social interactions. As such, London appreciated Ethan's presence more than the coffee in her hands.

Finally just a few steps away, London stopped walking.

“Uh… hey, guys.”
 
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Impudimp

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We interrupt this program to bring you the 'Courage the Cowardly Dog Show' starring Courage! The cowardly dog! Abandoned as a pup, he was found by Muriel who~
"Ah! Lives in the middle of Nowhere," yelled a mummy wrapped poorly in what looked like a survival blanket but was really a very loud, neon orange comforter. Said mummy sat up straight, rolled, and shifted within its confinement until curiously green locks spilled forth messily, followed by a groggy face holding slowly blinking and dazed green eyes.

I left the tv on again... Marten zoned out watching her favorite cartoon dog lose his ever-loving mind from terror. Thinking of dogs, she was supposed to be looking for something. A dog right? No... Kelsey found Joseff just the other day ending that search. Looking for a person? Kelsey would know... Kelsey. Kelsey. "Kelsey! I'm supposed to be looking for Kelsey!" She yelped. How could she have forgotten even for a second?! Because you haven't slept more than a few hours in a whole week, dumas. Her conscious supplied easily.

The grunette flopped her way out of bed and onto the floor before shooting into the bathroom to bathe and tie her hair up before throwing on her loudest colored shirt and a pair of khakis, which she didn't mind getting dirty in the least. She wanted to be dressed to get dirty and be seen. They-- as in all her friends and herself-- were going to search tirelessly for Kelsey, and Marten wanted to make sure she was ready to get dirty but hopefully not lost. It was Halloween after all and the White Forest was the last place anyone should have been going.

Kelsey had become one of her best friends though. She'd be damned if she didn't dig with her bare hands to find that girl. Grabbing an empty backpack she had used for summer camp back in the day because of its sturdiness, she was down the stairs-- by way of the banister, of course-- and into her dorm's kitchen in what she hoped was good time. What time was it anyhow? She gazed down at her wrist only to lament not having a watch, and instead looked to the oven's digital clock. 9:45...

"Man, I'm gonna be late... I hope they don't leave without me." She murmured letting her eyes flit from the clock to the cabinets every so often as she stuffed her now dubbed "utility bag" with granola, jerky, fruit snacks, dried fruit, and everything else non-perishable-- especially the twinkies-- in her room. At the end of her frantic stuffing she had the thought to fill some water bottles and throw them in there as well. It'd been over a week, and she was pretty sure Kelsey didn't know gooseberry from chokecherry or even a deathcap from a common white mushroom.

All her previously useless but interesting factoids and information had been culminated for this moment! She had a duty! Maybe not to save the world, but her friend was just as important! A sizzling heat warmed her chest that told Marten she was both nervous and excited. The racing thoughts of her mind, while heroic, told her she was sleep deprived. The night stick sized flashlight-death rod she'd just pulled her kitchen drawer told her she was kicking someone's ass today, and the oven clock that read 9:57 AM told her she was later than ever. "Ah, balls..." She cursed, picking up her things and running for the door. It was past time to meet up with everyone.

She took her bike, hoping it would be faster than walking, but that was a bust. She was more tired than a fat kid in gym class with the droopy eyes to prove it. Thankfully the exercise forced blood to her sputtering brain cells and helped her plug along. She almost cried when the Red Copper came into view. And she was either hallucinating or she hadn't been left behind!

"Ethan, London... ah, Joseff's-daddy, hey!" She called out breathlessly as she rolled up beside the motley trio, giving Matt an understanding gaze even if she couldn't recall his name as she noted his distinct ennui. Misery loved company, and she knew how he was feeling. Everyone did. Kelsey's presence was missed greatly, and there was a sad cloud over their group. She was quick to park her bike on a nearby rack before shuffling into the circle, going so far as to lean her head onto London's shoulder, looking as tired as she felt at the moment.

"Sorry I'm late..." She addressed them all, not directing the apology to one person. Though her attention drifted to London in ever increasing increments as her nose picked up the heady aroma of coffee. Leveling her ever widening eyes on the shy girl, she put on her best begging expression, "Oh please... Can I have some? I'm running on fumes and a slowly dwindling life force..."
 
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IceQueen

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Ana was on her way over like someone hadn't just gone missing from their friend group. Cheerful as ever, Ana was singing along to a stupid song on the radio as she drove up towards the Red Copper Inn Bed and Breakfast. Ana had been up all night, as per usual if you asked Jace, to just be her regular old zany self. Last nights specific creation was some sort of haunting silhouette. She avoided mentioning it for the moment, not sure what it meant in correlation towards the disappearance of Kelsey.

Ana's smile faded the more she thought about it. As usual she was avoiding thinking about it because it made her depressed and Anastasia depressed was not the Anastasia everyone else knew. Shaking her head, Ana tried to focus on driving.

Kelsey had been one of the only people Ana talked to in her youth around here. Well, aside from Jace. Ana still had pictures of her stuck in a tree bawling her eyes out from when she was a kid sat along side others of the three of them.

It didn't feel the same around town without Kelsey. As much as Ana didn't believe in the superstitions of the forest she also didn't like the idea of her friend being stuck out there. The woods weren't exactly the safest place to be, and now Ana was worried. Shaking her head again she turned up the tunes, forcing herself to sing along as she drove to the meeting place.

The Red Copper Inn came into sight not long after and Ana put on a smile, turning down the radio as she pulled up to the Inn. Parking her shabby and slightly dented car off to the side Ana got out with a grin. "Morning~" She called happily, shutting the door as she wandered forward. Ana had chosen a usual style of a beanie and jeans along with a loose v neck and choker as she wandered up to the group. "Everyone ready to possibly die?" She asked jokingly.
 

Ashi

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Brown eyes blinked slowly open, squinting against the morning light that poured in through the gap in the curtains. They closed again momentarily, burning for more sleep, before Jace launched upward into a sitting position. He looked at his clock, the time displayed in bright red. It was already 9:30; he’d overslept. He scrubbed a hand down his face and groaned, shoving the pile of blankets from over his legs and swinging his bare feet to the wooden floor. His toes curled against the cold, smooth grains of the stained oak as he stood and stepped out of his room. He could hear the hustle and bustle in the kitchen, indicating that everyone was awake.

Jace quickly dressed before he meandered into the kitchen, dressing appropriately for the day ahead. It was the day that he and his friends would venture into Whittle Grove in search of their friend Kelsey, who had disappeared ten days ago. He’d grabbed a pair of jeans he had laying around that didn’t have holes or frays and a blue long-sleeve t-shirt with a few buttons at the collar, which he left open. He wore his favorite pair of boots, a black lace-up combat style boot, untied at the top with his pants legs tucked in. This paired with his chocolate-colored leather jacket would prove to keep him protected from the elements.


Kelsey disappeared about the time she had gone in search of her friend’s dog, Joseff, who reportedly took off into the woods. He was gone for days, and when the dog finally turned up, Kelsey was nowhere to be found. Jace could recall hearing about the poor pooch going missing, asking Kelsey not to look for him alone. If he had had time, Jace would have gone with her; but he had an important exam that day that he could ill afford to miss. Though he knew it wasn’t his fault, he couldn’t help but feel responsible. If only he had gone with her…

Jace heaved a sigh as he sat down at the table, pulling his long black hair back into a messy bun. His mother set a plate and cup in front of him with a meek smile. Not one member of his family liked that he was about to venture into the woods, despite that he wasn’t going alone. The wood was a dangerous place, haunted by evil. That evil had gotten his friend and they didn’t want it to get him too; however, they trusted Jace to make smart decisions and admired his willingness to help despite that it could put him in danger.


“You should hurry and eat, or you’ll be late. Grandma wants to see you before you go.” His mother said from where she stood over the sink. Jace nodded and wolfed down his breakfast, hardly even savoring the coffee. He grabbed his backpack from his room and headed outside. His sister, who had been finishing her breakfast, followed him out onto the porch. Jace turned to look at her as the screen door slapped the frame.

“I don’t understand why you’re so hell-bent on going. You should just leave it to the authorities.” Nita said, crossing her arms over her chest uncomfortably.

“The authorities are taking too long. It’s already been over a week. If…” Jace said, pausing as the words stuck in his throat. “If she’s still alive… there’s no telling how much longer she may have. She might not have enough food and water to survive much longer. She’s not a wilderness person; that’s why I should have been with her in the first place and that’s why I’m going.” He said and descended the porch steps. He didn’t like to think about ultimatums, about the possibility that Kelsey was dead or in danger of dying. Joseff had returned almost chubby, like he’d been well cared for wherever he’d been. Hopefully, Kelsey was okay, too.

“Jace!” Nita called, prompting him to turn towards her again. “I hope you find her.” She said, offering a smile though her eyes looked sad. Jace smiled and nodded, then went to see his grandmother in the yard. There, she practiced a ritual in order to bless Jace, to protect him from whatever evil spirit lurked in the woods. Then he caught a ride to town with his dad.

Jace headed for the Red Copper Bed and Breakfast from the local store, which was only a few minutes’ walk away. Out front, most of the others had gathered already. He walked up to the first familiar face he saw, a friend he knew well - Ana.

“Hey, kid.” He said as he came up beside her. She was shorter than he, as were most people it seemed. Even his sister was shorter, the top of her head only coming up to his shoulder. There was a time when he looked up to his sister, several inches. Jace rested an arm on Ana’s head and leaned against her, crossing one ankle in front of the other.

“How’s everyone holding up?” He asked with a one-sided, sympathetic sort of smile. He turned to look at Marten, her bright green hair catching his attention. He remembered her face, and most notably her hair, from a cafe-hopping spree he was invited to a while back, though he couldn't quite remember her name. She was cozening up to a dark-haired girl, a girl he recognized as his coffee buddy, London. "Oh, hey, coffee buddy." He grinned, finding her shyness a little amusing.
 
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Fox of Spades

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Collab between @Fox of Hearts and @Fox of Spades

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Of course they were devastated, what else was he expecting? Matt could only sigh as Ethan wrapped a reassuring arm around his shoulders. Yes, Joseff had returned with Kelsey's beanie, but the fact that Kelsey wasn't with him… that was what scared him most of all. The dork was always wearing her stupid hat, so if she wasn't there when Jo found it, where the hell was she?

Missing people in Bellwoods were never ever found.

The thought had been burned into his brain ever since he was a child, and had it not been for London’s sudden arrival, Matt would have spiraled into even darker thoughts. “Thanks, man.” He placed an arm around Ethan’s shoulder and gave it a quick, reassuring pat. “Let’s hope you’re right.” Slowly, he pulled away and turned his attention to London. He didn’t know her too well, but Kelsey had described her as shy but brilliant. “London, right? Glad you could make it.”

The three of them gathered in a small circle of sadness. Marten was the next person to arrive, and like everyone present, she looked tired and antsy. “You’re not late, don’t worry about it. We’re still waiting on Kindle,” Matt explained. “He said he needs to do a few things first.”

Sensing the blanket of seriousness that had fallen over everyone around him, Joseff trotted around their small circle. Occasionally, he would butt his head against their legs to let them know he was with them every step of the way. The Shiba Inu was resting his head against Matt’s good leg when his ears perked up at the sound of an arriving vehicle. The car stopped, Ana walked out, and Joseff began to bark out in greeting.

He dashed off to run around Ana, their latest arrival. The gang was almost all here. Matt gave her a polite nod before Jace arrived on the scene. “Could be better, man. Thanks for heading out here.” All that was left now, was to wait for Kindle.

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It was a little pass 11.13 am when a familiar banged up Honda pulled into the parking lot. Kindall, for the first time since Matt knew him, was the last to arrive. Usually, it would be Ethan or Kelsey. Milton parked his car neatly beside Ana’s and killed the engine. He waved absentmindedly to the group before walking over to the front passenger seat to retrieve a carton with a Walmart logo on it and his forest green backpack. The handle of his baseball bat peeked out from the bag.

“Morning,” he greeted as he walked over with the box in his arms. “I thought we could use some food before we start.” His hazel eyes looked straight at London as he spoke, making it very obvious whom he was referring to. “I recall some people saying they aren’t breakfast people.”

"Hey, Kindle." Matt greeted when the last member of their ragtag search and rescue team finally arrived. Before Matt could say anything else, Joseff had already trotted to the boy's side. The dog was sniffing the boy's pockets.

"Breakfast, that's a good idea." Matt looked at the dejected faces around him. They could all use a pick me up. "Joseff, sorry. No human food for you, buddy. Anyway, Kindle, now that you're here, you guys can get ready for the forest. I'm sorry I can't come. If I didn't have this stupid cast on, I'd be with you guys in a heartbeat. I'd slow you down."

“Take it easy,” Kindall reassured Matt while glaring at the enthusiastic dog clawing at his pocket. He didn’t like how patches of drool were already dotting his well-pressed jeans. “Maybe we can move to those benches there. Get comfortable and discuss things.”

Trying to be as gentle as possible, he nudged the dog aside with his sneaker. A pitiful whimper came from the chubby Inu, causing Milton sigh in annoyance. Matt’s dog better be as good at finding Kelsey as he was at finding extra treats. “Jo, I bet Matt fed you plenty this morning. You know you need to shed some pounds. These biscuits are for later.”

Matt almost laughed when he saw how disappointed Joseff looked, but they had more pressing matters to attend to. That, and he needed to tell them about the day he'd broken his leg. Something wasn't right in those woods.

"Sure, you guys go ahead and eat. I need to tell you something before you go."

The group made their way the bench and after everyone was seated. Matt sat down and moved his crutches to the side.

“Works. A more detailed version please. I mean you have been repeating yourself half a dozen times in our chat group .... buuuut you can tell us something new.” Milton was half serious and half joking but Matt’s expression said the opposite. Kindall knew he was treading on thin ice, so he did his best to salvage the situation. “H-hey, I am serious! A recap would be good. Doubt everyone got the full story with so many people talking in the group.”

With Matt placated and talking once more, Kindall opened the box and began handing out the food. He passed Marten her favourite blueberry scone and hazelnut latte. For London, he got a can of Monster, a bagel and a small tub of hummus. Ethan got two of his favourite breakfast burritos and a choice between coffee or orange juice. Jace and Anastasia were offered a choice between taking donuts from the Dunkin Donut box or sandwiches from the deli. Their drink choices were the same as Ethan’s.

“Sorry I didn’t call to check,” Milton explained as he set the box of donuts in front of the last two and three wrapped sandwiches. “Was rushing so I bought what I remembered seeing you eat.”

He helped himself to one of the sandwiches, a ham and cheddar, and a takeaway cup labelled tea. “Hey, Matt,” Kindall shouted from the Jace and Ana’s end of the table. “Want anything?”

He eyed the food Kindle brought for everyone and shook his head. Knowing that more people would be leaving for the woods this morning made Matt lose his appetite. "I'm good. I'll have something to eat later." His eyes flitted to Kindle. "Did you really stop by Kelsey's house like you said you would?"

A teasing remark coated with his usual sarcasm sat on the tip of his tongue but Milton didn’t want to goad Matt too much. The guy was clearly cracking under the guilt. “Yeah. Talked to her folks too,” he replied. “Had to reassure them we will leave White Woods by 6 pm before they let me take one of her scarves.”

Turning to the rest, he filled them in on what transpired between him, Matt and Ethan in the wee hours of the morning. “We were talking last night and planned to do our own search if the police came back empty handed in the morning. Well, here we are.” He swept his hand round to indicate the group sitting at the table. “And Joseff here will be our guide. He will help us pick up Kelsey’s scent ... in theory at least.”

“Bark, bark!” Joseff interrupted with hearty enthusiasm. He didn’t know why the humans were mentioning his name but he knew there were biscuits for him. He wagged his tail before rolling over on the ground. Maybe being cute would win him some biscuits. “Bark, bark!”

“Riiiiiiiiight,” Kindall responded clearly unimpressed by the furball’s attempts to weasel away some biscuits. “Yeah, but we don’t have anything of Kelsey’s. Not since Matt gave the beanie to the police. So, I went to her place to grab something.”

Again, he was interrupted by a small whine. The Inu lay flat on the ground and wormed his way towards Matt. “Uuu, uuu, uuuu...” His efforts earned him affectionate scratching behind the ears but no biscuits.

Milton raised an eyebrow. When did Jo learn to be so crafty? He wondered while resolving not to give in. The pooch was a few pounds away from a heart attack and he had no intention of sending Jo to an earlier grave. “Matt, back to you.”

Matt placed a hand on Joseff's head and nodded. "He'll do his best." He wasn't sure it would do the rest much good, but it was the only thing he could do to aid them and help find Kelsey. "Anyway, the day I fell, I saw something." He'd never been superstitious, but it was starting to get to him. "And the day I lost Joseff, Kelsey told me she'd seen something as well."

He brought a hand to his neck and sighed. "I don't know. Ever since we were kids, we've been hearing all about how the White Woods are cursed and yadda yadda. I always thought it was a story adults told keeps to keep kids in line, you know? But these days I'm not so sure. I mean, Kelsey's been missing for 10 days now. Call me crazy, but what do you guys think? Do you think there might have been some foul play involved? Maybe an accident, or do you think Kelsey's monster finally got to her?" He shuddered at the darkening possibilities. "Promise me you guys will be careful out there, alright?"
 
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Cartoonicat

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Fantasy, Scifi, Action, Romance, LGBT, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal. I'm sure there are more, I'm just too lazy to look everything up.
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Talking was overrated. So, when Matt addressed London, she simply gave a nod of her head. There were only three of them there, yet she still felt so awkward - even if Ethan was only a few footsteps away. Perhaps she-... A head rested on her shoulder, a mop of familiar green hair appearing in her peripheral. Marten. London loosened her grip on the coffee container, something she hadn't realized she'd been doing until the nerves nearly washed away. She'd been so consumed by her thoughts she hadn't even heard Marten approach.

"Mhm," London passed the coffee cup to her friend. Waited as she drank her fill before taking the cup back. Both Ethan and Marten were there now, and Kindall would surely be on his way soon. Things were looking up.

And then they were looking down. At the sound of a car door shutting, London glanced over her shoulder and spotted Ana. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. She gulped, whipping her head forward again quickly. Ana was always trying to spook her with those pet snakes of hers, and the girl in general was just really outgoing. It put London on edge whenever she was near. Perhaps if she just stayed quiet Ana wouldn't notice she was there. Blend into the non-existent shadow of the morning, hide among the chaos of trying to find Kelsey. Unconsciously, her shoulders rolled forward into a slight hunch.

A familiar voice - one London couldn't quite put a face to, for some reason - caught her attention. A stranger? Ugh. She ignored them until they said something about 'coffee buddy' which London responded to instinctively. Both brows raised, she turned her head towards Ana and the voice. Oh! That really tall coffee guy, Jace. He was here? Right, we talked about this. He knows Kelsey, too. She observed how he rested an arm on Ana's head, realizing then that her cover'd been blown the second he'd drawn attention to her. Ah, well, Marten wouldn't let Ana spook her. ...Would she? No, I don't think so. London gave Jace a quick, sheepish smile before looking away.

Just in time, too, because Kindall's Honda pulled into the parking lot and found a spot next to Ana's car. London watched as he made his way over to the group, carrying a box with the Walmart logo on it. Curious, London quirked a brow. Breakfast? When Kindall called her out she stared back at him. Brought her coffee to her lips, and took a deliberately long gulp without breaking eye contact.

She really wasn't a breakfast person, but London did appreciate him taking the time and effort to pick up food for everyone. Especially when she hadn't eaten since-...

Oh gosh, I missed dinner. She'd been too caught up working on her cosplay costume and then researching stuff for the search party to actually grab the plate from the microwave her mom had left. Hopefully it hadn't attracted ants. Ew. That explained the low rumbling of her stomach, though. Coffee had done well enough to quiet it this morning but after the smell of food wafted into the air, London could feel the hunger pains resurfacing.

Gratefully, London took the bagel, hummus, and Monster. Caffeine! He's a god-send. Still working on the last few dregs of her coffee, London opted to stuff the Monster can in the spare bottle net of her backpack. She had brought eight cans of coffee and had already downed a coffee on the way to the B&B, but one could never have too much caffeine. (They totally could, but London refused to acknowledge the adverse health affects of caffeine and lack of sleep on the body.) Followed the group to the benches. Offered Kindall an appreciative smile before opening the hummus tub and scooping up an overly-generous helping with the side of her bagel. Ate in silence, listening and watching the group chit chat and talk about Kelsey. Purposely ignored Joseff when he came wandering around her ankles, looking for a bite of bagel. If she looked at him she knew she'd cave, and he wasn't her dog to feed.

When they started talking about Whittle Grove and what might have happened to Kelsey, the hummus seemed to lose some of its flavor. London frowned, chewing. She'd spent nearly all night looking through accumulated research she, Marten, and Kelsey had shared over the past year only to not find anything they'd overlooked. Like Kelsey had, London felt there was something in the woods. Most likely something not human - though that could be her self-proclaimed title of 'cryptozoologist' speaking. She knew she was biased but, really, London just felt it in her bones.

She didn't say anything, though. What was there to say? Whether it actually be some mythological creature from Hell or your average serial killer, neither option would make anyone less antsy. Already she could feel the jitters starting; an effect from exhaustion, caffeine, and the apprehension of entering the woods.
 
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Haru Nyan

Bear Hunter
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Minutes passed and flew over the heads of him and Matt, the silence was maddening...Things were awkward enough as it were, and even Joseff, cute as he were, didn't exactly make things any better. The wind howled and the leaves rustled as they did, it all felt so chilling and Ethan could only sit there and wait as everyone who was summoned appeared one by one. London was the first, he chuckled a bit, looks like she got her morning fix, that's for sure. Lazily, he waved the dark-haired girl over. "'Hey' yourself, what did you spend twelve hours on this time?" His lips pursed into a grin. It was October so he had to guess it had something do with creating a costume...or playing another horror game late at night. Marten was next, her appearance did lift Ethan's spirits somewhat, and hopefully so did the rest of the group's. Perhaps she could share some of that spunk and enthusiasm with everyone.

Over in the corner of his eye, he saw a familiar car...the vehicle could've only belonged to Ana. "Woah, let's not jinx it!" He replied, hoping the witty banter would take the looming dread elsewhere. Jace came not long after, and seeing everyone here gathered like this during a time of crisis put a huge smile on Ethan's face, just the thought of dear 'ol friends teaming up and grouping together to save another one of their kind! Were this an RPG, a fanfare would've played and a message box would pop up, saying the party was complete.

Or so he thought, that fanfare would've have to wait and be put on hold it seemed. How could he have forgotten...
As if one cue, a car that looked like it had seen better days approached them. Ethan knew all too well that is was Kindall's. Oh joy. That was the only thing that crossed his mind, 50% honest and 50% sarcastic. His face lit up however at the mention of food. Curious as to what was in the box, the young man tried to get a peek in as to what scrumptious secrets they were oh-so hiding from his prying eyes. Soon enough, his friend had handed him two breakfast burritos, and eagerly he began to munch on the meal, wolfing it down while savoring every last bit. "Thanksh, Kindawl." Not even bothering to swallow and gulp it all down to show his appreciation.

One burrito in hand and a cup'o Joe in another, Ethan began to listen on in a mixture of fascination and worry as he began to recall the events leading up to their little group meeting. He was always a skeptic one, not one to believe all the mystery and superstitions surrounding Bellwoods Hollow unless he were to see evidence right before his very eyes. "Monster or no monster, we're not just gonna wait here and do nothing about it while our friend is...out there." The youth proclaimed, trying to sound heroic before going back to biting and eating his other breakfast burrito.

Gulping down the last few remains of his meal and finishing his drink, Ethan called out to everyone to stop for a moment before they actually do head out into the woods, parts unknown and all. He grabbed his bag and fished for something, after a while he procured two sets of walkie-talkies, all while whistling a fanfare for receiving a key item. "Thought we shouldn't go unprepared! You guys can call dibs if you want!"
 
I

Impudimp

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She took a healthy gulp of the hot brew so kindly given to her. Marten almost let out a happy moan, looking upward to the morning sky as she imagined that she could actually feel the caffeine flooding into her blood stream and perking everything up. It was so good, but it was not hers. Handing the warm cup back to her friend, she was quick to gently hug the dark-haired girl, sighing, "Thank you. You're such a wonderful person... Bringing coffee to the world."

The girl was almost content to covertly use London as a sleeping post letting the hug become something more self-serving but no less companionable; however, more people were arriving and the group was moving to a nearby table. Well, she could always post up on her elbows and upturned hands, the classic boring-lecture position. She hadn't conquered sleeping with her eyes open, but at that point she could darn well try!

Her legs had moved as her inner monologuing continued, depriving her of the chance to witness Jace and Ana's arrival thoroughly until she sat down, slouching over the tabletop. It was at that point she even noticed Kindall's presence. He brought her food even. Immediately she straightened her back. Don't be rude stupid. Say hi... It's early but you're not brain dead... Well, not completely!

"Thanks, Milton..." She shot him a shy, sleepy smile with her easy greeting sipping the latte contently with both hands, especially at the thought that he remembered her preferred flavor. The scone would wait. She'd eat it cold, but she needed her coffee as hot as possible lest her blood become sluggish in her veins and she become as arthritic as those street-performing-statue guys.

As everyone listened to Matt-- and she really tried to as well-- she sent a small wave to Jace and Ana, doing her best to meet their eyes, which was a little harder with Jace since he was quite a bit taller than her and everyone else for that matter even while sitting. She'd properly introduce herself after their "briefing", but she didn't want to derail Matt from his train of thought.

Obviously Ethan didn't have the same sentiment, but she appreciated him even so, "Exactly. We'll go get Kelsey, follow the bread crumbs back, and be back in time to catch the end of the "31 Days of Halloween" marathon." Chiming in with a confident grin, she finally took the moment to bite into her dessert/breakfast. She wasn't worried. Nope, not a bit.
 

Ashi

Cat Lady of Questionable Sanity
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Action-adventure, adult characters, alternate universe, anime, crime drama, cyberpunk, darker themes, drama, dystopia, eastern, edo, epic quest, fairy tale, fantasy, feudal, futuristic, grimdark, heian, high fantasy, low fantasy, magic, modern, modern fantasy, modern scifi, paranormal, psychological, romance, scifi, supernatural, urban fantasy.
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"Don't worry about it. I'd be here, no matter what." Jace offered a smile to Matt as best he could, since he too was shouldering some of the guilt that was clearly written on Matt's face. Kelsey was like a little sister to him; Ana, too. They'd been close like that ever since the day he met two girls. He could recall rather vividly seeing the two there at Whittle Grove, telling them that they shouldn't be there, all the while Ana got stuck in the tree she was climbing. Jace had climbed up to help her down. The rest was history.

Jace chuckled at the fond memories, turning at the sound of another vehicle. Ah, there he was, the man of the hour. It was none other than Kindall, another friend of his. They met when Kelsey invited he and Ana to a party. The two had become rather good friends in Jace's mind, better than just acquaintances or coffee buddies. Of course, anyone who brought Jace food had potential to be best friends.

"Thanks, man." He said gratefully, picking up a donut and a coffee. He followed suit to the picnic table and sat at the end, with Ana on one side and Matt on the other. Joseff was walking around, trying to appeal to them in hopes of getting a treat. Jace finished off the donut quickly and let the inu lick the glaze from his fingers; however that was all he would give him aside from a scratch behind the ears. In that time, Jace only half-listened, brought back to the present with a jolt as the monster was brought up. Jace had some theories about what it was, but more importantly...

"Um.. also, before we head out." Jace started and turned to his backpack. From it, he pulled a lighter and an evergreen shrub: sage. "My, uh, grams told me to burn this before we go in. It will protect us from whatever evil lurks in the forest." He said, feeling a little sheepish. He didn't really wait for their approval, rather taking it upon himself to light the bundle and circle the group, muttering a native prayer. Once he tucked the remainder away and donned his backpack, Jace grouped up and prepared to enter the woods.
 

Haru Nyan

Bear Hunter
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"No one calling dibs? Alright then!" With a hop in his step and the walkie-talkies in his hand, Ethan gave out the devices to those he deemed would be suitable and responsible enough to have it be placed upon their hands. Pausing for a minute and having his hand rest on his chin, the boy began to pace for a minute as his eyes darted back and forth between his friends. Approaching Milton, he gave one of the walkie-talkies in his possession to the bespectacled boy, "Let's face it, you would've killed me if I didn't give one to you, Great Detective of Bellwoods Hollow" He snickered, but there wasn't any doubt that Kindall would be an obvious choice. Up next was Marten. Handing out the transceiver to the grunette, he stifled a chuckle, telling the girl that she better not send out a distress signal all willy-nilly.

"Jace! Heads up!" he threw the penultimate walkie-talkie to the fellow, hoping he caught it in his hands. Curious as to what he circled the group earlier for and the strange evergreen herb that he had ignited earlier, Ethan couldn't help but ask Jace what it all meant. Think of it as a way to getting to know each other and all. The last walkie-talkie he saved for himself, but he informed Ana that if things get dangerous, and he hopes it won't, ownership of the device will transfer to her.

Zipping up his bag and nodding at Jace, Ana, and Joseff with a confident grin, he pumped his fist up in the air and said, "All right! Let's bring Kelsey back everyone!" He glanced at his group, not bad if he said so himself. His little party was shaping up to be quite balanced, with him as the brawn, Jace as the brain, Ana as the wild card, and Joseff as the obligatory team pet. He waved goodbye to the others, vowing to Matt that they wouldn't set foot back in Bellwoods Hollow without Kelsey...or what little left there is of her remains. And thus, he urged his group to get going and, with a little misplaced enthusiasm set his sights on the depths of the forest.

... ... ... ... It felt like hours, and there wasn't any sign or any kind of sigh to the whereabouts of Kelsey. Everywhere he looked there was nothing but the verdant canopy of the trees that felt like they stretched until the ends of the earth. They would rest and stop on their tracks every so often but his feet were starting to complain. Breaking a few twigs here and there and the sound of rustling leaves echoing, looking down on his soles, absentmindedly trudging along. Ethan shot a glance backwards to Jace and Ana, wondering if they were faring any better, and Joseff...He seemed good, for now. It was only when a familiar structure made itself welcome in Ethan's sight did his energy come back.

"Ambassador's Cave!" He proclaimed, staring on in the dark abyss of the cavern. "You guys know the story behind this one?" Not even waiting for a response, Ethan began to tell the story of the (in)famous grotto. "Supposedly...An earlier exploration party came upon the cave in search of a friend of theirs, it all ended when they found out a black bear was getting all snug and comfy inside. They say if you listen hard enough, you'll hear their wailing and lamentations."
 
F

Fox of Spades

Guest
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Time 4:15pm - Ethan, Jace, Anastasia, and Joseff

After the meeting at the parking lot came to an abrupt end, everyone decided to split up into two groups. The first group would be headed by Kindle while the second group would be headed by Ethan. The groups would scout out different parts of the White Woods, one heading to the west while the other went east. They would regroup at 5:30pm by the entrance to the forest, early enough that it would still be light out, but late enough to allow a thorough sweep of the areas Kelsey frequented.

Ethan's group decided to search the west side of the forest, but the deeper they went, the less hopeful they became. There was no sign of Kelsey, and it was a quarter past four by the time they’d reached Ambassador’s cave. Slowly, the foliage gave way to a dried up riverbed of mud and gravel. Large stones dotted the muddy ground all the way to the cave’s mouth, and the entrance was a vacuum of darkness, a gaping mouth of pitch blackness that stretched out as far as the eye could see.

Together, they made their way inside. As Ethan spoke of the explorer's grisly demise, his voice echoed, bouncing off the damp cave walls - it painted the illusion of a ghostly choir, of uncanny sounds spilling from deep within the cavern.

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As the group progressed deeper, Joseff’s ears perked up and his tail stood high in attention.

He was listening intently, staring at something the others couldn’t quite see. Joseff’s paws dug into the soft ground, his claws digging into the dirt as he tensed up in his spot. His tail went between his legs, and suddenly, the usually cheerful Shiba Inu was full on growling. Joseff let out several shrill barks before he shrunk back and dashed behind Jace for protection.

A shadowy figure was moving deeper within the caves, it looked like a dark shape that prowled on all fours.

What followed after the growls was the sound of footsteps, distinct and crisp - shoes clacking against stone.

"Ella? Ella are you out there? You win, alright? I've never been good at hide and seek." The footsteps grew louder. "Mother and father will be worried if we don't make it home in time for supper. Ella, this isn't funny anymore."

And then out of the blackness was a pair of amber eyes.

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"Castor, boy, did you find anything?"

A dog thrice Joseff's size emerged from the shadows, its lips pulled back in a snarl and its teeth glinting in the flashlight's glow.
 
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Fox of Hearts

Call me MsNoMer
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Time 4:15 - London, Marten and Milton

Team Milton went about their search much more efficiently than Team Ethan. Everyone knew when to regroup and how many steps to take in their assigned direction to maintain their triangle formation. Everything was carried out beautifully with military precision. So, by the time they reached the steep slopes of Stilton Creek, they had covered almost thrice the area the other group had. A small feat good enough to earn the girls’ a rare smile. Not a snarky word was said despite their disappointing search. Instead, Kindall gave each of them a pat on the shoulder.

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“Good job,” he told them after letting his hand linger a little longer on his favorite grunette’s shoulder. “It’s only 4:15! We can take a short ten minute break before continuing our search.” He knew firsthand that it takes approximately 30 minutes to search the whole area and that was when there was two of them. With three people, they could clear the area within 20 minutes. Maybe less given how eager his group was. “We have plenty of time coz Ethan’s supposed to cover the other side. Who knows? We may see them passing by shortly.”

Ambassador’s Cave was a stone’s throw away. A 10-minute walk tops from the opposite bank of this creek. Milton gestured for Marten and London to make themselves comfortable on the two boulders close by as he ended up cross-legged on the pebble strewn ground. He threw his hands back and stared at the light dancing across the surface of the water. Waters the same colour as the veins fissuring the surface of the creek’s cheesy namesake.

Milton gulped down the last of the water in his thermos and stood up. He stretched, thrusting both hand (and bottle) overhead. “Can’t believe I didn’t pack enough water today,” he complained. “Today ended a lot warmer than forecasted. Do you have any water to spare?”

He left the question open, hoping that the girls won’t let him down. He knew for a fact that Marten usually had lots of snacks on hand and London was far too practical to come unprepared. As he waited for their answer, he continued staring at the smooth, unbroken surface. It appeared eerily still for a such fast flowing creek. This deception invited many weary travellers to their doom long before Bellwoods even became a settlement. Such a history earned this creek the moniker “Still Waters” that referenced the old adage “still waters run deep”. A clever name, if Milton ever cared to admit it to himself, since he was willing to bet all the cash he had on hand that even Jace would struggle to keep his head above water at the very center of this creek.

This and Kelsey’s creepy tales of ghostly hands breaking out from beneath the water’s surface to drag unsuspecting people to a watery demise gave him extra incentive to avoid refilling his thermos at the creek. Yeah, the waters might be a lot cooler but he sure as heck wasn’t going to risk it. Not when she went missing suddenly. Maybe at this very spot. He shook his head mentally chiding himself for entertaining such thoughts. Ghosts, demons and the boogeyman … these were hokum! Unscientific hogwash! No one could ever conclusively prove these phenomenon existed. Roswell sounded way more believable than what Kelsey shared with them on a daily basis.

But this place …

Creeped him somehow. The trees swaying soundless. All the red, brown and golden leaves perfectly shaped as if they were paper cut outs from a factory. Each leaf quivering tantalisingly yet refusing to be swept away by the non-existent wind. The bird calls that greeted them near the entrance had faded to nothingness. This scene was the perfect tableau! Each element stiller than the last. A competition that even the blackbirds standing on the ground around them seem to be participating in.

Black birds?

Milton blinked. He could have sworn they were alone a little while ago. He blinked rapidly in an attempt to clear these “hallucinations” from his sleep deprived eyes but the birds remained. Their vacant yellow-green eyes boring into his very soul. “I don’t think the locals would like us feeding the birds,” he joked, trying not to remember anything from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. A movie he regretted watching with Kelsey two days before Joseff pulled a Houdini. “You never know when they’d become as bad as the pigeons at Bellwoods Plaza.”

One second … two second …

Kindall could literally feel his heart beating out of his chest. He did not enjoy the chill colescening in the pit of his stomach at all. Stupid Kelsey! This was completely her fault! Memories of excerpts from her crazy blog chipped away his sanity until he found himself believing that there was something predatory about these birds. These birds that kept closing in on them so slowly that it was barely noticeable.

Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the birds threw out their wings and flew up in the air. A black, flapping mass that left the college students shielding their faces with their hands or arms. They were so distracted that no one noticed something strange happening a few feet in front of them.

A large willow tree bowed towards the crystal waters. From the lowest, most resplendent branch, a dusty, old tire swing was suspended. One that had been there since anyone could remember. Just as the birds took to the air, it began moving on its own accord. The fraying ropes barely clinging onto the black wheel as it swung outwards towards the center of the creek then back towards the tree trunk.

Oddly, there was still no wind.
 
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Cartoonicat

Future Crazy Cat Person
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Having grouped with Kindall and Marten - two of her four favorite people - London found it rather easy to come out of her shell. While she was by no means a chatterbox, she didn't hesitate to exchange words, ask questions, or otherwise just interact with her teammates. Less worried about looking like an idiot in front of them, for Kindall already knew what level of a mess she was and Marten had never judged her, London was able to focus more on the task at hand: Hunting for clues.

Which, disappointingly, she did not find. In place of something useful all London found were rocks, dirt, fallen leaves and the occasional lizard that scampered across her path. Several times she yipped in surprise and shied away, only continuing her search when the critter was gone from sight. At least there weren't any cicadas or frogs about; the late October air had driven away the noisy insects and it was rather dry for frogs to be outside their bodies of water. Despite the daylight, though, London gripped her wooden katana like a lifeline.

Once they reached Stilton Creek the hyper-awareness of her surroundings dimmed. The creek was wide with no trees overhead to drop a spider or snake on her head - something London had been worried about since entering Whittle Grove - and was relatively open. Assuming nothing was hiding below the rocks underfoot, London had a good view of what was in the area. When Kindall gave her a pat on the shoulder she hardly startled, having relaxed enough to lose the tension in her shoulders. She offered him her signature, lopsided smile.

As Kindall spoke about Ethan and his party, London scanned the area with her eyes for a place to sit. They'd been walking for hours and physical exercise wasn't something London was particularly used to, so her legs had gone beyond the point of protest. A ten minute break sounded perfectly good to her.

"I wonder how Ethan's doing," she mused aloud, eyes falling on the boulder Kindall gestured to. Walking over, London spent a good half a minute thoroughly inspecting each crevice for critters that may be hiding. Jabbed the tip of her katana between earth and boulder, running it along the ground until a rather perturbed lizard skittered out from below. "Crap!" She nearly threw her sword and danced away. Fifteen more seconds and she was able to settle enough to step over and sit atop the boulder, content with the knowledge she'd run everything off beforehand even if the lizard had scared her.

Dropping her backpack into her lap, London fished out the large water bottle from the netted side as well as a pack of trail mix. There was still an abundance of coffee in her backpack - all hers unless someone wanted one. Selfishly, London hoped they wouldn't ask for it; Mom was getting increasingly irritated at being woken up in the middle of the night to London making coffee. If she had cans, Mom would get off her case.

"I've only got half a bottle left," she said, holding up the container and tilting it to gauge the water level. London frowned. I probably should have brought more water than coffee. Despite the heat, London had never been good at hydrating on anything that was remotely good for her body. Luckily she didn't feel dizzy or anything, even with the double intake of caffeine from her morning coffee and the Monster Kindall had gotten her. Ripping open the package of trail mix, London pulled out a handful and shoved the treats in her mouth, chewing. Covered her mouth with a cheese-dusted hand. "If 'ou want 'ou 'an dwink mine," she offered Kindall her water bottle, though whether or not he wanted to drink after her was up for debate. As squeamish as she was, London grew up in a close-knit family with just her and her mom. The two were more like siblings than mother and daughter; they shared everything, including drinks, and so London was used to it. Swallowing and wiping her mouth, London looked to Marten. "Unless Marten's got extra?"

She continued munching on her trail mix, relishing in the extra energy it gave her. It was nothing like the buzz she got from coffee, but it was just as sweet in its own way. The natural, non-artificial way. Holding the bag up to her lips and tapping the back end to get the remaining crumbs, only when London lowered it did she notice they were not alone. Several black birds had congregated around them, staring holes with their beady yellow eyes. Instinctively, London brought her feet atop the boulder, away from the ground. Useless against flying creatures, she knew, but London was too creeped out to care.

Where did these things come from?

"Uh..." Looking around, London noted the stillness of the air and roaring silence. She glanced towards the creek, suddenly expecting some sort of mythological water demon to crawl out and drag them down deep. A bunyip, maybe. The thought made her skin crawl. If she remembered correctly, research said they tended to prefer women. Well, there were two women in the group; Marten and herself. Better stay far away from the creek...

In a flurry the birds took to the air, breaking the quiet of the creek and replacing it with the thunderous sound of flapping wings. London yelped and covered her head with her arms. They were gone quickly, though, and she peaked up at the sky cautiously. Getting her eyes pecked out by birds was not on her bucket list, thank you very much, no matter how cool The Birds movie had been.

And then the tire swing moved, seemingly on its own. A chill crawled up her spine. She swallowed, the trail mix aftertaste a dull conglomerate of spice and cheese. Slowly, London put her backpack on and wrapped her hand around the wooden katana. Just in case.

"...I'm getting some major Alfred Hitchcock vibes, guys."
 
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IceQueen

The Ball Python Queen
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As soon as Jace arrived Anastasia felt his arm rest against her head. Glancing up she grinned widely, ignoring the pang of guilt that plagued her. Even though her smile was bright she felt awful. Ana grasped a doughnut from the box in hopes to find that it would cheer her up.

Jace, Kelsey, and she had been friends for forever. Ever since Jace had rescued her from a tree, since Kelsey had dared her to go up, they had been friends. Ana couldn't imagine what her friend was feeling, lost out in the woods. Kelsey was always adventurous like she was, but it was difficult to pinpoint how she would have reacted in the woods. Ana pursed her lips together.

Shouldering her backpack, Ana tried to put on a brave smile as they began to walk towards the forest. Her group was with Jace, Ethan, and Joseff. Ana kept close to Jace and Joseff as they arrived at a cave. As Ethan tried to invoke fear out of the group Ana couldn't help but snort.

"Since when have we seen any one of these legend be true Ethan." She laughed, looking at him and wandering into the cave. Anastasia pulled out a flashlight from her bag as they started to go deeper, hoping that she wouldn't run into anything too scary during their trip. It was highly unlikely anything would happen, right?

Anastasia seemed to be the first to notice some voices. She paused, blindly whacking at the closest member of her group to get their attention. "Guyyyys...." She said, starting to become more worried as another sound grew closer. Growling. Pointing her flashlight towards the noise Ana saw a clearly unhappy and snarling dog.

"Anyone happen to bring some of Joseff's dog treats?" She asked quietly, trying to stay still.
 
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Ashi

Cat Lady of Questionable Sanity
FOLKLORE MEMBER
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  5. Slow As Molasses
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  3. Adaptable
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  2. Primarily Prefer Female
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Action-adventure, adult characters, alternate universe, anime, crime drama, cyberpunk, darker themes, drama, dystopia, eastern, edo, epic quest, fairy tale, fantasy, feudal, futuristic, grimdark, heian, high fantasy, low fantasy, magic, modern, modern fantasy, modern scifi, paranormal, psychological, romance, scifi, supernatural, urban fantasy.
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Jace looked up as the walkie-talkie sailed towards him overhead, barely reaching up in time to catch it. He grinned a boyish grin and attached it to the belt around his waist. It was semi-hidden by his shirt and jacket, but in a good spot that he could grab it quickly and easily if the need arose. He hoped it wouldn't. Similarly, he kept his knife on his belt, so he wouldn't have to fish it out of his bag if he should need it. It was a multitool as well as a knife, practical for the occasion. Gathering with Ethan, Ana, and Joseff, Jace prepared to head into the woods. His preparation was more mental than anything else.

"It's sage. It's to protect us.. from the woods.." Jace was a little anxious about even answering Ethan's question. It wasn't so much that he was self-conscious, but that he feared giving the evil in the woods any power by acknowledging it. Jace wasn't too talkative as they walked through the woods. His attention was on anything and everything but conversation, like examining a pair of footprints left in the dirt and trying to determine how old they were - whether or not they might belong to Kelsey.

Every now and again, Jace would ask the others if they were alright and offer a piece of jerky. He gave a piece to Jo once, as protein was important on hikes and even dogs needed their energy. For a while, it seemed that Ethan was starting to lose steam; however, he caught his second wind as they approached Ambassador's Cave. Jace raised a dark brow at the story Ethan told and entered with caution. His imagination ran wild, projecting visions of creatures and creeping shadows onto the jagged walls of the cavern. For a moment, he thought he could even hear them whispering to him.

"Jo, stay close." He told the dog in a low voice. The Shiba's ears and tail then perked up and after a moment of silence, there came a sound. What was that? Ana seemed to hear it too, as she whacked him, worry in her voice. Jace squinted, unsure of whether he actually saw the shadowy figure that was coming towards them or not. Joseff barked and scrambled to hide behind Jace.

"Ana.." Jace waved her behind him, determined to protect her no matter what. He wasn't worried about Ethan; he looked like he could hold his own. Hand poised over his knife, Jace steeled himself for conflict. Then out of the shadows came.. a doberman? "An angry doberman." He told himself and reached around to his pack to grab a piece of jerky. "Hey, buddy..." Jace spoke calmly and slowly tossed the jerky to the canine.

"Good boy..." Jace was sure of the voice now, as he'd heard it call out a name. Was it by chance the dog's name? "Ah.. Hello? Is, uh, is this your dog?" He called, his voice echoing into the recesses of the cave.
 
I

Impudimp

Guest
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Her back was going to get tired soon. It was obviously because it was in no way ergonomically correct to be carrying her backpack on her front while hiking, but she was being cautious. There was a major, bad juju feeling surrounding Whittle Grove that radiated far out into the town of Bellwoods. It was no wonder that once one was actually in the copse of trees that that feeling became downright oppressive. Therefore Marten was inclined to keep her friends close and her potentially lifesaving food stuffs closer.

Every so often her green eyes would take note of their position by way of strange feature recognition. An irregularly growing tree here, a mushroom there, some lichen growing on the North face of a tree. Anything that would act as mental breadcrumbs. She worried that even with the upbeat nature of their search party that... Come dusk it would be harder to find their way back. Call it paranoia but she hadn't watched an obscene amount of horror films with Kelsey for no reason.

Even with all her amateur cartography, the creek was definitely new territory. The ground wasn't even particularly moist too far past the banks of the flowing waters. It wasn't humid. What the heck?! She noted its position in her mental map, but why was everything so weird in this forest? Because you're overreacting. Obviously this is a regular quiet forest, next to a regular quiet town! Not! Sighing the green headed girl, would nod her thanks to the fearless leader of the group before taking a seat on the offered boulder.

Good job, yea sure. She'd feel accomplished when they were all eating candy corn and watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Until then she'd do her best not to be a nervous wreck, outwardly. Turning to Kindall with a smile, she'd reach into her bag and rummage, pulling out one of her full bottles before tossing it his way saying, "Head's up. We can't have you getting dehydrated. Who'd boss us around then?" Laughing gently, she leaned to pick up a flat enough stone, rubbing it between her fingers idly.

She wanted to skip it on the still water. It'd probably make a good distance, considering the flow wasn't choppy. With a flick of her wrist, she did just that only to fall back onto her butt with a yelp as bird's blinded her sight for a moment. "Ah!" Were they migrating or something? The first thing they saw in this annoyingly quiet forest had to be some temperamental fowl! Great.

She hadn't even been able to count how far her rock had skipped. And the ripples on the water had settled by the time she laid her eyes back on it, "Dang. Anyone else count?" She smiled wearily, peering at her comrades and noting that both of them were as spooked as she was by the birds, "Guess not." She answered her own question. And worse than talking to herself was the quiet that resettled like a blanket over everything just as the birds took flight. Ugh.

"There are some vibes alright?" As she replied to London, motion in her periphery made her eyes pinpoint a previously unnoticed decrepit tire swing. Narrowing her gaze toward it, she waited to see if the thing really had moved with apprehension and elevating adrenaline. She really hated woods right now.
 
F

Fox of Spades

Guest
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The doberman continued to snarl at the humans, his teeth bared and ready to bite. He snapped angrily at Jace, and his threatening growls caused the smaller Shiba Inu to disappear behind Ethan. The resident milk man stood farther back, and it gave Joseff a sense of safety. From behind Ethan, he let out a few barks of his own - none as threatening as Castor's.

"Down, boy." Out from the shadows, another figure emerged. This time, it was a handsome young man who looked around 17 - 19 at most. He was in a freshly pressed dress shirt, dark pants, and a pair of oxfords. However, despite his rather formal attire, his dark locks were a tangled mess, sweat beaded his brow, and his flashlight sputtered every now and then, dying only to jolt back to life after a particularly forceful shake. "I'm sorry about, Castor. We don't get much visitors out here, and he's not the friendliest dog." His eyes flitted from the group to the doberman. "Sit, boy."

Castor let out a whine, but he got down to his haunches on the cave floor.

"Good boy. Hah, not my dog. I'm more of a bird person, they're easier to take care of." Realizing he was going off on a tangent, he stopped himself. "He does belong to my sister, her name is Ella. I'm looking for her."

The young man looked somewhat ruffled and out of sorts, as if this whole exploration through the dark cave had left him drained. "Sorry, where are my manners. Salem Hayes, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My little sister Ella ran off this morning and I've been searching for her ever since. She loves to play hide and seek, unfortunately, I'm no good at her games. You three wouldn't have happened to see her? She's eight years old and around this tall." He brought his hand a little over his waist. "I need to bring her back before supper. It looks like it's going to rain soon." Salem took a few steps forward until he was standing by Castor's side. Gingerly, he ran a hand over the dog's head. "What are you three doing here? Ambassador's Cave isn't exactly a tourist spot. Unless you count the morbid folks who come here to look for bears and tell ghost stories."
 
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Haru Nyan

Bear Hunter
LURKER MEMBER
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. One post per day
  2. 1-3 posts per week
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Modern, Fantasy, Slice of Life, and Romance is A-OK! Also, I'm Furry trash, so...
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Ethan looked at the dapper teen from head to toe, trying to calm himself down from the initial shock of the events that had transpired a moment ago. He looked...fancy, that was for sure. It was as if he just got back from church with his Sunday best, with that suit, was he planning on going to dinner or anything? The tall man set down his back pack for a moment, unzipping it and grasping at contents unseen, before producing, with a comical sound effect, a carton of strawberry milk and handing it out to the young boy. "You thirsty, little man? Take it, and don't even think of denying it." With a click of his tongue, a charming wink, and a small thumbs up. He gave the boy who introduced himself as Salem a light pat on the back, he practically knew nothing about the child but offering him something to drink might help calm his nerves underneath that poker-faced exterior of his. "Hope ya like Strawberry, Sal! You can never go wrong with strawberry milk after all."

Perhaps getting too close for comfort, he glanced back at Jace and Ana, who are probably either confused or scared, maybe aeven disappointed. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Ethan began to explain to the sharply-dressed boy that they were on a hunt to find their missing friend; Kelsey. As if on cue, it was like a light bulb flashed atop Ethan's head complete with a DING! sound effect to accompany it, "Say, you wouldn't happen to have seen anyone that might've fit her description, would you, Sal?" It was in that moment that another Eureka! moment was hatched in Ethan's none-too-bright brain, he began to offer Salem a proposition, but not without consulting his party members first that is.

"How about we strike a deal, Sal? We'll help you look for Ella, and in turn, you tell us if either of you have seen Kels, sound fair?" He grinned from ear to ear, eagerly awaiting the response of the boy, and exchanging glances with Jace, Ana, and Joseff.
 
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