Chapter 1

First day at Camp Locke.

I didn't want to come to this camp in the first place, but isn't that how all stories start? Parents pushing their kids for a new opportunity to meet to friends, try new things, blah, blah, blah… This camp just opened an opportunity for more mosquito bites.

I had to wake up at six this morning, just so we could get down here by eight. I put on my clothes, added some last-minute necessities to my bag, (e.g. this journal) and started downstairs for breakfast and one more attempt at an argument.

"If you let me stay home, I'll do yard work for the rest of the summer," I offered. This was the fourth offer of the same sort, including keeping my room clean and staying off the computer. I was desperate.

"Honey, you need to get out more," mom started. She was making toast and eggs. "If I don't make you go to this camp, then you'll just mope around all summer."

"I don't know if I can stand being around three-hundred other girls for five weeks," I mumbled.

"If you die, I promise I'll never make you go to another camp again," mom smiled. This was her idea of a joke. I groaned and stood up without eating any of my breakfast.

"I'm not hungry anymore," I said and walked back upstairs.

An hour later, mom called me down. It was time to leave. And there was no way I was getting out of this one. By the time we had reached the entrance gates to Camp Locke, I had given up any hope of my mom turning the car around.

"Look," I said. "They have giant metal gates guarding the front entrance. That looks more like a prison than a camp!"

"Oh please, Connie." Mom rolled her eyes. I hate it when she does that, especially when I'm being serious and she thinks I am trying to get on her nerves. She just doesn't understand—I don't try to get on her nerves!

"I'm going to die here," I said softly. The gates had opened up and let us in and now I saw that there was a ten-foot high concrete wall surrounding the entire camp. There were several other metal gates in various places along the wall, marked with signs that said things like 'Archery and BB Guns' and 'Horse-Back Riding.'

"See," said mom. "It's just like a regular camp, except with extra protection."

"More like prevention of anyone leaving," I said.

Mom sighed. We turned into the camp parking lot, mom parked the car, and then we went to the gym where they were doing registration.

"Connie Richards?" The lady behind the table scanned the sheet in front of her. "Ah yes, here you are. Cabin 65. Your councilors will be…Summer and Swift Creek. You can take your bags up that road—" (she pointed) "—and it will lead you directly to your cabin."

We had to walk now, and carry my bags with us. Lucky me—my cabin was the farthest away from everything except the creek. It was closest to the creek.

The cabins were fair size with little front porches and fifteen bunks inside. There were five sets of three bunks in the cabin; I chose the top one in the back. From there, I had a good view of everything in the entire cabin. I liked to be able to see everything—it made me feel secure. Nothing could trick me from where I stood. (Rather, from where I lay. I was so close to the ceiling I couldn't stand up.)

After hoisting my bags onto my highly placed bed, it was time for mom to leave. I must say, it was almost a tearful departure. Well, almost anyhow. She hugged me and told me to be careful and have fun. I told her that I loved her (I also may have added something about never seeing her again because I was going to die in this place—just to give her something to think about while I was gone) and that I would miss her. And then she was gone, out the door, down the road, to her car where I watched until she disappeared through the gates and, with my mind, I was pleading her to come back.

Later that day, I met Summer and Swift Creek. If you haven't already guessed, those aren't their real names. They have to think of a 'camp name' and their real names aren't to be used while they're here.

Summer's appearance almost directly degraded her name in the most palpable of elegiac means. In other words, calling Summer by her name is an obvious lie in any poetic way. Summer is supposed to be warm and sunny, and a time of freedom. So, naturally, you would expect a fair-skinned blonde with a warm personality and a movie-star smile. If you had chosen Summer's name by referring to her appearance, she would have been called 'Catacomb' or 'Thorn Bush,' or, perhaps, 'Haunted Mansion.' She was short and squat, her hair was cut short and close to her head on the sides and was the color of oil. Her skin was pale and pasty, her cheekbones stuck out enormously, giving her face a skeletal look, and her lips were flesh-colored and thin. Her eyes were colorless—black voids through which shone only cruelty, pain, and spite.

Swift Creek was another story. She was difficult to figure out—a life behind a curtain tightly drawn. Her hair was the color of dead grass and a group of minute, brown freckles played across her nose. Her eyes were green, but the lids were almost always sagging giving her a permanently bored look. She had large ears and was tall and gangly with a gaunt face and a pointed nose. She almost resembled a tired-looking mouse, minus a tail and whiskers. Whenever she spoke, which was rare, she let out small hissing noises with her words, as though she had a speaking-impediment but it wasn't hard to understand. It seemed to me that Swift Creek didn't really want to be here, and I wondered why she was here at all. Maybe her mother had forced her, too.

Over all, I would've much preferred to stay home than to be locked in a cabin with either of these women. When I met them, Summer let out a grunt of welcome and Swift Creek nodded and said, "Hi sss…"

Well, it was too late to leave by then. I was stuck there—stuck there for five long weeks. And I could hardly wait to meet the rest of my cabin.

Well, we're all here now. It's 'lights out' in ten minutes, so I'll have to write fast.

Overall, the dinner wasn't that bad. Count out the gritty mashed potatoes and greasy chicken breast, and I'd say the rest was pretty good. I've had better salads in my day, of course, but you can't have everything. The people I liked the most were probably Mattie and Yasmin and only one person really stuck out.

Elise Charmin- charming, of course. Long blonde hair, white smile, totally fake personality.

Katherine Matthews- very, very, very shy, red hair and glasses, brought about 500 books.

Quincy McDonald- blonde curly hair that's mostly in pig tails, giggly and girly, loves the color pink, very immature, talks about boys 24/7. Oh please.

Olivia Peterson- Asian, loud, annoying, always doing something, and ALWAYS talking.

Bailey Munch- fake blonde hair, brags a lot about her movie-star father and model mother and mansion and horses and blah, blah, blah. Everyone's already sick of her.

Mo Schwartz- boy hair cut, wishes she was a boy, all guy clothes, loves hunting, fishing, and football, hates shopping, hates girls, hates her nails, (she bites them) is looking for an inexpensive sex-change. (just kidding)

Mattie Harmony- brown hair, blue eyes, sweet and serene, kind of quiet but answers questions nicely. She was the first one to say hi to me and she keeps up a good conversation too.

Zoë Cornstalk- very pale hair-almost white, huge green eyes, listens to everything her sister says, does everything her sister tells her to do. No life.

Chloe Cornstalk- identical to her twin sister, very bossy and controlling, tells her sister to do stuff like she's a dog. Not going to get along with this one, I can tell.

Yasmin de Fraught- professional model, Indian girl with long, wavy brown hair and big, brown eyes. Very mature and sensible, not at all a snoot.

Lilly DeMeyers- really frizzy brown hair, thick glasses, very soulful, loves poetry and worships 'Most Nature.' Oh dear.

Paige Elton- this girl is very angry. I think she's had a hard life. She really doesn't want to be here, (which she doesn't make an effort to hide) takes her anger out on anyone who gets in her way, and is very sarcastic. If you insult her, she gives you this look, like, "I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to run away. I'm going to stand right here." Sometimes, I don't think she'll ever let anyone in.

As I said before, Yasmin and Mattie were the easiest to talk to. Mattie was next to me at dinner, while Yasmin was across from us. She told us about her modeling job in Australia (including a rather graphic story about some violent ostriches) and how she got to fly over the Great Barrier Reef. Then, Mattie taught us both how to tie the Triple Lie (a knot her grandpa had invented—he's a sea captain. She said it's basically the Devil's Tongue three times) using her shoelaces. Finally, when Yasmin and I had both mastered the knot, they both looked at me.

"So, what story do you have to tell?" Mattie asked.

"What?" I asked. A story—I didn't have any stories. What was I going to say?

"A story," said Yasmin. "Mattie and I both told you about something in our lives, now it's your turn."

"I don't have a life," I said quickly. They looked at me quizzically. "I mean—I don't have anything exciting or interesting in my life. It's really boring, being me."

Yasmin dropped her gaze, but Mattie crossed her arms. "I except to hear something interesting before the end of camp," she said.

"I'll try and think of something," I promised grudgingly.

What am I going to do? I have nothing to tell about that they'd be interested in! I don't fly to exotic places or have interesting relatives…I don't have a life. (I was actually thinking of telling them about the time when my Uncle Henry dropped my birthday cake on the table and caught the tablecloth on fire, but I didn't think they would find that very amusing.) I didn't know what I was going to tell Mattie—maybe she would forget.

I hope she forgets.

Okay, lights out time. Goodnight mom. Goodnight Mattie. Goodnight Yasmin. Goodnight world. Goodnight miserable life.

Goodnight dad.

Ugh. We had to wake up at six today to go down to breakfast. Whichever cabin that's there first gets to eat first, but we weren't even close. We might've gotten there on time, but Elise and Bailey were taking about five-million hours to put on make-up. Oh please.

Breakfast was hash browns, burnt bacon, and slippery scrambled eggs. Bailey made a big show out of not eating anything, saying this stuff would ruin her complexion, (which is most likely true) and threatening that if she didn't get better food she would call her mom to pick her up and if her mom didn't pick her up then she would starve herself. Believe me, she went on and on. By the time breakfast was finished, everyone in our cabin was avoiding her and we all had headaches.

Yasmin, Mattie, and I spent most of our free time in the gym playing shuffleboard. (Yasmin said that was an 'old person's' game. Then she kicked both our butts at it.) That part of the day was okay, we just walked around, eating ice cream and sipping cold sodas, and still, Mattie begged me for a story.

"Um," I said for the fifth time. "There's really nothing to tell, guys."

"We'll help you think," Mattie said persistently. "Okay, uh. . . has anyone ever run from the altar in your family?"

"What?"

"You know—they're about to get married and decide not to at the last minute."

"Oh—um, no."

"Oh. Okay."

We were nearing the gate for "BB Guns and Archery" now. Something that I saw there made me stop dead in my tracks.

"What the heck is that?" I said in a low voice, pointing towards the gate. Yasmin and Mattie both followed my finger to a point where their mouths both fell open.

"That's an armed guard," Mattie said, her voice shaking a little.

It was true. A man stood near the gate and he was holding a gun. A real gun. You've got to understand, I haven't seen many guns in my time. When my father was alive he kept a gun locked in his desk drawer, but my mom threw it away after my father was shot.

"Turn around," Yasmin whispered urgently. "Let's just walk the other way. It's not like he'll follow us if we don't try to get through that gate. Come on, just—"

"Will everyone please make their way to the gym!" A voice came over the speakers that were in every corner of every building. "Will everyone please make their way to the gym, please!"

We couldn't have made it to the gym any faster, they way we were running.