"It's too bad that Pierce and Shirley couldn't come," Annie said as she unbuckled her seatbelt. "It just won't be the same without them."
Jeff rolled his eyes and briefly glanced askance at her. "Really? You're going to miss Pierce's special brand of humor?"
Annie shrugged. "His jokes aren't so bad..."
"Oh, sure. Hilarious," Jeff snorted. He opened his door and stepped out. "Why did we have to go camping anyway?"
"We'll have to ask Britta, if we can find her."
She gazed around the campsite's crowded parking lot, searching for Britta's beat-up sedan.
After five or so minutes of waiting, Jeff sighed and looked at his watch. "You know, we should really just start looking for them."
"You don't think that they've gotten lost, do you?" Annie asked, her blue eyes shining with worry.
"Of course they got lost," the former lawyer said, laughing.
The brunette looked at him with disapproval, but she agreed to the search.
It took twenty minutes of walking around the absurdly large area, but Annie finally caught sight of a confused-looking Britta, Troy and Abed. "I see them!"
Annie raced across the lot towards the trio, Jeff sauntering behind her.
* * * * * * * * * *
PART 2: THE PORTENT
"Britta, how could you have gotten lost? You were right behind us!" Annie exclaimed in disbelief.
"These two idiots kept distracting me the entire time!" Irritated, the blonde smacked Abed with her backpack. Troy immediately came to his friend's defense:
"Hey, you were the one who wanted to play '20 Questions'."
Abed hummed his agreement. "It's not our fault that you didn't know what a Snarling Lion is."
Britta huffed angrily. "I said that I gave up. There was no need to keep badgering me for the entire trip! You made me miss the exit!"
"Okay, then," Jeff said, hoping to diffuse the tension. "...where exactly is this place?"
It turned out that their campsite was actually in the middle of a private island out in the center of the nearby lake. Britta had won some dumb contest she found on-line (which apparently involved writing an essay describing herself and her closest friends), and the prize was a week-long stay on the "beautifully forested" Cunningham Island. Jeff had been imagining a tranquil place with gorgeous scenery.
That wasn't what he saw.
"That's Cunningham Island?" He tried desperately to keep the disappointment out of his voice, but he didn't do a very good job.
"It looks like a nuclear wasteland," Abed said.
He was right: The island was full of trees, all right, but they were all bare and ugly and, even from this distance, the five friends could tell that they all looked dead.
"Come on, guys, it's an adventure!" Britta looked at Troy, silently pleading for him to speak up.
"Uh...Yeah! It'll be like Castaway!" Troy smiled at Britta brightly. When she looked away from him, however, his smile faded. "...If Tom Hanks was trapped on the grossest island ever," he muttered.
Annie sighed. "Well, we've got our stuff, so we should find a way to get there."
"Do you folks need a lift?" The group jumped as a withered old woman waddled past, glaring at them from underneath a protruding brow. "I take it yer going to the island?"
Annie was the first to regain her composure. She walked up to the stranger. "Yes, ma'am. Do you know of any, I don't know, ferrys or something?"
The woman stopped and pointed at a small shack nearby. "Mr. Kimble rents out canoes. He'll help you get across."
"Thank you," Annie said, smiling brightly while feeling slightly nervous under the hag's gaze.
The woman looked the five friends over. "You youngsters have heard about what's happened over at that island, right?"
Abed, who had been scrutinizing the woman, suddenly perked up. "What's happened?"
The stranger chuckled darkly. "Five years ago, there was a killin'. Seven campers, all dead. Some say that they were torn to pieces. Blood everywhere." She seemed to relish the thought. "The authorities don't know who or what did it. They never found out."
Troy and Abed inched closer to each other. Abed spoke again. "Has anything happened there since?"
"No. Don't mean that the person..." She said the word with a certain emphasis, as if she didn't believe that a human being was really responsible. "...isn't still there..."
Annie cleared her throat. "It's alright, I'm sure that it's all been cleared up by now. So, thank you for your help, Miss."
As she started to turn to head back to her friends, the woman grabbed her arm. Not extremely hard, but hard enough to keep her from pulling away quickly.
"You seem like such a nice girl," the hag said, and Annie saw that she had very few teeth. "I'd hate to think of something bad happening to that pretty face..."
Jeff quickly rushed forward, pulling Annie away from the old lady's grip. "Okay, that's enough. Thanks for the tip about the canoes. Now go away."
The lady sneered and shuffled away, and the group crowded around Annie.
"That was weird," Britta said.
"Yeah," Jeff agreed. He looked at Annie. "You okay?"
"Oh, yeah. She just startled me."
"This is like the beginning of a horror movie," Abed said.
Jeff wasn't feeling in the mood to humor his friend: "Abed, this isn't a horror movie."
"Five friends, the week before Halloween, deciding to go camping on a creepy, dead-looking island where a gruesome massacre was perpetrated years ago? On top of that, the 'scary old person who warns the protagonists of their impending doom' is a horror film staple."
Troy looked over his friend's shoulder at the island. "True, but this is real life. Not a scary flick."
"That's what the characters say at the beginning of every scary movie."
Britta had had enough. "Let's go get the boats. You guys all know how to row, right?"
Jeff glanced back at the trashy-looking island, and then he looked at his blonde friend. "Britta, we can just call this whole thing off. You know, maybe stay in a hotel."
Annie nodded. "Good idea. I didn't like the idea of playing hooky for a week anyway."
Britta huffed in disappointment. "Fine."
"Good idea," Troy said. "I'm not in the mood to go camping anymore, anyway. Not after her."
Speaking of her, the old woman had shuffled far enough away that the group didn't notice her, but she could still hear what they were saying.
"...I thought I saw a nice looking place a few miles from here. We can stop there." Edison was saying.
"I hope they serve lunch. I'm starving," Winger replied.
Panicked, the woman removed her false teeth (revealing a perfectly healthy mouthful) and pulled out a walkie-talkie from her pocket.
"Martin! Higgins! Pick up!" Her voice was younger-sounding as well. A close inspection of her face would reveal that the wrinkles and forehead was merely makeup and prosthetics. Her grimy hair was merely a wig.
A voice answered on the other end. "We know, we heard."
"What do we do? They have to get to the island!"
"Don't worry. The Chem department installed some of that mind-control crap in their cars. Everything'll be fine."
When Jeff got back into the car, he smelled something odd. Sort of like vanilla, if it had been mixed with chlorine. "Annie, you smell that?"
His friend sniffed the air. "Yeah, I don't know..."
She continued to speak, but Jeff wasn't listening. He suddenly felt light-headed, almost drunk. He couldn't drive, not feeling like this.
As a thought occurred to him, he broke into a smile. Why couldn't they just go camping? They could stay in a hotel on the way back. After all, this was an adventure, like Britta said. Jeff began to feel positively giddy. He turned to Annie and was delighted to see that she was smiling too.
* * * * * * * * * *
PART 3: THE SHED
That giddy feeling vanished from all five of them by the time they were halfway to their destination, and it was really too much trouble to turn back (Rowing is a lot harder than it looks!).
After tying their boats to the dock, they walked up the trail, looking for a good place to pitch their tents.
As they walked, Annie looked up at the trees and shivered. Even though it was only a few minutes past noon, the branches made it seem really dark. She was never exactly "afraid" of the dark, but, come on, who likes it?
Speaking of the branches, the more she looked at them, the more they seemed like malevolent, skeletal fingers reaching for her. She shuddered again and looked down at the ground, finding the dead leaves lying in the dirt somewhat comforting in their normality.
A bird of some kind hooted loudly nearby, and she nearly screamed. She stopped walking, and Jeff walked into her.
"Ow! Watch where you're walking, Edison!"
Annie looked up at him, ready to yell at him for being insensitive (Couldn't he tell that she was nervous?), but stopped when he smiled down at her. "Sorry."
"It's pretty creepy, right?"
Jeff started to take off his jacket, but, as Annie suspected, he seemed to change his mind and offered her his hand instead. "Milady?"
She smiled and took it. "Milord."
"Hey, you guys gonna be mushy all day?" Britta called over her shoulder. "Come up here, Troy and Abed found something!"
Jeff didn't know what to expect - probably some type of bug or maybe an interesting rock. What he didn't expect was a large, run-down looking shed just off the trail.
"Cool, right?" Troy asked, grinning.
"Uh, it's a shed," Jeff said, not knowing what was supposed to be so special.
Abed and Troy looked at him with something like pity.
"It's the perfect fort!" Troy said condescendingly.
"Perfect for tetanus," Britta mumbled.
Abed shook his head, and he then stepped off the path and walked up to the structure, opening its door. "We aren't going to stay in it. It's just interesting,"
"Weren't you just going on about how we're all in a horror movie?" Jeff demanded. "I'm pretty sure that entering a creepy..."
Abed interrupted him. "Guys! Come look!"
The group reluctantly (save Troy, obviously) came over and peeked inside the structure. Troy gasped. "Wow, look at all this cool stuff!"
"It's just a bunch of junk," Britta said, taking in the random mish-mash of crap strewn about the place.
"I dunno," Annie said. "I think it's kinda cool."
It was true: It wasn't merely junk. It was interesting junk, and, as the group entered the room, there was something that interested all of them.
Over here lay a ridged metal ball that gave Jeff an odd feeling as walked over and looked at it. Over there was an enormous seashell that fascinated Troy. Britta was interested in a quartet of creepy white masks that hung on a hook near the door. Abed seemed torn between examining an old-fashioned movie projector sitting on a small table by the window and investigating an old, forbidding-looking book.
For her part, Annie adored a beautiful jeweled necklace that was resting on a cute little music box.
She asked, "Who do you think this all belongs too?"
Abed shrugged as he inspected a small circus drum on the floor. "Maybe it's just stuff that's gotten lost. Park rangers have to come here sometimes, right?"
"Look at this!" Troy shouted as he picked something up. The others looked over at him, and they saw that he holding a large, egg-shaped stone. "It's some time of prehistoric dinosaur egg or something!"
"Who would lose a fossilized egg?" Jeff asked, bewildered. "Maybe it's just a rock."
None of them noticed the tiny video camera monitoring them from the corner.
A few stories below the ground, two men sat in a white room filled with computers and various monitors, watching the group as they inspected the fossil. Behind them, three technicians fiddled with various buttons and dials. The older of the two men (with a nametag that said MARTIN) leaned back in his seat, looking pleased.
"They picked the egg."
The younger man (HIGGINS) pumped his fist in the air. "Awesome! The Apex is my favorite monster! Can't wait to see it in action!"
Martin rolled his eyes. "Please. The best monster is the Giant Snake."
"No," a technician interrupted. "It's the Alien."
"You're all wrong," another technician said. "It's the Killer Robot."
The third technician shook his head. "I'm torn between the Blob and the Wraith, myself...or maybe the Dragonbat."
As the argument continued, Martin started the procedure to release the monster. Higgins noticed and grabbed his arm.
"What are you doing? Aren't we supposed to wait until it gets dark? You know, build it up?"
"Remember what happened last year at the cabin facility? The folks downstairs decided that we aren't gonna waste time with atmosphere and archetypes and all that shit. They gave humanity another chance, but only if we get right to the blood and guts."
* * * * * * * * * *
PART 4: THE MONSTER
"That's pretty cool," Britta said. "Is it from a dinosaur?"
"Probably," Annie replied.
Jeff looked around the room. "We'd better get going. This is cool and all but I don't think that we're supposed to be in here."
As they left the cabin, Jeff felt a sudden chill in the air. He looked up at the darkening sky.
“What is it, Annie?”
“You ever get the feeling like you’re being watched?”
He looked at her quizzically. “What makes you say that? Do you feel that way now?”
She shrugged. "A little."
Feeling a bit protective, Jeff, without thinking, put his arm around her shoulder.
"Don't worry. Everyone's here. What could possibly happen?"
Almost on cue, a deep, rumbling roar emanated from deep within the forest. They all jumped, and Britta gave a sharp scream.
"What the hell was that?" she demanded.
Before any of the others could reply, a large, dark shape crashed through the forest trees. There was a second, louder roar as Jeff caught sight of a set of sharp, yellow teeth and a pair of blazing green eyes.
Too shocked to react, the friends watched in stupefied horror as the monster stomped onto the path, eyeing them hungrily.
NEXT, IN PART II: The monster pursues the group through the forest, while Martin and Higgins do everything in their power to ensure that the friends die in the proper order.