Sparrow stuck her head outside the tent door. The air smelt of damp grass and wet canvas. She could only just make out the shapes of the other tents in the field. A bird hooted from the tree-line and she drew her head back inside quickly. 'Coast's clear.'
As Sparrow re-laced the door, Fiony turned her torch on, shining it in Minnow's eyes.
'Hey, watch it...'
'Sorry!' Fiony giggled and stuck the torch upright in her tin camping mug, padding it out with her facecloth. She angled it away from the other two girls.
Minnow sat up in her sleeping bag and hugged her arms around her knees. She watched Sparrow pad over to the third mat and shuffle back into her own bag.
Sparrow's feet were warm, in her two pairs of socks with her pajama bottoms tucked in under the top pair. She had a jumper on too. It felt odd, and bulky, but it was cold at night, and she'd promised mum.
Fiony cleared her throat. 'Are we going to get started or what?' She tossed a bag of chews in her hand, up and down.
Sparrow stretched out her arm to grab her rucksack. She rummaged around for a bit and pulled out a small packet of sweets. Minnow produced a slab of foil-wrapped chocolate from her wash-bag. Sparrow stared. 'How'd you get that past old sharp-eyes?'
Min looked smug. 'She never even checked my wash-bag. She asked me if I'd got it, and I held it up and she said Good, Next please...!'
'Shhh!' Sparrow shushed the other two through her own giggles.
'I hid mine up my sleeve...' Fiony put a chew in her mouth and offered the bag around, 'They're orange flavour.'
Min snapped the chocolate into three bits, 'Here, don't get the crumbs on your pillow case or we're done for.'
Sparrow's sweets were all the same size, but different colours. She picked out all the purple ones, 'I like the blackcurrant best.'
Fiony swallowed, and licked chocolate off her fingers. 'Let's tell scary stories. I know one that really happened. It happened when my cousin's class were camping here.'
Min burrowed further down into her sleeping bag and pulled the hood over her head. 'I don't like scary stuff.'
Fiony looked across at Sparrow. Sparrow shrugged. The thin walls of the tent sucked in and out in the wind. Rain spattered against the canvas. Fiony sighed dramatically. 'That poor boy...'
'What poor boy?' Minn's voice, filled with suspicion, came from under the blanket.
'My cousin told me about him. It was a coupla years back now. You know how we don't camp near the trees?'
'Well back then the camping field was much closer to the forest...and it was the tent nearest the trees, that this boy was sleeping in. It was after lights out, and they were all talking, like we are now, except this boy didn't want to, so he hid in his sleeping bag...'
The lump that was Min shuffled, and gave something like a snort. 'You're making this up.'
'Am not. I told you, it was my cousin's year. Anyway, he fell asleep, and only woke up when he heard the tent door flapping in the wind.'
Sparrow tried not to, she really tried, but couldn't help looking over at the front of the tent. The door was still laced up.
'He looked over at the other two sleeping bags, but they were empty...and all torn up, like someone had slashed at them with a knife. He got his torch and crept to the tent door. The feeble light just reached to the tree-line, where he saw one of his friends being dragged along the grass by something invisible...'
'If it was invisible how could he see it?'
'Shut it, Sparks - he saw the FRIEND being dragged. So, he saw his friend dragged into the trees and decided he had to go after him.'
Sparrow rolled her eyes, 'What an idiot.'
Fiony blew through her nostrils, and looked at Min, now wide-eyed and white-knuckled, 'ANYWAY, he pulled on his gumboots and followed the trail through the wet grass, and ducked under the fence into the forest, but there was no sign of anyone...only a sort of ditch in the ground that led right into the middle of the trees. He thought, well at least I'll be able to follow it back, so he went further and further into the woods. Still no sign of his friends. It started to rain, and he thought he'd head back to the camp, when his torch showed a building just ahead. He remembered that it was a long way to the edge of the trees, and the rain might not last long, so he thought he would shelter in the building. It was made of concrete, and sort of sunk into the ground. It looked like no one had been there in years. There wasn't a door or anything, so he just walked right in, crunching dried leaves and twigs under his feet . By this point his torch batteries were going...and by the last bit of flickering light he just saw that at the back of the room there was a...' Fiony stopped to check that her audience was still listening, '...a load of rubbish, all piled up, like bits of sticks and stuff. So he sat down in the dark to wait until morning.'
'S'not the only thing that's a load of rubbish...'
'You're a load of rubbish, Sparrow Jones.'
'Well you're full of --'
'Shut up, Sparrow, I want to know what happens...' Min pleaded. Fiony stopped glaring at Sparrow.
'He musta fallen asleep, cos when he woke up, the sun was shining straight in through the doorway. He stood up, and the twigs crunched again, 'cept now he was able to see that they weren't twigs but...bones...' Fiony paused again, pleased that even Sparrow was listening now. 'He looked to the back of the room, and the pile of rubbish wasn't rubbish, but human skeletons, all piled up one on top of the other, their clothes slowly rotting and hanging off the bones. And on the very top of the pile, he saw two skeletons that had pajamas...'
'That's sick.' Sparrow punched at her pillow.
'Well it's true! My cousin said...'
'Your cousin's a liar. My dad said they planted the trees to make the air better, that's all. All the cities have them. Why should just this forest have ruins and stupid skeletons in it?'
'Dare you to go into it then.'
'Dare you to go into it now.'
Sparrow turned round in her sleeping bag and shut her eyes, 'Don't be stupid.'