Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.

The problem with sneaking out is that your parents have no idea where to look for you. You realize this, holding your ghost hunting gear, in the middle of the Wayne National Forest.

You check your phone. No service, it tells you. It should have said Of course there’s no service, you are 30 minutes away from any kind of civilization, and you have Verizon. Duh. But when you heard that Paranormal Adventures got spooked and had to cancel their livestream because it was “too dangerous”, you went regardless of what your cell reception was like.

The forest is quiet and dark, and you have to use the night vision function on your camera to see where you’re going. You hear the soothing sounds of water nearby and remind yourself to watch your step. This particular part of the forest overlooks Lake Vesuvius. You don’t need to add hypothermia to the growing list of concerns on this little field trip.

You wonder what could have been so horrific that it would send a team of supposed ghost hunters running for the hills — Literally. You understand how the scenery here can transform from night to day, of course. Anyone who has lived in the middle of nowhere does. Wayne National Forest is in the foothills of Appalachia, with breathtaking views of thick woods and covered bridges around every corner. Gorgeous panoramic beauty in the light, but claustrophobic and disorienting in the dark. A run to escape means a literal uphill battle. Every breath of damp pine and dense earth feels rejuvenating in the day, and suffocating at night.

Still, for a team of supposedly seasoned paranormal experts, a walk in this park should be, well, a walk in the park. You know that everything ghostly on their show could be fabricated. They could be huge scaredy cats, as disappointed as that makes you. Even so, this filming location is ideal compared to the usual I see while nestled on the couch, peeking at my TV screen through my blanket.  No asbestos from old houses to worry about. No worries of noise or light pollution on their cameras, for there is no one else around to cause as much. Only 160,000 acres of untouched potential.

So why did they leave?

The foliage under your feet is getting softer and softer. Before you know it, your foot slides and the camera goes flying. You hear it land in a puddle of mud somewhere in front of you. It’s now pitch black.

Shit, shit, shit, shit. You fumble blindly in the dark for it as images of the Blair Witch flash through your mind. Finally, your muddy hands find the grimy lens and click the power button. The night vision mode seems to be broken, but you remember that you have thermal mode, so you switch that on. You can see again. You breathe a sigh of relief.

The feeling doesn’t last long.

A few feet in front of you lies a yellow hand print on the ground. You recognize it as the heat your warm, sweaty hand left on the leaves when you knelt to pick the camera up. It is not the only heat signature that you notice.

Resting on the ground about ten feet away is a cool blue heat signature, humanoid in shape. In the lake, you realize with horror. Then you glance to your left and see another, hanging from a tree. And another, standing in the distance. And another, and another, and another. Dozens — no, hundreds– surrounding you, cornering you, haunting you from every angle. All of them still. All of them watching.

You jolt the camera away from your face and look with your eyes instead of your screen. You see nothing except for thick darkness. Bodies are warm, you think, picturing the yellows, oranges, and reds that you typically see in the shape of your friends, your family, your classmates. Whatever these are, they are not alive.

Your heart beats rapidly in your chest. Bodies?But from where? From who?

A twig snaps behind you. With shaky breaths and wet cheeks, you turn around.

The whole screen is red.