Whispering Pines: Basil 2
The days following that night in the woods, nothing seemed to have changed. I was tired, as I always am. My medication slows down my metabolism, but it keeps me stable, so I kept taking it. I would run out eventually, but that was a problem for later.
I kept going to the amphitheater after dinner. There was a different counselor every night, each with a new story to tell. They were not all warnings. But after what happened in the woods, I began carrying a notebook to the amphitheater and writing down the stories. I did not intend to go back into the woods or look to see if any of the other stories were real, but it seemed wise to pay attention, just in case. And besides, it gave me something to think about besides cooking when I wasn't on shift.
I paid attention to Jamie's cabin, too. Maybe they were just kids, who didn't know anything. But in a place like this, with the kinds of people that are sent to summer camps in the middle of nowhere, and the kinds of people that work at those summer camps (myself included), you never knew what might happen to people who didn't play by the rules. So when, a few days after that night in the woods, I saw Jamie and one of his campers double back past the mess hall, heading for the woods, I took notice. That camper had been leading the group in the woods. I couldn't follow them because I was still on shift, but when they came back out the camper looked pale and shaky. At lunch, she was uncharacteristically quiet and somber and ate very little. That worried me. Teenagers are always hungry, and if they stop eating something is wrong. I may not be very social, but I've been in a lot of cafeterias for work, and no one who's okay eats like she did, especially not if they're active, which all the campers have to be. Best case scenario, she was physically ill.
She wasn't the only one who seemed off. The weapons instructor, Jasper, came to lunch which he never does, and sat alone at the table closest to the dish room. I don't think he even ate anything, just sat there stone faced for 30 minutes and then left. He cooks his own meals, I'm not sure why, so I'm not surprised that he didn't eat, but I couldn’t figure out why he was there, if not to eat. He seemed to be watching Jamie's kids whenever I looked at him, but I had a feeling that he was watching me too.
After lunch service ended, I clocked out for my break and left the building. As soon as I was out the door I practically tripped over Jasper.
"You're Basil." He said, not a question.
"And you're Jasper. What in god’s name are you doing here?"
"You were in the woods with Sage, the other night."
"If Sage is one of Jamie's kids, then yes. What's it to you?" I sized Jasper up. We hadn't interacted much during training since we work in different areas, but he always seemed if not happy, then at least easy going. Nothing like he looked now.
"What did you see?" He continued to ignore my questions.
"What are you talking about?"
"You saw something in the woods. You hit it with a branch. Tell me what you saw." His voice was flat and even. I noticed the ax hanging from his belt and backed away a bit.
"All I saw was something like an arm. it could have just been a tree moving in the wind, for all I know. I just panicked. I lost my walkie talkie.""It didn't touch you."
"I don't think so. Like I said, I was scared. I don't remember it that well."
"Again, dude. What the hell is this about?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it. Just, let me know if you have any...unusual dreams." He turned abruptly and walked off toward the tree line.
I let him leave. As confused as I was by the interaction, I had no intention of chasing after trouble. I still had most of my break left so I walked back to my room and pulled my notebook out. Something was definitely going on, and I had an idea that it had to do with the creature the kids saw in the forest. I wondered if Sage was the name of the camper that had gone into the woods with Jamie. It’s possible they had been going to talk to Jasper, and that’s why he came to lunch and confronted me.
Jasper asked me to tell him if I had any weird dreams. I don’t dream, ever. It’s a side effect of my medication. Would I have been having weird dreams if I wasn’t taking it? I checked my calendar. I could probably get away with going without it for a few nights, just to see what might happen. I really didn’t know what to expect though. I deliberated over the question for a few minutes. There was no one here who knew about my condition. There was a chance that something would go wrong if I stopped taking my medication. I checked my work schedule. I was off the next day. I should be able to get away with skipping one dose, and just staying in my room the whole day. I stood up, tucking my notebook back into my pocket. I would skip tonight’s dose. Just this once, just to see.
During dinner prep, I eyed my coworkers, deciding if I should tell one of them my plans. I didn’t really talk to any of them, and they didn’t talk to me, although they talked to each other. I’ve been told before that I’m unapproachable, so I don’t really blame them. But as a side effect I didn’t know any of them well enough to know if they could be trusted with that information.
The logical choice, of course, would be to tell Jasper. He was the reason I was doing it. He seemed like he was good under pressure. I was still unsure of his motives though. It would not go well for either of us if he decided to abuse the knowledge that I was off my medication. But on the other hand, if he did try to hurt me, he would very quickly stop being anyone’s problem.
Jasper came to dinner at the same time as Jamie’s cabin. He spoke quietly to a camper, (maybe Sage?) for a few moments before going back to sit in his previous spot by the dish room. I watched him for a moment. He was less alert than he had been at lunch. He was slouching a little, which was uncharacteristic of him. I wiped my hands on my apron and walked over to him.
“Are you planning on eating anything tonight? If you have any dietary restrictions, we do have alternative dishes available upon request.” I smiled brightly and used my best customer service voice.
“No, I already ate. What do you want, Basil?” He looked at me quizzically.
“Why did you ask me to tell you about my dreams?”
“…Testing a theory. Why, have you been having any unusual dreams?” He sat up straight.
“No, I never dream anymore. It’s a side effect of a medication I take.”
“Interesting. I don’t know if that would make a difference. What is the name of the drug?”
“It’s not… commercially available.”
“Hm. How do you feel about skipping a dose or two?”
“Depending on whether I think your theory is worth investigating, I might forgo it tonight.”
“It’s not the sort of thing we should discuss in a crowded dining hall” His voice was carefully non-committal.
“Will you be here after dinner?”
“I have nothing else going on, I suppose I can stay.”
“We can go back to my room and talk then. I want to know what I’m getting myself into”
“Very well. I’m sure you have work to get back to for now.” He settled back into a slight slouch. He was dismissing me. I stood up and left.
My coworkers gave me strange looks when I went back into the kitchen but didn’t say anything. I offered no explanation and started washing dishes.
By the time I got out of the kitchen, the campers had already left to go to the amphitheater. Jasper was waiting for me at his table by the dish room. He stood up as I approached and followed me as back to my room. We passed the director on our way out. I worried she might ask why I wasn’t going to the amphitheater, but she didn’t even glance at me. Instead, she fixed Jasper with a strange steady expression I couldn’t read before turning away and walking off. I glanced at Jasper, confused. He clenched his jaw and looked away. I decided not to push the issue.
Back in my room, Jasper hovered in the doorway before coming in and sitting in the chair I offered him. It was the only one in the room, so I sat on the bed, facing him.
“So, tell me about your theory.” Jasper didn’t seem like one for small talk, so I cut straight to the chase.
“The creature you encountered in the woods is called a whisperer.”
“So there really was something out there.”
“Yes. If they touch you, they form a bond with you, can enter your dreams, and if you go into the woods, past the wards, well. Let’s just say the last person here who did that didn’t come back. It touched Sage. But I’m not sure how your involvement would affect you.”
“I’m assuming it’s not really common knowledge that your woods are haunted by these whisperers, otherwise you would have told me in the dining hall”
“The campers here are a mixed bag. Some of them know that the stories are true, some of them don’t. Those who don’t tend to react badly to finding out. You don’t seem too surprised though”
“I didn’t know about the stories here. But I’ve had my own experiences back…home” I waved vaguely.
“I see. What do you think about skipping your medication tonight?” He seemed disinterested in chatting for long.
“I’ll do it. But there’s something you should know…” I hesitated, unsure how to explain myself. “I become…unstable when I’m don’t take it. I’m not sure how much one day will affect me.”
“…mentally. And physically.”
“Interesting. Is there something you’d like me to do about that?” His voice was even. I appreciated his calm demeanor.
“I’m not sure. Like I said, I don’t know how I’ll be affected.”
“Well. I usually sleep in the armory, but I do have a room in the staff barracks. I could stay here for the night. If you need me, I’ll be just two rooms down.” He stood up, apparently finished with the conversation, and left.