The Forest of Certain Death had undergone a few changes since the recent merging of Earthni. Most of its predators were now under control thanks to a combination of earth's modern park rangers and Mewni's somewhat more traditional rangers. In recent weeks, it had become a popular camping ground, and although it was still officially known as the Forest of Certain Death, its new level of safety had come with a new nickname.
So it was that Star, Marco, and Janna had made their way to an overnight campground in the Forest of Potential Inconvenience. It had been Janna's suggestion, much to the surpise of the group, considering she had never been much of a nature lover. Although Jackie and Tom had been invited, neither had been able to make it due to other commitments. Now, after a day filled with fishing, hiking, and other various outdoor activities, the trio had begun to settle in for the night. Their tents had been pitched, and they had gathered around the camp to light the fire. The last rays of the sun were disappearing behind the trees, which coupled with the night time sounds of the forest to create a peaceful, but somewhat eerie atmosphere.
Marco lit a match and dropped it onto their kindling, bringing their campfire to life. "Ladies... I think it's time."
"Time for what?" Star perked up with curiosity. "Marshmallows? Campfire bonding? BEAR WRESTLING!?"
"No! Well, yes." Marco reached into his backpack, grabbing a bag of marshmallows and handing it to Star as he took a seat beside her on a log. "Except for that last one. But no. Better than that! It's time for..." Marco pulled a flashlight from his hoodie pocket, shining it under his face and taking the most dramatic tone he could muster. "... scary stories!"
"Ooooooooo, scary stories!" Star's excitement was obvious, and she was sure that she knew a few Mewman ghost stories that would send shivers down their spines. Especially since Mewni actually HAD ghosts. "Me first!"
"Ah-ah-ah, nope!" Marco wagged a finger at Star, with the same hand he was using to hold his flashlight. "Sorry Star, I have the official scary story flashlight, so I get to go first. That's camping law."
Star wasn't sure that was actually a law. It wasn't like they had only brought the one flashlight. But she was willing to go along with it for the moment. The first and only time she'd been camping with Marco before, there'd been a little too much going on for them to get as far as scary stories, so she was eager to get the full experience this time around. "Okay, okay. Let's see what you got. I mean, if Janna can handle it." Not that Star had any real concerns over Janna being able to handle ghost stories.
Seated on a log of her own, Janna simply shrugged, having gotten surprisingly quiet since the topic of ghost stories had come up.
Marco raised an eyebrow, having expected Janna to be far more enthusiastic about a night of scary stories. But with Janna, he had found that it was usually better not to ask. "Okay then. Let's get started." Marco cleared his throat, repositioning the flashlight under his face for maximum effect. "One day, a father bought his daughter a teddy bear for her birthday. She loved her gift, and from then on she always kept it with her. But one day it went missing..."
"The teddy bear was alive." As Marco let his statement hang in the air to build tension, Janna had jumped right in, apparently having no remorse about spoiling the ending to the story. She rolled her eyes, yawning as she stretched out on her log. "C'mon man, you're gonna have to do better than that."
"Okay... guess you've heard that one before." As Marco thought about it, he wasn't actually all that surprised that Janna would know a good number of ghost stories. Or maybe that one was just too obvious. But he had come prepared, and he was sure he would be able to surprise her. "Different story then." Marco took a deep breath, shining the flashlight underneath his face once again and trying to recapture the previous spooky atmosphere. "One night, a girl was babysitting two young children..."
"The call was coming from inside the house." Janna showed even less hesitation this time, cutting Marco off before he had even finished his introduction.
Marco froze, then glared daggers at Janna. He was starting to get annoyed at the interruptions, but he was determined to tell a story she couldn't spoil. "Once-"
"His sister was dead the whole time." Now Janna just seemed bored, laying back and resting on her log with her eyes closed, not even bothering to look up at Marco.
"FINE!" Marco threw his hands up in defeat, having vastly underestimated Janna. Knowing the twist was one thing, but knowing the end of a story he hadn't even begun to tell was uncanny and disturbing. And she HAD been right. Marco decided to cut his losses and step back for the moment. "Why don't YOU tell us a ghost story?"
"Thought you'd never ask." Janna smiled and sat up, now clearly in her element. As Marco got up to hand her the flashlight, Janna waved her hand to decline it, preferring to use the darkness to full effect. "Okay, so... About ten years ago there were a bunch of disappearances in the forest outside Echo Creek."
Star sat with rapt attention, but Marco was already rolling his eyes. It was too on the nose, obviously leading up to how it was a completely true story that happened to a bunch of teenagers just like them.
For her part, Janna took no notice of Marco's reaction, and continued. "Eventually, police figured out there was some kind of crazy cult living out here. Hooded black robes, ominous chanting, the whole nine yards."
Suddenly, Marco heard a rustle in the bushes, just loud enough to hear over Janna's story. "Wait, hold on." He held up a hand, listening for any further disturbance. "You guys hear that?"
Star listened along with him, but Janna just gave Marco a look like she knew he was faking it. "Marco, stop trying to scare us, we already know you're bad at it."
"Fine, whatever." Marco settled back into his log seat, a little closer to Star this time. "Was probably just a squirrel or some kind of Mewman death beast the rangers missed or something. No big deal..."
"Right... anyway." Janna tried to resume her story, despite the interruption of the atmosphere. "So, this cult was abducting teenagers who wandered too far into the woods. But nobody could figure out why. Nothing in common between them, no ransom demands, no obvious reason to take them, nothing. Just gone and never seen again. But then-"
At the snapping of a twig, Marco shot up from his seat, absolutely sure he heard something this time. "Janna, seriously, I hear something out there! Star, didn't you hear it!?"
"Huh?" Star glanced up at Marco, her attention having been completely focused on the story. "Sorry, I was listening to Janna."
"Marco, you already blew your turn!" Janna was clearly annoyed now, snapping back at Marco. "Just let me tell the story!"
Marco returned to his seat once more, quietly grumbling that nobody seemed to believe him.
"Like I was saying! They finally figured out what happened to the kids after the cult took them. A park ranger found an altar in the woods with a bunch of skeletons on it, and they were able to match the dental records to the missing kids. They were using them as human sacrifices! The cops never figured out what they were trying to do, because here's the crazy part..." Janna paused briefly for dramatic effect. "They were never able to actually shut down the cult."
As Janna continued to speak, something began to emerge from the forest into the campground clearing.
"So for all we know, they could still be out here!" Janna was clearly building her story toward a climax now, her tone slowly intensifying. "Creeping around the woods, kidnapping people, sucking out their souls..."
"J- J- Janna?" Marco attempted to warn Janna of the impending threat approaching from behind her, but he was too scared to form complete sentences.
"What, you don't believe me? Hold on, I can probably find a news article on my phone." Janna pulled her cell phone from her pocket and began fiddling with it. "... if I can get any bars all the way out here in the sticks."
As it approached closer to the campfire, the light cast from the flames began to reveal the entity. It was roughly human like in form, although was difficult to tell under the black robes, and with a hood obscuring their face, just as Janna had described. Star and Marco were paralyzed with fear as the figure crept up behind Janna, now standing directly over her.
"JANNA!" Star chimed in this time, desperate to get Janna's attention.
"Hold ON! I think I almost got it..." As Janna repositioned her phone and held it up high in front of her, she caught a reflection in the screen. She then looked up to see the figure looming ominously over her. "... uh-oh."
"Mmh... fresh meat for the dark gods." The entity's voiced boomed through the clearing, sounding deep and raspy, yet perhaps oddly familiar. A bright flash filled the air. As best as Star and Marco could tell, it had come roughly from the direction of Janna and the figure, but they had no time to consider it further. Having not come prepared for a fight, they chose flight. The two screamed as they shot up from their seats together. "RUN!"
As Star and Marco fled the clearing as fast as they could, Janna jumped up and began to follow. Reaching the edge, she found that Star and Marco were already well out of sight. She halted, and the figure once again began to approach her from behind. A smirk spread across her face, escalating into a full on laugh as she collapsed backwards onto the soft dirt, starting at the figure above her.
"Oh man, it was even better than I thought it would be! And Marco totally screams like a girl! Nice work, partner. Right on time. And great wardrobe!" Janna shot the figure a thumbs up and she rose up and dusted herself off.
"Well, I try." The voice that emanated from the being was now completely different from before, sounding a strange combination of bored and mischievous. The hooded figure removed the robes and tossed them aside, revealing a tiny, floating blue man, far smaller than the robes could normally fit. "Gotta say, you sold it pretty well. A few thousand years of practice and you might be as good at this as I am." Glossaryck leaned to peer around Janna, looking to where Star and Marco had made their exit. "So. Should we go get them?"
"Nah. They'll probably come back as soon as they realize I didn't make it out with them. I should call them so they don't think I actually got human sacrificed." If they DIDN'T try to come back for her, Janna thought SHE might have a right to be mad. But she didn't think that would be the case. "Either way, thanks for the help Glossaryck."
"Hm." Glossaryck just barely acknowledged Janna's gratitude, although it was clear that he had been amused as well. "Gonna come clean that it was all a setup?"
"Yeah, I guess. Wish I could've gotten Tom and Jackie too, but it was still a pretty good one." Janna was a bit disappointed that she'd only managed to fool two of her friends, knowing that the trick wouldn't work twice. "But... yeah, I should tell them it was a prank."
"They'll be mad. I mean, I'm used to it, everybody hates me anyway." The way Glossaryck said it, it almost seemed to be a point of pride. "But they might not talk to you for a while."
"Eh." She opened her phone back up, scrolling to the picture she had managed to take just as her friends had first screamed. She showed it to Glossaryck, and both shared an unspoken agreement that the look of terror on their faces had been, as they say, priceless. "Totally worth it."