The day has grown late. Outside the windows, the sun is setting, the sky is purpling, and the first stubborn stars have started peeking through the veil of night. It’s been a good, restful day, but before parting ways, you and your Player 2 decide to take a walk around the nearby common. The air is brisk, and the sky is clear, but the wind strikes a mournful tone.
Past the abandoned children’s playground, with the swings and see-saws creaking desolately in the night, up the mud-washed path where moonlight shines, reflected in the puddles. You climb the hill past the old, fenced off rookery, past the cafe boarded up for the night, up to the edge of the grove that surrounds the run-down factory that still, on occasion, churns out unmarked boxes of unknown stuff.
Here, the trail forks. Part of it winds through the trees toward the factory, with a sign promising a pond and garden. The other branch makes a sharp turn back toward the orange streetlights and the sleepy trundling onward of civilisation. You and Player 2 exchange a look, and start your way down the forest path.
Here there is no moonlight. The wind seems to whisper through the trees. Soon the path is no more than the sense of emptiness below your feet in the dark. There, just at the bend of the path, there is the glow of someone bent over their phone, the light turning their face into spectre. You slow. Who could this be, sitting alongside this darkened pathway, looking at instagram in the darkness?
SHHHHHHHHHHH! comes a hiss from the trees.
There is someone — or something — moving through the wood. A glimpse of matted hair, long limbs sharp and bulky in the gloom. It moves away through the darkness, back past the glow of the lonely instagrammer, back into the shadows too thick to peer through. Still, you hear the crunching of their feet, the mutter of words beneath their breath, though you cannot tell what they are muttering about.
You find that you’re digging your fingers into Player 2’s arm, though both of you are frozen in surprise. A deep breath…
Do you go on?
Or, like me and the boy, do you immediately turn around and hightail it back to the lights of the common, making a beeline for the busy street that will take you straight back home?