A youth spent enduring overnight snipe hunts at Fireside Scout Wilderness Camp prepared Tansy for competitive cross-country orienteering. When the opportunity presented to join the Braverman team traversing Moody Woods for regional finals, Tansy jumped at it.
A broken ankle sidelined veteran team member Monica Brunelle, forcing her to drop out three weeks before the competition. The remaining team members tagged Tansy to round out their foursome. An energetic hiker and skilled tracker, Tansy was invited as a potential permanent replacement.
As the weekend of the hike neared, more teams lost numbers. Each due to serious, yet non-life-threatening, injury or ailment. Soon, only three teams could field the necessary numbers for competition.
Tansy, packed and ready, met her team at the Moody Woods trail head. Peering down the path into the dark forest, Tansy felt aroused. Each time she trained for a hike, it was like breaking in a new boyfriend. The anticipation was often the best part. This forest had the promise of being the one that broke her heart.
This was the first year the orienteering tournament included Moody Woods, and it came with a dark history. Urban legend held that the few who entered the forest and managed to make it through to the other side would somehow be changed. A piece of their soul lost among the trees. Many hikers had been reported missing trying to navigate uncharted trails and ravines, never to be seen again. Others who dared Moody Woods claimed to hear the haunted cries of the missing echoing down the trails at night.
Waiting for the first rays of dawn to break through the canopy, Tansy studied the other orienteers, looking for weaknesses she could use to her advantage. They looked scared, she thought, a good emotion to exploit. If she could frighten off her rivals, winning the competition would be a cinch.
Once the field marshals handed out the first coordinates, the teams entered the Woods, oblivious to the hungry eyes watching them.