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A quiet calm descended over the group as a particularly nipping breeze floated through the woods.
I made an over dramatic sigh and looked about obviously, letting my view linger up at the starry sky.
"Mel loved nights like this," I said wistfully.
"Mel? your ex?" My friend asked.
"No, his name was Melvin, and he was a frie . . um, more like an acquaintance of mine a few years back." I said as I stoked the fire and looked away despondently. "Poor guy," I continued, "I wonder if they ever found him."
Several raised eyebrows met my eyes as well as my cryptic comment.
"Melvin Butram, poor kid, what a name, went to my rival high school back in Stockton, but I knew him through LARPing. Our group used to come up here for our games. We were the Edhelian Larp Fun Society. ELFS? I didn't name it. It was during that time in my life I developed my "Theory on LARPing by the Numbers" and stopped playing shortly thereafter. But I always remember poor Melvin."
I leaned forward, settling into the story and lowered my voice a bit. Something made me nervous.
"He was very quiet, very typically nerdy. Big glasses, big boned, freckles, could not talk to girls, even in character, he'd just stutter. But, he was very talented, he always had the best outfits, armour, weapons. The noobs were always asking for his help, and he did his best to teach what he could. My buddy mike once asked him how he got so good, Melvin's reply was 'lots of free time.' We were very inclined to believe him since as far as we knew he never had any party's, a girlfriend, or anything. On occasion we'd invite him to our parties, LAN's, whatever, but he only ever came to LARP events."
The sound of the crackling fire, the wind in the trees and our slow breaths were all we could hear as I made a concerned face.
"It was funny. well, funny odd, not funny 'ha,ha.' He was a big guy but he was real good at live action, especially the combat. He took it very serious as far as not getting hit, that wounds were big deals. And any time he could help with first aid he would jump right in. He was almost always either the last person in his crew to die or not at all.
One time he 'died' in a melee that was a real bad call by one of the game masters and you could tell by Mel's face he was not pleased about the call. So he lied down and waited. A cleric came by and 'rezed' him and then he kinda snapped for a bit. He jumped up, let out a real 'GEEYYAAAGGGHH!!!' you know, startled a couple people near him, and ran down the guy who 'killed' him, guy's name was Chris. Even after he had returned the favor, he kept hitting the ground next to Chris, sorta as if the ground had been Chris' 'corpse' and then after about a good solid thirty seconds or so went off and slaughtered like four or five other enemy players that were honestly too easy. It was like Melvin . . . I don't know . . . he followed all the rules, I think he just took it too seriously."
A couple of my fellow campers shifted as I looked up with a pensive look on my face.
"Then it got close to graduation and we heard he got held back. Apparently he flunked out of most of his classes because he was skipping a lot of school. Our buddy 'Jeebus,' who we shared a Vocational class with some of the guys who went to school with Melvin, said he had gotten addicted to an MMO. Ever? . . Galax? . . no, it was one of the more gritty ones. Dark ages? I don't remember, but anyway.
Melvin only started coming to the longer outings up here. Nothing shorter than a four day weekend. He became even more quiet and the only time we saw him smile was when we were doing combats."
I gave a slight grin as I continued, " except one week, spring break, we were up here and he was all smiles. When asked what had him so happy he said he'd met somebody. We were all happy for him. Wondering who she was or if she was even real, but he was in a good mood and that was cool." My face then turned to a grimace. "But, about a month later, Melvin disappeared."
"After a week or so rumor got round that they found his room empty of all of his practical weapons and his computer on to a character log in screen. When the investigators logged in they found he had been on an RP server and a chat log where he had confessed his love to another character in game. Initially, the other player played along through RP, about a month earlier, and Melvin's character had mentioned meeting or leaving with the other character to 'the woods of Edhelian'," I said with emphasis as I motioned to the woods around me.
"Apparently when Mel dropped the bomb and gave the other player a real life address to get out here, the other player put Mel on ignore and never replied to him again, even reported him for abuse. So, the cops came out here as this was the only other lead they could find. All they ever found was his bicycle. They searched out here for another month. We all graduated without hearing any sort of updates. His parents were crushed."
"A couple years back though, I was talking to Ricky, one of Jeebus' best friends, and he said they had to stop LARPing out here because the younger kids were getting scared and players of all ages were getting hurt in freak accidents. One kid even died. The rangers said he was attacked by a predator because he had massive lacerations, but anybody who's been up here more than a few times can tell you, the most vicious thing up here is a raccoon. The creepy thing to me, is that the kid was dressed as an 'evil warlock' and Melvin almost always played a 'good ranger.' On top of that, last year they had a couple hikers go missing. They found the bodies a week and a half later, bound, gagged and dead in a cave. The cave had had a basic fire pit, some leaves that resembled bedding, and the plastic of an eyglass lens. Both hikers had twenty-twenty vision."
I looked up in suprise. I lowered my hand to my pocket and reached in.
"W-T- . . . . AAAHH!!!!" I screamed as I pulled the pair of hornrimed glasses from my pocket, they were missing one lense and were scratched and bloodied.