The towering oaks of the Faybrook Woods loom before you, sprays of light green foliage within their closely knit branches heralding the end of winter. You glance over your shoulder at your school, its imposing structure crowning the steep hill behind you. You guess from the golden light that kisses its Gothic spires that you have at least another hour before the evening bell summons you to the dining commons. You close your eyes and savor the feeling of sunlight warming your skin. The caress of a gentle breeze tousles your hair as you take a deep, satisfied breath. It's only mid-March and you're already enjoying the weather of a late spring. One of your favorite ways to blow off steam from the stress of constant academic pressure is to go on long walks alone on the grounds of Faybrook. Everything always seems a bit less dire after hiking through the dappled pathways that wind through the forests and hills that surround the school. You don't even care that it makes you seem more of a loner, although you know that it won't help with the trouble you have making friends. You're an introvert through-and-through, and never seemed to connect with the other boys at the academy; in fact, the few friends that you have at Faybrook are all girls. A rough shove from behind breaks your line of thought. You stagger, angrily cursing your assailant even as you recognize the melodic laughter of your best friend Samantha. You turn and glare at your friend with mock severity.
"Damnit Sam! Are you trying to kill me?"
"You just looked so peaceful. How could I resist?"
She twirls a lock of dark hair between her fingers and bites her lip playfully. You blush slightly as you find yourself suddenly aware of how attractive she is. Her uniform, unable to hide the ample curve of her bosom, is stretched tight by the swell of her breasts. You wonder whether the freckles that sprinkle her pale cheeks are the only ones on her body. Although you've known her most of your life, you've been awkwardly aware of Samantha's blossoming body since ninth grade. Although she's not conventionally attractive, being shorter and heavier than most of the popular girls at school, you find the wide hips and heavy chest of your pale raven-haired friend irresistibly erotic. You even find her slightly pudgy stomach attractive. You cut this line of thought short as you begin to feel an embarrassing stiffness forming in your pants. Quickly thrusting a hand into your pocket, you do your best to conceal the evidence of your lustful thoughts. Samantha raises an eyebrow and walks past you to gaze into the shadowy forest. You hope she hasn't noticed your clumsy attempt to hide your interest in her, but if she has, she's decided not to humiliate you by saying anything about it. Still facing away from you, she continues her previous line of thought.
"What are you doing down here anyways? The forest is off-limits after five, and they'll be expecting you in the dining hall soon."
"I, uh... I just came here to think." She looks back at you and rolls her eyes, clearly aware that you're holding something back. You sigh, deciding to level with your friend, "Okay, fine. Hannah Lee's been cheating off of me this semester--"
"WHAT?! Are you fucking stupid? Don't you know how easy it is to be kicked out of Faybrook if you cheat?"
"I know, okay? Let me finish." You flush as you prepare to spill the secret you've been carrying with you all winter. "So she asked me to help her cheat last fall. I guess she thought being slutty and blonde was enough to convince me I should risk getting expelled. And I said no... obviously."
"So she... she, uh..." Samantha walks back to you, her expression clearly worried. "Well, since I said no, she... um..."
"What? What did she do?"
"She... planted a camera. In my room. She got footage of me doing something... private. She said if I didn't help her cheat, the clip would find its way onto the academy's Facebook page." Samantha's face twists into a mask of fury.
"That BITCH! She threatened to post footage of you jerking off?" Your face turns crimson as you slowly nod.
"I came down here to get away for a bit. And yeah, to think. Just not about Hannah Lee and her video. The forest is just so peaceful this time of year. So why did you come down here?" Your friend knits her brow with concern, but seems to accept your decision not to dwell on your problems.
"I came down to collect some samples for my biology lab tomorrow."
"Arboreal ecosystems, right? Good choice. Professor Greene will definitely be interested in what you find."
"Yeah, but there's something else too. You know how the girls' dorm overlooks the forest, right? Well we've been seeing things at night that are... odd."
"Yeah, like strange colored lights." She rolls her eyes again when she sees your skepticism. "Trust me, they're not fireflies. And it gets weirder. I couldn't sleep a couple of nights ago, so I was staring out the dorm window. Well, at about midnight, I saw Professor Greene and the Headmistress walk into the woods. A couple of minutes after they went in, the heart of the forest just lit up. I mean, it was really, really strange. A spot about a quarter mile into the woods was just pulsing with blue, green, and pink lights."
"Deep woods rave with the teachers, huh?"
"Don't be thick. I'm not sure what I saw, but I know it wasn't man-made. You know how Professor Greene was a pretty well known scientist before coming to teach at Faybrook? How she lost her university appointment for-- well, I don't know what for. But I think she found something really important out there. Like, major science publication important. Maybe a new bio-luminescent species... I don't know. Whatever it is, I'm going to find out."
"You want to blow the lid off of her new discovery?"
"No, of course not. I'm just curious." Her face lights up with mischievous delight. "Really, really curious. So, you want to join me and solve this mystery?"