Tromping through the evergreen foliage, playing soccer with pinecones and crunching underneath needles, she checked the directions she'd printed off Google Maps for the umpteenth time. It seemed to her that she'd been walking northwest for at least seven miles but still saw no signs of the campground. Stuffing the paper back into her pocket, she clutched the silver crucifix dangling around her neck, saying a silent prayer for patience and guidance.

"Oh!" The syllable leapt from her throat as she spotted a sign off in the distance. After gaining some ground, she was able to make out the words emblazoning the post: 'Evermore Campground,' her destination. She raced towards the clearing in the verdant forest, oblong silhouettes standing against the waxing sunlight. It was that borderline time when day and night kissed, exposing both the sun and moon, clouds and stars; her favorite time.

"You're late," a thick man voice greeted her as she entered the clearing. It wasn't a large place, perhaps half an acre in area, containing two cozy cottages, a row of outhouses, a bonfire pit, and a pyramid of chopped firewood.

Panting, she replied through gasps for air. "I'm sorry … I got lost … directions suck … ugh."

"Save your excuses," the man said with a sigh. He gazed at the clipboard in his hand, dragging his finger down an unseen paper. "You must be Lylia Goldenrod."

Lylia nodded, still trying to regain her usual respiration. There were about ten other people in the clearing, none of which she recognized. An assortment of genders, colors, and creeds, as diverse as a jury.

"Well, I'm Jeff Quartz, host of Stay Alive. We were just about to start filming before you got here; mind standing over there with the others?" he stated, motioning with fluidity toward the accumulation of contests, mingling near the bonfire pit.

"Oh, uh sure." As she approached the others, her foot caught on a twig and she tumbled to the ground, scraping the knees of her jeans on the way down. "Ouch!"

A boy with bright orange hair burst into laughter at Lylia's display. Unable to contain himself, he clutched his stomach as hysterical tears welled up in his eyes.

"Blaise, stop laughing," reprimanded a petite girl with thick blond curls and a pointy nose. She proceeded over to help Lylia up, nearly falling down herself. "Sorry about my boyfriend." Cutting her eyes over at Blaise, the girl introduced herself to Lylia. "I'm Echo, the better half of this relationship."

"Oh, whatever," Blaise retorted, rolling his eyes. Echo and Lylia made their way back over to the others, dodging any evil twigs with spiteful intentions of sending innocent girls toppling over.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jeff shook his head. "Anyway. Luke, are you rolling?" A man standing across the clearing holding a big camera flashed a thumbs up. "Good." Jeff spun on his heels and smiled at the camera. "Welcome to Evermore Campground in the middle of Evermore National Park, a lush wilderness and the location of this season of Stay Alive." He spoke overly dramatically, providing lots of gestures of animated expression.

"Now, let's meet our contestants … and, cut!" Jeff put his microphone down and sighed like he had just finished hard labor.

Luke put the camera down and smiled. "This is some good stuff, Jeff!"

"You said it, buddy," he replied, and turned to the contestants. "Okay, thank you all for signing up to be a part of this show. I think it's going to be a big hit. Now there are just a few rules I'll need you all to follow, okay? First, no cell phones or iPods or anything like that are allowed. So, please put them in this box, if you don't mind." Picking up an Adidas shoebox, Jeff held it out in front of all the contests. By the time it got to Lylia, it was nearly filled to the brim with a variety of technological devices. She handed it back to the host, for her parents didn't allow her to have a phone.

"Thank you," he said with a wide smile, swiping the box from her. "Second, no comingling except during challenges. I mean it." He cast a glare around that could have been jocular, but his balance of comedy and gravity made it indistinguishable. "Third, no drinking or smoking, okay? My brother, Luke, has asthma and even a trace of smoke can send him into a coughing fit. Fourth, there are barricades surrounding the part of this forest we have rented out so don't pass them, okay?" They all nodded in agreement. "Good. Other than that, just use common sense and you should be fine. I want you all to have a good time and try your best to win."

"Wait," a plump woman of color began, "you mean this ain't one of those shows where everything is faked?" She spoke with a tone of half sass and half annoyance.

Jeff shook his head. "Nope, I want this to be as real as possible."

"Oh, I think I'm gonna like this," she declared, and everyone audibly agreed.

"I certainly hope so." Jeff clasped his hands together and sighed. "Okay, so, the girls' cabin is over here, and the guys' cabin is over there," he said, pointing at each cottage respectively. "Go ahead and get settled in and we'll do individual shooting in a little while, okay?" Everyone seemed pleased. "Alright, see you in a few hours. Dismissed."

Everyone dispersed, bags in hand, heading toward their appropriate cabin. Lylia trailed behind the rest of the girls, intentionally shuffling her feet in the dirt, getting a good look at them. 'Lord, give me strength," she prayed silently.

The cabin was nothing special, offering only the bare necessities: two bunk beds and a singletwin-sized, three large wardrobes, and two small claw-footed tables. The first order of business was establishing who slept where.

"If y'all don't mind, I'd like to have the single," said the same black woman from before.

"And why is that?" asked another woman, lavishly overdressed in a businesswoman suit, heels, and a pair of bifocals. "Who are you, anyway?"

She smiled, her cheekbones rising. "My name is Phiona, and I'd like to have it because, if you haven't noticed, I'm sorta the largest one here." She patted her stomach lightly and chuckled. The other woman rolled her eyes.

"That's fine by me," Echo chimed in, putting her bags down by one of the wooden bureaus. "Lylia, wanna share a bunk with me? I've always wanted to sleep on a top bunk!" She giggled and fluffed her hair.

Lylia shrugged. "Sure, that's fine." Resting her bags near one of the beds, Lylia tested out the bottom bunk to find it adequately special, but tolerable; like a mixturebetween lying on fibrous carpet and loose pottingsoil.

"Yay!" Echo climbed the ladder and flopped onto the top bunk, the mattress squeaking under her petite frame.

"I suppose that leaves you and I, Madame," said a girl with lavender-streaked hair to the businesswoman. Her thick accent, fashionista attire, and diminutive facial features oozed French, even if faintly Americanized. "That is fine, no?"

The woman looked at the French girl from the corner of her eyes and harrumphed. "Sure, I don't care." It was silent for a moment. "I'm Justice, by the way."

"Alouette," she said, rolling her tongue as if indulging on a lollipop. "It's wonderful to meet you all. I feel totally American right now."

"You said it, girl!" Echo sang from atop the bed. Justice pinched the bridge of her nose as Jeff had done earlier and shook her head.

This is going to be interesting, Lylia thought, fiddling with her crucifix.

"All right, bros," Blaise announced as he stepped into the cabin. "I call the big bed!" Running and jumping on it before anyone else had even made it into the cabin, Blaise claimed it as his own, wallowing around in the purity of clean sheets.

"Whatever," grumbled a burly man with a deep five-o-clock shadow. The rest tagged along behind, tossing their things down as they made their way inside.

Unzipping a suitcase filled to the meniscus with clothes, a man with well-defined features sighed. "There's not a single mirror out here. Good thing I brought my own," he declared, unloading his clothes into the bureau and hanging a mirror on the wall. "I'm sure you all know who I am, right?"

Silence decorated the room. "Really? You poor deprived children…" Striking an Adonis-like pose, the man spoke in a voice as deep and theatrical as he could muster. "I am Channing Axwell, star of thirteen small films, lead performer in the Broadway musical West Side Story, runway swimsuit model, and I've been on the cover of several magazines including Fiasco, Apollo, andPlaygirl."

More awkward silence. "Awesome, bro," Blaise finally said, his voice devoid of any genuine care or admiration. Channing shrugged it off and continued unpacking. Gazing around at the others who were settling in, he decided to start some conversation. "So, who are all you guys?"

"The name's Hunter," the gruff, brawny man said, crossing his arms and shooting a sideways glare at Channing.

"Arlen," a small, waning voice muttered, originating from a boy equally as meek.

"And I'm Victor," said the last guy in a tone a bit too jovial for comfort.

Blaise nodded as if downloading this newly collected information and storing it in appropriate files. "You all know me, Blaise. It's nice to meet you guys."

Hunter grunted, closing his eyes and leaning against the wall.

"What's his problem?" Victor whispered to Arlen, whose cheeks reddened upon being addressed.

"I, uh, don't know," he replied, a bit too loudly.

The new roommates got settled in, briefly chatting amongst one another, but not enough socialization to really learn anything about each other. Channing busied himself gazing at his own reflection and modeling clothes while Hunter and Arlen dissociated themselves from the others. Blaise and Victor did most of the talking, trying to draw the others in, but not gaining much support in their endeavors.

"Are you about ready for individual shooting?"Luke asked, approaching Jeff. He sat on one of the logs encircling the bonfire pit, musing. He didn't hear his little brother, far too absorbed in his own thoughts. He gnawed on his cuticles and hangnails, leaving his fingers stubby and bloody.

"Jeff," Luke said somewhat louder, draping a hand across his older brother's shoulder.

Finally returning to reality, Jeff snapped his eyes open and twirled around to face Luke. "Oh, hey. What's up?"

Luke waited a moment, studying his brother. "Are you alright, Jeff?"

Furrowing his brows, a vein twitching on his neck, Jeff nodded slowly. "Of course, I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, no reason…" The two stared at each other in silence, trying to figure the other out. Neither wanted to give in and be the first to speak, but Luke knew he had to. "Anyway, it's nearly been two hours. Do you think it's time to start shooting them individually?"

Jeff seemed to be sincerely taken back by this. "Shoot them? Luke, they haven't even started the competition yet. We've talked about this—"

"Jeff, I mean getting video of them," he interrupted, his face gushing with confusion and disgust. "What are you talking about?"

Jeff stared at his brother, his jaw dropped a hair. "Nothing… Go ahead and call them out there."

"Sure thing," Luke replied blasé, but not before giving him a long hard look. He turned away from his brother and walked towards the cabin, suspicions in the air.