by Mr. Schprock
There is a tradition among backpackers to welcome strangers as friends; social rank and economic class carry little weight in the wilderness. So it happened that when Morgan Toomey appeared at Sean and Pete's campsite near dusk, he was offered a place to sit, food to eat, and the easy fellowship of his new companions.
Morgan accepted their hospitality but contributed little to the conversation. His funny alpine cap with the bright red feather stayed on his head the whole time, and he kept the brim turned down to hide his eyes, which never rested. Coffee gave way to whiskey and the talk grew desultory and light. Sean asked the question of whether the tree falling in the forest made a sound if no one was there to hear it, and Pete countered with the joke about if a man says something his wife doesn't hear, is he still wrong? After they laughed, Morgan cleared his throat and softly asked, "What about a scream? Is it a scream if no one hears?"
Sean and Pete snuck a look at each other. The communication between them was clear: it wouldn't be safe to sleep. They watched Morgan poke the campfire with a stick.
Next morning, the sun fought through the trees and put a spotlight where the camp had been. All traces were gone save for the ashes of the fire and one other thing: several feet away, half trampled into the earth, a single red feather peeked through the dirt.