The Traitor Game

“Do you want to play the Traitor Game?”

Everyone glanced at Tora, the confident redhead who was perched at the edge of her cot, looking around the room at the others challengingly.

It was a night like any other at Camp Sutton. The sun had gone down and it was nearly ten o’clock. Mandy, one of the counselors, had put her gaggle of twelve-year-olds to bed—or at least, she thought she had—at nine-thirty sharp, then had snuck off to the lake like she did every night to meet up with her boyfriend, a fellow counselor. What she didn’t know was that after she left, those same twelve-year-old girls crawled out of their cots and began to pass the time with various mindless activities, ranging from childish games to gossip one-upmanship to lengthy pop culture discussions.

But a quietness settled over their bunk when Tora asked that one, simple question: “Do you want to play the Traitor Game?”

It was then followed by the obligatory chorus of oohs from her bunkmates, all except for the quiet new girl, Margot—who, like always, had her nose stuck in a book she’d brought from home.

“The Traitor Game,” Margot repeated, her voice soft. “What’s that?”

Everyone laughed, like this was a stupid question.

“Oh, that’s right,” Tora said, winding a strand of red hair around her finger, “you weren’t here last summer, were you?”

Margot shook her head.

“The Traitor Game is . . . well, it’s unexplainable, really.” Tora smirked. Her green eyes blazed like a roaring fire, flickering with light. “But you’ll catch on soon enough. What do you say, Margot?”

“Um.” She looked around the bunk. All five of the girls were staring back at her. Though Tora was the unquestioned leader, her confident ease and beauty far superior to the rest, Margot still found the others intimidating. But then again, she found all people intimidating. “I think I’ll sit this one out.”

Lori, Tora’s most loyal follower, groaned. “Oh, come on, Margot! You’ve sat every game out so far tonight!”

“Yeah, you have. That’s so lame.” Tora approached Margot’s cot with an eye roll, moving in slow, purposeful strides. She reached out and grabbed Margot’s book, throwing it to the ground. It landed with a soft thud. “The Traitor Game is the best. Don’t you want to be a part of it?”

“My book—”

Tora interrupted. “Leave it. You’re better off reading a little less.”

Everyone giggled.

Margot looked around and saw Lori smirking as she watched Tora with mesmerized eyes, Karen and Meghan—aka the Not-Really-Related Twins—sitting together on Meghan’s cot with gaping mouths as they ate up the drama, and Isabelle, the girl from Canada, watching with her head cocked to one side like a dog.

“What do you say?” Tora pressed, her eyes narrowed.

“Do I have to answer right now?” Margot asked. Her voice had gotten high and squeaky. It did that when she was nervous. Her palms began to sweat, despite the freezing cold nighttime weather, and she felt the lines of her hands growing slick with moisture.

“Yes, you do. Are you in or out?”

The other girls began chanting: “In or out, in or out, in or out . . .

The pressure was mounting. Margot felt obliged to say yes, despite not wanting to. She thought of her book lying on the ground. She knew she needed to be more outgoing. That’s why she was here, wasn’t it? That’s the reason her parents abandoned her at this godforsaken prison camp to begin with. The reason she was having to deal with Tora, the girl who was not so much a bully but a different B-word. One that Margot wasn’t allowed to use, despite being twelve and practically an adult.

“I’m in,” she said. Her voice was still a dumb little squeak, but her heart had slowed and she felt the tingly sensation of fear starting to go away. Thank God. “I’ll play the Traitor Game.”

“Excellent,” Tora said. With the same ease that Tora did everything, she sauntered off, toward the bunk door. “Time to go, everyone! Grab your coats and head out.”

Everyone scrambled for the door, except for Margot. She followed along reluctantly, purposely trailing behind the rest of the group.

They were walking away from the neat row of bunks and headed toward the woods, which were large and looming and dark, filled with all sorts of animals—ranging from deer to, potentially, wolves. Margot had made a point of avoiding the woods ever since she arrived at Camp Sutton. So much for that.

She sped up, jogging over to the closest girl, Isabelle. “Where are we going?”

“Um, duh,” Isabelle said, pointing to the stretch of trees up ahead. “There’s a clearing. That’s where Tora likes to go, so no one can see when the Traitor is picked. Things get messy.”

Her brow furrowed. “Messy? What do you mean?”

Isabelle sighed, exasperated. “You really are new, aren’t you? God.”

She stormed off, hurrying in her cute pair of UGG boots to catch up with Tora and Lori. They were leading the way.

Just ahead, the Not-Really-Related Twins were chatting with each other as they walked. Margot considered going to them next to ask more questions, but she decided to just go along with the game . . . whatever it was.

The moon overhead was full and bright, casting a silver glow down on the woods. Tora’s bobbing head of bright red hair looked especially luminous, shimmering and glowing as she walked. She didn’t say anything to Lori or the others. It was odd, too. Tora talked constantly. Tora bossed everyone around no matter what—even the counselors, if she could get away with it.

But as they grew closer to the woods, it seemed like a hush fell over everyone. Even the impossibly-chatty, always-giggly Not-Really-Related Twins became solemn and silent, as if their lips had been sealed shut by some unseen force.

They started into the forest. It was just as Margot had expected it to be: big; green; leafy. Utterly unfun and unnerving, in equal measure. Full of trees and bushes and the occasional rustle of an unknown animal. Or a bird cawing off in the distance. Sometimes an owl, or a cricket. Mostly silent, though—and the silence might have actually been the worst part.

“This place is creepy,” one of the Not-Really-Related Twins, Meghan, whispered. It was the first thing any of them had said in a long, long time.

Beside her, Karen giggled.

Tora sent them a glare over her shoulder, her eyes full of fury. “Do I spy the Traitor among us? Or two Traitors, perhaps?”

They went silent again, hanging their heads in shame.

“That’s what I thought.” Pleased with herself, she smirked, guiding her little group to the left.

“Are you sure about this?” Margot asked, pausing mid-step. “We’re going off the path. It could be dangerous.”

“You’re speaking out of turn,” Tora said in a singsong. “I know you’re new, but I can only have so much patience . . .”

Reluctantly, Margot followed. They made their way through bushes and tree branches that scraped them as they passed. At one point, Lori tripped, landing against a rock that cut through her jeans and gave her a long gash on her knee. She started to whimper from the pain.

Get off your ass,” Tora ordered, her voice cold and cutting. “Now! And shut the hell up!”

Lori nodded, swiping away her tears with both hands.

“Tora, she hurt herself!” Margot said. Normally she wouldn’t have spoken up, with her shyness and all, but watching someone in pain being spoken to so cruelly wasn’t something she could stand. “I can take her back to the bunk. She can’t keep walking with a cut like that.”

“Sure she can,” Tora said with a vicious smirk. “And stop talking. I need silence.”

“But Tora—”

She interrupted. “That’s an order, New Girl! Everyone, let’s go. Those who fall behind are Traitors.”

Everyone carried on, Margot included. Just ahead of her, Lori hobbled as fast as she could, limping numbly as she went. The long gash on her knee was dripping blood. It left a long, morbid trail in her wake, made up of crimson dots that looked like something from a horror movie.

It was five minutes later that they reached the clearing. Tora took a seat on the dirt ground, letting the long green grass snake around her legs. She ordered everyone to sit in a circle, and they did, with Tora right across from Margot. The center was left empty.

“Everyone, join hands,” she barked.

Margot took Isabelle’s left hand and Karen’s right. She eyed the injured Lori, who sat pathetically beside Queen Tora, their hands intertwined.

I sense a Traitor among us,” Tora recited. Her voice sounded creepy, raspy, and not her own.

There were a few nervous giggles from the Not-Really-Related Twins. The sound of the wind whistling through the trees. Then, silence.

“Close your eyes,” Tora ordered.

They did as told, like well-trained little dogs.

I sense a Traitor among us,” Tora said again, “and she is twelve and a girl with long, long hair.

Margot’s long brown hair fluttered in the breeze. Her long, long brown hair.

She is not short nor tall and not fat nor thin. She is twelve and full of sin!”

Margot felt her palms begin to sweat again. She opened one eye just a crack and saw Tora’s eyes were wide open. She was staring straight ahead, unblinking, unmoving. Her posture was rigid. Her lips formed a deep scowl but her eyes registered nothing, not Margot or any of the others. It was as if she was in a trance.

I sense a Traitor among us and she looks like all the rest! She is pretty but not beautiful and has eyes that look like—

“This is stupid,” Margot cut in. She broke free of Karen and Isabelle’s grasp and started to get up. “I don’t want to play anymore. I’m going back to the bunk.”

“Sit down, you stupid bitch!” Tora’s voice ripped through the air. It sounded demonic, possessed. It made the hairs on the back of Margot’s neck stand on end, made goosebumps rise on her arms.


Karen jumped up suddenly and yanked Margot back down, until she was sitting once again, like she had always been there. Out of the corner of her mouth, Karen whispered, “It’s too late to turn back now!”

“Rejoin hands,” Tora said.

They all did. Even Margot, who sat there with wide and frightened eyes.

There is a Traitor among us who thinks just like the rest. But she is to be killed because she’s just not the very best.” Tora’s lips stretched into a smile. “The Traitor is . . . Isabelle.”

There were a few stunned gasps. Everyone opened their eyes, all looking to Isabelle instinctively. Beside Margot, the twelve-year-old girl with the long, long blond hair began to sob. She cried into her hands, sounding sad and desperate, like a dying animal. “I’m not the Traitor, Tora! I swear I’m not! It’s Margot! She’s the Traitor!”

“The decision has been made,” Tora said. She sounded detached, emotionless.

“What’s the big deal?” Margot asked Isabelle, her voice quiet and shy. “I’ll be the Traitor if you want. I don’t care.”

“No!” Tora screamed at her. “I said, the decision has been made! No one can replace a Traitor!”

Isabelle continued to sob.

“I’m done with this,” Tora said, leaning back with disinterest. “Everyone, get her.”

Immediately, Lori, Karen and Meghan got to their feet. They approached Isabelle with devious, twisted smiles on their faces.

“Please no!” Isabelle shrieked.

But it was too late. They grabbed her at the same moment, some pulling her by her hair, others by her arms. The three of them carried her away from the clearing, back into the thick of the woods, with Queen Tora following behind.

“Hey!” Margot screamed. “What are you doing? Hey!”

Tora glanced at Margot over her shoulder. “Are you stupid or something? She’s a Traitor. She needs to be punished.

“No, she’s not,” Margot said. Her palms were sweating. Her voice was high and screechy. But all she could think of was Isabelle sobbing, Isabelle being led off by three very messed-up girls. “It’s just a game! It’s just a stupid game!”

Tora only smiled. She followed after the others without another word.

Margot was left in the clearing. She thought over her options. Should she follow them? Should she wait in the clearing to see if they were just playing a prank? Should she go to the lake and try to find Mandy, the counselor? Or any counselor, for that matter?

She ran. That’s what she did. She ran out of the clearing and back to the trail, running toward the bunk as fast as her feet would carry her. She needed to get help. They were going to do something to that girl, she could feel it.

When she reached their bunk, her lungs were burning and legs were aching, and she was praying that Mandy would have already returned, that she’d be waiting inside.

But she was not.

“Of course she’s not,” Margot said, followed by a laugh that sounded deranged.

She sat on her cot and waited for Mandy to reappear, biting her nails as the time went by. On and on it dragged, for what seemed like an eternity. She wondered things, crazy things. She wondered if she was dreaming. If she had entered The Twilight Zone.

And then, right when it felt like all hope was lost that Mandy would ever return, the door to their bunk swung open.

“Oh, thank God you’re back!” Margot said, breathing a sigh of relief as she stood from her bed. “I thought—”

The words died on her lips as she saw who was actually standing there, in the doorway. Not Mandy at all but her bunkmates. Each of them were grinning ear-to-ear, as if in euphoric dazes. Their clothes were stained by dirt and mud. And they were dripping with blood from head to toe, big scarlet splatters. They were giggling, too. Laughing.

Four of them, that is. Isabelle was noticeably absent.

“What have you done with her?” Margot asked, her voice shaking.

Tora, whose body was now the same bright red as her hair, grinned and stepped forward. She pulled a shovel out from behind her back. “We took care of her, Margot. Because she was a Traitor.”