When I was around eight years old, I went to spend the weekend at my grandmother's camp. Our whole family was there, which is kind of a feat, because there were at least a million of us. Well. More like twenty, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I have a lot of cousins - some older, some younger - and we wanted to do something all together. Night had fallen. We'd already gone fishing, and my uncle had screamed like a banshee when he caught an eel, so there was no way we could top that. We'd already stuffed ourselves full of s'mores and hot cocoa. We were surrounded by two things - Bottle Lake, and The Woods. Now that we knew Bottle Lake was well stocked with eels, we saw The Woods as our only option.
"Well," said Heather, my older and wiser cousin (she was a teenager), "we could go hunt up a snipe."
"What is a snipe?" I asked. I didn't really want to know.
"Oh," said Jacob, another teenage cousin, "it is like a rat. Only much, much bigger."
"Yeah," said Heather, "and it has fangs. And weird stubby wings."
"Why would we go catch one?" I asked. I was panicking inside my head - why oh why would we voluntarily go looking for something with stubby wings and fangs?
"If we don't catch it, it'll come get you while you're sleeping," said Jacob. "Don't you know that?"
I didn't know that. So, armed with only a paper bag and a few sticks, the group of cousins moved out into the woods. There were at least ten of us, including my five year old brother, and some of us were terrified. Jacob and Heather seemed certain, though - we had to find the snipe, or it would come eat us in our sleep.
I thought I saw a promising place - it was a little dark patch by a tree. I went over, bravely, to poke into the patch with my stick.
"Careful!" said Jacob. "That's where Tim Bishop went missing."
"Missing?" I asked.
"Never to be seen again," he said, gravely. "Better come back to the group."
I rushed back to the group and, within seconds, Heather let out a blood curdling scream.
"There!" she pointed. "There it is!"
We all looked. It was too dark; I couldn't make anything out. Where was it? Heather screamed again, then held up the paper bag.
"I've got it!" she cried. "I've got it!"
The thing thrashed around inside the paper bag. Heather struggled to hold it, but it was too much for her. The bag went flying from her arms, into the woods. When we got to it, the bag was empty.
"Kids?" It was Gram, calling us from the porch. "Come on back. It's getting late."
Jacob sighed and placed a heavy hand on my shoulder. "I guess... I guess we'll just have to try again some other day."
"But won't it get me while I sleep?" my brother asked.
"You probably shouldn't sleep then," said Jacob.
We walked back to camp, thoroughly terrified. I didn't sleep at all that night. Neither did anyone else.
A few years passed before all the cousins got together again. Now I was a teenager - Jacob and Heather were in their twenties. Younger cousins had joined the mix, now. After s'mores and fishing, I knew what it was time for. The snipe hunt. Only now, I'd get to lead it.
"Here," said Heather, before I headed out. She pressed a smooth, flat rock into my hand.
"What's that for?" I asked.
"That," she said, smiling, "is the snipe. Make sure you scream when you catch it - that's Gram's cue."
It all became clear to me then. I smiled, hid the rock in my pocket, and went out to lead the best Snipe Hunt in the history of camp. Nobody slept that night, either. Except for me. I slept just fine.