Midtown Tech’s AP Environmental Science classes were on their annual trip to Wappinger Creek.
It was a dreary October morning. At a crisp 56°F, the group of moody, barely awake teens were rubbing their hands together for some semblance of warmth as they made the trek from the bus to the water.
“We told you to be prepared for the weather,” Mrs. Devonshire said, her hands slotted comfortably in her fleece jacket.
“The weather app said it was going to be 70°!” Flash complained, hugging his arms close to his chest as he shivered in his t-shirt in jeans.
“The high is 70°, but it is currently 9:30AM.”
“Well how was I supposed to know that?” Flash grumbled, sinking into himself further.
Peter clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering. Even in his three layers, gloves, scarf, and hat, the cool breeze that tickled his rosy cheeks was still unbearable.
“Did you know that there have been allegedly twenty-seven murders in this forest?”
Peter looked at MJ incredulously. “By the same person?”
She scoffed. “Of course not.”
Peter pondered on the information. “I… don’t know if that makes it better or worse.”
“Don’t worry. Most of the bodies were recovered.”
Peter’s eyebrows shot up. “Most?”
She grinned. “Keep walking, Parker. Maybe that’ll warm you up.” She sauntered past him with the air of unwavering certainty that she always exuded.
Peter, thankful for his new and improved lung capacity and cursing his still sensitive calves from the not-so-graceful landing he had the night before on patrol, gritted his teeth further as the sore muscles screamed for relief.
He nearly collapsed on the creekbank, plopping himself onto the ground. The freshly fallen leaves crunched beneath his weight.
Flash began to approach him. Peter held his breath, preparing for whatever unnecessary quip that would come out of Flash’s mouth.
“Hey, you okay? You have your inhaler, right?”
Peter waved his hand, looking to the other teen with a smile that was hopefully more reassuring than perplexed. “I’m fine.”
“We don’t want a repeat of the Hall of Science.”
“I’m never gonna live that one down, huh?” Peter ducked his head.
“When you pass out and fall down a flight of stairs and spill your water bottle all over the stairs on your way down and cause ten other people to tumble down with you, well, you’re never living that one down.”
“Thanks, Flash,” Peter said dryly.
“Take care of yourself. Don’t wanna embarrass yourself considering you’re already so embarrassing just being you!” And with that, he trotted off to his group.
With a series of long groans, Peter peeled himself off the forest floor and headed to join his group.
“So,” Betty said, “we need one person to go get the aquatic samples and three people to take forest samples.”
Amanda shook her head. “I can’t go in the water. Not in those waders. Who knows who has worn those?” She shuddered. “I’ll stick to picking up leaves and rocks. Here. On land.”
“I can’t go in either,” Bentley said. “Don’t think they’ll fit me.” He motioned to his 6’5” self.
“Peter?” Betty asked softly. “Do you mind?”
“No. Not at all,” Peter said.
“You have to get four viles of the creek water, three bags of different vegetation, and three rocks.” She handed him the supplies. “You just keep everything in the big bag. Got it?”
“Got it.” Peter gave her a bright thumbs up.
The waders were unlike anything Peter had worn. The thick rubber made his usual agile self stumble back into his old, gangly self. He was at the height where they were still unfortunately too high for his legs, making his wide stance ever the more of a wobbly waddle.
He took careful steps into the water, getting slightly thrown off by the feeling of the water pressure surrounding him from the outside.
He found a rhythm quickly. He was good at adapting. He stuck to the creek floor, quite literally, his adhesive feet being able to keep him planted steadily.
Peter smiled softly to himself, enjoying the simple sounds of nature, tuning out the many different conversations of his peers to just surround himself with rustling leaves and whistling wind.
Peter perked up when he spotted a patch of black sedge. Plodding heavily through the water, he made his way to the other side.
But, when he stepped forward, sticking his foot once more, he was thrown completely off balance as a large rock adhered itself to his foot, lifting up from the creek floor.
Before he could catch himself, Peter went tumbling into the creek.
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