In 1897, the McKennitt family climbed Mt. Hobs for a day of picnicking, taking with them a heavy quilt to serve as a picnic blanket. The father, Sean McKennitt, billowed out the quilt in preparation for laying it flat. Instead, the quilt settled over something in midair–something man-sized yet invisible. Thinking he had snagged a hidden branch, McKennit removed the quilt and tried again, this time clearly noting that nothing occupied the space. Again, the quilt draped itself over something unseen.

When it began to move, the McKennitt family fled in a panic.

After hearing his wild stories in the valley, a group of curious locals, including Sean McKennitt himself, located the picnic site but were unable to find the quilt. Though the site’s disarray and the unfinished, still-packed picnic basket lent some credence to his claim, the prevailing opinion was that McKennitt had simply been seeing things and mistaken a gust of wind for some kind of phantom.

But over the years that followed, the McKennitt quilt was seen all over Mt. Hobs, often from a distance but nearly always apparently draped over something unseen. The quilt became bleached, and patchy, but it never fell apart. And whatever sort of thing Sean McKennitt had stumbled upon that day, it never deigned to remove the blanket that made it visible to a fearful world.

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“Bring them forth.”

The cultists shoved John and Mary forward, bruised and bloodied from where they’d been torn from their station wagon.

“Bow before the Gourd God!” one of the cultists snarled.

“Why have you come to this place?” cried the apparition in the center of the field, a pumpkin-headed man in a scarecrow’s vestments that was not consumed by the flames that encircled it.

“We…we just wanted directions,” John whimpered. “We were going to Gatlinburg and got lost.”

“Oh, well that’s easy,” said the Gourd God. “You get back on 33 and follow it east until it meets up with I-32. Just make sure you get off at Exit 185, or you’ll get caught up in construction.”

John looked around, confused. “Can you…can you write that down?”

“Sure.” One of the cultist’s eyes glowed and they scrawled out the directions, in their own blood, on a page torn from a holy book.

“T-thanks,” said Mary.

“Hey, don’t mention it,” said the Gourd God. “I’m sorry about the kids roughing you up, they have a little more passion than sense sometimes. Safe travels!”

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On June 28, a middle manager at Highner-Coburn, a manufacturer of valves and o-ring seals, went into the parking lot. He locked himself in his late-model Takuro Phantom, at around 10:45 that morning.

Around noon, the fire department responded to a call about a car fire. They arrived to find the Takuro an inferno, utterly consuming the middle manager and three other nearby cars. In the news the following day, it was assumed to be an accident. But an investigation found traces of accelerant, and a reciept for acetone was found in the man’s desk.

It was, apparently, a grisly form of suicide.

And that would have been all, a gruesome sideline for a slow news day. And then on July 4–Independence Day–a woman who worked for a midtown DMV got into her Powell sedan with a can of hairspray and a lighter. The Powell took about half an hour to burn to cinders, and eyewitnesses report that the victim sat placidly behind the wheel as she, and her car, were immolated.

Between the first incident on June 28 and the final one on September 23, a total of 38 people were burned up in their cars. They represented a wide range of occupations, men and women, and all races. But they were predominantly middle-aged, white-collar workers, albeit ones without histories of depression or suicidal thoughts. The only commonality, if it can be called that, was that all of the cars were older models and tended to be from manufacturers that either no longer existed or no longer sold cars in the USA, like Takura or Powell.

The authorities were only able to rescue one victim before they were killed: Gabriel Hernandez, a 41-year-old assistant manager at OfficeSmart. Hernandez was unable to speak due to severe damage to his lungs due to smoke inhalation, and he lingered for three months before dying in November–the last official victim of the Summer of Burning Cars.

Police attempted to interview him using a letter board all the same. In response to their questions, Hernandez spelled out a single word: SPARK.

It’s still unknown what he meant.

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Day 28: Stay home from work and school from now until the end of the challenge.

Day 29: Go up to your high place. Take a selfie and post it with the hashtag #Emergence. Stay there until dawn the following morning.

Day 30: Jump.

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Day 19: Contact your sponsor. Make sure they know how far you have come, and they will confirm your Cocoon status.

Day 20: Your sponsor will send you a film. Watch it.

Day 21: Watch the film all day, from when you get up to when you go to sleep.

Day 22: Delete the film. You will never need to watch it again.

Day 23: Locate a high-up place that is also secret. A railroad bridge or an abandoned building are good candidates.

Day 24: Take a selfie in your high-up place. Post it with the hashtag #CocoonGoesHere.

Day 25: Take a razor blade and cut yourself on your inner lip, your inner arm, and your inner thigh. Do not take a picture of this.

Day 26: Write down a date four days from today. Leave it in a place where it can be found, but not easily, in your room.

Day 27: Go to the high place you found and stand on the very edge for one hour. If you are seen, you fail the test and must go back and find another high place.

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Day 10: Call or Skype your sponsor. Make sure they have seen everything up to this point. They will give you a task to do as confirmation of your Caterpillar status. Do it without question.

Day 11: Your sponsor will send you a piece of music today. Listen to it.

Day 12: Listen to the piece of music from yesterday for 1 hour.

Day 13: Listen to the piece of music from yesterday all day. Have it on in the background or in your headphones from when you wake up to when you go to sleep.

Day 14: Delete the song. You will never need to listen to it again.

Day 15: Choose a spot on your body that no one will notice, like the inside of your arm. Draw a butterfly with permanent marker and take a picture. Do not wash it off afterwards.

Day 16: Post your body art with the hashtag #Larva.

Day 17: Cut the form of a butterfly into your flesh, lightly, with the tip of a razor. Follow the drawing from Day 15. Take a picture.

Day 18: Post your carved butterfly with the hashtag #Cocooning.

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