Recap #234: Graveyard School Final Four Countdown: #24 – Scream Around The Campfire by Tom B. Stone
Title: Graveyard School #24 – Scream Around The Campfire, a.k.a. “I Heard The Bigfoot Call My Name”
Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins
Cover Artist: Mark Nagata
Summary: Who Is The Happy Camper From The Dark Side?
Alex wishes he had stayed home this summer. He hates camp. He hates the goofy songs. He hates the gross food. But most of all, he hates the creepy campfire stories. Is he the only one who notices that they’ve been coming true? And will he be able to stop whoever it is before he becomes just another marshmallow on the campfire of life?
Four, repeat, we are down to FOUR books left before the series is over and we are once again leaving the confines of Grove Hill. This is the second of the two summer camp books and Thacker manages to avoid doing a total retread of “Camp Dracula.”
When I first heard of this particular entry back in 2004, my interest got peaked at the discovery the main character was none other than Alex Lee. Alex being the protagonist of the first “Graveyard School” book I read, I was eager to see what he would do in his next protagonist role. However, upon reading said book for the first time…
Guys I gotta level with you, this book is rather strange. Mainly, it’s the reveal behind what is causing the different campfire stories to come to life. But Thacker also includes a couple of unique ghost stories shared by the campers, although we see a retread of the infamous “Hook” urban legend.
At the very least, one thing to enjoy is the return of Alex’s pragmatic moral backbone and how he doesn’t strive to be some perfect angel yet is openly disgusted when other people are being hurt.
Also, the supporting character is named Garth which I fucking love because one of my favorite comic characters of all time is named Garth.
[Wing: No idea how the book is going to come across, but I love that book blurb up there. It sounds GREAT and makes me want to go to summer camp again.]
Much like “The Dead Sox,” Thacker starts off strong with the following.
“Once upon a time, strange creatures roamed these mountains. Half human, half animal, these beasts would prey on unsuspecting campers. One day, a boy was on his way to camp when on of the – things – stepped in front of his father’s car.”
“It was so big that its shadow blotted out the moon. It looked human – well… half human. The boy screamed…”
“Look out, Dad!” Alex exclaimed.
Mr. Lee jerked the steering wheel sideways as something huge blotted out the car’s headlights.
Alex gasped. He had a glimpse of fur. Of shining teeth. Of tiny eyes.
Tiny eyes that were half human.
[Wing: Werewolf WEREWOLF W E R E W O L F]
Mr. Lee only just manages to avoid hitting… whatever the fuck that was, and isn’t that phased by it. He even tells Alex this has all the makings of a good campfire story to share when he gets to Camp Nevermore. Alex can only barely restrain his joy while his father chooses to ignore his sarcasm.
Unfortunately, Mr. Lee can’t start the car up again after stopping it. Alex thinks he’s joking at first, but it seems the battery suddenly ran out of juice.
“Maybe we went through some weird force field and it sucked our battery dry,” Alex said. “Whoooo.”
Jesus Chris the snark is flowing strong and this is the SECOND PAGE.
But then Alex realizes his dad’s not kidding and the car’s dead. Not only that, they’re lost.
Alex took a deep breath. “Our car has broken down?”
“Where, exactly, are we?”
Mr. Lee looked around, as if he might see a street sign, or maybe a friendly traffic cop who would give him directions. He said, “I’m not sure, but I’d say we’re at the intersection of Dark and Deserted, just before the exit to Lost Forever.” He grinned, pleased with his own joke.
“Dad,” said Alex, trying to be patient, “Where are we?”
“I don’t know. We’re lost,” Mr. Lee said. He said it cheerfully. He was that kind of father.
[Wing: Okay, I kind of love Mr Lee. He’s ridiculous.]
Alex is forced to listen to his dad’s happy whistling while he searches for a flashlight, which does nothing to help him forget that he’s pretty much stuck in a nightmare. Lost in a dead car in a deserted forest in the middle of the night. At least, he hopes the forest is deserted before remembering that thing they almost hit.
Mr. Lee makes a big show of checking out a map while Alex gradually loses patience with his dad’s relentless optimism.
Alex gritted his teeth. “Are we found yet?”
His dad thinks they missed a turn, so Mr. Lee plans to head back on foot. He assures Alex he’ll be at Camp Nevermore in no time. Alex at first is not keen on the idea his dad is going without him, but then reconsiders. He’d rather stay inside the car instead of venturing outside with that, whatever the hell it was. Although Mr. Lee thinks it was probably just a deer and it’s long gone by now. Before leaving, Mr. Lee tells Alex that there should at least be enough juice in the battery to turn on the hazard flasher lights in case he hears another car coming. Oh and blow the horn in case of an emergency. Just because there’s nothing to be afraid of doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.
“We’ll get you to Camp Nevermore before you know it.”
“Terrific,” muttered Alex.
His father pretended not to hear him.
Alex watches his father head back down the road, the beam from the flashlight growing smaller in the distance until Alex couldn’t see it anymore.
He was alone.
In the dark.
He can’t turn the radio on because of the battery, and the thought of taking a nap seemed dangerous. At the very least his eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness and he began to make out the shapes of the trees. He figures by the time his dad returns Alex will have turned into one of those animals that can only see in the dark.
Such a trait might be handy when he goes back to Graveyard Schoooo-okay that’s it these kids are definitely stuck in a time warp.
[Wing: All the best middle grade books have the kids stuck in a time warp. Clearly there’s no other possible way to write them. Clearly.]
Looking up through the car window, Alex could make out the starry night sky with more clarity. He witnessed a shooting star, knowing it was probably a chunk of meteor getting incinerated by Earth’s atmosphere. He hoped one would crash nearby to really brighten the landscape, but his wish didn’t come true. [Wing: Alex is entertaining the hell out of me with his pessimistic nature. I love it.]
Thinking about the stars, Alex wondered why he couldn’t see any lights from Camp Nevermore in such pitch darkness. Surely they’d at least have a campfire going at this point. He started to remember how this summer began and his vocal protests against going to camp at all.
Mr. and Mrs. Lee told Alex that Camp Nevermore had an excellent reputation, named after a line by Edgar Allen Poe since some people believe he spent time in the area. Alex’s older brother Michael teased him about going to “The Little Camp of Horrors,” so Alex smugly reminded Michael that at least HE isn’t stuck in summer school like SOME people. Pissed, Michael tried to scare Alex by mentioning a kid who disappeared in the area around the camp, probably eaten by something before Mrs. Lee makes him stop.
“So long,” Michael had said to Alex. “I wish I could say it’s been nice knowing you.”
Remembering his brother never said what ate that hypothetical kid, Alex’s attention is brought back to Earth when he hears a twig snapping and a bird flying away. Had something spooked it, like a wolf? Immediately Alex thought of wolves circling the car, but figured this was unlikely.
Stop that, he told himself. Even if there are wolves in the Adirondacks, which is extremely unlikely, they wouldn’t bother me. Wolves have more to fear from humans than humans do from wolves.
After all, how many wolves have shot people and hung their skins on walls as trophies?
Of course, Alex thought, I could be the first.
He brought himself up short. I’m in a car, he told himself. What could a wolf do? Bite the tires?
Sure it could, a little voice inside him answered. It could if it was a mad mutant wolf, bigger than a bear and-
Stop that, Alex thought. Get a grip.
Alex tried to relax, listening to the melody of the tree frogs and the hooting of the owls. Checking his illuminated digital watch, Alex sees practically an hour’s passed since his dad left. Tired of being alone in the dark, Alex thought to get his flashlight out of his backpack in the trunk. He couldn’t do much about the alone part, but he could fix the dark aspect.
Granted, Alex thought as he exited the car, this is the exact moment in a horror movie where something would grab him. The fact that nothing did was probably an indicator he’d be okay.
[Wing: Nah, that’s just avoiding the stereotypical jump scare. The second jump scare would be when he opens the trunk and something grabs him then. The third jump scare would be when he shuts the trunk and there’s something on top of the car. That’s the one I like best. An actual circumvention of stereotypical jump scares would be him slowly turning to see whatever it is instead of trying to surprise us with it. What I’m saying is, kid, you are far from safe. Also, how do you ever think you’re safe? You go to GRAVEYARD SCHOOL.]
Fumbling to find the key hole to unlock the trunk, Alex had to jerk back as the trunk swung open and almost took his nose off. That momentary shock made Alex loosen his grip on the keys and they flew from his hand. He had to remember it’d be easier to find the keys with illumination, so first he searched for his flashlight. Flicking it on, Alex did a quick sweep of the area and saw the glitter of metal on the road.
Right by a pair of giant, hairy feet.
[Wing: Oooh, not a terrible reveal at all.]
Screaming, Alex dove back for the safety of the car. He slammed the door on his leg in his first attempt to get in, and on his second more successful attempt realized he’d dropped the flashlight in the process of being injured. Frantically trying to get the car window up, Alex then remembered he’d need the keys to do so. Which were out there. With that thing. [Wing: Jesus, kid, how have you survived Graveyard School (so far)?]
Alex desperately manually locked all the doors in a vain attempt to protect himself hoping whatever was out there wouldn’t know how to work car keys. He then watched the beam of the flashlight as a large shadow picked it up before shining it on Alex’s face. Freezing like a deer in headlights, Alex shook himself into action and threw himself onto the floor of the car searching for anything to use as a weapon. He settled for a tennis ball and waited, remembering his brother’s taunts and fearing he was going to be eaten by what he thinks, or hopes, is a bear.
Hearing footsteps and what might’ve been claws on the road, Alex jerked the tennis ball back and threw it at the dark shape coming near the open window. He heard a growl, and then the shape vanished. So Alex waited.
His legs began to fall asleep waiting for whatever was out there to make its move, but nothing happened. Alex struggled to get up from his crouching position since most of his limbs were numb. The cool breeze coming from the window should’ve been a relief, until a beam of light shined on his face and Alex began to scream.
Thankfully, the beam was coming from a truck which housed his dad as a passenger. Mr. Lee asked Alex about the scream he heard and thought maybe Alex had been startled from a sound sleep. He then cheerfully mentioned the two were indeed close to Camp Nevermore, and introduces Alex to the camp director.
And guess who Wing, it’s none other than our dear friend Wes Craven-I MEAN, Les Raven. [Wing: ADORABLE. I love Thacker’s writing in this damn series. It’s silly and absolutely delightful.]
Mr. Raven, the driver of the truck, got out to fasten jumper cables to help give some juice to the battery of the Lees’ car. Les says he believes Alex will have a nice time at Camp Nevermore, and promises to be seeing a LOT of Alex in the near future.
When Alex’s dad asks for the car keys, Alex has to awkwardly explain how he managed to lose both them AND the flashlight. Because something surprised him.
“Surprise,” he heard Les Raven say, “is essential for a successful attack.”
Neverthe-LES (Snerk), [Wing: NOPE.] the camp director helps father and son search for the keys and comments they’re quite a way from the car. Alex explains he saw a bear, but Les finds that both very amusing and very unlikely as he spots the keys. Thankfully there weren’t any giant claw marks in the asphalt, but Les can’t find Alex’s flashlight. He gives Alex a look as if he dares him to say the “Bear” stole it. Mr. Lee jokes that exact sentiment, not realizing how much it embarrasses his son as Alex asks that they fucking go.
Les muses Alex’s little misadventure has all the makings of a fine story, because they take stories very seriously at Camp Nevermore. Mr. Lee mentions Alex is more interested in facts and truth than making up stories.
“True stories are even better,” Les Raven said. “Stories that come true are the best stories of all. Don’t you agree?”
[Wing: Why yes I do. Mwahahahahahaha. Ha.]
Alex is steadily sure Mr. Raven is a few pages short of a bestseller when the camp director holds his flashlight up to his face, doing a standard hideous face. That didn’t scare Alex so much. What scared Alex was how similar looking the flashlight appeared to the one Alex lost. In fact, it kind of looks-nah, lots of flashlights look similar, don’t they?
Les kindly offers to lend Alex his flashlight. He’s sure he’ll find another.
Getting back in the car, heading to a camp he wanted nothing to do with, Alex was sure Les had somehow gotten his flashlight from that bear. [Wing: Ooooooor, and hear me out, Les IS the bear. Or the W E R E W O L F. Which I ‘m pretty sure won’t actually be a werewolf, but maybe.] What else could it have been as he thought of Edgar Allen Poe, that missing kid, and Bigfoot.
Just then, Alex’s father said “You know what, Alex? I can tell you’re going to have fun at Camp Nevermore. In fact, I bet camp is going to be a real scream.”
Alex didn’t answer. He was saving his breath.
ALL THAT IN TWO CHAPTERS.
[Wing: You know what? Thacker’s managed more actual plot and action in two chapters than Christopher Pike does in 1/4 of a book in the penultimate book in the Last Vampire series. Good god, Pike, take a lesson here.]
The next morning Alex wakes up to someone doing an impersonation of wolves with sore throats with a horn, and takes a moment to remember he’s in the third tent of the Algonquin campsite. Upon arriving the previous night he met his other bunkmates, camp veterans Jean-Paul and Larry as well as the entirely too chipper newbie Garth.
- Jean-Paul: Dark skinned, pale freckles, comes from Canada eh?
- Larry: A sunburned chunk of a kid
- Garth: BIG. And I mean that as in tall and powerful.
Well you know something? At least Jean-Paul is upfront about being from Canada, unlike that maple syrup sucking, MOOSE HUMPING, HOCKEY PUCK LICKING, POUTINE FUCKING LIAR KNOWN AS SAISON FUCKING MARGUERITE!
Alex recalled the way Jean-Paul and Larry snickered at Garth’s exuberance upon their first meeting, which only made Alex cringe.
While putting on the standard Camp Nevermore uniform (khaki shorts and a bright red T-shirt with the camp name written above a raven symbol), [Wing: Okay, that’s cute as hell.] Alex noticed Garth still hadn’t woken up as the other two left. The minute Alex tried to prod Garth out of his bunk, the follow newbie rolled over and tumbled out of the bed taking all his sheets – and Alex – down with him. Alex struggled to get his huge bunkmate off him so they could go and get the first day of this nightmare over with.
Garth’s head emerged from the snarl of blankets and sheets. He was clutching a pillow as if it were a marshmallow in one large, pawlike hand. His long shiny hair stuck out all over his head, and his big brown eyes looked startled. He stared at Alex owlishly for a moment, then broke into a huge grin. “Thanks!” he boomed, and scrambled to his feet. “Isn’t camp great!”
To quote Brittnay Matthews: Okay, you are fucking adorable and I love everything about you.
Alex doesn’t feel the same way, and finds Garth’s chipperness rather weird before exiting the tent. [Wing: He’s no more chipper than your dad, which I guess could be weird for you. No chippier? Not the chippest?] Amid the sea of yawning campers, Rick, one of the guides for the Algonquin campsite, tried to get their attention. They were soon joined by the other Algonquin guide Jacob, as well as Garth, who loudly and enthusiastically asked where everyone was going. Again, several campers snickered at Garth which he didn’t seem to notice. [Wing: Fuck all y’all.] Rick explained they’ll be taking a short, ten minute hike through the woods to reach the Mess Hall for breakfast.
Garth thinks that’s neato.
Alex can’t believe he just said “Neato.”
Before they depart, Jacob says that for the camp session they’ll all be using the buddy system. And since there are four campers to the six tents in the Algonquin campsite, that means there’ll be two sets of buddies per tent. Jean-Paul immediately zeroed in on Larry, which left Alex stuck with Garth before he could argue.
Garth said, “Oh, good. We’re buddies, Alex. Isn’t that great?”
He clapped Alex on the back so hard that Alex almost dropped to his knees.
No seriously I fucking love him.
Alex, not sure what to say, does an incredibly stimulation of a smile and weakly says “Great.”
After breakfast, Alex and the other campers join the kids from Algonquin One and Two, as well as some campers from the Wolf Jaws site, [Wing: How do I get assigned to the Wolf Jaws site? Asking for a friend. And by friend, I mean me.] for an “Introductory hike.” During their meal, Les Raven explained it was to get the boys ready for overnighters and in preparation of hiking one of the bigger peaks.
Apparently there aren’t any girls at Nevermore. [Wing: No, fuck all y’all. I do think separate spaces for different genders can be useful, but I want to go to this camp, damn it. This fictional camps for kids who I am old enough to be their parent, BUT STILL.]
Jean Paul and Larry were rather smug with Jean-Paul boasting he’s already hiked like six peaks in the area. While Alex wouldn’t say he was friends with Garth, he appreciated that Garth didn’t act superior like the other two sharing their tent. Of course, Garth still hadn’t picked up on the condescension he was receiving from the two vets and Alex didn’t understand why following an incident at breakfast.
“They are the forty-six mountains in the Adirondack Mountain range that were originally identified as being above four thousand feet,” Garth said helpfully.
Now both Larry and Jean-Paul gave Garth scornful looks. “You sound like an encyclopedia,” Larry said.
“No, a guidebook. Garth’s Guided Tours of Peaks and Valleys,” said Jean-Paul, and snickered at his own feeble wit.
Naturally, Garth didn’t get the sarcasm. “Thank you,” he said. [Wing: It is a pretty good compliment, no lie.]
“Hey, Garth – your shoe’s untied,” said Larry.
Garth looked down. Larry reached out with his thumb and forefinger and thumped Garth on the tip of his nose. “Gotcha,” he said.
It was one of the oldest, dumbest, most juvenile gags around. Garth jerked his head back with a little yelp. He gave Larry a hurt look. [Wing: FUCK YOU LARRY AND JEAN-PAUL.]
Alex said, “I know lots of little kids who think that’s really funny.”
Larry stopped laughing to glare at Alex. Garth shifted from one foot to the other, his gaze going from Alex to Larry and back again.
Alex added for good measure, “So why don’t you go take a long hike – off a tall cliff.”
After Larry and Jean-Paul left the table in a huff, Garth was worried Alex made them mad. Alex didn’t care.
Alex is jerked back to the present when, during the hike up, Garth accidentally dislodged a couple of stones that fell down in Alex’s direction. One hit Alex’s shin and he shouted at Garth to watch it. Getting hit with rocks, eaten alive by insects, roasted by the sun, yeah this summer’s off to a great start.
What completed it was the sound of footsteps Alex heard behind him, only to turn around and see no one was there. Twice he turned back when he heard footsteps on the trail below, only to see no one. Confused, Alex was taken by surprise by another insect biting his leg. In his quickness to smash the offending creature Alex lost his balance in fell. Before he knew it, he was tumbling back down the trail as Garth cried out in horror.
Alex tried in vain to grab something to stop his plunge, but everything he attempted to hold onto came loose in his hands. Suddenly, something yanked him by the leg and threw him off to the side, stopping his descent. Resting on a ledge, Alex could hear but not see Garth alerting Rick to Alex’s fall. And then suddenly Alex could feel a hush fall over the area as Garth became silent and Rick told Alex not to move. From where he lay, Alex could see the horrified expressions on his fellow campers. Well, most of them. Jean-Paul seemed almost excited as Alex heard footsteps coming towards him.
A black bear was lumbering towards Alex, and he could only imagine the letter his parents would receive about their son being eaten alive on his first day of camp. Alex did his best not to move or completely fucking lose it as no one dared approach the bear in question. [Wing: Yeah, that’s not how to react to a black bear. Make yourself big and make some noise. You play dead for grizzly bears. Note: Wing, Devil’s Elbow, and Nostalgic Bookshelf are not responsible for whatever happens if you take advice here. But seriously. Rick should know these things.] He hoped the bear went after the other campers first so he could run for help, but thankfully the bear lost interest in all of them and returned back to the woods.
Rick congratulated everyone on staying calm while Alex bluntly says he’s glad no one was eaten. Garth earnestly says the bear wouldn’t have really bothered them, followed by Larry boasting it didn’t bother him since he ain’t fraid of no bear. Rick adds a little healthy fear can save someone’s life if you don’t panic.
Garth said “I’m not afraid of bears either, but-”
Jean-Paul hooted. “I bet you’re afraid of your own shadow.”
“I’m not,” Garth protested. “Why would you say that?”
He sounded hurt and surprised.
Seriously I will fucking cut this bitch if he doesn’t back off poor Garth. [Wing: I am so, so charmed by Garth.]
Again, Alex groans and has to wonder what Garth’s deal was. Didn’t Garth realize that if he ignored Jean-Paul’s feeble jokes, Jean-Paul would eventually lose interest?
Jean-Paul was a bully, or as Alex’s father might say, one of the less appealing representatives of the human species – the kind of kid who grew up to think that environmental conservation meant planting trees in parking lots after they’d bulldozed a redwood forest.
Alex didn’t like people like Jean-Paul. He avoided them whenever possible. But he didn’t let them push him around. You couldn’t.
Why didn’t Garth know that?
[Wing: Possibly because Garth is big enough that people rarely pick on him due to being intimidated by his mere presence. Which is how Ostrich got through his younger years, really, since he’s also a gentle giant.]
After some more mocking from Jean-Paul, Rick says they’ll be stopping at a nearby lean-to for a water break. Rick directs the campers towards said lean-to and points to the nearby outhouse as well. Two younger campers by the names of Donald and Anthony ask what happens when you need to go and an outhouse isn’t nearby. Rick explains you dig a cat hole a good distance away from any streams so your waste doesn’t contaminate any water supplies. Jean-Paul proposes they make a Garth Hole instead; Alex tells Garth to not even acknowledge them as Rick does a demonstration on digging a cat hole.
Larry whines about everyone having to carry water with them and like a moron asks why they don’t drink straight from the streams. You know the old saying “Water water everywhere so let’s all have a drink.” So much for being a veteran camper. Rick immediately explains you can get incredibly sick from drinking pond or stream water. You either have to boil it or filter the water first, and Rick didn’t bring a filter with him on a simple day hike.
Alex gets Rick’s attention to let him know he’s gonna use the outhouse. He’s glad it’s nowhere near as creepy or disgusting as that one bathroom in Graveyard School. The one that had the thing Alex doesn’t want to think about. It’s summer, and summer meant you didn’t have to fight for your life every day. [Wing: And yet somehow, you have survived Graveyard School (so far).]
He shook his head again as he exited the outhouse, letting the door bang shut behind him.
A gust of wind caught it, banging it again.
“Knock, knock,” said a voice from the woods nearby, and laughed dementedly.
Alex stammers asking who’s there, which the voice finds almost as funny before Alex realizes it belongs to a guy sitting by a tree of the trail. The man thinks for a moment before saying his name’s Trapper. Jason Trapper. His white teeth flash a predatory smile, and he’s wearing several packs and carrying with him a bow, arrows, and a net. Alex asks if it’s hunting season, but Jason says he’s more of a fisherman than a hunter. He’s after a very special fish and he’s gonna use a very special hook.
Mainly, the hook at the end of one of his arms.
Trapper lifts his nose up and can somehow smell that Alex has been near a bear. Alex mentions he did encounter one, but doesn’t point to where. Because guess what? The bear didn’t hurt Alex or anyone else so he’s not gonna give it up to this hunter creep whoever the fuck he is. Alex asks how Trapper could tell he was near a bear, and Trapper motions to his nose. Alex doesn’t believe he could just smell the bear aroma.
Jason Trapper stood up. He moved so quickly that he didn’t seem to move at all. One minute he was sitting by a tree.The next minute he was standing next to Alex. He was a big guy, Alex noted. A very big guy, as big as Les Raven, or maybe even bigger. But he had an unfinished look about him, as if he might grow bigger at any second, as if his clothes were getting too tight with every breath.
Trapper grabs Alex with his normal hand to stop him from falling.
And to stop Alex from leaving.
“If a shark can smell a drop of blood in an ocean of water, why shouldn’t I smell a bear in a sea of air? If a hawk can see a rabbit move from a mile off in the sky, why shouldn’t I see a leaf a mile away? If a cat can hear a mouse breathe deep beneath the ground, why shouldn’t I hear you snore in your little tent down the mountain? That’s the problem with people. They don’t use the senses they were born with. Bah!”
“Sure,” Alex said hastily. “Sure. Why not?”
…Wing I don’t know whether to applaud or suggest someone put an Amber Alert out.
[Wing: W E R E W O L F]
Trapper lets go of Alex just as Jean-Paul announces himself and asks if Trapper’s a hunter.
“You a kid?” Jason Trapper shot back.
Jean-Paul made a face. “Are you a human?”
Jason Trapper laughed as if Jean-Paul had said something really funny. He slapped his knee. He bared his teeth.
Jean-Paul quickly gets the fuck out of there, and Alex follows after him. As he leaves, Alex overhears Trapper proclaiming he can smell something else.
“Fear,” he said. “I smell fear. Isn’t it an interesting smell?”
[Wing: Second verse, same as the first: W E R E W O L F]
Alex rejoined the group but refused to tell Garth what had happened as they finally reached the mountaintop. While given a good view of Vermont, Alex and Garth watched a crow outsmart a hawk. Alex goes back to Trapper’s declaration but thought no human could have such a sense of smell. [Wing: Ostrich’s sense of smell is not quite that ridiculous, but it is pretty strong. I call him a werewolf for a reason. He can sniff my hair and tell me the places I’ve been that day. Which is actually kind of creepy as I write it out, but I find super entertaining in reality.] And then he remembered whatever the fuck had been near the car, but before he can finish his thoughts Jean-Paul proposes they tell ghost stories. Rick thinks they should save those for tonight’s campfire, but Jean-Paul claims he knows a lot so he can spare one.
Garth, of course, isn’t a fan of ghost stories, earning him more scorn from Dipshits A and B. Rick decides why not and tells Jean-Paul to go ahead.
THE GHOUL OF THE MOUNTAINS
Once there was a young kid who was hiking and exploring one of these mountains, but no one remembers which one exactly. Almost at the top, he heard something behind him but no one was there when he turned around. The kid thought he just heard an animal, but it still made him nervous. Especially when he heard the sound of footsteps again. He kept walking and kept hearing the sounds, but always he’d turn around and see nothing. Nothing…
Until a huge shadow spread over him.
That was when the kid knew this was the Ghoul of the Mountains who roamed the trails and peaks searching for people to eat. The only proof anyone ever found of its presence were bloody footprints.
Screaming, the kid ran up the mountain as the ghoul laughed and chased after him. Now whenever he looked back the kid could see the hideous monster behind him, getting oh so very closer until there was nowhere else to go. But rather than let the Ghoul get its claws on him, the kid instead chose to throw himself over the edge of the cliff and disappeared forever.
Now that kid is said to haunt these mountains, searching for kids to push over the edge so he won’t be alone anymore.
Wing holy crap what if this is the thing that killed Lance Kerrigan back in “Tales Too Scary To Tell At Camp?” What if Lance and the other kid keep getting into arguments over who gets to kill which kid and they keep squabbling over territory?
Rick quickly applauds Jean-Paul and decides everyone should make the trek back down. Alex takes one last look at the scenery below but doesn’t move too close. Why give a ghost an edge? But just as Alex asks if Rick knows anyone named Jason Trapper he hears Garth scream.
Garth’s about to fall over the edge!
Without thinking, Alex throws himself forward and tries to grab the back of Garth’s pack to save him. But since Garth’s so much bigger he starts to drag Alex forward until Rick dives in and tackles the boys to the ground before they go over.
Alex takes a moment to breathe and think about what just happened, realizing he almost just made a descent down a mountain. He shook as he tried to stand up, and Garth, who was sitting, announced someone had pushed him. Alex immediately glared at Jean-Paul who was standing with the other campers. Jean-Paul proclaimed he never touched Garth, and Rick believes him thinking Garth just lost his balance. He only felt Alex trying to stop him, and even Larry comments that was a really brave thing Alex did.
Garth insists he’s talking about before Alex tried to stop him from falling. He definitely felt someone’s hand on his back, but Larry points out no one was near Garth close enough to push him. Alex remembers it clearly; Garth was by himself. Rick believes Garth is just in shock, but Garth won’t back down. There’s no reason why he’d go flying towards the edge like that unless someone pushed him. He hadn’t tripped on anything. Everyone keeps trying to make Garth believe he wasn’t pushed because no one was standing near him.
Unless, Jean-Paul snarks, they were invisible.
That seems to suck the life out of Garth as he scrambles as far away from the edge of the mountain as possible and points at Jean-Paul. Again, Jean-Paul cries he didn’t do anything but that’s not what Garth’s motioning towards. Garth’s shaken because he realizes the ghost story Jean-Paul just told came true.
Rick thinks Garth’s imagining things. Alex advises Garth to take it easy, but Garth stubbornly insists he felt someone’s hands on his back. Jean-Paul just told a story about a ghost that pushes people off mountains. Does anyone have other ideas? Again, Rick tells everyone to move, and he tells Garth he doesn’t believe in ghosts and he certainly hasn’t heard of any ghosts that haunt these mountains before today.
Besides, what ghost comes out during the day?
At Graveyard School, thought Alex uneasily, ghosts come out anytime they want to.
A gust of wind, cold as a breeze off the tombstones in the old cemetery behind Graveyard School, curled around the back of Alex’s neck. He shuddered at the familiar, icy touch.
No, he thought. I am on vacation. This stuff only happens at school.
Oh Alex, you’re never free of Graveyard School, because you carry it in your heart wherever you go.
Of course, as Alex heads back down, the budding seeds of the denial that took root in most of Grove Hill’s adults and older adolescents started to show. Alex didn’t believe in ghosts unless the situation called for it. He knew at Graveyard School you don’t survive by taking stupid chances. [Wing: Really? Because you certainly aren’t believing in things so far in this book despite your copious amount of experience at Graveyard School, which you have somehow survived (so far).]
That night the boys gathered around the campfire. Garth really wasn’t in the mood for ghost stories, and Larry eagerly took the chance to mock him for it before Jacob shushed everyone to set the tone.
“In honor of the storyteller from whose works the name of this camp was chosen,” Jacob intoned, “we have a tradition here at Camp Nevermore. When we gather around the campfire, we tell stories of mystery and fear, of danger and doom, of all the things you hope will never happen.” [Wing: I need to attend this camp. Need to.]
“I don’t like this,” said Garth.
“Shh,” Alex answered. He was beginning to get into the whole thing.
“We take turns telling stories. Stories that could be true.” Jacob paused and looked around the circle at the faces turned up to him, eyes hollowed by the flames, shadows stretching away behind the campers as if they have lives of their own.
Jacob smiled and presses his fingertips together. “And I think I’ll begin with a ghost story.”
Jacob directs everyone’s attention to the cluster of small boulders near the trail that leads to the main part of Camp Nevermore, and that’s when his story begins.
THE OUTLAW ROCKS
Long ago before Camp Nevermore existed, seven thieves had made their way through these woods after robbing the town on the other side of the valley. It was winter, the trees were bare and it was about to snow, so the outlaws brazenly built a roaring fire despite the attention it would bring during the night. They cooked their dinner and they celebrated their ill-gotten gains, counting the loot by firelight. Only one outlaw, Schmidt, wasn’t so happy. He expressed his concerns with Marley the leader, thinking they shouldn’t have robbed that church. They never robbed a church before. It was sacrilege. Marley told Schmidt to stop being a little bitch as everyone threw around their spoils. The gold, the jewels, the coins, the fucking gold communion cup.
So yeah, after a while Schmidt relaxed with his comrades and later in the night they went to sleep.
That was when IT came.
It rolled out of the woods and made a direct line towards the clearing where the outlaws rested. Schmidt was the first to awake and saw, illuminated by the fire, a swirling white mist that pulsed with unnatural life. Panicking, Schmidt grabbed his gun and fired at the mist, which naturally had no effect on it. Schmidt’s screaming and gunfire awoke the others, and they unloaded their guns on the mist as well.
The mist reached out towards the outlaws, taking on a form like hungry blue flames. The outlaws watched in horror, too terrified to move except for Schmidt who tried to run. A tongue of white and blue shot out and wrapped around his ankle. Schmidt’s screams of pain awoke the others and they tried to flee, but it did them no good. [Wing: Um, no, they were already awake. Excuse me, you literally just said that in the previous paragraph, Stone!] One by one the mist reached forward and choked them with fingers of cold fire.
A posse lead by the sheriff found their campsite the next day and what was left of the outlaws. Near the edge of the woods, the men located six hideous frozen forms that only had the barest trace of humanity left in them. They were unable to tell if these had ever been living men despite the intricately carved faces on each form. Their expressions were ones of pain and failure, having been unable to escape their doom.
(Garth interrupts much to Jacob’s annoyance. He said there were six statues even though there were seven outlaws. Jacob was getting to that.)
The posse found Schmidt half dead, frozen up to his chest and babbling incoherently about what he called the Icewind Ghost. They tried to nurse him back to health but died a short while later. They buried his body in the churchyard.
The following spring, people discovered the frozen outlaws had melted from ice to stone. They were later dubbed the Outlaw Rocks.
Garth still doesn’t like the story much, since the six stones don’t look anything like people. Jacob says this happened so long ago that, over time, the rocks became worn by the weather and lost their features. But if you look at them close enough…
On the way back to their tent, Garth asks if Alex thinks the story’s true. Jean-Paul sneers at Garth asking if he’s scared, and Garth honestly responds of course he’s scared if the story’s true. It’d be crazy NOT to be scared in that case. [Wing: Damn it, I love you, Garth. LOGIC.] Larry tells him to knock it off because he’s safe and it’s late and they need to sleep. Garth actually apologizes, and Alex muses at least Garth’s polite.
For a nerd, that is.
But still, Alex tells Garth that everyone in the mountains tell stories like this, and muses on the Bigfoot story his own dad told him before they got here.
Alex later awakens from a nightmare where something enters the tent and attacks Garth. He avoids screaming out and waking his bunkmates, but then realizes Garth’s stopped snoring and is getting up anyway. Garth doesn’t answer Alex’s call and all he can hear is the steady hooting of the owls outside the tent, followed by the unfamiliar sound of “Aww, aww, awwwww.” Alex wonders if Garth’s going to the bathroom, but then fears his large bunkmate might be sleepwalking instead. There was no way Garth would head for the bathhouse by himself this late at night.
Alex quickly gets his sneakers on and heads out of the tent with his flashlight to follow Garth. He’s amazed by how quickly and silently the usually klutzy Garth is moving. Alex’s belief that Garth’s sleepwalking is compounded when he sees Garth ISN’T heading for the bathhouse, but is instead moving towards the Great Camp area.
And the Outlaw Rocks.
Trying to keep his cool (oh that was a poor choice of words), Alex stubbornly keeps thinking to himself he doesn’t believe in ghosts, there’s no Icewind Ghost, and the Outlaw Rocks are just poorly named boulders. Alex finds Garth standing silently by the rocks, but realizes there’s something ELSE moving in the shadows before suddenly all is still again. Alex fears if he tries to get the counselors, they’ll come back and Garth will be gone forever or turned into a stone block. Some buddy you are, Alex! [Wing: I mean, not leaving Garth alone is a pretty good friend move.]
Switching the flashlight on, Alex was dismayed it wasn’t helping much with the night’s darkness and figured it might make him a target, but he had to get Garth before something happened. And just as the “Aww, aww” sound returns, the trees are lit by a cold, white light.
Alex immediately starts running and screaming towards Garth to wake up before the Icewind Ghost freezes both of them. Garth’s eyes are open but hugely dilated as the Icewind Ghost keeps getting closer, until Alex’s screams finally wake him up. Unfortunately, by then the glowing white mist has the boys surrounded. It covers the Outlaw Rocks and in the cold light Alex can make out hideous faces on the stones.
Nearby Alex can hear Jean-Paul’s voice asking what’s wrong, when finally the boys break out of their fear long enough to start running. Alex tells Garth not to look back no matter what when an icy finger stabs Alex’s bare ankle. He thinks this is it, that he’s gonna spend eternity trapped at Camp Nevermore as an ugly rock and Garth grabs Alex forward and suddenly everything goes pitch black.
Alex wakes up to find Rick, Jacob and Garth standing over him with flashlights, and is relieved to see he hasn’t been frozen solid. Rick and Jacob ask what the boys were doing out here when Alex explains he saw Garth was sleepwalking and followed him. Garth can only remember snapping out of it when he heard someone call his name, and that he tripped and fell over Alex. Jacob finishes checking to see if Alex has broken anything, and Alex is amazed he can still walk when the counselors tell the boys to get back to bed.
Inside the tent with Jean-Paul and Larry, Jean-Paul muses Alex will have to replace his flashlight since it broke when Garth fell on him. Alex doesn’t care about that, and asks if anyone else saw the Icewind Ghost. Jean-Paul thinks that’s hilarious when Alex exclaims the ghost is why he screamed and almost woke everyone up. Larry snarks he probably screamed because Garth almost flattened him like a pancake. Alex turns to Garth for validation, but Garth only remembers sleepwalking and figures he was dreaming. Alex doesn’t THINK Garth’s lying. Why would he? He has that same goofy earnest look he always does. Was Alex dreaming too?
A sharp stabbing feeling of coldness on his ankle tells Alex otherwise. Once again, a ghost story came true.
The next morning in the Mess Hall, Alex was cranky and irritable. He barely slept, wondering what was stopping the Icewind Ghost from making a return reappearance and freezing everyone solid in the tent, nay, the entire camp. Why hadn’t it returned? Not helping was Garth’s bull-like snoring. Something was really wrong with that kid.
As Garth sat down next to Alex, Alex noticed two younger campers were staring at him from a nearby table. It’s the two who asked Rick questions during the previous hike, Donald and Anthony. Donald’s another walking sunburn but has the appropriate red hair and freckles to match his burnt dermal coating, while Anthony has “Gimlet eyes” whatever the fuck that means and brown hair shaved at the sides but flopping over his forehead. [Wing: Oh, god, that look is popular again.] Alex tells the kids to stop staring when Anthony snarks about last night’s ghost sighting. Donald, however, is more reverent and asks if Alex really did see the Icewind Ghost.
Alex immediately asks how the boys heard about last night, and Donald replies other campers were talking about Alex’s freak out. Donald says he’s glad the story THEY told didn’t come true. It was about invisible army ants led by a giant, mutant hairy ant, but Alex is more interested in knowing who told them about last night. Gimlet Anthony snarks that’s for them to know and him to find out, before quickly glancing at Jean-Paul and Larry. SMOOTH.
Having lost whatever patience he had left, Alex bluntly tells the kids that yes, he DID see the Icewind Ghost.
The story DID come true.
And their ant story will probably come true as well, so have fun being munched alive by invisible jaws.
As Donald and Anthony look quietly freaked out, Alex realizes there are other campers staring at him and Garth. Not helping was Garth struggling to get out of his seat to get more orange juice. When he came back, Jean-Paul and Larry offered a helping hand and Garth falls for the “Chair pulled out from under them” gag. He fell so hard the silverware and cups shook on the tables. [Wing: Oh, kid, I love you. Stop being so trusting. People are dicks.]
Alex couldn’t believe this. This was the oldest trick in the book and one the bullies at Graveyard School were fond of pulling on new kids, and somehow Garth had walked right into it. He didn’t even seem to understand that Jean-Paul had deliberately yanked the chair out from under him. Jean-Paul offers to try again and Alex finally has enough, helping Garth up and silently glaring at Jean-Paul as a way to tell him and Larry to go fuck each other with a pine cone.
As the laughter from those expecting a repeat performance faded Garth, still not knowing what happened, thanks Alex for being his buddy…
And then immediately starts retching after taking a spoonful of cereal!
Garth starts choking and tries to drink his orange juice, only to immediately spew it out. Alex couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.
He was a work of art, a cereal and orange juice collage.
Rick hurries over to Garth as Jean-Paul and Larry laugh like the dipshits they are. Garth stammers there was salt in his cereal; Rick jokes Garth clearly isn’t a morning person if he does stuff like that. Alex tries to stop Garth from protesting, realizing Rick doesn’t actually care what happened. He was like the teachers at Graveyard School, who got through each day trying their hardest NOT to know what was going on thinking it was better that way. Better for them, anyway.
Alex brings Garth over to get some new food for both of them before breakfast is over, and proposes they sit far, far away from their loving bunkmates this time. Garth tries to clarify he didn’t put salt in his food or juice, but Alex tells him they’ll discuss it later. Alex realizes Larry salted the food while everyone was focused on the chair trick, and is kicking himself for not catching it sooner.
At a new table with new food, Alex immediately tells Garth he knows Garth didn’t salt his food and explains to him the trick the other two pulled. Garth is still confused, asking why Jean-Paul and Larry would do something so mean. Alex has to spell it out to Garth that those two are bullies and they pick on kids because it’s fun for them.
Sadly, this is when Alex realizes why Garth needs this explained to him.
“Has this… I guess nothing like this has ever happened to you before.”
Garth shook his head.
“Kids have never teased you? Played tricks on you?”
Again Garth shook his head. “Why would they?”
Jesus Christ this got heartbreaking super fast.
Alex really can’t see how someone like Garth had gotten through life at this point not being teased over SOMETHING, but there it is. He tells Garth he has to fight back; he can’t let Jean-Paul and Larry push him around. Garth’s still confused. Why are they doing this to him? He never met them before, never did anything to them. He thought, you know, camp was supposed to be fun.
Alex refrains from wasting another sarcastic remark, and instead orders Garth to NEVER listen to Jean-Paul or Larry from now on. Don’t trust them, don’t respond to them, avoid them as much as he can. Alex tells Garth to stick with him. And he can’t believe he just said that, just offered to be the “Incredibly Simple Hulk’s” constant companion.
[Wing: Wow, he deserves better than you, Alex, for that comment alone.]
In the crafts cabin with counselor Jarvis, Alex overheard Jean-Paul exclaim he wanted to make a bow-and-arrow set. And mimicked shooting an arrow at Garth, who thankfully didn’t notice. Jarvis did, and glared at Jean-Paul in contempt before laying down the rules for crafts. Alex made sure Jean-Paul and Larry sat down first before leading Garth to a table as far away from them as possible.
Jarvis went on a whole thing about all the different kinds of stuff they could make, like baskets, balsam needle pillows, picture frames, masks, mirror frames, and so on. But NO weapons. Alex only really paid attention to Garth asking a question about woodcarving, which immediately alarmed him. Although Jarvis led the potential carvers to a separate table; thankfully Jean-Paul and Larry weren’t included.
While working on a balsam pillow as a gift for his mom, Alex began to relax and forget about the weird stuff like the ghost stories and Jason Trapper. He almost thought things would be okay when someone began to scream. And it WASN’T Garth.
Jarvis ran over to young Donald, who was twitching and screaming as if he were being eaten alive. At the thought of the invisible army ants story, Alex jumped up. For a moment he thought saw a blur of something big and hairy scurry by. Like a giant, mutant ant. Alex saw a smudge of something black near the window, and it tore a hole in the screen and vanished. Meanwhile, Jarvis was trying to make Donald calm down when Jean-Paul pointed at Donald’s face. Everyone stared as Donald’s face and neck were covered in bright red spots that looked like bite marks.
While Donald cried and scratched at the bites, Garth stammered the invisible ants had gotten to him. And so we’ve got three stories coming to life. Jean-Paul jumped away from the writhing Donald and chaos broke out in the crafts cabin, stopped only by the timely arrival of Les Raven.
Doing a good impression of Dr. Morthouse, Les called for order and demanded to know from the now silent campers what was going on. Donald frantically told the camp director that he was attacked by invisible ants. Les turns to Jarvis, who thinks Donald was more likely bitten by some spider and is suffering an allergic reaction. [Wing: An allergic reaction that causes multiple bites to appear?] Donald still insists it was the invisible ants, to which Les asks how he knew they were ants if they were also invisible. Apparently he saw the leader ant run away. Alex shuddered seeing how easily the ant had plowed through the window screen. Were the invisible ants heading out the same hole?
Les offered to take Donald to the nurse while crafts time came to an end and everyone was dismissed. Alex is worried about setting foot on the floor from his chair, but Jarvis tells him to move it. He was almost through the door when he felt something bite his ankle. Not a cold spot this time, but a bright red bite mark on Alex’s ankle.
Garth immediately tries to talk to Alex about the ghost stories coming to life, but Alex is still trying to show off those denial skills he learned from his parents and brother. At least Garth now does believe Alex saw the Icewind Ghost the other night. Garth follows Alex into the camp supply store as Alex tries to buy a new flashlight. The guide behind the register is incredulous that Alex came to camp without a flashlight, until Alex explains his was broken and doesn’t appreciate the condescending questions.
“Lotta ‘tude for a little dude,” the kid said.
Garth bluntly asks the guide about the Icewind Ghost. The guide takes his time answering, ringing up Alex’s money before simply answering it’s a story they tell every year. Alex immediately responds it’s not true, right, not believing he asked such a stupid question. Again the guide takes his time to answer.
“These are old mountains, been around a long time. All kinds of things can happen in mountains like these.”
He stopped and focused on Garth and Alex. He said, “Have you ever heard of Bigfoot?”
“Sure,” said Alex.
“People have never done very well, trying to live in these mountains… but something lives here. Think about it.”
Yeah, that’s all Alex needs now…
And then he remembers the thing he saw the night he arrived.
Garth was clinging to Alex’s side harder than ever since that helpful encounter with the guide, and it was really getting on Alex’s nerves. The two had just finished swimming in the camp pool while Alex was mulling over what a monster bear would’ve wanted with his flashlight.
Light bear food, Alex thought, but he didn’t feel like laughing at his own feeble wit.
Just then, Alex and Garth stopped as a huge man in an ill fitting suit emerged from Les Raven’s cabin office. Alex pulled Garth aside so they could hide and listen to the camp director and the man Alex started to recognize as Jason Trapper. Only Les referred to Jason as “Mr. Von Trap.” Alex whispers to Garth that he saw this guy on the trail the other day, but his name ain’t “Von Trap.” [Wing: Or maybe he lied to you.]
The boys overhear Les telling “Mr. Von Trap” that he’ll give his theory some thought, but claims to have never seen or heard of any Bigfoot or Yeti living in these mountains. Nor has he heard of any rumors. Hmm, and the guide did talk about SOMETHING living in these mountains. I smell a liar.
Les HAS heard of the monster that supposedly lives in Lake Champlain, but Von Trap’s not after Champ. Les asks if he thinks there’s more than one, er, Bigfoot in the area. Von Trap says it stands to reason there wouldn’t be just one. He describes it as half bear, half human, wily and very dangerous. It’s smarter than the average bear.
Even though Les hasn’t heard of Bigfoot being dangerous, Von Trap assures him this thing most definitely IS. So hide ya kids, hide ya pic-a-nic baskets, cuz they maulin’ everyone.
Les will let him know if he hears anything. A moment after Von Trap or whatever the fuck his name is leaves, Les looks up as if trying to hear something and then immediately turns to Alex and Garth. Looking at them, he smiles and says “Happy hunting.” As Alex tries to figure out why Jason Trapper’s after Bigfoot, Garth looks up at the sky and says nothing.
A few days later, most of the Algonquin group was on an overnighter. Donald’s skin was pockmarked but faded, and he still itched. No other incidents had occurred, but that made sense since no other stories had been told.
Until tonight, anyway.
Alex once again heard an owl hooting and suddenly remembered reading somewhere that hearing an owl hoot was bad luck. Garth was more focused on setting up his tent as Rick explained this was supposed to be minimum-impact camping. That’s why the entire Algonquin group wasn’t here, to limit traffic on the trails and cause less damage. Garth muttered they’d do no damage if they hadn’t come at all. If only Rick knew he wasn’t joking.
Rick also warns the kids not to leave food out, because he’s sure he heard a bear hooting nearby. Alex thinks Rick’s confused, saying bears don’t hoot. Rick corrects Alex saying they can, and black bears have a distinctive, seven note hoot.
Apparently this is a real thing. You learn something new every day. [Wing: Well damn, I didn’t know this either.]
Now Alex is really worried, because if an owl’s hooting is bad luck, what does a bear’s hooting mean?
After dinner, Larry volunteered to tell the first ghost story and settled for rehashing the “Hook Handed Killer” urban legend, but a camping version. Jacob wasn’t keen at first since he and Rick had a special one planned, but Larry received support from the surprise appearance of Les Raven. Les even brought supplies and his own tent to join the overnight, and told Larry to begin as he set up his makeshift abode.
As Alex watched Les set up his tent, he wondered if maybe by not hearing the story it wouldn’t come true. But he was terrified of going to his tent alone because of whatever was out in the woods. Bears, Jason Trapper, Bigfoot, Bigfeet, or something worse. [Wing: W E R E W O L F] Alex wondered for a moment if Les was out here because of Bigfoot, like he wanted to protect the campers, but doubted Les would do something so sincere.
Larry continues the story about the two men camping when they’re attacked by something with a hook for a hand, that slashes up their tents and kills one of them while the other is found the next day, a nervous wreck. Oh but don’t worry they caught the killer and dragged him back to the mental hospital he escaped from. He didn’t go alone, since the other guy had been driven mad and got to sleep in the cell right next to the hook handed killer.
[Wing: Wow, ableism all over the place here. Crazy = dangerous. Lame = bad. Physical deformity = killer.]
Heading back to the tent with Garth, Alex mused a bear could easily rip their tent to shreds and so could a hook. But Alex remembered that was one of the oldest stories out there, and then he remembers Jason Trapper’s hook hand. Garth asks if that story was true, and Alex tells him “No” so Garth won’t panic. Too bad Alex isn’t so sure…
Alex woke up some time later to the sound of hooting outside the tent. Hooting, snoring, and breathing. Breathing that wasn’t his, and it wasn’t Garth’s. Alex called out asking who was outside the tent and something stopped moving. He was sure whatever was out there was listening to him breathe. Alex considered screaming but what if it was nothing and he just looked like a fool? Then again, what was better, being stupid or being dead? That’s when Garth whispered something was out there and started looking for his flashlight. Alex tried to stop Garth before he gave away their exact location in the tent.
And THAT’S WHEN THEY SAW THE HOOK!
Alex screamed, Garth screamed as they saw the hook inside the tent, and before you know it the tent came down and the two of them were struggling trying to get free.
That’s when they heard the laughter.
Rick woke up to all the noise as Garth started screaming it’s the maniac, until they realized the laughter was coming from Jean-Paul and Larry. Jean-Paul held up his hand, revealing a fake hook made of tin foil taped to his arm. Gotcha! The other campers begin to laugh too, but Rick lectures Jean-Paul and Larry for almost hurting someone. The two brush it off at first, but then Jean-Paul makes a phony show of helping Garth up so he won’t get in trouble. Alex wants nothing to do with Larry and tells the blonde fuckwad to get away from him.
Could this get any worse?
Well yes, it can, because some time later in the night is when everything went to Hell.
Alex woke up as a clawed hand sliced through the newly reconstructed tent and dragged Garth out by his ankle! [Wing: W E R E W O L F. And it reminds me of a great scene in Dog Soldiers.]
He thought he was dreaming until he realized the entire campsite had descended into chaos! The campers were screaming and running in every direction as something tore through the tents and ravaged the place. Rick tried to get everyone to calm down, while Jacob was thrown through the air by a huge, monstrous figure. Then the monster TURNED TO ALEX!
Alex saw a flash of gleaming white claw and thought this was it, this was Bigfoot. He only just avoided getting ripped open as the claw scrapped against rock, and actual sparks flew. Garth took on five hundred levels of bravery and told the monster to stop. Alex tried to get Garth to go with him, but Garth was following after the figure. It was Jason Trapper, whose non-hook hand had turned into a claw!
Les Raven then charged straight towards Garth and tried to tackle him, but then Jason threw himself at the camp director as Les roared like an animal. That only made Jason SMILE.
Realizing Les and Jason aren’t human, Alex then turned his attention to Garth and tried to stop him from getting close to them when something blindsided him and it all went dark again.
Alex came to with Garth near his side. It was still night, but everyone else was gone. Lost in the woods. Alex briefly panics thinking they were all killed, but Garth assures him they got away. Alex starts to remember how Jason Trapper’s arm hit Garth, but Garth was barely fazed. Jason ordered them to go, and as Garth picked up Alex and fled he remembers seeing Jason and Les fighting by the fire.
That’s when Alex had an idea. Instead of going to sleep and setting out for the camp in the morning like Garth suggests, Alex proposes they tell a story.
One last story…
And suddenly it’s daylight and Alex is with his dad, ready to leave Camp Nevermore. Mr. Lee asks how camp was, but Alex needs to make sure Garth’s okay first. He finds Garth, and Garth congratulates Alex on how his trick worked. Alex had told a Rip Van Wrinkle story about two kids who’d gotten lost in the woods, fallen asleep, and missed the entire camp session and they were now going home. He used whatever was making the stories come true to rewrite time! [Wing: Okay, that’s clever and kind of adorable, but also, damn, way to sacrifice all those innocent campers whose names we never learn.]
Was everyone else okay? Alex thought so, but didn’t want to stick around to find out. At the very least, he was glad Garth’s okay and didn’t mind being his buddy after all. Garth said his family would be arriving soon, so the two parted ways and Alex was heading home.
Garth went back into the woods and reconvened with his older brother. Jason chides Garth on how his idea of going to camp almost got him toasted, but Garth had fun. And Alex was cool, even if he was a human. Jason grunts saying Bigfoots shouldn’t mingle with humans, but Garth reminds him Alex was smart enough to use the last of Les Raven’s power to save them. Or as he puts it, “Les’s dark dreams.”
Jason scratched at his chin, where the hair he’d needed to shave off was quickly regrowing alongside the hair, or rather, the fur, on his chest was growing back too. Neither of them knows how Les gained the power to bring his stories to life, but Jason assured Garth that Les has been permanently dealt with. He was certainly clever, a Bigfoot hiding in plain sight among humans, but too dangerous.
As the two Bigfoot siblings headed deeper into the woods, miles away in the car Alex thought next year he’s going to the beach. Mr. Lee asked if Alex has any exciting stories to share about his time at Camp Nevermore.
Alex tells his dad he does NOT want to know.
HOLY SHIT WHAT WAS THAT?!
We started off with ghost stories coming to life and it turned out to be because of some psychic Bigfoot and Alex Lee rewriting time and space to save him and his friend. By all means it’s a lot more bizarre and endearing than some of the stuff R.L. Stine’s done with his camp books.
Again I enjoyed Alex’s pragmatism and conscientious streak. He wasn’t particularly Garth’s friend at first, but he didn’t think Garth deserved to be bullied and stood up for him. In any other camp book you’d expect Alex would’ve joined in on the pranks but that’s not how he rolls, damn it!
Isn’t it funny, though. Jean-Paul and Larry were supposedly Nevermore veterans and yet it’s implied this kind of shit hadn’t happened before. Isn’t it interesting that the year they get a psychic Bigfoot camp director and the stories come to life is the same year Alex is there?
[Wing: My god, I love this book. Even without it having actual werewolves. I love Garth, I love Alex, I love the ridiculous ending, I love the stories coming true, I love the setting, I — well, I bet you get the point.]
So, I’m sorry this wasn’t finished earlier, and keep in mind August will be difficult for me because *sniff* we’ll be saying goodbye to someone very special to me.
Activities Section: Instructions on how to deliver a really creepy campfire story.
Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe:
Wing: Um, no, they were already awake. Excuse me, you literally just said that in the previous paragraph, Stone!
…GODDAMN IT I SCREWED UP AGAIN. Sorry, that one’s not on Stone, Wing. I made that mistake while recapping the story.
I’d much rather blame Stone, no lie.