Title: Shivers #23 – “Night of the Goat Boy,” a.k.a. “Goat Boy!: The Musical”
Author: M.D. Spenser
Cover Artist: Eddie Rosenboom
Summary: DAY OF THE DOOMED.
Lights out, campers! Would a show-time summer for Nathaniel keep the illusion alive or was he in the real life role of goat food? He was one happy kid at Camp Spotlight, where acting was the way of the day. But at night, he and his tent-mates didn’t dare doubt the campfire story of Goat Boy.
Half boy, half goat, and all teeth.
Get real! There’s nothing to fear. Or is there? Nathaniel was so confused. To be, or not to be – scared? That was the question. The answer will scare you, too.
TWILIGHT OF TERROR…
So initially I was commissioned by Getting_GB on twitter to recap a different book, but I was having… difficulties. Life kept getting in the way and unfortunately the book was rather repetitive so it was taking a while.
GB asked about changing their initial commission to this Shivers entry, which I was all for as a change pace.
“Night of the Goat Boy” is one of a handful of camp tales released under the Shivers banner, alongside “Ghosts of Camp Massacre” and “Camp Fear.” Lemme just say “Camp Massacre” was a massive disappointment due to its incredibly obnoxious main character while “Camp Fear” was more interesting. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about “Goat Boy” as I’ve only read it once before this recap. It’s different, I’ll give you that. All three of the camp books I’ve encountered feel distinctive from each other.
[Wing: I love a good Goat [something] story. One of our local legends is a Goatman and his grave. I’m looking forward to this.]
Nathaniel put up with his annoying little sister Amanda as his parents drove to Camp Spotlight, a sleepaway camp specializing in drama and musicals. I mean, what camp DOESN’T specialize in drama?
For as long as he could remember, Nathaniel loved plays. If he wasn’t acting in them, he was writing his own on his family’s computer. One rainy day he’d printed out a script he wrote and acted it out with his friends, who surprisingly enjoyed it. Nathaniel had the body of an athlete and enjoyed playing baseball and basketball, but his true passion was for acting. He didn’t plan to be a simple thespian. He planned to be a… MASTER THESPIAN.
Nathaniel didn’t know where he got this from. His mom was a kindergarten teacher and his dad wrote comics. FYI, Nathaniel’s friends couldn’t decide if that made Mr. Dad weird or cool.
Now for some reason, Nathaniel’s parents had acted weird when he told them about Camp Spotlight. They had the money to send Nathaniel, but for some reason they kept putting off the decision to let him go. Nathaniel didn’t understand what the problem was, and his parents wouldn’t elaborate until the night they gave their approval.
Seems Mr. and Mrs. Parents had been to Camp Spotlight before. Many times, in fact. Nathaniel’s parents met at the camp when they were both 11, and saw each other the next year and the year after and so on. Nathaniel was confused because his parents were never that interested in plays in general, yet they spent several years in a row attending a drama camp? He pointed out they didn’t seem too excited about him going to Camp Spotlight, yet they still didn’t give Nathaniel a concrete answer about their apprehension. Nathaniel HAD gone to different camps in the past, like when he was in Boy Scouts, so what made Camp Spotlight that different?
What were his parents deliberately not telling him?
Just as Nathaniel’s family reached the exit for Camp Spotlight, he thought about the night before and a strange conversation he overheard his parents having. Mom was worried about something getting worse. Dad assured her it was part of the Camp Spotlight tradition. After all, THEY survived didn’t they? Mom just isn’t sure if Nathaniel’s ready for…
Something Dad decides they shouldn’t tell Nathaniel about, since it wouldn’t be fair to the other campers.
What could possib-lie go wrong?
[Wing: Parents being weird about some creepy things, I love it.]
Nathaniel’s snapped out of his thoughts when Amanda asks they play a game, until Dad points out they’re only a couple of miles from their destination. Soon enough, Nathaniel’s at Camp Spotlight. There’s a lot to take in; lots of kids from all over the country, and lots to do. Registration, head lice inspection, tent assignments, etc.
Nathaniel was assigned Tent Number Five before his family bid their goodbyes. Mrs. Mom mentioned she snuck a few candy bars in Nathaniel’s bag, remembering what the standard camp food’s like.
Oh, and whatever happens Nathaniel, DON’T worry.
Well now he’s certainly gonna worry so thanks, MOM.
Before Nathaniel could ask for clarification, a counselor named Matthew was ordering the campers to report to their tents. So MOVE YO ASSES! After Nathaniel’s family left and he headed for his tent to meet his bunkmates, he was feeling all sorts of things. Excited. Nervous.
Thankfully Nathaniel doesn’t have to feel like the odd man out, as all of his bunkmates are Spotlight newbies too. There’s Jacques, Chris, and Brian, and they ask Nathaniel if any of his friends found it weird he was going to a drama camp. Apparently Nathaniel’s got some pretty open minded friends. Jacques and Chris’s friends thought it was “Sissy.” Like they’re SO superior and SO heterosexual just because they go to sports camps and rock climbing camps. Jacques was all “Whateva, I do what I want!”
Nathaniel reports he didn’t have to deal with that shit, just his parents being weird. He finds himself telling all three boys about the awkwardness and evasiveness and they agree with him. His parents ARE weird.
While unpacking the boys get to discussing what they’ll be doing at Camp Spotlight, and more importantly, who’ll be the STAR.
“So what are we gonna do here?” Brian asked.
“We’re gonna rehearse and perform a play,” Chris replied.
“Sounds cool,” Brian said. “So long as I get to be the star.”
“Yeah, you wish,” Jacques said. There’s gonna be one star at Camp Spotlight, and that’s the guy who’s talking right now. Namely me.”
“Well, you’re nearly always the guy talking though, aren’t you?” Shot back Chris.
“Ooh, burn,” said Brian. He licked his finger and touched it to Jacques’s forehead and made a s-s-s-s-s-s sizzling sound.
“Outta my face,” said Jacques, swiping at Brian’s hand.
Nathaniel smiled. These guys were gonna be fun.
Yeah until you find yourself stuck in the middle of a three-way bunk war and sides are declared, hon.
The comradery is interrupted when the boys get to meet none other than the camp director, THE Mr. Dingle himself. [Wing: Oh that name, that name.]
“Goooooood afternoon, Tent Five!” A voice boomed.
A man had poked his head in the open flap of the tent. He was mostly bald, with a fringe of black curly hair around the edges of his head. He wore thick glasses that made his eyes look weird, like fish eyes.
As he stepped into the tent, Nathaniel saw that the man was wearing a red-and-white polka-dot shirt, plaid shorts, black socks and heavy sandals. He was carrying a clipboard.
Nathaniel thought the guy ought to be in a museum. You know, where they had a figure for Neanderthal Man, and Cro-Magnon Man, and Modern Man.
This guy, whoever he was, would be perfect as Dweeb Man.
I could forgive literally everything except choosing BLACK socks with sandals. That sin is irredeemable. [Wing: Socks with sandals is horrible no matter the colour.]
Mr. Dingle introduces himself and explains he wanted to personally greet the boys, as he felt first timers deserve an extra, EXTRA special greeting. And he wants to be sure they’re all unpacked so they can attend the camp orientation. Splendid! Wonderful! Ta ta for now, boys!
Nathaniel and his bunkmates, faced with everything they decidedly do NOT want to become as adults, muster up a lot of will power to wait until Dingle’s well and clear of their tent before they start laughing their asses.
Upon arriving at orientation, Nathaniel notices half the campers are of the female variety. No non-binary representation though, so boo. Anyway, Nathaniel was at the funny stage in life where he no longer believed girls could give you cooties. However, he hadn’t gone as far as to say he actually LIKED girls. He’s definitely NOTICING them now. In particular, Nathan’s noticing a pretty redhaired girl with the longest eyelashes he’d ever seen.
I guess she gives Amber Dempsey a run for her money.
When the Dingster started role call, Nathan paid close attention when the redhead answers to “Jillian.”
Once everyone’s gotten to know each other, Ding-A-Ling-Ling announces this year Camp Spotlight will be performing You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Auditions are tomorrow and even if some people don’t get parts, they’ll still have jobs to perform behind the scenes. Dingmeister finishes by stating after dinner in the mess hall there’ll be a rousing campfire with spooky ghost stories.
Nathan’s mom was right about the food not being great at Camp Spotlight. Everyone’s treated to a good ol’ fashioned helping of mystery meat, just like you’d get at the cafeteria back home. Yummers. Thank God for the candy bars he hid in the tent. Although the meat didn’t taste THAT bad. Well, compared to the veggies which had obviously been marinating inside a can for God only knows how long.
Y’know it occurs to me none of the schools I attended ever served “Mystery” anything. I dunno if this means I was lucky or horribly sheltered.
After dinner, the campers converged near the campfire while counselors pulled out wooden benches from the Performance Hall. Everyone was chatting and being friendly, so it helped Nathan feel at ease. With the campfire roaring, Nathan couldn’t help but notice how dark everything else seemed. No moon, no stars.
That’s when Mistah Ding showed up and he was pleased, just pleased I tell you, to see everyone present. So he decided to start the night off with the first ghost story. However, it was clear Dinger didn’t want to scare the little darlings, so he told a poorly plotted yawner about a dead boyfriend.
Dingle-ree-doo seemed oblivious to the lack of enthusiasm in the surrounding kids, but after finishing announced he had to “take care of some paperwork” and asked teenage counselors Austin and Andrew to take over.
These two teenagers looked more like men with their big, big muscles and shaved faces. If Camp Spotlight uses urine tests for the employment process those two might’ve been screwed. Nathaniel could tell these two were up to no good when Austin said they’ll “take good care of the kiddies.”
As soon as The Ding was gone, Austin and Andrew got down to business. They informed the kids this next one won’t be no cakewalk in the land of make believe. This is for REAL, yo.
Austin asked if any of the kids were nervous about going to Camp Spotlight. On principle, Nathan didn’t raise his hand to give the two teens the satisfaction.
“Well, maybe some of you were nervous,” Austin continued. “Maybe you had reason to be. And I’m the guy who’s going to tell you why. The story you are about to hear is true. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. Because in this story, no one is innocent.
“This is the story of the Goat Boy.”
The counselors state this story happened about thirty years ago, which Nathan realizes is around the same time his parents attended Camp Spotlight. Were they nervous because they have some connection to the Goat Boy? IS it a true story or are Austin and Andrew on a roid bender-I MEAN, making shit up?
Andrew and Austin pointed towards the woods, obscured by the late night darkness. The woods go on for a mile, and on the other side there was a farm.
On this farm, there was a farmer.
There was a farmer who had a son and Kenny was his name-o. [Wing: Exactly the song I started singing.]
A BOY NAMED KENNY
Kenny the Farmer’s Son had the task of tending to the goats. These goats weren’t cute or cuddly. They were the meanest, smelliest, ugliest sons of bitches around. They had teeth capable of eating anything. Their breath stank like rotting flesh. And they’d bite you just because they could. With the strength of a goat’s pair of teeth, you’d be lucky not to lose your whole hand.
For some reason, everyone felt uncomfortable. This didn’t sound like a ghost story the way Austin and Andrew told it. This felt real. [Wing: That’s the best way to tell a ghost story, come on, people. You want to terrify your listeners. Though I’d like to know why the goats are so terrifying.]
Kenny hated the goats, and he hated tending the goats. He hated life on the farm. He didn’t want to be a farmer like his old man. He wanted… to be a STAR. A SUPER STAR! But even though Kenny lived so close to Camp Spotlight, his father wouldn’t pay for him to attend. He thought acting was silly, and was adamant about Kenny inheriting the family business.
Even though Kenny couldn’t officially attend Camp Spotlight, he walked to the camp whenever he had a chance and when his dad wasn’t looking. He’d watch the campers perform from the edge of the woods, and the more he watched the more his envy intensified.
Kenny’s envy mixed with his REALLY bad body odor from working with goats all day did little to endear him to the campers. They didn’t have to see him in the woods to know he was there. They could smell him. That’s when the teasing began. The campers mocked Kenny by calling him “Goat Boy.” They’d laugh about his rancid stench and make goat noises whenever he was around. And we all thought Jason Voorhees had it rough.
Kenny’s envy gave way to anger. Anger at his dad, at the goats, at the kids, at his stench, at everyone. He was angry. He was pissed. He was… DISGRUNTLED.
Nathan was starting to wish Dinglerama was back from whatever the fuck he was doing. He almost wished Herr Dinglestein would appear and go “Boys, stop scaring these kids like a bunch of silly-billies!”
But he didn’t. And they didn’t. And so Nathan learned about the day Kenny snapped.
One night long ago, Kenny snuck into the camp well past midnight when everyone was asleep. He rummaged around the doused campfire until he found an ember that hadn’t burned out yet. Kenny blew on the ember to make it glow hotter, then grabbed a stick. Now he had fire. Savoring the moment, Kenny set fire to one of the tents full of sleeping campers!
The campers woke up and escaped the tent before they were hurt. Physically, mind you. The event still traumatized them. The camp director at the time called the police, but while everyone knew Kenny had set the tent ablaze no one had any concrete proof of his actions. So Kenny was never arrested.
Come the last day of camp when everyone’s parents picked them up, all the kids could talk about was Kenny and the fire. Naturally the parents were upset since, apparently, no one had told them about the incident. One man in particular was more than a little p-o’ed. Oh did I mention he just HAPPENED to be a magician called Muldaur the Magnificent and his kid just HAPPENED to be one of the boys who was almost burned alive?
Now Muldaur did your usual stage magic routine at state fairs and parties and stuff like that. Sawing ladies in half, pulling rabbits from hats, that sort of thing. No one realized he just performed that stuff for the rubes. He was the real deal.
“We all believe in magic when we’re little. Then we get older, and we learn that real magic doesn’t exist. But it does. It always has, from the beginning of time. Certain people have the power. Sometimes they use it for good Sometimes they use it for evil.
“And sometimes they use it for revenge.”
Muldaur’s rage burned with an intensity that made Kenny’s fire look like a single spark. He hardly said a word on the drive home. But as soon as he dropped his son off, Muldaur turned the car right around and drove back to the camp. Then he drove PAST the camp, right down the road leading to a certain farm.
While Kenny was fast asleep in his room, Muldaur crept outside the farmhouse. Under the moonless night sky, Muldaur cast the spell that transformed Kenny into a horrible half-boy, half goat creature. Like some kinda, some kinda Goat MAN. Only this weren’t no Goat MAN. This were a Goat BOY.
Goat Boy, with the body of a boy and the head of a goat.
Goat Boy, with the same awful smell as regular goats.
Goat Boy, whose cries in the night can send chills through your soul.
Goat Boy, whose teeth can bite through anything.
Goat Boy, who is STANDING RIGHT OVER THERE!
Panic erupted and campers began screaming their heads off, running around like decapitated chickens. The figure emerged from the darkness and in the glow of the fire everyone could see it was just Andrew. It was the oldest trick in the book. While everyone focused on Austin, no one saw Andrew sneak off. Nathaniel could see poor Jacques was white with fear and trembled as he lied about being fine.
Dinglerberg returned to the campfire after hearing all the ruckus. When the two asshole counselors said they were just having “a little Goat Boy fun,” Dinglerberry gets pissed. He’d explicitly told the boys they weren’t doing the Goat Boy story this year, but neither one really cares about how mad their boss is. This really unnerved Nathaniel, thinking the people who were actually running the camp were THESE two shitheads.
Dingles And Cream told the campers to head back to their tents so they can rest for tomorrow and get to work on planning the musical. You know, the real reason they came to this godforsaken dump.
On the way back to his tent with Chris and the rest (who were jabbering about how totally NOT scared they were), Nathaniel mulled over the Goat Boy story and his parents’ behavior. Did they know about the trick Andrew and Austin had planned even though they hadn’t been to camp in three decades? But the counselors said the story happened thirty years ago. If this was just a harmless camp prank, why did Nathaniel’s mom and dad seem so stressed?
The following morning was clear and beautiful, juxtaposed with a nasty breakfast of runny scrambled eggs and burnt bacon. Right after breakfast Dinglebrau gathered everyone at the now doused campfire site to begin the audition procedure. The campers who didn’t want acting roles made themselves known and Dinglerama assigned them to the stage crew (with first pick of backstage jobs since they volunteered first).
For You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, there are eight main roles and ten background choir roles. The only role not requiring a good singing voice is Snoopy.
The campers headed for the Performance Hall, and it was like a dream come true. After all the small performances and amateur plays and productions they had done at home, the kids were now working in an actual theater. Just because it was a camp theater hall didn’t make it any less of a theater. Their dreams of stardom and acting were taking a real step forward.
A counselor named Megan sat at the piano and explained how the auditions would go. Each camper would try out by singing a song, one at a time. The best singers get the primary roles.
Unfortunately, Nathaniel doesn’t quite have the voice for singing and his audition ends before it barely began. Dejected and embarrassed, Nathaniel left the stage only wait! What was that? That little skip he just did? Nathaniel explained it was a variation of a little victory dance he did whenever he scored a touchdown in football. A funny shuffling motion.
And that’s how Nathaniel got the role of Snoopy without even trying!
Nathaniel needs some encouragement at first, since he’s unsure how to feel about playing a dog. Kid, you gotta play a lot of crap roles before you get the good stuff. [Wing: Snoopy is also the most popular character, Nathaniel! Embrace it.] But anyway, Nathaniel has it explained to him that in many ways, Snoopy’s one of the stars. It’s really towards the end when they get to the big “Suppertime” number where he shines. Snoopy doesn’t sing, but he dances around the stage and can run into the audience to dance with some of the spectators.
If it’s done right, “Suppertime” can bring down the house and Snoopy gets the biggest ovation of all.
Deep down, Nathaniel wasn’t sure if this was his big break or a disaster in the making.
Throughout the day Nathaniel wondered about playing Snoopy, but many people congratulated him on getting the part. Jacques, Brian and Chris had gotten roles in the choir and a kid named Reeves was selected for Charlie Brown. Jillian, the redhead Nathaniel noticed, had NOT been typecast as “The Little Redheaded Girl” and was selected for Lucy.
Dinglerrhea had vetoed any ghost stories at that night’s campfire and kept his eyes on Austin and Andrew during the sing-along. Too bad the camp director’s singing was as bad as his fashion sense.
Unfortunately the night was further soured when, just as everyone was turning in, Austin overheard Nathaniel and his bunkmates discussing the Goat Boy. What? You don’t BELIEVE in the Goat Boy? Well, the “truth” is Austin doesn’t know if it’s for real or not as well. The thing is, the counselors told the Goat Boy story when HE was a camper alongside Andrew. Though the two added the “jumping out of the woods” part themselves to give it some pizzazz.
So maybe the Goat Boy’s real, maybe not. But there IS a farm in the back of the woods and it looks abandoned. Make of that what you will.
Nathaniel wasn’t sure why he woke up. He must’ve heard something, but now all he could hear was the gentle snoring of his bunkmates. Surely THAT hadn’t woken him up. But then he heard it. A sound. A soundy sound. From outside the tent.
OH MY GOD THE CALL IS COMING FROM OUTSIDE THE TENT!
Wait wrong story.
Nathaniel heard a scratching sound, like something digging in the dirt. And it was getting closer to the flaps of the tent. Nathaniel wanted to wake up his bunkmates and ask if they could identify the sound, tell him it was your ordinary raccoon or bear scavenging for a pic-a-nic basket like the not-so-av-er-age bear.
Nathaniel tried to relax because what’s so dangerous about a little scrat-
Oh Jesus what is that smell?!
It smelled like something had died, been buried, and then dug up and buried again. It smelled like a fart had farted and then choked on its own stench in the hot sun for a week.
And then Nathaniel heard the other sound.
Was that the same sound Andrew made when he pretended to be the Goat Boy? No, somehow this sounded different. Less… human.
As the thing continued to make that braying sound, Nathaniel lay paralyzed with fear in his sleeping bag. The sound wasn’t getting closer, but it wasn’t leaving too. Nathaniel was afraid he made a move or a sound, the thing outside the tent would move closer. Was this the counselors playing another prank? Or something else?
Hearing the braying once more, Nathaniel feared waking his bunkmates. Because if he told them about the noise and they didn’t hear anything, Nathaniel might end up the laughingstock of the camp.
After an eternity of tension, Nathaniel fell asleep. He was never so happy for the arrival of morning, and was quick to wake up the guys. Chris and the others were annoyed at Nathaniel’s veneer of pep and demanded to sleep in but oh hey guys did you um by any chance hear some oh I dunno noises or something last night?
Awwww, Jacques wants to know if the witty-bitty baby Natty was fwightened by some wittle noises wast night.
Yeah Nathaniel’s glad he didn’t wake them up and shrugged saying maybe it was Jacques’s snoring he heard. Sigh. Kids CAN be so cruel, Wing.
During rehearsal, Nathaniel catches the eye of the lovely Jillian when practice starts an-OH SHIT NATHANIEL LOOK OUT!
Megan screams at Nathaniel to get out of the way when a lighting fixture above the stage breaks loose! Nathaniel just narrowly avoids being crushed and jumps out of the way. The chair he’d been sitting on is now a mangled mess, and Nathaniel realizes that could’ve been him. Everyone rushes over to Nathaniel asking if he’s alright; the one person keeping their wits is a counselor named Angela who asks they give Nathaniel room to breathe.
…oh shit a camp counselor named Angela I really hope it’s not THIS Angela.
(Guys as a head’s up I would like to acknowledge and point out I am aware the Sleepaway Camp franchise has a lot of transphobic elements in it, and my referencing of the second film is not meant to be viewed as an endorsement of such ideas)
Seeing Angela be all calm and in control helped Nathaniel calm down from his near death experience.
For three days and three nights afterwards everything was okay. There were no other rehearsal incidents, and no more late night disturbances of the goatish kind. Angela helped Nathaniel rehearse his dance moves as Snoopy, while Austin and Andrew dialed back their more dickish qualities. Nathaniel was now also friends with Jillian and he was glad to have someone else to hang out with.
Then came the night when Nathaniel found the note in his sleeping bag.
“I’m ready for my Suppertime,” the note read. “Will you be my supper?”
It was signed, “Kenny.”
Nathaniel’s bunkmates saw the note and didn’t know what to think, though they guessed it was Andrew and Austin screwin’ around. Though Nathaniel was still trying not to freak out.
It’s not every day that a eleven-year-old kid from the suburbs finds himself in the woods without his parents – and threatened with being eaten.
Jacques points out the two older counselors haven’t done any pranks in the last few days, so why leave the note now? Nathaniel recalled hearing those weird noises and decided to tell his bunkmates everything. By the time Nathaniel was finished recapping the events only he was aware of, no one was certain if the Goat Boy was real or they were being harassed by two assholes.
That night Nathaniel awoke to a brand new nightmare, only this was no dream. Someone or something snuck into the tent and trapped Nathaniel inside his sleeping bag! Nathaniel tried to claw at the zipper, but the perpetrator had made sure the zipper was on the outside of the bag and the bag zipped all the way around. [Wing: This is terrifying.]
That’s when Nathaniel recognized a familiar, rotting stench.
But then something large and heavy fell on Nathaniel’s chest. And then something else. Whatever was outside the sleeping bag was beating him!
Jason is that you?
As Nathaniel screamed for help, he heard Brian, Chris and Jacques screaming too. They were trapped in their bags as well! The pounding against Nathaniel’s bag stopped and he heard footsteps running away, but the boys were still trapped and they continued screaming.
Thankfully, the boys are released from their bags by the timely arrival of Dingle-sama. After freeing Nathaniel and the others from the sleeping bags, Dingle-chan suspects this was the work of two foul young men in his employ.
Dingle-sempai leads the boys to the male counselors’ cabin to interrogate Austin and Andrew, only to find the little cabin dark and the inhabitants (supposedly) asleep.
Dingle Sparkle wakes up Austin and Andrew demanding to know what the hell’s going on around here, and for once the two jerkholes are nervous as their boss wants to know if they were hassling these poor kids. Up until now Austin and Andrew held no respect for their employer, but now they fear he’s really pissed.
Unfortunately, Andrew bullshits his way out of this one by claiming how HARD it is to work their asses off day after day, only to have their beauty sleep interrupted by the accusations of a bunch of prepubescent chodes.
And since there weren’t any actual eyewitnesses, Sailor Dingle can’t actually punish the counselors. He warns them they’re on thin ice, and they’re all “Shure, Jan.” As Tuxedo Dingle led the boys away, Nathaniel could hear Austin and Andrew laughing like they’re the funniest thing since sliced bread.
The next morning, Nathaniel went to the abode of Count Dingula and finally asked him if the Goat Boy was real or not. Well, as Citizen Dingle puts it that story’s been around since before he started working here as camp director (which has been ten years now). He tried to put a stop to it, but the counselors always find a way to work it in and unfortunately it looks like two of this year’s crop are being particularly nasty about it.
I mean, it HAD to be them last night, otherwise there might really BE a Goat Boy. Isn’t that silly?
Yeah, well, Nathaniel’s not really in a laughing mood considering HE’S the one who was almost crushed by a lighting fixture. And HE’S the one who got trapped in a sleeping bag. Leaving the director’s cabin, Nathaniel fears there’s another way to confirm if the Goat Boy’s real.
Find the farm on the other side of the woods.
Following rehearsal, Nathaniel asked if his bunkmates would join him in locating the Goat Boy’s farm. Or if they were gonna “weenie out” on him.
Few eleven-year old boys want anyone to think they weenied out.
The biting social commentary in this book, my goodness.
Nathaniel figured they had a free time break between rehearsal and dinner, giving them a couple of hours to investigate.
“This afternoon?” Jacques repeated nervously.
“Do I smell just a little bit of Oscar Meyer?”
It took Jacques a second to get the joke.
[Wing: Somehow I have both the bologna song and some sort of Oscar Meyer weenie song even though I don’t actually know if that’s a real song.]
Rehearsal ended at 4, but as Nathaniel and the boys got ready to trek through the wonders he wondered what they would do. Even if they found a farm, that wasn’t surefire proof the Goat Boy existed. Would they go up to the front door and ask whoever was inside the house to tell the Goat Boy to quit dickin’ around in their camp?
Nathaniel decided they would only look around the farm to see what they could find.
As the four boys headed into the woods, Nathaniel finding himself acting as the leader, they walked on for about a half hour before reaching the end of the trail. Ahead was a bramble of thick bushes and undergrowth, but they moved onward. And then they found it, an empty field and half a mile away a farmhouse.
Oh Nathaniel you can go on ahead. The rest of will stand watch here.
Nathaniel made his away across the field, the dark farmhouse looming over him larger and larger with every step he took. By the time he reached one of the house’s windows, he could see a kitchen and a table with dishes. Dishes with food on them. Food in the process of being eaten.
This was not an abandoned-SHIT NATHANIEL HE’S BEHIND YOU!
Chris tried to scream at Nathaniel to run away before a heavy hand grabbed Nathaniel by his shoulder. Nathaniel looked up to see an old farmer with a surprisingly strong grip, demanding to know why he was trespassing on his property.
Stammering out an apology, Nathaniel frantically looked around and saw his bunkmates had vanished. Did they leave to save their sorry asses or did they run to get help. Surprisingly, Nathaniel didn’t hold it against them. This was HIS idea, and it had been a bad one. Why should they get dragged down with him?
Nathaniel was too afraid to tell the farmer he was investigating the Goat Boy legend, even though the farmer refused to let him go until he got an answer. Farmer man finally deduced Nathaniel was a Camp Spotlight punk and knew why he was here.
“Well, well. A brave little camper decided to come snooping around. Didn’t have enough to do prancing around on the stage with a bunch of rich kids. Had to kick up a little extra excitement for himself.”
He leaned his face down into Nathaniel’s. His breath smelled like old chewing tobacco.
“Well, is this exciting enough for you?” He shook Nathaniel and laughed a nasty little laugh.
“Please, sir,” Nathaniel pleaded. “I’ll never bother you again. Please let me go.”
“Tell you what, son,” the old man said. “If you’re so interested in the Goat Boy, why don’t I show you around the place. Maybe you’ll see that there’s just me living here all by myself.”
The farmer grinned, exposing brown, tobacco-stained teeth.
STRANGER DANGER, WING. STRANGER DANGER.
The farmer added MAYBE they’ll go inside and see if the Goat Boy would like a snack before dinner.
OR he can call the cops and have Nathaniel’s ass thrown in jail for trespassing.
Nathaniel secretly hoped his friends were getting help from camp, or figuring out how to rescue him. Or they were probably scared to death, unable to move and shitting themselves in the woods.
The farmer, who said Nathaniel could call him Mr. McDonald (even though that’s not his real name) told the boy to move it as he showed him around his humble abode. He added to the ambiance by singin’ a little song.
“Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. And on this farm he had some goats. E-I-E-I-O.”
Mr. McDonald dragged Nathaniel to the other side of the farmhouse and showed him a pen featuring about thirty goats. They didn’t seem as menacing, and none of them were humanish. The old farmer said he knew about the Goat Boy legend because the spoiled rich kids from Camp Spotlight are constantly checking out his farm for proof the story’s true. Nathaniel’s not the first, and he probably won’t be the last.
After the goat pen, McDonald took Nathaniel inside and showed him the rest of the house. It was run down by perfectly ordinary. Even the basement, where the Goat Boy lives. Nathaniel almost pissed himself before McDonald explained he was joking. There’s no Goat Boy and there never was. Now unless Nathaniel WANTS McDonald to call the cops, he better leave. NOW.
Nathaniel ran all the way back to the woods, back to where his friends were hiding, and they ran all the way back to camp.
Finishing his escapade at the farm, Nathaniel and the boys were once again terrified. That old guy could’ve actually hurt Nathaniel. But the farm expedition was as wild as the day got. Aside from the camp cook forgetting to bake the noodles for that night’s lasagna, things were dull. [Wing: How is that even possible? Did they forget to put the noodles in the dish at all? Don’t you bake lasagna as a whole, noodles and all? Why am I overthinking a throwaway food line in a silly horror book?]
The ease repeated over the next several days as the camp season drew to a close. There weren’t any other suspicious incidents, and rehearsals went off without a hitch. The night before the play and the last day of camp, there was no campfire scheduled. Everyone needed to get their rest for the show.
It was a night no one would forget.
The campers were roused from their sleep by the sound of a girl screaming. It was Jillian of the red hair, screaming she saw the Goat Boy! The Artist Formerly Known As Dingle told Jillian to calm down and explain what happened. Jillian stated she went to use the bathroom and while she was washing her hands, she saw a horrible goat head looking at her through the window. Its eyes were read and it had bloody fangs, it was awful. Ice Dingle asked if Jillian was dreaming.
“Yes, I’m sure it wasn’t a dream. I don’t usually dream in the bathroom. I tend to do my dreaming in my tent. And I didn’t run here from my tent, I ran here from the bathroom.”
I mean I can dream anywhere, but to each his own.
Nathaniel wanted to tell Jillian he knew the Goat Boy story wasn’t true, but was scared of getting into trouble if anyone knew he’d trespassed on the old man’s farm.
Jillian swore she wasn’t making this up when Dingle & Oates told everyone to get back to their tents as he escorted Jillian and her bunkmates to theirs. But as Nathaniel headed back to his tent, he heard a rumble of thunder in the distance and then something else. Someone shouting. It was Mixmaster Dingle and he was angry about something!
Nathaniel ran to Cabin Dingle and was horrified by the sight before him. Someone, or something, had gotten into the cabin and completely wrecked the place. But amid all the mess and destruction, Nathaniel could clearly see the thing on the bed.
Someone had chewed up one of Commander Dingle’s sandals.
Later that night, in the middle of a thunderstorm, Nathaniel couldn’t sleep. He remembered it was his sister Amanda who was scared of thunderstorms, then realized he hadn’t thought about her in weeks. It was weird thinking it’d been good to see his usually annoying little sister after so long.
Nathaniel got up when he saw the tent flaps were tied open and feared everyone getting soaked if the wind shifted the rain.
[Wing: Don’t summer camps like this, with a set campus and, you know, a focus on the performing arts, generally have cabins?]
Then he saw it.
Another bolt of lightning even more powerful than the first crackled across the sky. It lit up everything, like a huge flash bulb in the night.
It lit up the opening of the tent flap.
It lit up the figure standing there. The figure wearing a long dark coat.
The figure with the head of a goat.
Nathaniel froze, unsure if the Goat Boy had seen him.
He smelled the awful, decayed odor.
The Goat Boy was far more hideous than anything he could imagine. He had yellow, pointed fangs, smeared with something red. Something that looked a lot like blood.
His eyes were red, too. And evil-looking.
Nathaniel clutched his sleeping bag to his chest. He was face-to-face with the Goat Boy.
Nathaniel found himself alone among his sleeping bunkmates, staring down an honest-to-God monster. His one hope was the space between the tent opening and the Goat Boy. Could Nathaniel outrun the creature to the camp director? But he’d have to run straight towards the Goat Boy! It was a suicide gambit!
The Goat Boy moved forward.
Nathaniel propelled himself out of his cot, even as the Goat Boy raised its arms to grab Nathaniel. He had no choice but to barrel towards the creature, maybe knock him down. Nathaniel felt a pain in his side as he threw himself at the sturdily-built beast.
No one was more surprised than the Goat Boy when Nathaniel knocked it down.
No one was more surprised than Nathaniel when THE GOAT BOY’S HEAD FELL OFF!
Nathaniel found himself staring at a goat’s head on the floor, as the figure in the coat revealed itself to be Andrew! The sound of Andrew’s startled cries work up the other boys when Austin revealed himself. Andrew picked up the goat’s head, stating Nathaniel would be in a world of hurt if the head was damaged.
Nathaniel didn’t listen, as he instinctively grabbed the head from Andrew and ran for Mountain Dingle’s cabin!
Andrew and Austin ran after Nathaniel, while Chris, Brian and Jacques ran after Andrew and Austin. The counselors failed to stop Nathaniel before he started banging on the camp director’s door in the pouring rain. The older boys stood frozen in fear as Nathaniel presented the goat head to their boss, who saw the two and immediately deduced what was going on.
Inside the cabin, Nathaniel told the camp director what happened. Now it was Austin and Andrew’s turn to reveal everything they’d done since the start of the camp season.
Austin got the stuffed goat’s head from his father, a professional taxidermist. Someone had brought the goat’s head to be stuffed and mounted but they never picked it up. Like wow, that is a waste of money there. Austin stole the head before the camp season begin, and staged the various pranks with Andrew. The note, the sleeping bags, scaring Jillian.
To make matters worse, the goat’s head stank really bad. Apparently Austin’s dad didn’t finish preserving it.
Upon closer inspection, Nathaniel could see the fangs had red paint and fake rubies were glued to the eyes.
Dingle’s disappointed about all this, especially considering the counselors went as far as to trash Dingle’s cabin. I mean, actually chewing on a sandal? There’s commitment and then there’s… ew. [Wing: This is theater camp. Method acting, anyone?]
Austin and Andrew don’t know what he’s talking about.
Yeah, like anyone would believe them NOW.
Dingle promises the counselors will have to tell their parents everything when they arrive tomorrow, and he expects them to own up completely to their immature behavior.
Well the following day Camp Spotlight’s Performance Hall had a packed audience. You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown went off without a hitch. “Suppertime” was an absolute show stopper. There was never a better Snoopy as Nathaniel did his shuffling step, danced around the stage, and even went into the audience pulling his little sister up for a dance. Amanda was absolutely delighted.
Nathaniel received a standing ovation, and by the end of the play he received the most applause.
That evening as everyone prepared to depart from camp, Nathaniel saw Dingle explaining to Austin and Andrew’s father the bullshit the two concocted during the summer. Nathaniel smugly imagined how much trouble they were in and did not bid them a fond farewell.
On the car ride home, Nathaniel told his family about everything that happened related to the Goat Boy. Including that he’d gone to the farmhouse to investigate.
Nathaniel’s mom stated “It’s worse then we imagined” and his parents decided to tell him everything.
Nathaniel’s parents had been at Camp Spotlight the fateful summer Kenny set fire to the tent. And yes, there was a boy at the camp whose father was a stage magician most likely named “Muldaur.” Nathaniel felt a creeping sensation down his back as his parents went on, even as they assured Nathaniel there was no such thing as REAL magic. No one could cast a spell to turn someone half-goat, half-human.
ANYWAY, the following year the counselors told the story of Kenny burning down the tent. At this point the Goat Boy angle hadn’t been added to the tale. That came a few years later when Nathaniel’s dad was now working at the camp as a teen counselor. The story evolved, got weirder, and now people were saying Kenny was an inhuman freak.
Nathaniel’s parents had called Dingle ahead of time to ask if the Goat Boy story was still being used to frighten kids. They didn’t want Nathaniel to be scared, even as Nathaniel states he’s 11 and could handle a ghost story. Nathaniel’s parents state no one could’ve expected Austin and Andrew to take the story so far.
As they got closer to home, Nathaniel looked back on what an exciting summer this’d been. Maybe in a few years, he’d be the one to tell the Goat Boy story.
If only he had an answer to who had trashed Dingle’s cabin, or tried to eat his shoe.
And, y’know, also the lighting fixture that had almost killed him.
Camp Spotlight was now closed with the end of summer. Everything was packed up and the camp staff returned to their usual jobs. No one was thinking about the Goat Boy.
Well, except for one person.
An old man on an old farm, heading down to his basement. He opened the padlocked basement door, but what he saw filled his heart with dread. In the corner of the messy room there were strips of leather, as if they came from someone’s sandal.
Somehow, he always manages to get out.
And in the woods, something stirred as birds fled the trees in fear.
A horrid stench filled the air.
The Goat Boy was out, and he was hungry.
This took fucking forever to work on and that was entirely my bad with everything going on. GB you are an absolute trooper, thank you for your patience. At the very least I had this done before the end of summer.
Ultimately I like the feeling of dread in this but I can see how this might be viewed as a bit dull due to all the work on increasing the uncertainty of everything. Or maybe it works if you’re into a slow burn and increase of suspense.
You’ll notice I sort of ran out of nicknames to use for Dingle, sorry. I think I overplayed that joke.
[Wing: I like a slow build in a summer camp story especially, and I liked this well enough. Wish the ending reveal had been more impactful, but it’s a pretty standard story trope and it’s difficult to find new ways to write those.]
Next up in the commissioned recaps will be The Curse of the Cheerleaders from the Spinetinglers series. Hopefully it’ll be done before next year.