True Tall Tales from Camp Kranky Musky Part 3

True Tall Tales from Camp Kranky Musky Part 3

Jodie Paul August 28, 2023

Hand in hand, we started down the path toward camp.  I was in the lead, as it was really my plan, followed by Jeff, then Sara, and Todd pulling up the rear.  No one wanted to be last, but Todd was determined to do the gentlemanly thing and put Sara’s fear above his own.  As we walked, the pace was slow, mainly because of our awkward choice of exit plan.

Being first, you could say my head was on a swivel, my left hand reached out behind me so that Jeff could grip it with his right and focus most of his attention on his left.  Sara awkwardly gripped Jeff’s left hand with her left hand so she could face the right side of the trail.  Todd drifted in the rear holding Sara’s right hand with his right and panning his gaze to cover our behinds.  As you can imagine, this was all incredibly uncooperative when you take into consideration 4 pairs of stumbling feet.

When you’re tired, scared, and shaking to your core, the combination of feet, leaves, and tree roots, just don’t want to play nice, so you can imagine the stumbling and bumbling nature of our travels.  However, we were able to stagger down the path with no falls or major mishaps for at least half an hour, giving our minds and bodies some time to come to terms with the real fears creeping out there in the woods. Within our group, standard hiking huffs and pants now turned into over-stressed wheezing.  Really there wasn’t anywhere to go or anything to do besides returning to camp, so we kept moving forward with that goal in mind.

It was at about the 40-minute mark that we had a slight change in plans.

Stumbling along, we heard a squeal behind us.  Three heads whipped around to see that Todd was missing.  Todd, the knight in shining armor of our group, my friend brought along keenly for protection, was missing.  He was technically the biggest and the best hope we had for self-defense, next up being Jeff.  Todd was whisked away without barely a sound. How was this possible?  He was a big, strong guy.  He was dependable as a right-hand man.  This could not and should not be happening, but it was.

As we were stopped in our tracks, I scanned the woods, whirling my head and body to face all directions.  The woods were thick and gnarled, so visibility was limited, but I swear I saw a silver flash—a fin?  That couldn’t be right.  But as I turned to the other direction, another flash, this time silverish green.  I felt like we were in the bullseye of a hunting party.  We were being picked off one by one and there was nowhere to go but forward or backward.  This is not the situation I thought I was signing up for when I wrote my name on that camp application.  How is it that this many kids could be dropped off in the middle of the woods, left for dead, and no one would be the wiser?

I glanced around me again, then to Jeff and Sara, and mouthed RUN.  No sound or hand motion was necessary.  They were a step ahead in their decision making and so we all took off in the same direction.  Again, back towards camp.  Jeff was the fastest, so he took off at a lightning pace out front.  I was right behind him and unfortunately, Sara pulled up the rear.  I didn’t have the where-with-all to take special note of Sara’s location as we were booking it back to the camp, but I guess I should have.  Because after we made one final winded push and broke free of the woods, I turned to congratulate her and was defeated when I realized she was no longer behind me.  This was not the turn of events I had hoped for, but this was the lot I was given.

As I took note of our surroundings, Jeff and I locked eyes, and peered from structure to picnic table to campsite, making brief mental notes of where we might hide.  Immediately, we were hailed by 3 other campers, whose names I hadn’t yet learned.  These kids too looked bewildered and afraid.  I didn’t have a mirror, but I was beyond disheveled I’m sure, and looking down noted the glaring tears and dirt from the events in the woods.  The others introduced themselves graciously despite having plenty of other concerns. 

First was Conner, he was 12, like me, with Sandy brown wavy hair that hung sodden in his eyes.  Next was Becky, she was 13 and taller than all of the boys in the group.  Her blue eyes were striking, I noticed despite the fact they flitted in every direction in terror, with her eyebrows elevated in a constant look of surprise.  Lastly, was Richard.  He seemed the worse for wear.  Richy, for short, was not well dressed for the apparent adventure put upon him.  He had on a knitwear top that looked like it had been pulled in all directions, with strings hanging and blowing in the breeze.  His face was red and dirty like he’d face-planted with no hands.  I can imagine his plight had been intense, but I didn’t bother to ask.  Richy was only 11, so was fitting that he seemed the most terrified more so than the rest of us.

After Jeff and my quick introductions, we all talked over each other regaling the others with various parts and pieces of our journeys through the woods.  Each story was eerily similar, with disappearing counselors, bumbling retreats, and unknown flashes of those things in the woods pursuing us all.  We were all in agreement that something horrible was going on here, but it was so mysterious, and bizarre that no one had a guess as to where everyone was disappearing to or how many there might be left.  Our current number was five, but that could change in an instant, so needless to say we were on our toes with ears craned in all directions.

As day started turning to night, the lot of us were scared to our core, but we had no vehicles or methods of escape.  Heck, we barely knew where we were in relation to our homes, so even walking was out of the question. And of course, anyone who spent any amount of time running for their lives from an unknown enemy in the woods, might not consider walking to the bathroom, much less toward home.  So, we did what any camper in our situation would do.  Built a campfire, drank some much-needed water, and scraped together what we could find to eat.  It was going to be a long first night at Camp Kranky Musky.