Rock, Anger, Sisters
“I FOUND TYRA!!!!”
Everyone in the cement-walled conference room leaped to their feet. Chairs skidded against the ground, fists pounded the long, plastic meeting table.
Exclamations from Ti, Rosa, Maxwell, Daniel, Katherine, and Braxton.
“Is she okay!?”
“What are you talking about!?”
“How did you find her!?”
“Where was she!?”
Bob flew out of the long hallway, a huge grin on his face, holding something in his hands. At the sight of it, everyone quieted.
In Bob’s dark hands was cupped a rock about three inches long and one inch wide. It was tan, almost orange, and it had been chipped up, scuffed. Bob’s grin struck out white against his black skin as he ran around the room, displaying it to everyone. “Tyra!” He spoke to the rock enthusiastically, shoved it in Katherine’s face. “This is your big sister, Katherine! You probably don’t remember her very well, I mean, you did die an ugly death, after all, but it’s her! And here’s Braxton, your boyfriend! And then there’s Maxwell, and he’s a part of your awkward love triangle. And then there’s me, I’m another part of your awkward lo-”
Bob paused, the rock inches away from his face, and his eyes flicked up to the ceiling in thought. “... Love… Triangle isn’t right, there are three guys…” He pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Nevermind, it’s a love triangular prism!”
“Bob!” Braxton exclaimed. “Stop this right now! That’s a rock.”
Bob nodded fervently. “Yes, I know! Isn’t it great? I’m so happy I found her so close to me! Normally they end up on the other side of the world as a needle or something, but this is swell! She stayed right here, close to us!”
Braxton growled in frustration as the others in the room stood silent.
Ti’s red eyes flicked from Braxton to the excited Bob in calculation, estimating when his second-in-command would lose his temper so Ti would be able to intervene.
Rosa played with her long, brown locks, twirling a strand of hair tightly, sensing the tension from Braxton and the lack of such sense from Bob. She wondered idly if she should use her taser on Braxton or Bob.
Maxwell looked on with a scrunched-up forehead and ran his hand over his blond crewcut confused. Tyra? Tyra wouldn’t be a rock. She’d be something alive. A rabbit or a cat or a bird, but not a rock.
Daniel’s eyes were on his captain, Ti. He was unsure about what they should do about the situation. Tyra had been dear to everyone on the team, but he personally did not believe in reincarnation enough to celebrate Bob calling a rock Tyra.
Katherine stood back against the wall with pursed lips and sparkling green eyes. She didn’t know what to think or how to comprehend what was happening.
Seeing Katherine caught off her guard for the first time, Ti moved smoothly to her side and pulled her close to him. A good hug would do the trick for her, but for Braxton…
“Don’t be naive, Bob!” the swarthy man thundered, interrupting Bob’s celebration swiftly and sharply. Bob paused and looked at his friend and coworker with the eyes of a puppy. Everyone saw the shift in Braxton as he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. A puff of air exploded from his lungs and he opened his eyes. “You're going too far.”
A rare moment of silence for Bob. His smooth skin made a small canyon between his eyes. Braxton looked down at him evenly.
“What did I do?” Bob asked at length.
Braxton let out an aggravated sigh and stormed out of the room, his steel-toed boots clopping on the cement floor. “Give me a minute, Ti,” he said shortly to his leader.
Everyone's eyes followed him as he left.
“Ti?” Bob asked.
Ti turned his attention to Bob and acknowledged the young trooper in jeans and a T-shirt calmly. “Yes, Bob?”
Bob looked down at the rock, gingerly held in two hands, like it was a baby duckling. “Can I have a goldfish?”
“What for?” Ti asked, more out of curiosity than a lack of support for the idea of a goldfish. Heck, it may even keep him settled down at the base for a while if the responsibility to feed it was given to him.
Bob raised his cupped hands. “For Tyra.”
Katherine sniffed in Ti’s arms. Ti let out a slight breath of air. “Sure, Bob. You can have a goldfish.”
Bob’s grin split his face once again. “Yay! Braxton’s favorite color is blue, right?”
Ti scratched the top of his head. “Yeah, it is. How about you head outside with…” he eyed the rock and, feeling horrible for affirming Bob’s fantasy to him, squeezed Katherine’s shoulders to let her know he didn’t mean it. “... Tyra and show her how the security system works. I need to finish up here, okay?”
Bob nodded enthusiastically. “Okay! Come on, Tyra, I’ll even show you the blind spots!” He shot out of the conference room like a bullet.
Everyone took their seats again. Silence echoed against the walls. Katherine wiped away tears. Ti sat with his head in his hands, trembling gently. Rosa continued to twirl her hair, internally questioning the meaning of life.
“I think he’s broken,” Daniel remarked.
Maxwell scoffed. “He’s insensitive, that’s what he is.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “We all know he doesn’t do it on purpose, Max.”
“No one’s that thick in the head,” Maxwell retorted with a glare.
“He loved Tyra,” Daniel defended, adjusting his black-rimmed spectacles on his nose, “he’s just looking too hard.”
“Does he even see people’s past names?” Maxwell asked. “Because he always says I don’t have any!”
Ti’s hands slid down his face, stretching out his pale skin. “He doesn’t see names, he sees souls, then sees names.”
“Only living things carry reincarnated souls,” Rosa commented, “so we all know he’s wrong about the rock. We don’t know if he’s crazy or lying. The important thing to know is how long this will go on.”
“And,” Katherine sniffed, “how long we can keep Braxton from strangling him. They were never close friends in the first place.”
Everyone gave her a sympathetic glance. Ti’s hand rested on hers and she gave him a small smile.
“Katherine,” Daniel said softly from across the table, “we’re worried about you.”
“I’m just sad,” Katherine replied, a new tear making its way down her face. “Sad and tired. Freezing the body…” she closed her eyes and her eyelashes were sparkling and black. “I don’t know how much longer I can go without moving on.”
“That’s why he needs to be shut down,” Maxwell persuaded, turning to Ti. “You need to stop this delusion he’s having. It’s downright depressing.”
Ti shook his head. “No, we just need to let it run its course, Max. I know, it’s difficult to watch, but Bob needs tolerance. You know how he is.”
“I know how you are,” Maxwell shot back, jabbing a finger at him, “Ti, this is hurting you, too. She died in your arms, how long can you stand being reminded of that?”
“Like you just did?” Ti clarified.
There was a shift in the atmosphere. Everyone around the table held still as Ti’s old scowl of disapproval fell upon his brow. It was the look that sucked the life and warmth right out of a room. Maxwell shivered and lowered his defiant eyes. Katherine pulled her hand away from her captain’s. Rosa’s eyes widened and she sat up straight. Daniel leaned back in his chair, as if to say, ‘I’m not scared, I know it will blow over.’
But everyone knew that glare. It was the same look that defiant and stubborn Tyra had earned many times just before she’d died. Tyra had been the only one to survive after receiving that look.
“Maxwell,” Ti said solemnly, “you’re dismissed. Go be somewhere else for a while and cool off.”
Maxwell nodded, and, with a bowed head, left the room in relieved silence.
The intensity dropped dramatically as Ti picked up his briefcase and began to pack his papers into it. “Right, then,” he said, his voice strained against the obvious hurricane of emotion behind his deep, red eyes. “We all know our missions for this week. I expect a full report back from each of you by this time next Saturday.”
“Braxton didn’t get a mission,” Daniel protested softly.
Ti looked away as he walked out. “I’ll think of something.”
His voice echoed against the smooth hallway walls.
* * *
“Not blue enough!”
Ti felt his shoulders slump in exhaustion as Bob denied yet another fish. The pet store employee sighed, almost defeated.
“Sir, there aren’t many blue fish in the store,” the employee said, his half-peeled-off name sticker reading something- “den”.
Bob paused in stride and his eyes locked onto a fish tank. “That one!” he exclaimed, looking at a small, blue fish swimming in the midst of a crowded fish tank.
Too relieved to check the species or the price, Ti nodded to Something-den and the bored pet store employee slumped over the tank with his net. The fish could have costed a thousand dollars and he would have bought it. Anything to move on.
Five minutes later, and Bob skipped out of the store, Ti walking behind him with the bagged, glimmering fish in his hands. “What are you going to name it?”
“I’m not,” Bob grinned, fiddling with the locked door handle of Ti’s black Jeep Wrangler.
Ti’s brow furrowed and he looked at Bob strangely as he unlocked the car and sat down in the driver’s seat. “Why not?”
“She doesn’t have a name,” Bob said matter-of-factly.
Ah, Ti thought, he found a new soul. Wonder why this was so important to him? “Okay, then. I’m starving. Let’s go get some food.”
* * *
Ti found Braxton where he always found Braxton in the recent weeks: sitting in front of Tyra’s corpse, frozen because Bob had asked them to do so.
The body, encased in a glass capsule, sat in a room called “The Freezer”, where they occasionally stored heat-sensitive items of power confiscated from other worlds and dimensions. It was a large room, cold and dead inside.
Just like Tyra.
There were a thousand spells and charms cast onto her actual body by Rosa that kept Tyra’s body from deteriorating, but none of that was any good. Not without a soul to put in her body. Without that soul, all of this would be in vain.
Ti’s boots scuffed softly against the tile floor, staring at Braxton’s still figure, sitting on the ground in front of Tyra’s dead body, shivering in his blue hoodie, eyes fixated on the glass capsule.
“What’s wrong with him, Ti?” Braxton’s voice growled, echoing around the room’s smooth surfaces. “Why doesn’t he understand how much this is hurting everyone?”
“Bob doesn’t see death like the rest of us do, Braxton,” Ti said gently, “he doesn’t understand the empty feeling we get. He fixates on the idea that he’ll see them again in a different life. We don’t have that luxury.”
Braxton scowled. “Give him a reality check, then. That or keep him away from me. I don’t need to be suspended after beating the crap out of my coworker.”
Ti sat down next to the angry man. “You wouldn’t. I know you wouldn’t.”
“We aren’t all like you, Ti,” Braxton glared. “We can’t all get past this like you can. Some of us were closer to Tyra, closer than you.”
Ti remained silent.
Braxton felt his eyes sting with tears and forced them back with his words. “Some of us remember how ready she was to help. She helped everyone, and anyone. Some of us remember the day she came in with Katherine. The day she came in, dragging me by my hair out of gunfire. Some of us remember how she was willing to listen to anything and everything, so long as it made us feel better! Some of us remember waking up from a nap to find her kissing our cheek or our forehead! Some of us remember how badly she wanted to…” his throat constricted with a surge of emotion. Braxton closed his brown eyes and breathed in deeply.
Ti looked at him quietly, not daring to touch him, lest his second-in-command begin to cry. Ti knew Braxton felt weakness in this emotion.
He allowed a moment of silence, time for Braxton to gather himself, acting as if he didn’t notice.
“Braxton,” he said quietly. “I need you to confiscate the Nicoti-al from Billena. They’re abusing it and the thing’s starting an entire war.”
Braxton looked relieved of some great burden. Ti knew he could blow off steam doing this. “Okay. What world is Billena on again?”
As Ti stood up, he playfully smacked Braxton in the back of the head. “Entaron, ya dunce!”
Braxton smiled, the first time in days.
* * *
“I wonder if you’ll be able to tell me what it’s like to be a rock one day,” Bob said in his dark room, staring at the rock sitting on his desk, the rock sitting in the spotlight of his lamp. Bob’s flat nose nearly touched the thing as his chin rested against the desk top.
“You’ve always been so good at telling me about things,” he continued quietly. “Of course, you’ll probably have to learn to talk again. After all this, I mean.”
The rock didn’t respond.
Bob glanced over at the fish, then looked back to the rock. “Should we get started? Okay, I think we should.”
He reached over, dipped his hand in the water, and scooped the glistening blue fish from its bowl. Setting it down, Bob watched the fish as it flopped around on the desk top, gasping for…
Water? Did fishes gasp?
Bob watched the fish as it flopped desperately, banging its body against the hardwood, and thought to himself how strange it was to be scared of death.
* * *
A different world, a different job. Braxton did not waste his time once the portal dropped him off on Billena. It was daytime here, mid-day judging from the position of the sun, different from Earth time where the sun was setting. The forest around him was thick, the greenery and wildlife fertile in the center of the island, but he knew a spot where he could take off uninterrupted. Billena was becoming such a troublesome country in this world that he knew the drop-off spot by heart.
Everyone on the team had some sort of power or ability that made them valuable. Rosa was a Mysticastor, or a magician and sorcerer. Bob saw the previous names of reincarnated souls, though Braxton was doubting the legitimacy of his power now. Braxton, personally, felt that his made him a total weirdo.
Braxton had wings.
He walked out to the huge clearing that he was so familiar with—not eighty feet away from the drop-off sight—and surveyed it, pushing his blue-rimmed spectacles up the bridge of his nose. No rocks or potholes to trip him up, no new sprouts, nothing he should be worried about. The wind was tame, the day was warm, so there would be plenty of updrafts if he needed them.
He removed his white, button-down shirt, revealing to any unlikely passerby the tattoos on his back. Two wings, each a vivid blue and perfectly-detailed, each one arching out from his shoulder blades and curving down, in a position of rest. He’d never wanted these wings, not for one second.
“Don’t be stupid!” Tyra laughed. “They’re gorgeous! Blue’s my favorite color, you know, and they’re just the right shade.” He could almost feel her stroking them, like she always used to…
Braxton shook his head fervently. “Stop it,” he told himself out loud. “You have a mission.”
He looked over the land one more time before removing his glasses and replacing them with his goggles.
Setting his shirt and prescription glasses aside in the usual tree he put them in, he approached the runway. He focused on his back and held his breath. He let out a small gasp as the bones in his upper spine shifted, clicking against each other to make room for the new ones. There was pressure inside of him as they began to protrude from his skin, then penetrated outward, growing large and long.
Braxton didn’t know the magic behind them, nor did he know exactly what their purpose had been originally, all he knew was that they were heavy and big and blue. With a 50 foot long wingspan, Braxton needed a wide clearing to take off from, and that was why he had been dropped off here.
He took a moment to stretch his wings out and recover from the strain of growing them, flapping them around to make sure they were prepared to fly. Vivid, large, almost glowing, blue feathers fluttered down onto the dirt. The hardest part of flying was not the flying, itself, on a sunny day like this, it was the takeoff.
With a deep breath, he took a ready position, crouching over and stretching his arms to the ground, wings spread out, each one a little less than twenty-five feet long.
Then he ran.
His feet were fast on the ground, cleats kicking up dust from the bare dirt. He grunted at the effort of flapping his wings, the burden on his feet lightening slightly. Another flap took him off the ground completely and, panting, the third, fourth, and fifth flaps came along in swift succession, pulling him up into the air. From there, he was free.
The air against his face relaxed his mind for a moment and allowed him to focus on the task at hand, the Nicoti-al.
It was a nasty piece of work to find the thing in the first place, and it got even nastier when the Billenans decided to make it theirs. General Guardian, the agency's most trusted confidant from this world, was adamant in her decision to keep weapons of mass destruction out of this world called Entaron. The general culture of this world revolved around war for the most part, and firearms, explosives, and biological weapons were forbidden entrance to Entaron.
Braxton had met Guardian once, perhaps a year ago, and was profoundly impressed by her sturdy soldier’s stance, yet soft brown eyes. She was a wise, polite woman, and had made Ti into a fawning fangirl for about two weeks straight during her visit.
Braxton caught an updraft and coasted high in the air, where he could see his target: the fortress, out close to the ocean. He swooped down at an angle towards it, gaining speed and momentum as gravity pulled him closer.
It was a large triangle made of stone; each block that made it was some sort of dense metamorphic rock, and it probably took twelve men to pick one up. The walls were high, maybe thirty feet, and the entire fortress seemed impenetrable from the ground.
But from the sky, it wasn't so bad. The fortress was three walls. Inside those three walls, there were separate buildings, five of them, each one square. The middle building gleamed at the top. Braxton wrinkled his nose in distaste at the sight of it. The Nicoti-al shined brilliantly, which signalled it was at work, another reason he was given this mission. On the ground, he could see a scorch mark around the fortress, a perfect ring that cut through sand, trees, and even the ocean. The ocean inside of the mark was still, while the rest crashed up against it as if it were a cliff face.
Anyone who crossed that ring would be dead, inside or outside of it. Only the birds were safe. Braxton swooped down, landing on top of the middle building, a few feet away from the brilliant light of the object in front of him. He let his wings rest on the stone so he wouldn’t have to go through the strain of keeping them up.
There were two reasons General Guardian wanted the Nicoti-al confiscated from Entaron. The first: it was harmful to the animals that lived on the ground, causing unrest in the local ecosystem. The second, and most important: it required human sacrifice.
The Nicoti-al was a golden gem. Braxton didn't know the intricacies of it, Rosa could explain them later, but it had silver metal laced within it somehow. Its sacrifice was a man, chained to the roof of the building, lying on his back, the gem embedded in his forehead. Half the life was drained out of him by now, but he still had plenty of years left in Braxton’s opinion. Entaronians lived for almost 600 years, so now he was left with a 300 year lifespan.
The man hardly needed the restraints anymore. Malnourished, scrawny, unable to even open his eyes, he wasn’t going anywhere.
Shouting on the ground below alerted Braxton to the fact that he’d been spotted coming in. This didn’t daunt him, he knew they knew him. They’d probably written him off as some sort of bird demon sent by their death god to take away their protection.
The man being sacrificed moaned.
Braxton sighed and got down on his knees, hand over the bright light, but careful not to touch it. “Nerniah.”
The man gasped and his eyes flew open as the gem flew upward into Braxton’s hand, losing its glow. The errand was simple for him, really. There was no way the Billenans could have climbed up to the top of the building in time.
Something flew at his face. He flinched. A stab of pain shot across his left cheek.
He looked up at the wall, not too much higher than the roof of the building he stood on, and saw the stone throwers, cursing himself immediately for missing such a trivial detail. Entaron didn’t have archers, they had people who threw rocks with frightening accuracy. Ti was even one of them, and Braxton couldn’t even remember that they existed? First Bob, now this?
Braxton stood abruptly and clenched his hand over the golden gem, teeth gritting against each other.
Best. Freaking. Day. Ever.
He touched his cheek with his fingers and pulled his hand back to find that he was bleeding.
Time to go.
Braxton picked his wings up off of the rooftop, more sharp stones flying his way, brushing his feathers. With one powerful flap, his feet were taken off of the ground. Three more and he had risen to the level of the stone throwers, still an easy target. He grunted with the fifth and sixth flap, the muscles in his back aching at the strain and urgency they were put under. He was barely above his attackers now.
The physics of getting out of a box for a bird was flying up and over the wall. Usually, the bird would gain momentum by flying diagonally up towards the wall, then narrowly clearing it.
That was a luxury Braxton didn’t have. The closer he got to the walls, the closer he got to breaking a wing or getting hit in the eye. Flying straight up was his safest option, and also his most strenuous, depriving him of the momentum of a takeoff. He pumped his wings again, his lungs tightening, gasping for oxygen.
A stone smashed against his shin and he yelled.
Even though he was only perhaps ten feet higher than his assailants, he knew he couldn’t keep going straight up. It made him a slow-moving, exhausted target.
Flapping his wings frantically, he straightened his body, aimed for the West wall, and dove.
It took the stone throwers a total of three seconds before they realized their target was coming at them. The anger on their rapidly-approaching faces melted into fear as they quickly crouched behind the ramparts.
Braxton barely made it over.
Growling and catching his breath, he flew away from the fortress, never to be seen by a Billenan again.
* * *
Ti looked up upon Braxton’s unannounced entrance to his office.
Shirt in one hand, the Nicoti-al in the other, Braxton all but stomped into the room. The strange gemstone clattered against Ti’s desk.
“I’ll have the paperwork done by tomorrow.”
Ti blinked, barely managing to glimpse blood on his agent. “Braxton, you’re wounded!”
Braxton turned back to the door. “I’ve been wounded for weeks.”
* * *
“Tyra could’ve done it better,” Braxton muttered to himself as he trudged down the base corridors to his bedroom. “Tyra would’ve busted through that place like a juggernaut. She would have walked right up to those stone throwers and taken them out easily.” He could see it in his mind. He could see her fast but smooth dodges. He could see her taking a sword from one’s sheath, killing him with his own sword.
Maxwell poked his head out of his bedroom door, causing Braxton to jump. “You’re talking to yourself again.”
Braxton shut his mouth and shot him one of his nastiest glares. Maxwell raised his blond eyebrows and retreated back into his bedroom. Braxton continued on his path. Three doors later and he was in his own room. Dimly lit, only a bed, a desk, and a chair. He didn’t need much more than that to keep comfortable.
Although it seemed that someone had introduced a new addition to his commodities.
A fishbowl sat on his desk, a little, blue fish swimming around in circles inside of it. Braxton stood, staring at it. He pulled out his chair and sat down, eyes glued to the small creature. A container of fish food was next to the fishbowl.
Braxton’s lips trembled and the pressure that had built up in him finally released.
He began to cry.
* * *
Daniel smirked at Maxwell from the beanbag chair in the corner as he pulled his head back into his room. “Did he give you a look?”
Maxwell chuckled and grinned at his best friend. “The dirtiest one yet. He has a nasty gash on his face.”
Daniel nodded. “Big surprise there,” he absent-mindedly shifted the squares on the rubik's cube in his hand, “but at least he didn’t stop at Tyra’s door again.”
A short pause ensued.
“Was it bloody?”
Boom! And just like that, Millie is sick (too sick to work at the range, but just fine playing wildly with Joseph in the Training Center) and these dummy boy scouts are coming all up in our camp.
While. We. Have. Girls. Here.
I’ve never felt more like a feminist in my life.
What happened was I was walking around the Spruce campsite, trying to think of what to do to make it more visible for a service project. The problem with Spruce is that it’s in the middle of a group of camp sites bordering it, so it has no direct paths leading up to it.
All of a sudden, I start hearing voices and the crunching of gravel. I look over at the road, about 40 yards of foliage away from where I was standing, and I see boy scouts on bikes.
Firstly, this is Camp Sunnyside. People in the neighboring boy scout campsites have been threatened with their jobs to STAY OUT.
Secondly, this is really, really far into Camp Sunnyside. How do you miss the fact that you’re in a girls camp?
I walked over to meet them. They had a leader. Someone who knew what he was doing, someone Sally saw at BSA Camp Director meetings, someone who knew full well where he was.
He sees my staff shirt. Camp Sunnyside Girls Camp Staff is printed on the front of it.
“Hello,” he greeted. (This was the exact conversation.)
“Hey,” I say tersely. “What’s going on here?” What’s your IQ level? Are you lost? Are you blind? Who hired you?
He doesn’t catch on to my implied irritation. This makes me nervous. This dude just led a troop of 15+ decan-age boys into the camp. I know that he should know that he’s not allowed here.
“Oh, I just thought I’d take the boys up to play in those logs up there.”
He’s talking about the part of the forest that was burned down fifteen years ago. The Forest Service or someone like that owns that property. It borders Camp Sunnyside and is especially close out here by Spruce and Aspen.
At this point, I got a sudden stab of doubt in my authority. This guy was a boy scout leader, and I felt compelled to lean more towards what he wanted. I didn’t know if he outranked me. I didn’t want to create a confrontation when it was somewhere around 20 to 1.
But, I still didn’t want to let him off scotch free. “Okay,” I say strictly, hoping that he’ll have common sense and be deterred by the following statement, “but we do have girls in the camp that like their personal space. Please keep the noise down.”
I was expecting something along the lines of ‘Oh, this is a girl’s camp? Sorry, boys, we shouldn’t be here.’
This is a grown man I just spoke to.
As they continued their journey up the mountain, I radio in the Boss Lady.
She tells me to stay where I am after I get back to Spruce.
The BS excuses this dude gave her were laughable! “This is a girls’ camp???? O0O?” and “We were working on an ecological merit badge.”
Some people's children.
Either way, our first Faith Walk was tonight. Kristine did well as Florence Nightengale. Joseph and Kendal made me cry so freaking hard, as usual.
I’m scared to do Florence, myself in the next group on Thursday. I’ve never performed before like this. I’m excited to do campfire program again tomorrow. It’s fun being Flint and Steel with Kristine.
So, somehow, April’s sleeping bag ended up all the way on the other side of camp.
In the creek.
What the heck is wrong with people!?
If I write about it anymore, it’s gonna be later. I seriously can’t fathom this without ripping my pages right now. At least Katie had a spare sleeping bag April could use.
My aunts and uncles are so nice! They took me to my favorite restaurant the second I got home, then my uncle Harlan BOUGHT ME NEW HIKING SHOES! He wouldn’t let me pay for them with my first paycheck and said that they were too expensive for me to buy, so he bought them for me!!! This makes me so happy, since I’ve never had shoes I didn’t wear out within two months of getting them.
Also, my parents are replacing me with new cars.
I’m not even joking.
Before I started working at camp, Mom got herself a shiny new bright green car. It’s pretty and very much her style. It was also necessary, seeing as her old car was nine years old and bought used. Two weeks later, I get home from camp, and there’s another new car in the driveway!
My dad got himself a shiny new Honda Element (his dream car).
Let’s see here… High school kid graduates, leaves for the summer, parents get new cars…
Coincidence? I think not!
In light of the spooky season, as well as the time it will take to finish preparing the next Shostopa, Ten Talents, I have decided to write about some of the strangest, spooky, and unexplained things that have ever happened to me. This does not include my clown altercation from last year, nor does it include anything that happened while I was working at Camp Sunnyside this past year (mostly because that's half-fiction and I like to keep you guys guessing).
Everything you're about to read is true to the best of my memory.
1. The One That is on the site
I wrote this one down, extended/exaggerated it, and posted it on the site here. The story's name is Oregon and was posted a while ago. It was later narrated by one of my favorite horror narrators at the time, but the video has since been deleted.
The story is, as I said, exaggerated, and the last half of it is made up (though it definitely scared the crap out of my fellow camp staff members), but the first part of this story is told exactly as it happened.
For those of you who have no interest in sifting though my archives to find it, this is how it went.
In the summer of 2016, my last high school summer, I was shipped out to Oregon to stay with my aunt and uncle twice in the same three weeks. The first time, I was painting their house with one of my closest uncles. I went back home to Utah for a week, then traveled back to Oregon with the rest of my mom's side of the family for our annual vacation.
In the room I slept in for the first week, the last two nights of my stay were interrupted by beeping watches in the drawers of the old vanity that sat in the corner. Tom and Carla (my aunt and uncle/hosts) were boggled by their presence, since they were old watches that they didn't recognize.
When I came back to their house for the family vacation, I slept in the same room and found a third beeping watch the first night I was there.
This was weird, definitely. Inexplicable? Well, first of all, they each started at a different time every night. The first was at 1:35 a.m., the second was at 2:35 a.m., and the third was at 3:35 a.m., like an at-the-count-of-three ______ happens.
I went for a walk in the woods on their huge property a few days later, and something just popped up right next to me out of nowhere. It was so sudden that I literally jumped, turned, and pulled my headphones out because I thought it was an animal.
I distinctly remember seeing blackness dissipate into thin air right next to me. It scared me so bad that I can't walk that far into the property by myself anymore. I don't know what it was that happened, but it feels like I was targeted that day.
2. Lamondi Ghosts
When I was younger, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, I went to a camp with my Dad's side of the family. It was an annual reunion of my grandma's siblings and their posterity, one that we'd been attending for years. There were big bunk houses that everyone slept in (instead of tents, which are and always have been my personal preference). I always managed to snag a bunk house with my two closest cousins on that side, Matthew and Emma.
I woke up late one night. I don't remember why I woke up, I don't remember where I'd been sleeping either. I could have been on a top bunk, a bottom bunk, or the floor underneath one for all I know.
It had to be four in the morning. I saw that Emma was awake, too, looking out the window beside the door. Her face was illuminated by a silvery light. I walked over to her.
"There's people out there," she said quietly.
I looked out the window. I saw a man and a woman far away in a field beside the bunk house. They were silver, holding hands. I looked up at Emma, confused, then looked back and was boggled to find them gone, even though they had been far away from anywhere they could have hidden or moved out of our sight.
3. Shadow Man
I slept on the couch as a little kid. It was in the corner of the living room, facing the TV. I often drifted off whilst staring at the little clock lights beneath it.
I woke up in the middle of the night for no reason once again. As I wiped the sleep from my eyes, I realized that the clock on the TV wasn't there. A few seconds later, I realized that there was a shillouette of a person standing in front of it, the light behind only bringing it out more to me as my eyes adjusted.
Staring at the person in terror for what seemed like an eternity, unable to scream, I watched as it slowly moved to the other corner of the room, revealing the TV clock's light once again, and fazing through the wall.
I was in second grade when this happened.
Also in second grade, there was Dexter, one of the many bullies I had at school. He was a fourth-grader. One time at recess, he picked me up, flipped me upside down, and dropped me on my head.
Two years later, after school, I was accosted by Dexter three different times, where he did the same as he had done when he was in second grade. When I finally admitted this to my mother, she went to the school about it, only to find that he had switched schools two years ago and probably didn't even remember who I was.
Every morning for the past two weeks, at exactly 7:35, the beeping of digital watches begins to loudly announce itself.
I've only ever owned one digital watch.
I never set the alarm.
It was never this loud.
I threw it away in Oregon when it broke on me this past summer.
6. The Burglar Alarm
I woke up from my first (and only) IT nightmare one morning, two weeks after I saw the new movie.
Out of nowhere, my burglar alarm beeps. It wasn't the screeching it would make if someone were to break a window, nor was it the sound it makes when someone in the house sets it.
It was the someone's-poking-at-the-buttons-and-intentionally-messing-with-it beeping.
When I went out to the hall to see who was messing with it (armed with a baseball bat, of course), I was perturbed to find that there was no one there - and no way anyone could have gone somewhere else in the house without making the floorboards squeak.
I have a neighbor boy (Colo) that I talk to once in a blue moon. We grew up side-by-side, but I didn't even notice when he moved to Seattle for a whole year by himself, so use that as a reference towards our relationship.
It must have been my seventh-grade year, when I was obsessed with being in the military. I was wearing my all-camouflage outfit (really, just a pair of fuzzy camo pajama pants and long-sleeved T-shirt) and testing out my ability to be unseen.
I saw Colo approach from the direction of our junior high school. He cut across my yard (as usual), entered his back yard, and most-likely entered his house. He was wearing darker clothes and maybe a leather jacket.
He walked by me, maybe ten feet away.
When he came out of his house by the same route he came in, I was eager to surprise him, so I said, "Hi, Colo!"
He froze and squeaked, surprised to see me. "You're wearing camouflage!" His mannerisms were off, but I thought nothing of it.
We had a small conversation, then he walked away. I watched him as he walked over to the street corner, met up perfectly with two other shady-looking guys (probably our age), and exchange pockets with them. Like they reached into each other's pockets, pulled stuff out, and walked a different way in a group.
Now two minutes later, Colo approached the house again, with his sister and no one else, in completely different clothes, genuinely confused as I demanded he turn out his pockets, looking for drugs.
I've never been so baffled in my life.
I already missed camp after only 24 hours at home. I brought an extra jacket with me and found that it had totally chilled over in the Uintas during our time away. We’re under a time crunch, our first campers are coming in on Wednesday. It’s super windy, but my tent stayed up over the weekend. I probably don’t need any help keeping it up now.
Today was frigid, so Kendal (Head of Shooting Range) put me to work with an electric saw and I was tasked with cutting wood down to 32 inches tall for a fence. It wasn’t a problem, other than the fact that my hands were so numb from that I wouldn’t have known if they had been caught in the blade. After I cut all of the wood down to size, I left it to Terra (nice blonde shooting range girl - Chancellor’s little sister) to build the fence with April and Emma (other shooting range girl) while Kristine and I worked with Kendal and Michael (student of Kendal’s who was brought up here to get out of an unemployment rut).
I sang Hamilton with Kristine while we started preparing Kendal’s welding stuff. We had to weld some pipes together to make a canvas the arrows could fall into behind the archery range, the only problem being that the pipes were set at the top of a steep, rocky slope, where the welding motor(?) thing couldn’t follow it.
From there, it was our job to hold the giant 90 lbs. motor up so that it didn’t fall on its side and (not even joking here) explode.
12:25 and all of a sudden it was snowing. I’m seriously not even exaggerating when I say that, one second, we saw one tiny little snowflake drift down from the sky. The next thing we knew, and it was like someone knocked over the salt shaker.
We walked back to the main camp in a blizzard, ate nestled together in the kitchen, and went to the Training Center to practice songs for our campfire program.
It snowed for maybe an hour or two, then we went back up to work at the shooting range. We literally sat there and kept Kendal’s welding kit from falling over until dinner. I’m glad I brought my TCT jacket.
It’s 12:41 right now and I just had this vivid nightmare about the first open camp day being chaos. I didn’t wake up screaming or anything, but Dolly isn’t here yet. I’m scared of being alone every night. I think I might sneak over to April’s tent and see if she’s asleep yet. She’s such a night owl.
So I fell out of bed this morning, straight out of the side of the tent, sleeping bag, stuffed bunny, and all. I clearly slept great last night.
April and I started the day with a nice, refreshing morning hike, looking for fallen trees to get rid of. It’s a nice, easy, not-steep-at-all hike that will terrorize the girls anyway because the hike is always the hardest part of the camping trip.
It was snowing as we started, so I wore my jacket and sweater. It was a quarter of the way through the hike before I realized that I was getting heat exhaustion and called for a stop so that I could strip down to my Camp Sunnyside T-Shirt. This is the third time I’ve been on the hike, so I’ll be sure to warn the campers to dress light, even if it is cold.
The rest of today was spent welding up at the shooting range. April seems to be having a great time with Emma, Millie (Emma’s BFF), and Terra. They’ve been working on the fence at the shooting range while Kristine and I have been keeping Kendal’s welding motor(?) thingy from falling over at the archery range next to it. We also worked on making archery targets. It was a relatively short day, all things considered. Tomorrow is the first day we’re open, and I can’t describe the ball of anxiety worming its way around my insides. The camp is ready, but are we? Dolly is still missing in action, either sick still, or gone forever (I hope she’s not gone forever, because that would suck). We could barely finish the range, and I’m worried that the service projects April and I are thinking of won’t be good enough.
I guess I’ll see tomorrow.
Dolly is back and ready to go! Gosh, that’s a relief!
We started this morning off by eating breakfast, having a motivational staff meeting, and then welcoming the campers at the front of the camp. Kristine and I fangirled about Ranger’s Apprentice while we waited for them to show up.
We don’t have a ton of people to work with this week, about six camps are filled up, but the wards are gigantic compared to mine. There are twenty girls in a few of them! Twenty! We can barely get ten to come to mutual/church, let alone get them to go camping in the “wild” for a few days!
April and I led two service projects today, we’ll lead one tomorrow after the hike. We put them to work splitting wood with the hydraulic wood splitters and moving rocks out of the road. I feel like we’re doing well so far when it comes down to it. We sing songs before every meal, the kitchen staff is having fun, and we held a campfire program full of skits. Kristine and I do this fun one called Flint and Steel together and it opens up the entire program.
Tomorrow night, we’ll be doing the Faith Walk. It’s a mini-hike through a back area of woods behind the camp. Eight of the staff members are stationed at different points of the hike, dressed up as women from scriptures and history that reflect one of the Young Women’s Values. Then you have Kendal dressed up as Joseph Smith (and adorable little Joseph, Angela’s nine-year-old son, playing young Joseph Smith), and the two of them make me cry every time I hear them.
I’m so super excited to lead the first hike tomorrow.
I woke up in a cold sweat, the floor of my bedroom cold beneath me as I shook.
Natalia! Where was Natalia?
Who was Natalia?
I stood up and turned on the bedroom light, looking around, confused. So many memories I didn’t recognize. So many images that I couldn’t understand. What was that dream I had? Who was that girl?
Everything had been so vivid.
I walked over to my desk, recovering from my heart-attack, and sitting down in my chair with a pen and notebook in front of me. I looked at the time. I’d only been asleep for a couple of hours. It was 1 in the morning. I needed to write all of this down. I couldn’t allow myself to forget it.
Not again. Not again.
I put my pen to paper.
I woke up on my feet, standing at my window...
O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O
“Where are you going?”
I stared at Dirk through my car window, already tired. “Why is that your business?” I asked irritably. “And why are you still here?”
Dirk shrugged. “We were just talking.”
I scowled at him. “Well, leave before my mom gets home. You’ll freak her out.”
I started rolling up my window.
“Where are you going?” he asked again.
I gave him a sharp look. “You’ve been intrusive enough today. Go raid someone else’s house.”
I rolled up my window and drove away, pleading that he wouldn’t follow me.
O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O
I arrived at Ace’s house moments later. The house was mostly dark and quiet, except for one small light on in the living room. I knocked softly on the front door, even though I knew the padlock combination, then entered.
Natalia was there, thank goodness, sitting on his couch with red eyes and a sniffing nose, Ace sitting next to her with an arm over her shoulder. They looked up at me upon my entrance.
“Are you okay?” Ace asked me.
I nodded. “Untouched, but they’re definitely suspicious of me. I let them search the house with me and it worked for a minute, but they were still chilling outside when I left to come here.” I walked over to Natalia and sat down next to her.
She looked at me with wide eyes. “You’ll be in trouble if you keep me.”
I sighed, knowing the truth behind her words. “I know. But you’ll be in trouble if you try going out alone.”
A knock sounded at the door. We all jumped. My pulse raced. Ace stood up abruptly, Natalia shaking beside me. I took her hand and moved her away from the view of the door, into Ace’s room.
“W-what do I do?” she asked.
I watched Ace move to the door, holding her cold hand tightly. “Leave out the window, like you did at my house.” I had to think quickly as I heard the click of the front doorknob as it opened. “Get on 41st and keep going East until you see a big bridge over the road. There will be a park on the left side of the road, get on the pathway and keep walking. You’ll be able to hide there, it has less traffic and I’ll ride my bike there to find you, okay?”
Natalia nodded fervently. “Okay.”
“Can I help you?” Ace asked from the door.
I poked my head out of his room “curiously”, to find that it was, of course, Dirk and Tristan. I blocked out Ace’s mind and my own from Tristan’s mentalism and frowned, upset to see them here. “What do you two want?”
“You know them?” Ace asked me, turning around.
Dirk’s hand lifted. It was holding a pistol. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but you both need to come with us.”
Ace turned back around and saw the gun. I felt my blood run cold.
“What do you want with him?” I demanded. “And put that thing away!” Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!
Dirk looked at me and said bluntly, “He’s easier to crack than you. You’re worse than the trees, themselves.”
O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O
We were put in separate cars, and the last thing I remembered was someone putting a rag over my mouth and nose.
And when I woke up, I found myself shackled to a metal chair in a room. I was looking at myself in a mirror. My head hurt and my wrists hurt worse. I could see the bruises on them.
I think that was after the first time Tristan had sifted through my mind. I think that he had to go through me twice to really screw me up.
But I couldn't be sure.
The door next to me clicked and my fellow mentalist walked in with a coffee in his hand. I nearly vomited at the smell of it combining with my headache. He was smiling at me like a predator.
“You named it?” he laughed.
“Named what?” I asked automatically. “Why am I here?”
Tristan’s smile widened. “Natalia.”
The name rang a bell and I stared at him for a few seconds of struggling through my memory. “Natalia.” Natalia! Black eyes! Entaron! Running away… “Did you find Natalia?” I asked.
Tristan’s smile faded a little bit. He set his coffee on the ledge of the mirror. “You brainwash better than I do,” he sighed. “And you're more durable. Lucky for me that I’m patient.”
He stepped forward and placed his hands on my head. I didn't fight as much as I should have. They were cool and alleviated the headache slightly. It was only when things started going black again did I realize what he was doing to me.
By then it was too late.
O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O
They showed Natalia to me one last time.
She was bleeding down the side of her face, barely conscious, dragged in by two strong men, one holding each arm.
I didn't recognize her. They took her away after that.
Now she haunts the dark corners of my nightmares, looking at me helplessly, hopelessly.
I looked at the time. It was 6 in the morning now, and I stood up, knowing for a fact that Natalia was no figment of my imagination. Tristan had been able to wipe my memory, round of applause for him, but he couldn't keep me down for long.
It had only been a week, maybe two, since he'd gotten me down.
I had to work fast.
I stood up, drank some Mountain Dew, and got dressed. First thing's first, get Ace to remember, too. After that, talk to Lexis Blossom.
Natalia needed me.
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