To: Camp Plot-a-Wanna senior counselors
From: Camp Counselor Bill Shakespeare
At last night’s weenie and marshmallow roast, camper H. Lovecraft (Underwood Cabin) suggested the group tell scary stories around the campfire. He offered to begin a story, which the other campers could then add to. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. Here’s a transcript:
Camper Lovecraft began:
Night had fallen, draping a crepuscular pall upon the corpse of the weak and sickly twilight that preceded it. And this particular moonless nightfall seemed truly determined to snuff out all earthly sensations save for an unspeakable dread. As two young lovers shifted uneasily in the front seats of their parked automobile, they each could scarcely credit the fantastic whispers that played just beneath their faculties like the dream-soaked melody of a mad deity. Shuddering not from cold but out of some proto-human perception of the unearthly, the young man reached over and activated the vehicle’s radio receiver. It was his sincere hope that the warmth of another human voice, perhaps accompanied by a pleasant musical diversion of one sort or another, would go some way to placate the unease which chewed on his disposition like a blind maggot. But neither he nor his anxious paramour were put to ease by the troubled speech which belched hollowly from the device. The pair listened paralyzing horror as the gibbering voice of a radio programme announcer issued a dire warning pending to the sighting of a hideous bloated servant of the Elder Things, a blasphemous protoplasmic entity known as a Shoggoth. Furthermore, as described in the radio-wave broadcast message, the shapeless terror had last been seen slithering with unhuman kinesis in the very vicinity where the two increasingly horrified listeners huddled in rapt hysteria.
He seemed like he was never going to finish, or even take a breath between sentences, and the other campers were growing visibly annoyed. Finally another camper, E. Bronte (Pencilpoint Camper) interrupted:
“I say,” spoke the man, breaking the silence that hitherto hung over them both like the scent of sweet-william after an April shower, “perhaps we ought to discuss some means by which we might extricate us from this disagreeable and perhaps jeopardous position in which we find ourselves.”
“Indeed?” the woman answered coolly. “Though you no doubt reference the unfortunate revelation of an eldritch fiend in an inconvenient proximity to the very horseless conveyance in which we currently reside, I apprehend that you might speak the very same words in regard to the counterfeit sentiment you offer me in place of love.”
“I scarcely expect to receive such scorn from you,” the man replied, “Not leastwise in recompense for the many kindnesses I have shown you since your appearance on the doorstep of my household as a starving pauper, and all the more so considering the ghastly boneless ogre which prowls these moors and would gobble us up like moldy breadcakes.”
“How convenient, sir,” the woman retorted without pause, “That whenever our conversation turns to matters of the heart, it seems that Providence decrees the imminent threat of some Elder Gods or Great Old One or some horrific servant of the same. Indeed, one might think that to a gentleman, the possibility of marriage holds greater terrors than to have one’s sanity rent by a cosmic monstrosity.”
“Perhaps,” the man said after a moment, clearing his throat and reaching for the door of their carriage, “I had better investigate our surroundings for signs of the wretched beast.”
“Fine,” she said to him. “It does good to no woman to be flattered by a man who does not intend to marry her.”
“But I didn’t say—” And then the man thought better of responding, and exited the vehicle as if desperate to plunge into the miry wilds whence there is no extrication.
Most of the campers were content to let Bronte tell her part of the story, but camper A. Rand (also Pencilpoint Cabin…she and Camper Bronte do not get along) became increasingly agitated and quickly picked up the story when the time came:
Outside the car the man stopped abruptly. He felt no emotion, only the clarity of a man who lived for the sake of no one but himself. He was a rational man who desired only rational goals, and to not be eaten by a Shoggoth was a perfectly rational value. And it was in the pursuit of rational values that one performed rational acts, which were the only joy in life, that and money, which was the root of all good. So really, as long as the Shoggoth didn’t eat him or his wallet, he had nothing to fear. As for the woman, he was under no obligation to put his own life at risk for her any more than she was obliged to risk her life for him. Besides, she was probably a moocher, or a looter, it was hard to remember the difference. Either way he wasn’t into her looks.
Camper Rand finished her segment with a satisfied smirk. The rest of the group looked completely perplexed by everything she had said. Then camper L. Carroll jumped up and began to speak:
“Are you the monster I’ve been worrying about?” the girl said as a 15-foot horror slid its gelatinous maw around the car.
“I don’t know,” said the monster, who was able to speak clearly because, luckily, it had many other mouths besides the one it was using to eat with.
“You don’t know if you’re a monster?” she asked him, trying to be polite even though a strange kind of ichorous mucous was seeping in through the windows and dripping all over the dashboard.
“Oh, I’m sure I’m a monster,” the thing answered. “But how am I to know if I’m the monster you were worrying about? I have no idea what’s going on inside your head, of course.”
“But I know what’s going on in your head: me,” said the girl in the car. “And soon I’ll be going on inside your stomach. Must you continue to devour me? It’s really quite rude, don’t you see?”
“I don’t see,” said the monster. “As all my eyes are currently closed up and located on the far side of my body. And I’m not devouring you, I’m devouring your car. The fact that you are inside of it is no concern of mine. I didn’t put you in there.”
“Well,” the girl asked, “Can’t you stop devouring for one moment so I can get out of the car? Take a break.”
“Take a break?” The monster seemed confused, though it continued to work the car into its wriggling gullet. “How exactly does one take a break? I know how to make a break. But once something is broken, how can that break be taken away by someone else?”
“Look,” said the girl, “All you’re doing is making a literal interpretation of everything I’m saying. That’s a pretty lazy form of humor, not to mention annoying. And furthermore…”
But by then the monster had swallowed the car, and was slithering rapidly away, as it was late for a tea party.
Camper Carroll took a bow even though no one applauded.
Amidst all the eye-rolling and yawns, camper E. Hemingway (Ballpoint Cabin) staggered to his feet. He was clearly half-soused. (Any luck on finding out who’s been sneaking alcohol into camp?)
He stared into the campfire silently for a minute, then slurred out these lines before staggering into the woods (where, judging by the sounds, he urinated against the side of a tree for five minutes straight, then punched an opossum in the face.):
The guy watched the car get eaten. He shrugged, thinking, “Life isn't hard to manage when you've nothing to lose.
That pretty much ended things. Lovecraft was so upset he threw his marshmallow into the fire and declared that he would never again allow other writers to work with his story ideas.
I suggest that in the future, we not ask the writers to collaborate. It never seems to go well.
CAMP PLOT-A-WANNA is a weekly 8-part series where Quirk Books staffers reimagine famous authors as pre-teens, stuck together at summer camp. Check out the brochure here, get acquainted with camp, and see the lunch menu. It is also an entirely fictional place. Please don't have your parents drop you off at our offices with sleeping bags.