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HERE THERE BE MONSTERS?
by Robert Lowell Russell
The canary-yellow shirt read Camp Fit, but it didn’t quite fit the bulbous, pre-adolescent boy cringing in the cabin’s corner. Rows of bunks lined both sides of the room. Standing over the boy, Worgly raised his shaggy brown arms and roared his terrible roar. “You’re going to eat me!” And the monster gnashed his terrible teeth, and rolled his terrible eyes, and showed his terrible claws.
The boy’s expression changed from terror to puzzlement. “You want me to eat you?”
“Yes!” shouted Worgly. “Wait... No.”
Pulling a tattered manual from his fur, the monster flipped through it and read for a moment, then nodded and put the book away again.
“Do-over.” Worgly pointed a talon at the boy. “I’m going to eat you!” The monster clawed his terrible eyes and gnashed his terrible tongue, and— “Ouch!”
The boy laughed. “You’re a sucky monster.”
“I know.” Worgly collapsed in a heap on the floor and burst into tears. “My parents sent me to the Camp for the Monstrously Challenged to ‘shape me up,’ but I hate it!”
The boy got to his feet and tugged his shirt over his belly. “My folks dumped me in this stupid fat camp. I’d kill for a candy bar.” He pointed to a closet in the cabin. “You should probably go.”
Wiping away his tears, the monster started to rise.
“You know, why don’t you give it one more try?” The boy spread his arms wide. “Hit me with your best shot.”
Worgly took a deep breath and leaped from the floor and pinched the boy’s chest with his claws.
The boy shook his head and grabbed Worgly’s furry nipple between a meaty finger and thumb, then twisted. The monster shrieked.
“That’s a purple nurple,” said the boy.
Clamping his hands over the monster’s forearm, he worked the skin back and forth, and Worgly howled.
“Indian rug burn,” said the boy. “Let the friction work for you.” He twirled his finger. “Turn around.”
Worgly did as he was commanded, and he heard a rustle of clothes behind him.
“Now put these on.” The boy handed the monster a pair of dirty underwear.
Worgly started to protest, but the boy held up a finger, silencing him. The monster struggled into the briefs.
“The key to terror,” said the boy in a soft voice, “is building anticipation. Your victims know something awful is going to happen to them, but they don’t know what.”
He circled Worgly. “Will it be the nurple?” He grabbed Worgly’s nipple and wrenched it, and the monster screamed. “The burn?” The boy clamped his hands on Worgly’s arm and rubbed the skin, and the monster screamed again. “The wedgie?” He yanked the underwear, and the monster’s mouth made an “O.”
The boy leaned near Worgly’s ear and whispered, “Or will it be something worse?”
“There’s something worse?”
The boy offered a cruel smile. “There’s always something worse.”
“Teach me! Please.”
“Why should I help you?” The boy’s expression held a mercenary gleam.
“Camp Challenged has food. Tons of it!”
The boy thought for a moment. “There are other monsters there that are as lame as you?”
“Deal.” The boy extended his hand. “I’m Jason. Tomorrow night, bring some friends.”
The next evening, half a dozen monsters tromped through the cabin’s closet, following Worgly. Seven pudgy children waited for the creatures, each child with a predatory look on his or her piggy face.
Worgly’s monstrous friends huddled behind him. Some of the monsters crept closer to get a better look until a plump girl, the shortest and roundest of the children, held up her hand. The girl clenched her fingers into fist, and the monsters jolted at each knuckle crack.
“I’m Dee-Dee,” said the girl. “Which one of you is my monster?”
A reptilian horror stepped forward and held up a cream-puff. She snatched it from the monster’s hand and stuffed it into her face. “Gemee-nuther.” Dee-Dee held up her fist again when the creature didn’t move quickly enough.
One by one, the monsters and children paired off until Worgly was left standing with Jason.
“Now what?” asked the monster.
“Let’s start with something easy. You’re big, and little things are afraid of big things.” Jason motioned Worgly to follow him outside. “There are more camps nearby, and I know the perfect place to start.”
Their pursuers howled behind them like a pack of wolves, and Worgly and Jason ran even faster through the moonlit forest, scrambling past trees and brush.
“This was supposed to be easy?!” said Worgly.
“I thought they just sold cookies!” Jason pumped his arms as he ran. “How was I supposed to know?”
Worgly grabbed the boy and pulled him into a shadowed part of the forest. A troop of girls in berets, sashes, and war-paint streaked past. Each wielded a fire-sharpened spear.
Even after the Girl Scouts moved away, Worgly and Jason waited until the stillness of the forest turned back to cricket chirps and the rustle of living things. Then they waited another half-hour, just to be sure, and only then crept from their hiding place.
Retreating to the Camp Fit cabin, Jason and Worgly found a group of bruised and battered monsters and a cluster of exasperated children soothing their frustrations with peach cobbler.
“They’re hopeless,” said Dee-Dee between bites. Cub Scouts had “bird feedered” her monster, covering the creature in peanut butter, pines cones, and bird seed.
“How hard is it to scare a bunch of little kids?” asked another not-so-little kid.
“You children grow up too fast these days,” said a monster; its corpse-gray skin sticky with glue, sequins, pink glitter. “We can’t scare you once you’re grown.”
“Why not?” asked Jason.
“Because adults aren’t afraid of monsters.”
“Maybe not,” said Jason, “but my mom’s afraid of other dumb things, like house bubbles.”
“And my dad’s afraid of reptile dysfunction,” said Dee-Dee.
The kids looked to one another.
“Bullying grownups,” said one. “Dare we fly that close to the sun?”
“We’ve got pet monsters and I’ve got the carpal tunnel real bad from all the wedgies,” said a boy. “A change of pace would be nice.”
Their pursuers howled behind them like a pack of wolves, and Worgly and Jason ran even faster through the moonlit forest. Ducking into the shadows, the boy and the monster allowed a posse of spear-carrying naked septuagenarians to rush past.
Once the sound of flapping wizened flesh stopped echoing throughout the night, Jason said, “I guess ‘retired nudists’ doesn’t mean they’ve stopped being nudists. Those were some tough nuts to crack.”
Jason and Worgly dragged themselves back to the cabin where they found the other monsters practicing new pursuits with the children’s guidance.
“That’s right, Rush,” said a monster wearing a headset. “When the gay, liberal agenda is fully operational there’ll be a homosexual in the White House within ten years. Then mark my words, those black helicopters will turn pink.” A boy held up a cue card for the monster, and the creature added, “Watch the skies, people!”
Another monster was blogging on a popular stay-at-home-mom web site:
Before your child is six years old, the government recommends that they receive the following vaccines: HepB, Dtap, MMR, Hepa, Influenza, Varicella, IPV, Hib, PCV. Put the highlighted letters together and do you see what they’re trying to hide from us?
Think I’m crazy? Think there aren’t enough Ns? The influenza vaccine is recommended every year. EVERY YEAR.
The monster gave his child a thumbs-up, and finished with the phrase:
Watch the skies, people!
More bullies clustered around a group of creatures who’d formed the undocumented immigrant mariachi band, Amnestia Moreno (Brown Amnesty). They were rehearsing their new hit song, Gente del Cielo.
“Gente del Cielo?” wondered Jason aloud. “Sky People?”
“We’re experimenting with meta-bullying,” a girl explained. “We think if we plant certain words often enough in the media, people will be afraid without even really knowing why.”
“You guys are doing great,” said Jason. “It’s all coming together. Anyone for a celebratory doughnut?”
The other kids shook their heads. They were too involved to take a break.
Worgly sighed. “It’s not going so great for me.” The monster went off to be by himself.
“I’ve tried everything I can think of for the guy,” Jason said to Dee-Dee, who’d come to console him.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “Give him time and he’ll find his niche, just like the others.” Then she jammed her hands down the back of his shorts and yanked his undies to his armpits. Jason’s mouth made an “O” and she winked. “You’re my boyfriend now.”
The next night, Worgly struck out at a Renaissance Fair. Costumed adults proved surprisingly fearless. There was a lot of screaming at the Wall Street Warriors’ power weekend, but Worgly couldn’t tell if the screams were from fear or greed-fueled rage. And at Jason’s advice, the monster skipped the Sisters of the Second Amendment retreat entirely.
“A retreat doesn’t mean they’ll actually retreat,” Jason explained.
Finally, it was the last night before Worgly and Jason were due to head back home, and the pair were desperate.
Making their way as quietly as they could through the forest, they crept toward a dozen residents of the Gaia’s Groovy Commune seated in a clearing around a crackling fire. Smoke rose from the bonfire and a different sort of smoke rose from the people as they passed around a hand-rolled cigarette.
“The Man, man,” said one bearded man to another. “The Man’s poisoning our water to fuel the war machine.”
Jason whispered excitedly to Worgly and pointed to his butt and then to the sky, but the monster appeared skeptical. The boy gave the monster an encouraging shove, and Worgly leapt from the forest.
“Argh! I’m a monster!” He gnashed his terrible teeth, and rolled his terrible eyes, and showed his terrible claws.
The people blinked and were silent, then one woman shook her head. “The real monsters are the corporations. Come sit by me, groovy talking bear.” The hippie patted the log she was sitting on.
“But… I’m ugly and terrible,” said Worgly.
“Not on the inside.”
Sighing, Worgly went to sit with the group. Declining a toke from the cigarette, Worgly felt a familiar sort of despair rising inside of him, until out of the corner of his eye he saw Jason in the forest, waving. The boy pointed again to his butt and then to the sky.
Worgly took a deep breath. “What do you think happens to it?” He craned his neck to the stars.
“What?” asked the woman.
“The farts. From all the people. From all the cows, and chickens, and pigs, and stuff. There might even be dinosaur farts floating around up there, for all we know.”
“Well, it’s just that I’m worried, is all,” said the monster. “What if the oil and gas conglomerates try to get at it?”
It took a moment to settle in, but eventually the eyes of the group went wide. One by one, the hippies rose and stared into the night sky.
“Sky fracking, man,” said a hippie. “Bear dude’s talking about sky fracking. Watch the skies, people!”
Worgly used the distraction to rejoin Jason in the forest.
“I knew you could do it!” The boy threw his arms around the monster. “I’m so proud of you.”
Back at the cabin that night, as the wild rumpus wound down, there were more hugs and even some tears while the children and the monsters said their goodbyes.
“Promise to visit?” asked Jason.
“Promise,” said Worgly.
The sting of Dee-Dee’s farewell nurple hadn’t yet faded for Jason as he looked longingly at Camp Fit dwindling behind his parent’s car. After half an hour of awkward silence, his father finally spoke from the driver’s seat. “You’re as fat as ever. What happened?”
“I lost five pounds!”
“Wow. That’s what, fifty bucks a pound? Congratulations, son, you’re cheaper than Kobe beef.”
“Dear, that’s not nice.” Jason’s mother failed to repress a smirk. “Did you have a good time at least?”
“It was great, Mom! I had tons of fun and made lots of friends. I even have a girlfriend!” Jason noticed his parents looking to the sky with worried stares, and he grinned. “I can’t wait to go back next year!”
His parents offered each other puzzled looks.
That night, back at home in his bedroom, Jason left his closet cracked. And near midnight, the door swung open and a familiar face peeked out.
Worgly gave him a hug. “Nice to see you again, buddy.”
“Did you bring it?”
The monster nodded and hefted a bag filled with bubble soap and wands.
“Cool!” said Jason. “Now let’s go bust some house bubbles in my parents’ bedroom!”
Robert Lowell Russell, a native Texan, lives with his family in southeastern Ohio. A former librarian and current nursing student, he once aspired to be a history professor, but found writing about the real world too constraining. Bob likes to write about all sort of things, but frequently includes action and humor in his work. Not satisfied with writing stories of questionable content for adults, he’s also started work on a series of middle-grade books incorporating his love of not-so-super heroes and toilet humor. For links to more of Rob’s stories—or to see him dressed like a ninja—visit robertlowellrussell.blogspot.com.
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