Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Green Camp

A few days ago tvhtoo expressed interest in reading one of my older, longer stories. So here's the complete text, which may or may not require editing:

The Green Camp


The bus turned from the road into a dirt path. Soon, it plunged into the temperate rainforest that had been visible for the greater part of our six hour journey. The road became very bumpy and twisted. The bus turned to the right, and then the left, and then made a U-turn to the right, and then made a broader U-turn to the left. Slowly, the forest was getting denser, but the bus still continued. One more hour passed by as I watched the bus turn. The bus made another U-turn to the left, and after about a kilometer it turned to the right again. My eyes began drooping. I think I fell asleep when the bus was halfway through a broad U-turn to the left, but I don’t know how long I slept. According to my watch, I slept for two hours, but it must have been off; when I woke up the bus was still on the broad U-turn, though it soon turned to the right, past an old pine-tree with only five branches. I vaguely felt as though I had seen it before on the trip. The bus turned to the left, and the made a U-turn to the right, and then a broad one to the left. Finally, it turned right again, around a large, old pine, with only five branches, and entered a clearing.
The clearing was almost square in shape. It was surrounded by pine-trees. Their shapes struck me in their similarity. I felt as though I saw each of them thousands of times. The bus stopped at the middle of the clearing, and a man came to us. He greeted us in a monotone, and told us that we would have to walk a long way. He told us that we could drop our things there for the day and get them again later. I was glad to get the weight of my pack off my shoulder, and if it weren’t for the oppressive stillness of the scenery I would have even sighed. We walked to the other side of the clearing, past buses and cars in various states of oxidization, to a very thin path that soon disappeared into the forest. We set off down the path.
Pines became more and more dominant, until no other tree could be seen. The camera that I had brought with me remained untouched. Nothing interesting caught my eye until the path finished its “S” and we reached the next clearing. It had a triangular shape, with our path passing by the tip. I caught sight of the opposite end of the clearing, far to my left. It was bordered off on one side by bushes and a lake. The lake seemed almost circular in shape. Beside the lake were various kayaks, all with a uniform colour; grey. I thought we would paddle them, but instead the man led us on. The path made a large turn away from the clearing until we were going back in the direction from which we came. Before long it turned back again in a broad arc that must have been a kilometer long. Finally, we reached a third clearing. This was diamond shaped. Twin hills rose up at the other end of the clearing. On the right were the cabins reserved for women, or girls, while on the left there were the cabins for men or boys. There were eight buildings in all.
“You will go to sleep now for the night. You will then be woken up at five in the morning the next day. There will be no talking without authorization. You can receive authorization from the camp prefect. You may not ask for it. My colleague will lead the women to their cabins. Men should follow me.” A woman appeared as though out of nowhere, and disappeared again into the cabin with the women of our group. We were soon shepherded into our own cabins. The man switched off the light and left, closing the door behind him. I heard a click. The door was locked.
We were surrounded by darkness; none of us could see a foot ahead of us. It was still light outside when we entered the cabin, but the cabin itself had no windows, nothing to suggest the time of day. I tried to find the light switch, but it was covered with a metal box which I couldn’t open. I stumbled towards my bed, but knocked my knee against it instead. I had hardly opened my mouth to shout when the lights suddenly shone with blinding strength. A loud voice filled the cabin: “There will be no talking without authorization.” The lights turned off again and I collapsed into my bed, nursing my eyes and my knee.


I woke up with deep shadows under my eyes. I couldn’t sleep because of the atmosphere of the place. It was a monotony that seemed dangerous, and my body resisted it with all its might, though in my mind I could find no good reason for it. I opened my eyes, but quickly shut them again. The light was blinding, and a voice was saying something in a harsh manner. I forced my mind into focus, and listened to the voice. I disliked it, and tried to go back to sleep, but it seemed to be beckoning to me. The subject of which the voice was speaking was in itself innocent enough, or seemed so at the time, only a “polar bear” swim in the lake, but the voice seemed evil, and almost made me long for the monotone of the guide from yesterday.
Taking part in the swim was optional, so while some decided to go so that they could wake up quickly, a few others, myself included, decided to try to continue resting. I soon found out that my hope of rest was in vain. The light seemed to shine brighter every second, so that finally I opened my eyes. I saw two men carrying something to a bed, and laying it down there. They moved to the door, and in doing so left the object plainly visible. It was my friend Roger, frozen stiff. The two men came again. Were they the same men? They looked just like the ones who came in before them, but they themselves looked similar to one another and, as I suddenly realized, the guide from yesterday. Had one of them opened his mouth, I know what voice would have come out. I was paralyzed with fear and, perhaps, a strange fascination. Then I heard the voice, which always seemed to fill the room.
“In the morning, it is acceptable to rest if the camp prefect does not command otherwise. If another pastime should be desired, swimming is also acceptable.”
The men had all left us, and for half an hour we were alone. The time was passed in silence, and all who could move had already given up trying to sleep. Most of them stared at the ceiling moodily. My eyes passed from one to the other. They paused on Peter, the tallest of us. He was glaring at the speakers angrily. My eyes continued, and paused again, this time on Sean. He was also tall, with very thin limbs. His eyes were fixed instead on the door.
When the half-hour was up, a man entered and told us that we would be having breakfast by the campfire for the first day. We all got up, with pale faces and deep shadows under our eyes. I slowly followed the man through the door, my stiff limbs shuffling across the cabin floor. It was a long, dreary walk back. First to the right, past an old pine with only five branches, and then to the left. I faintly remembered the path being different, but I was too tired to think properly and thought that I was mistaken.
There were eight of us in all and two picnic tables for us to sit in. The man didn’t join in the meal; he simply disappeared into the wood. I hadn’t seen any of the girls since they arrived at the camp and simply assumed that they were allowed a longer sleep. I did however wonder when we would be able to get our things back.
The meal looked horrible. A strange artificial cheese that looked like plastic with a very thin slice of incredibly dry bread constituted the only food with which we were provided. For drinks there was only a grayish liquid, which had no distinct taste but was horribly repellant. We didn’t eat much and were glad when men appeared out of the woods to take away our food. After they disappeared into the woods again, I noticed that one remained.
“We will now sit around the campfire. Acceptable activities are…” I ignored his slow drone and instead watched as the campfire was lit. We probably sat around it for a long time, but all I remember was my continually dropping off, and the voice droning in the background. Suddenly I was awake. The man was telling us that it was time to return to our cabins. The trip seemed very short this time; I was more worried about the sickness I felt, in mind and body.
I slipped into a very light sleep, dreaming of walking through a woodland path; going right, going left, a U-turn to the right and a broader one to the left again. A voice was continually droning in the background.


The next day, after trying to dose in vain for an hour, the man entered our cabin. His voice seemed to fill my mind, but something was missing. I was searching for a harsher, less monotonous voice. I got up, my mind working very slowly. I absorbed the words of the man without noticing it. “Today, breakfast will be served at the lodge. The procedure will continue for the length of your visit”. As these last words went through my mind, I could barely stifle a groan. We were staying at the camp for one week. By then, as we had been told before arrival, we would be “corrected”.
While we were walking to the lodge, which was roughly between the lake and the diamond clearing, Sean, Peter, Roger and I tried to hang as far back from the man as we could. Sean was muttering angrily all the while, and Peter seemed to be brooding. On Roger’s face I saw fear and disgust. I was fighting within myself; between conform and rebellion. It could have gone either way, but for the moment my fear preserved me.
During dinner, we could not help but notice the men standing around the room. They were watching us, and we tried to avoid their gaze as best we could. Even Peter and Sean seemed fearful as long as they were being watched. We sat together at one table, and the other four sat at the other. The room, which could have housed fifty of us, was very empty. I avoided looking at the other table. I already knew what would meet my eyes: Fearful obedience. I shuddered.
Sean was whispering under his breath like a mad man, and no one looked at Peter. I could almost feel his rage. Those two reacted in stark contrast to all of the others. Probably I had already unconsciously fastened them in my mind as the last hope of my resistance. I tried to grasp what Sean was saying. His voice was a comfort to me; it almost made me forget the harsh voice, which I wanted to forget. I can only remember parts of his speech. The only information that I found important was one word: “Escape”.
After dinner, we left the lodge and continued a short way down the path to the lake. Ten kayaks were waiting for us. A man went into the first one, and beckoned us to follow suit. We set off in a long line towards the triangle clearing. Behind us I saw a second man get into the last kayak. It took a while before we had reached the other side of the lake, but once we had arrived we were all soon out of our kayaks.
The man once more led us to the campfire. We all almost instantly fell into a trance. The droning voice continued for a long while. I was longing for something else; maybe Sean or maybe… The harsh voice replaced the dull one. I was relieved, almost happy. I hoped it would stay for a while longer, I hoped it would never go away…
“It is now time to return to the cabins.”
I pulled myself out of the stupor and got up. I was filled with revulsion, but the sickness from yesterday was missing. I was afraid. I glanced up at Peter. Once more his face was distorted with hate. I quickly dropped my gaze again, and felt better. As soon as we reached the clearing, I looked at the path behind me again. There, sure enough, was the old, five-limbed pine again.
“We have to escape before we turn mad.” Sean muttered again. But this time, it was different: Peter opened his mouth and agreed. As we entered the cabin, I slowly slipped into a dream world. The tree flashed out from the depths of my mind only to be replaced by the voice. Suddenly, the voice seemed to come from a specific place. A head appeared, with a monocle and a crude, thin mouth. Whenever he opened it, it almost seemed to take on a square shape. I was filled with disgust until the five-limbed pine replaced the face again. I decided that I liked it better, and I held on to its image. That night, the voice didn’t return. I slept once more in total darkness.


The next day passed almost like a dream. My battle against the face was much more real to me than reality. It kept trying to enter my head; to make a home there and never leave. I hated it, and tried to chase it away with the image of the tree. It was of no use; the face kept returning. Every now and then I would re-enter reality. When I did I only saw zombie-like faces, zombie-like movements and zombie-like oppressors. I looked up every now and again to look at Sean. He was almost constantly gazing at Peter, but I never followed is gaze. He was the only one who could look at Peter anymore.
Somehow, I knew that we were all becoming thinner. I tried to get myself to eat the food, but there was something repulsive about it. Whenever I looked at it the face would appear. “Eat or starve”. That was almost the only thing that I ever heard anymore. But I had already decided to starve. Part of me was still striving to hold on to the voice, but I was able to ignore it, for the most part.
“We are on the Eastern end of the wood, I’m sure of it. If we can sneak out during the night we will probably be out of it before the morning. The road will be nearby, and from what I remember there was a lot of traffic there.”
“What about the girls, Sean? We can’t leave them here!”
“For all I know, they’re beyond help by now.”
All of us were frightened by that thought. There was a long silence. If the girls were beyond help, what about us? I looked at the other table. All were zombies; I didn’t need to look at them to know it. Not only could they not look at Peter, they couldn’t even sit near to him. At least this meant that they couldn’t overhear us. I opened my mouth to speak. All that came out was a weak croak.
“I don’t trust them, Sean, I don’t even trust myself. They will tell, he will know.” They jumped at my words; I hadn’t spoken since the first day, when I knocked against my bed.
“We’ll have to trust them. They need to live too. Though I hate to say it, I agree that the girls will have to be left to fend for themselves. We haven’t so much as heard them since the first day. But I will not come along unless everyone else does.” Peter’s words put an end to the discussion.
“There’s one more thing,” Said Sean. I never knew how the sentence ended. Just then the face appeared before me, and the room fell way. It was talking to me, asking what I was listening to. It threatened me, intimidated me. I tried to remember the tree, but my mind was blank. I tried to ignore the face, and then tried to fight against it, but its voice only became harsher. It echoed through my mind.
Without noticing it I felt a comfortless warmth go through me, which made me sleepier. A droning voice began to speak in the background. I felt my resistance slipping away. I could only think of one thing, escape. I heard the words leave my mouth. At once the face left, leaving only a tree. Slowly, I looked up from where I was lying. In front of me was the large, old pine, with only five branches. Everything was silence.
Suddenly, a sound penetrated quiet. I heard something hoarse; a voice. I turned my head around and saw four men carrying something. It was speaking. It was Will, one of the other four. I tried to listen to what he was saying, but could only hear two words repeated over and over again; “It’s people”. My eyes closed again, and I felt strong hands lift my limbs. They were taking me somewhere, but more I couldn’t find out.
Will was flashing through my mind. I recalled seeing his face at lunch, during the walks. Was it the face of a zombie? No. There was something else; something crafty. Then it was gone. I woke up in my bed. Peter was standing over me. He looked worried, and silently handed me a note. I tried to read it:
“Will disappeared during the walk back from the campfire. I haven’t seen him since then. And there’s more bad news: Sean is gone too.”


Peter had greatly changed since Sean disappeared. Everyone seemed much more insecure. With Sean gone and even Peter himself afraid we had no one to place our hopes on. That day there were only three of us at each table. Peter didn’t speak and Roger was in solemn reflection. I simply waited impatiently for something, anything. I decided that I needed to bring that something about.
“Will.” I whispered. “Will tried to escape. Last night. They took him. I think they took Sean too.” Roger slowly turned his eyes on me.
“Do you know how Sean planned to leave the cabin? There was a tunnel, but this morning I fond it blocked up. Last night I think… I think I heard stifled moans. They sounded like Sean’s voice. I don’t know what they did to him. What do we do now? After two escape attempts in one night…”
“Something’s coming. It will either be escape or death. But it’s coming.” In this sentence I placed my full conviction. I paused, and then continued. “The face, it stopped coming to me. I haven’t even heard the voice once today. Why do you think that is?”
“I haven’t seen or heard it either. I think it suspects us.”
“Either that, or it gave up on us.” The brief hope left my voice before I finished speaking. There was a short silence. “The old tree, have you also noticed it?”
“How couldn’t I, I see it everywhere. It’s like everything else.”
“But it has a memorable shape.” Once more there was silence. One of the men started to patrol the tables. Peter saw him and fear flitted through his face. Then it went, leaving only a staring blankness. Only then did I realize the danger we were in. Even Peter, strong Peter, was overcome. The rest of the meal passed in silence, and the walk to the campfire was equally quiet. Once more the droning voice filled my ears and the fire lulled me to sleep. But again I thought that something was missing.
The voice didn’t come. I thought I heard the beginning of a word, but it was quickly replaced by the tree. Another tree appeared, and then another, and then another. I was looking at the forest. Suddenly, I lifted off the ground. The forest expanded below me as I slowly rose up above the triangle clearing. I looked up at the clear blue sky, and then looked down. What I saw filled me with dread: It was the face. There was the monocle, and there was the other eye. There was the crude mouth, and the triangle clearing, that was a nose. I noticed something else too, something that the forest was incomplete without, but which I had never seen: it was a large, grey-white pyramid in the middle of the face’s forehead. Something about it drew me in. It seemed to come closer and closer, and then to envelop me.
I woke up in some bushes. Men were looking for me, but I was hidden where I was, and they simply passed by me. I looked at their destination. It was the large, grey pyramid. At one corner, there was some machinery. The men put something onto a table and it began to move. It was Sean. I watched him slowly enter a box. The men were waiting at the other side of the machine. They were holding a bucket that was half full of the food we were given everyday. I didn’t wait for Sean to come out of the other end; I already knew what would happen. Feeling sick, I stood up and stumbled out of the bushes.
It was a long, exhausting journey back to the cabin. I fell down many times, whether due to tripping, sleepiness of sickness. Somehow, though, I found my way back. The door wasn’t closed; it didn’t need to be anymore. Roger was sitting outside of the cabin.
“Where were you? I thought that they had taken you too. Quick, get inside. They sent out search parties, and I’d rather not imagine what would happen if they caught you outside.”
“It’s people” was all I could groan in reply. I entered the cabin and went to sleep as soon as I hit my bed. I slept deeply that night.


The next day, when we were heading to the lodge, I took a piece of charcoal that I had taken from the campfire. Keeping the bulky form of Peter between myself and one guide, and my back turned to the other, I scribbled a note on a ripped peace of cloth. “I have something important to tell you. I’ll say it at dinner.” I crumpled up the cloth in my right fist and went to walk beside Roger.
He was looking gloomily at the trees, without seeing where he was going. I quickly struck out my foot, tripping him, and then withdrew it again without anyone noticing. He fell on the ground and I held out my hand to him. After helping him up I withdrew my hand, this time without the cloth. I gave him a warning glance and dropped back, so as to see the effect it would make on the others.
Roger, after glancing at it, quickly looked in my direction and then started looking at the trees again. He bumped into Peter, and then continued walking with his eye turned on the road. Peter’s face showed no surprise. He simply glanced at one of the guides and continued walking. Another looked very surprised, even hopeful. His expression then quickly went blank. The next one had a very similar reaction. The last didn’t seem surprised at all, and our eyes met for a while. Eventually, his eyes retuned to the road, too late to see a branch which ripped his shirt open. As I walked by the branch I had the satisfaction of seeing a piece of torn cloth, covered by black marks.
At dinner, the last one, whose name was Herman, joined our table after seeing that one spot was free. Louis, the one who got the note from Peter, leaned back in his chair and was looking at the ceiling, with his back turned towards us. The last, James, was glaring at me out of the corner of his eye. It was evident that they would all hear every word I spoke. I hesitated, and glanced at Peter he was bringing a slice of cheese bread to his mouth.
“Don’t”, I said. “Sean.”
I was surprised that the men were staying so far away. Did they trust in their hypnotism that much? Are they right in trusting it that much? I didn’t care; I was feeling reckless. “The cheese. It’s not from cows, it’s people.
When we ate, slept, even walked, it was always completely silent, not a single noise was made. It surprised me that, after my words, everything seemed to become even more noiseless. If they were surprised, they didn’t show it. I don’t doubt that half of them already knew it. But hearing it said out loud obviously made a big impression.
Louis stopped set down his chair on all four legs, Peter dropped the food as though it was poison, and Roger tried to stop staring by looking around the room. His eyes fixed on something; one of the men was slipping out of the room. A sweat had broken out on Herman’s face, and he looked tired. James was the only one whose expression remained unchanged.
As we were heading back, Roger began dropping behind, until he was almost walking beside the guide at the back. I picked up my pace until I was close to the guide in front. I glanced to Louis and Peter. Louis looked at me squarely in the face and bent down to tie his shoelaces, while Peter looked confused. As he was about to pass Louis, with the guide right behind him, Roger suddenly stopped so that the guide bumped into him. Louis tripped the guard and they pinned him down.
I leapt at the other guide’s back. He pushed me back and was about to punch me when Herman hit him in the jaw and tried to pin him down. I was rushing to his help when strong arms took hold of me waist, hoisting me up. It was Peter. Herman tried to help me but the guide took a firm hold of him. James also joined the fray, throwing Louis off of the guide. Roger shouted angrily and attacked James, but he was in turn pinned down by the guide. James pinned Louis down with some difficulty, and it was over.


We were prisoners. The two guides glanced at each other.
“We should bring those two” (he glanced at Roger and me) “to the camp prefect. He can decide their punishment. The other two” (indicating Herman and Louis) “can go to the factory.”
Louis’ face turned pale. Herman broke free and tried to run into the lake, no doubt to drown himself, but he was captured again, and they were led off ahead of us by one of the guides, never to be seen again. Peter, James, the other guide, Roger and I soon started marching in the same direction. Roger and I were breathing heavily. Peter’s face was blank, James’ left eye was quickly swelling up, and I noticed that I was missing a tooth. The guide seemed as expressionless as always.
Soon, we were standing in front of the pyramid. I couldn’t see Herman or Louis anywhere; I thought that it was probably better that way. We were made to stop directly in front of the large building. About halfway up its side there was a platform, with a simple grey door opening out to it. The door swung open and the man with the monocle stepped onto the platform. His angry eyes went from one of us to the next, each in turn. His voice was filling four minds at once, enveloping all of the thoughts within, and crushing them. I gathered my courage, and then looked up at him.
I stared at him for a long time, our eyes glaring at each other. I paid no attention to the men who had appeared out of nowhere, and who were surrounding our little group. My eyes only broke their contact with his when Peter and James stepped forwards. Slowly, they climbed up the pyramid, their blank faces staring at its blank walls. They stopped at either side of the camp prefect and then turned to look in our direction. Their faces were the faces of zombies.
Suddenly, Peter threw out his arms and fastened them around the neck and a leg of the camp prefect. He hoisted the body above his head. Everything quickly came into motion. James rushed at Peter, but was too late. He followed the camp prefect over the edge of the platform. They thudded onto the ground, one after the other. The men were rushing up all sides of the pyramid, and soon were piling on top of Peter. He yelled and started punching right and left.
“Run away while you can!” He yelled. It was all like a dream. I grabbed Roger and started running to the path. We ran past the lake, the kayaks, the campfire, the whole of the triangle clearing. The face of the camp prefect appeared in my mind. It was no longer a threat. It turned green and became the forest. It led me on, and I could be sure that I wouldn’t go the wrong way.
We kept running until we reached the clearing with the busses. We hastily took our packs and ran into the nearest vehicle. Praying that it worked I started the engine. The bus began to roll forwards. I slammed down the accelerator and turned the bus around to face the exit. I then plunged into the path with reckless speed. I already knew the path by heart: turn to the right, turn to the left, U-turn to the right and a broad U-turn to the left. It sounds strange, but the order always seems to stay the same, whatever way you go down the path. The map in my mind wasn’t being any more helpful; the path seemed to go on forever.
Suddenly, I fell into a trance; I seemed to be falling to the forest from a great height, only slowing down when I had almost touched the ground. I looked around me. I was on the path, on a right bend, and to the side I saw an old pine, with only five branches. I jerked the steering wheel to the left and drove into the forest past the tree. The trees were rather far apart, and I had little trouble driving through the forest.
Soon I started seeing strange trees. They looked different. They weren’t all pines. Then I saw a field behind them, and then a road, the road on which we came to the camp almost a week ago. The bus flew out of the forest and I stepped on the breaks, so that it wouldn’t crash into a tree that was standing in front of the road. It was an old pine, with only five branches, which we had passed for the first time on the way to the camp. I let go of the brakes and the bus turned onto the road.

This story is seven full pages long (at least it is in the word document in which I wrote it) and is probably the longest complete text that I have written to date. Feel free to steal from it, though I should mention that it draws from so many sources, (among them are Soylent Green, 1984, The Hulk (one scene) and my own experiences in a summer camp), to the extent that you might infringe on copyright anyway. Good luck.

(Also, the illustrations are mine, which I directly uploaded from the computer).


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