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The Beginning of the End

Audio data from various sources detailing the events which occurred at SITE2 on day 952.

Mayfield and Belov presents: Camp Here and There. Episode one: The Beginning of the End.

(opening theme)

There is a click and a chime as the intercom turns on.

SYDNEY

Good morning, campers! Rise and shine, my little chickadees, and welcome to your first day at Camp Here and There! The time is 8:63 AM, the sky is cloudless and vaulted, and the oracle fumes which emanate from the bonfire at the center of camp are telling me that today… is shaping up to be the best. Day. Ever!

My name is Sydney Sargent. It’s nice to meet you! You know, campers, I was just like you once: young… frail… unwanted by peers and guardians alike… slowly dying of secret diseases… and fundamentally heartbroken… just like you! And every Summer I was sent away to this very camp, just like you. And now I’m the nurse around here! Isn’t it funny how life works? I sure think so.

As you’ve probably figured, you clever little primates, I’m also your cordial announcer for all the pre-meal updates. This is a big camp, and we can’t update all of you individually, so the latest and greatest in camp-related news will be delivered via me. On most days, you’ll hear my voice broadcasted over the loudspeakers three times a day, once before each meal. 

You’ll find me and my handsome assistant, Jedidiah, on the Southernmost outskirts of the campgrounds, in that quaint little building among the yew berries. Got scrapes? Bumps? Bruises? Aches? Broken bones? Split ends? Jammed toes? Empty eyes? Have you recently realized that you’re more mature than your parents even though you’re not yet old enough to live alone, so you have no choice but to accept the demeaning reality of taking care of your caretakers? Come pay us a visit and we’ll fix you right up! Don’t mind Jeddie if he seems a bit curt — he doesn’t talk much, nothing personal. You can talk to me, though! I really like to talk. Sometimes I talk too much. Sorry about that. Jeddie says he likes it when I ramble, though, in case you were wondering; were you wondering? Well, now you know. You’re welcome!

Now, Lucille gave me a list of announcements to make, uh…

(papers rustling)

Oh, Lucille is your camp director, by the way. You probably won’t see her around much? She mostly handles administrative stuff. But, you know, in case you’re wondering who that is. She’s my boss.

Uhhhhh… yeah, alright, just the usual first-day stuff scheduled for this morning. The Get-To-Know-You games, the orientation lectures, the part where they make you sign all the waivers but won’t let you read them, etcetera, etcetera. Just be sure to stay within sight of your cabin’s counselors, and don’t stray out into the forest. Also, try not to look directly at the bonfire for too long; it will try to lure you in.

The breakfast menu this morning includes: scrambled eggs, scrambled sausage, scrambled pancakes, and a bizarre blend of macaroni noodles and melted cow cheese that the chef, Matthew, assures me is safe to eat. Vegan options include: loose assorted leaves … that’s it. Be sure to appreciate all the fun colors; Matthew considers himself something of an artist. The eggs are purple! And if, by some freak chance, none of that suits your fancy, there’s a cereal bar with goat yogurt at the back of the serving room. Oh, and you kids aren’t technically supposed to use the coffee machine, but… I won’t tell.

Ah, and one last announcement here … it says to  “mind the man in the pink elephant mask lurking in the forest.” According to eyewitness reports from multiple camp personnel, a strange fellow began skulking the parameters of the campsite in between last Summer and this one. He’s been described as not too short and not too old, but definitely extremely zealous. He hasn’t hurt anyone yet, or set foot on the campgrounds, but the sight of him has been said to incite secondhand feelings of … fervor. A directionless sense of almost religious alacrity, an impulse without an object. Marisol Yuchengco, a counselor of Cabin Grasshopper, even reported a blurring at the edges of her vision, as if the sheer verve, rattling around in her heart with nowhere to escape, was fit to blind her. 

So, you know … take care! And enjoy your breakfast, campers. 

There is a click as the intercom turns off.

(intermission music)

There is a click and a chime as the intercom turns on.

SYDNEY

Afternoon, campers! The time is 12:80PM. So far, the first day of camp has gone off without a hitch, and the sun remains quite blinding! I’m sure you’re all very hungry after the blind turmoil of the Get-To-Know-You games — and believe me, I understand. Getting to know people, well … you could say it makes me a bit cranky! Hehe. So, in the interest of letting you loose, I’ll make this one quick.

Today’s lunch consists of that cheese-noodle concoction again, which I remain suspicious of. I doubt anyone’s tried it yet, but if you work up the courage, let me know how it is. I trust Matthew with my life, of course, but the combination of macaroni and cheese… it’s unnatural. Ah, also on the menu are… candied ravioli, unseasoned popcorn, and Matthew’s newest invention, a dish he calls, uhh…

(paper rustling)

“It’s A Special Secret, Baby!” Wow! Now that sounds delicious. I wish I could try some, but unfortunately I’m afflicted with a nefarious curse which mandates that I eat nothing but buttered bread for all eternity. Yes, I know, we all love buttered bread. Everyone likes to think they’d never get tired of buttered bread! But mark my words, after a few years of endless breadsticks, that sickly-savory taste starts to weigh on you. Not to mention the debilitating vitamin deficiency! Sometimes I look at a food like beans, rich in proteins and complex fibers, and I think … oughh … just the spirit of that tantalizing flavor … the unattainability of it all … ouugh …

Ah, well. Too bad, so sad, it’s alright! You kids enjoy your special surprise. Oh, and, vegans, uhhhhh, you can just eat the popcorn.

By the way, Jedidiah forwarded an interesting theory to me earlier. He suggested that all the stuff about a “pink elephant man” might have been a prank. So, Joshua. You snuck into my office this morning and scribbled that nonsense onto my notes, huh? And you even went so far as to rope Marisol into it. [with extreme disdain] Joshua. You better pray we don’t cross paths today. I will salt you like a slug, my friend. Like a slug.

But the good news about that, my little field mice, is that you need no longer fear. There is NOT a man in a pink elephant mask skulking about the forests’ edge, eager to swoop in and fill you to the brim with religious fervor. There is NO such man, and there NEVER was. All just a joke, ha ha ha! And if Joshua tries to tell you otherwise, smack the highest part of his gangly man-body you can reach. That guy is wrong in the head.

Anyways! Your next activity after lunch will be a rousing camp-wide swim! Wow! Hurry up and eat, little loves, and don’t stay in the water too terribly long or your skin might acquire a variety of fun new colors. Also, do your best to ignore the unknowable object which constantly floats in… or perhaps, hovers above… the surface of the lake. It’s hard to be sure exactly where it is in space, or what to call its shape, but we can say with certainty that it is… safe, as long as you don’t think about it too hard. 

Oh, and if you’d rather spend your afternoon in a more peaceful way, our friend Counselor Warren, of Cabin Tarantula Hawk, is going to be holding arts and crafts in the Creativity Cabin, so you’re free to head over there instead. If you do, make me a smiley face out of beans!

JEDIDIAH

(whispering unintelligibly)

SYDNEY

Hm?

JEDIDIAH

(whispering unintelligibly)

SYDNEY

Hah?

JEDIDIAH

(whispering unintelligibly)

SYDNEY

Hm… Jeddie is telling me that the smiley face thing is typically done with macaroni. Well, he’s wrong, but if you’d like to humor him, you can make one for him out of macaroni.

Alright, campers. That about does it. Enjoy your meal!

There is a click as the intercom turns off.

(intermission music)

There is a click and a chime as the intercom turns on.

SYDNEY

If I’m anything I am a man of my word, so here I am once again! Good evening, campers. The time is now 19:05PM, and the night is an opaque and impenetrable expanse of impossible evils. My favorite time of day!

Now, we’ll discuss dinner in a second, but first I need to address this. There have been all sorts of rumors flying around the campgrounds on this day, many whispers and snickers over whether or not the elephant man is real. Kids, you can trust me not to withhold information from you. Certain members of the staff at Camp Here & There may complain that I say too much, but you and I know that it never helps to keep kids in the dark. So please believe me when I say… I seriously have no clue whether the elephant man exists. A lot has happened, and I am thoroughly confused at this point.

After I finished up the lunch announcements, I left to tear Joshua a new one, but I was stopped by Marisol, and she told me something… something that threw me off quite a bit. She said that what I read about her experience was accurate: she did encounter a man in a pink elephant mask at the edge of the campgrounds, and he did in fact fill her with blind zeal. But the thing is… she never actually reported it to anyone. So the fact that it was listed among my morning announcements is… odd. I asked Lucille if she wrote it onto my paper, if she knew anything about it at all. She was hunched over her desk in the administrative office, and she didn’t really have time to humor me… but based on her noncommittal grunt, I think it was a blanket “no.” So I don’t think she was the one who wrote it here.

She probably wouldn’t like me saying all of this… but well, she loves me too much to punish me for it. Either way, campers, you deserve the truth, and the full truth is that I don’t know what’s going on! Jedidiah is still convinced it’s just a joke that Marisol is in on. Hasn’t even humored the idea that it’s real. He’s just stubborn like that. I’d like to be reassured by his unwavering faith in the mundane, but I just can’t bring myself to trust that, not even for him. I can’t get complacent about something that could risk the safety of you kids…

Ah, forgive me. I might have gotten carried away there. I assure you, my little swamp rats, that there is no need for any of you to be afraid! My confusion doesn’t mean you’re in any real danger — I mean, if Marisol’s account is true, the guy doesn’t seem especially vicious, right? Just kinda creepy, and maybe a little overbearing when it comes to sharing his feelings. At any rate, I am on this case like bread on butter. Did any of you know, in my senior year of High School, I was voted “Most Likely To Get Killed As Consequence Of Reckless Thirst For Forbidden Knowledge”? To this day I take pride in that title — and you can take comfort in it, campers, knowing that I’ll get to the bottom of this if it’s the last thing I do.

If you do run into the elephant man, though, put that fervor to good use and run. Run to me. And tell me everything.

Alright, moving on! End of day announcements… 

(papers rustling)

In honor of those among you who let the mutant bacteria of the lake seep into your epidermis and render it in rainbow, the winner of the technicolor flesh contest was a camper from Cabin Widowspider named…

(papers rustling)

Orla Clearwater, who now sports a stunning quintuple-toned pelt. Congratulations, Orla!

(he claps)

And for those of you who missed the arts & crafts session, I did receive a number of very sweet smiling bean plates. And to the one camper who gave Jedidiah a macaroni plate … you little rebel. I like your style!

(papers rustling)

Tonight’s dinner is green eggs and ham — just kidding! The eggs are crimson. How original! Isn’t Matthew just the best? Vegans, it says here that you’ll be provided with “assorted mushrooms gathered fresh from the woods, and served uncooked.” Well, that’s a little sad. Mushrooms are friends, not food. But whatever floats your goats, I suppose. 

After dinner…

(papers rustling)

Ahhhhhh, after dinner comes my favorite activity of the day. All of you will gather around the bonfire, holding hands, for the nightly Seeing Ceremony that will cap off your first day of camp. It’ll be your first time inhaling the bonfire’s oracle fumes … I’m jealous. Your dreams will be interesting tonight!

Well, that’s all you’ll hear from me for the day. But don’t you cry — I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow morning for breakfast. Enjoy your dinner, little loves, and enjoy your evening!

There is a click as the intercom turns off.

(intermission music)

There is a click as the tape recorder turns on. A clock can be heard ticking in the background.

SYDNEY

Evening. It’s 25:25 PM. I, ah… I know that this is normally the time of night where I put together a daily injury report for Lucille, but nobody came into my office today for anything but prescribed medication, so I think I’m gonna just… talk. Would that be okay?

…Ah, right. You are a tape recorder… you cannot consent.

I’ll talk, then. Yes, I’ll talk. And I have much to talk about! Remember when I said nobody came into my office today? Well, heh, that was a lie. It’s true that no injured campers came into my office today. But you know who did? You wanna know who did?

Pink elephant guy!

Yeah, for real. That freaky guy in the pink elephant mask who everyone’s been talking about all day? The guy Jeddie said was probably just a joke? Yeah, just a few minutes ago he came into this very room. How’d he get in? I don’t know! Not a clue! I’m supposed to be behind three locked doors right now. But in he very much got, all hunched and eerie, a nightmarish gangle in a suit of dirt and zeal and rosy plastic.

Gazing upon this… person? Well, I expected to feel that fervor, that directionless impulse that Marisol described. But instead, all the passion in my soul was… washed away. The pink of his mask, all shiny in the lamplight… it reminded me oddly of benadryl, and I felt a similar effect to that of the anti-allergen when I looked upon it. In hindsight, I can’t believe I didn’t try to confront him or even move from my chair, but I truly didn’t feel the urge. 

It’s not that the sight of him made me feel calm, not quite. It made me feel… complacent. Which is very scary, to me. I’m a lot of things, but unguarded, unwary, unconcerned, I am never that. To have nonchalance forced upon me… I feel violated, and I believe that if he’d tried to hurt me I would not have attempted to stop him.

I think I stopped breathing when he took off the mask. Not out of fear, I just couldn’t be bothered. The sight of his face made me feel so sedated… and when he smiled, his teeth oddly white and sterile behind strands of less-immaculate blond hair, I just about felt my heart give up. I’m glad that the shadows cast by his mask kept me from seeing his eyes; I probably would have passed right out.

Then his smile widened, and he grabbed one of my worms from my desk. A bead of saliva gathered at the corner of his lips as he held her to the light, appraising her. And then he put her in his mouth and began to chew. Slowly, still with a hint of a smile — he was savoring her… and then he swallowed — and without a pause he picked up another worm and ate again. When that was done he grabbed another, and then another, and then a whole handful, stuffing them all into his mouth, greedily now, desperate to satiate whatever hollow yawned within him. I still can’t believe I did nothing; I love those worms. But all my adrenaline had been drained away, and all I could think was, Huh. Jedidiah was so wrong. At the time, I found that funny.

But I don’t feel so much like laughing now.

After what felt, to my peace-addled brain, like an ignorant eternity, he straightened back up — licked his lips — gave me a smile — and walked back out. That was when the fear hit me, and the anger too, flooding over me as if the dam had broke. Right after he left I heard a knock on the door of the building, which really made me jump, but I reasoned that I’d still be feeling that horrible calm if he hadn’t really left, so I steeled myself and opened the door. And it was just a camper! Just a sleepless camper, milling about in her bedclothes. She was just nervous about sleeping in a cabin with others, but not unsettled enough to have obviously passed by any elephant men on her way over. Well, I got her in, gave her some water and some of her anti-anxiety medicine, sent her back to bed… and that was that. The elephant man couldn’t possibly have left through the door without being seen by her, but… the fresh pounding of my heart made me feel certain that he was gone. I don’t understand it.

I don’t know. [BREATHES] I guess I–

The door opens.

SYDNEY

Huh? Jeddie! Uh, hi!

JEDIDIAH

Hey, Sydney. Just wanted to check in on you. See how you’re doing.

SYDNEY

Oh… well, I’m fine. I’ve missed you, though! Up in that office all night. How’s your, uh, project going?

JEDIDIAH

(sighs)

SYDNEY

Not great, huh? Well, you’ve missed a lot around here. You remember that pink elephant man from the announcements?

JEDIDIAH

Yes. 

SYDNEY

Remember how you said he was probably just a joke?

JEDIDIAH

…Yes.

SYDNEY

Well, guess what. He’s real, Jeddie! He’s so real! He was here in my study! And he was like, he started eating my worms like, I’ll have to get more. 

Jedidiah moves to Sydney.

JEDIDIAH

Are you hurt?

SYDNEY

Mm, surprisingly not.

JEDIDAH

Mm, well, considering that… I mean… a-are you sure it was real?

SYDNEY

You think it might’ve been a hallucination? But… my worms…! I keep very close track of my worms, Jedidiah. I know when I’m missing worms.

JEDIDIAH

I mean… you don’t suppose they just squirmed away? Worms don’t really belong in your office, in the first place…

SYDNEY

Study. 

JEDIDIAH

Sure, study. Listen, I’m just —

SYDNEY

And, and, I haven’t had a hallucination in years! All that stuff — it’s different now… I’m… I’m not really like that anymore, Jeddie.

JEDIDIAH

I know. And I trust that. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to — gaslight you or anything. But you’re always on edge as it is, and I don’t want you to stress yourself out about stuff that might not even be a problem.

SYDNEY

Hm. Just trust me to know what’s real, okay? I think I’ve earned that by now.

JEDIDIAH

Yeah.

SYDNEY

Thanks… I really appreciate you.

JEDIDIAH

Yeah. You too.

There is an awkward silence.

JEDIDIAH

But if the elephant man is real… what are you going to do about him?

SYDNEY

(laughs)

I don’t know! …Oh, Jeddie. You look so tired.

JEDIDIAH

So do you.

SYDNEY

I’m always like this. But you’re starting to wilt, and it’s unpleasant on you. You should go rest. I cleaned the sheets on your bed. I used this new peppermint detergent I got, I thought you’d enjoy that.

JEDIDIAH

Thank you… 

(sigh)

Alright, then, as long as you’re okay.

SYDNEY

I’m fine. A little shaken, but I’m all safe.

JEDIDIAH

And you don’t need me for anything — ?

SYDNEY

Go to bed, Jedidiah Martin!

JEDIDIAH

Alright. Okay. Goodnight, Sydney.

SYDNEY

Goodnight. I’ll be there in a few hours.

Jedidiah walks out and closes the door.

SYDNEY

Hmm… mmm… He’s been like that lately, tired and spacey. It’s not like him, I mean, he’s usually pretty good at focusing on something. I’ll bet he doesn’t even hear me talking through the door. Sometimes when I speak to him I can’t help but think he doesn’t catch 90% of it — and that’s normal, that’s just Jeddie. But over the past year or so he’s gotten… weirder. Worse? Is worse the right word? He’s never really been an extrovert, I get it, we both like our lonesome. But even when we were kids he was always engaged with who he talked to, like he enjoyed the conversation. Nowadays, he doesn’t even look at anyone but me, and we barely talk lately either. It’s hard to get him to say anything. He just locks himself in that office, working on god knows what. Hnngg…. I hope he’s okay. I guess, if there is some god out there, sculpting and reshaping the world in his image, I hope… I hope he helps Jedidiah… Goodnight.

The tape recorder clicks off.

(end music)

Today’s episode was written by Blue Mayfield and Nicholas Belov. The part of Sydney Sargent was played by Blue Mayfield. The part of Jedidiah was played by Nicholas Belov. Camp Here & There is the sole intellectual property of its production company, Mayfield & Belov. All music composed by Will Wood, and produced by Jonathon Maisto. Sound editing by Cut by Frank and Beetlesprite. Special thanks to our Patrons Emerald, Josie, Yiloiose, Emily, and Doug Kavendek.

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Thank you for listening to Camp Here & There! And remember: when you die, you will rot.