CONTENT WARNING: climactic emotional tension Audio data from various sources, detailing a private meeting which occurred at SITE2 on day 974.
MAJOR INSIGHT INTO:
• ENTITY1 motivations & perspective
• ENTITY2 motivation & perspective
MINOR INSIGHT INTO:
• Perspective of ENTITY7
• SITE2 catastrophe protocol
• ENTITY2 perspective on ENTITY7
• The mover part of me says emotional pressure incites confessions, but the human part of me wants to recommend that AGENT15 or AGENT16 pop by and recommend these people a good therapist.
Mayfield and Belov presents: Camp Here and There.
Episode Twenty Two: The Hunt of the Clock
Morning of mornings, campers! It’s 8:62AM and the sky dawns on a… light, dusty orange color, swirled with darker rosettes. One of the tesseractoid God-Beasts residing in the ontosphere must have spilled a packet of eldritch fruit punch powder all over the sky. How tropical-flavored!
So, the most immediately relevant announcement of the morning is this: the river which sprung up around camp yesterday has, per the concerns of many, disappeared as mysteriously as it carved itself into the land. Construction crews covertly called in by Lucille report that they were halfway through building a bridge last night when the waters seemed to rapidly evaporate, rising into the air as an impossibly thick fog. Then, the soaking construction workers were beset with an incredibly localized earthquake as the ground around camp pushed past itself and sealed all up. Before anyone could get a grip on what the heck was going on, the river… was gone. So now we’ve got a new camp landmark in the form of that half-built bridge! Also, the fog from the river appears to have risen into the sky and made for a particularly interesting cloud formation. If you look at it from just the right angle… it looks exactly like the words, “see you next year.”
Whatever that means!
Now, onto the fun stuff.
Today, my flighty little finches, is the long-awaited rock climbing day! After a hard-fought and horrifically expensive petition from your counselors, Lucille has picked up her dusty old cellphone and ordered three tall, candy-colored rock walls from the nearest municipal center. They were installed in the middle of the sports field last night, and now they stand, stretching up towards the morning sun, taunting God and beckoning children for miles around to strap in and get a grip. They’re not quite as impressive as the towers you built last week, my loves… but they are much taller and much more dangerous, so it’s still pretty exciting to have them.
Each wall dwarfs the last in height and might. The first is Wall Deep, sturdy of base and stark of face. You may be confused when you first approach this wall — its exterior appears completely smooth, with no grips to speak of! Ah, but merely stroke the shockingly squishy surface and all will be revealed. Try not to scream as the wall grabs and consume you — it’s a perfectly breathable material, and there’s absolutely no danger of getting yourself trapped in the fleshy membrane forever… as long as you stay calm. Once you’ve been fully absorbed, you’ll find yourself in a hollow space inside the structure, and the walls around you will be — surprise surprise! Lined with grips! Now, get climbing, because that’s the only way out, and I’m not sure what’ll happen to you if you’re still in there when the walls get shipped out tomorrow.
The second is Wall Safe, that venerable teacher. It appears in all ways to be a typical rock wall — typical grips, typical spike traps, typical boss battles — but if you can reach the top, you’ll be greeted with an old, rusty silver bell which, if struck, will produce a very special sound. Instead of a ringing noise, the bell will emit precise instructions on how to prevent the early death of one of your loved ones, in a clear, androgynous voice which speaks your native language. But here’s the trick — every time the bell is rung, the wall grows just a little bit taller, leaving the child next in line with a slightly more daunting climb. Better line up quick if you want a chance at hearing that juicy prophecy!
Lastly, we have Wall Isolated, purveyor of the infinite thrill. The peak of Wall Isolated stretches high past the clouds. What’s at the top? Why, another rock wall, of course! No one knows how many rock walls upon rock walls there really are — but if the recursion is truly infinite, as the epitaph suggests, then the walls must stretch far into the unfathomable depths of space. What happens when they brush the edge of the endlessly expanding universe? Perhaps they go on, repeating and repeating again. Perhaps this wall is our only bridge to whatever lies beyond the reality we can perceive.
Gosh, that sounds fun! I would join you kids and give Wall Isolated a shot, except I’m not sure that I’m strong enough to grip these days. My muscles are like violin strings! HAHA!
By the by, some of you kids may have noticed Counselor Joshua acting… a bit weirdly, even by Joshua standards. Well, my bullfrogs, let me tell you: he’s been like that all morning. Before the sun rose today, I got up irritatingly early for prep work only to discover Joshua was already awake, watching the rock climbing walls get wheeled into camp. He sighed, pinched his temple, and muttered something about being so tired. I asked if he’d gotten any sleep, to which he replied gravely with, [Mocking Joshua’s voice] “Yeah. I’m not trying the stay-awake-until-it-passes thing anymore. Even if that was gonna work… I have to stay in it so I can help you all.”
After that, Joshua wandered off, muttering something about “doing everything right this time.” How utterly enigmatic! I am honestly rather impressed, because usually Joshua really struggles at muttering cryptically, and it’s nice to see him come into his own with that skill. Anyway, ever since then, Joshua has been uncharacteristically… thoughtful, running around preventing accidents and lending helping hands left and right. He even offered me a tissue several minutes before I felt the need to sneeze. Talk about anticipating my needs! But, it’s honestly getting kind of annoying. Don’t I at least have the right to sneeze without some entitled man coming along and trying to “save me?”
Well, in any case, he’ll probably stop if we just ignore him, so don’t pay him any mind today. Unless it’s to make fun of him.
Now then! Today’s breakfast is sunflower seeds coated in a mixture of powdered sugar and raw flour; another southern home-cooked classic! Glad to see Matthew’s been expanding his cultural palette. Dig in! And have fun climbing those walls, kids!
Hey, kids. It’s 12:78 and I think I speak for everyone when I say: Joshua’s newfound obsession with being helpful has gotten seriously unbearable.
As the afternoon sky set in, the world darkened to a glittery spice brown, and Joshua appeared to be gripped by an ever-mounting urgent need to prevent as much suffering as possible. At many points in the morning, this manifested as him shepherding kids away from Wall Safe, pontificating about the futility of fighting fate and the pointless agony of thinking you can. And it’s like, why do you get to be the gatekeeper, man? Learning the terrible truth is a rite of passage! A natural goalpost in the path through adolescence! Everyone deserves the right to ring that bell, even if what they hear might destroy their psyche permanently.
Joshua and Jedidiah even got into a fight over this at one point. All morning, Jedidiah had been unable to stop himself from repeatedly glancing over at Wall Safe, then forcing his eyes shut and muttering, “I don’t need it anymore. I don’t need it anymore.” Ultimately, though, its allure seemed too powerful for him to resist. Finally, he trekked over to attempt the climb, only for Joshua to intervene. The shouting match was stupendous, but it ended all of a sudden when Joshua quietly said something that made Jedidiah freeze, turn around, and walk back to his office.
So that’s… hm. Well. That was certainly that.
The most aggravating incident of all, though, was Joshua’s interference with Matthew’s cooking process. It started with relatively unobtrusive gestures, such as when Joshua pointed out that Matthew was mistakenly preparing to put arsenic in the stew instead of paprika. I’m sure Matthew would be capable of making a poison-based dish delicious, of course, but I admit it’s probably for the best that he didn’t have to try. But Joshua’s interference quickly turned into micromanagement; with the man obsessing over every ingredient, every swirl of the big stew spoon, until he had to be dragged out of the kitchen kicking and screaming.
At this point, I was no longer able to feign a lack of interest in Joshua’s bizarre behavior, so I invited him into the nurse’s office and asked him what his deal was. He was initially reluctant to share, whining, “you won’t believe me.” After I assured him that I would, indeed, believe him, Joshua, slumping over with fatigue and despair, explained:
“I’ve lived this same day dozens of times. At dinnertime, the entire camp will be ripped apart on a molecular level, and then the day will start over. I thought I was placed in this time loop to save everyone, but I’ve tried everything I can think of, I’ve done everything right, and nothing ever changes. Sydney… I’m so tired. How many times do I have to watch you all die?’
…okay. I think I speak for all of us when I say… I am not impressed with this explanation. Like, come on. Here’s some advice for your next time loop, Joshua: camp protocol when you foresee an impending cataclysm is to run around the campgrounds, wild-eyed and matty-haired, hoarsely declaring that the end is nigh. That way, everyone can work together to respond to the situation! Camp protocol does not say you should run around disheveled, muttering cryptically and attempting to prevent disaster all on your own. Who do you think you are, some kind of protagonist? What a tool. I’m sorry for how he’s been acting, kids; there’s no excuse.
So, kids, looks like we’ll have to take matters into our own hands. I’ve enlisted Rowan to run around ranting about the coming disaster in Joshua’s stead. As a bonus activity for anyone who gets tired of rock climbing, I’ll be opening up a community-wide Timeloop Deconstruction Brainstorming Forum in the Camp Agora. Come chat with me if you’ve got any ideas! Or if you just wanna chat! I… I would love to chat.
Anyway, since Joshua messed up the lunch Matthew had planned for us, your lunch for today will be… ketchup and mustard. Hey, it’s not too bad! You know, when I was a kid, a large portion of my daily diet consisted of complimentary condiment packets from the school cafeteria. I was so malnourished, [Chuckles lightly] I’d take all the free nutrients I could get! And when the other kids saw my ratty little self slurping soy sauce straight from the packet, they’d point and laugh. They just didn’t understand.
Anyways, I’d hate for you all to go unsatisfied, so if you aren’t happy with sauce for lunch, you’re welcome to come visit the nurse’s office and help yourself to my candy drawer. Just leave enough for everyone else! I also have a sneaking suspicion that the flesh of Wall Deep might be edible. Perhaps we can convince Matthew to investigate that.
Alright, you kids have fun out there!
Tick… tock… tick… tock… ding ding ding! Dinnertime! And would you look at that — we are all still alive here at 19:03pm!
But why? Did Joshua get something right and save us all? Did our collective brainstorming initiative pay off? Well… not quite. Apparently… Jedidiah figured it out all by himself. Yeah. Lame, huh?
When Joshua informed Jedidiah that he had been trapped in a time loop — which was apparently the thing that Joshua told Jedidiah to end their fight earlier, kind of an anticlimactic reveal, huh? — well, Jedidiah was instantly suspicious. I don’t blame him — some campers will recall that a major, if not the major, point of discussion in our Delooping Forum was the question of why the heck would Joshua of all people get trapped in his own, bespoke time loop? After all, he is nobody’s protagonist. Jedidiah came to the same conclusion as we did: that Joshua must have gotten trapped in the loop by chance. But then what was the source? Jedidiah had a clue. But rather than bring his theory to the group, he set out to confirm things on his own.
While our group spent a fruitless but fun hour investigating the possibility that the time loop might be caused by a malfunction in the technology Yvonne uses to host her gamer hours, which is highly unstable and unwelcome in the all-natural environment of Camp Here & There, Jedidiah used his government-grade quartz power tools to carve off a chunk of Wall Safe and took it back to his office. While our group explored the sanatorium in hopes that some kind of ancient artifact with temporal effects might have been dislodged by the pipe system, Jedidiah placed the wall chunk under various whimsically shaped microscopes and borrowed books from Lucille’s extensive library of magic. Then, suddenly, before anyone could ask after it, the rock walls were being taken apart and carted away.
But why? As outcry rose up amongst those campers who were still busy enjoying the impractical heights of Wall Isolated, I approached Jedidiah, who seemed to be directing the men as they moved the walls out of camp. Upon being asked, he casually informed me that he’d personally determined the rock walls to be the cause of the time loop.
Okay… so you didn’t think to tell us that before you started dismantling them?
Apparently, the rock walls were made of a peculiar species of conjugated limestone — a material only quarried from a mysterious site in the Siberian Wilderness. This quarry apparently plays home to a variety of creatures which have otherwise been extinct for millions of years, such as brontosauruses and hamsters. These limestone obelisks, resonating with one another in an evenly spaced line, combined to form a sort of metaphysical “haunted house” for neutron particles, causing them to become frightened and move backwards, thus creating the effect of reversed time.
As for the molecular calamity that Joshua claims he experienced every dinnertime, it was simply the neutrons becoming panicked and moving in a volatile manner, an experience which humans apparently perceive as a full-body pain more intense than anything you could ever, ever, ever, ever possibly imagine. And, since Jedidiah had the rock walls wheeled out of camp before the time distortion could take effect, none of us will ever have to know what that’s like! Except Joshua, who experienced it dozens of times.
So, yeah… cool discovery, I guess. Great job saving us all, and everything… except, why’d he have to go about it in such a self-centered way? None of you got to share in the pride of conquering an impossible obstacle. You just got something taken away, and nobody told you why.
Well, anyway… as for Joshua. Apparently, the metal in his retainer was coincidentally worked from Siberian limestone as well, so it resonated with the walls in a unique way. In other words, his awareness of the loops was a total fluke! And the whole time, he thought he had to save everyone to end the loop! But it had literally nothing to do with him as a person! Isn’t that hilarious? Oh, Joshua. You may be a thorn in my side, but at least you’re a constant source of levity around here.
Haha… I can see him through the window now. Ever since Jedidiah’s announcement, he’s just been slumped against the wall outside the cafeteria, looking defeated. Look at him, he’s standing up… looking around, haha, so shocked… and… oh. Huh. Now he’s fallen back to the ground, slamming his fists on the grass and sobbing… a case of male hysteria, maybe? Let me try and read his lips… something about… [HE RECITES JOSHUA’S WORDS IN A MOCKING TONE] ‘what was this all for… what could I possibly have learned from this… God, universe, whatever’s out there, why did you put me through this… blah blah blah.’
Jeesh. What a downer. Rejoice! We live to see the next calamity. 🙂
Tonight’s dinner is piranha teeth stuffed in pufferfish, all boiled in oil. When you bite, it bites back! Woo! [HE SMACKS THE TABLE] Vegans get more mustard.
Tonight’s activity is an in-cabin rest. We all could use some rest now and then, huh campers? And though the nurse’s building generally welcomes 24-hour access, it’s closed tonight for maintenance. Sorry! Try not to act too unrestful during your rest. So please, campers, rest right and rest well… for there is nothing so privileged as the feeling of true, deep, rest…
Hiiiii… ghost recorder. It’s 2:01 AM… I’ve been waiting as patiently as possible, and Jedidiah has finally gotten up to go to the bathroom. If all goes according to plan, he’ll find that the only toilet in this building is mysteriously out of operation, and he’ll have no choice but to trek out to the sanatorium. That should give me enough time.
He always locks his door at night, but he can be pretty scatterbrained, and I figure he wouldn’t lock it for a simple bathroom trip. This is probably my only opportunity to look for the journals… let’s hope he gets a bit lost in there.
Obviously, a part of me doesn’t like doing this… but I really don’t feel like I have any other option at this point but to… figure out the truth, by any means possible. With all the stuff Elijah said, and the way Jedidiah’s been acting this Summer… the secret, illegal packages, the bizarre outbursts, on top of the emotional distance… I’m not- not- I’m not an idiot. There’s something huge going on that seriously involves me. I can’t just sit on that knowledge, and he’s not gonna talk to me, so…
[HE TRIES THE DOORKNOB; THE DOOR OPENS. AS HE ENTERS THE ROOM, THE SOUND OF VARIOUS CLOCKS TICKING GROWS LOUDER]
A-haaa… I’m in. Alright, let’s see here. Whoa… is that a chunk of Wall Isolated? What the fuck does he want with that?
Agh… focus, focus. If I had to guess, I’d say the safe would be…
[HE SHUFFLES ABOUT; MOVES THE PAINTING TO THE SIDE]
Haah. Behind the framed portrait of Jerry Lawson. Of course.
Okay. Hmmm. Okay. Simple combination lock. Six-letter code. Figured it’d be a little more than this, considering he called in his black market ties to get this set up… hm. Okay, six letters… a date? His birthday?
[SIX CLICKING SOUNDS, THEN A NEGATORY BEEP]
No, it wasn’t gonna be that simple. Damn, this thing is digital; tt’s probably going to start going off if I get it wrong too many times. Okay. I have to really think about this.
…My birthday? …The first day of camp? His first day of college? Or…
[SIX SLOWER CLICKING SOUNDS, THEN A POSITIVE BEEP. THE SAFE OPENS WITH AN ELECTRONIC WHIRR. SYDNEY REACHES IN AND GRABS THE JOURNALS.]
Oh my God.
[THE SAFE DOOR CLUNKS.]
…Somehow, I never thought this would happen. I really am an idiot.
…Jedidiah… I’m sorry.
It’s fine. This is my fault. Can you put the journal back?
…Can you tell me what’s in it?
If I could just tell you, why would I care whether you read it?
Can you tell me why you can’t tell me?
I have to know. I’m going to find out, one way or another.
It’s not safe. Just… knowing… could put you in danger.
I’m already in danger, aren’t I?
In danger of learning about it!
…Are you saying… the only reason you don’t want me around the Elephant Man… is because he might tell me your secrets?
That’s — a simplification —
Well, I’m going to learn from him if I don’t learn from you.
You can’t expect me to just sit around, content with knowing nothing anymore! Whatever you don’t want to tell me… it’s ruined our relationship. I-I kind of feel like it’s ruining my life. At this point… I just need to understand what the hell is happening to me.
You won’t be safe!
What if I’m okay with that?
You don’t get to make that decision for me!
I can’t let it happen. I’m sorry. I can’t lose you…
…You can’t lose me. But you can’t stand to be around me.
That’s not true —
And where does that leave me?
It’s more complicated than that —
If you get everything you want. Here I am. No autonomy. No compassion or support. No idea why.
I can’t afford to be around you! Fuck! I’m- I’m sorry. I knew this would happen! I knew if you — I — I am sorry. You were doomed the day I let you get close enough to even find out these journals existed. I knew if I gave you anything, you’d — latch on, you’d never give up trying —
Don’t make this out like it’s my fault!
You’re the one who doesn’t care about your own safety, b-by your admission.
You’re the reason I’m unhappy enough to say that!
…I’m-I’m-I’m-I’m sorry. That wasn’t okay. I know that, you — I’m sorry.
Give me the journals.
I want to talk about it. Jedidiah — I-I want to talk about it.
I’m going to take them out of your hands.
[BEAT. THEN JEDIDIAH DOES SO.]
You’re not going to find these again.
[JEDIDIAH EXITS THE ROOM.]
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 Martin 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 Emily Safko and Blue Mayfield. Special thanks to our Patrons: Jasmine Tyrrell, AllyMichele, Milo, Madeline, and Danielle Villalobos.
For behind-the-scenes material, exclusive canonical content, interactive events, and early episode access, consider signing up for our Patreon at patreon.com/mayfieldandbelov. Our discord server is a great place to meet like-minded fellows and discuss today’s episode — find the link at mayfieldandbelov.com. Lastly, if you’d like to support us, the best thing you can do is to spread the word about the show.Thank you for listening to Camp Here & There! And remember: legally, I am alive