Content warnings: auto-cannibalism, brief mention of throwing up. Audio data from various sources, detailing the events which occurred at SITE2 on day 965.
MAJOR INSIGHT INTO:
- Recollection ability & memory details of ENTITY2
- Mental landscape of ENTITY2
MINOR INSIGHT INTO:
- ENTITY1 familiarity with celestial magic
- Properties & effects of ANOMALY9
- Possible confirmation of the continued existence of ENTITY0?
- When we inevitably end up bringing our court to bear against AGENT15 & AGENT16, I motion to submit this file as evidence of their boundless imprudence.
- And yes, I will testify against them.
- I mean, really. Responding to contact from a suspect, in-person, without so much as warning you beforehand. The madmen! The mind boggles to imagine the sundry breaches in decorum they surely committed in conversation with ENTITY1.
- Forgive me, AGENT1, but I’m having a hard time letting this go. I keep telling you those morons are going to send the entire operation toppling one of these days.
- Please at least tell me you’ll discipline them for this. I need to sleep at night.
Mayfield & Belov presents: Camp Here & There
Episode Sixteen: The Reality of Hallucination
[Yawn] Hiiiiii, kids! It’s a laaaaaazy day today. The time is 8:62 AM, and the sky is a soothing, dreamy purple. We had stuff planned for today [Yawn], but… nobody’s feeling much like doing anything, yanno? And that’s… pretty normal for me, I mean, y’know, me and my [Yawn] creaky old body, it — it can be tough to muster the energy to tackle life on the best of days. [Chuckles] But today it’s magnified times tennnnn thousand…
And more than that, everyone else seems to be with me. Looking through my window I see… campers and counselors sprawling out on the grass, soaking up the sun’s rays… haha, Joshua is trying to do some cabin repairs, but he looks like he’s about to collapse. Stupid… can barely lift a hammer… hah…
Out on the lake, Mila and Juno have fallen asleep in their canoe, and they’re just drifting along now… let’s hope they don’t capsize! Ahaha. I bet they wouldn’t even have the energy to swim to shore. Yep… it’s just that kind of day. A hazy, lazy, day.
I gotta be honest, the sensation is somewhat reminiscent of… of what happens to me when I see the Elephant Man… could be he’s the one who’s done this to us. Perhaps he’s [Yawn] found a way to magnify his magic that it… can affect the whole camp… and we’re all sitting ducks for some devious plan he’s cooked up. Wouldn’t that be scary? Haha. Someone should… probably be on the lookout for that guy… not me, though, can’t be me. I’m way too sleepy to get out of this chair.
Whatever the cause, I think we can all count on the assumption that nobody in camp is gonna lift a finger today. [Yawn] It’s too bad that Jedidiah left for a mediation session before all the lethargy hit, ‘cause boy, I would’ve loved to spend the day lounging around with him… goodness knows he could use the relaxation…
Well. Since there won’t be any camp events to report on, how about I tell you all… some stories. How about I tell you about the dream I had the other night!
Men. Men sure are mysterious. A man sits facing me across an ornate table. The table is red, like the paisley on the man’s suit and the apple in his hands. I note how much the man looks like Jedidiah. He takes a bite of the apple and his eyes roll up with pleasure; he sinks his teeth into it with utmost relish, making no effort to wipe the juices from his chin. He no longer resembles Jedidiah at all.
“Come! Dine with me,” he smiles.
The sky is as blue as poolwater, and it ripples — it’s as if we’re resting at the bottom of a clean, clear lake, though I find no more difficulty in breathing than usual. I can’t describe how it feels to see a blue sky… almost… apocalyptic.
“I’m not hungry,” I tell him.
He grins at me as if I’d referenced some devious inside joke. He turns the apple over in his hand, stroking it, comparing the feel of the skin to the feel of the flesh.
“My dear,” he says lovingly, “you’re always hungry.”
I sit down. He produces an apple and hands it to me. I… stare at it, scraping at the skin with my nails. Though I’ve been invited to eat, part of me still feels as if I cannot.
“Call me old-fashioned,” the man says, “but where I’m from, it’s impolite to turn down a meal once offered. Go on, Sydney. Have a bite.”
He takes another chomp of his apple, only this time he bites straight into his fingers. It doesn’t seem to bother him — slowly, grindingly, he forces his jaw shut, tearing through flesh and bone with a sickening crunch. The taste of the apple mingles with the taste of his body to produce a flavor which he seems to find exquisitely pleasurable. Blood and fruit mix as they drip down his chin, creating a cloudy, viscous liquid.
I swallow hard. I stare at the apple in my hand. My nails keep fidgeting at its skin, tearing off tiny bits of flesh which fall to the floor. I want to eat it.
“Go on,” he urges, gesturing with the bloodied stumps on his hand, his smile now as red as his suit. “Have a bite.”
I give. I bite down… but before I can appreciate the taste, I feel a tickle in my mouth. Half of a long, oozing centipede spasms between my teeth, tickling the back of my throat…
I wake up choking.
[Ahem] And I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that one means…! If you’ve got any ideas, feel free to come down to the nurse’s office and chat with me about it… but [Yawn] later. Right now I… need to take a nap…
[Yawn] For today’s breakfast, Matthew has prepared some warm milk and fishoil tea. Mm… just the thought of it is… making me sleepy… [Yawn] see you at lunch, kids.
Hnnnn… [Yawn] Hello, Campers. Good… afternoon? Haha, that’s the question, huh… ‘cause, y’know, I could swear that it’s been precisely four hours since my last announcement, and I’m never wrong about the time. But that clock up there on the wall… why, according to that clock, it’s barely 9:30. And if you’ll expend the [Yawn] momentous effort required to crane your neck to the sky, you’ll see that the sun… which should be at its zenith about now… has just barely crawled up above the horizon. [Yawn] Seems like even clock-hands and celestial bodies have to take lazy days sometimes!
Ahh, and, ah, we’ve got [Yawn] eyewitness confirmation that the Elephant Man is NOT behind this lazy wave we’re all riding. See about an hour ago… or, perhaps, just ten minutes ago?… the Elephant Man was spotted stumbling into the camp, collapsing onto the ground, and settling in for a nice nap with his face to the soil. Perhaps [Yawn] he intended to take advantage of the campwide lethargy to go on some kind of stealing spree?… Or he was here to kidnap me, haha. Whatever his intentions, this doomed foray into our territory proves that the Elephant Man is very much not immune to the lazy day effect, so he can’t possibly be the source.
Hm! Wonder what’s [Yawn] going on then. Y’know, normally, I would investigate or at least do some theorizing, but… gosh, I just can’t bring myself to care. And normally, I’d be really upset about [Yawn] the fact that I can’t care about… something I’d normally care about… hhaha. But I just wanna sleep.
But I can’t abandon you kids with no kind of announcement, so… how, so… h about another dream? [Yawn] This one, I had last night. In it, I was a child again.
I’m in a backyard. It’s not familiar to me — not yet. I moved into this house just a few days ago, moved to be with my latest guardian, a sharp-eyed woman who pays little attention to me. Part of me hopes this arrangement will finally be permanent. Part of me knows it won’t. I’m seven years old, and I never understood why people get excited to go home. Life is the same no matter where you are… you get itchy. You get hungry. You get hurt.
I am in a backyard, hunched over the chunky soil. Weeds, foliage, and crabgrass climb up to my shoulders, tickling my cheek, amassing in clumps atop a tall wooden fence above me.. My hair sits heavy on the back of my neck, making me overheat. A small patch of raw, torn cuticle on my index finger is aggravated by the dirt particles as I trace animal shapes into the ground. I tolerate the discomfort. I like it outside. I like picking up ants and shaking them off when they try to bite. I like listening to the birds flirt in the trees overhead. I like animals because they never forget to be scared: of starving, of getting eaten, of getting hurt or sick.
I pull my hand up from a patch of weeds when I feel a tickle. I examine my arm — there’s a centipede crawling along it. For a moment, I just stare at it: bemused, almost perplexed. Then I remember to be an animal. To be scared.
I yelp and flail, squeezing my eyes shut, brushing my skin so furiously it begins to burn. The force of my panicked gesture sends me backwards, whereupon I tumble into an anthill.
In seconds, the ants have marshalled their forces against my intrusion. Millions of tiny legs tickle at my neck, and they begin to crawl, and spread, and crawl. A mighty phalanx of ants marches up my child limbs, slipping under my sleeve and routing me underneath the fabric of my shirt. They clamber across my collarbone to curl around my ears and investigate my gasping mouth. I thrash and scream. They rally and frenzy. I am dizzy, wheezing, bright colors popping behind my eyelids as the insects begin to bite.
After a second which feels like a hellish eternity, I push myself to standing and frantically begin to run, shaking out my shirt and swiping at every part of my body I can reach. That’s when my lungs collapse. My eyes pop open in shock just in time to watch the world turn fuzzy; then luminous and kinetic; then dissolve into darkness as infectious spots of black expand into view. I cannot breathe. I cannot see. Even the feeling of the ants on my skin now little more than a fuzzy sort of fluttering, stinging sensation. And I cannot breathe. I take a few more halfhearted steps and collapse into the weeds. I cannot breathe. I cough until I puke. My body feels weighed down with sand and constricted with rubber bands. I have never known such a lack of control. I cannot breathe. The darkness, having taken my vision, begins tugging at my consciousness now. I cannot breathe. I give in. The fireworks fade.
… And I’m in the hospital next, cold and shivering in one of those open-backed bedrobes. A grumbly doctor nurses an inhaler into my mouth. My newest guardian, that gray woman, is not there, and I do not know where she might be.
The doctor tells me I cannot go anywhere without an inhaler anymore. I frown. I should never have forgotten to be scared.
… I awoke after that. Weird stuff, right? You’d be forgiven for assuming that was a real thing that happened to me, a memory resurfacing after years of repression. And in the moments after waking up, I myself was convinced it had to be. But as I thought on it, I realized there were all these strange, impossible details! I mean, the sky was blue… the ants were significantly less than four feet in length… and none of the birds could speak English. So that couldn’t possibly have really happened! But why did my brain fabricate such a vivid and painful delusion? I wonder.
Ahh, well… gosh… the dream talk reinvigorated me, but now… [Yawn] I’m getting sleepy again. It appears Matthew… was feeling a bit unmotivated about cooking this afternoon, and so your lunch will be… frozen dinners which have been microwaved en masse. So that’ll be good… I bet. I’m not gonna try it. I’m hungry, but… [Yawn] not hungry enough to get up.
Alright, campers. I’ll let you keep napping and whatnot. Never know… maybe when you hear from me for dinner, the sun will have slowed to a complete halt! Haha. No idea what we’d do then. Seems like it would be bad.
Okay, see you.
Good evening, campers. Yes — you heard that right — I said evening. Because the time on the clock is… drumrollllllll — 19:03PM! That’s right, time is flowing! Better start appreciating that precious youth of yours, because it is once again slipping through your fingers like sand!
For those of you who were fast asleep when the problem got solved, which is most of you, here’s how it went down. An hour or so ago, Jedidiah emerged from the sanatorium and was immediately struck with an overwhelming sense of slowness. He couldn’t know it yet, but though he’d only been in the sanatorium for ten minutes from his own perspective, he’d been gone for hours from ours! Stumbling over to his office, he passed by the sleeping shapes of various camp personnel: kids in the tall grass; counselors draped over rocks; Juniper hanging from the flagpole, fast asleep. It confirmed his suspicions: that some kind of temporal anomaly was affecting the entire camp — except, of course, the space inside the sanatorium; you know how that place is. And in his office, he found the culprit — one of his extra-special wall clocks had stopped, and it was gradually bringing time to a halt as well!
So, Jedidiah called up a couple of his buddies in the clockmaking business for their expert advice. The sky had still yet to turn from the milky lilac of morning when the men came — a pair of big, familiar, cheeky wise guys armed with meaty hands, hairy knuckles, faded overalls, and coffee-stained teeth. Seemingly unaffected by the lazy-plague, the good fellas bantered their way over to the administration building and took a wrench to the offending clock. What followed was one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had, as the entire day caught up with me in a single moment. You all felt it — the way twelve hours’ worth of dead skin cells immediately sloughed off of your body… twelve hours’ worth of laughter escaped your lips… and twelve hours’ worth of heartbeats rattled around in your chest. I feel like a new man.
But it was all worth it to see the sun finally set over the horizon! The sky is now a dark, royal purple, soon to be the familiar pitch black of the night, and the stars are starting to emerge. Everyone say hooray for Jedidiah! If he hadn’t called those burly men up, there’s every chance that time would have slowed to a complete halt, trapping us all in a single moment — a fate which, I imagine, is far worse than death. Though they would both be changeless states, at least oblivion frees you from the pain of awareness!
Aaaaaanyway. Funny thing about spending several hours in a temporal distortion radius: you don’t realize how hungry you are until the distortion dissipates. Luckily, Matthew, Juno, and Mila are working hard to churn out a big, hearty dinner for all of us. We deserve it, after a long hard day of languishing in the rapidly decaying concept of a moment! Tonight, our beloved chefs have cooked a feast of cloven hooves and clover biscuits. Vegans get a wonderful stew of spaetzle, rice, penne, tagliatelle, rigatoni, linguine, orzo, bucatini, fucilli, vermicelli, manicotti, cannoli, mafaldine, amphetamine, and farfalle! Wow! And tonight, I get a very nice treat of buttered garlic bread from Mila! Yes!!
Also, by the way, update on the Elephant Man: soon as time got back on its hamster wheel, he jolted up and scampered off without stealing a thing! One wonders why he came here in the first place. Perhaps he just wanted to take advantage of the sleepy spell and relax? Even a mysterious, stalkery hooligan needs to take the day off now and again.
Tonight’s activity is a yo-yoing contest, using a collection of yo-yo’s which Soren found buried near the death fields the other day. Try not to let the yo-yos make contact with anything dead! Or anything at all, really! Really, please don’t touch them, we don’t know what they do.
Have a good night, campers!
[FAINT TICKING OF A CLOCK]
Ghost recorder, old friend. Once again we find ourselves at 25:25 PM… I hope you’re faring better than I am this fine, fine night.
I’d like to let you in on a little secret. When I shared my dreams today on the loudspeaker, I left out a few details. First of all… the man underwater? Who offered me the apple?
He didn’t stop at his fingers.
Once he bit down on flesh, it was as if he got a taste for it… he just kept chewing and chewing, crunching through bone and spurting blood onto my face, until half of his arm was gone, replaced with a mangled, glistening wad of wet chunks and bone shards. Unable to wake up, I kept chewing through that centipede, its bitterly acidic taste stinging my tongue as it wriggled half-dead between my teeth. By the time I’d swallowed the bug’s last twitching segment . . . . the strange man had ripped his own heart from his chest, and was busy exploring it with his tongue.
For all his talk of politeness… that was not very hospitable of him, don’t you think? Ahaha.
Hey, by the way… something kind of funny happened about an hour ago. I was minding my business in the nurse’s office, petting my worms, enjoying the flow of time… when the Elephant Man approached my window. Now, that’s a sight I’m pretty well-adjusted to by now — it hasn’t gotten less upsetting, but at least it’s routine. If I just stay in my office, ride out the fear and the drowsiness creeping in from the edges of my mind, I know he’ll eventually stalk back off into the forest where he belongs. But it went… differently, this time. Just as I turned to see his inscrutable pink mask poke up over the sill, all the lights in the room shut off — the power had gone out, in the nurse’s building. And the Elephant Man… he kind of lost it? I mean, yelling, clutching his head, a total breakdown. I don’t know what about a little power outage made him all undone, but for whatever reason, he just couldn’t handle it. He ran back into the woods, screaming his head off.
What a freak, right? But it’s good to know if we ever need to defeat him, we can just unplug a lamp or something. Haha…
… Well. Alright. Goodnight, ghost recorder. I think I’m going to be awake for a while longer, but… I dunno, I feel more like thinking than talking. So… I’ll leave you to your device.
Today’s episode was written and produced by Blue Mayfield and Nicholas Belov. The part of Sydney Sargent was played by Blue Mayfield. Camp Here & There is the sole intellectual property of its production company, Mayfield and Belov. All music composed by Will Wood, and produced by Jonathon Maisto. Sound editing by Blue Mayfield, Beetlesprite, and Emily Safko. Special thanks to our patrons: Phoenix, Collin Roemer, Tmfilly, Ken Board, Caitlin Weber.
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Thank you for listening to Camp Here & There, and remember: you were born naked and you will die naked.