CONTENT WARNING: Exploration of death, mortality, and existentialism Audio data from various sources, detailing the events which occurred at SITE2 on day 971.
MAJOR INSIGHT INTO:
- ENTITY5 motivations and intentions
- ANOMALY7 modus operandi
- ENTITY2 values & opinions
MINOR INSIGHT INTO:
- ENTITY7 & ENTITY9 relationships to ENTITY2 & EMTITY5
- ENTITY2 newfound perspective
- ENTITY3 newfound perspective(?)
- ENTITY1 pedantry regarding necromantic arts
- I understand that prophylactic measures are not your style, AGENT1, and that you’re concerned with maintaining a pristine crime scene, but I urgently feel that we should put a stop to ENTITY5 before it seriously damages what little integrity this reality has left. It’s only a matter of luck that it hasn’t accomplished anything sickening yet.
Mayfield and Belov presents: Camp Here and There.
Episode Twenty Three: The Wood of the Caskets
Good morning, campers! The time is 8:68 AM and the sky is a sandy orange, like a dirty tangerine rotting on the forests’ edge. This day is one of orange rot.
So, kids. In case it still needs to be said — if any of you happens to stumble upon a bruiselike purple growth with ruddy veins skittering about its surface, DO NOT TOUCH IT.
Immediately find a trusted counselor and report its location to them, and for God’s sake, hold your breath. In fact, to be extra safe, you all should try to avoid breathing as much as possible today.
[Sigh] I might be getting ahead of myself here. I’m sorry. I’m just so worried about you all. The situation, in plain terms, is that a never-before-seen species of mold has been discovered amidst the cabins and appears to be creeping out into the grounds at large, like the brittle, bruised fingers of a corpse slowly stretching across the Earth. Cabin Widow Spider residents were, in a way, the first to discover this mold this morning… when they failed to wake up.
When both Mila and Juno were absent from the morning counselor’s assembly, we initially assumed they’d simply overslept, and proceeded as usual. Those two can be pretty ditzy sometimes. But I couldn’t shake a bad feeling — a cold, stiff feeling… well, Marisol kindly agreed to check on them, just to soothe my concerns, and what she found was enough to make her stop dead. Every child and counselor, to a one, was lying, still and stiff, in their bunks… and all of them had taken on a ghastly, veiny complexion.
Quickly, initiative was taken to escort the cabin’s residents to the nurse’s office so that Jedidiah and I could examine them. Those who partook in moving the bodies could not help but report that the atmosphere around the cabin was… suffocating, exhausting… and everyone was in a hurry to get away. After that, you kids were woken up — some with more difficulty than others — and escorted away from the circle of cabins, and… well, you know the rest.
The cause was determined to be the bruise like mold, which seems to have simply appeared last night right at the center of the circle of cabins. Inhalation of the mold’s spores appears to set in motion a gradual process of exhaustion and desiccation which makes a person’s body start to resemble a corpse, a transformation which presumably should result in complete biological collapse and decay. Cabin Widow Spider was unlucky enough to be facing the opposite direction of the wind, but it seems that all of you spent last night inhaling pure death to some extent… I’m just so glad we caught this when we did. If we had allowed our colleagues and friends to sleep for any longer… Marisol might have opened that door and been met with an even more horrifying sight…
On a light note, we’ve determined that the residents of Cabin Widow Spider are conscious, but deeply comatose. Attempts to rouse them with sniffing salts and promises of cake have garnered some results, and many of their bodies have begun to regain the heat and saturation of life… overall, we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to return everyone to health, but it will take a while. And the nurse’s office is quite full, so please… everybody wear your camp issue gas masks and stay away from the cabins. And if you start to feel a bit fatigued, or unseasonably cold, do the smart thing and run to the very edge of the woods, and just huddle there in abject terror. Trust me, being a bit paranoid is better than rotting alive.
In other news… it was a little overshadowed by the consternation this morning, but it seems that late last night, someone snuck around and left miraculous gifts on each cabin doorstep. You know what I’m talking about: many of the personal effects stolen by the Elephant Man have been returned to their owners, as suddenly and mysteriously as they were taken away! Could this be an unforeseen act of goodwill from the Elephant Man? A signal of a change in heart? Perhaps our mysterious neighbor is not so frightful as we may have assumed! But whatever the cause, I do hope the joy of being reunited with your cherished possessions takes the sting out of fearing that you may be transformed into a living corpse if you, like, breathe too much.
Also, despite this evidence that the Elephant Man might actually be rather decent, Lucille has just now decided to take precautions against him. I wonder what made her finally take the intruder seriously? Curious, isn’t it? Anyways, for the foreseeable future, a brigade of Lucille’s enchanted mannequins — her Friends of the Oak — will be patrolling the outskirts of camp. Be nice to them! They do have souls, you know. Yes, they are animated by the trapped life force of long-dead creatures. They’re still vaguely sentient, existing in a permanent state of dull agony and indignity at being forced to exist in vessels which move without their permission and which do not possess the mechanisms to feel, think, or cry out. It’s not technically necromancy, on account of the fact that that’s no kind of life. But it does make you feel for the poor things, so… try not to bother them more than necessary.
And the final bit of news I have for you this morning is that Counselor Soren has officially been released from Cabin Arrest after a week of good behavior. Lucille is probably grateful to have her groundskeeper back — the camp really has become very overgrown very quickly. It was somewhat overshadowed by my extended absence, but I heard that apparently yesterday morning, campers from Cabin Silkworm struggled to open their cabin door, as its gaps and hinges had all been clogged by creeping tendrils of dittany and yew. Let’s hope Soren is ready to get back to work without any distractions or hijinks of any kind.
Now, let’s see… breakfast was egg yolks injected with mustard, saline straight out of the bag, and spit roasted falcon. You know, that old Louisiana specialty! But a trail of mold has moseyed on into Matthew’s kitchen and shyly kissed our wares, so… Salem and Marisol are ordering pizza for you guys instead. Except the only pizza place that delivers out here is that horrible gimmicky themed restaurant that keeps the Christmas decorations up year-round, so… I hope none of you mind peppermint sauce!
Aaaaand this morning’s activity is… cabin redecorating. [PAPER RUSTLING] Uh ah. Well, that’s unfortunate. Umm. Why don’t you guys just… hang out around the sports field. It’s far enough from the cabins.
Alright, kids. Have a good breakfast, and remember: when you die, you will rot — and also, when you live! I’ll be here if you need me.
Hello, children. I’m sure that you thought all hope was lost after my dreams were tragically destroyed last week by our “friendly” Camp Nurse… well, I’m here to tell you that hope remains. You will meet with eternity, children; you will speak to the mother. How, you ask? Allow me to explain.
Throughout the week which I spent cooped up in Cabin Ladybug, I frequently found my reddened eyes drawn towards the molds which grew upon the wooden walls and ceiling beams. It was harmless — just any old friendly mold. But during my many hours of punitive contemplation, I realized… their harmlessness could be rectified.
This is a unique camp, dear children, and a good thing for it, because I don’t know where else in the world I might have the means to acquire alchemical reagents while confined to one cramped, rotting building. A few requests for herbal medicines from the nurse’s office, a few clandestine fetch quests on the part of my cabin’s loyal campers, and I had everything I needed. For the next few days, I played around with tinctures and mixtures, and by the end of my week behind bars, I’d found the perfect solution. I created a fungal agent which would diffuse the holy magic of the Death Fields throughout camp.
Children — counselors — I know it may seem scary. Everyone fears the truth; fears the way their lives must change when the truth becomes a factor. Everyone dreads the blanket of oblivion that was once all we had to look forward to at the end of our time on this beautiful Earth. But this mold is here to help you. It is your friend, your teacher. And though it may seem, at first glance, to kill whatever it touches… I assure you that this deathlike state merely precipitates an incipient state of eternal life!
So please, friends, stop trying to destroy it. Stop rejecting, dismissing, and spitting upon the gift I worked so hard to give to you. Embrace the truth! Embrace Her power! You will see, in the second life —
[THE DOOR OPENS]
Ah! I’ve been detected!
[Deeply annoyed] I am really tired of you getting your spit all over my microphone.
Alright, children, I haven’t much longer. Listen to me, now. Touch. That. Mold. You’ll thank me when you’re eternal!
Why is this guy still working here?
Why are any of us?
You brought backup!?
I figured you might resist. Boys?
[Under his breath] I’ve always wanted to say that.
[ROWAN AND JOSHUA GRAB SOREN BY THE ARMS AND BEGIN TO DRAG HIM OUT OF THE OFFICE. SOREN MAKES YELPING NOISES]
Time to go.
Would you let go of the microphone — !?
This is religious persecution! I — I — don’t I get to talk about what I believe in!?
Maybe if you believed something less deadly.
Augh! Stop! No! You don’t understand what you’re doing! I did this all for you! You and the children! Don’t squander this chance! Don’t throw your eternity away — NGYAH!
[THE DOOR SHUTS]
… Cabin arrest is definitely too good for him. If Lucille doesn’t get rid of him, mark my words — I will.
So. An update. We brought all of our friends from Cabin Widow Spider to stable condition after a couple of hours, and now all that’s left to do is to let them breathe a day’s worth of non-poisonous air. After satisfying ourselves with the state of our patients, Jedidiah and I agreed that the deathcreep mold should be studied, although he insisted upon doing it by himself. So he went out, alone, in his personal hazmat gear, to investigate the growth. As soon as he got out the door, he was waylaid by Soren; from what I could hear, he wanted to convince Jedidiah to leave the mold alone and let it do its work. Soren said something about the necromantic arts, and it must have been pretty inflammatory, because Jedidiah exploded. I could hear him clearly from in here: he was like an unwound spring, spitting and popping and vitriolically questioning Soren’s comprehension of what necromancy even means.
Just another example of how upsetting Soren’s behavior is for all of us.
Anyhow, Jedidiah brushed right past our new official Worst Counselor (congratulations to Joshua, by the way!) and marched defiantly down to the cabins. His findings were consistent with what Soren just told you over the loudspeaker, as scattered around the area were a number of creatures who had been unfortunate enough to touch or inhale the deathcreep moss and had been transformed into shambling, rotting, and completely unkillable husks. Unlikely as it seems, Soren really has managed to replicate the effects of the death field, making its gruesome magic… portable. This achievement may classify him as one of the most powerful magicians of our age. And also… one of the most stupid ones. And one of the most annoying ones.
Well, we had no choice but to call in an expert. I’m sure you’ve all had the chance to greet her, but now I’d like to formally introduce this announcement’s celebrity guest… Ohio’s favorite criminal against humanity… Doodoodoodoo… The Gravediggress! She’s here to advise us on this mold and help us with its eradication. Miss Gravedigress, do you have anything you’d like to share with the kids about the fungus among us?
[TAP TAP TAP]
[MORE AGGRESSIVE TAP TAP TAP]
[BREATHING FOR 20 FULL SECONDS]
I never thought about it that way before!
With the help and guidance of the Gravediggress, I was able to develop a potent serum which, if applied liberally to the deathcreep, should be able to significantly dull its effects so that it is no longer a deadly threat, but a mere tiresome inconvenience. Now we’ve got counselors in hazmat suits braving the toxic air to slosh my serum all over everything. Just in time, too — the habitable zone of camp was shrinking rapidly, and the deathcreep was getting uncomfortably close to the sanatorium. That place has its own strain of unique and possibly dangerous mold. I shudder to think what would happen if the two species met.
After coaching me through my concoction, the Gravediggress decided to remain in camp to help out by pointing out dangerous clusters of mold we might not otherwise catch, or vulnerable spots in the mold’s spore nexus. She’s been pretty helpful for the most part, although… I do wish she’d stop beckoning so much.
[Sigh] Well! We’re hoping to get the kitchen safe by tonight, but I’m still not ready to let Matthew cook for you all, so Marisol went out to HarmlessMart and bought you some of those succulent little plastic containers full of cheese and buttered crackers. Those crackers are among the few foods I can eat, so I’m pretty happy with this outcome!
Aaaaand for this afternoon’s campwide activity… a mold-growing contest. Okay, is this a sick joke!? Who plans these!?
[Whisper] I actually don’t know who plans these.
… Hm. Well, have a nice afternoon, campers!
There is something about life… makes you want to keep living it.
I think death is a beautiful thing. It’s inseparable from life, to me. They’re both expressions of the same idea, the only fundamental imperatives of existence: the only two things we all, all of us, must and will do. Together, life and death are everything that is beautiful, and one without the other… is nothing at all.
That’s why necromancy is pointless. You can make something move again, speak again, even think again… but without death, it will never live.
But that does not mean I will welcome death when it comes for me. It’s tried me plenty before… and when it does, I fight. No matter how hopeless I feel about whether any sort of happiness or peace may lie on the other side of that fight… I stay alive. We all stay alive. Not because we want to, but because we must. And will.
So I sympathize with Soren. I do. His actions may be deplorable, but his motivations are firmly rooted in one of the only feelings that we can all understand. And I sympathize with a certain camper from Cabin Magpie Moth who came very close to discovering what life without death is really like.
Was she perfect when you saw her, dear camper? Though her body was in tatters and filled up with mulch… though her mind was squishy, like an uncarved pumpkin, just mush beneath the hard surface… though her spirit was long gone… I know she was perfect. How could something which had lived for so long be anything less? Anything which, after so many lifetimes, could still walk… still whisper… still witness… still beckon you from amidst a clearing of that beautiful purple plant that could make you… unmake you… what she was… always would be.
And that precious, beautiful, necessary thing called existence… you would see so much more. You would never have to let it go. You might never remember any of it — but what would that matter? Existence, after all, is one neverending moment… perhaps it was time for life to catch up.
In other words, my dear… I know why you walked. Why you reached out to touch. Who could ever blame you? You’re only human.
But let’s try and keep it that way.
AAAAAnyway. Hello, kids! This camp is officially host to life and death in equal and appropriate amounts!
I am pleased to report that Soren has been sent home. Lucille tried to make his sendoff discrete, but some of you caught wind and heckled him as he packed his bags. She also refuses to make it clear to me whether or not Soren has been fired, or just temporarily suspended… which is rather frustrating. I know he pays her, but I can’t believe any amount of money would convince her to completely ignore the safety of the kids.
Or… maybe I can. Hm.
Another problem individual who has been banished is the Gravediggress, who, despite her good intentions, seemed unable to restrain her impulses vis a vis luring unsuspecting children into terrible fates. Let’s all give a round of applause for Counselor Fennel, who kept vigilant watch to ensure no children fell prey to her immortal machinations. They even, on one occasion, shoved a camper out of the way of the mold they were about to touch, risking their own mortality in the process. Fennel, on behalf of the whole camp, no one blames you for what your co-counselor has done. We all know you’re cool.
And just to be sure we all get the picture, I’d like to do a quick review. Necromancy is… what? Impossible! What else? Illegal!! Any eternal life that any wannabe necromancer would try and offer you is bound to be a fate worse than death. Really, I think your parents should be teaching you this stuff, what with all the email scammers out there nowadays.
Now, as for the fate of the mold. As the Gravediggress promised me, the serum I concocted did dilute the effects of the deathcreep, although it did not neutralize the mold entirely. It seems that we’ve transformed the mold into an entirely new strain of unique mold with its own strange side effects. It’s not dangerous — but in the presence of this mold, you will quickly find yourself becoming less and less interesting to converse with, until the only topics you can think to mention are celebrity drama and woodworking techniques; and the only things you can think to reply with are hollow phrases of perfunctory acknowledgement, such as “nice” and “oof.” Seems this strain of mold just turns us into zombies, like… interpersonally?
Also, reports indicate that Counselor Juniper, upon direct inhalation of the mold’s spores, displayed no noticeable change in demeanor or favorite topics of conversation. Make of that what you will.
Anyhow, this mold doesn’t seem to require urgent extermination, so we can take the evening to relax if we like, but I’m not gonna stop you guys from forming another eradication squad if you get sick to death of talking about meaningless nonsense constantly. Not that that would be such a big change from business as usual…
Alright, alright, tonight’s activities. Oh, got a wide variety here! You can choose between… a debate session… a collaborative storytelling workshop… and a seminar on dialectical philosophy hosted by Counselor Salem. Umm… perhaps the smalltalk mold should be taken care of sooner rather than later… anyway, until then, I suggest everyone attend Yvonne’s latest gamer hour. This is, what, number seven?
For tonight’s dinner, Matthew has stuck jelly beans on a porcupine. Be careful! While this is technically a finger food, you might want to use a fork. Incidentally, a group of animal rights activists are convening on our campgrounds for an open seminar on whether live porcupines should be used as tableware.
Have a great night, campers. Everything is okay.
[THE AUDIO IS DISTORTED AS IF FROM A RECORDING]
[Yawn] The truth?
You. You are the most divine thing I have ever laid my eyes on.
Ah — me?
Who else but you, dear? Who else could ever be the object of my love but you?
Aha… I… well, thank you. I — thank you. I… don’t think anyone’s ever said… anything like this to me before…
You can’t mean that.
He’s disgraced your good graces, and therefore has lost mine. Has he not hurt you gravely?
I mean… [Sigh] we’re not on the best terms right now.
Don’t you think you deserve better than what he gives you? Don’t you deserve his utmost appreciation? Devotion? Love?
Hello, ghost recorder. It’s 25:25 and… man. I’m having a hard time reconciling my thoughts these days. So many… so many things wrong.
The Elephant Man… E-elijah, he said. Elijah. I’m having… just a lot of thoughts. It’s- I mean I know that like, that it’s probably bad. Even if he isn’t deliberately manipulating me, the subduing magic he has on me inherently compromises my ability to think. I doubt I’d even really remember this conversation too well if I didn’t record it. I just remember the feelings.
Feelings of lack of control. I can’t stand up for myself. I can’t think. Can’t say what I mean. I’m swirling like an eddy, kicked up and dizzy and… swirling. Dizzy. Swirling.
Feelings of… understanding. Of being seen. He… loves me? He recognizes how poorly I’m regarded and that… I can’t pretend that doesn’t make me feel a little better, and feel appreciated.
[Sigh] I wanna cry. Goodnight, ghost recorder. I hope you don’t mind being saddled with all my problems and moping. I’ll have to do something, as always. So, I will. Right now, I’m just worried how I’m going to sleep.
Today’s episode was written by Blue Mayfield and Nicholas Belov. The part of Sydney Sargent was played by Blue Mayfield. The part of Soren Baltimore was played by Mikee Joaquin. The part of Rowan Chow was played by Corey Wilder. The part of Joshua MacHeath was played by Ty Coker. 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: Hallie, Eileen E, KatintheNight, and Josiah Callinan.
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: you’ve angered it.