He farted with his mouth. “I don’t mean they’re really bloody shape-shifting were-fucks. I mean would they be dangerous to us? How do you know what they’re like?”
“Because I can read a brochure.” After hiding all the blackboard chalk from Chris behind a younglings’ picture, the camp leader had knocked against it, causing an explosion of dust and swearing. The prank earnt her a detention in the library, where she’d read up on Fandango’s history. The two camps were once twinned, before being separated moons ago.
“But aren’t you curious about, y’know, meeting them? I mean, we don’t fit in here, but maybe we would there…”
He was a dog with a bone today, but shit, maybe he had a point. She opened one eye and looked across at him. He glugged a Panda Pop ‘shine and spilled half of it down his top. Hmmm, every dog has his day.
“Never join a club that wants you as a member, as Grouchy Marx would say,” she said. “Arseholes are still arseholes. Just they’re poor arseholes rather than rich arseholes.”
“What does that make us?” he said.
“Drunk arseholes.” They laughed together, voices amplified by the stillness of the water and he half-raised himself up to look around.
“Maybe we’ll find out soon enough,” he said. They’d drifted past the halfway mark of the lake. Their insistence on not dropping anchor because Chris had advised it meant they were now gently bobbing towards the Camp Dawn bank. “Bollocks, it’s gonna be harder to row back.”
“Get drunk enough, the boat will row itself,” she said. She couldn’t tell if alcohol was making her jokes better or worse.
WE MAKE OUR OWN MONSTERS
As if on command a breeze skimmed the water, revolving the boat in a rolling spin. “Fuck ducks,” he said, shielding his eyes to the sun as he looked around at the turning lake.
Through the colourful spots, he saw birds circle above their heads. Except these weren’t like any bird he’d seen before. They were huge – florid serpents with rainbow feathers, shining with psychedelic light off the crystal waters below. He blinked. How drunk was he? Were the cigarettes laced?
“Can you see that?” He pointed and stood up, as though a few extra feet would give a better view. Unfortunately, the combo of sun and ‘shine unbalanced his legs and he staggered across the tight space as a dolloping Bambi. The boat rocked with him.
“You’re making it worse doofus.” It was her turn to rise now. She squinted to follow his gaze, but saw nothing except mild headspin trails from sudden movement.
He needed to calm down, so she decided to get philosophical to get him seated again. “We make our own monsters. Maybe Camp Victory needs a Camp Dawn to help them feel superior…”
He could swear he heard laughing, rippling with the wash against the side of the wooden tub, but there wasn’t a boat in sight and they weren’t that close to the bank. He turned to double check, but the movement caused him to lurch forward and he fell onto the fishing rods, dragging them with him over the side of the boat.
That was the straw. The weight capsized the tiny wooden shiplet and she followed his brother into the drink. At first the shock was refreshing – she spasmed a laugh. The water was the cold shower they needed after the hot sweat of mad dog rays. Then she realised she was still sinking.
SHE WAS GOING TO DIE A CLICHE
The water darkened around her. She could see her brother fall too, surrounded by bubble trails of fishing tackle, cassette deck, their battered Converse, bottles of toxic pop. She struggled to right herself, then realised with horror she couldn’t. What was pulling her down? What was making her so weak?
It wasn’t anything supernatural, that was the scariest thing of all, just the dead weight of being too stoned to swim upwards. As her lungs filled with brine and the darkness enveloped her, she hoped her brother would live. He didn’t deserve to follow her all the way.
Please, let him live. If there is a God, Buddha, Karma, Tattva, Kali, Quetzalcoatl, whatever the fuck, let him live. The cliches were true. We rejected higher powers, smug in knowing better, until we needed them. Then, in the desperate moment you’d do anything for a saviour. Not for her, but please let him live.
She was going to die a cliche. It was all coming true. The kid who wouldn’t listen, who drowned with a bellyful of cocktail, another statistic. For all her knowing rebellion and mock-superiority she would die a mediocrity, who never did anything except fuck over everyone else’s achievements.
Another truth. The final word that goes through your mind before death.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fu…
TO BE CONTINUED…
If this story was a movie, here’s the compilation album, retrieved from the bargain bin in Woolies. Listen while reading, or float away on your own adventure…