PDA

View Full Version : The Monster at Camp Lots-o-Fun [A Tribute to the Handyman]



Cassandra
08-26-2017, 01:03 PM
Yes...this would have been my entry for the SP Hero Hybrids event. However, since the event seems to have died out completely, I've decided to post my work as a fanfic/tribute to Richard's impressive Handyman creation (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?78734-The-Handyman). This is for you Richard!


Today was the worst day ever. Well, the worst for Matthew Nielson. He was going…to camp. It wasn’t a particularly famous place; but it was the only one his foster dad, Marco Miller, could afford. It was the time of year where Marco had to do loads of things outside of town. The man was smart enough to know he couldn’t leave Matthew at home alone, even with all his clones to look after him. Especially not after that nuke incident.

(Matthew and his clones built special bomb in Marco’s yard once. Matthew claimed it was a science project and it had to be accurate. The bomb didn’t do anything but release happy gas if it ever went off, but there was literally no difference in appearance between Matthew’s nuke and a real one. The authorities eventually caught wind of the project and almost detained Matthew, but by then Marco was back and convinced the bomb squad that the bomb was non-lethal.)

“You’re going to love it there.” Marco said, eying Matthew through his rear-view mirror. The man was well-built, and owned a startling resemblance to human actor Mark Hamill. Strangely enough, Marco had never seen Star Wars in his life; rendering Matthew’s arsenal of humorous Luke Skywalker-based jokes useless.

Matthew slumped in his seat, grumbling, almost sliding out of underneath his seatbelt. He was a strange sight to the average human. His skin was navy-blue, his square-like face was flat, and his eyes were bright yellow and pupil-free. A crest of almost the same size and shape protruded from the top of the back of his head. His hands were square-shaped, and owned a single central finger each. For obvious reasons, Matthew had his hands in his pockets.

Human regulations stated that kids his size were supposed to sit in car seats. Matthew’s regulations stated that car seats were too embarrassing to sit on at his age. Still, rules were rules. Plus, Matthew never grew, which meant he was stuck in this car seat. Forever.

“You’re going to do so many fun things!” Marco continued, clearly enjoying himself. “Kayaking, hiking, scavenger hunts…it’s going to be great!”

Matthew was only half-listening. Most of his attention was on the other cars that were passing by. There was nothing Matthew wanted more than to get his own driver’s licence. Still, according to human regulations, being three feet tall sort of renders you unable to drive a car. You can’t see around your vehicle properly and your feet don’t reach the pedals. Matthew could have done without his size in this case. He was going to need a chaperone for the rest of his life.

“They don’t even have Wi-Fi there!” Matthew complained. “How am I supposed to have fun without an internet connection?”

Marco sighed, and his answer was slightly firmer than usual.

“Matthew…you don’t need internet to socialize with people.”

“Yeah, I do! Discord, Twitter…”

“I mean face-to-face…personal-type stuff, Matthew.”

“Face-Time.” was the reply.

Sighing, Marco slowed down and turned onto a dirt road. Matthew looked out the window, narrowing his eyes.

“Hey…” he said. “I didn’t know taxis could go cross-country.”

“They can’t.” Marco replied, carefully weaving around some large potholes. “If this road gets any worse, you might have to walk to the campsite.”

The alien fell silent for a while, gaze locked on the land beyond the car window. The road they were on was bordered by varied wild grasses and shrubs, and beyond them was a thick forest of pine trees. Matthew leaned a little closer to the glass, a thrill running through him. He’d never climbed trees before…but he’d heard it was fun. Marco didn’t have any trees back at his mansion house; just a spread of green grass that spread all across the property.

“How rugged is this campsite anyways?” Matthew asked, without changing his position. “I heard that when you don’t have any outhouses you just go out to the woods and…”

“No,” Marco cut in quickly. “I didn’t read about any outhouses on the webpage.”

“Gross!”

“Seriously, Matthew, what are you complaining about? You’re incapable of going to the bathroom.”

“Yeah…only because I’m not designed to eat things. I’m designed to look like I’m eating; I don’t actually do it.”

Marco slowed down and stopped, looking over his shoulder at Matthew. What sort of question was that, then? he wondered, but he didn’t ask. The alien would probably just answer with some sort of joke.

“Alright, this is as far as this car can go.” he said.

Matthew sighed, unclipping his seatbelt and slinging his pack over one shoulder. Getting out of the taxi, he closed the door and stood back to let Marco turn it around. The tires ground into the dirt, flinging dark earth into the grass bordering the road. Before leaving, Marco rolled down the driver’s side window and gave Matthew a reassuring smile. The alien rushed over and stood beside the vehicle, saluting his foster parent.

“Be the good guy, Matthew.” Marco reminded him. “And stay out of trouble.”

“Yes, sir.” Matthew answered.

A slight frown touched the man’s face.

“I didn’t check what you packed. Are you sure you have everything you need?”

Matthew squinted, stuffed a hand into his pocket, began to pull out a piece of paper. Marco watched as it seemed to grow out of the alien’s pocket, and then checked his wristwatch. His eyes widened.

“Matthew! The time!” he cried. “I have to go!”

The alien nodded, stuffing the list back into his pocket. “Okay! Bye, Marco!”

“Till’ later, hero.” was the answer, and then Marco drove off.

Matthew stood still a moment, watching as the taxi got smaller and smaller. Then, he turned and began the slow walk to the campsite. As he did, Matthew smiled inwardly. The long blank list trick worked like a charm.


***

“Welcome to Camp Lots-o-Fun!” an ex-military-looking man yelled. He strutted across the top of the mess hall table, his big black combat boots barely missing the cluttered place settings.

“You’re gonna have so much fun, you’ll never want to go home! Ever!”

Matthew sat quietly in his seat, watching as the man marched back and forth across the tabletop. The wood was well worn with marks, clearly suggesting this guy had been doing this for a long time. The suntanned individual wore a black bandana on his head, a camo-patterned shirt, and dark green cargo pants. He had lots of military medals too, but instead of wearing them across his chest…he had them pinned all around the lower hem of his shirt. Matthew narrowed his eyes, wondering if any of them were real. Finishing off the look was a silver ball chain necklace with dog tags, and a buzz cut that told everybody that saw it, that this guy was a real soldier. The look in his intense, dark grey eyes suggested some air of militarism too, but there was one detail that kind of threw all the soldier-type stuff out the window.

He was wearing a company-grade name tag; the standard one that said, ‘Hello my name is’ and then had a blank space under the words. Filled in the blank was the name ‘Sarge’, written in big black letters. It would have looked more professional, if the text didn’t look like it had been drawn by a three-year-old.

Matthew took his eyes off Sarge for a moment, glancing around the room. There had been no one to greet him at the camp entrance, as he’d expected there to be. The closest building was the mess hall, so he’d gone in there to ask questions about the place. There were a lot of people in there, likely everyone in the entire camp.

Honestly, he’d kind of expected the hall to look the way it did. Most of the space in the building was taken up by the solid oak table, leaving barely any space for the chairs bordering it. You could get in your seat if you were in the hall first, or by going under the table and sliding in that way. Otherwise, the seat you got was yours. You’re then stuck there until everyone to your left or right leaves. Matthew was short, so he was lucky to get under the table and slip into one of the middle seats. As was expected, all the edge seats were taken.

Additionally, the floor was cluttered with food; seemingly dropped and forgotten. However, some unappetizing splatters were decorating the walls as well as the ceiling, leading Matthew to believe the mess hall wasn’t just a place for eating. He’d never seen an actual food fight before, but wasn’t brave enough to start one. Fidgeting for a moment, Matthew looked down at his hands and realized he’d been fondling an uncooked macaroni noodle the entire time. A quick glance across the plates told him that they hadn’t had any pasta for lunch; just some sandwiches filled with these thin white hair things called alfalfa sprouts. For obvious reasons, he’d left his food untouched.

Sarge halted in his marching for a moment, bending down and looking Matthew right in the face.

“Ah, a new recruit!” he bellowed. “What did they drop you here for?”

Matthew dropped the noodle, putting his hands on the table and sitting up straight.

“To have fun, sir!” he replied, studying Sarge’s face. For a military man…he sure didn’t know how to trim his nose hairs properly.

“Excellent!” the man roared, straightening up and continuing to march until he marched right off the table edge. Like the marks on the table, his landing suggested he’d done this at least half a million times. Turning around, he faced the rest of the people in the room before looking back at Matthew.

“So, rookie,” the military man said. “How long will you serve here? My best guess is 25 years, if not more.”

Matthew blinked, and then he folded his arms.

“No, sir.” was his response. “Marco told me he’s going to pick me up in three weeks!”

At this, Sarge laughed uproariously for a few minutes, and stopped abruptly, a serious look on his face. Matthew didn’t need to look around to know that no one else had laughed with him.

“No recruit of mine bows out until he serves at least 12 years.” Sarge stated firmly. “Any less than that and he’s a lady in my book.”

Matthew looked around at the rest of the ‘recruits’. All of them were human males, around their teenage years in looks. They were dressed like they were all aspiring gangsters; adorned with tattoos, varied piercings, and wacky hairstyles splashed with vibrant neon highlights. For a fleeting moment, Matthew wondered if Marco had dropped him off at the wrong campus.

Returning his attention to Sarge, he realized the guy was looking at him quite expectantly. Unsure of what to say, Matthew nodded, looking down at his seat.

“Yes, sir.” he replied.


***

The mess hall was nothing compared to the rest of the camp. Sarge ran the place like a military training ground. There were activities to participate in, but they were far more extreme than the how they’d been mentioned on the worldwide web.

First, was the kayaking. Rule? No kayaks. Everyone had to get in the nearby river and swim as fast as they could to the other side, all while avoiding obstacles and other recruits. Also, the river wasn’t just some slightly fast, moderately challenging current kind of thing. These were closer to white water rapids. Matthew excelled simply because water was like another home to him, but he was genuinely surprised at how strong the other recruits were at swimming too.

Next, there was supposed to be hiking. Matthew wasn’t sure if climbing up a near vertical, rock face counted as ‘hiking’. The rock was high, but not by much; probably guaranteeing broken legs if you fell. The fact no one wore safety harnesses was the cherry on top of the ridiculous operation. Instead, you had what Sarge called a “Trust Buddy”. The Trust Buddy had to stand directly underneath the climbing person and catch them if they fell. Luckily, Matthew’s size excluded him from being a Trust Buddy. Though he was the lightest participant to catch, he never fell. There were a couple of close calls though, but he had fun all the same.

The scavenger hunts were a little less nerve-wracking. A little. You didn’t really have any life-threatening things happening while the hunts were going. Objective? Sarge would go hide, and everyone would have to find him. The person who finds him first gets to sleep in the next morning. Rumor had it that all recruits had to be up and ready at 4:30 AM sharp. Even if you did find Sarge, you’d only get like…an additional 30 minutes of rest time tomorrow morning. The worst part of the hunt was Sarge himself. During the search, if you passed by Sarge’s hiding place, he’d jump out yelling and scare you half to death. The only way to avoid this was to see him first and call his name.

Nearing dinnertime, Matthew was on his way to mess hall when he overheard some teens whispering to each other by the outhouses (which, though never mentioned, actually existed). They saw him coming and waved him over. One had purple hair and some ugly scarring on his chest. The other had bright orange hair and was gnawing on an unlit cigarette. Sarge had a strict no-smoking policy here.

“Hey…new guy,” the purple-haired one said. “Wanna hear a scary story?”

Matthew shrugged. “I’ve never heard one before, so sure.”

“It’s really scary.” the orange-haired one added. “Are you sure you want us to tell you?”

The alien folded his arms and nodded. He wasn’t afraid. The teens began their tale, swiftly wrapping Matthew in the frightening lore of the big black Handyman.

After they’d finished, Matthew went to dinner with, not chills, but thrills running through him. The teens said the monster was here, and it often patrolled around the camp. This was the reasoning behind Sarge’s strict rule of no being outdoors after dark. If it was out there…he was going to be the one to find it.


***

“Alright recruits!” Sarge barked, “Time to take a hike! Perfect day for it in my book!”

This morning boasted blue skies, white clouds and a bright yellow sun; so the conditions seemed quite perfect indeed. Matthew wondered what the Sarge’s book’s title was. Probably ‘Extreme Camping for Ex-Military Commanders and Their Recruits’. At the front of the lineup, Matthew made sure his pack was secure. He didn’t want it slipping off him during the climb.

“Ready, sir!” he told Sarge.

Receiving the nod of approval, the alien darted to the rock wall and began to scramble up it as fast as he could. Below him, he heard Sarge’s voice rushing up towards him, and his nerves tingled. Fortunately, the reprimand wasn’t directed at him.

“Well, what are you waiting for, recruit?!” he yelled. “Get under that boy and be his Trust Buddy!”

Matthew continued, avoiding the trouble spots he’d encountered on his first climb. He still slipped once, right near the top, but he managed to save himself. However, he did accidentally send some rocks down below.

“You! Pink hair!” he heard Sarge bark. “Those rocks aren’t your buddies! Do not forget your mission! Focus!”

With a final heave, Matthew pulled himself up on top. Being the first one there, no one was there to congratulate him, or to see him run off and disappear into the woods.

“Look out, monster.” Matthew whispered as he ran. “Awesomeness is coming your way!”

The forest was not as intimidating as he’d expected. Sunlight streamed through the treetops, showering the earth below in golden light. The varied, joyful birdsongs added to the peaceful ambience, and even the distant rush of the kayaking river seemed like the background music to a blissful dream. Matthew moved quickly, looking over his shoulder every few moments, as well as looking ahead. The last thing he wanted to do was get lost. Getting found by Sarge was secondary.

Soon, Matthew reached a large grassy clearing; wildflowers dotting the scene here and there. The alien stopped by the edge of the plain, sitting down and opening his pack. All he’d brought was a water bottle, a notebook and pencil, and his ACST. Matthew blinked, and then ruffled through his things a little. No…his ACST was not here.

“Huh?” Matthew exclaimed aloud. “Where is it?”

Frantic, the alien got to his feet, looking around wildly. Seeing nothing of importance, he dashed back the way he came, kicking up dirt and rooting through every bush he could see. This was very, very bad. That weapon was both custom-made and functional. If anyone other than he or one of his clones held it, its self-destruct programming would trigger. The ACST would fade into light particles, and would be gone forever. It took him years to perfect that design!

Matthew dove into another bush, startling a couple of mice. Did it fall off his belt loop somehow? Impossible…he would have felt it come off. The loop would have to tear for him to lose it that way. Matthew stood still a minute, thinking hard. He couldn’t remember if he’d had it on his belt loop on the way here. Otherwise he would have recalled feeling it hitting the side of his leg while he moved. The truth hit him like a lightning bolt.

He’d left it at camp…under his cot pillow. Matthew groaned, slapping his forehead. As if on cue, a torrential downpour came out of nowhere. Drenched, Matthew hustled through the forest, trying to find cover. Swimming, he could do. Walking around in a sky-borne waterfall? Nope. Something about rain just made him feel depressed. Eventually, Matthew found a small cave and went inside, stripping himself down and wringing out his clothing. Catching his reflection in a puddle, he stood there a long time, looking at…not himself, but his ‘evil twin’, NME.

His reflection waved at him.

“Hey Matthew.” it said. “Enjoying the rain?”

“It’s not the best weather in the world.” Matthew muttered, slipping his clothes back on and glancing at the cave entrance. “I wasn’t doing the look-forward-look-back thing while I was on my way here, so now I’m lost.”

“Bummer.” NME replied. “You should have packed your MULP.”

Matthew shook his head. “My Micro-Ultimate-Location-Pinger only works if it’s within range of a cell tower. Plus, it looks like the virtual equivalent of a stick of dynamite. I’m still in the designing process, remember?”

“True. So now what?”

“Well…” Matthew began, dropping down into a sitting position. “…it’s getting dark outside, and Sarge and the others won’t be looking for me until morning. I think I should probably bed down here for the night.”

“What will we do in the morning?”

“I came out here looking for a monster. I’m not going back until I find one.”

Matthew lay down on the uneven rock, using his pack as a pillow. This bed wasn’t going to win any awards, but he was used to sleeping in conditions like this. He wasn’t sure how, because as far as he could remember, he’d slept on orphanage mats and babysitter guest beds. It didn’t make any sense that he’d be comfortable in such a predicament. Oh, well. He’d lock horns with his past someday. Curling up, the alien closed his eyes; the patter of the hated rain lulling him to sleep.


***

Matthew woke to the sound of birds singing. Getting up, he stretched a bit before bouncing to his feet.

“I’m coming monster!” he called out into the wood. Picking up his pack, he marched out of the cave…and promptly tripped over a cluttered mess of sticks. Matthew regained his footing, confused.

“Hey!” he protested. “Who put those there?”

Turning to the mess, he pulled back his foot to kick it, but then he realized it wasn’t only this spot that was different. He looked around, noting overturned rocks, torn moss, flattened brush, and more broken sticks. A tree or two had also been knocked over, their broken trunks stabbing into the air like teeth. The alien blinked a couple times. The monster. This had to have been the monster. It had come through here last night!

Reinvigorated, Matthew followed the trail. Hours later, he was dragging his feet, a bored expression on his face.

“Hunting is so boring…” Matthew groaned, lifting up his water bottle. Reflected in the plastic, NME nodded.

“It’s definitely for the patient ones.” his twin told him. “Do you think you’re even following the right one?”

Matthew paused a moment.

“What do mean, ‘the right one’?”

“What if this one isn’t the only monster? What if this is a different one than the one the teens told you about?”

Matthew shrugged. The idea of there being more than one scary monster in these woods was slightly intimidating.

“I don’t know.” he replied. “I’ll see if this one fits the description.”

Soon, the trail ended at a massive cave. It was more like a mountain wound, a large crack that widened into a broad, intimidating looking passage. Matthew stood at the entrance for a moment, debating whether or not to enter.

“It’ll be dark soon.” NME said, his voice returning. “If there is danger nearby, you won’t see it.”

The twin was right, of course. Matthew could only see slightly more clearly than an average human for a radius of twelve feet from his position. It was highly likely that if any dangerous thing that got within his sight range…he wouldn’t have time to react to it. Still, the warning came at a bad time. Matthew felt that he was on the brink of a major discovery, and any obstacle now would be counted as both irritating and irrelevant.

“I’ll be fine.” he answered.

“You’re unarmed.” his twin remarked pointedly, slight concern in his voice. “What if things go sideways?”

Matthew paused for a moment, peering into the cave. It was very dark, and seemed to extend far into the mountainside. Sensing that NME was waiting for an answer, he dropped his voice to a whisper and said:

“Just…trust me, okay?”

There was a brief silence, then NME sighed.

“Fine. But be careful.”

Taking a deep breath, Matthew lifted his foot, and stepped into the cave. Nothing. He took another step. So far, so good.

“Hello?” Matthew called into the dark. He listened hard, but there was no response. Folding his arms, the alien narrowed his eyes. Well, was there a monster in here or not? The trail did end here, but maybe the beast had gone further into the mountain. He wasn’t going to go all the way in, and he really, really wanted to see what the beast looked like before leaving. There was only one plan left. He had to draw it out, if it was there. Taking a deep breath, Matthew poised to run.

“HEY!” he yelled into the cavern. “ANYONE IN HERE?!”

Matthew cringed, surprised at how loud his own voice sounded. It reverberated off the walls, seemingly causing the very air to vibrate.

“What are you doing?!” NME cried.

Matthew didn’t answer. In the depths of the cave, there came a single, clear sound.

Click.

The alien tensed, eyes slicing through the dark as far as he could see. Near the back of the cave, a massive black shape began to crawl forth. Its outline blurred and warped in Matthew’s vision, making the beast’s form seem indistinct. The clicking came again, but this time it was more insistent, like the steady tick of an ominous clock; a sonic timer narrowing any possible window of escape. Blinking, and slightly intimidated, the alien took a few steps backwards.


~

Max could feel…a disturbance. The human felt himself stand up; his motions more robotic than instinctive. With his eyes closed, he was in the prison of the monster’s mind. A black void, home to no other individual aside from him, and no object save the one he had in his pocket right now. It was a 20-sided die. When he’d gotten trapped in here, it was on the floor, waiting for him. Now, he was holding it in his hands. In a way…this was terrifying. He was the judge of the beast’s fate; deciding the success of its actions…ultimately whether it lived or died. He didn’t deserve such power. He didn’t want it.

Still, he was stuck here, perhaps forever. If the monster died, he wasn’t sure what would happen to him. No. Max was okay. Max wanted to live.

The human opened his eyes, seeing the world through the Handyman’s sketchy sonic images. There was something outside. Something…small.


~

***

The creature rose from its rest; ancient joints grinding, like the gears of a clock far older than time would admit. Three black leathery arms popped from the beast’s side, smashing into the cave wall. Their muscles tensed and twisted, pulling their owner up into a standing position. Still shrouded by shadow, the being stretched its neck forwards and opened its mouth, revealing multiple pale fingers. The fingers stiffened and bent in sync, the consistent crack of their knuckles granting the beast with echolocation.

You should go back to sleep, a voice said in its head. There’s nothing out there for you.

In its mind’s eye, the beast saw a small, childlike form…not too far from its cave entrance. The creature was still for a moment, and then more arms sprouted from the sides of its body, its hands crawling like spiders along the floor and walls. As the limbs drew close to the child, they slowed down, sensing the telltale prickle of a nearby light source. The child’s eyes were glowing. Confused, the beast advanced slowly and cautiously, clicking all the way. The voice in its head intensified, yelling out the same message over and over:

Stop! Go back! Go back! Leave it!

Normally, the only thing that woke such a creature like this was hunger. Years of lying dormant would do that to such a being. However, today…an entirely new force was driving the beast forward.

Curiosity.


***

The thing was coming out, and really fast. Matthew turned tail and broke into a run, leaving his courage where he’d dropped it. Above him, the moon was glowing brightly, showering his environment in lunar frost. Shadows twisted from the trees, coiling along the alien’s path. He scrambled through the forest, narrowly missing branches, roots, and other obstacles. Fear gave him extra speed. Matthew didn’t care where he was going. All he wanted to do was get away.

“So…you found it?” NME’s voice asked him; amusement in his tone.

“Yup!” Matthew replied, leaping over a small creek. “It’s way bigger than I thought!”

“Really? Its size is actually falling short of my expectations.”

“Thanks NME, you’re a big help.”

“It won’t catch you. You can outrun it.”

“I hope so.”

“You’d better!” NME warned, his voice rising above the sound of the oncoming monster. “It’s pretty quick!”

Suddenly, Matthew’s foot caught a tree root. The alien stumbled, arms spinning, but couldn’t save himself. He fell flat on his face, and the earth shook as his pursuer closed in. Matthew closed his eyes and froze, accepting a state of temporary stasis.

“You’re playing dead?” NME whispered. “How is that a plan?”

“I’m out of options.” the alien replied. “Besides, this worked on all the bears I’ve encountered.”

“This thing isn’t a bear!” came the grim response, and Matthew began to wonder if he’d made the right decision. The shaking earth stilled, and the alien sensed the monster standing right over him. It was too late to change his mind, so Matthew just decided to hope for the best instead.


***

The beast stood over the child, momentarily confused by its sudden cease in motion. It cocked its head, slowly reaching for the body with one of its hands.


~

Max was lying down on his side, hands over his eyes. He’d only seen a glimpse of the little creature’s body, but that had been enough.

It’s dead! It’s dead! It’s all because of me!

He curled up tighter, shivering, but then…something made him open his eyes again. The beast was looking down at the body. It was moving. It was alive.

Careful…he told the beast. Don’t break it. Please don’t break it…



~

“Well, it’s got you now.” NME stated, slight irritation in his tone. “I could see this happening a mile away.”

Matthew said nothing, his eyes dimmed but still watching as the beast picked him up by the leg. Now, it was close enough for him to make out the details. First of all, it was huge, and seemed to be made entirely out of arms. Its eyes weren’t really eyes, but these nail things that grew out of its ‘face’. It didn’t have any teeth…just these pale white finger things that made clicking noises. Its skin was black and leathery, and ice-cold to the touch. The beast brought Matthew a little closer to its face, its teeth clicking away. Sudden fear gripped the alien.

“AAAAAH! Don’t eat me!” Matthew shrieked, thrashing around violently. “Let me go!”

The beast cocked its head, unruffled. The alien put his hands on his hips and glared at it.
“I said…let go.”

Let go, the mind-voice echoed to the beast. Leave it alone!

When the beast did nothing, Matthew closed his eyes, and his twin popped into existence. NME landed a short distance away from the beast, resembling Matthew in nearly every way. Nearly, because, unlike the original, NME’s skin was gray, and his eyes were neon green. The twin rose to his feet, folding his arms and chuckling to himself.

“You look hilarious, Matt.”

Matthew twisted his neck, glaring at NME as best he could.

“Remind me to laugh later. What powers did you spawn with? Yours?”

NME flexed his arms, and then six additional arms sprouted from his back.

“Nope.” he replied. “I’m now armed and dangerous.”

Matthew strained to see, causing NME to laugh, and then the alien folded his arms and glared at the hand-beast.

“Turn me around!” he yelled at it. “You know what that word means? Around? Like this?”

Matthew drew circles in the air with his arms. Surprisingly, the beast complied, turning him in NME’s direction. The twin waved, proudly displaying his new appendages.

“I’m super strong too.” he said. “The power in these arms is amazing!”

NME fell silent for a moment, flexing his extra limbs. Matthew watched, cocking his head to the side.

“No wonder they’re so afraid of it.” the alien muttered.

NME looked at the beast again, narrowing his eyes.

“It doesn’t seem dangerous.” he muttered. “Don’t know why they’re so scared witless.”

Matthew nodded, looking at the beast out of the corner of his eye.

“Well, it’s big, black, noisy, has creepy eyes, ice-cold skin, and is about the size of a small house…there’s plenty of reason for humans to fear it. For you and I, we’re used to seeing this stuff. I can’t say the same for our camping buddies, though.”

NME shrugged, seemingly accepting the idea. “Like it or not, it exists, and…congratulations, you found it.”

“I wish I had my camera!”

“We should be getting back to camp now.” NME insisted. “You’re probably worrying everybody.”

“I guess you’re right.”

Matthew pulled himself up, grabbing the beast’s fingers and yanking on them.

“Let go, monster!” he said, trying to sound as commanding as possible.

The monster didn’t even look in his direction. It seemed focused on NME…if it could actually see out of those eyes. Shaking his head, Matthew continued to struggle. Despite his efforts, the fingers stayed where they were, gripping his foot like a gentle, yet strong vice. NME folded his arms, narrowing his eyes at the beast. If Matthew didn’t get himself free within the next few seconds…


~

Max stood there for a moment, undecided, rubbing the die between two fingers. Was it necessary to roll for an action like this? The human considered a moment, squeezing the die a couple times. Why not?

He threw it. 2.

~

Suddenly, the creature tried to grab the twin, but the alien darted out of its reach. The arm extended, but NME continued to retreat, hiding himself behind a tree. Undaunted, the beast sprouted more arms, and NME peeked around the tree, spotting them instantly.

“Stop being annoying!” he shouted, extending his extra arms and uprooting a massive tree.

~
Max felt his eyes widen. He rolled instinctively. 19.
~
He threw it directly at the monster’s face, but the beast moved its head. The tree grazed the being’s skull and went twirling away into the distance, smashing through multiple obstacles.

“Hey!” Matthew protested, still squirming in the beast’s grip. “What was that for?!”

“It’s not letting you go.”

“I can do this, myself!”

NME narrowed his eyes. No, you can’t. he thought to himself, drawing his ACST.

The bright green blade blazed to life, enhancing the greenery around it with its glow. The effect was immediate. The monster reared up, sprouting more arms and charging off into the trees. It did not let go of Matthew.

“Uh…NME?” Matthew called out. “Help?”

NME sprouted more arms, reaching for the trees around him.

“Come back here, coward!” the twin yelled, bearing down on his target. “I’m not finished with you!”

As expected, the beast did not stop. It was moving surprisingly fast, for something its size. With an irritated growl, NME pursued the monster.


~

Roll. 20.


~

However, just as the twin was within finger-lengths of catching it, the monster uprooted some trees and flung them behind it. The action caught NME off guard. Shielding his face, the twin was thrown backwards by the impact of the attack. His arms retracted, and he plunged down a small crevasse, hitting the ground back-first. Bits of dirt and debris rained down all over him. It took a little while for the world to stop spinning, but when it did, NME scrambled out of the fissure as quickly as he could. The monster was gone.

“Great!” the twin fumed. “I lost them!”

Stomping over to a tree, he prepared to kick it over…but then stopped. Looking around carefully, he moved slowly through the woods. The beast was immense, and therefore, it had to have made some sort of trail though the forest. NME was right, and soon found a wide swath of destruction. Sprouting multiple arms, NME scaled a tree and swung from branch to branch. He was going to find this beast. And he was going to get Matthew back.


***

Matthew was still, held upright now in the monster’s huge hand. He watched the foliage blur by, both impressed by the beast’s speed and terrified of it at the same time. Sure, NME had the monster’s abilities now…but how was he going to catch up to this thing? On the brighter side of the moon, the monster did leave a rather large path of destruction behind it…so maybe NME didn’t need to be fast. He just needed to follow the ruin.

Presently, the pair came into a large grassy clearing, dotted here and there with rocks of many different sizes and shapes. The monster slowed down and put Matthew on the ground. It then shuffled over to a depression in the earth and settled there, watching the alien. Matthew got up slowly, tensed to dodge, but the beast made no move to grab him again. Still…if he tried running, it would undoubtedly hold on to him again. Matthew looked around at the rocks, and then back at the beast. The depression likely meant the monster had been here before, many times…judging by the shape and depth of it. The alien stood there for a little while longer, thinking. Well…there wasn’t much of anywhere to run; he didn’t even know where to go from here. He was sure about one thing though.

This place was really far from camp.

With a shrug and a sigh, Matthew wandered a short distance and sat down. He looked at the rocks, and gathered up some small ones. He stacked them up as high as he could, and then stared at them for a moment, trying to measure his height with them.

Wherever you are NME…hurry up. Matthew thought.

Turning back to the beast, he saw it reaching for a large boulder. Matthew cocked his head, realization dawning on him.

“Oh…you want to stack rocks too?” Matthew asked it, waving his hand at his own pile. “I could show you.”

Matthew made another stack, but this time a little more slowly. The beast matched his every move, and…slowly, but surely…made its own stack of boulders. Matthew peered up at the top boulder, marvelling at the beast’s strength. Given his experience with it so far, this monster wasn’t exactly the dangerous type. Misunderstood, yes. Scary-looking, yes. As far as danger went though, the monster’s seemingly low intelligence appeared to be the only “risky” thing about it.

“Good job!” Matthew told it. “Let’s make another one!”


~

Max let the monster interact with the blue being, and…for a moment, he almost smiled. He didn’t want this to end.


~

Matthew turned to his pile and knocked it over, determined to start anew. He realized his mistake only seconds late. He whirled around, but the stack was already falling too fast to avoid. Out of the corner of his eye, the alien spotted NME as he burst into the clearing. The twin’s gaze was locked on him.

“Uh, oh…” was all he could manage before the rocks smashed down on him.

The sight caused NME’s eyes to burn with a fiercer light. With an enraged cry, he leaped towards the monster, smashing down on its back. The beast rose, staggering slightly, and a couple of its “arm legs” snapped under the pressure.


~

Max had seen the stack fall on the blue thing. He had no time to react though; the spider being that the blue one had made was back. And it was angry. He threw the die. 19.


~

The monster sprouted four extra arms, grabbing NME and throwing him off. The twin flipped a couple times, sprouting arms of different lengths; the longest ones to break the fall, and the shorter ones to ease him to the ground. One arm reached down, unclipping his ACST from his belt and turning it on. Across from him, the monster shifted its position slightly.

It recognized the weapon.

“You like it, huh?” NME growled, twirling the blade around a little. “How about a closer look?”

The twin lunged, and the beast retreated, snapping trees like they were toothpicks. NME did not hesitate, swinging fist after fist at the monster; aiming mostly for joints.


~

Get rid of the light stick! Max yelled. Watch out! Get rid of the light stick!

Feeling sweat on his palms, he rolled the die, hoping with all his heart that the beast understood. 19.


~

Handymax emitted an earth-shaking bellow, sprouting a tangling array of arms. The limbs flailed about, the confusion distracting NME long enough for the beast to slap the twin’s ACST from his hands. Separated from its owner, the blade retracted. NME turned, but the beast was advancing now, so he put up his many fists in a defensive stance. Anger blazed in his eyes, and he charged; the lower part of his face morphing into a frightening-looking fanged maw.

“DIE!” NME roared, lashing out with all his arms in unison.


~

Max rolled, and the die landed on 1. Not good.


~

Handymax moved to counter, but NME’s attack was too fast. Multiple blows smashed full force on the beast’s teeth, causing it to recoil violently. Seeing this, NME snarled viciously. He’d found a weakness. Still…he didn’t really have time to take advantage. As the beast backed off, the twin turned tail and ran back to the boulder stack. Slapping the stones aside as if they were made of Styrofoam, NME paused a moment, inspecting Matthew’s well-flattened form with a critical eye.

“I’m fine!” Matthew said, peeling himself out of his imprint.

NME crouched by Matthew, like some sort of creepy guardian spider. Although Matthew appeared to be only a little scratched up, NME remained unconvinced.

“Preliminary scans show no sign of internal damage…” the twin muttered, mostly to himself. His eyes narrowed; his maw fading out of existence.

Matthew folded his arms, making a rolling-eye motion with his head.

“See?” he stated. “I told you…”

The alien trailed off, his eyes growing wide.

“NME! Look out!” he cried, pointing behind the twin.


~

Max took a few deep breaths, the shock of the beast’s adrenaline spiking through him. The spider thing was distracted. He rolled, and the die landed on 20. The beast uprooted a large number of trees and turned towards the target. It was then when Max realized how close the blue being (who was miraculously alive) was to the spider. Uh, oh.


~

A host of uprooted trees smashed against NME’s back. The doppelganger staggered, almost falling right on top of Matthew. He whirled around, his maw appearing again. He hissed, and the monster charged right at him. NME sprang out of the way…just in time to see the beast grab Matthew again.

“Hey!” the alien protested.

Ignoring Matthew’s struggles, the beast opened its faux arm ribcage and shoved him inside. NME blinked.

The monster had eaten Matthew.

With a terrifying shriek, NME let loose with multiple punches, all aiming at the beast’s face.


~

Max poised to roll, shaking his head. He knew exactly why the spider was ticked off. For the first time that day, Max felt unsafe. Roll. 20.


~

Handymax raised his remaining arms, interlocking them before him to make a type of barrier. NME snarled, drawing most of his arms back for another series of blows.


***

Matthew woke up in complete darkness. It was very cold in here, and the weird bumpy ground kept shifting. Squinting, Matthew tried to adjust his eyes to the dark, but for some reason it didn’t work.

“Hello?” he called out.

There was no answer, but the sound of his voice told him that…wherever he was…it was a medium-sized space. Not a cave, or else there would be an echo. And it wasn’t exactly moist in here…so he probably wasn’t in the beast’s stomach…

Matthew dropped down on his hands and knees, feeling the texture of the floor. It’s frigid, leathery surface shifted at his touch, and then he figured it out. The joint pattern was repeated. He was being sheltered in the beast’s ribcage. It probably thought NME was a threat. Faced with this realization, Matthew finally became aware of the various battle sounds taking place outside his enclosure.

“NME!” the alien yelled, running over to the shelter’s wall. His hands groped about, trying to find a gap. “NME! I’m okay!”

He listened a moment, but there was no response from the outside. This was going to be tricky.


***

NME clawed and scratched wildly at Handymax’s hand barrier; his nails sending bits of flesh flying. The beast stood its ground, backing up and sprouting more arms to fill the gaps.


~

Max peeked through his fingers. The die lay before him; the number glowing brightly. He’d rolled a 19. The barrier would hold…for now. Drawing a quick, shaky breath of relief, he returned his attention back into the battle. This spider was tough!


~

Angered, the twin sprouted more arms, and finally managed to pry the beast’s hand net apart. Handymax grabbed at the offender’s wrists, trying to force NME back, but both he and the twin were of equal strength. For a brief moment, among the tangle of fingers and hands, NME spotted a pale white limb in the beast’s mouth. Deciding he had no other options, the twin made a sudden grab for it.

He succeeded.

Handymax roared, advancing slightly as NME pulled on its tongue. This was a pain it could feel, and it was excruciating. A host of the twin’s arms came for the beast’s neck, and for a moment, it looked like NME was going to win. NME’s fangs twisted into a terrifying grimace.

“You lose.” he hissed, but just as he was going to tear the white limb out…he heard Matthew’s voice. It sounded like he was alright. In that split second of confusion, the beast picked up a boulder and smashed it on the side of NME’s head, forcing him to let go of the white limb. The twin staggered and retreated for a moment, clawing and the injured area and snarling.


***

Matthew stopped yelling, shaking his head. This didn’t seem to be working. He needed to try something different. Suddenly, an idea came to him. He’d yelled at the monster to turn him around…so it might have some sort of basic intelligence.

“That’s it!” the alien cried, looking about at the interlocked arms around him. “I can get a gap in here!”

Springing towards the arm wall, he forced his fingers into a seam and began to attempt to pull them apart. He wouldn’t be strong enough to achieve such a feat, but maybe the creature would sense his intentions.

Sure enough, the beast soon became aware of Matthew’s prodding. Some of its fake rib arms separated, allowing Matthew a view of the outside. He spotted NME a short distance away, looking even more nightmarish with his fangs revealed.

“NME!” he called.

The twin crouched for an evasive maneuver, some of his arms raised and the others gripping the earth. His gaze locked on Matthew; eyes narrowed.

“Matthew?” he answered back. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine! I’m just…” Matthew stuck his hand out of the gap, waving it around. “…kinda, stuck in a different way now.”

Handymax retracted its extra arms, leaving only four limbs to support itself. It began to advance on the twin, but NME stood his ground and let off such a blood-chilling screech that the beast halted. Matthew cocked his head. Time for some major brain-bending.

“Well, now we’re back at square one.” the twin sighed, seeming slightly more relaxed. Some of his hands began fidgeting; poking at each other, at nearby plants. “The beast is passive, and you’re stuck with it.”

“Literally.” Matthew agreed.

He pushed at the gap, but the monster made it slightly smaller and began to back off. NME turned, a quizzical look on his face, and then realized the sun was coming up. Handymax continued to retreat, backing into a cave that seemed to have come out of nowhere. NME cocked his head, and then looked over his shoulder at the monster.

“Matthew…” he whispered.

“I see it.” was the reply. “I think Mr. Black here doesn’t like light.”

“Hence the coming out after dark business.”

“Right.”

The beast retreated fully into the cave. It was big enough to accommodate something its size, but that was it. If NME decided to attack…he could. The beast had basically cornered itself. NME approached the cave entrance, and the monster’s clicking sound intensified. Seeing the beast’s discomfort, Matthew looked at NME.

“You know…we’re not fighting here anymore, right?”

Nodding his understanding, NME’s arms retracted, returning him to his normal, non-threatening form. His maw even disappeared. Noting the change, the monster visibly relaxed. NME then just stood there, and put his hands in his pockets.

“Okay…” the twin began. “Now we seriously have to go to camp.”

“I’d like nothing better.”

NME stood there for a little longer, thinking, and then his face lit up.

“Alright, Matt. I have an idea.”

“Great!” was the response.

The twin turned away from the cave, took one step forwards, and then looked over his shoulder.

“Stay put.” he called. “I’ll be right back!”

He then darted off, and Matthew made an eye-roll motion with his head.

“Ha, ha…” he said to himself. “You’re hilarious, NME.”

Soon, the twin was back. As he approached the cave, Matthew caught sight of a very familiar object in NME’s hand. It was the twin’s ACST. Concern snapped through him for a moment.

“NME…? You’re not going to…”

“Relax.” NME told him, marching right up to the monster. “I know what I’m doing.”

As expected, the beast grabbed him. Holding his arm out as far as he could, NME nodded at Matthew.

“Matt! Catch!”

The toss was nearly short, but Matthew just managed to catch the weapon. Holding it tight, he pointed the ignition end as far away from the monster as he could.

“Sorry big guy.” Matthew whispered. “I have to go now.”

He turned on the ACST, and the beast’s ribcage opened immediately. The shock loosened the monster’s grip, and NME squirmed out and hit the ground running. Matthew was right behind him. As the alien ran, he looked over his shoulder. Sure enough, the monster was still in the cave. It did not look like it wanted to come out.

“Yes!” Matthew whooped. “We did it!”

“Best idea ever!” NME agreed.

The twin then sprouted multiple arms, grabbing Matthew in one. Ignoring the alien’s protests, the twin surged through the woods; pulling himself quickly along tree trunk by tree trunk. NME went in ever-expanding circles, reaching the campsite in record time. Once there, Matthew de-spawned NME and entered the camp.

The camp was unusually quiet. Fighting off the overpowering urge to tiptoe, Matthew began to walk over to the mess hall. Maybe they were meeting together there again. At this time, they should all be having dinner by now. However, if they’d all gone out looking for him, maybe…

“RECRUIT!” Sarge bellowed, seemingly popping out of nowhere.

Scavenger hunt. Matthew could have sworn he jumped 12 feet in the air at that greeting.


***

It took a long time, but Matthew finally told everyone at camp his story. Well, everything except the monster parts. He mostly kept the tale focused on him being lost and finally finding his way back. When he was finished, Sarge seemed satisfied, and then everyone had dinner. It was spaghetti and meatballs…well, that’s what Sarge called it anyways. It was actually macaroni noodles with pizza sauce and Parmesan cheese powder. But no one argued. No one argues with Sarge.

Later on, Matthew was on his way back to the boy’s bunkhouse, when Sarge approached him. Matthew mock-saluted, causing the man to grin. Sarge dropped down on one knee, took a quick look around, and then said in a low voice:

“Listen, son…I know about the monster.”

Matthew visibly stiffened. He squinted at Sarge, but the look on the man’s face was understanding, not grim.

“My first encounter with him was when I became captain of this camp; about 20 years ago. Black bandit snuck up on me while I was taking a leak beside the White River.”

Matthew’s eyes widened. “Really? What did you do?”

“Nothing!” Sarge replied, chuckling. “I fainted all sissy-like, right then and there. Thing is, my back was to White River, and no man can swim while in KO-land.”

“What happened?”

“Big beast saved me.” was the reply. “Stuck his big ol’ hand out and caught hold of me before I kissed the drink. I woke up in his hand and was pretty surprised, to say the least. He let go when I told him to, and then he just ambled off into the woods. I pulled up my pants, went over to the White and took a look at myself in it. I swear no human’s eyes could widen as much as mine that day. Never saw him again after that.”

Matthew nodded, turning the story over in his mind. Sarge didn’t seem to be the lying type.

“But you…” the man continued, nodding in the alien’s direction. “…you did see him, didn’t you?”

“See him?” Matthew laughed, putting his hands in his pockets. “I got to ride in his ribcage! We even stacked rocks together. The monster’s not dangerous; just misunderstood.”

“Agreed, which is why you did the right thing not mentioning him. There aren’t many men out there like me; who’d spare a frightening creature like that. Heh, if I’d been younger, I’d probably have taken out my gun and hunted the thing down! If the word ever got out that we had such a big, scary beast hanging around…they’d shut down the camp. And then the poor thing would have to live the life of a fugitive. No sir…your secret’s safe with me.”

Matthew nodded. “Good to hear.”


***

The next few weeks went by in a blur. Matthew made friends with everyone on campus. He had more secret conversations with Sarge about his experiences with the monster. Turned out that the “12 years of service” thing really was a joke after all, but an old one. That was why there were no reactions from the other recruit-campers. When Marco finally showed up to take him home, the alien didn’t want to leave. He told him all the fun things he’d done here, as well as all the fun he was going to have if he stayed.

“Can’t I just stay one more week?” Matthew pleaded.

Marco shook his head. “Sorry Matthew. It’s time to go home.”

The alien sighed, slinging his pack over one shoulder.

“Okay. But can I at least come back next year?”

Marco hesitated, and then glanced over at Sarge. The captain smiled.

“No worries, Hamill.” he said with a wink. “Your little alien friend will always be welcome here.”

Marco nodded, chuckling a bit, and then turned to leave. Matthew was quick to follow, turning only briefly to wave goodbye to his friends. He then hurried up to Marco and fell into step beside him.

“How come you laughed at Sarge?” the alien asked. “You never understand my Star Wars jokes.”

The man smiled, shrugging before replying. “Well…after meeting up with a couple old friends of mine, they invited me to watch some movies with them. We watched the sixth episode of Star Wars, because they insisted I looked like one of the characters in it. They were right.”

“You saw yourself?”

“Not myself. Someone who looked like me.”

“Are you absolutely sure you can’t use the Force?”

“Matthew…” Marco responded; his voice stern.

“Okay, okay.” the alien replied, putting his hands up in mock surrender. “It would have been cool…that’s all I’m saying.”

At the end of the trail, Marco got into his car, an old F150. Matthew got in, and they drove off. Before the forest completely disappeared, Matthew looked out the window, and…for just a fleeting moment, he thought he saw a big black shape in the shadow of the trees. He smiled inwardly.

Goodbye, Mr. Black. he thought to himself. See you next year.


As always, CNC is greatly appreciated!

Urako
09-05-2017, 09:49 PM
It's been a little bit but I do want you to know for the record that this was fun to read. I hope Richard likes it.

Cassandra
09-06-2017, 08:16 AM
Thanks Urako! I worked really hard on it and I'm really glad with how it turned out. :)