Chatterbox: Pudding's Place

A Ski Lodge

You flop down onto your bed, exhausted from another long day of school. Is it really necessary for your teacher to assign you to write three essays this week? You have other stuff going on. Life. And you can’t afford to fail this class. Your academic success is hanging on a precipice, and one nudge will send it falling into an abyss so deep that it will never be found if it is lost.

The computer is open in front of you, the white, electronic pages of your word processor beckoning to you. You sit down at your desk.

And then you stand up again and go to the kitchen for a glass of water. You can’t work with a dry mouth. Then, once the water is drained, you grab an apple. It’s slightly withered, but you slice it and slowly eat. You glance over toward the counter where a digital clock squats, its red numbers blinking threateningly. 9:48. If your parents knew you were up this late on a school night, eating old apples, with three essays to write, they would go completely out of their minds.

But your parents aren’t here to boss you around at the moment, so who cares what they’d say? It’s not as if the essays were due tomorrow. At least, not all of them are. Just one.

The apple is gone, and you can no longer think of any stalling techniques. You are fighting a losing battle against yourself. It’s past ten at night, you have school tomorrow, and your teacher is expecting a nice, long essay from everyone’s favorite student.

You walk slowly back to your room and sit down at your desk. You type a few words, yawn, type a few more, open up a web browser, surf Wikipedia for a couple of minutes, yawn again. So far you have only twelve words.

You open up the CB. It’s late, you know, and no one will have posted a thing since you checked last, but maybe you can read an old ski lodge or two.

You click on Pudding’s Place, intending to look for Lake Lelilo or something, when a new thread catches your eye. A Ski Lodge, it says, in those red letters you know so well. You click on the link, and start to read.

“You flop down onto your bed, exhausted from another long day of school. Is it really necessary for your teacher to assign you to write three essays this week?”

What?

You keep reading, watching your own movements of that night laid before you in second person, right up to this very moment.

Good.

I’ve got your attention now.

My dear CBer,

You are having trouble at school. You have unwritten essays, and you don’t know what to write.

That’s okay.

We are offering you the chance of a lifetime, the chance to fix everything. Come to Camp Juniper, where you have the chance to be freed from the bonds of school. You will no longer have to study late into the night in order to pass a test. You will no longer have to struggle for hours on end in order to write a good essay. In short, we are giving you a Get Out of Jail Free card. And, if you choose not to accept this card, you will be given a free college scholarship.

There will be competitions throughout the days of camp. Each camper will have the chance to earn juniper branches. Anyone who is able to weave their branches into a wreath by the end of the camp session will earn this freedom.

Sounds nice?

We thought so.

All you have to do is fill out this form. And be prepared to die.

Name:

CBer, AE, CAPTCHA, or CAPTCHAE? (Note: CAPTCHAs, and CAPTCHAEs are not allowed):

Age:

Gender:

Companion(s) (up to 2 companions per person) (please fill out a sheet for them as well) (AEs only):

Appearance:

Personality in five words. (Any more or less and you will no longer have the privilege to eat popcorn):

Skills:

Quirks:

Brains or Brawn?:

Envy or Empathy?: 

Reverie or Realism?:

Luggage, in order from most to least important:

Choose a number:

Choose a color:

Other:

We are excited to see you. And yes, we WILL see you.

Your obedient servants,

L. Reine & B. Ambrose

P.S. The popcorn is free, as well.

P.P.S. Please be prepared to participate fully, whatever this may mean.

P.P.P.S. Obviously, this is a ski lodge.

You read over the letter again. Is it worth it? You could die. . . but people always come back to life after a ski lodge. You could be a murderer. . . but who cares about that? It’s just a story. And how hard could it be to weave a few branches into a wreath?

Yes, you decide.

It’s definitely worth it.

And so, you fill out the form.

And then, you press submit.

submitted by Liberté and Basil, Camp Juniper
(October 31, 2020 - 8:09 pm)

Ahh, Peregrine, hi!! (This is Morning.) I was so so excited when Nerd told me about your comment! Thank you so, so much for reading along, especially since you're not one of the characters, that really means a lot. It's crazy to think we're still working on this, and we're that high in the comments list?! Thanks so much for telling us, that's so cool to know. I'm so glad that you're one of the people who's reading along the whole time. Like Nerd said, your gorgeous map is one of my mental symbols for Camp Juniper. Also, the story picturing I made for you a long time ago was the inspiration for the first novel I ever finished, so combined, you are a REALLY important person in my writing, and I just want you to know how grateful I am for that. Miss you too, it's so great to hear from you! <3

submitted by Liberté and Basil, Camp Juniper
(May 7, 2022 - 8:52 pm)

Day Fourteen — Evening

Camp Juniper counselors and campers, 


Eleven AM, day fourteen


If you’re reading this, you’ve found my note taped on the back door of the lounge, and I had predicted right. I was going to die today. In which case, I’m so sorry you had to witness that, but it wasn’t exactly my first choice either. Dying like that, that is.


I wrote this letter for several reasons, but the main reason was I thought you all deserved to know the truth. No, I’m not the murderer. They are unfortunately still alive. However, I do have a sort of significance to this camp. I promise this isn’t for nothing, I wouldn’t waste your time like that. 


Totally not. 


Hm? 


Where was I? 


Oh, right. 


I was the girl with the frizzy hair who kept trying to give you or get you to do strange things. On day one, I tried to give Hot Cocoa a stick of gum that would prevent cyanide poisoning. On day twelve, I tried to get Braoin to leave the craft hut before the murderer could strike. I had many other failed attempts as well, but you get the point. And, on the days I couldn’t seem to get away, Basil aided me in my tasks. I don’t, however, know the true identity of the murderer. That information was never disclosed to me, and it worked in a different section of the music than I did. While it would have been great to fully stop the murderer right at the beginning, it was also nice to prevent the death, even though I didn’t do much.


I mean, I did a total of nothing, but hey, it's the thought that counts.


Now, you’re probably wondering how I was able to know who to protect, when, and how. If I was in your spot, I definitely would be, but if you don’t care, neither do I, and I’m going to tell you anyway. Every morning, I was notified who was going to die and when. If the death wasn’t early morning, I’d be able to receive what I needed to prevent it. Then, just beyond the craft hut, in the forest, there was a small clearing where the materials I needed always laid. I would simply grab them and relay them to the person in question. However, if I needed to remove the person from a situation instead, I’d receive a small letter telling me how and when. Those who died between twelve AM and five-thirty AM would unfortunately be lost, since I did not wake until five, and couldn’t get to the forest until five-thirty at the earliest. In most cases, it was like I was anti-Death. I was not successful (obviously), but at least I was trying.


…right…?


I forgot you can’t answer me. I’m dead. Sincerest apologies. 


Anyways, I’m dead now, so it's not like I can do anything about it. If you’re mad about that, you should try being anti-Death and see how much you like it. *Insert sarcastic smiling emoji here.*


I seem to have fallen into a tangent. Back to what I was saying, why wasn’t I successful? I don’t know. If I would have been able to say what I was doing, possibly tell the other person they were dying and how, maybe I would’ve been 100 times more successful.


But that’s not how it worked.


I wasn’t allowed to say a word to any of the counselors, but somehow, Basil was working with me before I even knew it. He was the only one to talk to about the heavy things with, the only escape from the daunting task I had at hand. And right now, I believe he’s the only counselor I would trust. Period.


Okay, now for the sort of “duh” part. Why didn’t I save myself from death if I knew about it? That’s the same question I asked myself the entire day. When I woke up and first heard I was dying, I also knew something else. The music was growing weaker. It told me I was dying, how, and when, but it was so hard to hear. When I arrived at the spot in the forest, nothing was there.


Nothing.


I figured it was stupid to be able to try and save myself, but I was devastated. Definitely threw a small temper tantrum in the forest for all the weird forest creatures to hear, but you would’ve been upset, too, if you ever had to face knowing you were dying and couldn’t do anything about it. ANYWAYS, that’s beside the point. The camp didn’t help me, I died, and there will 100% be more death. I also have a theory.


A really important theory. 


On the eve of day nine, Camp Juniper awakened, giving us the library. The awakening also brought a more intense evil to this reality. At the beginning of the summer camp, the music was loud, almost overpowering for me. This music was the good kind, not the evil. As the days went on, the music began to fade, but nothing too noticeable at first. I could tell Camp Juniper was dying, and along with it, so was I. When day ten hit, that’s when I first realized something was up. The music was quieter than it had been, but that wasn’t the only problem that I had noticed that day. When we finished letter writing, I headed to the library’s restroom. Right before I got there, I heard a sound, one that I hadn’t heard before. It wasn’t good music, not at all. It was the music of the evil; it was the music that helped the murderer. When I heard that, I knew we were all in serious trouble. As camp juniper began to wake up, to become more sentient, the evil grew and Camp Juniper began to lose its powers. Now, here’s my theory. Since I was brought here as a part of Camp Juniper, as it woke and died, I started to die along with it. I think I died because Liberté and Basil’s precious camp grew too weak to help me, and the evil dominated. I don’t know if that is entirely true, but it is definitely a theory you all should keep in mind through your days left at camp. 


I better wrap this letter up now, I’ve been gone from our communal cabin for just about an hour now, and I don’t want to worry Adrian more than I already have. Again, I’m sorry about the nature of my death, and good luck with the next few days; I know you’ll need it.


With all love and hope for y’all’s safety and well-being,


NerdFace


A.K.A. the girl with the frizzy hair.

 

***

 

Liberté was angry. Not only did NerdFace just insult her camp, but she also called out Liberté herself. Nerd called Liberté untrustworthy. Liberté thought she was the most trustworthy person she had ever met. That part didn’t bother her that much, though. She’d been called way worse things back when she had lived in France. The thing that bothered her most was that Nerd had said Basil, of all people, was the only one to trust. Basil Ambrose. Basil, who disappeared for days on end back in the other realm, and showed up acting like he hadn’t been missing for three days. Basil Ambrose was not trustworthy, NerdFace was a compulsive liar, Liberté was the world’s best camp counselor, and Camp Juniper was not alive. It couldn’t be, it was just a chunk of land in another dimension. Land couldn’t live. It was just land. 

 

To Liberté all of these things were the truth, or, rather, the truth she knew and believed. To everyone else, not a single thing she just thought was true.

 

But why would Liberté need to lie?

 

Liberté would never lie, at least she never used to. So what was causing her to believe these things, to live this sort of life?

 

Camp Juniper was definitely part of the reason.

 

It looks like we’ll just have to find out.

*** 

Dead: 14 (Hot Coco, Ydris "Masquerade" Dìomhaireachd, Felix, Inari, Summer, AutumnArtist, Nightfall, Aspen, Luna-Starr, Freak, Zachary, Braoin, Sammy Everlast, and NerdFace. May they rest in peace in the glory of Camp Juniper) 

Alive: 7

Suspects: Liberté suspects everyone. It's all your fault.

Enemies of Snow: Let's be truthful here, Snow pretty much hates the whole world.

Juniper Leader: Sterling (three juniper branches)     

submitted by Basil, Camp Juniper
(May 13, 2022 - 12:15 pm)
submitted by NEW PART OUT!, Camp Juniper
(May 13, 2022 - 12:16 pm)

Day Fifteen — Morning

There were seven campers left.

Ari. Sterling. Icarus. Dreamii. Pine. Kitty Cat. Adrian.

They were angry, scared, lonely, and tired. They were in a summer camp, in a different dimension, trapped with a murderer, a cook, and three scary counselors. And yesterday afternoon, the only person who had been trying to protect them had been killed in the most gruesome, grisly way that they could ever have imagined. CBers who had lost their AEs, AEs had lost their CBers, and everyone had lost their friends. 

There were only seven left, and they were all huddled together in one room.

After Nerd’s letter was found and read the night before, everyone was slightly shell shocked. There was so much new and impossible information, so many incomprehensible things to process. Nobody wanted to leave the room where the letter lay, the only remnant of NerdFace, who had been struggling alone, trying to save the camp. So, after much wheedling from Basil and grumbling from Liberté, the counselor had announced an impromptu sleepover in their lounge. Palenia Piper had whipped up an enormous bowl of popcorn, Liberté had put on her favorite movie, and everyone had fallen asleep to the sound of French football players arguing over the heart of a girl who looked like a younger, better liked, manic pixie dream girl version of Liberté Reine herself.

Adrian was curled up on the small green sofa where Aspen had been interrogated by Liberté and Basil. They slept better that night than they had in all the days since their sister had died.

Near Adrian’s sofa were two monstrosities. One, of course, was Liberté’s retro orange couch. Kitty Cat, upon entering the lounge for the first time, had complained that the awful thing was making their eyes bleed, and although it was a bit of an exaggeration, everyone did agree that whenever they looked at it, it felt as though their eyes could start bleeding at any moment.

Lying on top of the couch was the murderer.

They were awake, and they were watching.

The hard, cold eyes of the killer wandered across the room, taking in all of the people. There weren’t very many of them. Just six other campers and three counselors. They all looked so soft and innocent. The soft, morning light was streaming in through the magenta curtains, illuminating everyone in a pale pink haze. For a moment, the murderer felt as though something old and ruthless inside of them was beginning to melt away. Why were they doing this again? These people were children, just a group of people who wanted to have fun at a summer camp. To play games and eat food and have pillow fights. Why did they have to die?

Then they remembered themself.

Of course these people had to die. They all had to die. And it was the murderer’s job to make that happen. In fact, why not end it all now? Everyone was in a room together. All that the murderer had to do was press a single button, and their job would be done. They would be free to leave, to get out of that stupid camp and back into a world where things made sense.

Yes.

They would kill everyone immediately.

The murderer quietly slipped off of the couch and padded across the room, their fluffy socks quieting their footsteps. They knelt down next to Liberté’s ancient CD player and flipped through her collection of CDs. Most of them were in French, and the murderer discarded them quickly. Too risky. For all they knew, Liberté could enjoy songs about murdered people being resurrected. The killer didn’t know if music had the power to bring back the dead, but it wouldn’t be wise. So nothing French. There was an entire mixtape of songs about fire that they seriously considered, but Icarus had already claimed arson as his own. The murderer was a murderer, but they still had some sense of ethics, and it wouldn’t be fair to steal someone else’s signature crime. There was an album called Silent Shout by a band called The Knife, but that probably wouldn’t work.

And then they found it. A single, perfect song that would do everything that needed to be done. Homemade Dynamite, by Lorde.

The murderer opened the case of the CD, their hands shaking slightly. This was a big moment. A huge moment. Soon, everything would be alright, and they would be free to live their life again. They pulled out the CD, placed it in the machine, and navigated to the correct track. A small smile slipped over their face.

“Good morning, lovelies,” the killer whispered. “But also. Good night.”

They pressed play.

The music began, the instrumentals sliding through the room, hovering over Liberté’s bottles of perfume, the frayed wires that connected the television to electricity, a huge jug of floor cleaning solution. The murderer could see a thousand things that could catch fire and blow up. The words began to play, and the killer shivered with joy.

And…

Nothing happened.

Adrian rolled over in his sleep. Liberté snored. No one blew up. And, all of a sudden, the murderer understood something.

They weren’t in charge. They didn’t choose who got to die, or how, or when. They didn’t even know why anyone was dying at all. They were someone’s tool, just as much as Luna-Starr or Sammy Everlast had been the murderer’s own tools. They had no power, and all of a sudden, the music that had been accompanying them for the whole journey stopped working. The murderer had finally made a decision of their own, finally taken matters into their own hands. And it didn’t matter. They opened their mouth and tried to scream, to weep, to do something, but an invisible gag muffled their voice, because whatever was in charge didn’t want anyone except for the murderer to be awake. They walked across the room towards the place where Liberté lay, talking in her sleep to someone named Pierre. The murderer raised their foot and tried to stomp on Liberté’s nose.

But nothing happened.

They tried to pull Basil’s hair.

Nothing happened.

They took a sharp pencil and tried to poke Snow in the cheek.

The murderer heard a wailing in their ears, and they crumpled to their knees. They had tried to do too much that they weren’t supposed to, and now even their own body was rebelling against them, because they had no control, no power. They had nothing at all. Slowly, almost indiscernibly, Lorde’s voice faded away and turned into another, higher voice, crooning a lullaby.

Hush, little baby,

Don't say a word.

The murder’s eyes fluttered shut just as Basil began to wake up.

***

Basil Ambrose’s eyes slowly opened, and he took in the scene around him. At first he was confused as to why he was lying on the floor, and more importantly, why he was this close to Snow, who was a notorious kicker. Then, he remembered.

The letter.

Nerd.

Basil stumbled up to his feet, running his fingers through his tangled, sleep ruffled hair and tried to keep himself from panicking. Somehow, everything felt realer that morning. In the rose colored morning light, all the cruelty at his camp only stood out more. And he, the director — co-director — of Camp Juniper was doing absolutely nothing to make any of it better. He was a failure, almost as bad as the murderer themself. He needed to do something, anything, that would make things just a little bit less terrible. And there was only one place he knew of where that could happen.

Basil pulled on a coat. It was too small for him, it didn’t even belong to him, and Camp Juniper wasn’t even supposed to be able to make him cold. Not him. Not Basil. But that didn’t matter, because everything was falling apart. He ran through the camp, racing into the forest, making turns and leaping over fallen branches almost automatically. He had come here a thousand times before, and he would be able to find it with his eyes closed and his hands tied behind his back.

And then he slammed into a tree.

Basil looked up, startled. There was no tree in front of him. Or, at least, there wasn’t supposed to be. And yet, there it was, a majestic pine tree that looked as though it had been growing there for a thousand years. Basil knew the forest like the back of his hand. No, better. He had spent more hours wandering through these trees than any other person could ever dream of. There should not have been a tree there.

He whirled around, looking around him. Could he have made a wrong turn? His heart racing, he slipped through the trees until he was somewhere familiar again, and, concentrating completely this time, he made his way to the clearing where Nerd received her instructions, the clearing where he could go to think, the clearing where all the terrible and confusing things in the world made a little bit more sense. But instead, he found a pine tree.

He had followed the route to the clearing, the most important part of the forest. But the clearing wasn’t there.

For the last time, he felt the feeling sink in, the knowledge and certainty that he had only ever experienced in that clearing. He knew that it was gone now, that it had died with Nerd. It had never been his at all, it had belonged to her and her alone. Now that she was gone, it was gone too.

Basil looked down and saw blood on his hands. Dripping, wet, and ruby red. He looked down, and there was Nerd’s body. Her blood was on his hands, her blood and the blood of every other child who had died in his camp. He blinked, and it was gone, but he could still feel it, still feel the burning guilt and the slick feeling of the blood on his hands.

Basil fell to his knees and wailed.

The murderer snuck up behind him.

They were tired, and their whole body was screaming for sleep. Lullabies swam through their head, swirling through their ears, and their eyes were barely open. But they felt a kinship for this man. Both of them had lost something important. Both of them were powerless, and both of them felt the deaths of the campers weighing on their backs.

The murderer hummed a lullaby, and Basil screamed. “Shhh,” the killer said. “It’s only me.”

“Oh. That’s alright then.”

“I know how you feel, Basil.”

“What?”

“It feels like something is missing, something you should be able to do, something you’ve done a million times before. And now you can’t. It feels like every part of you is rebelling against yourself. And it’s hard. It’s so, so hard. But you’re not alone, Basil. I know how you feel, and I’m right here beside you. I won’t say that everything will be okay, because it won’t. It probably never will be again. But I’m here.”

Basil sighed in relief, and the tension on his shoulders lifted, just a tiny bit. “Thank you.”

“It’s what I’m here for.”

Basil curled down, huddled on the soft forest floor, and the murderer lay down beside him, finally giving in to the lullabies that coursed through their mind. Their eyes closed, and they slept.

***

Dead: 14 (Hot Coco, Ydris "Masquerade" Dìomhaireachd, Felix, Inari, Summer, AutumnArtist, Nightfall, Aspen, Luna-Starr, Freak, Zachary, Braoin, Sammy Everlast, and NerdFace. May they rest in peace in the glory of Camp Juniper) 

Alive: 7

Suspects: Liberté suspects everyone. It's all your fault.

Enemies of Snow: Let's be truthful here, Snow pretty much hates the whole world.

Juniper Leader: Sterling (three juniper branches) 

submitted by Liberté and Basil, Camp Juniper
(May 25, 2022 - 10:36 am)
submitted by NEW PART OUT
(May 25, 2022 - 10:38 am)
submitted by NEW PART OUT!
(May 25, 2022 - 1:02 pm)

Day Fifteen — Afternoon

Almost exactly at noon, Liberté woke up with a start. Something was wrong.

She wasn’t supposed to have slept in. Today was the day of the Camp Juniper Olympics.

It was the fifteenth day of her summer camp, the three quarters mark. Everything was going wrong, but she would make sure that this, at least, went exactly as she had planned. 

“Wakey wakey, little campers! We’ve got a big day ahead of us, and we’ve already slept half of that away. If we’re going to get in the planned amount of fun, we’re going to have to work extra hard! Good morning, good afternoon, whatever you want me to say. Just get out of bed, make sure your sweatshirts are on, and then put a jersey on top of that. Jersey colors should match your cabin, scarlet, lilac, and chartreuse. We were originally planning to have all our three teams in competition with each other, but we seem to have a bit of a shortage in the people respect what with all the murder, so it’s every person for themself. Up, up, up! Palenia Piper made mac and cheese, and it is getting cold!”

By this time, everyone in the room was wide awake and heavy with jetlag. The distance between deep sleep and complete, utter wide-awakeness is about as far as a trip across the Pacific Ocean, and it’s a difficult trip to make in less than a minute. Liberté, however, had somehow managed to make every camper wake fully up. There is a magic that is only held by stressed French camp directors, and Liberté was in full control of her powers, and she loved it.

But there was still something wrong. Nothing was supposed to be wrong. It was the fifteenth day of camp, she was in charge, and everything was going to go right if she had to kill someone herself for it. Her face burned red, her gaze smoldered like a thousand coals that were about to burst into flames, and when she grabbed dreamii’s collar and started to shout, the campers were almost able to hear the hint of a genuine French accent.

“Where is Basil?!” Liberté shouted, bits of spit flying onto dreamii’s face. dreamii cowered.

“I don’t know. Please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die.”

Liberté’s face turned from red to purple. “Look around you, honey pie. Do you see all the people missing? No, you don’t. Because they are dead. Murder is not something to joke about. Now. Where. Is. Basil. Ambrose?”

“I’m right here,” Basil said. Behind him, the door to the lounge swung shut, and the murderer joined their companions. “Just needed a little walk to clear my head, and my friend there wanted to come with me. You didn’t notice your missing camper though.”

Liberté rolled her eyes, and settled down, going from a fire breathing dragon to more of an angry knight whose horse got eaten by a dragon. “Whatever. Everyone, sweatshirt and jerseys on, and shuffle your cute little feet into the dining hall. We’ve got a show to run.” No one moved. “Scoot! Or you’ll be doing the fantastically difficult Olympic tasks that I have planned without the benefit of lunch or breakfast. Believe me, honey pies, that would most certainly not be a fun experience. Snow! Get me some hot chocolate. You kids are tiring me out already, and I desperately need a sugar boost.”

Snow rolled her eyes in a motion almost identical to her aunt’s, but she walked over to the microwave on the other side of the room and started preparing Liberté a mug of cocoa. Even seven year olds with sharp fingernails can be a little bit terrified by Liberté Reine. As the microwave and her niece did their work, Liberté began to herd the campers out the door of the lounge. “Lunch, lunch, lunch! Hurry up, honey pies! It’s going to be cold and congealed and slightly awful, so you’d better hurry up!”

Four minutes later, the entire population of Camp Juniper was in the dining hall, sitting at tables with heaping plates of hot dogs, mac and cheese, fruit, chips, cookies, and pretty much every lunch food they could think of to ask for. They had moved as fast as they possibly could, and were now devouring their food at a slightly sickening pace, but it still wasn’t enough for Liberté. She was speed-walking around the room, hitting the backs of campers’ heads with a rolled up piece of paper and frantically shouting endearments in the hopes of motivating people to move more quickly. Lunch was over in half an hour, and everyone rushed into the activity field, where, somehow, an entire track and football field had somehow been set up.

Adrian knelt down and poked the track. “This thing is amazing. At home, the track is absolute trash. Nerd’s friends are always complaining about…” they trailed off. Right now, a bad track was still the worst thing that Nerd’s friends had to worry about. Adrian would give anything to back home, to not know that Nerd was gone, for everything to be the same again. “I wish…”

“Well, darling,” Liberté snapped, “I wish a lot of things too. One of those things would be that you take your grimy little finger off my nice track and put your even grimier feet on it. You’re running the two hundred. Hurry up and put on some running shoes, it’s almost time to go! Quick run-through of the events! We’re having traditional track and field races, like running, hurdles, jumping, stuff like that. Basil will oversee this. We’ll have a few more traditional camp activities, like potato sack and three legged races, as well as intellectual activities like chess. I’ll be supervising that, of course. And then we’ll have the more violent bits, like wrestling, jousting, fencing. Stuff like that. Snow will take care of that. The event schedule has been printed out and posted on pretty much every tree. Go check them out and get ready to tear each other’s heads off. Not literally, though, because I have enough murder paperwork to get done already. Now go play games!”

***

The murderer was throwing the discus. They hefted the heavy disc and eyed their competitors. The myth of Apollo and Hyacinthus raced through their brains, the god who killed the man he loved with a misthrown discus. It would be so easy to kill their competition and call it an accident. They might not even be suspected. But the events of that morning raced through their head, and they continued to throw the disc in perfect, straight lines. They weren’t in control. They were never in control.

***

Adrian raced the two hundred meters against Kitty Cat. The two sprinters knelt on the track, their feet braced against the metal starting blocks. The starting gun fired, and Adrian ran as fiercely and frantically as if the gun was loaded. Perhaps, in some corner of their mind, they thought that it was. It certainly did seem cruel to fire a gun, even just a starting gun, in a camp full of murder. As Adrian’s legs cycled faster and faster, memories raced through their brain, moving even faster than Adrian themself. Memories of going to track meets with Nerd, or of seeing their CBer come home after a meet and complain how utterly boring it was. Adrian would give anything to be bored with Nerd again.

***

dreamii was relieved when she was assigned to the potato sack race. No tying herself to someone else, no equipment to depend upon besides the single bag that she had to jump in.

This relief melted away when her potato sack ripped down the middle. She sprawled on the grass, and the wet, green blades slapped her in the face. She lay there for a moment as Sterling and Ari hopped past her in a frantic dash for the finish, tripping over each other and falling into a pile of limbs and potato sacks only a yard away from the end.

The whole thing was just so pointless. 

***

Pine was assigned to wrestle Kitty Cat. In general, he wouldn’t want to attack a random person, even if it was to earn a fancy tree branch. So, he started out soft. Unfortunately for Pine, Kitty Cat had no such qualms, and they came for Pine’s throat. In the figurative sense. Everything that they did was completely legal under the rules that Snow had laid out (and, in fact, they were much kinder than Snow might have liked to see.) And once Pine began to feel truly threatened, he started to try a little harder. But, in the end, he still came out on the other side with a black eye and a bit of a bruised ego. Kitty Cat, on the other hand, felt amazing.

***

There were few things that Icarus disliked more than losing. And so, when he discovered that he would be racing the mile against Sterling, his own CBer, there was nothing that he wanted more than to win. Half an hour before the race was scheduled to begin, he was already stretching. Most of his stretches were standard: knee hugs, squats, hip swings, and the rest of the standard repertoire. Some of them, however, were a bit less standard, and involved playing leapfrog over dreamii’s back, which she did not appreciate. It paid off in the end, though, because he passed Sterling in the first lap, and continued to steadily build his speed until the finish. “Ha!” he panted, “I beat you!” Then, he stumbled to the edge of the activity field to throw up.

***

After her own AE had defeated her in the mile, Sterling was utterly humiliated. That, combined with the epic fail of a potato sack race, made it nearly impossible that she would end up winning another juniper branch. In the long run, however, this didn’t particularly matter. She still had more branches than anyone else, but she might as well throw the rest of her competitions and dedicate herself to what really mattered — revenge. Water balloons thrown at her AE’s head, stealing his javelin, tripping him up in the three legged race. Yes, it was petty, but it felt amazing. And even though he kept on winning things, Sterling was satisfied to think that she had made it a lot more difficult.

***

After about two minutes of watching Pine and Icarus struggle over the chess board, Liberté gave up on supervising. “I can’t stand this anymore,” she cried, pushing Pine away from the table and sitting at his place. “Icarus, I challenge you to a battle of wits, the greatest game of all time. Prepare for annihilation, because you are going to play chess against the notorious Liberté Reine.” She used her knight to jump over a pawn, and two minutes after that, Icarus had her in a checkmate and Liberté was utterly humiliated.

***

Ari pulled the fencing mask over her face and smiled softly. This was her kind of sport. Fierce and wholehearted and loud. The clashing of foil against foil. There was no underhandedness, because a fencer’s honor is stronger than anything, even their arms, and their wit is quicker than anything, even their feet. It’s a mental game, and she, Ari, was a master. Her blade flickered through the air, and, for a moment, everything felt as though it was going to be alright.

***

Kitty Cat was doing pretty well in the Olympics. They had won a few games, lost a few games, nothing of significance. But, just after they had managed to soundly defeat dreamii in a game of paintball, a thought struck them so hard that they almost fell over. This field was the same place where the campers had arrived on the first day of camp, where the ice cream party had happened. The same place where they had stood by as Hot Coco died. They were back at the very beginning, and nothing had gotten better. It was all so much worse.

***

There were more games, of course, more humiliating defeats and triumphant victories. But that wasn’t what mattered. What matters was that in the end, no one was dead, Liberté had erased all her memories of her chess defeat, dreamii wanted nothing more than to go to sleep but also didn’t want to share a room with Kitty Cat, and Icarus had won a juniper branch.

And it was time for a mass funeral.

***

Dead: 14 (Hot Coco, Ydris "Masquerade" Dìomhaireachd, Felix, Inari, Summer, AutumnArtist, Nightfall, Aspen, Luna-Starr, Freak, Zachary, Braoin, Sammy Everlast, and NerdFace. May they rest in peace in the glory of Camp Juniper) 

Alive: 7

Suspects: Liberté suspects everyone. It's all your fault.

Enemies of Snow: Let's be truthful here, Snow pretty much hates the whole world.

Juniper Leader: Sterling (three juniper branches)  

submitted by Liberté and Basil, Camp Juniper
(May 26, 2022 - 10:04 am)
submitted by top, TOP
(May 27, 2022 - 11:55 am)

Hello! I'm back and I'm so sorry for disappearing! You both are amazing as always and I love everything about Camp Juniper. Have a bunch of random thoughts:

~Sammy's death with so epic I don't even know what to say.

~Ari is my number one suspect for murderer. In most cski lodges she would seem a bit too suspicious, but I'm thinking the bigger reveal is being saved for the accomplice, who I have no guesses for.

~I'm trying to figure out why Camp Juniper would be dying. Could it be the Mystery? That would be awesome. 

~So proud of Pine for becoming my spiritual successor. I hope he lives long enough to see the mysteries through. 

~Nerd's death was insane! The bit about her being able to help others and know of their deaths was cool, though, and tragic. 

That's all I've got for now! I love Camp Juniper and I'm so proud of you for seeing it through to the end. 

submitted by Luna-Starr, age they/he, Existential Ponderment
(May 28, 2022 - 1:46 pm)

I just wanted to say that you guys are fantastic writers and I really don't want this thread to die. I admire your perseverance in continuing so much after nearly two years and I'm going to try my best to top this thread so the newer generation of CBers can enjoy it as much as I do, going back and reading it through. Thank you so much for writing this far and please please don't stop now! I really want to see how this ski lodge ends. I hope you don't feel like no one is reading along because I am dedicated and I know a couple other people are too. I will be eagerly awaiting the next part!  

 

~ LunaWolf 

submitted by LunaWolf , age 12 winters, Narnia
(June 1, 2022 - 3:09 pm)
submitted by Top!
(June 1, 2022 - 3:09 pm)
submitted by Top please :)
(June 1, 2022 - 3:10 pm)
submitted by TOP
(June 1, 2022 - 3:11 pm)

THIS IS AMAZING

OH MY GOSH WHERE DO I START

The music! Nerd as frizzy hair! How the murder is realizing they have no power??? AH-

Ari is deffinitly the #1 suspect.

Keep going! I'll be reading on :] 

submitted by Writing_in_the_dark, age 12, Valhalla
(June 5, 2022 - 2:51 pm)
submitted by Top!
(June 9, 2022 - 1:59 pm)