The summer camp I was hired to work at looks like every summer camp from every movie I’ve ever seen just before everyone gets murdered by one urban legend or another; except in Finland. And Finland looks like a topographical map I made in the seventh grade.
On the five hour bus ride from St. Petersburg, Russia to the middle of Where-The-Fuck, Finland, I met the camp leader, K. He had a beard–a big one.
When we arrive, the campers from the previous session are there, crying, hugging–crying again. I take to the outskirts of the crowd. A man, another camp leader, finds me. His name is S. His English isn’t as good as K’s but he’s got a better smile. He shows me to my room, which is also his room.
He smiles. “We will be–what’s the word?” He points at himself, then me.
“Yes,” he says, “roommates. Good.”
He leaves me to unpack. I go outside to look around. The bulletin board is all in Russian, the leaders, the campers, the food and the clothing, Russian. The trees are Finnish. I stand there, American, confused.
Dinner time makes its way around. The food is good, though Russian. There are other counselors. One, a woman, speaks English quite well; her name is C.
“How do you like the food?” C asks.
“Good,” I say. She frowns. “Do you live in Russia?” she asks.
“Why?” she asks.
I look around the table of camp counselors. The eating has slowed.
“Uh–I like it,” I tell her, then add, “so, what do we do tonight?”
“Some games to learn everyone’s names, some dancing,” K tells me.
So, after dinner we all make our way into the main hall of a large cabin. Everyone stands in a circle. There are a number of instructions that get given out in Russian; most of which fly past my ears without bothering to stop. S is the DJ. In every moment where silence might make its way in, S plays some hip-hop song.
The campers start stepping out onto the floor one by one. They say their name, do a dance, and step back. Then everyone says hi and repeats their name. S hits play on the music after each one. After six or seven students I slowly start to realize the song being played.
One student steps out, a boy, “Misha,” he says.
“Hi, Misha!” the campers call.
Then, over the speakers, the song plays: “Damn, who’s a sexy bitch…”
S pauses it. I frown. The next student steps forward.
“Sasha!” she says.
“Hi Sasha!” the campers call.
“Damn, who’s a sexy bitch…”
I look over at S. I look around the room. Everyone is smiling, dancing a bit; excited.
“And I am K!” K cries, throwing open his arms.
“Damn, who’s a sexy bitch…”
I stand back, shrug and do a dance when my time comes.
Then, things slow down. Everyone sits. K lights a candle and it starts getting passed around the room. Everyone speaks a bit, in Russian. C sits next to me.
“You need to talk about how you feel,” she whispers.
“Uh-huh,” I tell her, not having a damn clue what that means.
She taps me, “and when you agree with something someone says, rub your hands together,” she tells me.
“Mhm,” I say, noticing the room do just that. Then, before I realize what is happening, the candle is in my hand. I stare down at it.
“Wait, what?” I ask C.
“Talk about your feelings,” she tells me.
I look around the room. Fifty Russian teenagers wait, polite.
“My feelings about what?” I whisper.
“Camp,” she says.
I sigh. “Hmm, well, Uh–I feel confused. And–uh, old, yeah you all make me feel old,” I say, then, looking away I mutter, “that was a weird thing to say.”
“The food is good,” I add, louder. Then I pass the candle quickly away, as though it were on fire. C takes it. Then, from my left someone whispers, “your hobbies!”
“His hobbies!” someone adds, from my right.
The candle is back in my hand, it burns.
“Your hobbies,” C tells me.
“Oh-uh, I like to read and uh…”
I look around. K saves me by rubbing his hands in the air. The rest of the students do the same. I take the opportunity to pass the candle on. I take a breath and sweat for the rest of the candle-time.
At the end K places the candle in the center of the room. All the campers gather around it, then on three, everyone blows it out together. There is cheering, there is music.
“Damn, who’s a sexy bitch, damn, who’s a sexy bitch…”
Someone brings in snacks, juice. Everyone eats first. A drink is put in my hand, it is red, sweet. Ten minutes later everyone lays on the floor, dead. The smallest ones fall first. I am one of the last, confused, unable to breath. S is one of the last as well. We lay next to each other. With his last breath, he frowns.
“What do you call this?” he asks.
I choke on nothing, everything is going black.
“Dying?” I manage, no longer having the energy to panic.
He smiles, fading away with an ‘ah-I-knew-that’ look on his face.
TO BE CONTINUED…
**Hi everyone, so just wanted to note that this will be my longest sequential series. It will be a series of 7. It will start today. If you want you can wait till next week and binge it in one go but, if you trust me, let it come together slowly. Either way, I hope you enjoy how it all comes out. Be warned…there is some pretty dark humor on the way.