The Safest Summer Camp in the World 5


*Part 5 of The Safest Summer Camp in the World. If you haven’t caught up, click HERE.

It’s been half a week now. We went to the Zoo in Helsinki yesterday, so no one died. After dinner every night, the kids all gather while K tallies the number of deaths each person has and gives out rewards for creativity. It seems everyone is at four deaths except two. Ivan, a boy who was in the bathroom while everyone was poisoned on the first night, and Dasha who, after seeing me get electrocuted by the fence, ran into it herself, making her the first to five deaths. K gives her a sticker.

K and I sit by the river while the kids get ready for the next event; a disco.

“Why don’t you just shoot them all five times on the first day?” I ask.

He looks out over the lake, scratching his neck. “We tried that, but kids didn’t want to come back. It’s no fun just to die. So, we started making games and events and, well–as you can see, the kids love it.”

I light a cigarette, not able to have many throughout the day.

“Tomorrow, you can decide how to kill them, American style!”

I laugh. “You’ve already shot them enough.”

He chuckles, “You’re a funny g–” he looks past me. I turn. There is something between the trees. K stands and starts walking, I follow. He gets to the edge of the woods and frowns.

I stand next to him. After a few seconds he smiles. “Just Russian superstition.”

“Uh, okay,” I say.

He waits for me to finish my cigarette and we walk up to the disco.

The disco hall is up the road a bit. The windows are dark. There are strobe lights inside, a few kids outside. It is small, cottage-like. K stops at the door, looking around.

“If you could describe this building in one word, what would it be?” he asks me.

I look up at it. The building is small, more of a cottage.

“Cottage?” I ask.

He looks at it too.

“You’re sure?”

I take a second look. “Sure,” I decide.

“Hm, it is new,” he says, and walks in,

C is outside, talking with some kids.

“How’s the disco,” I ask.

She shrugs, “We have to be inside in ten for when K blows it up.

One of the kids groans, whining about something in Russian.

C tells him to get inside.

“What was that about?” I ask.

She rolls her eyes. “He says he died in the fire the other day so he doesn’t want to get blown up.”

I nod, it seems fair to me, but I leave it at a nod.

K comes out and calls us all in. The bomb is in the middle of the dance floor. S is the DJ. He is playing English songs from my school days;

To the window! To the wall! Till sweat drips…

I can’t help laughing. The kids are dancing like wildfire. I join in.

The countdown starts at ten minutes. Everyone dances, then, the whole place blows to bits.

Being blown up is quite different from dying in a fire, as it turns out.


The Safest Summer Camp in the World 4


*Part 4/7 of The Safest Summer Camp in the World. If you haven’t caught up, click HERE.

Over the past day I’ve gotten to know the kids a bit better. Most come from well-off paranoid families.

K finds me at night.

“The kids really like you,” he says. ”

I nod, “good.”

“Yes, they said you electrocuted yourself on the fence. That’s good!”

I shrug. “I’m coming to terms with it.”

“Coming to terms?”

“I’m good.”

He smiles. “Good, it’s nice to find an American who really cares.”

He shakes my hand before he goes. He stops and turns, “oh, tonight the kids are making museum exhibits in their rooms, do you want to come?”

“Sure. In a minute.”

I stay down by the river, smoking a cigarette. It is beautiful. I’ve been in a city so long I forget–

“Hey you.”

I turn, C is standing, leaning against a rock, she is picking something out of her teeth. I jump a little, tossing my cigarette aside. She laughs.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ve done much worse here,” she says, smiling.

I chuckle, “good.”

She looks at me, longer. “This camp is special, you know?” she says.

I nod. “How long have you been working here?”

“Oh, too long, much too long, longer even than K,” C sighs.

I frown, “that means you must have died–like a lot?”

C nods.

“Does it get any easier?”

C looks out over the water, she looks about to cry then, she snaps a smile, her teeth glint in the soft sunset. “Yes. So did K tell you about the museum?”

I nod.

“Alright, I’ll see you up there.” She turns, taking a path through the trees I hadn’t noticed prior.

A few hours later I am with the other councilors. We start in a room of boys. They are having a rap battle, it is all in Russian but it’s intense either way. It is pretty aggressive. Eventually they are yelling, just like those rap-battles on YouTube. K is clapping, S sits next to me, nodding along. As it gets to its most intense, both the boys pull out handguns and blow each other away. One of them even says “Bang-bang!” as he is firing.

The councilors all clap. I do too, my hands a little wet with blood. The rest of the rooms are similar. Some horror–one, a hospital room, another is a war of cowboys and Indians. One of the rooms is an alphabet search, I am apprehensive to elaborate on how they made the letters.

We move on to the next cabin. The first room is a bit light hearted; a commercial for instant noodles. At the end of it, they all stand there. No one claps. K frowns. He starts yelling at them in Russian, I don’t understand, but they don’t seem happy.

He shoots each of them between the eyes and we move on. The last room we come to has been turned into a giant fort. The kids all sway and there are candles everywhere. One of them plays guitar, another reads a story.

C is sitting next to me and she whispers in my ear to help me follow along.

“Once upon a time there was a peasant who fell in love with a princess. The princess, seeing him as so weak and unworthy, cast her from the kingdom simply for taking sight of her. This peasant began to study magic, the most powerful magic; fire. Each day this peasant burned a piece of himself away in the flames, only to replace it, little by little with fire. His power grew and he burned so brightly that the princess could see the light from her kingdom far away. She sent men to retrieve the source of that power. They brought the peasant to the princess, aflame. He had burned away every piece of himself. He stood there, a God. The princess fell in love, and she proclaimed it, prostrated. But the God of fire could not love a creature so weak. He answered with a whisper that burned her kingdom to ash.”

At the end, everyone claps just before the girls knock over the candles. The whole room goes up in flames.

Burning turns out to be my least favorite way to die so far.


The Safest Summer Camp in the World 3


*Part 3/7 of The Safest Summer Camp in the World. If you haven’t caught up, click HERE.

Sunlight on a lake puts everyone in a good mood; kids, doubly so. There are about fifty of them, My Mother used to sing a song when we’d go to the beach as a kid:


We’re going to the beach!

I love the beach- weee…

She was a lawyer. A group of kids have a Frisbee. The tell me in Russian that it is called “Flying Plate.”

I play a bit. A few of them are doing gymnastics on the side. We are beside a horse farm, occasionally the Frisbee will go over. One kid or another chases after it to the tune of “Oh come on!”

They duck under the fence. There is a sign with a lightning bolt on it, something written in Finnish. The kids are allowed to swim in shifts. Eventually the Frisbee players are called into the water. I walk to the shore. S is splashing about among them with a floating Go-Pro.

“Come!” he calls.

I shake my head. He gives me a disappointed look. He rallies the kids until all are chanting for me to get in. I sigh, take of my shirt and walk over to where S is standing.

“Yay,” I say–toneless and shivering.

I splash about a bit, go under. It feels nice. Then, someone cries out. I turn to find all of the kids holding each other under, one by one. I look at S, he is coming toward me, arms outstretched, smiling.

“You’re turn,” he says. His hands are on my shoulders. The body of a kid named Misha floats by.

“Wait–no!” but it’s too late, he has me under. I struggle and manage to get loose. I come up, choking. S is advancing.

“Oh–fucking wait!”

He looks confused–a bit sad.



“But, didn’t K tell you?”

I don’t respond.

“So you must?” he says. I sigh and don’t move. He takes it as a sign and comes closer. I am under for forty-five seconds–it’s hell. Then, I’m being pulled up. The water is blurring my eyes. I hack up a bunch of water. S is still holding my arms.

“Sorry–” he says, “but what is this called?”


“This.” he pushes me back under the water, then pulls me up.

I claw at his arms and back away. “Drowning! it’s called freaking drowning, man.”

S smiles. “Ah! I like that word.”

He comes closer. I hold up my hand.

“No! Hell no,” I start walking to shore, nudging the corpse of Misha out of my way. S calls after me. “Wait! We have to.”

I turn with some pretty dark language loaded into my tongue. But, from behind S, one of the other councilors dunks him under. I watch him die, shaking my head. I walk back to the kids playing Frisbee. It’s a group that have all died already. They are looking at me, disapproving. No one throws me the Frisbee. So, I go and stand beside the horse pasture. One of the younger students, a girl with glasses named Dasha, comes up beside me.

“Why didn’t you–” she points at the lake. I sigh.

“I just don’t like it,” I say, controlling my tone.

She frowns. “You’re not a fun teacher, are you?”

She walks away before I can respond. I feel somehow guilty. I look at the fence–the kids, the fence.

“Dasha?” I call. She turns.

“Check this out then,” I say, managing a small smile.

I grab the fence.

I am dead in seconds.


The Safest Summer Camp in the World 2


*Part 2/7 of The Safest Summer Camp in the World. If you haven’t read part 1, click HERE.

I open my eyes in bed. S stands over me.

“You were–” he coughs a few times. He holds out a spray bottle.

“For your,” he rubs his throat. Everything is a haze. I spray the bottle down my throat. The itch cools. I close my eyes. I feel S place a blanket over me.

“It often happens the first time,” he says. Then, I fall asleep. I have no dreams.

When I wake, S is gone. I step out into the main den. All the campers are mulling about. One camper is playing some Russian hip-hop on a portable speaker.

“Good morning,” one of the braver campers says to me. I wave, almost vomit–step back inside my room. After twenty minutes of swearing at a wall and coughing, someone knocks on my door. I crack it. K is standing there putting ice cream into whatever is hiding behind his beard. He takes one look at my face.

“Shit,” he says. “They didn’t tell you.”

It wasn’t a question, so I didn’t answer.

“Can I come in?” he asks, holding out his half-eaten ice cream as a peace offering. I step back. He doesn’t come in but instead speaks from the door.

“So–uh, what did they tell you?”

I sit down and look at my hands. They are shaking.

“Oh,” he says. “I see. Hm, okay well this camp is kind of like, spelled?”

I look up at him, “huh?”

“A bad spell.”

“A curse?”

“Ah!” he snaps his fingers. “Curse, yeah. It is cursed. No one under thirty can stay dead here.”

His eyes go wide. “You’re not thirty are you?”

“Twenty-eight,” I mumble. He sighs.

“Oh good. Well, while we are here we all have to die at least five times. And the curse will keep going. Parents send their kids here to prepare them for different deaths. So they will, well, know–you know? Not only that, but they can die as many times as they want, making us the number one safest summer camp in the world.” He swells with pride.

I try very hard to make my face show clearly that no, I do not know. He doesn’t seem to get it.

“So, you understand.”

I shake my head. “Shit, no–I’m leaving.” I stand up. My bag is still sitting on a chair, packed. He holds his ice cream out at me, like a shield.

“Ah–well, see, you already died once, and so you have to die at least four more times. If we do not all die at least five times by the end, we will not be able to leave this place.”

“Like, ever?”

He nods. “Like ever.”

He notes the look on my face. He steps closer, places a hand on my shoulder and says, “don’t worry, it will be fun. Today we go to the lake!”

I put my face in my hands.

“It will be fine, and look–it will prepare you for when the time comes. Just try to enjoy it. Set a good example for the kids? Okay? Other Americans who have come here have been pretty bad, we had to shoot one of them five times on the last day.”

I look up at him, trying to make my face do something. Instead my mouth just says “uh-huh.”

K looks guiltily at his ice cream. He sighs.


He nudges one foot with the other. “Well–you weren’t at breakfast but we had a choking competition.”

I frown, sliding back away from him as he pulls a gun from his pocket.

“Oh come the fu–”

But he shoots me between the eyes before I can finish the sentence.