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Horror Fiction Crime

The Pop-up Camp

            I collect fishhooks whenever I find them. I string them like a beautiful curtain between two trees. There are many ways out of my camp. You can run one way and get the hooks. You can jump out into the reservoir and swim away. Some people try to go back the way they came in, back on the old hiker’s trail. The reservoir is huge now that the dams don’t work. It’s deep in the middle and rocky at the edges. Diving is a real bad idea, but it’s an idea that comes to people when they’re in a hurry. The old hiker’s trail is all safe, that’s the way I come and go, but don’t tell anybody.

            There are still leftovers from camps that popped up around the reservoir, back when the towns first became unsafe. People came out here to where I live to try to wait it out. I came out here when the towns became unsafe for me. That was ten years before the sickness came. I had to come out here when the social workers found the bits and pieces of the things I had been digging up. They found my artwork, the skin dollies I made, and all the bits that I hadn’t finished with yet. They found some of my food pieces too.

            Sheriff Steve had a real soft spot for me. He knew my parents and what they did, and he felt really bad for me even before they found my rotting things. He bought me a new dress. Sheriff Steve didn’t say much, but he did tell me about his hunting camp and his pop-up camper. He told me to lay low. And so, I did. He came out on his quad-machine pretty regularly before the sickness came.

            It’s been ten years since I moved here and three years since people started coming here from the towns. They don’t know how to live here, and they bring all the wrong things with them. I go out at night and pick up the things they drop. I hear them crying and screaming all the time now. They sure do a lot of hurting on one another. After they hurt each other I usually wait awhile, if that means I don’t get their best things than that is just fine with me. I get all their things eventually anyway, or they leave and take them with them, back the way they came, back along the old hiker’s trail.

            If they find me, that’s when it gets really hard. I don’t want to hurt anybody—but I don’t want anybody hurting on me. I’ve, “had enough of that for three lifetimes,” is what Sheriff Steve says. When they come here, and they see me, and they take things, and they want to hurt me really bad again, that’s when, “I have to stand up for myself and protect M-E, me,” that’s what Sheriff Steve says. I used to hide and then hit them hard with the old metal shovel Sheriff Steve kept behind the pop-up camper. One time I missed and almost got hurt, but I was able to push the boy off the bank and onto the reservoir rocks. I don’t know if he couldn’t swim or if his head was bleeding really bad. I think maybe both.

            I hung the fishhook curtain because it was pretty. My mother had curtains. There are so many fishhooks you can find when you walk along the reservoir rocks.

            I sharpened some sticks I took from my fire. I make them real hard with the hot coals. I sharpen them with the big knife Sheriff Steve keeps in his camper. I made them smooth using the rough sand by the water’s edge, then I placed them every so often behind trees along the old hiker’s trail. They’re handy for stabbing. I decided to do this after two of the people who had run away from town liked my dress and wanted to take it off me. I had to run back to Sheriff Steve’s pop-up camper and duck under the fishhooks and then when the men were screaming, and pulling at their faces, I had to get out that old metal shovel.

            With them being the first visitors and me hitting them enough times so they wouldn’t pull up my dress, I ended up in a real pickle. I didn’t want to bury these men. What would be the point in that? I was safe way out here, that’s what Sheriff Steve said. He hasn’t visited me for years. What was I to do? So, I hung the bad men up, and cut off their best parts first. I made all kinds of things for around the pop-up camper. I didn’t want to wear that dress anymore. I mended the rips and carefully put it away. It was my going-to-court-dress anyway.

            I made a skin skirt, some leggings from the skinnier man’s legs, and a kind of halter top I think their called. With a few of the leftover parts I was able to start making a way that I could carry that big knife with me all the time—for safety. And I kept making hard, sharp sticks so I could always have them handy all the way down the old hiker trail.

            A man and a lady came up to me by boat once. I told them, “you get on out of here! This is Sheriff Steve’s camp!” They did, but that was a problem. They took pictures of me. They seemed nervous. I wanted to throw rocks, but I mostly wanted them to go away. They came back at night.

            I heard the boat motor from far away. Then I heard their oars on the water, big loud splashy oars. I counted six of them. I went outside and put lots of green leaves on the fire. It got real smokey. I placed some snares on some low plants along the water’s edge, where the reservoir rocks almost touched my camp. Then I got the old shovel and I listened. Three men pulled loud, scratching metal boats up on some of the rocks and splashed to shore. I only hoped I could snare one before I fish-hooked one on my curtain, or the screaming might make the others leave and come back with more people.

            The first man who came right out of his boat and straight toward the smokey fire stepped right in a snare. I pulled the rope and set the wire deep in his ankle before tying it off and running over to hit him with the shovel. The wide, flat part would have made a loud Bong sound, so I used the edge, it made a crunching sound and that was quieter. Next a man walked into the fishhooks. He must have caught an eyelid because he screamed more than anybody I have ever heard. I hit him good and he must have been real caught up because he didn’t fall, he just hung there looking up at the dark trees.

            I went back to check on the third man that came in the boats and just as I thought maybe he was gone, he stepped out from behind the pop-up and we sure scared each other. He grabbed the shovel and hit me a few times asking questions about his friends and what was I and where were they and why were they screaming and why aren’t they screaming now. I scooted back up against a tree and let him get close, kind of the way mother told me to sit when her friends would get close to me. I was glad I had Sheriff Steve’s big knife on me.

            Now I’m very happy because I have three boats, two new sets of clothes, and so many decorations and skin-dollies for around Sheriff Steve’s pop-up camp. I love to listen to the bone chimes, they aren’t as pretty sounding as what mother had on our porch, but they knock against each other real nice. I have all the food I could ever want to have. Every night I just cut off a bit from one of them and roast it up. I smoked most of the big parts using green over the fire. Oh, I need to show you, I made masks!

March 05, 2021 19:55

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