School camp

The school camp was held in another universe. The cabin was small but the huge moon pouring through the window swelled it with liquid light. I could not sleep with the drilling of mosquitoes. I could not sleep this far from home. I had to lie in the tedium, desperate for the hours to pass. With no reference, I could not tell what time it was.

The night before, the only one still awake in a room of snoring boys, I had kneeled in my bed looking out the window, hanging out of my sleeping bag, a towel draped round my shoulders in an attempt to further block the mosquitoes. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. I prayed for sleep. I thought of my family. I said to myself that this too would pass.

In the morning, it started. ”What were you doing at the window?” I could not think of an answer quickly enough, so Kevin answered for me. ”Tossing off, I bet.” Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha haaahaaa. I ignored it, went off somewhere else in my brain while I spooned at the weetbix made with hot water. Mum made mine with hot milk at home. And honey. And sometimes chopped banana. To me, this was like pouring orange juice on cornflakes for a lactose intolerant kid – it might do, but who would want it? ”What were you doing brushing your teeth?” ”What were you doing wearing a hat?” ”What were you doing riding a bike?” ”Why did the chicken cross the road?” . Kevin’s answer would always be “having a wank” or “pullin’ his pud”, and the donkey chorus would erupt. Wheat shreds braying through teeth and braces. The repartee of boys. He wasn’t even in our cabin.

I had thought the silence meant they all slept. It just meant that the fear of Mr Palmer, lying in the corner, was more powerful than I realised. They were all watching, all of the time.

It was unbearable. I ached with the tiredness. I wanted to scream, but I did not want to go through the rest of my school years known as the screamer. The loony who broke down at camp. Let someone else scream first. Of course they were not as sensitive as me.

The idea came to me, and I was calmed. I could test the universe. If I fell asleep, I would not do this thing that I had thought. I could not do it immediately, it would need to wait until the depth of night, to be sure the others were sleeping. If I nodded off, then it would not come to pass. Good. if the idea came from God, then I would know whether He wanted me to do it or not by whether He granted me sleep or not. Fair enough.

I counted sheep. They started off as white, strong merinos. As I got into the high hundreds, they were leaner, scrawnier, meaner looking. Their faces were more canine. Sometimes the dingoes didn’t just kill sheep, I figured, picturing the genetic mingling. I was nearly asleep, but the nocturnal sounds of wombats kept bringing my consciousness back to the surface.

Finally, when the sheep were all mangy curs and jackals, snapping at each other and refusing to leap the gate, I stopped counting and realised I was standing up. With the room flooded, I could float through it. I drifted to the corner where the games equipment had been tossed. I had seen it before going to bed. A loose cricket stump, slipped from the kit, lying there. The cricket pitch was tough here, grassless with the endless drought, and the spikes of the stumps were all sheathed in metal, the easier to knock them into the earth.

I picked it up and let the current carry me. It was no surprise that I found myself next to Adolf’s bed. Even then, I knew him for what he was. I had no doubt of his evil. I stood there a long time. I was not wavering. I just wanted to be in the moment, to be fully aware of what was happening. From an early age, I did not want to simply stumble through life as a mindless sleep walker.

I had waited long enough. I raised the stump with two hands above me (thinking, if I could see this, I would look like a pyjama-ed Druid), gripped it hard, and thrust down. The metal tip pierced, and I leaned in, pushing down, forcing it with all of the weight of my body.

The stump made a shucking sound as it entered Adolf’s chest, and I felt the resistance of bone and flesh. I kept pushing, and would swear I felt the wiggle as it pushed between ribs, the final scrape against his spine.

I felt nothing. I stood back and looked. Clear in the moonlight, the stump was buried in his chest. Nothing momentous. No blood fountain, no demon scream, no flash burn to ash. Not for Adolf the instant dissolution of the centuries delayed death of the vampire.

After a few minutes, I returned to my bed. I had no thought for consequences. I felt annoyed that really, nothing had happened. It was only after I had laid there a long time that I realised that I had staked one of my school mates, and that this was no small thing. I could not have done it. It must be a dream. It could not be real.

I had to look. As I raised my head, Adolf snored and rolled in his bed. There was a drawn out vacuum suck as gravity slowly dragged the wood from meat, and I looked about in horror, sure that everyone would hear it, certain all eyes would turn to the noise. The noise ended, and I rested relieved, until I heard the crack as the stump crashed to the wooden floor.

No one reacted. No one heard. They were all fast asleep.

I got out of bed, not floating this time, more grounded. I knew the solution. Shoes in hand, I snuck past Palmer.

The sun rises early in summer here, and dawn was starting. I would have to be quick. Yes, the axe was sticking out of the wood pile. It was not much effort for me to pull it out of the log, and I was on my way. You have to pick the appropriate weapon when fighting monsters. Adolf was something foul, but he was no vampire. A stake through the heart was not going to deal with him. I would have to put a lot more thought into it. But I was pretty sure an axe through the head would fix Kevin.

His cabin was across the path from mine. I began to run, when I heard the yell.

“BOY! What the fuck do you think you are doing?”

Old Palmer was awake. (I wonder whatever happened to him.)

“Nothing sir.”

“Then put down that axe and get back to fucking bed!”

“Yes sir.”

I was much wearier that morning when I sat down to breakfast, bowl of slop in front of me. Then it appeared, slipped straight in front of me. Crispy bacon on toast, a dab of scrambled eggs, a spoonful of baked beans. I looked up. It was Adolf, feeding me from his personal supply, sharing the bounty that was magically served to him each morning.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Benito” I replied, finding it hard to meet his eye.

“Benito.” He stared hard. ”I hadn’t noticed you before. Benito, you and me. We’re going places.”

And so it began.


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