What I Did On My Summer Vacation
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June 8th, 2018

Dear Journal,

Part of the new management's plan for this summer camp is that we have to write a weekly journal — but no one else has to read it, and that's the greatest fucking news I've fucking heard all fucking day. They won't fucking know I'm saying FUCK all the fucking time in it. (And, this is already getting silly. Was that their plan all along? Make rebelliousness seem boring? …fuck.)

Anyway! I'm in the AP language arts classes back home, so I might as well make use of my time here and actually write something coherent (new favorite word!) about what's going on here at Elijah's Heart Bible Camp.

First things first — my name is Jacquan Dalton, age 12. I like running track, saying FUCK, and writing poetry and stuff. I live in Athens Ohio. My mom and dad are big into Jesus and stuff so they put me here in this stupid camp for the summer instead of letting me look at internet porn. (Brought my laptop. I AM UNSTOPPABLE!)

But it's been three days since I've been here, and there hasn't really been anything Jesusy. Some kinda "under new management" bullshit — instead of the Pentecostal preacher that was supposed to be the boss around here, we get this long haired Johnny Depp looking guy named Mr. Geoff Lundgren. (am I spelling that right?) Keeps saying we should just call him "Mr. Geoff." He says he bought out the camp to use "an ingenious new method of immersing children in the true meaning of the Gospel." (copied that off the new brochure)

I mean, not that I'm complaining or nothing — he daily prayers we were supposed to do are all "just do good, and God will see it." So mainly we just F U C K around (yep, getting boring) and play video games. For now, anyway.

Only thing is, this Mr. Geoff guy is giving me some seriously bad vibes. I'm hoping that's because he's a supervillain or something.

Haven't made any friends in my cabin yet. Don't mind. All my best friends are back in Athens anyway — this place is down by Logan, and damn near everyone's from West Virginia. And I'm the only black kid here, too. Feels like no one wants to talk to me — they keep giving me the side eye. Of course, this means I wouldn't have wanted to get to know them anyway. Convenient!

…introvert. New new favorite word.

June 15, 2018

Dear Journal,

I'm remembering this one movie I saw a while ago when I was a kid, something my dad liked. Kindergarten Cop. I think it had that "GET TO ZE CHOPPAH" guy in it. Anyway, the cop guy (who is now teaching kindergarten) finally gets the kids to chill by making them march in line with a whistle and stuff.

Point being, I'm pretty sure this is how Mr. Geoff sees himself, and we're now on the receiving end of all the "VON, TOO, ZREE, FOAH, VON, TOO, ZREE, FOAH" bullshit from the movie. And it's just him running the place, along with a few tall guys for "security." He fired all the camp counselors, too! The last day I saw them, some of them were even crying.

Our main activities involve this thing Mr. Geoff calls "the Gauntlet." It's an obstacle course — but can you even call it that? There weren't any things to jump over or ropes or pits or bridges — it's this old parking lot next to the campsite. Mr. Geoff spray-painted a some red squares and shit (Is that even legal?) that we're told we shouldn't step into. The only things that aren't painted on are a few traffic cones. Kind of a shitty obstacle course, but he says Jesus really, really, really wants us to know how to run the fastest from the starting circle to the finish circle.

I'm really hoping this is all adding up to some secret lesson at the end. Or maybe I'm missing something.

But you know what? I'm on the track team back home. I might as well make the best of this. Besides, he's saying whoever can do the fastest time in three weeks from now gets a special prize. BRING IT ON!!

June 22, 2018

Dear Journal,

This is getting weird, and it was already weird before. Mr. Geoff keeps lecturing us about the obstacle course. He's giving us diagrams to study with, and quizzing us on their names. (I thought this was summer?)

And yes, they have names. The cones are "the watchmen" — if you come within five feet of one of them, you lose the run. The big blue cone at the finish circle is "Mr. Fred," and in order finish the run, you can't just go up to the cone — you gotta say "Big G sends his regards" real loud and clear. Otherwise, you lose the run. The big red rectangle running through the parking lot is the "high-speed rail." If you step in it even once, you lose the gauntlet. Mr. Geoff even keeps saying it's dangerous. Like, it could literally kill you. (Literally — new favorite word.)

Lose the run three times, and you get sent home. Like, straight-up expelled. And it's happened to at least 20 of the kids here already! They didn't seem too shook up about it, though. What's the point of staying here if it's not making any damn sense?

Maybe if I weren't feeling competitive, I'd do some hopscotch in the hi-speed rail and take the next bus home. I know my parents are strict and all that — but even they'd understand that this isn't what they signed me up for.

But I've got the fastest time so far! My track coach back home would never let me hear the end of it if I backed down now. Not when I've got such a good thing going. And I'm too curious about this prize that Mr. Geoff keeps talking about.

(If it's under 20 dollars or something, I'm gonna be sooooooo pissed. Bonus anger if it's one of those "virtue is its own reward" kinda things.)

June 29th, 2018

Dear Journal,

It's getting quiet. There are only five kids left at the camp (including me). I'm alone in my cabin. Everyone else has failed the runs. Phones keep ringing from inside Mr. Geoff's trailer — I think the losing kids' parents are starting to get suspicious.

And if that weren't enough, a new part of the gauntlet has been added — the "Jesus Bag." It's this weird black plastic bag that's about the size of a mini fridge. And it's HEAVY! Weighs as much as my red nose pittie back at home. We gotta carry the Jesus Bag the whole way to the Mr. Fred cone, and once we say the whole "Big G sends his regards" thingy we gotta drop the bag off to him, but not set it down too hard.

We lost 13 runners in one day once the Jesus Bag was introduced.

I'm so confused. I asked Mr. Geoff about why the Jesus Bag is even a thing. Usually he just avoids my questions and goes "you'll find out soon enough, kiddo!" or "the Lord wants you to be patient, and to find the answers for yourself!" This time, he actually gave me an answer: the bag is based on a passage in Matthew 17.

I've been reading Matthew 17 all night, and I can't find anything about big heavy bags.

I stepped in the high-speed rail zone twice already, and I'm getting nervous. The last runs to decide the winner are next week. Perhaps the prize is gonna be a coherent explanation of all this — in which case, I'm gonna win this if it kills me.

July 6th, 2018

I don't know what to say.

I'm back home, sitting in my room. Trying to forget. I can't tell anyone what happened — not like they'd believe me. But if I don't get what I've seen out of my head, it'll rot in there and stink me up like old eggs in a fridge.

This stupid journal's as fitting a place as any to get it out. On that note…

Dear Journal,

I was the last one standing. Mr. Geoff came out onto the course with this beaming smile, telling me I was finally ready. That what I was gonna do would make the Lord very happy.

Apparently, up until today, we hadn't been using the real Jesus Bag. He gave me the real thing — it was made out of this weird material, I wanna say… metal-plastic? Is that a thing? Whatever. It felt like the kinda stuff old-timey records were made out of, but also like aluminum cans.

I asked Mr. Geoff what was in it. He told me: "Part of growing up is knowing that you can't know every secret there is to know." I was really starting to get sick of this dude.

So I went to the starting circle, did some stretching, and slung the bag over my shoulder like I was Santa Claus.

I'm about to start running, but Mr. Geoff stopped me. He says, "Before we get started, I need you to know something: whatever you see in the next few seconds, the most important thing is that you stick to what you've learned from the Gauntlet. When you meet Mr. Fred, he will give you another Jesus Bag, and you need to hold onto it with your life. Are you ready?"

I nodded.

"On your mark," he said.

I squatted into my starting stance.

"Get set," he said

I took a deep breath.

"Drink this," he said. I almost started running — usually you expect to hear "GO!" by then. But he gives me this Dixie cup of this… medicine? I downed it real quick. WORST. SHIT. Tasted like nacho cheese sauce smoothied with hair.

I gagged on the shit, and got a real bad headache all of a sudden. My eyes felt like they were being squeezed and I started to see black shadows all over the place. I yelled. It really hurt. I shut my eyes super tight. A nasty cold wind surrounded me. I could suddenly hear a bunch of people's voices. Laughing. Music on mall speakers.

"Stick to the plan!" said Mr. Geoff. He was next to me a few minutes ago, but now it sounded like he was on the other side of the camp. "Now, GO!"

I opened my eyes —

I froze. Most important run of the summer, and I couldn't do anything but stare.

I wasn't in the camp anymore. This was a huge mall. I looked up at all the floors — at least a hundred, like, indoor skyscrapers? — and I felt empty, like this whole place was a giant and I was about to be stepped on. I could make out that the mall had a skylight — and the sky was green.

None of the shops were anything I could recognize. People were dressed in all sorts of new fashions I hadn't seen before. This was some Jetsons shit. There was this poster hanging from one of the balconies, this military dude with a stupid mustache giving a thumbs-up — "President Niang Says: Littering is for Striders! Keep the Mall of Old Ohio Heavenly!"

And they were all staring at me.

From where the watchman cones were (in my world), there were these… knights, I wanna say? Heavy white armor, gas masks, huge guns under their arms. One caught sight of me, pointed at me, went "HEY! YOU!" in this really loud robot voice that damn near made me piss my pants —

I dropped the Jesus Bag and bolted. Fuck the gauntlet, fuck the prize, fuck everything — this was too weird.

That being said, I probably should have remembered where the high-speed rail was — then I wouldn't have run onto the tracks, just as a train was pulling into the Old Ohio Mall station.


Everything went black. Not sure how long I was out for.

I woke up in an office chair. The room around me looked like some kind of… okay, you know Men in Black? The first one, before it got all complicated. The base from that movie — except there were more of those knight guys.

There's a desk in front of me with some papers — one of them has a map of the world. But the names are all different — Baltimore, where my Grandma lives, that's "Drysedge." New York City was "Nordestra Prime." South America was just this big empty field called "Strider Defense Array," whatever that means. The State of Ohio was just a state-sized Mall.

All sorts of new words and ideas were being thrown at me at once, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to grab the old Jesus Bag and give Mr. Geoff a concussion with it.

Finally, someone else showed up at the other side of the desk — shook my hand, introduced herself as "Commandant Helen Cahill of the Three Moons Initiative." I told her as much as I knew about the situation. I could tell she was trying really hard to explain to me what was going on, and I appreciated the effort. It still didn't help at all.

BUT! I was able to get these four facts out of it:

  1. I was knocked unconscious by the train while my guts splattered all over the place — but my body put itself back together because, uh, that's just the way things are in this place?? I dunno.
  2. "Mr. Geoff Lundgren" is not his real name, and this isn't the first camp he's used for his operations.
  3. I had been tricked into doing something called "cross-reality smuggling through an oral interstitialization agent". I'm not sure what that means, but the Jesus Bag was filled with crystal meth. Tons of it.
  4. I wasn't in trouble at all, and the information I gave the Commandant could be used to put a stop to the whole thing.

That last one was nice, at least. The Commandant made me sign a contract saying I wouldn't divulge anything of what I saw there to anyone else, in exchange for "Guaranteed Class-SS Postmortem Elysial Reservations". (As if I needed another ambiguous prize to think about.) Not like telling anyone would do much good — who would believe me?

As soon as I signed, there was a flash of light — and I was back in my room, at home. My parents were panicking downstairs — they saw some kind of news report that I was missing, and Mr. Geoff was dead from a gunshot wound — from the sky, apparently.

…look, I'll be honest. I'm still not sure what to make of all this. Part of me wants to find more answers about what I saw. But an even bigger part of me just wants to keep living my life. I mean, up until the whole Mr. Geoff bullshit, I had a good living-a-normal-life streak going — why give up from a little loss like that?

So, fuck this journal. I'm gonna enjoy my summer.

(…"Corbenic." New favorite word.)

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