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Authors: Pamela F. Service

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BOOK: Camp Alien
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“All great actors get nervous, you know. This could start a grand career for you.”

She snorted. “I am going to be … I
in the Galactic Patrol.”

“Well, everyone needs a hobby. Besides, if you have talent, it'd be wrong to deprive the universe of it.”

“You really think I could have talent?”

“Sure. You'll knock ‘em dead. Eh … that's just an expression.”

She grinned, showing more teeth than any Hollywood star. “Right.”

I joined the other cast members crouching and waiting. Once all the campers and counselors were seated, the campfire was lit, and everyone sang the Camp Takhamasak song. Then three girls sang songs by their favorite rock group. They did
have a future in music. Next came a boy who juggled pinecones and tin cups. Judging by audience sounds, he only dropped things twice.

Then it was us. My stomach tightened. Opal looked like she was going to be sick.

“You'll do fine,” I whispered. “If actors don't get stage fright, the show wouldn't have
any zip.” At the moment, it looked like Opal wanted to zip right out of there. I kept a grip on her arm and whistled for Ramon and Carlos to make their entrances.

Dressed as soldiers, they stepped from the bushes. Their armor was cheesy-looking aluminum foil stuff, but their stick and cardboard spears looked OK. Scott, crouching beside me, beat dramatically on a drum. Several kids in the audience jeered at the soldiers, but counselors hushed them.

I practically had to push Opal out onto the stage. She began her speech about constellations in a really tiny voice. Someone in the audience yelled, “louder!” That must have made her mad because she started belting out her lines. Scott banged his drum again. Opal scurried back and threw on her wig and dress. Then she and I strode out as King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia.

We sat on our thrones, and, to more drum banging, Melanie, in the role of Andromeda, skipped out wearing a floaty nightgown thing.
She was accompanied by Bessy and Jessy, playing servants. For no reason I can figure out, those two launched into a cheerleader routine, waving pine branches and flipping up their little skirts. Through this ridiculous routine, Opal and I gushed about how beautiful our daughter was. I could have gagged. Melanie must have helped write those lines.

Finally Opal rose and yelled, “Andromeda is even more beautiful than the sea nymphs, Neptune's daughters!”

That's when Scott, behind the bushes, bashed the garbage can to sound like thunder. The last thwack was so hard I heard the can topple and bounce noisily down the hill. Scott couldn't stop it because he was busy making his entrance. He was the god Neptune, in a green sheet with shredded bits of garbage bag trailing off him to look like seaweed.

It was a grand entrance, except that he stepped on his costume and fell on his face. Scott pulled himself to his knees. His face turned from dust-powdered pale to blush
red as laughter from the audience rose in a wave. He jumped up, waving his pitchfork menacingly and shouted, “Whoever laughs at the great god shall feel his wrath after the show!”

The audience quieted. For a moment, Scott's face blanked as he fumbled for his real lines. I breathed again when he finally turned to us and thundered, “Whoever compares the beauty of a mere mortal to my daughters shall feel the wrath of the great god Neptune!”

That was our cue to scream and wail and fall on our knees, begging forgiveness. Bessy and Jessy flailed frantically, and not to be outdone, Melanie threw herself on the ground and flopped about like a dying fish.

Then came a bunch of talk where nobody quite got their lines right, but in the end Neptune agreed he would not send his sea monster, Draco, to destroy the town, if we tied Andromeda to a rock for Draco to eat instead. More screaming and wailing, then everyone ran into the bushes.

The audience cheered and clapped and started to leave until Scott ran out waving his pitchfork and yelling, “Sit down! There's more coming!” When some kids groaned, he added, “Shut up! We've got special effects!”

Once they settled down, Andromeda entered slowly followed by the soldiers prodding her with spears. Then came the two wailing servants and the king and queen. Opal and I were dressed in black garbage bags that were supposed to make us look like we were in mourning. I think they made us look like walking garbage bags.

Andromeda was tied to the cardboard rock. More screaming and wailing, and the two servants did a sad little dance. Very sad, if you ask me. Then we all trooped off except Melanie, who stayed tied to her rock, trying to look scared and beautiful.

Meanwhile, Scott, crouching behind the bushes, had torn off his Neptune costume and put on aluminum foil armor and a colander helmet to play the part of Perseus. Ramon and Carlos
struggled into their Pegasus costume. (They'd agreed to play the flying horse only if they could be soldiers at the beginning.) Ramon had lost the coin flip and gotten stuck with the role of the horse's butt. Carlos walked upright, holding the cardboard horse head. Ramon trudged along, bent over with a yarn tail pinned to his rear, while he flapped the cardboard Pegasus wings. Scott walked between them, “riding” Pegasus and trying to look heroic.

Pretending to not see Melanie, they staggered on stage to hoots of laughter. Scott fumbled through his speech about how he, Perseus, was just coming back from killing the Gorgon, whose glance turned people to stone. “Sounds like our counselors,” some kid yelled. Then Scott got good squeals when he wiggled the snake-covered head at the audience.

Now came the special effects. Opal had crawled out of the bushes and thrown a bunch of pine needles and sand on the fire to make sparks and to lower the light. Backstage I was making a big deal of waving my gizmo and pretending to
press buttons. Then from behind the bushes, we all started moaning, “Oooo, Draco the Sea Monster! Here comes the terrible monster! Andromeda is doomed! Doomed!”

On cue, Vraj burst out of the bushes. I've got to admit, she looked plenty scary. And mad too. I hoped she was just acting. She looked mad enough to eat somebody for making her do this.

The effect, though, was great! People screamed and cried and cheered. Vraj must have liked that. She made the most of it by running up and down aisles, flailing her claws, and snapping her teeth. Then she bounded back onstage and stalked toward Andromeda. Melanie's screams were very realistic. For a second I even thought she might run off, bouncing her cardboard rock behind her.

Vraj was making frightful snarls when Scott snapped out of his shock and urged his stumbling Pegasus forward. Pretending to jump off, he pulled out his yardstick sword and waved it timidly at Draco.

Vraj ignored him and kept gloating over miserable Melanie. Scott lunged forward, wiggling the sword in Vraj's face.

Explosively, Vraj spun around, yanked the sword away from Scott, held it in her front claws, and broke it in two. Watching through the bushes, I was impressed. I'd just told Vraj to do what fit the part. She was a natural.

Perseus yelped and jumped back. It was probably not the reaction he'd expected from a “projection.” I'd have to think of some way to explain that later. Draco followed, claws outstretched, jaws gaping. Turning with a convincing scream, Perseus ran into the audience. Then he seemed to remember that this was a play and unhooked the dangling Gorgon head from his belt. Slowly he walked towards Draco, who was back slathering over Andromeda.

The audience was yelling, laughing, and screaming with delight. But I was worried. I wasn't sure if Vraj understood about the Gorgon's head. We hadn't rehearsed that part since most of the cast thought it would just be
a projection. Timidly, Perseus stepped forward and wiggled the head at Draco. Nothing happened, though I caught a questioning look in the alien's eye.

“It turns things to stone,” I whispered loudly under the audience's screaming. “You turn to stone and die!”

With a sharp nod, Draco turned and stared directly into Medusa's ugly papier mâché face. Then she squealed like a fire siren and began leaping about like she was being attacked by bees. She flailed to the back of the stage and with one final shriek, fell like a stone into the bushes and rolled out of sight.

For a moment, we were all stunned. Then I remembered I was the king. Singing happy praises for Perseus, I strode from the bushes with the others trailing me. Perseus untied Andromeda, they hugged briefly, and we all danced around the fire circle.

That was supposed to be the end of the show.

We had circled the fire for the third time
when I felt the soft earth move under my feet. It buckled and heaved like an earthquake in mush.

Suddenly the ground quaked, toppling me and the others to the ground. The soil, where we lay, churned with orange arms that broke free and began spiraling into the air. All around us, there were dozens of orange starfish-things the size of saucers. They swarmed into the air and swirled about like moths around a light. Then the swarm changed direction, and they sailed off into the night. The cloud of orange stars glided over the lake and disappeared beyond the trees.

After awed silence, the camp exploded with cheers. What special effects! A Greek myth turned into stars—right before our eyes! Kids happily slapped me on the back. I just stood in stunned horror.

The Duthwi eggs. The heat of the campfire. They'd hatched! Duthwi were loose on Earth, they and their mysterious menace. I'd totally botched my mission!

Beyond the bushes, I glimpsed a yellow-green streak—Cadet Vraj bolting down the hill and along the lakeshore. Everyone kept congratulating me.

I'd never felt more miserable in my life.

All the next day, the camp was buzzing about the show. Kids said I ought to go to Hollywood if I could do special effects like that. That annoyed Melanie, who felt
ought to go to Hollywood after her wonderful acting. I told her that anyone who could work a computer could do special effects, but not everyone had acting talent like hers. It wasn't true, but it cheered her up.

Nothing could cheer me up, though. I'd really messed up big time.

I wanted to run out and help, but I didn't know how. My last glimpse of Vraj was her
sprinting after the flying Duthwi, but I hadn't a clue where they were now. And I didn't know if the mysterious Duthwi menace came when they were newly hatched or if they had to grow up first. All I could do was wait for Vraj to contact me.

At Nature Nuts I just grunted when Opal gushed privately about our wonderful acting dinosaur and my great star effects though she couldn't figure out how I'd done it. I kept mysteriously quiet. When rest time came, I slipped alone into the woods.

There, everything was quiet and peaceful. Only a few birds chirped sleepily, and even the insects sounded soft and drowsy. The air smelled spicy with pine and warm earth. I walked and walked without paying attention to where.

Slowly I noticed that something felt different. The drowsy quiet had slipped into uneasiness. Birds cried sharply overhead. I stared around and realized the trees here looked like they'd been blasted by lightning or hit by a
tornado. Splintered wood lay everywhere. Trees rose halfway up, then ended in jagged spears.

BOOK: Camp Alien
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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