I knew something was up when my parents served human blood for dinner.
Human blood is a special-occasion food. If my mother and father decided to serve this delicacy for no good reason, then imposters had replaced them.
“You weren’t up all day reading again, were you, Ronnie?” Mother asked. “You’re not drinking your meal.”
Okay, so my imposter mother was down pat.
“You cannot keep reading those tabloids about the normal,” Father insisted. “Everything written in there about humans is made up.”
Wow, these human imposters really know what they’re talking about.
“Of course I know those stories aren’t real,” I said. “But it’s fun to pretend they are.” Like pretending you think your parents have been replaced with humans. “And who knows? Some of those stories may be closer to the truth than we think.”
“Ronnie!” Father shouted. Before he could start another lecture on keeping my focus on the real world, Mother stopped Father with a gentle hand to his shoulder.
“Please, not tonight Vlad,” she whispered. Then she turned back to me. “Tonight is a celebration.”
Father cleared his throat. “Quite right, Estella.” He also turned to me. “After ten years of being on the waiting list, Ronnie has been accepted into the most prestigious summer camp for young monsters.”
For a moment I stared at my parents. Then…
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” I squealed. “I’m going to Camp Underthebed!”
The first night of summer, I was out of my coffin the minute the moon came up.
After guzzling down a bowl full of cubes of raw pork dowsed in leftover human blood, I waited outside the family crypt for my ride.
I didn’t have to wait long. After about five minutes a witch, wearing a black t-shirt and flying on a broomstick, landed on the front lawn.
“Are you Veronica?” she asked me.
“Yes, but it’s Ronnie. I can’t stand being called Veronica.”
“Then Ronnie it shall be,” the witch grinned. “My name is Venus, and I shall be your personal Camp Underthebed counselor!” Patting the back of the broom handle, she added “Hop on!”
Grinning back at Venus, I climbed onto the broom, positioning myself right behind her. As soon as I was comfortable, she took off into the sky.
As Venus’ broom gained altitude, we passed by an airplane filled with human travelers. “Did you know that humans never notice any witches flying past airplanes?” I asked Venus. “Supposedly, humans think it’s just something called turbulence.”
“Where did you hear that?” Venus’ eyes widened.
“I read about it in some tabloid,” I mumbled. Somehow, Venus’ interest in the normal seemed more like Father’s disinterest in the very same subject.
The moment Venus landed the broom I darted off. There were so many different monsters there! Sasquatches, lake monsters, werewolves, and so many others were standing in the clearing. Personal counselors had flown in each camper, and each counselor was a witch. Venus and the other counselors went to work casting spells to put blood-red t-shirts on each camper. Meanwhile, I just stood there, taking it all in.
That’s when I felt a tugging on my scalp. “What the…?” Then the tugging turned into a full on hair yank. I yowled more in surprise than in pain, but the howl was enough to send three counselors to my aid.
“It’s alright, Zelda,” Venus soothed the zombie that had been pulling at my hair.
“Alright? It’s not alright!” I protested. “That zombie almost tore my head off!”
Venus frowned at me, then clapped her hands to get the attention of the rest of the camp. “Okay, Camp Underthebed! Time for our first activity.”
Well, at least this night couldn’t get any worse.
I was wrong. The first activity was swimming,
I had never gone swimming before, never even stepped foot in a pool. It took me five minutes of standing to make myself stick my toe in the water.
Just as my toenail made contact with water, I felt myself teetering.
As I flailed in and coughed up pool water, I opened my eyes enough to see that I had landed next to a Sasquatch floating in an inner tube. Worst of all, my face was in his big feet.
I screamed like a young human meeting their first monster. At the same time I spotted the lake monster that had pushed me in, cannonballing toward my left side.
The second activity wasn’t much better. The other campers played these cheesy get-to-know-you games. I don’t even know what the rules of the games were. By that point I was completely ignoring everybody else.
At lunchtime I ate alone, reading my favorite tabloid.
The same schedule repeated night after night, all summer long. But halfway through the season, Camp Underthebed got a little bit more interesting.
The final activity of every night was arts and crafts. Normally I sat out of that too, but that night was treated as a free period, rather than the usual lets-all-make-the-same-thing projects.
That night I was working on a calligraphy poem about the secrets our goremocratically elected officials keep from the average monster. Meanwhile, a young hunchback/mad scientist named Vicky claimed she was making a clone of one of the other campers.
The night was almost over when Vicky revealed the clone.
“Hi!” the clone said. “I’m Veronica. I grew from a loose stand of Ronnie’s hair!”
Of course I growled at this too-peppy copy jam version of myself. But then…
“Hey Ronnie,” Veronica smiled at me. “Did you know that humans have magic just like monsters…?”
“…But they don’t call it magic…” I slowly started to grin.
“They call it science!” we said simultaneously. Veronica and I then laughed identical laughs.
From that point on at Camp Underthebed, I had a friend to compare conspiracy theories with. Sure, we were the same person, but with Veronica living at Vicky’s, and the clone’s peppier personality, we sometimes had different opinions based on our upbringings.
We parted ways that autumn.
Epilogue: Ten Years Later
I was walking into my Human Theory 101 class at the local creepy community college when I spotted someone I knew.
“Veronica,” I said as I saw my clone. “It’s good to see you.” “Hey, Ronnie!” she grinned. “But listen, about calling me “Veronica…”
“All right, role call,” Professor Horrific, whom I never had before, scuttled into the room on millipede legs. “Let’s see, Ronnie’s here,” she said, pointing at my clone.
“Um, Professor,” I spoke up. “I’m Ronnie. She’s Veronica, my clone.”
“Yes, well, I had your clone in a pervious class,” Professor Horrific explained. “To avoid confusion, you will just have to be Veronica in this class.”
My mouth dropped open. My clone shrugged. “Sorry, Ronnie,” she whispered into my ear. “I started going by Ronnie last year. But it’s no big deal, right?”
My mouth snapped shut. Ignoring my former camp buddy, I sat as far away from Veronica as possible.
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