THE LURKER ABOVE
“Whoo stooole myyyyy golden arm? Whooo stoooole my goool-den aaaarm? Whooooo stoooooole myyyyyyy gooool-den aaaarrrmmmm!”
Russel McKeley groaned loudly as he rolled his eyes. He glanced irritably out the tree house window at the summer moonlight illuminating the surrounding tourist tree camp of Ville des Arbres du Monde. The human teenager sighed heavily. I can’t believe I got myself lassoed into this loser lame-o Otherworld Summer Camp program.
The idea that he should go to Faerie for vacation came up unexpectedly as a sneaker wave, three days before the 8th Grade Graduation Ceremony.
“It’ll be great,” his mom had said brightly. They were in the kitchen, preparing for lunch. “You’ll like the Tullugaqs, and Kevin Tullugaq is just your age.”
Rus gave an exasperated look. “Mom, I already have plans!” he insisted. “I don’t have time to hang out with some inter-dimensional exchange student I just met about a year ago! I already got plenty of other Faire Folk and minority friends here so I’m not a freaking hick loser, you know?”
His mother, it seemed, still labored under the delusion that not only was he was still 9 years old, but he was also an awkward nerd that needed help making friends even though he was considered one of the coolest kids in town.
“Well, your plans are going to have to wait till after the holiday,” his father informed him. “Your mother and I had already arranged this summer trip for you and Nate.”
Rus’s eyes bulged in disbelief. “Wh-wh-WHAT?” he sputtered. “Nate’s coming too? Mom! Dad! You can’t be serious! Not only is he a lil’ brat and a tattle tailing pipsqueak, he’s also a budding brony!”
“We are serious,” his mom told him. “You two worked so hard all year, you deserve a little vacation.”
“A little vacation,” Rus sputtered some more. “Don’t we get enough vacation already?” He started listing things off with his fingers. “We go to the zoo, the aquarium, the pool, the park, even the flat boring beach near where we live. We even have a few weekend getaways to Lake Tahoe or Boulderville…when we can afford it. I don’t get why you guys have to send me and Brony Boy off to some magic-ified world full of zombies and other kid-eating monsters.”
“Look, Waldachia isn’t Dungeons & Dragons,” his dad said reassuringly, “and it isn’t like Game of Thrones either. It’s a modern, civilized country with hardly any crime to speak of…”
“Modern?” Rus exclaimed. “Dude, they don’t even have any cars or even the freakin’ Internet! It’s going to be like Amishville…only with lots more pixie dust sparkle!”
“It’s not going to be like Amishville,” Dad answered as he started up the coffee machine. “They have some technology…”
“Yeah, like nineteenth century stuff,” Rus fumed, “and you still haven’t explained to me why you guys want to dump us at some hippie tree camp!”
“We just did,” his mom said firmly. “We thought you boys needed a big break from the everyday world, and get a wider cultural experience…”
“Also your mother and I need some quality time alone,” his dad chimed in cheerily.
Rus’s eyes bulged even more. It was his worst fears finally realized; another noisy addition to this already chaotic family unit.
“Oh gawd!” He cried, clutching his baseball capped head in horror. “Pleeeeease don't tell me you're getting’ another kid! If there’s one thing I can’t handle, besides MLP, it’s another Nate!”
“We’re not getting another kid!” said his dad angrily. “You need a government permit for that.”
“What? Are we getting another kid?” said a familiar voice. Nate had just come into the kitchen to fill up a water balloon. He looked at everyone in a mixture of surprise and confusion. “Is Mom pregnant?”
“No!” said Mom and Dad together.
“Whooooo? Whoooooo? Whooo stole my golden arm?”
“Are we at the ‘You Go It’ yet?” Nate moaned, cowering besides Rus underneath his security blanket.
“No,” Rus grimly shook his head, “but I think Kev might be turning into an owl.”
“What?” Nate lifted up a corner of the blanket, peering out with one eye.
The storyteller in question stood in the middle of the crowded room. He was a geeky Korrigan boy of the same age as Rus—fourteen with frizzy red hair, bright green eyes and a light brown pointed face. In an effort to appear spectacularly gruesome, he shone the flashlight onto his face from underneath his chin. However, his efforts were apparently all in vain since the light effect only served to further accentuate his long pointed nose and embarrassing gap between his buck teeth.
“What are you talkin’ about?” Nate muttered, ducking back underneath his ‘monster-proofed shelter.’ “He don’t look like an owl to me, looks more like a goofy fox.”
“Whoooo? Whoooooo? Whoooooooo? Whooooooooo stole my golden arm?”
“Chez! It’s going to be midnight by the time we get finished here!” grumbled the heavy-set blonde-haired boy, Jeffery Mahr, who was sitting beside Rus, with his arms folded and frowning deeply.
“Maybe centuries!” grumbled his dark-haired, skinnier twin sister, Ethel.
“Totally a snail’s pace,” intoned the identical Sayuko Sisters—Oyuki and Mai.
“Nah, a snail’s much faster,” disagreed one of the Satori Triplets—Izumi or was it Mizaki or Kyoko? “More like a slime mold.”
Rus couldn’t tell which Weird Witchy Yokai was which since all three were dressed in striped Beatnik outfits with matching berets.
“Whoooo? Whoooooo? Whooo?” Kevin moaned plaintively as he desperately scanned his further annoyed audience for a suitable ‘jump-scare’ victim.”
“Dude, you think he’s going to do it?” Rus whispered to Jeffery.
“Either that or collapse from mass exhaustion,” Jeffery replied, looking with some concern at Kevin’s paling complexion.
Still doing his owl impressions, the Korrigan now faced the furthest corner where a collection of vintage toys sat along the wall where the gray plaster was breaking loose in parts from the wood lath.
“Everyone watched his performance with many a puzzled frown and disparaging remark.
“Hey, you don’t think he’s on something, do you?” Rus whispered again. “It’s like he’s having an epileptic fit or something.”
Jeffery shrugged. “I don’t know, man. It’s more like a panic attack to me. My sister had one once when she was playing Dorothy in this fourth grade version of The Wizard of Oz.”
“Geez, you don’t think he’s forgotten the rest of the story?”
Jeffery shrugged again. “Hell, I don’t know. You got to be a real idiot not to remember the entire Golden Arm story.”
Rus stared at his fellow camper, and the blonde boy continued philosophically. “Now I’m not saying that Kevin’s a major bonehead and an epic fail at everything, it’s just that sometimes…Well, people tend to get a little tongue-tied when it comes to speaking before a huge audience.”
“Yeah,” muttered Rus. “Well, it seems like Kev’s speaking in tongues right now.”
“Yeah, and what else happens?” said a Faire Dale girl waspily.
“This party’s stupid,” a ginger-haired Texan boy bluntly stated. “Everyone hates you…including the faceless kids.”
“Yeah,” his mullet-haired, overweight bunkmate drawled. “This story sucks. In fact, this whole sleepover idea sucks! I’m going to barf over everyone due to boredom.”
Immediately, those closest to him scooted back a few feet.
“Ugh, I totally agree,” said a fashionable dressed centaur-girl with a pout. “This sleepover is freaking drag on the tail.”
“I bet he’s stuck like a scratched record,” another fashion filly whispered. “Maybe all he needs is a good whack.”
“Or a good kick in the butt,” muttered a third diva, swishing her permed, beribboned tail as if considering the idea.
Rus was now worried about Kevin Tullugaq’s welfare, even though he still regarded the guy as a major dork.
Cupping his hands around his mouth, Rus yelled over the growing chorus of boos, hisses, growls, squawks and heckling which soon filled up the shabby chic interior. “Hey Kev, your story’s bombing big time! Sit down before you get hit by rotten tomatoes or eggs or flying hooves or paws or whatever!”
Kev paid no attention to Rus. He still kept his gaze fixated on that dusty cracked corner just below the crawlspace. Then his head began to slowly bob like that of a bobblehead doll, back and forth as if he was listening to a steady bebop rhythm audible only to himself.
With each bob, the audience’s loud disapproval gradually faded to a frozen silence, irate looks soon giving way to stark-eyed astonishment.
Rus stared in disbelief at Kevin’s jittering, muttering form. From where he was seated, he couldn’t see the Korrigan’s face, but he assumed something medically serious was going on. Already Kevin’s immediate neighbors were drawing away from him as if he was possessed.
“Ahh screw this!” Ethel exclaimed, getting up and grabbing up her sleeping bag and duffle bag. “Seriously, this is getting much too weird for my taste…I’m outta here!”
She turned and marched out the room followed closely behind by half a dozen other campers.
“Yeah,” muttered Thomas, who apparently shared his sister’s opinion. “I’m about ready to get the hell out of here myself; your friend’s really weirding me out.”
“Hey, I hardly know the guy,” Rus grumbled, getting up. “It was my parents’ idea that I should spend summer break with him in the first place!”
At this point, he decided he had just about enough of Kev’s crap and decided to go back to his tree lodge. However, he couldn’t help wondering as to what actually was prompting Kev’s erratic behavior.
“Dude, watch out for any projectile vomiting!” Jeffery warned.
Rus nodded, biting his lip. “Yeah, yeah. Okay.”
“And if he starts levitating or spider-walking up the walls—run!”
Rus wrinkled his brow. “Gotcha.”
Dodging the audience members who were stumbling, shuffling, a crawling out of the way, Rus walked up behind Kevin and cleared his throat noisily.
“Ahem! Uhh…Say, Kev, I know you’re trying to be a good host in running this camp party and all that, and you’re really trying your best at telling a scary story, but you’re really freaking people out with your Paranormal Activity pantomime stuff, and I really think you should stop before someone panics and gets hurt, and then their folks decide to sue your folks for not running a safe enough summer camp.”
He waited for an intelligent response, but none came. “Kevin! Kev, come on! Enough already! Let’s head back to the house, Dude.”
“Wassat? Wassat?” a low groan came from the shaking figure. “What…is…that? What…is…that? WHAT…IS…THAT? Oh my gods! We gotta run. We gotta run!”
“Dude, is he like tripping out on something?” Someone asked.
“No, he’s not on anything!” Rus glared at the fear-frozen crowd. “His parents would kill him if they even found him with small joint!”
Turning back, he grasped Kevin by his shoulder and started shaking him hard. “Kevin! Kev! If you can hear me, snap out of it, man! Stop being a tool and come back to reality!”
There was a sudden rattling noise and something bump against the toe of his skate shoe. Looking down, he noticed a Dr. Doodle pull toy, the kind that that flapped his wings, wiggled his tail feathers, moved his bill making a "quack-quack-quack" sound when he was pulled. . Rus stared at it in disbelief. He knew Kevin couldn’t have dropped it, neither he nor anyone else was anywhere near that grotty ‘toy corner,’ so how exactly did this toy ended up rolling to where he was at?
When he looked up at Kevin again, he stepped back with a gasp. Kevin’s face was now ashen gray. His green eyes had widened and bulged; his mouth was wide open with lips drawn back from his horsey teeth.
Unnerved, Rus took another step back then turned in the direction of Kevin’s stare. That was when he saw a curious sight: gleaming red and yellow scales of one long sinuous forearm filling up the small crawlspace; the slender, raptor-like joints of five taloned fingers gently curled around a doll, drawing it upward like a freshly harvested carrot. It was soon followed by another flexible limb and then another; toys plucked by scaly hands soon vanished into the shadowy recesses above.
Afterwards, Rus tried to reconstruct the exact sequence of events, but much of it was lost in a blur of motion and loud mass confusion resulting from forty kids suddenly exiting the room simultaneously.
What he clearly remembered was standing in the middle of the now emptied tree house amid the mess and clutter of various belongings. All the assortment of toys, aside from Dr. Doodle, were now gone as well as the crawlspace.
Nate, whom Rus and everyone else had momentarily forgotten in the chaos, slowly peeked out from underneath his flannel hiding space. He carefully removed one of his ipod earbuds which emitted a steady stream of rap. “Hey, did I miss something?” His eyes soon widened as he regarded the scattered bags, stray shoes and sandals, packs and ditty bags littering the floor. “Whoa! Where did everyone go?”
(C) by mmpratt99 2015
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