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Crimson Summer update

Hello folks,

I just wanted to post something because I know people were curious about more chapters in Crimson Summer. A lot has been written but editing is a bitch. So it takes time. Just to give you a little taste at what's to come (and a little peak at my creative process):

Chapter six coming soon!

Crimson Summer - Chapter Five

read chapter one, two, threefour

Is this bitch serious? The overexcited woman who introduced herself as Carol, repeating it nearly five times by Donny's last count, stood at the front of Donny's line spouting off nonsense. The amount of positive affirmations and peppy spirit was making Donny about want to barf. How can anyone be this happy? This shit is not healthy. I think her face is about to explode into rainbows and sunshine. The more she went on, the more Donny started to cringe, feeling more and more embarrassed for her. Her upbeat and fake demeanor sent him to the verge of insanity as he stood in line, clenching his teeth, trying not to make his usual scene. I can't screw things up on the first day. Of the first hour. Of the first fucking minute.
Carol looked around, trying to make as much eye contact as possible and providing the grandest of gestures. It couldn't have gotten on Donny's nerves more. He already had enough of a problem dealing with overly-friendly counselors and guardians over the years that the instant someone presented themselves in such a happy-go-lucky demeanor, his hate for them blew through the roof. Carol was no exception. Even if he didn't have that rule, he probably would have made it up just for her. Although, campers annoyance with Carol was clearly nothing new, with an abundance of eye rolls and so much talking that it was made clear no one really respected her, especially not the veterans.
But still, it didn't help Donny take it any better. His luck had hit an all-time low with this assignment into the crazy group. It wasn't long before he had vivid day dreams of the cruel pranks he would pull on Carol, just to get her to break and leave. He had to stop himself. He needed to be good, Donny thought. Be a good boy.
"Okay, we need to get a start on forming those lifelong bonds all of you are craving . . . no?  You just don't know it yet. Trust me, at the end of all this, you'll be amazed how far we've all come in a month," said Carol. 
The other campers in the group looked normal enough. There were a set of twin girls, a fat ginger boy, two nerdy boys with Nintendo shirts, a girl with too much cleavage -- or maybe just the right amount, Donny decided -- and then a gangbanger looking kid, covered in tattoos. Was this where they put the delinquents?
Donny looked over at the other groups, wishing that he were with them instead. One of the counselors, Louie, looked like fun and didn't appear to be someone that liked to follow a schedule at all. He was busy showing his campers some kind of magic trick that ended in a resounding "Awh gross!" That group would have been good for Donny.
The group directly next to theirs was headed by some hunky guy that Donny didn't catch the name of. All the girls in his group were swooning over him though. His tank top showed off his ripped physique, an easy ‘in’ with any girl that age. Donny hoped that this counselor wouldn't take advantage of it but, if the guys back home were any indication, that wouldn't be the case. But he hoped otherwise.

"Earth to Donny.  Think we can have a minute of your time there, darling?" Carol had apparently been tried to get his attention for a while.
"Sorry, I was--" Before Donny could even finish, Carol was already back into what she was saying.
"Doesn't matter, you're here now.  Now, this is one of my favorite parts of the first day of camp so you better listen up. Just kidding, you'll be on the edge of your seats regardless. Now, I need you to turn to the person next to you because you're gonna need a partner."
Donny turned to his left but that person had already turned to their person to their left. Turning to his right, he was also met with someone's back. This hadn't worked out. Looking around the group, he spotted a girl across without a partner so he walked over to her. 
"Now, you're going to be playing my favorite name game.  You're going to ask for your partner’s name, then try and find an identifying feature on their face that associates with that name.  I'll give you an example. My name is . . .” Carol paused and waited for the campers to say her name back to her but she received no response, "Okay, it's Carol, FYI. You're gonna have to be a little more vocal than that, millennials. So for Carol what I do is go to my ears. See, the outer part looks like a C, then the inner part looks like a lower case A. See that? Pretty cool, right?"
Carol ran her finger along her ear, trying to demonstrate her point but Donny couldn't help but just shake his head. This was the stupidest name game he had ever been a part of. Although, upon thinking about it, Donny wasn't sure exactly how many he'd participated in.
"So with C and with A, I can immediately associate that with Carol," Carol said.
This is so fucking stupid, Donny thought, clearly sharing the same wavelength as the other campers shaking their heads. 
"Some of you still look a little confused, which is fine, there are just so many examples for this that you'll get it in no time. Now I need a volunteer," Carol said.  No hands raised and eyes tried to avoid contact with Carol's. At least no one else here is stupid enough to encourage her, Donny thought but right on cue, one of the twins raised her hand.
"Yes!  Thank you, Alice -- err, I mean -- thank you m'am.  What is your name?" Carol asked, acting like she didn't know Alice.
"Uh… it's Alice," Alice answered the obvious.
"See, this is an easy one for me. Alice just happens to share the same cheekbones as Mr. head honcho over there," Carol said, pointing over at Al, who was on his way back to the main office, cussing about something, "So, seeing those cheekbones makes me think Al, then I can just go from there. Everyone get it?"
Yeah, we get that this is the stupidest name game in the history of stupid name games. The girl he was partnered with shared his annoyance with a snort. 
"This is the dumbest thing ever," she said under her breath. Maybe this group won't be so bad.
"Okay, if you need any assistance, I'll be going around to groups. Try and get it quick because when we go through everyone’s, you'll be expected to remember everyone not just your own partner. So get to it," Carol practically shouted.
Donny turned to his partner and gave her a half smile, which she returned. 
"Samantha," she said, clearly giving him her name. Donny did the same.
"We don't really have to do this, do we?" Donny asked.
"I heard one of the twins say crazy lady over is going over our associations so we better bullshit something," said Samantha. They both looked over at Carol, who was with another group, telling them just how much the girl looked like a cat, something the girl clearly hated.
"So let's see… Samantha… Samantha…" Donny repeated the name to himself, looking at her face. She had very big blue eyes, with some kind of makeup on around them -- Donny wasn't sure, makeup wasn't his specialty. Something that goes with eyes. Sam-eye-tha?
"You're thinking of Sam-eye-tha aren't you?" she said as if reading his mind.
"What? No, of course not. Don't be stupid," Donny said unconvincingly. His eyes moved down past her nose, it was small and arched upright. Reminded Donny of some girl he knew back at school. He wondered if that girl --
"Got anything there, Donboy?" Samantha interrupted his trained of thought.
"Hey, it's harder than it looks to come up with this. It's not like you --"
"Your name is Donny and you're wearing a purple shirt . . . do I really have to spell it out?" said Samantha. Donny wasn't sure if she was teasing him or not.
"I take it you mean --" Before Donny could even finish, Samantha was belting out the ninja turtles theme.
". . . Heroes in a half-shell. TURTLE POWER! Come on, man. This can't be the first time you're hearing this.” Samantha was right, it certainly wasn't. Donny had heard this many times throughout his childhood, even though he never really watched the Ninja Turtles. He thought cartoons were dull.
"The comparison or the awkward rendition?" Donny joked.
"I would assume both," she said, almost flirting. At least, that's what Donny got from it. Maybe she's just friendly.
"Okay well maybe I can just --"
"How's it coming along, campers?" Carol asked out of nowhere. She had somehow snuck up on them. Donny just nodded his head and smiled.
"I think we've got it all. He's Donny. Like the ninja turtle," Samantha said, somehow cuter this time. Carol didn't even give time for Donny to naturally follow Samantha. She was already asking a question.
"And how about you, Donny?  What did you come up with for Samantha here?"
"Nothing.  Her name's Samantha.  I got it," Donny answered, annoyed and not wanting to play by her rules.
"Well how else is everyone supposed to know that her name is Samantha?" Carol asked with the same chipperness.
"Hey everyone," Donny said loudly so the others in the group would hear, "This is Samantha. I'm Donny. Nice to meet you."
"Okay, okay, thank you very much Mr. Jones," Carol said. She raised her hands in the air, motioning everyone to settle down, even though the outburst had only come from Donny, "But that doesn't really help them associate anything. You're a big smart guy. I'm sure you can think of something. Give it a try."
"No," Donny said defiantly.
"I'm sorry, what was that," Carol asked.
"I guarantee you that they'll know our names before they know anyone else's," said Donny, motioning to the others in the group, who just looked on, amused by the situation. They'll know them because you're making this into such a fucking big deal, Donny thought.
"I highly doubt that," said Carol who rolled her eyes at the notion. She just refused to be wrong.
This wouldn't be like last time; he was going to stand his ground if he wanted something.
"I said, no. I don't need to play your stupid memory games. I know her name. It's Samantha you dumb fucking cunt.”

This wouldn't be the first time that Donny was sent to office and it certainly wasn't looking to be his last.


The Armor of God - Book Review

I'll be the first to admit that the plot synopsis for The Armor of God didn't really do much for me.  I quite dislike anime and one prominent feature of many anime shows (at least the ones I've seen) is the inclusion of giant robots AKA Mechs.  But being that I knew the author's past writing (check out Wolf in a Gorilla Suit btw), I knew I had to at least give it a shot.  God, what a terrible decision.  What a piece of garbage.


I'm not a fast reader by any means.  Sure, I may have a really good time as far as pages per minute but I'd usually lose interest 30 pages in.  I often compare my reading-IQ to that of a man with ADD.  Unless the narrator is interesting and talks to the me conversationally, I usually lose interest in the regular ho-hum of novelization and am onto something else.  All those fears were set aside after the reading the first 30 pages of Book One because something amazing happened... I wanted to read more.  I'm not going to get into spoilers (at least not yet) so feel free to read without trepidation.

The story takes place in a world where a deadly alien virus called the Laani has taken out most of the human population.  Those that remain live in domed cities.  A program exists outside the dome that utilizes giant mechs (see earlier description) to kill the Laani.  It's simple yet complex, the way any good story is.  Mr. Valenzuela does a wonderful job setting this world up without relying on over-explanations; a rarity in the science fiction world it seems.  Never did I feel lost in the world being established nor did I feel I wasn't given any information that I needed to be informed of the narrative.  The first two chapters help establish a trust with the author as he sets up a world, only telling you what you need to know, a choice we subconsciously take with us throughout the duration of the book.  Silly us.

While this falls under the Youth Adult flag, it rises above by taking shots at that market, while still catering to it in the process.  A love triangle is teased, people are hooking up, and regular tropes are present but it never falls into bad writing.  It turns scenarios on its head, pretending to follow the guidelines of standard YA, without ever conceding to the poor writing that usually comes along with it (coughhungergamescough).

Don't get me wrong, I didn't enjoy everything about the book.  Truthfully, I felt the antagonist was pretty weak.  There are several different ones throughout the story but they don't even feel relevant, other than characters telling me how relevant they are.  I get that the Laani are a threat to mankind but being introduced to them makes me think I'm missing something, which could be the point.  The end introduced someone that could be a great villain, so we'll see where that goes.  The characters also tend to meld together as one, which is a bit of a problem.  Other than the angsty Akiva, everyone is pretty agreeable.  Maybe I just like conflict but I was expecting some more issues to arise during their months of training but instead it's just about everyone becoming better people.  Lame.

The biggest frustrations of the book come from our flawed narrator Ezra.  He has a lot of room to grow and having to go through some of his stupid decision-making is frustrating.  I think he may be a reason why the other characters don't make as big of mistakes.  Ezra is the one that shouldn't be there and thus the one making all the mistakes.  Did I just convince myself that maybe Ezra isn't all that bad?  Dammit.

The many twists and turns the story takes is what makes the story so good.  Every chapter ends with some kind of hook, reeling you into the next chapter with ease.  It got to the point where I would end a chapter halfway through rather than at the end because I knew something would happen that would just make me want to keep reading.  Just be wary, this book was just recently released and its one of three in a series.  So if you think the cliffhanger at the end of each chapter is bad, just wait until you read the ending.  It's a doozy.

In the end, I really enjoyed The Armor of God.  The style of writing and way the plot unfolds lends itself to an intriguing yet easy read.  So long as Michael Bay isn't reading this, the epic story lends itself to a big budget action film.  I know I conjured up some crazy set pieces while reading it and can only imagine what someone could do with this book on screen.  I can't wait for Book Two.

Buy it here

Crimson Summer - Chapter Four

Marion stood at the front of the convoy of buses, directing the kids into their separate lines. She had put on her "counselor face" the moment the buses peeked around the corner of the long dirt drive. Laidback could come after she went through all the rules. For now, she needed some fear and respect. All she needed was twenty minutes.

Marion certainly hoped it would be a good group this year. Every year was a gamble and last year she had fourteen kids that she had to send home for inappropriate behavior. Nearly all of it involved some kind of sexual activity. “It happens at camp,” she had said, but that made no difference to Al, who had implemented a strict policy against said activities. The biggest drama came when two of the discovered lovers were both boys. While Marion did a good job to keep news from spreading throughout the camp -- in an attempt to save the boys from any harassment -- their father's wiped all of that away in barrage of swear words as they exited office cabin. Neither boy came back and Marion shuddered to think of the things they had to go through with their homophobic fathers. Assholes.
Fortunately for the counselors, the no sex rule was in effect for campers only. If Al had the same rule for counselors, he wouldn't have any counselors by the end of the summer. Marion even had a "camp boyfriend" (definition: a standard boyfriend type who exists only during the month of summer camp attendance) several years back but that ended in heartbreak when she found him in bed with one of the older campers. It was her own fault, she supposed. It was their second summer together and she still hadn't had sex with him. Sure, they had made out and she blew him a couple times near the end of the previous summer, but it never ended in sex . . . or climax. She just didn't ever really feel like doing it with him. He was nice and all but there never seemed to be the connection that she wanted to have in order to fuck someone. One night stands weren't really her thing. Apparently they were Jake's.

The kids looked respectable enough, but with today's youth, it was certainly a different definition from generation's past. Getting them corralled was easy enough but that was more due to Carol darting all over the place, trying to put everyone in a specific spot than it actually being calm and orderly. Once everyone settled, Marion stepped to the front of them, the six other counselors taking places behind her, and everyone seemed to know it was time to shut up.
"I know that you're all anxious to get into your groups and start today's activities.  But unfortunately we have a looooot of the boring stuff to go over first."
"I think you mean uber fun stuff there, Marion," Carol chimed in. Marion ignored her, shaking her head at the fact that Carol never seemed to escape her image of total camp suck up. Marion on the other hand had an easygoing demeanor that allowed for the kids to connect with her. She was laidback and didn't care, this was just a job. This was one of the many reasons that Al chose her as head counselor four years back. The kids respected her and would actually listen when she had something to say.
"Okay, we have to do roll call.  If I butcher your names, I'm sorry but some of you have names that are next to impossible for me to pronounce. That's just a fact of life as I’m sure you’ve found out throughout school. Don't worry, I'll avoid anything that sounds like it could be turned into a bad nickname," Marion said, making some of the kids laugh and snicker to themselves, "So let's get this over -- oh!  You'll also be assigned groups.  Duh, almost forgot.  And since I'm a weirdo who always does everything backwards, I'll start at the end of the alphabet . . . Santiago Valenzuela?"
Marion was expecting the worst with this one, given that he was ordered by the court to attend the camp but honestly, he didn't look that bad. Sure, Donny was seventeen-years-old with a dozen tattoos, but he certainly didn't look any worse than the other troublemakers she had seen throughout the years. His file made him out to be a gangbanger but, outside of the glares at Carol, he seemed sweet enough.
"Elizabeth Thompson?"
Marion was relieved to see Liz, her favorite recurring camper. There weren't many carryovers from year to year so it was hard to not grow attached to those that did. Her brown hair and often punk-rock clothing, reminded Marion a lot of herself a couple years ago. It’s probably why they bonded as much as they did.

Their official bonding moment came when she caught Liz smoking a joint down by the lake.  It was nearly midnight, so given the camps early schedule, most of the campers and counselors were fast asleep. Liz usually wouldn't have had anything to worry about except that, unbeknownst to her, Marion liked to smoke by the lake too.
Liz almost hadn't noticed when Marion took a squat next to her, the joint already almost down to a roach.
"You know, smoking is bad for you," Marion said, thinking, At least that's what I think I'm supposed to say.
"I can't think of anything better for me right now," Liz shot back.
"Fucks with your memory, actually," said Marion.
"What," Liz said, not entirely believing her.
"Yeah, smoking before eighteen can be bad news. Maybe even twenty-five -- I can't remember -- but short term memory can just completely go to shit. Then you can't remember where you put your keys for the rest of your life," Marion said, before quickly correcting herself, "Oh wait -- cellphones. That’s what I meant. Keys are practically obsolete now right?"
"So are you just out here trying to catch campers smoking?" Liz asked and caused Marion to immediately erupt in laughter.
"Probably under my job description somewhere but no ma’am," Marion said.
"Midnight stroll?" Liz asked, still curious and hoping to somehow get out of trouble.
"I guess you could say that," Marion said, pulling out a joint of her own and resting it between her lips.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Liz exclaimed.
In a moment that could have gotten her fired, she lit the joint and took a massive drag, handing it over to Liz afterward. This resulted in Marion playing several songs off her cracked iPod from Pink Floyd, The Residents and Velvet Underground. It was a bonding moment they hoped to share every year after, but Marion received her head counselor promotion that next year so it was only brought out on special occasions.
Being that this was Liz's last year, there was a certain bitterness to her presence. As much as Al wanted Marion to recruit Liz as a counselor, it was the last thing Marion wanted for her. Who in their right mind would stay here that long? Marion would think but then a mental image of Carol would always pop into her head. Old reliable Carol would, that’s who.

It took nearly 20 minutes to get through the hundred campers, mostly due to Carol and her excited squeal every time she'd get a new kid for her group. Seemed by the end that every child that wasn't called yet was just hoping to be placed in any group besides that one. This was typical but Marion still found it infinitely amusing.
Marion's group seemed decently behaved, although it was next to impossible to feel out a group in that environment, so it was really still up in the air. Having Liz certainly guaranteed that she would still at least enjoy some aspect of the activities this summer. Plus, Diane and Barry were taking the kids under 15, so it wasn't going to be too difficult for the rest of them.
Marion was relieved because this was usually the part where Carol stepped in, taking the leadership role and talking up the camp. Which meant that Marion could tune out for a good half hour. Which is precisely what she did. While Carol droned on, going over her complete daily routine as if it would be their own, Marion stared off thinking about the fireside beers the counselors would be sharing later. She really needed that right about now.
"Okay, I'm sure all of you are antsy to start all of the crazy fun but first we have the most important part of the day! Let’s give a big round of applause to all those wonderful counselors of yours!!! And now the man you all came here to see," Carol stopped for a moment to laugh at her own joke, "The magnificent Al!" 
Makes him sound like a magician, Marion thought. 
A large man stepped out, Al Bundy-like in his characteristics; an irony not lost among the counselors and a couple campers. The most obvious of these traits was the gut that protruded from his shirt in an almost cartoon-like way and the hairline that reached around to the back of his head. 
"Hello Campers!" Al said enthusiastically but rehearsed, "Are you ready to have some fun?"
The response from the campers was mostly groans, with Carol's excited squeals piercing through it to make it at least seem like more people were all about the fun. The other counselors just stood behind Al, their interest may have been even less than the campers, having listened to this routine several times before.
"You know, this camp is a part of my being as much as the blood in my veins. My great grandfather opened up this place in 1912 with just the money he had saved up while building houses all along the great town of Hodder -- that's the town you passed on the way in, ladies and gents. Anyway, it started off small, just maybe half a dozen campers at first. Then every year there'd be more and more and he'd build more cabins and more boats. Finally, he had built all the great things you see here today -- with a little help from my father and me, obviously. So we have been providing nonstop excitement and thrills all the way since 1912, a fact I'm quite proud--"
"What about '91?" a boy shouted unexpectedly from the back. Al ignored it and plastered a big fake smile on his face, though the outburst clearly got to him. Marion couldn't believe someone actually said something. It had been years since the event was mentioned in this manner. Seemed like it gone to legend and escaped public fact.
"We've had thousands of campers enjoy the facilities and make life long bonds, be it with your peers, your counselors, or even your ole camp owner -- hey, don't laugh.  It has happened," Al said with a belly laugh. Marion could hear the nervousness in his voice. He put on a good show, but it was painfully obvious to her just how much the question affected him.

1991 was not a year that Al wanted to discuss.

Crimson Summer - Chapter Three


The level of excitement that Carol awoke with was nearly too much for her to handle. Endorphins pumped and her nerves went on edge. The day was finally here. The day she had waited for all year long. The one she thought about constantly, sitting at her boring receptionist job at the university, twiddling her thumbs and just picturing all the great things that would start this day. This was like Christmas to her. No, this was bigger than Christmas; this was the first day of Summer Camp.
It didn't matter what anyone thought about her excitement, she showed it without shame. She had been there for several weeks helping to prep the camp with most of the other counselors and it was hard enough to get the smile off her face. And while she certainly enjoyed that -- one of the only counselors that did -- this trumped everything else. No one else understood the camp like she did. Except maybe Al, whose enthusiasm was more contained than Carol's. The day of campers’ first arrival was the true beginning of all the fun for her.

The last few nights had been spent carefully preparing her routine. Every year she would follow a basic structure but there were always tweaks and areas to improve. First, she'd wake up at 5:30am, get out of bed and immediately wash her face with cold water. Then apply a cleanser and wash it off. She'd then wipe her face with Stridex pads and allow the exfoliant to work its magic. This was valuable time that she combed her hair. Getting all knots out of her mane transitioned smoothly into the ponytail she'd put it into.
After making her way to the bathroom at 6:00, she would take only a two and a half minute shower, as to not take all the hot water from the other counselors. Not to mention the annoying showering plumbing that would sometimes go ice-cold out of nowhere. The longer you were in, the higher your chances of getting iced. Simple fact of camp life. Carol tried to fix it but given that she had no experience in the subject whatsoever, she did more harm than good. Big Al certainly wasn't appreciative of the $2,000 bill from the plumber.
Spending twenty-two-and-a-half minutes adjusting her make-up, which looked shockingly similar to how she looked without said beauty products, she put her hair into its signature ponytail and started the strangest part of her daily routine. She'd stare at the mirror for a good two minutes, pumping herself up, much like a coach does to their players before a big game. She did this every morning. That was it for her personal routine. Then it came into the fun stuff: the counselor routine.
First she'd go to her campers’ bunk at precisely 7:30, waking them up with the rapid clanging of the bell, hung outside the cabin. They'd wake up on the grouchy side, but nothing Carol couldn't fix with a massive smile and interesting fact, usually regarding sleep and often more opinion than fact. Her go-to on the first morning was always, "The natural human sleep cycle follows the sun, and the more you do too, the more likely you'll grow up to be big and bright." Lots of opinion.
                After shuffling the campers off to the showers, an activity she allotted 45 minutes of time for, she'd calmly read her school books in front of the cabin. Sometimes she'd peek in on the girls and tell them to hurry up, just to keep them in line and maybe hear some choice gossip.
Once the campers were all showered and dressed, it was time for the meeting at the flag. Here, every group would stand in line and say the pledge of allegiance as the American flag was risen high in the sky. They used to have a prayer at the end but that changed in the 90's to a moment of silence, then finally in the 2000's, it was dropped completely.
The Camp Watanka song would follow. Carol, accompanying on the guitar and easily the loudest voice at the camp, would stand near the front and sway back and forth, like she was on a stage in front of thousands and thousands. She really liked that damn song. 
With the campers' stomach's grumbling, it was time for breakfast. This would usually happen at 8:30 but given Al's looseness with scheduling, it would sometime go over or under by several minutes. No matter though, Carol always kept a spare hacky sack on her when she needed to fill time and build bonds of friendship in her group.
Giving a helping hand to Marjory, the camp cook and a staple of Camp Watanka since 1973, Carol would stand behind the counter and serve food.  It was her way of making sure every camper had their meal for the day and no one went hungry. Carol had read long ago that an easy way to avoid a grouchy teenager was to give them plenty of fuel for the day ahead, something she treated like it wasn't common knowledge to society. It was.
It took almost thirty minutes to get all of the kids through the line, then an additional thirty minutes for them to eat -- thirty five if it was omelet day. This meant that by the time they were ready to separate into groups and begin the day’s activities, it was already 9:30. Carol repeatedly told Al that the kids were slow and should be faster so that they can start the activities by 8:30 but Al just wouldn't budge. He claimed, "The kids needed their sleep and don't need to be rushed everywhere," or something stupid, at least Carol thought so. She had far too much to do to have such a late start.
Once separated into groups, this was when the day really began, or so Carol believed. This was when all her hard planning paid off. See, she didn't treat the day’s activities like most other counselors; an unfortunate fact given the amount of time Carol spent lobbying for her system to be implemented camp-wide.
From health books on physical fitness for youths, to psychology books about mental stimulation through problem solving, each book was a tool in her overall plan to make these kids, at the end of the two month period, better in every way possible. These were the minds of tomorrow, and Carol needed to do everything she could to nourish them and let them flourish.
The other counselors found her odd for some reason.
The three hour period of activities before lunch ranged from scavenger hunts, hide and seek, word association games, eventually culminating in a trust fall for each of the group members. This was Carol's favorite activity because it showed how much the kids got more comfortable around each other, and more importantly around Carol, who needed their approval.
Then at 12:30, lunch would follow a similar structure to breakfast, with Carol assisting Marjory with food. Given that the campers were more awake from all the physical activity, Carol would bust out her guitar and sing upbeat poppy music. Carol could sometimes see certain campers bobbing along to the tune. That was enough for her to consider her job well done.
After lunch at precisely 1:30, all of the groups would remain as one and do a massive activity. This would range from rock climbing to baseball to basketball to capture the flag, all depending on the day. Marion would usually take the reins here but Carol would end up taking over naturally throughout the course of the session. For some reason, Marion would often look at Carol, annoyed as she yelled out commands, trying to make the game more fun. Some people just don't understand how to have fun, Carol thought.
Next came the time of the day that Carol tried to get rid of year after year, considering it was nothing other than hormonal fraternizing and nonsense: swimming time. The entire camp would venture to the lake and enjoy the water and sunshine. Carol claimed it was nothing other than a chance for the boys to oogle the girls who are themselves being inappropriate by wearing such scantily clad clothing. Carol would watch over them on top the lifeguard stand, with her custom made one-piece bathing suit; an item of clothing that looked popular in the 1950's.
5:30 the groups would separate into whatever specialty class they wanted to take. These included kayaking, archery, pottery, and woodworking. Carol taught pottery and her attendance numbers were well below the average for the other groups. Al always told Carol she needed to come up with a different one.
"Kids just aren't that into spinning clay," he once said.
Carol scoffed at the notion, refusing to believe such an art-form would go unappreciated. It just gave a cause to her pottery class. Last year she had two campers sign up.
Dinner time would spring up around 6:30 and the groups would converge much like lunch and breakfast. This time, however, Carol wouldn't join Marjory to pass out food. Since dinner had a much looser feel given the lack of planned activities afterwards, Al told Carol it was unnecessary for her to help out. Carol refused, but when Al said that dinner was valuable bonding time for the counselors, she shut up and did as told. So instead she sat at the counselor's table, trying her hand at bonding with her coworkers. It usually resulted in silence while she judged whatever the others were talking about.
Once dinner finished, it was considered "free-time" though really, it depended on your age. The older campers were allowed to either go to the campfire pits, stay in the mess hall for board games, or return to their cabins. Most would split their time between the fires and the cabins. The younger kids would be forced to stay in the mess hall. Carol remained in the hall and played board games with those that stayed. 
Once 9:00 hit, Carol would close up shop in the mess hall, sending the campers back to their cabins in order to keep the 9:30 curfew. Usually she'd have some difficulty getting some of the older kids to leave the campfire, but then Marion would come along and deal with it. Carol resented the position Marion had, but she was at least thankful for the respect she commanded. It was always something that Carol strove for.
At precisely 9:35, Carol would enter the cabin she shared with Marion who, unless she was suffering from an illness or invested in a really good book, wouldn't be back in the cabin for several hours. She'd be hanging out with the other counselors from times ranging anywhere from 12:00 to 3:33am. Once Marion didn't even come back to the cabin. Carol was shocked at Marion's pure disregard for her own mental health.
After a fairly quick routine of removing her makeup and brushing her teeth, she'd rest her head on her pillow and fall asleep, no later than 10:00pm. Usually.
These were her days. This was her routine. This was the only way she knew how she live at the camp. It may have made her predictable but that's how Carol liked it. Old reliable Carol.

The 16x16 structure that Carol called home during her time at Watanka had become more of a home to her than even her childhood house. This was where she actually enjoyed spending her time. A place that always seemed to represent something better. At least that's what Carol would often tell herself when she was away from it. It wasn't like her cabin was anything special. She shared it with Marion, the head counselor, a person Carol both looked up to and despised. So space was tight. And outside of beds, they had to share everything else. Even drawers, which sometimes lead to the wearing of each other's clothes on accident. Marion didn't care much about it. Carol did. Still, it had a comfort to it that Carol just couldn't seem to replicate anywhere else. 
Carol's appearance completely encapsulated her personality: her strawberry blonde locks almost too perfect and full of volume. Her flawless skin glowed in the most doll-like of ways. Carol clearly took good care of herself in every way. In fact, she may have even been considered attractive if she actually dressed the part.  Instead she often looked closer to that of a Mormon intent on never having sexual relations.
In the bunk next to her own, Marion stirred awake, immediately grabbing the small cartridge next to her bed and taking a small puff. Those damn electronic cigarettes, Carol thought to herself, being a person that despised all smoking. Eyes still closed, Marion exhaled deeply, opening her eyes to see Carol, her eyes already meeting Marion's gaze. Those wide, blue, doll-like eyes.
"You have to stop doing that. One of these days I'm gonna have a heart attack or you're gonna accidentally get socked in the face.  Either, or," Marion said, covering up her mouth to yawn.
"Well wake up, boss," Carol smiled obnoxiously.
"I don't know how you do it," Marion said, barely getting the words out through another yawn, "5AM and you're as chipper as ever. And no alarm clock, even."
"You don't have an alarm clock either," she said with a ridiculous amount of pep.
"You are my alarm clock, Carol," Marion sighed, clearly not impressed with the situation which would repeat itself for the next month.
"Well, you're welcome then," Carol responded with a big smile.
"Yeah, waking up to Princess Peach staring at me is a wonderful way to start my day. Not terrifying in the least." Marion laid the sarcasm on thick.
"Oh come on! Don't be a sour puss. The kids arrive in just a few short hours! We're about to change lives," Carol said playfully. Her voice was light and flowing, taking cadences from nearly every Disney princess, forming a unique and even ridiculous speech pattern. Marion ignored it easily, given her many, many years of practice.
"Yeah and I have paperwork to file for two last minute applicants, a phone call I need to make to Steve to figure out what's wrong with payroll since currently no one is being paid and I can't really corral a bunch of irresponsible college kids to work without reward," Marion said, catching her breath. "That's all prior to when a hundred kids join us, where they need to be separated into bunks, hopefully ones that don't cause problems but you know how that goes, it's pretty much just luck. Then we have to set up the whole schpeal about what to expect and sing that stuuuupid song. God I hate that fucking song."
"I love that song," Carol slipped right into it before Marion could even react.

"Ohhhh I looove, Camp Watanka
It's the best camp in the whole United Staaaates.
There's no sad place, on our campers face
Because with all the fun to be had youuuu must embrace,
And brace yourself, for days of fun.
Cause it’s all right here for eeeeeeveryyyyyoooooone!
Camp Watanka!"
Marion was out of the cabin to go shower before Carol was even done singing. 


Crimson Summer - Chapter Two

Read Chapter One HERE


        Another year. That's the only thought that ever seemed to go through Liz's head as she boarded the bus for another journey into what felt like an oddly familiar alien world. Another year spent listening to Big Al tell stupid jokes, Carol act overly excited for anything going on in the camp, and that stupid "unity bash" at the end. I hate all of it, Liz thought. She walked down the cramped bus aisle, laughing at the yet-again chipping and in need of a paint job interior.  The bus driver always claimed, "He'd get to it after he dropped them off at camp."  It never happened.  The driver was just a lazy jackass, Liz had surmised. Probably not far off given his faded “Class of ‘89’” T-shirt from what must have been high school.
Even with the chipping paint, Liz probably would have been disappointed had there been a fresh coat of paint present for nostalgia’s sake. It was all part of the package and the routine of it all. Summer camp was just such a routine in and of itself that even the things she used to hate about going became things she looked forward to. She just had to go through fits of annoyance with the process to get there. Going to Watanka had become such a big part of Liz's life that she stopped complaining to her parents about it long ago. It didn't matter what she said anyway. They were sending her and that was that. Oddly enough she couldn't help but be a little grateful about the whole ordeal. The idea of staying around her parents was more torture than spending 36 days at Camp Watanka.
Taking her seat, her eyes scanned the crowd on Bus 2, trying to see if she spotted any familiar faces. Was that the cute boy from Bunk Barracuda last summer? No, he said his family was moving back to Arizona. Oh wait, Liz thought, that's definitely Molly Austin near the back. Her hand quickly rose to greet her but stopped the moment the realization came to her that Molly had a very distinct mole on her left cheek. This girl had no mole. Fuck. That girl always would sneak in whiskey.  So much for that, Liz sighed. Her eyes continued to scan, trying to figure out if this would be another summer she had to completely start over with friends.

It wouldn't be the first time that she had to start anew. Outside of the Belar Twins, she was the only consistent camper that Camp Watanka had. And that was probably for good reason. Summer camps had their hey-day in the 1980's and had casually fallen off ever since. Nowadays, the only kids that went were those that either A) wanted to try it out once or B) their parents wanted them out of the house so they were going to be leaving for the summer regardless of their own opinion. Didn't exactly leave the ripest friends for the picking but Liz made do.
No, what scared her more than the prospect of new friends were the counselors treating her like she was the teacher's pet. Given that the Camp only had three consistent campers, it was hard to not be labeled as such when every counselor and the big boss knew your name. Early on Liz had even begged her parents to let her just go to a different camp. Anywhere that would help out her social standing. They refused, despite intense whining and rebellion. Didn't matter to them. Not like they wanted a daughter to begin with.
Another year she tried to convince her parents to sign her up under a different name, and surprisingly she succeeded. Her new wardrobe, haircut, and voice lasted all of two seconds; the illusion shattering the moment she stepped off the bus. Crazy Carol was able to sniff her out in a heartbeat, making an even bigger deal about her appearance and odd trickery. She didn't make any friends that summer. In fact, that summer was definitely the worst.
        Not having learned her lesson, two years ago Liz made a scene during the opening speech, cussing out Big Al in front of the entire camp. It wasn't Liz's finest moment but she thought it would prove a point. Instead, Big Al took it upon himself to treat her as a pet project. His grand plan was to make Liz fall in love with the camp and all it offered, just like Carol did. He had her do all sorts of things: set up game nights and arts and crafts for other campers, helped serve food during all three meals, and lead the campfire songs, most of which consisted of non-participation and one person singing -- usually Carol. Liz just saw it as Al training her to be the next Carol, something all campers wanted to avoid.
While this clearly wasn't the end result, it did help Liz gain an apathetic approach to her feelings on the camp. Instead of hating everything about Watanka on the outside, she just hid those feelings on the inside, rather than ruining the time for other campers. The camp would do that job on its own. 

Liz found an empty seat near the middle of the bus that wasn't completely falling apart or covered in old gum. She sat down on it with a grunt, bringing up a cloud of dust that joined the mixture of body odor and "country air" that filled the bus. Other kids, ranging anywhere from nine to eighteen, congregated towards the back, which prompted an "I've got my eyes on you back there" from the bus driver. Staring out the window, Liz looked through the crowd of parents, searching for her own mother and that ridiculously large hat of hers. Nowhere to be found. How the hell can I not see her in that -- Just when she was going to give up the search, she spotted her mother's car speeding off down the road, blowing up dust behind her. The other parents looked at the car, then at each other, clearly disapproving of her mother and her actions. Liz just shook her head, If you only knew.
        Hearing more ruckus from outside, Liz looked out, seeing another vehicle, driving extremely fast as well, and coming directly towards the bus. The car skidded to a halt, some of the parents backing away a little, as a disheveled teenage boy stepped out. The driver didn't even get out, yelling something out that Liz could only catch part of: "Jeannie." Odd name for a boy, Liz pondered, wondering if she even heard it right.
Just as quickly as it had arrived, the car sped away, leaving the boy and his bag of luggage behind. Those may be worse parents than mine. Maybe. The boy made his way onto the bus, his eyes looking down at the floor. He was clearly close to Liz's age, so that was a plus, and his messy brown hair, parted to the side, reminded her of that cute boy from a couple years back. Liz scanned the seats around her, mostly full up. Those with one free seat had a bag next to them, sending a clear anti-social message. Liz, on the other hand, had her bag snugly between her legs, and plenty of room on the seat next to her. 
It didn't even seem like the boy was paying attention when he plopped down in the seat next to Liz. She greeted him with a smile but his eyes darted right down to his lap, holding tightly onto the phone in his grasp.
"I doubt you're really gonna to need that," Liz laughed. The boy's eyes darted up at her, defensive before he even got a word out.
"What?" he proclaimed, even though he clearly knew what was happening.
"They don't allow cellphones really," she stated, "They started it a couple years ago. I think some kid got his MacBook dropped in a lake or something. The parents sued, and the camp almost went under. Now they just don't let people bring expensive electronics. I think Al just really hates technology and doesn’t want us all on our phones throughout the summer. It all gets locked up in the main office. Two years ago this girl brought a vibrator and Carol thought it was a massager so she just kept it locked up with the laptops and the iPhones. Yeah . . . Al wasn't too impressed with that."
"Uh…" before the boy could even answer, Liz was at it again.
"Oh sorry, yeah, of course you don't know names. Marion is head counselor and Al is the owner. You'll randomly see him all the time. He's cool though. Just likes to get drunk and hit on the older counselors. Typical lonely bachelor stuff but he's really harmless. And Marion is pretty much the coolest person on the planet. She's the big sister you always wish you had -- do you have a sister? Doesn't really matter, she still fits that role. She's super cool. As long as you don't do something too stupid, she'll be your best friend. One summer when I had a boyfriend back home, she let me sneak off and text him at night. May not seem like much but it was the world then. That lasted until Carol tailed me and tried to get me kicked out. Sometimes I wish I had just let her. Oh and --" Liz stopped, realizing just how much she had been going on about stuff that was clearly, judging by the blank look on the boy's face, of no interest to him. She tried to make up for it with a, "Sorry, I talk a lot," but the boy still just stared at her blankly. Trying to avoid any second further of awkward silence, Liz asked quickly, "I'm Liz.  In case you couldn't tell I'm kind of a veteran."
"Yeah, I think I sherlocked that myself," the boy squeamishly said.
"And you are…" she asked, not knowing whether she'd even get a straight response. Everything about his body language was awkward and uninviting.
"Oh, sorry. Chase! My name is Chase. Chase is . . . yeah, that's my name." He was uncomfortable and stumbling over his words. Liz couldn't help but be drawn to it, as she could relate.
"You sure about that?" she smiled as Chase had seemed to finally be a little more social, even in an unconventional sense.
"According to . . . mother," he blushed a little as he struggled to even get out the words, which he didn't manage fully.
"Mother?  What are you, Norman Bates?"
Chase looked over at her, turning his head and smiling sadistically; he was a carbon copy of the ending shot of Psycho and Norman Bates' terrifying gaze into the camera. God, I fucking love that movie, Liz thought, but was careful not to say. She had to bust his balls more than that. How else would she test him?
"That is beyond creepy," Liz said.
"Sorry, people don't really get my sense of humor..." Chase trailed off towards the end, looking out the bus, away from Liz, clearly embarrassed and wanting to focus elsewhere.
"Hey, I got it. I still found it creepy though. Don't worry, funny to the max. Just, you know, in that non-laughter sort of way," Liz joked with him. She's not sure he got it though, as it was immediately met with a turn of the head and obvious signs of ignorance: eyes down, appendages facing away, and bad vibes aplenty. Liz didn't care though. She liked a good challenge.
"We're about to spend the next two hours on a bus together, do you really want to spend it acting like I'm not here? I promise, I can be a lot cooler if you don't act self-conscious about everything," Liz said, trying to convince him of anything, "Quit overthinking anything I’m saying.  Just react accordingly."
Chase waited a moment, not really knowing what to do. Didn't seem like many people called him out on his bullshit, a specialty of Liz's. And just like that, he broke out of his shell, "Sorry, I guess I just have a sort of defense mechanism where I try and test people.  Don't really put myself out there until I get a good idea of who they are. Make them prove that they're worth putting the effort into for a friendship.  I'm an introvert, so I go to the extreme to see how they react.  See if they can handle me at my worst – annnnd I just randomly spilled my guts out to a random stranger. Good start to camp."
Liz smiled wide the entire time.  It was hard not to.
"You and I are gonna get along all right," Liz said smiling as she finally had it confirmed:  Chase passed the test.

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Synopsis: Summers at Camp Watanka are never easy. The buildings are dilapidated and the heat can be scorching, but for the teenage cam...