The Leaf Beast
by max knoblauch

I can’t believe camp is basically over and only three of us have been killed by the Leaf Beast this year.

Used to be that we’d come to camp, get about a week/week and a half of solid camp stuff in, then start getting atomized by the Leaf Beast. Just mowed down, eaten, drowned, cut in half, killed via our dreams, possessed and made to puke all over then jump off a roof, you name it. Ultimately, if you go to Camp Arrow Pine Camp of the Arts, you can expect to lose about 60% of your friends and counselors to the Leaf Beast. And it’s worth it! It’s really the best Camp of the Arts around, the instructors have real credits and they’re actually in the industry.

But I dunno, this year’s different. The Leaf Beast’s numbers are down like… 500%. I think he is maybe sick, but Paul says probably he is just bummed out.

Honestly, it is pretty crazy that the Leaf Beast has only killed three people. And those deaths were - and I don’t mean to sound brazen or anything - but they were not up to the standard of past Leaf Beast related deaths.

I mean, the bodies of counselor Ethan and his GF Caroline (who he snuck into camp) were found in the woods under a hovering collection of animal bones that spelled out “fear.” What is that? Fear? What even is the Leaf Beast trying to say with that? Pretty on the nose if you ask me. Kind of samey. And that’s not even to mention that Ethan is like, young and stupid and is always trying to bust in the woods anyway. Ethan is probably the freaking easiest, lamest target at the whole camp. I mean, I bet they literally laid on some leaves that were actually the Leaf Beast or something, that’s how dumb Ethan is. Anyone could kill Ethan.

The other death is honestly potentially just a freak accident and wasn’t even the Leaf Beast, if I’m being honest. Some of the fellas were messing around on paddle boats and Corey fell into the lake and drowned. Like yeah, maybe the Leaf Beast was holding him under or something - and we’re all telling ourselves that to feel better - but maybe Corey just flat out shouldn’t have been wearing that much denim on the paddle boats, you know? Who knows.

What I do know is: something is for sure going on with the Leaf Beast, who is usually so skilled at separating us from one another using our individual fears and anxieties and then leading us to the woods or the meadow or wherever and sending our souls to another dimension. His heart is not in it this year. This sounds nuts, but the summer is definitely suffering for it.

It’s just honestly not all that fun, spending seven straight weeks playing tug of war, and doing our little skits at the talent show (although they are elevated by the staff who again is actually in the industry), and sleeping in bunks with no air conditioning, if there’s not also going to be the sick and perverted thrill of surviving another summer with the Leaf Beast. We need some action, baby. We need a classic Leaf Beast meadow chase like last summer, when, after hours of heart-pounding sprinting through the forbidden woods, over Trout Falls and into the old quarry, we realized five of our dear friends had been turned inside out by the hideous Leaf Beast. That was awesome. This summer has sucked, in terms of the coolness factor in Leaf Beast deaths.

The other night I went on a walk past the forbidden cave, just to see if the Leaf Beast would be tempted to jump out and tear my skin from my muscle, or kick me off a mountain with his freaky long legs, or send me hundreds of years back in time to watch him eat my great-grandfather, destroying the very memory of me and my family, or whatever. I don’t know, something exciting, I’m not the Leaf Beast. But I walked back and forth past that cave for an hour, whistling our camp theme, calling out the mantra of the Pine Scouts (brave and true/we’ll come through, that’s what shines out/of the Pine Scouts) and there was nothing. Not even a chill down my spine.

Honestly? As I was finally heading back to camp I’m pretty sure I heard a sigh come from the cave.

DJ says it’s probably the election. I was like, you think the Leaf Beast even knows about the election? And DJ was like, I don’t know maybe he just found out. And I was like, and what, he’s worried about Biden? The Leaf Beast is in the resistance and he’s worried Biden doesn’t have what it takes? And DJ was like, look it’s just a theory, the sarcasm isn’t helpful, it’s just constant headlines, you know? They never end. And we all nodded somberly at that. They really just don’t end. You have to find a way to get away sometimes.

Also the Leaf Best I think is an eco-fascist.

Anthony thinks maybe the Leaf Beast is going through a breakup, which also seems suspect to me. Then again, Paige from our sister camp did say that they saw the Lake Witch slouched and moaning on their tire swing one sunset, just looking out into the lake. Which would be I guess normal for the Lake Witch to a certain degree (her whole deal is slouched moaning) but seems too coincidental this year.

The other guys think I’m nuts, but I’ve been trying to get a group together to go talk to the Leaf Beast. We’ll throw a big fake party, he’ll lumber out with those huge long wooden legs of his, making that goofy little clicking sound he makes right before he throws you 400 feet in the air like a frisbee. And we’ll just tell him: hey buddy. We’re here, you can talk to us, we love you, and whatever you’re going through is normal. We’ll all be at camp doing our skit “fat guy slip and fall” to insane applause whenever you’re ready to come turn us into dust or whatever.

You have to tell your friends you love them, you know? It’s the Camp Arrow Pine Camp of the Arts Way.

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