“We have a monster outside the camp,” Anderson says.
We all lean forward on our logs. The fire throws an orange glow on a semicircle of campers and camp counselors.
“They say you can see its light flickering through the trees—waiting. If it finds you, it'll grab you. Run its feelers all over your face. And then drag you, screaming, into the trees.”
Somebody—probably Paul, because he’s dumb—squeaks like a mouse.
“They say it looks like an enormous, monstrously huuuge—”
We all hold our breath.
Silence. Breaths let out like deflated balloons.
Next to me, Grant snorts.
Mr. Anderson looks around the camp expectantly.
“So, everyone, I urge you all to stay in your cabins at night. Do not stray from the safety of the camp perimeters. Follow not in the footsteps of foolish Frankie, who left his cabin last year and was never seen again.”
Paul, that snot-face, raises his hand timidly.
“What happened to him?”
“He was never seen again,” says Anderson. “Let that be a warning to all: do not stray into the dark. Do not tempt the monster.”
So of course Grant and I stay up, hours after lights-out and after everyone finished laughing about the scary camp bug monster and lay snoring in their bunks. On our way out we discover Paul, wide-eyed and shaking under his sheets. We briefly discuss whether to tie him up or kill him, but end up taking him along, marching him between us with my hand over his mouth. A wet stain drenches the crotch of his pajama bottoms.
The sky is inky black, lit by clouds burned white as they touch the moon, and there’s a deafening sound of crickets and frogs all around us. Paul sobs into my hand, now wet with spit and tears, and walks without seeing. We reach the woods at the outskirts of camp.
Here it's daylight with every space lit up with fireflies.
We stand there, looking at the flickering yellow lights. I’ve never in my life seen so many.
There’s a rustling in the trees and Paul shrieks. Grant shoves Paul towards the source of the sound.
Before us emerges a strange figure.
“You boys shouldn't be out here at night,” says a growly voice. “It’s not safe.”
“Anderson,” Grant says. “We know it’s you in a bug suit.”
Paul starts crying again. He runs forward and hugs the bug, which pushes him away.
Anderson’s paunchy body is squeezed into something puffy and misshapen with wings, feelers, and dragging lightbulb butt.
The fireflies, shining bright as exit lights in a movie theater, wink out as one and disappear, leaving us in a darker night.
Anderson speaks once more.
“Leave now or—”
Something huge, as large as the trees, breaks from the black woods and takes Anderson. His screams follow us as we run as fast as we can back to the cabins.