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Come closer, child. Come sit by my fire. Let me tell you another story. Snuck in again, did you? Well, it's the only way anyone gets in here nowadays, since they closed down the campground. Why? Oh, not enough money. The school had budget cuts, and this old camp was one of the first things to go.
I know a lot about this place. More than you could imagine. Let's see, have I told you about the switchboard? Yes, yes. I remember now. Oh! I don't think you've heard about the campfire ghosts, have you? Come now, don't look so frightened. Ghosts are only strong memories. What harm did a memory ever do to you? Oh, stop that. You know what I mean.
Man had tamed this place. It used to be wild, but they cut it and shaped it and made it their own, and when that happened, instead of being nourished by the sun and the rain and the wind, the land fed off the campers. No, not like you're thinking of. It didn't drag them off in the middle of the night and leave their blood-drained, mutilated bodies in the middle of clearings. No, it fed off the spirit of them, their exuberance, their joy, the very emotion of them. Simply put, the campground thrived on activity.
But that all changed when the campers stopped coming. Suddenly, the grounds stood empty, the doors half-off their hinges, the flowers drooping with neglect. You could almost say that the camp was like a captured circus animal. It had gotten so used to being fed regularly, to being pampered, that it had forgotten how to take care of itself, how it used to be. Almost.
But not quite. You see, there is no such thing as a natural place where life does not exist. It always finds a way to survive, in some form or another. So the camp-place did not fail, it did not die from lack of knowledge. It just... relearned. Slowly, bit by bit, the earth crept in again. The plants, the forest, the animals, they all came back. And they taught it how to live.
It was its own now, living off the sun and the wind and the rain, no longer man's. But what to do with the emotion? The former camp had no use for that now; it needed a way to get rid of it. It couldn't just release it, though. It would run wild, as it was too much to be absorbed by anything.
So it let go of the energy slowly. Every year on one night in May, all these seats in this amphitheater here were filled with ghostly schoolchildren, all singing the same song. It's the last song they used to sing before heading off to bed. Do you know it? No? These are the lyrics. I'm afraid I don't have much of a singing voice.
America, America, shall we tell you how we feel? You have given us your riches, we sing for you.... We sing for you.
Beautiful, isn't it? The camp's favorite song, I'm willing to bet. I like it, as well. Unfortunately, that song's not been heard for a couple years past. The place has almost run out of joy. Now it saves its energy for when someone comes back. It conjures up a person to tell the trespasser about its life, in hopes that they'll bring the people here again....
Ah! I see you've figured it out! No, no, no. Come back. I will not hurt you. I can't even touch you. I'm the same as the children, the same as the song. Only a memory. But – different, in a way. I am not a memory of a person, but rather, this place's memory of itself.
I am Camp Casey.
Already I can feel my energy fading.... Here. Give me your wrist. There! No, don't wave it around and swear. That won't help anything. The pain will go away in a minute. I need you to show that mark to the person in charge of the school now. They'll know what it means. Will you do that for me? As an old man... well, camp's dying wish? You will?
And – one last thing –
Thank you for being someone who cares enough to listen.