A Camping Trip in Which No One
Has Ever Been Camping Before
by Johi Jenkins
November 1, 2019
Words: constellation, ketchup, royal, gear, atmosphere, expand, livid, example, luminous, moonlit
“Everyone in this trip been camping before,” Joe assured his girlfriend Renee. “There’s nothing to worry about, babe.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t. And you haven’t, either, by the way,” she coolly reminded him. “Backyard camping doesn’t count.”
“Yes, it does. I know how to set up a tent. Well, my dad did it, technically, when we camped in our backyard. But I helped him with the pegs!”
Renee rolled her eyes and tucked a loose strand of her auburn hair behind her ear. “I’ll continue reading my book, thanks.” She had been reading The Outdoors Survival Handbook for two days now and hadn’t looked up from it.
Joe smiled at his girlfriend’s quirks and continued driving the Jeep through the narrow road that would take them to the clearing where his friends should be waiting already. The sun was about to set; they were running late, and it was Renee’s fault (she’d packed like a royal going to a month-long trip to the most remote location on Earth). But, she had agreed to come camping with him and she was freakin’ hot, so Joe wasn’t going to complain about it.
This was going to be the best trip ever.
The aliens stepped out of their small capsule and looked around as they took a deep breath.
“The readings are correct, husband.” Ha-Mas declared, glancing down at the screen of the portable computer in her hand. “This atmosphere is agreeable to us.”
“Indeed, my wife; a most satisfying fact,” Pa-Fin replied. He took another deep breath. “The air smells different than the air in our planet Aspia, but not as unpleasant as we were warned it would be.”
“Remember, husband, that the air quality reports we studied were based on our mission destination, which is a populous city full of humans and their primitive transportation and air filtering systems. Yet we have been forced to land our capsule in this wooded area to procure Fermium for our troubled ship.”
“Ah, you are correct, my wife. As ever.”
Ha-Mas acknowledged his compliment with an awkward smile and then said, with another glance at the object in her hand, “According to the meter, the Fermium is very close.”
“Let us begin our search, then, but it is imperative that we remain vigilant. We do not know what dangers lurk in these Earth woods.”
“Agreed, my husband. Let us camouflage the capsule” —with a touch to the screen and a soft bleep their transport seemed to vanish— “and turn on the camouflaging feature of our suits.” Another tandem set of bleeps and their space suits appeared to blend in with their surroundings.
“Onwards,” they declared in unison.
Staying close to each other, the aliens moved towards the marker pulsating softly on the map in their device.
“So, we gonna kill them or what?” Brandy asked Brian as the unsuspecting couple pulled up to the camping site and parked their Jeep next to Brian and Brandy’s stolen car.
“Probably. But only after they give us some useful information; maybe their PINs or something like that. Those last idiots were hardly worth a shit,” he added with a scowl at the cliff behind them where they had dumped their two latest victims.
“They told us about these rich shits,” Brandy reminded with a nod at the two who were now getting out of their car. “And their truck is pretty cool.”
“That’s true. Too bad we’re gonna have to ditch it soon. Once they’re suspected missing, after this weekend.”
Their last victims, a guy named Mark and a girl named Kelly, had supplied Brian and Brandy with a pickup truck full of all sorts of things, from small luxuries like ketchup and barbeque sauce to useful things like sleeping bags and tents. Sadly there had been hardly any money, but at least the couple had provided the criminals with valuable information about where they were going and who they were meeting up here. Brandy was the one who got all the information out of the overly chatty girlfriend after they were picked up pretending to be distressed hikers. As soon as the Mark guy parked the truck, Brian and Brandy got out of the backseat and opened the front doors, dragged out the gullible couple and slashed their throats. There was no time to properly dispose of them so they rolled the bodies off the cliff, then went around enjoying their newly acquired stash of beer and food. Neither of them had ever been camping before so they didn’t even bother pretending to set up the tent. Not even ten minutes later they heard the Jeep coming up the road.
Now they were eyeing the approaching couple with little dollar signs over their eyes. The recently-dead Kelly had gushed about how rich their friends were, and filled Brandy’s head with fantasies of loads of cash and expensive jewelry. Brandy hoped the girl had been right.
Time to find out.
A minute after stepping out of the Jeep, Joe felt his phone buzzing in his pocket several times in quick succession, alerting him of incoming texts and other notifications. He smiled as he reached for his phone.
“Check it out!” he said to Renee excitedly. “We have reception up here!”
But his smile immediately froze and very quickly degraded into a frown as he read the texts from his friend Mark. “What the hell?”
“What’s wrong?” a worried Renee asked next to him, searching his screen for clues.
“Mark’s not coming! Says he’s sick and had to go to the hospital!” He immediately called back Mark’s number, but received a busy signal.
“So whose car is this?” Renee asked.
Joe examined the silver truck they had parked next to. He thought Mark drove a similar model, but he’d never laid eyes on Mark’s car so he wasn’t sure. Mark and Joe had been best friends since forever, growing up in the same hometown; but despite keeping in touch quite frequently, they hadn’t really seen much of each other since they left for different colleges two years ago.
Just as he was about to call Mark again, a blond guy and a fake blond girl stepped out of the tree line and into the clearing.
“Hey, there,” the unknown guy called. “Are you guys Joe and Renee?”
Joe and Renee looked at each other briefly before Joe replied. “Yeah.”
“Cool. I’m Dave, Mark’s roommate, and this is …” he looked at the girl next to him as if forgetting what to call her. “Brandy,” he finally said.
“Oh, okay,” Joe said as they all shook hands. “Yeah, Mark’s told me about you, Dave.” He didn’t add that Mark had never mentioned a girlfriend because the girlfriend might take offense to it. “You’re the one who loves camping, right? Ever since you guys went camping in the summer he’s been asking me to do this trip. I didn’t realize you guys were coming too, though.”
“Oh well, it was a last-minute thing. We drove up here together but when we stopped for lunch, he got food poisoning. Real bad. So anyway he wants you guys to stay; he and his girlfriend Kelly are at the hospital in Morristown, it’s like only twenty minutes from here, and I might go pick them up later if he feels better.”
“Wow, that sucks,” Renee said, a hint of something like disbelief in her voice. “But no one else got sick?”
The other two exchanged a quick glance. Then the fake blonde, Brandy, replied, “Yeah, he had the Roman lettuce in his burger, that’s what it was. I told him to take it off, you know, but he didn’t; and bam, ten minutes later he was hurlin’. None of us got the lettuce, so it must’ve been that.”
The Roman lettuce? Joe wasn’t sure Brandy knew what she was talking about, and next to him he could see Renee eyeing up the girl. Joe could tell Renee was skeptic, but she didn’t question them any further. She only said, “Well, I hope he feels better soon and can come join us.”
“You’ll see them soon enough,” Dave promised with a big smile. “Let’s get this party started!”
The aliens approached the moonlit clearing quietly and crouched behind a large bush, examining the scene before them. Four humans were conversing while attempting to set up a fire directly over the spot where the small rock containing the Fermium should be, according to the aliens’ meter.
Pa-Fin gasped. “The tall dark-haired male just told the short yellow-haired male that they intend to stay two nights here, wife. We cannot wait for them to leave. We need the Fermium immediately to continue our mission.”
“I agree with you, husband,” Ha-Mas replied. “We will have to immobilize them and sedate them while we work to recover the Fermium with our suit tools.”
A small asteroid containing the precious metal had impacted Earth a century before and had created this luminous clearing. The aliens needed to unearth the rock now to transmute the Fermium into energy for their ship, whose battery cells had suffered some damage while entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
“I will immobilize the two on the left, and you take the two on the right,” Ha-Mas directed, aiming her wrist-weapon at the first of her chosen targets. “Is that acceptable?”
“Agreed. Then we can—warning, behind you!” Pa-Fin detected the slithering reptile behind Ha-Mas too late, as it lifted its head and attacked her exposed hand.
Ha-Mas cried in pain and stumbled back onto Pa-Fin, losing her stance for a second; but she expertly readjusted and fired her wrist-weapon at the creature, immobilizing it. “There is venom in this bite, husband. I need to neutralize it before we can proceed with our mission.”
“I will take care of it, my wife.” Pa-Fin reached up his arm and extracted the emergency healing salve from his suit sleeve. As he applied the cure-all ointment over the swelling punctures in Ha-Mas’ hand, he heard a voice.
“Who’s there? Are you okay?”
It was the auburn-haired female approaching their hiding spot, followed closely by the tall dark-haired male, who appeared to be her mate.
“Do not be alarmed,” Pa-Fin called out in response. “We are humans just like you, camping.”
The humans looked confused. They were close enough now that they could see Pa-Fin leaning over the injured Ha-Mas. The male human said, “Uh, we heard a scream. Was that you?”
“Yes, we apologize for having disturbed you. It was just a scare—”
But the female gasped as she noticed the immobilized creature at their feet. “That’s a pit viper snake! I read about them in my book! They’re super poisonous! Did it bite you?” Her eyes focused on Ha-Mas’ wound, which was healing from the inside out, unbeknownst to the humans, but still swelling noticeably on the outside. “Oh no! We need to help you. Come with us. I have a first aid kit. Where is your gear?”
“Can you walk?” asked the human male. “I can help.”
Ha-Mas and Pa-Fin were touched by the young Earthlings’ desire to help. Ha-Mas stood, hoping to convey that she didn’t need help anymore, and Pa-Fin followed suit.
“Thank you for your offer, young fellow campers, but I am well. The animal must not have delivered poison with the bite. I am not in danger of dying.”
The humans frowned in renewed confusion. Ha-Mas thought something must be wrong with her translator, and decided it would be better to accept the offered aid, to ease their suspicions.
“But I believe I will accept your offer to help.”
The female smiled. “Great. Please come with us. I’ll bandage your hand, at least.”
As they walked to the humans’ camp together the male noticed Ha-Mas’ portable computer, which Pa-Fin was carrying, and said, “Whoa, dude. What kind of phone is that? And where did you get those camo suits? They’re out of this world.”
The aliens looked at each other in alarm. They know?
But no one got a chance to reply, as the other two humans, the yellow-haired couple, rushed at the approaching group; each grabbed a human and pressed a knife at their throats.
The aliens stood there, exceedingly confused. Is this some sort of game that Earth friends play? What an odd example of entertainment.
“Whoa, whoa! What the hell, Dave?” the dark-haired male asked the male that held him while his auburn-haired companion whimpered in surprise and fear in the yellow-haired female’s grip.
“We weren’t going to do it this way, but now you’ve gone and done a stupid thing and got these weird fuckers involved,” the yellow-haired male said with a nod at the aliens.
Weird fuckers? Ha-Mas looked at Pa-Fin, puzzled.
“What’s going on?” the auburn-haired female cried.
“What do you think, princess?” asked the yellow-haired female restraining her. “This is a robbery.”
Despite the awkward situation, Ha-Mas was now deeply humbled that she had been offered help by an Earth princess.
“Oh … Joe,” the princess cried between labored breaths laden with panic. “These people aren’t Mark’s friends. They … they must have … Oh, God.”
“What did you do to Mark and Kelly?” asked the dark-haired male named Joe.
“None of your goddamn business,” the yellow-haired male replied, at the same time the yellow-haired female replied, “We rolled them off the cliff.”
“Don’t tell them that,” snapped the male.
“What does it matter?” the female replied.
“Alright. Whatever,” he said. “Yes, we robbed your friends and then slit their throats. You’ll join them soon enough if you don’t hand over all of your shit to us.” Then he nodded at the aliens standing awkwardly in front of the struggle. “And you two, hands in the air!”
“Please clarify,” Pa-Fin requested. “Our hands are already in the air.”
“Hands up, asshole!”
Again the aliens exchanged a confused look. Was the human asking them to lift their wrist-weapons?
“Alright,” agreed Ha-Mas, raising her hand and aiming her wrist-weapon at the female holding the princess, while Pa-Fin did the same to the yellow-haired male.
“What the fuck are you doing? We’re going to kill these two!” The yellow-haired male was livid, pressing the knife closer to his captive’s throat.
“But why? Aren’t you … friends?” Pa-Fin asked, confused. Earth friendship was not at all like Aspia friendship.
“No,” the dark-haired male, Joe, answered. “We don’t know these people at all. We were supposed to meet my friends here, and these two … criminals … murdered them!”
With that, Joe threw his elbow behind him and managed to hit his captor in the temple; the yellow-haired male yelled in surprise but tightened his grip on his target, and his knife cut into poor Joe’s flesh; Joe screamed, the princess screamed, and all four humans were screaming over each other.
“That’s right we did!” yelled the yellow-haired male above them all. “And now we’re going to kill you, too!”
The aliens exchanged a purposeful look and a quick, easy nod, and shot their wrist-weapons at the two not-friends restraining the nice humans. Red beams hit their chests in tandem, and the criminal couple froze for a second before collapsing at their own feet.
“What … what just happened?” cried the now-free princess. Then she looked at her bleeding mate. “Joe!”
“He … he got me, babe.” And the nice human, Joe, dropped to his knees holding his hands at his neck.
“No, Joe, don’t …” the princess Babe sobbed.
Pa-Fin knelt next to Joe and said, “You are a brave young human, one she calls Joe. Let us tend to your wound.”
“How?” asked the distraught princess. “You don’t even have a first ai—”
But Pa-Fin was already applying the healing salve over the wound, which would mend the damaged muscle and tissue; and Ha-Mas followed right behind, closing the wound proficiently using her micro surgery laser tool that they all carried in their mission suits.
“Ready,” Ha-Mas announced. “Your pain should be diminishing quickly.”
“Uh …” a bewildered Joe attempted to speak as he touched the minimal scratch that was all that was left of his wound. “It … feels … gone.”
“But how?” the equally mystified princess wanted to know.
“It’s basic healing in our planet Aspia,” Pa-Fin explained.
“Your p… planet Aspia,” repeated the princess.
“Aspia revolves around a star that humans have yet to detect in what you call the Orion constellation,” Ha-Mas said. “There is much to tell you; however, your real friends are in urgent need of healing. We must go tend to them.”
“But … you … they … are dead?” attempted Joe as he was forced to expand his views of the world.
“We can hear their labored breaths,” Ha-Mas explained. “They are heavily injured, and might have expired within the hour, had we not been alerted to their presence and condition by these two not-friends currently lying here stunned.”
The Aspians had already silently agreed that they would need to collaborate with the humans to procure the Fermium. So with a mutual nod, they went in search for the only humans that had actually ever been camping before.
Find & Follow