It all started with me working another year at scout camp … reluctantly.
It had seemed clear after the previous year that I didn’t really want to return, and yet there I was, with the pitiful paycheck compared to the real world to prove it. There were a couple of upsides, though – for one, somehow my veteran staff member status had attracted me a fair number of fans, many of who came bearing gifts for me when they first arrived at camp, so that was cool!
And also, I had significantly nicer accommodations than ever before, in that my room was comparable to a suite at a nicer hotel, and I didn’t even have a roommate to share it with, so definitely a step up from the tents and even later cabins that I’d called home while I worked there before.
That said, it was still a really weird experience because everything at the camp I had once known had been redesigned and moved, and nobody could produce a map … well, one guy did, but it was literally a map of the USA, but divided into boxes, with each box being a campsite or area or dining hall or whatever. So it was basically useless, and I spent a lot of time just wandering around, trying to find my dinner because they’d also changed how everybody ate – instead of the staff eating with the campers, all of them got to go first … and the food was buffet-style in another room which I never did end up locating.
I did find the dessert tables and treated myself to a small piece of chocolate cake, but I never got around to eating it because I wanted the rest of my dinner first.
So one day it was announced that the staff was going on a trip – a bit of a team building exercise – and so we all boarded this futuristic-looking train and rode for hours and hours until I eventually started to get the feeling that something didn’t feel quite right. It was almost as if the scenery off in the distance around us was on some sort of loop, like it didn’t really exist in the first place, but before I could question it they suddenly announced that we had arrived as we approached this city that looked like it was having some sort of celebration…
In fact, right as we were passing over this pond on our way to the terminal, or so we thought, we saw a rocket that looked a lot like a missile launching out of the water that appeared to be aiming straight for us. Instead, it just sort of hovered next to the train before exploding overhead in a bunch of fireworks, but it still felt wrong because by now the train had stopped entirely and our host was walking down the aisle, asking if we were ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
It was then that I noticed the significant restraint system built into each of the chairs that we were all sitting in, and for some reason as I looked down at the water below us, I got the instinct that we were about to get dropped into it, which terrified me as I scrambled to buckle my harness as most of the people around us did the same while our host just sort of laughed at everyone before finally saying, “Good luck…” and then, she was gone.
Or we were gone, possibly, because despite everyone buckling in, we all soon found ourselves underwater anyways, fighting for survival as the group was presented with a couple of different paths that we could take … none of them being back up towards the surface.
After about twenty of us or so made it down one corridor and were eventually able to surface, we found ourselves staring at a large, brick wall blocking our path until suddenly we heard a great cackling and a very large, red man appeared … who bore a striking resemblance to Mon*Star from the old 80’s cartoon, Silverhawks.
It soon became clear that he was our adversary in this bizarre “adventure,” as he laughed maniacally and then proceeded to explain how part of our group had already perished. It seems that one of the paths that we hadn’t taken did indeed appear to lead to the surface, but before you could get there you had to climb a large staircase. Mon*Star then waved his hand and the brick wall behind him showed the illusion of a staircase. At the top of this staircase, he explained, our friends would find a special cache of weapons to aid in their escape, however ultimately they wouldn’t matter because in the time that it took everyone to figure out how to use them, his minions would’ve ripped everyone to shreds.
Mon*Star then waved his hand again and the illusionary staircase became an open corridor, to which he beckoned us to proceed and said something ominous before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
Eager to get away from the treacherous waters before they presented any new dangers, we all ran forward down the corridor much like herded cattle until we ended up in what was very much a giant maze. Almost systematically, it seemed that our group thinned out smaller and smaller with each turn. Somehow I got separated off from the rest and wandered for a bit inconsequentially on my own before I eventually reconnected with some people who were all streaming seemingly towards a dead-end at the end of the hall.
When one of my friends saw me dipping back into line, they discretely patted me on the back, which was when I noticed the wings that everyone was now wearing and saw that my friend had donated an extra pair to me.
The line soon took another dark turn when suddenly our foe appeared again, this time cackling from above as he threatened, “I see you found the wings, but do you know how to use them?! Better learn quickly…”
Suddenly the floor beneath our feet began to smoke and catch fire, with screams erupting throughout the crowd as many soon found that flying was more difficult than they would have anticipated. I was one of the few who escaped to the next floor of the maze where we oddly enough found a bit of assistance in the form of our favorite superheroes, each of whom were able to lend their powers to one individual if you touched them. I first encountered The Hulk and envisioned smashing Mon*Star through the wall and ending this sick, little game of his, but then after careful thought I came across another hero – The Mighty Thor – who seemed even more beefed up than usual as he handed me Mjölnir and then also offered to take me to “someplace that I might find interesting…”
Eager to put the famed hammer to use for flight purposes because my own wings had since vanished, I followed Thor out the window that looked much like that of a castle … surprised that this level of the maze even had windows … and then found myself on a landing one level up where we looked out onto the clouds, with many other castles poking through the sky just like the one that we stood on. Thor then explained that each was a separate level of the maze, featuring things that people would recognize from popular culture. All of the towers were linked by the maze, as I would soon find that in fact the level beneath us that was previously his realm could now be revisited to discover the lair of Mon*Star himself…
The God of Thunder then disappeared without another hint and I proceeded to hover back down, determined to end this bizarre dream, however as I hid behind one of the columns in the large hallway, even holding the mighty hammer still in my hand, one look at Mon*Star as he came walking down the hallway with his goons convinced me that I didn’t have what it took to down the evil beast … at least not yet.
Unfortunately, several of my companions who had found their way to Mon*Star’s lair on their own didn’t feel the same lack of confidence and proceeded to blitz the red armored creature from their own hiding spots, which quickly became an ugly bloodbath that I knew even my own participation wouldn’t have changed. I did, however, see an opportunity to explore more of Mon*Star’s lair while the others kept him occupied, and slipping away down the hall past the fray, only to discover a lightly guarded warp zone that the boss man himself used to transport himself to the far reaches of his maze.
After quickly throwing Mjölnir to dispatch the guards that stood nearby, I jumped inside as soon as I heard Mon*Star screaming in victory and went off to explore the rest of the maze in search of a weakness that I could use against him.