Campfire Creature


When I was 11 my Uncle Percy used to take me, my cousin David ( who had splotches of orange freckles all over face and a halo of bright red hair ) and my cousin Grace )who was the same age as me and always wore dresses and skirts ) camping and hiking.

Uncle Percy’s favorite spot  was called Octopus Creek Trail.

There are a lot of ideas about how Octopus Creek got it’s name (  it did branch of in a lot of different directions and the trails did wind and flow in a confusing pattern and all of these odd bits put together made Octopus Creek feel like  was reaching from the woods in a very cool and purposeful manner.

Octopus Creek’s water  didn’t gurgle as it flowed the way happy creeks do in books and in songs, it hissed like a snake and the birds in the trees never sang- they just sat on the branches as still as a corpses in their graves.

We enjoyed it because once we got there we had this particular part of the creek to ourselves  and even though it was always a little to dark and the water was always icy cold we would set out our gear stretch out on the smooth cool rocks and hope that Uncle Percy would get to his stories about Octopus Creek sooner rather then later.

” So Uncle Percy,  ” I said deciding to move the conversation forward ” did they really drown a witch here back in the olden days? ”

” Witches,  Amalia, ” Uncle Percy said as he started to put together our campfire. ” what a question. ”

David backed me up like I knew he would. ” That’s right. I saw it in a book at school, they drowned a woman that they said was a Witch right here. Back in the olden days. ”

” There were no Witches up here. Besides. You can’t drown a witch. The Water won’t take them. Unclean Spirit  you know.”

” So then, ” Grace said as she smoothed her flower printed skirt over her knees ” what kind of monsters are up here?”

Uncle Percy stood up and stepped back from his fire pit. ” What? Oh. The usual. Ghosts and of course your Cryptoids. ”

Uncle Percy was fond of Cryptoids. Especially the plants. You could hear it in his voice. He said Cryptoids the same way I say ” Gelato “.

” What about Zombies? ” David asked.

Uncle Percy took a deep breath. ” David. This is an adult conversation. Do you wish to participate in an adult conversation or would you rather go play in the creek at this point in time?”

” Stay. ” David said.

” Fine. Now. If we can be serious for a few minutes, you might be interested in knowing that along one of the arms of Octopus Creek is supposed to be a grove of trees that grows pink fruit as big as your head. ”

Grace gave me a side eye and I nodded a little back at her.

” What does the fruit taste like? ” David asked.

Uncle Percy kneeled down and started to put his campfire together. ” Well. No one knows. Because nobody has ever tasted one. ”

Uncle Percy waited for David to ask why and when he did Uncle Percy told him, ” they’re not appetizing because the fruit looks like human heads. Smooth pink heads with wispy strands of hair.  Would you want to bite into one of those David?”

David looked at me and shook his head.

” That’s not the worst part. When it rains those heads laugh and sometimes they whisper.  Most of the time they just laugh. ”

” Do you think we might see one of those trees? ” I asked.

Uncle Percy shrugged. ” We’ll see. ”

” What happens when the fruit falls from the tree. Does another tree grow? ” Grace asked.

” No. Uncle Percy said as he looked up at Grace and then he looked at me. ” No. When the fruit falls from the tree it doesn’t grow into another tree. ”

I leaned down and started to whisper into Uncle Percy’s ear and when he looked up at me I could see a forest full of trees in his eyes and in his gaze I saw that each of those trees were hung with fruit with  smooth pink faces that looked a little like mine and little like Grace’s and fine red threads of hair covered their smooth pink scalps

and all of those little heads

were  laughing.