Excerpt: The Liberty Circle Back to top
We went on the promised
hike, cabins three and nine together. That meant jogging down
rain-moistened trails where mosquitoes whined through the undergrowth.
My breathing got faster and harder, but not as fast or hard as the
counsellors. Both Allan and Julie looked exhausted. It was like they
The trail ended at a
clearing by a gate in the chain link fence—a fence that apparently
surrounded the entire camp. I noticed for the first time the barbed
wire that topped it off. What was that for, I
wondered? It must have cost a mint.
“That’s to keep out the
bears,” Allan said, catching my gaze. He regarded me a moment with a
bright, sharp gaze. Then he clapped his hands together and looked about
the group. “All right. Everyone sit themselves down in a circle, and
we’ll pass around the old water jug. And while we’re at it, let’s each
tell everyone our name and a little bit about ourselves.”
One of those deals. So we
all sat there telling our little tales, slapping at mosquitoes the size
of bats. Most of the campers were in college, or between jobs, or
otherwise uncertain of the future. Even Julie had been like that once:
“I thought I had goals,” she
said, “until I came here. Then I realized how dull it all was—go to
college, get a plain old job, lead an average life. Well, Camp Liberty
changed all that. Now I have a real chance at changing the world.”
Allan nodded. “I was the
same way. I thought I wanted to work in a bank, become a manager. Then
I met Peter Gunnarsson, who showed me there was more to life than
money. Now I’m in college, learning to be a teacher—the Liberty Circle
I was about to ask what the
Liberty Circle was when we were interrupted by a commotion. Someone was
approaching from camp—fast. Whoever it was crashed right through the
brush, ignoring the zigzagging trail. Then we heard a wail like a
yowling cat, and voices muffled by the forest.
Allan stood, his face the
colour of paper. He looked like he expected a bear to come racing out
on the wrong side of the fence. But a yellow-shirted woman appeared
instead, and ran straight across to the gate.
“No-o-o-o!” she cried,
struggling with a padlock. “It’s got to open!”
Now I expected
a bear, but the only thing that followed was more yellow-shirted
“Don’t run from us, Angie,
please—we’re your friends!”
“Angie, you don’t
They swooped on her, five in
all, as she started to climb the gate. Her cries turned to screams, and
there was no doubting the reality of the tears streaming down her face.
It took all of them holding her firmly to lead her back up the trail.
One, a big guy with a beard, smiled back at Allan.
“It’s okay, Brother. We’ll
take care of her.”
“Take her to Palmer,” Allan
replied. “She needs reinforcement.” In a low voice, he added, “I told
The beard nodded, and the
yellow-shirts vanished up the trail with their human cargo. We could
still hear her cries, though—and then suddenly they were forming words:
“Run! Get away! They want to
change your minds! They want—”
Her voice was cut off
abruptly. In a few seconds, the forest was as silent as before.
“What the hell was that all
about?” Tony demanded. We looked to Allan for an explanation.
He seemed embarrassed, and
glanced at Julie nervously. “Angie is... Well, she’s—”
“Sick,” Julie put in. “Very
“Is it...drugs?” asked a
girl from cabin nine.
Julie nodded. “I’m afraid
so, Diane. We are...working with Angie, trying to get her back into the
mainstream of life. She’s actually been doing quite well. It’s just
that now and then she has these...”
“Setbacks,” Allan supplied.
With that explained, we rose
to return to camp. We started out silently, subdued by what we’d seen,
till Allan and Julie insisted we sing. That’s not easy when you’re
jogging, but everyone seemed to warm into it after a while. Everyone
but me, that is.
There’d been something wrong
with that explanation, I thought, something fake. They’d seemed stumped
for a moment, then the words had tumbled out. And Allan’s comment: Take
her to Palmer. She needs reinforcement. Who the hell was
Palmer? And what was “reinforcement”?
Julie caught me looking at
her, and gave me a questioning smile. I looked away immediately,
feeling a blush spread across my face; she was movie star gorgeous. But
there was something else, too, something in her eyes. Something that
said, I know that you know.
I shook my head. I was
getting paranoid, I decided. I didn’t know anything.
I couldn’t quite keep my
mind from wandering, though, and my eyes were to meet hers twice more
before we got back to camp.
Copyright © 2000 by Phil Campagna