Jesus Camp

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📅 Published on February 13, 2020

"Jesus Camp"

Written by Rachel Routon

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Estimated reading time — 23 minutes

I was raised Evangelical. Miraculous healing, speaking in tongues, God’s voice speaking through people, Jesus Camps, and Christian School. Yep. Christian School. My. Whole. Life. These were all realities to me- and my faith never wavered. You know what? That is a lie, and I cannot write that in good faith… no pun intended. My beliefs were always called into question. Even from my early days in Sunday School learning about how Moses parted the Red Sea and then let it crash down on his former captors, or Noah watched as everyone except his own children died by drowning.

A lot of things didn’t make sense to me. A lot. Why was God so mean and vindictive? Why would he send plague after plague to the followers of a man who was being contradictory? Why would he kill an entire city, and turn a woman into a pillar of salt just for looking back? Why should I be scared of him now? I have never seen him, or heard him. Angels never moved a stone aside for me so I could inspect an empty grave, so to speak. I never got to inspect the hands and feet of Christ after the crucifixion on Golgotha. To me, he sounded more like the boogeyman than a friend.

So my faith wavered. And it did so continually from before I can remember, until 9th grade “Jesus Camp”.

Camp was set up in the Mountains surrounding Chico, California. It is rocky, and densely packed with trees of all kinds. The first thing you see when the bus pulls in, is this very old, Victorian-style hotel. I knew this hotel well, because I had been sent to both years of Jr. High summer camp, and it was held in the same place.

When you first walk into the hotel, there is a giant lobby made of all oak. Everything is polished and looking brand new. Much more like a modern hotel or cabin. Off to the left, there is a bookstore. You could buy anything Christian-niche there. The year before last my best friend Matt had bought me a little pin that said “My best friend is a carpenter”, which was meant as a play on words by him… because Christ is a carpenter, and my Father was as well.

There was also a large fireplace, with many couches around it, and off to the right was entry into the cafeteria and music rooms. Right in the middle of all of it was a giant staircase that led up to the dorms. Boys took the left tier to their rooms, and girls took the right tier. Matt and I always wanted to be able to stay in the same room, but never even bothered asking. It was a Christian Bible camp. Even if our own parents had been letting us have sleepovers since we were in diapers, that didn’t mean a Christian Bible Camp would let a boy and girl bunk together. Something unheard of and sinful could happen, like cuddling. Or worse- kissing. Big time sin.

I remember my 9th-grade summer camp year, I was at this particular phase in my continual rebellion where I had decided to completely mimic Cyndi Lauper, who hadn’t been popular for almost 15 years. I had short spiky pink and purple and blue hair, wore ripped up fishnets over multi-colored stockings, combat boots, and chic old lady dresses from the thrift store. Matt had similar tastes, save the dresses. With blue hair, buddy holly glasses, and always in a black hoodie, people did tend to think we were a couple. We always laughed at that. We shared hair dye, not bodily fluids.

Every year to date I had been stuck in the same dorm room with Christina Bean. I theorize that this is because we were both loners among the other girls. My best friend was a boy and I dressed like the ‘80s, and she was really, really fucking strange. But I sorta dug strange, and despite the customary eye roll when I found out whom my bunkmate would be for the month of Jesus fun- I still looked forward to finding out her strange habits and talking with her some.

Camp was comprised of many Churches sending their youth together- so literally there would be hundreds of kids there. Christina came from a small Church somewhere in Arizona, and she was the only one in her youth group that they ever sent. I don’t know if it was because she was the only one who could come, or because she was the only young person at her church. I never bothered to ask. My group always brought about 60 kids, and everyone knew each other- so Christina would cling to me every year. Like white on ri… you get the picture. I hate that saying.

So usually as a group, Matt, Christina and I would make our way to morning worship, at the Chapel, down a little path, past the rec center, and a little set back among the trees. It was together we would take our place in the lunch line, and together we would sign up for hikes. Matt did not care for Christina in the least, but he was a good little Christian guy, and put up with her for my sake.

After several days of camp, we had all set into our rituals, and were ready for the coming month. Matt and Christina and I had signed up for a hike that went to Mushroom Rock. I don’t think it was actually called that, it’s just, everyone else called it that because from a distance, it looked just like the fungi. I had never been up there before, because I much preferred swimming or playing ping pong to trudging up the side of a rocky mountain to sit at the base of “the Mushroom”. But Christina really wanted to do it, so Matt and I tagged along.

I questioned her motive for wanting to go… it was an overcast and drearily foggy day, and we would not even be able to see the valley or the ridge of the Mountains across the way. But, Christina said it would be an adventure, and she was weird so I went with it.

Our Counselor Amanda chaperoned the walk. I could tell she wanted to stay and look at the Counselor dudes swim, but she was performing her duties none the less. She quietly and quickly led the hike.

To be honest, the hike was nice. It was about 30 minutes up, with lots of interesting flowers and bugs to inspect. I tend to nope away from all things spider, but at the same time, am completely morbidly fascinated by them. Everything was pretty dreary, but in a really beautiful way. The state flower had a way of shining its brightest orange despite the grey. I would have picked one to go with my pink spiky motif if it weren’t illegal to free the state flower. (Who made that crap up anyway?) It was brisk, and foggy yes- but warm enough to break a sweat- and with the light breeze, the sweating didn’t suck so bad. It cooled the skin perfectly.

Finally, we got to our destination, the bottom of the Mushroom. Matt and I plopped down, and stared up at the rock formation above our heads- the cap of the Mushroom. We started talking about different Christian Ska and Punk bands. Was MxPx better than Five Iron Frenzy? What about The W’s?

Christina was speaking with Amanda a short ways away in a hushed tone. Amanda looked sick, and after a few minutes, she turned and jogged down the pathway that led back to camp. This would never fly- we were not supposed to be alone up here. We could get into trouble- and so could Amanda. But like holy hell- I was not going to go jogging down to get her after the hike up here wore me out so bad.

When Christina came and sat down, Matt asked her what had happened.

“I told Amanda that I saw some counselor that she’s into making out with another girl behind the chapel. And that I thought the other girl might be a camper, not a counselor.” She giggled.

Matt sat up with a bolt- and I could tell he was bothered, because he never cussed. “Why would you do that, Christina?”

She smirked. She… liked that he didn’t like her. “I wanted to be alone with you two. I need your help with something.” She pulled her backpack around to the front of her, and began taking out weird objects. Something furry, something dark red, something that looked like a misshapen stick, a cross…

When she pulled out the star inside of a circle- Matt went white as a sheet. I’m willing to wager I did too.

“Christina, why did you bring this stuff… and a pentagram up here?” I asked her.

She explained that the Pentagram is misunderstood. It is not a sign of Satanism, she said. Rather, in her estimation, it was a sign of Heaven on Earth, and the flow of knowledge and power from Heaven to Earth. She told us that it was okay to be skeptical, but not okay to be scared. She was going to free all three of us from our bonds. She put all her weird things in some sort of order, and started reading from a book in Latin. Matt and I… just sat there and stared at her. What could we do? I mean, we could just leave her there, but then we would get in more trouble. We weren’t allowed to split up and leave someone behind. Plus, I mean… have you ever heard the saying “like watching a train wreck”? It was sort of like that. We couldn’t look away. Something held us there.

Eventually she finished her little chant, closed the book, and packed away all her things. Without even looking at us, she got up, and began her descent down the hill. Matt and I exchanged a scared look and followed her back down. At some point he took my hand. My first time holding hands with a boy should have been sweet and romantic, but we were doing it for other reasons. We were both really scared. Later we would share with one another that we each could feel something behind us, following us down that hill. But we were too scared, or proud, or whatever to look. We just held hands and followed Christina back to Camp.

I had a very hard time falling asleep that night. One, I kept thinking of Matt, and the hand-holding. Did I like him? I mean, no. No way. Weird. Ew. I had literally never thought of him like that- except somewhere between 5-6 when I would make him play house – and ironically, he was always the woman, and I was the breadwinner. He didn’t seem to mind playing wife, and quite frankly, I thought he might be gay. Even though it was a sin. But he was cute, and he did have those piercing blue eyes…

Then there was that other stuff. What the hell was this girl’s problem? Why would she lie to Amanda like that? Why would she make us sit there while she pulled out all her weird Satanic artifacts? I mean… okay, do that kind of thing at home. But at a Christian camp? Just this morning we were hand-in-hand praying for that crippled kid to stand up and walk, in Jesus name and all that. Eventually, I dozed, feeling both a little excited for what lay around the corner with Matt, and a little scared, for what lay in the bed across from mine.

Around 3:30, I heard a loud bang. No. I didn’t just hear it, I felt it. Like it was coming from inside of me, or from all around me. I must have shook, but I didn’t open my eyes just yet. I was trembling in fear, instantly. After what seemed like forever, I could hear heavy panting coming from Christina’s side of the room. I willed myself to open my eyes, but wished I hadn’t immediately.

Christina had gotten out of bed, and was on the floor. Only, it was a handstand. She was doing a handstand, without falling. She was perfectly still. There was no swaying, or lack of balance. She was stiff as a pole. As if she was standing. As if she was just meant to be this way. I flicked on the lamp light, next to the bed.

Right as I did, she started to piss herself. And, it was weird, because I could hear it, as well as see it. It sounded like a squirt gun. Since she was upside down, it started to run up her crotch, up her stomach, and to her face. I watched its descent. She… she was smiling. At. Me.

My legs felt like Jell-O. For a moment I almost relaxed because I thought, “Okay, I can’t run and I can’t scream. It’s a dream”. But usually, when I have that thought in a dream, I start floating instantly, so I knew it was real. (Yes, my mind really does work that way.)

As she continued to piss herself, smiling at me all the while, the urine began to run into her mouth, nose, eyes and hair. It began to pool around her head on the floorboards. I willed each step to happen. I forced myself to peel my eyes away from that horrible, piss-soaked smile. When I reached the door, she gurgled my name. It sounded like two people speaking from a mile away, but also inside of my head.

“Rachel.”

I ran. I didn’t know where to go. I was more disoriented from sleep than I thought I was. I thought for a moment about running to Matt’s room… and while I knew where the window was, I wasn’t sure which room belonged to him because I wasn’t allowed over there. So I made do with the floor supervisor, which happened to be Amanda.

I knocked on the door. I could hear the scuffle of sheets, some quiet mumbling, and not soon enough, the shuffle of slippered feet to the door. Ugh, she looked stunning even when she was mostly asleep.

Her eyes immediately narrowed at the sight of me. “Nice prank today, kiddo. What is this about?”

She seemed angry, but I think the look of terror on my face might have helped my case slightly, because she seemed to soften up as I started talking. “Um, Manda, I’m sorry… that wasn’t me… I um, I’m pretty scared. Christina is acting really weird… and she peed herself.”

“What do you mean, ‘weird’?”

“Can you just come with me and look? I… I don’t… please? Just come over and see?”

Without another word, she shut the door behind herself, and I followed her back to my dorm. The light was off- which was strange, because I had left it on. Amanda flicked on the overhead lights.

Christina was in bed, clearly asleep. She sat up squinting, and rubbing sleep from her eyes. She was dry. Her hair was dry. Her pajamas were dry. What was going on?!

Amanda asked Christina bluntly if she had peed the bed. Christina responded saying that this was a stupid way to repay her for her little joke on the hill and laid back down. Amanda shot me a look of sincere contempt and ordered me back into bed. I put forth little protest- I didn’t want to explain what happened in front of Christina. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to explain it at all. It must have just been a dream. It had to be. Only, I don’t remember waking up after the piss-in-mouth-handstand, I remembered waking up before it. But I brushed it aside. It was a dream.

As I dosed off, I could hear that strange giggle I heard earlier at Mushroom Rock after Christina’s little “prank”. I willed myself to sleep despite my racing mind, for the second time that night.

The next day at breakfast, Matt was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t at Chapel or games either. I didn’t see him until lunch. Christina on the other hand, was more attached than ever. Talking up a storm as though nothing had changed. Her blow dryer wasn’t working. Jesus was really amazing wasn’t he? Isn’t it great to be out in nature with God and his creations? She’s been thinking of taking on aspects of my style. She likes the ripped tights look. Maybe with Chucks instead of boots.

When I saw Matt sitting alone at lunch, I looked over at Christina and told her I wanted to talk to Matt. She said that was a good idea, because we hadn’t seen him all day.

“No, I mean, I think he and I should talk… alone.”

The briefest look of hatred crossed her face, but then she smiled. “Ah, yes, the hand-holding incident on the hike. Tsk-tsk. Remember – this is camp, not a porno, but I’ll leave you to it.” She set down her lunch uneaten, and sauntered away.

I looked at her for a full minute as she walked off. I realized my mouth was hanging open, so I shut it. What would possess her to say something like that? Firstly, Matt was my best friend, and it should be perfectly acceptable if I wanted to have a private conversation with him. Secondly, while I was quite prudish at fourteen, and still a virgin, I was certainly not an idiot, and I knew that holding someone’s hand was significantly different than videotaping someone getting slammed. I suppressed my growing anger as I turned and walked over to Matt and took my seat.

He looked sullen, and sounded down-right depressed. “What was that all about?”

“Trust me, you don’t want to know. And, even if you did, I wouldn’t know what to tell you.”

He shook his head like that was a perfectly reasonable response. He was a very perceptive kid. “I had a really bad nightmare last night. Like, really bad.”

I must have startled him, because I looked up quickly, and he spilled some of his drink. “Me too, Matt. I had some weird, creepy dreams. What was yours about?”

“I was hiking alone at night, and I went down behind the chapel. I started walking down the path, headed toward the exit to the clearing, and when I got there, you were there, and… uh…” He turned bright red.

I shifted. I felt uncomfortable, and a little excited. He dreamed of me. “It’s okay, just tell me.”

“Okay, well, I don’t want you to think it was my fault because it wasn’t. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t, like, perverted… I mean, on my part… I didn’t… Ugh. Okay, the thing is, in the dream, you were naked.”

My eyes went wide. I didn’t expect to hear that. “Oh.”

“No, Rach, listen. It wasn’t like… Ugh, you were laying on this wooden table, and you were strapped down, and Christina was standing at the head of the table, looking at me. Like, summoning me.”

I guess I must have been beet red, too, because that is where he stopped explaining the dream. When I finally looked up at him, he just looked so beaten. The poor guy had a nightmare, and I was making him feel badly because of it. I reached out to him, and he took my hand instantly. It was cold and clammy, but it felt safe.

“It’s okay, Matt, everyone has those sorts of dreams. I mean, I have had, like at least 18 dreams where you’re naked.”

He looked startled. “Is that true?”

“Not at all.” We both burst out into laughter. It felt good to laugh, like it was foreign… it must have been forever since I had last laughed. But that couldn’t be true. I tried to think- but it was useless. I had no idea. When we were both able to get our bearings, he asked the next question.

“What was your dream about?”

“Well, it was about Christina. I dreamed she was doing a handstand, and peeing all over her face.” We both burst out laughing again. And again, it felt good, and foreign. Once our laughter subsided, I continued.
“What was weird, though, was I could swear it really happened. I ran to Manda, and woke her up. But when we got back to the room, Christina was dry. Like it had never happened. So I thought it must have been a dream.”

All of the red in Matt’s face gave way to the pale white of fear. “That’s the part I didn’t tell you, Rach. When I woke up, I was behind the chapel. In the clearing. I guess I… sleep-walked.”

After lunch, Matt and I decided to go sit by the fireplace, to listen to a counselor everyone nicknamed Topher play the guitar. We thought it would be a good way to unwind. Matt asked me if we could take a break from Christina. It used to be that he just thought she was annoying. Now he was a little freaked out by her. I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t much like her anymore either, but it would be hard for me to avoid her since I was rooming with her. It would be awkward, yes. But camp would be over in three weeks, and we would go home, and never have to deal with it again. Next year I could just put in a request not to room with her. No prob.

That night, I decided to bite the bullet and just tell Christina that what she did up at Mushroom rock wasn’t cool. Telling Amanda that lie about the guy she was digging wasn’t cool, and the comment about Matt and I being in a porno together- way not cool. I felt I handled it pretty well, and was as nice and tactful as anyone could be given the situation. Actually… you know what? That isn’t entirely true. I was pretty upset. So, I guess I could have been a little nicer. But I wouldn’t say I was mean about it. I would say I was matter-of-fact.

At the end of the conversation, I told Christina that I didn’t think the three of us should hang out anymore. I told her I didn’t mind being around her in the dorm, and I wouldn’t ask for a room transfer, but during activities and stuff, from now on it would just be Matt and I. To be honest, after her display in the cafeteria, I was scared that she was going to be super mad. But, she seemed to take it pretty well. She didn’t try to argue her way out of it, and she said she understood. That was that.

* * * * * *

That night I dreamed that I was strapped to a table in the clearing behind the chapel. Leather bound my arms above my head, and held my legs in a spread-eagle position. Christina stood above me, and she was also naked. She and I were both aroused. It turned me on, the way she looked down at me, and then up to the sky. I was scared, but I wanted whatever this was. Whatever was going to happen. I needed it. I could tell Matt was coming, because Christina kept chanting his and my name. The thought of him made me tingle. I looked up at Christina again, and her face had turned into that of a skeleton. It was black, and crackled. Her beady little eyes had sunken in even further. She opened her mouth a little too wide, and a thin, blood-red tongue shot out, dancing its way towards my face. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t even float away like in other dreams. I awoke as Matt approached the table, also obviously aroused.

This moment was a huge turning point in my life in so many ways. I had never been open to the idea of premarital sex prior to this. My thoughts about the opposite sex were fairly pure – it was just how I was raised. And, I can assure you that I most certainly never thought about the opposite sex romantically. There was so much shame associated with the dream.

I woke up, embarrassed, feeling as if I had legitimately sinned, to Amanda and Christina standing over me. Words couldn’t express how awful the dream had been for me.  I felt shattered. To make matters worse, I had peed myself.  I glanced at the clock. It was 3:30 in the morning.

“Get up and get in the shower right now!” Amanda cried. “I can’t believe you two! I can’t deal with this!”

She was apparently also ‘pissed’ at having to be woken up again in the middle of the night. I dejectedly got up without saying a word, went into the bathroom, stripped down, and got in the shower.

As I cleaned myself in the shower, I could hear bits and pieces of what Christina was saying to Amanda. “Touching herself… actually, like, moaning… turned on the… tried to wake her…” I was too ashamed to protest. Maybe I was doing those things. I didn’t know. This wasn’t even fair, because I had never touched myself in that way. I was devastated… maybe there are words for how I felt after all.

When I was done showering, Amanda was gone, and Christina was just sitting in bed with a smug smirk on her face. She watched my walk of shame to the bed, and turned off the lamp as I laid down. I cried myself to sleep.

The next day when I saw Matt in the breakfast line, I was too ashamed to talk to him. I grabbed a banana, and decided to walk out to the clearing behind the chapel, just to check it out and sort of psyche myself back into reality. I hadn’t been out here since the summer of 7th grade. It just held no appeal to me. It was a little opening, with a ring of redwood trees, with a fire pit in the middle and a ring of stumps. Lots of dirt, not much to look at.

I plopped down on one of the stumps facing back towards camp. I peeled the banana, and took a bite. Then, for the first of many times, I realized that this was a somewhat phallic object, and I was eating it. In the place where my dream had happened, no less. I lost my appetite, and was tossing the banana in the fireplace when something caught my eye. I got up and walked over to the fire pit. Inside, the burnt remains of the wood were in the shape of a pentagram. I knew Christina had been there, which made me want to leave. I ran. No, I sprinted. My plan was to go all the way back to the dorm and lie down.

Halfway there I was running around the corner of the rec room, and plowed into Matt. We got up without looking at one another, or helping each other, which was strange for us. It was obvious we were both feeling embarrassed. As he clambered to his feet he said, “Uh, I think we need to talk.”

We went to the playground. Offset behind the hotel, it was a total 70’s throwback, complete with a carousel. We sat on it, side-by-side, and spun ourselves with our feet. We sat like that quietly for about fifteen minutes before one of us had the courage to say anything. It was Matt.

“I had the dream again.”

“Me too. I had the same dream as you. I was on a table.”

This didn’t seem off to him. We sat quietly for another couple minutes.

“I really like you a lot, and I don’t want whatever weirdness is happening to ruin our friendship, or whatever else.” He stopped the carousel with his feet and looked at me. I couldn’t look back.

“Yeah, I don’t want anything to pull us apart either. I love you.”

You might think this is a big thing to say to your best friend (and possible crush), but we had been expressing love to each other since we were little.

“I love you, too.” He started moving his feet again. And we just sat like that, going round and round.

During the course of the next week, not a lot happened that needs too much dragging out. You should know that the nightmares continued for both Matt and I, and continued to heighten in extremity, culminating in consummation. I never peed myself again, but I woke up in a cold sweat every morning, scared to death. I became scared of sleeping because I didn’t want to have any more of those dirty, horrible dreams.

Matt and I remained inseparable, and did our best to steer clear of Christina. However, it seemed futile; everywhere we went, there she seemed to be. Always looking directly at us. When we were in the dining hall eating, she was somewhere across the way, staring. When we went to the chapel for service, she was in the vicinity… staring. If we were walking, or going to the rec room for a game of ping pong, she watched our every move from wherever she was. It became really eerie.

Also, a few days after the incident in which I had wet myself, I was forced to have a “heart-to-heart” with a pastor about self-pleasure, and why it was a sin. He asked me if I was sexually active, and if I liked the way it felt. At first I thought he was just concerned for me, and about my sins, but now I know better. I didn’t tell him about the dreams.

At night, as I fell asleep, I could hear Christina’s chanting. I wanted to tell her off, but I was scared. After the last time I confronted her, I didn’t dare do it again. Who knows? Maybe this time, I would wake up to something even worse. I wasn’t going to risk it.

Then one morning, I woke up at 3:30 am, to Christina’s horrible giggles. I had had it. I flicked on the lamp… but the room was empty. The giggles dissipated as the light filled the room. I walked into the bathroom to get some water, and glanced up into the mirror. She had drawn a pentagram onto my forehead! I flipped out. I tried to wash it off, but she must have done it in sharpie. The best I could do was to minimize its appearance, but it was still clear what it was. If I went anywhere in camp with this on my head they would send me straight home without a second thought.

I changed my mind about confronting Christina, and decided I would face her, no matter the consequence. But she never came back to the room. In the morning I donned a beanie, and set out to look for her where I thought she would be. The clearing behind the chapel. When I got there, Matt was already in the clearing, staring into the woods.

He too was wearing a beanie… and I didn’t even have to ask. Somehow she had gotten to him and put the pentagram on him as well. That’s why he was here looking for her. Well, even better. We could confront her together. But she wasn’t there.

What was there instead were several dead animals – foxes, squirrels, and dogs, even a pair of young deer – surrounding a five-pointed star on the forest floor. All of them had been placed in lewd positions too grotesque to describe.

Matt turned his head, bent over and started to heave. Hearing him puke turned my stomach, and I followed suit. While I was lurching the leftovers of the previous night’s dinner, I heard a familiar gurgly voice again. The one that called my came as I ran from the room when Christina was pissing into her mouth. It was then I realized that it hadn’t been a dream at all.

The voice came from everywhere and nowhere. I heard it in my head, and from all around me. It was as though the voice occupied the same space as every particle of air. I could breathe it in. I could taste it.

“Step into the circle.”

Matt snapped up. He heard it too, thank God. Christina came out of the forest, completely nude. And… I know this seems impossible – and if you were with me to this point, I might lose you here – but I swear to God. No, I swear on my own life. On Matt’s life. She… had changed. Her arms were longer and thinner. Her fingers were longer. Claw-like. She was very, very thin. I could see every bone. Her clavicles looked like diving boards sticking out of her neck and shoulders. She was covered in black dirt and dried blood. Her face was sallow and sunken. Her eyes, far too large to be natural, bulged out of their sockets.

I could smell her from where I was. The scent a mixture sulfur and rotten meat, simultaneously disgusting and sweet. The smell combined with the already putrid taste in my mouth, and made me start to heave again.

Christina raised her line of vision skyward, and opened her mouth. Too wide. Easily three times as wide as any human should be able to open their mouth. A long, snake-like tongue emerged and slithered around. With her blood-encrusted, needle-like fingers, she began… touching herself. Her head snapped back towards us.

Matt grabbed my hand and pulled me one step backwards. Then another. He was saving me. Every step we put between ourselves and this creature felt a little better… but as long as it was looking at us like that, hypnotically massaging itself, I was paralyzed. So Matt was doing it for me.

Suddenly, the creature got on all fours, like it was going to spring at us.

“RACHEL!” Matt screamed. “RUN!” Though he could have easily let go of my hand, he never did. He could have escaped faster without me, but he never left me behind.

He dragged me along. All the while, I was sobbing and stumbling as fast as I could. I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to be the one saving him. I could feel the thing behind us. I was reminded of that walk up to Mushroom Rock. Closer. We couldn’t outrun it. We would never make it back to camp in time. I could feel it. Breathing on my neck. Right behind me. I felt it’s tongue tickle my ear.

Most shockingly, I could hear all the evil things it wanted me to do. It whispered of ecstasy, and knowledge greater than my own. It told a story of immediate gratification. I didn’t know if Matt could hear… but neither of us wanted those things. We wanted our innocence. We wanted to choose.

As a claw swiped at my back and tore my dress, we made it to the clearing. We were panting, and kids in the quad area stopped what they were doing and stared. We must have been quite a spectacle. Matt and I spun around, just in time to see the bony black figure disappear into the shadowy cover of the woods. Bawling, we held each other closely. We sat there in that embrace for what seemed like forever. It felt so good to be held after all of it.

Eventually the counselors came over and asked us to explain what was going on. When we couldn’t, we were led into the head Pastor’s office.

Now usually, in stories, or movies- the people try to keep everything to themselves because they know that people won’t believe them. But, this was Jesus camp. We spilled our guts. We told him everything… except about what had happened in our dreams. That was too embarrassing for both of us.

Eventually, the Pastor assembled a group of counselors and assistant Pastors to go out into the woods in search of Christina. They found her about two hours later, hanging from a tree. She had killed herself.

I don’t know the details of what she looked like, but if her appearance had been demonic, I imagine we would have heard about it.

The camp was abuzz. There were cops and ambulances everywhere. Special therapists came as well, to make sure we weren’t traumatized, and maybe because there were some cult things involved.

I was questioned by two unsympathetic police officers for hours. They insinuated that it was my refusal to hang out with Christina that drove her to suicide.  They insisted she was just a confused kid, mixed up in some dark things, not all that different from what I had been involved with. After I’d been driven to tears, the Pastor who was supervising my interview interjected, and told them that was enough. And I was excused.

They placed Christina’s time of death sometime around 3 AM, which meant that whatever that thing was that looked like her, it was not her. When the police and pastors searched her room, they found her pentagrams and occult books. They also found the dead animals behind the chapel. She hadn’t left a note.

Needless to say, camp was cancelled. We were sent home. On the bus ride, Matt held me while I cried, and did his best to console me.

It has been 15 years since that incident up in Chico, and I honestly think about it every single day. In a very strange way, I am happy that it happened, because it restored my constantly wavering faith. If there is evil in the world, if demons and negative spirits exist, then there must be good as well. There must be God. You might have your own beliefs, and that’s fine. But I’ve peered into the face of evil, and for me, there is no doubt.

Matt and I ended up getting married… to other people. I have children of my own now, and so does he. His wife and I get together for shopping every now and then. Matt and my husband share a love of Texan Hold ‘Em. Sometimes our kids play together. I am overall very pleased with the way things turned out.

There’s just one exception.

Every summer, Christina… visits me. I wake up to the sound of someone peeing on the floor, and of horrible laughter, and swing my feet off the bed and step in warm liquid… only to flick on the light and discover that my feet are in fact dry. In the light, the giggling fades away, as if it was all my imagination.

And to this day, I still have vivid dreams of Matt and I, our bodies writhing together in the sinful throes of passion, while that beast stands over us, staring. Swinging over the three of us, suspended by her neck from a hand-made noose, Christina watches everything with bulging, lifeless eyes.


Credit: Rachel Routon (InstagramFacebookYouTubeReddit)

This story is preserved in loving memory of Rachel Routon, who passed away in 2014 following a lengthy battle with cancer.  

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