Deep in the interior of Algonquin Park , far from civilization, Ty and Dennis stiffly lifted the canoe off their shoulders and dropped it as gently as their aching muscles would allow. Neither were used to the stress that alternately paddling and portaging had on their bodies. Having known each other only three days, neither wanted to be the first to admit eight hours was enough. It was their first day out. They had met through an online match-up site for 20something year old extreme campers and paired up. This particular trail, brutal as it was, wasn’t to be attempted alone.
“I’m thirsty, how ’bout you?” Ty asked, shrugging the water container from his shoulder.
“Not much left.” Ty shook the bottle. “Maybe we’d better build a fire and boil some.”
Dennis nodded. “Good idea. I’ll collect the wood.”
“By the time we get the fire going it’s gonna start getting dark,” Ty said, looking up at the sky. The sun was mid way to sunset.
“You got a point. Wanna start setting up camp?”
“I’ll go take a piss then I’ll help you with the wood.”
“Sure,” Dennis said.
At full dark, their water cooled and stored, dinner done and half their single bottle of scotch consumed, they sat beside the fire.
“So, you got a girlfriend?” Dennis asked.
Dennis shook his head. “Not that I don’t want one…”
Ty nodded and looked down at his hands. “I got a little confession to make.”
Dennis looked at him sharply, poising to defend himself.
Ty laughed. “Little fuckin’ homophobic are ya?” He stood up and unzipped his fly and laughed again as Dennis shuffled his ass backwards on the log he was perched on.
“Don’t worry man, I’m only jokin’ ya.” He pulled up his fly and reseated himself. His demeanor turned serious. “I wish that’s all it was.”
“So, what is it then?”
“Do you like campfire stories Dennis?”
“Have I got a doozy for you,” Ty grimaced. “You see, I’ve got these imaginary friends. Two of them.”
“Will they help with the canoe?” Dennis joked, the smile quickly falling from his face when Ty growled.
“They don’t carry canoes. It’s not a fuckin’ joke. They get into my dreams, they follow me around. I don’t want them, they’re just there. They make fun of me, make me choke on my food…” He leaned toward Dennis and whispered. “They jerk me off every night when I go to bed.”
Dennis cleared his throat and began to stack the dinner plates.
“What?” He didn’t look up from what he was doing.
“Okay man, knock it off. If this is your idea of a campfire story it’s not funny.”
“Glad you agree.”
“I mean it’s not just a campfire story. It’s true. They’ve been with me since I was a teenager.”
“Well you don’t have to tell me about it. I’m not fuckin’ interested man.” Dennis said as he walked away from the fire. “I’m going to take a crap.”
“I do have to tell you Dennis!” Ty called after him. “They want you too!”
“What did you say?” he asked, turning back.
Ty grinned. “Hurry up and take your crap and I’ll tell you what we’re really doing out here.”
“What the living fuck are you talking about? Are you threatening me?”
Ty held his palms up. “Not me, man. It’s all them.”
“For fuck’s sakes.” Dennis mumbled, walking away.
Dennis had a hard time finding his way back to the camp. After wandering around for a while in the dark he finally came across the smouldering remains of the fire. Ty was moving around in the single three-man tent they had brought along and Dennis cursed himself silently for not bringing his own. As he stepped toward the tent he stopped short. For a second he saw the ghostly figure of a man standing beside it.
Imagining things, he mumbled, sneering at himself. Fuckin’ Ty.
Thinking it better not to sleep beside a crazy man unarmed, he did a u-turn toward the canoe to retrieve a fish-gutting knife from inside the tool sack he had packed. He took one last look around the campsite and dropped to his knees in front of the tent door. He heard giggling. Male giggling. Squeezing his eyes shut he took a breath. With one hand on the handle of the knife in its sheath, attached to his belt he opened the flap.
Ty flicked on a flashlight, illuminating the tent.
“Hey Dennis, come and join us.”
Entirely nude, Ty sat cross-legged on his sleeping bag. Beside him was a man of about the same age and height as the two 20somethings, equally naked, smiling, and slowly jacking off both himself and Ty.
At the same time Dennis screamed, he pulled the small knife from its sheath and backed up. He was about to stand when he heard another man’s voice behind him.
“Mind if I join the party?”
By the time Dennis hit the other sleeping bag face-first he heard the laughter.
“Gotcha!” Ty taunted him. “I met these guys when I went to take a piss!”
Dennis could hear shuffling around inside the tent beside him but the naked men, the embarrassment of being scared, and the scoffing were the least of his worries. He didn’t even feel the pain. At first he thought he’d pissed himself. Then as the world went black, he realized he’d stabbed himself in the groin with the knife.
“FUCK!!!! What the fuck are we going to do now? He fucking killed himself!!!” Ty, dressed in his jeans, sat beside the warm corpse of the man he’d met less than 4 days ago and stared at the blood that covered his hands and dripped from his elbows.
“Fucked if I know. I’m outta here,” said the naked man as he crawled toward the tent door.
“Wait! You can’t leave me now!” Ty screamed into the dark, watching the naked man, along with his companion, disappear into the darkness.
“You promised us fresh meat,” the naked man called back. “Fuck you.”
“But who’s going to carry the canoe?”
“You said it yourself,” said the fading voice. “We don’t carry canoes.”