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August 15, 2022

Troop #66613: Part 2

By Holly Jahangiri

"Omigod," exclaimed Caroline, with an exaggerated rolling of the eyes. "Those girls from Troop #66613 sleep all day!"

"What is up with that?" asked Jeni.

"Mrs. Sprinks says they're working on some science project involving nocturnal animals," said Lorelei.

"Eeeww, like what? Bats? Possums?" Tiffany made a face. Bunnies, kittens, ducks, and unicorns were about all the wildlife she could handle. Tiffany was a fluffy creature, herself, so she could relate to them more easily.

Lorelei shrugged and skipped around the camp, eager to be off on the nature hike they had planned for their first morning at Camp Starry Night.

While they waited for their leader, Buffy Sprinks, Jeni brewed a plot. She snapped her fingers and grinned. "I've got an idea!" she cried. She ran inside her cabin and came back holding a large can of cotton-candy scented, sparkly, pink shaving cream. She motioned to the others, who followed her on tiptoe into Troop #66613's cabin, quiet as field mice.

"Where are they, and what's with all the boxes?" asked Tiffany.

"Weird."

"Creepy." Lorelei tried to pry open one of the boxes, but the lid wouldn't budge.

"Must be part of their experiment," said Jeni. "Think they've got animals trapped in there?" she asked, knocking on the polished pine but getting no response, not even a muffled scuffling sound of a possum or a bat. Jeni shrugged. She shook up her can of shaving cream and started to spray one of the oblong boxes. She sprayed the other girls' clothes, which lay in open suitcases beside each box. She sprayed the windows with sparkly, pink happy faces, their sparkly, pink tongues lolling out.

"Psssst! She's coming!" Caroline hissed, and the little girls ran out the back door. They strolled around the side of the building as if they had come from the latrines, and surrounded Mrs. Sprinks with eager faces.

"Ready for our nature walk, girls?"

"Ready, Mrs. Sprinks!" Lorelei led the way, skipping ahead on the shadowy, wooded path behind the cabins. The girls listened attentively as Mrs. Sprinks identified for them the various wildflowers, herbs, and bushes that grew in the forest. As Buffy Sprinks bent over to point out a fine, upstanding Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a snake writhed in a frantic S-curve across the footpath, right in front of Tiffany, who let out a bloodcurdling, ear-splitting scream.

The girls nearly jumped out of their skin. Caroline sneered and said, "What are you so worried about, Tiff? It's just one of the girls from Troop #66613. Must've gotten lost on her way to the latrine."

Jeni laughed, and the other girls joined in, some nervously, as they cast over-the-shoulder glances in the direction the snake had gone -- straight towards the cabins.

A cloud passed between them and the bright yellow disc of the sun, and the temperature dropped a few degrees. There was a collective moan, echoed by the wind itself, as a few large water droplets plopped onto the girls' sweetly painted, upturned faces. Caroline's mascara began to run, and Lorelei laughed as it occurred to her that she was seeing a raccoon-girl of record-breaking proportions. Her laughter was cut short by a taunting, wicked little voice that seemed to move about from one side of the huddled group of scouts to the other:

"The Adventure Scouts trooped through the woods,

As it rained, they all wished they had hoods.

It rained harder and harder!

If they'd only been smarter!

Be prepared, next time -- bring the goods!"

"What was that?" groaned Lorelei. "Tell me it wasn't supposed to be poetry."

"That'd be too horrible to contemplate," said Buffy, calmly peering through the raindrops, into the tangled thicket of bushes and trees and vines that surrounded them. It began to rain more heavily, and the girls jumped as lightning struck not far from where they stood. They turned to run back towards camp, but a large tree had fallen across the path and blocked their way.

"It was a man's voice," said Jeni. "What would a man be doing out here?"

"And what would a giggling gaggle of goose-girls be doing out here in the rain?" taunted the voice. "What, indeed?"

And out from behind a gnarled oak tree popped the ugliest little man any of the girls had ever seen. His filthy, shamrock-green coat was rain-soaked and hung from his body in tatters. His reddish-brown hair was matted and grew in irregular patches all over his head and his chin. The girls stared, breathless with fear.

"What are you staring at? Ain't you never seen a leprechaun before, lassies?" The little man spat at their feet with disgust. The rain abated slightly, but angry, purple clouds still loomed overhead.

"A leprechaun? You?" Caroline looked down her nose at the dwarflike creature and snorted. "I don't believe you!"

"Fine by me. I'm tired of being chased about the woods by grimy little children trying to get their grimy little paws on me. And you!" he said, looking at Buffy Sprinks. "You greedy grownups are every bit as despicable." The noxious creature sprayed the horrified girls with spittle as he spoke.

"I think he really is a leprechaun," whispered wide-eyed Tiffany.

"No way," hissed Jeni. "Where's his pot of gold? There's no rainbow for miles. This storm's not likely to end any time soon." But just as the words left her lips, the roiling dark clouds parted and a ray of sunshine burst down upon them. The leprechaun dashed down the path giggling like an escapee from a lunatic asylum. Caroline was fairly sure that's what he must've been, but Tiffany insisted on taking off after him.

"Oh, Tiffany, for heaven's sake!" Buffy Sprinks began to run after Tiffany, motioning to the girls to follow her quickly, so they wouldn't be separated in the woods.

* * *

The girls from Troop #66613 awoke to a full moon. They climbed from their comfy, satin-lined beds and dropped to the floor, quiet as mice. "Eeeeewwww!" cried Elvia. "Gross!"

"PINK?" shrieked Moira, revolted.

"Revenge," whispered Linda darkly. Her lovely eyes narrowed at the sight of the girls' black t-shirts and jeans coated with pink, sparkly foam, now dried to a flaky crust. Together, they brushed off the worst of the mess and got dressed.

The girls from Troop #317 were huddled around a the bright, dancing flames of a bonfire, toasting marshmallows and singing cheerful Adventure Scout camping songs. It made Bella and Donna want to retch. The remnants of sparkle dust clung to their clothes and twinkled merrily in the reflected firelight. The girls shuddered.

Mrs. Darkside put an arm around Elspeth and Rowan, who looked miserable and dejected. "It's okay, girls. A little fairy dust never hurt anyone but the fairies who flung it." Her eyes, like dying coals, met Buffy Sprinks's bright blue ones over the campfire. The women nodded gravely at one another.

"Where have you girls been?" called Buffy. "You missed the most interesting nature walk."

Caroline and Tiffany giggled. Their hands sparkled in the light of the flames. Lorelei and Jeni had their heads bent over a large cauldron. With their hands plunged deeply into the pot, they shuffled something metallic that sounded like coins. Their eyes were bright, even a little feverish. Starr Darkside raised an eyebrow.

"We're going on a night walk, ourselves. So many interesting creatures only come out at night. It will be very educational, I'm sure. Would you like to come with us?"

Rowan started to protest, wringing her doll with anxious little hands. Before she could snap its slender, wax neck, Mrs. Darkside laid a hand on her shoulder and said softly, "Shhhh."

"No, dears, you go on ahead," said Buffy. "My girls have been up since the crack of Dawn, and really ought to head to bed soon."

The girls of Troop #66613 headed off into the dark woods, glad to be away from the fluffy lightness of being in the company of Troop #317. Night sounds welcomed them into the gloom. An owl hooted plaintively, and was answered by a distant, hollow, "To who? To who?"

Most of the girls had excellent night vision, but in deference to Linda, they carried a single flashlight. Its dim beam lit an eerie path. They had gone but half a mile, when one of the girls nearly tripped over a squishy lump in the road.

"Ooof!" grunted the lump.

"Yikes!" squealed Elvia. "What the hell?"

"Watch yer mouth," grumbled the lump. The thing shifted and grew bigger, until it stood nearly shoulder-high to Moira, the tallest. "Ooooh, me achin' head," the odd little man clutched his head in his hands and shook it side to side. "If it isn't another gaggle of girls. Not so gigglin' this time, though. More like ... ghoulish." He gave the girls a toothy grin.

"Sir, can we be of any help to you?" asked Elspeth timidly. "Are you hurt?"

The little man gave Elspeth a queer look. "Hurt? Help me?" He sat down on the path again and tried to puzzle it out. "You want to help...me?"

"Yes, sir," chimed eight little girls who had solemnly vowed to be friendly and helpful, considerate and caring.

"All right, then! I see that ye mean what ye say, and are not like those other brats ... But ... "

"Other brats?"

"Oh, yes, earlier today I was caught out in a thunderstorm, a nasty, angry, muddy mess of a thunderstorm. I canna run so fast as I used to, ye know, and so they gave me a merry chase and tackled me at the foot of me rainbow just as if I was the running back for the Detroit Lions. They stole me pot o' gold and left me for dead, they did ... "

"That is just awful! An Adventure Scout is supposed to be respectful, honest, and fair! Are you telling us those girls stole from you?"

"Aye, they did!" the leprechaun nodded and pouted and looked righteously indignant. "I'm gettin' too old fer this nonsense, y'know. That pot o' gold was t' be my retirement, it was. I had one last chance to do me duty and guard the fairies' gold, and those brats stole it! An' poof! There goes me retirement."

"May I -- may I ask your name, sir?"

"Larry," said the dejected little man in the green suit. "Larry the freakin' leprechaun." He sighed.

Lily, who had been picking night-blooming creepers, handed a deadly bouquet to the leprechaun. "Nice to meet you, Larry. I'm Lily."

Larry was touched by the little girl's gesture. As each girl politely introduced herself, Larry began to feel a bit better, and a bit more vindictive. It was clear to him that these girls bore no great love for the girls of Troop #317, and he schemed to enlist their aid.

They, in turn, schemed to enlist his. And soon a bargain was struck.

Larry crept into the camp where the angelic little girls of Troop #317 slept peacefully, dreaming of their ill-gotten gold. After all, what was the fate of one pathetic leprechaun, obviously well past his prime, to them? He snarled in the moonlight, revealing viciously crooked and wickedly sharp little teeth that were almost as green as his ragged suit.

Larry found Troop #317's mascot, Eunice the Unicorn, tethered to a post at the side of the cabin. Eunice had been combed until she shone. Her mane and tail had been liberally dusted with iridescent white fairy dust, then plaited neatly and tied up with emerald silk ribbons in bows. Her hooves had been lacquered Kelly green and adorned with little gold shamrock decals. Poor Eunice! She was a proud unicorn, and it was humiliating to be treated as a pet, like an ordinary cat or dog, and paraded about dressed in such a way. She secretly longed to gore someone with her wickedly-sharp and twisted horn. She stomped and snorted as the funny little man untied her. She pounded and pawed at the ground, until she realized that he meant her no harm, and intended only to hose her off and grant her freedom, in exchange for a very small favor...

* * *

"Did you hear that?" whispered Caroline loudly.

"Sounded like Eunice!" cried Jeni and Lorelei.

Buffy and the girls shot out of bed and dashed out into the night wearing only their flowered nightdresses and bunny slippers. "She's gone!" they gasped in unison. "Eunice!" The little girls were in a panic. They heard a distant whinny. Heartened by the sound, but knowing that it could be an ordinary horse, the girls headed in that direction. Finally, they came to a dilapidated old barn. There in the doorway, they could the brilliant white unicorn. She snorted, tossed her head, and reared up on her hind hooves. "Eunice," sighed the little girls. They were relieved and overjoyed to have found her.

But as they approached, Eunice shied away, moving deeper and deeper into the old barn.

"Eunice," coaxed Lorelei, the only one of the Troop bright enough or hungry enough to have tucked an apple into her pocket before bed. "I have a treat for you... "

There was something strange about the unicorn. Buffy noticed it immediately -- her mane and tail were waving wildly and freely with each toss of her magnificent head. Eunice no longer sparkled in the moonlight; she glowed. A strange sense of terror tingled up Buffy's spine as she tried to call the girls back, but they had already followed the horny horse into the vast dark mouth of the old barn.

* * *

Linda sat outside the barn with Larry, who pulled a meerschaum pipe from his pocket, stuffed it with fragrant tobacco, and drew deeply the sweet, woody smoke. The fairies would never grant him his retirement, but Troop #66613 had offered to make him an honorary member. Immortality was within his grasp, should he choose it. He looked up at the thousands of stars above, and thought of the one Starr within. The sucking sounds, the crack of bone, the wet ripping sound of gristle being pulled back as shoulders were dislocated and necks cracked in two -- these were music to the little green man's ears, and he considered it. He wondered what would become of Linda, the little girl who would never truly be one of them. Though Elvia, Moira, Lily, Bella and Donna, Rowan, Elspeth, and Starr held nothing but affection for Linda, the token human child in their midst, they were a little jealous from time to time -- just a little green with envy, like Larry - because they all knew that to be somewhere in between the light and the dark was the most desirable place of all to be.

Article © Holly Jahangiri. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-04-23
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