Mind Over Matter

Chapter 1: They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha!

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"Jordan, Jeff."

My summer is officially going to suck.

I know everyone probably says that, but I'm not exaggerating at all.

"King, Melissa."

As I stand here, stuck in roll call hell, I take the time to examine at my fellow "campers." They're all the clean-cut type, most of them wearing shorts and polos. Duffel bags are a must. I'm seeing lots of eyeglasses. No pocket-protectors yet, but I'm still looking.

Most parents send their kids off to soccer camp. Do you know where mine sent me?

Psychology camp.

I know. What the hell were they thinking?

We actually have fun little tests in this camp that we have to study for. Tests about the different parts of the brain, mental disorders, and psychological health. They sound hard, not fun.

Whoever thought up this stupid idea seriously needs to get their head examined. I wish one project was to examine your parents' heads because, if they think that this is actually a fun place to me, they must be suffering from some form of disorder. Or a tumor that makes you stupid.

Because this is worse than summer school. If I was in summer school I would have at least deserved punishing. But no, I was actually an okay kid. I didn't do drugs, alcohol, and my grades — with the exception of an odd D or F on a hard test — were pretty good. At least compared to my peers.

I'd worked hard, and the only thing that had kept me going in the last semester, when other people stopped showing up to class and doing homework, was the knowledge that I'd get to enjoy a quiet summer. And my parents had robbed me of that.

It all started with The Pamphlet.

I should have sensed something was wrong when it showed up on the kitchen table one morning, right next to my plate of waffles. The pamphlet was glossy, printed on expensive paper. There were a few basic psychology terms scattered here and there to give you an idea of what a smart place it was, and an outline of the camp's activities (among the usual horseback riding and hiking were stranger things... like "perception seminar", and "'brain teasers'").

Oh, and get this: everyone in the pictures was smiling like they were having a grand old time. And maybe wanted to go Hannibal Lector on you, too, and take a bit of your flesh while they were at it.

It was freaking psychology camp! There was no way they were having fun. Seriously! In some of the pictures, people were even studying! Studying! Over the summer!

My friends would have an aneurysm if their parents told them to study over summer vacation.

"Mom? What's this?" I asked, holding the pamphlet gingerly between my fingers.

She'd grinned at me. "Isn't it great? One of my friends told me about it. Apparently it's a really great place to go, and since you're not doing anything over the summer I thought it would be a great place for you to make friends."

"Great," I repeated. Dubiously, but she was on a roll.

I could only imagine what kinds of kids willingly attended Psychology Camp

"The kids there are all very smart," Mom continued, happily oblivious of my disinterest. "In fact, a lot of the people who go there end up becoming doctors or psychology majors. I figured, you know, it would be a good place for you to meet people."

"But I had plans," I said. "And I have friends."

The smile slipped from her face. "Yes, sweetie, I know. But your friends are so much younger than you and... well, some of them are a little strange."

"And the people at this place are going to be normal?" I made the mistake of asking.

"Mina!"

"Well it's true," I said. "The only people who go to these kinds of camps are nerds, geeks, and losers."

"Geeks get good-paying jobs," my dad said, stepping into the room to dig for a business paper.

"Well, Mark. They get well-paying jobs," Mom corrected warily. "And your father's right, Mina. The boys and girls that get made fun of now might end up being your bosses some day."

Right. That's why I wanted to be a writer when I got older, so I wouldn't have to have a boss. I'd have an agent, but as long as I was making money, I figured they'd leave me the hell alone.

"You said you liked psychology," she added, as an afterthought.

"No, I said I thought it was interesting. I think space is interesting, but that doesn't mean I'd want to go to space camp, either!"

"So you'd rather sit around the house all summer in front of your computer?" Dad asked.

Sounded good to me.

"It'd be such a good experience for you," Mom said. "And I bet it would look great on your college applications."

"No, Mom. I am not going to Psychology Camp! Jesus. You could have at least asked me, first!"

"If you feel that strongly about it, I suppose you could stay home..." Dad said thoughtfully.

Yes! Thank you, Dad!

"Although, that would mean no computer, no movies, a nine o' clock curfew, and extensive housework for, oh, about four weeks."

"That's a month!" I protested. "I'd be, like, a slave until July!"

"Odd," Mom said, giving Dad a conspiratorial look. "That's about how long the camp lasts. I bet Psychology Camp is looking pretty appealing now, isn't it?"

"Malinowski, Mina."

That's me. The girl who was blackmailed into coming here.

I step over to the counselor in the puke green shirt, who smiles brightly at me. "I haven't seen you here, before," she says, handing me a name tag and an itinerary. "Are you new?"

I nod back, silently thinking that, if things go my way, she'll never see me here again.

"You're in cabin D-6," she says, and I have to resist the urge to shout, "You sunk my battleship!"

Honestly, you'd think they'd come up with better names for the cabins than that.

I walk across a wooden bridge placed haphazardly over a shallow stream. I still can't believe my parents would do this to me. And they had the nerve to call out "We'll miss you!" as I headed off towards registration. I couldn't believe it.

"Hey," someone called out. A boy's voice.

Looks like now was my chance to check out the male specimens in this camp.

There are actually two of them. One is tall, thin, and blond with glasses and braces. And no shirt. He looks basically like what I expected, except for the soccer ball in his hands... and the fact that he is actually pretty ripped. What's the deal with that? I mean, he's a nerd.

The other boy is much better looking; darker, free of any eyepieces — but skinnier than his friend. He is also shirtless. "Give it here," he says to the blond guy, who tosses him the ball. Then to me, he says, "What are you doing over here?"

"Camping," I say, in a nastier tone than I wanted. Because, you know, he's hot. "What does it look like?"

"What it looks like," he says, donning my haughty tone, "Is that you've just wandered into the boy's side of camp. That looks really bad to the counselors. Especially on the first day."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I demand.

His cohort grins, pushing his glasses up his nose. "It means that you're down here looking for action before you've even bothered getting to know us, first."

I am absolutely shocked senseless. What. The. Hell. "You... you... jerks! You have problems!"

"We're not the ones in the wrong side of camp, are we, Steve?" the dark-haired guy says.

"Nope," 'Steve' says, shaking his head. "We're not the one with problems."

I don't have to stick around here and get insulted. With a loud 'humph', I turn on my heel and leave those two dumbbells sniggering by the lake. I was wrong to think they were cute! In fact, even the dark-haired guy had that pale, "sits in front of the computer night and day" pallor.

'They probably knew each other from World of Warcraft,' I thought, angrily. 'They're so socially depraved they've forgotten how to interact with the opposite sex!'

Well it would. The only 'girls' who hang online are forty-year-old men and thirteen-year-old boys.

Except for me, of course. But I'm not like 'them'. I actually have a social life. I'm normal, because I didn't actually want to come to this camp in the first place.

This makes me feel a lot better. Until I hear one of those idiots shout "Bye Nympho!"

I wasn't aware that free diagnoses were a part of this "camp experience".

I trudge along, until I get to some other cabins. I don't see any D's — yet — but at least there's girls hanging out in front of them, so I know I'm in the right place.

Twenty minutes later, I admit to myself that maybe it wasn't so 'right'.

There is a group of two boys and one girl walking towards me. They look friendly — they're all laughing, at least. "Hey!" I call out, hesitantly.

The girl smiles at me. "Hey."

"Do you know where cabin D-6 is?" I ask, pointlessly showing her my itinerary. She takes it and looks it over, anyway.

"D-6," the girl muses. "Isn't that near the bathrooms?" she asks one of the boys.

He apparently didn't expect to be part of this exhilarating conversation. "Um... I think so. It's been a while since I've camped here." He laughs.

"These are the L cabins up here," the girl explains to me, handing back the itinerary. "And then the cafeteria's right up those hills. You've wandered pretty far away. I'd recommend turning around this way." She takes me by the shoulders and steers me in the desired direction. "Okay?"

"Uh, thanks," I say, half-heartedly. 'Great. I'm already lost, and it hasn't even been an hour.'

"Good luck!" she calls, and the three of them continue on their way.

I start walking... until I realize that I've forgotten my hideously orange duffel. I return for it, and start walking back — again.

Yes, it looks like things are off to a fantastic start.