The Camping Ritual

A fog of warm air flowed from my mouth as I shivered in the snow-covered forest. There were only three of us teens left, waiting to be taken back to camp for our initiation. I was beginning to think that the hazing ritual would be nothing compared to standing in the shadows of the cold northern woods at night. Then I heard a bellowing scream of David’s voice echoing through the trees. He had failed his initiation, as each camper had to remain silent to become a member.

The Camping RitualThe teenage escort moved to my side and told me that I was next. He grabbed my arm and yanked me forward, reminding me that uttering a single word would bring a curse upon me during the dispensing of the initiation rights. A shiver shot down my spine, but this time it wasn’t due to the cold, but the dreaded curse I heard rumors about in prior years. It was the one thing everyone entering high school feared.

We came upon a unique fire pit that was the width and length of a body. I was shoved in front of it and told to look down at the red-hot coals. The escort told me that some teens had to walk across it barefooted, but I was being saved for the rock at the picnic table.

The rock was large enough that it would take a significant amount of strength to launch it ten yards. A long rope was tied to it with the other end stained by blood. I was told to stand on top of the picnic table and take off my shoe so the rope could be tied to my big toe. My hazer was a large football player and shot putter, who said my size would limit the injury to a bad rope burn. He was confident that my toe wouldn’t be torn off.

I was instructed not to make a single sound, but told that I could brace myself for the moment when the rope snapped taut. I looked at the hefty rock being hoisted onto the shot putter’s shoulder, then down at my big toe tied with the bloody rope. I hunched into a forward stance to brace for the impact.

Then it dawned on me – The amount of insurance an organization would have to carry for rituals that turned south would be enormous. I quickly glanced at the rope tied to my toe and saw a large amount of rope dangling in the darkness under the picnic table. I glanced at the rope tied to the large rock and followed it down to underneath the table as well. Both fell out of sight and were possibly two different ropes.

I stood tall and smiled, as the rock was launched high and fast into the air. It crashed into the trees and I heard the waiting teens in the distance react with concern. I looked at the rope on my toe that hadn’t moved. My hazer whispered for me to yell out in pain, as he winked at me. With little thought, I found an unexpected blood curdling scream erupt from my vocal chords.

The next teen was brought past the picnic table on the way to the fire pit. I was hunched over in pain with “blood” dripping from my bandaged foot. He was told that he’d been spared from the devastation I faced, especially since they were still searching the woods for the rock and my toe.

The teen was then instructed to take off his shoes and socks, as he was reminded of the dreaded curse. I watched as the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He was then blindfolded spun around a few times and told to walk across the hot coals at whatever speed he could handle.

I couldn’t help but notice that he was facing the opposite direction from the fire pit. The ground cover in front of him was removed, revealing an identical pit filled with ice cubes. I laughed as he ran across the ice yelling how hot the coals were. His body could tell the extreme temperature difference, but his mind made him think it was hot, rather than cold.

The curse had been beaten, but no one would ever know it. Instead, dramatic stories of screams echoing through the trees would be told for another year, increasing the fears of the next person preparing himself for the dreaded camping ritual. As for the teen whose turn followed mine, still today he brags about walking across hot coals without getting burnt.

Copyright © 2013 by CJ Powers
Photo © doris oberfrank-list –

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