Editorial Note: For our August 2018 Crown Crier, we have a guest feature on CHRC’s 2018 Camping Trip from none other than Crooks the Chicken. Crooks the Chicken is a longtime member and unofficial mascot of CHRC and a roommate of CHRC members Spencer McCormick and Nicole Teeny. When she’s not camping with CHRC, she enjoys traveling by backpack to destinations far and wide. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter and find articles about her all over the web. But only here, in the Crown Crier, can you hear from Crooks, herself (at least until she finishes her first first novel).
Please be aware that this is just one chicken’s account of this year’s camping trip, equal parts fanciful and horrific. I encourage you to seek out a multi-perspective account by querying other campers about their experiences.
This is an ancient and terrifying story. Its origins lie a billion years ago, when what we call North and South America smashed into one another, creating metamorphic rock in a mountain building event named the Grenville Orogeny. Though eroded over thousands of millennia, cut by glaciers, and shrouded by fungi and plant, this granite rock still stands. It forms the visible foundation of a gentle ridge that we call Crooks Peak.
Having a fondness for that land, and after a very long winter feeling absolutely cooped up, I endeavored to journey there. But though I wished it, and though I do accept the mantle of leadership (including such trivialities as having things named after me), I was much too busy to organize an expedition.
Luckily I know a gentleman, a Mr. Kasabwala, who is quite capable in such matters. With a few weeks’ notice, he assembled a company, 13 strong, who I humbly introduce to you, in name and title, here:
Ms. Crooks Chicken, Leader
Mr. Sunny Kasabwala, 1st Officer
Brenda, Company Cook
Louie, Able Hiker
Elise, Adjunct Coordinator
Abby, Legal Compliance Consultant
Dave, Navigator & Communications Operator
Rebekah, Field Specialist
I first met the crew at the rendezvous. Frankly, I was quite concerned, for it’s so difficult to find people of quality, but I found them quite satisfactory, especially given all had willingly volunteered despite the great danger and for no wages. At 9 o’clock we departed.
The journey there was uneventful.
By about noon, we were somewhat established, our camp founded, a fire started, and rations distributed. Crooks’ Peak is shaped like an arrowhead, and with steep inclines on both sides of the point, it is somewhat defensible. From this vantage, in concert with Mr. Kasabwala and Dave, the navigator, I plotted our course.
I had an inkling we’d find something quite extraordinary. An Orogeny is often defined as a geologic process, when tectonic plates fold into one another, creating a mountain range, but an Orogeny is something else too, a metaphysical rift in the universe where the extraphysical becomes manifest. It was to this rift we’d venture.
Carried by Spencer, my secretary and steward, I was afforded ample opportunity to observe. I saw a woodpecker drumming. A dragonfly buzzed just by me. Even though it was dry, nearly desiccated, the forest was well alive. There were bugs, birds, and critters of all sizes and types in the air, on the ground, everywhere.
We arrived at a circular clearing. Under us lie dark granite rock. Overhead vultures circled. Ahead stood a dead white tree covered in cackling crows.
“Look at that flock of crows,” said Louie, an able hiker.
“It’s called a murder,” I said.
“When you have a group of crows, you call it a murder.”
“Oh huh, why’s that?”
“Premonition, Louie. Premonition.”
Only a little ways down the trail we came to a large hole in a granite wall. Was this a portal to cross universes? Danielle, one of the drivers, volunteered to enter and see. She left with joy on her face and a hop in her step.
We sat and waited. That’s when I saw it. It was perched in a tree, watching us. We had missed it, having our eyes set blindly to the ground. Akil, driver, saw it too.
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing into the tree.
“I don’t know. It looks like a really large bird,” said James, quartermaster.
But it wasn’t a bird. It was something else entirely. Half angel and half demon, five feet tall with red eyes and a razor sharp beak, shrouded in black barbed feathers, it was a werechicken.
Then it was too late. It was descending. James was screaming. Akil was screaming. Its great wings flapping, its black feathers shimmering sapphire in sunlight, it landed nearly on Akil, standing before him raising its beak to his head.
Now, I presume you’re familiar with werechickens. Much like werewolves, just smarter and much more beautiful, werechickens are metaphysical creatures born from when a human is pecked by a werehicken combined with exposure to the full moon’s light.
Everyone was quite surprised to see a werechicken. Dave and Rebekah, field specialist, were stupefied into paralysis. Luckily, Brenda and Shelly, cook and driver respectively, were on their feet and had grabbed large sticks in an attempt to shield Akil from the werechicken. Akil, however, was still screaming. So was James.
As for me, I was not surprised. I was actually rather hoping we might come across one. Both chicken and human, yet neither, I have always found the werehicken’s contradictions most intriguing. Curiously it was studying Akil. What was it thinking? Could we communicate with the werechicken?
When through the woods we spied a pair werechickens running for us like hungry velociraptors.
“Quick, run to the lake!” yelled Dave.
As you probably know, a werechicken is basically perfect. They have but two potential weaknesses, they don’t like to get wet and they go to sleep promptly at dusk (Similar to actual chickens, by the way). So if you find yourself being chased by a werechicken your best bet is to hide in a lake. Luckily Dave knew where the lake was.
“Follow me!” said Dave. “Run! Run!”
We sprinted there (well I was carried by Spencer) and somehow managed to make it into the lake without even a single peck. In hindsight, I do wonder why they did not give more vigorous chase. Were they simply playing with us?
After only fifteen minutes prancing up and down the lake’s shore, the werechickens gave up. We waited for another hour, and seeing no werechickens, slowly emerged from the lake. Still seeing no sign of werechickens we decided to hike back to our camp, rest and regroup.
We were about 800 feet from the lake. When from behind us, we heard the most blood curdling cluck. I turned to see what it was, hoping that maybe it wasn’t. But it was. A werechicken.
“Oh gosh,” said Eloise, adjunct coordinator. “There’s five of them!”
“And we’re cut off from the lake.” said Brenda.
“Dave, is there another lake we could hide in?” asked Mr. Kasabwala.
“Not really. No, they’re all too far. We’d never make it.”
“Wait, wasn’t there an abandoned summer camp?” said Rebekah. “We could hide in one of the buildings.”
When one of the werechickens, it must have been a wererooster, for it was large, easily six feet, with a fleshy bright red comb and magnificent tail plumage, let out a guttural crow and started to trot toward us.
“Run for the summer camp! Run!”
But the werechickens began to run too. And they were fast. Like jungle birds of old they wove through the trees, heads extended forward and tails dancing behind, gaining ten feet on us by the second.
“Can we fight them?”
“They’re so big!”
“If we make it to the abandoned summer camp, we’ll be safe.”
“But they’re so fast!”
“Just run!” said Dave.
“I am running!” said Akil.
“We’re not going to make it!”
“Help!” said Rebekah as one the werechickens nipped at her.
“Don’t worry, I got this,” said Louie, as he extended his hiking stick into a weapon of sorts.
“Louie, what are you doing!” said Mr. Kasabwala.
“We don’t have time. Just go. Run. While you still you can.” said Louie.
“No! Louie!” shouted Rebekah, as Shelly grabbed her pulling her to safety.
And then the werechickens were on him. It was the last time we saw Louie. Whether they consumed him on the spot or left him to turn into a werechicken I do not know. (You may have noticed that though Louie was listed as a camping participant, he’s not in any of the photos.)
As we sprinted toward the abandoned summer camp, you could hear werechicken crows echoing across the forest and converging toward us. Abby, legal compliance consultant, busted through a door and the party piled into the camp’s old mess hall. Would we find a nesting werehen brooding within? There wasn’t time to check.
You probably know what happens next. There was a moment of respite. James handed out beers he’d manged to carry throughout, Brenda made the most delicious egg & veggie tacos, while everyone told defining anecdotes about themselves. Meanwhile Eloise stumbled across an old diary, and the last entry said, “Werechickens broke into mess hall and got another 5 kids, may have to permanently abandon summer camp.”
Then the werechickens came home to roost, as you might kinda say. Abby opened a door and discovered the aforementioned brooding werehen who was indeed very upset. That was quite startling, and yet what followed was even more startling, dramatic & tense: werechickens prancing on roof and coming through chimney, werechickens pecking and almost breaking through boarded up window, Akil and James screaming more, etc.
But then it was dusk, and, just like actual chickens, the werechickens went to sleep. Some would not believe we were safe to depart, and while their fear was understandable, depart we must.
When we got back to camp I saw how haggard everyone was, the trauma spelled out on each face. I could not allow them to live with that trauma. With Rebekah, I administered both were-venom cure and forgetting potion to each. When they awoke next morning, all believed they’d gone on a simple hike.
So why did I write this, after I committed everyone to forget? A fair question. Frankly though, I am familiar with the smallness of the human mind, and I am confident that even after having the facts laid out to them in plain English, not one will believe we were attacked by werechickens.
And yet. That doesn’t answer the question. Why do I tell you this story? Bearing witness to my hubris, you can imagine how I’ve been haunted. From everyone who was pecked, I endeavored so sincerely to cure the were-venom. But of this world, driven by curious and ancient processes most inscrutable, who’s to say if I even halfway knew what I was doing.
This story, my dear reader, is a warning. For I must admit it’s entirely possible, say while on an evening run or simply waiting on a street corner, that one of them may find themselves under the full moon’s light, and in the power of that spell, maybe not immediately, no it may take some minutes, they will find themselves withering, shaking, probably screaming, as sprouting feathers they turn into a WERECHICKEN.
Should you find yourself in such a situation, do not give aid, do not pause, do not instragram it, JUST RUN. RUN!!!!!
(It’s good you all are members of a running club.)
In friendship always,
Ms. Crooks Chicken