Dr_MantisTobaggin

The Witch Switch

Aug 28th, 2018
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  1. "Alright babies, lights out!" Susie's voice echoed unnaturally around the camp, even though she was speaking at normal volume and nowhere near most of the campers. Such was the convenience of the mystical powers of the counselors.
  2.  
  3. Oscar, Max and Hedgehog groaned in unison. The sun had just barely retreated, and the Moon was still on his first cup of coffee, not exactly an early riser. Not at this phase, anyway.
  4.  
  5. "Is it just me, or is lights out getting earlier?" Oscar asked as they kicked dirt over the beach fire they made and gathered up their picnic supplies.
  6.  
  7. "I think the Moon's just sleeping longer," Hedgehog replied, shaking the sand from the blanket before folding it up.
  8.  
  9. "Faster, babies, we've got plans tonight!" With a flick of her wand, the group, along with every other camper found themselves flying through the air towards their cabins.
  10.  
  11. Oscar crossed his arms as he tumbled through the sky along with the contents of the picnic basket coating the three of them.
  12.  
  13. "Ugh, why does she do this?" he grunted. "We can walk just fine!"
  14.  
  15. "I think she said that the witches had something going on tonight." Max added, whirling around Hedgehog and Oscar in the invisible magic tornado. "Maybe that has something to do with it."
  16.  
  17. "Hmm... maybe you're right!"
  18.  
  19. "Well, this is my stop, see you guys!" Max said as the whirlwind dropped him unceremoniously on the porch of his cabin, as it did with the rest of the campers, to include Oscar and Hedgehog.
  20.  
  21. After picking himself off his porch and attempting to brush the food stains off his clothes, he went inside his cabin to change.
  22.  
  23. He removed his shirt and pants and threw them in the hamper before a voice nearly startled him out of his skin.
  24.  
  25. "Alright, listen up. I know you babies sometimes sneak out to go on magical adventures and what not around the island after I call lights out, but tonight is NOT the night for that."
  26.  
  27. "Ah! Susie get out of my—" Oscar shouted with a start, only to find himself alone in his cabin in his underwear. "Oh,"
  28.  
  29. "If I catch any of you outside tonight, I'll turn you into a frog until the day your parents come to get you!"
  30.  
  31. Her dire warning did nothing to quell Oscar's curiosity. If anything, it heightened his intrigue. He also knew that his best friend would be feeling the same spark of curiosity. He threw on his pajama bottoms, but hesitated to put on his top, at least not before checking if Hedgehog was on the same page. He walked to his window that faced her cabin and opened it, only to find that she had the same idea.
  32.  
  33. "Did you hear that announcement?" she asked.
  34.  
  35. "Yeah! What do you think it's about?" Oscar replied.
  36.  
  37. "I don't know, but I bet it's something cool they're trying to hide from us. It seems like that's all they do!"
  38.  
  39. "Hey!" A voice called from a few cabins down. Max carefully climbed out of his window, still dressed in his beach clothes. "You guys thinking about sneaking out to find out what the witches are up to?" he asked.
  40.  
  41. Oscar and Hedgehog looked at each other for a moment before wordlessly coming to the same conclusion.
  42.  
  43. "Yes,"
  44.  
  45. "No,"
  46.  
  47. They both looked at each other in confusion.
  48.  
  49. "C'mon, Oscar, you know they're probably hiding something absolutely amazing! Last time it was magic ice cream and a chocolate waterpark, who knows what it could be this time!" Hedgehog pled, trying to bribe the curiosity she knew he was suppressing.
  50.  
  51. "Yeah, but you heard Susie! Do you want to spend the rest of the summer as a frog?"
  52.  
  53. "Dude, c'mon, she's just saying that to scare you," Max countered.
  54.  
  55. "We all know she'll do it!" Oscar replied. "She once called lights out at eight in the morning! She cancelled the whole day!"
  56.  
  57. "Well... yeah..."
  58.  
  59. "Babies."
  60.  
  61. All three of the kids jumped at the voice they all knew and feared. Slowly turning around, the head counselor stood hovering on her broom, arms crossed as the moonbeams began to shine behind her. Somehow, she must gotten wind of their scheme. It was as though the witches had eyes and ears everywhere. And, since most objects on the island had both eyes and ears, that was mostly true.
  62.  
  63. "What do the words 'lights out' mean to you?"
  64.  
  65. "Sorry Susie, we were just—" Hedgehog began.
  66.  
  67. "Just plotting another whimsical adventure on your magic island after the mean old counselor told you EXPLICITLY to stay in your cabins?" Susie leaned in close to the three of them, her expression was deathly serious, something none of them had ever seen before. That fact alone put fear in the pit of their stomachs. "Listen to me as hard as your baby ears will let you. We have something very important that needs to be done tonight, and it's also something that is two hundred and fifty percent NONE of your business." The three campers were speechless as she continued. "Consider this your one and only warning. If I catch you outside your cabins tonight, you will live in a jar on my desk until your parents show up to get you."
  68.  
  69. Susie took time to stare daggers into all three of the kids eyes before speaking. "Understand?"
  70.  
  71. They all slowly and weakly nodded.
  72.  
  73. "Good." With a wave of her wand and a flash of magic, they all found themselves tucked into bed in their cabin. Somehow, she had even managed to put on pajamas, who was just as confused as Oscar was.
  74.  
  75. "W,wha? Oscar? When did you put me on? Was I asleep?" he asked.
  76.  
  77. "No, it was witch magic," Oscar sighed. He had never seen Susie so serious. Sure, she'd threatened them before, especially when they were attempting to make her follow rules or honor her own promises, but this... this was different. Oscar rolled over, the moon shining brighter than he'd ever seen it before, blasting through his window.
  78.  
  79. "Hey, Moon? Think you could dim the lights a bit?" he asked.
  80.  
  81. "Sorry pal, I gotta shine tonight, Susie's orders," he replied.
  82.  
  83. "Whose orders?" Oscar repeated, raising his head off of his pillow.
  84.  
  85. "Oh, um, no ones! I'm choosing to do this of my own free will! just like all the other celestial bodies!" Moon said, laughing nervously.
  86.  
  87. Oscar heard him the first time, but decided to let it go. Susie's dire warning was still fresh, and while he would normally not hesitate to stand up to the tyrannical head counselor, this, like her warning, seemed different.
  88.  
  89. "Curtains, can you close please? Its kinda bright in here."
  90.  
  91. "Ayy, no problemo pal," his drapes replied, blocking out the Moon's errant beams.
  92.  
  93. He closed his eyes, his curiosity about what Susie and the witches were up to fading into the back of his mind. Just as he was drifting off, he heard a slight tap on his back window. Blearily, he opened one eye, thinking he was hearing things before another rap confirmed his suspicions.
  94.  
  95. "Ugh..." he moaned, throwing his covers off and looking down at his chest. Pajamas was asleep, so he limited his movements as he walked to his window, the cold from his floor sending a shiver from his feet into his spine.
  96.  
  97. He moved his sleeping curtains aside to see Max getting ready to toss another pebble, with Hedgehog next to him with a backpack.
  98.  
  99. Oscar opened his window.
  100.  
  101. "C'mon Oscar, We're burning moonlight!" Hedgehog whispered.
  102.  
  103. "Have you guys lost your minds?" he replied in a harsh whisper.
  104.  
  105. "Oscar, this could be huge!" Max replied. "What if it's like, a whole freezer full of that magic ice cream! Or like, an embarrassing family photo album or something!"
  106.  
  107. "Guys, I don't want to spend all summer in a jar! We already hate being around Susie, do you really want to spend the rest of our time here on her desk?"
  108.  
  109. Hedgehog climbed onto his back porch and stood in front of his window.
  110.  
  111. "Remember when you first got here? How uncomfortable you were around all this magic and stuff?" she asked quietly, out of earshot of Max.
  112.  
  113. He knew what she was doing, and unfortunately he knew it would probably work. "Yeah..."
  114.  
  115. "And how you eventually became the kid who chills with monsters, is best buds with the moon, and who stands up to witches on a regular basis?"
  116.  
  117. Oscar sighed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and looking into Hedgehog's before cracking a gentle smile. She returned the grin, knowing she had him.
  118.  
  119. "Okay, okay, just don't be too loud. I have to change without waking up Pajamas."
  120.  
  121. Even as he climbed out the window, he was still wondering how he let Hedgehog talk him into this. "How are we gonna figure out what the witches are up to? They aren't exactly easy to track down," Oscar whispered as they crept up the hill leading to the counselor's cabins.
  122.  
  123. "I heard them talking about them having to go to someplace they called 'the site'," Max replied.
  124.  
  125. "That doesn't sound ominous..." Oscar muttered.
  126.  
  127. Soon they found themselves crouched in the bushes outside Susie's cabin. Slowly and carefully, they snuck up to her window. Susie, Betsy and Alice had packed three duffle bags, and were sitting on the couch watching tv in their pajamas.
  128.  
  129. Betsy looked up from the television, startling the campers to sink even lower in the window to avoid detection.
  130.  
  131. "Alright girls, it's time." She stood up, snapping her fingers and instantly dressing in her normal outfit.
  132.  
  133. "Ugh..." Susie moaned, following Betsy's lead. "When are we going to be done with this?"
  134.  
  135. "You know when, now lets get going," she replied sternly.
  136.  
  137. "Can't we just... trick them or something?" Alice asked, getting dressed and grabbing her duffle bag.
  138.  
  139. "You know we can't," Betsy replied, shouldering her bag.
  140.  
  141. "It sure felt like we were..." she mumbled as they made their way toward the door.
  142.  
  143. The three campers hid below the window as they left the cabin. They edged over to the side of the cabin as they summoned their brooms.
  144.  
  145. "Shoot, how are we gonna follow them now?" Max whispered.
  146.  
  147. "Alright, let's hit it," In a flash, they took off into the sky and off over the forest.
  148.  
  149. Now safely out of sight of the witches, they stood up.
  150.  
  151. "Now what?" Hedgehog asked.
  152.  
  153. "We could mess with Susie's stuff while she's gone," Max offered.
  154.  
  155. "That sounds fun, but then she'd know someone was out of their cabin," Hedgehog replied, biting her lower lip, trying to think of a way around this hurdle.
  156.  
  157. "But she wouldn't know it was us, right?" Max countered.
  158.  
  159. "True, but then she'd probably turn the entire camp into frogs just to be sure," Oscar added, scratching his head.
  160.  
  161. The trio stood in silence while Oscar had an internal debate. He had an idea of how to figure out where the witches went, but it would only put himself and his friends one step closer to incurring Susie's magical wrath. On one hand, he wanted to keep his friends safe. On the other, Susie being this secretive about something was bound to be huge. He had grown a lot since arriving here, and it seemed a waste to turn back now. Besides, being a frog might be cool.
  162.  
  163. "I got it!"
  164.  
  165. "What?" Hedgehog asked, his outburst startling herself and Max.
  166.  
  167. "I know how we can find where they went," he said, turning to the Moon. "Moon! Hey Moon!"
  168.  
  169. "Oh, hey Oscar! What are you three doing out of bed?"
  170.  
  171. "We want to know where the witches went," Oscar shouted.
  172.  
  173. "Uh... that's not really something I would know..."
  174.  
  175. Oscar pulled his sleeve up a bit and disapprovingly pointed at his friendship bracelet.
  176.  
  177. "Okay, okay... they went to the base of the mountain," the Moon admitted reluctantly. "But if you get caught, don't tell Susie I told you where she was!"
  178.  
  179. "Your secret is safe with us, Moon!" Oscar replied, before turning back to his friends. "Well, guess we better start walking."
  180.  
  181. The three of them begin their trek into the island's interior. Oscar became acutely aware that the normally abundant wildlife was nowhere to be found as they walked. In fact, even the trees had their eyes closed. The unsettling nature of the forest wasn't lost on either Max or Hedgehog.
  182.  
  183. "Pretty quiet tonight," Max said softly, even though his whisper seemed like a shout among the deathly quiet forest. At the outset of this adventure, they figured it would be just another fun secret Susie and the counselors wanted to keep for themselves. However, the further they ventured into the woods, the more uneasy they became.
  184.  
  185. "Yeah..." Hedgehog agreed, swallowing the lump in her throat.
  186.  
  187. After about a half hour more of walking, the mountain loomed large in the distance, and they approached the base. A glint of light shown through the trees as the trio took a more cautious approach to quietly investigate. Upon drawing closer, they saw Susie, Betsy and Alice stood over a cauldron, Betsy stirring, Alice adding ingredients and Susie impatiently checking her watch.
  188.  
  189. "Oi, why is she always late?"
  190.  
  191. "She's like a hundred and sixty," Betsy replied.
  192.  
  193. "So? I still managed to show up on time," Susie shot back, folding her arms.
  194.  
  195. "They locked us in our cabins so they could get together and make soup?" Oscar whispered.
  196.  
  197. "No, there's got to be a better reason than that," Hedgehog reasoned. Before she could offer an alternate theory, a rustling in the opposite bushes silenced the sneaking campers. From the forest appeared an elderly woman that both Hedgehog and Oscar recognized.
  198.  
  199. "Isn't that the lady in that picture with Susie?" Oscar asked.
  200.  
  201. "Yeah, she gave us the time cape!" Hedgehog replied.
  202.  
  203. "The what?" Max asked.
  204.  
  205. "Nevermind, I'll explain later," she answered.
  206.  
  207. "Ugh, finally," Susie huffed. "Put your ingredients in and lets get on with it."
  208.  
  209. The elder witch just smiled gently and waved her hand over the bubbling cauldron, her ingredients seeming to fall from her outstretched hand. The cauldron bubbled violently and changed color as Betsy stepped away.
  210.  
  211. "Alright, lets robe up," Susie ordered. In a puff of pink smoke, all four of them wore floor length black robes with their hats. The circled around the cauldron and grabbed each other's hands.
  212.  
  213. Susie loudly cleared her throat. "Moon!"
  214.  
  215. The Moon whipped around, "Oh, sorry Susie, here ya go!" The celestial body shone a beam of moonlight onto the cauldron, making it react even more violently than before. The four witches closed their eyes and recited an ancient verse, the contents beginning to shift in color as it bubbled. In an instant, a beam of energy shot out of the cauldron and into the sky before settling down again.
  216.  
  217. Soon after, they released their hands and began laying out sleeping bags.
  218.  
  219. "They're sleeping outside?" Max asked as the witches took a small cup and dipped it into the cauldron.
  220.  
  221. "Another summer, another batch," Alice said with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
  222.  
  223. "See you lot in a few hours ." Susie said, downing her shot of the mysterious liquid before climbing into her bed.
  224.  
  225. In minutes, the witches were asleep, but their bodies glowed with an eerie light, the same color of the potion they brewed.
  226.  
  227. Cautiously, Max, Oscar and Hedgehog emerged from their hiding spot.
  228.  
  229. Max tossed a rock towards the sleeping witches, though they were sound asleep.
  230.  
  231. They walked up to the cauldron and peered into it, their hands on the warm lip of the large black pot.
  232.  
  233. "What do you think it is?" Oscar asked.
  234.  
  235. "I mean, they took it and then fell asleep... maybe it's like a sleeping potion or something?" Max replied.
  236.  
  237. "But, why would they be so serious about a sleeping potion?" Oscar wondered aloud.
  238.  
  239. "Well, if what Susie said is true, it only works for a few hours," Hedgehog replied fishing for something inside her backpack.
  240.  
  241. Max glanced slyly at Oscar with a smirk. "Dare you to taste it,"
  242.  
  243. "What? No way! You taste it," the young elephant countered.
  244.  
  245. "What's the matter, scared?" Max teased.
  246.  
  247. "No!"
  248.  
  249. "Guys! If you're done arguing, lets just take some back to the cabins, we can taste it later," Hedgehog said, dunking a mason jar into the metallic looking glowing liquid. "Let's get out of here before the witches wake up."
  250.  
  251. Back in Hedgehog's cabin, the trio stared at the mysterious jar of liquid on the floor before them, its strange hue bathing them in their pajamas. Oscar had chosen not to wake pajamas, so he'd borrowed a shirt from Max.
  252.  
  253. "So now that we walked back from the woods in complete silence, what do you think it does?" Max asked.
  254.  
  255. "Well, I heard Alice say something about 'another summer, another batch'," Hedgehog replied softly, pulling her knees to her chest, still as mesmerized by the liquid as the rest of them. "Maybe they just make it once a summer, like a seasonal drink or something,"
  256.  
  257. They continued to stare at it in silence before Oscar broke the silence. "Maybe, but then why keep it a secret? Why make us stay in our cabins all night?"
  258.  
  259. "What if it's the most delicious thing on earth?" Max said breathlessly, clapping his hands together hopefully.
  260.  
  261. Oscar couldn't help but consider that fact. There was an overwhelming chance, given the counselors track records, that this liquid could be something beyond the comprehension of their young taste buds.
  262.  
  263. "Knock knock," Hedgehog's door said. "It's Susie," the door whispered frightfully.
  264.  
  265. "Wordlessly, Hedgehog slid the jar across the floor to Oscar, who quickly scooped it up and hid it underneath her bed sheets. While Oscar hid the jar, she scrambled to her feet to answer the door, knowing that keeping the head witch in charge waiting too long would arouse suspicion.
  266.  
  267. Max, meanwhile, shot up from his position and looked frantically around Hedgehogs room for somewhere to sit or lay down, anywhere to act casual, as though they were simply having a normal sleepover. However, wearing socks on a hardwood floor doesn't exactly help.
  268.  
  269. "Open up," Susie demanded.
  270.  
  271. Hedgehog took a deep breath, taking one quick glance at her friends to make sure they were ready to face the inquisition.
  272.  
  273. Oscar and Max gave her a thumbs up, and she answered the door just wide enough to peek out.
  274.  
  275. Hedgehog faked a yawn and rubbed her eyes. "Susie?"
  276.  
  277. "We've been by all the cabins, and only Oscar and Max are missing. They've got a date with a jar on my desk, and I know you know where those ding dongs are." Susie replied, arms crossed. "Now spill it."
  278.  
  279. "Wait, wait, they don't have to be frogs," Hedgehog explained frantically, opening the door all way to reveal her two friends and dropping her fake tired act. "they've been here all night, we were reading scary stories and lost track of time!"
  280.  
  281. Susie took a step into the room, glaring at Oscar, who was laying on his stomach on Hedgehogs bed, concealing the jar and looking up from his book. She glared at him, then scanned the room over towards Max. He looked up from his book and waved calmly. Susie turned back to Hedgehog, who was doing her best to maintain her composure under her piercingly, bushy-browed gaze.
  282.  
  283. "So it's just been you three?"
  284.  
  285. "Yeah,"
  286.  
  287. "And you've been reading baby stories all night?"
  288.  
  289. "Yes,"
  290.  
  291. "Then why," Susie said, pointing her wand over her shoulder. "is Max's book upside down?" The bat boy froze, wrapped in her magic and floated over between the two of them. "Hm?"
  292.  
  293. 'Max, are you serious?!' Oscar thought nervously, holding his breath in what felt like an eternal silence.
  294.  
  295. "I-it's not the book, it's just the jacket!" Max stammered, struggling to speak under her spell.
  296.  
  297. Susie grabbed the book, and sure enough, the jacket had somehow gotten turned around, but the pages where right side up.
  298.  
  299. Satisfied, but irritated nonetheless, she put the book back into Max's frozen hands. "Back to your cabins, all of you." With a flick of her wrist, Oscar and Max disappeared from Hedgehog's cabin. Susie stared down sternly at Hedgehog. "GoodNIGHT, Hedgehog." In a puff of pink smoke, she disappeared.
  300.  
  301. "Finally," she sighed, making sure to close her curtain and lock her door before uncovering the jar they recovered. It bathed her in a soft pink light as she stared into it. She set it on her nightstand and draped a thin T-shirt over it, softening the light. "Well, we may not know what it's for, but at least it makes a good nightlight."
  302.  
  303. Hedgehog slept soundly that night, the sunbeams defying the curtains attempt to darken her cabin. She sat up in bed and yawned, stretching her arms and legs and letting out a soft squeak before flopping her arms by her sides. As she looked around the room, she noticed that the light that had roused her wasn't from the sun. In fact, according to her clock, the sun wasn't due up for another hour and a half!
  304.  
  305. Hedgehog glanced over to her nightstand. The soft, soothing light that she had gone to sleep with was now blasting out from beneath the shirt she had thrown over it. She pulled the shirt off and shielded her eyes from its intensity. Hedgehog couldn't help but look away, noticing the light beginning to wake up the objects in her room.
  306.  
  307. "Turn out that bloody light!" the monster under her bed demanded, still half asleep. Hedgehog had to think fast. She reached out for the jar, but as she laid a hand on it, she recoiled with a hiss.
  308.  
  309. "Geez that's hot!" she muttered to herself, still holding her injured hand. Looking around she slid over to her laundry pile in her socks, grabbing the thickest sweater she could find. Hedgehog raced back to her bed and wrapped the jar in the sweater, effectively blocking out the light. She could feel the garment beginning to warm up from the inside. She had to act quickly before the liquid burned down her cabin.
  310.  
  311. 'Bingo', she thought to herself, spying the cooler from yesterday's picnic. It was still filled with ice, and would continue to replenish itself thanks to a spell from Susie that cost them each five dollars. She flipped the lid opened with her foot and then dumped, the jar inside with the remaining sodas, sports drinks and condiments. Steam rose from the cooler before the light from the jar began too dim as it cooled off. Hedgehog closed the lid and sat on it, breathing a sigh of relief.
  312.  
  313. She walked back to her bed and flopped face first onto it, determined to salvage the rest of the morning darkness for a few more minutes of sleep.
  314.  
  315. In the mess hall, Oscar and Max sat at their usual table with Alexa and Lucy. The only camper absent from their group was Hedgehog.
  316.  
  317. As Alexa and Lucy prattled on about something neither cared about, Max leaned towards Oscar.
  318.  
  319. "Where's Hedgehog?" he whispered.
  320.  
  321. "I don't know," Oscar replied in a worried tone. He glanced over his shoulder and bit his lip. They had both been essentially forced to leave her alone with a mystery liquid brewed by the three most powerful/petty people on the island. There was plenty that could have gone wrong, and both Oscar and Max were acutely aware of this.
  322.  
  323. To both of their relief, Hedgehog walked into the room with her tray, slight bags under her eyes.
  324.  
  325. "Sleep much?" Lucy asked as the rest of the table noticed her.
  326.  
  327. "No, I woke up and couldn't do back to sleep." It wasn't a exactly a lie.
  328.  
  329. "Well get the sleep out of your eyes, we got a basketball game today, and we need your crab buckets," Alexa said before adding hot sauce to her eggs, the bottle itself giggling as she did.
  330.  
  331. "Yeah, I'll be fine after I eat,"
  332.  
  333. "Everything, okay?" Max asked.
  334.  
  335. Hedgehog nodded and smiled back.
  336.  
  337. Allaying Max and Oscar's worries, they continued eating their breakfast.
  338.  
  339. After eating breakfast, Alexa and Hedgehog headed to the Gold League locker tree. Max put away his tray, leaving Oscar to finish his breakfast. He passed back by the table when he remembered their picnic from yesterday. "Oh, hey can you grab the cooler from yesterday? It's supposed to be pretty hot out there."
  340.  
  341. "Sure thing," Oscar replied as they high fived before Max left.
  342.  
  343. He finished his food and set off towards Hedgehogs cabin. Max was right, it would definitely be hot out there at the basketball courts. Sometimes the sun could be talked into dialing it back a bit, but it was pretty rare.
  344.  
  345. Oscar entered her cabin and instantly spotted the cooler. He loaded the cooler into a wagon and began pulling it towards the door.
  346.  
  347. "Have fun," The monster under her bed laughed.
  348.  
  349. "Uh... thanks," Oscar replied, genuinely unnerved by the first time the monster was seemingly nice.
  350.  
  351. 'Weird...' He thought, beginning the arduous task of pulling the refreshment filled wagon to the basketball court.
  352.  
  353. The skeleton team Oscar had played when he convinced the basketball to score for him were back once more, although without his little advantage, the score was a lot closer. He, the other campers, and a few monsters cheered from the stands as Alexa sank a three pointer at the buzzer to seal the win for the Gold League.
  354.  
  355. The three players hugged at half court before Max split off and headed towards Oscar.
  356.  
  357. "Great game, Max!" Oscar shouted, reaching out for a high five.
  358.  
  359. "Thanks!" He replied, removing his hat and wiping the sweat from his brow. "Any water left in there from yesterday?" he asked.
  360.  
  361. "Sure," Oscar opened the cooler, digging around the sodas and looking for water. "I don't see one... there's a sports drink in here though,"
  362.  
  363. "I'll take it."
  364.  
  365. Oscar pulled it out and looked at it. It seemed like a normal sports beverage, nothing strange about the bottle or labeling. The only thing nagging at Oscar was that he didn't remember packing any sports drinks for yesterday's picnic. He tossed it to Max as the crowd left the court. He opened the cap and took a big gulp.
  366.  
  367. "What flavor is it?" Oscar asked curiously.
  368.  
  369. Max thought for a moment before looking back down at the drink. He took another big gulp, having downed about three fourths of it.
  370.  
  371. "Strawberry? No... watermelon? Wait, green apple... or maybe pineapple..." Max continued to think about it as Hedgehog walked over.
  372.  
  373. "Good game Hedgehog!" Oscar greeted.
  374.  
  375. "Thanks can I get a water?" she asked.
  376.  
  377. "I think we're out, but there might be another sports drink in there..." Oscar said, opening the lid of the oddly familiar cooler.
  378.  
  379. The realization hit Hedgehog like a ton of bricks. "Where did this cooler come from?" she asked Oscar urgently.
  380.  
  381. "Your cabin. It's the one we used for the picnic yesterday, remember?" Oscar replied. "Doesn't look like we have another—hey!"
  382.  
  383. Hedgehog hip bumped Oscar away from the cooler as she frantically dug through the ice to find the jar from last night. It wasn't there.
  384.  
  385. "Guys," Max yawned. "I'm feeling a little... tired." The moment the words left his lips, he crumpled to the ground, the mason jar rolling out of his grip and coming to a rest against Hedgehogs sneaker.
  386.  
  387. "Why did he drink it?!" Hedgehog shouted, thankfully to the now deserted basketball court. She turned to Oscar. "You just let him drink that stuff?!"
  388.  
  389. "N-no! It was just sports drink! It was in a plastic bottle and everything, I promise!" Oscar stammered back in his defense.
  390.  
  391. Hedgehog took a deep breath. "I'm sorry Oscar, I didn't mean to yell. You're my best friend." She smiled at him.
  392.  
  393. "You're my best friend, too, Hedgehog. But we should probably do something about that." Oscar pointed to Max's sleeping and now glowing body.
  394.  
  395. Hedgehog picked up the now empty jar, only a small bit of the liquid remaining inside before evaporating into a pink puff of stars, balloons and moons.
  396.  
  397. "Well, he drank the whole bottle," she sighed. "The witches only had a sip each." She grabbed Max under one arm while Oscar grabbed the other arm. "Hopefully he won't be in a coma for the next three years,"
  398.  
  399. "We can't take him back to the cabins like this, Susie will know something's up." Oscar reasoned.
  400.  
  401. "We can take him to the Gold League locker room, Alexa should have cleared out by now." Hedgehog said, motioning towards the woods where the secret tree resided.
  402.  
  403. They laid Max on the couch and put a blanket over him, while Oscar and Hedgehog sat in chairs opposite him, hoping he'd wake up.
  404.  
  405. "How long was it before Susie came to your cabin last night?" Oscar asked, still staring at their friends still glowing body.
  406.  
  407. "It took us about two hours to walk back, then another thirty before she showed up." Hedgehog said, still staring as well.
  408.  
  409. Oscar checked his watch. "We still have forty five minutes before we need to start worrying."
  410.  
  411. Hedgehog stood from the chair. "I'm gonna get a drink, you want anything?"
  412.  
  413. "Soda if you have it," Oscar said as she left for the fridge.
  414.  
  415. As she rummaged around in the kitchen, Max's glow began to fade, and he started to stir.
  416.  
  417. "Hedgehog, Hedgehog!" Oscar called getting out of his chair and rushing to take a knee beside his friend.
  418.  
  419. He was joined by Hedgehog as Max's eyes fluttered open.
  420.  
  421. Slowly, his two friends came into focus.
  422.  
  423. "Hedgehog? Oscar?" he mumbled.
  424.  
  425. "Hey, how do you feel?" Hedgehog asked.
  426.  
  427. "Just... kinda tired, but kinda like if you took a nap you woke up too early from, you know?" Max rubbed his eyes and sat upright. "What happened?"
  428.  
  429. "Remember the sports drink I gave you after the game?" Oscar asked, an embarrassed blush creeping over his cheeks.
  430.  
  431. Max thought back for a moment. "Yeah, it was a weird flavor."
  432.  
  433. "Turns out... that was the liquid we got from the witches."
  434.  
  435. Max scratched his chin. "But wasn't it in a glass jar?"
  436.  
  437. "Apparently it tricked you both into thinking it was sports drink," Hedgehog explained.
  438.  
  439. "And I drank it?" he asked.
  440.  
  441. "You sure did. The whole thing," Oscar admitted.
  442.  
  443. They sat in silence for a moment before Max threw off the blanket, still in his game uniform. "Well, I don't feel any different, and I kinda stink. Can we head back to camp? I need a shower."
  444.  
  445. Hedgehog gave her own jersey a sniff, and agreed.
  446.  
  447. They left the tree and headed back to camp. With still a half day left to enjoy, they met back up after getting cleaned up.
  448.  
  449. At the mess hall, they talked about what they should do with the rest of the day.
  450.  
  451. "We could check out what Saxophone is up to," Oscar suggested.
  452.  
  453. "Doesn't he only speak yeti now?" Hedgehog replied.
  454.  
  455. "Oh yeah..." Oscar recalled.
  456.  
  457. "We could hike up to the top of the mountain," Max said, "I flew straight up there last time, but it might be fun to walk it."
  458.  
  459. "Yeah, that might be pretty nice," Hedgehog agreed, taking a bite of her grilled cheese.
  460.  
  461. "Hey, Max," Oscar began. "Has anything happened to you since you drank that stuff?"
  462.  
  463. "Well... I don't know if it's because of that stuff or what... but every time I was looking for something, I'd find it in the first place I looked, and when I was out of soda, I really wished I had some, and then a soda I don't remember having in my room was right next to me, and it was ice cold!"
  464.  
  465. Oscar and Hedgehog glanced at each other.
  466.  
  467. "Well, that doesn't necessarily mean its the goo, maybe you just forgot you grabbed a soda from here and brought it back?"
  468.  
  469. "I guess that could be it..." Max pondered, scratching his head through his hat. "It's whatevs, I feel great, I'm not really worried."
  470.  
  471. The trio finished their lunches and set out onto the hiking trail to the top of the mountain. The nearer they reached to the summit, the more brisk the wind became.
  472.  
  473. "This wind is freezing!" Hedgehog remarked, "Max, do you have any extra chapstick? I think my lips are starting to freeze."
  474.  
  475. "Yeah, one sec..." Max reached into his pocket, fishing for his extra tube. Instead of what he was looking for, he pulled out a red handkerchief. "What the..." He pulled it out of his pocket to find it was tied to a blue one, and that one to a green one, and then a yellow, and then a red again. The more he pulled, the more kept coming out.
  476.  
  477. "Great joke Max, but this isn't my seventh birthday party," Hedgehog shivered, rubbing her shoulders with her hands.
  478.  
  479. "I don't know what's happening!" Max said frantically, hastily pulling the never ending rope of handkerchiefs out of his pocket. He had a pile almost half his height before it finally ended and he reached his chapstick.
  480.  
  481. "You mean you didn't plan that?" Oscar asked.
  482.  
  483. "You think I walk around with a half mile of tied together handkerchiefs in my pants?"
  484.  
  485. "I doesn't seem like something you'd do, you're right," said Hedgehog. "Maybe it's a side effect of the goo—"
  486.  
  487. Max inhaled sharply, preparing to sneeze. He tilted his head back, and let a massive sneeze loose. Only instead of wayward saliva particles and a little snot, a blast of bright pink magic as tall as he was shot out of his nose and mouth, melting a huge trench into the snow, and even scooping out some of the rocks and dirt beneath. The beam traveled off the mountain and off into the ocean before exploding on the horizon in a ball of pink stars, moons and other shapes.
  488.  
  489. "Yeah, I think that's fair to say." Oscar replied, deadpan.
  490.  
  491. Max opened his eyes and wiped his nose, noticing the massive trench his magical sneeze produced.
  492.  
  493. "Wow."
  494.  
  495. Oscar and Hedgehog approached him.
  496.  
  497. "Did I do this?" he asked, dumbfounded.
  498.  
  499. "Yeah, you almost took off the whole mountain top!" Oscar answered.
  500.  
  501. "Lets just watch where you sneeze from now on." Hedgehog said gently, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Or, at least cover your mouth."
  502.  
  503. They made it to the top of the mountain, but the question on all of their minds was the true effects of the magic goo. So far, it seemed to range from simple magicians party tricks to apocalyptic magic lasers.
  504.  
  505. "So, here's a theory," Hedgehog began as they reached the summit. "The goo gave you magic powers."
  506.  
  507. "That makes sense," Max agreed as they took in the view from the mountain peak. "And it would explain why the witches drink it."
  508.  
  509. "So what else can you do?" Oscar asked.
  510.  
  511. "I don't know, the magic just seems to happen," Max replied.
  512.  
  513. "Have you ever actually 'tried' to use it?" Hedgehog asked.
  514.  
  515. "No, I just found out I was magic like an hour ago," he replied, annoyed. "Let me see if I can figure out how this works..."
  516.  
  517. Max closed his eyes and concentrated.
  518.  
  519. Oscar and Hedgehog glanced at each other, then back at Max.
  520.  
  521. A puff of pink smoke engulfed him, and his bat wings popped out of his back, similar to his fruit thief persona. He glanced over his shoulder and noticed his new appendages. "Nice!" He fluttered the a few times and hovered a few feet off the ground before settling back down. "I just thought really hard about wanting wings, then it happened."
  522.  
  523. "Is that how it works? You just think about it?" Oscar asked.
  524.  
  525. "I guess... here, let me try it on you. What do you want?"
  526.  
  527. Oscar thought about it for a moment. "A super warm down jacket! This sweater isn't really meant for mountain tops."
  528.  
  529. "Okay," Max closed his eyes and concentrated on the image of Oscar with a fluffy warm jacket on. He opened one eye, and slumped his shoulders. "Dang, maybe that's not how it works..."
  530.  
  531. "Wait, maybe you need something to channel the magic through, like a wand?" Hedgehog suggested. She picked up a stick from the ground and snapped it to wand length, handing it to Max. "Now try."
  532.  
  533. He flicked his wrist towards Oscar, and in a puff of pink smoke, he had a fluffy jacket on, just as he'd asked for.
  534.  
  535. "Neat!" he said, checking out the front and back of his new piece of clothing.
  536.  
  537. "Do you want anything, Hedgehog?" Max asked.
  538.  
  539. "How about that chapstick?" she reminded him.
  540.  
  541. "Oh yeah!" A twirl of the wand later, and Hedgehog had her lip balm.
  542.  
  543. "Sweet, and it's berry flavored!" she added, smacking her lips together. "Nice touch."
  544.  
  545. "Eh, I try," Max smiled at her. "Now what?"
  546.  
  547. Oscar looked at his watch.
  548.  
  549. "It's going to be dinner time soon, if we hurry, we can get there before they close the mess hall."
  550.  
  551. "Wait, if I'm magic, can't we just teleport there?" Max suggested. "I've seen the witches do it all the time."
  552.  
  553. "Well... " Oscar began nervously, "You really want to try teleporting for the first time with us? What if we end up on the moon, or at the bottom of the ocean or something?"
  554.  
  555. "I... well okay, I get that." Max replied. "What if I try it first?"
  556.  
  557. Oscar and Hedgehog nodded.
  558.  
  559. "Okay, here goes," Max disappeared before their eyes.
  560.  
  561. In about a minute, Max returned, about three feet off the ground before gracelessly falling to it.
  562.  
  563. "Everything's good, I can totally do this," Max said, brushing the snow off his jacket. "I'm still figuring out the height thing though,"
  564.  
  565. They each touched his shoulder and closed their eyes. "Okay, here goes! Hopefully I won't end up in Susie's bathroom this time."
  566.  
  567. "What?!" Oscar and Hedgehog shouted in unison.
  568.  
  569. "Heh, just kidding."
  570.  
  571. In a flash, they found themselves near the pool behind Oscar's cabin. "Thank goodness," Hedgehog sighed. "I'm starving,"
  572.  
  573. They walked out from behind the cabin before Oscar noticed something rather odd about their friend Max.
  574.  
  575. "Max, your wings!"
  576.  
  577. "Oh, right!" he said, folding his wings to his back. He tried to concentrate on making them disappear, but it didn't seem to be working. "They're still here! I can't concentrate enough to get them to go away!" Max replied, fear creeping into his voice.
  578.  
  579. "It's okay, just wear this," Oscar said, giving Max his jacket.
  580.  
  581. They walked to the mess hall and sat with their usual group, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, and not let any of their friends know that one of them had magical powers that could potentially outshine all three counselors put together.
  582.  
  583. The moment they sat down, Alexa squinted at them.
  584.  
  585. "Something's different..." She said.
  586.  
  587. Max shivered nervously, his wings rustling in his jacket.
  588.  
  589. "Max..." Alexa said, rubbing her chin. "Is that a new jacket?"
  590.  
  591. They collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
  592.  
  593. "Heh, yeah," he replied.
  594.  
  595. "Really nice," She said before taking a bite of her sandwich.
  596.  
  597. "Oh, dang it, I forgot to get a fork," Oscar said, about to get up.
  598.  
  599. Max felt something poking him in the sleeve of his jacket. He opened up the sleeve and ten forks clattered out of it.
  600.  
  601. "Uh... thanks," Oscar said.
  602.  
  603. "You walk around with forks in your sleeves all day?" Alexa asked.
  604.  
  605. "No, it's just—" Hedgehog began, but Max stopped her.
  606.  
  607. "Everyone else is gonna find out eventually, we just need to keep it a secret from the counselors," Max turned to Alexa. "I'm magic."
  608.  
  609. Alexa raised an eyebrow. "Magic? Like Susie magic?"
  610.  
  611. "Yeah,"
  612.  
  613. She was understandably skeptical.
  614.  
  615. "Forks in a sleeve are one thing. Prove it," Alexa demanded.
  616.  
  617. "Well, I'm not very... very..." Max tilted his head back, slowing his speech. Oscar and Hedgehog instantly recognized the oncoming sneeze. They both put a finger underneath his nose and stifled what was sure to leave nothing but Alexa's shoes and a pile of dust in its wake.
  618.  
  619. "Thanks guys," Max said. "Anyway, I'm not very good at it, and it kinda just does what it wants sometimes, but I can try."
  620.  
  621. "Okay, make my sandwich into a doner kebab." Alexa replied, still not convinced.
  622.  
  623. Max produced his simple stick-wand and waved it over her food. The plain sandwich became a gyro before their eyes.
  624.  
  625. "Wow..." Alexa mumbled, wide eyed at the transformation before her. "I mean, it's not a doner, but still." She took a bite and nodded. "Pretty good! How did you become magic?"
  626.  
  627. "That's kind of a long story, but I drank some weird goo, and now I'm magic," Max shrugged.
  628.  
  629. "For how long?" she asked.
  630.  
  631. "I dunno," he replied.
  632.  
  633. "Neat," she said.
  634.  
  635. "Just don't tell the counselors," Hedgehog added.
  636.  
  637. "Your secret's safe with me... if I could get some ice cream..." Alexa hinted.
  638.  
  639. "Okay, just give me a second..." Max said, before waving his wand over the table. A bowl of ice cream appeared beneath it with a spoon.
  640.  
  641. Alexa tried a spoonful, and immediately regretted it.
  642.  
  643. "Egh, it tastes like toothpaste!"
  644.  
  645. "I said I wasn't very good at it!"
  646.  
  647. After dinner, they went back to Hedgehog's cabin to see what else Max could do with his newfound powers. He took his jacket off and flexed his wings.
  648.  
  649. "Are you gonna keep those?" Oscar asked.
  650.  
  651. "I dunno, they've kinda grown on me," he said, stretching them out to their full wingspan before folding them neatly onto his back.
  652.  
  653. "So what else can you do?" Hedgehog asked.
  654.  
  655. "Let's find out!" Max said happily, walking across the room and banging his shin on a stool. "Ow, you dumb stool I oughta—" Max snapped angrily, his balled fist beginning to glow bright pink.
  656.  
  657. "Ah! Please don't hurt me, I'm sorry!" the stool pled.
  658.  
  659. "Woah, Max, take it easy," Hedgehog said.
  660.  
  661. Just like that, the flare of anger in his heart evaporated, and he untensed.
  662.  
  663. "You okay?" Oscar asked.
  664.  
  665. "Yeah... sorry stool, I didn't mean to snap at you."
  666.  
  667. "No worries, we're still cool."
  668.  
  669. "I've never seen you get mad like that before." Hedgehog said.
  670.  
  671. "I've never been mad like that before... that was weird huh?" Max asked.
  672.  
  673. "Yeah, and your hand started to glow. Can you do it again?" Oscar asked.
  674.  
  675. "Hm..." Max said, looking at his hand and concentrating.
  676.  
  677. "Nothing..."
  678.  
  679. "Maybe you just need to be mad?" Hedgehog suggested.
  680.  
  681. Oscar gave Max's shin a good kick.
  682.  
  683. "Ow! Oscar what the heck?!" Max asked, glaring at him.
  684.  
  685. "Look!" Oscar said, pointing to Max's clenched fist.
  686.  
  687. It was glowing pink just like before. As soon as the pain and anger faded, his fist returned to normal.
  688.  
  689. "Okay, well if you guys are done kicking me, I want to try something else."
  690.  
  691. Max put his hands together and concentrated. Once he separated them, three bowls of ice cream appeared on the table.
  692.  
  693. "Nice!" Oscar and Hedgehog said in unison, rushing to join Max by the table.
  694.  
  695. "Okay, I tried for strawberry, let's see if I got it right," he said, taking a tentative taste. "Nailed it!" Max took a big spoonful as his friends joined him.
  696.  
  697. "So what else do you want to try?" Oscar asked.
  698.  
  699. "Uh..." Max looked around. "What if I put a couch in the corner?"
  700.  
  701. "I could use a couch," Hedgehog considered, a finger on her chin.
  702.  
  703. Max produced his stick/wand and waved it towards the corner. In a puff of smoke, a couch appeared... followed by another, then another, then another. Soon, the cabin was beginning to stack with multiple couches as the available living space began to decrease.
  704.  
  705. "Max, that's enough couches!" Hedgehog said urgently.
  706.  
  707. "I know, I'm trying!" Max shouted back. Everywhere he pointed the wand, more couches appeared.
  708.  
  709. "Drop the wand!" Oscar suggested.
  710.  
  711. Max let go, and the couch tornado finally stopped.
  712.  
  713. "Well, what now?" Max panted.
  714.  
  715. "We need to get rid of these couches," Hedgehog stated plainly.
  716.  
  717. Oscar and Hedgehog looked at him expectantly.
  718.  
  719. "What?"
  720.  
  721. "You made them, can't you make them go away?" she asked.
  722.  
  723. "I don't know if I want to touch my wand again," he said hesitantly.
  724.  
  725. "Maybe try snapping your fingers? I've seen the witches do that," Oscar said.
  726.  
  727. Max stared at the pile of couches and snapped his fingers. In a poof, all the couches disappeared.
  728.  
  729. "I guess I don't need a couch that bad..." Hedgehog said.
  730.  
  731. "Lights out, babies!" Susie's voice echoed through the camp, eliciting a groan from the three campers in Hedgehog's cabin.
  732.  
  733. A puff of smoke appeared in front of them. Susie stood in front of them, unamused. "I said, lights out." She snapped her fingers and the lights turned off. Just then, Max had an idea. Behind his back, Max softly snapped his fingers, turning the lights back on.
  734.  
  735. "Oi, I said lights OUT!" She snapped her fingers again, turning out the lights. Max repeated his actions and turned the lights back on. Oscar and Hedgehog both suppressed giggles and glanced at Max, who winked in return.
  736.  
  737. "What the bloody..." She walked right up to the lamp and snapped her fingers. Max countered.
  738.  
  739. "Fine," Susie said, simply unplugging the lamp. "Back to your cabins."
  740.  
  741. Just as quickly as she appeared, she was gone.
  742.  
  743. "I think we've been thinking too small." Hedgehog said smiling.
  744.  
  745. "I think you're right." Oscar said, following her lead. "Max, I think it's time we showed Susie what it's like to be a camper."
  746.  
  747. The following morning they all met for up for breakfast at the mess hall, to plan out their scheme over eggs and bacon.
  748.  
  749. "So, anyone come up with anything good last night?" Oscar asked.
  750.  
  751. "I thought we could just follow her around in secret and mess with her," Max replied, his mouth still slightly full of scrambled eggs. "Just wait for something to happen organically, like the lights from last night."
  752.  
  753. "Yeah, that would be pretty funny, but we'd also have to spend the whole day stalking Susie, plus its not really much fun if no one but us sees it," Hedgehog replied.
  754.  
  755. She scratched her head while the rest of them considered the best way to prank Susie while maximizing the viewing audience.
  756.  
  757. Alexa, who hadn't been paying attention to their planning, noticed she'd forgotten the hot sauce for her eggs. "Dang it. Hey, Max, can you hook me up with some hot sauce?"
  758.  
  759. He pounded his fist on the table, clattering everyone's trays and startling most of the mess hall, none more so than Alexa.
  760.  
  761. "Is that all I'm good for to you!?" He barked angrily. A flash of magic lit up in his eyes, his teeth barred towards the clearly frightened giraffe girl. His glare only stayed for a second, maybe two before he snapped back to the old Max again, his expression softening and his fist uncurling. "Alexa, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to—"
  762.  
  763. "I-its okay, I'll get it myself!" Alexa squeaked, taking her entire tray and switching tables entirely, leaving only Max, Hedgehog and Oscar.
  764.  
  765. "Dude," Oscar said, completely taken aback by his friends outburst. "What's going on with you?"
  766.  
  767. "I, I don't know... sometimes, when I'm alone I just start thinking you know, and... ugh, it just makes me so ANGRY!" The magic flashed in his eyes again before disappearing. Hedgehog and Oscar shared a worried glance. "Sorry..." he said, taking in a few deep breaths and exhaling slowly. He looked up at them and smiled, putting both his friends at ease for the time being.
  768.  
  769. "I think I've got an idea of how we can prank Susie." Hedgehog said snapping her fingers. "We can just use her own hubris against her. If we challenge her to something, then use Max's magic to win, she'll get burned in front of the whole camp!"
  770.  
  771. "I like it, but what should we challenge her to?" Oscar asked.
  772.  
  773. Hedgehog pointed to a poster and sign up sheet behind the boys for a pie eating contest. "That."
  774.  
  775. "Oh, dibs! I love pie," Oscar said happily. He got up to add his name to the list, noticing that Susie's name was the first to sign up. Oscar couldn't help but grin at the idea of beating Susie at her own game. The thought of bragging rights alone but butterflies in his stomach as he wrote his name.
  776.  
  777. The contest was held at noon, on a picnic table outside the mess hall.
  778.  
  779. When Susie arrived to an empty table, she smirked. "Aww, what's the matter babies? No one think they can't out-eat me?"
  780.  
  781. "Not so fast, Susie," Oscar shouted from the crowd of campers. The young elephant stepped forward proudly, looking back and Max and winking with his good eye. The bat boy gave him a thumbs up, and he turned back to face his nemesis. "I'm gonna challenge you, and beat you in front of everyone!"
  782.  
  783. The crowd hooted and hollered his name at the very idea of Susie's defeat. With a raise of her wand, Susie threatened to silence the crowd. "Fine, you silly little ding dong, why don't we make this even more interesting," the malicious counselor hissed. "If you lose, you have to scrub every counselor's cabin from top to bottom, and you'll be each of our personal servant for three days!" The crowd of campers gasped in horror. "And you'll have to wear this," In a puff of pink smoke, a frilly french maids outfit appeared floating on a hanger beside her. The crowd gasped once again.
  784.  
  785. Oscar shuddered at the very idea of being forced to interact with Susie, let alone doing so while dressed like that. In a puff of magic, he found the maid outfit on over his clothes! The gathered campers erupted in giggles as Oscar quickly removed it. "And if I win?" Oscar added.
  786.  
  787. Susie scoffed in disbelief. "Well Oscah, if by some miracle you manage to beat me, then you don't have to do any of those things."
  788.  
  789. 'Typical,' Oscar thought as he glanced back at Max, a worried expression morphing onto his features. The magic bat reassured him with another thumbs up, mouthing the words, 'I got this' to him. Oscar sure hopped he did.
  790.  
  791. "Fine, I accept."
  792.  
  793. Susie's sadistic grin spread across her lips. "Just so you know, my bathroom is FILTHY," She whispered to Oscar as they sat down. He once again glanced nervously towards Max and Hedgehog in the crowd. They seemed to be whispering to each other as a steaming hot pie roughly the size of his head was placed in front of him. Only now was he truly considering the potential consequences of losing this contest. He swallowed the lump in his throat and stared down at his first pie. He prayed Max had gotten better with his magic, and wouldn't it up filling the pie with spiders or something equally horrible.
  794.  
  795. Meanwhile, in the gathered crowd of campers, Max and Hedgehog talked strategy. "We need to wait until we see how Susie is going to cheat before I can figure out a way to beat her," he whispered to her.
  796.  
  797. "The contest only lasts five minutes, don't take too long," she replied.
  798.  
  799. "You will each have five minutes to eat as many pies as you can. No interfering with the other contestants via magic or other methods. Understand?" Alice asked after reading the rules.
  800.  
  801. They both nodded. Alice held up a stopwatch. "Ready? Go!"
  802.  
  803. In a snap of her fingers, Susie's pie cooled off, and she levitated it into midair. Another snap and the pie blended itself in midair and fell into a waiting milkshake glass she'd also produced out of nowhere. Topping the blended pie smoothie with a red striped straw, she sucked down the whole thing in just under thirty seconds.
  804.  
  805. "Look at that, one down already," Susie said smugly. "Don't fret about the uniform, Oscah, I'll dry clean it for you once we're done."
  806.  
  807. Oscar glared at Susie before looking back down at his pie. It was still pretty hot, and as far as he could tell, not magical. He frantically looked back at Max and Hedgehog, his eyes pleading with them to do something.
  808.  
  809. "Max, use your magic!" Hedgehog whispered urgently.
  810.  
  811. "I can't, but I have a plan," Max answered. "If I use it too soon, it'll blow our cover, and Susie might still win. I have to wait until the last thirty seconds of the contest." He covered his mouth with his hand and whispered into it. "Oscar, it's Max, can you hear me?"
  812.  
  813. It was as though Max was whispering in his ear. "Yeah, I can," he replied softly. "What's going on? This thing is still too hot to eat, and Susie's already up by three!"
  814.  
  815. "You're just gonna have to trust me on this one. When there's thirty seconds left, I need you to move all the pies you have left right in front of you," Max instructed. Oscar glanced back at his friends, Hedgehog smiling and giving him a thumbs up, but it did little to reassure him as Susie continued to scarf down pie-smoothies at record pace.
  816.  
  817. "Talking to yourself? I suppose you'll be the only friend you have while you're scrubbing our floors," Susie taunted finishing another smoothie and bringing her total to six.
  818.  
  819. Oscar glanced at his watch. Only one minute left. As instructed, he grabbed all fifteen of his remaining pies and piled them in front of him, still unsure of what Max had planned. Hedgehog was apparently on board, so it at least had to be sound in theory.
  820.  
  821. "Thirty seconds left," Alice announced, eliciting a chuckle from Susie.
  822.  
  823. Oscar looked back at Max to find a sly smirk more fit for Susie than his friend across his lips. With one hand behind his back, Max softly snapped his fingers, his eyes fixed on the pile of pastries in front of Oscar.
  824.  
  825. In seconds, the pies shrank down to the size of a mini cupcake each. Oscar sat in stunned silence, before Hedgehog's shouting snapped him out of it.
  826.  
  827. "Eat, Oscar! Eat!"
  828.  
  829. With ten seconds remaining, he managed to eat all 15 pies, beating Susie by 7 as time expired. Oscar turned to Susie and put on his most smug expression, resting his chin on his fist and just soaking in her stunned embarrassment.
  830.  
  831. "Oscar wins." Alice announced as the campers went wild.
  832.  
  833. "Oi!" Susie shouted, flipping the table, white hot fury in her eyes. "Alice! What's the idea?" she shouted angrily.
  834.  
  835. "Don't look at me," Alice replied. "I didn't help him."
  836.  
  837. If looks could kill, Oscar would be a dead elephant as Susie turned back to him. "So, you found a way to cheat, did you?" She snarled through gritted teeth. With a twirl of her wand, she was holding him upside down by the ankle, his shirt flopping over his head as the campers fell silent.
  838.  
  839. "Maybe I should just make you clean the ENTIRE ISLAND?"
  840.  
  841. "You lost, Susie, fair and square!" Hedgehog shouted from the crowd. The campers immediately parted in two, leaving Max and Hedgehog with a clear line of sight to herself and Oscar. "Why can't you not be a sore loser for once?"
  842.  
  843. Max glanced at Hedgehog. She was furious, and with good reason. Susie seemed to go out of her way to pick on her best friend, and everyone had a breaking point.
  844.  
  845. "Put him down, let us get on with our day, and stop being a jerk!"
  846.  
  847. Susie turned to fully face Hedgehog, while still holding Oscar in her magic.
  848.  
  849. "I can't see, what's going on?" he asked, his sweater still covering his head.
  850.  
  851. "Shut it, baby."
  852.  
  853. Susie snapped her fingers and Oscar's voice disappeared.
  854.  
  855. "What did you call me?" Susie asked threateningly.
  856.  
  857. "What you are!" Hedgehog shouted, her anger now flowing freely and unrestrained. She knew there would be consequences for insulting the head counselor in front of everyone in the camp, but she didn't care. She was at her wits end with Susie's tyranny. "A jerk!"
  858.  
  859. The campers gasped.
  860.  
  861. "I see you like to run your mouth. Let's see how you like a few days without it!" Susie pointed her wand at Hedgehog and sent a blast of magic barreling towards her. In the split second she had to come to her senses as her anger faded, she realized that calling out Susie in front of the whole camp was probably not the smartest idea. She cringed and braced for impact, trying to think about how she was going to eat without a mouth for a few days when something stepped in her way. Opening one eye, she saw a backwards red hat in front of her. With a slap of his right hand, Max knocked the blast off course and sent it careening into the sky.
  862.  
  863. The entire island seemed to come to a stand still. Everyone seemed rooted in place, too petrified or stunned to move.
  864.  
  865. "Susie," Max said, His hand glowing in pink magic, matching his eyes with an uncharacteristic snarl across his lips.
  866.  
  867. "Put. Him. Down."
  868.  
  869. Susie's grim expression began to crack, and soon she was laughing. Laughing so hard that she dropped Oscar into a heap on the ground.
  870.  
  871. "Alright, alright, You got me Alice, you're getting better with the accuracy, I can't believe you gave him the ability to—" Susie stopped mid sentence, upon seeing the open jawed expression and wide eyed stare at the camper that just knocked her spell away like it was nothing.
  872.  
  873. "Susie, for the last time... I didn't do anything," she replied softly.
  874.  
  875. Oscar scrambled to his feet and darted towards Max and Hedgehog, the other campers still dead quiet and refusing to move. This was by far the best show in town.
  876.  
  877. "Alright dingbat, how did you..." It was in that moment that Susie recalled the night Max and Oscar were in Hedgehog's cabin. The night they performed the ritual. The night the campers were threatened on pain of frog to remain in their cabins. It all made sense now, and it infuriated her.
  878.  
  879. "Oh you are SO frogs!" Susie shouted, releasing a blast of green magic towards the trio. Oscar and Hedgehog both flinched, but Max held out his hand and caught the spell, the ray of green magical energy forming a glowing ball in his hand. He stared at the dancing light as Oscar and Hedgehog recovered, also mesmerized by the suspended magic.
  880.  
  881. Max crushed the sphere in his fist and it disappeared. They glanced back at Susie, who had lowered her wand in shock. For a brief moment, Oscar recognized an emotion he was almost certain Susie lacked: fear. As often as he'd fantasized about exacting his revenge on Susie, seeing her genuinely terrified was unsettling to say the least. She was the head counselor, the guardian of the entire camp! Sure, she could be mean, and sometimes downright cruel, but to see her truly, visibly scared, imparted to him the seriousness of this situation.
  882.  
  883. As quickly as it had come, her expression returned to an angry sneer. "Alice, you're up, and don't hold back," Susie commanded. "This little baby thinks he's better at magic than you are."
  884.  
  885. Alice stepped forward, wand in hand as Oscar and Hedgehog darted away from Max and into the gathered crowd. Max, however, stood his ground and flared his wings, continuing to stare down the witches.
  886.  
  887. "It's a shame, Max." The brown elephant girl sighed, putting both hands on her wand and cocking it behind her back, as one would hold a baseball bat. Slowly, she began swirling it behind her head, a ball of green energy building at the tip and expanding with each passing twirl. "You're so cute. Maybe you'll make a cute frog."
  888.  
  889. Her spell was now a bit bigger than a basketball when she slung her arms forward, pointing the energy at Max. With a confident shout, Alice fired the spell towards him.
  890.  
  891. Just as before, he stood his ground. And just as before, he held out his hand, stopping the spell dead in its tracks. The entire crowd gasped as the spell began to shrink down to the size of a baseball. He crushed it in his hand, just as before.
  892.  
  893. The only sound within one hundred miles was the sound of Alice's wand clattering to the ground. There wasn't a single closed jaw in the group.
  894.  
  895. "That... that was everything I had," Alice muttered to herself in disbelief.
  896.  
  897. "That frog spell is kinda neat," Max said to himself, looking at his glowing hand. He formed two finger guns with both hands, then looked up at Susie and Alice. "Mind if I borrow it?"
  898.  
  899. Before Susie and Alice had a chance to react, Max fired his finger guns at both of them. They had no such luck with blocking or dodging his spell. In a flash, nothing but their hats remained on the ground where they were standing.
  900.  
  901. After a few moments, the crowd erupted in cheers.
  902.  
  903. Oscar and Hedgehog rushed up to Max to congratulate him.
  904.  
  905. "Max, that was awesome!" Oscar said.
  906.  
  907. "Yeah, we totally showed Susie! You should probably change them back now, I think we proved our point," Hedgehog added.
  908.  
  909. Max turned to face them, his eyes still glowing.
  910.  
  911. The two of them glanced nervously at each other.
  912.  
  913. "M-max, I think you can turn the magic off now," Oscar stammered.
  914.  
  915. His reply struck fear in their hearts.
  916.  
  917. "Who's Max?"
  918.  
  919. "Uh oh," Hedgehog, said softly.
  920.  
  921. Oscar reflexively grabbed Hedgehog's hand and pulled her away from Max. "Run!" he shouted.
  922.  
  923. Max spread his wings and flew a few feet above the crowd. The campers dispersed as Max began charging more spells.
  924.  
  925. Oscar ran with Hedgehog in hand as fast as he could.
  926.  
  927. "Wait, get the counselors!" she shouted and they diverted towards the witches hats on the ground. They scooped up the hats, and the frogs inside, making a dash towards the counselor's cabins as chaos unfolded behind them.
  928.  
  929. "What... are we... gonna do now?" Oscar panted as they ran.
  930.  
  931. "Betsy... she's our best bet!" Hedgehog replied as the counselors cabins appeared on the hill.
  932.  
  933. They pounded urgently on Betsy's door.
  934.  
  935. Oscar glanced back over his shoulder, making sure Max didn't follow. Thankfully, he hadn't, but the troubling flashes of magic in the distance weren't exactly comforting.
  936.  
  937. Betsy opened the door, noticing the two campers sweaty and gasping for breath at her cabin.
  938.  
  939. "Whoa, everything okay?" she asked.
  940.  
  941. "No..." Hedgehog gasped, "We've got a big problem."
  942.  
  943. Betsy raised an eyebrow. Normally camper problems were anything from a disagreement on the softball field to squabbles over who's turn it was to use the pool table in the rec room. She was confident she could handle whatever got these two so sweaty.
  944.  
  945. She was wrong.
  946.  
  947. "Okay," Oscar said, his breath finally returning to him. "You know that weird pink goo you and the other witches made out in the woods a few nights ago?"
  948.  
  949. Betsy's eyes narrowed. "How did you know about—"
  950.  
  951. "Max drank some and now he's magic and out of control!" he completed.
  952.  
  953. It took Betsy a moment to process what he'd just said.
  954.  
  955. "He... drank it?" She parroted. Coming back to her senses, she re-assessed the situation. "Okay, how much did he drink? A sip? A gulp? What are we talking here?"
  956.  
  957. Hedgehog blushed, embarrassed to admit their mistake to her mentor. "A... a whole jar full of it."
  958.  
  959. Betsy's eyes widened to saucers.
  960.  
  961. "Oh shit."
  962.  
  963. Hedgehog and Oscar gasped. They had never heard a counselor swear before!
  964.  
  965. "Where are Susie and Alice?" she asked urgently, letting them inside.
  966.  
  967. Oscar and Hedgehog tilted the witch hats they carried forward, showing her the amphibian forms of her co-counselors.
  968.  
  969. "He did this?" she asked in shock.
  970.  
  971. "Yeah, and who knows what he's doing right now!" Oscar replied urgently. "We have to stop him!"
  972.  
  973. "That's not going to be easy," Betsy ran a hand through her hair. "It looks like he's a stronger magic user than Alice." She grabbed her wand off her end table by her couch. "First things first, we'll need all hands on deck for this one." With a quick wave of her wand, Susie and Alice changed back into their normal forms.
  974.  
  975. Once Susie got her bearings, the shouting started. "Where is that little dingbat, I'll turn him into a snail, permanently!" She noticed Oscar and Hedgehog and focused her laser-like anger, producing another wand out of thin air. "You two have exactly five seconds to tell me why I shouldn't change you two into skunks right now!" Her wand began to glow menacingly as Hedgehog and Oscar hugged each other for what they thought would be the last time as humanoids.
  976.  
  977. "Susie, relax." Betsy said, stepping between them. "They're the ones who brought you and Alice here. If anything, you should be thanking them."
  978.  
  979. That line of reasoning set Susie off. "Thanking them?! I wouldn't have been a frog in the first place if they hadn't left their cabins after I explicitly told them not to!" With her anger now directed at Betsy, Oscar and Hedgehog took the opportunity to take a few steps backwards. "You're always trying to coddle your favorite camper!"
  980.  
  981. "Don't turn this around on me!" Betsy replied defensively, "You were supposed to do bed checks BEFORE the ritual!"
  982.  
  983. "Alright, that's enough!" Alice cut in. Not usually one to yell, the fact that she had startled everyone in the room. "The first thing I need to know is what we know so far." She looked at Oscar and Hedgehog expectantly as they found their voices.
  984.  
  985. "We followed you guys to your ritual, stole a jar of the stuff you made, and Max accidentally drank it, and now he's gone mad with power," Oscar explained.
  986.  
  987. "He drank a whole jar full?" Alice repeated.
  988.  
  989. The two campers nodded.
  990.  
  991. "Shit..."
  992.  
  993. "Alice! Not in front of the babies," Susie reprimanded.
  994.  
  995. "What is that stuff anyway?" Hedgehog asked, since figuring out what it was for was their objective from the very beginning.
  996.  
  997. "That 'stuff' is our witch pink lemonade." Betsy began, producing a chart and easel in a puff of smoke. "Every summer we make a batch, and it enhances our magical abilities, and lets us use magic to run the camp without us being exhausted. After we make it, we keep it here, in a fridge in the pocket dimension." Betsy used her wand to cut a tear in reality. Just inside the portal was an old 1950's style fridge. She opened it to reveal nothing in it but a large glass jar with a spout at the bottom. "Since magical energy condensed into liquid form is inherently volatile, it needs to be kept under a stability charm, or else any number of terribly magical disasters might occur."
  998.  
  999. Hedgehog looked positively thrilled with the revelation, while Oscar simply looked confused.
  1000.  
  1001. "So, why do you keep it in a fridge?" he asked.
  1002.  
  1003. "Because who drinks warm lemonade?" Susie answered.
  1004.  
  1005. "Okay, but why would drinking too much of it do... whatever it did to Max?" Hedgehog countered.
  1006.  
  1007. "We only sip it because of its potency. Ingesting a little at a time is easily manageable by even the most novice magic user. But, a buildup of too much magical energy results in the manifestation of magic itself. It will attach itself to any strongly felt emotion and use that as a baseline, controlling its host until the host itself succumbs."
  1008.  
  1009. Oscar and Hedgehog gasped. "So Max is going to be eaten by magic?" he asked worriedly.
  1010.  
  1011. "Not if we figure out a way to stop it," Alice replied.
  1012.  
  1013. "Wait, I've got an idea!" Hedgehog said excitedly. "What if we use the time travel quicksand and just not follow you to the ritual?"
  1014.  
  1015. "Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" Susie huffed. "You two scurry along to safety while you leave the three of us to deal with a dangerously powerful camper?"
  1016.  
  1017. "Well, you could come too..." Hedgehog replied weakly.
  1018.  
  1019. "No. Susie Mcallister hasn't abandoned a timeline in forty three years, and she's not going to start now," Susie shot back confidently.
  1020.  
  1021. "Girls, you know what we have to do," Alice said darkly.
  1022.  
  1023. "Y-you're not going to hurt him, are you?" Hedgehog asked.
  1024.  
  1025. "Only if we have to," Susie replied nonchalantly.
  1026.  
  1027. "Betsy, there's a kid on your porch," The door said, interrupting the tense conversation. "I think he's a bat."
  1028.  
  1029. That drew everyone's attention as they rushed to the door. Max stood there, covered in the same pink goo they had stolen from the witches.
  1030.  
  1031. "Max?" They all said in unison. Flashes of magical energy reeled off behind him in the distance before he spoke.
  1032.  
  1033. "Uh... so there's a pink version of me terrorizing the camp, and... I'm not really sure what's going on."
  1034. All three witches drew their wands and pointed them at Max's head, the tips glowing menacingly as he cringed in fear.
  1035.  
  1036. "Please don't kill me!" Max shouted, covering his head with his arms.
  1037.  
  1038. "Wait, wait!" Hedgehog said, stepping between the wands and Max. "This is the real Max!"
  1039.  
  1040. Susie lowered her wand and scrutinized the boy carefully. After looking him over, raised her wand at him threateningly one last time. As she watching him flinch in fear, she lowered it. "Yeah, that's him alright, let's get him inside."
  1041.  
  1042. Susie drug a finger on Max's jacket, getting some of the pink goo on her finger. She tasted it as she followed them inside.
  1043.  
  1044. "Hm...it's legit girls, and it's only getting stronger," she remarked grimly. "We're going to need to act quickly."
  1045.  
  1046. "Just give us a second!" Oscar snapped, helping Max to Betsy's couch.
  1047.  
  1048. "Wait, let me put a towel down first!" Betsy waved her wand quickly as a fluffy beach towel appeared below Max before he laid down.
  1049.  
  1050. "What happened?" Alice asked, taking a knee next to him.
  1051.  
  1052. "The last thing I remember was shrinking the pies at the contest, then I woke up outside the mess hall," Max replied.
  1053.  
  1054. "I knew you cheated!" Susie crowed triumphantly, giving Oscar a bump in the ribs.
  1055.  
  1056. "So, you don't remember turning Susie and Alice into frogs?" Hedgehog asked.
  1057.  
  1058. Max's eyes widened in disbelief. "I did?"
  1059.  
  1060. "Only because we let you!" Susie shot back.
  1061.  
  1062. While Max was being interrogated, Betsy was nose deep in the spell book from which the pink lemonade was brewed.
  1063.  
  1064. Betsy snapped the book closed with a loud report, silencing the others in the room.
  1065.  
  1066. "It's worse than I thought."
  1067.  
  1068. They all looked to the nicest witch, waiting for her to continue. Instead, she approached the couch where Max sat up.
  1069.  
  1070. "What was the last emotion you remember feeling?" she asked.
  1071.  
  1072. "Uh... I think..." Max tried to remember. It was all still very much a blur. "It was anger. Yeah, I was mad because Susie was being a sore loser and she was gonna..." Max glanced at Hedgehog and blushed. "Yeah, it was anger."
  1073.  
  1074. Betsy rubbed her eyes and sighed. "It just couldn't have been happiness, could it," she muttered to herself as she stood up.
  1075.  
  1076. "So, what happened?" Oscar asked.
  1077.  
  1078. "The magic spat Max back out instead of assimilating him, which is the good news," Betsy explained.
  1079.  
  1080. "Wait, assimilate me?" Max parroted.
  1081.  
  1082. "The bad news is that without a host body... I'm not sure how to stop it," she said.
  1083.  
  1084. "I've got an idea," Susie answered, snapping her fingers. A glass box with four golden wands inside appeared before them.
  1085.  
  1086. "In case of rogue counselor, open case." Oscar read, looking up at the witches.
  1087.  
  1088. "Don't worry Oscar, we've only had to use these like, three times," Betsy replied, removing her iconic pendant, as did the other witches.
  1089.  
  1090. On the face of the box were three key holes shaped like their charms.
  1091.  
  1092. "Alright girls, three, two, one, turn," Susie commanded.
  1093.  
  1094. In sync, they turned their keys and the case hissed before opening, the wands themselves casting an otherworldly magical glow.
  1095.  
  1096. Each witch took a wand, while Susie also grabbed the forth. She looked at Hedgehog and handed it to her. The young girl gently took it, holding it as if were as delicate as a hummingbird.
  1097.  
  1098. "Since 'someone' thinks she's been teaching you magic in secret," Susie sneered, glancing to Betsy, "That technically makes you a magic user. And that means that you two are going to help us clean up the mess you made."
  1099.  
  1100. "What about me?" Max asked.
  1101.  
  1102. Susie crossed her arms and stepped towards him. "Stand up."
  1103.  
  1104. Max attempted to, but found himself in a heap on the floor. "That's what I thought. Magical atrophy."
  1105.  
  1106. "Why don't my legs work?!" He asked, terrified.
  1107.  
  1108. "It's going to be a day or two before you're back to normal. Paralysis waves aren't uncommon for a body going through magic withdraws," Betsy added. "Besides, I still don't know why that thing spit you out in the first place, do you really want to give it a second shot at eating you?"
  1109.  
  1110. Max sighed. He knew he had to help somehow, but without being able to walk, and with his wings long gone, he didn't see how. Oscar and Hedgehog helped him back to the couch. "Don't worry Max, we're gonna take care of this, just focus on resting up, okay?" Oscar asked. Max nodded as they both stood up.
  1111.  
  1112. Oscar returned to the witch group to find out the plan, while Hedgehog hesitated. She knelt back down next to him and began to whisper. "Hey, so I know you may not remember it, but... thanks for keeping Susie from casting that spell on me,"
  1113.  
  1114. Before he could utter a word, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek, turning the normal color of the fur on his cheeks a deep shade of crimson. In a the blink of an eye she was back with the group, and no one was the wiser, leaving Max alone to ponder never washing his cheek for the duration of the summer.
  1115.  
  1116. "Alright babies, listen up," Susie began "These wands are very limited use, so we're only going to get one shot at this. The girls and I have to hit that thing with everything we have, but it's not just going to hold still and let us hit it, so that's where you two come in." Susie pointed to the wand in Hedgehog's hand. "With both of your hands on the wand, between the two of you, you should be able to cast some kind of stun spell to give us enough time to launch our spell."
  1117.  
  1118. "But, Oscar's not a magic user, how will he help?" Hedgehog asked.
  1119.  
  1120. "It pains me to say this, but..." Susie sighed, "You two are best friends right? You love each other, care for each other, couldn't imagine life without the other, all that jazz, yeah?"
  1121.  
  1122. Oscar and Hedgehog nodded.
  1123.  
  1124. "Well, there's more than one type of magic, the wands are just vessels, so... in a way... the power of your friendship is... magic."
  1125.  
  1126. The other witches looked at Susie during the awkward silence.
  1127.  
  1128. "Are you sure we're allowed to say—" Betsy began before Susie cut her off.
  1129.  
  1130. "What? They don't own that," The cat witch insisted. "Anyway, you lot stun it, and the three of us will finish it off. If everything goes right, whatever nonsense this thing has caused will be put back the way it was."
  1131.  
  1132. The five of them stepped towards the door. "The camp's been at the mercy of an angry being of pure magic. There's no telling what we're going to see out there." Alice said, pausing with her hand on the handle. "Is everyone ready?"
  1133.  
  1134. They all nodded.
  1135.  
  1136. "Then let's take our camp back."
  1137.  
  1138. They opened the door, expecting utter chaos, but simply observing the natural order, preserved as it had been for ages. They faced the trail towards the campers cabins and began their journey. In the silence of their trek, Oscar's mind couldn't help but race with questions. What was Magic Max's endgame? Why did the real Max show up when Betsy said it should have eaten him? He couldn't keep all his questions bottled up, and he figured Hedgehog was probably having similar thoughts.
  1139.  
  1140. "I hope everyone else is okay," Oscar whispered to his best friend.
  1141.  
  1142. "Me too," she replied as they kept pace behind the protective chevron of the three witch counselors. "I feel kinda bad we abandoned them with... whatever that thing is."
  1143.  
  1144. He could sense the guilt in her voice. "Hey," He nudged her shoulder. "If we hadn't got Susie and Alice back to Betsy, Magic Max would probably be ruling the whole island by now."
  1145.  
  1146. Hedgehog glanced at Oscar and cracked a grin. "Magic Max?"
  1147.  
  1148. "Yeah, I just thought of it, what do you think?" Oscar asked, returning her warm smile. They were both uncertain about the plan the witches laid out. In fact, terrified was a more correct term for the ice beginning to run through their veins. But, even though an incredibly powerful magical creature who happened to take the form of one of their friends waited to fight them, the fact that they still had each other seemed to calm those unsteady nerves, and soothe the weight in each of their stomachs.
  1149.  
  1150. "I think you're a goofball," she giggled back. "I like it."
  1151.  
  1152. Oscar shared in the soft laugh, glancing down as they kept walking. As they continued, he noticed Hedgehog's hand. With the golden wand in her right, her left hand was free. He wanted to grab it, as he'd done many times before, but this time, something gave him pause. Something was different about this time, but he couldn't figure out what. It was a feeling in his gut, but also in his heart and brain. It was new, and somewhat unnerving. They'd held hands hundreds of times before, all he had to do was take it! With all his courage, he reached out as her hand swung backwards with her natural gait and caught it in his. Instead of the usual cupped method, she interlaced her fingers with his. He was not expecting that in the slightest. They caught each others eye, and all either could do was smile nervously, both of their faces a deep shade of red.
  1153.  
  1154. Perhaps it was because they could potentially die, or be turned into strange creatures for the rest of their lives, but somehow that moment seemed right. Both had stopped watching the witches ahead of them and bumped straight into Betsy and Alice's back, releasing their hands.
  1155.  
  1156. "Watch where you're going!" Alice reprimanded as they crouched in the bushes, approaching the cabins. Or, what used to be the cabins. The camper's cabins were in various states of disarray. The lucky ones had simply been turned into interesting variations on the concept of a 'cabin'. Some had been made of candy, a feature the local ants took quite a liking to. Other cabins floated in mid-air in above their foundations in any number of odd angles. The most disturbing aspect of Magic Max's reign of terror wasn't the abuse of magic, or the disrupted natural order.
  1157.  
  1158. It was the silence.
  1159.  
  1160. The group emerged from their hiding place in the bushes and towards the cabins.
  1161.  
  1162. "Look at this mess!" Susie exclaimed as they traversed the road splitting the cabins. "You three are going to be scrubbing pots and pans after dinner chow until the heat death of the universe if we survive this!" she threatened.
  1163.  
  1164. The use of the word 'if' put a lump in both their throats.
  1165.  
  1166. Walking further into the camp, they found Howard tied to a tree with what appeared to be a pink spider web. Oscar and Hedgehog dashed towards the stranded monster.
  1167.  
  1168. "Howard!" Oscar shouted as he removed the substance from over the monster's mouth. "What happened?"
  1169.  
  1170. "Oh, honey, thank goodness you're okay!" Howard replied, gasping for breath, happy to see two of his favorite campers. "It's Max, I don't know what happened, but he's gone bananas!"
  1171.  
  1172. "Where is everyone else?" Oscar asked as Hedgehog worked to remove the rest of his binds.
  1173.  
  1174. "My friends fled into the woods, but the campers... I don't know, I think Max took them!"
  1175.  
  1176. "Great..." Susie moaned as the group of witches caught up with the campers. "Did you see..." Susie said between chews "where he went?"
  1177.  
  1178. Oscar looked sideways at her. "What are you eating?"
  1179.  
  1180. "Oh, gum. Max tied him up with gum." She replied nonchalantly, pointing to the remainder of the restraints that held the monster to the tree.
  1181.  
  1182. "Last I saw, he was headed towards the caves at the base of the mountain," Howard replied. "Now, if you all don't mind, I'm going to hide in the woods."
  1183.  
  1184. With that, the monster high tailed it back into the forest. Susie grabbed another wad of gum from the tree, and offered it around. "No one?" she asked, holding out a wad of gum. "Fine, more for me," She said popping it into her mouth. "We better be off then," she said.
  1185.  
  1186. The group continued past the cabins and towards the interior of the island. The walk remained quiet, neither Oscar nor Hedgehog daring to repeat what they had done before they reached the campers cabins. A much more somber tone had overtaken the group. All of their friends were gone, but hopefully still in one piece.
  1187.  
  1188. The entrance to the cave loomed large as they approached it. This was a place where they threw cave parties, mined confetti, and explored uncharted caverns. Now, however, it took on a more sinister appearance. The carefree lives they'd all been living on this magical island had been threatened by the very thing that made it what it was.
  1189.  
  1190. Oscar and Hedgehog knew this was their fault, and they knew it was up to them to correct it.
  1191.  
  1192. The group stopped at the mouth of the cave. Susie and the other witches turned to face Oscar and Hedgehog.
  1193.  
  1194. "Oscah, Hedgehog," she said seriously. Her tone by itself threw a brick into their stomachs. She hardly ever said their names with such sincerity. "There's something you need to understand." She stepped towards them, her face darkening. "This thing is NOT Max. It never WAS Max. I need you both to understand that despite what we've seen so far... if this thing senses that we are trying to destroy it, it will come at us with everything it has..." Susie stopped and glanced at her fellow counselors. They shared the same worried sentiment, as though even they weren't sure they had the magical power to stop it. "And it won't just restrain us with bubblegum. We can't hesitate. Do you understand?"
  1195.  
  1196. The young campers steeled themselves. Hedgehog gripped the golden wand tightly in her right hand, and Oscar took her left, finding his courage once again.
  1197.  
  1198. "We're ready," Hedgehog replied confidently.
  1199.  
  1200. Susie smiled, as did Alice and Betsy.
  1201.  
  1202. "Let's get started."
  1203.  
  1204. The group started into the cave, ready to save their camp and their friends. The echoes of their footsteps provided their battle music as they approached the lair of the final boss. The witches had lit the tips of their wands to light the way forward as they ventured deeper into the cave network.
  1205.  
  1206. "Why do you think Magic Max took everyone in here?" Oscar whispered to Hedgehog.
  1207.  
  1208. "He is a bat, isn't he?" Susie replied over her shoulder as a glowing light appeared ahead of them around a bend in the path. Susie halted the group and extinguished her wand, the other witches followed suit. Softly, they could hear echoes of voices in the distance. "I think we're getting close."
  1209.  
  1210. They continued forward slowly as they rounded the corner, the narrow path now opening up to a cavernous inactive caldera. Oscar's heartbeat was in his ears, and he barely heard Hedgehog whisper that they must be inside the mountain itself. As they rounded the corner, they found concealment behind a group of boulders in order to survey the scene. What they saw was quite bizarre indeed.
  1211.  
  1212. Against the wall, on the opposite side of the room, sat Magic Max, on an ancient rock throne, two torches burning beside it. He looked exactly like Max, although he still had his wings, and his entire being was tinged by a pink glow, as were his eyes.
  1213.  
  1214. There were other campers locked in makeshift liquorice cages, while still others dressed as fruits tended to fruit trees inexplicably growing in a dark cave. "Goat! More fruit!" he demanded. Alexa, now in her goat costume walked over to him with a bowl of grapes.
  1215.  
  1216. "Of course, your excellency," she said flatly, handing him a bunch.
  1217.  
  1218. As Magic Max enjoyed the fruits of their labors, he draped his leg off the armrest, seemingly bemused at something to his left.
  1219.  
  1220. That something was Pepper, searching endlessly through a group of treasure chests, each one disappearing as he opened it, only to reappear in a different spot. The little panda looked almost too beleaguered to continue.
  1221.  
  1222. "Please, Max... I just want my blanket..." Pepper cried, tears already having streamed down his face as he ceased his fruitless search.
  1223.  
  1224. "Maybe you should check under your HAT!" Max growled. Pepper reached under his sleeping cap, to find the object of his desire.
  1225.  
  1226. "My blanket!" Pepper shouted, snuggling it closely.
  1227.  
  1228. Magic Max smiled maliciously as he snapped his fingers. The blanket began to dissolve from the bottom up, before leaving Pepper holding nothing but air and dust.
  1229.  
  1230. "Oh, dang, you almost had it!" he laughed, snapping his fingers again, the blanket reassembling before the panda's eyes. "Better move quicker next time!" Magic Max said, the blanket floating back over inside a treasure chest as more identical chests appeared and shuffled themselves before him. Pepper was doomed to an endless search without intervention.
  1231.  
  1232. "Well, this is weird," Susie whispered. "Why's the magic obsessed with that dumb baby game?"
  1233.  
  1234. "And why does it hate Pepper?" Alice asked.
  1235.  
  1236. "Well, the magic must have taken on more than just the outward appearance of Max. It also took some of his memories and experiences with it. He was the Fruit Thief for a little while, so that memory must have left the strongest imprint on the magic," Betsy explained. "As for why he's being mean to Pepper, I have no idea."
  1237.  
  1238. "I do," Susie replied, suppressing a chuckle. "That one pretended his precious blanket was missing, and sent this lot on a wild goose chase to find out who took it, when the little knob had it under his hat the whole time. He just wanted attention!" She laughed.
  1239.  
  1240. "Guess Max didn't forgive Pepper one hundred percent..." Oscar mumbled to Hedgehog.
  1241.  
  1242. "Alright, well, I've seen enough. No one takes over Susie Mcallister's camp and lives to tell about it," Susie replied as the witches readied their ordinary wands for the fight.
  1243.  
  1244. The three witches stepped out first, planning to cause a distraction while Oscar and Hedgehog flanked him, unnoticed.
  1245.  
  1246. "Alright, you, your stay at my summer camp is over!" Susie shouted, wand drawn as her counselors stood confidently on either side.
  1247.  
  1248. The campers in the cages and tending the trees cheered, something they all never thought they'd do for Susie.
  1249.  
  1250. "Done being a frog I see," Magic Max said, getting up from his throne. "This is my island now."
  1251.  
  1252. Susie laughed. "Good one. Oscah! Hedgehog! Send it!"
  1253.  
  1254. Oscar and Hedgehog emerged from the shadows, both of them gripping the wand, aiming it at the entity.
  1255.  
  1256. "Ready?" Hedgehog asked.
  1257.  
  1258. Oscar nodded.
  1259.  
  1260. "Here goes!" They both closed their eyes and concentrated.
  1261.  
  1262. A few moments passed and Hedgehog cracked open one eye.
  1263.  
  1264. "Oh for goodness sake," Susie moaned, firing a spell at him.
  1265.  
  1266. "Nice try," Magic Max laughed, taking to the sky, the other witches firing spells at him in the air, but having little effect.
  1267.  
  1268. "Why isn't it working?" Hedgehog asked frantically.
  1269.  
  1270. "One, or both of you are holding back your emotions!" Betsy explained, dodging a spell from her enemy. "If you're hiding anything from each other, you have to let it out or your magic won't work!"
  1271.  
  1272. Oscar's heart leapt to his throat. What was he supposed to tell her? These weird feelings had just cropped up today! He hadn't had any time to process them, how was he supposed to put them into words?
  1273.  
  1274. Before he could start, Hedgehog cut him off with a sigh. "She's right..." She turned to face Oscar. "Oscar... for the last few weeks, I noticed you'd been hanging out with Alexa more and more, and it made me... it made me jealous!"
  1275.  
  1276. Oscar was taken aback. Alexa had just been helping him practice basketball! Well, at least, that's how it started out anyway. Soon practice became practice and lunch, then practice, lunch, a swim in the ocean, and so on.
  1277.  
  1278. "But, why would that make you jealous?" He asked honestly. "You're my best friend!"
  1279.  
  1280. Her face blushed crimson almost instantly. "Because she thinks you're cute, and I was afraid that if you found out, you'd think she was cute too, and then you'd spend more and more time together and before long I'd be alone!" She spat out all at once, tears welling in her eyes.
  1281.  
  1282. Oscar needed a moment to process everything she had just laid on him. "Alexa... thinks I'm cute?" He smiled.
  1283.  
  1284. "Oscar!" Hedgehog shouted.
  1285.  
  1286. "Look, Hedgehog," Oscar said, regaining his senses. "We came to this island best friends, and I'm not going to let anything stop us from leaving as best friends." He said, putting his hands over hers.
  1287.  
  1288. "If you two are quite finished, cast the mother loving spell!" Susie shouted, firing offensive spells and taking cover, only to have her cover turned into a giant marshmallow, which then turned on her.
  1289.  
  1290. Oscar smiled at Hedgehog. "Ready?"
  1291.  
  1292. It was her turn to nod.
  1293.  
  1294. They both aimed, closed their eyes, concentrated and... still nothing.
  1295.  
  1296. "You have GOT to be kidding me!" Susie shouted, roasting her former cover with a fire spell.
  1297.  
  1298. Hedgehog looked at Oscar. He could feel the sweat beading on his forehead.
  1299.  
  1300. "Hedgehog... earlier today, when I saw you give Max that kiss on the cheek, I felt... something."
  1301.  
  1302. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. She was sure no one had seen her do that.
  1303.  
  1304. "What?" Hedgehog asked.
  1305.  
  1306. "I... I was jealous too, and I hated it! Everything between us used to be easy, and simple, and now, it feels like everything's going to get too complicated. I love you Hedgehog, and I mean that in every sense of the word, and when I saw you do that, I... I didn't know what to feel," Oscar admitted, shame evident in his voice.
  1307.  
  1308. Both of their eyes were threatening to spill tears now as they looked up at each other. "I guess both of us forgot how what we do could make each other feel," She replied softly, smiling at him.
  1309.  
  1310. "Yeah, I guess we did. I love you Hedgehog."
  1311.  
  1312. They pulled each other into a hug.
  1313.  
  1314. "I love you too, Oscar."
  1315.  
  1316. "I'll gladly pay for both of you to go to therapy if you just cast the bloody spell already!" Susie screamed from across the cave.
  1317.  
  1318. This time, with both hands on the wand, it began to glow.
  1319.  
  1320. "Okay, we got this." Hedgehog said confidently. They took aim at Magic Max as he stopped flying through the cave and landed.
  1321.  
  1322. "I'm done messing around." He said, turning to face Susie. "Your time is up!"
  1323.  
  1324. Susie braced herself, wand at the ready.
  1325.  
  1326. Magic Max smiled at her, reaching into his pocket, only this time, he didn't pull out a half mile of handkerchiefs, but a small packet of pepper from the mess hall. He opened it, and poured a little into his hand.
  1327.  
  1328. "What are you going to, make me sneeze to death?" Susie laughed.
  1329.  
  1330. Magic Max simply smiled at her. "Something like that..." he flicked a bit at his nose and began to rear his head back.
  1331.  
  1332. Oscar realized what was about to happen, and knew there was no way Susie could withstand it, especially if didn't realize what was coming. Oscar let go of the wand and sprinted towards the head counselor. Hedgehog tried to grab his hand but he wrested it away. He knew what he had to do, even though never in a million years thought he would be risking his life to save Susie's.
  1333.  
  1334. "Ah-CHOO!"
  1335.  
  1336. Oscar was halfway there as the massive beam of magical energy raced towards her. He watched in slow motion as the mocking smile Susie had worn warped into a terrified gasp. He was getting close, his legs felt heavy as he pushed them to their limit. He watched Susie attempt to brace herself with her arms.
  1337.  
  1338. Oscar tackled her around the waist, just in time to knock them both out of the way. The heat from the energy singed the shirt and the back of his head, narrowly avoiding turning the young camper into cinders. The fall knocked the wind out of Susie and Oscar as he landed on top of her, his head resting on her stomach.
  1339.  
  1340. Her head was in a haze as she felt Oscar's weight lift off of her. She coughed as the dust from the blast began to settle. She looked blearily to her left, noticing the huge hole bore straight through solid rock and back into the daylight. As Susie regained her wits, she realized Oscar was in the levitating grip of her enemy's magic. He was covered from the neck down in a pink aura, Magic Max slowly attempting to squeeze the life out of him.
  1341.  
  1342. "If you wanted to play first, you could have just asked," Magic Max hissed.
  1343.  
  1344. Susie gritted her teeth, an anger not felt in a long time flaring up inside her. Her fist shook as she gripped her wand and aimed it carefully.
  1345.  
  1346. A blast of magic hit the entity in the side of the head, breaking his concentration.
  1347.  
  1348. "Oi!" Susie growled. "That's MY special little guy!"
  1349.  
  1350. Magic Max dropped Oscar to the floor, wheezing and gasping for breath as he scrambled back towards Hedgehog. "Oscar, are you okay?" She asked urgently, helping him to his feet.
  1351.  
  1352. "Yeah..." said in between coughs, "I think my sweater is ruined though,"
  1353.  
  1354. Once she was sure he was okay, she slapped him across the face. "Have you lost your mind?!"
  1355.  
  1356. "Ow! Hedgehog, that hurt!" He complained, placing a hand on his cheek.
  1357.  
  1358. "Not as much as disintegrating would have!" She shouted back angrily, tears welling in her eyes once more. "If something would have happened to you, I-I..."
  1359.  
  1360. Oscar took her hands. "I know, and I'm sorry. You can be as mad as you want at me, AFTER we beat this thing."
  1361.  
  1362. She looked into his eyes and easy smile. Sure, he was a goofball, but she couldn't have asked for a better goofball to be her best friend.
  1363.  
  1364. "Okay, I'll hold you to it," She replied softly as they both took the wand, it glowing once more.
  1365.  
  1366. "Susie, get ready!" Oscar shouted as they concentrated, finally releasing a torrent of light aimed directly at Magic Max.
  1367.  
  1368. The entity shrieked as it was held in place, struggling to get free. Susie reached for the golden wand, only to find it missing from her pocket!
  1369.  
  1370. "Susie, let's go, we're in position!" Betsy shouted. Both she and Alice had their wands trained on Magic Max.
  1371.  
  1372. "I can't find the wand!"
  1373.  
  1374. The stun spell halted abruptly as Oscar and Hedgehog lowered the wand, both drenched in sweat and panting.
  1375.  
  1376. "Holy... magic is so... tiring!" Oscar panted.
  1377.  
  1378. With Magic Max now unrestrained, he began to laugh, his sinister cackle echoing throughout the cave.
  1379.  
  1380. "Looking for this?" He asked, holding the golden wand in his hand.
  1381.  
  1382. Susie's expression fell. She must have dropped it when Oscar saved her life!
  1383.  
  1384. "Why don't we see what this thing can do?" he asked, charging up a spell. Even her own wand was no defence against the power their emergency wands wielded.
  1385.  
  1386. As the magic grew larger on the tip, Susie closed her eyes. 'One hundred fifty seven years... I guess it was a good run...' she thought before a screeching drew her eyes back to the scene at hand.
  1387.  
  1388. Regular Max had pounced from the shadows of the cave and sank his fangs into the entity's arms, causing him to release it. As the weapon clattered to the ground, Susie quickly commanded it to her hand.
  1389.  
  1390. Max, for his effort, was rewarded with a punch to the gut, and slung from his doppleganger's arm a few feet in the air before landing in a heap at the back of the cave.
  1391.  
  1392. "Oscah, Hedgehog, one more time!" Susie commanded.
  1393.  
  1394. Both of the exhausted campers dug deep and found the strength to cast the stun spell one more time. The effect on Magic Max was the same, but this time Susie was ready.
  1395.  
  1396. "Ah!" the entity screamed. "What is this light?!"
  1397.  
  1398. Susie pointed her wand, and made sure the other witches were doing the same. "Walk towards it!"
  1399.  
  1400. With that, all three of them fired everything they had at Magic Max.
  1401.  
  1402. With an ear splitting cry, his figure began to crack, beams of yellow light jetting from his form as he destabilized. In a half second, a blinding flash rocked the cave, and a band of magical energy raced outward from the explosion. In its wake, it corrected the corruptions the creature had placed on the island.
  1403.  
  1404. Once the dust had settled, a pile of pink dust was all that remained of their once mighty foe. Oscar and Hedgehog sat down next to each other, far too tired to stand, and hugged.
  1405.  
  1406. Susie's clothes were dirty, and torn in places, as were the rest of the witches, and she was sweaty. But not for a moment did she forget her duties as head counselor.
  1407.  
  1408. "Alright babies, gather 'round," She instructed, the bewildered campers formed a horseshoe around her and the two other witches. "You're all probably wondering what just happened, why one of your fellow campers seemed to have fantastic magic powers and all that mess."
  1409.  
  1410. More than a few campers nodded.
  1411.  
  1412. "Well, I could explain the whole thing to you..." Susie said, retrieving her regular wand. "But I'm not. Oblivisci somnia!" With a wave of her wand, the gathered campers fell asleep instantly.
  1413.  
  1414. She looked behind her to find Oscar and Hedgehog passed out, leaning against each other, while Max still lay motionless a few yards away.
  1415.  
  1416. "Your boy had some stones on him didn't he?" Susie remarked to Alice.
  1417.  
  1418. "Looks like he got his body to work for just long enough," She replied, stepping over him and waving her wand, a bit of gold dust falling over him. "That should help the pain," she whispered.
  1419.  
  1420. "All right, well let's be off then," Susie said, preparing a spell to send the three campers back to their cabins.
  1421.  
  1422. "Wait, aren't you going to erase their memories too?" Betsy asked, motioning to Oscar, Max and Hedgehog.
  1423.  
  1424. "Uh, no." Susie replied flatly. "They still have to be punished, and what good is punishment if you don't remember what you did?" she smiled.
  1425.  
  1426. Betsy couldn't help but giggle. "What were you thinking?" she asked.
  1427.  
  1428. "Kitchen duty for two weeks."
  1429.  
  1430. Oscar, Hedgehog and Max found themselves at the mercy of the kitchen monsters as they deep cleaned every pot and pan in the mess hall.
  1431.  
  1432. "Man, this really stinks!" Oscar complained. "I thought they just used magic to cook the food?"
  1433.  
  1434. "I guess not," Hedgehog replied, waist deep in a massive pot herself. "Ugh, this is gross!"
  1435.  
  1436. "I don't know, considering what we did, I'm just glad we aren't frogs right now," Max added, taking a steel wool pad to a supposedly non stick pan.
  1437.  
  1438. After an hour and a half, the trio hung up their aprons and rubber gloves, and headed back to their cabins.
  1439.  
  1440. "I can't believe no one believed us." Oscar said as they walked.
  1441.  
  1442. "Would you believe us?" Hedgehog asked rhetorically.
  1443.  
  1444. "I guess you're right," Oscar sighed. "We still down to read some scary stories tonight?"
  1445.  
  1446. "I could probably get through a few pages," Hedgehog yawned. "Max?"
  1447.  
  1448. "Yeah, I could do that," he replied.
  1449.  
  1450. It was Max's turn to host scary story night, but due to the strain their punishment had taken on them, Oscar and Hedgehog only made it a few pages in before falling asleep, books on their faces to boot.
  1451.  
  1452. Max yawned from his bed and looked at his sleeping friends. He bookmarked his place and set his story on the nightstand. He was just as tired as they were, and he was in no mood to cross the room, dodging the sleeping bags on the floor to go turn of the lights. The solution was a simple one, however.
  1453.  
  1454. He snuggled beneath his blankets, hung his hat on his bedpost, and put his fingers together.
  1455.  
  1456. "Goodnight guys," he whispered with a smile. In a snap of his fingers, the room went dark.
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