Liam Lynch, MD Class of 2026
“I woke up after a nap one day with quite a bit of inspiration, so immediately I went to write this short story.”
“Welcome to Summer Camp,” the sign read. The excitement was palpable; the lot of us were all clamored together in that first courtyard. No one here had been to camp before, despite everyone being different ages. From the younger middle-schoolers, to the older of us high-schoolers, everyone was witness to the halcyon summer about to unfold. I knew going in that it was a goal of the summer camp to grow the older campers into leaders so that they’d come back the next year as counselors, and quite frankly, I was all-too-naïve and looking forward to the recognition and responsibility that would soon come with it. As we waited for the counselors to join us, I took in the moment.
The air was dry and crisp, with the entrance of the summer camp nestled in between a canyon. The wall of rock was narrow and steep, and looking up strained the neck to where you couldn’t stare upwards too long. In the courtyard, there was the familiar divide, with a grand staircase to the right, leading to all the camp functionalities. The path upwards led to the cabins and the cafeteria, and in general the more boring but necessary parts of camp. The opening to the left was far more intriguing. The ledge there opened out over a massive lake tucked into the canyon. A waterfall, hundreds of feet tall, poured from an internal source deep within the canyon. Following the flow of water down to a misty haze at the bottom, some pockets of surface ice still remained on the lake from winter. The deep canyon shade seemed to keep everything cooler. Gazing down from the ledge, I imagined dropping a penny. I’d likely lose sight of it before seeing the ripple in the water of the splash.
The view was idyllic, breathtaking, and when looking all the way down to the beautiful water, I grew a sense of exhilaration. I knew that soon we’d be making our own voyage down once we were ready. Certainly, it would be quite the adrenaline rush-just thinking of the voyage down brought my attention to the right of that familiar divide.
There lied everyone’s reason for going to camp that summer. The main attraction-the slide. Perhaps it was a bit silly to be so old and be so enticed by a slide, but to see it in person made coming to camp all worth it. While the staircase to the right led to the cabins and such, to the left was the slide: an enormous, hundreds and hundreds of feet long, inflatable slide. All the way down to the water led the impossible fast-track. I could recall from the stories years past that the slide had many classic inflatable obstacle courses, ramps, and corridors to go into, as well as more unconventional pathways to take; there were more than enough variations for each person to have a similar, yet distinctly unique path to the bottom. Along the side, there was an emergency rope to grab onto if you were ever scared, but that was hardly ever important. To fully experience the slide, in all its glory, was all the escapade was ever meant to be.
Standing at the edge of the slide, while my racing heart may or may not have been getting the better of me, my old friend came up beside me. Both of us were seniors and had learned all about camp that we could. However, no matter how many stories we heard, or questions we had answered, nothing would have prepared us for what the slide, in all of its majesty, would actually
be like. I always shared such a great deal of respect for my friend beside me. He was a large part of even convincing me to go to camp that year, and now here we were, looking down the slide we had come for. It was euphoric simply being there and looking off into the canyon, over the slide, and off into the lake.
Before we even had a chance to say anything, one of the younger kids had run off onto the slide. We stared in disbelief as he made his way further down the massive inflatable slide, until he made it past the point-of-no-return and began his descent down the slide. Everyone stood silent for a moment. The counselors still had yet to join us in the courtyard, so none of us had any real idea of what to do. Appropriate chaos ensued.
My friend and I, being the oldest, assumed whatever semblance of leadership there was. He ran to the rope that I could have swore would never have been of use. With leadership ability that seemed so natural, he gathered as many as he could to help pull the rope if our fallen camper were to ever grab ahold. I myself navigated past obstacles to that forsaken point-of-no-return, where we saw the young camper fall off into the void. I saw him vaguely holding onto one of the inflatable obstacles some hundred feet down, and strained my voice to call out to him.
“Grab hold of the rope!”
He may have never heard me. He may have just not been able to reach the rope. He may have simply wanted to continue going down the slide. Regardless, I stared down the slide on my hands and knees, completely powerless to the situation as I watched the young camper disappear further off down the slide. The commotion must have been enthralling, because immediately after, the entirety of the courtyard rushed over with wonderment to the situation.
However, as anyone who has ever been on an inflatable can explain, the growing weight on an unstable surface, negatively affects everybody. The stability of the slide was reduced to nil. Once more, I was powerless to the situation as I saw more and more of the campers beside me tumble down the collapsing slide. I turned back and saw my friend, who was one of the few people still vigilantly holding onto the rope. Whether it was on their own accord or not, most around us had fallen all too quickly from the malleable terrain of the slide.
As the whole slide was gyrating, I barely had enough time to grab the rope on my side. I held on for dear life, and I became trapped under the obstacles that I had navigated past earlier. The unpredictable motion of the slide made it difficult to pull past the obstacles and the incline, but quickly I had made myself back up to the top of the slide.
I gathered myself at the courtyard and glanced to the right and saw the staircase. I knew the staircase was the safest option. I turned to the left and saw my friend, alone, still clutching the rope.
He was struggling and I felt the best thing for both of us was to go upwards. I opened my mouth. “We need to go-“
“Down,” he said.
Immediately I knew what he meant. Perhaps you do too.
Standing there, I felt convicted in my cowardice to go to safety. However, there was no fear once I realized there was a duty to fulfill. If we ever considered ourselves to be old enough, responsible enough, and capable to be counselors in the future, then we ought to go down the slide, reassure the other campers and be there for them. It’s what the real counselors would have done. It became our responsibility to go down the slide.
As we slid down, the emotions ranged between excitement, fear, and purpose. We would see various campers holding onto the obstacles and it was always pertinent to encourage them to continue all the way down; they would certainly not regret the descent. The speed picked up and although we were premature for this journey, so was everyone who fell before us. Regardless, all the preparation for camp and the slide that my friend and I had put in gave us faith for the descent.
Eventually the slope flattened out again into a floating inflatable course on top of the
water, with various corridors. All the kids had been cast into it, scattered, and were carving their own paths. My friend and I raced through it, glancing at each other intermittently as we made our way. We were on a mission.
Making my way through, I saw another camper broken down, crying, scared. Her clothes were old and her dyed-blue hair didn’t do much to hide her tears. I stopped, and told her that her hair was beautiful. I let her collect herself, and a bit choked up, we hugged. The younger camper chuckled a little bit, and I said that she should keep going when she was ready to. I moved along the corridors more slowly, still absorbing the fragments of the recent interaction.
I started to make my way further down into the corridors of the maze-like obstacle course, only slower this time. I began to take my time more, explore the paths rather than race through. Soon after, I was spooked by another camper hiding in a corner. I jokingly reprimanded him and went on my way, happy that he was happy at this time. As I made my way deeper and deeper through the slide, with a smile on my face, I woke up.
That was a dream that I had earlier this evening. At first, I thought it was a routine, implausible, and mystical dream. Shortly after pondering it however, I felt there were too many aspects of this dream that apply to my personal journey for it to be simply REM randomness. I must explain that slide, to me, represents my journey through medicine so far. The main revelation was that in the dream, I’m genuinely unsure of when the purpose became unconscious and I just started enjoying working through the slide. Not that I ever forgot the purpose, just that it might have become more instinctual and I just began to enjoy the process through the slide in itself. While many smaller revelations exist within the dream, too many to explain, I’m happy that subconscious me thinks that this whole medical journey is just as much enjoyable as it is purposeful.