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“Good Morning, sweetheart,” Dan said, moving aside a few strands of hair and kissing her on the forehead. “It’s time to rise and shine.”
I can’t believe I’m actually waking up at five o’clock in the morning to go camping. Especially since I’m not even a fan of roughing it in the wilderness, Becky said to herself, as she rolled onto her back and looked up at Dan. At least the fresh air will be nice for my morning runs.
Becky sat up on her elbows and pushed herself into a sitting position, threw her legs off the bed and stood up. She gave a half-hearted smile at Dan as he made his way from the bed to the dresser to finish packing his things.
She lifted her arms over her head, arched her back and attempted to work out the knots in her back that had formed overnight. The cool breeze coming from the open window fluttered the curtains and made gooseflesh rise on her bare arms and legs. She made her way into the adjoining bathroom and shut the door. She urinated, brushed her teeth, then removed the flimsy bra and panties that she had worn last night to tease Dan. She got the shower hot and stepped inside. The hot spray burned her skin at first, but then felt wonderful. She stood under the spray a long time, washing away the apprehension of going camping, while easing the knots in her back.
Finished with the shower, she did her hair and makeup. Even though she was going to be ‘roughing it’ as Dan had put it, she still wanted to look good doing it. She then walked out of the steam-filled bathroom over to the dresser to choose the outfit for the day – a yellow chamois shirt, khaki short-shorts with a brown belt and trail-shoes. She didn’t bother putting on socks; she wanted her feet to stay cool on the long ride to the campsite.
By the time they were both finished in the bathroom and packed it was a little after six o’clock. As they pulled out of the driveway, Becky could tell that Dan was already pissed about getting on the road so late. She loved the big lug but he could be such a baby when it came to not getting on the road on time. She already knew what his response was going to be, but still asked if something was wrong. He replied with a grumble and a roll of his eyes. Becky figured it wasn’t the best time to strike up a conversation, so she turned her head and stared out the passenger window. She figured once they were on the road for awhile, and Dan had had a few cups of coffee from the thermos he had brought along, it would be okay to speak with him. Until that point, she would just enjoy the scenery of the passing cars, the billboards, the four-lane highway turning into a two-lane, then a one-lane and finally the tall billboards giving way to ancient oak and elm trees. They were leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city to stay in the woods – where they planned to spend a weekend camping, fishing, hiking and sightseeing.
Maybe this won’t be such a bad trip after all. I work hard during the week and deserve a vacation just as much as anyone else. Yeah, I am looking forward to this. It’ll be nice being alone in the woods with Dan, just the two of us, enjoying each other’s company, no one around to hear us…
* * *
Becky screamed, as the thing reached out and took a swipe at her back with its long claws. The thing’s long, dirty nails came within an inch or two of Becky’s delicate flesh. She jumped over a fallen log and started to climb up the other side of the gully. Even though the beast was obviously quick for its size over flat land, it had trouble jumping over the log, caught its foot and went down head first, falling onto the leaf- and twig-covered ground.
Becky twisted her head, figuring the thing would be right behind her, ready to take another swipe, but instead saw that it had tripped over the log she had just hurdled over and was just now pushing itself off the ground, beginning to give chase, again. She thought she heard the thing hissing at her, but didn’t understand how she could hear such a thing with the distance between them.
She turned her head back around and continued to chug up the hill. Her feet felt like they were on fire, her lungs burned, willing her to stop and take a few deep breaths. But, she knew there was no way she could stop now. She was almost safe.
Though she was a good fifty or so feet ahead of the beast, she picked up her speed even more, pushing the pain in her feet and lungs aside as she continued to the top of the hill.
In an all out sprint or at least as fast as she could go without her shoes, Becky heard the hissing sound, again. She whipped her head around and saw the beast was still a distance behind her and still didn’t understand where the strange noise was coming from.
Though, she found out a moment later; she came to the top of the hill, a cliff, which had a waterfall coming out the side of its face. Then she saw the churning whirlpool some two-hundred feet below.
She put on the brakes and came to a stop.
Right when she thought she had her balance and was safe from falling over the side of the cliff, her arms began to pinwheel and she was falling.
Down, down to the dark water below.
As she fell, she saw the beast up above her, looking down, almost smiling.
A moment later the thing turned away and she lost sight of it.
Only for a second.
Then it leapt over the side of the cliff, giving chase once again.
She opened her mouth to scream but that’s when her back hit the water and the air burst out of her lungs.
As she sank to the bottom, she could see a black shape coming closer to the water’s surface.
A moment before blacking out, something grabbed her ankle and started pulling her back to the surface of the swirling water.
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After scurrying about to set up the tents and gear the rain suddenly subsided. A light mist was all that was left of the downpour. It was light enough that no extra protection from the elements was needed. A few rays of sunshine shone through the grey clouds and reached the forest floor.
The first order of business after securing shelter, as any good outdoorsman would know, was to search for wood to build a fire. The fire ring had already been generously left by the last inhabitants of the campsite, so they wouldn’t need to worry about searching for rocks. They would need a supply of firewood and plenty of it. This might have posed a problem for some that weren’t schooled in the ways of the outdoors, but not for Jake. He had been a Boy Scout for many years when he was younger. During his time in the scouts, Jake even advanced to become the Scout’s highest honor, an Eagle Scout. He knew how to survive off the elements if needed and sure as hell knew where to find dry wood even after it rained. Even though he hadn’t been camping since college, he had no doubt that he still remembered all the skills and possessed the aptitude it took to survive and take care of his family out in ‘the wild’. Though, the idea of having the family truck nearby didn’t hurt his confidence any.
Grabbing his trusty bowie knife (the same one he had had since high school and the one he used to fend off the attacking pigs from his and his wife’s camping trip back in college) from a backpack, he made sure the girls were comfortable at the campsite, kissed each on the forehead, sheathed the knife on his hip, and headed into the trees. Right before he turned behind a cluster of trees and went out of sight, he peered over his shoulder, saw the girls watching him, and gave them a big wave. Even from the distance he could tell that both had worried looks on their faces, but they were smiling anyway, and waving back.
“So, what do you want to do?” Sam asked.
“Heck if I know, Mom. You’re the one that has been camping before, not me. How should I know what to do? I mean, do we paint our faces with mud and run around the fire once it’s built or what?”
Sam laughed. “I don’t think that is quite what your Dad had in mind. You’re making it sound like Lord of the Flies or something.”
Sam wished she hadn’t used that book reference. It made her think about the last time she was in the woods…the boars, the blood, the first time she and Jake had ever…
“Anyway,” Sam continued, “I think it was awfully nice of your dad to plan a family getaway, even if it is in the woods.”
“What do you mean, ‘even if it is in the woods’, Mom?”
Sam really didn’t want to tell her daughter what had happened her first and only time camping, but figured she’d better. It might help save her life one day, Sam thought to herself, as she began the story.
Once the story was finished, Alexis replied with “oh, my God” and looked behind her. She didn’t want any wild animals sneaking up on her, especially nothing that could stick and then slice her into a hundred pieces. She knew she could handle a squirrel, a deer, maybe even baiting a worm on a hook to go fishing in the stream that her father said was close by, but nothing that looked mean and could cause her any real harm. Sure, she knew that if she accidently stuck herself with an old, rusty fishing hook that was dried with worm and fish guts she might catch something, but a shot in the arm could cure that. It would be nothing close to having a wild pig chasing her, rearing its head back, plunging its horns into her…
“Sweetie…are you ok?” Sam asked, shaking the girl’s leg.
“Huh, what? Oh, sure, Mom…I’m just peachy.”
The rest of the time Jake was away, the girls made themselves useful by setting up some equipment and goods: cooking pots and pans, eating utensils, jugs of drinking water, citronella candles and a few other odds and ends. Sam lit the candles when they were finished. The last thing she needed, besides another little piggy showing up, was to be eaten alive by mosquitoes. After they were finished, they sat down on a few upturned logs surrounding the cold fire ring and stared at each other.
Sam finally broke the silence.
“So, sweetie. Tell me more about Greg.”
“Geez, Mom. Do I really have to?” Alexis muttered.
“Well, of course you don’t have to. But, believe it or not, I remember how it was to be twelve and have a boyfriend for the first time and think he is the love of your life. I know you think I’m old and all, but even I remember who my first kiss was with…it was your father, of course,” Sam said, giving her daughter a quick wink.
“Yeah, sure, Mom. Like I really believe that it was Dad. Especially since I know you didn’t meet him till you two were in college. So it must have been someone else that you had your first kiss with.”
“Hey, now. Didn’t your teachers ever tell you to never answer a question with a question? I’m here to talk to you openly and honestly but…”
“I know, I know…”
“Greg, yeah, okay…sure, he’s okay. He’s cute and all but I’m not so sure about the whole kissing thing, though,” Alexis lied.
“You have never thought about what it would be like to kiss him?” Sam asked.
“Well…I don’t know…geez, Mom.”
“Okay, okay…you don’t have to tell me. But, let me just say, that all guys are after one thing and one thing only…and that thing is–”
“Okay, Mom, geez…I gotcha…I know. I know you don’t have to say IT.”
Grinning at her daughter, Sam said to herself, I really hope she waits till she is ready…girls today…
She looked past Alexis and into the woods where Jake had vanished some time ago. She was starting to get worried about him but didn’t want to let on to Alexis that her father might be in trouble.
I’m sure he is fine. I hope. He’s either having trouble carrying back all the firewood he found or can’t find any. Shit. If he doesn’t find any dry wood what will we do? It will be pitch black at night without a fire burning; we won’t be able to see if some animal wanders into the campsite. Hell, the thing would be able to…
Sam didn’t want to think about the consequences.
She got up from the log she had been sitting on, strolled past her daughter and looked into the deep woods. She hoped that Jake would walk out of the trees at any moment, carrying a night’s supply of firewood, but for some reason didn’t think it would happen.
Something was wrong.
She could feel it.
Crowded Quarantine Publications (UK) has officially released my 400+ page monster novel, Deep Dark Woods, in both Trade Paperback and Kindle. Below is the decription and how to order a copy.
Jake Jennings thought a camping trip would be a great way to reconnect with his family. But when he mysteriously disappears after heading off in search of firewood, his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Alexis, are left all alone in the woods, searching, hoping, and for the time being, surviving.
Available in eBook:
Amazon (Kindle – US)
Amazon (Kindle – UK)
While the official release date isn’t until June 27th, Amazon (US) has already made the Trade Paperback (digital edition available upon release) of Deep Dark Woods available for purchase. This monster of a novel comes in at over 400 pages! You can order your copy via the links, below.
Available in Trade Paperback:
Amazon (UK) (Pre-Order)
Deep Dark Woods is now available for Pre-Order from Crowded Quarantine Publications (UK). The novel is set to be released on June 27th. Below is the synopsis and how to purchase your copy.
Jeff Cameron is going back to Camp Tapiola on Lake Onwego to meet several old friends and reminisce about their childhood experiences at camp. But not all of their childhood memories are good. For thirty-five years lingering images of their friend Jimmy Foster’s lifeless body being pulled from the lake has disturbed Jeff’s peace of mind. Was Jimmy Foster’s death an accident or murder? The authorities had said Jimmy’s death was an accidental drowning, but Jeff had always believed there was more to the story. Why after all these years did his old friend arrange this reunion? And why can’t Jeff escape the feeling that his friend has a hidden agenda. What is this reunion is really about? And another question remains… who is The Wildman?