Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! The Epic Crossover Finale

Image from Shutterstock

A scream pierced the quiet of the night, reverberating through the twists and turns of the tunnel and finding my ears. Jolting right out of a deep sleep, I was on my knees in seconds. Crawling towards the mouth of the cave, I cocked my ears. Had I just heard what I thought I’d heard?

No… I haven’t seen people for months. Not since the last helicopter came in the spring. My gut twisted at the thought, and the fear in my blood was momentarily cut through with sadness. I would never get used to that, how they came every day for so long, sent search-and-rescue teams around the clock… and one day, it just stopped.

And I was proclaimed dead. Blinking rapidly, I shook off my bitterness. There was no time for that. I had to focus. I primed my ears, and for a moment, all I heard was the sweet silence. The only noise was the chatter of the crickets and the hoot of the owls in the humid summer air.

A faint series of cries and shouts slashed through the silence. Oh no. Oh no. Scampering out onto the grass, I surveyed the clearing. The moon shone high in the sky, casting a silvery glow onto the trees. Branches that would be unthreatening in the sunlight now looked like spindly claws reaching out into the night.

Adrenaline rocketed through my veins, surging through every limb and leaving behind a tingling sensation, like a warm buzz in my blood. My heart hammered my rib cage. It was nothing… my ears playing tricks on me. I reassured myself. Don’t worry, Kate, go back to sleep-

Another guttural shriek pounded through the dusk. I hated to admit it, but my ears knew it instantly. Human. It had been so long since I’d heard a human voice that I almost thought I never would again.

Scanning the sky, I saw a wisp of smoke curling into the night. I imagined a small campfire, and some teens around it (based on the screams).  To my concern, I also imagined maroon blood spattering the grass.

My mind chugged ahead, but there was no time to think. I had to act. Adrenaline surged through my legs, and I sprinted off in the direction of the smoke. Someone out there was getting attacked. Or even worse, murdered.

************************

The sharp tip of the axe pricked my throat- and all I saw was the killer’s eyes gleaming with fury as I was whisked away into Nick’s arms. His muscled biceps strained under my weight as he staggered ahead. Gripping him tightly, I began to come awake from my shock. I knew Nick couldn’t do this much longer, and the murderer was hot on our heels as he carried me off in a lopsided run.

I noticed Marie in the blur, lifting Jade up and over her muscular shoulder and taking off at a quick, jaunting pace, Jade’s head lolling back and forth against her back. Thomas had recovered from his trip and scampered over the log, jetting ahead of us in a labored sprint.

Through the indistinct haze of trees and grass, I managed a glance at the killer (who was a good distance behind us). The man’s pale blonde hair shone in the moonlight, almost platinum in color.  The rest of his body was a vague silhouette moving through the undergrowth.

I remembered with a shiver seeing his eyes as Nick had tackled me away; their color masked by a sheen of cold, hard fury and a feral hunger.

I looked up at Nick, my friend, my crush, my savior. Sweat scintillated on his bronzed skin, sparkling under the starlight; I could feel his chest rise and fall with each racketing breath.

“Nick, let me off. I can run now,” He regarded me dubiously for a moment, then seemed to remember that I had been a star athlete on the track team. Concern still glittered in his eyes as he scanned my face, his emerald-green eyes tracing my neck. Reflected back in his eyes I saw the smooth skin of my throat, slashed through by a small, jagged slit that dripped crimson blood.

“Are you sure?” Nick asked softly. I nodded, and concealed my wince of pain. Barely breaking in stride, he let me go and my shoes pounded the dirt. Snap! A stick cracked beneath my feet as I took off into the night.

The moss sprang me ahead, and I resummoned the speed I’d had in track. A jolt of adrenaline surged through my veins, and the heat rushed through my body like a wave, flowing down through my legs and rocketing up into my arms. Awakening the fire in my soul, each step adding gasoline to the leaping flame in my soul. Every stride brought more and more speed. The wind whipped in my ears, and silky strands of my hair flew behind me like a banner.

Soon later I had passed everyone completely, so much so that when I looked back, they were just hazy figures in the distance, blurring together with the pines. Despite the raw intensity of the moment, a smile spread across my lips. I was running again! Actually running, like I had done so long ago in track! Free and wild and running!

The glorious moment fell away as I heard a shriek ringing in the night. And I spun around to see Marie shielding her sister, the murderer holding his silver axe high over his head… Nick too far away to help, Thomas too fatigued to move, Jade lying limp under Marie’s protective arm. He primed the gleaming blade, strong shoulders tensed in the motion. Ready to swing. Ready to kill.

          *****************************

Following the screams, I ran silently through the trees. With no autumn leaves or snow to crunch underfoot, my sneakers made no noise as they hit the dirt. The woods were deathly silent for a single moment, and I saw them at last.

Time stopped at once, and the scene froze around me in vivid color, like a painting. Two older boys, one buff and bronzed and the other thin and lanky. I noticed the tall girl first, just a silhouette in the moonlight with a curvy hourglass figure and long hair blowing in the wind. Finally, I saw the two girls. One lie limp against the dirt in a ruined red kimono, her inky black hair splayed out around her like a halo. The other kneeled above her, holding out a protective hand and closing her eyes… and standing above them in mid-swing, a man with an axe, his eyes locked on the girls with a raging anger.

The moment leapt back to life. Before my brain could process what to do, my heart did. I charged the killer with all the force of a thousand winds. He didn’t notice me until it was too late. Barreling into him, I took him down. The axe spun from his grasp, flying away across the mossy ground. The lanky redhead picked it up feebly, then meekly handed it off to the gorgeous brunette girl.

The killer stood, glaring at me with wild-eyed anger. Grabbing me by the shoulders, he dragged me backwards and looped a strong arm around my neck. My blonde locks swung around me and I clawed at his hands, trying to free my neck. He squeezed harder, and spots danced across my vision. I gasped and wheezed, but I was losing air fast. Think, Kate, think! God darn it, think!

So I did what I think any woman would do in this situation. I threw my leg up and thrust it where the sun-don’t-shine.

The killer instantly fell to the ground, moaning in pain and holding his groin. Vehemence was pouring out of him, forming an aura of sheer hatred and violence. With a grunt, he began to lunge for me- and the girl brought down the axe over his head in one fell swoop.

With a sickening crunch, it was over. I looked away. I didn’t need to see the aftermath. I could imagine it just fine.

*************************

Nick and I held hands as we walked away from the dead man. Guilt wracked my body, but I also felt a nagging sense of pride. That man would have killed us all, no doubt. Regardless of the guilt, I reminded myself that we were lucky to be alive.

All six of us returned to the fire silently, Jade still slung of Marie’s shoulders, where Nick was the first to break the silence. He looked over at the grimy girl that had saved us with wide eyes, saying simply, “Thank you. None of us would be alive if not for you.” The girl smiled ruefully. She was younger than us, and looked to be around high school age. Her tangled blonde hair fell to nearly her hips, and she was covered from head to toe in mud and grit.

The only glimpse of skin was around her face, where some pale skin showed through the dirt and leaves. Her deep brown eyes shimmered with mystery. The girl cleared her throat, as though she hadn’t spoken in a while. I shared a confused look with Marie. She shrugged, staring at our strange savior.

“It wasn’t a problem. It’s not like I could just stand by and watch you die,” the girl said in a clear, silvery voice, straightening her posture on the log. I noted that her arms were finely toned and muscled from what looked like heavy lifting, and I could see her abs outlined under her grimy cotton shirt. No wonder she had taken down the murderer.

I raised a hand in greeting.

“I’m Tara. This is Nick, Marie, Jade, and Thomas.” I said shyly, pointing at each member of our group. Silence enveloped the night for a moment, and she appeared to be thinking hard about a proper response. I raised a brow, and she hastily said,

“Sorry. I’m, uh, not that used to…” Her eyes widened like a deer in headlights under our stares. The poor girl looked frightened to death! She took a deep breath, finishing with,

“You can call me Kate.” I smiled in a way that I hope looked sympathetic. It must have worked, because her face softened slightly and the edge of her lip quirked up in an awkward grin. “So, what bring you guys out here?”

Why are you out here, covered in mud? It looks like you’ve been living in the woods for months!  I thought. But it’s not as though I was in any position to pass judgement on Kate, after she had saved Marie and Jade from their untimely deaths.

“We’re students at Appalachian State College. This was our camping trip. We live out in Sapphire Peaks. Ever heard of it?” Thomas asked. Something flashed across her eyes, a pain that was deeper than the Mariana Trench and a sorrow unknown to the loneliest wanderer. She gave us a sad smile.

Image from Rebloggy

“Yes, I used to live there. Once,” Kate whispered softly. Nick nodded, obviously puzzled but not pushing the subject. “Anyway, enough about me. What are we going to do with the… dead guy?” We all shifted uncomfortably on our log seats. The fire flickered softly, gold and red tendrils licking the night sky.

“I propose that we hike into town. Call the police once we have good signal. They’ll come down here and take away the body and identify him.” I said solemnly. The words were alien and foreign in my mouth… then again, I’d never cleaved someone’s head with an axe until today. Everyone nodded, and we all stood, except for Kate.

“We’re going to start hiking. You are coming, right?” I asked her. Kate gazed up at me with wide, pleading eyes.  Then, quickly diverting them to stare down at her feet guiltily.

“If you cared even a little about me, if you want to pay back your debt… leave me here. Don’t mention me to the police. Don’t say my name or anything. Act as though I was never there. I-” Her voice broke. “Just- just don’t. Please. If you have to, look up the name Kate Paxton once you have internet. You’ll figure it out. Just please, please don’t tell them,” She begged softly.

Nick grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly. I turned and pecked him on the cheek, letting the warmth flow through my body and give me strength. Give me the strength to leave a girl alone in the woods on her request.

When his mouth spread into a toothy grin, the sweet heat expanded and my heart clattered in my chest. That was all I needed.

“I promise we won’t tell. Not ever,” I smiled at her. A rosy color came back into her pale cheeks, and she nodded gratefully. Glancing over at Nick, I saw the glitter of joy in his emerald eyes once again; the world fell away and my stomach was barraged by a storm of butterflies. Things would turn out okay, after all.

All five of us began our trek into the woods. Right before we entered the thicket, I looked back over my shoulder to say some final goodbyes to the strange girl that had saved us all. The coals were glowing under a pile of ash, and the logs sat around it in a ring, completely and totally empty. Kate was gone.

I smiled, and from that moment on, never looked back.  Nick and I chatted as we walked hand in hand, laughed when Jade finally woke up. Taunted them when Thomas kissed her and she forgot all about fashion for a single minute that day. I imagined Kate was out there somewhere, gazing up at the glittering stars and feeling like a hero, knowing she had saved lives that night.

Yes, I thought to myself. Everything will be alright.


Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! Campfire Horror Story

*This is not a continuation of the previous issues about Kate Paxton. This is an entirely new edition, but the Kate Paxton stories will be continued at a later date.

Image courtesy of Bustle.com

Sparks danced into the humid air on the night of the attack, and the oblivious campers sat around the leaping flames. Nobody knew the terrors that summer night would bring. Of course they didn’t! How could they?

Most people believe that you would simply feel it, some encroaching darkness creeping into your soul, like a tendril of blackness that reached out before a tragedy. Most people think wrong. To the teens around that fire, everything was perfect as they laughed into the night. Little did they know what lurked in the woods, waiting for the moment to strike…

************************

“Who wants s’mores?” Nick exclaimed. The other teens responded with wild cheers and he promptly began roasting the marshmallows to a delicious golden brown crisp. A chorus of laughter carried on the wind, a sweet whisper of joy slicing the darkness of the night.

Tara giggled as her friends recalled funny moments and memories they had experienced over the years. The group of friends were rather diverse, a melting pot of boys and girls of all shapes and sizes, five in total.

Thomas, a lanky redhead with freckles that stood out like copper coins on his face. Tara, who was seemingly the vision of beauty, with a sheen of mahogany hair cascading over her shoulders. Her face was tanned evenly to a rather flawless olive complexion, and she wore a feather in her hair the matched her striking sapphire eyes. Yes, Tara was no doubt the prettiest of the group, and yet, nobody seemed to notice… or care.

Nick was a buff, looming figure that towered above the rest. His arms were corded with muscles that rippled under his skin with every movement, and he sported cropped black hair like a military buzz cut. Tara had always had a crush on Nick, and little did she know that the feelings were reciprocated…

Never mind that. That is a story for another day. The other two were the Tenda twins, Asian girls with jet-black hair and striking eyes. Though not everyone could tell them apart, their personalities were worlds away from each other, with Marie completely focused on athletics and Jade dead-set on being a fashion designer and directed every ounce of her energy to the next trend, the next outfit.

Now you may think that you know everything about them, but so did the dark figure that lurked in the trees…

****************************

Tara looked up through a thick curtain of lashes at Nick as he took a seat beside her on a log. Her heart pounded wildly in her chest, thudding away insistently as she gazed shyly at the muscles that bulged beneath his bronzed skin.

She quickly averted her eyes as he looked over at her conversationally. Somehow, the most confident, prettiest girl in their whole college was reduced to rubble every time she looked at him. Tara’s cheeks flamed a bright red and her stomach flipped at every sidelong glance.

“So the quarterback completely flukes and the ball fell out of his hand! Naturally, he tries to backpedal and get it back, but he trips on the football and goes flying to the ground!” Nick exclaimed. Tara noticed the veins standing out against the muscle of his arms, like live wires rippling with tension. He stood and reenacted the scene, tumbling unceremoniously to the grass.

Tara threw her head back in laughter, looking up at the starry night sky. Until she heard a sickening thud. Snapping her head back, she surveyed the people around the fire.

Jade, totally enveloped as she stared at the silky fabric of her kimono, taking in each detail as if a single thread could change the world; she hadn’t seemed to notice the sound, or that Nick had talked. Jade never really noticed anything that wasn’t about fashion.

Marie right next to her, still laughing at Nick’s story and jabbering on about her basketball team and stupid things her teammates had done.

Nick, nodding animatedly as Marie told her stories. And Thomas was starry-eyed, staring at Jade with a dreamy look in his eyes, like an astronomer looking lovingly upon the stars. Tara would’ve grinned at his obvious crush on her, but now was not the time. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest.  Not because of Nick, no. Not this time.

The thud came again, a dull thump like a shoe slamming the grass. Surveying the group frantically, she saw with dread that not a single one of them had reacted to it. Not a single flinch, or pause in speech. Feeling as though she was going insane, Tara interjected loudly,

“Did nobody hear that noise!?!” They whipped their heads to look at her. Shrinking under their confused stares, she let out an embarrassed squeak. Maybe I just imagined it? Tara thought. But no. She shook her head vigorously, wisps of hair swinging around her face and covering her eyes.

Impatiently pushing the tendrils out of the way, she looked around again, and was again met with bewildered stares. Doubt crept in around the edges of her mind. No. I know I heard it… Did I? No! I did!

The faces shifted from confused to concerned. The fear was written all across her face, from her wide blue eyes that burned with a near-crazed intensity to her cheeks that were flushed feverishly. Nick laid a concerned hand against her arm.

Normally, her pulse would have leapt and her stomach cartwheel at his touch, but something felt off. Like the night thus far had been a jovial melody and someone had just strummed a discordant note, tinny and out-of-tune. A note that nobody else could hear, but that rung loud and clear in Tara’s ears.

“I- I- um…” Stuttering, Tara knitted her brows and bowed her head. Again, like an echo in her thoughts, a distant thud sounded off, another out-of-tune note singing into the warm evening air. Panic struck hot in her veins, a flash of lightning exploding down from the heavens.

“Nobody heard anything? It was a thump… from the woods. I swear!” Silence fell over the clearing like a black shroud. The warm, flickering glow of the flames in the dark no longer seemed friendly or inviting… it felt ominous, like a torch’s dying light rather than a heated blaze.
Thomas seemed about to speak, to protest that there was no sound at all, to argue that they all would’ve heard it-

Thump. Thump. Every nerve in her body tingled, the wispy hairs on her arm prickling up. Nick blinked. Once, twice, three times, the shock evident on his face. Tara was too apprehensive to utter a half-hearted, “I told you so.” A small surge of relief pounded her heart. They had heard it too! She wasn’t insane! There was no time to breathe or let her worried mind be consoled. It came again, steady and pounding and terrifying. Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump.

A woodpecker. Two bucks clashing antlers. Something. Anything but… She grabbed a silky strand of hair and twirled it anxiously around her finger; yanking it out and wincing at the bite of pain.

Thump. Thump. Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump. Even Jade looked up at this, her pale face a mask of confusion. Thomas cleared his throat quietly, and Nick glared at him, whispering the words,

“Don’t move. Don’t talk. If it’s an animal, it might go away.”

But Tara knew it wasn’t that. She knew exactly what it was. The truth was horrifying. The truth was better unstated. Her breath sawed her throat, each inhale labored and each exhale sharp and painful, a razor scratching away at the soft tissue of her neck. Tension clung to the air like a heavy mist.

Thump. Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump. Tara squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, grasping Nick’s warm hand like a lifeline. She blinked. No… it’s not any kind of animal. I know that sound… the rhythmic thud-thud moving through the dusk. She thought, dreading it but knowing she had to admit it to herself or it wouldn’t feel real.

“Nick…” Tara said softly, squeezing his hand. She felt his vivid green eyes on her; she knew them so well, had studied his animated glances and the tender gazes to the point that she could imagine them clearly in her mind: a dark emerald with speckles of bottle green like shards of broken glass. Wide black pupils. A soft glimmer of laughter in his eyes.

But she looked over at him anyway. There was no glimmer of laughter and joy. Just wide pupils dilated in fear and a sheen of sweat scintillating on his forehead. His lips parted as if to form a word, and Tara put up a slim finger to stop him. With a whisper that was ever so soft and slow, she uttered the terrifying truth,

“That’s no animal out there,” she paused, her whole body tensed in anticipation of the words. Frozen in time for a single second, where the world stopped spinning and the birds no longer chirped. The only sound was dull thump thump, thump thump, thump thump. Rasping in a breath and gathering together small shards of her shattered courage, she said it.

“Those are footsteps.”

In that moment, everything happened at once. Nick leaned in to comfort her, and Tara was distracted by the burning electricity that ran through her veins where they touched. Enough that she didn’t notice the looming figure until right before it pounced.

Jade shrieked, a piercing note that reverberated in the air and shattered the silence like glass. They looked over at her, to see her crumpled behind the log, unconscious. Her tight face was loose, her mouth was slack and open wide in a scream. Marie shouted something Tara couldn’t hear.

“What?!” She screeched, but she didn’t understand Marie’s frantic gestures and shouts until it was too late. Turning slowly, she saw him. A figure of a man stood silhouetted in the moon, holding in his hand… a gleaming axe. Spattered with crimson blood.

Tara screamed, a blood curdling cry that ripped at her throat. Nick tugged her arm viciously, shrieking at her to run, but she was plastered to the spot in horror. I am going to die. I am going to die. I am going to die.

“Looming Death” by Bo (my brother)

The axe swung down, shining silver in the dancing firelight. Tara, the beautiful, vivacious brunette girl was reduced to a terrified rubble. She squeezed her eyes shut tight in anticipation, waiting in horror to feel the sharp slice of the blade against her neck.

Her life flashed across her eyes: dancing colors and visions of her family, her brother and mother and father, countless sleepovers and jokes and shared secrets, and finally, a pair of gleaming green eyes.

Run! Run! Run! Her mind screamed, but she couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Opening her eyes, she saw the moment. Frozen in time.

Nick was at her side, mouth wide open and his bottle green eyes smeared with emotion. Jade, unconscious on the dirt, inky black hair spread out over the ground. Marie, stopped in the desperate motion of pulling her sister to safety. Thomas, pale as a ghost and jaw unhinged as he looked up at the man with the axe… frozen in the action of tripping over the log, trying to run on weak legs.

Reality crashed in and the moment returned to full speed. Every inch of Tara’s body screamed in anticipation. Run! Run! Run! But terror had her standing there helplessly. An immobile stone statue.

The sharp tip of the axe pricked her throat-

TO BE CONTINUED…