Monday, October 13, 2014
First Five Pages Workshop - Clement Rev 1
Name: Benjamin Clement
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Adventure
Title: The Fearsome Lumberwoods
The sun fell through a spray of red like a man shot. Its last panting breaths fell heavily on the back of Douglas’s neck. Still, he was thankful it wasn't as bad as the summer past, when it was so hot every hen in the county laid hard boiled eggs. Pushing his hat back on his sweat-slick, cornsilk hair, he weaved further into the trees. When he figured there was enough forest between him and his parents’ picnic to grant him some privacy, he undid his britches to relieve himself into a dry creek-bed.
Douglas gave furtive glances over hunched shoulders as he hurried his business. Not a leaf stirred nor did a branch creak, and the solitude made him uneasy. He didn't enjoying being out-of-doors, but his father insisted he come along on the picnic to hear the big news. News which had left Douglas with a load of dread heavier than an armful of bricks. Every morning of his fifteen years, he had woken up in the finest home in Hazelwood, and now they were setting out to live in some frontier town on the other side of the continent named Seattle.
Buttoning up his britches, he felt the creep of someone watching him. The beady black eyes of a crow stared down at Douglas with keen interest as it sidestepped along a branch.
"What are you looking at, you old crow?" Douglas whispered.
The crow cawed like axe chops in the silent forest. Douglas flinched, and then felt foolish for it. Eager to get back to the meadow, Douglas spun around to find a man leaning against a tree, staring at him with yellow eyes underneath a low derby. Leaping back, Douglas slipped and fell into the dry creek-bed and the mud he had just made.
The man chuckled. "Sorry to sneak up on you. Would've announced myself but didn't want you dribbling on your slacks." With his smile peeled back over mean teeth, the man looked like a dog set to bite. Unbuttoning the coat of his brown wool suit, he stepped down into the creek-bed. “It’s a scorcher,” he commented pulling back a collar lined with brown fur, that matched the stubble on his cheeks and chin.
Douglas scrambled to his feet. The malice he felt coming from this man crawled up his spine like spiders. He backed away from the stranger, until his heel struck the opposite embankment, sending him once more on his backside.
"I just came to apologize," the man told Douglas as he picked dirty fingernails, sharp as cat’s claws. "I really have nothing against you personally, but Crow says you’ll ruin things. So... she asked to take care of you.”
"T-take care of me?" Douglas stammered, as he got back to his feet. If this man thought he could talk to birds, he must've had more hay in his head than a scarecrow, and kept the same company. "I'm fine, thank you."
The man tilted his head back and laughed in little yips. "Indeed," he said, wiping a little bit of drool from his lip. "I mean to fix it so you aren't."
Something shuffled among the bushes behind Douglas. He whipped his head around to see a thin tree leaning to the side with a groan, as something big bumped against it.
"Besides, I can never refuse getting up to a bit a mischief," the stranger whispered.
Douglas could smell the copper tinge of his breath, but when he looked back, the stranger was gone. Behind Douglas, a growl deeper than dirt resonated up his shins and sent his knees a-quivering. Through tears of terror, he saw something roughly akin to a bear, but rounder emerge from the bushes. Its fur seemed to be missing. Only brown-black, rubbery skin stretched tight over its rotund frame. The only hair it had were two bushy eyebrows and a tuft hanging from its chin, dripping with spit below a mouth full of teeth that would surely tear Douglas into forty-two pieces with one and a half bites.
Breaking from the trees, Douglas tried to scream, but fear dragged the air from his throat on every ragged breath. The beast crashed through the woods, gaining quickly. Its rubbery skin gleamed slightly in the feeble light of the early evening, so tight that it scarcely quivered as it ran. The field of grass between Douglas and his parents stretched out forever. He knew he'd never reach them.
The rumble of the chase came over the cracks and pops of Mr. Webb's fire. His content smile fell as he saw what was salivating at his son's heels. Mrs. Webb yelped in surprise as her husband jumped to his feet and bolted to the rifle on his mount. Ichabod, Douglas’s horse, spooked by all the sudden action, took off at a gallop.
"Douglas, to the side!" Mr. Webb shouted.
When Douglas turned from his aim, Mr. Webb didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. The bullet ricocheted off its rubbery skin and slammed back into the stomach of Mr. Webb.
The screams of Mrs. Webb flooded the grassy meadow into the dark trees shaking their branches and twisting their leaves. She took a burning stick from the fire, and gathering up her skirts, sprinted across the grass.
Watching his mother pass by, Douglas tripped over his own feet. He whipped around onto his back in time to see his mother hurl the flaming stick at the animal. Its skin ignited as if it were drenched in kerosene and erupted in a fireball. His mother looked back, and Douglas could see the sorrow in her eyes before she was consumed by the rush of flame.
A powerful gust of air lifted Douglas from the ground. The world roared and tumbled around him before the confusion of it all faded away into blackness.
The sun had buried itself in twilight and the world along with it. Douglas awoke to Ichabod snorting in his ear. He sat up coughing, gripping his aching shoulder. He pulled himself up and limped over the small flames that crawled over the grass. In the blackened crater, his mother was gone. He could not breathe to cry out, he couldn't cry out to once again breath. There was a torrent within him that would not be cast loose. Hunched over and heaving, he squeezed the blasted earth between his fingers, choking on the hollowness beneath his lungs, his stomach and miles below.
When he heard his name he realized his father had called him several times. Ichabod walked with Douglas stumbling against his flank, leading him to his father. His fists still clenched with dirt, Douglas stood over his father. He was swallowing too much, his breaths too shallow and Douglas was unable to look at the man soaked through with his own blood. The dirt fell from his hands and Douglas was unstopped. His agony came down like a flooded river; rising over the sides and pulling everything along with its muddied water. He shouted and wailed, refusing what his world had become on the other side of his closed eyes.
"Douglas, take me home," his father demanded in a weak voice.
By the time he pushed and pulled his father into Ichabod’s saddle, his arms and legs were shaking with fatigue. He mounted behind, and held him in the saddle for the long ride home with arms that felt like wet rope. At every hoof fall, Douglas hoped the ground would swallow them, and damned it for refusing.