Excerpt: Thunder blasted against the night sky, with harsh, autumn winds that whistled aloud eerily, as if announcing the arrival of something pure evil on its way. Even the skeletal trees with their long withered branches reached out, as if waiting to snatch any passersby. A short distance away, a group of college-aged hikers had ventured out for an extended walk, but lost their way. They were now left out in the cold night, in dense forestry and out of food and water.
“All right,” said Alex Frazier, the young man leading the group, “first let’s check to confirm that we’re all here.” He called out the names of each group member and they all nodded accordingly.
“Jim Woolson, Julie Fireson, William “Bilko” Johnstone, Mike Preeson, Hugh “Shuggy” Rusk, and Mary Smith.”
Following this, they unloaded their backpacks and put up tents, after which they collected some fallen twigs and built a large campfire.
“All right.” Alex rubbed his hands to stay warm and took the initiative. “If we all sit closer around the fire, it will take our minds off the chill. Anyone who’s tired, don’t hesitate to turn in. As for the rest of us, well, I figured it might not be such a bad idea to do a bit of storytelling.”
“Oh, that’s a brilliant idea, Alex!” retorted Jim Woolson. “So who’s going to tell the story?”
“Well…” Alex smiled. “Why don’t we all take turns?”
“What kind of stories?” asked Mike Preeson. “I don’t fancy anything scary. We’re lost and miles away from our homes. That’s the last thing we need.”
“They don’t have to be scary,” answered Alex. “They can be on any theme you like. Just unleash and unwind your imaginations. Give us something we can all sit up and enjoy listening to.”
“I’m not good at telling stories,” said Julie Fireson. “Mary isn’t either.”
“Well, let us be the judge of that,” replied Alex. “Anyway, it’s not a competition, just a bit of fun to keep each other amused and entertained.” He paused to study the others’ reactions as they nodded.
“Good.” Alex stood and searched around the ground until he spotted a creepy looking green bottle protruding from the ground. Later on, under unpleasant circumstances, he’d learn that the bottle contained the trapped Aztec demon Camazotz, or “death bat,” associated with night, death, and sacrifice. But at that moment, he knew nothing about this.
Camazotz saw Alex approaching, rubbed his claws and grinned wickedly, then said to himself, “Finally, my meal has arrived!”
Alex pulled out the bottle, using both hands. Despite its tight seal, it looked ancient and the debris obliterating its contents smelled rancid. He grinned. “This is perfect.”
He then returned to the campfire, holding it in his right hand. “Right, I’m now going to spin this bottle around the grass. Whoever it points to, he or she will tell their story, or tale.”
Inside the bottle, Camazotz flapped his wings and said in a squeaky voice, “I shall teach these meddlesome brats a lesson they shall never forget. But first, I’ll toy with them; after all, I’ve waited so long for this moment. I’m going to keep them wondering and start my mischief by performing a magic spell and drawing horrific stories from their minds. Once they’ve all told their tales, I will decide their fate. One thing is certain; none of them will live to see the light of day. Ha ha ha ha ha!”
And so, Alex spun the bottle. Round and round it went, until it stopped at…Mary.
“All right,” said Mary feebly. “I’ll tell my story, but please don’t be too critical as I’m not a professional. It’s about a troubled young man and his association with a seemingly ordinary large black bird.” Her eyes then focused slowly and deliberately into the crackling flames in the dead of night. She began her story which she named…
It sat perched on the damp ashes of her love letters. Already nine days had passed since the demise of “that romantic old fluff.” At least that was how Tom pictured his mother. How he yearned to have her back now, but it was too late; or so it seemed.
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Review by: BarniTheBunny on Nov. 23, 2013 :
Could not put this down. Genuinely original and good fun to read.
(reviewed the day of purchase)