Story to Tell
The following is an example how most of the chapters and flashbacks in Beyond the Dead Forest can stand alone as stories to tell and serve as discussion starters. The background of the story given below (Chapter 2 of the book) is that our two twelve-year-old explorers are seeking to discover some clues about a strange, terrifying dead forest that just appeared one day out of nowhere. In the forest there are seven abandoned cabins, only two of which are close enough together to be seen at the same time. The children are in the process of studying the physical characteristics of the cabins when things become deadly.
“This cabin is built directly on top of the ground.”
“Hmm, that is strange. It should be built hovering over the ground,” she said in a mock-serious tone.
Carter, looking annoyed, said, “No, genius. What I mean is that there is no foundation; it’s not anchored in the ground. It just sits on top of the dirt.”
“Do you suppose all the cabins are built like that?”
“I don’t know; let’s check the other twin,” Carter said, and he headed for the other cabin. He was so absorbed in his investigation that he did not even wait to see if Kat was following. On first inspection, it appeared that both dwellings were built on top of the dirt with no foundation. However, after moving the ground cover around with his foot, Carter knelt down and began brushing the rotting debris and dirt aside with his hand. “Kat,” he said excitedly. “There is solid rock here. Go around to the back and see if the same flat rock is under the dirt on that side,” he commanded.
“Yes, sir; right away, sir, would you like me to shine your shoes too, sir?” Kat said as she stood at attention and saluted like an army private. That was her way of telling Carter that she did not appreciate being ordered around like a hired hand.
“Well excuse me all over the place,” Carter said as he looked up at her. Kat was still standing at attention. “Will you please, with sugar and chocolate syrup on top, check out the back area?”
Kat smiled and said, “You bet. I’d do almost anything for chocolate syrup.” She saluted again and ran off to her appointed task.
“Girls,” Carter exclaimed through gritted teeth.
After a brief wait, he heard Kat yell, “There’s rock back here too!” When she returned to the front of the cabin, she found Carter standing in the doorway looking into the center of the structure with his arms crossed.
“I bet if we cut through that wood floor we would find solid rock there as well. Just like I know that if we cut into the wood floor of the twin, over there, we would find nothing but loose dirt.”
“So, what? What difference does it make? Is it important?” Before Carter could respond, the sky and everything around them suddenly turned dark. It was almost as if someone turned a dimmer switch down to darken a room. It was so quick and dramatic that it caused both of them to yelp as if they had been jabbed in the ribs. They looked at the sky to see if the sun had gone out. There was no sign of it. There were only clouds so dark that it looked almost like a night sky without stars.
So frightening was the weird event that the two, out of sheer panic, ran as fast as they could trying to get out of the Dead Forest. In their haste, Kat tripped and fell. She fell so hard that even though Carter was a couple of steps in front of her, he could hear the thud of her body. He stopped and turned to help her.
“Are you okay? Can you run?” he asked as he pulled her up.
“I am afraid you are both in considerable danger,” said a male voice.
The two looked in the direction of the voice and saw a cleanshaven man of average height step out from behind a dead tree. He had gray eyes, a handsome, strong face, and wore a white robe. His hands were crossed and tucked in the opposite sleeves. The robe had a hood, but it was not covering the man’s head. His most shocking feature was his hair: it was so brilliantly white that it looked quite unnatural.
“Who are you? What’s going on here?” Carter demanded.
“There is no time for that now; you must hurry,” said the man just as a huge bolt of lightening filled the sky. The following thunderclap was so loud that it shook the ground. The robed man pointed to the nearest cabin and said, “You must take shelter now.” Due to the partner’s panic-driven run, the closest cabin was the first one they had examined, the one built on top of the dirt.
“Come on, Carter; he’s right. This storm is going to be dangerous, and we need to get inside. It’s close, Carter; it’s only a few more steps—hurry!” The frightened girl pulled on the boy’s arm.
Carter took a step toward the nearest cabin and then stopped. “No, not that one!” he yelled. He had to yell now because the sound of a mighty wind arose, and it was almost too loud to talk over. With every passing moment, it blew harder and louder. Even though the wind was blowing in the direction of the nearest shelter,
Carter insisted, “We must get to the other cabin.” To make things worse, a heavy rain started to fall.
“You do not have time for that; it is too far away,” said the man. Though the partners had to yell to be heard over the wind and rain, they could easily understand the robed man as he spoke in a normal conversational tone.
Kat was still pulling on Carter’s arm as she screamed, “Please, Carter, hurry!”
Carter grabbed the girl by her upper arms, looked in her eyes, and shouted, “Trust me, Hamsted.”
She stopped struggling, met the boy’s eyes, and nodded. Kat let Carter lead her back toward the cabin built on the rock.
“No! You will not make it in time if you go to that cabin,” the whitehaired man said. His voice was still easy to hear over the storm. It had a sharp edge of authority to it and something else … Was it contempt?
The determined boy spared a glance over his shoulder at the stranger. What he saw frightened him more than the storm. Just as he looked back, a flash of lightening lit up the man’s face, and it was no longer handsome. It was hard and cruel, full of anger and hatred. It was like nothing he had ever seen on any face before. Despite the chaos of the storm raging all about, this strange man looked like he was standing in total calm. His robe was not moving in the wind. His hair was perfectly still, and he was completely dry.
Carter turned all his energy to getting Kat to the shelter built on the rock foundation. He needed to focus because he was trying to move against the powerful wind and pelting rain. The storm was so fierce that he started to doubt if they were going to make it. Lightning was flashing all around them. Suddenly, a huge bolt of white hot electricity hit a dead tree only a few feet away, and it exploded into a thousand pieces, showering them with chunks of dead wood. Kat screamed, “We aren’t going to make it. I shouldn’t have listened to you. We’re going to die!”
That was the push Carter needed. “We’re going to make it. Now run. Run for your life!” he yelled at her. He tightened his grip on her arm and almost dragged her the last few yards to the cabin. Just as they stepped through the doorway, they heard what sounded like a wild animal shrieking in pain. They turned and looked back to where the strange man stood. As the lightning flashed, they could see him looking up and pulling his hair with both his hands. The shrieking was coming from him; it was the sound of angry defeat.
The storm continued to rage long after they entered the shelter. For a time it worsened to the point that it drowned out the sounds coming from the creature, or man, or whatever he was. Kat reached out and threw her arms around Carter; she had never done anything like that before. Rather than protest, Carter put his arm around her. They stood in the dark cabin, trembling with fear. They never imagined that they would ever experience anything as terrifying as this.
Though Carter could no longer hear the thing outside screaming over the sounds of the storm, he was, however, able to see him with each lightning flash. The sight of him sent a constant stream of fear through the boy. Then suddenly, he saw that the man-thing had stopped screaming. He was looking at Carter and Kat with eyes bulging and face contorted in rage to such a point that it was obvious that nothing human could look so hideous. It caused Carter to take a step back. Then with a last flash of lightning, Carter saw the creature actually ride the lightning bolt back into the sky.
After he disappeared, the storm died down quickly. The wind slowed, the rain stopped, and the clouds began to break up. The partners cautiously emerged from their shelter. “Look,” Kat said and pointed to where the cabin built on the loose dirt once stood. “It’s totally destroyed.” Carter looked and saw that there was nothing left of the foundationless building. “Oh, Carter, you were right. If we had gone into that other cabin, we would have been killed.” Carter usually took every opportunity to say I told you so. However, this felt like a time just to be glad that they were still alive. So instead, he smiled and just said, “Yeah, I know.”
The reader will no doubt recognize the truth being illustrated in this story is that the type of foundation a person builds his/her life on will determine how well one survives the challenges of life.