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       Black Woods: Book 1 (Black Woods Series), p.1

           Laura Wright LaRoche
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Black Woods: Book 1 (Black Woods Series)

  Black Woods

  © 2012 Laura Wright LaRoche All rights reserved.

  Newly revised and edited, Second Edition

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  For Andrew, my inspiration

  A special thank you to,

  BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting


  Cover art designed by

  LLPix Photography

  Wonderful companies working hard for indie authors.

  Table of Contents


  Chapter 1 Mushrooms

  Chapter 2 The Boys

  Chapter 3 Volunteers

  Chapter 4 The Trip

  Chapter 5 Old Friend

  Chapter 6 Library

  Chapter 7 Arrived

  Chapter 8 Friday

  Chapter 9 Celebration

  Chapter 10 The Hunt

  Chapter 11 Dark

  Chapter 12 Imaginary Line

  Chapter 13 Rescue

  Chapter 14 Enter

  Chapter 15 Waiting

  Chapter 16 The Hill

  Chapter 17 The Lake

  Chapter 18 Hospital



  The animal in the densely wooded area is large, fierce, and dangerous. Its eyes glow a violent blue. It is vicious when it attacks, unmerciful with its kill. It watches and waits for the unsuspecting victims to cross its path. Then it quietly observes its prey and slowly stalks the victims.

  Two young brothers were hunting, unaware of the danger that followed them. With guns in their hands, they listened to the sounds of the forest. They were inexperienced hunters, as they were still in their teen years.


  Something heavy stepped on the brittle forest floor. The boys were startled, but recovered quickly as they stood and waited for a possible deer. From the deeply wooded area, their predator appeared, and the young brothers' complexions paled. They found themselves staring into a frightening blue gaze. It released a deafening growl that made their blood run cold. They raised their guns to aim and squeezed the triggers with their sweaty fingers.


  Both bullets hit their mark, penetrating the animal's large frame. The creature twisted its grotesque body, and using its long hind legs, leaped back into the woods, blood pouring from the fresh wounds in its chest.

  The boys stood still, temporarily frozen. They looked at each other. After a moment's hesitation, they ran. Their feet moved along the forest floor swiftly, tree limbs and briars scratching them along the way. They didn't notice, because their attention was riveted on the edge of the tree line in the distance. It looked like a doorway inviting them to safety. As they neared the wood's perimeter, they felt better. Just a few more feet. . .


  They heard the sound again. The beast was close. Too close! Pure terror ran through their bodies as they tried to escape the animal. Their eyes were wide, their mouths drawn tight. Sweat rolled down their bodies in such abundance, they looked as if they'd been caught in a rainstorm.

  When the older boy reached the clearing, he spun around to help his little brother. What he saw was horrific. A large paw slammed down, catching the panicked younger brother in the back. The landing of the paw was so hard, the sound of his lungs exploding could be heard several feet away. The older brother stood in the field and screamed.

  He watched in horror as his brother was shredded by the large beast. Blood shot in the air like a geyser with each blow of the oversized paw. Repeatedly, it clawed at the younger boy, and stopped.

  The animal paused and glared at the terrified boy who stood in the field. The young man was focused only on his brother's lifeless body, as he couldn't look away from all that blood. He didn't notice those eerie blue eyes staring his way, its gaze intense.

  The creature growled again and leaped straight toward the older brother. The sound alerted him, and he raised his head smoothly. He was frozen in his tracks, too frightened to move. The animal soared through the air fiercely, ready to land on the young man.


  The impact was loud as the animal hit an unseen force. The creature fell back to the hot dry earth, looking stunned. After a brief moment, it receded into the woods. The boy didn't have much time to think about what had happened to the animal, or why it suddenly ran. He had to get home with the horrible news.

  He was crying, tripping, and stumbling on the recently plowed field as he ran. When he finally reached his home, his body covered in dirty sweat, he told his family the dreadful story.

  Upon the tale's completion, his father grabbed his gun and ran from the old farm house. He then gathered up a few willing neighbors to help him retrieve his son's body from the woods.

  They arrived to the area where the attack took place. A tortured scream emitted from the father as he gathered the remains of his son's body to his chest and carried him to the wagon. He carefully placed his youngest child down and covered him with a quilt. He refused to return home with the other men and he sent them on their way. He was intent on killing the creature responsible for his son's death.

  After he had listened to his oldest child's description, he knew he must kill the beast to ensure their safety. He entered the thickness of the trees, heading toward an open area further in the forest. He ran as fast as he could, narrowing in on the place he had warned his children never to go near. He knew he must do what was right as he desperately hoped to make it there before the animal found him.

  Suddenly in front of his eyes, he saw the spot he wanted. It was a large open pit; a sink hole almost two hundred feet deep. Only a few feet from the opening...


  He turned around and confronted the animal that killed his child. He raised his rifle as the animal leaped.

  "You will never kill again!" he yelled as they both disappeared into the vast, blackened hole.

  Chapter 1


  We are so excited about the prospect of our day, starting out at dawn and staying out for hours. My sister is always tagging at my side, or maybe it’s the other way around. It’s been this way ever since we were kids.

  It isn’t a long walk from my car, but a rough one, crossing over storm-trodden trees, flooded lowlands, steep stripper hills, briar patches….

  We get to the third valley and like a lightning bolt, my sister is gone, looking. The day has started out great and we are prepared. Our backpacks are filled with the items needed for a long hunt. Water bottles are hung at our sides along with some bags in which to put our main valuables. That's if we are lucky enough to find them, but of course, we always do.

  The hours we spend in the woods looking and picking are the happiest and most exciting times. There is something fulfilling about reaching down and picking that spongy, yellow morel, knowing there will be more before the day is over. It's such a thrill; they are so golden and delicate, definitely a treat to find.

  I stand, staring at the morel mushroom that I have just picked. I hear the wind begin to howl; its sound echoing like a pack of wild wolves. I put the mushroom in the bag hanging from my shoulder (it's a special bag my sister has sewn for me. It allows the mushroom spores to fall back to the
earth). I pat it and wish for more time. It is too early to leave the woods.

  We’ve only been out about an hour when this storm decides to show its ugly face. The sky darkens above my head as angry clouds are fighting for their place in the storm. Oh well, I think to myself, as I start looking for my sister.

  "Julie. . . Julie. . ." I yell, even though I know she can't hear me over this fierce wind blowing.

  Then, all of a sudden, I can’t breathe. I'm paralyzed with fear as a pair of hands reaches around my head, and they try to cover my eyes from behind. After a split second, I get my feet moving and I run quickly, twisting my head back to look over my shoulder. My eyes are watering up with tears of fright. Everything is blurry, but I can see enough to know someone is there. I blink a few times to get them to focus, and I can see clearly again. My sister is standing there, laughing so hard she has tears rolling down her cheeks.

  "I could just kill you!" I shout as I fall to the ground laughing at myself with her. We love playing little pranks on each other, but man, with that wind howling and the smell of rain in the air, I must be a bit jumpier than usual. She rarely gets the better of me.

  My sister helps me to my feet and we head toward the car, both walking a little faster than we normally would. My heart is pounding hard as I still have some lingering adrenaline in my body. We talk about the weather, wishing we had a few more hours to hunt. We enter the main clearing, and I can see the car about two hundred feet away, when the sky decides to open up with force, pouring a waterfall on our heads. I fumble for the keys. . . .


  There are branches breaking off nearby trees. My head begins to pound as a strange headache comes on quickly. Must be the storm, I think as I watch Julie run as fast as her old legs can carry her. I am only a few steps behind. The rain stings my face and arms like needles at an acupuncturist's office.

  "Man, that hurts on bare skin," I say, more to myself than to my sister.

  We both climb into the car, slamming the doors behind us. Dripping wet now, we look at each other and burst into laughter, at the thought of Julie's prank and my spastic reaction only a few minutes ago.

  "I think the weatherman was wrong today!" Julie says to me as she wipes some rain from her face.

  I look through the windshield, wipers on full speed, and the rain is so thick it’s like a wall sealing us off from the outside world. My headache is worse. I dig in the glove box for a bottle of aspirin.

  "Guess we’ll just wait this one out!" Julie says.

  I glance in her direction.

  "I was just thinking the same thing."

  "We wouldn’t want to wind up in one of the lakes out here. We'd end up sliding off the road like B...B...Brick did!" she says.

  We are laughing again before she finishes the last word. How anyone could forget the day when that truck sat face up in the lake with its lights still on is beyond me. It sat at the bottom like a sunken bathtub toy. Our nephew, Brick, was lucky he got out of the stupid old truck in time. It happened on this stretch of road, no more than half a mile away.

  That was a long time ago. The road had been unnamed then. The county department put up a road sign a few years after that: "Truck Road." It was a great source of amusement for our family.

  We wait the storm out, the car windows fogging up from our hot breaths. We decide to relax. Julie reclines her car seat, closes her eyes, and then peeks at me from under one lid. "Don't you dare try to scare me! Please..." she begs, acting all innocent.

  "I should, but I won't."

  "Do I have your word?"

  I roll my eyes. "Okay, word."

  She closes her eyes again and falls asleep quickly.

  I start drifting in thought as memories assault me. We have spent so many years in these woods together, my sister and I. I look over at Julie sleeping soundly. She is snoring now, drool pooling on the corner of her mouth. She isn't just my sister, but also my best friend, a rare thing in most families. Oh, how we’ve aged! We are now in our early 60’s with Julie just a few years older than I am.

  Maybe we are getting too old for this crap? I think to myself as she shifts to get more comfortable. It is so much easier these days for us to take a nap, something we never thought we would do. It's something our parents did, not us, but here we are, resting. I think, Oh well, better to grow old than die young! It's a saying that will always remain true.

  Julie's complexion is still lovely. She has golden-blonde hair, with a smile most of the time. Being a simple country girl, hiking around in the woods must be good for her. She doesn't look a day over fifty.

  My children are grown, and so are hers. Now we are great-grandmas. Quietly, we wait out a spring storm on a late April day, as we have done so many times before.

  I glance in the rearview mirror to look at my reflection. I am slightly overweight, but still blessed with all that thick curly brown hair. It’s really a curse on a day like this; my hair's nothing but frizz.

  Feeling slightly hungry, I reach in the back seat to retrieve my backpack. I find a beef stick, and it reminds me of the treats we give our dog. I bite down on the rubbery meat, wondering if our dog might like it as I swallow. I just can’t sleep today. I am inquisitively thinking about the woods so close to us, those black woods. There are stories that go back for years about all the horrible deaths; all so brutal and some unexplainable.

  There is a faint movement in the car and I divert my attention away from the woods. Looking in my sister's direction, my thoughts of the Black Woods are fading. She is waking up, wiping the drool from her chin. She rubs her eyes with the back of her hands and gets a drink of water. She rummages around in the console and locates her cell phone.

  "Wow! I’ve been sleeping for over an hour. Did you sleep?"

  "Sure did, but not as long as you. I guess I don’t need as much sleep as you, Old Woman," I answer, smiling.

  "Oh, whatever," she says, waving her hand as a child often does.

  I don’t know why I lied to her. Maybe I didn’t want to voice I was thinking about those surrounding woods. I try to keep them quietly in my mind. I know she thinks about those woods. I can see it in her face every now and then, when we are out in our woods.

  "Well, the rain has stopped. Want to hit the woods for some picking?" I ask, knowing good and well that she did.

  We get our gear and wade through the flooded parking spot, heading back to the safety of our woods.

  We spend another three hours gathering mushrooms, sliding and slipping on the wet rocks. The valleys are flooded, and we slosh around until we are soaked to our knees. We don't care, because this is everyday fun for us.

  When it's time to go home, we look like a couple of hogs running wild from their pen. Carrying over five pounds of mushrooms, we walk carefully, but still wind up slipping and falling some more. The storm has made the area less than desirable for hiking, and it looks like we're the only ones in the woods.

  On our way home, we laugh and joke about our day. The mud on our faces cracks as it dries.

  "We look like fugitives from a fancy spa," I say.

  Julie laughs, making the dry mud fall in small chunks.

  "Okay, let's get control of ourselves. My sides can't take any more laughter." She has laughed until it hurts.

  "My headache can't take it either. It's killing me now."

  We slowly settle down the laughter and make the journey home.

  "Well, we made it. See you tomorrow," she says.

  She climbs from the car, just a little slower now because of the mud. It's a good thing I have leather seats, but it's still going to be heck to clean.

  "You bet! It should be a good day after all that rain. It really brings up the mushrooms. And if the weatherman can be believed, it should be a nice day," I tell her.

  "True," she answers before shutting the door behind her.

  Julie walks across her perfectly manicured lawn, holding up her hand to wave as she reaches her porch. She loves gardening and yard work, and
it shows. It's something I've never been good at.

  I laugh as I watch her sitting on the step, trying to get her muddy boots off. I wave, press on the gas pedal, and turn in the direction of home.

  "Well, how many did you find today?" Dale asks.

  There is never any need to look for him. I know exactly where he is, sitting on the couch watching some sci-fi show on our big plasma T.V. There’s always blood and guts shining on that screen. He doesn’t get out much after he retired ten years ago. He served four years in the army then went straight to work for the next thirty-eight years for our city, cutting down trees and repairing power lines. He was a loyal, hard worker, and he deserves his rest now. He's still good looking for a man in his seventies, a little overweight but it suits him well.

  "Oh, the usual," I answer casually.

  Smiling, I hold up the bag for him to see. He shakes his head and looks back at his bloody TV.

  "I suppose I have to clean those?" he asks, not turning around since he doesn't really expect an answer.

  I never could do that duty, as I don't have the stomach for it. If a centipede or a slug crawled from one, I'd be sick for the rest of the day.

  "Either you can or my boyfriend. It's up to you," I tease.

  I love him dearly, and he knows it. Both of us understand we are in a strong marriage of almost forty years.

  "Do you really think your boyfriend would mind doing it this time? I’m tired."

  Dale has a mischievous grin as he waits for my answer.

  "Oh, get your butt off that couch and get the mushrooms cleaned!" I say as I place them on the table, then drag the trash container closer so he won’t have to reach far.

  As of now, we are in pretty good health, but we’ve had our bouts with diseases and other health issues. Knock on wood. Our meals now consist of the usual foods we've always loved followed by a small handful of pills.

  "I’m getting these muddy clothes off and taking a shower. You have the mushrooms cleaned up, and I’ll make your supper. DEAL?"

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