Haven Shorts – Chapter 1 – Episode 2 – A Stranger Magic
Chapter 1 – Episode 2
Sam stopped breathing and his body tensed. The beast was massive, towering above him like a giant. It had large, seething, blood-red eyes that cut through the darkness as it moved closer. The area around them was bathed in a pale red hue that glowed in the moonlight.
Sam tried to swallow, but his tongue felt like sandpaper. He wanted to back away, run, but could not move. Frozen like one of those awful-looking statues in the city park, Sam watched the beast emerge from the trees. At first glance he thought it was a massive horse, except for the curling horns at the sides of its head. The creature’s hide was smooth and pitch black. If it was a horse it was the tallest horse Sam had ever seen. It had unnaturally long, thin legs, ending with long, branch-like clawed fingers instead of hooves. The beast moved with an eerie elegance despite its unusual-looking legs. But it was the face that made Sam’s skin crawl. Huge fangs protruded from its mouth, sharp and bloodstained. Its eyes were an empty, soulless crimson that glowed, but never blinked.
Willing himself to move, Sam felt his foot slide backward. Like a child taking his first step, he dragged his foot across the uneven landscape and began to slowly back away. The beast followed, its panting becoming faster and harder. Sam continued to back away as the monster advanced. He was about to turn and run when he heard it.
“Sam, can you hear me? Sam!”
It was Sarah’s voice. It was faint, but where? She must be close by. He looked over his shoulder, scanning the surrounding area. But there was nothing there.
“Sam!” she yelled again.
Sam turned to follow her voice when all of the sudden the trees that stood in his way disappeared. As if by magic the clouds parted and the moonlight seeped through the treetops, illuminating his surroundings once again. Sam looked around and saw a new pathway that cut through the forest. He turned and ran toward Sarah’s voice.
The beast roared into the night, filling the air with its rage. Sam ran as fast as he could. He could see just far enough ahead to follow the curving path. Dark shadows of the enormous trees sped past him. Galloping claws struck the hard ground, echoing loudly into the night as Sam ran for his life.
“Sarah, I’m coming!” he cried out.
“SAM, you moron, I’m right here!”
Sam sprang up in his bed. His eyes flung open. He was blinded momentarily by the light in the hallway. He twisted and turned in his sheets. His bedroom was usually dark except for the flickering street lamp that cast the occasional weak glimmer of light through his window. Sam was drenched in sweat and his heart was still pounding. He saw the lanky silhouette of his sister standing in the doorway.
Sarah, she was okay.
With her hands on her hips, she stood like a beacon of reality. Quickly, the bitter sense of normality that Sam was all too familiar with came rushing back to him. He had no doubt been dreaming again, and his sister had, unfortunately, witnessed it all.
“Are you ok?” she asked. “It’s the middle of the night! Are you trying to wake up everyone on the street?”
Sam wanted to die. This was going to be bad. The fact that he had had a nightmare was one more thing Sarah would add to her arsenal of verbal insults she liked to have on hand. Just because she was two years older than he didn’t mean that he was a child. Last time Sam checked thirteen was still a teenager.
“What … um yeah … yeah I‘m fine,” he said, still trying to catch his breath.
“Well, for the record, you don’t look fine! You look like you ran a marathon. You’re a sweaty mess,” she said, and Sam could hear the aggravation in her voice.
He could only vaguely see Sarah’s face from where he sat in bed, but there was no confusing the look of someone wanting to pulverize you for simply being born.
“I’m FINE!” he said through gritted teeth, just wanting her to leave now. “You’re going to wake up Mom!”
Waking his mother was the last thing Sam needed. As it was, she rarely got any sleep working doubles at the diner. If she knew he was having recurring nightmares she would be worried. Actually, Sam was surprised Sarah had not told her already. But knowing Sarah there was probably some sinister master plan in the works.
Sarah slowly folded her arms in disgust and tapped her right foot loudly. “Well fine. I know better than to argue with an idiot. Besides, you have way too much experience at being one!”
Sam sighed and ran his hands though his hair, trying to remain calm.
“Sarah, the last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list. So please just leave!”
After Sarah left, the room went dark and things were quiet again. The street lamp had stopped for the moment. Sam sat motionless on his bed. Slowly his heart returned to normal, but he was cold now from all the sweat on his body.
He pulled the covers tight and gently lay back into his warm bed. His eyes fixated on the wobbling fan that hung directly above him. He could barely see it now, but he could feel the slight breeze that it provided on his face.
Why? he thought. Why the same dream over and over again? Why was he in a forest? He had never been anywhere like that in his life. He grew up in the suburbs. The only forest he had seen had been on TV in one of those wildlife shows. Speaking of wildlife, what was up with that massive horse thing, and why was it chasing him? The dream had revisited him three nights in a row now, always ending in the same place. Was he going crazy? Would there be guys in white jackets and bad haircuts showing up soon to take him to a psycho ward?
Just the thought of being placed in a wheelchair and dressed in a white gown that opened from the back was bad enough. But being forced to take little red pills to keep him sane, well that was crazy.
Sam lay in bed for close to an hour, thinking about the dream. He could not believe how real it seemed, especially the beast. Those long, protruding fangs, the clawed feet, curling horns, and those eyes—those blood-red eyes. Frustrated, Sam finally climbed out of bed and walked over to the window. He pulled the thin curtains back and looked down at the street below. As usual, there was nothing remotely interesting happening there. There was the small, pitiful patch of grass his mother called a front lawn. It had become brown and crunchy from the lack of rain. There was the crooked street lamp two doors down. The city dump truck had hit it while patching a hole in the road. Since then the light flickered intermittently and kept Sam up most nights, but it looked like it finally had gone out now. At the foot of the lamp post lay Teddy Parkinson’s mangled red bike. Teddy was notorious for leaving his bike on the curb in front of people’s houses. His mother had already run over it twice, and it looked like a third time was in Teddy’s near future. Sam’s eyes wandered up to the night sky. It was clear. The moon was bright and the stars sparkled from above a million miles away. It was all so peaceful. So peaceful, in fact, that there was no reason on earth he should not be able to sleep.
Sam glanced down directly across the street to Mrs. Cambridge’s manicured front lawn. It was so green that he could practically see it in the moonlight. The benefits of a sprinkler system, he thought. Or maybe she really is a witch like everyone says. Mrs. Cambridge was known as the witch lady of Giddyup Lane. Mostly because she was a widow, wore black year-round, and had five fat black cats named Tyco, Bubbles, Reno, Janko, and Nelson. She was an irritable old lady with a hump on her back and a limp when she walked. Her yard was her sanctuary, and if you knew what was good for you, you stayed out of it. Bored, Sam started to turn away when he saw something flash next to the large maple tree in the center of her lawn. It was more of a glimmer really, as if the moonlight struck something reflective.
Mrs. Cambridge never left her house at night and neither did her cats. Sam didn’t know of anyone dumb enough to step foot on her lawn. So what was that?
He rubbed his eyes then focused hard again, staring into the depths of the shadows. His eyes strained to make out any sign of movement.
It could have been Dirty Ernie looking for discarded items in people’s trash again, but tomorrow wasn’t trash day. Dirty Ernie was just that—dirty. The man had not seen the inside of a bathtub in years. At night Dirty Ernie would make his rounds throughout the neighborhood digging for cans or anything else he felt he might get money for. The phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” pretty much summed up Dirty Ernie.
The more Sam thought about it, the more he was convinced that he was just seeing things. It would make perfect sense, he thought. After all, he had not had a decent night’s sleep in what felt like forever. He reached to close the curtains, thinking he would give sleep one more try when he saw it again. Something moved out of the shadows. Sam froze, his hand still gripping the curtain. Narrowing his eyes, he stared down into the yard.
There was definitely something out there; he wasn’t imagining things this time. That was a good sign, he thought. That meant he wasn’t going crazy just yet, and he could put off meeting the guys in the white coats just a little bit longer.
Sam slowly dropped his hand and leaned back against the wall next to the window. He tried to peer inconspicuously through the curtains and down into Mrs. Cambridge’s yard. The dark figure moved back into the shadows behind the large maple tree, as if he noticed Sam looking down at him. But that’s impossible, Sam thought. The stranger was too far away to see him through his window. But if he could see the stranger, then perhaps the stranger could see Sam as well.
Sam could barely see between the curtain and the wall. It was almost impossible to scan Mrs. Cambridge’s entire yard like this. He still couldn’t see anything, but he knew the stranger was still there.
**I will post one EPISODE each week, but there are 50 EPISODE, so this may take a while. If you just can’t wait, you can buy (Just .99) the complete book and the rest of the HAVEN series (More Coming Soon) at Amazon.
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