Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Excerpt: Once Upon a December Nightmare


It's time for another Friday Excerpt. This one is from Once Upon a December Nightmare and includes James's POV.

You can read the beginning in last week's post here.


2. James

The truck hopped once again along the rutted road. James considered how the deer’s throats had been slashed, too ragged to be from a knife. What had killed them? But he didn't know. He pushed aside his thoughts. It was strange, but nothing they could do about it. He shrugged off the horror of that clearing. A grin plastered itself to his face as he fiddled with the radio knob until it picked up a country station. Hank Williams, Sr.’s “There’s a Tear in my Beer” blared through the static of the speakers.

“Do we have to listen to that?” Cassie cringed and threw her hands over her ears.

“You live in the country, Cassie. You should learn to like country music.” James chortled before singing along. Denise’s voice joined his. How could someone live in the country and not like Hank Williams, Sr.? He turned up the radio dial even louder to further annoy Cassie who had pulled up the hood of her coat and smashed her hands against it and her ears to block out his caterwauling.

The headlights flickered.

He paused mid-note. The truck was twenty-five years old and not in the best of shape, but he didn’t think much about it until they wavered again.

“Is something wrong?” Denise turned the radio down.

“Nah, we’re all right.” He gave her a comforting smile, not wanting to worry his girlfriend. “Oh, by the way, when we get back, I’ll be heading home tonight. I have to work early in the morning.”

“On a Sunday?”

“They called me in this afternoon.” He smoothly lied.
“Okay, sure, but why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Denise glanced over to her sister and friend before looking back at him. “I thought you were going to stay the night again.”

“You wanted me to come along, didn’t you? But I have to work. It’s closer for me to stay at my place since we’ll be getting back late.” James huffed.

Denise had begged him to come along. She wanted to show him off to her old friend, the always single Cassie. He would have liked to stay with his own “old friend” April for the night instead, and thankfully Denise didn’t have a clue about April. When his old girlfriend had returned to town a few weeks ago, he was thrilled to see her. They picked right back up with their relationship that began in high school. He liked Denise a lot, but he enjoyed April too. It wasn’t the first time he juggled two girls.

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.” Denise crossed her arms and stared straight ahead.

The truck continued along the twists and turns of the bumpy, hilly road. Hank William Sr.’s voice faded away and changed into the upbeat Dolly Parton singing “9 to 5.” Yet, they had all fallen into a state of uneasy silence. James glanced over at the three women beside him. It was unusual to hear them quiet. Women rarely stop gabbing when in a group. He chuckled to himself, but the laughter drifted away.

The headlights went out completely. He slammed on the brakes. The truck skidded to a stop and threw them forward.

“What happened?” Cassie asked.

“Why did the lights go out?” Mary added, a touch of fear entering her voice.

“It’s nothing,” James said in his best comforting I’m-the-man–and-I’ll–fix-it tone. “Let me check under the hood. Probably a wire jarred loose.”

He turned off the engine and popped the hood. After climbing out of the vehicle, he lifted the hood and propped it up. He squinted at the shadowy engine. It was too dark to see anything beyond dark blobs, so he returned to the truck.

“Help me find a flashlight. I can’t see squat out there.” He reached behind the seat and grabbed the rusty red toolbox. A hammer, various wrenches, a screwdriver, but no flashlight. They’d be screwed if he couldn’t get the truck started. While he searched for the flashlight, Denise scrounged around in the glove compartment. The overhead light illuminated them all, and he rolled his eyes when he saw Mary and Cassie just sitting there.

“Check under the seat, Cassie,” James said, putting the toolbox back.

Cassie leaned forward. Her dark hair hung in front of her eyes while she searched for the flashlight. “I don’t feel anything there.”

“Get out and check.” James huffed, trying to figure out where the flashlight was. The truck door opened, and Cassie checked under her side of the seat. When was the last time he saw the light? “You didn’t take the flashlight out, did you, Denise?”

“Well, I told you I used it the other day when the lights were out,” Denise said. “Didn’t you put it back?”

James tried to keep calm, but his patience was wearing thin. “I told you that the flashlight needed more batteries. I thought you had gotten them and put the flashlight back. Did you go to the store and get them?”

“No, I haven’t had a chance yet. I’m not the only one who can do things.” Denise glared at him.

“I know that. I’m not the one sitting on my—” James held his tongue before “fat ass” came out of his mouth. He didn’t want to air dirty laundry and have this argument in front of her little sister, Mary, and her sister’s friend. At times, he was half-tempted to break up with Denise, especially since April was back, but he wasn’t about to screw up the holidays. “Hand me your lighter. I’ll see if I can figure out what is wrong.”

Denise threw it at him, but he caught it. He took it with him and purposely left the door open.  

Let them freeze.

He flicked the lighter on and used the tiny flame to search underneath the hood. Although he considered himself handy around a vehicle, he could barely tell the battery from the radiator in this light, or lack thereof. He couldn’t see if anything was loose.

“Damn it.” He slammed the hood down and went back into the truck. “I don’t have enough light. Let me try starting the engine again.”

He turned the key in the ignition. After three tries, the engine turned over, but they still had no headlights. Without lights, it would be too dangerous to continue down the winding mountain road. There were no guard rails, and some parts dropped off in a steep cliff. He turned the engine off. “Let’s see if we can call someone. We can’t go anywhere in the dark.”

All of them, except for Cassie who didn’t have one, pulled out their cell phones and searched for some bars.

“Any signal?” A hint of panic flashed through Cassie’s eyes—could she possibly be scared?—but she sounded calm.

Denise shook her head, snapping her phone shut. “No luck here.”

James opened the door again and stood, pointing his cell phone toward the star-speckled sky. “I have a bar. Let me try calling.”

He dialed Denise’s mom’s number, but it didn’t even give half a ring.

“We need more than one bar to call out.” He sank back down on the leather seat.

“Let me see with my phone.” Mary motioned for Cassie to get out. James went around to the other side to help Mary climb into the back of the truck and get onto the roof. He watched as she held her cell phone up as high as her five-foot frame would go. If only it would work, he could go to his warm bed with April in it.

“I have two bars!” She dialed the number.

James could hear the ring from where he stood and bounced on his feet. Come on, pick up!

Then she lost the signal, tried again, but had no luck. “Sorry, guys,” she said, and James helped her down and back into the truck.

They weren’t likely to get a signal by standing here, so he turned toward the blonde, brunette, and the redhead. “I’m gonna go and find help. We can’t be too far from the main road. Perhaps three, four miles. I can probably get a cell signal then.”

It shouldn’t take him more than an hour or two. He’d call Denise’s mom, she could drive and pick him up, and then they could go back and get the girls. It would all work out fine. 

Yes, in real life the truck's lights went out and none of the cell phones worked. Very ripe for a horror movie, right? If you enjoyed the excerpts, then please consider purchasing a copy. It's only $0.99.

To Purchase:  Amazon US / UK / DE / FR / ES / IT   Smashwords   Nook   Kobo  iTunes

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's going from bad to worse. And I'd guess James gets it first.

Summer Ross said...

I hope it works out. I've often found real life to be a great excuse to write horror. When i was younger I bore witness to many scary things which is fruitful in my adult life with writing. Thanks for sharing.

M.J. Fifield said...

This is a perfect story for this time of year...

Off to buy my copy now!

Elana Johnson said...

Awesome! I have been so absent from the blogosphere I didn't realize you have books out! Off to get them!

Tyrean Martinson said...

This is a creepy story, but at this point I'm not as worried about James as I am about Cassie, Denise and Mary. He's kind of turned out to be a jerk.

Unknown said...

Creepy. Nice work Cherie :) you've got me all creeped out just in time for halloween =)

M Pax said...

Uh oh. Broken down vehicle. No cell phone signal -- that's very common around here once you leave town.

Golden Eagle said...

That was based off one of your own experiences? Wow. That must have been really scary.

Christine Rains said...

That's right, James. It'll all work out fine! ;)

Tammy Theriault said...

I agree...good for this time of year...great job!

Anonymous said...

I just downloaded a copy. :)