Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month the prompt is to use the theme “out of season.”
Today’s contribution comes from Val Muller, author of the newly-released The Scarred Letter, a young adult reboot of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Bella sat in a circle with the others. The crackling campfire singed the summer air, making Bella flustered and anxious.
“It’s only darkness,” she mouthed.
But Roy Davidson already wore a sinister smile. He had a scary story, alright. He had a scary story last year, too. Too bad it would be two more years until he went away to college. Hopefully by then he’d have better things to do than scare kids.
“They’re just stories,” Bella whispered. She glanced at the line of trees. Maggie’s parents’ cabin was barely visible through the summer foliage. Bella strained her ears for sounds of her parents and the other adults, but the chirping crickets and frogs and other summer-things of the forest were too loud.
How could six grown adults allow their children to camp out alone in the woods? Sure, Roy was sixteen, but the rest of them were younger. Maggie was only ten. Then again, Maggie lived here. She knew the woods. Maybe that made the stories less scary.
Bella, you’re thirteen. When will you grow up? They’re only stories.
Oh, but Roy was a good storyteller.
Without mercy, Roy stirred the fire and licked his lips, ready to spin his tale.
“This legend originated right here in these parts in the time of the Native Americans. There is a darkness that lurks all around us. It is so terrifying that there is no name for it. It knows its power, and it grows as it frightens us. It hides in shadows and lurks in the corners of our minds. It feeds on our fear, but usually we are too busy and brave to think about it. But in the wintertime, the Beast has the best chance of gaining power.
“In the chill of winter, we are forced inside by early darkness. Twilight lingers in the winter, and shifting shadows and bare tree branches claw at our imaginations. The cold of winter forces us indoors, into quiet reflection. And sometimes there is nothing scarier than the depths of our minds. And the snow. Oh, how the snow muffles sound in the cold darkness…”
Roy glared at Bella across the fire. He jammed a stick again, stirring the ashes and dimming the light, diminishing the heat. In a grim voice, he continued his tale about a bitter, cold winter in this very forest when an entire tribe was forced to all but hibernate for one full moon cycle. The cold dark bred fear, allowing the unnamed terror to manifest in the flesh. The next spring, scouts from a nearby tribe found nothing but bodies, slain by each others’ hands, just starting to thaw.
“Beware,” he had said. “When it gets too dark or too cold, you must control your thoughts. The Beast awaits, and your fear may be an invitation to him that ends up hurting us all…”
Later, in the tent, Bella clasped her sleeping bag, pulling it up to her chin. Despite the mild summer night, she couldn’t keep warm. The grownups had said any of the kids could return to the cabin if they were scared or uncomfortable. But even Maggie was okay with camping. How could Bella admit to the others that she couldn’t handle one night in the woods? Besides, she would be too scared to walk the path to the cabin in the darkness.
So she pulled her sleeping bag tighter and strained her ears to hear above the snores coming from her tent and the tent next to her. Outside there were crickets, but there was something behind the crickets. It was silence. Silence in the darkness. She sunk lower into her sleeping bag and couldn’t help feeling a chill with the bite of winter in the darkening summer evening.
It was going to be a long night.
The Spot Writers- our members.
RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Kathy Price: http://www.kathylprice.com