I've decided that in the process of raising $$ and working on Up Country (or whatever we end up calling it), to release the story in serialized novella form. Every $500 we raise, I'll put out another chapter. I'll be writing it (and revising it) as we go, so if we raise money faster than I can write, so be it. The end won't come until after we hit our goal. Enjoy!
[Carlton Cuse voice]
previously, on UP COUNTRY
John stood at the edge of the clearing, at the road delta, peering into the woods, looking for Mark. Even in the clearing, his cell was still without service.
All his life, he had heard the phrase "the silence was deafening" and assumed it was meaningless, an antiquated idea from a time long since dead. He understood it now. No matter how loud he called out Mark's name, no matter how frantically he yelled, the answer came back the same. Mark, his brother-in-law, was somewhere back there, somewhere between the safety of this field and the clutches of crazy axe murderer.
He wasn't all that fond of Mark. The kid could be kind of annoying, kind of a pain in the ass, but it was worth the domestic tranquility to try and get along with him. Or, at least to make some sort of an effort when the wife was around. But, really it was like that with all of her family. And it wasn't like they weren't polite to him. They were just...well, he just didn't like them. He wondered, sometimes out loud, if she was maybe adopted or something. Because, if you think about it, she didn't have a damned thing in common with her father.
But no matter his opinion of Mark as a human being, he was still family and he needed to make sure he was ok. He couldn't just leave him out there to fend for himself against that lunatic.
When he turned around to explain this, he noticed Paul was hurriedly putting something back in his pocket. He looked caught in the act, like a teenage shoving porn back under the bed as the bedroom door opened. It was a strange thing for Paul to do, but even stranger still was his insistence that they under no circumstances go back for Mark.
"Look," Paul said, regaining his composure, "he clearly can't hear you, so there's really only two things that could have happened back there. Either he got caught or he got away by running in a different direction. If he's caught, then he's fucked. He's dead or he's tied up in a hole somewhere and there's nothing we can do. We go back there to get him and it's a suicide mission."
"It's one guy. We could take him."
"With what, that knife? It's his territory. I'm pretty sure I saw a weapon. Do you even know which way we ran?"
"We don't even know it's just one guy. And if he ran the other way, there's no fucking way we'd find him."
Paul's reasoning made a lot of sense and John knew he was right, but he felt like he didn't have a choice. Like it or not, Mark was family. He had to do it, if for no other reason than his wife would never forgive him if he didn't. And that was a whole different kind of suicide mission. But, if by some miracle he could find Mark or, better yet, rescue him from the bad guy against all odds, he'd be a hero. It would be the ultimate marital trump card. Boy, dear, I don't know how that lipstick got on my collar. I mean, it couldn't have happened at work, or when I was saving your brother's life. So...beats me. It was worth a try.
"Paul, do what you want. I'm going after him."
John turned to head back into the woods when he felt Paul grab his arm and spin him around. Paul's eyes had a determination he'd never seen before.
"I don't know what you're trying to prove, but you can't go back there."
"I have to."
"No, we have to stay together if we're going to find our way out of here. There's no point in the three of us wandering independently around the woods. We're in a clearing, which is our best chance to signal someone for help. If we go back in there, we may never come back out."
"Mark's on his own now. We can't help him."
John took a deep breath. Paul was right, of course. "Fuck it. I'm going."
Paul sighed. "Ok, I'll go with you."
John turned back to the woods and the silence was shattered when a gunshot rang out. In the corner of his eye, he saw Paul drop like a rock. Out of reflex, he threw himself into the tall grass and covered his head.
There was only the one shot. The silence was back. He couldn't even hear himself breathing.
He didn't dare open his eyes.
...to be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $4,000...