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. We've hit our goal, but we haven't finished the story yet. Enjoy!
[Carlton Cuse voice]
previously, on UP COUNTRY
At first, it was nothing but silence and darkness.
The first thing to come back was the sound of breathing--heavy and labored, a little panicked. Then, birds chirping, the wind rustling, until finally John dared open his eyes.
Through the grass he could see a foot, then a leg. Paul was prone, not moving, and John was pretty sure he'd been shot. Without Paul, John knew he was fucked. It was simply a matter of the bad guys picking them off one by one. First Mark had been taken by the guy with an axe, and now Paul had been gunned down in a clearing. He wondered if there was more than one guy. Was the axe murderer working with the Guide? And if so, was there a third person? One guy he could elude. Two people, maybe. But three? Four?
On top of that, Paul was the one with the wilderness experience, the one who knew which berries you could eat and which were poisonous. John was pretty sure he could keep his bearings, but if he didn't know which way he was supposed to go, what good was that?
As John started to contemplate his next step, he noticed Paul's foot had moved. He was alive. But there was no telling if it was safe, so he had to stay quiet, he had to keep his voice down.
Paul's head whipped around and a sense of relief broke over his face. John held a finger over his lips and Paul nodded. They would have to communicate silently, using nothing more than hand gestures and lip reading.
"You ok?" John mouthed.
Paul nodded. "You?"
"Is it clear?" Paul couldn't see anyone, but wanted to be sure.
"Maybe?" John motioned for Paul to come toward the grass, and was careful to form the word, "Slowly."
Paul put his head down and used his elbows to work his way over to the grass. He angled himself to where he could have a better view of the clearing.
John made the universal signal for a gun with his hand and pointed toward the direction of the shot. It was the direction from which they had come. Could there be any doubt about the intentions?
Paul didn't need to do anything to communicate the next part. His face said it all. Paul was right. They couldn't go back to the camp. There was an axe and now a gun versus their knife. Going that way was out of the question. Mark's best chance was for them to find their way out and send the police in after him.
But first, they had to get the hell out of this clearing.
They looked around. The best they could tell, they were surrounded by woods. Logic dictated that their best move was to head for woods that were close, while being in the opposite direction from which they came.
John pointed over his shoulder and Paul nodded.
John held up three fingers.
They both pushed themselves up onto their hands.
Then their knees.
Hunched over, their heads down, they ran as fast as they could, trying to stay below the grass line whenever possible. The woods loomed. Another shot rang out, this one farther away (was it a warning shot?), and they threw themselves into the woods.
And still they ran, weaving in and out of trees, taking some solace in the fact that the tree trunks would at least deflect a bullet. The branches whipped at their faces, at their clothes, but they didn't care.
After a while, when John was reasonably sure they had put enough distance between themselves and the clearing, he slowed to a stop. Paul slowed too and they both took a minute to catch their breath.
Hands on their knees, they struggled for air and looked around. There was nothing but trees in every direction. Nothing looked familiar. Nothing looked any different than anything else.
Had they run father into the woods or closer to the highway? There was no way to tell. John pulled out his cell phone. There was still no service.
But at least no one was shooting at them. That was something, at least.
...to be continued...
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