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
It had been months--nay, years--since either John or Paul had run that fast or that far. It was one thing to run at the gym or in a rec league basketball game or to catch the train or any other sort of urban activity that rarely lasted more than a block or two and virtually never had these sort of stakes. And so, when they finally stopped running and crouched down to hide behind a rather large log, it was partly to hide and partly because they desperately needed the rest.
They were too old for this shit.
After a few minutes, when had caught their breath and could be reasonably sure they weren't being chased, John cautiously peered over the log and, seeing nothing, stood up. He looked around and, having done a full turn, could barely even tell which way they'd come. Every direction, to him, looked exactly the same.
Paul was taking a little longer to stand up and was still breathing hard, his back resting against the log.
John pointed at Paul's knee. There was blood seeping through his jeans, partly dried and mixed with dirt and leaves. It looked like an infection waiting to happen.
Paul hadn't even noticed the knee, but was suddenly acutely aware of the pain radiating from his knee. He reached down to touch it and immediately cringed.
"I'm going to need to clean this. Is there any water?"
"No, but I can look around."
"Thanks. Don't go too far."
Priority number one in John's search for water was to not get any more lost than he already was, and that meant not losing track of where he was in relation to Paul. His sense of direction being what it was, he couldn't afford to go very far, and he had no way of leaving a trail to follow back to the log, so finding water was going to be virtually impossible.
He made an effort, albeit a half-hearted one, then took the opportunity to relieve himself on a tree trunk. He was annoyed. Even if he could find water, there was no way to carry it back to Paul, so what could be gained by this reconnoissance mission? Nothing. There was no water around, and if there was, Paul would have to travel to it, so this was pointless.
It was fucking stupid.
But the more John thought about it, the more he realized it didn't necessarily have to be stupid, it didn't have to be counterproductive. Maybe, just maybe, it could prove helpful later in the trip. It could be a useful bit of leverage, properly exploited.
And he was going to need some leverage.
After all, wasn't that why he invited Paul in the first place?
John looked at his watch. He had been looking for water long enough to avoid any questions. He checked his phone again. Still no signal.
He turned to head back. It was easier than he'd expected. The woods all still looked the same, but he could recognize a few trees here and there. In the distance was the log. Behind it, Paul. Somewhere beyond that, an axe murdering serial killer. And, maybe, Mark.
As he approached the log, Paul came into view. He was still sitting down, but had turned so his back was to John. He was busy doing something.
Paul's head whipped around. There was terror in his eyes, which softened when he recognized John. He finished doing whatever it was he was doing and stuck his finger in his mouth.
"How's the knee?"
"Oh, just a little banged up. Any water?"
John shook his head. Something about Paul's answers didn't ring true. He had the panicked mannerisms of a 12 year-old boy caught in the act. What had he been doing?
"You sure you're ok?"
John didn't believe that for a second.
...to be continued...
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