A First Rough Draft of a story being considered for National publication.
|(This is a First Rough Draft of a story being considered for National publication. Feel free to tear it apart and put it back together again...constructively. Primarily, I am looking for proper punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, tense usage, and so forth. Do not be concerned about offending me with your review. I can handle HONEST comments. I have been writing a long, long, time. Also, if there is something you particularly enjoy about this story let me know that, too.)
Enchanted Woods (Working title, for now)
No one who entered the Enchanted Woods ever came out again. Marty Jefferson, Convict Number U131754, glanced back over his left shoulder. He could hear the howling pack of bloodhounds hot on his trail. But, he would not go back. Marty could not return to that awful place. The dreaded hole was more than any man could possibly endure. He would rather be dead.
As a young, barefoot, boy growing up on Elm Mountain, Marty had heard all the horror stories about these woods. Dark and foreboding. Sinister and evil. These were the adjectives most often used to describe them. And, that says nothing about what was alleged to have happened deep within them. To this day it was rumored the ghost of Larry Clay haunted these woods.
A deranged mass murderer of little children taken from their beds while they slept, Larry Clay had been dragged out to these woods by a vigilante mob of hooded assailants one cold, dark, New Year's Eve at midnight. He was beaten beyond recognition, lynched on a tall tree by a short piece of rope, and his body set on fire.
Sixteen months later, Larry Clay was exonerated of all charges that had been levied against him, and his good name restored. Caught in the act of sodomizing a five year old boy, Ezra Johnson, a drunken half-breed, confessed to perpetrating the grievous acts Larry Clay had been falsely accused of.
Marty Jefferson was well acquainted with Ezra Johnson. They were cellmates. The prisoner pressed on. For him there was only one direction to go. As long as he kept moving he had a chance for freedom. Anywhere, including these woods, was better than Reginald Island, the prison labor camp. Marty Jefferson had nothing to lose.
Life without parole, at hard labor, in the state's most notorious lock-up, did not suit him. Nor did swinging a ten pound hammer from sunrise to sunset.
"Building character," as the extremely abusive, madman, warden of the institution referred to what the men, condemned to making big rocks into little rocks, spent their lives doing.
That, and the biting sting of the lash that frequently lacerated their backs and drove them unmercilessly to their tasks.
Marty Jefferson's escape began when he hit a guard that sweltering day. He scaled a fence, and did what no other man before him had ever done. He broke out of the hideous excuse for existence he was barely existing in. Now, he was on the lam. The wrought iron ball and chain encircling Marty Jefferson's right ankle significantly slowed his progress down. But, he knew he had to enter these woods.
Night time darkness made them eerier. Still, they were a better alternative than the savage hounds baying behind him. Making his way deep inside their twisted trunks, and gnarled branches, Marty Jefferson tripped over a half buried rut he did not see in the shadows, cursed loudly, and picked himself up again.
He thought he heard a voice speaking his name. That was preposterous. Then he thought he was losing his mind. No one knew he had escaped into these woods. Once again, Marty Jefferson heard his name being called. This time the sound was louder than the first time, and distinctly clear. But who? How?
Marty Jefferson sat down on a hollow stump to rest. Behind him he heard the hounds barking and snarling ferociously at the outermost edge of the tree stand. They did not enter.
"Relax, Marty," he heard a sweet, lemon-drop, unknown female voice softly say to him, "you are safe here. The hounds will not enter these woods."
Startled by what he heard, Marty Jefferson slowly looked around. There was no one there. He felt the taut chain around his ankle jerk. Once, twice. That spooked Marty because he was not the one tugging on the chain. A third yank, and he felt the ball and chain fall loose from around his sore leg. The relief was welcome.
"Grade Two iron," Marty Jefferson heard that same female voice say to him, "how primitive."
Not sure what he would find, Marty forced himself to look down at the ground where his leg was. He discovered no one there. Marty sat up higher on the stump he was resting on with a start. Insanity seemed to be knocking loudly on his doorstep.
"You were expecting perhaps Bridget Bardot?" the voice he kept hearing asked Marty mockingly, then told him in no uncertain terms, "she's busy."
"Show yourself!" Marty strongly demanded, "Who are you?"
"Take a long look around Marty," the voice told him, "from now on I will protect you."
Marty Jefferson slowly surveyed what he could see of the woods in the dim moonlight. His eyes spotted no one there. "What do you want from me?" he demanded.
"Everything, and nothing," he was told.
"Don't talk to me in riddles," Marty angrily replied.
"Take another look around you, Marty," the voice said, asking him, "what do you see?"
"Oaks, laurels, dogwoods, and several other species of trees," the tired Marty Jefferson wearily commented.
"They can all be yours forever Marty," the voice told him, "but, for now, sleep. Everything will be clear in the light of day."
Marty Jefferson made a bed of multi-colored red, brown, green, and gold leaves. Exhausted from his prison break, he stretched out on them. They felt good. The pallet was the softest bedding he had laid down on in six years. The cold, steel rack he left behind in his cell on the work farm became a distant memory.
When Marty awoke, with the crack of dawn the next morning, there was a cabin standing beside him that had not been there the night before.
"You like?" he heard the voice that he had conversed with upon entering the woods ask him. Then, it said, "It's all yours."
Marty Jefferson was baffled.
"All you have to do is stay with me forever," the siren lovingly urged him.
Hesitating before responding, Marty Jefferson said, "Stay with you forever? I don't even know who you are."
The trees in the woods surrounding him began gently swaying back and forth. Marty noticed there was no breeze blowing. This certainly piqued his curiosity.
"You must be famished from your long journey Marty," the voice remarked tenderly, telling him, "I have prepared eggs, bacon, toast with strawberry jam, and piping hot coffee for you."
Marty Jefferson was hungry. The offered food would be much better than the slop he had subsisted on in the prison dining hall.
"Your banquet awaits you inside your cabin Marty," he was told, "go. Feast until your heart is content."
Marty Jefferson paused. The invitation was inviting. What had he done to deserve this kindness? After all, he was a convicted murderer. Looking at the cabin, who's entrance door was now wide open, he remembered that fateful night.
As the river of memories flooded his mind the trees in the woods continued swaying. Back and forth. Back and forth. Harder than they were before. This puzzled Marty, especially since he did not know why they started swaying at all.
Marty Jefferson had met Stan Chasenova in Lil Red's Irish Pub for a cold refreshment, and to catch up on old times. They shared a couple lagers, as an hour or tow passed in small talk. It was then Marty's fiancé, Mary Hartman, joined them.
She was a real good looker. Any man would be proud to have the chestnut-haired beauty hanging on his arm. Marty Jefferson's eye candy was betrothed to him with a spectacular marriage ceremony arranged.
Marty ordered Mary a gin and tonic, as well as another celebratory round for him and Stan. The portly barmaid inscribed their order, and departed their table, to fetch the drinks. Then, Mary dropped a bomb on Marty and it exploded with a supersonic boom! Mary confessed to Marty that she and Stan were romantically involved. But, worse than that, Stan Chasenova had placed a rock as big as New York City on Mary's hand that morning.
Stunned by hearing this proclamation, Marty Jefferson enraged. He reached into the pocket of the jacket he wore a retrieved a snub-nosed .45. Two shots rang out. Mary Hartman was hit right between her baby blue eyes. She slumped into her chair. Blood oozing out of the entrance hole the bullet made in her head.
Stan Chasenova took the second round in the middle of his chest. Marty Jefferson did not regret slaughtering either one of them. As far as he was concerned they both got an early wedding present from him. Nothing more.
The swaying of the trees, coupled with these haunting recollections, made Marty Jefferson's head spin like a top out of control. Good food would go a long way in refreshing his outlook on life.
Suddenly, bolting as fast as he could run, Marty Jefferson raced out of the woods without looking back. He had not travelled far when he realized he was rapidly sinking in quicksand. Sunk up to his neck, Marty desperately grabbed for an overhead branch hanging off the tree closest to where he was struggling to stay afloat. Mysteriously, as Marty's head went under, the knotted oak folded its extended branch like Marty could been his elbow. The last sound Marty Jefferson ever heard was the evil, hearty, hysterical, laughter of the woods in a soft, feminine voice.
No one who entered the Enchanted Woods ever came out again.