Tamara’s Troubles

Here’s the next segment of What Happens Next? (Psst, like the new title?)

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Brandon, chest slicked with sweat, emerged from the woods. Illuminated in the moonlight, his muscled bulk appeared twice its normal size. Dark veins trekked along his arms and legs. His eyes flashed a luminous green. Fangs spilled over his bottom lip. He smiled, revealing two rows of uniformly sized, sharp-edged teeth. “I told you, escape was impossible.” He clicked his long, claw-like nails.

Jack’s satisfied laugh sounded behind me.

It couldn’t be true. Fangs? Claws?

Brandon snarled. “You look scared, Tamara.”

“What are you?” My heart slammed against my ribcage. Adrenaline squeezed my chest.

“Really? You don’t know?” He rolled his eyes. “And I thought you were one of the smarter ones.”

“But we…” Spent time in the sun. Time alone. Time…together.

“Wah, wah. You always do this. I’m bored. Let’s just finish her already,” Jack whined.

My boyfriend turned vampire raised a hand. “I’m not done yet.”

“You take. Too. Long.”

Brandon stepped on the pavement. “You got a problem with how I do things?”

Jack shoved past me. “Yeah. I got a problem. Like I said. You take too long. You’ve had the past month to play with her. Time’s up.”

The two monsters lashed at one another, vying for dominance. Jack growled and lunged at Brandon. The impact sent both of them barreling back into the woods.

I stared, slack jawed, as the trees swayed and snapped from their battle.

Go. Run! My self-preservation instinct screamed.

I listened and took off at a gallop toward town. At my best, I could run a six minute mile. That meant I’d be at Anne-Marie’s in less than twenty.

Hopefully, Brandon and Jack forgot about me. Their crashing faded the more distance I put between us.

A pair of headlights blinded me. The car approached fast. I shifted to the side of the road and waved my arms, still running.

“Hey! Stop!”

The vehicle slowed and veered toward me. I dodged out of the way, relieved someone came along.

The passenger window opened before the sedan came to a full stop.

“Hey. You okay?”

I didn’t ask permission to get in. Locking the door behind me, I yelled, “Hurry, I’m being chased.”

“All right, all right.” The man drove on. “Who’s chain’ ya?”

“No, no, turn around! Don’t go that way. I need to get to town.” I hated the high-pitched tone of my voice, but if the monster pair saw us, they’d probably split the car in two. Heck, Brandon had snapped a tree in half.

“But I’m heading this way.” Mr. Middle-aged, dressed in a polo shirt and khakis, glanced at me.

“You don’t understand, they’ll hurt you too. They’re…” I stopped, at a loss for words.

His brow wrinkled. “They? Who?”

“Never mind. Just please turn around.” We rounded the bend and nearly crashed into the felled tree. I screamed and grabbed the dash, breaking a nail below the quick.

The driver swerved just in time, sending the sedan into a fishtail. He counter-steered and righted the car with stunt driver deftness.

“What the hell?” He looked in the rearview, then at me. “Did you set me up?”

“What?”

“Did you know that the tree was there?”

“No, of course not!”

The man frowned and pulled the car over.

I glared at him. “Why are you stopping?”

He stuck a finger in my face. “I don’t appreciate getting pranked by some stupid teenager. Look at you. You’re covered in dirt. Probably high. I bet you thought it would be funny to get an old guy to wreck his car, right?”

Why would I have to be picked up by a crazy man? “I’m not–”

“Get out.” He unlocked the doors.

“No, please, I–”

“Get out!” He reached across me, opened the door, and shoved me to the ground. He drove off before I could even stand.

The night around me was quiet.

Back to square one.

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What Happens Next? You Decide! Chapter 7

How’s Tamara gonna get out of this?!

Jack grinned. “Yeah. And we’re just getting started.”

Eli’s arms restraining me made breathing difficult. Sharp pains spasmed in my chest. Whimpers fell out of my mouth. I wondered what exactly they were planning. Of course, my mind went to the worst tortures and humiliations imaginable. Fury twisted my stomach, but fear turned my limbs useless.

“Shush.” Eli shook me like a ragdoll.

His grasp loosened from the movement and I used the opportunity to duck out of his grasp. I kicked his shin with my right foot before launching off my left toward the hedgerow marking the edge of the field.

Eli yelped. “Stupid girl! Get her!”

I crashed through the low shrubs, ignoring the cuts from thorns and branches raking across my bare flesh. Groans emanated from my throat, but I kept running.

Jack and Brandon had to be only steps behind me. I heard them cursing and yelling. It spurred me on to run faster. Good thing I wore my outdoor cheering sneakers. The cleat-like tread prevented me from slipping too much on the fallen leaves and slick moss coating the sapling forest floor.

“Where you going, Tamara? You can’t get away from us!”

Brandon’s warning reverberated through my ears, as did my quickened pulse. What if he was right? Two high school football stars against me? Besting them seemed impossible. On the other hand, if I just gave up, I’d no doubt face unimaginable horror. I mean, really, two guys emerging from their makeshift grave after I thought I’d killed them? Anything seemed possible now.

Jack growled. “This is ridiculous. She’s getting away, Brandon.”

Brandon huffed. “No, she’s not.”

“You’re an idiot. Go that way. Circle around her.”

I didn’t dare look back to see if they split up. Their panting in stereo indicated their strategy clear enough.

Their effort gave me confidence. As I ran, both their stomping and grunting faded. I was actually gaining distance. Soon, I didn’t hear them at all. Slowing my pace, I turned left toward the highway leading back to Main Street. I didn’t dare stop running, but the pain in my side and ache in my legs prevented me from maintaining a full out gallop.

For several minutes, the only sounds came from my heavy gasps and steady footsteps against the mercadum. If I made it to Anne-Marie’s house on the edge of town, I’d be safe.

Smiling at the thought of reprieve, I let out a giddy chuckle. Maybe I’d get out of this hellish situation after all.

A sharp snap resembling that of a tree-limb fracturing echoed through the night. I skidded to a halt just as a thick maple branch crashed to the ground inches in front of me. The edge, frayed and splintered, rested at the white line marking the road’s shoulder, while the body, full of browned leaves, reached past the double center lines.

Stunned, I stood rooted to the earth, staring. Had I been one second faster, I’d be pinned under its bulk. I peered into the darkened forest, searching for a wounded maple.

Brandon, chest slicked with sweat, emerged from the woods. Illuminated in the moonlight, his muscled bulk appeared twice its normal size. Dark veins trekked along his arms and legs. His eyes flashed a luminous green. Fangs spilled over his bottom lip. He smiled, revealing two rows of uniformly sized, sharp-edged teeth. “I told you, escape was impossible.” He clicked his long, claw-like nails.

A satisfied laugh sounded behind me.

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Eep! What Happens Next? How will Tamara get out of this one?…Or should she? Let me know–You Decide!

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What Happens Next? You Decide! Chapter 6

This week’s segment was inspired by none other than my fantabulous mom! She’s a mystery buff and loves thrillers. Enjoy folks.

Ignoring the now constant sting from the open sores on my palms, I slung the shovel into another heap of dirt, relieved the evidence of my evil deed was nearly covered.

I froze when a pair of headlights flashed on me like a spotlight…

Similar to a performer caught in the throes of stagefright, my mind went blank and any hope of miming innocence died. Fingers locked around a shovel’s handle, tears streaming down my face, hair slicked with sweat–all these things betrayed my filthy actions.

The truck’s engine died and the driver’s side door opened. A man’s booted leg contacted the ground, while his large, dark hand gripped the edge of the doorframe for balance. “What’s going on out here?” The man’s baritone voice echoed through my body.

I recognized Brandon’s dad, Eli, before he completely emerged from the cab.

I cleared my throat, willing my voice to eject a response. None came out. I had no brain to trigger a thought worth shoving past my lips.

“Tamara, are you all right?” Eli’s brow crinkled and he took a step forward. “Why you got a shovel?” His eyes searched the surrounding landscape, then perused my body. His gaze lingered over my breasts and bare legs. The edge of his lip tugged up.

“I…”

Eli closed in.

Heart pounding, I retreated, nearly losing my balance from sinking into the loose dirt of Brandon and Jack’s grave. I prayed that I didn’t fall in.

“Girl, where’s Brandon?” Eli scanned the ground beneath my feet. His half-smile faded. I could only guess it was from seeing the tops of Brandon and Jack’s heads.

My fingers squeezed even tighter around the shovel, ignoring the fresh burning of blistered flesh against splintered wood. I wanted to run, but where to? Besides, my breath came in such short spurts, I doubted I’d make it far before I used up all my energy.

He tut-tutted and shook his head. “What have you done?”

Something cold and strong gripped my ankle. I screamed and yanked my leg away, only to find Brandon’s dirt covered hand stuck out of the ground, firmly anchoring me to his grave. I gave another pull. It threw me off balance. I fell to the ground, hard, releasing the shovel in time to catch myself with open palms.

No matter which direction I twisted, the hand still held me tight. “Eli, help me!”

Eli chuckled and shook his head, side-stepping my flailing arms. “Now, why should I do that? You got yourself in this mess. Not my problem. Come on, son, get out of there.”

I looked back to see Brandon’s head popped out of the ground.

“Surprise!” He wagged his eyebrows and flashed a grin at me.

I stared at his dirt-caked face, baffled. He died. How was this possible? “I thought…”

He cackled. “Thought what? I was dead?” He laughed again. “See Dad? I told you this one would be fun.”

“Indeed son. But really, I don’t understand why you have to let them think they’ve killed you every time. Now get out of there. And help Jack, will you?”

Brandon frowned and rolled his eyes. Clearly, he was disappointed. “Yeah. Take her, will you?”

With a sigh, Eli hooked his arms under mine and pulled me to my feet.

I tried to twist free, but he held me fast.

“Shush, girl. Stop it. We got plans for you yet.”

Brandon rocked back and forth, loosening the dirt around him. Soon, his torso was free, allowing him leverage to dig out Jack. I watched, numb from shock as the two boys rolled out of the make-shift grave. They dusted the excess dirt from their clothes, then grinned at me.

Brandon patted my cheek. “See, Tamara? I told you we’d have fun tonight.”

Jack grinned. “Yeah. And we’re just getting started.”

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Where should the plot turn now? Let me know “What Happens Next?”

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What Happens Next? You Decide! Chapter 5

This week, I’ve decided to try my hand at the action. Be sure to check earlier postings for the previous chapters from guest bloggers!

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I contemplated covering the bodies as I stood over them in the now unusually hot night and decided that I better cover the hole. Don’t want anyone else to fall in….

The shovel–now murder weapon–grew heavier and heavier in my fatigued arms, but I didn’t stop hoisting shovelfuls of dirt over Brandon and Jack’s corpses. I couldn’t. Let the heavens see the evidence of my actions? No way.

Tears burned down my cheeks, groans escaped my lips, and my muscles burned with overuse. If I kept this twisting motion up, I’d wrench my back, for sure. Then again, what else could I do? I’d have to accept the pain and agony as a consequence. At the same time, I doubted my conscience allowed such easy penance. No, this deed required much more punishment.

Soon, my body shook with weakness. I had to take a break.

I slid the shovel in a loose heap of soil and rested my chin against it. The cessation of activity gave me a moment to actually feel.

Acid rose from my gut. What had I done? Murder.

My body heaved at the thought. I allowed myself only seconds pause to gag before I went back to work. Blisters formed within minutes and my skin tore open and bled, as if my entire body wept for my transgression.

“You’re such an idiot, Brandon! Why did you have to do this to me?” I sobbed. It was his idea to come out here anyway. His idea to take me to the middle of nowhere. His idea to play a practical joke. How stupid.

“I bet you never thought it would play out like this, did ya?” I spit the words out, then wiped the tears and snot from my face with the back of my hand.

By now, most of their bodies were covered with the dark soil. Just the crowns of their shaggy-haired heads stuck out.

Ignoring the now constant sting from the open sores on my palms, I slung the shovel into another heap of dirt, relieved the evidence of my evil deed was nearly covered.

I froze when a pair of headlights flashed on me like a spotlight…

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Ooooooh, this is getting good!! Come be part of the action. Let me know where you think the plot should go.

And be sure to come back for the next chapter of: What Happens Next? You Decide!

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What Happens Next? You Decide! Chapter 4

Hey gang! First of all, Happy Mardi Gras!

To celebrate the festivities blogger-style, here’s the next installment of, “What Happens Next? You Decide!”  Guest blogger John Sankovich kindly presents “Chapter 4.” Stop by his blog and be part of the action of his “Choose Your Own Adventure” Series: “You can’t call them zombies!”

http://johnsankovich.blogspot.com/ 

Chapter 4:

I looked to Brandon, back to Jack and finally eyed the shovel. Things were going to get dirty soon one way or the other…

Brandon reached down to help Jack up, and that was their first mistake of the night. I bolted, my calves tightened as I made a dash toward the shovel.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack stumble a little as he tried to move after me while still being pulled out of the six foot hole.

Both were too late, I wrapped my fingers around the hard wooden handle of the shovel. My pulse raced as I lifted it up as I turned on the loose dirt, my footing sunk.

A bolt of pain shot up my leg as I had to use the shovel to keep from falling. They took the momentary lapse in balance and pounced. I pulled my leg free, used the shovel to vault myself out of their reaching hands moments before they could grab me.

“Hey now. You don’t want to do something you’ll regret.” Jack said. His face twisted in anger.

I kept my weight off of my left ankle and could already feel the swelling begin. Hold the shovel in my two hands, I felt empowered, like things were going my way.

Brandon made his next mistake, “Hey hon, come on put that down. We were just joking around.”

He stepped forward with his hands out in front of him.

The anger swelled up in me and I tightened my grip on the shovel. He slipped a little on the loose dirt pile as well and I pounced. I brought the flat side of the shovel across his head as he dropped to a knee.

The loud clank and vibration shocked me. The brightness of the paint on the metal and the way that Brandon fell into the hole like it was meant for him all made my stomach twist.

Jack cried out, “What the hell did you do?”

I looked at him. Not scared, not angry, but serene. I hoisted the shovel again and looked at Jack. “I thought this was just a joke?”

Jack didn’t answer. His glossy eyes were on his best friend lying in the hole. He didn’t even see what came next. Probably felt it.

I contemplated covering the bodies as I stood over them in the now unusually hot night and decided that I better. Don’t want anyone else to fall in….

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Okay, friends. What Happens Next? You Decide!

What Happens Next? You Decide! Chapter 3

The next segment of “What Happens Next? You Decide!” was penned by none other than writer and blogger John Sankovich. Be sure to check out his own Choose Your Own Adventure  series on his blog at: http://johnsankovich.blogspot.com/ and help Kyle decide what to do next. Hmmm, avoid zombies, or have a slay-fest? Better go find my machete before I vote!

The car rolled to a stop and through the darkness I could see . . .

A hole in the ground. A large mound of dirt sat to one side with a shovel laying across the top.

I looked to Brandon and that same cocky grin that he always used when he knew something was up stood out on his face.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Nothing. Now get out.” He said, keeping the same smile on his lips.

I hated those lips, I hated him for being so arrogant and how I wanted to smash them with my fist.

I crawled out of the truck. The cold air hit my nose bringing tears to my eyes. I didn’t close the door, but he slammed his.

Walking around the front of the truck I noticed the hole wasn’t empty. Inside sat Jack. His eyes gleamed up at me. A grin cracked the caked on dirt on his face. “Hiya there. Ready to party?”

I looked to Brandon, back to Jack and finally eyed the shovel. Things were going to get dirty soon one way or the other…

Okay, folks. What Happens Next? You Decide! Write to me and get your segment posted with a link back to your website and/or blog! Happy writing all!

What Happens Next? You Decide! “Chapter 2”

The following excerpt progresses from the opening section and is crafted by none other than Cynthia Occelli, author of the blog: Life, It Isn’t for the Faint of Heart http://cynthiaoccelli.blogspot.com/ . Cynthia spends her time writing, blogging, and sharing her wisdom about life. And she offers a mad-compelling segment:

I’d never been hit before…

In that instant, I became two people. One was a child deeply wounded by the assault and terrified of what might come next; the other was a young woman filled with searing rage. I sat stunned for several minutes as my two counterparts wrestled for dominance. Two teardrop sized drips of blood fell from my nose.

“Not so cocky now are you T? You need to learn when to stop being such a bitch.”

You are going jail, my brother is going to destroy you, too and wait until I tell the school, I thought to myself.

The pavement became progressively rougher finally turning to hard dirt, this wasn’t the way to Jack’s house. Feeling as though all the blood had drained from my veins, I turned to Brandon. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have acted that way. I’m sorry.”

Brandon smiled. “You’re scared now aren’t you? Look at you sitting there all huddled up.”

The car rolled to a stop and through the darkness I could see . . .

Kudos and much thanks, Cynthia! Okay, folks. What Happens Next?

(I’m open to suggestions and excerpts!)

What Happens Next? You Decide!

Hi gang. Inspiration struck and I’d like to share my idea. You remember those books where you had an option to choose what happens next? The fate of the characters were in your hands. Well, I was hoping to construct a similar game, but on the net, in a more open-ended, “real time” way.

Below you will find an opening vignette of a story. Where it goes depends on you. The greater the number of readers–and responders–the more options for plot twists.

So, let’s see what happens next, shall we? Leave a comment about your idea. I will pick the most compelling one and write it up, posting it at a later date.  (Of course, this has more chance of success if y’all share with your friends, etc.)

CHAPTER 1: I THOUGHT IT WAS GONNA BE FUN

Red taillights blinked, signaling the driver ahead had engaged the brakes.

“Slow down, Brandon. You’re too close.” I slapped the dashboard with both palms, gritting my teeth against the fear of a potential impact.

“Relax Tamara. I know how to drive.” Brandon glanced at me through his long bangs. A confident grin crinkled his mouth and eyes. “Don’t you trust me?”

I rolled my eyes and focused on the car in front. We’d gotten even closer. So close, in fact, I could see the hair color of the kids in the backseat, illuminated by the truck’s headlights. Two blondes and one brunette.

The other driver tapped the brake again, swerving the car first left, then right. It earned a chuckle from Brandon.

“What an idiot,” I muttered, regretting my acceptance of Brandon’s invitation. Sure, hang out with the gang, have some fun. It’s all good. No worries. Yeah. If we got there alive.

“Come on, lighten up, T.” Brandon tapped my thigh with his hand before letting it rest against my bare skin. Stupid cheerleading uniform. I should have changed into my jeans.

I shifted position so my knees rested against the door. Brandon didn’t relinquish his grip.

“What, you don’t like me touching you? Typical. Tease, then act all shy.” He frowned and rolled down his window to toss out his cigarette butt. Damp, late autumn air whipped around the cab, bringing an instant chill to my skin.

I shivered. “Can you roll up the window please?”

He snorted. “Complain, complain. You’re no fun at all.” The sharp jab of his finger on my shoulder hurt. “Your attitude better improve when we get to Jack’s house. Got it?”

“Take me home. Now.”

A scratchy laugh echoed over the wind. “T, we’re miles from your place and almost at Jack’s. I’m not turning around now.”

“I don’t want to go to Jack’s.”

The back of his hand collided with my jaw. “Shut up.”

Shock numbed my brain and triggered my heart to increase its tempo. My breath came out in spurts as I tried to quell the tears stinging my eyes.

I’d never been hit before.

**What Happens Next?

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