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A Banished Land
By Jake Jauch
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Jake Jauch
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe evening air is warm and humid as I walk along the edge of the forest gathering firewood for the campfire. Sometimes it seems like the nights in Alabama are just as hot as the days. There's not a single cloud in the sky to obstruct the view of the sun as it sinks low in the west. I know that I should be heading back towards the camp before I lose the last rays of the sunlight, but the camp isn't far. I still don't want to have to travel the distance in the dark though. I run my hand through my short brown hair and quicken my pace.
The campsite is set up in a clearing just past the tree line and less than twenty feet from a small stream that trickles through the middle of the clearing. Short soft grass is the only vegetation that seems to grow in this tiny green oasis. Looking back at the sunset through the trees, it reminds me of the end of some romantic movie with the perfect sunset and a happy ever after.
As I get closer I see a lone figure looming near the campfire poking at it, trying to keep the flames going. He turns as he hears me approaching and gives me an annoyed look. He usually gives me that look when I sneak up on him.
"Take your time with the firewood Ivan," he says as he turns back to the fire.
Scott never seems to get mad at people, he just makes jokes.
"Sorry," I say setting downthe firewood. "Why do we need a fire in the middle of the summer?"
"Well, you never know what you might need," Scott says adding a few pieces of wood to the fire. "It should help keep the animals away, but I don't think anything will come around."
I toss a twig in the fire and shrivel before it catches on fire. We sit in silence for a few minutes just listening to the sounds of the fire crackling and the crickets chirping. After about five minutes Scott stands and walks to the tent.
"See you in the morning," he says crawling into the tent and zipping the flap shut.
"Yeah, see you," I say listening to the sounds of the forest as they seem to dominate the camp site. My leg starts to cramp so I stand up and walk to the center of the small clearing. As I listen to the hypnotic sounds of the forest around me, my mind begins to stray to past events. In particular how I managed to be spending my first day of the rest of my life camping in the middle of nowhere.
It was two days before the end of my and Scott's senior year. We had become friends when we were both freshman and over the years we've become good friends. The one thing we shared in common the most was our fascination with swords. We would spend hours at one another's house practicing. Neither one of us ever became exceedingly good, but it was just a pastime that we both enjoyed. On the night of our graduation ceremony, Scott came up to me and wanted to know if I felt like going on a little camping trip. Having nothing else planned so close to the end of school, I readily agreed to the trip.
So this morning I woke up at four o'clock in the morning and drove for twenty-five minutes to Scott's house. Scott lives just outside of a small town called Addison. It's one of those towns where everyone knows everybody, so nothing exciting ever happens, and word spreads like a wildfire on a dry day. Once I got to Scott's house we proceeded to hike to the clearing that we're now at. We decided not to bring anything electronic, except flashlights. This meant no cell phones or portable video games. Two days in the woods with no contact with civilization sounded like fun and there was a slight hint of a challenge in Scott's voice when he asked me to go. This caused me to want to go just to see if it was going to be a challenge.
We started the hiking as soon as I got to his house and parked my car. Scott apparently had been to the area where we were going to be camping. When I asked him what the camp site looked like so I could help search for it, he just said it was a clearing. By the time it was eight o'clock in the morning and after four false clearings we finally reached the right one. After two hours we had the camp set up and the needed provisions set up.
After we had finished setting up the camp we followed the stream to where it emptied into a river. The river was quite a sight to see. There were trees on either side of the river creating a natural canopy over the water. The openings in the canopy sent golden beams of light into the clear water, forming shimmering patterns on the river bottom. Fish darted back and forth in the crystal clear water.
Naturally we thought it would be fun to see who could catch the most fish with their bare hands, since we hadn't packed any fishing poles. It only took a few minutes before we were both soaked through and finding it hard to breathe from trudging waist deep in the water. Eventually we grew tired of the fish evading our every move. It was a good thing we weren't depending on our catch to survive, because we both went back to camp hungry. When we had made it back to camp and had changed into some dry clothes only a few hours of daylight were left. So Scott decided to start a fire while I ventured off to find some firewood.
The sudden sound of the tent flap opening causes me to snap back to reality. I turn to see Scott climb out of the tent and start walking toward me.
"You still up," Scott asks squinting at me through the darkness. Looking around I notice the sun has set completely and the fire is burning low.
"Yeah," I say. "Why?"
Scott comes up and stands next to me, he stretches and yawns. He rubs sleep from his eyes and yawns again. Scott runs his fingers through his hair to fix it.
"Because it's been about two hours since I left you out here," he says raking his fingers through light brown hair.
"Has it really been that long," I ask trying to hide a yawn.
He stretches again and walks over to the few glow embers left from the fire. He gathers a few twigs and dead foliage from around him. After a few seconds of blowing on the embers the fire bursts to life once more. I look at Scott in the glowing light of the fire and can see something is troubling him. I yawn and walk over to the fire and immediately feel the heat. I glance at Scott again as he stares into the fire.
"I've seen that look on your face before," I say wanting to help. "What's wrong?"
"When I fell asleep in the tent I had a strange dream," he says adding a few sticks to the fire. "It may have been a premonition."
I can remember Scott having these types of dreams before. He fell asleep in class on e day after a test. When he woke up he said he smelled smoke, but as he became fully awake he couldn't smell it. Near the end of the class the teacher lit a candle, blew the match out and threw it in the trash can. Less than thirty seconds later the trash can burst into flames from the match. I had listened to him tell me about other dreams before, mostly little things like eating something for breakfast. After that dream and the trash can I started listening more intently, because his premonitions could include me as well.
Now that I think something is going to happen every little noise now puts me on edge.
"I packed a machete in my backpack if you want to use it," he says nodding towards the tent.
Knowing that I have some means of protection brings me a little comfort. Now only the louder noises will put me on edge.
"Thanks, that'll make me feel a lot better," I say standing and walking to the tent.
I sit on my knees half inside the tent as I unzip Scott's backpack. Feeling around inside the bag I find the machete and pull it out. I zip the backpack shut and stand to attach the sheath to my belt loop.
"So when is your dream suppose to happen," I ask pacing around the camp.
"I don't know," Scott says as he stares into the fire. "I can't tell when this one is going to happen."
"Well maybe it'll happen on the next camping trip," I say glancing around at the areas of the woods that are left dark without the light of the fire.
"If this trip goes the way my dream did, we won't be having another one," he says staring straight at me in a kind of trance.
"What do you mean," I ask feeling an icy chill run down my spine.
"Exactly what I said, we're not going to be in this world much longer," he says in almost a trance.
"What aren't you telling me Scott," I ask starting to worry. "What do you mean this world?"
"That's the problem," he says as he stands. "I woke up before I could see what's going to happen."
Scott walks over to the small pile of remaining wood. He picks up the last armful and adds it to the fire. In the growing firelight I see him glace at his watch as if he's late for something.
"What are you doing," I ask.
"Getting ready," He says staring blankly into the growing fire.
"Getting ready for what," I ask feeling the heat from the roaring fire. "What's coming?"
Then Scott picks up a long stick from the fire and holds it like a torch. He throws the flaming stick into the open flap of the tent. Sometimes Scott's dreams would trouble him for a day or so, but what he's doing now is all new to me.
"Are you crazy, what are you doing," I yell as panic begins grips me.
"No, I'm perfectly fine," he says picking up and throwing two more flaming sticks at the smoking tent.
A burst of ice cold wind suddenly blasts through the camp. I know that whatever Scott had warned me about is coming. Wintery winds shouldn't be blowing in the middle of summer. All of the other sounds in the forest cease, everything is quiet. Only the sounds of the crackling fire and increasing wind blasting through the trees can be heard.
A sudden static feeling begins to course through my body. The kind of feeling you get when you place your hand too close to a TV screen. Scott walks to the middle of the clearing as the hurricane like winds roar around us. When he reaches the center he turns around and looks straight into my eyes.
"See you later," He says as a bolt of blue lightning flashes out of a cloudless sky.
"Scott," I yell into the deafening wind.
I run towards where he was standing as fast as I can. He's gone and there's not a trace of him anywhere. As I approach the center of the clearing and the static feeling tingles through my body again. I know another bolt is coming, but I only focus is figuring out what has just happened. It feels like a bad dream and no matter what I do I can't wake up. Then the clearing flashes bright blue and I feel my body entire go numb. I fall backwards to the ground, blackness consumes me before I hit.
Chapter TwoI awake with a dull ache in the back of my head. I slowly move my fingers, then my hands, trying to make sure everything works properly. Once I know every part of my upper body is all right, I struggle into a sitting position sending fresh waves of throbbing pain through my entire body. After the pain subsides I look at my body for physical damage. Nothing was burned, not even a bit of singed hair or clothing. I do notice that my skin is warm to the touch and is steaming as if hot water has just been poured on it, but the inside of my body feels cold. Getting to my feet involves more effort than just sitting upright. Every movement I make causes more pain to course through my body.
When I finally get to my feet I notice for the first time, that my surroundings have changed. Nothing is like it was when I was struck by the strange lightning. The trees are short and gnarled with a grayish colored moss hanging from almost every limb. The ground is almost sand-like, loose, and crunchy underfoot. Even the slight breeze that is moving through the trees has a stale salty smell to it. I tell that this place must be near the ocean, due to the smell and what could possibly be the sound of waves in the distance, not the wind moving through the trees.
I look at the sky and notice the sun is starting to set or it could be rising. With my sense of time lost I decide to travel toward the sound of, what I hope to be crashing waves. What the beach and ocean can do to possibly help me I don't know, but I have to set my mind on something to avoid panicking. With any luck Scott might have landed there. Suddenly I realize something. When people are lost in the wilderness they seek out water. I've got the water, so why not see where it goes. My guess is this stream empties somewhere. That somewhere could be the ocean too. This makes my decision final; I'm going to the beach.
I turn in the direction of the sound of the waves. I tread lightly trying not to send too much pain shooting up my back and to my head. I also know making as little noise as possible in this unknown territory isn't a bad idea either. As I walk quietly through this strange forest I can't shake the feeling that I'm being watched. I stop and look around to see if anything has changed or if something or someone is stalking me. Of course if something is following me, it's probably an inhabitant of this odd place.
I continue walking along the stream listening to its rhythmic gurgle. I stop again to observe the area and notice several things have changed since I started walking. First the sun is sinking lower in the sky, but if the position of this sun is like the one back home, I don't have long before nightfall. Second the sound of what I assume to be waves, have become much louder.
As I turn to continue along the stream my foot slides into a dip in the loose ground. I look down to see several sets of large foot prints. They're larger than my foot and wider too. I kneel down to get a better look at the print. I can make out a pattern, two foot print shaped impressions followed by two almost hand shaped prints. The foot prints in the rear look like large dog paw prints. The front prints look like oversized human hand prints.
A loud snap causes me to jump. Is it the creature that made the huge prints in the sand or something else? Whatever it is I'm not going to stay around long enough to find out. I turn toward the sound of the waves and start running as fast as I can. Pain erupts through my body with every pounding footstep, but I keep pushing myself. I start thinking about the direction of what I hope to be ocean, anything to take my mind off the fact that something could be hunting me.
I try to think of other things as I press painfully on. I decide that if the sun here sets in the west, like it does back home, then the sound of the waves must be coming from the south. Eventually I feel myself begin to tire and my pace begins to slow. I don't want to stop so I change my speed to a steady and painful jog. I glance at my passing surroundings as they slowly creep by. The trees are starting to thin out and the bushes and shrubs are becoming more scarce.
The sounds of the waves are becoming louder with each step. Through the remaining trees I can see a blue horizon. I feel the ocean breeze blowing over my aching body as I slow to an agonizing walk. I make my way slowly towards the sea, gazing at the vast dark blue waters stretching on past the horizon. Even with only a few hours of daylight left, it still makes an amazing sight to see. I make my way past the last few trees that separate me from the beach. The sounds of the waves crashing against the white beach are almost hypnotic and I finally realize how exhausted I am. My entire body aches from my long run here. My head is starting to hurt a little less, but every heartbeat sends a small pulse of throbbing pain through my skull. I catch myself before I begin to daydream and start to walk up the beach when a low whistling sound begins to cut through the air above me.
I look up into the evening sky searching for the source of the sound. That's when I see a black sliver traveling straight down toward the sandy beach in front of me. As the object grows closer to the ground I can see it's a spear. I follow the spear's path until it lands in the sand with a soft thud. I walk over to where the spear had landed and pull it out of the sand. Brushing off the sand that still clings to the head of the spear I examine it. The spear is a work of art. The blade consists of two dragons intertwined around the blade and their tales spiral down part of the shaft. The shaft of the spear appears to be a type of hardwood. The wood has been stained so dark that it looks almost black.
Excerpted from A Banished Land by Jake Jauch Copyright © 2009 by Jake Jauch. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book amazed me of how well it was written. Especially seeing as how the writer was only 17 when he finished writing it. It's one of those books that make you think, "What if?" It has a good plot and interesting characters. I loved how it was very detailed. There were some parts where you can see how being a young writer effects parts of the book, but it is well written. I can't wait till his next book comes out and I get to read it.