“Hell’s Half Acre” Chapter 3 Rough Draft Reveal – Feedback Welcomed

As Seen At Coffee House Writers

The story of Kassandra stirred in my head since 1989. Now, thanks to school, I will complete my first novel of the series in 2020 with an expected release date around Halloween of the same year. Below is a rough chapter draft from my book, Hell’s Half Acre. Would love your advice/ideas on any improvements and what you think of it so far. I know I need a few more actions and body language between, and with, the dialogues. Thank you.

***

The sound of leaves crackling and sticks breaking woke Kassandra. Her small, brown eyes opened to a canopy of bony fingers reaching out for each other. Between them, the moon and stars fought with the dark clouds from consuming their light. Beneath her small body, the coldness of the moist dirt floor seeped through the beige nightgown, through a child’s flesh, and into the marrow of her bones.

She sat up and wrapped her arms around herself to stop her body from trembling. The wind blew her nightcap cap off her head and carried it up to the sky where it caught on a limb. A hoot from an owl vibrated in her ears. She darted her eyes around. The thorns of dead rose vines dripped with blood, twined themselves around the thick bones of the trees. Kassandra took a deep breath. She covered her mouth and nose — the air, pungent of rotting flesh.

Her mother’s voice found its way to her. “Kassandra, this way. Hurry.”

Kassandra rose and brushed the dirt off her nightgown. The full moon and bright stars, for a moment, won the battle against the clouds. They shone their light upon her and revealed a fogging trail. She heard her mother’s voice coming from the dense fog. She turned around, trying to obtain perspective. There’s no way out. With no choice, she followed the fog wherever it led her.

The fog swallowed her whole. Snapping bones filled the air. She stopped. Still trembling, she closed her eyes. This is just a dream. She opened them, only to see multiple red eyes surrounding her, staring from the fog. She screamed, fell to the ground, and rolled up into a ball.

Her mother’s voice called to her. “They’re gone, sweetie. Mom scared them away.”

Kassandra peered over her arms. The red eyes and the dense fog disappeared. Before her, a cave. She rolled over onto her knees and pushed herself up. She tipped-toed to the entrance and stopped. Her mother’s voice beckoned her once more. “Please, Kassandra. Hurry, they’re coming back. The cave will protect you.”

Fear consumed Kassandra, and she turned around to run. Blocking her escape were shadowy figures with glowing red eyes. They floated towards her. With nowhere to run, she dashed into the cave.

Kassandra placed her hands on the cold, damp cave wall. Bones under her feet snapped with every step. Bears, wolves, who lives here? No sooner the thought came to mind, a faint glowing orange light came into view.

She inched closer and found herself at the back of the cave. Her freezing body warmed by the fire. Through the flames, a man sat cross-legged on the cave floor. His chin-length white hair was shaggy, and it danced with the flames. His piercing white eyes stared into hers. His face pale, his cheeks angled, and he had a huge nose. He was a dead ringer of a Homo erectus, and he motioned for her to sit. She stood firm, on the edge of the darkness of the cave and the light of the fire.

A harsh growl ripped from the man’s throat. He took a deep breath and exhaled the stench of rotting flesh. He smirked at her and unveiled his sharp teeth.

Kassandra looked amused. “Are your teeth real?”

A deep growl burst through his throat. “Yes.”

“They seem to be a cross between a dog and a snake.”

The man’s voice deepened. “SIT DOWN!”

“I think I’ll stand right here.”

She looked at him once more. He wore dark breeches with high, black boots, paired with a red collared waistcoat and a black coat. “Where’s my mom? I heard her.”

The man giggles echoed throughout the cave to the creatures waiting outside. They mimic his laughter. “That wasn’t your mother. It was me, leading you here.”

Kassandra fell to the floor. Her body shuddered in fear.

“Are you scared of me?”

Kassandra drew her knees closer to her. “I wasn’t, but now I am.”

“Kassandra, my dear. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to miss your birthday.” He rose his arm to his side. His palm up and over a body. “I got…distracted.”

Kassandra scooted back a foot. A man lay, pale, drained of blood.

“Hunters, my dear. They can be such pests.”

The man returned his focus to Kassandra. “Like I was saying. I am sorry I missed your birthday.” He pointed his slender index finger at her. “Don’t worry your pretty little head. I have a special present for you when I arrive.”

“Who… Who… Who are you?”

“Oh? I am such a bad boy tonight.” His hand glided to his heart. “I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Judas, and we will meet very soon.”

“I… I… I WANT TO GO HOME!”

“The only thing you have to do, sweet Kassandra, is to open your eyes. You’re already home.”

Judas lunged at her and jumped over the fire. “You’ll be mine.”

Kassandra rolled up in a ball and screamed, “NO!”

The door to Kassandra’s room flew open. The knob on the door put a hole in the wall. Christian rushed in, yelling Kassandra’s name and jumped on the bed. Kassandra was kicking and screaming.

Her brother tried to wake her up by calling out to her, “Kassandra, Kassandra, wake up! You’re having a bad dream. Wake up, Kassandra!” He turned his head to the door. “MOM! DAD! HELP!”

Mary and Ken ran into the room. They saw their son on Kassandra’s bed with his hands on her shoulders trying to wake her up.

“I can’t get her to wake up. I heard her screaming ‘no.’”

Ken ran to Christian and laid his hand on his shoulder. “Move over, son.”

Mary’s stood to the right of the bed. Christian ran into her arms.

“Kassandra, wake up, dear.” Ken’s voice got stronger and louder. “KASSANDRA, WAKE UP!”

Kassandra went limp, and her little body turned pale. She laid there for a few minutes. Ken, Mary, and Christian thought the worst. Ken put his index and middle finger to Kassandra’s trachea to feel for a pulse.

With a sigh of relief, Ken turned to Mary and Christian. “She still has a pulse. It’s strong.”

Kassandra fluttered her eyes lids open, adjusting to the light from the candles in her room. Her dad sat on the bed with one arm on the right and the other arm on the left of her, holding himself up. She glanced to her left, her mother, with tears in her eyes, held onto Christian. Kassandra smiled. “Why are you’ll in my room?”

Ken, Mary, and Christian laughed as they all sat on the bed.

“You know something, Little Sis? You’re strong when you’re having a nightmare.”

Mary placed her hand on her daughter’s forehead. “My dear, you’re cold and sweating. Let me go get you some water and a towel.” Mary stood up from the bed and rushed out of the bedroom door.

“I had a nightmare, Daddy?”

“Yes, my dear. The way it looked, it must have been a scary one. Do you remember anything about it?”

“All I remember is a tall, pale, scary man. A forest was full of skeleton arms and hands. Shadow people with red eyes. Oh, and fire.”

“Just remember, dear. It’s a dream. It’s not real. Do you understand me, Kassandra?”

“Yes, Daddy. It’s just a dream.”

Kassandra gazed over at her brother, then back at her father.  “Um, can I ask a favor?”

“Sure, dear, what is it?”

“I know Christian has been sleeping downstairs a lot.”

“Yes, he has been giving you your privacy.”

“Well.” With a big grin on her face and eyes wandering back and forth from Christian to her father. “Can Christian stay in here tonight?”

Mary walked in, in time to hear the question. Ken got up from the bed, and Mary sat down. She took the towel and placed it in the water and rung it out. She patted the cold sweat from her daughter’s forehead. “I don’t see why not?” Mary looked over at her son.  “Christian, would you like to spend the rest of the night here?”

Christian smirked. “Sure, I don’t mind.”

Mary was glad to hear this. She gave the bowl of water and the towel to Christian, who took it in her hands. She placed a hand on her son’s shoulder and peered deep into his eyes. “You’re a great son and brother.” She kissed him on the cheek.

Mary went downstairs and gathered his pillow and blanket. She returned the room and placed it on his bed. Ken and she tucked their children into bed and left the bowl of water and the towel on the wooden desk. Ken and Mary walked out of the room. As Mary closed the door, she smiled at her children. “See you when the sun comes up.”

The kids stayed quiet until they heard their father snoring. Christian popped up and out of bed and walked to his sister’s bed. “You awake?”

“Yeah. I don’t think I can go back to sleep.”

“What else happened?”

Kassandra shrugged. “I found myself in a dark forest. The trees looked like hands, and the limbs looked like fingers. I heard mother’s voice and followed it.”

“And then what?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I just do, Kas. Now tell me.”

“Okay.” Her eyes widen. “Everything cleared up, and I found myself in a cave. There were two men there, but one was dead.”

“Dead?”

“Yes. Dead.”

“How?”

“Judas.”

“Who’s Judas?”

“Are you going to let me tell you or not?”

“Yeah, yeah. Go on.”

“Judas killed the other guy, drained him of his blood. He also said he was coming for me.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t ask.”

Christian scratched his head.

“What is it, Chris?”

He shook his head. “Nothing.”

“Chris?”

“What is it?”

“Can you sleep in the same bed with me tonight?”

“You’re that scared.”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

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