It was just another normal Saturday morning when Carter knocked on Kat’s door. Kat’s mother, Mrs. Hamsted, opened it and said, “I should have known. Who else would be at my door? Come on in, Carter. Kat is almost finished with her breakfast.”
Kat, with an excited look on her lightly freckled, heart shaped face, popped out of the kitchen and said, “I’m done, Mom. Can I hang with Carter?”
“Why not. You’re just like your father, leaving me all alone. Go on and have fun. I’ll just stay home and stare at the walls.”
Kat had heard her mother’s attempts to make her feel guilty for having a friend and having fun for so long that it barely fazed her anymore. With a flip of her red hair, she headed for the door. “Okay, thanks Mom.”
Once outside, Carter said with excitement beaming in his blue eyes, “You are not going to believe this. I found this huge hole about a half-mile beyond the river. It’s in that little valley surrounded by the large rocks. And get this, when my dad and I went to that flea market last month, Dad bought an old WWII parachute. I have it hidden by the river. We can pick it up on the way to the hole.”
Kat turned on her friend and said with alarm, “Wait just one minute, Carter. Are you expecting to parachute into a hole in the ground? Are you nuts? Wait… Don’t answer that… Of course you’re nuts. I have suspected that for a long time.” Kat’s green eyes flashed.
“No silly, I’m not going to parachute into the hole.”
“Well that’s a relief. So why are you bringing it?”
“Because, we are going to parachute into the hole.” he said grinning.
“Oh no you don’t, Carter. I’m not going to get killed for a stupid adventure. If you think I’m going to jump into a big hole with an old junky parachute your dad picked up at a flea market, that’s probably rotten after all these years, you really are out of your mind.”
“Okay, you big baby, at least come and see the hole. It’s huge, and I cannot even hear a rock hit bottom when I drop one into it.”
The two went to where Carter had hidden the parachute. He picked it up and put it on. He told Kat that it would be easier to carry that way.
“Where do you think it came from?” Kat asked as they made their way toward the valley.
“Maybe there are caves all throughout that area, and that big rainstorm we had a week ago caused the ground to collapse into a cave.”
“Well that makes sense. What else could it be?”
“Or,” Carter said mysteriously. “It could have been opened up by creatures that live underground. Maybe they wanted to see what was on the other side of the roof of their world just like astronauts explore what is on the other side of our sky.”
“Now that just sounds ridiculous,” Kat said with a snort.
“Wait ‘til you see it. It’s very creepy.”
“And you wanted to parachute into it. Boy, Carter, you are either very brave or really stupid.”
“I like to think of myself as brave.”
“Don’t we all.” Kat looked sideways at her friend.
“Look! There it is!” Carter exclaimed as he ran up to the edge of a monstrous hole.
“Kat ran after him and called out, “Carter be careful! That looks dangerous. The dirt along the edge could be unstable.”
Sure enough, Kat was right. Carter had gotten too close to the edge and the ground near the hole was crumbling and falling away from his feet. Kat reached out and grabbed the back of his jeans, but it was too late. The ground gave way under both of them, and they fell. They fell and fell and fell. Kat got a strong hold on Carter and yelled, “Open the parachute!”
Carter pulled the cord, and the old chute opened like a giant umbrella. It slowed their fall to a safe rate of speed. The partners fell so far that they could no longer see the sky above them. They fell in total darkness for what seemed like hours. “How deep is this thing anyway,” Carter wondered aloud.
“This is not natural,” Kat said. “We should have landed on something by now. We have been falling for miles. There is no way we will ever be able to climb back out of this place. Maybe it would have been better if we died quickly from the fall. Now we will probably die of thirst and starvation at the bottom of a black rocky pit.” The girl’s voice was full of fear.
“I wish I had brought a flashlight,” Carter said.
“What difference would that make? We are going to die anyway whether we can see or not! What were you thinking anyway, Carter? Did you bring a rope? You were just going to parachute into a hole without anything to see with or anyway to climb out? Did you bring any food or water?” Before the boy could answer, Kat almost screamed, “No! But you made sure I came to die with you on your stupid adventure!”
“I’m sorry Kat. I guess I wasn’t thinking.”
“You guess you weren’t thinking? You guess…”
Before she could finish her ranting accusations, the boy said, “Kat, look down below. There’s a light.”
“What?” Kat looked down and saw that they were moving toward a lighted area. As they got closer, they could see that they were going to land on a path that went into the light.
Once they landed, Carter wrapped up the parachute and stuffed it back into its pack.
Kat said, “That looks like sunlight, but how can that be?”
The friends headed for the light and found that it was indeed sunlight. The path was an exit that took them out of a cave and became a cobblestone road that wound through a beautiful valley. The valley was filled with strange plants and trees they had never seen before. “Carter, I think we are in a whole new world, and it’s beautiful.”
Butterflies as big as crows with wings that were every color of the rainbow flew around beautiful flowers that were as large as dinner plates. Magnificent trees that were twice as large and full as the largest oak tree that ever grew on Earth were scattered around the gently rolling, grass-covered hills that surrounded the valley.
“I am glad you like my world,” said a little girl who stepped from behind a clump of tall flowers. “I find it beautiful as well.” The girl herself was beautiful with long, flowing, black hair, deep violet eyes, fair skin, and features that were slightly Asian in appearance. She wore a yellow dress and leather sandals.
“Hello, my name is Kat, and this is Carter. Who are you?”
“I am Calamity.”
Carter said, “Calamity, that’s an interesting name.”
The girl smiled and said, “Come with me, and I will show you one of my favorite places.”
“We would like to see more of your world, but first can you tell us, is there a way back to our world?” Carter asked.
The girl just smiled, beckoned them with a wave of her delicate hand, turned, and headed down the road.
The friends followed, and Carter asked again if she knew a way back to their world, but the girl just ignored him and said, “We are almost there. I do hope you like it as much as I.”
A bit annoyed at having his concerns ignored, he decided to go along with the little girl hoping that she would be more willing to talk once she had shown off her favorite place. Rounding a bend in the road that took them behind a cluster of the super sized trees, Carter and Kat saw a clearing filled with what looked like human sized, brown cocoons. The girl stopped, turned, and said, “What do you think of my treasures?”
Not knowing how to respond, Kat asked, “What are they?”
“In order to appreciate their true beauty, you must move close enough to see inside the casing. Come here and look at this one. It is my most recent work.” The girl turned and pointed to one of the objects lying on the ground behind her.
The two explorers walked over and bent close to get a good look. It took a few seconds for their eyes to focus past the thick transparent covering. When they were finally able to see what lay beneath the brown surface, Kat let out with a stifled scream, Carter gasped, and they both back quickly away. What they saw was a desiccated human body, its face frozen in a hideous skeletal grin, its sunken eyes open and vacant. Its long, scraggly hair hinted that it had once been a woman.
Kat clutched Carter’s arm fiercely.
Carter’s face was filled with shock and fear as he said, “Kat, we need to get out of here, now!”
Before Kat could respond, the little girl said, “And where will you go Carter?” With a wave of her hand, the beautiful valley disappeared and was replaced by a dark, rocky cavern. The valley had just been an illusion. The only things that were real were the cocoon coffins and the little girl. The girl was no longer beautiful. She had changed into something that no longer looked human. Her eyes were white, bulging balls. Her head was larger and her mouth was so full of sharp teeth she could not close her lips over them. Her arms were covered with coarse white hair, and her dress was replaced with a black garment woven from some sort of black hair.
The two friends shouted out in fear and panic. “What’s happening?” Carter demanded with a trembling voice.
“What? Do you not still think my world beautiful?” The creature’s voice was harsh and its mouth so inhuman that forming words was difficult for it. “It matters not to me what you think. I have you where I want you.” Then the creature moved so fast that it appeared to be just a blur. Carter and Kat both reached up to their necks and felt wet wounds. Before they could look at their hands to see if they were bleeding, they slumped to the ground, unable to move.
“There now, that wasn’t so bad was it? My teeth are so sharp and I am so quick that you can hardly feel my bite. Not only that but my saliva removes pain as well as paralyzes. That makes everything so much nicer, is that not so? Oh, do not try to answer; you cannot talk, either. There is no need to be afraid. I am just going to seal you up like the others. I am sure you will be glad to know that once I have finished my labors on your behalf, you will have the honor of being my meals over the next few days. As I suck the vital juices from your bodies with my special tongue, you will slowly turn into the final forms of my precious works of art. I think that you will be my new favorites. You are the youngest, and I dare say that you will be the most delicious of my collection.”
As the creature talked, it moved over Kat’s body secreting a liquid resin from special glands in the palms of its hands.
“I do not want you to be overly concerned. I will not cover your noses until your transformation into my finished works of art is complete. You will be able to breathe just fine as long as you live. I cannot imagine anything worse than suffocating to death. I would never do that to anyone,” Calamity said sounding like a compassionate doctor comforting a nervous patient. Then she added matter-of-factly, “Besides, if you die too soon, your juices will stop flowing.”
Finished with Kat, Calamity began working on Carter. “You may be interested to know, Carter, that if you had brought a light, you would have seen, as you were falling, there were steps leading all the way back up to your world. You could have tossed your rope onto one of several smooth rocks that stuck up near the steps and pulled yourself over to a landing.
“Oh, wait, you didn’t bring a rope either. My mistake. No, actually it was your mistake. You might also be interested in knowing that if you had brought some food with you, you could have traded it for your lives, and I would have shown you a way back to your world. Back up the road we traveled, past where we met, there is another hole that goes to your world. Since you did not bring any food, I have to eat you instead. Because, you see, I am very hungry, and you cannot blame a girl for wanting to satisfy her appetite with whatever is available.
“There, all done.” With a sigh, the nasty creature continued talking. “Preparing meals is such hard work. I must rest before I can eat. It is such a nuisance because I am famished, but it cannot be helped. When I wake, I will be back. Now, I do not want you to worry. It will not hurt when I suck out your juices. You will just grow more tired and weak until you fall asleep. I would imagine it might be rather pleasant. I know it is pleasant for me. With that said, I will bid you a good night. Do not let the bedbugs bite. I want to do all the biting, or should I say, sucking?” Calamity laughed a hideous sounding noise.
“Oh yes, one more thing. Did you happen to bring a knife? If you did, you might be able to move enough now to cut your way out of the casing before it dries completely. Knowing how prepared you are, Carter, I am sure you must have one,” she said sarcastically. “What a fool you are for not being prepared. I hope you are prepared for death.” The monster sighed and continued, “What a pity that you are so young and foolish, but good for me. I will be waking up to a lovely meal.”
After the creature left to take its nap, Carter struggled desperately to escape, but it was no use. He could not move enough to break free. Even though the resin was not completely dry, it only allowed for slight movement. As his mind raced trying to think of a way to escape, he finally gave up and settled for chiding himself for his lack of foresight.
Why didn’t I think to bring proper equipment? I am so stupid! Why didn’t I think about what I was doing? I know better. Now Kat and I are going to die. Am I ready? Have I prepared for the most important, unavoidable adventure we all have to take?
Suddenly, as if by magic, Kat appeared standing over Carter with a finger to her lips warning him to stay silent. Stooping down, she cut a long slit in the resin coffin, allowing Carter to free himself. As quietly as they could, they moved swiftly back up the road to the hole Calamity had said would take them back home. Carter pulled out the parachute, Kat crabbed onto Carter, and the two jumped into the hole.
As they floated down, Carter asked, “How did you get free? Where did you get the knife?”
Kat explained that normally she does not carry a pocketknife, but she had bought this one for Carter’s birthday just yesterday and still had it in her pocket. “I remembered how much you liked the knife Dark Beard gave us when we were in Dearth. Since I gave it to Casbar, I thought I owed you another. It doesn’t have as many tools as the one Dark Beard gave us, but it is the best I could do with three months of allowance.”
“Kat, my birthday isn’t for another three weeks.”
“I am sorry to have ruined the surprise, but I thought you might like to have it early this year.”
This story was based on the main characters from the novel, Beyond the Dead Forest. This book can be purchesed from most online bookstores. fantasy, action adventure, children, kids, young adult, action, horror, spooky, thrilling, teaching story, Sunday school, children's church, camp story, home schooling