Carter had been sick with a fever for several days. His mother kept him in bed the whole time. After sleeping for ten hours straight, he awoke and checked his alarm clock. He could see by his nightlight that it was 3:00 a.m. Feeling an urgent need to use the bathroom, he slid out of his warm bed and stood for a moment. Feeling dizzy and disorientated, he sat back down. When the room finally stopped spinning, he slowly made his way out of his room and down the hall to the bathroom. When he was settled back in his nice warm bed, he heard a sound in his closet. He sat up a little too fast and felt a wave of nausea.
Oh, I am too sick for things that go bump in the night. He lay back down. Unfortunately, someone or something continued rummaging around in his closet. “Mom! Dad! There’s something in my closet.” The rummaging sounds stopped.
Carter’s mother stepped into his doorway, turned on the bedroom light, and moved to her son’s bed. She brushed back his blond hair and put her hand on Carter’s forehead. “You’re still hot, honey.” She took the thermometer, lying next to a bottle of aspirin, off the nightstand and took his temperature. “It’s up to 101 again.” Carter’s mom handed him a couple aspirin and a half-full glass of water. “Here, take these.”
Carter closed his blue eyes as he forced the bitter pills down past his sore throat. Then with a raspy voice he said, “Mom, I heard something in the closet. Will you please check it for me?”
“I’ll check it, but you were probably just dreaming. This fever has been giving you nightmares.” Carter’s mother opened the closet door, moved the hanging garments aside, and said, “Just your clothes and boy stuff. Now go to sleep, and I’ll be back to check on you later.”
As soon as his mom turned off the light and left the room, the rummaging sounds began again. Deciding it was time to investigate, he threw back his covers. But before he sat up, the closet doorknob turned, and with a long moaning of un-oiled hinges, the door slowly opened.
Carter watched fearfully as a hideous little grinning face with a larger than normal mouth full of sharp teeth peeked out of the darkness. Before Carter could scream, it put a shushing finger to its hideous mouth. Then it pointed at the terrified boy and said with a whisper, “If you do not want any harm to come to your parents, you will make no sound. Follow me.
Afraid for his parents, Carter obeyed the evil looking creature. The moment he stepped into the closet, the door slammed shut behind him, and he was no longer in his closet. The frightened boy found himself in a strange rocky area surrounded by high limestone cliffs. The face of the cliffs had intricate carved ornamentation that made them look like the fronts of ancient buildings. There were arched doorways that led into dark rooms carved out of the rock. Directly in front of Carter was a large, flat rock that resembled a round table. What he saw on the flat rock was the most horrifying thing he had seen yet. Bloody human body parts were scattered over its surface. Among other things, there were feet, hands, legs, parts of arms, and chunks and pieces of organs, and all of them looked like they had been gnawed and ripped apart by strong jaws. Carter was already sick, and now with his intense fear, along with the sickening sight before him, he was about to faint dead away.
Carter closed his eyes and tried with all his might to regain control of himself. When he was able, he turned around to see if he could find a way back to his closet and back to his room, but all he could see were more carved rock walls. Am I dreaming again, Carter wondered, hoping desperately that he was. “Hello, is anyone here?” he called, timidly. From a cave that was positioned beyond the bloody rock table he was answered by a hideous roar that was so fierce and terrible, his knees buckled, and he began to collapse.
Before he hit the ground, he felt strong hands grip him from behind. The feel of those hands on his arms sent a wave of revulsion through his body. He pulled away and turned to see the creature that had brought him to this strange place grinning a hideous grin full of sharpened teeth. It was the same size as Carter, dressed in dirty rags pieced together to cover its skinny body. Its eyes and cheeks were sunken. Its dark skin was leathery, and its hands looked like claws.
“Who are you; what do you want with me?” asked Carter.
“The sun is setting.” The creature’s voice was a harsh growl. “The others will come out soon to get a look at you.”
“What do you mean get a look at me?” Carter demanded.
“Here they are now,” said the creature. It gestured with its clawed hand toward the arched doorways.
Carter saw about a hundred individuals, each about the same size as the creature that brought him here, move out of the carved rock rooms. They did not appear fully visible as they stepped out. Rather, each one began as a ghostly image that slowly became solid as it moved into the open. Then, as one, they turned to look at Carter, gasped in delight, and with greedy looks in their eyes, they clapped their clawed hands. They were smiling, and they all had sharpened teeth. Their faces were pale with dark circles under their eyes. They moved closer to the rock table. Some of them were licking their lips. “Yes, yes they are hungry tonight, and they are not in the mood for leftovers.”
“What’s going on? They look like they want to eat me!” Carter exclaimed.
The mob laughed, and after they quieted down, the spokesman said, “Of course we want to eat you; we are very hungry. Now you have decision to make. Understand this; we will not eat you unless you give us permission.”
The boy was trembling with fear. “Why would I give you permission to eat me?”
“You have three options. First, you can drink a special potion we have prepared for you. It will cause you to fall asleep and then die peacefully. You will feel no more fear or pain. We will proceed to do what we do to your remains.”
“You mean, eat me,” Carter spat in disgust.
“Yes. Or you can join us for dinner as we eat last night’s leftovers.” The disgusting creature glanced at the gnawed body parts on the rock table. “If you do, you will become one of us.”
Just then, another shrieking roar caused all to turn toward the cave. “What’s in that cave?” gasped Carter.
“That is a great evil; it is your third option. There is a horrible creature in the cave. The cave is actually a tunnel that leads out of our town. Anyone who wishes to leave must get past the monster that lives there. However, it is so hideous that not even we, who are no longer human, will venture near it. You, on the other hand, may decide to brave the creature. I must warn you that nobody has ever been so foolish as to choose that option. Take my advice, and drink the potion that will make you sleep; that is the easiest way.”
Carter was starting to get angry. The angrier he got the more his fear faded. “You would like that wouldn’t you? Then you can eat me instead of having leftovers.”
At that, the crowd let out a cheer and shouted, “Fresh meat. Fresh meat.” And then they cheered again.
“I do not believe in suicide, no matter how attractive you try to make it sound, and that’s what you’re asking me to do. I don’t believe in hurting other people for my own selfish benefit either. You people, or whatever you are, disgust me.”
While Carter was talking, the little creatures began to look disappointed. This made Carter even angrier because he knew they were not upset at what he was saying about them. They were upset because they were going to be stuck eating leftovers. “You know what? I’m through with you ghouls.” Carter pointed to the far end of town and said, “That’s where I’m going to go, and you can choke on your leftovers.”
Again, another hideous howl from the creature in the tunnel filled the air. Cold spikes of fear shot through the boy. He stood frozen, looking off into the darkness. When Carter first stepped into this strange town, there was enough daylight to see the entrance to the tunnel. Now that the sun was fully set, there was only a half-moon to light the boy’s way. It was just enough light to see a few feet ahead.
“Very well,” said the disappointed creature. “You have made your decision…go…you are no longer welcome here. Enjoy your experience with the monster.”
Carter was so sick and scared that he could hardly stand. But with great effort, he slowly made his way to the tunnel. Once he came to the entrance, he could smell the stench of death. He did not want to go in, but he did not want to give the little ghouls the satisfaction of having him for dinner.
Out of nowhere, a huge, dark, misshapen form rose up to tower over Carter as it shrieked a bloodcurdling challenge. “Why do you bother me this night?” a harsh evil voice growled.
Carter couldn’t talk.
“Well?” the voice demanded.
Carter swallowed hard, but his mouth was so dry he could not get anything out. He swallowed again and managed to stammer, “I d-do not wish to b-bother you, I only want to p-pass through the tunnel and continue on my way.”
“I see,” said the voice, more calmly. “Since you have paid the toll that I require, you may pass.”
“Excuse me?” Carter asked in surprise. “What toll did I pay?”
“You faced your fears. You had easier ways out of your situation, but you decided to do the hard thing, the right thing, and face your fear. That has set you free.”
“But I don’t understand. That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I thought horrible things were going to happen to me.”
“That is usually the way it is with fear. Once you face it, it loses its power over you. You will find that the things you fear might happen oftentimes do not. Now, since I have no power over you, you may go.”
Directly in front of Carter, a door appeared. He opened it and found himself stepping out of his closet and back into his bedroom.
The main character, Carter, is based on the same character in the novel, Beyond the Dead Forest. This book is available on most online stores.fantasy, children, kids, young adult, horror, dark, spooky, thrilling, Christianity, Sunday school, teaching story, home schooling, children's church, YA