It is my pleasure to present to you the #1 story from the July 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest.
Adele’s tale absolutely grabbed me from the beginning, and I really enjoyed it. You will, too.
Have a good time reading this story. I’ll give you my reasons for why I liked it at the bottom of the post.
GRAND PRIZE WINNER
“Devil’s Hollow Holy Water”
Adele Marie Park
A community that hides a secret, sticks together. It binds them like glue and smells just as evil.
Holy Water is one of those towns built upon the bones of those we took it from.
Oh, they’ll tell you that the settlers wandered for months without water when they came upon the river. The founding father fell on his knees and declared it a miracle. Hallelujah, Holy Water was born.
I’m smiling at you, Doc ’cause your last name was his too.
Don’t patronise me with your hollow chuckle; you ain’t amused.
It’s nice and peaceful by this window. I can see the gardens and the trees. Don’t mind having no shoes on my feet.
When I returned home that terrible day, my feet were so swollen they cut my boots.
Lord, I was screaming like a wild animal. They paid no attention. If they had, Benji might’ve been saved. I doubt it, but in the early days that one thought kept me from dying.
Here come the tears again. Like Mama’s, on the morning it happened.
She’d had no money from Mr. Aitken’s for a month. Oh, he kept saying things would get better, but he was lying and she knew it.
Benji tried to sit on her knee but she was shaking so bad he fell.
He hit his head on the table and hollered like a baby goat.
So Mama told me to get on out and take Benji with me.
I got us bundled up in our new winter coats. The last of Mama’s money went on them, but she said we needed em’. I’d have done without but that’s a Mama’s love for you.
The day was full of the promise of snow. You know, the kind of sharp, crisp morning when jack frost is just waking. Peaceful if it weren’t for Benji and his screams.
They echoed around, shaking stubborn leaves off the trees and scaring the crows.
He stopped crying when I gave him the last of my candy from Halloween.
Anyways, we was heading towards the park. Even if it only had one swing, it was better than getting under Mama’s feet.
Benji was chattering like a baby bird, but I wasn’t hearing him on account of Doug coming towards us.
Doug Johansen. The boy that made my hormones come alive, despite his braces.
My sixteenth birthday had come and gone with nothing changing but the weather. I’d been this way about Doug for two years.
Sometimes when I laid quiet in bed on nights when sleep was missing, I imagined what it might be like to kiss him.
Would his braces cut my lips?
Would it be like kissing a dead fish or would it steal breath from me and set my heart pumping blood so fast I got dizzy?
I would press my face against the pillow and giggle like I was Benji’s age.
I remember Doug saying hi, and us looking at one another. Not saying a word.
Benji found something up his nose and I swatted his hand away. It made Doug and me smile at one another, flipping my stomach like a pancake.
Doug’s older brother, Bart came along on his bike. Laughed and said we was idiots.
The brothers got into an argument.
Bart called Doug a coward, and I asked why. Wish I’d kept my mouth shut but I guess I never could.
So we got the story from Bart. Last weekend, Halloween night, Bart and his stupid friends dared Doug to go into Devil’s Hollow and search for the mine. Doug refused to go and I don’t blame him.
Devil’s Hollow is in the middle of the woods that edge Holy Water. It’s a mean looking place. Dangerous, too. An old mine lies buried, the entrance lost to time.
There’re stories about that mine. You know ’em.
How a hundred years ago or more there was a pack of miners and their families living in Devil’s Hollow. More of ’em came building homes like it was a small town. Fragile homes, Mama said, made from sticks and planks of wood which was no good come the winter. They came because some fool said the mine was full of gold. They found nothing but death.
My granddaddy used to say they dug something evil outta that mine.
Anyway, the miners caused a huge landslide that buried the mine and the houses. The ground just opened and swallowed them.
Old folks say it’s cursed land, while others say they triggered an earth quake.
On this day I told Bart we’d go with them to look for the mine. I guess the day was just started, and I didn’t want to go home yet. Or maybe it was because of Doug.
I carried Benji in my arms, while Doug walked beside me. Bart peddled on his bike, scouting ahead, he said.
God damn. It started out so innocent. We were bored kids trying to find treasure or something. Isn’t that how they say it in the books?
We talked about things that might bore most folks, but for me, it was a golden moment. I keep the memory locked inside my head. No one can take it away from me, no matter what they do.
The nearer we got to Devil’s Hollow my breakfast turned to rocks in my stomach.
Healthy trees gave way to ugly, mean stunted things, all twisted and overgrown so that the sun only pierced the tops of ’em.
I looked up once. Without their leaves, they was just like skeletons and I could imagine them reaching out with bony fingers, snatching me up and shaking me til I died.
It got colder too. Not winter cold, but bone chill. That’s my granddaddy’s saying, and it’s a true one too. I was glad mama made us put on our new coats even though the wool itched any skin it touched.
I didn’t put Benji down even when he wanted to ’cause the ground was all mulch and smelled like a blocked toilet.
You ever smelled that? Nope, suppose you ain’t.
By this time we went quiet.
Bart was pushing his bike but took a temper on it and left it beside a tree. He took a flashlight with him though. Should’ve realised how serious he was.
I got my coat caught by brambles, but Doug got me free.
My new coat ripped and I remember wanting to cry as the button tore.
The fear of mama’s tears and pain made my heart tremble.
The spikes kept a hold of the pink button, guess they still have it.
Bart kept shouting for us to hurry or he would find the mine and keep everything for himself.
The deeper in we got, the worse the ground got.
Green muck oozed over the tops of my boots, making my feet squelch. The stink changed to rotten wood and dead animals. We had a racoon die on us in the woodshed, so I knew what dead animal smelled like.
Bart kept ahead of us. Despite the stink, I was enjoying talking to Doug until, Bart screamed.
We ran towards his voice, me bumping Benji on my hip to keep a hold of him.
Bart was stuck in the ground right up to his middle.
At first, I thought he’d fallen in a bog, but then I saw the broken bits of wood he was trying to grip. He said his feet had gone through something and his legs were dangling in space.
We hauled him out and pulled the bits of wood away from where he’d fallen.
I remember staring into that black hole and I thought someone said my name. I should’ve turned back, but hell, I’m as nosey as the next person.
Bart and Doug were arguing again. Bart asked me what we should do. Go down or go home.
He had a way of sneering. It always got my temper rising, so I told him to go down.
Benji cried; there was no way he wanted to go down, but I shushed him and dried his tears.
Bart shouted for us to come.
His feet hit something solid, and the stink got worse. Like rotting mushrooms or meat gone rancid.
Doug looked at me real funny. He whispered it wasn’t too late to back out, but I wanted to see. I needed to like an itch that wanted scratching.
He jumped down and the beam of his flashlight wavered. I prayed that the batteries weren’t going out. His feet hit something solid, and the stink got worse. Like rotting mushrooms or meat gone rancid.
I handed Benji down to him. Oh, God, why did I do that? It hurts so much inside; my baby brother.
No, I’ve got to finish this. I’m old now and it’ll be the last time I recall it. You can do what you want with it when I’m done.
I jumped in after them, and if the stink was bad up in the fresh air; it was disgusting here. The reflex to vomit was strong, but I swallowed hard enough to banish it, holding my breath until my ears popped.
We stood on damp, rotting wood that looked like floorboards. We thought it must’ve been part of the shacks.
That scared the hell outta me. We were walking on graves. People died here.
Doug shined his torch around the walls, yep, walls, made of the same type of rotten planks.
Them walls disappeared into blackness. A tunnel that might never end.
Bart was far ahead of us and his voice echoed back saying he’d found something.
Careful of the flooring, I picked up Benji, and we walked on real slow to where Bart waited for us.
Bart came into view when the flashlight shone on his face. The light made his skin white but with a kinda green tinge to it.
Then we saw them.
I hid Benji’s eyes, but he seen ’em and started to whine.
Bart was touching ’em, excited, he pointed out the rings on their fingers.
Doug and me shouted to leave them alone.
He agreed too quick, it showed how scared he was.
Someone piled up the skeletons at a corner. Who had done that?
Why the hell was there a corner?
The more we questioned what we’d found, the more my nerves shot through me. I remember saying I would be sick and we should go back.
Benji was hiccuping tears every so often. His senses told him he shouldn’t be here with them long dead bones.
God damn, everything in those moments are so clear, they replay in my head all the time.
Doug took hold of his brother’s shoulders and shook him like a bag of popcorn. He cursed at him saying he would tell his mama everything.
Bart yelled at him to shut up.
The silence after made me hold my breath. I heard nothing but my heart echoing in my ears. I hurt inside, wishing I’d never eaten breakfast as my stomach surged like a roller coaster.
It’s so weird all these things happening in seconds. Normal reactions to a situation which was anything but normal.
Then the sound came.
It reminded me of chipmunks, but what the hell would they be doing down here?
We stared at one another.
You know when you read “their eyes were wide”? Well, that’s true. It looked like Doug’s eyes would pop outta his head.
Nothing could be alive down here, could it?
He shone his torch further down and the light never reached the end of blackness.
“We’ve found the mine. We will be rich.”
I remember Bart saying those words, and taking off like a jackrabbit.
We’d no choice but to follow.
Doug’s flickering torch picked out more floorboards, and the walls packed up with dirt and more wood.
Bart’s feet shuffled onward and I’m thinking how far is he going to go?
The footsteps kept going, and the air hurt my lungs. It was like breathing in damp fog that burned.
The tunnel narrowed and Bart’s footsteps stopped. He didn’t call out like before, so we wondered what the hell he’d found this time.
When we caught up with him, the tunnel opened out into a large cave with lots of tunnels leading off.
We stood gawking at what was in the middle of the cave.
An old table dominated the space. What gave me terror bumps was someone had dressed the damn thing.
Plates and cutlery. A teapot sat in the middle like a short, stout, commander of the cups.
On the rickety chairs, sat like royalty, were two skeletons, dressed in rags that held likeness to clothing.
Benji had gone quiet with fright, but I held his hand and walked back the way we’d come but stopped. It was black as tar without a flashflight.
There was a sudden loud noise that made me jump and Benji wet himself.
“You stupid idiot,” Doug shouted at his brother.
Lord, when they gave out brains Bart must’ve been absent that day.
He’d touched one skeleton and the damn head rolled onto the floor making an almighty racket.
It echoed around us and slid down those other tunnels carrying, Lord knows how far.
I held my breath until I couldn’t any longer for fear of passing out. Even so taking in breaths so fast made me dizzy. Terror froze us. I know it’s a saying but until you feel it creep into your bones, you don’t know how real that saying is.
Benji laid his head on my shoulder, his breathing making a song, a wheeze as if the damp and mould were lying in his lungs.
I remember thinking that mama was gonna beat me for getting him so dirty and ill.
Bart opened his mouth but shut it again, waving at the rest of us to keep quiet too.
He pointed to one of the tunnels and cupped his ear.
I figured out from his bizarre behaviour that he was hearing something, so I listened.
At first, all I heard was blood rushing around my body and the fast beat of my heart. It thumped like a resurrection preachers drum.
Slow at first, the sound trickled into my ears.
It sounded as if someone snapped their fingers, but not in time. A disjointed rhythm, it grated on my nerves and my mouth filled with saliva.
I backed up holding onto Benji so tight he grunted.
Doug glanced around before he joined us. I turned my back at the entrance and I swear there were spiders crawling down my neck. Doug took a hold of my elbow and we moved faster until we entered the dark tunnels again. Bart’s footsteps kept pace with ours. The clicks got fainter the more we kept moving. Something wet dripped down my face and I held up a hand to touch it. They were my tears that was falling. “Can we go home now?” I whispered hoping he caught my words above the shuffling of our feet.
“Yeah,” Doug said and turned his head towards Bart. “We’ve seen enough. Hurry up.”
We walked back through those damn tunnels except now they seemed to go on forever. We jumped at every noise and the shadows the torch threw up.
Benji’s wheezing got worse and my teeth chattered. I longed for fresh air on my face.
I remember a song kept going ’round in my head. “This train is bound for glory.” More like we was running outta the mouth of hell.
Our eyes got used to the darkness ’cause we could see daylight ahead of us.
Heaviness pushed on my chest as if someone tied a stone around my neck and it crushed my bones.
We stopped just out of reach of the hole, I guess we thought we was safe.
I turned around and noticed tiny trickles of earth flowing through the rotten planks like rainwater. Fixated by this, my brain trying to process why, when a plank fell from the wall and landed at my feet with a dull thump.
I glanced upward and my eyes widened as something pink tried to push through the earth.
Worms? They were like fat worms, wiggling in a way that made me feel sick.
Benji screamed and made me jump.
Bart poked the wall where another plank had fallen out.
I looked at Doug, my heart beat now up to the speed of a freight train.
“Run!” he said.
I tried to move but the ground underneath me heaved in waves.
My gaze fixed on him as the worm things protruded from the earth walls capturing Bart. Dozens of them wrapped around him like pink ribbon.
Doug tried to help him but there was nothing for him to grip. God damn, they pulled Bart into the earth. His screaming went on for what seemed ages, but it must’ve been seconds.
There was a gurgling sound before it stopped. I swear to God, they was eating him.
We could hear the crunching, oh God, the snapping of teeth. They were grinding up Bart’s bones like a wood chipper. Sniffing and gulping like a pack of animals eating their dinner, snarling over who got the juiciest piece.
Doug just stood there, staring at where his brother had been as if nothing was real and we’d all wake up and laugh about what’d we’d dreamed.
Something grabbed my hair, and I screamed like a fox caught in a trap.
Doug pulled me towards him, and through fear I dropped Benji.
I turned around, safe in Doug’s arms, and saw my hair, like cobwebs, dangling from pink fingers. They twitched, rubbing my hair with the finger tips as if they used them to see.
Benji sat on the ground, howling.
“Give me a minute, Jesus, just wait a moment will you?”
I was just reaching for him-and I would’ve got him-but a head pushed out of the earth.
It’s burned into my mind.
A bulbous head with no hair reminding me of a rotten fruit someone had left out in the rain. Soft and squashy. It might have been human once.
The eyes, Jesus, pure white, blind, and it opened its mouth letting out a gurgling, wet sound. Pointed, sharp teeth, like those of a shark, filled its mouth.
I couldn’t move, my fingers were so close to grabbing Benji, but I couldn’t take my eyes off that head.
Quick as spring showers that thing moved.
It pushed out of the earth and grabbed Benji.
It took my baby brother.
His screams didn’t last long. He was so tiny, so afraid.
Everything that happened next is blurry.
I screamed, and Doug shouted at me because more of those things pushed through the walls.
The ground heaved, they came from every direction.
The earth flew around in great globs that hit us, as they dug through like moles.
Doug pushed me real hard, and I fell face first onto a plank of wood.
As I looked back I wanted to scream at him in temper. Ask him why he pushed me, but they’d caught him. Grasped him in their fat, pink fingers, pulling him further into the earth.
His eyes, the expression in them….I’ll never forget. He opened his mouth and screamed at me to run.
I wasn’t quick enough because I saw one tear out his tongue, hold it up as if it were a piece of candy dripping with strawberry sauce.
It fixed blind eyes on me as it bit off the tip of Doug’s tongue.
That did it.
Fear and flight took over me and I scrambled over broken planks and soft squashed stuff, I didn’t want to know.
Just as I reached the place where we first jumped down, something snagged my foot.
One of those monsters crawled after me.
It mewed like a kitten, it’s fingers scrabbling, trying to get a hold on me. Its body was as bulbous as its head.
I saw veins pulsing through the creature, carrying blood to a huge black heart, and I wanted to have the courage to rip it out of the thing’s chest.
Anger flared up inside me, giving me strength.
I screeched, kicked out and got free. My boot caught the thing in the face and a sound like a dying cat left its mouth.
Revulsion caused me to gag as green goo dribbled from the corner of the gash that was its mouth.
By now the need to escape flooded through me, giving me speed. I shimmed up the wall.
I got to the surface and threw myself on the wet grass. My lungs were bursting as I drew in deep breaths.
Below me, I heard them, they were swarming like ants. Oh, God, I ran like the hounds of hell were chasing me, not caring if branches scratched me or holes in the ground tripped me up.
The sound of my feet pounding on the road, matched my heartbeat, thump, thump, thump.
I burst through the front door, mama screamed and dropped whatever she had in her hands.
Mama couldn’t understand me.
I was shaking so bad that no words which came out of my mouth made sense. Then Mama realised Benji was missing…
The cops came. Well, Deputy Francis, being the only cop in town, arrived.
Neighbours pushed into our house. Someone trying to calm mama.
They forgot me for a moment; bad for me ’cause I replayed everything over.
Screaming ripped my throat, but I couldn’t stop. I howled like a wolf.
Someone must’ve called the paramedics. I didn’t feel the prick of the needle, but my body went to sleep.
Inside my head, I was still screaming, disconnected from my body and existing in a floating nightmare.
You say disassociation. I say drugs.
Give me a light. Thanks. I didn’t use to smoke, but it helps now. Nothing else on this earth can scare me now, apart from the creatures.
Everyone looked for Benji, Bart and Doug.
Never found ’em. Didn’t even find the hole we’d exposed.
They called in the FBI. I could’ve told ’em not to waste their time. People scoured Devil’s Hollow with big machines, and men in white paper suits took away samples of the earth. To check if there was poison coming from some government base.
Nothing was found. Not even a scrap of clothing.
Mama put me in an insane asylum; said it would be safer for me. I believe she knew the truth but got scared. The illusion that I was crazy was easier for her.
I soon learned to stop talking about what had happened. It stopped the constant round of doctors, drugs and other stuff.
Do you know what it’s like to be held under a cold shower? Oh, no, you don’t do that now, these days you invent different tricks.
When the drugs didn’t work. I’d lay awake at night, and I swear, I heard them underneath me. I’m never gonna forget the sounds they make.
I imagine what it would be like to stomp on their heads. Hearing the squelch as their skulls burst and the satisfaction I’d get.
Don’t worry Doc, those clowns in white won’t let me out.
It’s my minds way of trying to make sense of what happened that day. I got real good at saying that to them until it satisfied them I wasn’t a risk to myself or others.
They closed the damn asylum, and I got shifted around for a while until I landed here.
So, you got me, Doc, and like I said this is the last time I’m gonna talk about this.
What do I think they were?
I think a few miners and their families never died, they ate the ones who did and became something non-human. Or they were a forgotten race only remembered in legends.
Even the forgotten crazy relative hidden away hears news from the outside world.
I’ve heard kids and adults went missing in Devil’s Hollow. Where do you think they’ve gone?
Them ghost hunter people investigated.
I wasn’t allowed to watch the tv show; the old doc said it would bring back too many memories. He was right.
We opened something which should’ve stayed deep in the earth.
It is torture to be the only survivor of a horror so not of this world it haunts you.
It happened. They are real. They took my baby brother.
I heard they’re talking about bulldozing Devil’s Hollow and building houses on it. They can’t do that. Decent folks, they won’t suspect a damn thing.
You gotta tell my story Doc, you have to believe me. One night when it’s black dark they’ll crawl outta the ground.
It’s safe in here. No wooden floors.
What did I like about this story?
What spoke to me?
Some stories just have it. This was one.
It was eerie at the right places, and it had some adventure and mystery, but what I really liked was how I was immediately transferred to that place and time in the story, with the way they spoke and acted, and the journey they went on.
It’s hard to write a dialect without overdoing it. She did it well.
And the pace was really good. Creative and fun, but always with something sinister lurking in the background.
This was a fun story to read, as I’m sure you agree.
Join us TOMORROW for a profile of Adele.
Wednesday we’ll feature the 2nd place winning story, “Where The Black Trees Grow” by MD Walker. And of course, on
Thursday we will have the profile of MD Walker.
Friday, it’ll be the first of our 3rd place winning stories
Saturday will feature the profile
- and so on!
Right now, please join me in congratulating our 1st place winner, Adele Marie Park!
See you tomorrow!