Rachel wakes just as the sun begins to set behind the mountains on the far side of the lake. She’s up with a start, a disoriented jump from the darkness of sleep into the flesh and blood reality of the world. There’s a panicked gasp of air as she pushes away a heavy weight smothering her.
But there’s nothing there. Only a faint echo of a dream that she senses was brilliant Technicolor only seconds earlier, but now disintegrates wherever she tries to grasp it. All that’s left of the dream is the smell of the world burning, lingering strongly enough that she searches the room for signs of smoke, thinking her dream world had stolen the idea from the real. But there is nothing. Only the couch where she napped, the dining table where Underwood smirks at her, still unused, and the kitchen, as equally ignored as the typewriter. No smoke. No fire. It’s no matter because all thoughts of either drift away with the rest of her forgotten dream and she lets it happen. There’s no fight in her to remember. She didn’t come to the cabin to remember, anyway.
She stands and stretches, shocked by how long she’s slept. There’s no clock or watch in the house or on her person, one of her writing retreat rules, but the light outside tells her the story. As the final bit of sun ducks behind the mountain in that curious sped up way typical of the last seconds of the sunset, she has a foreboding sense that time is somehow moving faster than it should. But that’s crazy, just her imagination taking advantage of her blurry state of mind.
That’s jus’ not how things work around here.
It’s Ollie’s voice in her head, but somehow she knows he’s right. Time doesn’t move faster here. It’s not how things work.
Thinking of work, she walks over to the dining room table and is surprised to see a piece of paper rolled into Underwood’s gleaming paper feeder, the metal bar snug against it, ready for business.
“You hoping to get lucky tonight, big guy?” she says. She waits, half-expecting the keys to thump out an answer to her question. But they don’t. They haven’t for a long time. “Let me use the bathroom first,” she says. “Help yourself to a drink.”
She turns to the sliding door to go outside but stops herself, surprised to find she means to pee outside. She’s embarrassed by the idea even though there’s no one else there. “Get a grip,” she mumbles, walking through the cabin and using the bathroom like a normal person. When she’s done, she pours herself a drink from the bottle in the kitchen, then returns to the table to face her tormentor.
Fingers on the keys. White page ready for her brilliance. Begging for it. And she wants to give it. More than that, she wants to stuff it down Underwood’s throat so hard he gags on it.
Her fingers move, slow at first, tentative. Then faster, speed building and building, until she’s dancing over the keys. The metal prongs, each with its own letter, smack through the black ink ribbon and stamp the paper. Her left hand swats the return register without being told when it’s time to do so. This is it, the old magic. She closes her eyes, swaying to the musicality of the words in her head, relishing the sense of them traveling through her nervous system in electrical impulses telling her hands what to do. Loving that all of it, this dance, this kinetic energy, this alchemy of creation, is thoughts made real. All she has to do to see inside her own mind is open her eyes, look at the page and see…
… a half-page of neat typing. First line indented. Hyphenated words at right margin. Two paragraph breaks. Lines of dialog in quotes. And not a single actual word that makes sense.
All of it.
Title: The Torment of Rachel Ames
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Genre: Thriller / Horror
Suffering from writer’s block, novelist Rachel Ames escapes to a lake cabin to calm her mind and regain a sense of herself. The location is perfect. Isolated. Beautiful. Inspiring. It even comes with a good-looking landlord who shows an interest in her. But she can’t shake the sense that something terrible has followed her to the lake, something just beyond her consciousness, something out on the edge where the sounds of a raging fire and sirens linger whenever she slows down to listen. Determined to make the cabin work, she tries to settle in and give her new life a chance. But when strange things begin to happen around her, she wonders if she’s made a terrible mistake. As the darkness that’s followed her manifests itself in inexplicable ways, her concept of reality is stretched thin and she realizes nothing at the lake is what it seems. As she fights to survive with her sanity intact, she understands too late that the location she’s chosen for herself is far from perfect.
Jeff Gunhus is the author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Jack Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 100 on Amazon and have been Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and Gold Medal Winners.
After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active lifestyle in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.
Author Site: www.Jeffgunhus.com