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Download your copy soon! Garden Grove is free on Kobo until the end of February 2016.  Download your copy today.

Includes bonus content: Old Mill Road (short story). Warning: this is only the beginning to the Old Mill Road story. There were too many questions down the old Mill Road to leave it here.

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/garden-grove-2

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Garden Grove is supposed to be an idyllic new housing development in a cozy bedroom community just outside the city.

Someone is trying to stop the development. Vandalism and sabotage slow construction. The work crew is poisoned. And someone is messing with the blueprints. An old man plants human remains on the site.

Is the whole town trying to shut them down? What the hell is going on here? Some things should remain buried.

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GARDEN GROVE EXCERPT:

7 – Rusty Plowshare’s Scheme

“So, the skull wasn’t good enough, huh?!  Oh, I’ve got something better than that, much better,” Rusty Plowshare muttered bitterly.

The old man nodded to himself.  His chin, white with unshaven whisker stubble, caught and held a piece of loose straw in the stubble when he came away from the stacked bales of hay he was digging between.  The straw bales were sagging with rot and greyed with age, their fibres breaking down over the years they had sat idle.

He turned away, rummaging through one pile and then moving on to another.  Rusty moved with arthritic slowness, the skin on his thin arms sagging from age and loss of the underlying muscle mass of youth.  His face, leathery from decades of working in the sun and wrinkled with age, gave him a crazy old man in the mountains look instead of wizened with age.

He was in the old barn, its interior packed with an amazing amount of clutter of every description.  It is unbelievable the old man can even move around in there, much less search the place.  The old packrat collected anything.

There are cats everywhere too, cats of every age and description, some looking very unhealthy, all feral strays that had made this barn their home.

“Now, where’d I put it?” he muttered to himself.

It wasn’t in the narrow space of a double wall between two stalls.  He moved on to search somewhere else.

“Maybe behind the loose board in the wall?”  He pried the board off and looked.

“Ah, I know, under the floorboard!”  He moved and stooped over a floorboard, pulling it up to look beneath.  Most of the barn floor is an open dirt floor.  However, one end of the barn, for reasons known only to the old man and his predecessors, has a rough floor of old two by fours that are now soggy with rot.  One part of this section, in the dark shadowed recesses of the corner, hides a small makeshift cellar dug into the ground beneath the floor, the rest of it covering part of the dirt floor that makes up most of the barn floor.  This particular floorboard covered a gouged out section of dirt just deep enough to hold its small treasures wrapped in rotting cheesecloth.

But what he is looking for is not there.

“Damn!”

“I know it’s here somewhere,” Rusty grumbled.

Noticing the carelessly dumped loose soil marking the spot where the skull had been dug up from, the old man reminded himself, “Got to stamp that down some, won’t do to have anyone finding it.”

The old skull had been buried in the barn for a very long time.  Of course, the rest of the body was there too, along with the tool used to kill the man.

It’s very possible the man buried so many years ago in the dirt of the barn was old Rusty Plowshare’s great great grandfather.

He did not really know for sure.  There was more than one body buried beneath the old barn through the generations of his family that lived here.

His great great grandmother’s husband, the man whose family name he carried, did not really know for sure either when he bludgeoned the young man to death in a jealous rage in that year after the then young couple was married.

If the rumours spread that day so long ago by a group of busybody old women making trouble where they had no business putting their noses were true, rumours of the wife’s alleged infidelity and possibly questionable pregnancy, then those were the remains of his murdered great great grandfather.

Or, the young man may have been an innocent victim of a husband’s jealousy and a bunch of busybodies making trouble where there wasn’t any.

Only his great great grandmother knew the truth.

She was buried beneath the woodshed some years later, after failing to provide her husband with an offspring that was undeniably his in his mind.  She had given birth to more children after that first boy, but her husband could not let go of his suspicions.

There are many dark secrets in his family’s history, and Rusty Plowshare knows where each one of them was buried.

It also could have been someone else.  Rusty had heard stories passed down about his great great grandfather’s violent temper.

“Ahh, there you are!” he cooed.  “Beautiful.”  He pulled out a round wrapped bundle and held it up as if presenting it to the watching eyes of the dozens of felines witnessing his moment of triumph.

“I know just what to do with you.  If you don’t stop them from digging out those woods, nothing will,” he said.

“I know just what to do with you,” he repeated happily.

GARDEN GROVE EXCERPT:

19 – Observer

I see you old man, watching the workers again.

What kind of trouble are you up to now?

I know you hate me and my kind. You hate them too, the newcomers who have not been here for generations.

What is going through your mind old man?

You look like you are waiting for something.

Ah, it looks like they found something.  You look happy, downright giddy about it even.

Oh, what have you done?  Just what are those old bones you planted?

Ah, yes, the child.

I know the child.

I know the child well.

What is your trick old man?

What are you trying to do, planting those old bones?  The child?

OLD MILL ROAD EXCERPT:

The four kids stood around looking down at it.

     “I don’t think we should tell anyone,” David said.  He was the oldest of the group, a virtual adult at ten.

     “We have to,” his brother Ian insisted.

     “They’ll think we did it,” he warned.  “We could go to jail.”

     The third boy, Nick, youngest of the children, whimpered.  He didn’t want to go to jail.  That was where they put bad people like Uncle Harvey.  Uncle Harvey scared him, a lot.  He didn’t want to go live in jail with Uncle Harvey.  He started to bawl.

     Felicia just stood there next to her little brother Nick, her face ashen, shivering although it was quite warm and sticky with the humidity left by the waning hot day.

     The sky grew darker, the sun lowering on the horizon, as they stood there mutely staring like worshipers at a grisly shrine.  Finally, they nodded their wordless agreement, turned, and melted into the fast darkening woods, looking more like specters than living children.  This would be their secret.

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The Woods

This story was first published in 2009.  It has been tweeked and improved for your reading pleasure.  Watch for a longer short story version to come.  The story has just begun.  Read on…

 

The Woods – a flash fiction story by L.V. Gaudet

 

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow lies heavy and wet, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees, a small rabbit nervously twitching its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” said the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stared stone faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallowed.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that ole’ stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but certainly is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hiked up his pants, which did not need it, and stepped forward on a mission. He marched purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly followed his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampered up to the high branches as they passed, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin had dared his younger brother to venture to. It is no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asked nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.”

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 

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