SacrificeSamhain Publishing, Ltd. has released the digital edition of Sacrifice by Russell James.

Description: Who can save the children from the Woodsman?

Thirty years ago, six high school friends banded together to confront the Woodsman, a murderous specter whose prey was children. None of the friends will ever forget the horror of those weeks…or blood chilling image of the Woodsman.

Now the six have returned to town for a long overdue reunion. Except the Woodsman hasn’t finished with them yet. As a new nightmare unfolds, ripping open old scars and inflicting fresh terror, what will each of them have to sacrifice this time to keep the children safe and the Woodsman at bay?

Excerpt: Copyright © 2012 Russell James
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication

Lightning arced across the night sky. In its flash, the Sagebrook water tower stood like a gleaming white beacon above the trees on the hill. Ten seconds later, thunder rolled in behind it, the way every event has an echo that follows.

Five figures scurried along the catwalk around the tower, one of the old-fashioned kinds, where a squat cylinder with a conical hat sat on six spindly steel legs a few hundred feet in the air. A newer tower served the people’s water needs, but the old girl was an icon for the Long Island town, so the trustees kept it painted white and emblazoned with the “Sagebrook-Founded on 1741” logo to remind themselves of their heritage. Once per year, the logo changed to celebrate the graduation of the Whitman High senior class.

The boys on the catwalk were going to see that this year it changed twice. These seniors had committed more than their fair share of pranks; stolen street signs, a tap into the high school PA system, swapping the state flag in front of school with the Jolly Roger. But this stunt would top them all

They had all met in the sixth grade, where their teacher had dubbed them “The Dirty Half Dozen” due to their inseparability and penchant for trouble. (The title had stuck.) They hadn’t done anything as dangerous as tonight’s foray, but anything worth a good laugh was worth doing.

“Who’s got the red?” Bob whispered, though no one but the boys could be within earshot. He crouched at the base of the new banner that read “Congratulations Class of 1980” with “Go Minutemen” painted underneath in red letters. Bob was rail thin with an unruly head of brown hair that consented to a part on the right and little else. An unlit cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth.

“Right here,” Paul said. He handed Bob a can of red spray paint. Paul stood several inches taller than the rest of the boys and his broad shoulders made the narrow catwalk a tight fit. He wore his Minutemen football team jacket, though Dave had told him the white leather sleeves would look like two glow worms crawling across the tower at night. His hair was cropped close and he sported the shadow of what he euphemistically called a moustache.

A blast of cold wind hit the tower. The snaps on Paul’s jacket hit the metal railing with a reverberating ping.

A third boy, Jeff, hung over the catwalk railing. He had a long face with ears that had stuck out just enough for a good round of elementary school ribbing. He held his New York Mets ball cap tight as he looked down at the perimeter fence. A ten-year-old Olds Vista Cruiser station wagon idled near the hole in the fence. There was a slight lope to the modified V8’s rumbling exhaust through the turbo mufflers. The headlights were off, but the parking lights lit the edges of the car. Jeff spoke into a cheap Japanese walkie talkie.

“Dave,” he said. “What the hell are you doing with the lights on?”

“Damn,” Dave answered from the Vista. “Sorry man.” The marker lights in the car went dark. “It’s clear down here.”

“At two a.m. it had better be,” said Ken, a red headed kid with a rash of freckles across his cheekbones. He slipped behind Jeff to join Bob and Paul. He brushed against Jeff’s butt as he squeezed by.

“Watch it, homo,” Jeff said.

“It’s your ass,” Ken said. “It’s so enticing. We’re here in the dark…”

“Hey,” Bob snapped. “You girls want to shut the hell up and start spraying?”

Twin lightning flashes lit a big cloud like a floating anvil-shaped lantern. Thunder crackled across the sky five seconds later.

Marc, the last boy on the tower sat at the opening where the access ladder met the catwalk. His feet dangled through the opening. Both hands gripped the catwalk rail. He was the slightest of the group and he had to brace himself against a renewed gust of wind that rocked his thick curly black hair back and forth. There were only four cans of paint, so he could have stayed in the car on watch with Dave. But there was something to prove by climbing the tower, though he wasn’t sure of it was to the others or to himself. The journey did enlighten him about one thing. He was definitely acrophobic.

“We better hurry,” Marc said. “We don’t want to be up here in the rain.”

“You said we’d have clear weather,” Paul said to Ken as Ken handed him a can of white spray paint.

“No,” Ken said. “I said there was a twenty percent chance of a shower. When I have a few free hours, I’ll explain probability to you, Jockstrap.”

“There’s a one hundred percent probability I’m going to throw you all off this damn tower if you don’t shut up,” Bob said. The spray can in his hand started to hiss. “If we don’t do this tonight, they’ll have time to paint over it before graduation. Let’s go.”

“All for none…” Paul said.

“And none for all,” the group finished. The teen’s unofficial motto, in its sarcastic denial of camaraderie, completely represented theirs.

Paul, Jeff and Ken joined in and the side of the tower sounded like a den of spitting cobras. The “G” in “Go” lost a few of its edges. A “B” took shape on the tower’s side.

Another bolt of lightning arced from the anvil cloud to the ground. This time the thunder reported only a second after. The smell of rain wafted in on the breeze. A spray of fat drops splattered against the tank like machine gun fire.

“Hey, guys,” Dave’s voice said from the walkie-talkie in Jeff’s belt. “It’s starting to rain down here. Is it raining up there?”

“No,” Ken answered to himself with a roll of his eyes. “It always rains from the ground up.”

Jeff gave a quick look at the peak of the tower, then at the approaching cloud. “This thing is one hell of a conductor. We should…”

Lightning split the sky above their heads. The thunder was simultaneous and sharp, so loud that the boys could feel it rumble.

“Hang on, wussies,” Bob said. He gave the tower one last blast from his can. He stood up and leaned back against the railing. “Go Minutemen” had been transformed into “Blow Minutemen.”

Paul gave his “L” one final shot of red. He appraised his work with an admiring stare. “How did Ms. Kravitz ever give me a D in Art?”

Marc stood at the ladder, one foot on the first rung. “Let’s go!”

The air around them seemed to come alive, as if the molecules had decided to dance in circles around each other. The hair on the boys’ arms stood on end. Jeff’s walkie talkie buzzed like a cicada. A freezing downdraft swept the catwalk. Five heartbeats went into overdrive.

“Lay flat!’ Jeff shouted.

The boys dove for the decking. Marc, already on the ladder, just hung on.

A white light blinding as the power of God enveloped the tower. Deafening thunder blanketed the boys and the air turned hot and dry. Uncountable volts pumped through the tower as the lightning bolt ripped from the spire on the peak to the ground below. Jeff’s radio exploded in a shower of sparks and melted plastic. The boys’ bodies jittered against the catwalk decking, belt buckles clanging against the steel. Clothing smoked and there was the disgusting smell of burnt hair. The split second seemed to last forever.

You can order this one in a variety of digital formats directly from the Samhain Store here: Sacrifice

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