Orlin Wood by Jeremy K. Tyler
Description: One place. One family. One mystery. Orlin Wood.
In 1788, Zechariah Orlin stumbled out of the forest and collapsed in front of a hunting party. That moment marked the beginning of a cursed family, and the legend of Orlin Wood. From phantom voices and mysterious apparitions, to unexplained disappearances and unearthly scenes that cause the bravest of men to question their courage, Orlin Wood is a place that will haunt you.
That is, should you dare to enter.
Excerpt: As long as I can remember, Grandma would tell me about Orlin Wood. I can recall hundreds of stories about strange visitors appearing out of the woods on dark nights, only to disappear back into the morning fog; or over-confident adventurers setting off on hunting trips under a blood moon, running afoul of things unknowable and unspeakable. Mostly, though, Grandma’s stories were about family. Our family had lived on the edge of Orlin Wood for over 275 years, and we’ve had more adventures, mishaps, disasters, and just plain weird things happen than any other family in the county. Not really surprising, since the woods were named after my family.
My great-great-great-great grandfather, Zechariah, was the first Orlin. At least, he’s the first Orlin any of us know about. The way my grandmother tells the story, it was back in 1788, when he came stumbling out of the woods on the dreariest day of the year, right about dusk, and collapsed in front of a group of hunters. Since no one recognized him, and he was far too incoherent to make any sense, there was a bit of an argument as to what to do with him. But the eldest member of the party, a Mr Tennison, was a devout Christian who had lived a very severe and uncompromising life of service, and insisted that they make a litter and carry the man to his farmhouse.
For three days, the mystery man drifted in and out of sleep, muttering a single word, “Orlin,” over and over again. They could only assume that he was trying to communicate his name, so the family took to referring to him as Mr. Orlin. The man had a strange effect on people, even in his delirium. He seemed to extract a feeling of compassion and good will from those who lingered by his bedside—particularly, Elizabeth, the farmer’s youngest daughter. Since her older brothers and sisters all had work to do around the farm, Mr. Orlin’s care fell mainly into her gentle hands.
She watched over him as a mother watches over her firstborn child, and when, on that fourth day, he finally opened his eyes and the light of intelligence held firm, she burst into tears of joy. As my grandmother says, and she knows an awful lot about this sort of thing, “you can’t take care of someone and not love them, at least a little bit.” Sure enough, by the time Mr. Orlin woke, Elizabeth had fallen in love, and nothing—not even his personality—would sway her from it.
The odd thing was, upon waking, Mr. Orlin was no more well informed about who he was than the rest of them. He seemed to know a good deal about carpentry, farming, hunting, and even tracking; and what’s more, he seemed to have had, at one point, a fairly thorough Christian upbringing, since he was able to discuss the Bible in depth with Mr. Tennison. But he could not, for the life of him, remember where he had learned any of it.
It was Mr. Tennison that gave him the name Zechariah. He thought it was a fitting name for a good Christian man. The two of them spent a great deal of time together, hunting, fishing, talking about the Bible. And, when they would sit at table in the cool of the evening, Elizabeth was always certain to place herself as close to Zechariah as possible, asking about their day, listening with rapt fascination, regardless how mundane the answer was.
You can pick this one up directly from Untreed Reads: Orlin Wood
Description: Every town has dirty secrets. And some say the sun doesn’t shine on Halgraeve. All I know is there’s one secret that’s about to be let out, and when it is, this town’s going to burn like the sun.
Low-lit haunts … salt-stained roads … a cursed little town. The murdered soul known as the Driver crosses over to the living to find himself steeped in a seething brew of arson, mindless violence, imposters, revenge, lost causes, and second chances. Some motives are more pure than others. Some wills are stronger. And some wrongs won’t get righted on their own. The Driver skirts the fringes of the physical world waiting for the time that he will intervene and claim his own sense of justice.
Excerpt: The moon blazes and the vicious cold air whips around the windshield. Gripping the wheel, heat blasts over my cracked hands as I listen to the pop and sizzle of radio with a broken antenna. The frigid winter road lies ahead in a long line of starlit nothing.
Most of Halgraeve is bedded down for the night, and that’s the usual way of things. There’s not a whole lot that’s changed in the twenty-eight years I’ve called it home.
The battered street signs look the way they always have, bent and riveted to rusted posts flaking away their green paint. Friday night heroes reign at the bowling alley, its gravel parking lot lined with their second-hand horsepower. And kids still try to score beer at Slick’s Drive Thru when they can.
I did my time like everyone else, thought about getting out, and then never did. It could have been different. I could’ve taken a job elsewhere, moved to the city. It was just simpler to stay here. I know how things work; I know my environment. What’s coming around the corner usually isn’t a surprise.
After school, I bought a small house just outside the square in the center of town and then started doing construction engineer work for the county. I may have bypassed opportunities but I’m O.K. with that. There’s something straightforward and satisfying when things are uncomplicated.
Things haven’t been that way lately, though. Some of the sick and mindless kids in town have taken to beating innocent people for no reason. They don’t take money; they don’t say anything. They just come out of nowhere and take you down. That’s what I hear, anyway.
Everyone is on edge, and rightly so. There’s not much policing that gets done in Halgraeve and downtown is dead after dark. It would be easy enough to get caught up in something you didn’t want.
I’m not too worried about it, though. There’s a permit in my wallet that says Vernon Salters is licensed to carry a concealed handgun, and I always have my Sig on me. It’s the best kind of insurance.
I downshift before going into the next bend, mapping out the rest of my evening. I’ll go at the weights for an hour and probably nuke some leftovers. Then I might have a beer…
The burning glow of a road flare interrupts. A half-mile ahead, there’s a small car pulled halfway onto the shoulder. The driver waves both arms trying to flag me down.
Usually I only stop for women or the elderly, but on a night like this, I’m thinking anyone could use a hand. I shift again and let the motor wind down before applying the brakes.
Coming up behind the disabled vehicle, my headlights douse the scene, illuminating a girl sporting a dark green winter coat. She shields her eyes, backing up a step or two.
I catch a hint of her simple features and the tresses of auburn hair not covered by her white snow hat, and I’m sure I know her. It’s Melissa Downy; I went to high school with her.
Seeing her splits me between relief and unease. I’m glad it’s me who came by to give her a hand, but there’s that unspoken something between us that we never did work out.
You can pick this one up directly from Untreed Reads: Lady in Flames
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