The Garden’s wondrous feel wears thin as Abby and Susie try to find the truth behind the fountain of youth spice and their increasingly lustful urges. The search for answers takes them to the far reaches of the woods and back as new acquaintances become enemies and plans good and bad are foiled. Their relaxing stay finally turns into a frantic game of tag with everyone as the tagged and they the hunted as they elude friends and foe alike to satisfy their curiosity, and their lustful desires, for the truth.
I had a strange, sensual dream of my seductive lover. We were on the dark beach again, and he knelt over me as I lay in the sand on my back. My naked breasts heaved up and down. One of his hands scorched a path up my thigh. His eyes wandered over my naked body, taking me all in in his lustful gaze.
“You’re mine,” he whispered.
“Why me?” I gasped.
“Because I want you. That’s all that matters. Now I want you to become like me, like a monster,” he cooed.
He leaned back and I glimpsed the dark night sky. Behind him was the moon in its full brilliance. Its beams shone down on me and covered my body in its cool blanket of light. I felt something shift inside me. I raised my hand and my eyes widened as I watched as my fingers tore open and revealed long, sharp claws. My skin along my thighs stretched and broke open. Fur pushed through the wide slits, thick, coarse fur.
I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be a monster. “No!
No!” I screamed.
I thrashed beneath Scott, but he held me down. He smiled, and his sharp fangs shone in the darkness. “Mine. All mine.”
Hands roughly grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “Abby! Abby, wake up!” someone shouted.
My eyes shot open and I beheld Susie’s worried face. She sat beside me on my covers. I lay in the bed in our small cabin. There was no moon, no Scott, and no me turning into a monster. The sun was just rising on the horizon.
“I-I’m fine,” I told her.
She scooted back and let me sit up. The concern didn’t leave her eyes. “Abby, what was that? You looked like you were trying to fight off a monster or something.”
I ran a hand through my sweat-soaked hair and nodded. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Not something like that.” She pulled the top of the covers up and showed they’d been torn to ribbons. “I know the fountain of youth stuff here really works, but I never heard of somebody getting a clawed manicure from it.”
I took the covers from her and looked over the tattered remains. I raised a hand and looked over my fingers. The nails were long and sharpened to points, very different from my usual short, flat ones. I balled my hand into a fist and pursed my lips. “We have to find out what’s going on here.”
“Yeah, about that.” She took the covers from me and held them up. “I’d say this is a sign we shouldn’t stay here, so why aren’t we leaving?”
I shook my head. “We can’t.”
“Because we can’t.”
Susie raised an eyebrow. “Abby, you’re the most common-sense person I’ve ever met. You see something wrong with what you just told me? You’re not making any sense. We should be halfway down the mountain by now.”
I closed my eyes and nodded. “I know it, and you know it, but you and I both know we can’t leave.”
“You mean because of that there’s-something-here-keeping-us-here feeling?” she guessed.
“Any idea where it’s coming from?”
“No, but we need to find out as soon as possible before staying here does more than just damage a few bed covers,” I commented.
She cringed. “You mean before we turn into what Platt did and run amok in the kitchen?”
“Yeah, that.” I flung aside my sheets and hopped out of bed. I spun around and tore off the torn cover. “Help me hide this,” I ordered Susie.
“Why? They’ll just throw it out,” she pointed out.
I turned to her with a frown. “You really want them to find these torn things and cart me off to wherever they carted Platt?”
Her face fell. “Good point. How about our luggage bags?” she suggested.
The sheets were stuffed into my bag because Susie’s was a brilliant example of lack of organization and there was no room. When the deed was done we plopped on the end of my bed and put our heads together regarding our common problem. This day was Operation Infiltration. The hardest part of the plan would be the ‘infiltration’ part.
“So you said last night that we needed to get to the other side of the lake. That still the plan?” Susie asked me.
“Right now, but I don’t know how to do it,” I admitted.
“We could try swimming.”
“Did you see the parts of the lake beyond the swimming area?”
She sheepishly grinned. “Not really. I was-um, admiring the view.”
I rolled my eyes. “You mean that Nelson guy.”
“His name is Dan.”
“And right now he’s the enemy until we figure out what’s on the other side of that lake that might be giving us this suicidal urge to stay, and driving other people to feral madness,” I pointed out. “As I was saying, the lake is filled with a weed that would probably drown us if we tried to swim through it.”
Susie frowned and rubbed her chin. “You think they put it there on purpose?”
“Maybe, but our problem is how to get around I,” I told her.
“Why not over? There are some canoes on the beach,” she suggested.
I shook my head. “They’re locked together and we don’t have a key.”
“We could pick the lock.”
“Do you know how?”
“No, but it always looks easy in the movies.”
“This isn’t a movie.”
She folded her arms across her chest and huffed. “Fine, you think of something.”
I furrowed my brow. “What are we doing today? On our schedule?”
She shrugged. “Hiking.”
“We could ‘accidentally’ separate from the group and find our way through the woods,” I suggested.
“You mean no trail?” she wondered.
“I think this fountain of youth has gotten to your head and made you almost as reckless as me. There could be lions or tigers or even bears in these woods,” she argued.
“You have a better idea?”
“Yeah, the canoes. Or maybe stealing a golf cart and driving up the road to see if we can find a road that leads to the other side of the lake,” she added.
“I think they’d notice if a golf cart took off down the road,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, but wouldn’t it be so cool? We’d be driving ahead of a posse of attendants, all of us on golf carts. The dust from the road floating behind us and only the open road ahead of us,” she dreamed. I knocked her on the back of the head with my knuckles. She lurched forward, then spun around and glared at me. “What’d you do that for?”
“Because you’re still thinking this is a movie or some cheap adventure novel. We’re the ones stuck here, and we have to do this quietly. If we get caught we need to have an alibi for why we’re going where we’re going. That means no stealing, no picking locks, just getting lost in the woods,” I insisted.
Susie’s shoulders slumped and she pushed her lower lip out. “That’s no fun.”
“No, it’s not, but we have to be careful. That means not letting Linda on to what we know, or are trying to know. She might tell Nelson or her brother,” I warned her.
“Fine. . .” she mumbled.
I sighed and patted her on the back. “Maybe before it’s done you’ll ride a golf cart.”
Susie perked up. “Really?”
I grinned. “No, but I thought I’d try to make you feel better.”
She frowned and pushed against my side. “You’re mean!”
I laughed. “You forgot evil and vicious.”
Each of her words was punctuated by another push. “And evil and vicious!”
I leaned back and grabbed a pillow from the head of my bed. Susie blocked the blow from the deadly weapon of puff, and we wrestled for control. We were in the thralls of a tug-of-war when the pillow split in two. Stuffing burst across the room and covered us in the white fluffiness.
That’s when there came a knock on our door.
“Abby? Susie? Are you two already awake?” came Linda’s voice.
We whipped our heads to face each other. The pillow was torn, the room was a mess, and the cover was still hidden in my luggage.
“Um, we’re fine! Just a-um, just feeling a little accident,” Susie yelled back.
“Accident? Did you need any help?” Linda asked us.
I furiously shook my head, but Susie waved me off. “Um, actually yes. Yes, we could. Could you come in here?”
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
The door was unlocked and Linda peeked her head inside. Her eyes widened when she beheld the devastation. “What happened?”
Susie sheepishly grinned and rubbed the back of her head. “We, um, we had a pillow and cover fight and it kind of got out of hand. We had to throw out one of the covers and a pillow-well-” she lowered her head and clasped her hands against her chest in mourning, “-a pillow didn’t make it.”
Linda smiled. “I’ll see what housekeeping can do, but did you want an early breakfast? Your hike with Scott starts in less than two hours.”
The color drained from my face. “Scott?” I repeated.
Linda nodded. “Yep. He’s volunteered to take your group up the trail. He’s a fast guide, so you’d better eat a lot to get a lot of energy.”
My heart sank. There went our easy way of losing the hiking group. Still, we had a chance. A slim chance, but still a chance. I smiled at Linda. “Sure, breakfast sounds great.”