The Story Circle: Sully, Finale

Cameron D. Garriepy

This should have gone live a week ago, but who reads blogs on the day before Thanksgiving? Four weeks ago, Shannon gave us the spooky beginnings of Sully’s tale, and Michael and Amanda pushed our heroine farther from safety. Into the darkness.

They’ve left the answers to the questions in my hands. What was in the box? What pursues Sully into the night? Who is offering her salvation?

Read on, friends, and find out.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and now…

Sully, Finale

The Jaguar wasn’t built for the road it met at the end of the ramp. Sully bumped along a half mile of broken asphalt and mud road through deep evergreen forest. She kept her eyes ahead. Behind lay madness, that much was clear.

Ahead, through a mist which lay, thick and creeping, along the forest floor, the soft pale light beckoned.

Sully felt silence pressing against the outside of the car. This silence had weight. She imagined it with hands to press against the glass and steel, but the vision brought on another bout of nausea. She swiped her clammy hands on her jeans and steered the car around the worst of the potholes.

She’d awoken drenched in sweat and tears in the hotel bed, two time zones from home, from an endless dream-loop of pursuit — prey to an unseen, all-seeing predator. Like a night-blind animal, she’d obeyed a primal instinct to flee the evil that was the box without stopping to consider that the box had chosen her.

That whatever the box contained had called to her from its table in the little shop.

She’d abandoned her laptop, the case of books from her publisher, her itinerary. Her purse.

Her phone.

Now, with the blackness and the vertigo threatening to send her off the dirt track and the soft white glow filling the space around her, Sully slowed the car. As the engine settled into an idling purr, she did consider: she’d removed the box from Noah’s Ark, kept it close, and allowed it to chase her far from anything resembling safety.

She blinked as her editor approached her from out of the mist.

She got out of the car without thinking. The silence was absolute save for her voice. “Karen?”

“You found me.” Karen smiled gently. “I didn’t know if you’d be able to see the signs. I didn’t know if you’d trust them.”

A nervous giggle bubbled up Sully’s throat. “I almost didn’t. I feel like I’m going crazy, Kay.”

“You were only supposed to be on a short signing tour.” Karen shook her head like a disappointed teacher.

The cold crept up her back at Karen’s words. Sully’s rational mind screamed against the unbearable lack of forest sounds, night sounds, any evidence of reality. Her muscles turned to water as Karen’s face began to fall away from her form. What emerged wasn’t so much a monster as an absence of humanity.

“I’m afraid it’s going to be so much longer.”

Sully crumpled, whimpering when her editor’s voice hissed from the lipless void.

“I needed a storyteller, someone with the imagination to bring me to life, to bring the things I desire to pass. Someone just like you, Yvonne Sullivan.”

The presence filled the light around her, and when it spoke again, it was with her own voice, echoing in her mind as the light faded and the blackness enveloped her.

“What darkness we shall write together, Sully.”

The Story Circle: Sully, Part Three

Cameron D. GarriepyThis one’s getting tense! Last week Michael got Sully behind the wheel of her Jag and introduced us to The Box. But what’s inside? What is, as Mr. Carnell hints, its story?

This week’s contributor is a new find for me. Amanda Holling writes at Amanda’s World. We share a few pastimes. Can you figure them out? 

Read on to find out where Sully’s Jag and the Box will take her…

Continued from Parts One and Two:

Sully, Part Three:

Sully clutched the steering wheel hard in both hands and swallowed down the sharp taste of bile at the back of her throat. She knew that couldn’t stop to be sick. If she slowed down long enough to open her car door and vomit onto the pavement, the terrifying blankness might catch up with her. She didn’t want to think about what that might mean. A tingling chill curled around her neck once more, clinging to her skin like a slender hand with too-long fingers. Her stomach lurched as the road in front of her seemed to slide upwards and to the right. She struggled to see clearly enough to keep the car on the road. Her foot involuntarily pressed the brake, but the dizziness began to fade almost as soon as it started and she was able to speed up again.

She topped a rise and saw something coming into view on the side of the road. It was one of those blue signs that always promised food, gas, or lodging, or so she thought at first. The reflective lettering glowed in the headlights and ordered the passerby to “Turn Here For Help.” Sully blinked once in confusion and squinted at the sign. As she drew level to it, she realized that it actually read “Tourist Information 740 AM.” She decided that it must be the lack of sleep finally beginning to show itself.

A moment later, another blue sign appeared in her headlights. This time it seemed to read “Have a Box Problem? Take This Exit For Help.” Her gaze lingered on the sign as it flashed by. She couldn’t be sure, but the letters seemed to swirl and re-form as she passed it.

Looking ahead again, she saw a third blue sign appear. This time the silvery letters read “Turn Here, Sully. I mean it!” She slammed on the brake and stared at the sign. The letters didn’t move. Sully considered her options. Behind her was utter blankness, a nothingness so complete that it terrified her. Ahead of her the desolate highway stretched away into the night. Just beyond the sign, though, she could see an exit ramp leading off into the stand of tall pine trees on the side of the highway. There was a faint glow filtering through the trees at the other end of the ramp.

The vertigo struck her again without any warning. Sully gasped as the nausea slammed into her at full force. She pressed her head back into the headrest and squeezed her eyes shut, willing the falling sensation to stop. When it finally began to fade, she sat up straight in her seat.

She knew she was running out of time. The nausea and vertigo were getting worse with each wave. The cold chill was spreading from her neck down into her chest and back. She needed help dealing with whatever she had released from that box. When she left the hotel in a blind panic, she had no idea where to turn. Maybe, just maybe, help was already here, and it was trying to find her. She nodded once, then gunned the car up the exit ramp and turned toward the soft white light she could see off to the right.

Tune in next week for the conclusion by none other than myself!

The Story Circle: Sully, Part Two

Cameron D. GarriepyLast week, Shannon left us wanting more, and this week I welcome Mr. Michael Carnell back to The Story Circle, the better to provide it. Michael first appeared as the anchor-writer for A Line Runs Round the World earlier this year, and I’m pleased as punch he’s back!

If you missed Shannon’s beginning, click here first.

Put your hands together for Sully, Part Two:

The sound of the engine and the feel of the car moving again brought a bit of comfort, but not enough to allow Sully to relax. She wanted to go faster, to get away from whatever it was behind her, but she didn’t know what she would do if she saw a blue light. Would she stop? She didn’t think the highway patrol could be of any help to her, but wouldn’t she have to stop anyway? And if she did stop, what would she say? How could she explain what she was running from?

And with that the doubt started to creep in. What exactly was it that she was running from? And where was she running to? Sully felt the need to get help, but whom was she seeking out? When she had jumped in her Jaguar and sped away from the hotel she was frantic. She had to get away from that box. But now, although she wasn’t any where near calming down, she wasn’t so sure of what she was doing either. As her headlights pushed on down the road she thought about that box.

She had found the old wooden box in a junk store that was trying to be an antique shop. Noah’s Ark they called themselves. One of those little places you come across in the mountains that is aiming for cute and quaint but in reality is a bit shabby and tacky. Made of some faintly red wood, the lid of the box had been closed tight so she couldn’t look inside before she bought it. But, she had liked the vines and leaves and garden motif decorating the outside so had paid for it and its mystery. That mystery. She should have known then not to take in something without knowing its story.

A dear ran across the highway, and she saw it just in time to brake and swerve. Her front tire caught the edge of the pavement yanking the steering wheel in her hands and she over-corrected before she could think, spinning the car around at least 180 degrees. At least. She sighed – and took the car out of gear. Which way was she pointing? The night offered no help. She couldn’t be sure if the Jag was aimed back the way she came now, or was she back on her path away? The deer, no a buck, stood off by the side of the road and stared at her. It was a large buck with an impressive rack. Sully shook her head with doubt about her direction and resisted the urge to cry. The buck looked back at her and tilted his head to one side.

Suddenly it came to her. Sully remembered which direction the creature had been running to cross the road. That was all she needed. She put the car back into gear and took off.

But on the back of her neck the doubt was still there. Sully knew the direction she was running from but she didn’t know the destination she was running towards. She had left the box, that box, back on the bed in the hotel room. All she really understood was that she had to get away from it and get help. Get help to correct whatever she had done by opening the box. By breaking the seal.

She looked in the rearview mirror but saw nothing. With a shock she realized that she really saw nothing – not the stars, not the night sky, not any reflections or hints of light. She checked both side mirrors and a chill went down her spine. They too were completely black. Her headlights were clear on the road ahead, but behind her there seem to be nothing at all. Or maybe worse that nothing, there was a lack of everything.

It was then that she felt the first wave of nausea sweep over her.

To be continued…

The Story Circle, November 2013: Sully

Cameron D. GarriepyThe Story Circle… I know. It’s been forever since I’ve managed to arrange for one of my favorite serial fiction events, but sometimes fate conspires and drops one in my lap!

Allow me to introduce you to Shannon at mrsugarbears, who is bringing back The Story Circle this week. Shannon describes herself and her blog as “Loving life and making each day happier through food, family, friends, design and wine.” Right? You’re already there, aren’t you? Come back and read her opener, then go play on her blog. Her recent food post made me all drooly.

Et voilà! Sully, Part One:

Sully could not remember the last time that she had slept or had anything to eat. She just kept driving. The interstate is the loneliest of places when you are scared and a dangerous place when you and your car are running on empty. The light had just come on and Sully knew she had to find a service station within the next 20 miles or she really was in trouble. She was stricken with panic. Was it following her? She needed to find a station fast and fill up.

Desperately trying to shake the whispered breaths that were chilling the back of her neck she reached for her trusty thermos. Why had she been tempted to open the box? If she had only left it alone, but of course her curiosity had gotten the best of her. Now she just prayed she could drive far enough away that it could not find her. Her intuition told her she had a long road ahead.

The neon sign glowing ahead was the best sign she had seen in a long time. Finally…a gas station. She quietly said a prayer of thanks and started reaching for her wallet. She screeched into the gas station preparing for the worst. As she frantically tried to swipe her credit card she felt the now familiar tingling on the back of her neck getting stronger. Fear seemed to overwhelm her now. She had filled the car almost completely, but her intuition told her she needed to get out of there. Sully replaced the hose and struggled to get the gas tank lid back on. She knew it was lurking nearby. Could she get away?

Sully slammed her foot down on the pedal and peeled out of the gas station. Her body and mind were so stricken with panic that she could not think. She knew that it was close by. The tingling all over her body resonated this. What could she do to escape it? Her first thought was to flee. Her second thought was to pray. As a Christian she knew that there were things in this world that were not of this world but she had no clue how to fight them. What had she freed into the world? She was anguished by the fear of what could happen next. The more she thought about it, the more she knew that she would have to prepare to fight. She was not going to be able to outrun this. Whether it was the fear or the lack of sleep she did not know. All she knew was she was going to need help and fast.

Tune in next Wednesday for Michael Carnell’s part 2….

The Story Circle: A Line Runs Round the World, Finale

Cameron D. GarriepyThis month has been an amazing trip.

Three weeks ago, I introduced you to Michael Carnell. Michael tagged Kate Shrewsday, who has passed the pen to Idiosyncractic Eye, who entrusted the finale of this story to Alexandra, who blogs at Gone for A Walk. I know her as Lexy from her linkups around the blogosphere, and I am thrilled to host her here.

A Line Runs Round the World, Finale:

(Parts OneTwo, and Three.)

Sometimes life gets rough, rocky and steep. Other times it’s easy and clear, a broad path down which you can see for miles and miles. Every choice you make is a small twist in your path – a crossroads down which you chose to go left or right. If every choice you make is a turning point in your own life, then starting down the line that runs round the world is the last choice you will ever make. If choices are what make up a life’s path, then what is a life without them?

Some who travel it have been aware of its presence their entire lives. Like me, they pass it by and think, not this way, not yet. Hopefully, not ever.

Others only discover it when it is time for them to make a terrible choice. Will I remove myself from all choice, past and future? Or will I live with my past choices and carry on with living?

My father always said that a man’s choices define him. The choice is neither good nor bad, it is the intention of the man that decides which side of the scales it lands on. It is you, he would say, as a person, who can shape things for the better or for the worst, with your choices.

He laid down the law about certain things, about certain choices I should definitely not make, not while I lived under his roof, but for the rest of it, he only urged me to make choices for good.

The summer of my sixteenth year, he repeated this speech more often than ever before.

His voice was laden with disappointment the night I came home drunk from a party. He told me I could never take back the harm I did in this life, never make up for the bad.

He was bursting with unexpected pride, the day I called him to help a friend who, when presented with some harmless looking pills, made a different choice than I did. Choices, he said. It’s all about intent.

He brought up choices again, with a solemn air of mystery, when I, blushing, revealed my crush on the girl down the road, her long brown hair and sparkling gray eyes. I remember assuming that, in that case, he was encouraging me to turn down the right branches to get the girl. Now that my entire world consists of my final choice of path, I suspect he was more hopeful that I’d just make the right choices.

She was the kind of person who caught people up in her wake.

I would have followed her down any path she chose to lead us down, and so would the rest of them. I liked to think, though, that it was only me she flashed challenging eyes at when we came to particularly frightening crossroads.

At the old farm out by the highway, the one she had decreed to be haunted and in need of exorcism by fire, I found out how completely I had let go of the reins of my own life.

She pulling the tank of petrol from the back of my car. I asked if this was really such a good idea.

She laughed, leaned over and kissed me.

One kiss and I was lost. If ever there is a turning point in a life, a point that could lead to riches or ruin depending on the choices made, that kiss was mine.

It was harmless, I figured.

I willingly followed her in a laughing lap around the house, air laden with the smell of sloshed fuel.

She led us in chanting an exorcism and passed me the matches. I, the puppet, obliged her.

The fire ran a path around the house before beginning its ascent of the walls, ravenous.

I only just heard the frightened cry over our whoops of excitement. In the flickering light of the fire, I saw with brutal clarity the old pickup truck parked in the shadow of the barn. The random scattering of toys on the grass.

I’d always tried to do good with my choices.

I found myself in the woods, on a trail not of my own choosing, and darkness was closing in.

She led us in a mad rush towards the cars, helpless and terrified of what we’d done.

My father’s words rang in my ears as I came to an abrupt stop beside my car, heat blistering my back. I was rusty at making choices.

She leapt to join one of the other vehicles, decisive in choosing her own path.

I found out that night that making the right choice doesn’t fix the wrong choices. There is no set of scales to balance, no magic to undo what has been done.

I ran back toward the inferno.

It could have been the right path, if I had taken it even an hour earlier. It could have been good. I could have been good.

After that, the other path seemed more appealing somehow. I stayed for a time, but in the end, I chose no choice at all, a straight and endless path with no offshoots. Anything’s better than a life of potentially bad decisions and what-ifs.

I feel as though I’m coming back into focus. I had intended to write of the line, and my time on it, but even starting this brought me further from the darkness. There was a woman. Her eyes pierced the veil, saw right into my own as I walked the path. Familiar. She reminded me of things. Life. I feel more like myself today than I have for years. It’s easier to walk the path without keeping hold of a life that was lost not long after deciding against choice. I prefer to let the past slip backwards in the stream, tumble the sharp edges away into foggy oblivion. The path is all there is, the last choice I ever have to make.


Ella couldn’t remember when friendship blossomed into love. Only that it was one-sided. He looked at her the same, while she saw him in a new light


Cheerful, playful Mio.

He held her hand at the hospital when she’d stupidly tried to impress him with drugs.

He spent that summer chasing after the love of his life. The girl who sparkled with life and excitement, who swept them along in the thrill of being part of it all.

They all followed her, but Ella followed Mio.

Until she didn’t. Just once, she didn’t.

She watched him run as they fled, leaving him.

The old man who’d always lived there, had they bothered to check their facts, died. Smoke inhalation, asthma and a weak heart.

Mio saved the visiting grandson, but that didn’t save him. Not with petrol on his hands, an empty can on the lawn, matches in his pocket. Not with his silence.

It could have been her.

He took all the blame, though it was clear the villagers suspected there was more to the tale.

Ella researched the impossible, now, finding ways to see paths that only some could see. Dowsing rods and shaman magic. If nothing else, this search for elusive truths distracted her from the memories of what could have been, what should have been.

Ella and her family had moved away shortly after the incident. She’d never guessed that he would have gone away too, on another path entirely, one too elusive to be seen with the naked eye.

It should have been her.