Where we live in Arizona, the weather has been an amazing 72 degrees until it suddenly dropped to a chilled, and even rainy 60. I know that most who live in my area do so because of the warmth. However, I am sad that this might be the last of our cold season until next December. To honor the chill, I am posting a fun and snowy sample from my first book, Personal Demons. I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 24: Games in the Dark (From Personal Demons)
“Alright,” the Colonel called out. “Mark will start the game. He will go to the middle of the field and mark off a circular ring with a five-yard radius around this.” The colonel held up large aluminum can. “He will be protecting this can. Everyone else will hide in the surrounding vicinity. Your goal is to get inside the guarded perimeter and kick the can before you are tagged. Mark can tag you by touch, or by snowball.” He grinned wickedly as he held up a perfectly-sculpted snowball. “Any questions?”
When no one responded, he continued. “Before the game begins, we will take five minutes to make ammunition for Mark. Be as generous as possible. Let’s go!”
Ben grabbed my hand, and we went with the others to the center. He showed me how to make a perfect snowball then we piled them together in several large, fast-growing mounds. After a few minutes, Mark was fully equipped.
“Alright,” the colonel announced. “Let the game start!”
Mark squatted down to the ground, facing the can, all playfulness gone.
Everyone ran except the colonel. “Go real easy on the younger ones,” he ordered Mark.
“Got it,” he answered. “One. Two. Three…”
Ben pointed to an area near the north side of the house. “Let’s go that way.”
He took us a good distance away from the others and drew me behind a fallen tree concealed in snow. It shielded us from Mark’s view, but it was the wrong place to be if you wanted a good vantage point to the target.
Benjamin didn’t seem to recognize this. I quickly scanned the field for a better place. We still had thirty seconds before Mark finished counting, and I had located a prime spot.
Then I stopped.
It was a game. It was a silly game, and not everything had to be taken so seriously. I took a deep breath and relaxed.
“So. What happens when he’s done counting?” I asked.
Benjamin smiled. “Well, normally, Mark will start setting up a defensive position around the can. He’ll try to get an idea of where everyone is before he starts attacking. Mom and Dad normally go around building strategies of attack.”
Benjamin smiled. “You’ll see.”
“What if no one kicks the can?” I asked.
“Then Mark chooses who plays guard in the next game.”
“Does that happen very often?”
Ben shrugged. “Strategies change; ideas change. With this game, you never really know what’s going to happen, especially with this many players. Mark has seventeen other people to keep track of.”
I smiled. “Should be fun.”
“Ninety-nine, one hundred. Ready or not!” Mark shot up like an arrow and turned, ready for an immediate attack. When no one came, he reached down and grabbed two snowballs, one for each hand. “Who’s the first to partake of the wrath of Marcus the Deadly?”
“What did he just say?” Even though it was said in whispers, I heard snickering coming from a dozen yards away. It wasn’t very hard to pinpoint the exact location. The girls weren’t being at all discreet.
Mark took aim and lobbed two snowballs at the tree that barely sheltered the giggling girls. They screamed and jumped out of their hiding spot, trying to find quick shelter somewhere else. Smack, smack. Two more snowballs flew out in the night, hitting them. They stopped cold in their tracks.
“Did he get you?” the first girl asked.
“Did he get you?” the second girl answered with a nod and a question.
“You shouldn’t have said anything.” The first girl scowled at her friend.
“But he called himself Marcus the Deadly.”
“Put your hands up and move to the patio, ladies,” Mark called. They did as they were told, giggling as they ran.
“That was fast,” I whispered.
“It’s a tactic we use to get the younger, sillier players out of the way.”
There was a loud crack, and we froze as other unseen players moved clumsily in the trees behind us. Mark snapped his head in our direction, rounding his protective circle, nearing our hiding spot. I peeked out from the side of the log. Mark had grabbed three snowballs—two in his left hand and one in his right. Ben put a finger to his lips, as if he needed to remind me to stay quiet.
“I’ll distract him, while you run for cover somewhere else,” Ben whispered. I shook my head, but he wasn’t paying any attention to me as he readied his ammunition. Mark wouldn’t come this far from his base just to tag us. It wasn’t worth the gamble.
Just as Benjamin was about to stand, there came a rushing sound from the other side of the arena as a player made a run for the goal. Hearing the ambush, Mark spun just in time as a boy came crashing in from the south side of the forest. Two others ran in just yards away to his left.
Mark let loose with three snowballs; two missed their targets, but one hit the first player ten yards shy of the circle. Mark’s free arm reached to lightly tag a half-size player. He lunged but just missed the third. Judi, who was quicker than I had previously thought, ran back into the forest from where she came. Mark grabbed more ammunition, but not before she was long gone.
“I’m out,” announced the boy, somewhat out of breath.
“Me too.” Lauren’s shoulders slumped, visually upset about being caught so early.
“That was a good move, Lauren!” Ben called out, trying to throw his voice. “I’m proud of you.”
“A seriously good try, girl!” another voice called out from the opposite side of the field. I recognized it as Becca’s.
Lauren looked around the field and smiled, putting her hands up in the air. She and her friend walked toward the patio to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines.
“Mom normally tries to help out the younger ones. She’ll go find Becca and her friend now.”
It was a good two to three minutes before anything else happened. Mark was zeroing in on the spot where the first attack had come from when a snowball flew out and smacked a tree near the house. Mark didn’t flinch.
“Nice try,” he called, as he launched four in a row.
“You got me.” With hands in the air, Liam puffed his way toward the house.
A voice came from somewhere nearby. “You’re out early, old man.” Mark twirled around into a defensive crouch.
“I know, I know,” Liam answered.
“Colonel… Dean… The Dean-meister,” Mark cooed. “You’re good. I had you pegged as being near the garbage cans.”
“Way off.” The answering voice came from a different position. “Your senses are about as dull as your nickname.”
Mark changed his position to match the new location of the Colonel.
“Okay, Sarah. Here’s a good opportunity,” Ben suddenly whispered in my ear. “I’m going to run straight for the can. I want you to wait two seconds then run that way around the field, halfway to the other side. Then run in for the kill. I’ll try to keep Mark busy.”
“But he’ll be waiting for us,” I said.
“Trust me, he’s completely spooked by Dad at the moment. Ready?”
“No.” Didn’t he realize we were in the wrong place for an attack?
“Dang it.” I shifted, readying my body near the fallen tree.
Benjamin swiftly leaped over the log and around the tree to the right, running straight for Mark. Ignoring his count, I recalculated the attack in my mind and ran at a different angle, locating the exact halfway point to the field.
My steps were quick and silent, unlike Benjamin’s, and soon enough I heard Mark eagerly call out to him. I dared a glance to Ben who made an effort to weave his way in toward the target. The two were on the opposite side of the defensive circle now, creating the perfect opening. Timing it just right, I claimed my opportunity and broke through the tree line, sprinting toward my mark.
Adrenaline pulsed through my veins; I could see everything so perfectly, my path clearly marked in my head.
Ben was keeping Mark busy, but I knew it would only last a few seconds more. Mark howled his victory when he tagged Benjamin then twisted sharply when he heard the snow crunch under my boots. Only ten yards away from the can, Mark rounded the circle on me. This would be close, but I would win. I knew it. That was until my necklace went cold beneath my clothes. A painful burning sensation pulled at my chest, causing me to hesitate for a split second.
“Go, go, go!” Ben hollered, but something was wrong. Despite my desire to win, I slowed, scanning for a threat. I passed over the line of protection just as Mark’s hand fell short of connecting to my jacket. At the same time, a snowball coming in from the wrong direction skimmed my nose, nicking the very tip harmlessly, but creaming the side of Mark’s face with a sickening smack.
I stopped short of the can and turned. Mark had sunk to his knees, his hand over his face but pulled it back to look at his gloves. Black dripped down his face, looking at first like mud, but I knew what it was.
I rushed over to Mark and quickly unwrapped my scarf from around my neck and placed it over his wound.
“What happened?” Ben fell to his knees besides me. I could hear the intake of his breath.
“It looked like a snowball, but it couldn’t have caused this. It came from over there.” I pointed behind me. The Colonel appeared out of nowhere. He stooped down and picked something off from the ground. “That is one nasty rock.” He wiped snow from a very heavy, jagged rock almost the size of a baseball. “Alright, game over.
If you enjoyed this sample, you can read more of Personal Demons on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. luck!