Home :: Paranormal :: Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 8: The Deep by Karen Wiesner (Paranormal [mild Horror]/Christian)

Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 8: The Deep by Karen Wiesner (Paranormal [mild Horror]/Christian)

Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 8: The Deep by Karen Wiesner (Paranormal [mild Horror]/Christian)
 
(1 reviews)  

Very loosely based on "Metamorphoses: The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue" by Ovid. Cheyenne Welsh can't forget her past and the disappearance of her younger sister. When she returns to Woodcutter's Grim to sell the family property she grew up on, she's confronted with all the nightmare-realities of her childhood, still alive and well, still right where she left them--down in the darkness the Deep dwells inside. Her home...

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Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 8: The Deep by Karen Wiesner (Paranormal [mild Horror]/Christian)
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1 Most useful customer reviews (see all reviews):
Karen Wiesner
Nov 28, 2015
Editor’s Top Pick! “In THE DEEP, Cheyenne Welsh has quietly returned to Woodcutter’s Grim, her hometown and a whispered place of dread where evil things have been rumored to gather for several hundred years. In the series, Karen Wiesner has crafted a well-researched and creative world in which evil forces plague the small northern Wisconsin town of Woodcutter’s Grim, commonly taking the guises, appearances, and traits of fairytale monsters and folklore characters. Wiesner builds a sense of dread and foreboding. Overall, THE DEEP is smart and fast paced--I look forward to traveling to Woodcutter’s Grim once again--I’ll try to avoid the evil on the way.” ~BellaOnline's Horror Literature Editor
5 Stars! “If you enjoy authors who write “old school style”, then this entire series should be to your taste. All the titles, especially this one, has the spicy flavor of the old Gothic Romances that I used to greedily consume. This story has romance, mystery, suspense, adventure, and horror all blended together. Something for everyone. As usual, Karen Wiesner gives readers what they crave—and more.” ~Huntress Reviews
5 Stars! “THE DEEP is a bone-chilling horror novel. Karen Wiesner entices the reader into the creatively built world, Woodcutter’s Grim, where evil likes to reside. The author’s vivid descriptions of a creepy [fetish] doll, an unknown creature in the basement, and the cold that permeates the house combine into a thoroughly spooky page-turning read. This entertaining, hair-raising novel with an action-packed climax.” ~BTSemag
5 Stars! “The Woodcutter’s Grim Series will have readers looking over their shoulders, watching for creepy monsters to sneak up on them. THE DEEP is a piercing tale, one sure to evoke feelings of fear and terror. Karen Wiesner is a talented author with a gift for combining terror with romance. Her descriptions are so vivid that I could see the scenes playing out on the stage in my mind’s eye. This series is addictive; once you read one book you will want to read the rest.” ~Readers Favorite
5 Stars! “A chilling horror tale. The second chance relationship between James and Chey enhances the strong main storyline of a good earth mother fighting the ancient evil her Daddy wrought upon his offspring. Readers will relish the latest work by this wonderfully talented writing wizard.” ~MBR Bookwatch
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Sample Chapter

Prologue

Pygmalion offers his sacrifice to the gods and prays for the statue wrought with his own hands to come to life...
"And snowy-chested heifers, whose bent horns
With gold were gay, receiv'd the deadly blow;
And incense burnt in clouds. Pygmalion stood
Before the altar, with his offer'd gifts:
Timid he spoke,--O ye all-potent gods!
Give me a spouse just like my ivory nymph,--
Give me my ivory nymph--he blush'd to say.
Bright Venus then, as present at her feast,
Perceiv'd the inmost wishes of his soul;
And gave the omen of a friendly power.
Thrice blaz'd the fire, and thrice the flame leap'd high..."

~Metamorphoses: The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue by Ovid

October 1994

Fifteen-year-old Cheyenne Welsh climbed guiltily down from the Becks' haymow with her Romeo just behind her asking in frustration, "Why do you always need to go? You're not responsible for your sister. Your mother is."

Chey flushed. James already knew. She knew he didn't need to be told that her mother was ill again. That, from the time her sister Dulcie had been born five years ago, Cheyenne had been, for all intents and purposes, solely responsible for her. How could he understand that, even if her parents were willing and able, Dulcie was hers...more than a sister, she was the child Chey took care of, protected, was a mother, father, playmate and friend to?

My child, regardless of the biology.

The burden of her ill-advised rendezvous abruptly heavy on her shoulders, Chey shook her head. Panic flooded her chest. "I shouldn't have come. I have to take care of her. I have to."

He'd come over after lunch. Always, he was the one she said no to--because Dulcie needed her--and yet he continually came back. She'd been friends and neighbors with James Beck all her life. They were the same age, went to the same school, did almost everything together, Dulcie with them, of course. But, lately, things been had different between her and James. Since that first, stolen kiss...

Now he was everything, her whole life. She thought of him constantly. Whenever he begged her to go with him to his parents' barn, where they could be alone together, she said no. But today...today she'd given in to the tiny glimmer of resentment she felt for her parents. If only they were better parents, better people, she could be a normal teenager. She could go with James...

The building was filled with chickens and horses and goats, wild cats, newborn puppies, and probably a million mice. Chey hadn't cared about any of that anymore. She only wanted to be with James. When he'd come over that morning, she'd been coaxed away too easily because all she could think about of late was that they could run away from this town, away from the responsibilities, the fears. They could take Dulcie with them.

But James would never, ever leave Woodcutter's Grim. Deep down, in a place she didn't want to acknowledge, she understood that. This place was his home. His family was here. So was hers. Nevertheless, it wasn't the same for her. It could never be.

James reached over and pulled a long straw from her messy mane of blond hair. His soft, sexy grin instantly undid her. She wanted nothing more than to return to the haymow and lose herself in the dream of a world with only her and James.

At the same time, trepidation blanketed her like a dark, heavy fog when she glanced at her watch. She'd been too long. Much too long. It'd been hours! What had she been thinking? "Where did the time go?" she wailed, turning and rushing toward the open barn doors. Before she reached them, the booming thunder cracked so violently overhead, terror streaked through her. Lighting raced across the dark sky in tandem with the thunder.

Dulcie... Dulcie had been playing outside with her beloved, hideous "ragdoll" Ajuoga, which their father had gotten for her while at a dig site in Africa. Chey had overheard him telling her mother he'd gotten it from a witchdoctor. He'd only called it a ragdoll instead of what it really was so Dulcie wouldn't be frightened of the ugly thing.

Did he trade for the doll, or steal it? Chey wondered suddenly. There's nothing my father wouldn't do to get an authentic artifact.

James called to her as she ran out into the ice-cold rain falling as heavy as wet sheets from the sky. When she didn't stop, he followed her. She knew he would. James always followed her.

If only he'd follow me when Dulcie and I leave this terror of a town.

Chey ran around the back of the house, but there was no sign of Dulcie or her doll. Whirling on the spot, Chey looked all around her, trying to see through the downpour. Without a clear line of sight, she saw no evidence of her little sister.

"She must be in the house," James shouted, just behind her, over the storm.

Dulcie loved to play in the rain, even the dangerous kind. Unless their mother had gotten herself out of bed today--unlikely--Dulcie would have stayed outside even after she realized it was raining. Her father was no doubt at the university, where he spent most of his time.

Chey and James ran around the house to the front door. Not wanting her mother to know her precious miracle might be missing, Chey made her way through the kitchen and down the hall. Carefully she opened her mother's bedroom door. Sometimes Dulcie played quietly on the floor beneath the bed while their mother slept the sleep of drugged depression. Though Chey made no noise, her mother lifted her head and blinked at her out of pained, puzzled eyes. "You're wet, Chey."

She was drenched and dripping all over the carpet. If she hadn't known better, she would have tracked mud through the house, too, but she and James had taken their shoes off on the rug inside the front door. Dulcie's shoes hadn't been there.

"Where's your sister?" her mother asked sleepily, though her wariness was evident.

Chey's parents had been on the verge of a divorce when her mother unexpectedly got pregnant. Their relationship had seemed on the mend with that miracle.

But not for long. Never for long.

Her mother's mental illness and her father's obsession with his work--inherited from his father--were an impossible impasse in their ill-advised marriage.

Panting, Chey knew letting her mother know she hadn't been watching her little sister the way she was expected to would set her off. "She's in her room...playing. I thought...she left her doll in here."

Her mother lowered her head back to the pillow, obviously relieved to not have to face anything unpleasant. Quickly, Chey closed the door behind her, and James's warm, dark eyes met hers. She could see the guilt in his expression, too. Though he questioned her all the time about what her parents expected of her, he understood that she cared about Dulcie too much to act like this wasn't her fault.

Splitting up, they searched the elegant, sprawling ranch style house, coming back together under the kitchen archway a few minutes later. They both shook their heads. Chey turned and glanced back at her father's study at the end of the hall. She didn't dare go in there. True, it was locked and she couldn't get in anyway, but her father didn't allow anyone near his study, nor downstairs in his basement workshop where he kept his extensive collections. She knew that and wouldn't dare to circumvent the household law.

"Maybe she's still outside. We have to find her!" Chey said frantically.

James agreed, and together they plunged back out into the storm. Working together, they searched every square inch of both of their properties, including the barn since Dulcie accompanied them inside there often.

Crawling dread made Chey feel like she couldn't breathe, couldn't think, couldn't function. Dulcie had disappeared.

Oh God, oh God...please no. She's so small, so innocent and sweet...

Inside the Beck's cozy, inviting house, his mother insisted she hadn't seen Dulcie all day. Foolishly, Chey tried to act like it was no big deal, but Mrs. Beck knew her too well. One shared, stricken look, and Chey burst into tears. She told her everything through her tumultuous sobs. Her expression kind and comforting, his mother hugged her, rubbing her shivering arms. "You can't blame yourself, Cheyenne. You're only fifteen. You're much too young for the burdens placed on you. Is your father home, sweetie?"

Mrs. Delaney Beck was the most open-minded, logical, forgiving person Chey had ever known. Yet whenever she talked about Professor Patrick Welsh, a sour, disapproving look entered Delaney's usually kind eyes. James's mother had been best friends with Chey's mother, Sondra, all her life. Delaney would probably never forgive the professor for what he'd done to destroy his wife. His selfish insensitivity had crushed the beautiful, winsome creature Sondra had been growing up.

"I...I don't know," Chey told her. "He almost never is."

"Did you see his car while you were searching?"

Chey frowned in surprise. "Yes. I did actually, now that I think back. It was in the garage. Strange. He's almost never at home on the weekends."

"Well, go back home and knock on his study door. That's where he'll be if he's home, right? You have my permission to tell your father that I insisted you interrupt him, all right?"

Even with the permission, encroaching on her father's territory frightened her. Yet she knew this was an exception to his carved-in-stone rules. There was simply no other choice. The weather was getting worse, and Dulcie was gone. Someone, an adult, had to help find her.

I'm too young for this. The times I've sneaked away before, I always kept Dulcie close enough that I could hear and see her at all times. She stayed where I told her to. This time... Oh, why did I go when James asked me? How could I be so stupid to leave Dulcie out in the backyard, believing she would obey when I told her to stay there until we returned?

Please be all right, Dulcie. Please...

Back inside her own house, her clothes plastered to her body, her hair soaked and dripping, Chey tentatively knocked on her father's study door. James stood beside her, willingly giving his support though he didn't deserve any blame. It was all her fault for being so irresponsible.

As they waited for the roar of her father's fury, the door of the basement opened abruptly on the other side of the hall. The sound of the massive steel door scraping open always made Chey's skin crawl.

When her father returned from his expedition spent with the Bakongo and Songye peoples in the Congo Basin in Central Africa last summer, he'd replaced the wooden door with the steel one and put massive bolt locks on it to keep everyone out. Chey had assumed he'd brought back some of his precious minkisi. Banganga healers, diviners, or mediators entrusted with the duty of defending the living against witchcraft and providing them with remedies against diseases resulting from witchcraft or demanding spirits were said to harness the power of bakisi, emissaries from the land of the dead, inside a nkisi. This was primarily a container--ceramic vessel, gourd, animal horn, shell or bundle--basically any object capable of containing spiritually "charged" substances. Even graves themselves could be considered such, and minkisi were described as "portable graves". Often they contained earth and relics from the grave of a powerful individual. The powers of the dead infused the objects so the diviner could control the spirits. A subclass of the minkisi, nkondi was an aggressive spirit.

More so than any obscure nkisi or nkondi, Chey had realized her father had brought back something else from his expedition, something he and his father had spent their lives searching for and talking about, often in Chey's attentive hearing.

He brought back something he didn't want any of us to see. Not even me. And I know what, too. Die Diep.

Chey shivered uncontrollably. She knew, and it was the reason she'd been keeping her little sister so close.

Daddy and Granddad used to talk about how the ritual of evoking the nkondi statue was done. The diviner would build the nkondi, about three feet tall, outside the village, using bird claws, fruits, mushrooms, minerals, or symbolic white clay. The nkondi usually had a reflective surface, such as a mirror, on the stomach or eyes which were the means of vision in the "Other World". When the diviner returned to the village, he would come covered in paint, delivering songs and vivid enactments to illustrate the return of the nkondi to the land of the living. But more was needed to "activate" the creature. An elaborate ritual would ensue, involving painting white circles around the eyes to allow the diviner to see beyond the physical world into hidden sources of evil and illness. He would dress as his nkondi did. Participants painted white stripes on themselves, wore ornate jewelry and strange costumes with knots incorporated in them to signify the closing up and sealing of spiritual forces. During the performance, the diviner would recite specific invocations to awaken the nkondi. To activate it for its purpose in searching out wrongdoing, enforcing oaths, and causing or curing sicknesses, often times nails would be driven into the nkondi. Daddy called the statues "nail fetishes", something that still makes me cringe like I did when he showed me and James photographs from the expedition.

Standing in the open doorway leading down to the basement, Chey's father stared at the two of them. He had white paint around his eyes, behind his round, scholarly glasses and he was dressed oddly. He didn't seem to notice their soaked, frantic appearances. He appeared too distracted and disheveled to notice much of anything. Chey had never seen her father look like this before. Normally, he was too calm--excited only by a rare academic find or the talk of one--too staid, too organized and contained for emotional displays.

"Daddy?" Chey said, moving to stand in front of him. "We can't find Dulcie. We've looked everywhere, inside and out..." A strange, overpowering, earthy smell came to her, and she couldn't help looking around her father toward the basement the stench was coming from. There on the top step leading down into the pitch-black maw of the cellar, she saw Ajuoga. A cry rose in her throat.

Chey backed up in a hurry when her father stepped forward, then slammed and locked the steel door behind him.

"Daddy," Chey shouted in dismay, "that was Dulcie's ragdoll on the steps..."

"We have to find her," her father said, his tone strong and resolved.

Though Chey rarely talked back to her father, she protested, and he shook his head at her in warning, effectively quieting her. "Where did you check?"

"Everywhere."

"Even my parents' property," James added.

"Well, search again. Split up. We'll meet back here in fifteen minutes."

The endeavor was a waste of time. In fifteen minutes, Chey was shivering violently from the cold October rain, and her mind wouldn't let her rest from her worry. Her father knew Dulcie wouldn't be parted from her ragdoll, yet he'd ignored the toy lying there on the basement step. Why? Did he know...?

Dear God, does he know where Dulcie is?

She and James returned to the house first, and James shook his head, saying, "We have to call the police."

Though they lived several miles out of town, they could hear the sirens by the time her father came back inside. The paint around his eyes had become smeared and streaked down his cheeks. His spectacles were a mess with it. "You called the police," he said quietly.

"She's nowhere, Daddy. We had to. She's only five years old. She shouldn't be outside in this storm, and we know she's not in the house--" Chey gasped at her thoughts.

Is Dulcie in the basement? The only places we haven't checked are Daddy's study and the basement. When I knocked on the door of the study before, Dulcie would have called to me if she'd been inside with our father. But she didn't. She wouldn't have dared go inside that room anyway, curious as she is. She knows better. We all do. And Daddy wouldn't have let her in, not the way he sometimes lets me...

Wrapped in a thick towel, yet still shivering violently, Chey said through frozen lips, "We haven't checked the basement", when Sheriff Gabe Reece and one of his men came in the house and asked if they'd searched everywhere.

Both men glanced at her father. "Certainly we can look, officers," the professor said calmly, "but my family, especially the girls, know not to enter my office or the basement, where I study and clean precious and rare artifacts until they're ready for display. Those in my collection are fragile. The basement isn't a place for trampling, clumsy children."

Her father led the way down the steps into the poorly lit basement. The windows had long ago been painted black to shut out the light that could damage some of the delicate items in his many collections. The place felt cold and damp...felt differently than it had when she'd come down here freely as a child to get potatoes for supper or a jar of jam her mother had canned.

Although she'd never liked being in the basement and had never used it as a play area, she saw differences now. The cement floor had been broken up, leaving just dark soil. She remembered the noise her father had made down here when he'd returned from his expedition the previous summer. James had said he was using a jack hammer to break up the cement foundation. Why? they'd all wondered. None of them could guess. But something about the soft, dirt floor felt unnatural beneath the socks on Chey's feet.

"Is there some reason the windows are painted black?" Officer Kurt Jones asked.

"My pieces can't be exposed to direct sunlight. I find this muted orange light is best for them," her father said in a tone that labeled the man an idiot for even having to ask.

The basement search was brief and there was no sign at all of Dulcie or her ragdoll. Chey wondered if she'd imagined seeing the toy on the top step.

A team of officers with a dog came and, in the freezing cold rain, they checked the area for miles. Dulcie wasn't found. Even as they expanded out further and continued after dark with more search and rescue dogs, Chey knew the truth. She knew her father was guilty.

He insisted she go to bed, and even James said there was nothing more that could be done that the law wasn't already doing. Dulcie would probably be back in her own bed before the night was through, he assured her.

Unable to sleep, Chey lay weeping in the dark, hating herself for her carelessness.

We were so close to my goal. Next summer, we could have left here. Me, James and Dulcie. We could have left and never looked back. One way or another, we would have done that. It's all I've been living for.

What did you do, Daddy? What did you do? What's in the basement that needs a steel door and dirt floor?

In her grief, Chey started in the darkness. The feeling that her sister was standing next to her bed the way she often did when she'd had a nightmare and didn't want to be alone was so strong, Chey stopped breathing. Her entire focus went into the rigid sensation of awareness.

Dulcie, are you dead? Or worse?

Can there be something worse than death?

Chey swallowed with difficulty. Yes.

Die Diep.

Shivering, she snuggled deeper into her quilt.

I shouldn't have left you alone, Dulcie. I wish more than anything else in the world I'd never left you alone today. I knew...I knew I had to be more careful than ever since Daddy came back from that expedition and installed the steel door on the basement. What have I done?

Finally, Chey began to drift off in uneasy, light sleep. In the distance, she heard crying that became progressively louder until she jerked awake. "Dulcie?" she gasped, sitting up.

In the pitch blackness, she felt like she was drowning in cold and wetness. Blinking, she turned to look over her shoulder and saw something small, pale and white, like a zombie, long hair dark and damp, standing next to her bed.

Dulcie.

Chey shifted her body on the bed. Her sister reached for her and touched her with a hand that was icy and damp. "Chey, I don't like her," she whispered, her voice hollow and ghostly. "Help me. I want to come back..."

Chey screamed. Instantly, she heard running. Her father burst into the room, flipping on the overhead switch as he did. In the blinding light, Chey tried to find her sister. When finally her eyes adjusted and focused, she saw only her father. He came over to the side of her bed where Dulcie had stood only moments ago. When he sat beside her, Chey couldn't help drawing back from him. "What did you do with her?" she murmured. "She's only five, only a baby. My baby..."

Her father shook his graying head. "Your mother is finally asleep. I had no choice but to sedate her."

Chey shook her head. "No. Dulcie! What did you do to her? She's down there. I know she's is. She's drowning. And she's not alone. She doesn't like her..."

His narrow, bearded face was stricken. Unexpected tears filled his eyes. "You don't know what you're saying, honey."

"What did you do?!" Chey screamed.

But she understood the truth as her father's head dropped into his hands. He and Grandfather were obsessed. Her father wasn't crying for a lost daughter. He couldn't be. Because, although he knew where Dulcie was, he wouldn't go get her. He wouldn't save her. Chey couldn't escape that truth.

"It was the only way," he said in a hushed voice, glancing pleadingly at her.

Somehow Chey understood this, too.

I'm his firstborn, his favorite. That's why he didn't take me.

"Daddy?"

"You have to understand, Cheyenne. Now...now my ivory nymph will be satisfied."

Chey gasped in horror.

Die Diep. The Deep. She was alive, no longer just a statue. She'd been awakened...

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