Woodcutter's Grim Series, Volume I {Classic Tales of Horror Retold} (Books 1-3 and The Final Chapter) 3d cover updated 2023

Woodcutter’s Grim Series, Volume I {Classic Tales of Horror Retold} (Books 1-3 and The Final Chapter) by Karen Wiesner

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter’s Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large.

 

Woodcutter's Grim Series, Volume I {Classic Tales of Horror Retold} (Books 1-3 and The Final Chapter) 2 covers updated 2023

Woodcutter’s Grim Series, Volume I (Classic Tales of Horror Retold) is a compilation of the first three novellas in the series and The Final Chapter.

Including:

 

Papa (Book 1) {romantic horror}

A wickedly horrifying rendering of the classic children’s story “Hansel and Gretel”, in which modern revenge is served up sweet…

Less than a year after Randall Park left his family for elementary school teacher, Amy, the unthinkable happens–his ex-wife and two children are killed in a car accident. Ever since the accident, Amy has had terrible nightmares in which Rand’s son and daughter return to exact revenge on their father and Amy herself (the wicked step-mother) for abandoning them. When Rand convinces her to come away with him for a healing respite to an isolated cabin in the woods, Amy’s guilt-filled nightmares turn into pure horror.

 

Blood of Amethyst (Book 2) {romantic horror}

A blood-curdling answer as to why the childhood-nightmare creature Rumpelstiltskin so wanted a child of his own…

Amethyst Phillip’s father–her only family–disappears in Woodcutter’s Grim’s evil woods. Town Sheriff and Guardian Gabe Reece sends out a search party and eventually they find the body, completely drained of blood. A devastated Amethyst refuses to do anything but carry on all by herself in the isolated area she grew up.

But something strange is happening, and Gabe realizes it every time he drops by to check on the woman who’s held his heart for long years. She’s grown pale, cold. She’s sleeping all the time, waking only in the night, when her taste for blood overwhelms her. Then Gabe becomes aware that something in the woods is calling to her, something that’s stealing her life…

Gabe will face his deadliest foe yet when the woman he loves falls prey to a nameless creature who wants her very soul.

 

Dancing to the Grave (Book 3) {romantic horror}

Loosely based on “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. The children of Woodcutter’s Grim are changing…and only one person, music teacher Diane Anders, realizes the truth. Can she and her husband, Kurt Jones, a member of the ancient lineage of the Protectorate’s Chosen Seven, save them and the future of their town?

 

The Amethyst Tower (The Final Chapter) {romantic time-travel horror}

Loosely based on “Rapunzel”. The isolated maiden meets her knight in a time-traveler who’s come into the future to rescue her from the Warlock Lord holding her captive in the amethyst tower. Where else but in the fairy-tale-horror town of Woodcutter’s Grim?

GENRE: Paranormal/Mild Horror/ Christian Romance    Word Count: 97, 525

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Continue the series:

Woodcutter's Grim Series, Volume I {Classic Tales of Horror Retold} (Books 1-3 and The Final Chapter) continue the series updated 2023 Woodcutter's Grim Series, Volume II {Classic Tales of Horror Retold} (Books 4-7) updated 2023 Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 8: The Deep continue the series updated 2023 Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 9: Hunters Blues continue the series updated 2023 Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 10, Bridge of Fire, Part 1: Out of the Ashes continue the series updated 2023 Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 10, Bridge of Fire, Part 2: A New Beginning continue the series updated 2023 Woodcutter's Grim Series, Book 10, Bridge of Fire, Part 3: Into the Sun continue the series updated 2023

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Papa

 

A wickedly horrifying rendering of the classic children’s story “Hansel and Gretel”, in which modern revenge is served up sweet…

 

Less than a year after Randall Park left his family for elementary school teacher, Amy, the unthinkable happens–his ex-wife and two children are killed in a car accident. Ever since the accident, Amy has had terrible nightmares in which Rand’s son and daughter return to exact revenge on their father and Amy herself (the wicked step-mother) for abandoning them. When Rand convinces her to come away with him for a healing respite to an isolated cabin in the woods, Amy’s guilt-filled nightmares turn into pure horror.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

October 30th

 

The apartment was silent as a tomb. The only sound came from somewhere else in the building. Crying. Even from a distance, the young girl’s helpless sobbing triggered a pain so deep inside him Randall Parker leaned heavily against the wall, closed his eyes and gritted his teeth to control it. So many mistakes and memories, never far enough away. But would he want to forget?

His watch beeped to signal he had to leave for work in a few minutes or he’d be late. He pushed himself into the bedroom where his wife still slept. He sat beside her. Her form barely raised the covers. She’d become so slight these past few months. Though she snuggled nearer to him when he bent to kiss her and hold her, she didn’t respond to his whisper that he loved her and would see her later.

Unsmiling, he grabbed his worn leather jacket from the hook next to the front door and shrugged into it while walking down to his ten year old Chevy.

Amy wasn’t getting any better, he acknowledged on the thirty minute drive across the city to the multi-million dollar corporation he worked as head of security for. His wife had quit her job a month ago–just before the new school year began. He couldn’t imagine Amy not teaching a passel of fresh-faced, elementary age children. She adored them; she truly believed them capable of magical feats.

Henry and Grace loved her like a mother.

The unbidden reminder brought a sting of old tears to his eyes, but he pushed the agony away. She wouldn’t get any better if he never did. All that mattered now was that Amy hadn’t been right since his ex-wife and children died in that freak car accident six months earlier. Repeatedly, he’d asked himself who she blamed for that. Him? Or herself?

The question was only too valid. Since his divorce from Josephine–Joey–Amy had shouldered the weight of their actions like a cross she had to bear alone.

Sharing with Amy his devastation over the loss of his kids, Henry and Grace, hadn’t been easy. For the most part, he kept his grief inside, where she couldn’t see it. He’d probably never heal fully because of it, but he always managed to function no matter his circumstances. Excel is more like it, he heard Joey’s bitter voice in his head and pushed that out ruthlessly, too.

Amy hadn’t functioned, not since the divorce a year ago. But, since the accident, she rarely left the apartment, let alone their bed. Her depression had afflicted her physically as well. She’d lost more weight than she could afford to. His wife had become little more than a ghost of the woman he’d fallen for so irrevocably.

I’m losing her. Rand’s fingers gripped the steering wheel in a stranglehold. When did I stop being able to meet all her needs? He still remembered poignantly a time when Amy hadn’t seemed to need anything but him. For a morally pure person like Amy, that was really saying something.

He’d lost track of the number of times he went over the options of how to help her and ultimately discarded all of them. He had to do something to bring her out of the dark place she’d locked herself inside. What was the key? While he couldn’t be sure it’d have any effect, he’d taken a week-long vacation from work–starting tomorrow–as the starting point to getting her the help she needed.

Inside the locker room at work, he put on his uniform and gun holster. An hour into his shift, he was called down to the main desk to take a call. “Rand Parker,” he said, his voice a monotone.

“Rand, Simon Wiley.” The lawyer who’d handled Joey’s end of the divorce, the custody battle and the execution of Rand’s ex-wife’s will.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Wiley?” Rand asked coolly.

“You’ll recall I mentioned that as part of what you’ve inherited from Josephine’s will, you’ll receive a cabin she owned up north?”

Frowning, Rand turned toward the window in the small office. He still couldn’t fathom why Joey hadn’t changed her will after their divorce. He’d expected her to do it the second she was served with the papers. He’d gotten a call from Simon Wiley shortly after the funeral, basically saying he’d inherited everything since their children had perished with her and she’d wanted him to get everything when she first made the will after they married. Why hadn’t she changed it?

Joey’s own fortune, and the one she’d inherited upon her mother’s death two years ago, had caused his personal worth to reach heights he never could have imagined even when he and Joey lived together as husband and wife. He’d suspected her worth was vast, of course, but he was a man who made his own way in the world. Even now, six months since he’d become filthy rich, he hadn’t touched one red cent. For that reason, the mention of the cabin in the reading of the will hadn’t done more than register in his consciousness.

Joey’s relatives owned the cabin in the northern part of Wisconsin, in a place called Woodcutter’s Grim. He knew that much, and he knew her relation used it for “romantic getaways” when Joey was little…before her father suffered that deadly accident with an axe in the woods behind the cabin.

He and Joey had never used the cabin after she inherited it. Their marriage had been in decline for so many years before the divorce, neither of them cared about getting counseling to repair the damage. A romantic getaway had been unimaginable.

“You can come by the law offices at any time to pick up the keys,” Wiley offered in parting, and Rand hung up after a non-committal reply.

Wiley knew as well as he did that the mention of the cabin would bring back torment he didn’t want to feel anymore. Joey had taken the children to the cabin last April for Easter vacation. The unfathomable car accident happened a quarter mile from Woodcutter’s Grim. No one had been able to conclude what caused the car to flip and go over the bridge just outside the town’s borders. The car had blown up on impact. In all the newspaper accounts of the tragedy, Woodcutter’s Grim hadn’t been mentioned. Rand only knew because Joey told him where she was going, and Wiley related the details afterward.

Once Rand went back to work, the cabin continued to intrude on his thoughts. Amy didn’t know where the accident had taken place. She knew nothing about Joey’s inherited cabin in Woodcutter’s Grim. Certainly, she didn’t need to know the details of either. If he could get her to go there with him, get her to leave this place where so much damage had been done, maybe he could save her. Maybe he could bring the woman he loved back from the brink.

 


Chapter 2

 

Amy heard the locks just before the apartment door opened. Tucking one last pin in the hair she’d pulled up into a loose twist, she went out to greet Rand. He’d become the only joy in her day. She knew he must question her feelings on that often lately. He was the only reason to drag herself from the sleep she craved above all else. Anything to shut her mind off. Each day, she showered and made herself presentable for when he got home at five-thirty. She couldn’t lose him. Whenever she couldn’t sleep, she worried he was searching for a reason to stay with her. How long before he couldn’t find a single one?

He’d gone from the front door directly to the kitchen of their tiny, cheap apartment. She found him unloading a bag of the Italian food they used to love so much. For several months now, she couldn’t remember what it felt like to be hungry, though she still got sick when she didn’t eat before her stomach became too empty. Now, without even her paltry teacher’s salary, Rand had been supporting them entirely on his slightly above average salary. It hadn’t been easy for him to handle everything alone. This was the first time in a long time he’d splurged on take-out for them.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked, her voice sounding rusty from disuse. She went up behind him and put her arms around him. Just being close to him, her cheek against his solid back muscles, made her feel safer. Tears came into her eyes the way they seemed to all the time of late.

Pivoting from the counter, he faced her with a broad smile that lit up his handsome, boyish face. The dimples bracketing his mouth softened all the parts she steeled against him. He pulled her into his arms.

Amy pressed her face to the wall of his chest. How she loved him! She had no right to. Dear God, she knew it and couldn’t fight her own convictions. But he would never belong to her. Even in death, Joey owned him. Amy’s unwilling thievery could never change that.

His beautiful mouth that fitted her own so perfectly touched hers, and she felt her tears spill over. The flicker of sorrow in his blue eyes made her withdraw emotionally and hold onto to him even harder, stealing the breath from each of them.

“It doesn’t have to be an occasion for us to celebrate, sweetheart,” he said on a sigh. “I love you. We should celebrate our love every day.”

She loved how romantic he was. And she believed he did love her. His every glance, every touched filled her with his tender, steadfast love. It wasn’t him she doubted. She simply couldn’t put her trust in the fact that love was always right.

He bent slightly so she could see his eyes. “I do wanna talk to you about something, Amy. While we eat.”

Tension filled her spine when he turned, slid dishes from the cupboards and then handed her a stack. Obediently, she brought them into the dining room, worried he would expect things. Things she might not be able to give him. When he told her last night he planned to take a week’s vacation from work, she realized something would happen. Rand wanted to help her, but he didn’t know she couldn’t leave the apartment. If she left, would they be waiting?

Once all the food was on the table, he served her with forced enthusiasm. While he did, he told her about some cabin a friend from work owned. “It’s up north. Maybe a four hour drive. I’ve got it all planned. I’ll pack for us tonight. Run out first thing in the morning to stock up on food and supplies before we hit the road.”

Just as she’d feared, his expectations were more than she could give him. She couldn’t leave the apartment. She just couldn’t. But she was equally certain Rand wouldn’t allow her to hedge out of it this time.

He’d imagined their life together as two people so wildly in love, the rest of the world, the complications associated with them being together, ceased to matter. Never had she received more than a few tender moments to allow herself to consider their love in the ideal. Not when it’d been so wrong from the very beginning. She’d foolishly allowed herself to be the immoral, selfish “other” woman in Rand’s life. In turn, Rand’s feelings for her had given him the courage to do what he hadn’t dared before. He left his wife and his miserably unhappy life–lit only by his children–for her. For a long time, she held onto her principles that they couldn’t be together. But the very first time he touched her, kissed her so sweetly, she drowned in her own carefully hidden emotions for him. That sinful capitulation led to his divorce, the loss of his children–children who’d been her favorite students. Unwillingly but helplessly, she’d destroyed a family, all for a selfish desire for love.

No, love didn’t right the wrongs. All her life, she’d imagined love and marriage as a fairy tale of innocent perfection. What she and Rand shared was anything but. The baggage that went with the love tore at her constantly. How could she blissfully ignore all the damage she’d caused to so many?

Over and over, Rand insisted that the problems between him and Joey existed in spades for too many years to count. He’d paid his dues, he said, persevering in his marriage because he believed it was the right thing to do for their children. Didn’t he deserve happiness and love, too? He believed he’d found both of those. With her.

Amy’s guilt for the divorce continued long after the deed was done, long after she and Rand married quietly. She loved him more because he filed for custody of his precious children, but she was afraid for the day he might win, might lose. Not only did I take Joey’s husband, but I would have taken her children, too…if not for the accident. One that wouldn’t have happened if I’d had the strength to walk away from Rand before our relationship went too far to turn back.

Rand reached across the small table to take her hand and urge her onto his lap. “Ah, sweetheart, you’re so haunted all the time. It’s killing me to see you like this every day. Even when we’re just sitting down to dinner together, you’re so lost in the past, I can’t reach you half the time.”  He cradled her chin in one hand, his gaze gentle but frustrated. “We can’t live like this, Amy. You didn’t kill Joey or my kids.”

She flinched violently at his unexpected words, and he embraced her more securely. “I mean, we didn’t do anything wrong. I might not’ve left Joey for a year or two if I hadn’t fallen for you and finally had the incentive to do what I wanted to for years, but I believe love can heal us. Love is right. Don’t you believe our love is good?”

Oh, she didn’t want to hurt him with the truth anymore. Nothing could ever feel more good and right than being in his arms. Yet only that feeling was right. The action, the means they used to get there, everything that happened since then was wrong. Beyond wrong. Sinful. We sinned against God, as well as Joey and the children.

“What we’ve done…it’s not how I was raised, Rand. My parents…I…believe divorce is unacceptable except in the case of abuse.”

His eyes shifted from hers in mild annoyance. He’d heard all this before. She was well aware she couldn’t convince him this time either.

“So I was supposed to live forever in a loveless marriage? Until death do us part? Death would have been a relief. All because your parents think it’s the moral thing to do.”

“I’m not a mindless drone, Rand. I have my own convictions. I know right from wrong.”

“And right is putting up and shutting up and being miserable just so we don’t tread on someone’s delicate sensibilities?”

She laid her cheek against his rough one, wanting to heal him even as she inflicted her own cuts of truth on him. “God would have helped you and Joey work out your problems if you’d asked Him, Rand.”

He snorted. “You’re right–we never did ask for help. But do you think I didn’t spend years trying to make it work?”

Amy shook her head. “You spent years tolerating your misery because it was easier than confronting the cause of it. You never really tried to fix the problems. You believed you could never love her and refused to accept anything else.”

He shook his head defensively at her. “No one and nothing could have made me love her. Counseling couldn’t’ve produced that. You remember I dated her while in college? I only did that because our parents wanted us to be together. I broke up with her knowing I couldn’t love her, let alone spend a lifetime with her. But she got pregnant. I did the right thing then and I married her. It didn’t produce love, Amy. I tried to make it work, but it was impossible. You’re the only woman I can love.”

She knew the story. Joey and Rand had been in each other’s lives all their lives. Born to parents who’d been best friends forever. They’d joked often that their two kids would marry someday and have kids of their own. The expectation was there, even in the jesting.

“You felt enough for Joey to sleep with her and get her pregnant, Rand,” Amy reminded quietly.

Somehow, his zinged expression shamed her. She’d never been able to back down from the convictions that ruled her life though. “Even if men can sleep with any woman any time, Rand, we’re not animals. We should be able to control ourselves, especially when there’s the potential for damage–the way there was between you and Joey, considering your background together and your families.”

Rand’s eyes uncharacteristically narrowed on her. “I guess you and me both have a problem with self-control, huh, sweetheart?”

His words were more than justifiable. Even telling herself she was bound to Rand and couldn’t give herself emotional, sexually or otherwise to any other man but the one she loved couldn’t release her from her share of the guilt.

“God designed marriage to last a lifetime. I can’t understand how someone would never consider giving up on their children yet will give up on a spouse like it’s simply not worth the effort to hold onto him or her. Then they divorce and call it no-fault when there is fault–the fault is that they’ve given up.”

Rand sighed, looking down at her hand pressed to his chest. “This moralistic stuff doesn’t fit your own actions, Amy. Can’t you see that? I’m not saying it to condemn you. But your views are too damn hard. You don’t take so much into account. Sometimes marriage doesn’t work out. It’s a shame, yeah. It’s bad. We maybe didn’t try hard enough or went into it for the wrong reasons. But we can admit we made a mistake. We can do everything in our power to reverse it. You don’t really expect me to be a masochist and spend the rest of my life in misery just because it’s against ‘the ideal’, do you? Isn’t there any room for second chances in your view? For forgiveness and redemption?”

She couldn’t answer him. She’d debated endlessly over the same questions. Her answers brought her back to the same response–you could justify sin until it came up roses, but you couldn’t get rid of the stench it left behind. And sin wasn’t an action you took once. It had consequences, side effects, life-changing implications. It continued to grow and flourish long after the deed was done.

“I love you, Amy. I never loved her. I know I made mistakes. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have, and I would’ve met you first. My kids would’ve been your kids.” 

The shaft of torment he caused made her stomach feel like it flipped over.

“You’ve always claimed I gave up everything with Joey just to selfishly get what I wanted with you. But you make it sound like that was an easy thing to do. The only easy thing I did was to stay in a rotten marriage for too damn long, just going along accepting that I’d never love anyone the way I wanted to and would never have the love I needed. I made a hard choice when I fell in love with you. I took the road filled with pain instead of pleasure. I believe it was worth it. Everything was worth it to be with you.”

“How can you say that?” she cried, too shocked to check herself. “Joey and your children are dead! And it never would have happened if we hadn’t started this thing. Didn’t we deserve what happened? We can’t escape our sin. Sooner or later, it’ll come back to haunt us.”  Like it’s haunting me. In flesh and blood.

Tears sprang from her eyes through her tirade as though crying had become her reaction to everything in life. She could see the wounds she’d given Rand through her weeping, wounds she’d torn open with her accusations, but she couldn’t escape the truth she saw in those very words. She fully expected him to push her away and take his leave of her permanently. How much more pain could he stand?

“Oh Rand, I love you beyond reason. I just wish I could accept everything that’s happened like you do. I can’t let myself believe it was worth it like the rest was just some unfortunate, random accident I didn’t have any hand in. I can’t get past the fact that I took away another woman’s husband. That I’m the reason you abandoned your children.”

“Abandoned?” he barked in obvious shock. “I didn’t abandon Henry and Grace. I fought for them. I never would’ve stopped. You know Joey’s parents were filthy rich. I barely had two dimes to rub together. She had the best lawyer in the city. She wasn’t gonna let me win easily.”

“It wasn’t about winning for her. She loved her children more than anything. She wouldn’t lose them and you.”

Disgust filled his expression. “You are so naïve, Amy. Hell, you’ve always been that way about her. Yeah, she was a pretty good mother. Maybe too good. She smothered them, wouldn’t let them function without her one inch away at all times. But that custody battle wasn’t all about her winning. She wanted to punish me because the spoiled little rich girl didn’t get what she wanted. She hated me for that.”

With those words, he eased her up and away, then stood to dish their special dinner back into the plastic containers. For once, he didn’t clean up though. She could see he didn’t have it in him tonight.

Her hollow stomach turned somersaults as she faced that he was right. She wasn’t being fair to him. They’d all made mistakes, Joey included. She was the only one who couldn’t let those mistakes go and get on with her life. Somehow doing that seemed even more unfair than the rest of it to her. Joey didn’t have that choice about any of it. Why should she?

Amy leaned against the wall on the opposite side of the table, tracing the streaks of rain on the outside of the window.

All Rand wanted to do was love her. What crime was there in that? Deep down, she knew his love for her made everything completely right in his mind. The shadows in her own mind whispered, How long will he continue to love you when all you do is push him away, wallow in the inescapable agony of the past and throw your mutual sins in his face?

Even in death, Joey was winning. Amy was letting her win. She refused to believe Rand when he said Joey had turned his own children against him. She wanted to believe in Joey’s innocence. Even now, she couldn’t say why.

Because Joey made a pact with the devil so her children could come back and make sure Rand and I never forget what we’ve done to betray her.

Movement below drew Amy’s gaze. She couldn’t escape the sin. It would come back and haunt them. In flesh and blood.

The ghostly shapes below in the parking lot came closer. Pale, child-like figures. Nightmares. The reality she’d been seeing for months. Rand’s children, back from the dead.

Amy’s entire body trembled as she fought to break free of their hold on her. A scream rose in her throat when they stopped below the window. “Papa,” they called in watery, unnatural voices carried on the wind of a storm blowing in. The storm that always blew in when they appeared. “Papa, we’re lost. Help us.

Woodcutter's Grim Series, Volume I {Classic Tales of Horror Retold} (Books 1-3 and The Final Chapter) print cover updated 2023

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