Shredded wood bobbles in the water near my oasis of dry land. Cousin Jack’s name blazes across what’s left of his johnboat. My heart sinks. He was supposed to meet me here, rescue me from that demented prison.
“You didn’t really think this little prison break would work, did you, Bobby?” says Warden Carson. “We’ve had this place staked out all week.”
I spin around. The warden drags Jack’s mangled body from behind the ancient cypress and dumps it on the ground. One of the warden’s hounds sits next to him, Jack’s severed arm clenched in its mouth. I’ve had first-hand experience with that hell hound and its friends. Scabs and old burns still decorate my body.
Tears sting my eyes, but there’s no time to grieve. Turning a blind eye before got me sent away on trumped up charges. Carson had to be stopped. My bare feet press into the island’s soft mud. I was raised in this swamp, know things the warden doesn’t. I reach for the swamp’s pulse, the life that most people don’t notice. Energy surges. The hairs stand up on my arms.
“Help,” I whisper. “I beseech you.”
Carson laughs. “Ain’t no one here to help you now, Bobby.”
But there is. The cypress groans, bends as if struck by a sharp wind. Two moss covered branches swoop down on the warden and his pet. A scream—then nothing. I fall to my knees. A mossy hand touches my bowed head, fills me with its power.
“Thank you, mighty S’serpyc, spirit of the trees.”
My new path lies back at the prison. This time there is no hesitation.