The Initiation

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's mid-August. Deb Cummins and three friends are on their way home to Lexington, Kentucky, after a rodeo in Northern Ohio, where Deb won second place in barrel racing. Deb takes a wrong exit and runs out of gas on a dirt road near a cow pasture. Shortly after the women discover they have no cell phone service, they hear someone scream.

The women leave the vehicle and horse trailer and set out to locate the source of the scream. After strolling along a dark, deserted path, they spot a raging fire in the distance.

As they approach the fire, they discover a group of robed figures chanting. The women soon get entangled in a web of violence with some local high school girl bullies. Except these gang members are out to kill them when they interrupt an initiation that went bad, leading to the death of another woman.

Outnumbered six to four, one woman gets trapped in an abandoned stable, as the obese gang leader plans her murder. But she must first find the other three women who have traipsed off in search of weapons.

In another epic struggle, as in the first "Tough Girl" volume, "Cowgirl Down," Deb and her friends must fight these vicious tough girls with extremely brutal consequences to survive.

Submitted: September 12, 2016

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Submitted: September 12, 2016

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Deb Cummins's heart shot to her throat as she glanced at the gas gauge, which now hovered just above the empty line.  The engine of her Ford Explorer bucked a couple times and then continued on for another mile, before the tail pipe sputtered, whined and came to a complete stop near a large cow pasture.

“Where are we?” said Heather Perkins, a petite blonde sitting in the passenger seat. She had just pulled her iPhone buds from her ears, as the tinny music blared.  She had obviously been sleeping the past hour.  Deb could barely make out the brim of the women's cowboy hat through a veil of semi-darkness, as she tipped the front of it upward and stared into the distance through the front windshield.

“God only knows,” said Deb. “I left 71 South about thirty minutes ago in search of BP station.  But when I got off the exit, I couldn’t find it.  Matter of fact, I haven’t seen any businesses since I exited the highway and got on this road.” 

“What road?” said Heather.  “It looks like we’re on dirt now, next to a cow pasture.”

“I don’t know.  I thought I was on Highway 58 . . . but I’ve made about a dozen turns since then.  I haven’t seen a sign anywhere to indicate where we are.”

“You don’t have a GPS?”

“No.”

“Let me see if I can activate the one on my phone.”

Heather’s phone illuminated the inside of the truck.  She searched for the GPS app.  When she pulled up the map, she stretched the screen to better read the location.

“Says here we’re in Blanchville.”

“Blanchville?  You sure?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Because Blanchville is thirty miles out of the way.  I saw a sign back there for Blanchville over an hour ago.”

“But there’s nothing here but farmland,” said Heather.  “Better wake the others.”

“No.  Let them sleep.  It’s been a long day.”

The four women were somewhere Southwest of Columbus, Ohio, after returning from a rodeo in northern Ohio.  They were headed home to Lexington, Kentucky when Deb had taken the unintentional detour.  Deb had competed in the rodeo and was anxious to get out of her dusty Wranglers.  The other two women passengers lay in the back seat— heads canted on opposite windows—both contorted in awkward positions.  One snored like a jackhammer.  Only an hour ago, they had been joking and laughing about some of the cowboys they met earlier.

They had left the rodeo competition at 6:30 p.m., after Deb was awarded a second place ribbon for barrel racing.  It was now after eleven and not a sole was in sight.  This was unusual for a Saturday night, even in a farm town.

“I better check on Jacko,” said Deb, as she opened the door and teetered back to her horse trailer.  The day’s soreness was just setting in, as the blood rushed back to her lower extremities.  Her legs felt rubbery with the first few steps.

Jacko snorted as Deb opened the back door of the trailer and gazed into its dark interior.  He seemed to sense something was wrong and made a few movements that rocked the trailer.

“It's okay, big guy.  We're just trying to figure out where we are, buddy.”  He was a three year-old bay quarter horse who stood just over 15 hands high.  She had raised him since birth on the horse farm her family owned in Lexington.

Deb grabbed a flashlight toward the back of the trailer and checked to see if the water or feed had spilled.  Most of it was undisturbed in the troughs she had secured to the front wall.

She closed the trailer door, latched it and trod along the narrow dirt road to the Ford Explorer.  Crickets chirped and a pale moon hovered between the cloudy skies above.  A fetid smell impinged her nostrils as she inhaled the muggy August air.  It smelled like rotten flesh and made her gag as she opened door to her SUV.

Heather had lowered the window and was smoking a cigarette.

“Can you smoke that thing outside,” said Deb, as she waved some smoke aside and stepped back into the Explorer.  She tried the ignition again, hoping even a wisp of gas could get them off this God-forsaken dirt road.  Nothing.

Deb felt ready to puke as the final vestiges of Heather's cigarette dissipated through the open window.  Her friend now stood outside puffing the final remnants of her cigarette.

“What's going on?” said Jill Manning from the back seat.  The light-haired brunette grabbed the front seat on Deb’s side and gazed through the windshield.  “Are we lost?”

“Sort of,” said Deb.  “I ran out of gas looking for a gas station, if that makes any frickin’ sense.”

“Oh,” said Jill.  “Not good.”

The other woman awakened—the one who’d been snoring the past hour or so.  Her name was Sarah Michaels, an attorney who worked for a small law firm back home.  It’s no wonder she was so tired.  She worked around the clock.  Deb and Heather were the only two that didn't have traditional jobs.  Deb was a horse trainer and Heather danced at a strip club on the outskirts of Lexington.  Jill was a high school history teacher.

Deb told Sarah what had happened. 

“We're going to have to find some help,” said Sarah.  The Explorer started pinging as Heather opened the passenger door and dropped her cigarette.  She squished it in the dirt under her cowboy boot.

“I know,” said Deb.  “But I don't want to stray too far from the horse.”

“I don't think we have a choice," said Heather, as she hopped back into her seat.

Suddenly Deb heard someone scream in the distance. 

“What in the world was that?” Heather asked.

“Someone just screamed,” said Deb.  “Come on.  Let’s go see if we can find who it was.” 

The cowgirl and three rodeo bunnies, as they called themselves, made their way up the dark dirt road, which meandered and undulated for miles in front of them.  In the distance, tree leaves rustled as a warm breeze stirred up.  A crow squawked from a nearby fence.

The four walked for twenty minutes but saw nothing.  With the aid of the moonlight, they avoided some pits in the dirt path and a dead rabbit to their right.  Just as they ascended a small incline of the path, a bright flame flashed in the distance.

“Look,” cried Heather.  The women gazed into the distance, clad in their tight jeans and western ensemble.  “Looks like a bonfire or something.”

The fire rose to the West of the path, somewhere past the woods and pasture.  The women continued traipsing up the road—the fire seemingly not getting any closer.  They climbed down a short hill along the right side of the road and stepped over a short barbed-wired fence into the cow pasture.  Weeds sprouted near the fence and the women teetered over clumps of dirt for twenty or twenty-five yards before the terrain leveled out.  The flame was fully visible about a quarter mile in the distance, beyond a small copse of trees to the left of the woodsy area.

“I tore my Levi's back on that damn fence,” said Heather.  She stopped for a second and ran her hand along the back knee of her indigo jeans, pinpointing the snag. The other woman also stopped for a few seconds, as Heather was a few yards ahead of everyone else.  “Sixty bucks for these things—and I just got them.”

“We've got more a lot more to worry about than your jeans,” said Deb, as she swatted away a couple gnats.  “Besides, cowboys and cowgirls usually wear Wranglers.”

“I’m not a cowgirl,” said Heather.  “I’m a stripper.”  The other women laughed.  “These are my favorite pair, though.”

“Oh shit, my ankle,” cried Jill.

“You okay? asked Deb, as she glanced over and saw Jill limping.”

“Yeah.  I just twisted it a bit.  And these boots aren't helping any.”

They reached the edge of the trees ten minutes later—all of them working up a sweat. Heather respired heavily as she found a trail about ten feet into another patch of woods—and they all followed it until they reached the other side.

The fire was even farther away than they thought.  A deep valley lay before them and stretched another quarter mile.  The fire blazed on the other side of the valley, which then gave way to another thicket of trees to their right.  A farm house was situated on one side of the valley while several sheds and a horse stable dotted the other end.

In the distance, Deb could see the silhouettes of more than a dozen people milling around the fire.  Another group of a half dozen or more were walking toward the far woods beyond the farmhouse. A short time later, they disappeared behind the tall oaks, pines and mulberry trees.

“I don't know about this,” said Jill, as they started descending the hill.  “We don't know these people.  Maybe we should take the woods around to the other side and do a bit of reconnoitering first.”

“Not a bad idea,” said Deb. They climbed back up the hill and followed a circular path in the woods around to the right.  When they reached a position beyond the side of the stable, which was more than a hundred feet away, they stopped and listened.

“Shhhh," Deb whispered. "I hear someone talking."

The four woman listed as they watched the figures in the distance.  It looked as if they were walking along some pavement, with swings and a basketball court nearby.

“It’s a school parking lot,” said Jill.  “See the building to the right?”  The school was relatively small and barely visible, as the women were still a couple hundred feet away. 

“Yeah, now I do,” said Deb.

“I hear chanting,” said Sarah.  “They’re chanting about something—like they do during initiations.  Listen.”

“It sounds like women . . . or even girls,” said Deb.

“I can barely hear anything,” said Heather. 

“That’s because of all the loud music you dance to at the strip club,” said Sarah.  She didn’t like Heather and they all knew it.  They argued all the time when they were together.  Heather had the looks and Sarah possessed the brains.  And somehow they both intimidated each other.  Deb had to practically beg Sarah to come to the rodeo because of Heather—but she’d known Heather the longest.  The two had attended elementary school together.

“Whatever,” said Heather.

They continued traipsing through the woods.  Five minutes later, they stopped behind the last row of trees and stared at the fire and people around it.  They were now only fifty feet away.

Five people were clad in robes, while a sixth one wore jeans and a T-shirt.  That group was making their way across the parking lot to their cars.  The other six had doffed their robes and were stuffing them in gym bags.  They stood near the center of the school parking lot.

“They’re high school girls or something,” said Heather.  “A couple are wearing softball jerseys.  See?”

 

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