[stag_intro]I’m trying something new with The Race.
This is a fun horror story about a team of adventure racers who encounter something horrific in the middle of the woods.
It will have, in massive amounts and no particular order: profanity, violence, gore, laughs, and suspense.
I’m going to post the chapters here as I write them, along with any notes about changes to previous chapters so you don’t have to go back and re-read.
Please forgive any errors or typos–I’m experimenting with real-time sharing and want to get this to you as quickly as possible.

the race

“We’re lost,” Angie said.

Dave ignored her and kept staring down at the map.

Rob and Lara scuffed dead leaves onto each other’s shoes, grinning and trying not to laugh while Dave and Angie did what they do. Six hours into the adventure race and it was already old, but Rob and Lara had agreed they were going to have fun no matter what.

Dave slapped at a mosquito and held the clear compass over the map just to do something. They were lost, but he’d die of exposure and starvation before he let Angie have the win.

“Dave,” she said.

He pointed forward without looking up. “I’m trying to find that ridge on the map.”

It was a football field away and more of a berm, a hump of earth pushed into a long, low pile by a glacier or some farmer’s tractor a hundred years ago. But it was high enough that it should be on the goddam map, and Dave couldn’t find it.

“Are you sure we’re still on the map?” Angie said.

Fuck off, Dave wanted to say, but kept his mouth shut and stared at the blobs of green and tan and the elevation lines that didn’t look like anything around him.

Lara snickered and Dave finally looked up. “Do you two want to help or just grab-ass all day?”

“We can do that?” Rob said.

Lara took a sip from her Camelbak and said, “Maybe somebody else should carry the map for a while.”

“Please, God, yes,” Angie said.

Sisters. Dave didn’t even want Lara and Rob in the race, but they needed another couple in order to qualify for the four-person co-ed division. When Angie told them to sign up, Dave saw the 48 hours fill up with the two of them ganging up on him while Rob stood around with that goofy grin.

Dave shoved the map at him. “Where the fuck are we?”

“See?” Angie said to Lara.

Rob glanced at the map, then hovered a finger about two feet off to the left of the edge. “I’m guessing around here somewhere.”

Dave snatched his map back. The damn thing covered a hundred square miles, no way were they off it. “If we’re way the hell over there, you should have said something about two hours ago.”

Angie raised her hand. “I said something.”

Rob shrugged and told Dave, “I figured you know what you’re doing.”

Angie laughed. It scared a few crows out of a nearby oak tree.

Lara mouthed I’m sorry to Rob, who could pick Dave up and put him in a tree if he decided to, but never would.

Rob smiled and tried to make her laugh. “Guys, it’s fine. There’s no way we’ll get lost in these shirts. They can find us from space.”

Nobody laughed. The shirts were hot pink with white text: RACE FOR HANNAH.

Angie’s design.

Hannah was Dave and Angie’s five-year-old daughter, fighting for her life against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Dave and Angie had started doing 5K runs to raise funds, bumped up to half marathons, then full, and now adventure races. The 48-Hour Porcupine Adventure Race in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was one of the hardest in the nation, and winning it would earn sponsorship from Grit Nutrition.

Sponsorship meant more races, more fundraising, and would let Angie quit her job to be with Hannah full-time. Dave had to keep his engineering job so they could use the insurance, but the company said do whatever he needed to help his family.

What he needed was to find out where the hell they were. They were losing time. Other teams were gathering checkpoints while Rob and Lara poked each other with sticks and Angie stood there, waiting for him to screw up. Again.

The map was blurring when she said, “Is it hunting season?”

Dave said, “It’s July.”

Lara said, “Why, Angie?”

“There’s a guy with a gun over there.”

Everyone turned.

A man stood on the top of the berm looking at them. He was far enough away to just be a silhouette, but the outline of the gun hanging at his side was unmistakable. It was some kind of assault rifle, Dave knew, his brain trying to identify it, as if that would explain why the man had it.

The man lifted his other hand and waved at them. He was holding something small and pressed it to his head. A phone. The sound of his voice carried to them but not the words. He put the phone away and started down the berm toward them. He disappeared into the brambles and scrub brush.

“Let’s go,” Rob said.

“He can tell us where we are,” Dave said.

Angie said, “He has a fucking gun, David.”

“Lots of people have guns, Angela. We’re in the middle of the boonies.”

“I don’t like this,” Lara said.

Rob moved her away from the berm. “Come on. We’re going.”

“That’s the wrong way,” Dave said.

Rob and Lara kept going, hurrying between the elder oaks and pushing through the scrub and saplings that wouldn’t make it through the winter.

Dave turned to Angie. “That’s the wrong way.”

“How would you know?” she said, and followed.

“We have to stay together,” he said to her back. “If we separate, we’re disqualified.”

She didn’t respond, just kept going. Within twenty feet she was gone, a flash of hot pink winking through the underbrush.

Dave folded the map, taking his time until he smashed it between his palms. “Goddammit.”

He paused, listening for the man with the gun, but heard nothing. He flailed through the brush after his so-called teammates, kicking his shins through purple prickers without giving a shit. He hoped they cut him up. Let Angie see the blood and feel bad about it, about siding with Rob and Lara.

He pushed through a cluster of something with dying yellow flowers and ran into Angie’s back. Rob and Lara were next to her.

“Thanks for waiting,” he spat, then saw what the three of them were staring at.

A blonde woman was crouched in the dirt in front of them, digging into her forearm with her fingernails. She was filthy, her hair stuck to her cheeks with sweat and grease.

“Please,” she said. “Please.”

“What the fuck?” Dave said.

Angie turned, her eyes huge. “Dave, she…”

Rob kept staring at the woman and said, “She wants us to eat her.”