Catan Thomas was lost—hopelessly lost.
Worse than that, he was being hunted.
He thought he was well hidden. But then, so were his hunters.
They might be anywhere, Catan Thomas thought. They might be just a few feet away right now!
There was no way for him to know. He couldn’t see more than a foot in any direction, because he was deep inside a cornfield, surrounded by stalks that towered high above his head.
It had seemed like the perfect place to hide. But now he wasn’t so sure. Now he felt swallowed up by the field.
The cornstalks stood so close together that Catan Thomas could barely move between them. Still he kept going, hoping that eventually he would make it to safety.
He tried to be quiet. But he couldn’t avoid rustling the leaves of the plants as he passed by them.
He was aware of every sound he made. In a way, that made him feel safe. He figured that if he couldn’t move through the cornfield without making noise, neither could anyone else. No one would be able to catch him off guard.
Unless they were sitting quietly, waiting!
That thought stopped Catan Thomas dead in his tracks.
Now what? he thought.
Before he could decide, he heard a sudden rustle and was grabbed from behind.
“Aaaggghhh!” he screamed.
A hand closed over his mouth.
“Shut up,” a voice commanded.
He did as he was told.
“It’s just me, C.T.,” the voice whispered in his ear.
It took him a moment to realize that the voice belonged to his cousin, Lea Rose.
“They almost got me,” she told him as she removed her hand from his mouth.
“How did you get away?” he asked.
“I ran!” she said as if he were stupid. “I don’t know if they followed me, but I don’t think we should stay here. We’ve got to keep moving!”
“Yeah,” C.T. agreed. “But which way?”
Lea Rose shrugged hopelessly.
“This is a nightmare,” C.T. said. “We’re being stalked in a cornfield.”
“By a bunch of hillbillies,” Lea Rose added.
“The worst part is that we’re actually related to those hillbillies.” C.T. groaned.
“They’re distant cousins,” Lea Rose reminded him.
“Not distant enough,” C.T.complained. “I wish I’d never met these people. I’m never coming to another family reunion as long as I live.”
“I know what you mean,” Lea Rose agreed. “I can’t believe we have to spend another two whole days here in Bumbleweed. I don’t know how Grandma and Grandpa can stand to live out here in the middle of nowhere. They don’t even have cable. Who lives without cable?” Lea Rose shook her head in disbelief.
“For real,” C.T. agreed. “And forget about trying to use your cell phone out here. It’s impossible. I can’t believe your mom and my dad grew up on this farm, too.”
Lea’s mom and C.T.’s dad were Grandma and Grandpa’s children. They were the normal side of the family. The problem was that Grandpa had two brothers—Ernie and Earl—who weren’t very normal at all.
Ernie was the youngest brother. He’d been struck by lightning—sixteen different times. It was amazing that Ernie had even survived. But aside from lightning bolt number two, which left Uncle Ernie with a “hair condition,” and lightning bolt number nine, which gave him a “kick,” Uncle Ernie claimed to be fine. Still, the rest of the family was quite clear on the fact that Uncle Ernie had sixteen holes in his head.
But Uncle Ernie wasn’t nearly as big a problem as Earl, Grandpa’s middle brother, because Uncle Ernie wasn’t married. He lived with Grandma and Grandpa in their gigantic old farmhouse. And he didn’t have any kids.
Uncle Earl, the “raving maniac,” was married. He and his wife, Luleen, had lots of kids, and lots of grandchildren—C.T. and Lea’s distant cousins. Cousins that C.T. and Lea were forced to be nice to.
That was the real problem. Because the cousins were a real scary bunch.
“We don’t have time to stand around talking,” Lea said. “We’ve got to find our way back to the house before those freaks catch up to us.”
She shoved C.T. to get him moving.
But C.T. stood frozen right where he was.
“Listen,” he whispered to Lea.
They heard the rustle of cornstalks.
Someone was headed toward them, but C.T. couldn’t figure out from which direction. They had to know that before they started running. C.T. wanted to make sure they were running away from the drooling stalkers and not toward them.
Lea pointed to the right.
C.T. listened for another moment and decided she was right. He grabbed her hand and started running to the left.
But as they ran, whoever was chasing them began moving more quickly.
C.T. heard stalks cracking and pulled Lea along even faster. But he knew they weren’t going to get away this time.
Their pursuer was gaining on them with lightning speed.
C.T. looked back over his shoulder.
Less than ten feet behind them, he saw the cornstalks part as they broke and fell.
But nobody was there.
It was as if an invisible force was causing the damage.
“What’s going on?” C.T. cried as he kept running.
The cornstalks behind them continued to snap and fall. Whatever was chasing them was about to overtake them.
It was only about six feet away when C.T. finally saw what was after them. It was like nothing he’d ever seen in his life. And it definitely wasn’t one of his cousins!
Copyright © 2012 by Annette Cascone and Gina Cascone