Excerpt from ‘Behind the Hill’

(Excerpt from Behind the Hill)
It was the scent of damp earth that woke him, he could smell the rich loam pressed against his face and he knew that his fate was sealed. He had been taken below ground, beneath that twisted, gnarled oak, behind the hill. That thing had him now. And in a little while, he was sure, it would kill him.
Eric had been bound, from ankles to shoulders, in a cocoon of tree roots. He was wrapped so tightly in them that he could scarcely breathe, indeed, it seemed that with every breath he was squeezed tighter. Soon he wouldn’t be able to breathe at all.
He was laying on his right side, facing a dark grotto that his tormentor had excavated, a twenty foot wide burrow, roots dangling from the ceiling. The walls of the hole were lined with deep clawed furrows. A thin, golden light filtered down from the ceiling, where a tunnel led up, into the tree itself. He looked longingly towards the hole and the light, but to his horror, the light began to fade, and he knew that the opening in the tree-trunk was closing. In a matter of moments it would seal shut and the darkness would swallow him. He began to panic.
Harry, his dog, lay on his side a few feet away, like Eric, bound in a rough wrapping of tree roots. For the golden retriever, however, death had already come. Half his face was missing, seemingly melted away, his sinuses and brain on display like a grim science project.
I’m so sorry, Eric thought.
In the corner of the cave, hanging suspended from the ceiling in its own ball of roots, the demon shifted in its sleep. It was curled upside down inside its cocoon, looking like a malevolent and malformed fetus, pale gray skin steaming faintly, its three yellow eyes closed, a long , spiked tail wrapped around its body.
When it woke, and he saw those reptilian eyes open, his death would not be far away.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. This wasn’t part of the plan, this was not the manifestation he had intended, not the outcome he had been visualizing and focusing on for the past decade. He had worked so hard to get here, and the bitterness of this ending stung deeply. He had been on Oprah! two months ago for God’s sake.
The light was almost gone, his last hopes extinguishing as the shadows lengthened and his last exit to the world above-ground sealed shut. He watched it fade, and surrendered himself to the dark. It was out of his hands now.