Poisoned Forest (an open-ended challenge within a challenge)


Click here for part 1, “Barnes of Tombminster,” by Tom Merriman!

Janice let out a sigh of relief, then pulled her silver scotch flash from her fanny pack. “See? I told you to trust me, Elaine.” She smiled, took a swig from the flask, then slipped it back into her pack. “You’re a landowner now, not just a lighthouse keeper.”

Elaine chuckled. ” ‘Bout right time, all the toilin’ I’ve done keepin’ up the crag.” She sat, swinging her heels against the side of the stone slab, and smoothed the fringe of her scarf. “And my first order o’ business is kickin’ the two o’ you off me property! Now scat!”

Ross gasped. “But the will… ” he said, frowning.

“Elaine,” Janice said low, “you have to wait until five o’clock, in case any other relatives show up. Remember?”

“Ha!” Elaine retorted. “They won’t show.”

“How do you know?” Ross said, waving the will.

Elaine gave a satisfied smirk. “The two other relatives be me kid brother an’ sister. They’s twins, an’ as fat an’ daft as the day is long. They got sent away ta boardin’ school fer bein’ whiners. Prolly in they thirties by now. They’ll ne’er make it through Poisoned Forest, not without eatin’ a load of rosary peas.” She chuckled. “Why do ya think the locals call it ‘Poisoned Forest’? Years ago I planted the poisoned peas along the forest path ta weed out the Tombminster meddlers.” Elaine shifted her eyes from Ross to Janice. “Meddler’s always be meddlin’.”

Janice lowered her eyes, reached into her fanny pack, and took another swig of scotch.

“Now look here, Ms. Barnes,” Ross said. “I came all the way down to Tombminster and tracked you down to give you what is rightfully yours and this is the thanks I get?” His face grew red. He took a step toward Janice, then collapsed in her arms, sobbing.

“You always were a cruel one, sis,” Janice said as she patted Ross’ back. “And you haven’t changed a bit.”

Elaine jumped off the stone slab. “Wha-?”

Ross spun around to face Elaine. Tears streaked his cheeks. “That’s right, Elaine! We’re your long-lost brother and sister! When paw-paw died, we thought we’d give you one last chance to step up and be a part of the family. One more chance to prove that you outgrew your horrid ways. But no… you’re just as vile as ever.”

Elaine clenched her fists. “Why ya sneaky lil’ wimp! I thought I recognized that wimpy whine o’ yours! But I put it out o’ my mind ’cause ya so skinny.”

Ross straightened up and wiped away his tears. “Yeah, I was a fat kid. And you were no help, always teasing me. You drove me to eat even more. But when I left home, I was finally free of your constant bullying.”

Elaine stomped her foot and turned to face Janice “Liar!” She jabbed the air in front of Janice’s nose. “Foolin’ me these past five years. I thought the last I saw of me snivelin’ sis was when she went off ta the school. Ya was fat then. An’ I thought ya were the only friend I got in Tombminster!”

Janice shook her head. “You’re wrong on both counts, sis. After I got my surveyor’s license, I dyed my hair and came back down here to survey the area. I knew the three of us were going to inherit the land, and so I spent the last several years codifying the deeds. Turns out you inherited the lighthouse, but my brother and I inherited the forest, which is the only way to and from Tombminster. So if you want to go home to your lighthouse, you’ll have to step on private property.” Janice grabbed her brother’s hand.

“I’ll ne’er give up Poisoned Forest!” With both hands, Elaine grabbed her scarf from the slab and rushed at the two. “I’ll wring yer scrawny necks first!”

Ross shrieked and fainted, and Elaine tripped over his body and fell, slamming her head against the stone floor.

“Me ‘ead,” Elaine mumbled. “Ya broke me ‘ead.”

“You were right, bro,” Janice said, helping Ross to his feet. “She’ll never change.” She unbuckled her pack and tossed it on the floor next to her sister. “A parting gift from me to you.” Janice linked arms with her brother and they stepped over the prostrate, bleeding Elaine.

“Wait! Don’ leave me! I’ll sue ya fer e’erythin’!”

“Don’t worry, sis. The door locks from the outside to keep the dead from rising and wandering out, but I left you the keys to the crypt in the pack.” The pair stepped out and locked the door behind them.

“Wait! What good are the keys if the door locks from the outside?” Elaine pressed her hand against her her bleeding head and winced. She reached into the fanny pack and took out the scotch flask. She finished the bottle, then reached again into the pack. Her fingers felt dozens of small orbs. She scooped them out. “Rosary peas,” she mumbled, rolling the red and black berries around with her fingers. “Keys to the crypt indeed.”

Leave a comment


  1. Fabulous, CM! Twists, the mistaken(?) belief s/he has killed someone, the drink… elements I couldn’t get into my part you’ve fitted them in here! And I love the ending. The next level went one level higher with this one!


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