Don’t Got The Guts Ch. 01

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This is a slow burn kinda romance – lots of scene-setting, back-and-forth, and backstory into each character’s life as you get to who they are and how they fall in love. But as with all fires, when it gets hot, it gets HOT … so I hope you can forgive me and won’t be too disappointed!

Thanks for choosing to give my story a go 🙂


Colleen trudged through the woods. Wychburne was a foul place, full of rotting logs and fungus and overgrowth, half of it claimed by the ever-eddying waters of Silvercrick’s fat, incessant rivers and half by the shadows of the mountain range that sealed their small northwestern town from the perils of the neighboring continent. Their proximity to Canada and the ease with which climate and natural predators spread from one land to the other was about as curious as things got in Silvercrick, and about as foreign as residents would readily tolerate.

The mountains and the rivers were the two things that gave Silvercrick its name; as old as the town was, it was the promise of riches that brought settlers from far and wide to their shoddy little no man’s land. Many travellers lost their lives in the now boarded-up mines that ran throughout the ranges, once fit to bursting with ore and mineral deposits. Their families had only stayed on because of the waterlogged soil that reaped harvest but twice a year, and the monotonous, unappealing flatland that made it easy to put down roots.

It was funny, in a way, that the point at which its founding features met and merged in perfect, rampant harmony was the part of Silvercrick its residents feared the most. Funny, and yet, unsurprising.

Her workboots made soft splashes as she cut across the stream, liquid sludge and river slime dripping off their waxed exterior like water off a duck’s wings. There were many reasons most of the shrewd and self-preserving townsfolk stayed away from Wychburne Woods. For one thing, Honeybone Forest was only two miles east from the heart of town – only a hop, skip and hill away from human touch and much easier to access by truck or people carrier. It made for a decidedly nicer brush with the native Montana wildlife too, with its soft switchgrass and teeming prairie gardens, and the big old lake at the center where you could go fishing on lazy fall days. Colleen had attended enough cookouts there in the past, shivering with her friends through winds that buffeted the ashes and the pines, taking dips in the lake when the water wasn’t too cold.

But Honeybone Forest was made for people. People who liked to watch birds and catch salmon, litter the shores of Honeybone Lake with soda cans and glass bottles and leave their thongs or socks hanging in the underbrush as a sign of crowing conquest. Wychburne was made for lurkers and listeners, for tracking prints and stalking prey and trekking through invasive shrubbery in guaranteed solace. Wychburne was made for creeps and loners.

She glanced at the outline of her boot prints in the bank, the space in the middle filling up with water and sludge again. They would be washed away by tomorrow.

Penny ran alongside her. She stood out like a sore thumb against the fog and shadows crowding them in along the river, burnt orange and blue-gray all the way up her hind legs and a back, with good portion of snowy white scruff coating her sinewy neck and stomach. Her long snout was posed to the ground, exploring.

Colleen preferred making her trips to Wychburne without company in tow, including the family dog. Today had been an altruistic exception. Their relationship was fairly indifferent at the best çankaya escort of times, but Irwin was working a double shift at the mausoleum and Christie had engulfed most of the room they shared with notes for her midterms, which meant Colleen was the only unoccupied brat available to take on her mom’s list of insane, unholy errands. She’d brought Penny along as moral support, if only to give the aging Australian Shepherd a break from their hovel of constant batshit crazy.

They’d left home shortly after ten, stopping in at the square on their way out of town, so Colleen estimated it was close to midday now. Time seemed to come to a total standstill in and amongst the trees; any light that hit the ground had to fight through a vast array of towering firs and pine needles to make it to the floor.

It didn’t give her much scope to seek out her bounty before it got too dark for them to navigate a path back out.

Penny yipped from a small outcropping up ahead. The river swirled into rapids here, shifting from crystal-clear stillness into roaring currents, and beating against the rocks that signalled the start of the falls. When the weather was good, Colleen would pack a sandwich and a good book and take her chances against the narrow slope – but Silvercrick was only just emerging from the deep seat of winter, and a particularly grisly one at that.

“Yeah, I know.” Colleen hoped her drawl carried over the crash of the river. “You’re tired. I’m tired too. We’ll get outta here soon, okay?”

Penny let out a disgruntled snuffle, but settled between a pile of leaves with a heavy thump. They fluttered around her as her tail flopped around, mites dispersing like a shroom cloud.

“Gross.” Keeping her grimace to herself, Colleen turned to investigate the ground.

They were in thick, mulchy territory now – the closer she got to ground level, the stronger the stench of deadrot and decay. She was getting warmer. It was simply a matter of keeping her eyes peeled.

Sinking onto her haunches opposite an ink-coloured tree stump and examining the dusty purple soil clumping the early spring perennials together, she pulled back a few thorny fronds and peered. Her exhale came out as a smiling sigh.


Her knapsack hit the mulch besides her boots as she extracted her supplies. The frayed gardening gloves came out first, followed by a squashed roll of two-ply and some sandwich bags to hold her haul together.

She’d discovered the shrooms by accident last year when she’d gone berry-picking for her mom. Wild forage in the forest only lasted a week before they fell prey to some elk or tourist caravan, and the over-priced tinned stuff at the Garden Store wasn’t good for anything except cake toppings, so Colleen had picked up a few field guides from the library and resolved to get some commercial value for her habitual wandering streak. A couple of berries from her haul were bound to roll off the counter when she set them down in the kitchen to wash off , along with some of the stringier nettles and larger mushrooms she foraged en route, and Penny would often munch through a good bunch of them before being scooted from the tiles to her dog bed.

On a few occasions the dog had just thrown up, curling up into a ball besides the fireplace with Irwin or her mom stroking and soothing her ’til she managed to fall asleep. But more often than not they’d find her spaced-out and hazy, following every scent trail in the house over and over again and unearthing tools and socks they’d been missing for the past nine months, cebeci escort or voraciously vocal and acting like a hound half her age. It was jarring, to say the least – or at least it had been until Colleen discovered the dusty purple residue along the fabric walls of her bag, and remembered the way the mushrooms bruised blue when she pinched them off the ground. It didn’t take her long to put two and two together.

Psilocybin was the chemical listed beneath those fungal varieties in her field guide, with no further explanation beyond the fact they were unsuitable for human consumption. YouTube and ‘’, however, seemed to have different results.

Filling her Ziploc with a few of the wadded-up bunches, as well as some lion’s mane and dandelions she found growing farther away from the water’s edge, she cooed again for Penny. The dog staggered back onto her paws. Taking one last glance at the dystopian paradise of thorny blooms and inbred vegetation, they retraced their steps to the wood’s entrance.


Colleen wasn’t an addict by any means. She only got high twice a week, long after the others had retired to their evening activities and far away from where she could be judged for her weaknesses. When the mundane reality of her nine-to-five routine at the Garden Store or the omnipresent buzz of her mom’s moaning and whining proved a little too much for the worn edges of her brain, she’d grind herself a gram or two and lock herself in the shack in their backyard. Once upon a time it used to be a sanctuary of garden tools, but the Pfeiffers had long given up on their love affair for manicured lawns and box-cut flower beds.

All the webpages she’d devoured in the aftermath told her shrooms were anti-addictive by nature, practically medicative in small doses and worshipped throughout the centuries by those looking for a break from the symptoms of a troubled mind, or the inescapable pull of past trauma. She’d never admit to cultivating anything as bold or grand a ‘past’, but there was something about floating untethered above her own body, blasé and unaffected by the shackles of her brain or the constant pounding of her weak and fiendish heart, that conjured up a smidgen of the woman who used to exist before this town got the best of her. With shaky hands and nervous incantations to the spiders in the rafters or dust bunnies that coated the windowsill, Colleen would drag out her art supplies, and find the courage to create something.

And in those freeing fleeting moments, everything was right.

It was a shame that this was what left of a first-class fine art degree. Dripping stoner paintings in a moldy garden shed, sabotaged by emotional fallout and her shattered sense of worth. But at least it gave her someplace to unload all those inexplicable feelings.

By the time they emerged from the break of the treeline, something more insistent than the wind was rutting against the shell of Collen’s raincoat. She didn’t have to squint too far ahead of her to see the rain hurtling like artillery into the dirt path, pooling in the potholes and making the shortgrass shine like glass.

Penny let out a shrill whine. Colleen couldn’t help but agree with her. If they didn’t hurry, they might just drown out here.

Skidding over mud and clay and moss, they scrambled down the slope of the path and hastened towards town as fast as they dared. Rain splats against flat bedrock grew louder and louder as the wind reached a deafening howl. She would’ve lost Penny within minutes if it wasn’t çukurambar escort for the flourishes that made up her coat – the red and gray and dazzling white splaying like a beacon against the grim backdrop of early spring. Panting, Colleen clutched her hood to her hairline and pushed forward against the slap of the gale.

She couldn’t bear to think about what she probably looked like. Her pigtails were ratty and wet and rubbing her cheeks raw tucked up against her collar, and her jeans were so soaked within the next fifteen minutes she doubted she’d be able to put one foot in front of the other. It certainly felt like the elements that looked over their sheltered valley town were suddenly trying to return her to the soil, ground alongside the worms and the voles and fungi.

A single piercing sound broke through the devil’s orchestra ringing in her ears. Colleen straightened and looked over to where the dog was barking. She hadn’t realised they’d ventured so far off the slickened path they’d made it as far as the bridge.

She didn’t think twice before following Penny across it, gratefully clutching to the iron railings and clinging to the solid sound of her hobnails as they pried themselves off each wooden slat. The gorge ran below like the flat black tongue of Wychburne’s open maw, a steep plummet of fifty to sixty feet, which is why she would never venture over this thing on a normal day. Through the blurry veil of torrential downpour, however, they traversed the thing in minutes.

It took slightly more convincing for her to follow Penny’s skidding paws through the trail of needle leaves ahead and to the left. She knew what lay to the west of Wychburne. She knew who was rumored to live there.

“Penny!” she hollered. “C’mon, girl. This ain’t the part of the woods to go exploring – and I don’t got the guts to get you out of there.”

Nothing. Her voice echoed empty and hollow between the barren larches, and vague threat of the gorge that ran somewhere alongside. Sighing, she marched forwards.

She felt the dread pooler thicker and faster than the rain at her feet when those tall farm fences came into view. Large and sprawling, much like the vegetation of the slopes, the entire thing looked like it had grown out of the earth and forced the tilled and even land surrounding it into quiet, gainly submission – and under the wash of the clouds, the soft green of its exterior looked sinister and almost phantasmic. The complete opposite of an oasis in a desert.

Penny growled at her from half a meter away. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, she seemed to be saying. Shelter was, indeed, shelter.

Taking a single step across the boundary of the plot, a small voice in Colleen’s head vowed she would live to regret this decision. Her breath escaped from her in frosty, pinching huffs as she ran the rest of her way, Penny racing in her wake, until they both reached the eaves of the front porch and the bleached wooden columns holding the whole thing together.

A frigid gasp escaped her as she leant back against the siding, gripping her thighs through her sodden jeans. Penny shuddered and shook the worst of the rain off her body, the sound of it thundering across the aging wood, before curling into her tail and sinking tiredly into the floorboards. The porch seemed to groan in dissent.

No sooner had she mused the possibility of biting off her fingers to stop them burning from the cold a second groan began to reverberate through the wood besides her, the rattling of the sliding door giving way to a BANG as it was blown against the farmhouse wall. The heavy thuds of two large workboots, faded and tan, echoed as they stopped just beyond her periphery.

From where she stood clinging to the siding, she couldn’t do much but eye them warily, and wait.

A deep voice rumbled across the porch with as much loaded menace as the storm. “Get inside, girl,” she heard. “You’ll catch your death out here.”

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