Once Upon a December Nightmare
Reviewed by Wayne L. White
A planned winter evening at the movies for four adventurous young adults takes an unexpected turn when their venue is sold out. On a lark, James takes his three female companions for a ride along a dark, single-lane gravel road in an unknown wilderness. Denise confides to Cassie that she and James had enjoyed traveling this trail and not to worry, it comes back out on the main road up ahead.
After seven miles along the rough trail, a fallen tree blocks the road and forces them to back up to a place wide enough to turn around. The carcases of four deer lying side by side along the road in the clearing brings the first touch of fright to the girls. James turns the truck around and starts back the way they came. The uneasiness in the girl's stomachs turns to fear when the truck's lights fail. With only the thin beam of a flashlight to penetrate the darkness, James is unable to find the problem. When he returns to the driver's seat, the truck won't start.
At this point, Ms. Reich turns up the terror as the girls realize they'll have to spend the night cramped in the cold truck or walk the seven miles of dark trail back to the highway. The only thing they can agree on is that―from their collective experience with horror movies―you never leave the group. Whatever they do, they must do together. They abandon the truck and press into the night.
Unrecognizable sounds punctuate the darkness, heightening the tension as something appears to be following them, getting closer as they move along.
Cherie is no newbie to the fantasy genre, but jeepers creepers! with Once Upon a December Nightmare, she brings new heights to her portfolio of scare tactics, keeping her readers feasting on their fingernails. This tale is not for bedtime reading if you want to “sleep tight.” Those won't be bedbugs biting in your nightmares.
Perhaps Ms. Reich's home in Catawba, Virginia, sandwiched between the Appalachian Trail and the Otherworlds, has embellished her life with vivid childhood memories―memories of journeys to places like Dragon's Tooth and Foxwick where the lines between fantasy and reality dim. Regardless, she's at it again, and tantalizingly so. Pick up a copy of Once Upon a December Nightmare and get yourself a good five-star read and a darkened closet full of nightmares for weeks thereafter. Chills guaranteed.