In the summer of 1996, the Jones family trades the New York City lifestyle for a simpler one in the secluded woods of Tennessee. Clark and Lidia embrace the move with open arms, but their seven-year-old son, Max, has a hard time adjusting. The boy has always felt a certain emptiness, and now, without the comfort of his friends, he’s unable to mask it.

In those Tennessee woods, Max looks for solace but instead finds something else. An old, decrepit well, abandoned and sealed by wooden boards. Either out of curiosity or destiny, Max is compelled to open it but doing so triggers a sinister chain of events, pulling him into a downward spiral of suffering. One that his family is desperate to pull him out of.

The following is a sample chapter of THE WELL:

The fear. The anxiety. With each waking moment, the seed of despair made itself known in Max’s belly, and as the days went long and the nights went longer, the seed formed roots, and those roots were firm.

Trying to sleep only made it worse. Lying in bed. Wallowing in himself. But there was a place Max liked to escape to. A place of indifference, where nothing mattered because nothing existed.

The void.

On particular nights when Max was feeling especially down, part of him would go to sleep, but the other part wouldn’t. The bit of essence that makes a living being truly alive—that is the part that would separate from Max’s flesh, to engage in a form of travel akin to astral projection.

The boy learned how to do it as early as a toddler. A door would open, and he’d drift inside, and in there was a world of nothing. A starless galaxy, a land of pure black. He would float there for what felt like days, his mind as empty as the darkness around him. And only when he had his fill, would he return through that door, back to his bed, back to himself, where he would awake and it all would vanish as effortlessly as a dream.

On this night, wrapped in the comfort of his blanket, in his nightmarish room of make-believe evils, he ventured into the void once again, but before doing so, he looked back and saw himself asleep under his covers, seemingly at peace. He drifted through the door, making sure to leave it cracked open, using the sliver of light from his bedroom as a guide to later return home.

He floated there, in the depths of his subconscious, hidden in a place never meant to be found.

But now, for the first time in all his years of exploring, he saw something. A circle of light. A halo that grew as he hovered toward it, larger and larger until he was close.

A tunnel. Dark, but not as dark as everything else. If he looked hard enough, he could see the ground and the walls, molded from dirt and rot.
And somehow, down that long, narrow tunnel, there was a break in the silence. The faint dripping of water. A hollow tap like the drop from a leaky faucet.

Nothing was supposed to be here. A plane of nonexistence. Over the years, Max had explored the far reaches of the void, and as infinite as it seemed, he was confident there was nothing but him. And yet, on this night, at this moment, he was drawn to this exact location as if he was following the line of a treasure map.

Here he was at the red X. A path of existence. And despite the incredible fear from within, the fear of the unknown before him, he floated inside, through the corridor as it narrowed into a murky yellowing of light. The tunnel emptied into an open room, and at its center was its source.

A campfire. A ball of flame, yellow and orange, atop a bundle of sticks, crackling and popping from the fury of its embers, its flames kissing the darkness above into a haze of smoke.

Max circled the fire. Mesmerized by the heat below the logs. In those flames, there were visions. Screaming and violence and sadness and pain. None of them belonged to Max, but somehow, he was witnessing them.

There was something nostalgic to the campfire’s metallic scent. He released his tongue from between his lips, and as the ash fell onto it, it tasted oddly familiar.

Nearly coming full circle around the fire, he abruptly stopped.

Hunched over on his knees was a pale, old man, stooped low, his head close to the logs. Max could only see the back of him, but his ghostly complexion was so vibrant against the yellow from the camp­fire and the black surrounding it.

The old man was nude, and his skin was bruised all over. His spine was visible, each bone bulging from the flesh like he was outgrowing it. Stray hairs occupied the back of his mostly bald head, strands of white and gray so fine they blended with the rest of him. His long, black nails curled into sharp points, and the soles of his feet were a permanent brown. The length between his heels and his toes suggested how tall he was, and if he were to stand, he would be nearly twice as tall as Max.

The man looked like he was eating something, his hands up to his face, the inner workings of his bones shifting as he gnawed at his palms.

But then he stopped.

The wrinkled skin on his neck stretched taut as he lifted his head. Slowly, that head turned, scanning the room from corner to corner until his eyes landed on Max.

In those eyes, Max saw the black of his pupils, as dark as obsidian. An impossible black, like staring into a hole that leads to nowhere.

The old man smiled. Teeth brown and decayed, bloodied gums stained a gross, mold green. In his hands was a blob of meat of indiscernible origin, a hefty pile of tiny guts and organs mashed tog­ether like purple, scrambled eggs.

Max spun around and floated away, as fast as he could through the narrow tunnel, opening wider as he left it. Even though it was difficult to feel anything in the void, he understood the dread taking over, the disturbing nature of that place.

Eventually, he was out. Returned to total darkness, to the sea of nothing. The boy looked back from where he came. If he squinted hard enough, he could see the tiny dot of light, the haloed entrance. There were others out there, similar and distant. Like a constellation, he mapped them out in his head. A star not worth visiting ever again.