Chapter 1 - The Adventure Begins!

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A bristling army of pitch-black evergreens began blocking out the night sky on either side of the road. Catching glimpse of a sign, Anders eased off the accelerator.

"We're over the county line," he said. "How far's the bridge?"

"10 kilometers," replied his passenger, Eirik. In a dark white coat and cap, he scowled studiously at a road map of Norway with a flashlight. "It's pretty small."

They came upon a wooden bridge modestly lit and wide enough for a single vehicle to pass. Anders parked the blue Land Rover on the shoulder and they walked out onto it.

With the bridge under his feet, Eirik looked to his friend. "This is where Nana said we'd find him." 

Anders' grandmother, 'Nana Ana,' had always been unapologetically imaginative, a trait that worsened with age. During her twilight years she'd insisted on the validity of fairy tales and magic to a degree that her children feared for her mental health. More often, they wearied of her obsession with make-believe. Among family, Anders had known her best. They'd shared a mutual love for foreign places...

Nana's passing had blindsided everyone, however the reading of her will had not. Her kin had known she was eccentric and the legal document only confirmed it. It read like inventory lists from a thrift store, magic shop, yarn supply store, and a 1960's library rolled into one. Unbeknownst to her family, she'd owned property - a secret hideaway in the Norwegian wilderness, a place she called "the island bungalow." According to her final wishes it belonged to her grandson upon her death.

Unfortunately for Anders, Nana Ana hadn't arranged customary means for locating the bungalow. That would've been too easy. Instead she left a clue, a trail, and her favorite quote which bore the echo of a challenge rather than encouragement: 'Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something.'

Anders paced the bridge. "The directions said to come here on any night," he said. "We'd find a guy named Benjamin with whom we'd barter her old pocket watch for a compass. And that would somehow point us to the bungalow." He turned about in the center. "Just once..."

Eirik walked the wooden railing, listening.

"Just once it would've been nice if she said what she meant. Don't get me wrong, I loved her cryptic riddles and all the traveling we got to do because of 'em but... Just once."

Grinning, Eirik peered down over the railing into the blackness where a stream garbled, likely through a stony bed. "Her methods might've been out there but she's never sold us short on a scavenger hunt."

Anders paused. True. He turned. "Hang on." Cupping his mouth, he belted a loud 'Benjamin' both up and down the road.

Arm on the rail, Eirik listened to the night, to the water. He glanced back the way they'd come and up the road, hoping to see a light.

Anders closed his eyes and listened. Nana, you had such weird friends... Here I am waiting for one of them to come crawling out of the bushes in the dark and trade me a compass. The depth of the silence was astounding.

A frigid breeze bushed past him, carrying with it an odd gag-worthy scent. Frowning, he turned. "You smell that?"

Behind Eirik who wore a puzzled expression, a huge hairy arm reached through the rail with a knobby hand the size of the Land Rover's windscreen. It swiped at Eirik's back blindly, dashing him violently to the deck.

Heart leaping, Anders scrambled to grab his friend's arm to pull him from the edge, but the giant hand found and gripped Eirik's leg, and ripped him clear off the bridge.

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