The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. As Ty approached, the light drifted toward the interior of the cabin. Maybe it’s some teenagers or a vagrant. Normally Ty would not want to impose on uncertain company, but the snow was ankle deep, and his toes were frozen inside wet socks. He hoped the occupant would take pity on him.
Ty’s feet punched through the ice rind in the snow. He did not hear the crunch of footfalls behind him. I don’t think anyone is following me now.
Ty carefully ascended the cabin stairs. The porch planks shifted slightly under his weight. He knocked on the door. No answer. He tested the doorknob, unlocked. He opened the door cautiously and called out, “Hello?” No answer. The main room was dark; he tasted dust on the air. There was no indication of the light source he saw through the window. Maybe it was just the reflection of the moon. He stepped inside, holding the door open with one hand. “Hello?” he called out more loudly. Silence. He let the door close behind him.
As soon as the door latch clicked, Ty startled at the sound of footfalls. A candlelight glow manifested in the periphery of the room. He saw a female figure silhouetted against the cabin wall. He heard the sound of baby babble. Ty was fixated with disbelief, a movie scene unspooled before him. The female figure moved toward him; she cradled a baby in one arm and held a candle in the other. Ty’s legs buckled when the light revealed the familiar face. Evie, she looks like Evie!
The female figure spoke, “Oh, Ty! Are you ok? You look like you have seen a ghost!” Ty could not respond. She gave a look of concern, “Oh love, you are bleeding.”
Ty’s mind ran down a list of possible explanations: I am hallucinating. Maybe my drink was spiked. I have concussion from hitting the tree with my car.
The female figure placed the baby on the couch, nestling the child between two cushions. She returned her attention to Ty. “Let me help you up, my goodness. You don’t look well at all.” She helped him up and led him to a chair at the kitchen table. “Let me get you a drink. You look like you need one.” She reached into the cabinet and brought down a bottle of bourbon. She poured half the bottle into the glass and set it before him on the table. “Here you are.”
Ty accepted the glass; he took a swig. It tastes like bourbon. I am not dreaming.
“Evie?” He asked dubiously.
“Yes, sweetheart?” she answered.
“Evie, how are you here?” He asked again.
Evie tilted her head and slightly raised her brow, “Ty, you built this place. And, it’s our anniversary…don’t you remember?”
Ty paused to process her words. I don’t know this cabin. We were married in summer...she means the other anniversary. “I did not forget. I think of you every day.”
The baby babbled, diverting Ty’s attention. “Evie, is that Chloe?”
Evie replied in a matter of fact tone, “Who else would it be?”
Ty stood up to take a closer look at the baby on the couch. Chloe was preoccupied with her feet, her hands explored her little toes. She wore a onesie with a four-leaf clover on it. Last time he had seen that onesie, however, it was at the hospital, shredded and blood-stained. Her car seat had not saved her from the force of impact. This Chloe’s onesie looked new. Ty offered his index finger to Chloe. She wrapped her hand around it in a tiny fist. It felt like how he remembered her. Chloe smiled and cooed as her eyes met Ty’s. He felt a lump form in his throat, his heart palpitated in his chest.
While Ty soaked up his daughter’s presence, Evie said, “You must have had too good a time at the Ol’ Tavern.”
Ty winced and glanced back at Evie. He detected no malice in her expression. He had not been to the Ol’ Tavern since that night one year ago. He was driving. How can a person have their heart ripped out, and yet, have no signs of injury?
He excused himself and went to the bathroom. He saw his face in a warped mirror. He touched two fingers to the blood on his forehead. The skin break was tender, but not deep. There were no towels to wipe the blood away. His hands shook and his palms were sweaty despite the cold. He rubbed his hands slowly over his pant legs as memories flooded his brain.
He had sworn to himself that he would never drink again after the accident that took Evie and Chloe. But, anniversaries were hard: the first day anniversary, the first week anniversary, the first month anniversary, and today marked a year. He told himself that he would just have one drink tonight and go home to bed. One drink turned into, well, he lost count. And now another car accident. He would go to jail if he received another DUI. He fled the scene before the police arrived. And now here he was, wherever this was. Maybe this is hell; I deserve hell. His eyes watered, his nose ran. He sniffled and tried to compose himself.
He stepped out of the bathroom. Evie shushed the baby and rocked her gently in her arms. Ty sat next to her at the kitchen table. “Evie, I have missed you so much. I have missed you both so much.”
Ty reached out his hand and rested it on her arm. Her flesh was firm and cold. He recoiled. Evie kept her gaze on the baby and said, “Ty, you’re all shaken up. Why don’t you finish the drink.”
Ty looked at the glass of bourbon. He took another sip. The golden hue turned red. He coughed and gagged as it burned its way down his throat.
“Drink up dear, it will help you feel better," she urged him again. Ty looked back at Evie. Now her face appeared smashed in, glass chips glistened in her hair. Blood blossomed on Chloe’s onesie. Ty screamed and fell back in his chair. His head hit the floor hard. His eardrums rang as the bombs of a thousand regrets burst inside him. He rolled to his side, found his feet and ran toward the door, back into the winter night.
A mist had settled low to the ground. The moon was gone but the fog itself was luminescent. The snow was now calf-deep, he ran and tripped over himself until he was breathless. The sweat crystalized upon contact with the air. He shook uncontrollably. The forest was devoid of sounds. The trees receded into the vapor. He paused to try get his bearings. He felt a sense of motion even as he stood still: he was unmoored. There were no trails, no tracks, not even his own footprints behind him. Then, he saw a faint point of light in the distance. I will die if I stay outside much longer. Maybe they have a phone. As he approached a cabin, the light drifted from the window. The cabin looked like the last one…but maybe all the cabins around here look the same.
He stepped up to the door with a sense of dread, but he felt resigned to this action. He knocked on the door, “Hello? Hello?” No answer. He opened the cabin door and there was nothing but darkness. He stepped inside. The door shut behind him. A light appeared to come from the other room. A female figure appeared. It was Evie.
Ty leaned against the door, overwhelmed by a blast of fetid air.
“Oh, Ty, dear, are you ok? You look like you have seen a ghost!” In the candlelight, Evie’s injuries were evident. Her skin was boggy and yellow. Chloe gurgled on the couch.
“Come dear, you look like you need a drink.” She led him back to the kitchen. She reached up for the bourbon bottle in the cabinet. The bourbon poured red from the bottle, particulate matter floated in the glass. “Drink it Ty,” she said more forcefully. He was stunned to stillness. She stood close, his back against the refrigerator door. She slowly pressed the rim of the glass to his mouth: a lover’s taunt; the liquid touched the round of his lips. It was salty and foul. He pushed her aside and ran back outside.
The fog thickened. The snow drifted around him, up to his waist, then to his chest. He could move no further. This is where I die. He let himself sink down into the snow. He closed his eyes and said to himself the only prayer he could remember from childhood. He opened his eyes again and the cabin stood before him. There was a light in the window that floated toward the interior of the cabin. The gravitational force of the cabin compelled him forward. He was at the door. He did not have to knock. Evie answered: Her bony orbits were vacant, her flesh hung loose from moth eaten bones. Her breath was putrid. “Ty, come in and sit down, you look like you need a drink.”
Her skeletal hand pressed against his back, ushering him to sit at the table. They passed a headless Chloe on the couch, her limbs moved like a beetle caught on its back. Evie poured red slime from the bourbon bottle. Evie rolled the goo around in the glass before setting it on the table. “Just one drink to take the edge off Ty. You’ll feel better.” Evie sat opposite Ty at the table; she slid the glass toward him.
Ty saw his reflection in the red substance. The sludge started to move itself inside the glass. He turned to vomit. He looked back at Evie and cried, “No Evie, stop! I don’t want this! I am so sorry, so sorry for hurting you and Chloe. Please forgive me, or kill me, but please I cannot go on like this.”
Evie replied. “It’s not for me to set you free…if you want to leave, stop running and just Get Out! Don’t ever come back.”
Ty whimpered, “I am trying Evie, but I keep ending up here. I don’t know what to do!” He placed his head on his arms, leaned into the table and sobbed.
Evie reached across the table, cradled his face with her decayed hands, and lifted his head. Her voice was unrecognizable now: coarse and grave, “You run, Ty, but you don’t leave. If you want to leave, Get Out!”
The candlelight flickered on the table, shadows danced about her skull. He tried to remember how she once looked on this frame, but he could not see her anymore. This is not my wife, my daughter. These are bones and rot. Ty wiped the tears from his eyes, slowed his breathing and sat up straight in his chair. He set his gaze on the figure seated opposite him. He tipped the glass over, its contents emptied across the tabletop. He picked up the candlestick by its base; he inverted it deliberately, touching the lit wick to the viscious liquid. The substance ignited and flames unfurled across the table, engulfing the figure, then the room. The figure was still and silent as it was consumed by fire.
He stood up to go. The child’s remains disappeared in smoke. He did not have to look back to know that they were gone.
Ty kept the blaze to his back. Outside the mist had dissipated. The moon was visible and revealed one set of footprints leading up to where he stood. He followed his tracks back to the road. Above the tree line, he could see the faint flashes of blue and red lights.
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab