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Call of the Flame

Did curiosity kill the cat?

By SaraPublished 11 months ago 9 min read
Call of the Flame
Photo by Prateek Gautam on Unsplash

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. I watched on in horror, my mouth agape, as the light danced around from behind the partially broken window. The chill in the air seemed to get much more intense all of a sudden, goosebumps forming even through my layered jacket.

Curiosity ate away in my mind. I was fully aware of how dangerous it would be to wander into an old, dilapidated cabin that always had scary stories attached to it, whether it be from gossiping children or thrill-seekers desperate for adrenaline.

"It's probably a homeless person, probably just a homeless person," I said aloud, to no one in particular. I was hiking by myself, an activity I only really took part in when I was stressed. Exams, parental pressure, societal pressure. I just wanted some time to myself to wander around and explore the great outdoors, without thinking too hard.

Standing in front of that cabin was not helping my stress.

The cabin itself was old, the wood visibly rotted away in several places from the many years of neglect and nature.

Shattered windows and a broken down door made it obvious that vandals didn't let the ominous aura stop them, despite the stories that made their way through the small woodland town.

I could hear and feel my own rapid heartbeat as I stood in place, weighing the pros and cons of exploration. I patted the dagger that was strapped to my thigh. I had a weapon, so I would stand a decent chance if someone dangerous was inside. But a dagger wouldn't really do much against a ghost.

Still, I felt compelled, for whatever reason. The candle flickered on, its gentle ripple reminding me of a beckoning finger. I nodded, again to no one in particular.

The leaves crunched beneath my boots as I stepped forward. Every move I made sent shockwaves of fear through me. I felt almost trapped in my own body, begging myself to turn around, leave, and pretend I never saw a damn thing. But my legs continued on, ignoring how I felt.

The moldy wood creaked as I finally took that first step up the porch. Part of me was afraid that the boards would cave in once I put my full weight on it, but it managed to hold up. Once I got up the three steps , I got the chance to examine the house up-close.

The candle was, of course, the first thing that caught my attention. The waves of fire engrossed me, leaving me feeling almost hypnotized as I pushed open the remnants of the door.

The inside of the house was no better than the outside. I could see traces of graffiti along the bright yellow floral wallpaper that screamed '70s vintage'. There was broken glass alongside the smashed-in windows, and the flooring was dark wood, stained in various places with God-knows-what.

But I really couldn't care less about what the cabin looked like. There was even a staircase leading to what I presumed was the second story, but the last thing on my mind was going up there. The only thing that really drew my attention was that candle.

Who put it here, and why? Where did it come from? Was it the work of a homeless person or vandal, or was it something sinister?

That's all I could think about. The curiosity seemed to overtake me. I brought my face closer and closer to the flame, being careful to not get too close. The little bronze tray it sat on was shiny enough that I could see my reflection.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out why, but it felt like the candle was mocking me. Luring me in only to snatch me up, like an anglerfish dangling a light at its prey.


The sudden noise made me practically jump out of my skin. Before I could even process what happened, I yanked my dagger out of its sheath. I whipped around behind me, readying myself to stab someone, but there was nothing obvious that could've made that sound. I came to the conclusion that it must've come from up the stairs.

I kept my dagger out as I moved forward. I had to pay close attention to the floor so I didn't step on any glass, but I also had to swivel my head around just in case anyone was trying to sneak up on me.

From the bottom of the stairs, I was able to see the candle at the window. It was blown out.

Every single fiber of my being was desperately ringing alarm bells. Why didn't I run? I should've run. But then again, even if I could run, I wasn't sure I was able to. I don't know if it was curiosity trying to kill the cat, or if I was under some kind of spell. Either way, I walked up the stairs slowly and carefully, each squeak of the wood making me flinch and freeze up.

If my heart wasn't racing before, it sure was now. My entire body felt as if it was pulsing under the stress. My legs were shaking so bad I was convinced I'd lose my footing and fall. I was sweating bullets, my hand was turning pale from how hard I was gripping the railing, my lungs were on fire from my rapid and shallow breathing. I was so damn scared. And yet, I couldn't stop. One foot after the other. Up the old staircase, and into what might've been my death.

Upon reaching the final step, I saw it again. A candle, resting on the windowsill opposite the staircase. It was lit, and looked like the exact same candle. I swallowed hard, realizing at this point just how dry my throat was.

Again, it lured me into its light. It flickered much harder this time, and I realized the wind had picked up, and was blowing the flame around through the open window. The sky was getting noticeably darker, oranges and reds tinting the distance clouds into a light pink. I knew I had to leave now if I wanted to get home before nightfall.

But I still couldn't bring myself to tear my eyes away from the candle.

But I had to leave. The woods were dangerous at night, and I didn't bring a flashlight.

But those questions were still burning inside me. I had to find the answers. I just had to find out who put these candles here. I couldn't leave without knowing anything.

But I had to leave. I had to get back. My parents would be worried about me. I didn't want to worry them, and I didn't want a whole search party looking for me.

But– crash.

Another crash broke me out of my thoughts. It sounded like something shattered, like a vase was broken. My heart sank. It came from behind me, into a room I'd barely noticed when I went up the stairs.

I knew that whatever was in that house was dangerous. I knew that I didn't want to risk my life just to sate my curiosity, I wasn't stupid. I'd watched plenty of horror movies in my life. I knew at this point that something was controlling me. I didn't know what, and I didn't know why, but I still couldn't stop myself. I wanted to know.

I glanced behind me, once I was able to pull my gaze away from the candle. There was nothing shattered anywhere, but the door to that room was ajar. It wasn't the only room on the second floor, I could see another room to my left. But that door was closed, and I wasn't at all interested in it.

I felt myself moving to the open room. Wobbly legs accompanied heavy footfalls as I stepped closer and closer. After what felt like hours of nothing but my heartbeat and uneven breathing to keep me company, I gently pushed on the door with the tips of my fingers, which were practically numb from the cold.

The room I'd opened was a bedroom. Only the frame of a bed remained, and a lamp with no shade. The wallpaper in the room was patterned similarly to the first floor, but it was a dark cyan, with white wooden floors that were scratched up.

And, of course, a candle in the windowsill.

This window was busted open as well, with a large hole within the glass. It was almost totally dark outside, and the wind had gotten much stronger. At this point, the wind should've made the candle blow out, but it was still lit, billowing from side to side.

There was no willing myself away from the glow at this point. I had to get closer, to find the answers, to know the reason behind these candles.

I got closer. I looked at the dancing flames, marveling at its beauty. There was a sense of... urgency. It could've been simply because of the wind but there was something more. I could feel it, deep within my soul.

Something brushed against my leg. I looked down, only to see a piece of paper fluttering around. I managed to pick it up before it got away from me. It was folded, and had splatters of droplets of what looked like water.

I unfolded the paper.

"Learn from the cat.' It read, handwritten in what looked like pencil.

Before I could process what it even said, I was violently shoved, pushing me through the broken window. I heard what little glass was left shatter, and then I was falling.

It felt like I was falling forever, through a world so dark it looked like empty space.

Just as fast I was pushed, I landed on the cold, hard ground beneath me. Spikes of pain ran up my arm, and even in my delirious state, I could tell something was broken. After a few minutes of regaining my composure and the ability to breathe, I was finally able to sit up. I was back at the front of the house.

Whatever trance I was in was finally over. I felt free enough to move on my own, without some demon taking over my body.

I got to my feet, and my phone fell out of my jacket pocket, miraculously with little damage besides some scratches. I'd forgotten I even had it with me. I turned on the light and examined the front of the house, out of my own curiosity. The candle in the window on the bottom floor was gone, as if it never existed in the first place.

My phone's light guided me home. My parents, of course, were worried sick, and were about to call the police. Once they noticed my state, though, I was surprised they didn't call an ambulance.

At that point, the adrenaline wore off and my arm was completely swollen once I'd gotten my jacket off. Although they insisted I go to the hospital right that second, I decided on taking painkillers and going to bed, putting off my ambulance ride until morning.

The next day, after my arm was put in a sling, I wanted to do a bit of digging.

According to news archives, several decades ago, a little girl was found deceased after she fell out of the 2nd story window of that house she and her parents occupied. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head. However, autopsies determined that she died several days after the fall, and her body was discovered 3 miles away from her home, in a shallow grave next to a lake that borders the town. Her killer was never found, though they did note a single, lit candle was found where she was buried.


About the Creator


I am an avid reader and nonprofessional writer. My dream is to one day get published. I write fiction in various genres, and am currently writing my first novel. Any interaction helps, & contributions are greatly appreciated.

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