The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. Seeing ash fly up to the sky, Olivia instinctively knew that it was a sign. Evil had returned to these woods and it sent chills down her spine.
Olivia, a 35-year-old recovering addict, walked past the cabin every night without fail. Come rain or shine, snow or sleet, she walked past at the same time of the day, every day, as she knew that it was not over. The wood may have peeled and the inside become overgrown but there was no doubting that it was not over. Her therapist told her to move on. Her lovers told her to roll over and her remaining friends had no idea what to say to her.
She knew that this day would come around again and memories of that winter evening came flooding back to her like someone had turned the tap on and she was about to drown. The sheer momentum of all those emotions was too much and whilst the logical course of action was to call the police, she moved forward with all the courage she could muster.
If she could burn that old cabin to the ground then maybe, just maybe, she could prevent another soul from going through what she went through that night. Not just her but all her friends. Julia, Amy, Laura, Fiona, Ruth, Jessica, Heather and Alice. All her friends and all gone except for her. She owed it to them to burn that infernal cabin to nothing more than ashes in order to avenge them. She had to do it and do it as quickly as humanly possible.
With sweat dripping down her forehead she crept closer to the cabin. As quietly as a mouse she moved, one step at a time... Any tiny, little noise would risk alerting the evil and that was a thought that could not be faced. To consider going through that once again, hearing her mates die in agony was simply something she could not endure.
The look on Laura's face was always the worst. Those eyes that were so full of betrayal and hatred refused to leave her dreams and ensured a lifetime of habitual drug use just to get to drift off.
For weeks and weeks all they could hear was screaming, which was broken by the silence at the end. The sound of nothing after the pleading had ended. When the door once again opened and the next in line was called forward. As soon as they broke the darkness of the next room the screams went on for days and days until the seventh when silence would fall and the process would repeat.
Into the empty void of the night, the children screamed until their lungs were raw. But no one came. Isolated, only the sound of the girls and the unimaginable evil for which they were being put through kept them company.
It was an experience that ended as soon as it began, or that was how it felt when Olivia was called through into the next room and she saw them... The sight of all her friends there on the floor. Neatly aligned and staring up to the ceiling. They looked like a set of identical dolls that had come straight off the assembly line. That same blank, vacant stare that froze her in place and made her wonder what was in store for her, yet there was nothing, only silence.
For what felt like hours she sat there staring at her friend's blank stares whilst the sink in the corner continued to drip. One drip at a time, it was torture and the wait was almost enough. Sitting there imaging what was next, staring at the eight girls that had been her best friends was inhumane. However, almost as soon as she thought about ending it all, the door was opened and she walked through into the night.
Wearing only her nightdress she stumbled cautiously through the forest, until at last she reached the village that she had once called home. Knocking on the door of what used to be her old home she was welcomed by an unfamiliar face who was surprised to see her. The kindly woman welcomed her in before telling her that her parents had died years before.
“Fifteen years previous,” the woman told her, “nine children disappeared in the middle of the night and the parents went out to look for you, with none returning.”
She went on to say, “The police searched and searched but they found no evidence and no clues as to what had happened, concluding that the parents and children had joined a cult and closed the book.”
It turned out that the investigation was ended and as the years rolled by and the story became a campfire classic. A tale to set the hair on the back of children's necks on end.
Thinking that it would be useful for someone to know where she was, in case something happened, she sent a group WhatsApp to all of her friends. With her location shared and a picture of the cabin taken, she added the text, 'I need to put the past to rest #RestinPeace'.
It was nine o'clock on a Friday night and she knew her friends would be out, but at least when they looked at their phones later, they would have her last known location. A thought that steeled her full of courage as she stepped forward one last time. Now at the window ledge, she was able to see in through the dust covered window, which appeared to be rotting on the outside.
In between the smoke from the candle and the darkness inside, she could see her friends lying there on the floor. Unmoved from where she remembered leaving them. There they were, 15 years later, dressed in the same clothes they were stationary and laid out in the exact same order.
Horror struck, Olivia froze as her blood turned ice cold. They were still there and as this thought came to register, she looked further into the room, noticing a wooden chair moving back and forth. Sitting on the chair was an old lady with what appeared to be a cat on her lap. She was deathly pale and looked as though she was talking to someone. But who...?
Now despite everything that Olivia had been through in her life, she did not believe in ghost stories and after she was taken into care, would roll her eyes at such tales. Yet sitting there in that cabin, was what appeared to be a ghost on a rocking chair.
Without taking her eyes off the ghostly figure, she slowly reached her hand into her pocket to grab her phone, but felt nothing. It had been there moments ago as she messaged her friends but now it was gone. A quick check into the opposite pocket confirmed this. She had to look away to see if it had fallen on the floor but with no torchlight and only the faint glimmer of the candle to go by, it was hopeless. If she had dropped her phone, then she was unlikely to find it anytime soon.
Gazing back into the room, Olivia saw nothing. All was empty...No ghostly figure and no children in a row on the floor. Nothing. A space with no presence, knowing that her mind must have been playing tricks on her. A thought that was easier to process than, 'In this cabin lives an old lady ghost who has been keeping an eye on my eight friends'.
As quickly as the thought entered her mind, the candle was extinguished and the chill of the night air returned to her bones. There really was nothing more to achieve for her than to retrace her steps, try to find her phone and retreat back to the safety of her home once more.
The walk home passed without incident and Olivia began to laugh at herself as she arrived back in town. Seeing everyone out for the night, enjoying the start of the weekend. It was comforting but she could not slip back into old habits. She felt relieved in a way that was unexpected as she knew what she had seen, both then and now, but the consideration that some supernatural being was not sitting there in a chair, watching, was reassuring. It was like when you went to the dentist. You spend days worrying about it, yet the whole experience was over in less time than it took to drink a pint.
As she approached her door, she felt all of the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, as if someone had walked over her grave. Unlocking the front door at such a ferocious speed, she nearly ran straight into her elderly neighbours, Thomas and Joan. A kindly couple that always asked her how things were going and helped her out with money when the funds ran dry. Tonight however, there was something different etched on their faces.
It was rage, hatred even. Shouting at her with such venom that it pushed her back out into the cold.
Running back down the street, she was swallowed by the night and left with her thoughts. What did they mean, uncontrollable noise and never ending deliveries? It had only been a few hours since she'd left for her nightly walk. She'd ordered nothing and lived alone. It made absolutely no sense. They weren't alcoholics and so this just seemed like a vicious attack and as the tears streamed down her face she resolved to find out what their problem was.
In her haste to escape her neighbour's wrath, she had run back to the cabin without even noticing and once again on the edge there was a candle... Its flickering light cast off into the night sky and highlighted a small area on the ground where she could see something shiny.
It was her phone. Her tiny little iPhone 3 was there on the ground, perfectly placed, as though someone had left it for her. A horror cliché if there ever was one but she needed her phone as that was her lifeline to her friends and to the pictures she’d taken that night.
Creeping along like a burglar in the night, she reached forward step by step until she was able to reach out and grab the device. As she did so the hair on the back of her head once again stood to attention.
There was somebody behind her...so she grabbed the device and took off into the woods as quickly as her legs could carry her. Past branches that left their mark and over exposed roots, not stopping until her lungs felt as if they would explode. She had to stop and turn to face whatever was out there, but it was easier said than done. Would you want to see death as it greets you or live in ignorant bliss until the last moment?
After a few seconds, she turned to face whatever it had been in the woods and there was nothing. Only darkness out there. Reaching out to grab her and threatening to swallow her whole she had sprinted into the middle of the woods in the dead of night. No one was here and she had no idea of which direction to walk in as her phone was out of battery.
Hungry and alone, she willed her tired feet to keep going but it was no use. She needed rest and stopped to lay her weary head on the ground.
As soon as she did, a hand reached out to grab her. It was not a log that she discovered but a person. As still as the day they died, lying there on the ground, holding her hand tight. Another reached out to grab her from behind and another, and another. She was held tightly with no hope of escape, all that she could do was scream, yet given the time of day, no one could hear her.
In the distance, the sound of footsteps echoed. Slow, labouring footsteps from behind and she screamed for help but as she had no way of spinning around to see who was coming, she had to hope that it was a friend.
Closer and closer they came. She could hear each footstep as it was slowly placed on the ground and they were definitely getting nearer. It was only a matter of time before they would see her and be face to face.
Tom and Joan slowly moved into view as the hands released. She could stand but was surrounded by eight people who all had their backs to her. No matter how hard she pushed, they would not budge. They were the immovable object that only reacted when either Tom or Joan began to speak. Like generals directing their troops the words were heard. “Do not release her under any circumstances and hold her in place until we have said what we need to say”.
Screaming at Tom and Joan, Olivia tried to be heard, yet they continued to stare right through her, as though she wasn't even human. Even animals get treated better than this...is all she could think but that thought was quickly erased from her mind after the command to turn was heard.
No amount of therapy could have prepared her for that moment. To see them all after all these years, with their ghostly white eyes and stiff movements staring through a deep hole in her soul. Saying nothing, just staring endlessly.
As she reached out to touch them a hand quickly grabbed hold. Pulling as hard as it could whilst Olivia screamed out in pain and Tom and Joan continued to laugh.
About the author
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Niche topic & fresh perspectives