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Easy Prey

A night to remember

By Bri CraigPublished 11 months ago 11 min read
Runner-Up in Campfire Ghost Story Challenge
Easy Prey
Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window.

Harper blew out her match and watched the wax slowly turn soft at the base of the wick. She gripped the edge of her cardigan and felt overwhelmingly foolish.

Liam had promised her the first time wouldn’t be scary. Lots of high schoolers had swung by this very shack after school (or still wearing loose prom clothes).

But now that she was here, shivering in her cardigan, all she could think about was how this cabin was a far cry from the Love Shack she had been promised. The cabin had no heat, no lights, and no furniture. Condom wrappers stuck to edges of threadbare blankets and the dust had a way of floating up off the ground and into the air.

Harper had bought a matching set and a rose-scented candle to try and make the whole ordeal more romantic. But sitting here in her underwear and a cardigan only made her feel cold and exposed, and the single, lit candle made the interior somehow feel darker and lonelier.

Where was he?

Another wave of foolishness. Harper glanced over at her sweatpants, neatly folded in a corner. She felt stupid for taking them off, but she had also felt stupid for leaving them on. Here she was trying to be confident, spontaneous, and sexy… and yet, she had also refolded the sweatpants twice already (it just felt wrong to just leave them in a pile).

Harper glanced at her phone. Liam still hadn’t responded to her messages. She sighed and hugged her knees to her chest, wishing more than ever that Liam could show up to something on time. She shouldn’t have to pace around this old shack, wondering what to do with herself, wondering how to present herself, and— worst of all—wondering whether Liam had changed his mind.

Outside of the cabin, the slow patting of footsteps drummed toward her. Harper straightened, hugging her cardigan tightly across her ribs. She moved to the window, feeling the color draining out of her face.

She was excited for this, right?

So, why did her chest hurt so much?

Harper swallowed.

“Liam?” She called. She leaned into the window until the intense florals of the candle stung her nostrils. It was a cheap candle, and the rose notes were undercut by a nearly medicinal smell.

Still, she couldn’t see anything moving out of the window, and Liam hadn’t called back to her; but she could swear she heard a quiet shuffling sound, droning on outside. Harper sunk away from the window and checked her phone again. Her battery was beginning to get low, undoubtedly from all the time she had been waiting, staring at the messages screen, thumb hovering over the phone’s flashlight button...

Maybe this was all a prank. Maybe Liam never really liked her. Maybe he just saw her for what she was—easy prey.

Still, what was that sound outside?

Harper stood and switched her phone’s flashlight back on. The light seemed to stir up more dust in its presence, but it helped her see better than the candle did. Harper crept toward the entryway of the cabin. From the outside, the cabin looked only about the size of a double-wide. But on the inside, the layout was nonsensical. The rooms felt cramped, angled, and like there were two too many corners. Some rooms were portioned off by pale plywood doors and other rooms were partitioned by tattered tapestries that smelt faintly of weed. Harper still hadn’t found a kitchen or a bathroom.

But there was only one way into the cabin, and so Harper found herself there, one hand hovering next to the doorknob. Harper’s fingertips brushed against the cool brass, but she paused there. Her face itched in the silence that had settled around her. Without the shuffling noise, Harper could only hear the sensations of her own body—the air exhaling from her lips, her heart pushing blood to her ears…

There was no one out there.

Not anymore.

A buzz ricocheted against her palm. Harper flinched and flicked the screen of her cellphone up. A text from Liam pushed itself into view.

Don’t go outside.

Harper stepped away from the door, feeling her pulse banging louder against her eardrums. Was this some sort of sick joke? She had texted him several times already, and this was his response?

Harper’s face flushed with heat. She spun away from the door and walked back toward the little room that she had staked out for herself (well, for herself and Liam, but that hardly mattered now). She glanced at the wavering rose candle, and some sort of breath hitched in her throat.


She would not cry. She would grab her stupid folded sweatpants and leave this awful shack. Hell, she would leave the candle burning, let it burn this place down, too.

Harper stopped. Had this not been the corner where she had placed her sweatpants?

Harper’s gaze meandered around the dusty corner. After folding and refolding, she was sure she had placed the old gray pants there. She pulled the cardigan tighter against her torso.

“Liam,” Harper called, “this isn’t funny.”

In her mind, she expected the words to come out with force, but in actuality, her voice sounded like it was merely a suggestion, a sentence riddled with question marks.

“Liam?” Harper yelled (another accusation turned question).

A glint of movement caught her eye. Harper turned her head into the medicinal, floral scent wafting up from the candle. She leaned until her right hip pressed into the windowsill and she could feel the cold radiating through the glass pane up her arm and onto the side of her face.

Something had moved out there. Could it be Liam? Or another teen up to no good? Or maybe…

(Don’t go outside.)

Why had Liam texted her that?

Faintly, Harper heard a small squealing sound from the direction of the entrance. Her body crumbled into the corner, each muscle twinging with rigidity. In the process, her left shoulder had brushed into a cobweb, and she could feel a small thread tickling the back of her ear. Footsteps resounded from the other room, like metal scraping against wood. And Harper couldn’t explain it, but each step sounded thin—like walking on stilts.

Harper didn’t know who was there, but she knew with cold certainty she did not want to be found. Especially not like this.

A spider’s legs delicately touched down upon Harper’s left shoulder. Her back tightened, and her hands curled into fists, but she did not scream. She did not even breathe. She tried instead to focus on the footsteps in the other room. She could not make out whether they were getting louder over the beating of her own heart.

Another buzz. Harper jolted and pressed her phone against her sweater, trying to suffocate the noise against her own chest. The footsteps stopped in the other room. Harper’s arms shook, and the spider crawled onto the side of her neck.

Harper chanced the look at her phone.

Liam again.


Harper pulled her phone back into her chest and snuffed out its light. Hide? What? Why? Where was there to hide in this furniture-less shack?

The footsteps resumed, one step clicking after the next. Harper brushed her hand quickly over her earlobe, where the spider had just set foot. She didn’t care what Liam had to say, she wanted to leave this place. She wanted to go home. She wanted to climb into bed and never come out.

Behind her, someone—or something—began humming. The sounds reverberated through the wall. It was a disjointed tune at first, warbling with stray, lonely notes, but then the sound conglobed into some haunted melody.

Harper turned her attention back to the window. She crouched lower to the dusty floorboards and touched the glass of the window softly. Fingerprints materialized on the dusty surface with each touch, and she brushed her hands along the window’s frame as the singing noise crawled across the wall behind her. Even though she had brushed off the spider, Harper still felt like something was crawling down her spine.

The window did not have a latch.

She couldn’t open it.

The humming grew louder.

She couldn’t escape.

Harper debated breaking the glass and crawling through. But her exposed skin prickled in protest when she imagined climbing over shards of glass.

Plus, the noise—she couldn’t risk drawing the attention of whatever was in this cabin with her.


There was one way out of the cabin.

(Don’t go outside.)

She needed to get out of here.


She needed to leave.

(Don’t go outside.)

Harper walked toward the edge of her small room, barely lifting her feet from the ground. She delicately pushed the plywood door open with three fingers, but the hinges moaned with the movement. Harper froze. The humming stopped.

Stay in the room? Or run for the exit?

Harper’s heart pounded in defiance of the silence around her. She held her breath, but she could feel her lungs hiccupping within her chest.



She would not listen to Liam.

She didn’t trust him.

Not anymore.

Harper’s body jolted. She threw open the door and ran. The shadows lurched around her, the darkness rushed forward with her. Then, in front of her.

Something was in front of her.

Harper stopped just shy of collision.

Her phone began buzzing again in her hands, but Harper did not move. Instead, she looked up at the creature in front of her: something vaguely human-shaped but elongated somehow. No eyes, no colors. Only darkness.

One spindly arm unraveled into small spindly fingers and reached out for Harper’s face. She screamed and threw herself back against the wall. The creature opened its mouth, or rather, a hole appeared through the creature’s body and sound came out: a shrieking noise that drowned out Harper’s cries.

She could feel the phone jolting against her body, but she could not hear it over the deafening sound. Harper ducked under the dark fingers and fell over. She dropped her phone face up, and light filtered up into the air as more texts from Liam poured in.

i’m Sorry

I’m sorry

im sorry

I’m sorry.

The creature reached for Harper, but its long fingers curled around the fuzzy halo of light coming from her phone. It didn’t like light. Maybe that’s why it hadn’t bothered her in the room with the candle. Harper crawled toward the phone once more, ignoring the way that the uneven floor panels caught on the skin of her thigh.

She snatched the phone, but the creature’s fingers curled under her chin, and it felt like thin wires had wrapped around her neck. She was getting pulled backward against the flooring, but Harper clutched the small phone as tightly as she could. She fumbled with the lock screen as the edges of the floorboards scraped against the sides of her hands.

Harper wretched and gagged as the wires around her throat tightened. She wondered whether this thing would squeeze her neck until it decapitated her.



The flashlight.

Harper fought against her instinct to drop the phone and claw her fingers against the chokehold around her neck. Maybe she was bleeding now. The edges of her vision blurred—either from blood loss or suffocation. She didn’t know. She didn’t need to know. All she needed was to. Turn. The. Flashlight. On.


A dizzying white light illuminated the room. The creature screeched again and released Harper. Her shoulder slammed into the ground, but she held the flashlight as if she were holding her own organs. Tight. Desperate.

Harper blinked away the spots in her vision and crawled onto her knees, waving the light haphazardly around the room. The room. The room was swaying. The room was closing in. The room was utterly full of screeching darkness.

Harper’s head swung to the side, loose on her shoulders. She had to touch her neck to double-check that it was still attached. She pushed onto her feet. Water. Was she standing on water? The door. It was so far…

Harper limped into the door, her body thudding against the wood. In the corner of her eye, she thought she could see the creature’s arms splitting away from its body again.


(Don’t go outside.)

Got to get outside…

Harper twisted the knob of the door, and it gave into her weight, flinging her out into the open air. She stumbled palms first into a lonely patch of moonlight on the forest floor. The creature wretched and screamed, but she couldn’t see it anymore. Only the darkness leaking out from the front door of the cabin. Harper pulled her knees into her chest, smearing blood against her torso. She was shaking, but she was safe here, sitting in the sole patch of light.

In the window, her small pink candle still burned.

Then, something blew it out.


About the Creator

Bri Craig

Bri Craig (she/her) is a variety pack writer. She enjoys writing poetry, webcomic features, humor, short stories, and personal anecdotes. Basically, neither of us will ever know what will be posted next!

Let's connect! More about me here.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (8)

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  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    Wow. This is incredible. Congrats and very well done.

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Congratulations on Runner up Win!!!

  • Tony Galbier11 months ago

    Wow, well done! Definitely spooky!

  • Babs Iverson11 months ago

    Scarry & horrific!!!👏💞💕

  • Omg the ending! That was so scary! Loved it! And your story was just so captivating

  • Teresa Gonzales11 months ago

    Definitely heart pounding! Great use of segueing emotional vulnerability into a physical vulnerability.

  • Sarah Rosanna Busch11 months ago

    Great story. The tension building is well done.

  • Ryan Smith11 months ago

    Still catching my breath! Great use of pacing and repetition. It was clever to paint your character into a “safe place” that wasn’t safe at all. Thanks for sharing this.

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