The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. It wasn’t particularly bright but somehow it appeared brighter the closer you got. Even on the sunniest of days the light from the candle could be spotted from the tree line, begging me to look, begging me to come closer but I never did, not even once.
You see, it wasn’t that I wasn’t curious I just didn’t want to push my luck—call it fear or something more. I should have kept walking, I should have forgotten all about the peculiar cabin lost deep in the woods, neglected by time. But—as fate would have it, something else caught my attention. Beyond the petrified logs sat a small family cemetery dotting a patch of land near the far side of the trees, just out of sight, so much so that I never would have noticed it otherwise.
I slowly walked towards where I initially spotted the overgrown chunks of rock—in the middle was a heavy, ornate headstone with large billowy filigree framing the sad face of an angel. That is what first caught my eye; upon further inspection I realized there had to be at least eight stones in total, all ranging in size and shape; some plain some overly decorated. It appeared they all had the same name carved across the top but I couldn’t quite make it out—Harris, Farris? I wasn’t exactly sure.
Pallid wildflowers, prickly crawlers and stalks of dry grass towered over the long forgotten souls. The biggest headstone was nearly as tall as me, jutting out of the Earth like a jagged, broken tooth. I gently brushed over what was left of the carved name on the stone, scraping off the moss and algae until the last name “Ferris” peeked through—barely visible.
What an interesting name—although—not an unusually common one, it was a name I hadn’t heard before. I had to find out more, there was only one problem—in order for me to get to the rest of the stones I had to step over a few broken markers where rotting remnants of candles and dried flowers lie scattered about, no doubt the burial place of someone much, much younger.
I held my breath, hugging the decrepit stone as I slowly inched around to the back of the stone with my foot until I felt the soggy Earth give way—hoping the Ferris’s didn’t mind my intrusion. After all, it’s bad luck to step over a grave, even the grave of someone long dead, but I had no other choice.
When I finally reached the other side—it read: Finley Cooper Ferris, Eighteen-Hundred and One through Eighteen Hundred and Forty, beloved husband, father, friend and founder. Nearby was a smaller stone, about half the size that read—Amelia Mae Ferris, wife, mother, friend, dearly missed. The date ranges were similar; as I dusted off the other stones—it became clear, the entire Ferris family had perished in Eighteen Hundred and Forty.
Of course this piqued my interest; they must have died on the same day. I had to know.
Ferris, Ferris, Ferris…I repeated the name over and over in my mind, hoping I wouldn’t forget it on the short walk back to the library. I believed it to be an old family name, maybe the name of one of the founding members of the nearby town—Birdspell. It was the one place I hadn’t checked. After-all, the town I’m from—Nightmore Falls didn’t have the Ferris name listed on any records after the mid-Seventeen Hundreds—almost a hundred years before the graves listed the Ferris’s as dead.
Surely something so tragic would be buried in the archives—a news report, an obituary, something. It would have been talked about, read about, passed down by word of mouth. So why had I never heard of this family in all my discussions on the other founding leaders—the Moore’s, the Scott's, the Nelson's and Parker's, as well as the Smith's, they were all listed.
There were at least ten families mentioned in total, but the Ferris family name was not one of them—neither in Birdspell nor Nightmore Falls— I was running out of ideas.
I should have known better, it was already a rather gloomy day. The sort of day where you want to stay inside—curled up on the couch watching movies, but here I was—heading out the door to explore the woods—to visit the cabin, and to make sketchings of the Ferris family gravestones. To have something I could show people and prove the stones existed, to show that I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t even sure at this point what I was trying to prove, or to whom I wanted to prove something to.
I had yet to find much out about the Ferris family; I hit wall after wall. It seemed they didn’t exist here in Nightmore Falls during the Eighteen Hundreds. It left me wondering how the entire family could disappear, be wiped from the face of the Earth only to be discovered all these years later. It was a sinking feeling not even the internet could fix and I had just about exhausted all my resources asking around—questioning my parents, friends, neighbors, teachers—even the old librarian Mrs. Winters didn’t know about the Ferris’s. It would seem, for now, they were a bigger mystery than I could have ever understood.
Of course, whether born from sheer stubbornness or ingenuity—I had grown up on all these stories, stories of cabins and witches, monsters and magic. I could twist and spin even the nicest story into something dark and sordid; always seeing the worst in things, even when there was nothing but good…but this, this story would be nothing of the sort, no good would happen here.
I wouldn’t find a happy ending for myself or the Ferris’s as I clicked on article after article; going further into the rabbit hole. Maybe it was all the research and all my questioning that started making me paranoid. At first I thought it was just my imagination but oh—how wrong I was.
The cabin in the woods with the glowing candle crept into my mind as I lie awake at night, pestering me with crazy dreams. I started to wonder about who had once lived there and why no one ever talked about the cabin or the Ferris’s. In fact, no one had ever even heard of there being a cabin, let alone a family buried nearby. I wanted to prove to people such a place existed and how over the years a family had lived and died there and now, no one had even bothered to remember them.
It consumed me, if not for them, for myself, I wanted to make things right.
There was a woman in town—Edna Roberts who seemed to know a little about the Ferris family. Her name came up in an Explorers article archived sometime in the mid-nineteen seventies. I had no idea how she related to the history of things but I had to run the lead down nonetheless.
Her address was easy enough to find, she hadn’t moved in over sixty years. I walked by her house—a powdery pink and blue home sitting squarely in the center of town. She looked much, much older than her photos in the archived news report—now she sported silvery see-through hair and gold-framed glasses with heavy purple lenses that somehow made her aged eyes appear translucent.
She had no kids, no husband and no pets yet she didn’t appear to be lonely.
I met Edna early on Sunday morning, she was sitting on the porch in a sprawling wicker chair sipping hot tea and watching people frolic about. In her it would seem I had met a kindred spirit, though somehow I felt she wasn’t telling me everything.
“I’ve been waiting for someone like you to come around and ask me questions. Would seem that’s what I’ve been holding onto all these years—hope, a reason to live, a reason to hold on to all this stuff,” she said through a sly smile. In her hands was a thickly bound photo album.
I had so much to ask, I didn’t know where to start. The words came tumbling out of my mouth—line after line, sentence after sentence, question after question.
“Hang on now, I can only keep up with one thing at a time, slow down and start over,” Edna sighed, clearly overwhelmed with how much I had thrown at her.
“Yes, right, well, let me start with the basics then,” I mumbled, pausing to catch my breath. It was much more difficult for me to clear my mind and narrow down what I wanted to say. I should have come prepared but alas—it was too late to go back now—“so, what is all this stuff you have, and why does no one know about the Ferris family,” I waited on the edge of my seat staring eagerly at Edna, maybe even uncomfortably so—for her reply.
She smiled, unbothered by my nervous energy.
“Well, I am not sure where things started, or where they went wrong. I might be old but that was way before my time,” she laughed, “I believe—at least from what I found over the years that the Ferris family stumbled across something they shouldn’t have seen. It’s such a shame their entire family was killed over it, whatever it was,” she whispered—“such a shame.”
“How do you know that,” I interrupted, wishing I could just keep my mouth shut for once and let her finish.
“My late sister collected things; she was the explorer in the family. She died right before I gave that interview, you know, the one you saw, the reason you’re here. I decided to tell her story…and you see where that got me,” she began, her voice still collecting tears even all these years later. “My sister was a fighter, an adventurer; she was everything I am not, and with good reason, I am more of what you would call a secret keeper, I kept all her secrets and so many others around town too. It’s probably the reason I have outlived them all,” she began.
“I guess I don’t have those sorts of things eating at me on the inside. I’m free as a bird,” she whispered, a twinkle in her eye, “but you, you seem to be different, I can tell you don’t have much you are keeping secret, you remind me a lot of my sister—Elizabeth, I called her Liza. She was the best.” Edna drifted off, looking out at the songbirds that soared and swooped between the flowering leaves of her willowy Magnolia tree.
“So…if you don’t mind me asking, how’d Liza die,” I asked, the words barely a whisper.
Edna paused briefly—as though she was unsure of what to say.
“We never were certain. They say she died of a broken heart but I think it was much, much worse. I think she died from fear, from fright. It’s a dreadful thing, a horrible death…quite painful really,” Edna replied rather offhandedly as though she was talking about a terrible storm.
“I never was the same after her death, I didn’t trust much again,” she paused—“I did that interview and had my picture taken. I did it to remind whoever was out there that I was still here and I knew what really happened.” Edna’s cheeks were flush and her lips taut.
“I don’t want to upset you,” I started, but she cut me off.
“My dear, you aren’t upsetting me that’s why I agreed to meet with you,” she paused again. “They say everything happens for a reason…” she muttered picking the book up, “Here, take this. Look through it, use it. I have no need for it anymore…”she began, hesitant to let go of the book once it was in my hands.
“You should know,” she whispered. “You should know—take heed. Once you start you might not come back,” she paused, thoughtfully thumbing her teacup. “I shouldn’t be giving this to you, but you seem to have your heart in the right place. Just promise me you will be careful, be very, very, very careful,” she said, tensing her lips once more. The color had all but gone from her face. She seemed to have aged decades in the hour I sat there.
I sensed regret when I waived her goodbye, shoving the oversized album into my backpack. I couldn’t wait to get home and look through what she had given me, and what a gift it was. The photo album itself was unassuming—a rose colored book lined in cheap, flimsy plastic.
I quickly laid everything out on my desk. Liza had collected thousands of unique finds—chips of wood, cuts of fabric, grave-sketches like the ones I had done, clippings of ferns and other assorted fauna.
Then there was what I had been searching for all these months—finally!
Mixed in amidst all the other finds were handwritten notes and letters—some from Edna’s sister Liza and others—it appeared mostly to have been correspondence between Finley and Mae Ferris but there were also a few other unknown authors mixed in as well.
On one of the notes Liza had written were the words—He is like God, you either know him or you find him. Either way, he is everywhere. I wondered what that meant and who “he” was. This brought so many other questions. I spent the next few sleepless nights looking through everything in extreme detail, careful not to misplace or damage anything. There were black and white photos, sepia tinged and worn with age. I wasn’t able to make out the faces in the photos but it was clearly a family, maybe even the Ferris family.
After the fourth night I was no closer to finding out that the other Author was, it seemed to be a woman’s handwriting—but who. No names were ever mentioned. If I was going to get any clue as to who the Ferris’s were, or what killed them— I would have to go into the cabin.
I ventured back to the clearing in the woods where the abandoned cabin sat. The weather was cloudy, a dense fog settled into the mid-morning light; I saw a candle glowing softly in the only remaining window. It was clear I had never looked this closely before at the cabin, the lone surviving window was in stark contrast to the rest of the place which was a shambled mess; overgrown with vines just like the nearby stones. If I didn’t know better I would think the Earth was trying to take back the land and everything on it.
As I got up to the steps I found the small house in complete disarray. The logs had rotted into mere shells of wood held together by mounds of sticky black resin. As I stepped over the threshold I could see where the other windows had all but disappeared from their spot on the wall—shards of bubbled glass mixed into the overgrowth below. It looked like an explosion had sucked everything back into the dirt.
The small house was mostly empty except for a weathered four post kitchen table in the middle of the room. An enormous fireplace took up the main wall in what was once the living room and the only sign of life was from the oddly-growing tree that had sprouted through the table causing its dew soaked branches to meld into the broken tabletop. The ceiling disintegrated around the frame—hanging aimlessly at my feet with splintery pieces of cracked wood curling up, ready to snag my skin.
As I fumbled about looking through everything, being careful not to cut myself on the shattered pieces of china I realized I wasn’t alone. Something moved near the fireplace where clumped soot gathered in dried heaps around the grate. In the charred rubble were burnt pieces of paper, the writing was still visible but not enough to make out what it said.
I felt the sky break overhead as drops of icy rain fell, splashing my skin, thunderous flashes of light shook the ground, echoing loudly around me. I quickly sought cover in the only place I could find—the front porch. Just between the broken floor boards—a nail-riddled piece of metal caught my attention, as I dug around in the cold leaves I felt something sharp crumble between my fingers. It was what was left of a small cross. I had barely enough time to register what was happening when I felt a gust of wind knock me over sending the pages of the album into the water soaked ground. I had surely done it this time.
But then as everything else in my life—I saw it—amidst the ink splattered pages was something about a cabin. As I shook off the excess water I began to read the words that had hid for so long underneath the ink—it was a wonder I hadn’t seen it before. The words spilled out before my very eyes as I huddled near the cabin door—there were talks of woods facing a dried up stream, an old woman, a book and a tree. I couldn’t read fast enough.
The words continued—“The older man is at the fireplace getting large pots of water prepared, my two children lie in wait, ready for whatever would happen next. I have no clue where the others are; you are nowhere to be found, my beloved…where are you? I hurry to write these words as I look through the window. A lone candle lights the room, but then, I feel something…..it hurts. She runs her sharp pointed nails over my cheek, leaving a burning red line in its wake. Her eyes are like milky pools of blue sky. They are calling to me. What did you do, what did you do?”
The words stop. I flipped the page over, there was still so much room but nothing else had been written. It was then I heard something scrape along the stone fireplace behind me. I had barely enough time to turn around when I saw him—an old man with a severely hunched back and deeply pitted skin was piddling around, stoking the flames of a small fire.
I blinked several times as I felt the instinct to run—but as I turned, I felt something burn against my skin, keeping me there. No—it couldn’t be Edna, it couldn’t be, what was she doing there? My feet began to move towards where the table cradled the tree; an unseen force was pulling me lower towards the jagged floor—leaving my legs to dangle over the gaping hole. Within seconds the room shifted—the table was full of food and I was no longer sitting on the edge of chaos.
“I told you I was a secret keeper did I not,” the velvety voice whispered through gritted teeth.
“I could have given you whatever you wanted but no… you had to come back. I hoped you would find your answers in the book. I hoped that would dissuade you but you couldn’t leave well-enough alone.”
I didn’t respond as I watched Edna traipse about the dilapidated cabin, rambling.
There was nowhere for me to go.
With every word she spoke the Ferris family flashed before me in silent moving flurries, memories Edna had held onto for all these years. For a brief second I began to see the life Edna wanted so badly.
“She knew better, they all knew better, you knew better,” Edna hissed.
“That must have been hard for you,” I began, finding my voice, trying to reason with Edna. “But whatever you are about to do, it isn’t worth it. It won’t change anything…if you let me go I won’t tell anyone, I promise!”
“Yet, here I find you.” Edna smiled as she stroked my face—ignoring my pleas. Her skin was pasty white and ashen, visibly caked in age and neglect.
“You remind me so, so much of my dear Liza—I couldn’t help myself,” she whispered. There was a strange tinge of remorse, a bit of guilt in her voice as she continued.
“I knew you weren’t going to let this go. You’re just like her; she was the perfect angel, the perfect little girl. Never one to fool with anything dark or magic; she of course used hers for good…naturally I couldn’t do anything right according to my parents. I found a way to live on forever but Liza couldn’t handle it. She told our father I was tempting fate—and it turned out far better than I ever thought it would. I barely even lifted a finger…”Edna whispered as more memories clouded around me.
It was the man again, the man hunched over the fire. His matted hair was slicked back on his head as he steadily stoked the coals, a small family huddled about—crying. It was what was left of the Ferris family.
The man sprinkled dust into the kettle before giving it a heady blow. A hot blast mushroomed out from the center of the room as slivers of wood seared my face, sending sparks of ruddy ash swirling about the room as I grabbed tightly onto the broken cross lying in the ground near my fingers.
Just as the ground started to tremble I could hear Edna’s screams as the visions collapsed, vanishing just as before they could start. When I awoke, the cabin was exactly as I found it.
Liza had died, but she died at the hands of her sister; she had died along with her parents and siblings, Edna’s family.
Edna had killed them all; I hadn’t paid much attention to this before. If only I had put the pieces together I would have realized…of course…that had to be it…
I hastily gathered my things and ran out of the cabin back towards the headstones as I ripped the last photo from the album—and turned around. There were ten people in the photo, eight of them had headstones—but where had Edna and Liza gone?
I ran past the large family marker and turned around—the headstones were in the exact order of the photo—Finley Cooper Ferris, his wife Amelia Mae Ferris and five of their seven kids—Peter “Percy” Ferris, Theodore “Teddy” Ferris, Mason “Robert” Ferris, Sophia “Jane” Ferris, and Leona “Grace” Ferris.
The other two girls from the photo HAD to be Edna and Liza, it just had to be them…but their graves were nowhere to be found.
“That’s odd…” I whispered aloud. Still unsure of what I had stumbled upon. My mind was racing. I knew I needed to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all.
It had to be a joke, a sick joke. Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me. I would go to Edna’s house and see for myself that she was still in her wicker chair, still old as ever, still sipping her tea—but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I pushed my bike up towards the pink and blue house. Just before I unlatched the gate something stopped me dead in my tracks, the house didn’t look right.
It wasn’t the bright, freshly painted house I had been in days before. The paint was chipping and the windows were full of cobwebs. Her well-manicured lawn had shriveled up and died. Even the wicker chair out front had seen better days. I pushed the door open and stepped inside. It smelled strongly of lilacs and honeysuckle. Plastic covers and cloth drapes hung on all the furniture; piles of books sat on the floor collecting dust; food rotted on plates that hadn’t been touched in ages.
As I willed myself further into the depths of the once stately home I found a room packed with books and other assorted albums—some leather bound, some dipped in gold, while others were the same—if not similar shades of dusty rose that Edna had gifted me; all neatly organized on floor-to-ceiling shelves.
“What the hell…” I began to panic. There were so many albums; so many that I started ripping them off the shelf—opening each one. My stomach dropped; the same handwriting flowed across the pages in sprawling black ink as more family photos fell out onto the floor; more lives she had destroyed.
As I looked around there were other books—beautifully bound gilded books full of deeds and titles, marriage licenses, death certificates, birth certificates. Every one of them had the names—Liza, Elizabeth, Edna or Edith signed at the bottom—all spanning the course of two-hundred years. It was clear the sisters had managed to take over most of Birdspell and Nightmore Falls.
Confused—I laid several of the ornate books out on the floor—how could there not be any records on this in archives.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a silky voice cooed from somewhere in the corner.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” another voice called out from the opposite side. “Come, let us show you what you are looking for,” the voice continued before floating over to where a book perched on a stand by the window.
“Come, look at this book,” the voice beckoned. “Don’t worry, it won’t bite.”
“I promise you won’t be disappointed,” the other woman added, her voice trailing behind me—pushing me further and further until my nose practically burrowed between the books spine—“see, she’s perfect, absolutely perfect. I knew the second I saw her she would work.”
I recognized the drawling voice of Edna Roberts—she was alive, or at least, she was there—but how?
“Edna, Liza, is that you,” I whispered, but before I could look the book snapped shut in my face, the dust blinding me as I fell back. It was a sickly feeling that overtook me, and as I drifted in and out of sleep I couldn’t remember what happened.
Something stirred inside me. I woke with a start—not knowing where I was. The library was the same room but completely void of the books from the night before—in their place were thousands of hand bound books—mostly hardcovers. I flipped the pages, they were full of typed words—stories; nothing handwritten to be found.
I stepped down the hallway back towards the living room. The couches were fluffed and free of dust, a warm fire roared in two of the parlor fire-places and I could hear the clinking of dishes coming through the swinging doors. Just as I went to push them open—a younger woman passed through—with a tray of tea and two cups. She was wearing a floor-length hoop skirt and a long-sleeved collared blouse that buttoned all the way to her neck. A black broach pinned between the collar folds held an angel, a weeping angel—similar to the one from the Ferris family graves.
My eyes must have given my thoughts away—“My dear, dear girl, you need to mind where you are,” she said through a slanted smile. Taken aback I looked up, and my reflection in the mirror was that of Edna.
I gasped, nearly fainting as I touched my face.
“My dear, you are tired. Had a rough go of things last night—must have bumped your head.” She began as if nothing was wrong.
“Here, drink this,” she added—pushing the cup of amber colored tea closer to my lips.
The smell of bitter jasmine stung my eyes.
“Added two cubes of sugar, just the way you like it,” she whispered, pushing a pen towards me as she opened a brown leather bound book. I could feel the indents of other words on pages I didn't remember writing.
"You need to finish your story,"she urged. I couldn't fight it any longer as I watched as my hands moved towards the first line at the top of the page, helplessly watching the words spew out from under my fingers.
"I'm not feeling so well," I whispered as she pressed the warm cup to my mouth—the room went black again as I slowly slipped down out of the chair and onto the floor.
"Liza," I whispered, "Liza!"
"Why are you doing this to me," I cried out.
"Liza? Liza?" the young woman asked, "I'm not Liza, you are my dear."
The words cut into me like ice; the room spun around me as I tried to make sense of everything and catch my bearings.
"No, I'm not...I'm....I'm," I stopped barely able to breathe. "I don't know," I cried out, "I don't know. Where's Edna?"
"Silly girl, I'm Edna...Don't worry about anything else my dear, in due time you will know exactly who you will become," she added, stepping over me as she left me sobbing on the floor.
"It's what we all must do if we are to live. For now, you must tend to your lines—exactly as I instructed," and with that she left, shutting the front door in my face. I stepped out behind her expecting to see the busy street as it had once been but that was no more. In the front yard was a flowing fountain and large shrubs that were caged in by a towering metal gate—which the woman promptly locked behind her as she smiled, nodding her head at me as she left.
"See you tomorrow dear," she warned before heading down the sidewalk as I stood screaming after her to let me out.
About the Creator
Writing my escape, my future…if you like what you read—leave a comment, an encouraging tip, or a heart—I’m always looking to improve, let me know if there is anything I can do better.
& above all—thank you for your time
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