The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window.
One if by land, two if by sea.
It was time.
Thick clouds rolled back to reveal a full moon, the brightest it had been in months. The seconds ticked by, inching closer to midnight. 23:59:56. 23:59:57. 23:59:58. 23:59:59. 00:00:00.
The ground began to tremble, though no Richter Scale would trigger. No seismograph pen would move.
The single flame in the cabin's window remained a steady flicker; it did not bounce and move with the trembling earth, did not fall off the thin ledge. If anything, the flame seemed brighter, taller than it had just moments ago.
A crack in the forest floor appeared, a hundred yards in length, needle thin. With each passing second, the crevice widened, an ethereal light exploding from its depths. The earth shuddered, groaned, expanded. Trees, hundreds of years old, toppled, uprooted, or disappeared into the growing fissure completely. The light emanating grew brighter than the sun, pure white, bright enough that no man could look upon it without eye protection.
A bony, charred hand clawed at the earth until it gained traction. Long, pointed fingernails dug into the dirt, found their grip as a second hand reached up to dig in.
More hands emerged, all charred and blackened, followed by skeletal bodies exuding more bone than skin. The smell of burnt flesh and decay began filling the air as hundreds of humanoid forms emerged. Grunts and moans filled the air as bodies continued to hoist themselves up and out of the split dirt. The crack had expanded, half as wide now as its length.
Bodies righted themselves, walking through the forest in all directions. The hundreds quickly turned to thousands, walking purposely.
The first of the living dead breeched the forest line. Immediately upon stepping into the open, charred forms turned into living flesh. Blackened, drooping & sagging flesh turned Asian, Caucasian, Black or African American. Dull, sunken eyes took on life; singed or missing hair turned to full heads. Personalities were formed to suit the completion of their mission. Androgynous bodies turned male or female, depending on their mark.
The undead would appear real only to their victims, leading some to fiery car crashes; others, the victim of a hit & run. Some of the hunters would simply touch the hunted and stop a heart, leading doctors, nurses, medics to declare a myocardial infarction. Still others would fall down the stairs, pushed by hands that would never leave a mark. Whatever the task, invisible hands would work to fulfill it.
After the completed mission, the undead would turn back into its former body: charred, blackened, pungent. They would take the hand of the newly deceased, bonding skin to skin & bone so the prisoner could not escape. Bodies would become invisible, masking the screams and cries as the pair walked back to that vent in the earth, in front of that little, abandoned cabin in the woods.
For, you see, there is one night during the year when the veil between the living and dead is thinnest. Most use this time as a celebration of the coming season but little do they know, the soldiers of the underworld push through the veil, up through the ground and out of a crack in the earth. Those who succeed and bring their mark to the underworld are given a second chance to live among the living; those who fail, return to the Earth to live in pain and agony until the next year when they have a chance to try again.
Oh, and that little candle on the windowsill inside an abandoned cabin, deep in the woods? It gets extinguished by the soft tuft of air as it blows through old, shaky window panes, created as the earth seals up once more.
About the Creator
Coffee gets me started; my toddler keeps me haggard.
I've always had a passion for writing but fear has stopped me from sharing my work with anyone. Vocal is my push to step out of my comfort zone.