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The Cabin

What Lives Within

By Valerie PurrettaPublished 7 months ago 8 min read
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Origin Pictures, 2019

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. The local townsfolk had always been weary of this cabin as it loomed atop a hill, overlooking their streets. Those who knew its history knew better than to investigate what was meant to be hidden. On this particular night, though, as a soft glow brought a glimpse of life to the aged wooden siding, one man in particular thought it best to blow caution to the wind. He had always been inquisitive of what was living behind that old oak door. Deep down he knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t human.

As he stared up at the flickering light illuminating the glass, the world around him faded. His thoughts swarmed with what could have possibly brought light to that once dark window. A shove from behind sent him tumbling into the dirt below, landing on his hands and knees.

"Hey, watch it!" he shouted. Above him stood a woman whom he had never seen before. Her face was hard as rock, showing no pity. All she offered him was a quick shrug before carrying on her way, leaving him atop the dry ground. Pulling himself back to his feet, he dusted himself off. He grumbled to himself about the nasty woman who had knocked him down and left him without a word, but decided to just move on with his evening rather than fixate on something so insignificant.

As the night went on, he would steal glances up at the cabin to see whether or not the candle was lit. Nothing had changed since he first saw the flick of light fill the dark property; the light still shone brightly--if anything it grew brighter as the night progressed. The man made sure to take mental note of this as he walked home to settle down for the night.

With each step he took, the dead vegetation below him cracked and snapped filling the otherwise silent air with sound. Gusts of cold air forced their way through the thin fabric of his jacket, causing a shiver to run up the man's spine. He hugged his coat tighter to his torso, picking up his pace. Had he strayed from his path? Why did the woods feel deeper than he remembered?

His head swarmed with panicked thoughts. The town had called for snow overnight. He had to get shelter. And quickly at that. Letting out a frustrated sigh, the man knew he was lost. Anger quickly rose through his body and he began kicking the base of a dead oak tree.

"Where the fuck am I? What the hell?" He spun in a swift circle, staring up at the branches portending overhead. There was nothing familiar about the oaks surrounding him. The man knew he had to be smart, but what could he do? He pondered for a moment before coming to a quick conclusion. He picked up a dead stick and bent down before marking the dirt at the base of a tree with a wide "X". He nodded at his work before standing up and, again, looking at his surroundings.

Another harsh gust of wind blew through the man's clothing, almost as a reminder to keep moving before the storm came. He picked himself up, took another quick,k deep breath, before walking to the left. It felt right--that's what he had decided. After a short amount of time, he stopped to look at his surroundings and see if he had made any progress. Looking to the trees, he found his answer. Naturally, his heart sank.

"Just my luck..." Staring up at him was the same "X" that he had etched into the dry dirt. "Circles! I'm going in damned circles." Rubbing his palms to his face, he thought of his options. Stay put until sunrise? No. He would freeze in the storm overnight. His only option was to keep moving. This time, though, he trekked right rather than left. Maybe it would lead him back to town.

As he walked, white flurries began flitting through the air. The man knew he had to be quick. He hurried along, picking up speed. He was beginning to lose hope. He figured it was destined for him to freeze to death. The cold grasped around his figure, tightening around his neck in a chokehold. The man's ragged breaths puffed into the air as he pushed on. This was it. He was done.

He stopped again, spun slowly in a circle, and looked at his surroundings. "Wait... is that? Light!" A soft laugh left his cracked lips and he started towards the glowing window. It looked so warm. Cozy. Hopefully whoever was inside would be generous enough to take him in for the storm. He moved with more energy than he had before. He neared the light and the property took form before him.

"Oh god... but, this place... it's abandoned." Before him stood that old, cracked cabin that the townsfolk avoided. He didn't want to proceed, but at this point he had no other option. The soft flurries had turned into heavy flakes and were quickly finding homes attaching to everything in sight, even the man's jacket. "Fuck it."

He made his way to the front door, and, raising his fist, rapped on the aged wood. There was no response. Again, he banged his fist against the door. Silence. Hesitantly, the man pushed the door open, revealing nothing but darkness. A chill crept up his spine as he stared into the empty corridor.

"H-hello?" he offered to the emptiness. "Is anybody in there?"

"Hello dear," came a disembodied voice. "Why don't you come on in? Make yourself at home. You can wait out the storm here."

He stepped into the entryway and closed the door behind him. It was nice to not have those wicked winds assaulting him anymore, but the man's goosebumps still stood raised. He knew he had heard a response, but he couldn't figure out why someone would stay in the dark. He fumbled through the dark after deciding he should find the owner of the voice.

A loud crashing sound broke the eerie silence as his hip harshly collided with a table and send what he assumed to be a glass pot to its death on the hardwood floor beneath his feet. What the hell was going on in this damned cabin?

"Back here darling," the voice called out again. There was something about the tone that made him uneasy. It was taunting. But it was also... sultry? Why would it be sultry?

The man meandered further into the darkness, using his hand along the walls as a guide. After a few steps, he saw a soft glow emerge from a crack in a door. He didn't know what would have been worse: being alone in that cabin, or knowing that someone, or something, was watching him with every step he took. His throat swelled and a cold sweat broke across his forehead.

With each step he took, the floorboards below his shoes moaned and groaned. Howling winds barrelled against the walls of the cabin. The man's feet came to a harsh halt roughly three feet from the softly lit doorway. His heartbeat hammered in his ears as he stared ahead, questioning whether he should keep moving or run.

"Well, are you coming in or not?"

No. He threw his body backwards and made a break for the front door. As he ran, he was slammed into the walls around him. A hollow laugh filled the air around him, and the man lost all sense of his direction; yet, he still ran. He only halted when he came eye to eye with an open room. Across from him was a lit candle on the sill.

His heart hammered in his chest as the sense of defeat sunk in. He couldn't leave. Slowly, he trudged into the room and towards the small wick. The soft, orange glow should have felt welcoming, but, rather, it was sinister. He looked around the room. It was filled with dusty old furniture. Cobwebs laced the corners and cracks danced along the walls.

The man's eyes stopped when they landed on an extravagant mirror across from him. Stepping towards it, he looked at his reflection. Orange light flitted behind his hollow face, but that wasn't the only thing. Seeing what stood behind him, the man froze. His eyes locked onto the tall, lanky woman behind him. Her skin was pale--almost purely white-- with heavy bags under her eyes. Dark, brittle hair framed her face creating a harsh shadow over her features.

What frightened him the most was the woman's yellow eyes. They held his gaze without blinking. It was almost as if she was challenging him with her eyes, the man thought. Still, he didn't move. Her lips curled into a sinister smile and she stepped forward, towards the man.

"I knew you'd come."

Years have passed since the man lost his way that night. Now the town's streets are filled with whispers of a young man who was taken by evil. His spirit has no home, so it is believed if you ever see a candle in the cabin at night, it's the man from years ago, calling you to come to him.

Short Story
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About the Creator

Valerie Purretta

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