The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window.
All alone, Kira crept closer and closer to the tiny flame. However, Kira was hesitant. She knew that this was the cabin that belonged to the Young family.
Peter Young, the only child in the family, lived in the old cabin with his father, also named Peter. The son preferred the name PJ, but others resorted to Peter–even his father. No one called him as he asked.
Far from the center of town, they quickly became known as the peeping Peters; the outcasts, the odd-balls, the creepy men who lurked in the woods after dark.
Kira remembers Peter from school. He was three grades above her. When she was in third, he was in sixth. She remembers seeing him dissolve into the woods after hopping off the bus; his filth trailing behind him. His green backward baseball cap blended into the leaves when the wheels started turning again.
She was always weirdly intrigued by the Peters; in a way that she wished she could escape like that too. That she could join society when needed, but be alone with nature when the sun sets. Kira was the only person who thought this way. Everyone else stayed away.
One day in third grade, Kira got off the bus where Peter did; except she made sure he didn’t notice.
That’s when she saw the cabin for the first time. It was exactly as she had pictured; how others had described it to her when she asked. Built with logs, windows cracked, stepping stones leading up to the front door, and tiny. Surely, not fit for two grown men.
But this confused Kira. The cabin was not at all creepy. In fact, it was lovely. No one mentioned the wildflowers surrounding the stones or the butterflies that landed on them. She was walking into the woods ready to be afraid, preparing for the Peters to banish her out of their property once she stepped foot in their territory.
Although trying to keep invisible, a branch snapped under Kira’s foot when she took a step behind a nearby tree. Peter, the young one, was sitting on the front step, completing his homework when he heard the snap.
“Who’s there?” Peter bellowed into the woods.
Kira, unsure of what to do, hesitantly stepped out from behind the tree.
“Hi,” She said while waving.
“Hey,” Peter replied.
He didn’t scream at her to leave, throw stones at her, or even shoo her away. Instead, he started to speak about school. But just when Kira was beginning to enjoy the conversation, Peter’s father, Peter, stepped out through the swinging screen door. He nodded to me, tapped Peter’s shoulder, and they both disappeared into the cabin without a word.
It didn’t frighten Kira. But it did make her question.
The next day, Kira noticed Peter wasn’t on the bus. He wasn’t on the bus the day after that either. A week passed, a month passed, and a year passed. The lone cabin in the woods once occupied by the Peters had officially been abandoned.
Kira had walked through the woods every so often to check and see if the Peters would eventually reappear. But after three years of searching, the age that Peter was when they disappeared, Kira stopped showing up. She left the lone cabin in the woods to itself, to be occupied instead by the nature around it.
That is, until she decided to stop by, one night in tenth grade–nine years after their disappearance.
Kira didn’t know what came over her. She hadn’t thought about the cabin in so long, and now she was thinking of walking into those woods she once roamed so often.
The only reason her interest was sparked was because of English class. Her class is reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Some students made a joke about the Peters, saying that they were a scarier version of her.
At this moment, something began to boil inside of Kira. She wanted to stand up and say that they weren’t so creepy; they were just people who lived in the woods and enjoyed the quiet, that they probably were pretty similar to Annie Dillard after all. But then again, she didn’t know that. She only knew of that one interaction. But still, she knew, they were good, not at all how people described them.
After school, Kira sat on the bus, unaware she was going to get off early but suddenly, her feet started moving faster than her brain. She was getting off the bus where Peter once did.
Because it is still March, the sun was already going down by the time Kira hopped off the bus. However, the air wasn’t as crisp as the previous weeks. It was beginning to warm up.
By the time Kira had reached the cabin, night fell. It was dark.
That’s why the single candle burning in the window was so clear.
As Kira walked toward the light, her stomach dropped. She kept asking herself, who could possibly be in there?
In an effort to control her fear, Kira kept telling herself that it must be some kids pulling a prank. Frankly, she hasn’t been out here in a while–it could easily be a new hang-out spot for kids in school. She was around the age that kids started leaving their homes to go party in the woods and any other places their parents couldn’t find them.
But Kira goes to a very small school. She would’ve heard of it by now.
Walking up to the front door, she begins to pull the handle, expecting it to crumble to dust. But instead, the door just squeaked. Kira wished it would have crumbled instead. The sound of the squeak frightened her. She’s beginning to think that she’s not as fearless as she used to be.
Right when Kira is ready to give up, turn around, and abandon the open flame, she hears a noise from inside the house.
A bout of courage rises up within her and she swings open the door.
And in front of her, she finds Peter, the young one, sitting in a desk chair, writing, the lone candle not too far in front of him–but the light not quite catching his eye.
His head whipping to the side to see who is intruding, he drops his pen and stands up.
“Kira? Is that you?” He asks.
Nervously, unaware that Peter would even recognize her, let alone remember her name, she responds, “Hi. I’m sorry for intruding. I saw a candle–”
Before Kira could finish her sentence, Peter responds, “Kira, I need your help.”
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