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The First Cut is the Sweetest

Table for Four

By Robin Andrew BlairPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
The First Cut is the Sweetest
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. The light was feeble, a ghostly luminescence, barely visible through the low mist drifting aimlessly among the crooked tree trunks.

“The Mason’s must have been by earlier to open the place up for us,” Kayla said.

Nate peered ahead at the dark muddy track, looking for footprints but not finding any. “Yeah, maybe. Is there another road we could have taken? I wasn’t expecting to have to park so far away.”

“Uh, I think that was it man. That’s what the map showed,” Patrick replied. “But we’re almost there.”

“Thank God,” Wendy muttered, “It’s creepy as hell out here.”

She’d been glancing nervously behind herself for the past few minutes, half convinced they were being followed. The occasional snapping of a twig or rustle of leaves in the undergrowth had her thoroughly spooked. Once or twice she was certain she’d seen something large and dark lurking among the trees. When she’d mentioned it to Patrick he’d just laughed.

“It’s just the fog sweetie. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe.”

From the corner of her eye came a flicker of movement. Her heart hammering she stared into the dim shadows of the woods. Was that a bush shifting in the wind? The air seemed so still though. It was clammy and somewhat claustrophobic here below the thick canopy.

Suddenly something snatched at her from behind, grasping and clawing at her jacket. Wendy screamed in terror.

Patrick and Nate chortled with laughter. Patrick let her go and ruffled her hair. “Gotcha good,” he chuckled.

Wendy punched Patrick in the arm and scowled. “That was not funny at all you jerk,” she spat.

Giving Patrick and Nate a nasty look, Kayla took her friend’s arm. She could see Wendy was pale as a ghost. “C’mon hon, let’s just get to the cabin. I’ll make you a hot chocolate, okay.”

They followed the boys who were now several paces ahead, hurrying so as not to lose sight of them on the narrow track. The moon had not yet risen, and it was as dark as the grave beneath the trees. Wendy tried to focus on the faint glimmer of light that came and went from view as it was obscured by the trees ahead. A sense of panic threatened to overwhelm her. She struggled to ignore the small sounds in the woods to her left and right, the flickers of movement among the shifting shadows and drifting fog.

Soon they reached the edge of the woods, or at least the edge of a small clearing surrounding the old Mason cabin. Low trees and shrubs were slowly taking back the space, leaving only a narrow moat of tall grasses and weeds immediately around the building itself. As they approached the front steps Wendy noted the sagging front porch and broken glass in the windows. The candle, or whatever it was, seemed to have gone out. The cabin looked cold and dark, grim and forbidding.

“Home sweet home!” Nate announced, waving his arm and gesturing to the girls to go ahead. “Ladies first.”

“Uh, that’s a pass,” Kayla replied, looking a little more nervous now herself.

Nate shook his head and grinned. “Okay, I guess it’s a man’s job to scout ahead. C’mon Paddy.”

Looking slightly unsure, but clearly not wanting to seem cowardly in front of Wendy, especially after all his teasing, Patrick followed Nate up the creaking steps. Off in the woods a crow let out a loud croaking ‘caw caw caw’, followed by the beating of wings through the trees. Hearing the noise Patrick paused at the door, turning to look out at the mist shrouded woods. As the sound faded he turned again, reaching for the door handle.

Patrick gave the door a shove as it resisted his efforts, rusted hinges screeching loudly in protest. A musty rankness billowed forth, causing Wendy and Kayla to wrinkle their noses in distaste.

“Phew, that’s nasty,” Kayla muttered, pinching her nose with her fingers. “Someone needed to open a window.”

“What, and spoil the fabulous ambiance?” Patrick grinned, following Nate as he moved into the dark interior of the cabin.

Wendy felt her heart pounding as she stood in the doorway peering into the gloom. She’d thought it was dark outside, but within the cabin itself it was almost pitch black. As her eyes began to adjust she could just make out Patrick ahead of her, and the faintest outline of what she assumed was Nate, his blond hair a slightly lighter blur among the shadows.

Her heart stopped as she sensed movement within, a deeper darkness that briefly occluded the dim light from one of the small windows. There came a soft scuffling sound across the floorboards, the feeling of another presence in the room.

“Kayla?” she called, reaching out for her friend’s hand as goosebumps rose on her arms and a cold chill ran down her spine like ice water.

“I’m here,” Kayla replied, taking Wendy’s hand in hers. Wendy could feel her friend was trembling, her hand cold and clammy to the touch.

There was a sudden sharp snapping sound and then loud cursing from Nate. Startled, Wendy let out a scream, quickly cut off as she clamped her hand over her mouth, her heart hammering in her chest.

Orange light blossomed, abruptly filling the small space with dancing shadows. The door slammed shut with a bang, cold wind swirling around Wendy’s feet, scattered leaves rustling and settling again in the shadowy corners.

The flame of the newly lit candle steadied and grew tall, illuminating a hatchet face, heavily lined and wrinkled, weathered and windburned by many seasons. Tangled brows grew thick and white above deep set eyes, like sunken pools of shadow reflecting pinpoints of yellow light. The man holding the candle was tall but crooked of back, dressed in canvas overalls and a dingy brown shirt that was perhaps once white.

“Watch out for the rat traps,” the old man croaked.

His voice was harsh, like an unprimed pump, teeth broken and stained, more missing than not.

Wendy felt Kayla’s hand squeezing her own, tight as a vice. Fear gripped her as the old man approached, reaching for something behind his back. Nate kicked a trap out of the way with a grunt and moved towards them. As he stepped closer Wendy saw there was something moving on the large wooden table near the back of the cabin.

There was something odd about the shape on the table, and the way it was jerking spasmodically. Before she could make out what it was, her eye was drawn back to what the old man was now holding in his other hand, a large knife, the long blade gleaming dully in the candle-light.

“Who.. ah.. What’s that for?” she gasped, edging back slowly, glancing back towards the closed door.

“It’s for you,” the old man smiled at her, a rictus grin, all dark snaggled teeth and putrid breath.

The knife jabbed towards her. “Well, go on, take it,” the old man rasped.

“Here, give it to me,” Nate said, stepping forward and holding out his hand.

The old man turned and peered at Nate a moment, then passed him the knife. “Alright son, you do the honors if you like. I got your victim ‘ere all ready for ya.”

He turned towards the table, holding the candle higher. “Let me git the lantern goin’, give ya’ll some more light to work by.”

As he shuffled away Wendy saw that the form on the table was a woman, young, with long blonde hair. ‘It could almost be me,’ she thought with a shiver. The woman was tied down and gagged. She was struggling against the coarse ropes, her eyes darting back and forth, desperation and panic clearly visible in every movement.

An old gas lantern flared to life with a hiss, its bright glow was reflected in the eyes of the terrified woman on the table, the glimmer of life within the inky black pupils. Wendy took a deep breath, a smile creeping across her face at the thought of extinguishing that light forever.

Wendy looked at Nate. “No, give me the knife.”

* * *

A few hours later a fox entered the clearing in the woods. It paused, sniffing the air. All was quiet, the old cabin was dark, no lights were to be seen at all. The cracked and grimy windows stared back, lifeless and cold.


About the Creator

Robin Andrew Blair

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