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The Kenmore Girls

by LilyRose 2 months ago in Horror
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How far would you go to forget?

The Kenmore Girls
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night a candle burned in the window. The flame, a small wispy thing, licked hungrily at the dusty pane of glass, casting a dark shadow of blackened soot. In the shadows and obscured from view there is a girl.

*

I stand at the edge of the clearing transfixed. Underneath the canopy of trees the light is fading fast and the heady scent of summer pine is giving way to the damp night air. I close my eyes and take in a slow, shaky breath. A shiver runs up the nape of neck and instinctively I recoil, tugging at Maggie’s lead.

Get out, I think.

The terrier gives a sharp yelp, but it forces her back into the shadows of the canopy where I am standing. Watching.

Leave. I am willing myself now. Leave this place.

But my feet feel like lead and there is a sense of memory tugging at me. I have longed for this. Longed to unlock the treasure trove of memories playing hide and seek in my head.

I stare at the cabin. It is in fact not a cabin at all, but the remains of an old stone fishing cottage nestled in the pine slopes on the east shore of Loch Tay. ‘The cabin’ as it was known to us, is one of those places that teenagers frequent with bottles of stolen home brew. Or at least, it had been before the council funding cuts had stopped the bus from Kenmore village. Now, it is abandoned again and foregoing even the limited attention of drunk teenagers, the neglect is plain to see. Ivy has twisted and knotted itself over the stone grooves and the slate roof is covered in a blanket of pine needles as if the forest will at any moment engulf it.

Does the forest want to forget too?

I take step backwards and feel the familiar lump in the back of my throat, silencing me. The memory, or atleast the sense of it, is gone and I know I will not dare to take another step closer. I will return home and pretend I never came back to this place. I will forget. Just like the forest.

*

I arrive home and it immediately becomes clear that for tonight, at least, forgetting is out of the question. The police patrol car is waiting empty in the driveway and the front door has been left on the latch. I lift a wriggling Maggie into my arms and glance down at her paws. Her fur is clean and dry from the long walk back through the village, but it clumps together in the tell tales signs of a dog who has just been swimming in the loch. My own trainers are caked in mud, and I wipe them surreptitiously before I enter and leave them on the mat.

“Katy.” I hear my mother’s voice immediately call from the lounge and I know they are waiting for me. It is the same detective as before. She is wearing a dark crumpled suit and her short grey bob is limp. She looks tired. She offers me a tight courteous smile and I know that I am expected to take the seat on the sofa next to mum. Despite our thirty-year age gap, we are the spitting image of each other. Long black hair, oval face and dark eyes. My mother’s expression is warm and kind, whilst mine, when I peer in the mirror, looks empty and hollow. I clutch Maggie close to my chest and sensing my discomfort she forsakes her basket and settles quietly on my lap.

“Where have you been?” Mum asks glancing at the clock. Clearly, I have been walking Maggie as I do each evening, though my own glance at the clock tells me I am nearly an hour late.

“With Maggie. By the loch.”

The detective nods slowly but I can see a glimmer of impatience.

“You know why I am here Katy.” It seems a stupid thing to say and her voice is tight. Of course, I know why she is here. Lily McPhearson did not come to school on Monday. She has not been to school since.

Lily is missing.

It didn’t take long for the rumors to start. After all, we’ve practically been waiting for it all summer. I realize they are expecting me to say something. The lump in the back of my throat feels solid and I struggle to swallow.

“How well do you know Lily?” The detective says prompting me. It is fair assumption, I think. Kenmore is too small not to know everybody.

“Not well.” My voice sounds hoarse. “We go to the same choir.” They will know this already. In the three days I had been missing they had upturned my entire life and learnt more about me than any single other person I knew.

“When’s the last time you spoke to her?”

I shrug and run my hand through Maggie’s fur. “Probably last week at choir.”

“What did you talk about?” The detective is getting impatient now and I know my answers must seem deliberately unhelpful.

I think back to the newspaper article in the Glasgow Gazette. Unlike the reporter from the Kenmore Daily, who lives a little too close to home, the skeptical writer at the Gazette clearly did not feel the need to shy away from pointing the finger at the ‘hysterical girls of Kenmore’ and ‘their sick pranks’.

It was, the reporter felt, the only logical explanation for the repeated disappearances of the teenage girls in Kenmore village. Every three years like clockwork, a teenage girl from Kenmore village would disappear without a trace. A panicked man hunt would ensue for several days before the girl would suddenly reappear apparently unharmed but with no memory of where she had been or what had happened. After he had gone on to lambast the senseless actions of the attention seeking teenagers of Kenmore, the article had moved on to attack the local councils for under-investing in the rural communities. According to him, if the council had only funded more youth centers, then the bored teenagers of Kenmore would not feel to the need to waste precious tax payers money with sadistic games of cat and mouse in the Scottish countryside. It had, as he pointed out, none of the hall markings of a typical kidnapping, and I remember thinking that he’d made some good points. Had it not been for the very real memory loss from my own disappearance three years earlier, I would in fact be tempted to believe him.

The detective clearly did.

My phone buzzes in my pocket.

“One of your friends?” She says smoothly with a nod that tells me I am expected to read the text in front of her in case my expression lets something slip. I dig out the phone and stare at the display. It’s Abby, my best friend.

Cops at your house?!?! Hope you’re ok babe. Call me. XOX

“Just a friend.” I say. The policewoman is staring at my phone so intently I wonder how long it will be before she asks to see it, but she changes tack.

“Your mum tells me you still see a counselor every week.”

I glance towards my mother whose face is pouring with concern and I wonder what else she has said in my absence. Did she tell her about night terrors where I am wandering around the woods alone with the bitter taste of something in my mouth? The counselor has probably already told them, I think, careful to shrug off my annoyance.

“Aye.”

“And you still don’t remember anything?” I shake my head, thinking of the nagging memory I had felt today by the cabin with the candle in the window. Had the candle really been there or was that apart of the memory? I feel another shiver run down my spine and Maggie starts to whine on my lap. Is that why I had gone to cabin? I never normally stray that far into the woods, preferring instead to climb the busy trails that lead up to the peak above the village where the tourists and hikers pose for their holiday photo’s.

I wonder for a second whether I should tell her about the candle in the window of the cabin. But what would I say? Go down to the deserted cabin on the loch because I think I saw a candle in the window. Maybe Lily’s there. It would seem odd surely. Like I had been withholding it before. Like I knew something. She would ask whether I had seen Lily there and then what? Would I really say I didn’t even look?

And then there was that feeling, like something was tugging at me. What if the reporter was right? What if I just don’t want to remember what happened because nothing had really happened at all? Is it not better to just let Lily turn up in a few days’ time and let the all the attention shift onto her.

The policewoman is eyeing me carefully and I release Maggie awkwardly as we both go to stand. This is pointless exercise and we both know it.

*

I lie awake until the sun starts to creep through the curtains. When I finally fall asleep I see the glimmering light of the candle on the stone walls. The dark rim of soot on the glass looks like a blackened halo of an angel. There is shadow moving behind the candle, but it is obscured and I can’t make out its shape. It is only when I wake that wonder which side of the glass I was on. Was I inside the cabin looking out, or in the clearing looking inwards? I try to hold the dream in my mind and search for the answers but like a flickering flame caught by a strong gust, I feel it lift and slip away.

Mum is waiting at the bottom of the stairs when I emerge for breakfast and I can see from the guilty look over her face that the detective has called.

“I just think it’s best if you stay at home today. We all do.”

“We?” As far as I’m aware, there hadn’t been a ‘we’ in years.

“DS Clayton and the school.” She clarifies quickly. “There’s been a lot of attention in the papers and everyone’s’ just a bit worried.” She is biting her lip, but I see the frustration behind the lines of worry. Clearly the new theory is growing strength. When I had been found three years ago, unconscious and lying on the edge of the trail, the primary theory had still been one of kidnap, and the amnesia had been explained away as some form of protective blanket that my mind was using to shield me from whatever unknown trauma it was, I had suffered.

“Mum, you know I would tell them if I remembered.” The words spill out of my mouth before I can stop them and I feel my cheeks instantly flush. I haven’t told her about the cabin.

She nods, before adding “You had another night terror last night.” I go a deeper shade of red and look away.

“I know,” I say. She looks at me curiously but doesn’t pry any further. “I thought I would give Sally a ring, and see if she had any appointments for later today.”

I pull a face and groan. “I don’t need to see Sally. Honestly mum, I think it’s time I stop going. It hasn’t helped at all.” Sally is the counselor I have been seeing weekly for the past few years. At first, I had engaged with the sessions, desperate to claw back the missing memories and understand what had happened. The not knowing had frightened me then. But now, three years later, I am bored of it. We never seem to make any progress and Sally, I can tell, is as bored as I am, resenting me as I try to steer the sessions onto the mundane complaints of exam stress.

Eventually, mum lets the Sally issue drop and we spend the day watching movies together. The lounge curtains remain tightly closed and a peak through them when mum pops to the toilet tells me all I need to know. Outside, several journalists hover. My phone buzzes all day long, but I mostly ignore it, as I can see mum watching me out the corner of her eye. Abby is relentless and I reply curtly that I’m just worried about Lily.

I’m not sure if this is a lie or not.

Pulling up my facebook page, I scroll through the list of contacts until my finger hovers over Holly’s name. Holly was the girl before me. The third girl to go missing. I was the fourth. Lily is the fifth. I never knew the two girls before Holly: Jane and Vicky.

I think about messaging her and asking if she still has nightmares too. After it happened, we met up a few times, but we really had nothing to say. What do two people that don’t remember the only thing they have in common say to each other?

I wonder if I should ask her about the cabin, but I think about the look the detective gave me and I stop again. A quick hunt for the laptop I share with mum confirms my suspicions. I can’t find it anywhere. That laptop has all of my social media accounts passwords saved on it. I’m not a particularly private person and my mum has always been the kind of mum that respects my privacy. Until now, atleast.

*

At six O’clock I reach for Maggie’s lead and mum stands rising with me from the sofa.

“Mum,” I groan, and she knows what is coming. I win, of course, and I promise to slip out the back gate and be quick. It is lie because I already know that I will be going back to the cabin. I can’t resist. I have to see if the candle in the window was real. I have to look inside the cabin and find out what has happened to Lily. I need to know before Lily returns, hollow and empty. Before she becomes like me.

As we hit the trail behind the church lane Maggie tugs at the lead. She is insistent that we follow our usual route up the slope, but I pull out a treat and reluctantly she follows me down the narrower path that hugs the side of the loch. She stays so close to my heel that in the end I take her off the lead and scoop her into my arms to carry her like a baby.

We amble like this, dog in arms, over the rough ground, pushing our way through the low undergrowth that spills onto the trail. Our progress is slow as the rain over night has made the mud thick and sticky and the gravel slippery. I swot away the midges and curse myself for not applying the bug spray before I left the house. I can already feel the tiny swells of the bites on my neck.

“That’ll the least of your problems”, I mutter to myself as I plant Maggie back onto the trail and tug up my hood. We are nearly at the turning for the cabin where the path snakes away from the loch’s edge into the woodland. It climbs slowly, winding up and down the slope and it suddenly occurs to me that I don’t remember why I had chosen this path yesterday. Not only that, but I couldn’t remember walking this part of the path at all. Had I known then that this is where I would find Lily. A sense of unease drifts over me and I call for Maggie who has finally accepted our new route and wandered ahead around the next bend.

I am just about to whistle for her, when I feel my buzz in my pocket. My phone is ringing and I balk when I see Holly’s name. I didn’t even realize I would still have signal on this part of the trail.

I accept the call and put the phone to my ear.

“Go home Katy.” Her voice is clipped and unfamiliar.

“Holly?” I ask nervously.

“Just go home Katy. Lily will be ok.” Instinctively I glance over my shoulder. She must be able to see me.

“What’s going on?” I ask. “Do you know where Lily is?” There is silence for a second.

“You know where she is Katy. Leave it be.”

“The cabin.” I whisper the words, unsure whether I am asking her a question or telling her that I already know.

“Go home Katy and nobody gets hurt. It’s not your turn for answers.” The phone line goes dead, and I remain frozen to the spot.

Nobody gets hurt. My turn for answers. Go home. My heart begins to thump and there is sick twist in my stomach as a sense of panic start to rise up in me. The nagging feeling is back, tugging at me. I have a sense that I know what she is talking about. That the treasure chest of secrets in my mind is unlocked and waiting for me.

Open it. Remember.

My hands are shaking and suddenly I can see Lily in my mind’s eye. Not choir Lily, polite and small, in the green kilt skirt and school blouse, but a different Lily. Frightened. There are tears running down her cheeks and she looks... I lean into the memory desperate to claw out more details, but it’s dark and clouded with shadows as if we are sitting in candlelight.

My heart drops and I open my eyes to look around me. I need to help Lily. I don’t know what is happening to her but a sense of dread is flooding through me and the bitter taste of a memory is beginning to surface. I force the memory away in terror. I open my phone and shakily scroll down until I find my mum’s number. I hit call. She picks up almost instantly.

“Katy?” She is annoyed, but I can hear that her voice is laced with a residue of parental worry.

“Call the police. The cabin. I think she’s at the cabin.

“What?” Fear spikes her voices again. “Where are you? What’s happening?”

“I think Lily is in the cabin by the loch. The old fishing cottage. Do you know the one?” My voice is pleading.

“Aye. Yes. I’ll call them. Where are you, Katy?”

“On the trail.”

“Stay there. Stay away. Don’t go down there alone.”

She hangs up and I feel a sense of cold descend over me. I look around for Maggie, but she has not come back from around the corner to look for me.

“Maggie”, I call. My voice is shrill and unfamiliar. “Maggie.” I call again, but I know already where she will be. I stumble forwards moving into the dark tree line, and as my eyes adjust to the shadows, I run. The path narrows and veers upwards, but I can see that someone has recently created a more direct route, pushing their way roughly through bracken and the fern fronds. I don’t hesitate and taking this new path, I push through the undergrowth fiercely, ignoring the forest’s warnings as its branches snag at my clothes like tiny hands try to haul me back to safety. The fresh tracks are soft, and I slip and slide falling too my knees again and again.

“Maggie. Maggie. Lily. Maggie. LILY.” I am screaming their names, trying to keep the fear at bay. I want to turn back, but the need for answers is too great.

Through the tree’s the cabin is starting to emerge, and beyond that, I have a perfect view of the path where Maggie and I had hovered only yesterday. As I reach the clearing I stop, and there is an overwhelming sense of dread. I am too late. The door to cabin has been thrown open, and I can see from the great sweeping arch in the dirt that something has been dragged out.

Someone.

I approach the cabin cautiously, but I already know that I am alone in the clearing. My eyes flicker from the gaping black hole of the door frame to the window and I see the tarnished glass pane, stained black. The white waxy candle sits beneath it, cold and unlit.

*

When they find me, I am curled up on the cabin’s gritty earth floor clutching Maggie’s limp body in my arms. I am rocking her, muttering the words of an old lullaby that I have heard somewhere before. I am covered in her blood but she has lost so much of it that is it hard to see the wound beneath the matted fur. There is other blood too, but I choose not to think about that.

I meet the detective’s stony grey eyes and she tells me that they have found Lily’s body down by the water. I nod and feel the silent lump in the back of my throat start to swell again, until it chokes me. While we are alive there are so many claims made on our bodies, but it seems to me in that moment, that it only becomes truly ours after we have vacated it. I cough and splutter and then someone peals away Maggie’s little body from my arms and I am sick. It is only when my stomach is empty that I realize what is coming next. That this detective will drain my secrets from me like the blood drained from Maggie. That she will force open the treasure chest of memories and not stop until I am empty.

Holly was wrong. My turn has come.

It is time to remember.

Horror

About the author

LilyRose

Corporate cog by day, poet by night. Writing is my happy place. Comments, follows and critiques are always welcome!

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