The Widow's Cabin
Stop by for a night.
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. Tom had heard the ghost story many times but never believed it to be true. As skeptical as he was, though, there was a part of him, looking at the lit candle now, that thought . . . maybe. But no, it was impossible; it must have been some stupid high schooler playing a cruel prank on the town.
The cabin wasn’t far from town, and Tom had passed it many times, going back and forth from his grandparents' house. He and his friends had heard it back in the 5th grade from his older brother, he was at college now, but every night on the anniversary, kids would gather in the woods and tell the story.
Tom made it to his buddy Hank’s house. Greg and Josh were already there playing video games.
“Dude, what took you so long? Did you get lost again?” Hank asked.
“Shut up, dude. I just stopped to look at something.”
“What’s that, your mom?” Greg asked. The boys all laughed and high-fived.
“No, the cabin.”
“Yeah, what about it? No one’s been in there for years.” Greg said.
“The candle was lit. Some stupid high schoolers must have broken in.” Hank and Greg stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Josh continued playing the video game.
“HA, loser, I beat you!” Josh yelled as he ended the game. He looked around and saw everyone had stopped what they were doing. “What are your guys’ problem?”
“Wait, like, actually? It was lit?” Hank asked.
“Well, I mean,n yeah, but it doesn't actually mean anything. Like I said, it was probably just some dumb High Schoolers playing a prank for the anniversary.” Tom said, trying to shake off the topic.
“Well, we gotta go check it out!” Hank said. He was the biggest believer in the story, he’s been stopping by the cabin for years to try and check it out.
“Why are you all so excited about some dumb candle?” Josh asked. It dawned on them then that Josh was new to town, and he had yet to hear the story.
“Oh yeah, we’re goin out tonight.” Hank had made up the group's mind, and tonight the boys would camp in the woods and investigate the mysterious candle.
Greg started a fire as the sun set to create the perfect lighting for the long-said ghost story.
“Alright, campers,” Hank said in his best boy scout troop leader voice, “Gather around to hear the story of ‘The Bloody Maid’”
“OOooOO,” Greg added the spooky sound effects and pulled his hood over his head, and Hank began the story.
Long before the town was founded, the cabin stood, lonely in the woods where a widow lived out her time. Many travelers would pass by the cabin, trying to find a new home. As she watched them wonder, looking for shelter, she decided to turn her small empty cabin into a place for wanderers to stay. In return, those who stayed would do household chores the old woman couldn’t handle anymore. One lovely gentleman fixed her creaky staircase, and another chopped wood in the winter for her fireplace. Word spread about the woman and her small cottage. There was minimal space in the cottage, even though it was just the lonely widow, the basement was off-limits, and the upstairs was her room. Travelers would know it was open for stay if the candle in the widow's room was lit.
Many had come to the small cottage for refuge. Then, one night, Lily, a runaway with no more than a muffin in her bag, saw the candlelight from the woods as if beckoning her.
She knocked, just once, on the old wood door. The old widow opened it as if expecting her.
“Hello, ma’am. I’m sorry to both of you so late. I saw the candle in the window. So is this . . .” Lily got anxious, wondering if she had knocked on the right door.
“Yes, my dear, please come in. You look soaking wet. Has it rained recently?” The old Widow asked. Lily didn't want to tell the woman she had been traveling for days now, running from the dark shadows of her village, and the wet look she had acquired was really sweat and mud from her travels. She was embarrassed.
“Oh, just a little ma’am, it's stopped now.” She replied.
“Come in, sweetheart. You look like you haven’t eaten in days. Have a bath, and then have some dinner. After that, I’ll get you something fresh to wear.” Lily walked in as the widow held the door open; she felt a sudden relief come over her; she would finally get to stay in a bed tonight.
The widow showed her where the bath was, and Lily heated up the water to put it into the tub. As she peeled the layers of clothing she had on her, she began to see the marks of her ventures. Bruises, minor cuts, markings she wasn’t even sure what were. As she put her foot into the water, it gave her a light burn, but fearful that she wouldn’t see another bath in ages she endured it and forced herself in. The hot water surrounded her body and very quickly turned a dark color.
As she soaked in the warm water, a feeling that had been absent from her life for days, she finally allowed her tense muscles to relax. While she lay in the tub, half floating with her head back and eyes closed, she almost didn’t notice the thumping of footsteps walking up towards the side door that led to the bathroom. As her subconscious kicked in, she looked towards the door, expecting the widow to knock and ask her if she needed anything, but silence filled the room. She began to get nervous, being in a strange place with a woman she had only just met. She wondered if there were other people here that the widow hadn’t mentioned. She sat up and stared at the door, wondering if she should get out or stay in the false safety of the bathtub. The footsteps then appeared to walk around the room as if circling her. Was there another hallway outside that she hadn’t seen before? Her heart began to beat quicker as the instinctive animal side started to kick in, ready to hop out and run if she needed. Once again, the footsteps stopped, this time at the main door she and the widow had walked in from. Her heart was in her ears, perhaps that's what she heard, and not actually someone whispering to her, “leave.” Her head whipped towards the supposed sound, but no one was there. Behind her, one loud bang on the door made her jump, and the water danced out of the bathtub.
“Who is there?” she asked out loud. But the silence filled the room once more, and the sense of danger faded. She got out of the bathtub and grabbed the towel the widow had left in the bathroom for her guests. She opened the door and gasped as standing there in front of her, so calm and statuesque, was the widow, holding a night gown.
“Hello dear, are you done already? I’ve brought you something to change into. From my younger years, you look just like me when I was your age.” The widow said with such a tinge of sweetness in her voice. Lily smiled uneasily, and thanked the widow. She took the gown from her and got dressed, still feeling her heart in her chest as it began to relax. Afterwhich she walked downstairs to find the widow sitting at her kitchen table with two bowls of soup she had prepared for them.
“Come eat, child. You must have been traveling for a long time.” The widow said.
“Yes, it has been quite a while.” Lily sat across from the widow and began eating. The soup had an almost rotten flavor, and it took everything in her not to spit it out. She didn’t want to be rude to this woman, who had so kindly taken her in.
“Is there someone else staying here, ma’am? I would love to meet them.” lily finally asked, her curiosity overtaking her —-. The widow looked at her. Puzzlement and concern took over her facial expressions, which she quickly collected and pieced together a much calmer appearance.
“Oh, why dear, it is just the two of us here. I never have more than one guest stay at a time. That could get messy.” She responded. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh,” Lily now felt embarrassed by her inquiry, “Well, I thought I heard someone walking around upstairs while I was taking a bath by the side door in the bathroom.”
“Oh no, unfortunately, this house is ancient, so it has its creeks and squeaks it makes. It’s been lived in for so long it has its own movement and personality.” The widow laughed gently as she said this. It wasn’t the answer Lily was expecting, and it did little to ease her nerves. As she continued eating the soup, she noticed the rotten taste began to disintegrate. She ended the meal enjoying it.
The widow showed her to her room upstairs, where she had the candle in the window. As she showed Lily around, she blew it out and left her to turn in for the night. The room was practically bare, with a bed just big enough to hold her and a small desk underneath the window. Since she had been sleeping on rocks and tree roots for the past few days, the bed felt like she had floated to the sky and laid on a cloud, softly coddling her tense, bruised body. For a moment, she thought about home, what her parents must be thinking right now, and Tom . . . But she drifted on her cloud bed to a land of peaceful serenity and finally fell asleep.
BANG. Lily’s eyes opened before she was even conscious.
BANG. She sprang up in the bed, looking around for where that sound could be coming from. Perhaps this house had its creeks and squeaks, but certainly, there was something more causing that kind of noise.
BANG. “Who is there? What do you want?” Lily looked around the room, lit only by the full moon in the sky shining through the window. As she glanced around, she saw it in the far corner across from her. The black shoes, with scuffs and mud embedded in them. The pants that hung over them had tears and mismatched patches. She saw the pale blue hands that hung next to them, with dark, dirty fingernails, was that dirt or blood on them? She couldn’t tell. She wanted to close her eyes, lay down and pretend this was a horrid dream, wake up to a shiny bright sun and bird singing their morning hymns. But that did not happen. Instead, the terror she felt looking at this figure mesmerized her. Then it spoke.
“Go away,” Lily demanded, her voice shaking and dim.
“Leave,” it said again.
“LEAVE.” As it screamed at her, it brought its face into the moonlight, and Lily could finally see what it was that wanted her to leave so badly. Its pale rotten face could have been a man’s at one point, but now it was distorted. Its jaw hung open, the teeth shattered and sharp, and its eyes . . . missing, and nothing but darkness and anguish filled the holes. A long crimson line ran across its neck, and as it leaned forward, Lily could see it stretch and begin to drip. It couldn’t have been blood, she thought to herself; it was black like tar. It then ran towards her. She jumped back against the wall, and as it approached, it turned and ran out the door. She will forever regret this decision, but Lily, rather than staying in the false safety of that bed, got up and ran after it. She saw the figure turn as it reached the end of the stairs, and she followed. It disappeared, and Lily stopped for a moment. Slowly approaching the corner of the hallway. As she rounded the corner, she saw the figure again, staring at the pot the widow had cooked the soup in. It reached its blood-crusted hands into the pot, pulled out two spheres, placed them in the holes where its eyes should be, and then turned towards her. Lily was overcome with nausea and folded over, dry heaving, wishing this all to stop and for her to wake up. She knelt on the floor to try to compose herself and looked back at the figure. It pointed towards the lonely door in the room, and it opened. She crawled towards the opening and saw a dim light down the stairs that hid behind that door, she turned back to where the figure was, but it was gone. She walked down towards the light, and at the end of the steps, she collapsed, tears streaming down her face, clasping her hands to her mouth, praying the old widow was somehow still asleep and wouldn’t find her here. Here in this room, with the dead bodies of all the travelers that had come before her, sitting in a perfect circle around a blood-drawn pentacle in the center of the room. As she took in the faces of each rotting corpse, she saw the figure that had drawn her down here.
“You are a curious one, aren’t you, my dear?” Lily turned to find the widow standing at the top of the staircase, her voice no longer sweet and inviting but now devious and evil.
“Please, let me go. I’m pregnant,” Lily begged with tears streaming down her face. The widow walked towards Lily, locking the door behind her.
“Oh, I know. I’ve known since the moment you walked in. That’s why I let you stay here.” As the widow walked closer, Lily began to feel her stomach cramp and screamed in agony.
“You see, I’ve yet to make the ultimate endearing sacrifice to my father. Sure these men mean something, and they keep him happy, but nothing compares to that of a fresh child.” Lily felt a tearing sensation in her body like she was being ripped apart from the inside.
“What did you do to me?!” she screamed through the tears that burned her eyes.
“That soup you ate shall expel your child from your body, and as life begins for it, so will death.” The widow grabbed Lily by her hair and dragged her into the center of the pentacle. She was paralyzed by the pain she felt inside her. The widow began whispering words that Lily did not understand. She looked around at the corpses, the spectators of the final moments of lily’s life. The widow walked towards her with an ill-sharpened knife and a claw of some sort for a handle. The widow placed it near Lily’s head and began chanting loudly. Lily knew there was no possible outcome to this scenario where she made it out alive, and she knew she couldn’t let this widow, this witch, continue her rituals. The widow knelt above her, chanting and singing.
Lily looked directly at her and did the only thing she could think to do. She grabbed the knife, and the witch grabbed her hand as she did. Lily felt weaker by the second as she struggled with the witch, still chanting and performing her ritual, but she used every last ounce of her strength and pushed the knife upwards, forcing it into the witch's left eye. In seconds the witch stopped and fell forward. Lily turned as she did so, allowing the witch to lay next to her, staring at Lily with one eye comprehensive with death. For a second, Lily felt peace and thought perhaps she could leave, maybe it was all over, but it was too late. The agonizing pain filled her body once more, and she knew what was about to happen; and she also knew she couldn’t bring her child into this world, not now, not like this. It was too early, too wrong. She took the knife out of the witch's eye and created a matching smile line across her neck, just like the one she saw on the figure’s in her room. She felt the blood streaming down, warm and thick, touching her shoulder as it spread on the ground. It was over, she thought, and in her last few moments, she looked back at the witch and saw her smile.
“That is the stupidest ghost story I have ever heard,” Josh said as Hank finished.
“Are you nuts? That is the greatest story of our town, and it’s all true!” Hank was clearly offended by Josh’s unimpressed manner.
“How could that be true? How could we know any of that if the girl died at the end?” Josh argued.
“Because dumbass, when the people that founded our town began building, they found the house and the bodies downstairs!” Greg chimed in. Tom remained silent, unsure who was right in this argument.
“Alright, if everything is true and you guys are such believers, how come you’ve never gone in?” Josh looked at the two waiting for an answer.
“Oh, trust me, we have, but the door won’t budge; we’ve tried pushing it in and taking the door handle off, but nothing works!” Hank said, annoyed. “Which is why we came tonight. If Tom actually saw the candle lit, that means someone got in and lit that candle, which means we can get in and finally see what that house looks like.” Hank’s voice filled with excitement, and he grabbed his video recorder from the bag he had brought. “Let’s go.”
“Dude, it’s pitch black out here. We’ll barely be able to find it now,” Tom said, secretly scared to go anywhere near that house.
“I brought my flashlight, and this video recorder has a night setting. Besides, we should be able to see the candle in the window,” said Hank.
“Yeah, alright, losers, fine, let’s go on your stupid ghost hunt,” Josh said as he stood up and began walking with Hank. Tom and Greg trailed behind them. Hank knew the area better than any of them, though he’d never said it; he’s been to that cabin more times than any of them and, at this point, knew the way by memory. Within a few minutes, the boys were looking at the old wooden cabin wilted with years of weather and mistreatment. Hank tapped Josh and pointed to the window, where the candle still burned bright, undisturbed. Tom wondered how it could still be lit and unmoved after so many hours since he had first seen it. Josh shrugged his shoulders, pretending to be still unimpressed.
“The people that broke in are probably still there and waiting for suckers like you to come in and scare.” He said to Hank, but Hank didn’t care. He walked up the porch steps and grabbed the door handle, expecting it to open easily. Instead, Hank pushed and walked into it, nearly dropping his camera. Greg snickered, and Hank looked back at him like he was about to throw something.
“Well, don’t be rude, Hank. You can’t just walk into a witch’s home. You gotta knock first.” Josh mocked, but Hank did just that, and after the second knock, the door blew open. The four boys jumped back, and all looked at each other. Hank practically ran in, followed by Greg, then Josh, then finally Tom, who was now overcome with a sickening feeling in his stomach.
“Alright, assholes, who’s in here? And how did you get in? I’ve been trying to break into this place for years!” Hank called out, with no answer but a breeze that seemed to come from nowhere. Tom looked around at the house that appeared to be frozen in time, undisturbed for almost 100 years. The kitchen area had a small table with two chairs and a pot on the stove, just like in Hank’s story. The boys walked around the small living area until Hank finally said, “Let’s go see the candle.”
The boys walked single file up the stairs to the room where the candle was lit. As they approached the door, it opened for them. Hank turned back to Josh with an ‘I told you so’ look.
“Clearly, there’s a draft in this house; considering how old it is, there are probably holes everywhere,” Josh said. The boys walked in, and there sitting on the desk under the window, stood the infamous candle, still lit. Suddenly Tom let out a grunt and buckled to the floor.
“Dude, you okay?” Greg asked.
“My stomach, man, it's killing me. I haven't felt good since we got here,” Tom said. A burning sensation filled him, and he began to scream in agony.
“Okay, okay, enough with the theatrics, guys, I get it, scare the new kid with the stupid town ghost story. Do you guys go through all this trouble with every new kid in town?” Josh asked, mistaking the situation for a planned-out prank.
“It’s not us, dude,” Greg said as he knelt down to Tom, who began vomiting blood.
“What’s happening?!” Tom screamed.
“Dude, nasty, what is that fake blood?” Josh was still convinced the boys were trying to scare him.
“It’s not us, dude! We didn’t do all this. How could we have?!” Hank yelled as Josh casually leaned against the wall, acting like nothing was wrong. Then, the sound of a screaming baby pierced their ears like an animal was clawing at them. Each one flinched and grabbed their ears, trying to protect them from the unforgiving sound.
“We’ve gotta get out of here. Let's go.” Greg finally screamed over the ominous noises, helping Tom to his feet as he did so. Hank nodded, and as they began walking towards the door, it slammed shut. The sound of a lock clicking into place filled the room.
The candle blew out, and the boys heard a falsely sweet voice say, “Welcome, my dears.”