The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window.
In the dead of night, it served as a beacon for the desperate father and daughter. Lost and terrified, a malevolent creature pursued them. The dancing flame tickled the candle’s wick, its light magnified by the shiny tin dish on which it stood.
The fragmented family burst through the old, yet sturdy door, and fell to their knees. As the terrified little girl began to beg her father for answers, he hushed her with two fingers over her lips. He knew that whatever pursued them was still out there; still hunting.
Just as the thought of dowsing the candle entered the father’s mind, it snuffed itself out, as though the cabin knew. Through the pale moonlight that pierced the window opposite them, they could see the meager furnishings of the cabin. There was a single chair, under a dusty painting, and a spongy, off-white cot.
After what felt like an eternity of sitting in silence and darkness, the man believed that whatever was pursuing them had given up. He stood, took his daughter’s hand, and led her to the cot. As she laid down, he sung a lullaby, to soothe her fears.
“Lay down, lay down, sweet Lilly.
Lay on the river’s bed.
When you sit up and rise again,
the sun will kiss your head…”
Haggard and tired, the man made his way over to the chair. A strange sense of serenity overcame him as he leaned back into its soft cushions. Lilly laid sleeplessly on the dingy cot, too scared to sleep. She went to her father for comfort but found that he had drifted off.
As the sunlight pierced the scraggly, bleak, and bare tree line, Lilly hurriedly ran to her father’s side.
“Daddy, daddy! Wake up! It’s light out. Can we go look for mommy? Can we go home?”
As he was roused to consciousness, the man looked to the patch of sunlight on the floor. Straining against the overwhelming exhaustion he felt, he peeled himself from the seat. He gazed out the window for many minutes, barely able to brace himself upright on the sill.
“Let me rest a short while longer,” he said, preparing himself to lie, “we’ll search for your mother when I regain my strength.”
Deep down he knew that his beautiful wife was gone. His daughter had not seen what became of her; hadn’t seen what he had. The mental image of her losing her footing, before whatever hunted them descended upon her, overcame him. And yet, as he sat back down in the plushy embrace of the chair, he felt at peace with his loss.
Many hours passed as Lilly’s father slept deeply. Looking around the cabin, anxious and scared, the little girl’s thoughts were disrupted by hunger. How long had it been since she had eaten? Suddenly, a movement caught her eye. The painting over her sleeping father seemed to twitch. As she peered closer at it, she noticed that the painting was of a small house, remarkably similar looking to the cabin. As she stared into the picture, it began to distort. The upper windows began to open slightly, as though they were eyes prying themselves from slumber. The porch began to twist and curve into a grin.
“Daddy, daddy! Wake up, the painting’s moving!”
The father fought hard to open his eyes, and turned his head to face the painting. He saw nothing but a happy-looking house on a hill.
“Sweetie, it’s okay. It’s your imagination. Just let me rest, and please don’t leave the cabin…”
For the next few hours, Lilly sat against the wall, opposite the painting. She stared hard into its sly and knowing smile, but it did not move. She turned her attention away from the painting and saw the sun beginning to set. The curiosity she once held for the picture above her father became overshadowed by her fear. With the darkness growing, maybe the thing would come back…
The sun had fully set, but the cabin was strangely illuminated. Turning toward the window, Lilly noticed the flickering candle.
“Did I light that?” she thought to herself. It could not have been her father, as he was still fast asleep. Then she heard it. A tapping at the window. She fought to ignore it, but its consistent pattern told her that it was not just a tree branch; it was not the wind.
As she approached the window, the young girl’s heart skipped a beat.
“Come play outside, sweetie,” the familiar and gentle voice called from the darkness. The pristine and clear face of her mother stared back at her.
“Daddy, daddy! Momma’s back!” she exclaimed, as she raced to the door.
Fighting a desperate battle for consciousness, the father locked eyes with the being outside the window. He knew it was not his wife, not the mother of his child. Something was playing with them, trying to lure his daughter.
“Don’t… go out. Not… your mother…” he managed to gasp out, before falling back into the throes of slumber.
Lilly stopped after hearing her father’s words. She stared at the latch on the door for a few moments, before walking back to the window.
“Come outside, honey. We’ll go home together and eat some supper.” the woman outside softly cooed.
Lilly stared at the woman. She was far too clean for a woman who had spent so much time lost in the woods; too calm for anyone who had been chased by a monster, not one night prior.
“You’re not my momma…” Lilly croaked.
The pleasant smile of the woman outside began to dissolve, transforming into a sinister scowl. It looked as though her face was melting into a mixture of anger and desire. The woman slinked back into the darkness, disappearing into a thicket of trees. The little girl ran to her father’s side, grasped his arm, and began to weep. The candle’s flame extinguished.
The girl snapped into consciousness many hours later, woken by the eerie feeling that she was being watched. It was still dark, almost pitch black in the cabin. She was surprised that she managed to fall asleep, but she was worn out and exhausted. In the subtle illuminating flickers of the moonlight, seeping through breaks in the clouds, she could see the layout of the cabin. Feeling her way around, she reached where the door was. Or where it should have been. As her heart sank, she desperately began to feel her way around the walls of the cabin, gradually increasing her pace.
“Daddy, dad-” her calls were cut short, as she bumped into something soft and spongy. The familiar scent of copper and dirt filled her nostrils. She fell to the floor, desperately trying to see what it was. Her eyes scanned the cabin through the darkness. As clouds cleared and moonlight bathed the room, she saw the outline of an off-white humanoid figure. Furtively, it dashed across the room. The metal on metal of the latch clapping open, and the door swinging ajar could be heard, as the gangly creature scampered off into the night. A chill filled the cabin. The young girl scrambled to her feet, and slammed the door shut. She fell to her knees where the soft cot once stood, and began to crawl about the room, feeling around for her father, or the chair that had become his prison. Eventually she found it, and curled up desperately next to his legs. Terrified and alone.
After a time, time she couldn’t measure, she stood and guided herself to the window. The idea of the candle somehow made her feel less isolated, less alone. Her father was little more than furniture, melded into the chair. On the sill, next to the tin dish that held the candle, she felt a small box of matches. She struck one into a flame, and raised her gaze to the candle in the window before screaming, and dropping the match. Suddenly, the candle burst into flame, revealing what had startled her. Once again, her mother’s face leered obsessively through the glass.
“I miss you…” the face lovingly hissed.
“Daddy, daddy…” Lilly cried. She turned to face him, in the flickering light of the candle. His eyes were wide open, staring in horror at the window. She ran to him and held him.
The voice sang from the window…
“Come out, come out, sweet Lilly.
Lay on the forest floor.
The bad dreams that you’ve had so far,
Will bother you no more.”
Lilly, tears in her eyes, stood in front of the window. The candle gave her a sense that there was a buffer between her, and whoever, or whatever, the creature out there was.
“Please, leave us alone. You’re not my momma. I want to go home!”
The woman gave Lilly a somber gaze.
“Why are you doing this to your mother? I’m trying to help you… that man is not your father.”
Lilly froze. She turned around to meet her father’s gaze. The only indication he was conscious, let alone alive, were his wide fearful eyes. She walked over to him, and laid her hand on top of his. Desperately, she tried to lift it, to hold it. But she couldn’t pry it from the armrest. She stared down to see the stitching of the chair had begun to weave itself into her father’s flesh. Slowly, he and the chair were becoming one. As she looked upon her entombed guardian, the candle flickered and hissed itself back into darkness.
Fervently, she worked to release her father. In the hollow white light of the moon, Lilly found it difficult to see what she was doing. She’d removed her hairpin, and tried to use that to pick at the threads that fastened him to the chair. Just as she thought she was making progress, she realized the area she had previously pried free had an even thicker layer of fabric than before. She began to weep once more.
How long had she been trying to free him? How long ago did this start? She had no idea. She stood for a few moments, pin in one hand, clump of thick fabric in the other, tears streaming down her face. She’d begun to forget what it was like to not be living in fear. To not be struggling, alone.
She so desperately needed someone to hold her.
At that moment, the candle’s wick immolated itself once more. A new horror crept over Lilly, as she saw the results of her efforts to free her father. A large strip of skin had been torn from the underside of his forearm. Lilly looked at his eyes. They were tightly closed, but tears leaked from them. She dropped the patch of “fabric”, seeing the chunk of flesh in the dancing candlelight. She grew sick. That’s when she heard another voice from the window…
“Hold me, hold me, sweet Lilly.
Give me a hug so tight.
All your fears and woes be gone,
I’ll guard you through the night.”
It was a familiar voice, but not that of her mother. A desperate sense of hope filled her heart. She turned her gaze to the window. Two faces peered back at her. Her mother's and her father's.
“Please come outside, my dear. That man is not your father,” the man wearing her father’s face said. She looked back at the man in the chair. He didn’t look sleepy anymore, in fact, for the first time since he sat in that chair, he looked truly alert. He was thoroughly bound to the chair. It was difficult to distinguish where he ended, and the piece of furniture began. He was struggling, feebly, pathetically thrashing as much as his bondage would allow. He attempted to speak, but it was muffled, as his mouth was stitched shut. He desperately wanted to warn Lilly.
“Why did the creature abandon its chase once we arrived here?” he thought, “was it trying to lead us here all along?” Clarity consumed his mind, as he realized the cabin they believed to be their salvation may very well be their doom.
“If I go outside, will we go home…?” Lilly said, feeling the first true hope she’d had since they first encountered whatever was out there.
“We’ll take you home, sweetie.” the two said in unison.
Lilly slowly walked over to the door, and placed her hand on the latch. The man in the chair thrashed ever harder, his moans and wails grew louder. She looked back at the man, tears in her eyes.
“I’m not sure if you’re my poppa…” she muttered softly, as she opened the door and stepped outside.
Tears streamed down Lilly’s father’s face, as he looked past the candle in the window. He watched his daughter walking into the woods, with a figure on either side of her. The figures looked horrendous. Misshapen. Inhuman. He attempted to cry out in vain, as he felt new stitching pull his eyelids shut. The last thing he saw was his daughter crossing into the darkness, as the candle flickered out once more.
“Come back, come back, sweet Lilly.
Your life is on the line.
The creatures that led you astray,
Will surely, on you, dine.”
About the Creator
"Tewahway? How do you even say that?" Honestly, so long as you try, you're doin' it right!
I mainly write horror fiction, but I'm here to spread my wings and soar like a literary baby bird.
https://www.talesbytravel.com/short-stories for more
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters