The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. It’s just a story, a made-up story—Lydia mused—thinking back to the ghastly tale her friend had told them hours before.
Lydia had practically begged for her to finish, I mean it wasn’t her fault that her friend was so talented—weaving intricate visions of woods just like the very ones they were in now—well, except her friends woods came complete with murder, mystery and an escaped killer.
It was simple enough—their yearly escapades ended in a horror-filled nightcap—and now, it was apparent—she had done this to herself; it was a wonder as to why she was so scared.
But it all felt so real— Lydia’s mind was surely playing tricks on her, payback for all the scary things she liked to consume. The woods, the cabin—an abandoned cabin if you must know. All of it was there, the uncanny likeness was too much for her to process. It had kept Lydia up most of the night as she tossed and turned, checking her watch to see the hours tick by uneventfully.
To make matters worse, the moon shone brightly against the cover of her tent as she watched Brittany sleeping peacefully nearby, oblivious to the world around her.
She could be killed right now and wouldn’t know any different—Lydia thought as she sighed audibly but no stir came from the cot next to her; Lydia thrashed about as she tried to force all the intrusive thoughts from her mind but of course, they always had a way of flooding in when she least expected them.
It’s unfair. How could Brittany sleep so peacefully after telling such a horrific story? It was a wonder her mind even came up with stuff like that. As much as Lydia liked being scared, she couldn't even watch scary movies by herself.
This wasn't surprising though, Lydia was rather predictable and Brittany knew exactly how to push her buttons.
Besides, Most her life Lydia spent recreated scenarios she likely would never have found herself in otherwise. Brittany's stories helped calm her down and let her live a life vicariously through others, but in reality Lydia was a very quiet person who never pushed to do anything other than what she had known all her life—cooking—and even that couldn’t lull her into a false sense of sleep that night.
In the shadowy darkness Lydia swore she saw something moving above her, but no, it couldn’t be. Probably another night-owl— they were in the woods after-all. She had to come to terms with the idea that she wasn’t the only thing awake at this ungodly hour.
But if we’re being honest, that wasn’t even the thing that had scared Lydia the most. Earlier in the evening she had been tasked with cooking dinner for herself and her friends, there were seven of them total and Lydia along with two of her friends Michelle and Christine were busy browning meat over a roaring fire as they set about toasting slices of bread and simmering savory tomato sauce for their sandwiches. It was simple enough, the trio was so busy talking and laughing that they had failed to realize someone else might be watching them.
It wasn’t that difficult, they were after-all in the middle of an open camp-site with plenty of trees and thick bushes for someone to hide behind, never mind that there were several abandoned cabins nearby. A mile or-so up the trail-line were tree houses that local scouts often used…
It was—needless to say, absolutely bustling with hikers, campers and other passersbys. But, the real question was, would anyone be able to hear them if they screamed? Lydia didn't know that answer. After all, she was so scared she thought she could hear a bug fall on a leaf if she listened closely enough, hell, she even thought she could hear someone watching them as they slept.
But that's crazy talk, and—like I said, the girls had a perfect spot on the mountain, the best spot, prime real estate. That meant they were safe, right?
Several platforms with tents had been constructed around a large campfire, hidden inside were two cots—one for each of them, but they were an odd-man out. Of course Addy hadn’t minded this one bit as she constructed a small makeshift tent in the hunting perch a few feet off from the campsite—much preferring the solitude.
It was the perfect spot for the seven of them to do their yearly getaway trip and the weather was just right—not too hot, not too cold. In fact, the girls had planned to take their canoes out on the river a few miles out that very next morning. That’s what the lot of them had been up to as Lydia, Michelle and Christine made dinner.
It was either an unfortunate series of events or a set of bad decisions that— in hindsight— could have been avoided, but who would have known; Sam, Amanda, Addy and Lauren surely didn’t—they were about a half mile down the mountainside in the parking lot making sure their canoes were tied down and all their permits and gear ready for the following days adventure.
They couldn’t have seen or heard anything from where they were and besides, the parking lot was the only place on the entire mountain that got any reception. I mean— what could go wrong in a situation like that? Apparently a lot;
You see—as if that wasn’t bad enough, the camp-site was nestled squarely in the middle of a trail which meant anyone could pass by, and they would have to if they wanted to get to the other camp sites—and seeing as to how the girls campsite was the first one on the trail, this meant others would be passing right through.
It was an odd thought, an intrusive feeling to think random strangers can go around traipsing about in your personal space. Lydia hadn’t given it much mind, but now it added another level of worry onto the mounting thoughts in Lydia’s head as she lie on her back staring off into the darkness as she tried falling asleep.
Tap, Tap, Tap—a noise sounded nearby. It was oddly close to Lydia but she brushed it off, rolling over trying to ignore the fear welling up in her mind.
She had an unnatural proclivity for scaring herself and it was working.
Tap, Tap, Tap—the noise happened again. It was too in-sync to be rain-drops but too forceful to be an animal. She didn’t get a chance to think it over more when she heard a twig snap.
Deafening silence overtook her.
Lydia bolted up in her cot wishing the springs on the rusted frame hadn’t made so much noise, whatever was out there had to have heard her move.
The blood rushed up to her ears as they began to ring white hot.
“Damn it,” Lydia whispered as she began to slowly hyperventilate. Don’t panic—she whispered to herself over and over again as she felt about her bag for anything she could use as a weapon.
She watched a shadow growing bigger as something sharp scraped against the side of her tent—pitting against the canvas. Her eyes grew wide, much wider than she had ever felt them before. There was no mistaking, someone was out there.
“Hello,” Lydia called out in as brave a voice she could muster.
“Addy, is that you?” She hissed.
The shadow stopped just as they got to the edge of the tent. Lydia dared herself to move as she ripped the canvas door open just as a loud bang popped off in the distance. Lydia hurriedly stepped out of the tent and onto the platform.
There was nothing there, no one.
The campfire was smoldering in the large pit and all their chairs still sat empty around it. Lydia switched on her flashlight, illuminating the tree line around them.
Nothing moved, nothing appeared to be tampered with.
She turned to go back but felt something grab her.
Lydia opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out, instead, she accidentally dropped the flashlight, feeling it pop as the light-bulb broke. In one fell swoop she was submerged in complete darkness.
In the shadows, standing there covered in dirt and grime was Addy.
“What are you doing, you scared me to death,” Lydia whispered, her voice shaky as she looked around. “There was someone out here,” Addy whispered through clenched teeth.
“Was that you trying to scare me?” Lydia cried out as she stepped back from Addy—“You know how I am; I can’t handle those sorts of things.”
“No! No! Of course not,” Addy began—her teeth chattering in the dark as she gripped tightly to something metallic.
“At first I thought it was one of you playing a trick on me, throwing rocks at the wall near my tent—but then I saw him. Well, I am not sure who he was but he looked sort of familiar—like I’d seen him before,” Addy began. “He was standing there looking into the slats of wood watching me sleep,” Addy panted, still trying to catch her breath.
Lydia looked down; in Addy’s hand was a small gun. “What are you doing with that,” Lydia demanded as the others began to come out of their tents.
“It’s not what you think,” Addy tried to explain; her fear turning into nervous energy with every word she spoke. She began to pace about.
“What’s going on,” Sam asked groggily. The loud noises and commotion had finally woken them all up.
“There’s someone out there, I think I shot him,” Addy declared, pacing even more frantically about—“we should probably go.”
“No, that’s not a good idea,” Christine insisted, “we should wait until day break and go look for him; besides, he might be injured. I doubt he will come back here.”
“Exactly,” Michelle added, “I don’t know about you but I won’t be able to go back to sleep, I think we should take turns keeping watch.”
Chatter broke out—it was clear none of them felt like being alone in their tents. “What if we split up and each go a different way, fan out and look for him. He couldn’t have gotten very far.” Lauren queried as she tightened her robe and stepped into her hiking boots.
“I for one think we need to stick together, I agree with Michelle—we definitely need to keep watch…” Brittany had barely gotten the words out when Addy—still shaken up cut her off—“Yeah well I still think we should split up, four of us go to the car and call the police while the other three stay here and guard our things.”
It appeared to be the wrong thing to say at a time like this.
“Why do you guys get to go down, mighty convenient don’t you think, leave me, Michelle and Christine up here alone with some crazy person,” Lydia cried out, her words barely a whisper, "and besides, how do we know you didn’t plan this whole thing, make up a story about some crazy killer in the woods—just like Brittany’s story.”
Addy moved forward, Lydia's accusations had done it time, but before anything further could be said, Brittany jumped between Lydia and Addy—“You guys, it was a story, a story I made up. I saw the missing person posters at the bottom of the mountain in the ranger’s station. I saw the sketches of a guy. A guy with red hair and blue eyes; what else did you expect, I used it for inspiration. How was I supposed to know there was actually someone out here?”
“Yeah, well…you could have fooled me,” Lydia cried out. “That’s one HELL of a coincidence,” she continued angrily before sitting down in front of the fire, throwing tinder at it until it roared—lighting the woods around them.
“Guys! Guys!” Sam yelled, “this is not what we need to be focusing on right now; if we lose our cool and fall apart it makes us easier targets. That’s what he wants," she began. "Everyone sit down, we need to get a plan, we need to survive the rest of the night—it will be daybreak soon, a lot can happen in a short amount of time.” Sam—the most level-headed of the group—declared as she worked to corral the girls back towards their respective chairs.
“Addy—I am glad you brought your gun but we need to decide who is taking it, let’s draw straws,” Sam announced. “The three smaller stay behind, the other four go down, phone the police and get help; in the meantime, Addy—try to think about what you saw and where you ran to, the cops will want to know.”
Sam grabbed seven sticks and randomly broke them—three small, four long—as she shuffled them to make the picks even. Each of them grabbed a stick; Sam was left with the small one, as was Lydia and Addy. Brittany, Lauren, Michelle and Christine would be going to the cars to phone for help. They had just under an hour to make it down for day-break, the rangers station would be opening at five-on-the-dot and it couldn’t come fast enough.
“I really don’t see why we can’t all go down and wait in the car together, bring our stuff, you know. What are we really going to do if he comes back, what if there’s more than one of them,” Lydia whispered as she glared at Sam—“this was your idea, I hope it works.”
Sam smiled nervously as she looked around the still, dark woods; there was no movement. The four lucky girls began to pack make-shift weapons—a metal sandwich griller, skewers, a frying pan and a whistle—which they were supposed to blow it if anything went wrong.
At the campsite Sam positioned the three chairs of the remaining girls so each of them had vantage points for the many blind-spots the woods provided.
“Here Lydia, you can have the gun since you are so upset with how things are going,” Addy motioned as she placed the cold metal pistol in Lydia’s lap. Lydia froze, hoping she didn’t have to actually use it. Sensing this Addy reassured her—“you can do this, you can protect us, I have faith in you. Just point and shoot if you see anyone get too close to us.”
For the first time since everything happened Lydia felt herself smile. It was about this time the four girls said their goodbyes and began heading down the trail and out of sight until the three girls could no longer hear their footsteps crunching the twigs and leaves.
“You know,” Sam began, “it is quite crazy how this trip has gone. You know, with Brittany’s story and all that has happened since. She seemed so unbothered by all of this, guess it’s all one hell of a coincidence.”
“Yeah,” Addy replied— a slight chuckle in her voice, “one hell of a coincidence.”
After a few moments silence Lydia finally felt a twinge of exhaustion trickling in—“it was just so detailed, that’s what bothered me the most,” Lydia whispered as she fought to stay awake.
The other girls agreed. After what felt like seconds Lydia stirred to what she thought was a whistle off in the distance.
“Oh crap,” she said, startled that she fell asleep practically hugging the gun for dear life as she checked her watch again, this time it read 6:10. She looked over—it was clear Addy and Sam had both fallen asleep as well. She got up from her chair; the fire had all but gone out. The morning sun peeped through the rising fog.
“Guys—wake up, we fell asleep,” Lydia whispered, shaking Addy and Sam.
“What’s going on, where’s everyone at,” Addy asked—also checking her watch.
“They should have been back by now,” Sam whispered as the girls began moving about, checking the tents and making sure everything was still as they left it.
“It’s been over an hour,” Addy added, the concern was obvious in her voice.
“Well, I heard a whistle off in the distance,” Lydia said, pointing off to the right.
“Why would they have gone that way,” Sam asked curiously.
“They should have only gone down the hill to the parking lot; it’s a straight walk down the mountain,” she paused. “I knew we should have kept to the original plan…maybe they got separated,” Sam whispered as she zipped her hoodie.
“Who had the whistle, do you remember?” Addy asked as she put on additional layers. A chill was settling in, it burned their faces with icy wind.
“Yeah, I think Christine had it if I’m not mistaken,” Lydia answered, dumping a bucket of water on the charred wood.
“We should go see if we can find them,” Sam continued, “I guess we should go to where the whistle sounded and besides, if all else fails, we have the gun. What’s a few extra feet in the wrong direction.”
“Yeah,” Lydia agreed, “something isn’t right, better to be safe than sorry.”
The three girls slowly but quietly walked through the woods, entering between the trees on an unmarked trail. They decided it would be best to stay out of eyesight of any unsuspecting hikers as they headed towards where the whistle had been heard.
“I love spider webs in the morning,” Lydia groaned as she swatted a large sticky web out of their path with the end of a stick. It was about this time they came upon a series of cabins—all the windows were dark, completely void of any light.
“According to the map,” Sam began, pulling out a photo-copied printout of the mountain trails—“we should be coming up on another set of decommissioned cabins, they are about a hundred yards that way,” she pointed. It was still in the direction where the whistle had been heard so they continued on-ward.
The trio’s pace lessened as they walked nearly arm-in-arm, closing in on a quiet clearing. There were pieces of decrepit wood piled high in a few spots, posts and foundations marked where torn down cabins used to lie—likely having been demolished after years of bad weather and poor care.
In the middle was a much bigger cabin still in-tact, appearing to be well-kept. As the girls crept around they noticed a faint glow in the glass. Could it be?—a light? No, that’s not right. There wasn’t any electricity out here. Lauren had confirmed this. Lydia remembered her asking the park-ranger the day before, she wanted to charge her phone but the ranger's only answer was directing them to use their cars. Something about cell-towers and isolation. The only other option was they could charge their phones at the charging station for a nominal fee.
This wasn’t exactly a state park and now she was wishing she had just stuck to her original plan and had gone down to the base by herself. She could have ran to the car, flagged a ranger for help; anything would be better than this.
As they rounded the cabin there was a scraping noise; Lydia froze. It was the same sound she had heard hours before on her tent. The girls ducked under a window until the noise stopped; tiptoeing their way back to the safety of the woods.
Addy gasped, cupping her hand to her mouth.
Sure enough, there was a candle burning on a table in the middle of the cabin. They could see it from where they stood.
“What the actual hell,” Sam whispered as she leaned forward to get a better view.
“How’d Brittany know about this,” she asked, baffled at the number of details in the story they were finding along the way.
“I don’t think I believe in coincidences anymore,” Addy whispered as she sat staring dumbfounded at the cabin. “Maybe Brittany knew about this place, I mean, after-all, she is the one who suggested we come here. She has been visiting with her family for years—decades even. She could have planned this whole thing.”
Lydia was just about to step out into the clearing and open the door when something caught her eye, stopping her dead in her tracks.
It was Brittany—covered in blood—and from the looks of it she wasn’t alone. A red-headed man followed closely behind, dragging the bodies of their friends—Lauren, Michelle and Christine.
It took everything in the trio not to gasp as they huddled together on the cold ground. Their friends were gone; they had been killed at the hands of someone they all knew—but why?
The reason would soon be revealed—and it couldn’t have been more chilling.
“I really wish it didn’t have to be this way, but you know— it’s the luck of the draw. Literally; that dumb girl thought of pulling straws and I almost fell out. It’s just unfortunate it couldn’t have been Sam or that know-it-all Lydia that I was grouped with. It’s a shame; Lauren and Michelle were almost oblivious right up until the end, and Christine— I just wish she hadn’t blown the whistle, we could have made a deal,” Brittany whispered as she spun in a dizzying circle. “I mean you think this is easy? This wasn’t easy for me—but, they all knew too much, they made their decisions the second they started coming here. It was years in the making,” she continued. “I mean, c’mon, Addy…Addy should have been easier to manage. You had her all alone; all to yourself but you couldn’t even do that right.” Brittany hissed as she dragged a large bladed machete against the dirt, whacking angrily at each cabin post she passed—sending blood splatters everywhere.
“They should have been back at the campsite where I left them,” Brittany screamed, her voice echoing through the trees. “But no worries, the other three couldn’t have gone too far. I wasn’t expecting Addy to shoot Jimmy but that’s my fault. I underestimated Addy's strength.”
Brittany paused as the red-headed man pulled the three bodies up onto the cabin’s front porch.
“Jimmy is in the cabin waiting,” he began through bated breaths.
“Perfect,” Brittany smiled, leaning in to kiss the red-headed man. “We’ll hide out here until sunset. At that time the hunt for the other three will begin, it’s better odds that way, two against three.”
Nothing further was said as the cabin doors shut. Lydia felt the panic well back up in her throat as she stared at the bodies of her friends lying on the rain-logged wooden porch.
“We have to get out of here,” Lydia said, almost to herself—as she tossed the gun back to Addy. “We need to make our way back down the mountain and out onto the main road. We can’t trust anyone here,” Lydia continued as she made sure they wouldn’t being seen. This time it was she who knew what needed to be done. “We can’t take any trails, we can’t go anywhere near the parking lot or our cars. They might see us, and besides, we are an hour away from any other towns. We need to get moving. Once we are out of these woods we can rest.”
Sam and Addy agreed. “We will come back and get the others later; it’s too late for them now, we have to save ourselves.”
The three crawled back through the woods before they were far enough away and broke into a frenzied dash, bolting through the trees, branches and errant limbs that clawed at their faces but the girls didn’t care. Anything was better than being hacked to death by three deranged killers.
Breathless, they felt like they had been running for hours.
“I believe we are still in the same woods,” Lydia whispered. The cold air burned her lungs as she bent over, grabbing the stitch in her side.
“We can’t keep going at this rate, we have to find something to eat, something to drink,” Addy added as she leaned against a tree. Through the dense trees above—dusty gray clouds heaved. Cold drops of rain pelted their skin.
“Great,” Sam moaned. “Just what we need right now, rain.”
Lydia knew Sam was right but they were at an advantage. She figured at this point they were miles away from the campsite, the killer cabin and her murdering friend. They would have to keep going to make good time and hopefully confuse Brittany and her posse. The only thing she worried about now was how cold it would get, the rain wouldn’t help that.
“We are going to freeze,” Addy whispered, already shivering. She had not been able to wash the mud from her prior chase through the woods and she would soon be sick. Lydia remembered back to all her years in scouting—it was something she had been taught by her troop leader who practically drilled it in her head—always change your clothes when you wake up—otherwise you’ll catch a cold.
Lydia never put much thought into it until now, when they really needed that advice, but it was too late. They would have to use what they had. Luckily for them, Lydia had spent many years in these very woods as a scout. She knew eventually they would run into a highway.
Sam took off her overcoat and gave it to Addy—“put this on,” she whispered just as they heard a crackling break shoot across the sky.
The storm was right on top of them.
“As long as we stay low and keep moving we should be fine,” Sam yelled out as the clouds finally broke sending sheets of rain pounding down; the girls scrambled to stay as close to the large tree trunks as they possibly could.
“This way,” Lydia shouted as she pointed to the right; for some reason that felt like a good direction. She couldn’t explain it. All she knew was they had to be parallel to the rangers station and they needed to go as far away from that as possible.
The girls finally hit a spot where the trees opened up; in the distance they saw a road.
“I am not sure I trust that,” Sam whispered over the blasting rain.
“It’s okay, trust me,” Lydia yelled. They decided to walk out of sight along the trail line for a few more miles until they were sure it was just them.
“If we go up, there should be a town just over that bend,” Lydia whispered, pointing up to where the road curved. More woods were on the other side.
“Let’s cross here,” Sam said before grabbing their arms and making sure the coast was clear.
Within seconds they were entering the woods, trailing closely along with the winding roads of the mountain coast. “I am almost certain there will be a small town if we keep going, we can do this, just a little bit at a time,” Lydia smiled, encouraging them to continue.
Their shoes were soaked and their feet squished around; Lydia could feel her skin pruning in the water-filled mud as they sunk even lower into the soggy earth. They reached an outpost where the sign read—Welcome to San Leo Vista—and nearby a covered bulletin board housed the photos of nearly fifty missing women, all ranging in age from eleven to sixty. Their posters were also water logged and tattered, left to bask in the sun and eventually blow away to the sea below, but Lydia, Sam and Addy wouldn’t let them be forgotten. Not if it was the last thing they did.
About the Creator
Writing my escape, my future…if you like what you read—leave a comment, an encouraging tip, or a heart—I’m always looking to improve, let me know if there is anything I can do better.
& above all—thank you for your time