“Yo, Johnny, we’re leaving!”
He rubbed his hands together as a tremor rolled down his spine. Even the insulated cabin was unable to keep the briskness of the frozen world at bay. He scanned his checklist once more: two flash lights, extra batteries, hand warmers, ropes, two blankets, soup, and two thermos of hot tea. A third check was scribbled beside each item. Their journey would be no longer than a few hours, but he wanted to prepare for the worst. And with his luck, it was inevitable.
He wrapped his scarf once more around and secured his auburn locks beneath a wool beanie. Flexing his gloved fingers, he lifted his chin and listened to the soft creaking of their weekend home. Besides the ominous howl against the windows, the unnerving void of silence engulfed him.
“Johnny, you better be awake. Allie and Naomi are on their way—”
Pounding rattled the front door. He jumped and stumbled backward. His palm laid upon his pec, feeling the racing of his heart. He cautiously approached until he heard familiar voices from the other side.
“Let us in, Trevor!”
Trevor sighed deeply as he released the hatch. Shivering in full view, Allie was in her matching rose hat and gloves combo and Naomi had sacrificed comfort for fashion with a light cardigan—both of them with cherry cheeks. The formidable landscape behind them was as blank as a page.
“Maybe if you wore an actual jacket . . .”
Naomi scoffed as she shoved her way inside. “If there is going to be a photo op, I won’t be caught dead wearing,” she gestured to his coat, “that.”
“I told her it won’t matter if she dies from hypothermia . . . or—”
“Don’t say it,” warned Trevor. “Please, not yet.”
Alarm warmed Allie’s features.
“How are you going to be superstitious now? It’s a bit late to get scared.”
“I don’t want to press our luck before we even get started . . . We’re in its territory, remember?”
Naomi flashed a mischievous smirk. “We are here to either find the corpses of the McMurray family or whatever poltergeist murdered them and haunts the lake. I heard the son was cute.”
“Please, Naomi, I heard enough last night,” commented Allie. “Can we get going already? This isn’t my ideal vacation.”
“I’m all set; waiting for my brother. I have his bag, too.”
“Johnny?” questioned Allie. “He’s out front; we passed him on our way in.”
“Glad we solved that issue. Let’s go hunt this demon,” exclaimed Naomi.
Trevor performed a final inspection of his luggage and hoisted the bag onto his shoulders. He locked the door and slid the key into his pocket. Johnny was exactly where the girls had left him. A mist funneled from his mouth as he blankly stared into the blanket of white.
Trevor called his name, but it wasn’t until the third attempt did he acknowledge him. “How long have you been outside? You’re gonna freeze much quicker than us.”
“Relax, dude, I wasn’t here long—just needed space.”
That empty expression had masked his smile for weeks since the accident. Trevor handed him the second set of gear. “Do you need more time?”
He sucked in and exhaled another, thicker fog. “Nope. Let’s catch some spooky ghosts.”
The group ventured into a forest of skeletons. Clumps of snow desperately clung to the bare branches. A vacuum of silence surround them, creating a bubble filled with their hoarse breathing and intermittent sniffles. The scenery was as quiet as a morgue and just about as tranquil. A dusting of flakes began drifting around them as they reached the apex of a hill.
“There’s the frozen lake—where the entire McMurray family vanished,” whispered Trevor.
Allie mumbled, “The bodies were never recovered . . .”
“The police report says they surveyed the entire area,” Naomi added. “They filed a missing person’s report, but it’s assumed they drowned. Though no one’s found an opening in the ice. No cracks, either.”
Trevor examined his brother as they embraced the decision they made. His skin didn’t seem to be as irritated as theirs despite his prolonged exposure. He was always more warm-blooded than the rest of us. He reached for Johnny’s shoulder. “You’re more quiet than normal.”
His fingers barely landed before Johnny shrugged him away. “I’m just focused and ready to get this over with.”
“I know it’s hard being here, but we’re doing this for you.”
Johnny ignored the sympathy. Trevor rolled his shoulders as he watched him trudge ahead and lead the charge. He glanced betwixt his friends before following.
Approaching the edge of the frozen lake, the fury of the snow intensified and dramatically narrowed their field of view. Trevor retrieved ropes from his sack and the others did the same. They tied one end to the nearest sturdy trunk and the other around their waists. Flashlights were equipped next. They tested the light, aiming the beams into the dense miasma evaporating from the icy surface.
“Remember to stick together. If you get lost, follow the rope back to land. We have enough provisions if we are stuck or separated. If the rope is ripped, don’t move. Use the flashlight to signal your location. Clear?”
Upon agreement they breached the invisible field that seemed to separate the lake from the realm of the living. They carefully treaded across, finding it much easier to remain balanced than they had imagined. As they persevered, the squall worsened. The storm not only made it difficult to see, but to communicate as well.
“Let’s take a break,” stated Naomi, who was aware of Allie’s decreasing stamina. “I wouldn’t mind breaking out those hand warmers and snapping a few shots. This storm really makes my eyes pop.”
The group paused, using the time to raise their core temperatures. Naomi struggled to keep her phone steady as she searched for a filter to hide her red nose. Trevor sipped his green tea while watching Johnny, who remained aloof. He rejected the clam chowder and an extra blanket. It’s impossible he wasn’t freezing.
Allie prepared a heat lamp near the group and squatted low to ease the tension from her back. She scanned the barren wasteland as she practically melted her hands against the bulb. It was odd they had not discovered animal tracks. She had seen plenty of rabbits and foxes by their cabin last evening. She brushed the powdered snow by her boots to find her murky reflection. Gradually, her image became clearer as if a light was shining from below. She watched as her eyes turned black and a crooked smile distorted her face.
Her lips trembled. She sprung to her soles, but before she managed to explain what she was witnessing, her reflection dispelled and two palms slapped the ice. The hands pressed firmly, flattening its prints as a bundle of hair swirled around it.
All heads snapped toward her screaming. Naomi was the first by her side and cradled her into her chest. Allie breathlessly pointed to the lamp. Whatever was there was gone, but the impressions remaining were proof enough.
Panic settled upon their shoulders.
“I-I’m done. We’re going home,” Trevor blurted. He spun on his heels and reached for his belongings, but he couldn’t move. A tugging at his waist kept him stationary. His jaw lowered as he examined his rope. The material was being pulled taunt and then released. His fingers trembled more from just the cold as he gripped the lifeline. “Guys-guys-guys, someone is playing with my rope.”
“Me too,” whimpered Allie who hectically tried to unknot it.
“I-I agree with Trev, maybe that’s enough—” Naomi shrieked as the ice splintered and shattered beneath her. She plummeted into the depth of the ice bath, her head bobbing above and below while desperately clinging to the surface.
“Naomi!” Cried Allie diving to her aide.
“My leg—someone has my leg!”
“Trevor, Johnny, help me!”
Splashing and gurgling electrified the air.
Trevor attempted to rush over, but his leash grew short. He fought against the resistance. “John, I’m caught. Help Allie!”
As their stares met, a mystical force launched Johnny airborne. Suspended for a moment, he was yanked away and swallowed into the blizzard.
Urgency struck Trevor’s vocals as he screamed his name.
“Trevor, please,” pleaded Allie as her tears crystalized upon her cheeks. Hypothermic waters drenched her clothing.
The tension around his waist evaporated and he was freed to assist dragging Naomi onto safety. She coughed violently as Allie comforted her.
“We have to leave!”
“Johnny was taken. I need to find him.”
“It’s going to take each one of us next. We’ll come back for him.”
“I can’t abandon my brother, too!”
“Naomi will die if we can’t get her warm.”
Trevor frantically whipped his head around, but it was pointless. His vision was limited to about five feet and absolutely nothing passed the blizzard.
Reluctantly, he agreed and the three of them wrapped up their ropes while scurrying back to land. Trevor occasionally glanced over his shoulders, praying Johnny would be hustling after them. But he was more terrified of what else he may discover. Their lines were removed from the trees and they fled to the cabin.
Trevor plunged the key into the lock and barreled through the entrance. The girls stumbled in and collapsed onto the carpet like a wet bundle of towels. Between his gasps for air he declared, “I’m going back—I have to find him. Stay here, stay warm.”
“N-no! Something is out there,” fretted Naomi whose eyes were wired. “Whatever it is decided to hunt us instead.”
“I won’t leave Jonny!”
“You already did,” said a groggy voice from down the hall. They gawked as the slapping of feet echoed through the wooden enclosure. Johnny appeared, arms reaching for the ceiling and mid-yawn. When he finally imbibed his surroundings and found his friends whiter than their environment, his dazed expression disappeared. “What the hell happened?”
“Wh-what? Yo-you’re here? How? How’s that possible?”
Johnny flicked between the distraught countenances. “You know I haven’t been sleeping well, Trev. I didn’t fall asleep until like three a.m. I woke up to the girls’ voices, but when I got out here no one was home and our bags were gone.”
Trevor’s stomach climbed his esophagus. Tension built under his skin as he stuttered, “If you were here . . . then who was with us?”
All four pairs of eyes looked toward the ajar door. In the distance, a looming figure casted a shadow upon the naked trees. The dark silhouette was heightened by the pure, brilliant backdrop. Its shapeless body flowed into tendrils curling across the ground.
Several of the arms formed the shape of people. The smoky profiles had their elbows high and forearms ticking to and from in a synchronized motion. Front and center was Johnny, his red hair bright underneath a cap and the rope still around his waist.
The blizzard traveled down the hill, collecting the monsters within its proximity. It quickly traversed the distance between them, devouring everything in a frozen tundra. As the storm reached the yard of their cabin, a powerful gust slammed the door. The snow hammered the roof as they huddled in fear.
“Wh-who closed the door?” whispered Trevor, knowing all too well it wasn’t one of them.
As if in response, a teenage male manifested at the entrance.
Naomi’s mouth hung low before she muttered, “McMurray?”
The ghost kept it eyes shielded and chin low. It dematerialized just as quickly, leaving them with a single warning.
Save yourselves from the frostbite.
About the Creator
I'm an author near Philly. I want to create a new world for readers to lose themselves in.
I love anime, video games, and most Netflix series, but I probably haven't seen the movie you're talking about.