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Good Morning, Nathan.

A cabin in the woods

By Tony GalbierPublished 2 years ago 14 min read
Good Morning, Nathan.
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. I can’t remember the last time anyone was up in those woods, Nathan thought.

Todd called him the night before. He’d passed by on his way home from the bar. Nathan could practically smell the alcohol through his phone. Either Todd was drunk out of his mind or youths were out to stain those cabin floors with cheap beer and poor decisions. The generator hadn’t been used in years so the components were likely seized. Either way, he’d head up today to check it out. No doubt a mess, he sighed, always the caretaker.

“Good morning, Nathan, it’s a beautiful Tuesday, how are you feeling today?” A faint voice spoke from behind, her tenor both kind and comforting. Layered tones of air whispered as Nathan listened, their rhythmic cycling pulling his attention. He turned around but saw no one. “Ah, the silent treatment again, eh?” The voice was soft and velvety like the patter of rain on a timber framed roof.

He turned again, confused, lost in his own thoughts.

“Earth to Nathan.” A voice jabbed playfully. “The usual then, huh? Coffee, one cream, and a shot of hazelnut?”

The barista at Tom’s Corner Cafe winked at him. Tufts of hair poked from the sides of her emblemed cap; a long brown and blonde ponytail belying multiple trips to the salon, no doubt expensive on a barista’s wage.

“Sorry, Marisha,” Nathan snapped back to reality, stammering as his cheeks turned flush with embarrassment, “It’s been a morning,” he half heartedly chuckled. “To go, please.”

The young girl smiled warmly, her understanding eyes reflecting the cafe’s atmosphere. Brewed coffee sputtered in the background as busboys cleared tables and patrons shared quiet moments alone and together. Each settling into the energy of the cafe for one reason or another.

“You got it,” she beamed back, cashing him out. “Headed to the cabin today, Nathan?”

Nathan looked up in surprise, sure he heard her wrong. “What’s that, Marisha?”

Marisha looked up from counting change, still smiling, “The Cabin. You headed to the Cabin today? Anyways, you’re all set. Your coffee will be up in just a minute.” She looked past him to the next customer, “Next please.”

His feet carried him off to the side as he waited for his drink. A deep frown meeting the creases of his forehead. The hell was that about, he scratched his head in confusion. Strange beeping noises accompanied sounds of pressurized air blasting through intricate mechanical components as lattes and javas found their cups. He let the strange encounter slip from his mind, content watching the blur of motion around him; occupying the same little slice of time as everyone else. A glimpse of the whole world captured in a fleeting moment of coming and going. How poetic, he smiled to himself, I could watch this all day.

“To go order for Nathan!” A sing-song voice shouted above the line of waiting customers. Pushing to the front, he pulled his hands from his windbreaker pockets and grabbed the coffee. A jingle of bells bid him farewell as he wove through the waiting line and out the entrance door.


Pine Valley was a small town with one main road and two sets of traffic lights. Only small towns are named after geographic markers. It was cliche but expected. You get to know a town, though. The name becomes second nature and the roads familiar like the traced lines of a hand.

Addison wouldn’t be home until 3:00 and he had to drop by Todd’s house later that day with the shovels and some dirt. He cruised down the road in his beat up red Ford, arm hanging out the window, sipping his drink. Rust bit the edges of his truck like vines clawing a tree. The flavors of fall pulled at the edges of leaves and cast brown shadows on the wheated fields around town. He sucked in some calm letting the smokey vapors plume into his chest as he chewed the soggy end of a cigarette.

He couldn’t remember the reason why, the memory was a bit foggy. Hazey, almost, like smoke clinging to the air foils in his truck cab. Just one day the family stopped going, he reasoned. Fran and her husband left for Jersey and Kate headed upstate. Mom and Pop moved down south where the weather was kinder on their old bones. He and Addison decided to stay. Pine Valley was home; had always been home. He liked its quarks and its rustic charm.

He drove down the single lane road, the brush and woodline growing thicker as he went.

He slowed down near the unmarked road that led up to the cabin. Still in drive he kept his foot on the break, a breath of contemplation escaping his lungs. He let off and continued on past it, shaking his head. A sense of unease pulled within his chest. Todd’s first. Let me take care of Todd then I’ll go see what mess awaits me, he steeled his resolve. Something about the cabin just set him in a wrong way. Nathan tried to mull over the source of this trepidation, but the feeling continued to escape him. Am I being ridiculous? Yeah. I’m being ridiculous, he mentally slapped his cheeks. Get a grip, Nathan, you’re losing it man. He laughed to himself, turning the radio up.


Todd was Addison’s brother, meaning he and Todd were now family. The brother and sister were disturbingly similar. They had the same mannerisms, the same affinity for cussing, the same taste for bottom shelf liquor; the same everything up to the way they fashioned their hands on their hips in objection. At times Nathan wondered if he hadn’t actually married a female version of Todd. The thought made him sick.

Todd’s house was an old refurbished farm outback. Random patches of plywood stuck out to and fro with little effort put towards cosmetic appearances. An appropriate representation of the man living there. That was the nature of the Carlson family though. Practicality and functionality over anything else. If you could cut a corner to pinch a penny they’d have been rich already.

He parked his truck over a patch of dirt and stone, the self-made parking spot worn in from years of the same. The tailgate slammed open as Nathan vaulted into the bed of his truck. He kicked up some dust as a pair of shovels and several bags of top soil thumped to the ground.

“Hey fancy pants,” Todd smirked as he appeared around the side of Nathan’s truck. “You gonna help me out today or leave me high and dry like you always do?”

“You know I’d love to stay and help,” Nathan countered, “But I’m wearing my nice boots and my church jeans.” He winked at Todd who pretended to pout. “Anyways, we’ll head over when Addison gets out of work. You think the missus can wait a few hours before moving those ferns?”

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Todd said as he stared at the bags of soil. “Love’s all up in bunches over these. Might as well get a head start on them now. Maybe it’ll earn me some brownie points later.” He gave Nathan a hard pat on the shoulder and smiled coyly.

“Alright, bud, we’ll see you this evening. Save some work for me and maybe I’ll earn a few brownie points myself,” Nathan jested.

Todd frowned. “Nope, don’t want to hear any of that,” he affirmed loudly.

“At the very least I’ll bring the beer,” Nathan replied.

Todd laughed to himself. His eyes turned serious as he looked up at Nathan. “You headed up to the cabin today?”

“Yeah, I’ll probably pop up after this,” Nathan sighed. “Tell you what, let’s swap chores and see who has the easier time of it,” he said jokingly.

Todd didn’t react. “You should go up to the cabin today,” he replied flatly.

Nathan furrowed his brow. “Yeah,” he said, a bit confused, drawing out the words. He raised an eyebrow to Todd. “That’s what I said I was going to do, didn’t I?”

“Just make sure you do,” Todd said, his expression blank. There was a moment of silence as Nathan stared at Todd curiously. Without warning and as if nothing out of the ordinary had been said, the familiar Todd appeared with his signature toothy grin, “Anyways, none of that craft beer viking destroyer triple IPA crap. Beer. Regular old star spangled American beer. Got it?”

“Uh, yeah. Got it, I guess,” Nathan half muttered to himself, giving Todd a suspicious side eye. “I’ll see you this evening then, buddy.”

Nathan jingled his keys into the truck ignition, revving the engine before pulling out of the dusty makeshift driveway. He adjusted his rearview mirror, getting a final glimpse of Todd who stood in the driveway giving a goofy unintelligent wave.

What a strange day, he pondered to himself. Looking forward to it being NOT today. Here's hoping tomorrow comes fast.

Time must have passed quickly for Nathan as he, once again, pulled up to the overgrown dirt path leading up to the cabin. That was quick, he thought disappointedly. Alright, let’s get this over with. He drove his truck up the poorly laid path. Potholes and oversized rocks forcing a slow ascent. It was surprisingly dark along the path; the trees standing tall and imposing, their leaves choking out any evidence of sun and the thick woods snared with thorns and aggressive bush.

How appropriate, he thought, suddenly angry for no reason. When love is absent, abandonment suffocates life. He could feel an angry scowl curl like a scar across his face. His heart raced and his knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel. What am I even saying? Get to the cabin. Clean it. Go home. Enough of this drama.

He took a swig of the flask sitting on his console. The whiskey, anything but smooth, burned with righteous indignation.

He slowed his truck, noticing a large felled oak barring the path forward. Nice. Perfect. He forced the stick into park, exited the truck, and began his quiet walk up to the cabin. He shoved his hands back into his pockets as he stared at the ground in front of him.

The path was familiar to him. Young feet had run these hills many times before. Where there was once echoes of laughter and beams of sunlight was now only darkness and the occasional shriek of some hidden bird. He stood a ways off now, just outside the clearing. He could see the cabin, cast in the shadow of dying trees and forgotten trails.

A look of genuine surprise took his expression, for there was a hollow glow emanating from the cabin's front facing window.

It was hard to tell at this distance but there was no disguising the distinct flicker of burning flame. Shadows danced along the murky pane creating long jagged spears of darkness that reached long clawing fingers into the unkept yard. Leaves crunched in the veiled lands as critters bounced from hiding spot to hiding spot. Nathan felt a bead of sweat trace his temple. He stood for a moment, thinking about his next move.

A cold wave shuttered down the length of his spine and his knees felt weak as a silhouette coalesced in the shadows behind the pane. His forehead scrunched as he tried to process what was happening. The figure took a step closer to the window. Slowly, deliberately, the candle light glowing off of the figures frame, though still indistinguishable.

Nathan took a hesitant step forward, stepping out just into the tall grass beyond the edge of the woodline.

“Hey,” he shouted, with a sharp staccato. No movement from the figure. He felt his throat clinch up. “Who’s there, this is private property you know,” he shouted again, forcing the words out, though weaker this time. Nathan shifted his frame and swallowed the lump in his throat. Anything to break the deafening silence of this one sided conversation.

The figure suddenly slammed a hand on the window leaving a red printed hand mark across the intersection of panes. Nathan froze, his heart pounding like gunfire. He couldn’t see the figure's eyes but he could tell it was looking at him by the way it positioned its body and adjusted its stance. The figure turned and stepped back from the candle light, disappearing beyond the murky pane into the shadows of the cabin.

“Nathan,” a soft voice echoed. “We’re just going to run a few basic tests to see where you’re at today.” The voice reverberated in the back of Nathan’s mind as rhythmic humming and quiet tones faded with the voice into obscurity.

He was standing at the entrance of the cabin, the door looming before him like a gateway to a buried truth. Nathan wasn’t sure how he’d gotten here so quickly. The adrenaline. Yes, the adrenaline. Had to have been, he convinced himself.

The doorknob peered at him, its wooden handle discolored, its spindles rusted shut, and its mechanisms filled with spiders. Gripping it tightly he forced the rotation and then quietly stepped into the cabin, his leather boots a drum in the room of silence. It was dark inside. Old cans were stacked in open cupboards, décor was laced with cobwebs, and a layer of dust hugged just about every surface. He reached around in the darkness of the small house looking for a light switch as he regained his bearings. He traced his hand along the wall before a sharp pain recoiled his hand. Son of a… He felt the cooling sensation of a fresh cut followed by the trickle of warm blood as he clutched his hand. He grit his teeth in anger.

Tucking his hand in the fold of his armpit, he eventually found an open matchbox. Matches were strewn about on the table. His hands shaking he lit a nearby candle. The glow of the match giving its life to the wicker of the candle.

He wished he’d hadn’t, though. Smears of blood snaked along the floor in a trail marked by flipped chairs, torn wood, and emptied drawers. What happened here, he whispered to himself. Disbelief and denial begged him to leave and never look back. He couldn’t though. Something told him to stay. Something told him he couldn’t leave.

He looked around, holding his breath, afraid to disturb the scene. Afraid to disturb the very air which stood as its witness. He set the candle on a nearby window, the curled golden base of its holder an elegant outcast to the rest of the room. He was about to turn when he saw movement outside the window. The silhouette of a man standing a ways off, at the edge of the woodline.

The figure took a slow step forward before giving a shout. Nathan couldn’t understand what it was trying to say; decaying planks and cold shadows concealing any meaning he might draw from the shout.

Nathan stepped closer to the window, trying to get a better look. From out of nowhere another figure appeared like a cold mist bound like fog in the woodline.

The figure raised an iron bar over its head. The man in front was oblivious. No, he shuddered. No, no, no, he repeated over and over to himself in panic. They’re about to kill him. He had to do something.

Nathan, with nothing left to do and nothing left to lose, shouted and slammed his hand on the window in an attempt to warn the man. A bloody handprint stood on the window where he had pounded it.

Nathan took a step back from the window as the arc of iron completed its trajectory, a sickening thud reverberating through his body as he watched the man fall from the concussive blow. The figure stood over the man’s body casting a shadow darker than the woods it emerged from. It looked up at him from across the field. It knew he was there. It looked back down at the body before lifting the iron bar over its head, delivering one more blow to the man crumpled on the ground.

Nathan felt light headed. The room started to sway left and right, the luminescence of the candle swirling in blended shades. His legs felt unsteady. The candle light began to dim and the floor suddenly came speeding up to meet him.

A long drawn out noise consumed his mind before fading into quiet rhythmic beats, a gentle sloshing of air could be heard far off in the distance, like an ocean breeze or the folding of water over itself in some quiet mountain brook. Somewhere nice, somewhere safe, he thought to himself, yes, somewhere I’d like to visit one day, as everything around him converged to a single point of clouded consciousness.


The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. I can’t remember the last time anyone was up in those woods, Nathan thought.

“Good morning, Nathan, it’s a beautiful Wednesday, how are you feeling today?”


About the Creator

Tony Galbier

Spellbound, can't move, be back in a few.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (1)

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  • Bri Craig2 years ago

    I love the way you write! Especially the colorful and unique little details you include to describe things!

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