We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin. The drive hadn’t been terrible, apart from my growing worry that our tired BMW wouldn’t be able to power through the declining weather. I hadn’t been on a vacation in years and couldn’t wait to unwind — I knew Sally and Ember had been excited, too. I opened my car door to a rush of swirling chill and snowy confetti bursting through with the cold, crisp air that stung my nostrils as I deeply inhaled. I stood up and dramatically stretched my arms out wide with another loud inhale, my body rejuvenated from the chilled nectar of unbothered mountain air.
“Whaddaya think, girls? Isn’t this just the best?” A wide and uncharacteristic grin bloomed across my face. It had been so long since I felt I could smile. I hated translating and transcribing all the stolen intelligence, even if it was for national security. Most days, I wished I had never learned Russian; then I wouldn’t have to withhold knowledge of the impending doom they intended to unleash from everyone I knew. I could live in relative peace. Before Sally wrangled Ember out of the car, my smile began to fade slightly as I unintentionally dove back into the cold abyss, but I managed to perk back up as their heads popped up from the rear car door.
“Dad! Dad! This snow is amazing!” Ember yelled, not even looking at me, her head pointed in the sky while she twirled around.
“Yeah, Dad, this snow sure is crazy,” Sally said, looking at me, head half-cocked. Her piercing, blue eyes plunged into my soul, conveying a look that said, “Liam, that drive was a little more intense than we expected”.
I looked back at her with a gentle smile and a wink. “We made it here safe and sound so that’s what matters. Y’all go on in and see how the cabin looks. I will grab the bags,” I said, crossing over to the other side of the car and landing a kiss on Sally’s cheek. I whispered in her ear, “I know that was a bit sketchy, but we made it here. Let’s relax, my love — I brought the rum.” My smirk left no trace of mischief aside.
“Oh, did you? I thought we had forgotten it! I checked every bag!” A flushed relief and happiness blanketed her face. “I was worried we couldn’t have our adult cider this time. I remember a few Christmases ago that was so much fun. Thank you, honey.”
Her smile set my soul alight. I hugged her tightly and said, “Let's get this stuff inside. It's getting pretty damn cold out here!”
The morning air always seemed to restore me. I rocked back and forth on the porch, looking out into the endless white and scattered tree trunks, enjoying the silence. The snowfall must have become severe through the night, because the BMW was completely covered in snow, along with the road we drove in on. It wasn’t snowing anymore though. I thought the weather report called for light snowfall all week – nothing like this. But my thoughts couldn’t contend with the purest form of stillness before me. Quiet conquered my mind, and I couldn’t focus on anything other than the warmth of coffee in my hand, the icy fingers of morning air dragging along the parts of my skin exposed from my clothing, and the multiplying tree trunks in front of me as the early gray began to lift.
I knew I was having a good time, but I was having trouble remembering the second day of the trip — or was this the fourth day? Maybe I was having a bit too much adult cider. My thought was broken by the noise of twigs snapping. My eyes shot up and scanned the bars of trunks and packed snow. Ah, there it is, a deer. Its long, elegant legs gingerly stepped through the hidden tangle of branches and brush under the white sheet. Hoping not to spook it or wake up the girls, I gently stood and grabbed the doorknob to get the disposable camera from the small dining table. I made it inside without a sound, thank goodness — it was much too early for the girls to be up. Tiptoeing my way back to the porch, I eased the door shut and resumed my position in front of the chair, searching for the deer. I guessed it had moved on, but I was determined to get it if it came back, so I kept the camera on me just in case.
I wondered what Henry was translating today – probably more miserable talk about Cuba housing Russian ordnance again. I shook my head and told myself I couldn’t keep thinking about this – I was on vacation. Then I heard something I wasn’t expecting at all: distant voices traveling on the wind. They were faint, but it still didn’t make sense. This cabin was miles away from any other town or even another cabin, for that matter. I stood up and walked out towards the car. The ankle-deep snow singed my lower legs and feet through my pajamas and house shoes with a biting cold. The voices were brief, but I swore I heard them. The omnipresent layer of snow on dense forest made it all look the same while I searched for to whom this voice belonged. Finally, my eyes locked onto a familiar beast – the deer.
It was standing straight up, its eyes locked in an alert, unblinking gaze. It made a slight side-step while bobbing its head up and down, but its movement was rigid and almost unnatural. As I raised the camera to my face, I also noticed one of the deer’s eyes had an odd sheen to it – almost translucent compared to its jet black counterpart. I pressed the button and heard the click, but jumped from a voice behind me.
“Liam, what on earth are you doing out there?”
I turned to see Sally bundled in a thick robe, shivering slightly, face pink from the cold.
“I… uhh…”, I looked back to where the deer was. It was gone, as I expected. “I saw a deer, honey. I was trying to get a picture”, I said, trudging back towards her.
“Well, did you at least get the picture?” She asked as I made it to the stairs.
“Honestly, I don't know. Right as I clicked the button, someone had to call out to me. There’s a good chance we got a picture of some rather unexotic landscape,” I said to her, the thick snowfall hitting my face. “Did it just start snowing?” I asked with a concerned look on my face.
“No, it's been snowing the whole time since I’ve been out here, and your hair is full of it. Are you okay? Come sit down, honey.”
The sweet scent of freshly baked peach pie rolled through the home on the back of my daughter’s laughter. I hadn’t heard her laugh for some time now — I guess my constant consumption of apocalyptic correspondence desensitized me to joy. Sally set the table and placed the pie down while Ember ran and jumped around the table, two Barbies in hand.
“Mom, could they eat, too?” Ember said, gesturing to her small, plastic companions, Melanie and Stephanie. She thrust them into the air in front of Sally and wiggled them, trying to grab her attention from the table.
“Yes, sweetie, but only after you’ve had yours. Okay?” Sally said, cutting her eyes down in a mischievous squint, which made Ember smile.
“Okay, that works for me!” Ember shouted over her shoulder as she skipped into the living room, her curly blonde hair and slightly oversized princess dress flowing with every jump.
“Hey, now, lookout!” I scooted out of the way from the frilly torrent that was my daughter barreling into the living room. “You need any help, babe? Lemme get some drinks for everyone.” I said, grabbing my wife’s shoulders as I passed and kissing her on the cheek.
“Why, thank you, handsome man. I will have some of that cider, if you don’t mind,” she said with a peeking smirk.
“Me, too! Me, too!” I heard roaring from the living room amidst the thumping of feet prancing around the coffee table. The metal legs holding the surface of the table caused a rattling on every thud. She finally leaped onto the green quilt-covered couch with a dramatic flair.
“Excellent technique, honey!” I yelled from the kitchen, filling the final glass with what seemed like an unending jug of cider. A smile draped across my face as I eagerly attempted to grab all three cups at once, but there was something outside — another deer? Or was it the same one? I leaned towards the glass over the sink. The deer’s left eye was definitely different this time. There was no black – only oscillating, gray rings. It looked like a… camera lens. I looked down to the cider jug I just poured. It was full. I dropped the glasses of cider, which shattered on the wooden floor. I searched the kitchen for any other signs of strange and abnormal coincidences. I threw boxes of mashed potatoes and cereal, bread and eggs, even the microwave and toaster across the room, pleading to find any sign that something else was off.
Wait… we hadn’t even bought all this food.
There were apples, bananas, and pears in a bowl and a thawed chicken in the fridge — were they here when I got here? We didn’t buy this. Behind a small crack in the wall next to the fruit bowl, I saw a glint of light shine. I leaned so the light still penetrated, revealing a lens.
They were watching me.
A subtle vibration broke the silence followed by a click. My family hadn’t said a word this entire time, but after the click, I heard Sally say, “ Come sit down, honey.”
They were in on it, too. They finally came for me. I knew too much.
My daughter cried. My wife glared. My vision went dark.
The morning light broke through the blinds of my window, lifting me awake in its gentle embrace. Sally seemed to have already been up because I could smell the dark roast coffee and breakfast on the stove, filtering through the cracks. I put on some comfy clothes and made my way down the cute winter adorned hallway. I saw my wife, Sally, at the oven in an oversized flannel and seemingly nothing else, scooping bacon onto a plate.
“Good morning, sleepyhead! Did you get enough sleep last night? You knocked out so fast!” Her face coated in unfiltered, early morning beauty.
“Yeah, I did. I was going to see what Ember wanted to do today. I’m feeling up to anything – sledding, snow angels… hell, even a snowball fight!”
“... Who is Ember?” Sally’s face twisted into a concerned frown with traces of jealousy and frustration.
“You know, Ember… our daughter?” I barely managed to say back to her, almost choking.
“Liam, we’ve never had a daughter. What are you even saying right now?” the final strips of bacon popped wildly on the pan as she turned to face me.
“Sally, we HAVE a daughter! Her name is Ember, and she is 6-years-old. What do you mean you don’t know who she is?” my frustration began to build. “Where is…”
“Liam, we DON'T have a daughter! You are being crazy right now! Please, come sit d…”
“No! Don’t you do it again.”
I remembered. I did have a daughter, I was being watched, and I would figure this out.
The vibration from before softly reverberated through the room. I grabbed one side of the table and threw it up on its side towards Sally. She wasn't quick enough to dodge it, and in the short window I created for myself, I dashed for the door, grabbed my shoes, and rushed out.
“Liam, what are you doing?!” She barely managed to get out as the table caught her in the chest, knocking her down. As I broke the threshold of the house, I heard the faint voices on the wind again say, “Oracle has sight, initiate slumber for further testing.”
I ran, not knowing who Oracle was or what it meant when it said that it ‘had sight’-- and I didn’t care. They took my daughter. I dug into my back pocket for my wallet and pulled out the family photo I always kept in the back left fold.
I stopped. Fear and doubt gripped every inch of my body. It was a photo of only Sally and me – my daughter wasn’t there. My daughter… what was her name… did I even have one? I fell to my knees with tear-filled eyes, gripping the photo with knuckles as white as the snow around me. Suddenly, I heard the crashing of hooves. Eleven deer surrounded and circled me, all bearing the same translucent-lens-filled left eye. They opened their mouths, and a speaker extended out from all of them, “Come sit down, honey.”
Do I even have a family? My vision faded.
Being in the woods alone was something profound and comforting. I was surrounded by nothing, but was not alone. Despite this dense snowstorm, the animals and trees greeted me in the rare moments of the torrent’s respite, peeking through my window or walking by the cabin. It had been years since I had been able to come all the way up to the mountains, and it was such a welcome change of pace from Cuba’s humidity. I could finally rock on this front porch, coddled in warm clothes from the playfully biting cold. Though, the icy stone hallways of the eastern facility reminded me of the cold. Being at such depths, it was constantly chilly. I wondered if Horace remembered the door codes this week, or if even I did. I chuckled and began to try and remember. 43..76..22..14..61.. and.. 55. I bet he didn’t remember the codes or even which missile he had to monitor today. There were only fourteen, so he surely couldn’t be that inept.
A brutal, searing pain rocked my entire body. Come sit down, honey. I dropped to the floor of the porch, spilling my coffee all over my shoes and on the floor in front of me. My vision faded.
“We have it, sir. He did it. Or at least we think he did,” Agent Drampner said sternly, watching the monitor closely. “We had to zap him before he had another episode.”
“I understand, Drampner, please make the necessary arrangements for cross referencing this data with our received correspondence,” the prominent Director Valorn grumbled while tugging on a half-chewed cigar. “If this information checks out, we have a new weapon against the Soviets. The president will need to know if Cuba is involved immediately. Get moving.”
“Yes, sir. Um… sir, what do you want me to tell them about subject L14M?”
“Let him rest until the data is confirmed. If it is, then throw him into another setting cube and let that ESP schizophrenia memory generation do the trick,” the Director stood tall as if basking in his own accomplishment. “My God, if this works, we will save everyone.”
“Prepare the next one for the Winter Vacation Sequence. Maybe L4R4 will have the same luck.”
We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin…
About the Creator
I am a new aspiring writer with much to learn. I am excited to share my worlds with you and more so the receiving knowledge and feedback from this lovely community. Thank you to all who read, Enjoy!