The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. This was just a catalyst of a portion of madness that screamed through me. A dark almost smoldering fog crystallized the air in the stark coldness to the warmth of my bed. I had awoken, disturbed from images that had embedded themselves with a squirming, monotonous repetition. Startling me from a deeply intense slumber.
Grasping the soft quilt I had been tangled in from twisting in turmoil all night. The soft lit glow of my room gave me little comfort as I stared out my window upon the bent and twisted cabin. Resting far on the ridge usually concealed by trees it was set aglow by this singular candle. The light seemed to stretch out into the invisible blanket of an otherworldly sight that had morphed my front garden into a shadowy, frozen, glistening mystery. I cast my gaze to see the time for but a moment, the cabin had disappeared back into the darkness. A dream, perhaps a nightmare more likely and unfortunately far more common. Squinting and scanning the cabin with a cautious eye. No light at all, definitely a dream I thought to myself. Still it was stitching me with uneasiness. I couldn't manage to pull my mind away from its curious meanderings.
Fumbling through my nightstand my fingers glanced over crystals I had for safe keeping. In some superstitious ways I carried the hopes that there was a sort of energy stored and admitted from them to keep me safe and recharged. A certain sense of peace flowed through me as I grabbed one squeezing it tightly. I continued to search for a journal I kept filled with recordings of my dreams. Finally, I had it in my hand and struggled to adjust my eyes as I penned every detail I could from one of the most vivid dreams I had ever experienced.
Scratching through pages, I tore into the journal of barely legible writings more likely rantings may best describe what I truly am writing. My hands tremble as I set down the book and steady the pen atop. I slowly, cautiously, step on the floor and walk towards the hallway. Dark and menacing the corridor felt as if it lacked any air to breathe. I struck the light switch quickly, with a glow of light I felt myself able to breathe again. Determined to turn on every light in my home I finally began to feel secure when the truth of every dark corner was revealed by the light.
How had I lacked so much control that a dream would envelope me in such a way to twist my views of reality. To make me shudder like a small child lacking the ability to decipher the differences between reality and dreams. Not knowing the difference, seeing it as a whole. All that I know has been profoundly challenged.
Gathering myself I carefully set a glass mug on my counter and begin to prepare my morning ritual of coffee and toast. Since it is only an hour before I would normally be rising from a peaceful night, by a very rude and screeching alarm. I have time for some morning news, the distraction proves beneficial. Half listening I tend to my toast as the aroma of the coffee weighs heavy in the kitchen. Waiting patiently for the spring of the toaster to pop, my finger had slipped to rest upon the blisteringly hot surface atop the toaster.
A wave of memories filled my mind of a portion of this haunting dream. Just as I had begun to feel at ease I was brought directly back to a moment in time. The horrors that occurred in that foreboding yet frail cabin had always been a cause of restless nights and icy chills. Now it appears to be alive with the advent of a lit candle calling out of the darkness for what or whom I'm not sure. I feel the need to move past this to leave it behind just pages in a journal, however I fear that this will linger for a bit longer.
Now with a bit of determination mixed with a touch of rebellion I am ready to force this to remain subdued. I need to push myself into becoming a formidable force, my attention is required elsewhere. Dressing for work while gathering my things, turning off most of the lights. My mind focused on leaving in a timely manner that usually accompanied itself with procrastination, but not today. Today, I was eager to leave the ominous presence of that cabin. Nightmares that held me captive most nights pales into comparison of what was happening in those woods, in that cabin.
Locking the front door, fumbling with the keys being certain it's secured I make my way to the car. One deep breath, intentionally looking at only what is essential, ground, handle, key. I shut the door with a slam, start the engine, flick on my radio and pull away quickly but with intense control. My fingers curled tightly grasping the worn steering wheel, my home left in the rearview mirror. I glanced one last time and my eyes were drawn directly to the woods that harbor that cabin. As fleeting as it was I could definitely see that there was no candle at least that's what I told myself.
"Well, we are off to a great start.", talking to myself this morning seems the only way to not feel so alone. Putting me at ease for a moment, self mockery tends to do that for me. "Just one part of an extremely trying day.", minimizing it should help, I think. "Ok, you got this!", "Just brush it off, just a dream." Yup, that should do it, a bit of positive denial. Before I knew it I had busied my mind so much that I managed to arrive at work without really remembering driving there at all.
Hurriedly reaching and pulling I grab all my belongings and balance them precariously in my arms strewn up to my shoulder with my phone, jacket, books and bits of papers that should have been shoved into my backpack if it were not for the narrow escape this morning's frenzy provided me. Longing to get inside, pulling, then pushing. Whichever way it goes to open always leads me in a daily dance with this door. Dragging and scratching the door is in need of a swift kick to the bottom left corner accompanied with a swift bang on the thick metal handle of the heavy glass door that was just beginning to warm as the sun was melting away the dew that had settled along the grass and metal surfaces alike.
Alas, I'm inside and run to the back to turn off the alarm, turning towards the chair in the office that still has not been tagged into inventory seems a convenient place to unload my arms. With one last motion I flick all the lights on in one orderly row of black switches. A flicker, then a constant hum that disappears into the background after a few moments. "The lights are on!" still talking to myself may be childish but, there is strength in numbers, my mother always said. So in these moments two of me isn't a bad idea. Peering through the store I make sure everything is just where I had left it. Now with some sense of bravery, weaving in and out of the antiques and junk I have collected to sell. Flipping the sun stained open sign over I can distract myself with the details of my day.
Such an eerie feeling in here, its like that on most days. There is a chill in the air today not unusual for a day in March. Always a bit gray with a slow burn before the warmth of the day can be felt. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement, an old rocking chair was creaking back and forth. Probably just something fell over and brushed against it. So many things in here are just scattered about. I make my way through the obstacles to where the rocking chair was. I had to walk by the wall where all the antique mirrors were hung. There she was an older woman sitting in the chair I saw her reflection as I was maneuvering around an old table lamp, I looked to see her smiling back at me. So I said, "Hi, you must have snuck in on me while I was putting my things away." "How can I help you?" Finally reaching the chair to greet my guest. Empty, the rocking chair still creaking back and forth with no one in it. My heart beat grew quicker and I felt warm and flushed as I quickly ran straight out the front door. No one is in the store I was looking feverishly through all the windows the chair stopped rocking and nothing was reflecting in the mirrors. "Okay, so now I'm day-nightmaring if that is even a thing." Again speaking out loud, yup to myself. Is my imagination just getting to me? I can't figure out why I am having these for lack of a better word "visions". Something is going on here, but what. I have more questions than ever before and I am utterly terrified. What can I do, what do people do in this situation? Calling ghost hunting folks seems so cliche for an antique store. No and that wouldn't explain the candle in the window of that cabin. Alright just breathe lets to do some debunking. Yes, that's what we are going to do I know safety in numbers though.
Obviously this isn't going to leave your mind no matter how much you metaphorically put it in a box and put it in a closet, shut the door and try to forget. So here we go, let's start here and now so I can convince myself it's safe to go back inside before someone notices me out here. Despite how quiet it's been, not a car, not even a bird is chirping. So strange here today so eerie. "Okay, number one, it's just a sweet old lady." " She smiled at you, wearing a high collared Victorian style dress, but she seemed very pleasant." " Nope, stop freaking yourself out!" " Maybe it was just some dust on the mirror." we really need to stop talking to ourselves out loud like this, we are going to be fine. Indoor in my head voices only, calm down.
Mustering up some form of courage I push then pull the door to go back inside. Always a dance with that door. Whatever it is, it's gone now. Maybe I just need some rest. I hadn't been sleeping well and last night was the pinnacle of not sleeping. I think today should be an early day, I've calmed my mind enough to justify staying at least till my few errands were done. Leaning over the old chair holding my things I grab my books so I can do a little inventory before calling it a day, even though the idea of going back home is just as unnerving. Clearing off the rest of my belongings this seems as a good a place as any to start my inventory I have so many new items I had recently acquired in an estate sale. This is such a unique chair, looks Italian perhaps late 1800's. The gold strands embroidered into delicate leaves shimmer as if they were brand new, laid against the dark backdrop of the worn wood. Perhaps, my elderly guest and figment of my imagination belonged to this chair and was just test driving another.
I try not to put much stock into the idea of ghosts and hauntings especially since the work I'm in predisposes me to a variety of such hauntings. Things go missing at times and objects turn up in the strangest of places. I just consider that momentary lapses, or brain fog. It gets me through the day simply willing the idea away. Yes, it is to put it in a box and put it away, thing I do. I feel myself losing my composure feeling frantic and on edge. Not at all a fifty year old antique dealer more like a scared child wanting to hide under the bed except the boogie man who lives there. I need to get it together. I'm going to lock up and just head home. I am being absolutely ridiculous. I gathered up just my backpack phone and keys. The books can wait until tomorrow, it's another day anyways. Locking up not even looking back, in the mindset of a well deserved mini vacation.
Windows down, radio on, let's go home to relax. Not thinking about anything, just singing out loud to the radio with my hands drumming the wheel. It's going to be a great three day weekend. I am looking forward to this. Straight down Main Street, so quiet still no one is out. It is still quite early but even The Coffee Shoppe is usually bustling. That's weird, the shop is closed, leaning trying to glimpse out of the corner of my eye not to distract my driving too much, the sign isn't even hanging in the window. "Woah!" "When did this light get here?" A traffic light on Main Street, I really must have been preoccupied lately. I guess I really do need this time off.
Continuing towards my home the road seems bumpy and broken, potholes everywhere. I find myself swerving side to side. It had been an unusually rough winter, so the roads tend to pay the price. Going a little slower, wondering if I just hadn't noticed the potholes. Always being in such a rush mostly due to my innate ability to procrastinate just long enough to be fashionably late almost everywhere at any time.
A sinking feeling just came over me. I hadn't grabbed my phone. I set it down to lock the door of the store in my hurry to recover my sanity. It's sitting on the front step. I need to go back. Alright, it's fine I’m sure it's there. It’s been a quiet day and it will give me another chance to go through town and see what has changed. Especially The Coffee Shoppe, it was my favorite even though I haven't been there in a couple weeks.
Navigating back I noticed the light that took me by surprise. They must have put that up during the night not to disrupt traffic. Even though there was no traffic, maybe they are expecting a rush of tourists this year. Typically Meadowville is a quaint little town nestled in the Northeastern part of Pennsylvania. Scenic and a little eclectic, our small town feels more like an extended family. Sure there are the relatives you protect, hide away, and sometimes wish the absolute best for even when it seems impossible. We watch over each other, it's just what we do. That's why not noticing the changes in my town came as a shock to me. How I have been so distracted not to pay attention.
Slowly I cruised down Main Street, things were different but still the same. Yes, The Coffee Shoppe was gone and in its place a yoga studio. How odd, but the general store was still there. I remember the sign being bright blue Mazel’s I guess had an upgrade. My favorite deli, there is where you can find the best potato salad you can imagine. Just a simple potato, egg, and mayo it's perfect. My store lay just along the other side of Main on a small road called Millie Lane. It was named after a woman of the town who had saved the lives of many people with her kindness and generosity. She took in children who had gone through a rough patch as we called it. A boarding home or halfway house however you’d like. My store connects to that old house which has since transformed into our local library. Delio’s Antiquities, named after my grandfather. Here it is my cozy small addition where everything here has been named after someone or another. Except Main Street, a rather droll unimaginative street name, more just descriptive by nature. At any rate I think I should take a stroll down the heart of our town and make my presence known like an absent cousin who had been gone too long and was just out of touch but still family and welcomed with open arms.
Almost forgetting my purpose, for this nostalgia was calming and familiar even with the changes. I picked up my pace and got to my front door to see my phone staring up at me, with almost a pissed off facade. Safe and sound in my back pocket I guess my vacation can now officially continue. "Hmm", I noticed my open sign was not flipped to closed, I must have forgotten in my hurried rush. It looks a lot less sun beaten from this side of the door. I should flip it over before I go, and I don't want to confuse any new customers. My key isn't turning the lock. "Oh, this door if it isn't one thing it's another." A swift kick wont do it this time I must have jammed it somehow or it finally just gave up, it is as old as the antiques inside after all. I guess the lights off will have to be the clue for everyone that we are closed and a bothersome little detail I will attend to upon my return.
A few friendly hellos from some strangers in town I guess maybe from the bigger towns looking for some peace. Which we have in spades, I was hoping to see some friends to maybe discuss what's been happening. See if anyone else has noticed anything odd. Since the meeting place we all gravitated too is a yoga studio now it leaves me wondering where to find everyone. What a difference a couple weeks makes, I'm sure I’ll find out where. I am a local after all.
Time to head home, just the thought of getting some rest brings me back to my senses already. I could almost giggle at how foolish I’ve been. A relaxed ride home is something I am now looking forward to. “Damn!” These potholes are out of control. I’d be surprised if I didn’t have a flat after that one. So much for relaxing, maybe I will go slower. I'm in no hurry. Taking my time has allowed dusk to creep up on me. The sun was already setting and those holes were harder to see. I have been so focused on those holes I hardly noticed where I was. Where was I? Did I take a turn I wasn't supposed to? No, that can’t be I can make this trip with my eyes closed. Well, practically anyway.
I've been driving this road for at least an extra half hour, the stress is tightening my chest and it's getting hard to breathe. Okay I’m pulling over. Taking my phone out of my pocket to see if the GPS can tell me where I am. “What is going on!” The magic box is telling me home is still 8 miles away. I really hope it's right, all the effort it took to calm my nerves have just gone right out the window. Continuing up the darkened and hobbled road every bump hitting harder because I have stopped caring about those holes and now just want to be home no matter the damage. This is taking me on a route I hadn't taken before a backroad to my own home I was clueless about. “Just hurry, just hurry!” Finally my porch light I can see it glowing from the distance. A wave of calmness, a slight wave and a short lived one as well.
This is not my house, I can see that clearly as I approach. I must have put the address wrong. The closer I get the more I realize I don't want to be here. It is exactly where I do not want to be! “No, no, no, oh God it's that damned cabin from my nightmares!” If only I were dreaming right now. The horrors I had seen, I know what is coming if I set foot inside there. I am now in a full blown panic! The road is so narrow I can’t turn around, I’ll just have to reverse out of here. This is a good time to not suck at backing up. I am desperately trying to back up and watch for what I know is in front of me. The rocks are banging and clicking against the car as I try to escape. I hear all the branches and twigs I am brushing into while scraping the paint off the car doors. I don't even care, I need to get out of here! Now!
This darkness is practically blinding on this ridge in the woods. Not one beam of light other than my headlights and the candle in the window of that twisted cabin. I need to breathe, stop panicking. You can do this just to stay calm and you can make it out of here. “What the hell is that?!” It slanked across the road like a mountain lion I think. Windows up, but now I really can't see at all the windows are fogging up. Ok windows down I’ll take my chances with the mountain lion as opposed to that cabin. “How! How!” tears are streaming down my face now I have no idea how to escape my engine has died. I have managed to find myself right in front of this cabin. No car, lions in the woods and that damned cabin. The glow of the candle pulling me in like some sort of magnetic force. “Where can I go? The car is not starting. There are lions in the woods. What should I do?
I have to do this. I need to face my fears, it's just a cabin in the woods. Nightmares aren't real. Nightmares aren't real Nightmares aren't real! If I say this enough maybe I can believe it. I have no choice. I'll be dinner for the wildlife if I stay in this car. Obviously someone is home, it's someone's home. A recluse for sure, they don't want me here anymore than I want to be here. It's ok, it's ok I’m ok really it's not as bad as you think. Talking to myself right now seems the only way to get through this. So here we go, remember strength in numbers. We need to get in there and just ask to wait till you can get a tow. My whole body is shaking, I know better than to do this. Every bit of me knows I shouldn't be doing this.
The sun is bright this morning and the dew is thick, sparkling and dancing. Fresh and new, we can all start fresh again. The words Millie would say to all the lost people in need of her help. Yes, she had a halfway house in town. Her home however was nestled on a close by ridge in the forest. Millie began her great acts of kindness from a single senseless act of violence. She leaves a candle lit in her front window so anyone who is lost can find their way home. Her daughter never found her way home but she lit it every night for her entire life. Waiting for the moment her daughter walked through that door again. A humble little cabin filled with warmth and love, but not much else. Warm blankets, a small hearth to warm next to on cold nights. Dried flowers and herbs strewn from wall to wall. As the warmth of the fire kissed their dry leaves a swarth of beautiful fragrance filled her modest home.
There was one chair she had kept next to the fire, it was a wooden chair with gold fabric. She would do her sewing and mending by the light of the fire. There was an old tin she had filled with bits of fabric, thread, needles and pins haphazardly pushed into a soft round red ball looking thing that resembled a tomato connected by green string to a strawberry on top. Her daughter would sit at her feet investigating that tin as if it were a treasure to find over and over again. As odd little buttons slid around the bottom rattling as she delicately moved the needles aside to find something she treasured most of all. A small silver thimble dimpled at the top with small amounts of rust in its creases. She would at times fall asleep with it on her finger, her head resting on her mothers shoe. While she stayed perfectly still so her precious child could dream of beautiful wonderful things that her life would be. Every morning she would tell her mom of all the wonderful places she'd go in her dreams.
The townsfolk back then weren't as family-like as they are now. They did look after their own but only their own. If you were an outsider it wasn't really a welcoming place. One night her daughter had gone missing and Millie searched tirelessly for days, weeks, months then years. She never stopped and eventually the town got used to Millie and began to allow her some common hospitalities. It was obvious she wasn’t going anywhere because she was heartbroken and lost. There were whispers as to what happened to that precious child but no one really knows for sure. The stories are horrifying, disgusting and all too real of scenarios for Millie to bare. She would tell her daughter there is strength in numbers that's why we are safe in these woods together. Sometimes she would get scared at the light from a small home on a hill in a clearing. Her imagination would run away with her and she would talk to herself just to keep calm.
It is said that on occasion, time can slip a bit. Just enough to change small things. Not enough to disrupt but just enough to right a few wrongs and set the world straight again. Sometimes people go missing, but sometimes they just go home.
About the Creator
"Everyone is different and that is what makes everyone special." However, change through curiosity is the true mark of character. Let's explore all that is to be uncovered. Join me to look at life through as many lenses as possible.