The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. It sat flickering into the dark, deserted and chaotic crowd of bitter trees. The intermittent rustle of the low breeze through the branches were inaudible inside the damp and inhospitable shack. It’s walls oozed neglect and made the air heavy with a thick earthy stench.
Cooper sat on the broken wooden chair with his head in his hands, palms clasped tightly over his ears repeatedly whispering “no more”, forcefully to himself. Occasionally he looked up from the ground and tried to see around the room. His eyes had adjusted to the gloom and there was just enough light being flicked around the walls by the busy candle he could make out the uncomfortable place he had chosen to come to.
Seven days before he had spent his first night in his new apartment. At the time he couldn’t believe how lucky he had been to find it. Three massive bedrooms, a spacious and light living space with an adjoining kitchen area. It overlooked the park and was the perfect modern home for a young executive. He especially liked that he only paid the rent on one bedroom which had sealed an already pretty watertight deal. He had also been pleasantly surprised when he found there was underground parking with a lift straight down from his apartment.
The first night had been largely uneventful, Cooper had taken his time choosing a bedroom, the apartment was furnished but not entirely to his taste. Of the three choices the room he chose was the least fussy, the least decorated. He felt he could put his own stamp on it so brought his clothes into the room and threw them into the corner, planning to fill the wardrobe in the morning, in doing this Cooper realised he had left his bedding in the back seat of his car. He climbed into the lift and dragged the metal gate across. It closed with a clunk and rattled into life as he pressed the B button.
The lift slowly whirred as the chains rotated round and delivered him into the basement. Cooper pulled the gate open. He stepped into the parking garage and the blue tinted electric lights popped and fizzed into life. The parking garage echoed, every step came back from the walls bouncing off the few cars parked there with a tinny ring. He strode over to his car and unlocked the doors with a click. The sheets and pillows were as he remembered, he bundled them under his arm locked up his car and turned back towards the lift. He was halfway across the garage when in between his steps he was sure he heard someone whisper in his ear with a harsh rasping voice. He stopped and span on the spot dropping his bedding on the dusty floor. He was expecting to see someone behind him but when he turned there was nobody there. Cooper hurriedly scooped up the mangled mess and darted to the lift smashing the door across behind himself and fumbling to press the button. The lift shuddered back into life and dragged him back to the security of his apartment.
Cooper sat shaken early into the morning, unnerved by his experience. He sat watching the television so there was noise surrounding him. Eventually he realised he was too tired to continue, he lay on the couch and pulled the sheets over his head.
The second day was a Sunday and the peace inside the apartment contrasted hugely with the excitement and buzz in the park below. Cooper had managed to put the previous evenings unpleasantness to the back of his mind and decided that he would reward himself with a walk around the park if he managed to unpack his belongings. After an unsatisfactory breakfast with spectacularly ordinary coffee he went to his room and began unpacking. He opened the window to let some fresh air to dispel the slightly dusty atmosphere and used the hubbub of the park activities as a motivator to get his tasks done.
The wardrobe was large and made his small collection of suits and shirts look pretty disappointing but he took the time to arrange them in colours non the less. As he placed a very ordinary white shirt on one of the metal hangers and leant forward to place it on the rail he noticed a tingling on the back of his neck, the hairs began to prickle and his unease grew. He looked round and saw nothing but the I’ll feeling continued to grow.
“Too loud, it’s way too loud.”
The voice screeched in his ears. He jumped and dropped the shirt, hanger and all, clattering to the floor. He turned his head in the direction it came from and saw nothing but the empty bedroom. Stepping over the crumpled heap he walked out into the living area and flashes his eyes around. There was nothing he could be surprised about, it was the empty room he had been sat in earlier, there was nobody there. But he was certain he had heard something. A voice. But a different one, not like the one he had heard the previous evening. This one was clearly female, not as scratching and harsh as the one he had heard in the garage. He sat for a moment on the sofa and caught his breath. The whole apartment was calm and silent, the atmosphere was as neutral as could be, no I’ll feeling, no supernatural beings, just a very light apartment with some nondescript mid range furniture in it. He shook his head as if to shake the thoughts out before returning to the bedroom and collecting up the shirt and putting it into the wardrobe.
It didn’t take long to finish putting all of his clothes away, and this was done with little more fuss and certainly no further voices, he was as good as his word and he spent his afternoon walking around the park and enjoying surprising mid autumn sunshine. He returned home with a large package of groceries and set about preparing himself a sandwich. As he finished tidying the packages away Cooper sensed a sudden coldness, he was unsurprised when the voice hissed in his ear, it was the malevolent scratch from the garage repeating its message from the previous day. “You called on me.” He shut his eyes tight and without moving yelled as loud as he could to drown the noise out. When he thought he felt the noise had gone he turned to see the empty room yet again. He picked up his sandwich and moved to the sofa and sat down. Almost as soon as he sat down he heard another voice, more natural, not unlike the second voice, but this was clearly male. “I’m here too and I was here first.” There was a sense of irritation in the voice but no menace, and Cooper this time chose not to react and to continue with his sandwich. Each bite came with the thought the next would be interrupted but he was pleasantly surprised when he finished and was able to make himself a cup of coffee without disturbance. This peace continued into the evening and by the time he had begun preparing for bed Cooper was not thinking about the voices at all.
He prepared his suit for work by draping over the back of a chair and then placed his shoes underneath before taking his clothes off and climbing into bed. He lay in the dark, suddenly the silence reminded him of the voices. He began to anticipate and any sound seemed to forewarn that the voices were returning. His eyes were heavy but he didn’t trust the silence, they dropped, he fought, his mind wandered then he was was wide awake. It was Monday morning and he needed to get to work.
Monday passed uneventfully and Cooper returned home beginning to put the events of the previous few days behind him. He ate, watched television and then made his way to the bathroom.
“You called on me.”
Cooper stopped dead.
“You called on me.” The voice hissed into his ears.
“Leave me alone!” Cooper shouted in frustration. “Get out of my apartment.”
“Stop it you’re much too loud. You’re not meant to be here!”
It was the female voice.
“You called on me.” Came the rasp again.
“Get out, get out of here.” Cooper screamed, tears running down his face.
“It wasn’t meant to be you. You spoiled things. You’re wrong.” Came the man’s voice.
“You called on me. You called on me!”
Cooper ran to the bedroom and slammed the door behind himself before diving onto the bed and covering himself in the duvet. His bedroom door began shuddering as if people were hammering it angrily with their fists. He wrapped the duvet tighter and tighter as he sobbed desperate guttural sobs. He lay afraid to move, hoping it would all just disappear and leave him in peace.
That night he managed a fitful sleep, he drifted in and out, he couldn’t decide what was real, what was a dream, there were sounds and voices, in some moments there were contorted faces he didn’t recognise. Whatever he saw and heard added to the monstrous grey cloud of fatigue, fear and confusion that was filling his head. When his alarm screamed him awake the prospect of the safety of the office hurried him out of the apartment.
Tuesday was hard for Cooper, he was so tired he could barely focus, each creak of a door or a seat made him jump and his disheveled appearance was getting additional glances from his colleagues. He struggled to make it through the day but it poured through his fingers and left him staring at the clock telling him it was time to head back to the apartment. He climbed into his car and sat staring at the steering wheel. Sleeping in his car was an option, but where he could do it without being moved on by the police, and he needed clean clothes for tomorrow. He drove for as long as he could before his energy was exhausted and he knew he was becoming a danger. There was only one option, he turned his car around and made his way back to the apartment.
The apartment was dark and still when he arrived, he flicked on the light switch and the kitchen and living area were bathed in a bright white glow. Immediately he could see something was wrong. There was shattered crockery strewn across the floor, the furniture was all upturned, the television smashed and the blinds lay on the floor. Cooper ran from bedroom to bedroom, they were all in the same state, his own room was in the worse state, his clothes ripped and cast around.
“Leave me alone. Get out.” Came the female voice
Cooper ran to the living area.
“You called on me! You called on me!”
The doors of the other bedrooms began slamming.
“You called on me! You called on me!”
He turned and ran to the door.
“You are wrong.” Bawled the male voice.
By the time the lift was at the bottom the voices had merged into a jumble of confusing screams and groans. He climbed into the front of the car and turned the ignition so hard he felt the metal of the key strain. The engine roared into life and with a screech the car span backwards out of its space then leapt forward towards the exit.
Cooper headed straight for the quickest route out of the city. He hoped that with speed and distance he would get beyond the voices, and for a while it seemed to work. He only seemed to occasionally hear the voice shouting, “You called on me!” The other two now seemed more distant. He drove with a thoughtless purpose, he just needed to get away. His tiredness taunting him like the voices and only pushed away temporarily by the regular stops to grab coffees of varying quality and strength along the journey.
Soon the grey banks of buildings were replaced by smaller and more infrequent clusters. The further he went, the less buildings he saw, the quieter the voices were. All but the most unpleasant, which seemed to delight in waiting until Cooper was beginning to feel at ease, as if he had finally rid himself of the intrusion.
“You called on me!”
His drive had taken him well out of the reaches of everyday life. The road was ploughing through a tunnel of huge trees. He had driven through the darkness and now, through the occasional breaks in the trees he could see the blue sky creeping through. Just as his fatigue was about to get the better of him Cooper spotted a small, badly maintained service road, he swung the car left and clattered deeper an deeper into the forest, the undergrowth slapping the sides of his car with greater fury the deeper he went. Eventually the road abruptly came to an end and he stopped. He turned off the ignition, leaned back on his chair and within seconds he was asleep.
“You called on me!”
Cooper jumped in his seat, the forest was dark and cold, he didn’t know how long he had slept but it had clearly been enough for day to turn into night. It had also been long enough for the other voices to return. They were still muffled and distant but they seemed closer than before and were now much more manic and angry. He had to move again.
He opened the door and pushed hard to open it against the bushes and trees that surrounded him. Pressing his body against the car he moved around and opened the trunk to check if there was anything that would be if use to him before plunging into the green.
As he ran the three voices caught him. The two offering incoherent, brutal screams of admonition while the other simply repeated it mantra, calmly but forcefully. He ran with no goal, just to be away from the noise. There were streams and clearings he would ordinarily have stopped to admire but now they became a blur. Then, out of nowhere the shape of a building crept through the branches. Cooper focused and ran towards it. As he got closer it became very clear that not only was it securely small it was also very rundown the forest has done a very good job of claiming it for itself. This did not do as he sprinted towards the path open door he flung it open fruit himself through the gap and slammed the door behind him.
It was clear that nobody has been in this place for a considerable time, the electric was not working, the furniture was broken, there was damp and mould everywhere around the room and on closer inspection he found nothing other than insects dust and moisture. The noise from the voices filled the rooms every time he moved into a new one, there were two rooms downstairs and two upstairs all as decrepit at the last.
Downstairs there was a large area with a collection of chairs tables and a desk next to that was a kitchen. The kitchen was simple but did have what was necessary to sustain somebody. There was an oven, a small table and chairs there was also a small pantry. Cooper opened the door to the pantry and noticed that along with the empty shelves, there was a hatch in the floor. He lifted it and saw steps dropping into a very dark space. He had nothing to illuminate it so turned and began hunting around the kitchen for a flashlight. There was none in the draws but underneath the sink he discovered a box of candles. He lit one and made his way into the darkness each step down brought another screech from the voices punctuated with the rasp of “you called on me”. At the bottom of the steps opened a surprisingly large basement, it’s floor was made of dirt and in the middle appeared to be a well. The candle did not light the room particularly successfully but did just enough so that he could walk around and see what was in there. Other than old cans of fuel food and a few tools the most important thing was the round open mouth of the old well. He knelt beside it and put his head over the edge suddenly the voices stopped.
Cooper lifted his head and the voices returned to fill it. He repeated it but this time they were gone. He returned his head to the well and sat leaning over the edge enjoying the blessed relief of the silence the well provided. He didn’t know how long he sat there but he needed it, he needed that break. Eventually he realised he was cold and getting wet and needed to move so we lifted him self picked up a candle and climb back up the steps and into the kitchen. Quickly he realised was there was no sound. The voices had stopped completely, he was free. He returned to the living room, placed the candle on the window sill and slumped into an old, slightly crooked armchair and fell into a deep and dream laden sleep.
When he woke the candle had burned out. He cursed himself for wasting it during the day, and while he was asleep but he looked down at the box and was happy that there were enough to see him through a few more days. He set about trying to make the cabin comfortable enough to stay in by prioritising the useable chairs and tables, opening all the windows and trying to make the bed something he would be happy to lie on. As the sun dipped below the tree line Cooper began to realise he was hungry. He decided he might venture back to his car in the morning and see if the voices returned. There was an old plastic chair in front of the cabin, Cooper sat himself down in it, enjoying the peace, the mild atmosphere and the calm of the evening.
He had no idea how long he had sat there, but by the time he moved back into the cabin there was little light left to see anything so he knocked the old candle from the window sol, lit another and placed it in its stead. He pulled a chair over and sat down.
“You called on me!”
The calm was shattered. Cooper let out an exasperated “NO!” before grabbing the candle and rushing for the basement. He bundled down the steps with the voice frantically shouting in his ears. In his haste he missed the bottom step and with a sickening crunch landed on the floor, his forehead against the stone lip of the well. He was dizzy and felt sick, his head rang and his eyes felt heavy. They closed and he lost consciousness.
When he woke Cooper found himself back upstairs, sitting in the chair next to the window with a candle burning out into the dark. He was shocked to see that there were five completely burned out sat alongside it, how long had he been drifting in and out of consciousness? He looked down at his hands and they were covered in blood, how badly had he injured himself? He looked out of the window to see it was clearly night time, but he wasn’t sure of which day now.
Suddenly he noticed a light in the thick forest outside. He carefully lifted himself up and opened the door. He could hear voices it was faint but clear, they had found him again. With a heave he slammed the door behind him and went back to the window, there were lights darting wildly around the trees.
“You called on me!”
Cooper ran to the kitchen. He could hear the voices, they were muffled and angry and outside the door.
“You called on me!”
He put his hands to his ears and cried out in desperation for them to leave him. But the voices got stronger. Then the front door began to shudder.
“You called on me!”
Then the back door and the windows. The voices were louder and clearer. They were calling for them to let them in. Cooper only had one option, he made a bolt for the basement. He thundered down the stairs in the dark.
“You called on me! You called on me!”
Cooper leant over the edge of the well and with an exhausted flop plunged headfirst to the bottom.
There was finally silence.
The police burst into the cabin, their flashlights scanning around the room.
“Cooper Bradley, are you in here? Mr Bradley we are armed so please make yourself known to us. We don’t want to shoot you by mistake.”
“Are your room mates here with you Mr Bradley. Tina Lester and Christopher LeGrand, are any of you here?”
The back door burst open and more police poured in.
“Look at the walls.” Said one of the police officers shining his flashlight around. “Oh my God, is that blood? Hold on, it says the same thing, it must be written hundreds of times.”
“You called on me.” Added the other officer.
“Down here, we’ve got something. Came a shout from the kitchen. The two officers walked in to see the open pantry and steps down into the basement. There was already a police officer in and shining a huge flashlight into the well.
“Three bodies down there. Two males and a female I think, we are going to need a lot of help here, can you call it in?”
One of the officers grabbed his radio and clicked the side.
“Officer Gates here. We are going to need a specialist recovery team in here.”
There was a crackle and an electronic beep.
“Do you copy?”
“You called on me!” Came the reply.