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You know the old saying; the one that starts with: ‘A good day at the cabin begins with a sunrise…’? Well that is very much true, but what is a bad day some ask? That’s being woken up in the dead of night by banging shutters and vibrating windows!
I groaned in retaliation after being woken up from my hibernation, and shoved a pillow over my head hoping to drown out the noise. To my disappointment the banging only seemed to grow louder.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I sighed wearily, rolling out of bed and catching a glimpse of my surroundings.
The family cabin had two floors. I usually slept on the first floor in a smaller bedroom connected to the main room, which was basically a large open area made up of a small kitchen and family room. The family room had a small wood stove nestled into the far corner, with two larger homemade sofas and coffee table huddled around it. Just behind the sofas and under the staircase were a couple of bookshelves stocked with board games. The best part I think was that nearly everything in the cabin was made here on the island. Originally it was planned to have all the materials shipped out here, but the pricing was outrageous, so my parents agreed it would make the place feel homier to just gather the materials and build everything on our own.
Above the family room was the landing that led to the guest and master bedrooms. My son Benjamin usually slept in the guest bedroom, leaving my wife Kathey with the master.
“Why the separate rooms?” a lot of people ask. Well let’s just say that she got fed up with the loud snoring and bedtime shenanigans that came with sharing a bed with me. Now she gets to sleep in the largest room with the ten foot screened in window looking out over the lake… women.
I yawned loudly, stretching as I made my way out to the living room and stopping abruptly in front of the stove. Something was definitely off and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I rubbed my chin while I racked my brain for an answer. It took me a good thirty seconds to realize we never leave the wood stove on at night, due to the potential fire hazard. I grumbled in protest as I got down on my knees to close the damper, and was just about to grab it when the windows began to shake violently. This time, however, I felt a cool breeze coming from an open window at the bottom of the stairs. Frustrated, I stormed over to the window and slammed it shut with a heavy sigh.
“Who leaves a window open in the middle of winter?” I grumbled. My frustration was short lived as my brain finally began to wake up. “Winter?” I gasped.
I lumbered over to my personal chair in front of the still burning stove, and plopped down as another thought dawned on me. I had no recollection of how I even got here! I mean, I do vaguely remember packing my bags, but the whole trip… is a blur! Who just up and forgets a whole trip to Canada? Even though I was going to regret doing so, I decided to head up stairs and wake Kathey.
“Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and she will be in a good mood… yeah, no this is a terrible idea.” I grumbled to myself.
I tip-toed up the stairs as to not wake my son, and slowly crept into the master bedroom. It was dark, but I did get a sliver of light from the stove downstairs.
“Kathey,” I whispered, “you awake?”
I was met with silence, and then a howl, as the wind danced across the main window. I called out one more time and still nothing. She was always a deep sleeper, but not that deep, I reminded myself. I then decided to sliver my way through the covers, only to find myself kneeling on an empty bed with covers draped over me like a ghost.
“Where is she?”I asked myself, beginning to panic a little. I hopped out of bed and darted over to Benjamin’s room, only to find that his bed was empty too.
“Benjamin, Kathey?” I called out frantically, with no response.
I bolted down the stairs taking two steps at a time, grabbing my coat and jumping into my snow boots once I hit the bottom floor. I grabbed the first lantern I could find (the electric one) and had just turned it on when I heard something behind the cabin. I stopped what I was doing and tried to listen past the piercing wind, rattling windows and banging shutter. I sighed to myself when I realized it was just the wind, and hurried out the front door on to the screened in porch. I stopped to observe my surroundings, but it was like I had just got sucked into a black hole. To make matters worse the lantern wasn’t all that bright, so it only lit up a small area of roughly ten feet before being swallowed whole by the darkness. The one upside about it being winter though was that the snow reflected the light once it passed over it, giving me a couple more feet of vision. I took my stocking cap from my coat pocket and just shoved it on my head when I heard the noise again. I stood like a statue trying to listen past all the white noise around me. My hairs immediately came to life once I recognized the noise between the wind gusts. Someone was crying. I mentally smacked myself for being so dumb. Kathey must have taken Benjamin to the outhouse behind the cabin! They were both always too afraid to go outside in the dark alone, so they often woke each other up in the dead of night when they had to go. No complaints here. I chuckled at myself for getting so worked up.
I held my lantern out in front of me as I made my way out of the porch and onto the trail that wrapped around the cabin to the outhouse. I took maybe four steps then froze, as I stared at the path covered in snow; with no signs of anyone having made their way through.
Maybe all the wind and snow covered their tracks? I reasoned, staring at the blank canvas of snow under my lamp. Before I could ponder about it too much I heard another lament, muffled by the sound of the wind, coming from atop the nearby hill.
“Kathey,” I bellow against the wind, “Benjamin where are you guys? This isn’t funny!”
I listened carefully for an actual response but was met only by the sound of whimpering and shutters… yeah things were getting pretty creepy now.
“Well, I’m not getting anywhere standing around,” I told myself sarcastically as I made my way up the hill and into the dark abyss of the forest. Starting to panic a bit, I picked up my pace to a hard jog. Just as I thought I was making good progress my left foot got stuck on a tree root, sending me soaring into a tree. My shoulder smashed against the trunk, causing the lantern to fly off somewhere into the darkness; then I fell face first into the snow. I cringed upon impact, expecting the frozen bite, but was startled after lying in the mound for a few seconds and realizing the snow wasn’t cold! I hastily got to my feet, running and snatching up the lantern.
“Kathey,” I screamed between gasps of air, as I finally made it to the top of the hill. I waited expectantly this time, but only hearing the shutters slamming continuously, almost mocking me.
“What the hell is going on?” I seethed, looking around and finding no signs of my wife or son. “Am I losing my mind?” I dropped to my knees in defeat, ripping off my winter cap and throwing it into the snow. Clutching my hair in frustration, I watched as the snow from the force of my throw puffed into the air and zigzagged its way to the ground abnormally slow.
“It’s all just a dream,” I chuckled, hoping that I wasn’t going totally bat-shit crazy. With some new found hope, I picked up my cap and closed my eyes, “Wake up!” I pleaded pinching my arm.
When I opened my eyes the woods and banging were gone, and I was now standing in my living room back home.
“Yes!” I boomed, throwing my fist to the sky in victory.
My celebratory routine was short lived once I realized something very odd… I awoke standing up. I turned around at the sound of footsteps fast approaching, and the entire room seemed to darken as another Me rounded the corner from the kitchen with two bags of luggage and Benjamin in tow; Kathey hot on our heels.
“Rick, please wait,” she begged, sounding almost as if we were underwater, “We were both drunk and I didn’t mean to!”
“Kathey, just stop it,” Rick demanded, cutting her off and dropping the luggage he was carrying, “No matter what you say or how many times you explain yourselves, it will never justify what you did to me or Benjamin! Don’t you understand? You betrayed us and everything we had, just for what, sex? We are leaving now.”
“But what about Mommy,” Benjamin whined, dropping his backpack and hugging her legs, “Why can’t you come Mom?” he finished in tears.
“Cuz’ mommy did something bad, sweetie,” she crooned, gently resting one hand on his cheek. She moved over to a dresser by the entryway and grabbed his favorite stuffed giraffe.
“Mr. Artichoke, you fixed him,” Benjamin exclaimed rubbing his face against the giraffes, “I love you mom.” He stated hugging her waist.
Everything seemed to freeze as all the walls began to fade and dissolve back into the dark void of the woods.
“I remember now,” I muttered, my expression blank, “That’s why I can’t find her, because she isn’t even here!” I finished with a long heavy sigh. I spun around and quickly but carefully made my way down to the cabin, expertly winding my way through the trees.
Once I hit the bottom of the hill, my anger hit its peak and all it took was one bang of the shutters to send me off the deep end. What started as a low growl, turned into a battle cry as I hurled myself at the shutters; grabbing them and ripping them off their hinges and with a great heave, sending them spiraling through the air to be engulfed by the darkness.
“Finally…quiet.” I snickered through gulps of air and recompose. “Benjamin,” I called out, desperately now hoping for a miracle, “Benjamin, you there?”
With still no reply, I reluctantly trudged my way to the front of the cabin and began to tear up. Still sobbing, I made my way over to the front steps and plopped down. I remained that way for a few minutes before coming to my senses again. I then looked to the sky and let out a small croak. There were no stars, no sign of the moon, nothing but darkness. I shook my head, now numb to everything around me. I wandered over towards our fishing shack, which was located on a small deck that looked out onto the lake. As I approached the deck, my gaze shifted to the fifteen foot tall sculpture I had carved for my son using trees around the cabin, his name was Brachi. Brachi the dinosaur was a replica of a brachiosaurus. “Why build a sculpture so big? Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing at the cabin?” a lot of people ask. Well my son loved dinosaurs so much that I decided I would cut down a few trees and surprise him. Of course he decided it would be best to have him look out over the lake so that he could see us approaching, coming from the north.
“What happened to our family, Brachi?” I sniffled as I rested my hand my hand on his side following his gaze into the nothingness. “And now I am talking to lifeless objects, no offense Brachi.” I finished sarcastically patting his side and looking to the ground with a sigh. I stared off into the snow, deep in thought for a few minutes before realizing I was staring at a trail of footprints leading off into the darkness. With my hopes renewed I called out for my son.
“Benjamin,” I bellowed, “Benjamin it’s your father! Where are you?” I called out one last time as I approached the lake, stopping just at the shore line. The foot prints kept going further into the dark and onto the snow covered lake.
“Where is he going?” I asked myself as I tested the ice to make sure it was safe. Once I verified I was okay, I began my trek through the not-so-cold snow, pondering what we could have done differently. What did Benjamin or I do to deserve such a betrayal from the one we loved the most. What kind of monster could do such a thing? My mental investigation was cut short once I noticed something on the edge of my bubble of light. I stopped and observed the tracks as they looped around the figure, I squinted my eyes and gave it a few looks over before establishing that it was indeed another person!
“Benjamin,” I exclaimed running over to him, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you! You can’t just run off in the dead of night like-.” I slid to a stop, barely a foot away from the person, sitting in a chair…fishing. He wore a red flannel coat, hood up, and was bobbing his fishing pole up and down trying to bait a fish. “I’m sorry to bother you sir,” I apologized, my heart dropping, “I’m looking for my son. He’s got black hair and is about this tall.” I motioned with my hand and waited for him to respond, but after 30 seconds of waiting I got really impatient.
“Excuse me, sir, are you listening to me? I’m missing my son. Have you seen him or talked to him at all?” I begged only to be answered with silence. “Why aren’t you listening?” I yelled, shoving him from behind as hard as I could.
The man didn’t even budge, let alone flinch. He just kept fishing away.
“What the hell?” I stammered. I circled slowly, now trying to catch a glimpse of his face. I brought the lantern close to my face and leaned in to peer past his hood. I slowly reached up to pull his hood back, not taking my eyes off of his hands as he still fished on.
One second he was staring forward, then with a loud ear piercing screech, his head jerked towards me, so that we were briefly face to face. I fell backwards in horror, dropping my lantern and landing on my hands. I scuttled back, trying to inch away from the faceless figure. I could hear its joints creaking as it jolted to its feet. I scuffled over to my lantern, snatched it up and faced the mysterious figure yet again.
“Stay back!” I demanded, throwing my arm out in defense. Without removing its empty gaze from mine, it leaned over, gathering its pole and tackle box, and rigidly marched back towards the cabin. Not taking my eye off of the faceless man, I launched to my feet.
“Benjamin,” I screamed over the wind, no longer hiding the fear in my voice, “Benjamin, please answer me!” I begged, running as far from the cabin as I could. This time I got a response.
“Dad,” came a panicked call somewhere ahead of me. A wave of energy rushed over me as I sprinted towards the sound of my son’s voice. I slipped and almost fell a couple of times in my haste. I slid to a dead stop, just barely maintaining my balance and throwing every single curse word I could think of at the sight before me. Some way, some how, I had ended up behind my cabin just beyond the outhouse.
I shook my head in disbelief. All my hopes for finding my son and leaving were whisked away into the dark chasm that was now consuming my mind. I growled in frustration, smashing the lantern into the nearest tree I could find. And just like that, I was stranded in the dark, demented wonderland that was once my favorite place of peace. Once soothing thoughts of home and family were now being demolished by sinister feelings of brokenness and angst. I fell to my knees and bawled like a child who had just lost his puppy.
“Wake up!” I howled into the darkness, smashing my fists into the ground. There was a brief moment of pain but as soon as it was felt it was gone. I looked down at my hands observing them to make sure I didn’t break anything…
“Wait a second,” I uttered in shock at seeing my hands under the soft glow of a light. I whipped around, my sanity returning briefly at the sight of my son holding out his dimly lit fish-shaped lantern.
“Daddy, I can’t find mom.” He sniffled. I quickly shuffled over to him and embraced him.
“It’s alright Benny Bear, Dad’s here,” I wept clutching him tightly to my chest, “Where have you been? I’ve been searching everywhere for you.” I chuckled, holding him at arms length to check for any injuries.
“I followed the robot man to his fishing spot, but he was boring so when I heard Mom I went to the woods with my light to find her. Did you find Mom, Dad?” He asked.
I sighed, dreading the topic. I opened my mouth to speak, but stopped myself.
“Hey, Benjamin, let me borrow your light for a second.” I asked reaching to him. He reluctantly handed it over, following my gaze to the tree I had just abused.
“What’s wrong with the tree dad? Why is it all shiny in that spot?” he asked pointing to a large spot on the tree.
I didn’t answer right away, how could I? I just stared in utter disbelief at what I was seeing. I took my son’s hand, leading him over to the front porch, dragging my feet the entire way. I knew when I first awoke that something was off about the cabin, but how was it possible to end up here of all places? As we both took a seat in our favorite chairs on the porch, I began contemplating every explanation, every theory I could muster up. Every time however, no matter what angle I looked from, no matter how many revolutions the cogs in my head made, they all ended at one possibility. After spending a few hours in deep thought, I sighed heavily as tears rolled down my cheeks and pushed the hair from my son’s face while he slept.
“Come on bud,” I grunted as I cradled him and carried him to my bed. I had just tucked him in when I heard voices behind me coming from outside the cabin. I quietly exited the cabin and planted myself in one of the lounge chairs on our deck looking out over the lake. Too bad it was too dark to really see anything. The voices were familiar, it took me a little while to recognize them, and once I did, a switch went off inside me. Images began forming as I focused more and more on their words:
“…the local police are still investigating the scene…”
I remembered holding Benjamin’s hand as we looked out over the landscape.
“…so far they can only confirm two deceased individuals…”
We moved closer to the cliff edge to peer down at a pair of loons.
“…police are still on scene looking for any evidence as to what may have happened…”
I cried out in terror as my son tumbled down the face of the cliff.
“…a fisherman found the bodies floating by the dock of a nearby cabin, apparently belonging to the victims…”
Without thinking I cried out, diving head first into the lake forty feet below.
* * * * *
Kathey swore at herself as she wiped away tears with her shirt sleeve. She had grown too attached to Rick and Benjamin, and even contemplated on actually starting a family of her own with them. Even though Benjamin wasn’t actually her son, she always felt some strange connection to the little brat. Heck, from day one he constantly thought she was his real mother. She rubbed her temples hoping to relax a little, but all that disappeared with the new headline on the local news station. Missing Father and Child Found Dead, scrolled across the bottom of the television screen. She stared blankly at the screen, tuning out the discussions the reporters were having in the background. The memory was clear as day as she played it over and over in her head, and every time her stomach did a somersault.
She peered greedily through the thick foliage as Benjamin and Rick got closer the cliffs edge. As luck would have it, the loons’ calls masked the sound of leaving her hiding spot. She slithered up behind them; her blank expression slowly creeping into a wicked smirk before she shoved Benjamin over the edge. She watched as Rick helplessly dove in after his son, without even so much as glancing to see why he fell. Kathey snickered at her own brilliance and that mans stupidity. After four years of planning, she finally accomplished what she came here to do, marry Rick, and once she was added to his will, find a way to collect the insurance money.
She cackled as she pictured the scene of both Rick and Benjamin floating lifelessly in the lake. Her heart pounded excitedly at the thought of finally finishing what she started, but at a price. The cameras panned around the area on top of the cliff, before switching to an officer who stated they had found an earring at the crime scene. She was dumb not to fully inspect the scene before leaving; now she ran the risk of being caught. It was only a matter of time before they found out she wore the damn things everyday. It looked like there would be no waiting around for the life insurance this time. She took one last chug from a wine bottle before whipping it in frustration and shattering the television screen. “Time to clean this place out,” she thought to herself as she ran up the stairs to begin packing.
Once she collected all the valuables of the house, it was time to find a souvenir. She had one from every house she had destroyed. Having them helped to remind her she could do what it took to finish a job. Because of the significance, the item had to be special… unique.
“That’s it!” she exclaimed, rushing to the china cabinet at the back of the living room. She flung open the doors, immediately finding what she was looking for on the top shelf. After their wedding, Rick, being a mechanical engineer and experienced crafter, had decided to make something special for her and Benjamin. It was what he called a waterless snow globe. It was half the size of a basket ball, and had special fans built into the lower half designed to constantly blow the snow around. In the center was his family cabin that he inherited a few years before they met. Everything was crafted in amazing detail, the trees, the outhouse, the deck and rocks; to add to the effect, everything in the cabin was an individual piece. The beds and furniture had real material on them. Sitting on the kitchen counter were two real working lanterns, which stored energy through magnets or something weird like that. He even added one of those lights to the wood stove to keep the house lit up at all times. Lastly, he constructed a tiny fisherman to walk to and from the cabin to give off the impression that he was fishing. There was no doubt that this was the most unique piece in the entire house. She was just about to shove the globe into a bag when something else caught her eye inside of the snow globe. Sitting in one of the lounge chairs on the deck, looking out onto the frozen wasteland was a small figurine of Rick.
“When did he add that?” she asked herself, puzzled.
She just shrugged it off, nonchalantly tossing the globe into her bag. She gave the house a good once over and realized how quiet things were without the other two there. Wherever they are ‘I’m sure they are in a better place.’ She reasoned, just as she opened the front door and stepped out into a large pile of snow. ‘I bet they don’t have to deal with the snow either…’
Based on real location:
Credit: Blake L. Patrick, Edited by Tom