Needless to say, no one got any sleep after that ordeal. Wesley wouldn’t head back to the truck to rest on his own, which is only understandable. So here you are, the five of you in the tent sitting in a circle. Occassionally you bring your eyes level to the others, but then you see the horrified expression painted on their faces and avert your gaze downwards again. Also, Jason isn’t helping the tense atmosphere by constantly flicking the safety on his handgun on and off. Still, no one actually tells him to put the gun away. That perhaps speaks volumes in itself as to how desperate you are for security at this point. After just mutually sitting there in an atmosphere of numbed dread Cole finally speaks.
“Hey, (y/n). Do you know what that rhyme or song the voices were singing might have meant?”
You shake your head in response before pausing. Actually, you might.
“My mom’s a Wiccan, so I know ‘Horned One’ is a pagan deity from western Europe. ‘Máthair’ and ‘athair’ are Gaelic for mother and father.”
“So what does all this mean?’ Ridley sighs, knowing the question is still rhetorical at this point.
The sun has been up for several hours now, and eventually you mutually decide to exit the tent and split up to check on the current situation. The marsh is pristine at this time in the morning, and it doesn’t at all seem like the primeval place of terror it was last night. The chirping of a few loons has never calmed your nerves like it does now.
Everything seems normal enough, although Jason comes up to you after returning from his exploration and confirms that the child’s boot is still there. So much for that theory you had concocted that last night was just a bout of mass hysteria. As the two of you are talking, Wesley comes running up to you, panting heavily.
“Hey guys! There’s a cabin in those woods nearby! Well okay, more like a shack” he admits. “But still, wanna check it out?”
“I don’t know, the owner might come back. I don’t want B&E on my criminal record, things like that are hard to explain away” Jason says.
“Believe me, with the condition it’s in I doubt anyone’s been there in at least fifty years” Wesley clarifies.
“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know where this might lead” you add.
“Correction, (y/n). We’re pretty much already in a horror movie, and in horror movies playing it safe and doing nothing never ends well” Wesley points out.
“Don’t things never end well as a general rule in horror movies? Regardless, I guess I can see your point” you admit.
“And I have this in case some axe-murdering hermit owner comes after us” Jason says as he gestures with the handgun.
“Uh, yeah. Well, it’s settled then. Just in case, (y/n), why don’t you take the wood-chopping axe I brought. Not to sound sexist but as a girl you have less muscle mass to defend yourself with, so y’know, it makes sense to give you a weapon” Wesley says.
“I suppose so” you say. You aren’t going to argue with the opportunity to arm yourself, at any rate.
“Great, I’ll head back to the truck and pick it up” he says. As he begins heading off, you excuse yourself from Jason and run up alongside Wesley.
“Didn’t you bring anything else we can arm ourselves with?” you ask.
“Yeah, we’ve got a handshovel that Cole brought. And we have a couple of utility knives, I and Ridley can use those.”
“By the way”, you whisper as the truck comes into view, “d’ya think Jason is gonna crack?”
“I hope not” he sighs while unlocking the truck’s passenger-side door. “His handgun holds 17 rounds, and he’s always well-prepared so he probably brought extra magazines. That many 9mm bullets is more than enough to gun us all down. But honestly, I don’t think we need to worry about that. Jason’s a good guy at heart.”
He hands you the axe and mumbles something under his breath that you just manage to catch.
“If not, Lord help us all.”
“Alright then, the gang’s all here. C’mon, it was easy to find, you guys just follow my lead” Wesley declares before heading off, the rest of you in tow.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if someone’s still living there and they see a bunch of armed college kids break into their shack this early in the morning?” Cole chuckles as you enter the forest.
“If by ‘funny’ you mean ‘heart-attack inducing’ then yeah” Ridley snickers.
“My humour is wasted on you guys” Cole sighs.
“Guys, shut up. We’re almost there” Wesley says.
As Wesley speaks, you take in your surroundings. This forest isn’t like the nice woods with clear-cut paths your family went on walks through back when you were a child. It seems so primordial, almost quasi-sentient in a queer way, and you can’t help but feel as though you are intruding in an ancient place that you have no business with. The towering trees seem to be silently judging the five interlopers noisily making their way through.
Just when the suffocating forest is beginning to induce a thoroughly unpleasant combination of claustrophobia and paranoia in you, Wesley speeds up his pace before hopping down a ridge. The rest of you follow, and you are now on the cusp of a clearing. With much relief your group exits the woods, now in the dell itself. Standing in the center of the sawgrass plain is a dingy hovel that looks like it could topple over in a heavy storm.
“There it is” Wesley says. “Who wants to ring the bell?”
The four of you are arranged around the front entrance, two flanking on each side except for Jason. Since he has the gun it has been decided that he will be the one to fling the rickety door open.
“You guys ready?” he asks, a cool sweat visible on his forehead and wiry forearms. You all nod, and he takes a deep breath before throwing the door open and leaping inside. You duck your head around the open entryway and see that he is checking his corners for threats. Was the guy on a S.W.A.T. team at some point in a past life or what?
“It’s fine…I think” he says, gesturing for the rest of you to enter. The four of you walk into the small common room inside. As Ridley, the last to go in, steps within the shack, the door slams shut behind him. You all turn around, startled at the sound, but then your eyes collectively go wide with dread. The door is gone. There is just a dingy wooden wall’s panelling where the exit was.
“SHITSHITSHIT!” Jason screams and he charges the spot where the door had been with his shoulder, only to be rebounded back on the floor in a groaning heap. His momentum should have broken the wall to splinters, but with the way it didn’t so much as budge at his assault one would think it was made of cement.
“What-I…I don’t, this can’t be-“ Wesley babbles only to be cut off by a thud coming from somewhere further within the shack. The thud is then followed by another, and then multiple thuds in rapid succession as you realize something in here is sprinting towards your current location. Without saying a word you all race for the door on the left wall and pile inside.
Luckily this room, which appears to be a kitchen of some sort, has a door with a deadbolt on it and Cole’s shaking fingers rapidly lock the entry shut. Although you personally doubt a deadbolt is probably going to stop whatever is in here. Jason for his part keeps aiming down his handgun’s ironsights at every possible entrance to this room, which totals three doors including the one you just came through.
“Guys, on top of everything else, I just realized something very alarming” you say. “We’re to the left of the main entrance, right?”
“Yeah, so?” Cole says as he clutches his handshovel with a white-knuckled grip.
“Wasn’t there a window that should be in this room right here?” you point out.
“Shit, you’re right!” Wesley curses. “How is this possible? Is this like an, an extradimensional space or something?”
“Actually, that sounds about right” Jason opines. “This room and the one we were just in should be too large to fit in a shack that looked this small from the outside.”
“Why’d you have to point that out…” Wesley moans. “Well we can’t just stay here at any rate. We don’t know for sure that this place doesn’t have another exit, so we need to keep looking for a way out.”
“I’m pretty sure you just used a double negative there but I agree” Ridley says. “So is it door A or B?”
“Doesn’t matter to me. I’ll make the choice easy for us” Jason says as he opens the door closest to him, ducks his head in, and gasps before closing it.
“Uh, on second thought maybe the other-“ he says as he opens the other door, yelping, and slamming it shut.
“Nope, I think we should go with the first one after all” he shudders as he reopens the original entry and signals for the rest of you to follow him in.
Inside you can see why this room might have rubbed him the wrong way, although your sense of macabre curiosity wonders how the second room could have possible been any worse. The area is made from mud bricks supported by decaying wooden beams. Bones litter the dirt floor, likely having come from animals to judge from the shape. Most alarming is what lies on the far wall though. Strapped with leather restraints to the brick itself is a decidedly none-animal dead body, that of a man wearing a white robe with a mask that lies nestled on top of his face. In a sick juxtaposition, the mask has laughing eyes and a mildly curved grin. It is then that something clicks in your head about the white robe. You begin to walk towards the body.
“(y/n)…uh, (y/n), what are you doing?” Jason asks nervously, although he like the others stays firmly rooted in place as you approach the corpse and remove the mask.
You inhale sharply, in some ways surprised but mostly just confused. Although his face is half-eaten by maggots and vermin, his features are recognizable as the man in your dream.
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