The Man in the Woods

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Summary

Two years after tragedy strikes the small rural town of Blue Creek, Courtney White and a group of friends decide to go on a weekend camping trip to honor the loss of the Veladear sisters and Brenda Young. But something sinister lurks in these woods, watching them from afar. Have they stumbled upon what took the girls? Or is this a whole new threat the have to face? In such struggles, the true colors of those you thought you could trust are shown. Who can she rely on? Will they all get out alive?

Genre:
Horror / Thriller
Author:
H.L.Cullen
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Prolog

Blue Creek Washington

October 17th, 2007

Caroline sat in her room reading on her computer while listening to music, enjoying herself after school. Her younger sister Maralyn was in the room right across from her blasting music. They differed in so many ways. Maralyn was very outspoken and had many friends, the social butterfly of the family. Caroline on the other hand was very shy and soft spoken, she was a wallflower, very observant but didn’t say much unless she was comfortable with the people she was around.

She spent most of her days reading and practicing her many instruments. She was involved with things like Envirothon and Band, both marching and concert. Caroline had one friend, Brenda Young, they spent all of their time together. Maralyn was on the cheer squad and very popular. She went to every dance and was even dating a football player. She had many friends and was favored by teachers. She wasn’t snobby though, she was very kind and polite to everyone.

Ring ring, ring ring!

Caroline’s phone lit up with Brenda’s name in bold letters.

“Hey, what’s up?” she asked her friend, sort of surprised she called.

“I was wondering if you’d like to go with me on a little camping excavation this weekend. Relax and enjoy nature?” Brenda answered.

“Yeah that sounds great, I’m free this weekend so why not. I could use a little vacation this weekend. School’s really been stressing me out. Every class is just throwing work left and right.”

“I know, I’ve been swimming in papers.”

Then, after a moment of pondering, Caroline asked “Actually, can Maralyn come as well? I think she like to tag along.”

“Yeah totally, that’s no issue at all. The more the merrier”

“Great! Oh hey,did you finish the project for Mr. Crookston?”

“No not yet but I’m working on it. I better get busy it’s due tomorrow. See you tomorrow C!”

“See ya B!”

She ended the phone call and called for her sister, asking if she wanted to go with Brenda and her on the camping trip. Since they live in an area surrounded by woods it was fine with their mother and father, knowing they were both big enough and smart enough to stay safe. Their only requirement was that Caroline call when they got to their site, before bed, when they woke up, and when they were about to come back home. They agreed and began to prepare all they would need for one night.

The next day flew by for the girls, and soon they were all piled in Caroline’s car on the way to their camp site. Once they got there, they set up their tents and decided to scope the area to check things out. But to Maralyn, something didn’t quite feel right...

“Brenda... Caroline... can we go back to our tents? I’m not liking how dark it is and us being out like this. We have plenty of time to hike and explore tomorrow, right?”

“It’s okay Mary,” Caroline responded, pulling her sister along the trail, “It’s not like we’re in some scary story. Everything will be fine, we’re not even going to go that far.”

But she was suddenly cut off by a loud SNAP!, echoing around them. A tree branch had broken behind the girls, making them all jump and turn around.

“Way to jinx it Caroline...” Maralyn whispered, the beam of her flashlight shook giving away her fear.

They looked around trying to find the source of the noise. To Maralyn, the shadows seemed to deepen, every flicker of light was a threat in her mind.

Among a group of trees stood a tall, threatening figure of a man.

“Hello?” Brenda called out, spooked but not scared.

The man took a lumbering step towards the girls, revealing a long, thin object hiding behind his back. All three let out loud screams that could shatter glass and turned to run from the mysterious person, away from their campsite, going deeper into the dark woods.

They all ran as fast as they could, not speaking to one another to conserve energy. Caroline heard the person close behind them making inhuman noises at abnormal volumes. Her friend ran right beside her and she had her sister by the hand pulling her faster than she would originally be going.

Brenda took the chance to turn and look around to see the being chasing them. She then failed to see what was in front of her, causing her to trip over a tree root sticking out of the ground. She fell with a thud and began to scream louder.

Caroline held back the tears and continued to run, pulling her sister who had her hand over her mouth as if she was also about to yell.

“I see lights, keep moving we’re almost to shelter... I hope...” she said hushing the last part of her sentence to a soft murmur to keep her sister’s fear from growing.

They pushed on further until they met a long, rickety bridge that led to the house they had seen from afar. It was old, as if it were there for millions of years. They swiftly moved across the bridge and made it to the house. It shook the girls violently, swaying side to side.

They stepped up to the old, worn out poarch. Each board creaked with every step they took.

The door was sun bleached and rotting, fitting for the rest of the house. They stepped into a small living room, a fireplace was lit with a roaring blaze of coal and wood. There was a bearskin rug in front of an old, dusty couch. The lights were on in the kitchen with a red stained cloth in front of the entrance. A large light swung in front of the curtain, casting shadows on the objects in the room. Beside the door was a large pile of shoes and a coat hanger overflowing.

“Caroline?” Maralyn asked softly, only becoming more fearful.

“Yeah?” Caroline answered.

“Are you sure we’re going to be safe in here?”

“Do you want the nice answer or the truth?”

“Truth please?”

“Not much but I’d rather deal with a nutcase then whatever that... that... THING is!”

“You’re right. Who do you think lives here?”

“No clue...”

Caroline was tempted to call out for the occupance of the home, but she decided against it.

“Should we explore?”

“I don’t know, by the looks of the kitchen I don’t think I want to see the rest of the house.”

“Hello girls! Welcome home! Daddy missed you!”

Caroline and Maralyn stood in silent shock. Caroline felt the heat drain from her face, fear bubbling up inside of her.

A large dark figure then stepped in front of the curtain giving the room an eerie dark shadow cast into the room. He swiftly moved the curtain to reveal himself. The fire cast a glow to his features, making him look even more scary.

“Girls! I missed you so much! How was your vacation to the Bahamas?”

They stared at him with confused faces, standing frozen in fear.

“Girls?” The man paused , “What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you talk to Daddy?”

He moved towards the girls with great force. Both backed up until the hit the wall, he stood right in front of them, breathing heavily.

He was a large man, approximately 6′4 and heavy set. He wore a white apron with red stains covering it. Caroline believed the read stains to be blood. She feared that this might be their last few hours. She wished to call her parents, tell them how much she loved them and let them know they were amazing parents towards both her and Maralyn.

He took Caroline by the shirt and held her up towards him.

“Why won’t you answer me sweetie? My dear Lindsey, what could possibly be the matter? You’re home now, you and Maggie both! We should be celebrating! Come to the kitchen and watch as I prepare a meal for the two of you!”

They agreed in fear of angering the man, he seemed delusional, maybe mistaking Caroline and Maralyn for his daughters that he mentioned. Who was Lindsey and Maggie anyways? The names didn’t ring a bell.

They sat at an old, obviously homemade dinner table. At the counter lay unrecognisable specimens of meats.

Caroline was overflowing with fear. She had no idea what to do.

BOOM!

The door swung open, slamming into the coat rack spilling its contents onto the floor.

“DAD I BROUGHT HOME DINNER!!!”

Caroline heard Brenda struggle to get away from her captor.A taller, younger boy held her at her waist, keeping her hands held at her side, her mouth covered to keep her quiet. She needed to think of a way to stop these... these... these lunatics

“Great! Girls, help papa and take her to the basement would ya? I’ll get to that later.”

“Yes! Of course we will!” Caroline shouted eagerly

Maralyn stared, puzzled by her sister’s enthusiasm but kept quiet.

“That’s my girls! Now quickly! Then you can help your brother and I cook.”

Caroline took Maralyn’s hand and then took hold of Brenda and harshly drug her to the basement stairs. They together pulled her down the stairs, causing her to almost fall. Brenda tried to fight back, scared of her friend’s reaction to the situation.

Caroline then untied her beaten and bruised friend and hugged her close. Brenda was hesitant at first and then realized the act she had put on.

“You scared me Caroline, I thought you had actually lost it!”

“You know me better than that! You’re my best friend, I would never hurt you! Now let’s go before they suspect anything!”

Caroline pulled out a small flashlight her dad had given her before the trip. It wasn’t too bright to draw attention but it was bright enough to shine a light on what lay ahead of them. The kept as quiet as possible. They found a door that lead out to the back of the house. But it had a lock on it, requiring a key to open it.

They began to rummage around looking for a key to open the door and escape. Caroline found a small firecracker and put it in her pocket. She felt they might need it in the near future. In a frantic hurry, Maralyn knocked over a box, causing it to crash onto the ground. They stood silent staring at the box. Out from under it was a shining gold key. Caroline dived to grab it and ran to the door, unlocking it in a hurry. A booming voice came down the stairwell to the basement.

“Girls? Is everything ok down there?”

She threw the door open, smacking it into a wall and they all ran as fast as they could.

“NO!”

The scream echoed from the house and loud banging began.

“Run run run!” Caroline yelled, “Run like your lives depend on it! Because they do!”

A horrid, inhuman shriek rang out throughout the forest. Caroline kept Brenda and Maralyn in front of her, making sure that they all stayed together. She saw a large group of trees and shrubs to hide in and try to lose their pursuers.

“Guys, turn right and hide in the bushes! Be very quiet!”

They did as she said and they hid themselves in the shrubs and underbrush of the forest. They waited a while and they then saw the thing that was after them. It looked like a normal human, but there was a foul smell in the air. He came to a halt in his game of chase and looked around him, seeming to have lost them. But then he revealed his true face. Caroline was horrified by what she saw.

He looked like a young boy, maybe her age, his face deformed and bruised. He held a large metallic object in his hand. She could only imagine what the object was. He wondered into their campsite and sat in one of the chairs by their dying campfire. He sat playing with his now visible weapon. It was an old, rusty knife. It looked to be a large butcher’s knife. He sat picking his fingernails waiting.

He seemed to have figured out where Caroline had originally planned on going. But now that they were hidden, they gained the upper hand. Thankfully he was approximately 11 feet away from where they sat, hidden in the darkness of the forest.

“Great!” Brenda whispered in an angered hush. “What do we do now?”

“Shh! I don’t know! But you need to be quiet or we’re not going to be able to do anything!” Caroline retorted. She thought of a plan as she watched the monster sit and wait.

They could get back on foot but it would be safer and faster with their car. She didn’t care about their belongings at all, which a typical teenager in her town would be throwing a fit about losing her Vera Bradley hand bag. The car was close to the campsite, too close for comfort.

They couldn’t drive it all the way in because of the trees, but it was at least 10 feet away from where the monster of a human sat.

“Okay, listen, Brenda take Maralyn and get to the car, here are the keys. But you must be very very, quiet. I’ll create a diversion to distract him.” Caroline said to them, handing Brenda the keys to the car.

“But what about you?” Maralyn said, worry filling her to the brim. “We can’t just leave you here!”

“And you won’t. I’ll set up a loud trap to take his attention away while you get to the car and she starts it up. I’ll run and get in as fast as I can. But don’t worry about me, you just worry about you do you understand?”

“Yes but-”

“Do you understand?” Caroline cut her off, “This is not the time to stress about anyone or anything but yourself. If I don’t make it then I don’t make it. I’ll manage to stay safe until help arrives. Trust me”

A tear slid down Maralyn’s face. She did not want to go anywhere without her sister. She couldn’t imagine living without Caroline.

“I’m coming with you.” She said, refusing to leave Caroline’s side.

“Are you crazy? No! Now stay here and keep quiet.”

Maralyn tried to follow her but Brenda held her back. Not wanting to attract unwanted attention, she obeyed.

Caroline scouted about 20ft from the campsite and set up a small firecracker she had found while in the house. She didn’t draw attention to it, thinking it wouldn’t be necessary for her to use until now. She created a pile of sticks to hopefully make it louder. She lit it with her lighter and dropped it onto the pile. It sparked and crackled, creating a plume of smoke and bright flashes.

Caroline ran as fast as she could to get to the car and get away, swiftly and trying to stay hidden from the boy.She hid in the bushes and shrubs again struggling to find her way back without the use of her flashlight. She turned to look back and see how her distraction was working out. He stood near the firecracker trap, looking around, confused, and obviously outraged.

After she got a good distance away from the boy she made a break for it. She sprinted to the car where she saw Brenda and Maralyn piling in. She jumped into the passenger seat with Brenda frantically trying to start the car and Maralyn looking out the back. She realized they weren’t exactly in the clear.

The boy had noticed out of the corner of his eye that his prey was about to escape right under his nose. He ran full force towards the car screaming in anger.

“Hurry guys!” Maralyn squealed, “He’s coming!”

“I am!” Brenda yelled back, “The stupid car won’t start!”

She continually turned the key in the ignition over and over again to no avail. Caroline locked all the doors of the car to try and buy them a little more time. The car would begin to start and then shut down again with each turn of the key.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” Brenda yelled in frustration when something hit against the window.

She stopped immediately and froze in place, staring out the front window of the car.

There the boy stood, his weapon in full view, tapping on the window of the car.

“Open up ’fore I gotta get Daddy! You girls are in lots of trouble!” he yelled, spit flying onto the car door window. His breath creating a small spot of fog.

Caroline’s heart stopped, all her efforts, her fighting the urge to cry for her parents, had failed. What else could she possible do aside from give in and hope that their disappearance would bring them help? She just hoped they could make it until help arrived. She thought of all her past regrets and what she had wanted to say to others. Wanting to tell that one boy how she really felt. Wanting to tell that one friend who she used to be so close with why they had drifted apart. Now she knew that when and if she does get back home that she will. She’ll confess to Seth, she’ll be more outspoken. Now she knows what her father meant when he told her to live everyday like it’s her last. All the petty arguments and fighting and silent treatment over stupid things she wished she could take back.

“Maralyn, you’re an amazing little sister. We fought a lot over stupid things and I’m sorry for that. I love you so much.” She said, admitting defeat to their captors. “Brenda, you’ve been my best friend from day one, you brought out the best in me. I love you dearly.”

A tear slid down the side of her face as the three of them hugged each other tightly. Maralyn, petrified, held onto her sister as she unlocked the doors and let the boy to open the door and pull Brenda out by her hair. They got out as well and followed his commands back to the house.

The man reintroduced himself and interrogated the girls. ‘Lindsey and Maggie’ apologized for what they had done and promised to do as they were told from now on. They followed their ‘brother’ Maxwell back to the basement and watched as he tied Brenda up and threw her into a cell.

“Now let’s go help Pop finish making dinner!” he commanded, yelling into Caroline’s ear.

They did as they were told, preparing the mysterious meat that Caroline could only hope was beef but her gut feeling said otherwise. She wondered why the man, who’s name was still unknown, for he only allowed them to call him either daddy or papa, had called her and Maralyn his daughters. But yet to him and Maxwell, Brenda was... was food. It reminded her of a video game she had watched Seth Richards play once while she was at her friend Courtney Richards’ house. The game was Resident Evil 7, where a family would either treat you as food or try to force you into their family. It was a very strange situation. It scared the living daylights out of her, but at the time she believed it to be fiction, not anymore.

Once her and Maralyn were finished with dinner they all sat at the dinner table with a stew-like mixture of meats and broth in front of them. Daddy and Maxwell ate swiftly, devouring their dinner in a few bites. Caroline and Maralyn on the other hand just stared at it, surprised that it hasn’t come to life yet.

“Why won’t you girls eat? You ain’t being picky are ya? You girls ain’t gonna get desert if ya don’t eat!” Daddy yelled, beginning to get angry.

Scared, caroline picked up her spoon and took a bite of the meal. She struggled to swallow, for it was sour and absolutely disgusting. She smiled as best she could to get the man off her back.

“Good girl, now clean up once you and Maggie are done. Then head on upstairs back to your old room before you two left your brother and I for those ugly boys in the Bahamas.”

“Yes sir.” They said simultaneously.

Daddy and Maxwell stomped upstairs and then the house was quiet. Caroline and Maralyn looked at each other and back at the staircase in the dining room that lead to the second floor of the house. They cleaned up the mess from dinner and quickly tramped upstairs. But to their surprise there was a third floor that had a small hallway that lead to a room with two beds in it. On the walls were pictures of two girls that looked similar to Caroline and Maralyn. One had red hair and was fairly small, the other had dark brown hair and rosy cheeks. The beds were frilly and clean, as if everyday her had hoped for the return of his girls. Caroline felt bad for the man and his son, but there seemed to be something more wrong with them.

“Caroline?” Maralyn squeaked, her voice trembling.

“Yes?” Caroline responded, looking at her very scared sister.

“Do you think we’ll ever get back home?”

“I’ll be honest, I really don’t know but we’re gonna try our best to. I don’t know how long it’ll take but we’re gonna try, I promise.” She tried to be reassuring but things weren’t looking very bright for them.

Maralyn stifled a sob. Caroline sat on the pink frilly bed Maralyn lay on and tried to comfort her sister. That night they didn’t sleep very well, Maralyn waking from nightmares every hour or so and wanting Caroline to hold her. It was so frequent that Caroline decided to just stay with Maralyn and hold her as she slept. Similar to how a mother would hold her fussy, scared child. As Maralyn slept, Caroline whispered to herself.

“I promise Maralyn, until I die I will keep you safe, and I swear I will never stop until we get home. Somehow we will, I don’t know how soon or what it’ll take but we will get home.”

Caroline softly cried to herself, wishing to have seen Seth one last time before this awful camping trip. She wished to had told him how she truly felt about him while she still had the chance, to be able to hug him one last time. She wished to hug her parents one last time and tell them she loved them. She imagined Brenda in the basement tied up and cold, she wished to see her best friend again, to help her. But she was so helpless in this situation. Like a kitten trapped in a cage full of deadly snakes and spiders.

But yet, somehow in all of her thinking, wondering, and wishing, she gave into exhaustion and fell asleep.

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