- The Cabin -
I´m writing this so that people will know what happened, and what drove me to do what I did. I´m writing this as a warning, so that no one else will follow in my footsteps.
It began last week. I had recently inherited some money, not I-never-have-to-work-again-money, but still, a good amount. It was from an aunt on my father´s side. I had really only ever met her a couple of times when I was a kid, I hadn´t had any contact with her after my father died when I was in my twenties, even though she was my last living relative.
I instantly knew what I wanted to spend it on. I had always wanted a small cabin in the woods where I could flee the everyday stress, the city, all the shit that we all have to deal with on a daily basis. A place just for me, where I could kick back by the fire and just recharge my batteries. I wouldn´t say that I´m an introvert, I just enjoy my own company more than spending time with others, that’s all.
So, a couple of weeks ago I´m browsing the internet for cabins not too far away from where I live, and my curiosity was peaked by an ad on one of all the websites with houses for sale. A smallone-story wooden cabin, situated right by a medium/large lake in the middle of the woods, not another house for miles in any direction, and only about a two-hour drive from my home. It looked exactly like the cabin I´ve always seen in my mind whenever I´ve been daydreaming about having my own place like that.
Now, it did seem to be a bit run down, but the price was almost too good to be true, I just had to see this place with my own eyes. Curiously enough, even though they´ve posted an ad for this place online, I couldn´t seem to find a website for the agency. Only a landline phone number on the ad itself. I called the agency to set up a meeting with their agent. After a few unanswered signals a man answered. He sounded out of breath, like he had rushed to answer the phone. We decided that I was going to drive up to their office on Tuesday last week and meet up with him, and together we were going to drive down to the cabin to have a look.
So come Tuesday, I´m super exited all day and feeling good about this place. Two minutes after I got off work I´m in my car, typing in the address to the agency in my GPS and of I go. The office was located in a small town not too far from the cabin, about 30 minutes by car. The town itself was your typical small community, with small shops and stores that looked like they had been owned by the same families for generations. A small church, kids playing in their yards with the fallen autumn leaves on the ground, it seemed to be a quiet peaceful place to live. A typical everybody knows everbody-place.
The not so gentle GPS-voice abruptly advised me that I was coming up to my destination in a couple of minutes, I took a turn and saw the sign for the agency on the other side of the street. I turned my car around at the next intersection and when I came up to the place a man was standing outside with a briefcase, constantly checking his watch, clearly waiting for someone to arrive. I parked my car and got out to go over to the agency when the man looked over my way.
- You´re here for the cabin, right? - he said with a classic sales smile on his face. The
cabin by the lake?
- Yes, yes, I am, I replied.
- Alright, well let’s get going! he said while shaking my hand firmly. Before we lose the last daylight.
He got into his car that was parked down the street and asked me to follow him in my car. I noticed that he seemed a bit stressed, his face a bit pale with beads of sweat on his forehead, like he was coming down with something. We drove out of the small town and was soon driving on twisting and turning small roads through the woods. The trees were exploding in autumn colours, yellow, orange, red, it was mesmerizing, like driving through an oil painting.
After driving for about thirty-forty minutes in this gorgeous scenery the agent’s car took a sharp turn down a small dirt road. If you didn´t know it was there you probably never would have seen it. It was overgrown with high grass and was a bumpy ride. Luckily, we only had to drive down it for about 10 minutes. Then I saw it, the cabin. It was from what I could see all what I had hoped for, and more! I couldn´t wait to go inside and check it out, I was so excited!
I parked my car next to his and got out. So here we are! He said. Indeed! God what a beautiful place, I whispered to myself while looking around. The cabin looked just like in the ad, a small dark wooden house right next to the lake. The lake itself looked a lot bigger than it did on the small photos I had seen. The surroundings were all forest, everywhere you looked all you saw where these giant ancient majestic trees reaching for the skies, now full of colors. The ground was covered with the fallen leaves, some dancing around in circles in the mild winds blowing, you could really smell the fall in the air.
Soon it would be winter, and I could only imagen how beautiful this place would look like covered in snow.
I decided then and there that I would spend my entire holiday vacation there. Should we have a look? - I heard him say, awaking me from my daydreaming.
Yes, yes of course, show the way! - I said smiling.
So, this cabin is old, the agent said while slowly walking towards the front door. In fact, we don´t know who built it or when, he continued, but for as long as we have had a town record, this cabin has been here, and we´ve been keeping record for about 140 years, but I honestly think this cabin is much, much older than that.
- Now, of course the cabin has seen a couple of different owners over the years, and most of them has modernized the place in some way or another when moving in. For instance, there is running water, an indoor bathroom and electricity. There is however no landline telephone, and the cell-reception out here is sketchy at best.
Ah no worries, I said, my plan is to come out here to get away from all of that anyway, so that´s actually just good, gives me another reason not to check my emails every five minutes!
Ha ha, yeah, I know what you mean! Come on, let’s go inside, he said.
I didn´t say anything, but his sales pitch was unnecessary, I had already made my mind up. I needed this place. It was however out of character for me to feel like this, I could easily spend several days browsing through different stores, comparing prices just for a pair of jeans. Yet, here I was, ready to hand over quite the amount of cash on a cabin I´ve never even sat foot in.
But somehow it didn´t bother me, it was like I was drawn to it. I needed it, I wanted it, with every fibre of my being.
The front door opened straight into a large living room. In the wall to my right there was a big stone fireplace, beautifully and masterfully built with large stones of different forms and sizes, carefully placed like a jig-saw puzzle, framing the fireplace.
Opposite it to my left was a door to the bedroom, and next to that, the door to the bathroom.
I immediately fell even more in love with the place, I was so into it that I at first didn´t even reflect over the fact that it was furnished.
The bedroom was a cosy little room with a big window overlooking the woods and the dirt road we drove down a couple of minutes earlier. In front of the window there hung old, see-through, once white, curtains, you know the ones grandmas always have for some reason. An old sturdy bed stood in the centre of the room, complete with a madras and bedspreads. If not for all the dust, it looked like someone had just got up from it this morning and left it. Next to the bed there was a small sized table with a candleholder, covered in old melted stearic.
The Bathroom was a small space with just the things you needed, a shower, a toilet, and a sink. You could tell this part was added on not that long ago, but still, it looked like it had been there for quite some time. It needed some cleaning, thats for sure, but all in all it was just fine.
On the far side of the living room there were three big windows with an amazing panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding forest. That was about it, the cabin wasn´t much more than that, which was perfectly fine by me, I certainly didn´t need any more than this. I could already see myself sitting in front of the fire with a glass of scotch and nothing on my mind. This place was perfect.
- Yeah, the previous owners left everything behind it seems, the agent suddenly said.
I can´t for sure tell you what happened to them, I just know we got a letter from them including the keys to the cabin, saying they had to move and that we should contact them when the place got sold to wire them their money. You can keep the furniture if you want, or replace it, whatever you want.
Weird, I thought, but not unheard of, people can have to move in a hurry for any number of reasons. I looked around and the furniture really did go well with the place. Big strong wooden tables, a leather sofa that looked to be really comfy. Bookshelves filled with old books, lamps. It really gave the place a nice ambiance. I´ll probably have to buy a new bed though, I thought, feeling a bit weird about sleeping in some stranger’s old bed.
I went over to the big windows to take another look of the amazing view, the last rays of the sun gently kissing the lake and the woods. It was first then that I noticed an opening to my right, on the same side as the fireplace. It led into a small kitchen, it had all the basics, nothing fancy, but just what you needed. There was also a back door from the kitchen leading out to the backyard, right by the lake. I opened the door and took a step out. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of the crisp autumn air. It filled my lungs and I could feel myself growing calm. Slowly, I opened my eyes to the view in front of me and took it all in. It was truly amazing, a little piece of paradise.
I drew another lung-filling breath before I stepped back inside and closed the door behind me. I was looking through the drawers and cabinets when I noticed that the floor sounded differently in the middle of the kitchen. There was a small carpet there, and when I pushed it away with my foot it revealed an old hatch underneath. It´s hinges blackened by time and neglect. I looked over to the agent who was leaning against the wall by the kitchen entrance.
- Go ahead! He said, almost in an exited manner, motioning with his head towards the hatch, open it
I leaned down and grabbed the handle and pulled the hatch towards me. It creaked and groaned like it hadn’t been opened in years. The deep dark empty space beneath it stared back at me as I was trying to see what was down there. A steep wooden staircase with questionable stability led down into the darkness. I looked around for a flashlight and, like he was reading my mind, the agent came over and handed one to me.
- Here you go, he said with a smile. I always keep one on me whenever I go into the woods.
I started to descend the stairs with one hand firmly gripping the wall and the other one holding the flashlight, illuminating the steps in front of me. About fifteen steps down I made it do what looked to be a classic dirt cellar, the kind they used to have in the old days when you needed somewhere to keep your food from spoiling, if you didn´t have access to a refrigerator. This dirt cellar, however, was a bit different. It looked like someone had used it as an office of some sort.
There was an old desk, and two big bookshelves along the walls packed with books of all sizes. What an odd place to put an office, I thought. I shined the flashlight around the small space and saw that there was an old oil lamp hanging from a hook in the ceiling, I took it down and brought it with me back up to the kitchen.
- I got to say, I really, really love this place, but I´ve got to ask, why the cheap price? I asked the agent.
- Well to be honest, we´ve had this place on the market for quite some time now without any luck. I really don't know why no one else has come along sooner and swooped this beauty up, cause as you've seen yourself it's a beautiful and well-maintained place, hell if I had the money myself...
- It really is something, I said, slowly looking around. You know what..., I said after a moment, not wanting to sound too eager, I´ll take it! Where do I sign?
I didn't think he could possibly smile any wider than he had done this whole time, but when I said I wanted to buy the place I swear I thought his face would crack from how wide his smile was.
- Right here! He said while opening his briefcase that he'd been holding on to this whole time. He tossed it up on the kitchen counter and opened the clasps on either side and pulled out a stack of papers. He had the contract drawn up and ready to be signed. - Sign here, here, there, initials there, and there...
He looked almost like someone who had 9 out of 10 lottery numbers down and just waited for that jackpot number. I put down my last initials and noticed how he was breathing heavily and had started to sweat a little.
- There you go! He almost shouted, you´re officially a cabin owner! Congratulations!
- Thank you very much I said, but.. What about the money?
- Oh, there’s an account number in there somewhere he said while pointing to my copy of the contract, just wire us the money when you can, I trust you!
- Ok... Yeah, I´ll do that as soon as I have access to the internet again!
- Perfect! Well. I´ve got to go, I have a long drive home and it really is getting dark out there he said while he was walking to towards the front door.
- Yeah, me as well I said, following him. He suddenly stopped and turned around.
- You mean you´re not staying here tonight?
- No no, I have work tomorrow and need to get some stuff from home before I can stay the night here, I´ll probably drive up this weekend to get settled.
- Oh... I see, he said, looking almost disappointed, well, drive safe and don´t hesitate to call if you have any questions! And with that, he was out the door and within minutes driving up the dirt road again.
I took one last look around. My cabin, I thought. My own cabin. I let a slight laugh out, I couldn’t believe it. The sun was just about to disappear behind the trees on the far side of the lake, making the water look almost like the entire lake was ablaze. A thick mist was slowly rolling out over the waters and even though I was inside, I could feel the coldness out there. I turned to leave when I in the distance could swear I heard a faint giggle. I stopped in my tracks and listened, nothing. Must be the house, I thought, wooden houses make all kinds of weird noises when temperatures change. I shook it off and went out through the front door, locked up and walked over to my car to drive home. The leafs rustling and crunching beneath my feet.
It was completely dark out by now and I had to take it real easy to find my way out to the main road again, quietly reminding myself that I needed to look over that dirt road and clean it up a bit. I had been driving for about ten minutes on the main road back, twisting and turning when I came up to a sharp right turn. The second I came around the corner, I all of a sudden saw a person step out of the woods right in front of my car. I slammed on the breaks, but it was too late! The person in front of me turned her head and looked me straight in the eye. It all went so fast, but I could clearly see that it was an old lady, she was smiling ear to ear beneath a dark hood. I closed my eyes and prepared myself for the unavoidable impact, but it never came. The car came to a screaming halt, and I slowly opened my eyes again, my heart beating like crazy. I was breathing so hard Ialmost passed out before I could calm myself down. I looked all around me but couldn’t see anything or anyone outside.
I loosened my seatbelt and got out of the car to see where the old lady had gone. My god, is she under the car? There was no one, nothing. I was sure she had been there just seconds ago. I could still see her old creepy face in front of me, had I fallen asleep? I turned my warning signals on and walked back the way I had come, but there were no signs of anyone. All I could see were the black tire tracks on the pavement, and the smell of burnt rubber mixed in with the smells of the forest.
The wind was picking up, trashing and taring the huge trees from one side to another, branches cracking and breaking in the wind. In the distance I heard a lone owl howl. After looking around for a while I, without finding any evidence for an old lady, or any other person for that matter, got back to my car and drove all the way home, the rest of the way being uneventful.
So, Wednesday & Thursday came and went, I had put the incident with the car behind me and wrote it down as stress or sleep deprivation and was so, so ready to get back up to my cabin to spend my first of many weekends there. “My cabin”, I thought with a smile.
My bags were packed and already in the car. I hadn’t had time to look for a new bed yet but figured that I just throw some blankets over the existing one and make it through the first couple of nights like that.
I sat in my office and counted down the minutes while staring out of the window. Outside, the busy city was living its life. People in suits stressing to get from one place to another, cars stuck in traffic honking at each other to get out of the way. Buildings of all sizes, packed tight together, blocking out the last few hours of the afternoon sun, casting shadows on the streets and stopping the fresh air from freely flowing whilst containing all the foul stench of the city with their broad, tall walls looming above all. I absolutely couldn’t stand it here. I felt claustrophobic amongst all this. I wanted, no, I needed to get back out there, to the cabin. I closed my eyes while listening to the clock on the wall slowly counting down the seconds, tick,tack, tick, tack. In my mind I was back by the lake, feeling my lungs once again being filled with that pure, fresh air. Tick, tack, tick. I opened my eyes, the clock had just struck five pm.
I slammed my laptop together, grabbed my stuff and took off to the elevator and pressed the button for the garage. The elevator stopped on each floor to let more people in, pushing me further and further back. I could feel the panic of this containment creep closer. My pulse beating faster and faster. I stood in the corner at the back when the elevator doors once again opened, I couldn't see much from my position, the small metal box now packed with people, all wanting to get home as soon as possible, but for a split second, in one of the mirrors on the wall, I thought I saw a familiar face step in into the elevator. I tried to look past all the suits and trenchcoats in front of me, and that's when I saw her. One quick glimpse was all I got, but I saw her. The onlyone not facing the doors, but staring me straight in the eye, there she stood, the old woman that I thought I had run over the other day, smiling.
I only saw her for a split second, and when the doors finally opened again and people started to exit, she was gone.
I waited for all the people in front of me to get out before I slowly started to make my way out to the badly lit garage on the other side of the doors, clutching my things tight against my chest, all the while looking around to see if I could see where the old woman had gone. But just like the other day, she was nowhere to be found.
I finally got to the car, sat down and closed the door behind me. I took a deep breath, you´re imagining things, I told myself. Another breath, I slapped myself in the face a couple of times to return to reality. Finally, I was on my way!
I got up to the cabin at around 7 pm, the sun was in vain struggling to illuminate the oncoming night sky. The trees looked just as beautiful as a couple of days ago, majestic, beautiful, huge. I wondered how old they could be, how long had they stood here, dancing in the wind, their roots digging deeper and deeper into the soil for each coming year. What secrets do they keep, what have they seen during their time?
After unloading my stuff from the car, I unlocked the front door and flung it open, dropping my bags and belongings on the couch and immediately started to get a fire going in the big fireplace. The soothing sound of the wood starting to crackle and catch on fire soon filled the small living room, along with the calming smell of a warm fire.
I went out into the kitchen and brewed a big mug of strong, black coffee. I took the mug into the living room and started to look a bit more closely on the stuff that the previous owners had left behind, there was some real nice things here. An old 50´s radio, you know the one that takes up half the room, a typewriter, all set up to be used with an old wrinkled paper still stuck into it, some figurines, random knick knacks.
I started to go over the books on the bookshelf and noticed that they all had the same theme. They were old books, like, really old, antiques, about spirituality, religions, dark magic, crystals, and stuff like that. I had never been interested in things like that, but I got intrigued.
I pulled one of the books out and sat down on the couch, skimming through It while sipping my coffee and listening to the fire, now at full blaze, spreading its warmth around the cabin.
I can´t understand how people still believe in this stuff, I thought to myself while flipping through the pages. I went to put the book back up on the shelf when I noticed the painting hanging over the fireplace. How had I not noticed this before? It was a big oil painting with a thick hand carved, dark wooden frame. A painting of this very cabin. It looked old, but the cabin in the painting basically looked the same as it did now. The quality was amazing, so much detail. All the small differences in the colors of the wood on the house, the hundreds, if not thousands of leafs on the trees, each carefully painted, the way the sun broke through the clouds in the sky and reflected on the lake. The lady in the window. Wait, what lady? I looked again, there was no one in the window. I had to rub my eyes, I swear I saw someone there just now... I must be getting tired, and hungry, I could hear my stomach growl, I hadn’t eaten since lunch. I brushed away the unsettling feeling of the painting and went back into the small kitchen.
Damn! I was supposed to stop and buy groceries on my way up, I had totally forgotten. I had literally nothing to eat. I better drive into the small town to get some food, I though while putting my jacket back on. I downed the last of the coffee and placed the mug on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, then stepped out through the front door. Just like last time I was up here, the wind had now picked up again and the trees were once again swaying violently from one side to the other, desperately trying to hold on to the last of the yellow-redish leafs as they were being ripped from their branches in the wild gusts, like a mother trying to hold on to her child in panic.
I got out to my car and started to drive away when I took a quick look in my rear-view mirror and saw the exact spot that the painter must have stood while creating the painting above the fireplace. I swear I could see someone standing in the living room window, if only for a split second, I stopped the car and turned around to get a better look, there was no one. My mind isplaying tricks on me, I really need to eat, I thought and kept on driving. I got into the town and parked my car and started to walk around, it really was a small place, one main street and a couple of smaller ones intersecting, with mostly homes of different sizes. The place seemed deserted at this time. Yellow-tinted lights above the street rocked back and forth in the wind, it had started to rain. I couldn’t see a living soul anywhere, but I felt like I had eyes on me from behind every curtain of every dark window I walked by. I wrapped my jacket closer and tried my best to avoid the cold rain as I finally found a small grocery store with the lights on, and went inside.
The store mirrored the rest of the town. It was like taking a step back in time as I went inside.
It looked like a grocery store from the 50’s, big bags of wheat, potatoes and seeds of some sort on the floor with hand painted signs. Cans of all kinds of soups and preserved fruits and vegetables on the wooden shelfs. The place was lit only by a dimmed light, hidden somewhere above the rows of shelfs that took up most of the place of the small shop. A radio was playing quietly in the distance, and you could hear the rain
gaining in intensity as it poured down on the windows.
There wasn´t much to choose from so I got some basics and went to the register to pay.
The owner was an elderly gentleman with a white beard and round glasses, he reminded me of Santa I remember thinking. He looked up at me with from his chair where he sat, reading a paper, with a suspicious look.
- You´re not from around here, are you? He said while starring me right in the eye.
- No, no I just bought a cabin up here out by the lake. Spending my first weekend
out here as a matter of fact, I said with a smile.
- Cabin by the lake? Huh... he said while slowly registering my purchase.
- Yeah, just a small place.
- I see. He said, and... this is your first night?
- That´s right, just needed to get some food out there, I responded while pulling out
my wallet to pay the old man.
- Mister! He said firmly, leaning over the counter towards me.
If I were you, I would get in my car and drive back to wherever you came from! he said.
I just looked at him, dumbfounded, I didn´t really know what to respond to that so I just grabbed my grocery’s and started to walk towards the door, casting one last look back at him before I went outside.
- I´m serious, he said when I turned back to him. Forget about the cabin, go home!
- Wh..Why? I heard myself ask.
- That place isn’t right, I know what cabin you mean. Stay. Away! Go back home and forget all about it. He said.
- I laughed a nervous laugh, Yeah, I think I´ll be alright I said.
- Yeah that’s what they all say, the old man muttered. Don´t say I didn’t warn you.
I slowly walked out of there and closed the door behind me. That was weird, I thought. I started to walk down the street, the rain now absolutely poring down seemingly from all directions, hard gusts of wind making the streetlights cast their beams all over, and in turn creating an intense show of shadows appearing and disappearing on the side of houses all along the main street.
I realized I was close to the agency, where I had met the agent on Tuesday. But when I came up to spot where we´d met, the place was all boarded up, and oddly enough it looked like it had been like that for some time. The wood on the boards looked old and weathered, rusty nails protruding from the sides, like it had been nailed to the wall for ages. There was no sign of having had any business for years, let alone three days before. I tried to peak inside between the mouldy smelling boards, but couldn´t see much. It seemed completely empty and abandoned.
The growling sounds from my stomach brought me back to my senses and I hurried back to my car, realizing I was now completely drenched by the rain and freezing to the bones. I couldn't wait to change into some dry clothes and sit down in front of the warm fire back at the cabin.
On my way back, I remembered that I still had the agent’s number in my list of recently called numbers on my phone. He did say I could call if I had any questions. I called him up to check what had happened to their office, but as soon as I hit dial, I got the familiar tone of a number that had been disconnected. That´s odd, I thought, I´ll try him again tomorrow.
The whole drive back I couldn´t shake the comments from the old man in the grocery store. He really sounded like he meant what he said. He sounded almost scared for my wellbeing. Like he knew something I didn’t. Should I go back and talk to him? What did he mean by “That´s what they all say”? Who? I decided I would speak to him again next time I got into town as I was far to hungry, wet and tired to turn the car around now.
When I got back to the cabin, I parked the car and quickly went inside. I was so hungry I was about to pass out. I went into the kitchen and found a saucepan that didn’t look to nasty.
I cleaned it up as good as I could and started to fry some eggs and bacon, the best I could find in that small store. I noticed the old oil lamp on the kitchen table that I had brought up from the dirt cellar. I wondered if the old owners had left any lamp oil laying around and started to look around
the kitchen shelves. After moving some stuff around I found a bottle with some fluid left in it and filled up the lamp and lit it. It gave a real cosy light and a nice smell, I left it on the kitchen table while finishing making my late dinner.
I sat down to eat, while looking out into the darkness that had settled over the lake. The rain, crashing down on the surface like someone was throwing hands full of pebbles with all their might into the lake. The winds stirring up white foamy waves going all directions at the same time, crashing into each other with force, sending the foamy droplets flying and joining the rain from above. The Cabin was moaning and creaking in the wind and the rain was hitting the windows so hard I almost started to worry it could break the thin glass panes by the shear impact.
I started to think about the cellar beneath me. It really was a strange place to have an office. No windows, cold, dark. I needed to investigate it further, I thought. I finished my dinner and placed the dishes in the sink. Before I checked out the cellar, I had to put some more wood on the fire, you could really start to feel that this was an old place, not great insulation, especially in weather conditions like these. If the fire went out it would get real cold in here, real fast. I went out into the living room, the fire was almost dead already, red embers glowing.
It was dark. In the window by the front door, the same window that you could see in the painting over the fireplace, was an old ugly lamp with a dark orange lamp-shade.
I went over and turned it on, it flickered a bit but lit up after a while. It didn’t do much to illuminate the room though, it seemed it’s light only reached as far as the window and back, turning that small part of the room sickeningly orange.
I went over to the fireplace and found two big logs in the basket next to it, these will do fine, I thought and tossed them on the fire. As I turned to go back to the kitchen and down to the cellar, I saw out of the corner of my eye the painting, there’s a light in the window, I remember thinking.
I did a double take and looked over there again. No, there’s no light, there´s no woman, and no light.
My mind is playing tricks on me again I thought. Must be all this fresh air, or internet abstinence, orsomething...
I went back into the kitchen and rolled up the carpet to reveal the hatch underneath. I grabbed the handle and pulled it open again. This time I didn’t have the agent’s flashlight to guide me, I had to take the oil lamp with me. It didn’t light up anywhere near as well as a flashlight, but it was better than nothing. I got down and started to look around. The desk was an old massive wooden desk, oak, I think. How on earth did they get this down here through that narrow hatch and that steep staircase? I wondered.
The floor was basically just packed dirt, the walls were made of wood, the same kind as the rest of the cabin. You could smell the rain from outside, being soaked up by the wet ground on the other side of the walls. Two big bookshelves stood to my right, both packed with books. They were all in the same category as the books upstairs, crystals, demons, witches, stuff like that. Some of the looked extremely old with cracked spines, all leather bound. I pulled one of the older looking ones out and blew the dust of the cover. There was a faded image of a mountain top in the foreground with what looked like a fire behind it, I flipped through the pages, it was written in some foreign language I couldn´t understand, it looked like nothing I had ever seen before.
I put it back and continued to check out the inventory. I thought I could see something that stood out against these old spines, tucked away in the back. I removed them and held the oil lamp up to get a better look. There, in the back of the shelf was another book, but this one seemed to be a bit newer than the others, it had no title, no image on the front. In fact, it looked more like a diary than a book. I got intrigued.
It was too dark to read down there, so I went to bring the book with me upstairs again. I turned around towards the staircase but the second I sat foot on the first step, the hatch above me slammed shut with such force it shook the ceiling. I got so startled I dropped the book and damn near dropped the lamp as well. I rushed up the stairs and tried to open it but it wouldn’t give way. It lifted a few inches than slammed shut again, almost like someone was standing on it above. I swear, I heard a giggle, like before, only closer. I started to freak out and was about to yell out for help when I realized there was no one around for miles. I was alone, alone in the dark, damp cellar. The claustrophobic panic started to set in again, but as quickly as it had started, it stopped. Suddenly, the weight lifted, and I could open the hatch again.
I flung it open and quickly went down and got the book back up from the floor and rushed back upstairs again, where I just threw myself on the kitchen floor and lay there breathing for a while wondering what the hell just happened. I got up and closed the hatch behind me and went into the living room and sat down in the leather couch in front of the fire. Outside the weather had not at all started to settle, it seemed only to get worse.
I placed the book on the table and got up from the couch and walked over to the big windows overseeing the lake, trying to shake the sudden rush of adrenalin out of my system while watching the storm rip into to the surrounding forest outside. I worried a bit if the huge trees near the cabin could withstand such brute force. What if one of the trees would fall over in the wind, it would turn this cabin into tinder in the blink of an eye.
Alcohol, I need alcohol I thought and remembered that I had packed a bottle of scotch in one of my bags. I got it out and found a glass in the kitchen. I poured myself a real generous drink and went back to the couch and took a big sip. Was it all in my head? Was I imagining, was I freaking myself out with all these incidents, the old lady, the painting, the agency being boarded up, the man from the grocery store and his warnings, the hatch, all the weird books...?
I took another sip, then turned to the diary. I opened it up and read the first to sentences:
“I´m writing this so that people will know what happened, and what drove me to do what I did. I´m writing this as a warning, so that no one else will follow in my footsteps.”, it said.
I continued... “But if you´re reading this, chances are it´s already too late for you. If you have come so far as to have found the cellar, and the diary, then you probably already have signed the contract.” I looked up; I had the strangest feeling of being watched. I looked around but I was alone, I went back to reading, the rain outside hammering down on the roof and windows.
“If you have signed the contract it´s too late, you have already given yourself to her, you probably already know who I mean. You´ve seen her out of the corner of your eye, maybe in the cabin, maybe in the woods, maybe even in the god damn painting over the fireplace.” I looked up at the painting, no light in the window, no woman. I kept reading.
“That damn painting is cursed, I threw it on the fire only to find it back on the wall the next day. And that was just the start, I tried to get away, but it was pointless, no matter how I tried, I still ended up where I had started, in that fucking cabin. I have now realized that there is only one way out. Tonight I´m going to end it myself. I´ll hang myself in the cellar. I won’t let her win, she can´t have me, or my soul, or whatever it is she wants from me. I´m going out on my own terms.
I´m sorry to say, but if you´re reading this, you’re probably going to want to do the same, soon”. I shut the book hard. What the hell is this, I thought. This must be some sort of prank from the previous owners. I heard something, like something slowly being slid over a rough surface, I stood up and gulped down the rest of the glass with one big sip. Out of the corner of my eye I
saw my coffee mug suddenly flying across the room from the mantelpiece, crashing into the opposite wall in a million pieces.
Fuck this, I said out loud, - I´m going home. I grabbed my jacket and bolted out of the door and ran for the car. The wind almost lifted me of the ground and the rain felt like I was being hit by a thousand tiny nails, I could swear I heard a distant voice in the wind. I got into my car and turned the key, it wouldn´t start. I tried it again, and again and again, no luck, it was dead. Damnit! I screamed and got out again and started to run up the dirt road.
The second I turned my back to the car, a huge branch broke from the tree just above and came crashing down, straight through the windshield of my car, into the drivers seat.
Holy shit! I exclaimed as I fell backwards into the mud. I struggled to find a grip in in the slippery surface, eventually getting myself up again and immediately started to run up the dirt road. I´ll find a ride once I hit the main road, I thought.
It felt like everything around me was trying to stop me from leaving. The wind and rain were almost to much to run against, the branches from the surrounding trees seemed to reach out after me like bony fingers, snagging me, trying to grab on to me. I ran, and ran and ran, man was this road always this long? After running for at least fifteen minutes in a straight line, I saw a light ahead. Finally, I thought, maybe it´s a car! I ran faster, I gave everything I had!
Then, in disbelief, I fell to my knees.
The light in front of me wasn´t a car, the light, was coming from the old ugly lamp in the window, the window of the cabin. How!? I hadn´t made a single turn, how could I be back? I looked behind me to get my bearings. There, in the distance I thought I saw someone standing in the middle of the road, but as soon as I tried to focus and look closer, it seemed like the person disintegrated and blew away like leafs in the wind.
I got up and ran back to the cabin, I went back in and locked the door and fell to the floor, panting and trying to wipe the mud and rain out of my face. I need a plan. I need to get out of here, what the hell is this place! My mind was racing.
My thoughts were interrupted by the painting, all of a sudden falling to the floor with a loud crash. I got up and slowly went to pick it up but dropped it as soon as I looked at it.
There, in the painting, was a woman standing outside the cabin, right outside the front door, clear as day. I stumbled back and fell down on the couch. I slowly turned my head towards the front door and saw the door handle slowly turn. I flew up to make sure the door was locked and slowly backed away again. The door handle suddenly stopped moving, but was immediately replaced with the sound of the old typewriter behind me, typing. I turned my head, and to my disbelief watched as the letters were being pressed down, one by one, by some invisible force. I slowly made my way over there and looked down on the paper. "You are mine you are mine you are mine", over and over. I couldn’t bealive what I was seeing, and glanced over to the kitchen. The backdoor, I thought. I had to make another try to get out of here.
I took off into the kitchen, and out the door. Once again I slid down into the mud, got myself back up again and took off to my left, into the woods and alongside the shore of the lake. There´s bound to be another house somewhere along the shore I thought. I tripped and fell, got branches in my face and tore my jacket on the thorns but I didn’t stop. After about twenty minutes I saw a clearing up to my left, up in the woods. It looked like a camping spot, maybe there’s someone there that can help me? I thought.
I tried to move as quiet and quick as I could while doing my best to keep the rain out of my face, but when I came to the clearing it was empty. No sign of anyone being there anytime lately. There were, however, markings and carvings on the trees all around the clearing. I got up closer, it looked like the same language that I had found in the old books, almost Latin but not quite. Three rows of text on one tree, and some weird carvings. It was hard to make out in the darkness, but it looked like a crescent moon, and something else. In the middle of the clearing there was a big stone circle on the ground, twigs bound together resting on the trees. What the hell is this?
I went back down to the shore and moved on in the same direction that I had been going before, more than once tripping over fallen branches and stones, almost falling into the damn lake itself. I looked back out over the water, I could still clearly see the Cabin way back there, it looked perfectly peaceful from here, but I knew better by now. I turned my head to move on and got the wind completely knocked out of me. There, right in front of me, it stood. The god damn cabin. I looked back behind me again, a mist lay over the lake blocking the view, other than that - nothing but woods. I just saw the fucking cabin behind me and now, here it is! As if I had run a full circle around the lake and come up to it from the right-hand side. I could feel my sanity go, I´m losing it!
Shit like this can’t be real, I must have crashed my car on the way up here and ended up in a coma or something, and this is all a dream. Yes, yes! that´s it, this is a dream! This is not happening, reality doesn’t work this way! I didn’t know if this in fact was what was happening, but somewhere, somehow, it gave me a small moment of relief. The thought that this might all be some kind of messed up dream. After all, what was more likely? More probable? That I somehow had ended up in what I only could describe as a haunted cabin, or that it was all in my head? Occam’s razor and all that? the simplest solution is almost always correct? Almost always…
I had no choice but to go back into the cabin for the second time since the world turned to absolute shit. I was so cold, my teeth hammering against each other like a jack hammer trying to reach the centre of the earth. My clothes were by this point more water than fabric. I got back in through the kitchen door and closed it behind me. I carefully looked around. No one in the kitchen, the hatch was closed, empty in the living room, bathroom, bedroom. The painting looked normal again, front door still locked. The typewriter was still, I walked over to it again, the paper was blank. There was nothing written on it. Coma, dream, I thought, it must be. Either that, or I am truly losing my mind. I sat down in the couch again with a loud sigh and poured myself another drink, the fire was still going. It felt good. I discarded my soaking wet jacket on the floor
and could feel myself calm down a bit. I glanced over at the table and saw the diary still laying there. I grabbed it and kept on reading.
“I just can´t see any other way out. I don´t know what happens if she catches you, I don´t want to know. All I know is that I’ve been up here for three days now, and I can’t get out. I’ve tried getting to the main road, I’ve tried running out into the woods, I’ve even tried swimming over the fucking lake, no matter what I try, I always end up right back here at the cabin. This place is cursed. I even tried to burn it to the ground but the fire wouldn’t take. It’s a god damn wooden cabin! And the fire wouldn’t take! God damnit... I´m writing this as a warning, but I don’t know if it will make any difference. On my last day here, today, I found a diary myself, written by the last owner, with a warning for me, or for whoever would have found it. Poor guy before me couldn’t take it either. He had ended his stay here, and on this earth by going out into the lake to drown himself. I think hanging probably is faster, If I only had a gun, I could end it in a second. I truly hope no one needs to read this, but if you do. I´m so sorry. “
I lay the book down and stared into the fire. If this really is a dream, a coma, maybe I need to die here to wake up in the hospital? Either way, I can´t take any more of this, the panic slowly started to return, I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. It´s not like I would be missed. Sure, they would have a moment at work, say a few things about me but that’s it. I don´t have any family, no girlfriend or wife, no kids. I have to try, I have to try to die so that I maybe can live again, if this really is a dream, maybe it´s my only way out.
As soon as I had made up my mind the old radio started to crackle and the dial lit up in a sickeningly yellowish light, the needle of the dial slowly moving back and forth through the frequencies all by itself. A voice in the distance behind the static... - No! You are mine, you have signed the contract, you will not bereft me of what I own. You belong to me! A loud bang on the door, the handle started to wiggle furiously. I stood up in panic, staring at the door, then at the radio, the dial now flying back and forth in a manic speed, and the room from nowhere burst with loud white noise.
I ran to the kitchen, grabbed the oil lamp, and opened the hatch and went down. I tried to barricade it so that you couldn’t open it from the other side, all I found was some rope. I tied it to the hatch and secured it to the staircase and went down. I started to look around, I didn’t know for what. I glanced back up at the rope, was it enough? I stopped and looked, there was a sturdy beam in the ceiling. Yes, I will follow the last guy here... But first I went through the drawers and after a while found this book, this empty diary. I had to write this down. This is my warning to you, whoever you are, this is my goodbye. Maybe I'll wake up somewhere in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of me and machines all around, maybe not, I just can’t take it anymore, I have to chance it.
As I´m writing this I can hear screaming coming from the white noise upstairs, I can hear furniture being thrown. I need to end this now, before she gets to me. I’m using the rope from the hatch, and I´m hanging myself on that beam. I hope you never have to read this but I´m leaving the book in plain sight on the desk down here.
Silence, was I dead?
I opened my eyes. I was lying on the dirt floor, rope around my neck. My head hurt. Blood was dripping into my eye, what had happened? I tried to get up, but I was pinned down. I had tried to hang myself, but the beam had broken and knocked me out. It looked like the back of the room was about to cave in. I managed to get out from under the beam and sat up on my knees. I couldn’t breathe. I loosened the noose from around my neck and tossed it to the floor, breathing hard and deep.
The beam had knocked over one of the bookshelves. There was something behind it. What was that? A room? I managed to stand up and limp over to the bookshelf still standing up and leaned against it. The oil lamp was still burning on the desk, I took it and moved closer to the opening. I had to push the heavy shelf to the side to be able to slide in behind it. I entered the hidden space and held up the lamp to illuminate my surroundings.
What was that in the back of the room, it looked like an altar? A big stone altar, bowls with..something in it, it looked like dried up blood mixed with some other stuff, the smell was nauseating, I felt like throwing up.
The walls were covered in weird symbols and sigils. In the centre of the altar there was another book. It looked like it was bound by small patches of leather. Was it leather, it almost felt like..skin. There was a symbol on the front of an eye and a crescent moon. It looked like it had been burnt into the skin.I opened the book, it too was covered in text I couldn’t read, but somehow, I knew that this book was connected to all that was happening. Maybe if I destroyed it? I grabbed it and limped back out to the dirt cellar and up the staircase. There were still no sounds coming from up there, I tried to move as quiet as I could up the stairs and through the hatch. As soon as I had come up, I started to feel sick, I wanted to throw up, everything was spinning. The white noise came back with a vengeance, it was deafening, it was like it was in my head. I could feel blood starting to drip from my ears. I have to destroy this book, that was all I could think of. I got sick in the sink and fell to the ground.
Something flew by my head and crashed in the wall behind me, a plate. I looked up, the entire shelf on the wall was shaking, glasses flying of it right at me, I caught one right on my eyebrow, blood started to pour down my face. I mustered all the strength I had left and started to crawl towards the living room. It felt like I was crawling up a steep hill, like gravity had shifted. I grabbed hold of the wall by the opening and pulled myself closer.
The fireplace, I have to throw the book in the fire. I managed to get to the living room but had no strength left, I could barely even breath. I threw myself on the floor, I had a narrow angle to the fireplace, I saw the painting above it, it had changed again, the forest was burning, the lake looked like it was boiling lava. In the window of the painting she stood, I could see her clearly now, her old wrinkly face, her eyes, oh my god her eyes, pure white eyes, it felt like she was staring into my soul. I turned my head to look over to the actual window, there she stood, her back to me. She slowly turned her head towards me.
This was it.
I had one chance, or I would be hers to do with as she pleased. I aimed, still lying down, and with the very last of my strength threw the book towards the fire. time seemed to slow down, it seemed like everything was happening in slow motion. In a blink of an eye, she was over me, hovering in a horizontal position, her eyes just inches from mine, she smelled like death and carnage. Her dark wet greasy hair covering my face, her ice-cold hand firmly gripping my wrist. I could feel her long yellow nails bury themselves in my skin. I could feel myself dying from the inside when in the corner of my eye I saw the book disappear into the flames. An ear-piercing screech followed. It felt like the whole cabin imploded, a bright white light, and then, nothing.
I woke up yesterday in the hospital, they say a couple of hikers found me out in the woods, at what looked like a camp spot. Apparently, I had been lying there in the middle of a big stone circle, unconscious, dried blood everywhere, torn cloths, bruises all over. I wasn’t sure what had happened, I remembered everything, but couldn’t even believe it myself.
It had to have been a dream I thought. That was, until they came to change my bandages, there on my wrist, was two barely visible scars, a crescent moon, and an eye.
I don´t think I´m out of the woods yet...
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