The Woods Behind The Cabin: Chapter One
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Someone Was In The Cabin
“Hate to break it to you all but no phone signal.”
One of the women in the backseat of the Volkswagen Passat lunged forward, yanking her phone from her bag. “Seriously!”
Gabe chuckled and craned his neck over the passenger’s seat. “Hopefully, we don’t run into some horrible, axe murderer.”
“All axe murderers are horrible.” Stuart glanced from the dirt track road in front to his chuckling fiancé.
The other woman in the backseat, Laura, used her hand to push back a smirk as Zadie, sighed and shoved her phone back into her bag.
“We might all become axe murderers if the diva drives us to it.” Zadie looked out the rear-view windshield, at the red, Ford Mustang, trailing behind them. “Give me strength.” Zadie slumped in her seat and closed her eyes.
Laura rubbed Zadie’s shoulder and warmly smiled when her friend met her eyes. “Let’s just enjoy the weekend.”
The stretching fir trees around the upcoming corner receded to reveal a quaint, mahogany, log cabin. The gentle swaying of the branches, seemed to pause for a second, almost creating the perfect snapshot image for a postcard. All of the passengers voiced their admiration. The previous disappointment of the lack of a phone signal was forgotten as the car pulled up and the engine was stopped.
“Oh my days, babe! This looks better than the pictures.” Gabe unclipped his seatbelt and clambered out of the car.
The others copied Gabe’s actions. Laura stretched each leg and glanced at the car pulling up beside them. The passenger remained seated, head cast down, while the driver, got out and walked over to Zadie.
“This place is amazing.”
“Isn’t it?” Zadie smiled as Rob placed an arm around her.
Stuart forcefully coughed and began to tap at his chest, whilst side-eyeing Rob.
“Yeah, okay, Stu’. Nicely done.”
Zadie glanced at Rob’s car. “Her highness, staying there, is she?”
Rob released Zadie from his heavy arm and chuckled, “she can’t get on Instagram.”
Gabe and Stuart retrieved their bags from the boot of the car and waited for Zadie and Laura to do the same. Like a magician, pulling a solid from the ether, Stuart, jangled the cabin keys and half skipped up the couple of steps, onto the small porch. “Come along, boys and girls!”
With a few, failed searches, Stuart finally placed the right key into the lock and pushed open the front door. Gabe dutifully followed and both men paced across the bare floorboards, heads turning this way and that. They were soon joined by Zadie, Laura and Rob and the five, took in their new lodgings. A spacious, kitchen-come-lounge was somewhat dampened by the old fashioned couch and weathered furnishings. The kitchen appliances looked like they had come out of a seventies homeware catalogue. They probably had. Discoloured cream wires were sporadically bandaged with tarnished duct tape.
Stuart’s grin waned and his mouth hung open as he spotted dust mounds on the windowsills. A shriek spilled from his mouth as one of the dusty heaps moved.
Stuart dropped his bags and pressed into Gabe’s chest.
“Oh my God! Spider! Spider!”
Rob laughed and strolled into the kitchen area, lazily opening and closing cupboards on his way to the emerald-green fridge. “Alison’s gonna hate this.”
“Ugh! It smells in here.” A blonde woman barged over the threshold, nose wrinkled and perfectly sculpted eyebrows scrunched together. “Did you even check the pictures?” The unimpressed woman turned to Stuart.
“Quick. Pick the best bedroom.” Stuart whispered up to Gabe and the pair skilfully broke away from each other and began to open the surrounding doors.
Rob closed the surprisingly clean fridge and eyed the blonde. “Aren’t you gonna call dibs?”
“Why? We’re not staying here.”
Laura caught Zadie’s exaggerated eye roll and followed her over to one of the open bedrooms while the blonde stormed towards Rob.
“We are NOT staying here!”
“This is Stu and Gabe’s weekend, Alison. Not yours.”
“So your friends get engaged and I have to compromise.”
“You’re so dramatic.” Rob sighed.
Gabe poked his head from one of the rooms and grinned. “We call this one. Ensuite.”
Rob kissed Alison’s head and walked over to the abandoned bedroom towards the back of the cabin. It wasn’t as disappointing as he’d expected. Bright, white linen sheets and a duvet were neatly folded at the base of the bed and the mattress, unlike the kitchen appliances, looked fairly new. Alison reluctantly peered over Rob’s shoulder and her nose wrinkled again.
“See? Not that bad.”
A large, white sheet snapped in the air and fell over Zadie’s afro. “Hey!” Zadie scrambled off of the corner shaped couch, before the sheet landed.
“Well, I can’t sit on that.” Alison violently slapped the air from under the sheet and began to press the fabric into the grooves of the couch.
“Then don’t sit on it.”
Stuart and Gabe were disinfecting the kitchen counters while Laura was washing every piece of crockery and cutlery they could find. Rob strolled through the open front door, carrying his laptop and charger. He forced a grin when Zadie met his eyes and the pair watched as Alison continued to brush and scrape at the creases of the stretched bedsheet.
“Getting along?” Rob asked under his breath.
“Of all the people, Rob.”
Zadie marched off into her room.
Laura saw Rob standing awkwardly with his laptop and smiled, “you gonna do some writing?”
Rob walked forward and nodded, waving the laptop briefly.
“Can you write, with that?” Stuart wiped at the surface, he’d just sprayed.
“Yeah,” Rob glanced at the laptop, “only had it a year so it’s fine.”
Stuart stopped his actions and shook his head. “Not that.” Stuart nodded towards Alison.
Rob quirked an eyebrow and quietly chuckled.
The final glimmer of daylight, faded and the surrounding fir trees became inky silhouettes against the sinking, navy sky. Despite the ominous dark outside, the mismatched lamps bathed the cabin’s interior in a warm, burnt-amber glow.
Laura lifted her head from her book and looked to the door. Everyone else around her continued with their movements. Stuart and Gabe were washing and drying up the crockery and pans they had used for dinner. Zadie was stretching behind the couch doing her yoga routine. Alison, was frantically tapping her phone and holding it up, above her head, searching for a signal. The constant, muted tapping that came from the back, bedroom suggested Rob was still in the thralls of a heavy writing session.
There it was again.
Laura closed her book and walked over to the pine, front door. The others around her took brief notice as she opened the door and peered out onto the small, empty porch. Laura clasped her closed book to her chest and scanned the shadowy surroundings. Leaves rustled in the breeze and an unseen crow cawed somewhere between the trees.
Laura spun on her heel and saw Stuart shaking a tea towel violently.
“Shut the door!”
Laura glanced up and saw a large, spiralling, moth dancing just below the doorframe. With an almost ballerina-like twirl, she managed to return inside and shut the door before the insect could flutter in.
Zadie fell from her downward dog position and scrambled up onto the couch.
“What the hell was that?” Rob came marching out of the back room.
Zadie pointed at Stuart and Gabe’s now shut bedroom door. “It just slammed shut!”
Stuart sighed and handed Gabe the tea towel. “Did you leave the window open?”
“No. You can’t open our window.”
Rob walked over to the door and opened it. A sweeping arm traced around the door frame and flicked on the sickly-yellow, ceiling light. The room was still.
"I-I closed the front door." Laura said.
Stuart placed a hand on Rob’s shoulder and peaked his head around to look. “How odd?”
Rob flicked off the light and turned around to Zadie.
“That door closed by itself.”
“It’s probably the hinges or something.”
Zadie shook her head, quickly rolled up her yoga mat, and all but stormed off into her and Laura’s room.
“Time to call it a night?” Gabe called from the kitchen.
“I think so. We want an early start on the trail.” Stuart lightly patted Rob’s chest and shuffled into the room behind.
Rob leant on the back of the couch and held out a hand for Alison. Her usual challenging countenance was gone and without so much as uttering a word she took Rob’s hand and followed him to their bedroom.
Gabe offered a swift, “nanight,” to Laura as he retired.
She was still stood clutching her book like a shield over her chest after the others had gone and her saucer-like eyes finally blinked.
“Laura! Don’t make me come get you!”
Laura jumped from her spot by the front door and scurried into her room before Zadie closed the door.
Twigs crunched under the series of hiking boots that weaved through the trees. Rob and Gabe led the small party over rising hills and winding slopes. The sun barely filtered through the tightly knitted, fern leaves above but the forest seemed bright and open, opposed to its ominous appearance of the night before.
“I heard clicking, last night.” Laura said and unscrewed the cap off her water bottle.
“Well, Gabe and I slept like a pair of babies so I think she’s making it up. No offense, Rob.”
Rob chuckled and smiled over his shoulder to Stuart.
“Yeah but that doesn’t explain the door.” Zadie adjusted her pack and copied Laura by grabbing her water bottle.
“No but Alison, clearly isn’t a nature person and she’s using the ‘not-being-able-to-sleep-thing’ as an excuse not to come today.” Stuart wheezily said and batted his palm across his bald head. “Jesus, I kinda wished I’d thought of it.”
“You wanted to celebrate our engagement out here.”
“Because I’m idealistic, babe.”
Gabe laughed and waited for Stuart to catch up with him before taking the panting man’s hand.
“Hey, check this out.” Rob jogged over the threshold of a bank and skilfully scaled down into a small clearing. He briefly glanced behind to make sure the others were following.
One by one they emerged slightly out of breath but their heads preened in curiosity.
Rob ran his hand along the strange, upright stone that was in front and used his fingers to trace the long-faded markings that dotted its mossy surface.
“Uh, do you think it’s a gravestone?” Zadie flinched slightly before taking a bolder step forward.
“Or a sundial?” Laura joined Rob’s side and ran her hand across the side of the stone.
“Laura, sweetie. Why would there be a sundial out here?” Stuart pointed around them as if to further his point.
“Well, we don’t know how long it’s been here.”
“Which came first? The wood or the stone?” Gabe smirked.
“I knew you were gonna say that,” Stuart hid his head in Gabe’s arm.
Rob continued to stare at the stone. His mouth slowly dropped open and he reached for the stone again.
Rob's head snapped around and his brow immediately wrinkled, on seeing everyone had gone. He squinted and blinked sharply.
“Rob!” Gabe yelled.
Rob stumbled in the direction of Gabe’s panicked voice and he tripped over a carpet of catching brambles before seeing his friends knelt down and gathered around something. Laura opened her water bottle and passed it to Stuart.
“It’s okay. Here, you go,” Stuart cooed.
Rob took a couple of steps forward and finally saw the object of their attention. The young boy took a shaky, dribbling slurp from the water bottle before looking up at Rob. He blankly stared at Rob and nodded his head as if he knew him. His pale skin was covered in dirt and small scratches but aside from that he looked relatively healthy and unscathed.
“Can you tell us your name?” Zadie asked.
The boy briefly caught the concerned woman’s eyes before nodding, “it’s Ethan.”
Gabe and Rob took it in turns to carry Ethan back down the trail. Gabe made an effort to make some small conversation with the boy.
“Won’t be long now. Okay?”
When it came to Rob’s turn, he remained completely silent. Ethan was heavier than he looked. Rob shifted the boy in his arms and Ethan tightened his grip around Rob’s neck. Rob trailed behind the others with the added weight but he continued at a steady pace. Small twigs snapped beneath his boots. Zadie’s and Laura’s hushed voices danced from ahead. The sounds seemed to merge into a rhythmic backing track for their walk. Then came a strange hissing sound. A whispering breeze crept through the trees. Rob’s footsteps slowed and a warm breath hit the skin beneath his earlobe.
Rob jerked his head away from the boy and Ethan turned his face to look at him. “Did you say something?”
Ethan’s soft brows scrunched together and he shook his head.
The cabin jutted out from the peripheral trees. Rob squinted at the others as their heads turned simultaneously and each of them darted for the cabin. Rob dipped his head forward.
“No! Help! Help!”
It was Alison. Rob held Ethan tighter as he broke into a jog. The nearer he got, the louder the screams grew. They were desperate and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He jumped onto the porch, swiftly passed Ethan to Gabe and barged past an open-mouthed Stuart and Laura. Zadie was trying to force his and Alison’s bedroom door open.
“I can’t …” Zadie stood back.
“Alison!” Rob tried the handle then pushed at the flat of the door.
“Rob!” Alison’s voice came out in a high-pitched sob.
Rob took a half step back and rammed the door with his shoulder. The door rattled but remained undisturbed. Just as Rob took another step back the lock clicked, the door was ripped open and a hysterical Alison came flailing out. Rob caught her just in time and he wrapped her up in his arms. The others uncomfortably stared and watched as the woman continued to wail and sob.
“It’s okay. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”
“What happened?” Zadie’s voice cracked and she cleared her throat to chase back the lump that was forming.
“There w-was …” Alison stammered and mewled, “th-there w-was someone … someone in here!” On the final word she erupted into a choking cry.
“Oh my God.” Stuart gasped behind.
“Who? Did you see who?” Zadie pressed.
“Alison.” Rob began to walk Alison into the living area and sat her down on the couch. “Grab me some of that brandy.” Rob nodded to Laura and she immediately began to fetch the bottle and a glass.
Alison broke into a series of gasping whimpers and clutched onto Rob’s arm as she took the offered glass. After a few aided sips her whimpers calmed into interspersing sniffles.
“Alison?” Rob cooed.
“I was on-on the bed, tr-trying to sleep and I …” Alison bit back a whimper.
“It’s okay, take a deep breath.” Zadie inhaled deeply then blew out a steadying breath.
Alison copied the motion and after a couple of breaths, she continued. “I heard someone walk in. I thought it was one of you guys s-so I got up to see then …” fresh tears filled her eyes and Rob began to rub circles on the small of her back.
“I heard footsteps running towards the bedroom so I slammed the door shut!” Alison started crying again.
Stuart took the bottle of brandy from Laura and took a quick swig before offering it to Gabe.
“Did you see who it was?” Zadie asked.
Alison shook her head.
“Did they try the door?”
Alison leant into Rob’s chest and whimpered, “no b-but I heard them walking around.”
Stuart's blue eyes darkened and he inhaled deeply. “Is this like the random banging?”
“Stu?” Rob shot his friend a questioning look.
“What! I’m not saying she’s lying but when we got here the door was closed! Gabe checked the bedrooms!”
Alison sat upright, “there was someone in here!” The dishevelled blonde stood up abruptly and took a deep breath. She held out a hand to Rob. “Give me your keys.”
“Give me your keys!”
They all watched as Alison stomped across the cabin, into the bedroom and returned with her bags.
“Alison,” Rob said and stood up to meet her.
“Give me your keys!”
“I’m done! I’m not doing this!”
Zadie slumped back and waved her hands in the air, “here’s the diva strop! I was just starting to feel sorry for you”
“Screw you bitch!”
“Oh, I’m the bitch!”
“Hey, calm down …” Gabe lowered Ethan down and held onto the boy's shoulder protectively.
“And whose kid is that! You know what …” Alison slammed her bags into Rob’s chest and all but ran into the bedroom.
Rob followed her and watched as she violently pulled out the contents of his bags until she found the car keys. “Alison …”
Alison snatched her bags from Rob and flounced past the others. With a matter of moments, she had clambered into Rob’s car and started the ignition just as he came running out of the cabin.
The engine revved and the car skidded down the gravelly drive until it had sped off down the dirt track.
Rob’s heart was racing as he gazed off into the trees and listened to vehicle disappear before finally returning inside. Rob simply stood in the doorway, looking dumbfounded at each of his friends.
“Good riddance. Right, come on, sweetie,” Stuart reached for Rob and guided him to sit on the couch next to Zadie and Ethan. “I think we could all do with some food and a drink.”
Zadie tried to smile when Ethan glanced up at her. “We need to phone the police.”
“There’s no signal up here.” Rob lazily said and continued to stare at the floorboards.
“Well then, we need to take him to the police.” Zadie rubbed Ethan’s shoulder.
“Please. Can we go tomorrow? I’m tired and hungry.”
They all gaped at the pale boy and silently nodded between themselves.
Thanks for reading this first chapter. My plan is to release a chapter every Saturday in the run up to Halloween. Don't miss chapter two: "He's Still Out There", next Saturday. Rob and the others start to realize that things aren't quite what they seem with Ethan.
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