The Woods Behind The Cabin: Chapter Three
Zadie paced back and forth across the living room. Her eyes were fixed on Stuart and Gabe’s closed bedroom door. Laura, Stuart, and Ethan were huddled together on the couch.
“God, it feels like they’ve been gone for days.” Stuart lifted his thumb to his mouth but Laura nudged him.
“Right.” Zadie picked up her phone from the kitchen counter. “Everyone, in the car.”
“I’m not going without …”
The front door was flung open and they all jumped at the tall figure that entered. They held their breath as the figure removed his hood.
“Oh thank God!” Stuart skipped forward and stroked Gabe’s cold cheek.
“Wait.” Laura got up and glanced out at the torrential downpour. “Where’s Rob?”
“He’s …” Gabe spun around and wiped his face, “… he was …”
Laura rushed to the front door and squinted through the veil of rain, searching the treeline for Rob. A figure could be seen standing between two trees however it was gone with the flash of lightning.
“He was right behind me!”
Zadie’s phone chimed in her hand. “Great.”
“I’ve still got some battery on mine,” Gabe said and pulled out his phone from his coat pocket.
Laura flinched when another flash of lightning exploded across the black sky.
“He shouldn’t be too far …” Gabe grabbed the edges of his hood.
“You’re not going back out there.”
“No!” Stuart shut the front door and folded his arms. “Plus, we need you here because …”
Gabe held out a hand waiting for Stuart to finish his sentence but he simply nodded to the bedroom door.
Stuart tutted and sat on the couch with Ethan.
“What?” Gabe briefly turned to Laura then to Zadie.
“The em … door … did that thing again.”
“It doesn’t matter. Look, we should start loading up the car.”
Laura stared out of the side window at the swaying fir trees. A figure could be seen running out of the woods. “I think …”
The front door was thrown open and Rob stumbled in slightly out of breath.
“What?” Laura glanced out of the window and noticed that the figure she had seen was gone.
“Where’s Peter!” Ethan stood up.
“Where did you go?” Gabe patted Rob’s arm.
“Where did I go? What about you! You just left me!” Rob slammed the front door shut.
“What! You were right behind me!”
“Whatever …” Rob took off his jacket and proceeded to hit it against the wall before shaking it.
“Well, I take it you weren’t successful?” Zadie stepped forward.
Rob avoided her eyes and continued to shake the excess water from his jacket.
“Right, Stu'. Keys.” Zadie grabbed her bag and motioned for the front door.
“Whoa, wait. What are you doing?”
“We’re leaving. All of us.” Zadie nodded to Stuart who produced his car keys.
Gabe and Stuart picked up their bags between them and Zadie opened the front door. The three were just past the threshold.
“Where’s Ethan?” Rob dropped his sodden jacket and walked over to the couch.
“Bathroom?” Stuart offered.
Rob raced to the back of the cabin and a series of doors could be heard opening.
The others watched as Rob came back in with his phone torchlight on. He walked into the remaining bedrooms, one after the other.
After, a few moments, Rob stepped back into the living area. “He’s gone.”
“Gone? What do you mean! He was right there!” Stuart pointed at the couch.
“Ethan!” Laura finally moved from her spot by the window.
“Guys! Get in the car.”
“Zee!” Rob glared at the woman.
“He doesn’t want to be found, so leave him.”
Rob’s brow dipped. “He’s a kid!” He switched off his phone light and placed the device in the back pocket of his jeans.
“Exactly! Do you know how many kids are in gangs!” Zadie stepped inside and squared off with Rob. “For all, we know he could be a decoy or something and we’re all just sitting ducks for some group of …”
“Is it! We all saw what happened to that family …”
“That was in the city!”
“You’re serious, right now?” Rob blew out a long breath and shook his head.
“Look, we’ll come back with the police.” Zadie lowered her voice and reached for Rob’s arm. “That way at least we’ll know if Ethan’s even listed as missing.”
The others remained completely silent during the exchange until Gabe cleared his throat. “Zadie’s got a point.”
Rob shook his head.
“I can’t. I can’t leave. I know it sounds crazy but I just … I can’t. You guys, go and bring back the police but …” Rob’s words trailed off and he simply shook his head again to emphasize his point.
“The power’s out,” Stuart said.
Zadie waited for Rob to meet her eyes before she hugged him. “Be safe, please.”
“We’ll be back as soon as we can,” Gabe said and adjusted the bags in his hands.
Zadie passed Gabe and Stuart and the three turned to look at Laura. She unfolded her arms and lazily pointed at Rob.
“I’ll stay too.”
Zadie glanced at Rob and squinted at Laura. Zadie shrugged and held out an arm to her friend. “Don’t do anything, I wouldn’t do," she whispered.
After a few awkward shrugs, the group separated and Rob closed the front door. The car doors could be heard opening and closing, between the rolls of thunder. The red of the taillights glowed against the front window and slowly dragged across the panes until they disappeared.
Lightning danced afterwards and Rob turned to Laura. A stifled word spilled out of his mouth as he saw a face behind Laura’s head.
Rob crossed the floor and dragged Laura backward.
Lightning flooded the cabin and Rob’s head darted around.
“Rob!” Laura pointed at Stuart and Gabe’s bedroom door.
The door slowly swung forward and stopped.
Rob pulled his phone from his back pocket and held it up as he flicked on the torchlight.
The door swung back on its hinges then slammed shut.
Zadie and Laura’s bedroom door slammed shut.
Rob’s bedroom door and the bathroom door followed.
Laura clung onto Rob’s side. “Rob?” She squeaked.
A series of faint chinking sounds came from the kitchen. Rob shone the light onto the weathered cupboard doors and jumped when one opened. The glasses inside were vibrating. Another cupboard opened and the plates inside were also rattling together.
A roll of thunder passed over the cabin.
“I dunno …”
A glass fell from the open cupboard and Laura screamed.
“What the hell!” Rob jumped and pulled Laura to the front door.
More glasses and plates shattered and one of the brass lamps lit up. The large corner couch creaked and groaned. It scraped across the floorboards and the other brass lamp lit up. The whole cabin began to quake and a deafening rumble filled the air.
Rob turned and snatched open the front door. He and Laura stumbled down the wet steps and onto the gravelly driveway.
The lights inside the cabin began to pulse and strobe in sync with the slamming of doors and the smashing of plates.
Both Rob and Laura cowered and flinched when a blinding streak of lightning filled the sky.
The cabin was still.
Laura’s shivering head pivoted and she grabbed Rob’s soaked arm. “Rob! There!”
Ethan was stood to the side of the cabin staring at them through the rain.
“Ethan …” Rob motioned forwards and at the same time, Ethan broke into a sprint and descended the grassy hill.
Thunder crashed overhead as Rob and Laura took chase. Rob skidded and slipped as he followed the boy into the woods. The breathless man spun around and caught Laura as she tripped over an exposed tree root.
“I’m okay.” Laura panted.
Rob held his phone up and they caught a glimpse of Ethan’s form darting through the trees.
“Ethan! Come back!” Rob jolted forward.
Laura tried to keep up but without a source of light, the trail became cumbersome to follow. She lifted her head and her eyes blinked under the weight of the rain.
Laura watched as Rob’s light disappeared over a small hill.
Thunder roared and lightning streaked through the twisted canopy.
“Rob …” Laura spat and wiped at her mouth as a branch caught her face. She coughed and spluttered hoping to rid her mouth of the rainwater that spilled down her face. She glanced up and her heart stopped.
Ethan was stood within arm’s reach of her.
Ethan held out a pale and dirty hand to her. “He’s this way.”
“Rob!” Laura called into the trees before taking Ethan’s hand.
Rob wretched and grabbed onto a nearby tree trunk. The rain seemed to be heavier than before. Each drop felt like a knife against his chilled skin. Rob hissed and held up his phone. There were only more trees in front.
Thunder erupted and a blinding flash ripped through the scenery. A sharp buzz filled the air, as a stray bolt of electricity shot against the tree Rob was stood next to. The Y junction of the tree burst into flames and Rob leapt out of harm’s way. His phone bounced and landed nearby. A slow burn plagued his hands and legs as he lifted his body from the thorny landing pad.
“Ah!” Rob stood up and pulled the broken barbs from his hand.
He glanced up at the small fire that was smouldering in the tree behind and bent down to retrieve his phone.
The light went out just as Rob’s swollen, red fingers wrapped around the device.
Rob’s head snapped in the direction of the voice.
A young boy, stood watching him. He was the same height as Ethan but his hair was long and matted.
Rob blinked a few times to clear his vision and he took a step forward. “Peter?”
The boy smiled and shook his head.
Rob stepped over the low, thorn bush and reached his hand out to the boy. “It’s okay. You’re not in any trouble …”
The boy laughed and turned on his heel.
The boy ran through the trees.
“Hey!” Rob growled and willed his stiff knees to move.
Rob managed to follow the boy despite the treacherous landscape and poor visibility until he spilled out into a large, empty field.
Rob watched as the boy continued to run across the field but when the next wave of lightning churned overhead, the boy had vanished.
Shivers rippled down Rob’s spine as he heard the murmurs of children’s laughter float out from the woods around.
A little girl was stood to the left.
A boy to the right.
A taller boy and girl were behind.
Rob’s eyes counted a series of at least ten children, all stood on the edge of the woods.
Whispers filled the air.
Lightning split the sky.
A pressure began to build in Rob’s ears and he brought both hands up to lessen the sensation.
The trees around seemed to spin as though he had just stepped onto a fairground carousel.
“Stop it …” Rob gritted out.
The whispering and laughing overtook the downpour and thunder.
Rob opened his eyes and lifted his chin.
There across the sodden field, was a man walking towards him. The man had long, black hair, and his skin was almost the same colour as his billowing, white shirt. Baggy, muddy trousers were tucked into equally, muddy bucket-top boots.
The whispering children had disappeared and Rob’s full attention was brought to the strange man approaching him.
Be sure to check out next week's concluding chapter, "Sign Your Name".
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