The Woods Behind The Cabin: Chapter Two
He’s Still Out There
Rob had been staring at the ceiling for a solid two hours. He had given his bed to Ethan and taken the L -shaped couch in the living room. There was something odd about the boy. He’d barely said two words during dinner and wouldn’t tell any of them where his parents were or how he’d wound up lost in the woods, to begin with. Rob turned on his side again and stared at the white bedsheet that covered the back of the couch. Alison’s sobs were trapped in his mind and he found her words repeating like a stuck record, “there was someone in here!”
The floorboards creaked and Rob sat up.
Rob sighed and shook his head. Sensible logic washed over his racing mind and he silently reasoned that since it was night, the temperature had dropped causing the wood to swell. Rob swung his legs over the couch and brought his hands to his face. He was tired. He needed sleep. Water. He needed water. He quietly got up and tiptoed over to the sink. Opting for one of the nearby mugs instead of searching the cabinets for a glass, he threw on the faucet and waited a few seconds before gathering some of the water. He took a long gulp and knocked off the tap before turning around to look at the surrounding living area.
Something caught his eye.
In the lower pane of the front window. Rob squinted and just as soon as he’d spotted it, it had gone. It was dark. He knew his eyesight was marred by the hours of staring at his laptop screen so he took another unperturbed gulp of his water, completely emptying the mug of its contents. He turned around to rinse the mug out and stopped.
A whispering breath could be heard throughout the cabin. The wind outside had picked up a bit but the noise was coming from inside. It wasn’t Stuart, who could be heard snoring from his bedroom. The strange whisper continued to filter through. Soft. Wheezy. Rob slowed his breathing to better hear and felt his heart begin thrum against his ribcage.
Rob dropped the mug and it clattered in the steel sink. He jumped again at the strangled cry and his eyes darted around the living room.
Light spilled out from Zadie and Laura’s room and Zadie came tripping out. She inhaled sharply when she saw Rob.
Laura followed Zadie out and Rob’s bewildered eyes snapped from his female friends to the back bedroom. His body moved before his brain had a chance to catch up and in an instant, he was in the bedroom, flicking on the light as he tumbled in.
Ethan was writhing under the sheets. A thick, glossy sheen of sweat covered his ghostly-white face.
Rob stepped forward but jumped as a small hand grabbed at his wrist.
“Wait!” Zadie knelt on the bottom of the bed and dragged Ethan’s body further down the bed. “He might be having a fit!”
Laura appeared behind Rob and gasped at the sight.
“Ahhhhhhh!” Ethan howled and his torso twisted.
“Quick! Grab those pillows and help me turn him on his side!”
Rob picked up the two pillows at the top of the bed and struggled to place them under Ethan’s head. A loud rumble sounded above and they all glanced up to acknowledge it.
“Oh my God! What’s happening!” Stuart bounced off of the doorframe, tying up his silk dressing gown and Gabe popped up behind him.
“I think he’s having a fit!” Zadie tried to hold Ethan’s kicking legs still.
Another loud rumble sounded and a bright spark of blue flashed outside of the window followed by the harsh pitter-patter of rain.
“C-christ!” Rob gritted as he grappled against Ethan’s swatting arms.
The rain turned and became incessant. Large drops pounded the cabin and the commotion of thunder and Ethan’s howling was deafening.
“He’s trying to say something!”
“Rob!” Zadie screeched.
The boy shot up and screamed directly in her face. Another explosion of blue came from outside and the cabin was thrust into black.
Everyone squealed and screamed at the shock. Pulses raced. Skin erupted with goosebumps.
“Gabe?” Stuart panted. “Gabe!”
“It’s okay!” Gabe’s voice sounded from the living room and a few seconds later he emerged behind with the bright, torchlight on his phone shining in at them. A spotlight was cast on the bed and they all jumped when they saw that Ethan was sat upright, wide-eyed and snivelling.
Zadie fought back the shivers that plagued her body and placed a hand on Ethan’s shoulder. “H-hey, Ethan. It’s just a storm. You’re fine. You were having a fi …” Zadie glanced at her friends, “… a nightmare.”
Another wave of thunder rolled above and a flash shot through the dark.
“B-but what about Peter?”
“Who’s Peter?” Rob muttered.
Ethan turned to Rob and his bottom lip became more pronounced. “My friend. He’s still out there. He’ll be scared.”
“Wait.” Zadie gently squeezed the boy’s shoulder until he turned to face her. “You’re telling me there’s another boy out there?”
Ethan nodded and began to cry.
The group had gathered in the living room. Stuart was busying himself with making sandwiches for everyone. He was nervously humming away while buttering each slice of bread but whenever a roll of thunder would sound out, he’d jump and drop the knife.
“I say, we all get in Stu’s car and head to that village. What was it called?” Zadie turned to Laura, who was sat to the side of her.
“Wend-something or wine-something.” Stuart jumped and dropped another knife as a flash of lightning lit up the kitchen window. “Good job I was done with that.”
Zadie wrapped an arm around Ethan and shushed him soothingly.
“I don’t know how I’d feel about leaving and knowing there’s a child out there. Especially in this.” Gabe shook his head and rocked back and forth on his heels.
“I agree.” Rob came hopping out from the backroom putting his boot on.
Stuart picked up the plate of sandwiches and offered one to Gabe before taking his place on the couch. He nudged Ethan and waited for the boy to take a sandwich before offering the plate to the two women. Both declined.
“Wait.” Zadie lifted her phone and shone her torch at Rob. “Where are you going?”
Rob zipped up his jacket and stood next to Gabe.
“No!” Zadie shook her head and pointed at the front window. “Rob! Have you seen outside!”
“Exactly. Look, I’m with Gabe. I can’t leave knowing there’s a kid out there.”
Laura took a deep breath and watched as Zadie all but jumped up from the couch.
“Rob, be sensible about this.”
“So what? You’re gonna go searching the woods by yourself! In the middle of the night! While there’s a storm going on!”
Another rumble washed over the roof and a flash of blue briefly flooded the interior.
“I’ll go with him.” Gabe offered.
“Hmm!” Stuart clambered up trying to swallow the chunk of bread in his mouth. “N-o.”
“Look!” Rob knelt in front of Ethan. “Ethan. You’re not lying about your friend, are you?”
Ethan swallowed loudly and shook his head adamantly. “Peter. He’s still out there!”
“Okay.” Rob ruffled the boy’s head before standing and facing Zadie. “We’ll spend an hour. Tops. Then if we can’t find him, we’ll all leave. Deal?”
“We’ll be fine. Make sure you guys are all packed.” Rob kissed Zadie’s temple and tapped Gabe’s shoulder.
Gabe fetched his coat from his room and kissed Stuart.
“Be careful or I swear to god …”
“We’ll be careful. Love you.”
“Love you more.” Stuart sighed and sat down on the couch.
Rob pulled open the front door and flinched when the rain bounced off of the porch. Gabe zipped up his coat and pulled up his hood. Rob produced his phone from his jacket, switched on the flashlight, and nodded to Gabe to follow him.
Zadie jogged over to the front door and stopped short of the doorstop. “Be safe!”
Rob waved over his shoulder as he and Gabe began to carefully descend the grassy hill that led into the forest. Another flash of light filled the sky and the roll of thunder that followed sent an engulfing shudder through Rob’s shoulders. He pulled his phone into the sleeve of his coat to shield the device from the excessive rain. His and Gabe’s boots squelched through the long grass before they traipsed past the treeline. Branches swung violently and the two men ducked and dipped to avoid a collision. The large trees offered some reprieve from the sharp onslaught of rain although huge droplets caught on the branches and fell quickly around them in an equally, noisy sequence. Thunder groaned and lightning flashed overhead.
“What was his name?” Gabe sniffled.
“Peter.” Rob held the torch high.
Rob brought his free hand to his mouth and joined in with Gabe’s booming voice.
Laura brought out her rucksack and dumped it next to the pile of bags, suitcases, and coats, beside the front door.
“We can’t leave without him!” Ethan pulled at Zadie’s arm.
“It’s okay. Rob and Gabe are looking for him.”
A rounded ‘ping’ caught their attention and Stuart picked up his phone from the kitchen counter.
“Oh great. Ten percent.” Stuart sighed.
“That’s okay. I’ve still got forty percent on mine.” Laura retrieved her phone from the couch and frowned when she looked at the screen. “Or more like twenty-one percent.” After a few seconds, the phone chimed in her hand. “Twenty.”
“We only need one on. Switch off both of yours and come sit down.” Zadie held up her phone and turned to Ethan. “You don’t need the bathroom, do you?”
Ethan shook his head.
A deafening crash of thunder shook the cabin and all of the occupants squeaked and jumped.
“Jesus!” Zadie pulled Ethan to her.
Stuart wasted no time in sitting on the couch and held out his hand to Laura. Just as the woman sat down she soon jumped up and stared at the window by the front door.
“I th-thought …”
Another roll of thunder sounded.
“Please, just sit down!”
A flash of blue passed through the room and Laura all but fell into Stuart’s waiting arm. The four of them shifted closer together, savouring the closeness and warmth of one another.
“This is my fault.” Stuart sighed and nestled his head on Zadie’s shoulder.
“You're Thor, now?”
Stuart tutted and lifted his head. “No.”
“This isn’t your fault, Stu.” Laura rubbed Stuart’s hand and looked at the window by the front door.
“I should’ve checked the weather. And the signal.” Stuart brought his thumb to his mouth and clasped the nail between his teeth. “And maybe the news for missing youths.”
Zadie elbowed Stuart until he sighed and removed his hand from his mouth.
Laura’s head snapped over her shoulder and she stared at the dark, open bedrooms behind.
“At least it’ll be a weekend to remember.” Zadie chuckled. "It's like we've stepped right into one of Rob's books."
Laura gasped sharply and fell from the couch. The unexpected movement caused Stuart and Zadie to yell in unison.
“What!” Zadie held Ethan tighter and shone her phone torch on Laura.
“There!” Laura crawled back and pointed at Stuart and Gabe’s bedroom.
“What!” Zadie screeched and dragged Ethan to his feet before spinning around and shining her light into the empty bedroom.
“I s-saw …”
“What! WHAT!” Stuart knelt beside Laura and poked his head over the couch.
“Laura!” Zadie’s brow creased and her dark-brown eyes glared at the woman below before snapping back to the room.
A flash of blue startled all of them but Zadie nudged Ethan towards Stuart. The brave woman edged forward and stepped around the low, corner couch. Another step forward took Zadie closer to the open door and she held her phone out in front of her.
Zadie stepped into the room and shone her light into the ensuite. The light bounced off of the mirror and glass shower door, offering reassurance that it was empty.
“I don’t see anything.” Zadie pulled her arm away from the ensuite.
Laura and Stuart breathed a unified sigh of relief as Zadie emerged from the bedroom.
The door slammed shut and Zadie screeched before jumping over the couch and she fell next to the other three.
“What the f…” Zadie shone the light across the room and it bounced off of the closed bedroom door.
A flash of lightning spilled through the cabin, followed by a sharp crack of thunder.
“It’s okay! It’s okay!” Zadie breathlessly announced and her fingers dug harder into Stuart’s shoulder.
“How is it, okay!”
Zadie tore her unblinking gaze away from the bedroom door and glared at Stuart. “It’s okay.” Her eyes flashed to the trembling boy between them.
“Right.” Stuart gulped and quickly patted Ethan’s back. “There. There.”
Rob’s bellowing voice was drowned out by the unabating storm. He and Gabe slid down a bank and found themselves at the strange stone where they had discovered Ethan.
“Peter!” Rob’s voice was hoarse.
“Rob. My phone’s about to die.” Gabe held up his phone and watched as the screen and flashlight cut out. “Dead.”
Rob trudged over to the brambles and shone his torch into the surrounding dark. The stiff shadows moved with the pointed light.
“We should head back.”
A roar of thunder muffled Rob’s wailing call.
Rob turned back to the strange stone and stomped towards it. He wiped the rain from his face and stared into the woods. “What the hell were they doing out here!”
“I don’t know.” Gabe shrugged and put his hands into his coat pockets. “We should go back.”
Rob shook his head and took a deep breath.
“Rob. We need to go.”
“We can’t …”
“Look, I want to find him, just as much as you but we need to be sensible.” Gabe trudged forward and rocked back and forth on his heels. “How much battery, do you have left?”
Rob inhaled deeply and glanced at his phone. “Thirty-two.” Rob lifted his phone to meet Gabe’s eyes but he was gone. A foggy breath escaped Rob’s open mouth as he twisted on his heel. “Gabe?” Rob did a full turn and watched as the flashlight only revealed the gloomy, wet woodland. “Gabe! GABE!”
A raucous growl broke from the sky and the flash of white illuminated the figure of a man ahead of Rob.
The figure had gone.
Don't miss chapter three: "Follow Him", next Saturday. The storm rages on while more strange occurences happen.
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