Before I start, I want you to know and keep this stored, that everything happens for a reason. (Whether this is fact or fiction as a general rule, it remains true to me… at least as far as I’ve learned on my journey.)
I’m walking along a gravel and dirt path, barely used, deep within those woods that have a history of storing creepy stuff inside. As I walk further and further along the path, I keep telling myself that the things I’ve heard are nothing more than myth, legend, or rumor.
I wanted to say the same about the cabin that appeared along the path, a day after I had ventured in to see for myself if the tales were true. I couldn’t make out many details of the cabin. Not before I was inside. It drew me inside. Called to me, physically. I could hear a little girl’s voice, or at least that’s what I had thought that… thing… was. Almost forcing me through that fateful door. That’s the last thing I remember of that horrible, horrible place. That worn, squeaky, terrible oak door.
The outside of the cabin was made of red brick, poorly done mortar, and cinder blocks stacked up to close in the holes where windows may have once been. The house had no vines or flora growing up its walls. It looked… clean almost. But never really cared for. It had a chimney, or something similar. No windows. Only one door.
Once I was inside, and back in my right state of mind, I realized there was no furniture. No light. No other rooms, just a staircase, and a flashlight placed just two steps down. I had no way to check if the batteries were full, as I hadn’t brought pocket tools with me on this particular hike, and I hadn’t intended on setting up camp, so I hadn’t brought a backpack or tent with me on the journey. And, oddly, I had encountered the cabin on the way back from the hike, not on the way in. (The first time I passed by this spot, I had encountered nothing other than the typical sounds of nature: a chirping bird, a soft spring morning breeze floating across the bushes, and the few flakes of snow barely visible to the human eye, carrying the last of winter along with them.)
But now here I was in this strange cabin. I looked around the room for a moment, not eager to go down an unknown staircase armed only with my wit and a flashlight. And because I didn’t happen to have a Phillips screwdriver on me, or spare batteries, I concluded that if I did end up heading down there, I’d need to conserve as much battery life as possible, so I wouldn’t be getting stuck down there in the dark going who knows where.
I don’t know why I didn’t leave. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t. Although the door was, in fact, open… my one source of light at the moment… that place just wouldn’t let me escape.
And now for a little about me. My name is Ben. Short for Benjamin. Ben Bleakson to be somewhat formal, but I’ve always thought of changing my name. My last name at least. I just feel like it makes me sound a little… dull.
I grew up homeschooled, in a good economy, but my dad Jake Bleakson always said, “One day, once you learn to make lots of money like me kid, you’ll learn that you need to save as much of that money as you can. Not spend it on pointless things like paying for school, or entertainment. You’ll learn to be just like your old man. And when that day comes, know I’ll be proud of you.”
I can say for a fact, that I haven’t made him proud yet.
Once I turned 16, I studied and studied to get a driver’s license so that I would be ready when the time came to leave that town, that city, the whole state even. I started a new life. But I kept my name. Through all of it. I never once changed a letter of it. (And I regret every second of that now.)
It’s been 20 years since I left New York City. To move to a countryside home in Kansas. No… no, not Kansas. Why’d I just think I went to Kansas? I went to Canada… I know that. I remember that. Toronto, Canada. The first thing I did was rent a hotel and go to the nearest bar to drink off the long drive I had just made… What made me think of Kan… sas… oh no…
(A few minutes pass, with Ben not counting the seconds, only his heartbeat, which was rapidly rising.)
Whew. Nothing. I thought it’d almost found me there. Never mind that… moving on with the flashback… I ended up with a “medical degree” from the “School” for Gifted Benjamins, hand given to me by my mother/teacher, Elena Bleakson. She’s the one thing I miss about New York. The Bronx, to be specific. Gah! I’m getting off track! Cabin, cabin… right! Dark, who knows where, yadda yadda yadda, standard horror book intro… Okay, back to the story…
“Well, if there’s at least one thing I’ve learned down here, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is predictable. You learn to abide by those rules, those laws. They keep you alive. WOAH! I nearly walked into one of those pits again. That’s the third one today. How can I tell night from day down here? Well, um… The Beast, as I’ve named it, only hunts at night,” I say closing the book A Darkened Cabin by Mike Fowler. I’m reading it to my friends who are gathered around me in the living room, taking turns at reading horror stories.
“Maaaan. Y’always suck at readin’ these days,” says Ty, one of my friends in the little half-ish-circle.
“Yeah! You always try to spin the story yourself! Put your own little bits in between lines! You even skipped ahead too!” accuses Blake, yet another among the now agitated circle of friends gathered around the fire, laughing off the fact that the only form of entertainment we have is playing tag, and telling spooky stories with a flashlight outside the cabin we are staying at for the weekend while our parents are partying their lives away, or something like that.
They took our video games, phones, computers, even candy. Candy! We were outraged… at least for all of 5 minutes, until we found a creepy old unlocked hatch under an ugly Christmas throw rug that led to a library of books written by the previous owner of this cabin. Everything down there was lit by torch, covered in cobwebs, and may as well have had skeleton monsters and a treasure chest atop a pedestal -- it was that level of dungeon-turned-book-storage creepy. We didn’t care. We were kids, and kids like us enjoyed a good adventure. Heh. Adventure. How gullible I was.
Not one book was listed as fiction or non-fiction, although they all seemed to tie back to the book I had just closed up. The cabin. This cabin. But this cabin had no staircase. There was furniture, there were windows, and there was a fireplace. Kept unlit of course, for the safety of us kids. Every morning, birds chirped, a soft breeze, and a faint groan coming from underneath our feet every night. Our parents told us it was just the old cabin settling, to calm our fears. (Fear, as a child, is possibly one of the most powerful emotions you can instill, or receive.)
One of the books we found was dedicated to methods of how to kill creatures like the ones described in A Darkened Cabin. I burned that book. To keep it from making me seem scared of something as little as pages in a book. We were each 10 or 11 years old at that time. 20 years later, when I was moving away from New York City, I began to understand I really should NOT have burned that book.
On the day of my move, a news story was published about the brutal murder of a young girl named Jackie Mayfield 20 years prior in a cabin deep in the woods. The last visitors to the cabin had been a group of pre-teen boys. There were no witnesses to the murder. The body disappeared. The only evidence was the name Benjamin Bleakson, spelled out in flames burning on the grass, outside of the worn-down cabin, which was burning as well. When the fire was fought out, the inside of the cabin was untouched. Though it appeared quite bare anyway, with no furniture, no windows, and a single oak door through which the reporters and firefighters entered to find nothing but a dark staircase… too dark to see the bottom… and one single flashlight. Upon entry, the oak door slammed shut. Reporters with cameras attempted to turn on night vision and record whatever phenomenon was happening, and that exact thing… was the last thing that everyone else in that room ever saw. One firefighter tried to attack it, but his ax just absorbed into the body of that demonic creature. No one got a good look at it. Anyone who tried to look got their heads torn off, their hearts ripped out, or just died right there, by only looking at it. Without even a sound. Now that, that was terrifying.
The newspaper article went on to explain that those who walk that path, those who enter that cabin, will either find death or mercy. An entire group’s fate appears to be decided if merely one person in the group has done any sort of unlawful deed, and everyone in the group pays the price for one. Whether that may range from petty convenience store thievery or mass murder, death will follow. Those who have not done any sort of unlawful or unkind deed in their lives are greeted with a cozy little shelter, fireplace, fully furnished, campfire out back, and rooms to accommodate the exact number of people every time.
Some see it as a god to worship, and some see it as a vigilante who needs to be behind bars. But whatever that thing was that tore our group to shreds, and only I was let free, was anything but human, maybe animal, maybe even from another world. I’ll never know. I never want to. Some have tried to destroy the cabin, with explosives and fire, and though the outside now today may remain as dust, the oak door still stands. The squeak stays the same, no matter how much oil one puts on it. The wear, no matter how much wood polish one should use, never changes. And the fate of those who enter it, well, that’s for them, or maybe even you, to decide.
The news story promptly ended. As did my story. Five years since the death of Benny Bleakson, as everyone in town called him. I looked at the door one last time before I was about to give up. The coin I had brought along with nail and hammer to leave as a symbol, was not nailed in the door, but it was imprinted inside of it. The texture, still there. I pressed up against the door too much, and it opened invitingly. I fell flat on my face. I quickly darted up to see if there was any sign of a staircase, but no. Not today I thought. Not today. I turned around to leave the magic cabin, and the creature stopped me.
“Ah, you cunning little thing you,” I utter before I give it a big hug. After all, I did create it. It purrs softly. We venture further into the cabin as a staircase appears, and we climb up.
Only those who know the story, the true story, of the cabin can find the special staircase. No one has found it yet. Not until today. Not until you. Thank you for finding this. For finding me. A skeleton sits in the corner, fountain pen in hand, and beside it a little chest atop a pedestal. The skeleton is me.
I wake up in my little studio apartment in Times Square, New York City, my alarm clock blaring, soon to be stopped by a slam from my open palm. The clock reads 10:00 am.“Ugh, another dream, another story,” I groan to no-one other than myself through the echoey room. I slowly get up from the pull-out couch, kicking the blanket off my legs, and shamble over to my clothes pile. I throw on a T-shirt and blue jeans, reach over to my right just a few feet, and grab my cell phone. No new texts or calls, no stories published. The fountain pen appears in my hand again, and I know what must be done. I slowly turn the pen towards my eye, preparing to drive it home…then I shake myself back awake from almost drifting off again, remembering I had tried to pull an all-nighter writing a would-be prize-winning novel. Heh, like that would ever happen, dream or not.
I give up on writing today, get up from my folding chair, slip my keys into my pocket on the way to the door, snatch up my green “Writers Right!” baseball cap off the hook, and set it atop my curly haired head. I unlock and open the door, only to be greeted by a hallway, ending with an oak door… the door I had imagined in my dream. I slap myself and nothing happens. I shake a little, pinch myself, even bite my finger a little, but I don’t wake up. The door isn’t real, I think to myself. I’m just hallucinating or something, I decide.
“Yes...” says a gurgly, almost alien voice from about 10 inches behind me, “hallucinating.” I spin around, throwing out a punch that lands on nothing but air. I turn around slowly, hoping the door will be gone, but there it is, still there. There’s no way out other than the door. (Unless of course, I want to become this week’s NYC street pancake.)
I knew that door all too well. I created it; I thought it and molded it.
I walk backward, getting ready to run right through the door, ready to tackle anything on the other side. I break into a sprint, streaking by as fast as I possibly can, screaming all the while, and slowly, the door becomes glass; the once-empty hallway is filled with shocked onlookers; and the solid floor beneath me fades into air. I now know why I shouldn’t have burned the book. I didn’t kill the story; the story killed me. Weakness. Fear. Remorse. Pain.
The sidewalk’s drawing closer; and the last emotion that flows, floods, burns and courses through me… is freedom.