By: Craig Forshaw
‘This place sucks!’ shouted Peter. ‘It smells funny, and I want to go home!’
His father, John, sighed. Peter was barely thirteen, but he was already turning into a stereotype of teenage whinging.
‘You never take me anywhere decent!’ he continued, and he punched the wall. The punch was hard enough that the boy winced.
‘That’s enough!’ stated John, emphatically. He knew he had to end the argument before it escalated further, and one of them said – or did – something they may both regret. ‘Go to your room, and calm down!’
Peter looked at John with a granite face, defiance carved into it for a moment.
John returned the look – a family trait, but one that John had much more practice with.
In an instant, Peter crumbled. He waved his hand at John, and made a ‘W’ sign with his hands as he walked into his room. Whatever…
John sat down in his chair after his son had gone, and rubbed his eyebrows. He felt like he should have a headache coming on, but he knew it was just because he was stressed.
The cabin was unexpectedly awful. That was true. The floor-boards creaked and felt weak beneath their feet, like they were going to snap and drop them into the abyss below. There had been a whole host of spider’s eggs in the chimney, bulging and ready to hatch. The smell that Peter had hated so much was either mould (which was bad enough), or something that had died somewhere in the cabin.
It was cold, cramped, and just a little crap, John reflected.
He rose from the chair, itself worn down and dying, and felt damp now that he thought about it. There was a tightness in his bladder, and though it was night-time, he had no choice.
He opened Peter’s door.
‘I’m going to the toilet,’ he said.
Peter had his shaved head covered with a pillow, and the wire from his mp3 player ran straight under it.
John thought about making him listen, but then decided Peter needed the time to calm down.
It was dark outside the cabin, and quiet in the way that woods are always full of some noise, even if it is just the general ambience of the wild. The shadows clung to the edges of everything, and every noise was given a sinister quality by the uncertainty, the lack of light, the scared child within us who still wants to check in their closet before going to bed at night because you just know something is there… and now, those somethings are all around you, behind every tree trunk and branch, hiding in every pile of leaves.
John shook those childhood cobwebs from his head, and wandered to the outdoor toilet with a toilet roll in hand.
Every step on the leaves gave an isolated crunch, and sometimes he heard a crunch in the distance in response.
Oh, crunch, the conversation went.
He grinned. It was a silly notion, but for some reason it amused him.
Anyway, the toilet was the only thing to fear in these woods. The door could be described as rickety, but doing so would insult the very notion of something being rickety. Its door was barely held in place, there was no light, and something had got in there and decided that it was as good a place to die as anywhere else. The walls were caked in something brown and green, which had dried on the walls like plaster, and crumbled with a horrible smell when you touched it. The roof was filled with the carcasses of flies and wasps and whatever else the spiders had captured and eaten.
But it was all they had.
John opened the creaky door, and stepped into the darkness. He had to reposition it, as the hinge was loose at the bottom.
He dropped his trousers, and felt the icy kiss of the toilet seat on his behind.
Something landed on his shoulder, and he quickly brushed it off.
Then, there came a noise from outside the door.
Low, guttural, growling.
Something was breathing growls and crunching as it walked.
The small amount of light from the house caused a shadow to move across the crack at the bottom of the door.
The thing was crunching close by…
And then it stopped.
By the door.
Silence. This time, there was no sound.
Then, the crunching commenced once more, like a terrible creature gnawing its way through the leaves, slowly, but surely, making its way towards the cabin.
John had no problem completing his business at the bathroom.
Soon, he gazed through a crack at the edge of the door, made because of the broken hinge.
There was nothing there.
He opened the door slowly, and then, with careful steps to keep the crunching as quiet as possible, he headed for the cabin.
Inside, the only sound was from Peter’s mp3 player. Dubstep, down and dirty and full of oppressive bass. John rushed towards his son’s room -
There was no-one there.
He went to shout, but the words caught in his mouth, scared that the creature might find him, too. Eventually, he croaked, ‘Peter…’ rather quietly, almost a sob.
He checked the rooms, but he knew there was nothing there.
The room spun round and round, and he was dizzy and dazed. Bile fought its way to his throat, and he fought it back down.
His son had gone! The last words they had said to each other were angry ones. How would he forgive himself?
Grief consumed him, and wrapped him in dark comfort, as he fell to the floor, weeping. He stayed there for a few moments, and his mind ran wild. It was a shapeless feeling, a terrible oppressive murkiness in his mind. It told him everything bad he had ever suspected about himself, and confirmed they were all true. His son was gone, and it was his fault, wasn’t it?
Shouldn’t he have confronted the creature?
Shouldn’t he have rushed to his son’s aid?
Shouldn’t he have been a man?
Then, he noticed something he must have missed as he ran into the cabin – a shoe on the floor, by the door. It came into focus as his tears parted like curtains, and the world came back into focus.
The door creaked in the breeze.
He rose on unsteady legs, and staggered towards the door.
Through it he saw that shadow world of endless, hidden horrors.
Outside, Peter was hanging by a noose from a tree.
John rushed to the kitchen. Found a knife. Back to the door.
There was a dark figure, now, beneath the tree.
It must have been seven foot tall.
Its clothes looked like they were carved from dirty grey slate.
Lank hair hung over its yellowing eyes.
It wore a beard of dried blood around its mouth.
It had been eating.
And now it was grinning.
Peter struggled frantically, but the creatures movements were slow and purposeful. It paced slowly towards John, its massive arms, like gravedigger’s shovels, swinging only a little as it stalked forward.
John took a few steps backwards, into the house.
The creature didn’t seem to be moving fast, but it was on John in a moment.
Those giant rocks clutched his neck, and squeezed.
John felt like his head was going to pop. Just when he started to lose consciousness, the creature threw him through the chair.
John hit the floor, and as the chair broke, insects started crawling out of it.
Suddenly, they were crawling out of everything in the cabin, swarming everywhere.
John felt his mind snap.
The creature stepped towards him.
The floor creaked, and snapped, and then the creature’s leg vanished beneath it.
It was stuck. It pulled at its leg, but couldn’t get it free.
The insects started to climb over it.
John stood up, uneasy, and edged around the creature, whose long arms reached towards him from the centre of the room.
John edged his way to the door, as those hateful yellow eyes judged him. He couldn’t help but stare into them. They saw only meat.
The creature licked its lips, and threw itself towards John, but couldn’t reach as he stepped out of the door.
Crunch, crunch, crunch… John raced to the tree. Peter had stopped moving, but it didn’t mean he was dead.
John looked for somewhere to climb up, but saw that the rope had been tied to a nearby stump.
Within moments, he had untied the knot. He held Peter in his arms, and pulled the rope from his neck.
Peter’s breathing was shallow. His neck was burned from the rope.
But his eyes opened, and they were full of tears.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said.
John shushed him. ‘It’s okay, now.’ He stroked his head.
‘Where are they?’ asked Peter.
‘It’s stuck inside, we…’ John paused.
‘They?’ he asked.
He didn’t feel whatever hit him from behind.
He didn’t feel anything, ever again.