The Cave and the Cottage

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A camping trip turns into Lucy's worst nightmare as the terrors of the forest become a reality. A cat and mouse story .

Submitted: July 20, 2013

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Submitted: July 20, 2013

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Prologue

 

The fire ripped through the rafters. The timbers sparked and small flames bolted loose dancing across the twilight sky, crackling a melody, a melody of inevitability, a melody of purity. The timbers creaked and spat, trying in vain to hold together their crumbling frame. The fire burned, hotter and stronger until, with a final inevitability, the timbers broke and the cottage collapsed. Destroyed by the flames, cleansed by the heat, the smoking embers twinkled in the moonlit sky.

 

‘At last’. Lucy cried, tears meandering their way down her cheeks. These were not tears of joy or tears of happiness. These were tears of acceptance. Acceptance that it was over and gone.

 

Michael watched as Lucy stared in to the fire. Both were motionless, expressionless. They stared until the final embers ebbed away and darkness fell. Without a word being said, Lucy and Michael exchanged glances and then without a further thought Lucy turned her back on the old cottage.

 

Part 1

 

The tent flapped gently in the summer breeze. Lucy was awake. The darkness of the night had fallen and only the firelight provided any reprieve from the gloomy woodland that had engulfed them.

 

The twinkling campfire reflected in Lucy's eyes. She tapped the edge of her cigarette and the with a final puff she tossed the butt into the embers watching for a moment as it frizzled in the crimson flames of the fire. The forest was silent. No sounds of animals, no sounds of people, no sounds, except the fluttering of her tent.

 

‘Crack’

 

Lucy leapt to her feet.

 

‘Crack’

 

He eyes darted around the darkness trying to find the source of this new, alien sound.

 

‘Crack’

 

The noise resonated from behind her tent.

 

‘Crack’

 

She darted through the flapping fabric of the tent doorway. Michael lay slumbering on a makeshift bed. She shook him.

 

‘Wake up’ she whispered, shaking him a little harder.

 

No response.

 

‘Crack’

 

‘Wake up’

 

Michael turned, moaned, stirred momentarily from his sleep, shuffled on to his side and then fell back asleep.

 

‘Crack’

 

‘Wake up’. She yelled digging him deep in the ribs.

 

Michael jerked to attention.

 

‘What is it?’ he said slurring his speech in a dreamy response.

 

‘Listen’

 

‘Crack’

 

Michael leapt to his feet in a panic. He danced to the the canvas door, slipping on his jeans and throwing on a brown woollen jersey before hesitantly popping his head out the front of the tent.

 

‘Crack’

 

Lucy grabbed his hand. Her hand was sweating, the moisture coating his palm. She tightened her grip in anticipation. Michael eased open her hand delicately and gestured for he to stay still. He steadied himself as his heart pounded to a beat that vibrated his composure, tugged gently at the fabric wall and peered beyond.

 

‘Crack’

 

In the firelight, Michael observed the outline a figure. The silhouette of ?a very tall, heavy set man etched a shadow in the woods. He was still, completely still, eyes locked on to the ground in front of him. Michael squeezed his eyes tight trying to clarify the image. It was futile, only the grey wavy outline was visible.

 

‘Crack’

 

The stranger raised his bowed head, his blue eyes twinkling in the fire glow, and stared directly at Michael. His eyes burned into Michael’s brain. The stranger did not flinch. Michael could not move. His gaze was transfixed on the stranger; Their eyes locked.

 

‘Crack’

 

The sonic tremor freed him the chained embrace. He spun round on his feet and grabbed Lucy by the hand. With a sudden sharp yank Lucy was lurched forward, uncontrollably, to his side.

 

‘What is it?’ she quizzed 

 

Michael tightened his grip and started to run dragging her at arms length.

 

‘Just run’ he shouted.

 

At that, they ran, directionless, hands clasped together through the dark forest. Branches stabbed and cut and sliced their way through their flesh. Thorns and splinters embedded themselves into their bodies. They felt nothing. They just ran, through the bush, in any direction, away from the dark foreboding stranger. The cracks got quieter and quieter until they disappeared entirely into the recesses of the forest. They kept running, their skin dripping in blood. They kept running.

 

Part 2

 

Michael pushed his hand forward in to the sprawling vegetation sawing through a branch and then stumbled, collapsing on to a muddy grassy of a bubbling stream. The clouds cleared to allow the moonlight to burn back the darkness. They stopped. Their breathing was heavy. Neither spoke. They looked at each other and then with a small tug of her arm Michael lead them to the water. He cupped up the cold bracing water, splashing the contents on his sweaty brow and then cupped up another which he proceeded to slurp up with his lips. Lucy emulated in his shadow.

 

‘What was it?’ Lucy questioned, loosening her grip on his hand.

 


Michael shook his head, not knowing how to answer then levered his hand free from their grasp.

 

Lucy repeated the question ‘Michael, What did you see?’

 

‘I don’t know. A man’ his answer drifted off with the whispering breeze.

 

They sat resting on the bank staring of the stream, their breathing steadied. In a wordless glancing exchange there hearts calmed and then hovering silently in the night time breeze.

 

‘Crack’

 

Their eyes exploded open, pupils locked on to each other.

 

In a steady pounding beat, ‘Crack’?

 

Deep in the forest they saw a fluttering shadow and without any prompting both found themselves scrambling through the dense woodland, being attacked by the vegetation and dripping blood on the undergrowth. Lucy yelled incoherently at Michael. Michael yelled backed.

 

‘Michael’ Lucy yelled.

 

Then nothing. No response.

 

‘Michael’ she repeated.

 

Still no response.

 

She repeated this over and over yelling out into the forest as her heart began to race. She was no longer running instead she had reduced to a slow careful walk, pushing the branches away from her, yelling, peering. Her voice grew quieter with every unanswered yell.

 

‘Michael’

 

‘Michael’

 

Until it was a whisper and then just an echo screaming in her own head.

 

Time had past. She had no comprehension of how long. ?Was it minutes? Was it hours? The screaming in her head had subsided to a silent whimper and she once again found herself on the banks of the stream. The trickling, tumbling water and her thumping heart overwhelmed the calm forest. No cracks, no screams, no yells, just the calmness of the water and the drumming of her heart soothing to a restful melody.

 

The sky had cleared. The stars twinkled in the moonlight, lifting the darkness from the forest.
 

 

She paused; she rested; she contemplated and then she was on her feet trekking up the side of the stream, never leaving its banks, protected by the security of the moon and the stars and the light.

 

Trickles of blood dripped from her forehead. She attempted to wipe them away but managed to smudge the iron red gore over her face to forming a self composed battle mask. Droplets dripped into the stream, dissolving in the fast moving waters.

 

The hillside steepened.  Free from the lacerations of the forest, she found herself on her hands and knees scrambling up the gorsy bank of tumbling brook. The scrub tore at her hands. They blistered and bled. Black and purple swollen blotches were painted across her legs. But they were numb. She was numb.

 


She trundled forward, slowly in a never ending loop, dragging herself up the hill, awaiting the final conquest, the pinnacle. With a final surge she broke free from the scrub on to a flat meadow. She sighed, scrambled to her feet and took a deep breath. The moon beam lit the way ahead. She sighed again. A large rocky outcrop obstructed her way. In the middle of the stony abutment was the mouth of a large cave. It was as wide as it was high and water streamed over the ledge salivating from its dinner. The cave was dark and foreboding.

 

‘How deep is it’ Lucy wondered. 

 

She turned and looked back the way she had come. She was surprisingly calm now. She had cleared her mind, eradicating the pointless worrying thoughts that had immobilised her thinking. Her thoughts turned to Michael.

 

‘Where was he? ?Is he okay?’

 

She shrugged the thoughts from her consciousness. Her immediate concern was finding help. She needed help. They needed help. As she turned back to view the cave in front of her, ever so silently through the valley.

 

‘Crack’

 

It was faint, very faint. For a moment she thought she imagined it but then again so very quietly

 

‘Crack’

 

Her heart picked up the beat. It was no longer in a calm beating rhythm with the water. It was pulsating a furious dance beat, rhythmic and hard.

 

‘Crack’

 

The sound was getting closer. Her heart exploded in her rib cage. She rested her hand across her breast try to contain the explosions.

 

‘Crack’

 

The sound echoed through the valley.

 

‘Crack’

 

She turned towards the cave. The darkness would provide security. She could hide in the darkness. She could escaped into the darkness. As she approached the cave she realised she could not see past the entrance. An entrance of dark nothingness. A mouth completely devoid of light.

 

‘Crack’

 

She raised her arms guiding them?? into the gapping mouth. She stumbled, her foot tripping on rugged boulders. Her hands slid along the slimy wet walls of the cavern. Deeper and deeper into the cave until the darkness had engulfed her and she was invisible. Bumping into a large boulder, she slip behind it, crouched and became undetectable.

 

‘Crack’

 

She levered herself off the boulder peering out to the entrance of the cave. The moonlight shone as far as the cave entrance unable to pierce its dark, gloomy barrier, throwing a spotlight on the world outside.

 

‘Crack’. It echoed.

 


Her? heart stopped dead. She held her breath and concentrating with all her willpower, she stood perfectly still.

 

‘Do not move’

 

She did not move.

 

‘My eyes must be deceiving me’ she thought.

 

‘This can’t be real. This can’t.’

 

A creature now occupied the mouth of the cave. She stared mesmerised at the beast lost in her ambiguity.

 

'It's a man, a beast?' 

 

?It piercing blue sapphire eyes shone from? its enormous round matted head. Blood had congealed in to the dark brown fur on its bearlike body. Talons protruded from its fingertips, shiny and razor sharp and six inches long. It’s feet were bare except for matted brown fur. Its claws scratched against the rocky floor. Every hair on Lucy's body sprung to attention in an instant. The creature howled, a deep howl. The walls of the cave vibrated. The water trembled and danced to the sound of the creature. Its eyes pierced through the depths of the cave. Lucy was sure that it was looking straight at her but she did not move. She dare not move. She dare not breathe. The creature edged away and turned its back. Shimmering in the moonlight, Lucy saw a dark mass pinned to its back. 

 

'Michael' Lucy gasped. 

 

The beast’s head jerked back round and stared once again deep into the dark depths in front of it. In her terror Lucy had forgotten that she was still peering above the rocky screen. She slid back into obscurity and closed her eyes. Silently she begged. Silently she trembled. Her quivering sweaty hand searched the floor below her. Searching for an escape. Searching for security. Her hands feathered over a stone. An odd-shaped stone. She re-traced her route. Her hands scrambled along the wet slimy floor hunting for the oddity.  In the darkness an age passed.  Finally, her hands aching and nails splintered she found the stone again.

 

‘A weapon’ she thought.

 

She picked up the stone with her left hand, flipping it on to her right. She ran her fingers along its length, caressing a bulge at one end. Her fingers retraced their journey along the shaft and then in a quiet shriek the stone was dropped. Her face drained, the darkness disguising the paleness of her face. This was no stone. This was something far more horrific, far more terrifying. It was a bone. A human bone.

Part 3

Lucy shivered. Not out of being cold, although she was intensely cold. Not out of fear although she was she terrified beyond the level of sanity. No, this was a shiver of certainty. Certainty that the creature had sensed her presence; certainty that the creature was at the other end of the boulder waiting to decapitate her every limb; certainty that she would soon become the next stone to inhabit the damp cave floor. She waited, but nothing came. There were no sounds, no cracks, no howls. Hesitating, she lifted her head above the stone and peered back towards the cave entrance. It had gone.

 

Lucy fumbled her way back to the entrance of the cave. It somehow seemed brighter than before. The moon light shown down the valley, beaming on to the back of the enormous beast that was thudding its way across the valley floor. Michael's face was clear under the star lit sky. His blood trickled down his face and dripped leaving a dotted breadcrumb. He did not flinched.  His sack-like body was tossed effortless.He lay limp, bleeding, with gashes on his arms and his legs. Camouflaged in his own blood his face periodically vanished in the gloomy night sky.

 

‘Is he dead’ thought Lucy, ?????????‘He looked dead’?

 

She watches as the fiend bounded down the valley dragging it’s long arms behind him, claws ripping through the earth.

 

Lucy took chase. The hunter had become hunted and the hunted, the hunter. The irony of the situation did not escape Lucy. If the beast had its way she would be tomorrow’s dinner, but if she was to save Michael, the beast would need to be hunted like vermin, killed like vermin.

 

She scrambled down the valley. She did not waste time dragging herself down on her hands and knees. She threw herself down the face of the hill. Often she would lose her balance and tumble, rolling over her feet, battering against the rocks. Her already battered and bruised body felt no further pain so she would just regain her composure get back to her feet and push on down the hillside in pursuit of her target. When the descent gave way to flatter terrain she monitored the beast from a distance, slipping behind the nearest tree when it turned back on her. It stopped often. It would tune it sharp blue eyes like lasers back through the forest suspicious of her presence. When it found nothing it returned to its bounding descent across the valley. Lucy, for once, felt she was in control. She wasn't scared. Her adrenalin pumped body injected her with enthusiasm. Deceived by her body she began thinking of this as a game, but this was not game. This was life and death in truest, brutalist definition of the term.

 

The creature did not tire. It ploughed through the bushes in determined fashion. It had clear intent. It had a goal in mind. Lucy darted from tree to tree, but she was tiring. With each forced stride the beast beast gathered pace.  She was losing the chase. She could not continue at this pace. Her muscles were seizing. They felt like large lumps of congealed fat. They were numb and lifeless. Her pace slowed but the creatures did not. Mentally she tried to go faster. Her mind had raced at the speed of a lion but her legs had gone. She stumbled and for the last time she fell, her face ground into the mud. Her battered and bruised body was lifeless. She had lost. It was gone.

 

As she lay the taste of salt, blood and earth had mingled and coated her mouth and throat. She could barely breathe. The trees whistled in the light wind. She lay dejected, her senses were re-awakened. Her body started to ache. The cuts and bruises soared back into life stinging and burning. The vile tang lingered in her mouth. She could hear the faintest of sounds, the wind, the trees. She could smell but it was different. It was unexpected. It was pungent. Like a smokey coal fire. She dragged herself up into a sitting position and peered through the darkness and there in the distance, right enough, was smoke. It bellowed from the chimney of an old stone cottage. The puffs of smoke swirled upwards and dissipatedwith breeze, evaporating above the forest canopy. Deep in the shadows she briefly glanced the outline of the beast and then it had gone, slipping through the strong oak door of the cottage. It had not escaped. She took a few moments to regain control. She concentrated on her breathing. She massaged life back into her muscles and when she had readied herself she began plotting her attack.

 

???Part 4

?

The chimney continued to fume. The windows were lit red from the chimney fire, broken periodically by the outline of the fiend wandering back and forth. Screams filtered through the cottage walls. Lucy searched the surrounding land for inspiration. At the side of the cottage was a small crumbling timber hut. Keeping clear of the window lit foreground, she crept through growth. The hut was not locked. A loose rusty bolt held the door closed. Lucy pulled the bolt and with a light creak the door was open. The hut was fairly sparse dusted lightly with hay. Loose strands were blown inwards when she opened the door. Deep in a murky corner she noticed the outline of drum. It was laced with dust and the lid was rusted tight. She searched for leverage. A tool rid shelve was at her side. She rustled through its contents eventually laying her hands on an old battered screw driver. She pushed the screwdriver under the lid and forced it downwards. The screwdriver popped upwards and sliced through her hand. The blood coated the handle. She forced the screw driver in further but again it popped clean out missing her hand and dropping to the floor with a clank. She turned back towards the door expecting the monster to be standing over her but nothing was there, just the moon framed in the doorway. She turned back, lifted the screwdriver from the floor, forced it under the lid and with a thump she levered the handle down. The lid popped free and the screwdriver returned to the floor with a clang. She pushed her nose up to the liquid in the drum sniffed and recoiled as the petrol burned her nostrils. She lifted the container, the liquid dripping? over her clothes. Her muscles did not permit her to carry it far and by the time she had made her way to the other side of the hut door she had resigned herself to dragging the drum across the ground, through the bush, scoring the earth along the way. With the last of her bodies energy she lifted the drum and sprayed its contents on to the agonising walls of the cottage.

 

The walls of the cottage howled. Deep long howls. The outline of the beast could be seen at a window, its back arched and its mouth pouted out. A long deep howl.

 

Lucy tucked herself under the window ledge and listened. Howls were intermingled with moaning, quiet infrequent moaning. She dragged together some dead leaves and in school boy fashion she grated two twigs together. She rubbed and rubbed but it would not light. She kept rubbing until her hands started to blister, until her blisters had blisters, and then in an instant she had a spark. A small spark. A leaf started to smoke. Black plumes wafted from her hand. She gathered more leaves and within moments the fire had taken hold. She crawled through the earth to the front door, her clothes ripped and shredded. With an ear to the front door she paused waiting for a break in the howls. None seemed to come. She was out of time. She burst through the door. She was lucky, Michael was on the floor at the other side of the door but the beast had seen her. It snarled, it’s sharp blue eyes forced upon hers. It let out a long deep howl, vibrating at her heart. Lucy surged forward, grabbed Michael's feet and dragged him to the front door. She struggled, inching him closer and closer to the front door. By the time she had reached the front door, the beast had stopped howling. It was in pursuit. It plowed through the table and chairs, obliterating them in the process. With a final heave, she dragged Michael out the front door and slammed the door shut behind her. The beast thudded hard against the solid oak pulsating to the aftershock. Another howl, longer and deeper. The stone walls shook with the vibration. The fire was in full flare. The flames had surrounded the house. Michael was regaining consciousness. He stirred and moaned. Lucy pulled him to his feet with Michael assisting with the little strength he had. The front door was aflame. The beast howled then screeched and then nothing. Michael was at his feet. They were safe. Lucy turned and watched the flames burn up the night sky.

 

The first rays of the morning light beamed through the open tent. The fabric rustled to the chorus of the early morning song of the wind and the birds. Julie stretched and yawned. Her body awakened to the fresh morning air. She stumbled around the tent. James appeared at her side.

 

‘How did you sleep’ he queried.

 

‘I slept well. How about you?’ he responded.

 

She nodded as she stared at the cigarette butt smouldering in the simmering camp fire.

 

‘Where are Lucy and Michael’ she retorted.

 

James shook his head, he too was staring at the fire. He turned to Julie

 

‘What was in that cigarette?’

 

Michael’s bones ached. His skin burned. His body was weeping blood. He stood mesmerised at the flames. As he stood staring at his feet a timber plague burned. The flames had etched away most of the fresh wood and coated it with a black powder. He gazed at the only words visible, ‘Dr Simpson’. The words ?disintegrating in front of his eyes and the name was gone. Michael looked up at Lucy. She was brilliant; she was aglow; she was avenged.

 

As the first rays of light fell upon the burnt out campfire a quiet rumbling howl could be bellowed? in the distance.

 

‘Did you hear that’ perked Julie

 

‘It was probably just a wolf’ he replied as he packed up his tent.


© Copyright 2019 B I Robertson. All rights reserved.

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