An anthology of various short stories, amassed over the years from various day dreams and slumbersome realities.
Cain set out on arguably the coldest night of the year to pay a much needed visit to his brother. Though estranged from family and most of all each other, Cain knew exactly where to find the spare keys to his brother’s house. Dark-haired Colleen had given him a hand-painted flower pot when they were children; his brother cherished it dearly. He'd hidden his keys beneath it for years. The pot was partially frozen to the brick wall it sat on, and he chipped the base whilst attempting to move it.
The door itself was stuck, the wood swollen with the damp cold and rusty from disuse. Even after the knob was free Cain had to kick the already battered door to free it from the frame. It did not surprise Cain that his elder brother had not been outside since the last snow— Camp had no reason to leave home. No places to go and no people to see until the summer months rolled in with the rains.
Cain found his brother in the kitchen, leaning against the back of a chair, staring down a bowl of soup like it had just uttered the lowest insult of his short, rough life. Camp looked up without a hint of surprise. If Cain didn't know better he’d have wondered if his brother knew he was coming over. But Camp didn’t have a lick of intuition in his body— Cain was the one blessed with just knowing when things happened.
“Well, well! If it isn’t my favorite brother. Take a seat, friend.” The other kicked out a chair on the opposite side of the weather-worn table in an invitation to stay a while, but his brother was not interested in the gesture of backwards chivalry.
“Is that what we are, Camp?” he instead asked in a tone weighted by dry disdain. “I’m not sure I’d call us friends after you rigged my car in hopes that I would ‘accidentally’ drive over the cape. Now that you mention it, I wouldn’t call breaking six bones at my girlfriend’s homecoming party a very friendly encounter, either.”
“Come on, Cain, surely you aren’t still bitter over all that.”
“Oh, of course not,” he shrugged. “It’s just that I’m still paying off the medical bills from the last few times we’ve met.”
“Then I hope you haven’t come for a fight,” the other chuckled, half a dare and half a threat.
“No.” Cain’s expression darkened. “In all honesty I wouldn’t be here if I did not find it absolutely necessary. I’ve come here for your help.”
Camp’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. He leaned onto the table.
“I know you like Colleen,” he said, and Camp turned away in a boyish denial. “And I know she likes you too. She’s in trouble, and I can’t help her by myself. I know she wouldn’t mind if you came to help— if you'd be willing to help.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Camp couldn’t help to ask. He didn't tell Cain that he'd not even heard from her in months— she'd seemed worried about something and left in a hurry one day without saying goodbye. He hadn't thought anything of it. She always came back after taking some time to herself, and he trusted her to that. Never did Camp have a need to worry after her.
“I had seen her out walking on the ridge, by the old Fisher’s cottage,” he explained. “By the time I caught up to her she had fallen in a hole. I can’t pull her out by myself and it’ll be too late if I go into town for help. She’ll be frozen solid if we don’t hurry.”
His brother’s eyes lit up in fear. He sprung from his chair and grabbed up his coat.
“Then what,” he declared, “are we waiting for?”
“I hope your truck still works. I had to walk here.”
The Fisher’s cottage was bathed in a halo of moonlight, dappled and dimmed by the firs that circled from the east. Icicles ranging from the length of daggers to swords were the last remaining evidence of the last rain before the season struck its wintry mark.
He led his elder brother into the woods, past rotten wood crates and mounds of fish skulls nearly buried by their now earthen innards. In a smaller clearing there was a hole between three neat and snow-covered mounds. Boards must have been placed over the hole as a bridge but rotted before anyone could be told of the danger that lurked beneath. Despite the cold the smell that issued from the ground was rank and stale.
“I can’t believe that you would have left her alone in this dump,” Camp snarled in disgust. He curled his arms in on his body in defense against the bitting wind that picked up through the trees. Cain was lucky. The cold was the only thing keeping Camp's temper at bay.
Cain ignored the remark. “Can you see her down there?”
His brother leaned over the brink of the dark pit and called for Colleen to no avail. Camp was about to turn and look to his lesser but never got the chance. While he wasn’t looking Cain had pulled one of the sword-sized icicles from the ledge and rammed it in his back. After gasping and gargling and choking on air that would not enter or leave his lungs, Camp dropped to his knees and swayed in a circle before collapsing in a deftly silence on the frozen dirt.
Cain bent over, icy weapon in one hand, and with the other pulled his brother’s keys from a blood-soaked coat pocket. He straightened, and cocked his head to survey his work.
He had hoped Camp would have fallen forward and saved him the trouble of moving his dead weight, but no matter. He was close enough. With one foot and a heavy heave the chilling corpse rolled into the hole. Its fall was cushioned by a skeletal mummy. The mummified girl was still wailing in pain over her shattered body, her summer dress torn by the splintered ribs that had been forced from her chest by the fall.
Cain took his place in the driver’s seat of his brother’s truck. He didn't bother adjusting the mirrors before driving into the night. He didn't need to see what lay behind him. All he needed to know was the one-liner road ahead.
Ollie had a fitful time falling asleep. This old house they’d moved into had none of the comforts of their last home. Beds had been moved into rooms but most of the other furniture stayed in the living room this first night. Ollie’s parents had insisted they go to bed early and start fresh in the morning with making this house a home. Ollie didn't give her opinion because she was only seven, and she knew her parents cared little for her “imaginative worries”. Had she spoken her mind she’d have let her parents know that this house smelled like smoldering paper and she was disturbed by the faces she saw in the design of the forty-year old floral wallpaper. It didn't help that in the dark, the shadows cast by the very darkness of the room around her looked like they were skeletal humans rising out of the floorboards to watch her sleep.
Ollie huffed impatiently and turned on her side, wrapping the covers around her like a cocoon. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to ignore the oppressive dark and intermediate creaking of the aged wood-framed house. Over the sounds of the house she recognized, there was a sharp click. Ollie blinked. She rolled onto her side and looked towards her door, which was closet to the sound’s origin. The hall light had been turned on. It shone through the uneven crack of the doorframe.
Ollie pushed herself up.
There was no answer, and no footsteps. If her parents were awake, they weren’t in the hall. Ollie frowned at the oddity of the situation. She stepped down out of bed to investigate.
She only opened her door a crack at first, squinting out into the hallway with cautious curiosity. To her left was the vast dark of the living room, but nothing seemed unusual there. The stacks of boxes cast strange shadows, but those weren’t a mystery. To her right, at the very end of the hall, her parent’s bedroom. The door was closed, but the door to the basement was wide open. Whoever had lived in this house before had taken the door right off the hinges, leaving a gaping portal between the floor the family lived and the cold and unfinished cavern of a foundation. Ollie eyed the doorway and her parent’s room, gaging her need to know. With pursed lips she boosted her resolve and started towards the master bedroom before fear talked her out of it.
Ollie hurried past the entry, shuddering against the cold draft that billowed out of the dark, and pressed herself against the closed door to her parent’s room. There wasn’t any sound to indicate her parents were awake. In fact, Ollie was certain she could hear her father snoring.
That’s when a noise came from downstairs. It sounded like clicking glass, and maybe a cardboard box scraping against the exposed concrete of the basement floor. Ollie’s heart sang in her ears. Steadying herself on the wall, she peered around the empty doorframe into the basement.
“Mom?” she whispered. Ollie thought she heard another shuffling noise, but wasn’t sure. She dared herself to take a shaky step down the stairs.
“Mom?” she asked a little louder.
It was far too dark to see, but Ollie could feel something moving at the foot of the stairs and it filled her with a primal fear that almost made her scream. But she remained as composed as an eight-year old could, and shuffled quickly down the hall and flipped off the light before retreating to her room, and jumping on her bed. But before she could wrap herself in the safety of her blankets, she looked back to the hall and realized she left her door open. She jumped up, intent on closing herself in— or that thing in the basement out— but before her foot could touch the floor the hall light came back on.
Time, though already immaterial to her young mind, stopped still. Ollie was certain that her heart had stopped still as well, and she withdrew her foot. Against her better judgment, she crawled to the end of her bed and leaned over the edge to get a better look into the hall. When she heard soft, padding footsteps come her way, every instinct told her to look away, to cover herself, but the same screaming fear had paralyzed her as well. Her eyes widened as a ghastly creature passed in front of her door.
It was gangly, and white. Ollie could see its bones through its skin as if this creature’s skeleton was wrapped in milky saran wrap. Its joints were illogical, and as it walked on all fours its limbs moved in twisted, inhuman directions. It paused in front of her door. Ollie clutched the covers, pulling them towards her as she started to fall back in terror. The thing in the hall turned its head, twisting around, to look at her with wide, sunken sockets and pitch black eyes. If it had a mouth she was sure it have smiled at her. Ollie’s knuckles where white and her mouth dry, hanging open in a silent plea for help. It retained eye-contact for an uncomfortable stretch of time before continuing down the hall, and out of sight. It never stopped staring at her, and she at it.
When the sounds stopped and the thing was down the hall, Ollie tried to reason with herself. Surely she was dreaming. It was just a dream. The seconds bled into minutes, and when nothing unusual happened, Ollie took a breath.
Before she could relax, the light clicked off.