Illuminated by The Moon

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt


Drama Suspense

The rain was coming down harder now than it had been for the past four and a half hours of the drive up to the cabin in Maine. “I think I need to pull over,” suggested Nora as she braked and carefully pulled the car to the side of the heavily wooded road. 

“How much longer til we get there?” asked Crosby from the back seat.

“Well, if the rain would stop coming down in buckets…”

Crosby and Dax abruptly interrupted with their Uncle Larry’s favorite story opener; “It was a dark and stormy night, …the rain came down in BUCKETS!” This, of course, was followed by an eruption of laughter. 

Nora’s best friend, Julia, asleep in the front seat, stirred. “What the heck was that about?” she asked, stretching her neck and shoulders. Without waiting for an answer she noticed they had stopped. “Holy crap, it’s raining hard!” 

“Like BUCKETS!” the boys repeated.

Nora looked into her rearview mirror at the boys. She couldn’t help but smile. At least they weren’t drowned in some nonsense on their phones, and even the thought of Uncle Larry could make anyone laugh.

“Yeah, we only have about 25 or 30 minutes to go if the rain would lighten up.”

About an hour later, they finally pulled up to the cabin. “Did you see that? Julia asked.

“See what? Nora responded.

Julia turned toward the boys in the back. “Did you guys see that?” she asked them. 

“No”, they said. “See what?”

“I swear I just saw a light flicker from inside the cabin.”

“It’s called lightning, Julia.” said Dax.

“Dax, the storm let up a while ago. I’m telling you, I saw a light flicker from inside the cabin.”

“Oh, SHIT!” Nora said as she threw her head back.

“What?” asked Julia nervously as she grabbed Nora’s arm.

“No, nothing. I’m just so exhausted.”

“I’m sorry Nora, maybe Dax is right. Maybe it was lightning.”

“I’m going in.” Crosby announced as he climbed out of the back seat with Dax right behind him.

“This is cool”, said Dax. “What if it was in the cabin?”

“Yeah,” agreed Crosby, “the operating word being “IT!”.

Crosby and Dax were sophomores at a Regional High School in Connecticut. They had been best buddies and next door neighbors since Dax moved to their remote, little town of Warren surrounded by farmland and woods in about the fourth grade.

“Wait!” Nora called to them getting out of the car with a flashlight. “What if there’s someone in there?”

“I don’t know”, said Crosby, while at the same time Dax piped in with, “We tackle him?”

“Not sure that’s the most practical plan, Dax. I think I’m going to call the police.”

“Really?”, Julia asked, surprised that Nora was so sure there was anything to be afraid of. “Won’t it take them forever to get here? Plus, they’re probably dealing with the storm; downed lines and accidents, wouldn’t you think?

 “You’re probably right. And it’s probably nothing. Anyway, I didn’t see anything. I’ll open the cabin and come back out to help you guys bring stuff in.”

Dax and Crosby looked at each other. Both were thinking the same thing: she’s going in? Alone? 

Nora used her flashlight to open the door and disappeared into the cabin. She fought a rising panic but forced herself to walk the few steps to the lightswitch in the kitchen. The power must be out, she realized and as she went to turn around, she felt something graze past her head followed by a huge “thump”. Nora instantly followed the sound with her flashlight, then let out a muffled, but terrifying scream. Crosby rushed toward the cabin armed with a large stick he had picked up but before he got to the door he was tripped by something on its way out and fell hard.

“Crosby” yelled Dax, “Are you okay?”

“Oh my God,” said Julia, her voice somewhat shaky. “It’s a freaking racoon!”

Just then Nora appeared at the door, her heart hammering in her chest, she looked like she’d seen a ghost. Suppressing a shiver, she gave Crosby a hand to help him up.

Dax was in the driveway doubled over in laughter. “Holy shit, Cros, you should have seen yourself!” He could hardly contain himself. Crosby shot him a baleful glance and then, laughing, ran after him.

“Boys”, Nora said loud enough for them to hear above their ‘boy noise’, as she liked to call it. “Come help us empty the car.”

It was late August and most of the summer residents at Little Sebago Lake had left for the season. Nora’s father had grown up in Grey, Maine. Her grandfather had built the cabin so her family could be near them in the summers. This summer they had been up for two weeks, and then had rented it out for a month. Nora’s husband, Peter had died the summer before and she couldn’t bring herself to spend the whole summer there without him. Peter was a senior architect with Bray Associates in New Britain, an architectural firm specializing in school design. He used to laugh and say, “I’ve designed a lot of schools, but of course, the Housatonic Valley will never build a new one.” “Housey” was the nickname for Crosby’s High School. 

“Mom”, why did you bring all these sleeping bags? It’s not like we don’t have sheets up here.”

“Because it gets cold at the end of August and we may need them. Just dump one in each room.”

The boys delivered the sleeping bags, then went off to play pingpong on the large screened in porch that was next to, but separate from the dining/living room porch. It was Nora’s father’s favorite room. He and Crosby would play ping pong for hours. “Gampy?” Crosby would say, “Let’s play me some ping n’ pong.”

Nora and Julia were in the kitchen. The lights had come on just as soon as they finished getting everything inside and put away in the dark. “That was one long drive”, said Julia.

“I know, what time is it?”

“Almost ten.”

“How about a quick cup of tea before we go to sleep?” suggested Nora.

“Okay”, but first, I’m gettin’ in my jammies!” 

Nora smiled and put a pot on the stove. She looked in the cupboard. Sleepytime tea. That’ll do it, she thought. Julia returned in her PJ’s with little sailboats all over them. 

“Oh, that reminds me, we can take the Hunter out tomorrow if you want. The weather is supposed to be perfect for sailing.”

“Awesome, that’ll be fun.”

“The boys will take the fishing boat out and head for one of the little islands. Crosby’s had some great luck with the bass up here.”

“Does he let it go or does he bring them in?”

“Oh he brings them back, skins them, does his rub and spices and garlic thing on them and then grills them over the fire pit. You won’t believe it.”

“That’s great Nora. Did he used to fish with Peter a lot?”

“With Peter and with my dad. He’s really been such a good sport about coming up here.I know how much he misses them both.”

“Must be hard for him. What a great kid.”

“I know. I’m so lucky.”

“And you’re a great mom.”


Julia and Nora had become close friends after Peter died. They worked together at the High School, Nora, an English teacher and Julia a social worker. Julia spent a lot of time with Crosby in the last year and she and Nora had talked nearly every day about how Crosby was processing it all and how he was holding up at school. The emptiness created by his father’s death was tough on Crosby. Not being able to say goodbye left him feeling depressed but also angry. 

“Do you remember that day Crosby walked into my office and just threw himself on the floor crying inconsolably? He said he felt trapped in a nightmare and couldn’t wake up. Then he kept asking me why? It was so bad that I started to cry, too!”

“I do remember”, said Nora. “What a tough year he’s had. But Jules, you helped him so much. Honestly, I don’t know what we’d have done without you.”

“Thanks, but he did the work.”

“Yeah. he really did, didn’t he?”

They finished their tea and said goodnight. Julia headed to the guest room and Nora went to check on the boys. “Hey guys, it’s nearly 11. Don’t stay up too late, okay?”

“Okay, mom”, Crosby promised.

At about 2:30 am there was a loud noise that came from the boat shed. Nora immediately shot up in bed, wondering if everyone else had heard it. Crosby, Dax and Julia all appeared at her door in seconds.

“Holy shit, mom. What the hell was that? And don’t say another raccoon because the thing would have to be freakin’ Jurassic to make that kind of a noise.” 

“I don’t know”, said Nora. Listen, it’s just probably a kayak or something that the wind knocked over. I really think everybody should just go back to bed. Seriously, it’s fine.”

“Mom.” Crosby pleaded.

“Cros, think about it. We’re in the middle of nowhere. Nobody is out there.”

“What if it’s a bear?”

“Then it’s a bear and he’ll knock our stuff around and move on. I’m telling you, it’s nothing to worry about. Now just go back to bed.”

Julia shot her a sideways look, as if to say, ‘really’? You’re not at all worried? And Nora responded by saying, “Good night, Jules, sleep tight.”

Nora awakened somewhat tired at about 6am. Nobody else was up yet so she made herself some coffee and headed out to the boat shed. The lock was broken and two kayaks had been knocked off the rack. But there was something else. A hooded sweatshirt with a Lake Sebego logo on it lay on the floor of the shed. Now Nora was a little freaked out. She decided she wouldn’t say anything to the others. She took the sweatshirt and threw it in the wash.

The day on the lake was perfect. Nora and Julia sailed over to Gemme’s General Store for some of the most delicious almond croissants in all of New England. Crosby and Dax came home at about 4pm with a cooler full of beautiful Bass which they promised to cook to perfection. While they dealt with the fish, Nora and Jules broke out some wine and took out some broccoli and fresh corn from the stand down the road. 

“So, Nora, what do you think that was last night?”

“Oh. Don’t worry about it. I went down early this morning and one of the kayaks had fallen. No biggie, just noisy because of the metal dock floor.”

“It was crazy loud.”

“I don’t know. I think we were all just on edge after the raccoon.”

“Yeah, maybe”.

That night, Nora decided to keep watch. She left her curtain open and waited for anything unusual to happen. Those kayaks definitely were not knocked over by a raccoon or a bear or a giant serpent from the middle of the lake. Eventually, she fell asleep. But at about 4am, she suddenly awoke. No noise, no nothing. Just wide awake. She went to her window and looked out at the lake. Something caught her eye. It was the boat shed again. A flickering light. Just like Jules had said. Oh my God, she thought, is somebody in there? She couldn’t tell if it was a flashlight or just a flame from a lighter. She decided to find out for herself.

Nora grabbed a flashlight and an iron from the fireplace. She threw on a sweatshirt over her pajamas and reluctantly started down the path toward the lake. “I must be crazy, she thought. As she neared the boat shed, she saw it again. A tiny flicker of light. Nora wasn’t sure she still wanted to solve this mystery, but something compelled her to keep going. She stood outside the shed for several minutes. She kept her flashlight off and was in total darkness. She didn’t see or hear anything. Nora stood there for at least five full minutes, and -nothing. She told herself she was anxious about being up here and that she had to have imagined it. No one was in that boat shed. As she turned to leave, shaking her head like she had just done something completely ridiculous, she heard a sound. The door seemed to unlock and lock again on its own. She didn’t turn around but stopped moving and waited. She held the fire iron tightly and let the flashlight fall to the ground. The light from the moon reflecting on the water was bright enough to see whatever might emerge from the shed. Then, a definitive “click” and the sound of the shed door opening. 

She heard the door close again but couldn’t tell if whoever this was had gone back in the shed or was outside and barely two to three feet behind her. Nora froze.

“Nora”, a familiar voice said.

She felt dizzy. It wasn’t possible. Slowly turning around, Nora focused on the illuminated figure. Her eyes widened and filled with tears. “Peter?”, she asked. She stared at him through the dark and realized she wasn’t seeing things. It was really Peter. “Oh my God”, she said as she walked into his arms. “What happened?”

June 04, 2022 23:02

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