“This is why we don’t go to ski resorts in December, David!”
“I don’t have control over the weather, okay. Stop blaming me for every inconvenience that comes your way,”
Clarise pouts, her damp hair gathering a smell underneath her grey woven beanie, “I told you, I told you so many times,”
“It isn’t my fault we’re stuck in here!” David yells, frustration mixed in every word.
David’s promise of being romantically secluded with Clarise during their one-year anniversary wasn’t really going to plan, but nothing really goes to plan when you visit Bricks Peak. David failed to realize that an hour or so before their departure, there was an avalanche alert.
“I swear, it’s almost as if you do this on purpose,” Clarise imposes, her face riddled with concern and distraught.
Clarise was at fault, too, being in a hurry to escape the small town of Playton. Rushed plans usually end up ruined, and Clarise is no stranger to that, yet she couldn’t stand watching David slowly load their car up with equipment that wasn’t really going to be used.
“Did you at least bring some sort of entertainment? Board games or something?”
“Yes, actually. But you won’t like what it is,” David softly mumbled, his eyes turning from looking at Clarise to focusing on the wooden ground.
Clarise raised an eyebrow, her hip popping out to the left, “What do you mean? It’s a board game. It’s not like it’s– oh no, David. No. I rather chew on my own limbs before I ever play that crap.” Rightfully so, David thought.
“Come on, Cee! It’ll be fun. We’re alone… in a cabin… at night…”
“No, David. I won’t do it. You can play on your own, but I won’t be participating. If something happens to you, that’s on you.”
“Fine, no ouija. What about… oh, what’s this?”
It’s important to note that the cabin they’re staying at isn’t necessarily spirit-free; in fact, David’s father has told many a story about the supernatural encounters he’s faced in the cabin: footsteps, whispers at all hours of the night, moving objects, shadows. Given the fact, it’s no surprise that a small wooden box appeared right beside David’s feet, “Hey, I remember this,” he sighs out.
“What is it?” Clarise asks, taking a seat on a green velvet daybed in front of the unlit fireplace in the living room.
“I’ve never actually seen it, but my dad... my dad, he used to talk to me about this box. It’s engraved, see,” he tilts the box towards Clarise, showing her the carved wood.
“Is that supposed to be a cross?”
“Yup, my dad says he once trapped a ghost in it,” David scoffs, his fingers tinkering around with the buckle keeping the box closed, “I was like ten when he told me the story. Jesus, I can’t believe it’s been so long.”
“Aw, and you believed your dad? Pathetic little you,” Clarise teases, her eyes dropping from David’s face to the box, her shoulders stiffening along with her bite.
“I wonder if...” David trails off, his brows creating mountain tops as he debates if he should open the box or leave it closed; why risk it, he thinks, but then again, it’s the most curious he’s been since waiting for Clarise's response to him when he proposed.
“Don’t open it, Dee. Come on, let’s just enjoy our time together,” she wraps her arms around his slim waist, her toes curling as her squeeze gets tighter. Her cheeks meet with his chest, and once again, she’s rushing David, “It’s not like your dad was telling you the truth or anything, not that I believe him or anything, not like that, you know, like not… just put that thing away and kiss me.”
David’s done many questionable things in his lifetime, one of them being now. His fingers gain thoughts of their own and open the metal latch on the box, his cheeks burning with fear, angst, and excitement. He’s able to feel Clarise’s hold slowly weaken, her face no longer pressed up against his chest. His focus is now on the box opened ajar, its ominous emptiness making his feet start sweating, causing his socks to moisten, his toes to wiggle, and his lips to part.
“What is it, Dee?”
“It’s nothing,” David says, his voice only audible to Clarise and himself, “I should’ve known, Cee. I should’ve known that all those stories my dad said were,”
“David… David… where are you?”
David’s mouth dries up, his eyes glossing over with confusion as he reaches his hands up to take hold of Clarise, “Hey, I’m here. What are you going on about?”
“David! Where are you?” She yells again as fear starts to boil up her blood, her palms becoming sweaty and clammy and shaky. She’s looking at him, she can see him, but she doesn’t recognize him as David.
“Please, please, don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me,” Clarise starts sobbing, her lips curl as tears escape her eyes which she quickly closes as she notices the man holding her gets closer and closer to her frightened face.
“Cee, it’s me! I’m right here!” David screams, his hold on Clarise tightening, nails digging into her tanned skin. He’s aware that Clarise is there, he’s aware that she can feel him and see him, but he’s confused as to why she keeps calling out for him. He notices droplets of salted water sliding down her face, her body getting slightly heavier in his hands.
He’s looking at her face but almost starts to forget her. Her pale, thin lips no longer belong to her, her soft brown eyes no longer shine with love as they look back at him, and her panicked voice no longer sounds like her. It’s just like his father said. It’s just like his mother said. David begins letting go of Clarise, but his fingers remain glued onto her skin, her shivering body becoming cold under his touch.
“I… I…” he blinks, “who are you? What h-ha have you done to C-C-Cl Clarise?” David stutters.
Clarise stares at the man before her, his eyes blackened with smoke. David’s yelling, she can hear him, “Clarise, help!” but she can’t move. Her feet won’t budge, not an inch, and her body remains pressed up against the man in front of her, “David! Please,” she sobs, “Help me!”
David’s dad told him this exact story many times before. About how it felt like sleep paralysis. About his marriage being unsalvagable after it. David was young, stories were told and heard, and David believed every word his father said but the belief vanished when he was 16. He remembers it all.
The vacation his mom and dad took. The one-year anniversary they were celebrating at Brick Peak. The avalanche that kept them away from picking David up from camp. He was living their worst nightmare, and it was becoming more and more prominent as the figure he held in his hands turned into his mother.
Their visions were obstructed by hallucinations, or so David thought. The box must’ve held some sort of paranormal entity for them to be seeing different things all the while looking at each other, or so Clarise thought.
Clarise couldn’t hear David, and David couldn’t hear Clarise, but their hands were on one another, and yet they weren’t themselves. David starts remembering his dad, the words that came out of his mouth in a worried tone, “I was with your mother, you see. I held her, wanting to show her how much I loved her and how proud I was that we made it one whole year together in our marriage. She was right there, but then she wasn’t.”
“I was calling out for her, she told me she was calling out for me, but we couldn’t hear each other. I was worried, she was worried, but we were, without a doubt, scared,” David recalls.
“I was holding someone else, looking at someone else. It wasn’t your mother, but it had your mother’s voice. I couldn’t tell you what I was looking at, who I was looking at.”
Clarise visibly trembled, her forehead glued onto the beanie on her head. She was remembering David retelling her his father’s stories, “My mom wasn’t herself after that night. Dad said she was different, more distant, quiet. I haven’t seen her since they came back from that trip. But how could it all be true when we’ve been there together many times before?”
David’s grip on the figure loosened up, and Clarise’s shoulders felt a weight lift off of them. They were both hugged by silence in the darkness that surrounded them. They were finally alone, finally looking at each other, finally in the presence of familiarity.
Clarise reaches her hand to David’s face, comforting his cheeks with her thumb as she stares adoringly into his green eyes, “I love you,” she sighs. Her eyes water up with tears full of sorrow, and David knows this. David knows Clarise loves him, “I love you, too,” so it saddened him to see her slowly vanish– from her cheeks, from her arms, and from her legs, until all that was left was the air that surrounded her.
Just like mom.