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Fiction Horror Thriller

“1, 2, thr...please, please stop.”

He drew in a deep breath, filling his lungs with the frigid air of what was only moments ago a warm summer night. A heavy drop of water dangled from the edge of the spout and fell into the empty tub.

PLINK... The sound of the splattering droplet was like a pistol at the beginning of a race. He started to count again.

“1,2,3,4,5….” Mark counted aloud. Each number that rolled off his terrified tongue reminded him that he was still here, he was still alive.

“Dad, why do you have to go for the entire summer? I was planning to come visit you!”

Mark’s daughter hated the idea of her father being alone all summer in that old cabin. Especially this summer. What should have been a happy event, her parent’s thirtieth wedding anniversary, instead marked the sixteenth anniversary of her Mother’s disappearance.

“I know, honey.” Mark responded softly. “But I just...I just need an escape. This year she’ll have been gone longer than the years we spent together. That’s hard for me. I need this, sweetheart.” He asked for her blessing.

“Okay, Dad. I understand. I love you.” She replied.

“I love you too.” Mark said with a smile.

A deep purple began to fill the sky followed closely by wonderful light pink colors that pushed out the black of night. The sun began to rise through the windshield of Mark’s truck. He always made a point of leaving when it was dark so he could beat the sunrise on his race to the cabin. Mark closed his eyes and, for a brief moment, felt as though she was with him, her head leaning gently against his shoulder.

“Isn’t it lovely?” She said to Mark.

“Yes, baby. It is.” He responded. If only she knew that he was talking about her.

Mark pulled himself out of the trance. He didn’t let himself become lost in thought of her anymore. It was just too painful. For years, he had wondered if she was still alive. He never gave up looking for her. Mark flooded the town with missing person posters, and he pleaded for her return on the local news.

Had she simply run away, or had she met someone new? He preferred these thoughts over the thought of her experiencing a lonely death. His small town swirled with theories and most of the conclusions involved terrifying ideas about his involvement.

His little girl struggled but always believed her father could never hurt her Mom. He was a good man. He was her hero.

Mark guided his truck over the mountain and down into the Snake Valley. The lonely highway followed the raging river past the reservoir dam and continued into town. He pulled into the Dam Store, smiling at the play on words his little girl loved to repeat when she was old enough to appreciate the humor. Mark noticed the parking lot was empty, except for an aging pickup that was riddled with rust and faded yellow.

“Is that old man still alive?” Mark said aloud as he recognized that same old pickup that had been parked out front since Mark was just a kid.

A bell above the door rang as he entered the store. Oak paneling along the walls were covered by beer and cigarette ads from the 80’s. The wood floor creaked with every step he took. Mark chuckled as he looked around the store, it was oddly comforting and reminded him of happier times.

“Can I help you, sir?” Came a tired voice from behind the counter.

“Yeah, you still sell Camel cigarettes?” Mark responded.

“You bet, right over here.” Responded the old man.

As Mark approached the antique register, surrounded by postcards and candy bars, he was curious if the old man would remember him. Mark had been a customer at this tiny store for nearly five decades. The old man turned around and was greeted by a friendly smile.

“Hello, there. Not too many people smile like that anymore.” The old man said. He had no idea who Mark was.

“If only my daughter was here. She would never believe I was caught smiling.” Mark responded. It had been years since Mark felt a slight sense of happiness.

“That’s a shame. Life is short, my friend. You’ve got to find a way to be happy.” He rung the register and the cash drawer flew open. “That’ll be $5.75”, said the old man.

Mark winced at the price as he pulled cash from his pocket to pay for the cigarettes, knowing not to waste time attempting to use his debit card here. Mark said goodbye and headed out the door. He climbed into the truck, reached under the front seat, and pulled out a manilla envelope. He pulled the paper from the envelope and stared at the photo of his beautiful wife, softly tracing her photo with his finger, fighting back the tears. It was the same missing person flyer he had been hanging for years. Suddenly, he took one off the top and walked back inside.

“Sir, may I ask of favor?” Mark said as he slid the paper across the counter to the old man. The old man lifted it up and gave Mark a look that let Mark know he now recognized him.

“Oh, this was quite some time ago.” Whispered the old man.

“Yeah, sixteen years ago today. Could I hang this in your window, sir?” Mark asked.

The old man examined Mark. He nodded his head, pulled open a drawer in front of him and handed Mark some tape.

“Here you go, friend.” The old man said as he patted the paper.

Mark hung the photo in the exact spot where he had hung one sixteen years prior. A tear trickled from his cheek as he walked out of the store for the last time.

Mark pulled off the highway onto a dusty dirt road that climbed higher up the mountain. He rolled down the window to breath in the fresh mountain air, heavily scented with pine trees. The kind of air you only find thousands of feet above sea level in beautiful, green places like this. 

He slowed down and momentarily froze when the cabin came into view. The dark green roof jutted up into the sky, now littered with trees branches and pine needles. The exterior looked shabby, a window in the front was shattered and the porch seemed to droop. The cabin seemed like a physical reflection of the way Mark felt to be back here.

He parked on the old gravel driveway which was overrun with weeds. Mark climbed out of the truck and looked around. He was afraid to enter the cabin and confront what he had left behind sixteen years ago. He walked around the back of the cabin towards the old fire pit. What was once their favorite place to sit as a family and roast smores was now full of garbage and debris. The wooden table was in disrepair and the chairs were missing. His wife would be sad to see this place they loved in such terrible condition.

He pulled out a notebook and a pen.

“Repair fire pit.” Mark began his to do list.

He turned around and faced the back of the cabin. The screen door laid across the back porch, likely ripped off by either an intruder or wild animal, he assumed. As Mark put the pen to the paper something caught his eye that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up straight. He paused and slowly looked up and into the window.

What he saw, or thought he saw, made his heart stop. He was unable to move, or even breath. A tall, slender, white figure was standing in the window frame gazing down on him! The figure vanished nearly as quickly as he saw it. The shock of it forced him backwards and he fell to the ground, screaming in terror.

He shook his head as his heart pounded, threatening to beat its way out of his chest. He looked again into the empty window frame but saw nothing.

“What is wrong with you, man!? There’s nothing there, you idiot.” He cursed to himself.  

Mark walked to the truck and pulled out his duffle bag. His truck was loaded with tools, clothes, and food for the summer. He had vowed not to leave until he fixed up the old cabin. He turned back to the front door, exhaled loudly, and questioned if what he had seen could be real.

“No. Stop it.” He said to himself.

Mark walked up the creaky stairs towards the front door. As his hand touched the doorknob, a cold chill ran up his spine. He took his hand off the knob and reached for his to do list.

“Uh…number two, repair the front porch.” He said aloud.

He put his hand on the knob again, slid the key into the lock and slowly turned it until he heard the click of the heavy bolt. He opened the door cautiously, unsure of what he might find inside.

He flicked the light switch on the wall, nothing.

“Going to need to fix that ASAP.” He muttered to himself as he pulled his flashlight from his tool bag and clicked it on.

The flashlight illuminated the room as he stepped into the cabin and suddenly, something scurried across the floor. “What? Am I seeing things that aren’t really there?” He thought to himself.

Cobwebs filled the ceiling and walls. The front room was exactly how they left it. A large blanket laid out in front of the large stone fireplace. Wine glasses, now covered in dust, sat next to an unopened bottle of wine. Multiple large candles placed around the drinks, completely burned out with the wax eerily covering the hardwood floor. He choked back the tears as his focus turned to the unopened envelope. Inside it was the letter with everything he wanted to say to her. All the words he could never say but he had found a way to write them to her that fateful night. Words she never read.

A thud from the room upstairs startled him. As if a bowling ball had been dropped on the floor. His first thought was of the thing in the window.

“Who’s there! There better not be anyone in here!” He shouted up the steps.

Silence.

He began to sweat, a small buzz forming in his ear from the adrenaline. He picked up the fire poker and summoned the courage to walk up the wooden stairs, wincing at every creak and giving up the element of surprise for whatever was waiting for him. He peeked into the bedroom, black, too dark to see. He swallowed, quickly shown the light into the room, and jumped forward with the poker raised above his head.

“GET OUT OF HERE!” He screamed. A large rat jumped from the bed, ran under his legs, and scurried down the stairs.

His breathing slowed and he began to chuckle.

“A rat! Come on man...a rat!?” He laughed out loud.

The bedroom was same as downstairs, just how they left it. Laying across the bed was his wife’s favorite dress. He had laid it out for her as a surprise for when she returned from her hike. It was their anniversary, sixteen years ago that very night. Now, he allowed his emotions to take hold of him. His heart broke all over again, shattered from the loss of the love of his life. Never to know where she went or what had happened to her. He would never find peace, but he could begin to piece his life together by repairing their old cabin.

He pulled his phone from his pocket, pulled up his daughter’s last message to him and began to text her.

“Here safe. No crazy people in here except for me! I love you and miss you. Dad.” The message showed delivered and he put the phone back into his pocket.

He shined the light around the room and quickly glanced back to the window. The curtains were now pulled tightly closed. They had been open when he first arrived, he was sure of that. Especially when...when he had seen whatever his mind had conjured up in the window frame. He held the light on the dark burgundy curtains with the beautiful golden patterns.

Mark walked over and ripped the curtains open as hard as he could. What he saw caused him to gasp loudly.

Outside the window was no longer a beautiful summer scene, but instead, a raging blizzard! He shook his head in horror. What was happening? He needed to get out of there, and now!

He turned and dashed across the bedroom floor, tripped, and tumbled down the stairs. His flashlight landed a few feet away from him, spinning in a circle. He cried out as pain seared from his ankle and up into his leg. He tried to regain his composure and watched as the flashlight did not seem to slow down. Mark followed the light with his eyes. The cabin was empty, but a soft frost began to form in the front room near the fireplace. He stood up and limped to the front door. He was leaving, now!

The front door was open, and he could see the blizzard. The snow was now over a foot deep on the old rickety porch and was quickly getting deeper. He hobbled in fear, desperate to escape. A powerful, freezing wind raged through the door, pushing him back and forcing him to stay. As he neared the door, it slammed shut, locking him in.

“NO!!!” He screamed as he fell to the floor, overcome with fear.

“You really should stay, ba doop ba da...Baby it’s cold outside...You won’t get away...no, baby it’s cold outside...la da, da dah oh, what if you get pneumonia and DIE!!??” A chilly voice softly sang the disturbing song behind him.

Mark laid frozen on the ground. He slowly turned around and gazed in fear at the creature who was crooning the devilish song. The light softly came to a stop and rested on a tall, slender woman stretched out onto the blanket. She wore a tuxedo that was white as snow, a light blue vest embroidered with faces that seemed to be screaming out in pain. Her shirt was unbuttoned at the top and displayed her icy white skin and dark black hair ran down her sides and back.

“I understand this song was a favorite of hers….” She smiled as she snapped her fingers and a blue flame roared to life in the fireplace.

“No, no, no... this isn’t real. This isn’t happening.” Mark started to panic, his breathing becoming uncontrollable.

“Oh, Markey poo. This is real. And it is happening.” Her ice blue eyes met his and it terrified him to his core. She smiled and began to hum her little song again. He pulled himself up to his feet and tried the door handle. The knob was so cold that it burnt his hand and he cried out in pain.

“Mark, you're coming with me soon. Please, calm down. You are going to enjoy it. In fact, let us bring this beautiful arrangement. Your wife will love it, especially this lovely letter.” She smiled widely.

Mark grabbed a dining chair to his left and hurled it in her direction. She laughed as she vanished, the chair crashed against the blanket and shattered the wine bottle. The juice enveloped the frozen letter as he dashed across the hall and slammed the bathroom door shut, locking it. He looked out the frozen window, the blizzard raged on and snow was now nearly as high as the window. He tried to pry it open, but it would not budge. “Ha ha ha ha ha.” Her eerie laugh cackled throughout the cabin.

The doorknob jiggled softly. He slid across the floor and braced the door with his feet, his body against the cabinet.

Night fell and he had no idea how long he had been in there. His ankle ached and burned. The bathroom was pitch black, the only senses he now knew were the pain in his leg and the sound of the single drops falling from the spout in the tub.

“1, 2, thr… please, please stop.” Mark said aloud.

“204, 205, 206.” Mark quit counting as he noticed the water droplets had now stopped.

The singing began again, distant at first. It was faint and echoed, then grew louder and louder and Mark realized the tub’s spout had become the speaker for the terrifying song.

“You really should stay ba doop ba da...Baby it’s cold INSIDE...You won’t get away...no, baby it’s cold INSIDE...la da, da dah oh, what if you get pneumonia and DIE!?” The song grew louder as snow burst from the spout and began to fill the tub like a blizzard, the Ice Devil’s form slowly beginning to take shape.

Mark screamed out loud as the tiny bathroom filled with ice and snow. She smiled at Mark, her dark blue eyes the only thing illuminating the bathroom as she pounced onto him. His cries filled the cabin as the summer blizzard disappeared.

The sun shone brightly the next day on the cabin as Mark’s daughter pulled into the gravel driveway. The trees were lush, green, and the weather was warmer than usual for June. She quietly got out of the car and noticed her Dad’s pickup truck was open and the tailgate was down.

She slowly snuck up the creaky stairs and onto the porch. The front door was also wide open as she quietly walked into the cabin.

“Dad?” She called out.

She closed the front door as one single snowflake fluttered to the ground behind her.

January 22, 2021 19:03

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4 comments

Alyson Ackman
18:14 Jan 28, 2021

I loved this story, really fun to read. The only thing I would suggest would have some form of way to convey passage of time, like *** after the beginning scene that was foreshadowing, and then again after at the end to show time has passed when his daughter shows up. I loved the story but wanted to find a connection between the Ice Devil and the wife's death... maybe have her mention a secret about the wife that only Mark would know... or even have her creepily explain the way the wife died as he's freaking out? Just a suggestion. Loved the...

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B.C. Barlow
17:06 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you, Alyson for the advice! I appreciate it very much. This is my first story and attempt at writing.

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Karen McDermott
18:32 Jan 27, 2021

Fab horror tale, I genuinely got a little spooked. I love it when a story has me racing to get to the next scene like that.

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B.C. Barlow
17:09 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you, Karen! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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