Katie adhered to conformity, did the salaried job thing, had an accidental boyfriend here and there then she would dance over the line, getting wasted at festivals and starjumping with druids at Summer Solstice. Cider, herbs and unicorns…the rainbow was everywhere if you stared hard enough.
This was one of her many random moments. Between jobs, trying to kickstart her creative writing juices, she had noticed an advert in some obscure magazine she had bought when she had wandered into a WH Smiths half-pissed. ‘Cabin of Doom’, it said. ‘Dare you send a week in an isolated forest where ghouls and goblins roam?’ Fuck yeah, she thought! Especially as 2k was on offer. She rang the number and an old guy who sounded high answered. Katie started having doubts. Was this legit? Maybe he was a perv with a sex cellar? Three hundred quid was transferred to her PayPal account to cover petrol and sundry costs. Pete e-mailed her a map.
Katie drove to Suffolk and left her car at Last Outpost. It wasn’t so much a village as a scattering of houses whose inhabitants were one lobotomy away from being Grade A drool machines. It was all a bit ‘Wicker Man’. Katie had marched away from the village, ignoring their furrowed frowns and their sibillating whispers. It was one of those villages where everyone knew each other because in some way they were all related. Katie imagined them sacrificing a fatted calf to a pagan goddess. Bunch of banjo strummers!
Summer’s warm glow had faded over the months. Now the bright sunshine ushered in brisk crisp air as the light retreated across the cloud-tinged sky. Leaves clung wistfully to gnarled branches and an autumnal hue coloured the woods with reddy-yellows and orangey-reds.
Two hours later Katie saw the gleam of a lake in the twilight. She was getting close. Just as well. The backpack stuffed with her supplies was getting heavier and heavier. The lake was deathly quiet. No birds were on the water or in the nearby trees. It was weird. She took a photo of the lake. Soon after, she reached the cabin. How could she describe it? Stoic? Arcane? Expectant?
Pete had told her three other intrepid adventurers had taken up his challenge and disappeared, never to be seen again. Bollocks! It would have been on the news. Despite her bravado, she hesitated before opening the door…and when she did she almost pissed herself. A bat flew out! A motherfucking bat! Oh yeah, it was on now. Katie could see through it all. That consummate twat Peter had obviously been to the cabin and put the bat in there. He wouldn’t be laughing when she rinsed him of 2k. Boom!
She lit some candles and placed them on small plates. Last thing she needed was the cabin going up in flames. No electricity or gas. Well, she had a little gas stove with her. She could cope with a brisk cold wash but a hot meal was non-negotiable. The decor and furniture had been abandoned decades ago. The faded orange sofa was a wonder to behold. Katie wondered why someone had even bothered to put up the brown curtains which were now tatty from hungry moths. She had a good view of the lake from the window though. Katie fired up the stove and ate.
It got real dark, real quick. Katie could see the lake glittering in the moonlight. Her bravado levels had dipped somewhat. It was unsettling being away from the hustle and bustle of city life. She was used to the whoosh of cars, the wheezing of buses, the vomiting of uni students. She stood at the window drinking Merlot straight from the bottle, listening for a noise of any description. “Neighbourhood Watch, mofos!”, she said to herself. There were no crazy-arsed calls, yelps or screams from the usual nocturnal animals. What was she expecting? Pervy Pete jumping out from the darkness in front of the window? If he did that she would shit herself. Then bottle him. Katie watched the lake for a while. It was hard to tell if the water was moving or not.
When she finished the wine, she shoved a candle into the neck of the bottle. Old school Gothic. Sweet. The small bedroom didn’t take her fancy. There was a bed base with some slats missing and no mattress. The bathroom looked like a crime scene, although the cold tap in the basin worked, which was a bonus. Turned out the orange sofa from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ textile school was the best place to lay her sleeping bag on. The candles had warmed up the room. She snuggled into the sleeping bag, facing the window. She wasn’t worried about the the front door or the one that led to the other rooms because she had wedges underneath them. She stared at the window. There was nothing to see. It was so dark she couldn’t even make out any trees. Yet, she could not look away. She thought if she did, someone or something would appear at the window. That was what happened in horror films, shortly before the killing started. There was always a killer at the window. Fuck this! Katie got up and pulled the curtains. Did that make it better or worse? What happened if she heard a tapping at the window and had to pull the curtains back to see what was making the noise? It would only be one thing, a masked killer with a fucking axe! Why in hell had she agreed to do this? It was pretty hard to write a best-selling novel if some nutter had decapitated you. She rummaged in her rucksack and pulled out a hunting knife. It had a calming effect on her. She slipped back into the sleeping bag and nodded off. The curtains rippled and all the candles went out.