Several years later….
Doctor Cunningham sat across from Liv and smiled at her “Today is your last session for a while.”
“I feel really good about that.” Liv said playing with the sole of her running shoes.
“It has been a long road to recovery since your father passed away.”
“I am feeling pretty confident. I’m just glad I am almost done with school. One more year and then I will be a graduate of Cleveland State.”
“How are things with Miles?” Doctor Cunningham asked Liv.
Liv blushed and then smiled at Dr. Cunningham “Great we are pretty serious now. He asked my aunt if he could take me away for the weekend of Christmas. She agreed considering we are supposed to meet his family.”
“That sounds exciting. Where are they from?”
“Hocking Hills but Miles has pretty much lived everywhere because his dad was a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company. They own a cabin in Hocking Hills and it is supposed to be nice. They supposedly go there every Christmas Holiday, but we are going up on the twenty-first so I can get to know everyone a few days beforehand.”
“How does all this make you feel?”
“Nervous, but I’m really excited to meet them all.”
“So, you will be leaving tomorrow then.” Dr. Cunningham sighed. “I hope the weather stays like it is for your two-hour drive south.”
“I do too it has been hot for December. I hope I make a good impression.”
“Don’t feel too nervous. You have come a long way Olivia remember that. First a track scholarship, then the deans list, now a full-time boyfriend. I’m honestly happy for you.”
“Thank you so much I couldn’t have done it without our chats the last several years.” Liv had tears in her eyes now looking up at Dr. Cunningham.
“I know this sounds odd given I’m a professional doctor, but I will miss our chats Olivia.” Dr. Cunningham stood up then and Liv knew the time was up.
Liv stood and looked at doctor Cunningham and then the two women embraced.
Mia stood in front of the mirror looking at her stomach, “I can’t believe that you are going to be an aunt, Liv.”
Liv curled up with a blanket on her college dorm bed. “Yeah it is pretty weird sis.”
“First a wedding to a marine and now a baby!”
“When does Henry get home?”
“In two days, so I will be at aunt Cecily’s till then waiting until Henry gets back so we can find a new place to live.”
Mia looked down at her maternity top and put her hand on her large stomach. She grabbed Liv’s hand and placed it on her belly.
“Oh my god he’s kicking!” Liv laughed as she felt her sister’s stomach.
The girls laughed and then the there was a knock on the door. Brian entered and then Mia looked over to him. “Just in time brother in law!”
Brian looked at Mia and Liv and then Mia grabbed his hand and placed it on her belly. “Woah.” He said looking back and forth between both girls.
“Crazy isn’t it?” Liv laughed.
“Yeah, so what are you doing honoring us with your presence at our humble college?”
Mia rolled her eyes and didn’t say anything to him she turned her head toward Liv and smiled. “Your friend is really annoying he has so many questions. Can you please explain to him it is a free country and I can do what I want?”
Liv laughed and then turned her attention to Brian who had his laptop in his hands and a pair of headphones. Liv knew what that meant he wanted help with his latest YouTube narration. Brian and Liv had become closer over the last several years since Ray had passed away. Brian could relate and so they embarked on a close friendship. Liv eventually attended the same college as Brian after obtaining a track scholarship. Liv had become the fastest sprinter on her high school track team.
Liv had obtained other friends over the years but never really connected with anyone the same way she did with Brian. Things had been touch and go after the first few nights at aunt Cecily’s house. Mia was gone as soon as she was 18 and she left Liv alone while she married Henry and moved away.
Things got better as time moved on and Liv adjusted to life at Aunt Cecily’s house. Eventually, she went off to college and the rest is history as they say.
There were a lot of changes since and so Liv kept up her appointments with Doctor Cunningham who was a life saver.
Mia looked at the laptop and Brian who was setting up the equipment in Liv’s closet fit with soundproofing acoustic studio foam. “You two nerds still recording your little stories and making movies?”
Brian winked at her his dark hair falling into his eyes. “Just because you are my sister in law doesn’t mean I have to care about your opinion.”
“I’m with Brian sis, you married his older brother that gives you no right to mock my best friend.” Liv joked.
“Whatever you two have fun I have to stop at aunt Cecily’s house before I head home. She wants to give me another present. She has bought me so many pieces for this little one.” She said touching her stomach.
Liv got up and hugged her sister and Brian nodded and waved goodbye as Mia left.
“You have exactly one hour before Miles gets here. What do you need I thought we finished last night?”
“I know but the recording didn’t come out for some reason. I need the scream one more time so I can finish the final touches on the story.”
Liv put on her set of headphones and plugged in the microphone to Brian’s laptop and then screamed as though the world were ending. She did five or six takes before Brian gave her the thumbs up. Liv smiled and got up to grab a coke out of her mini fridge. “What are you doing for the holidays?”
“Staying here I think. I don’t really want to stay at home.” Liv knew that look Brian had on his face.
“Henry will be there.” Liv chirped.
“I know, but he has Mia now and my mom has her project with her. That little girl is going to be one spoiled brat.” Laughed Brian referring to Mia and Henry’s unborn child.
“I know Aunt Cecily already has my old room made up just in case Mia asks her to babysit. I stay in the basement now when I go home complete with my uncle’s minibar.” She winked.
“I’ll see my mom on Christmas though, not going to miss her ham and hot German potato salad.”
“Your mom is an excellent cook.”
“You know she asks about you every time I see her.” Brian said looking at Liv as he played back the screams and edited them.
“I know she thinks we should be like Mia and Henry.”
“Weird. You are like my sister.” Brian said blushing slightly.
Liv pretended not to notice it “Besides I’m with Miles now.”
“Yeah, you have a real catch on your hands.” Brian rolled his eyes.
“Miles is a great guy, Brian. I wish you could see what I do.”
“What do you see in that jock anyhow? His friend, Derek, is a complete asshole. They say that you are the company you keep.” He smirked.
“Miles is nothing like them at all. They aren’t such a bad group after you get to know them.”
“I don’t want to if that is alright with you.”
Liv opened her mouth to complain but there was a knock at the door.
She sat up and opened the door and there stood Miles in the doorway looking at her. He had on a sports jacket and his hair was newly cut. He had large blue eyes and when Liv opened the door Miles grabbed her took one look at Brian and planted a kiss on her mouth.
Brian pretended to be disinterested and began to pack up his recording equipment. He stood up and put his headphones around his neck and placed his laptop back in the bag.
“Hey Miles.” Brian faked a smile.
“Miles, you hear I’m taking your girl here on a weekend getaway for Christmas?”
“Yeah. Don’t care have fun.”
“Thanks.” Miles laughed looking at Brian as he walked toward the door. Miles was still holding on to Liv’s waist and she squirmed away to run and hug Miles.
“Have a Merry Christmas!” she said kissing his cheek. “I’ll text you when we get there so you know I didn’t get eaten by bears.”
“Bears aren’t what I worry will eat you. Have a Merry Christmas, Liv, I’ll miss you.”
Brian walked out the door and that is when Miles planted another kiss on her. “God I can’t wait to spend some time alone with you.”
“Your parents will be there.”
Miles looked down at her strangely for a second and then smiled “My parents don’t care if we sleep in the same bed. They are very forward thinking.”
Liv laughed at him and they kissed some more. “We better get on the road if you want to get there by dinner.”
Miles grabbed Liv’s tiny pink suitcase as he did he chuckled at it.
“Don’t give me that look, my dad gave it to me when I was a little girl.”
“Now I’m picturing little Olivia at five years old with her pink suitcase.” Miles said.
“Okay that is enough, let’s go.”
They got into the car and Liv cuddled up with her feet on the dashboard as they turned on some music.
The sun was shining that day as they drove south on the highway. When they got closer they had to turn off onto an old country road and drove for some miles going deeper into the park.
The trees were canopied over the road and it remained dark even though most of the leaves were gone. Liv stared out the window of the vehicle and pondered the last time she had been in an area like this. She was 12 years old and it was the summer before her grandpa had died. Her mother had been gone two years and her father had not been out a lot still with his newfound disability.
They had spent that whole summer trip camping and fishing. It was one of the last times she had ever seen her father happy. Her grandpa died that fall and they never went back to the old cabin.
“Did you hear me?” asked Miles stirring her from her daydream.
“No, I’m sorry.”
“We are here.”
Liv looked out the window and sat up at the old country road that seemed to go deeper into the forest. It seemed to turn dark almost instantly as she looked around her as Miles’ jeep drove down the gravel road. They made a sharp turn down an old dirt road that was barely a road. It looked like the forest had swallowed it and as they approached the cabin the woods seemed to cave in on them. As the jeep drove on the trees hit the vehicle and branches hit the glass window as Liv peered out of it. She backed up a few times thinking that one would go through the window with the speed Miles was going.
“Sorry, I forgot to tell you we are a bit off the grid.”
“I guess.” Liv said just wishing that the ride would end soon.
Finally, the woods seemed to disappear and directly in front was an old cabin. It wasn’t what Liv had been expecting. It was small and she wondered how it would ever fit all the family Miles had said would be accompanying them on this trip.
Liv looked at Miles who was now parking the jeep off to the side of the cabin and he got out of the vehicle and perkily walked over to her side of the jeep and opened the door for her.
Liv wasn’t looking at him though, instead she was looking at the cabin. There was something off about it but she couldn’t place the feeling. Then she looked at Miles who was grinning from ear to ear. “What do you think?”
“Where are all the other cars?”
“Oh, about that. I may have told a tiny white lie my family won’t be here. They are just up the road but we will be seeing them for Christmas day. Please don’t be mad, I just wanted to spend some time with you alone. I know it isn’t much, but I love this place and wanted to show it to you.”
Liv’s cheeks were red from the fury she now felt rise in them. “Take me home.”
“Liv, I’m sorry! Look how about we stay one night and we can go back tomorrow. Please we have come this far. If you don’t like it we can go home we don’t even have to visit my parents, although I know they want to meet you.” his large blue eyes and black hair made her feel a bit weak in the knees.
Liv still recalled the first time she met Miles that day in the deli shop. She had a crush the second she set eyes on him and when he smiled at her she wanted to run out the door. There was no way he thought she was his type. She fumbled over her words when ordering her boss’ food for lunch in an awkward manner in those early encounters. Liv felt ridiculous now even thinking back to over a year ago now. Here she was standing in front of him and he wanted her to be with him- her!
Miles grinned and then kissed her forehead as he held her tight. “Let me take you inside I’ll grab the coolers later.”
The cabin was small but it looked as though it were large enough to fit a family of four. Miles brought in the bags and took them back into the bedroom toward the back of the cabin. There were sheets covering everything and Miles ripped them off all the furniture as he went down the hallway.
“I’ll go get the coolers if you want to set up your stuff. There is a bathroom just down the hall on the right. I’ll get a fire going in a sec.” He kissed her cheek again and then went out the front door of the cabin.
Liv looked down the hallway and while there was some light coming from the lamp at the end of the hall she wanted to make sure that there was some electricity in the bathroom. She did feel the need to relieve herself so she grabbed her makeup bag and headed in the direction of the hallway.
Just like Miles said there was a tiny bathroom and she used the flashlight on her cellular phone to find the light switch. A very dim light came on and revealed green wood paneling all over it. There was a half roll of toilet paper and the toilet seemed in need of repairing. Liv sat down and did her business and when she looked at the sink and turned on the water. Black muck came out at first but once she let it run a little a small stream of water came from the faucet. She looked at the soap that was on the soap dish and when she went to pick it up it appeared there was hair and blood stuck in the corner of it. Long dark hair and dried up blood. She didn’t think much more about it perhaps someone had cut themselves.
Liv used some toilet paper and put it in the trashcan that was next to the toilet. She opened the cupboard below the sink and she was able to find new soap and toilet paper. She opened one of the drawers next to the cupboard and saw an old hair tie and some photos that were all stuck together. When she touched the images, she felt an electric shock and dropped them.
“That was fuckin’ weird.” Liv said to herself as she closed the drawer and cupboard and walked out of the bathroom.
Miles was still outside and the front door to the cabin was wide open. She felt a cold winter’s breeze blow through and hit her neck like an icy hand. From the corner of her eyes she felt it, something was moving by the cellar door. A hand crept out from the other side a purple and bruised hand and began to open the door to the cellar.
Liv dropped her phone to the floor and heard the front door slap shaking her to. She looked at the door and there was nothing there.
“Hey, I started a fire outside so we can cook those bratwursts I’m starving!”
Liv looked at Miles with a dumbfounded look and then looked back at the door.
“I don’t think I can stay here tonight.”
Miles looked defeated “What? I said I was sorry.”
“What is in that cellar?”
“Nothing, just an old television, some beer I think and dirt. Why?”
They say that the secrets of the past can come back and haunt the future. Liv recalled with pain of those nights living in that old farmhouse with her father. That woman in white that she thought had left her a long time ago. Now something remained inside her mind. It had to be her mind playing tricks on her. There was no such thing as ghosts.
“I thought I saw someone out of the corner of my eye.”
Miles looked at her concerned and then opened the cellar door. “Come with me I’ll show you, nothing is down here.”
Liv shook her head and smiled “I’m fine I think I’m just a little tired from the drive. You said you put food on the grill? That sounds great.” She managed to compose herself long enough to fake a smile.
Miles mimicked her facial expression and they went out to the yard to sit by the fire.
The fire glared at them as they sat on an old lawn chair with a blanket wrapped around them. Miles held her tightly and seemed deep in thought while Liv talked about what her aunt Cecily must be doing.
“Mia will be a mom by New Years and I can’t wait to see my new niece. It’s so weird to me that my sister is going to be a mom.”
Miles stared at the fire and didn’t say anything else as he sat holding Liv by the shoulders. “Mm_” he mumbled.
“You okay?” Liv turned to look at him.
“I’m fine, I think I’m just finally getting a bit tired myself. Why don’t we go inside?”
Liv stood up placing the blanket around her shoulders and the two went in and Miles started a second fire in the fireplace of the old cabin. It wasn’t long before the entire cabin felt the warmth of the fire. The light seemed to fill up the room and when Liv looked into Miles’ eyes she couldn’t help but lean in and kiss him.
Miles reciprocated the kiss and soon the two fell into each other’s arms as the night wore on they laid tangled in one another’s arms and by morning they were still naked holding on to one another the way young lovers do.
The sun began to peek in just as the roar of a car sped up the gravel driveway. Music was blasting and it ruined the serenity of the forest sounds. Liv sat up from the floor of the cabin the blankets still wrapped around her as she stood to look out the window.
She saw the pickup truck then and knew who it was. She angrily nudged Miles with her foot. “Get up Miles! Why are Derek and Pete here?”
Miles sat up rubbing his eyes as he now heard what Liv was hearing.
“You told me it was supposed just to be us!” Liv hissed.
“Wait what?” Miles stood up as his manhood hung out and he quickly wandered around the room trying to find his underwear and pants. Liv was in the back bedroom dressing and then there was the knock at the door.
“Hey fuck tard open the door!”
“Yeah stop smooching your girlfriend and let us in we have drinking to do!” said the second voice.
The banging didn’t stop it kept going and got louder and louder.
“What the fuck guys!” Miles said swinging the door open.
“Did you guys have a nice time alone?” asked a tall man with reddish blonde hair.
The other guy was short and had dark skin the color of mocha. His brown eyes met Liv’s when she entered the room wearing one of Miles’ t-shirts and sweatpants. She looked back at the tall one and faked a smile. “Hi Pete. What do we owe this grave honor?”
“Derek and I were bored. Miles told us we could come down if we wanted to so here we are.” He said patting Miles on the shoulder. “Where is all the beer?”
Derek walked over to Liv and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sorry I don’t think we will stay too long.”
“I hope not.” Liv said looking at Derek with his charming grin. Liv didn’t hate Derek despite how he acted around Pete. He had always been kind to her, even now apologizing for his other friend’s rude behavior.
Liv walked over to Miles and shot him a look.
“I am so sorry.” Miles said whispering in her ear. “I promise I will make it up to you.”
Liv said nothing she just walked over to the fridge and pulled out a bagel and some butter to toast in the oven. Miles walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder and she turned around smiled at him through her anger. “It’s okay have fun.”
Miles kissed her on the cheek and went over to Pete and Derek who were already back outside building a fire and Liv overheard them talking about target practice. The three of them carried on for a bit and then everything got eerily quiet. She opened the oven and flipped her bagel over and opened the butter and used a knife to scrape some of the creamy salted butter on it in anticipation for the breakfast she craved.
The timer went off and she opened the oven pulling out the hot breaded treat and sat it on a paper plate. She began to spread the butter on it and when she finished she picked it up and bit into it trying to move her long curly hair out of her face long enough to dig in.
The gun went off startling Liv and she dropped her buttery treat on the cabin floor of the old kitchen. She stood looking at the floor that had scuff marks on it and some old stains and debated if it were worth the two-second rule. She sighed and picked it up tossing it into the garbage and then before making her way to the fridge to take out another bagel to cook she went to the cabin door and peered at the young men who were now crowded together in deep conversation.
Liv watched the three of them and then Miles seemed to feel her eyes upon him and looked at her expressionless for a long while before he waved. Liv waved back and then went back to the kitchen feeling no longer hungry.
She heard footsteps coming up the porch and then the cabin door swung open. It was Derek and he smiled at her as he went to the cooler he and Pete had brought and pulled out a beer. “Hey sorry about us. You know how Pete is when he sets his mind to something.”
“Yeah I see that.” Liv sighed.
“So, is this the first time you have been out here?”
“Yes. I thought we would be alone till Monday when we would drive to spend Christmas with Miles parents.”
Derek looked at her for a second his face showing his confusion and then he shook his head blinking and looked at Liv “Yeah, the holidays have always been significant to Miles. Did you know that tonight is Winter Solstice and it marks the longest night of the year?”
“No, I didn’t but thanks for the lesson.” Liv laughed.
Derek pulled out a second beer and handed it to Liv “On me.” He gave her the beer and smiled.
Liv took the beer and sipped it right away it would be her breakfast.
“Join us outside we are starting a fire and Pete is thinking of going hunting.”
“I didn’t know you guys hunted.”
“Yeah once a year we come out here and see what we can find.”
“That is the first I have ever heard of Miles hunting.”
Liv followed Derek outside and stood behind him as the two watched Miles and Pete use a dead tree stump as a target practice. The gun went off and echoed through the woods and then Miles smiled back at Liv. “Did you know I can handle myself with a gun?”
“He sucks.” Pete yelled back pointing the gun at a squirrel in the tree above and firing at it.
The creature fell to the ground twitching and then Pete walked over to it and picked it up and held it by the tail. “We have dinner.”
Liv scrunched up her nose at Pete. The way he held it up so proudly unnerved her in a way she couldn’t explain. She had never liked Pete if she had to confess but Derek was a suitable buffer between the two.
Miles came back to Liv and kissed her full on the lips almost too intimately in front of his friends. Liv pushed him away and he glared back at her. “What is wrong?”
“Nothing, it’s just your friends are right here Miles.” He had tasted like beer and she went to walk away from him. Pete came up beside them still holding the squirrel in his hands.
“You ever tried squirrel?” he asked her.
“No, not ever wanted to.” Liv said irritated.
“Pete stop it.” Miles said in an irritated tone.
“I can show you how to skin it. You never know when you might need to survive in the woods alone.” Pete said pulling out a pocket knife and throwing the dead squirrel on the ground and cutting into it.
Liv couldn’t watch it and turned around and walked toward the porch. There was an old battery operated radio with the antennae still in place. She turned it on hoping that some music would drown out the moment. The sound coming from the radio was mostly static and then one of the older stations began to play “House of the Rising Sun.” It had always been her father’s favorite song and she closed her eyes. She held her arms around her in the chilly air and began to feel warmed by the thoughts of her deceased father. It was strange she never missed her mom half as much as her dad because he had always been so understanding of her growing up.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and for a moment she thought it could be her father. She opened her eyes and turned to face Miles. The expression on her face told him what he suspected and it was that he had hurt her feelings.
“I didn’t mean to get annoyed. Are you crying?” Miles looked at her cupping his hands around her soft cheeks.
“No, it is just this was my dad’s favorite song.”
Miles looked down at the radio and there was something about it that unnerved him when she mentioned her father. He didn’t know what it was but the music began to slow down and the world around him paused for a brief second.
The gun went off again causing both Miles and Liv to look back at Derek who was now shooting the old log. He screamed in enjoyment “I did it that time!”
Liv rolled her eyes and walked back into the cabin leaving Miles outside with his friends.
She walked into the bathroom and closed the door locking it behind her. She closed the lid on the toilet and sat down on it and began to cry. It had been years since she had gotten emotional over her father but right in that moment she missed him more than she had since he had passed away seven years earlier.
The bathroom light flickered just then and when she looked up she saw something in the mirror. There was a shadow watching her and she felt the sick feeling she had not felt since she was a girl in her bedroom when the woman in white would come to her in the middle of the night.
Liv stood up and backed away from the mirror and stood up against the wall. She could see dark eyes watching her but nothing else. She screamed and ran out of the bathroom just as Derek was about to come toward her in the hallway.
“You okay?” he asked puzzled.
“Um, I don’t know.”
He handed her a beer he had just opened “I think you need this more than me.” He grinned softly.
Liv didn’t blink she grabbed it and chugged it. “Is that all you guys brought was beer? Do you have anything stronger?” Liv hoped to drown out the ghosts that seemed to be coming back with a vengeance on this romantic get-away.
“Unfortunately, yes just three cases of beer.” Derek said chuckling.
Liv continued to chug the beer as she walked toward the door of the cabin. She drank it so fast she barely had time to breathe. She opened the door and sat on the porch. Derek joined her as she listened to the static that was now coming out of the old radio.
“I think I am going to need another one of these.” Liv said looking up at Derek.
“My pleasure my lady.” Miles handed her a second beer he had just opened.
“I thought you were more of a straight-laced type of girl.”
“You thought wrong.” She drowned in the second beer almost before it hit her lips.
She smiled at Miles who was now watching her along with Pete who now stood looking at her intensely. The three young men watched as Liv slumped over into the chair laughing.
“This beer is good.” Liv put her head on her hand and closed her eyes still smiling.
“Are you okay?” Derek put a hand on her shoulder.
“I want to just go to sleep.” Liv was now struggling to keep her eyes open as she smiled looking up at Derek. She barely noticed that Miles and Pete were now also standing above her while she smiled up at them. Derek looked at them concerned and then Miles bent over and looked her dead in the eyes and pulled her chin up toward him.
“I think our dove has fallen from the sky.” Miles said looking at Pete who was now looking a bit nervous.
“What now?” she heard Derek say.
“Time for preparation.” Miles said as Liv drifted off into darkness.
There was a fire somewhere in the darkness when Liv awoke. She struggled to move but was unsure as to what was going on. Her head was killing her and she felt nauseous with a thirst she had never known.
Something was blocking her view as she struggled to open her eyes. She felt something restraining her and she tried to sit up, but when she did she hit her head on something hard. She felt her face and realized that something was covering her eyes. She pulled off a black bandanna and when she did she found herself alone in the cellar.
Her first thought was one of confusion but then she saw it. A face from the shadows appeared from the corner of the room. It was expressionless like a mannequin and at first that is what she thought it was until it began to move towards her slowly. It was white and the eyes were completely black. It resembled one of those white masks you would hang on a wall and decorate with peacock feathers only this was alive. It was on a body with a black robe like one of those ceremonial scenes in the movie Eyes Wide Shut. She slowly backed away as it began to come closer to her, but when she did she felt herself back into someone directly behind her. She turned around to see two more masked things in robes.
She couldn’t scream because her tired brain kept thinking it was a joke of some kind that was being played upon her. Not until she saw a fourth person wearing a red mask did she realize that she was now in a dire situation.
The three in white stood on one side of the room while the person wearing the red mask stood now in the front of her. He did not move he only stood in front of her watching her.
Liv began to scream for Miles but no one came. She cried and tried to sit up when she felt something around her feet. Restraints were holding her while she looked up at the people surrounding her. She realized she was in a coffin dug three to four feet in the ground of the old cellar floor of the cabin. There were strange symbols on the cellar wall and the fire lit room ablaze and the symbols seemed to dance along the walls.
Just then the people in the room began to chant something in a language she had never heard before. She screamed for Miles and cried so hard trying to escape but Miles did not come. Where was Miles? She closed her eyes trying to wish herself away from this place when she saw one of the masked men shakily hold out the gun from earlier. A gunshot fired before Liv could resist and Liv slumped back into the makeshift coffin. Her ears rang and she thought for sure she was dead, but the real horror was only beginning.
Liv slowly began to wake up once again only this time she recalled with anger that someone had shot her. She didn’t care why just that she needed to get the hell out of this situation and find Miles.
She realized that the bullet had only grazed her because thanks to her good luck, the person that had shot her was too afraid because the hand holding the gun shook.
The room was quiet and she felt that she must be alone and then she smelled it. There was a disgusting smell of something she couldn’t seem to place. It was something musty and decaying all at once. She reached up and felt her head as the blood had begun to dry in a sticky mess in her long curly blonde hair.
The restraints had been taken off her body, in what she figured was because they thought she was now dead. She was free to move about the box and could sit up enough to remove a lit that was now on top of it. The coffin wasn’t made to any skilled degree and seemed to crumble apart as pieces of wood broke under her feet as she kicked off the lid.
Just as she was beginning to stand up and get a good look around the room, she heard footsteps coming down the cellar stairs. The person was wearing one of those black robes, only to her horror she realized it was Miles.
He froze into place with his mouth now gaping open. “You were dead.”
“Miles please help me get out of here.” It still wasn’t registering to Liv who had been keeping her here against her will.
Miles walked over to her and held her in a strange embrace. Liv began to sob into his neck and then he slowly peeled her off him. “You need to get back in this box.”
“Miles, no. NO MILES! Get me OUT OF HERE!”
“You don’t understand, you have to get back in this fucking box!”
“Get me out of here!” Liv hissed.
“Liv, you are my sacrifice and it is my turn to give something up as part of my allegiance.”
Liv looked at him and wanted to shake him. “What are you talking about? Let’s both get out of here and we can deal with this later.”
“No!” he growled forcing her back into the coffin. “If they find you alive they will hurt you even worse. This must be so that the next year runs smoothly. Every year we have one sacrifice and this year it is my turn to supply the rabbit.”
“The what?” Liv was scared now convinced Miles had lost his mind.
“Stop talking before someone hears you!” Miles took out a handkerchief and shoved it inside of her mouth and tied her wrists as he quickly placed the badly damaged wooden lid back on it. She heard something being put on it to keep it on. She couldn’t tell if it were brick or what but she knew she had to get out of there with or without Miles.
Tears stained her cheeks as she choked back on the handkerchief and her sobs. Then she heard other footsteps. The others were now coming back to the cellar.
“Coach you think this will work?”
“Derek, my boy it has every year. Grab the shovel and let’s get this thing buried.”
Liv began to kick the side of the box as a last effort to get out of the box.
“Hey someone grab the cooler of beer and the radio on the porch let’s do this in style.” Miles was saying.
Liv realized very quickly that Miles was the ringleader along with the coach of the football team. Were they seriously doing this in the belief that they were going to have some grand year ahead? It all made no sense to her and she continued to kick trying with all her might to get out of there. However, whatever Miles had placed upon the coffin kept all her efforts restrained and the sounds of her kicking muffled.
She could still hear them talking and that was what made it all so much worse. They spoke of her as though she were nothing and Liv was just a thing like some forest animal to be killed. She meant nothing to Miles at all and in that thought her heart broke into a thousand and one pieces.
It was all a lie to get her there and chances were Miles didn’t have any family living down here. He had merely taken her to his killing fields. Liv closed her eyes and in despair tried to breathe but her air supply stunted.
Liv just waited for her death as she was now defeated.
Meanwhile, Mia sat at the dinner table so happy to have Henry back from his six-month stint overseas.
“I wish Liv had decided to stay home this Christmas. It seems weird, but I’ve been thinking about her all day.” Mia said to her aunt.
“She is probably living it up. I have only gotten one text from her saying she arrived safely and that was it.”
“Miles is nice enough.” Mia said shoving a bite of pumpkin pie in her chubby cheeks. There was a stab of pain suddenly in her side and she dropped the fork. Water released itself from between her legs.
Mia stood up in a panic and looked at her aunt. “What is it?” Aunt Cecily asked her.
“My water broke and I’m going into labor.”
“Oh my god this is it!” Henry smiled looking at her.
There was a trace of fear in Mia but also one of excitement as they drove to the hospital. She couldn’t seem to erase the feeling that something wasn’t quite right though and she couldn’t place her finger on it. She wished her sister was here now with her as she was whisked into a delivery room.
It was all happening so fast and before she knew it her baby girl, Anna, named after her grandmother was born. The little girl sat in her arms and then Mia felt it there was something wrong. The doctors rushed over to her and one yelled at the nurse to get out of the way.
“She’s hemorrhaging! We need to stop the bleeding before she loses too much blood!”
The doctors rushed around her and Mia felt something then, it was a hand on her shoulder and a woman was standing next to her bed. She looked up in a daze and through her state she recognized her deceased mother smiling at her.
“You aren’t alone, I’m here now.”
The light had dimmed all around her, but her mother glowed all around her. She didn’t know if she were imagining it but she could feel her touching her. Mia had tears of happiness in her eyes as she could feel her mom holding her.
“It is going to be okay, Mia. The blood will stop coming and you will live a long and happy life with your baby.” Her mother’s ghost said as she kissed Mia’s forehead.
Mia closed her eyes still feeling her mother holding her hand and the warm security enveloped her and she knew it was going to be okay.
“Turn it up!” Miles yelled at Pete and coach as they began to shovel dirt upon Liv’s coffin.
Then through Liv’s trauma she could hear music as it played in the background of the men’s voices. They spoke in their casual conversation as though they were not committing murder.
The song came on and Liv heard its familiar haunting sound only it was coming in through the cracks in the makeshift coffin. She could see bits of light coming through and she could see the fire still burning in the pit inside the ground of the cellar. She guessed why the soap had the hair and blood in it as Pete complained.
“The last one was messy a gun is good and clean.” Pete said proudly.
“Say coach he left before he could help us finish. That seems kinda messed up leaving us with the cleanup.” Derek moaned.
“Shut up and keep going.” Miles snapped. “He’s been doing this for years he knows we are capable of finishing.”
The music seemed stuck on the lines of the song and it repeated itself over and over as though it were a record, but no one else seemed to notice it. They were still carrying on but Liv could hear it “-Oh mother tell your children ..Not to do what I have done..”
The House of the Rising Sun began to come through louder and louder but she knew that little radio was not built to fill up a room full of sound as though it were surround sound.
Then it happened the fire went out. Liv knew it had because there was no longer any light coming through and she heard someone yell. There was a sound of someone walking with a heavy foot and it pounded through the walls of the cellar and it carried with it darkness wiping out all the light.
“Fuck I can’t see anything! Grab a flashlight!” it was Miles voice.
It got eerily quiet just then as she waited for them to find the light. She felt unnerved and then she heard something else and felt something moving her.
It was as though an earthquake had shaken the old cabin because the sound of their voices ceased. She heard a scream and then a gurgling sound like someone was getting sick.
The lid to the coffin slowly began to move and it creaked as it lifted off the box. To Liv’s shock it was Derek taking off the cover to her coffin.
There was light coming in from the ground and when she looked over Miles was dead on the cellar floor and he had a stab wound coming from his neck. Pete now crushed under a large wall that had caved in around them. Liv stood up pulled the cloth from her mouth and Derek untied her hands.
“Oh my god thank you!” Liv said to him but he didn’t seem to understand her.
She watched his eyes as he seemed to be in a trance. She picked up the flashlight as her hands shook. Then she heard the gun go off and she dropped it to the ground.
Derek had shot himself in the head and fell into the box that she had just been. Liv began to sob from shock and fear and when she slowly picked up the flashlight she saw the eyes of a woman who lay rotting in the ground in another box next to the one she had escaped. The woman was mummified but how was that possible? How long had she been down in this cellar?
Liv stood paralyzed as she recognized the face and it was the woman from all those years ago. How could it be? Liv tried to focus on getting out of the cellar, but she was so stunned at what had just occurred. She looked at the woman and wondered how on earth she could be here now. That is when the woman turned her head towards Liv and began to crawl out of the box.
Liv saw the ghostly figure move and she ran from the cellar up the stairs of the cabin and she felt shadows watching her from all around. She turned back to look at the cellar door but a hand pulled it shut with a slam.
It was as though something was done and completed. Just as Liv had that thought she felt it just behind her she heard the sound again of someone moving disjointed. She could hear the thumping of wood along the floor. It sounded like when her father stomped through the old farmhouse where they grew up.
The cabin rattled again and she felt unsteady on her feet as she struggled to move from where she stood. Then a dark shadow appeared from the hallway and she ran before she got a good look at it.
There was death all around her and she wanted to get out of that cabin as fast as she could and Liv ran like she was coming out of the blocks at a track meet.
She ran towards the road and kept going. She had no idea where she was but she knew there had to be a road just up ahead because they had come from one on their way to the cabin. She could have tried to find the keys to the jeep but there was no way she was returning to that cellar of horrors to see it. Liv would manage somehow and before she continued, she stopped before she entered deeper into the woods looking at the cabin as a black cloud engulfed it causing it to cave into itself.
The cabin was now buried and so were her tormentors.
It was just becoming light as she ran deeper into the forest around her and she could hear whispers in her ears as she continued to run through the woods. She ran as though her life depended upon it and every time she would stop and get tired she would feel something behind her. It was a dark cloud that kept her moving. The fear of what it could be kept her running and she continued until she found the old interstate.
When she reached the road, she collapsed in front of it turning back only for a second to look and see if the cloud was still following her. When she did she saw a man that walked with one leg staring back at her.
“Dad?” Liv whispered to the wind.
Just then he seemed to shapeshift into a man wearing a hunter vest. He slowly approached her and when he did she could see he resembled nothing of her father.
“Young lady are you okay? You look injured!” the kind stranger said.
Liv could barely make eye contact with him as her face was still sticky and sore. She looked at the man who was very concerned for her and she took a deep breath.
“I need to go home.” Liv said to him.
The man nodded and called for help on his cellular phone. They waited together for an ambulance that took a long while to get there. When it finally arrived, the man stuck around and as Liv to ensure she was okay.
“You are about the same age as my daughter she is at college now. You dropped this back there.” He said holding up a locket.
When Liv looked at the locket she knew that there was no way this man should have this locket. The locket was the same one Liv had put in her father’s coffin seven years ago. She looked at it and then took it from the kind man.
“Thank you.” Liv said her voice hoarse from screaming and crying.
She looked down at the locket and opened it up. Sure, enough it was the very locket she had given back to her father.
She looked back up at the man but he was no longer there. It was as if he had entirely disappeared into thin air.
Liv stood up and walked away from a paramedic who was cleaning her head wound when she stepped around the truck.
“Where was the man who was just here?”
“I didn’t see anyone.” Said the paramedic. “Get back here please you could have a concussion!”
Because of what had happened to her the police were now combing the forest looking for coach. He was the only one that had gotten away and they were now looking for him.
Liv walked back to the truck as they now made her get back in so they could take her to the hospital.
When Liv was finally safe at home at Aunt Cecily’s house Mia came by to see her sister.
Mia brought her new baby to see her and they sat in Liv’s room talking about the night they both nearly died.
“I saw mom that night at the hospital. I know you probably think I’m crazy.”
Liv looked at her sister as tears welled up into her eyes.
“No, I don’t. Something saved me that night in the cabin. Do you remember me crying about the lady in white?”
“Yes.” Mia looked at her sister as she held her child tighter to her chest.
“I saw her again, only she was in that cellar with me. She had been dead for years! Longer than I had been alive. Coach is still missing and I now think he had something to do with it. You think she could have been warning me all those years ago? She had been dead for years she was mummified, Mia.” Liv said with concern all over her face.
“After my stint in the hospital I will believe anything.”
“There is something else.” Liv said pulling out the locket.
“Where did you get that? We buried that with dad! They closed the coffin on him and I watched them put him in the ground. How did you get that?”
“Exactly. There was more than one ghost that saved me that night.” Liv said to Mia tears still in both sister’s eyes.
Mia grabbed Liv and they held each other in the realization that love truly knew no bounds of time or space.
Coach Vincent Lee had been on a good run until that night in the cabin when three of his best players failed to complete the sacrifice. Because of their latest sacrifice he was now unable to stick around Ohio.
He found himself in disguise driving down an old stretch of highway listening to the radio plotting out his next move while he listened to talk radio.
There was some station that babbled on about politics and the like and so as he drove on it began to fade out and as the static caused him to switch stations he found himself listening to an old song he had not heard in a long time.
House of the Rising Sun began to play and he turned it up realizing it had been years since he had listened to it. He drove on and as he passed a sign that said WELCOME TO UTAH he felt a sudden chill. He noticed something in his rearview mirror and when he looked he saw Ray’s ghost looking at him.
Stunned Coach swerved and his vehicle went over a guardrail and down a mountainside. When it landed a large tree, branch caught him directly in the heart killing him instantly.