The tears flowed endlessly till Finn’s T’shirt was soaked with his own blood and Ivor’s tears. His sobs were not of a grown man, but like an inconsolable child wallowing in despair and agony for a pain far deeper than a wound to the heart. The trees somberly rocked under the moonlight as the wind blew a bitter coldness around Ivor and the lifeless body between his arms, but Ivor couldn’t feel the cold air around him. The world had faded to Ivor and all the purpose of living at that moment. Elenor and David stood at the doorway and let him empty his heart on the floor. They didn’t speak or stir a move. They were reverent to his mourning as they knew the pain far too well to pressure him to return back to focus. Sure his wife and daughter were still out there, but they knew they were either already much like Finn or worse: like Sara. Elenor’s chest tightened at the thought. Ivor had insisted on seeing her earlier that day, but Elenor knew it was Sara he had seen. He said she looked older, she thought. Her body must be decaying after three years. It had been almost six months since she last came face to face with Sara. Elenor and David were heading into town when they saw a white rental car pass by and turn toward the road that led to the morsomt hus. No one ever turned up that road unless they were tourist. Ignorant and damned tourist they were. Every few weeks a new batch of them came with the result of a few less people on this beloved Earth. Elenor and David learned to look the other way and desensitize themselves from the wicked reality of that town and the morsomt hus. After they had picked up their basics for the week they headed back to their small one bedroom cabin they had learned to call home for three years now. That’s when they saw her. The sun was setting and the trees cast hard shadows on every surface tricking the naked eye into seeing various human forms that turned out to be just clusters of bushes and broken branches. Until they weren’t. Just around the soft bend, there, in the middle of the dirt road Sara was standing, seeming lost and unaware, yet unsurprised by the car that David had to screech to a halt. Elenor froze as Sara’s eyes met her own through the thin glass between them. Neither of them blinked although one felt heartbroken at the sudden encounter while the other felt nothing, nothing but hunger. Elenor didn’t feel David’s arm reach behind her chair until she heard the soft click. Sara looked different. She looked older and less human, but her hair was unchanged and she wore the same printed long sleeved dress she wore the last day she had hugged her goodbye just more ragged from time and roaming through the woods. David began to ease his hand griped around the gun back to the front when the crackle of running footsteps from the woods broke their stare. Sara’s head turned like a startled deer grazing the meadow listening for the slightest sound to alarm of danger. But here, Sara was the prey and the running feet, her game. Sara dashed into the woods within seconds and David dropped the gun out of this hand. That was the last time Elenor had seen her twin sister. Six months had passed and Elenor had given Sara up for dead, or at least what was left of her. But now Ivor had given her a twisted feeling of hope. Though Elenor would never admit to such a horrible veiled desire.
Ivor’s sobs slowly decreased until they were no more but faint trickles of air escaping his lips. Like a drunk, he rose from the ground with unstable legs and a shattered heart. He leaned back on the house and coldness of the wood electrocuted him back to the present.
“What did this? A bear?” he finally said.
Elenor and David glanced at each other for a second.
They both looked down unable to find the right words.
Ivor grabbed David by the collar and pinned him to the door frame. “Answer the damn question!”
David angrily pushed Ivor off and yelled, “Rogues! And keep your hands off me!”
“And what the hell is a rogue?”
David turned to Elenor in hopes that she would volunteer to explain, but she just looked the other way. David turned his attention back to Ivor who was still breathing quite heavily from all his crying.
“Well?” Ivor demanded through his red swollen eyes.
David inhaled a deep surge of air and released it through his dry lips before he began.
“Three years ago we came here to visit Elenor’s–”
“I don’t want a fucking bed time story, I want a bloody answer as to what kind of animal did that to my son!”
“It wasn’t an animal! Now do you want me to tell you or not?”
Ivor looked at David, then at Elenor. He ran his hand through his hair and down his face. Finally, he walked over to the couch and sat down. David followed and, once more, sat on the lawn chair by the couch.
“We came here to visit Elenor’s twin sister. That’s who you saw earlier at that so called vacation house. She had been sent to work on a project in this area a few years before and we thought it would be nice to pay her a visit for the holidays. We knew Sara was a biologist of some sort and that she had been recruited, along with three other scientist by a private company to study a new animal species that had just been discovered in these mountains a few years before. That’s all Sara ever told us about her work life. This cabin was her home since, apparently, she was the only one that chose not to live at the lab. She usually worked for a few hours while we went out exploring and then we’d spend the evenings together. Everything was fine until a few days into our stay when Sara came home a bit later than usual and in a very agitated mood. We figured something must have gone wrong at work and she just needed her space. The next day, she was gone when we woke up and we didn’t hear from her till that night when Elenor got a text from Sara that said “go home now.” She tried calling her but her phone went straight to voicemail and she didn’t respond to our text messages. We waiting another day, assuming she was just having a hard time at work. Her phone was still off and we finally gave up waiting and scheduled our flight for the following evening, but Elenor didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye. Before that visit, it had been 2 years since they last saw each other so Elenor was pretty determined and insistent on seeing her one more time before we left.”
David paused and turned to look at Elenor who had brought in Finn’s body and gently laid it on the floor next to the front door. She was now covering his small body with her long jacket. Sensing David’s look, she pretended to not notice and went on with covering the body. For a moment, Ivor felt a hostility between David and Elenor, but too consumed with his own emotions, he blinked the vibe away as quickly as it presented itself. David refocused and went on.
“We had no idea where this lab was or what it looked like, other than it was down that road where I found you because that’s the road Sara always took. We had never traveled that way before because according to Sara it was private property and we could get in serious trouble for trespassing. Now we know she was just trying to protect us. So, we headed down the road early in the morning on the day of our flight. We followed the road for about thirty-five minutes before we hit a bend and then a house. It didn’t look like a lab of any sort, but we thought it would do no harm in getting down to ask if maybe they knew how to get to the lab. We were stupid and so trustworthy of the world. We had our daughter with us, Hailey.”
His voice cracked as he said her name. Ivor glanced over at Elenor who had taken a seat on one of the stools by the dining table. At the name of their daughter, she stood up and walked into the kitchen. She seemed upset as she began to clatter through the dishes and purposely shift through drawers in a rowdy manner.
David continued, “She was fourteen at the time and didn’t want to get off the car. She was mad at aunt Sara, she was mad at us, she was mad at the world like a typical teenager. So we let her be and went to the door. The door was left slightly open so we tried calling out and knocking on in, but no one answered. I wanted to leave, but Elenor insisted once more that we go in anyway. I stupidly listened and in we went. There was a ravaged mess in the house like someone had broken in to take nothing but the orderliness of the rooms. The chairs were flipped over, the art frames on the walls were knocked down, the bedding of the rooms were torn off the beds sprawled on the floor covered with clothes and personal belongings. We walked around from room to room assuming the place was either robbed or abandoned, that is, until we found Sara. She was sitting on the couch in the living room by the kitchen and looking straight forward. We were surprised to see her there as the place looked nothing like a lab. We called her name, but she didn’t so much as flinch. She looked strange from the moment we saw her. Motionless as a statue, with an empty smile placed on her face and two hollow eyes. Beside her was a young man about thirty years old and a woman about Sara’s age. The three of them sat there in their white coats, still as stone, looking towards the same spot and with the same pressed smile. We called out to her again as we slowly approached them, but it was as if they weren’t there. We followed the path of their stare and saw a tripod and camera set.”
The photos, Ivor remembered.
“Elenor touched Sara and that’s when she noticed none of them were breathing. They were no more alive than porcelain dolls placed for a photo for child’s play. Completely lifeless, skin cold enough to burn your fingers and tough as leather. They were quite frightening to look at, and mesmerizing enough to keep our attention from a company watching us from the kitchen beside the open pantry door. I was the first one to take notice of her, but the encounter was only brief and startling. She was a beautiful woman. Blonde hair ran down the the sides of the hospital gown that hung around her body. Her skin was pale but wrapped around her like silk. Her eyes a sky blue eyes and lips stained powdered pink.”
“Is that the woman you killed?” Ivor asked.
“I told she isn’t dead, but yes, that’s her alright.”
“Why do you keep denying you killed her when I saw the bullets go straight through her?”
David stirred in his seat, “Are you going to let me explain or not?”
Ivor through his hands up, “okay, okay go on.”
“I don’t know how long she had been standing there, but the minute I took notice of her she ran down the hall and out the front door. I called out for her to stop as I chased after her, but she was much too quick for me and dashed into the woods. Hailey was still in the car and now I felt uncomfortable leaving her out there alone so I brought her in but made her stay by the piano room. I didn’t want her seeing Sara like that. We wanted to call the police but at the time we didn’t know what the emergency number was. Although later we would discover they were no help for matters in these woods anyway. After a while we began to hear coughing from the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and noticed the open pantry door where that thing was standing was actually a hidden passage. I walked in and saw that one of the concrete walls was pushed open.”
“No, I remember those walls, they didn’t have a handle or any form of opening,” Ivor interrupted.
“It only opens and closes from behind the wall,” David responded.
“That doesn’t make sense”
“If the door is closed it means someone is on the other side, and nothing in these damned woods makes sense,” David grunted sensing that Ivor was trying to prove he was lying.
The hairs on Ivors neck stood on end, that would mean that that person in the car was behind the wall, listening to us the whole time.
David continued, “I walked in and saw that this was actually the entrance to the real lab. The lab had been ruffled with as things were thrown everywhere. I saw laptops on the floor, broken glass, paper files scattered across the room, and the body of a man seconds from his last breath. His neck was torn open and I could see the muscle glands of his throat. Somehow, he was still alive and coughing for air. His white coat was covered in blood, so obviously he was Sara’s fourth co-worker. I called out for Elenor, who came running in. He tried to say something to us but his breath escaped him too fast leaving him as frozen as the other three on the couch. In the center of the room was an operation bed with two sets of leather buckles. At the far end of the lab was a cell, like a prison holding cell. We began to look through the papers and laptops for any answers. I now wish we would have just left instead of fishing for something we didn’t understand or could change. After about fifteen minutes of searching, we finally found what we were looking for. We found a printout of a documentation of a patient called Rogue. Apparently these woods had a history of people going missing. Anyone that wandered deep enough into the woods, whether they wore a badge, carried a gun, or traveled in groups, would never be seen again. No bodies ever turned up, but people just kept going missing. At first people assumed it was the wild animals like wolves or bears that roam these parts, but then people started to claim that they saw some of the missing people around town. However, their appearances only lasted a few seconds and so these claims were just brushed off as people going crazy.”
“So these people saw ghosts?” Ivor asked sarcastically.
“That’s what they claimed,” David answered ignoring Ivor’s sarcasm. “Blue Ridge quickly became known as a haunted town which attracted all kinds of people, mostly stupid thrill seekers. Until word reached this group of three champion hunters that came here on a mission to find this so-called animal that was plaguing Blue Ridge people for decades. They of course didn’t believe in myths, so they set out with their guns, night goggles, and whatever else you need to hunt wild animals. Though what they found was no animal, not in appearance at least. On their second night in the woods, they were attacked and one of them was torn to pieces while the other two emptied rounds of hot lead on into a devilish woman. Their led eventually hit some good spots and she fell. They dragged their game back to town, but quickly discovered she wasn’t dead. Her body was lying in an ambulance while the two men spoke to the authorities about what happened. The police of course laughed until the woman rose and attacked the paramedic that was busy doing paper work next to her.”
Laughter consumed Ivor. He bent over and leaned on his knees as he roared with hysteric laughter. David looked down at Ivor with annoyance.
“You people are fucking crazy! And you’re sick. My son was attacked, my wife and daughter are lost in the woods, and you’re sitting here telling me about fucking ghosts, witches, and leprechauns!”
“Okay, I’m done, I should have left your arrogant ass out there. She would have done to you what she did to your son.”
David instantly regretted saying that out loud. The man was just confused and had just viewed his nearly decapitated boy’s body.
Elenor walked over to David and gently touched his shoulder. David walked to the kitchen and she took his seat.
“Things got serious quickly, especially when the locals found out, and Sara and the other three were called to help make sense of this fiction-like bull shit.” She spat the words out with hate on her tongue.
Her tone combined with the nerve David hit seconds before sucked the energy out of Ivor, so he just sat there and listened.
“Once we saw what was written in that filed document, we knew we had to get the hell out of there. We walked out into the kitchen and looked toward the couch and my heart sank. It was empty. We ran to the piano room and before I looked around the corner of the wall, I heard the most haunting sound. The sound of wet cloth and bones cracking. I saw the three of them hunched over Hailey. I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear them crunching into her carcass savagely. Her body was bent in half and her legs hung down oozing blood onto the dark hard wooden floors. It’s one thing to see your kid dead, but it’s whole other to see their young flesh being shredded limb by limb and not be able to do anything about it except run away.”
Elenor had Ivor’s full attention now.
“David and I crept out through the back door. I remember David driving so fast, neither one of us said a word. We found our way to the police station and that’s where we both broke down, but they didn’t care. They just said they would put up a no trespassing rule, but we all knew that it would only be a matter of time before people started disappearing again. Three days later, two high school kids went missing and so began another plague of disappearances. Things got so bad, that some locals came up with a twisted idea of listing the Rogue house up for rent to attract foreigners.”
“What? Why?” Ivor interrupted.
“People categorize themselves as better than animals because we can reason, but when a human is afraid to the very core of their soul, their humanity is lost and they’ll become more animalistic than a wild pack of unfed dogs. They’ll kill whatever is in their way at whatever cost so as long as their fed, or in this case safe. And so the morsomt hus was listed and the foreigners began to flood in. The locals soon learned that their plan worked and the number of disappearances around town decreased and eventually stopped altogether. These Rogues, as we learned to call them, picked up on this new arrangement and eventually learned to honor it. They kept to themselves as long as the house was kept busy.”
“That’s fucking sick! What kind of people are you!”
Elenor looked down with shame twinkling in her face.
“And why are you two still here?” Ivor asked raged with disgust and disappointment.
But before Elenor could answer, a rock went hurling through the window and glass flew all over the Ivor and Elenor. David instantly turned off the lights and Elenor ran for her gun sitting on the table. Ivor’s heart pounded, and he slowly got up and walked to the window. Sure, the crash had startled everyone, but what was standing outside was more frightening than a window shattering in the middle of the night.
He looked out and the cool breeze caressed his face. The moon light was much stronger now and lit the clearing between the house and the woods brightly. His eyes were undeceived. The word escaped his lips and swirled into the night.
Final Chapter coming October 31st.