You probably think you’ve heard every scary “we went on vacation to a cabin” story ever told, but I promise you, you’ve never heard anything like what happened to my wife and I. There were no ghosts, no demons, no madmen stalking us through the woods.
I mean, at least as near as I can tell there weren’t.
No, our tribulations occurred at the hands (or…paws? Hooves? Wings? All of the above?) of the wilderness itself, and it’s agents.
The property my uncle had acquired about two years before and left to me is about eight hours from where we live. As we neared the location Google Maps had directed us towards, a drive through a sprawling set of dense woods eventually led us to a large clearing, at the center of which is something of a small hill that slopes down on all sides, and at the top of it is the house, situated not dissimilarly from a castle.
It was, needless to say, more than either of us had been expecting. It’s not a mansion, mind you, but we were anticipating a typical cabin or a cottage, not what stood proudly atop that hill. It is a cabin, yes, but this cabin is closer to a traditional house than not. As soon as I laid eyes on it, it became evident that this place hadn’t been intended as a place for my uncle to visit, but rather the wooden castle he would retire to.
Or it would have been, if not for the heart attack that took him at only 57.
Surrounded on all sides by lush, green grass that meets what look to be endless tall trees, this place is the definition of isolated. I feel I should make clear, though, that “isolated” doesn’t necessarily mean “creepy”. Based on what I’ve relayed to you thus far, you may be conjuring up images in your head of a glum, brooding structure on a hill, dark woods all around it, but that’s simply not the case.
Yes, it is surrounded by woods, but the trees are full and vibrant, not the thin, pale skeletons that come to mind when picturing scary forestry, and there is more than enough lawn between them and the house for us to feel comfortable.
And the cabin itself is wonderful. There are no gothic doors, gargoyles, creaking floorboards. Construction on it finished around a year ago; this is to say that it’s very modern.
But none of that mattered once the rain started falling.
Only a few hours after we’d emptied the car, the blue skies gave way to black, gray, angry clouds that brought with them torrential rains. It fell sideways in sheets, and the thunder clapped, making it sound like wood was being split in all directions.
As night fell, Kimmy remarked that we’d checked the weather before we left, and it had promised temperatures in the high 70’s with no mention of any storms.
It seemed wildly unlikely that meteorologists wouldn’t have known of a storm of this magnitude. It was like being in the middle of a tsunami (I assume). Even still, we’d made the ten-hour drive there, and were planning on spending as many days there, the first first few of which we intended to spend in the cabin anyways, so we sat down for a movie, intent on just letting the storm pass.
It had to have happened in the space of an hour.
At the bottom of the hill upon which the house sits, there is also a dip in the land, a small valley, and that valley flooded. All of a sudden, the castle had a moat.
We went to sleep, and for a few hours we had peace. It was around 3:30am when Kimmy and I both awoke. As I checked my phone, it dawned on me that its glow was the only light in the room.
The power had gone out. And as that realization came, so too did we hear it.
It was almost inaudible at first, and in retrospect I think I heard it in my sleep before it actually registered. I looked to Kimmy, asking if she could hear it too, which she confirmed she could.
In the distance, underneath the cacophony of thunder and wind and rain, was a voice, and that voice was shouting “hellooOOOoooo?”, in what sounded like an intentionally exaggerated manner, like someone trying to be funny.
We both quickly got to our feet. No matter what the explanation was, something was wrong. As I mentioned, the cabin is secluded, not the kind of place someone would just happen upon. If you were there, it’s because you knew where you were going.
We nearly jumped out of our skins when quick, heavy, clomping footsteps ascended to the porch.
Then came the scratching at the door. I looked to Kimmy. We had developed plans for any number of scenarios, owing to my favorite tenet – “it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” We also abided by another mantra, especially relevant in this scenario – “no horror movie decisions.”
In our once-over of the house, we had found a closet stocked with numerous battery-operated lanterns, so we grabbed a few and went to the living room. Kimmy retrieved a poker from next to the fireplace, while I grabbed the baseball bat my uncle kept in the foyer and rested it over my shoulder as I peered through the peephole. Finding it too dark to see anything, I hazarded a look through the window next to the door.
My first glimpse of it lasted for as long as the bolt of lightning that illuminated the land outside.
It stood just outside the window, its rear hooves still two steps down. It was something akin to a moose, some bastard cousin. Much of the fur on the bottom half of its face was gone, leaving the bone and muscle and sinew exposed. The rest of its fur was matted and caked with blood. It had a rack of antlers constructed from the petrified carcasses of what appeared to have once been squirrels, rabbits, even birds.
And those antlers, were, in a word, mighty. They must have risen four feet above its head, jutting out nearly the same amount to the sides, woodland animals inexplicably fused together in a haunting yet morbidly intriguing display of architecture. The moose’s body wasn’t without its amendments either. Its chest was broad and strong, but from its right side stemmed a number of thin branches, complete with leaves on the end.
I was mesmerized, fascinated, horrified. It’s an odd thing when you see something brand new born of something familiar. My trance was broken when the initial sound resumed. ”HellooooOOOOooooo?” Only now, I realized that it was coming from the moose, and this time, the previously frozen animals that made up its antlers came to life, issuing their own high-pitched whines and writhing about like a drowning spider.
I hurried Kimmy to the guest bedroom in the rear of the cabin. In the closet sat a 12-gauge shotgun and several boxes of ammunition.
“What is it?” Kimmy asked as I got the gun out and loaded it.
“I…I honestly have no fucking clue.” I replied.
Outside, the sounds of the moose continued, only to be met with a response from somewhere outside the bedroom window, although this noise was decidedly less alarming in and of itself – it was the sound of a crow, followed closely by second.
In the anxiety of the moment, both sounds seemed to occur at once, but I soon realized that they weren’t simultaneous.
They were call and response.
The moose (or its antlers) would cry out and cease, and in reply the crows would caw, and it would go back and forth.
Before long it sounded as though the crows were just outside the bedroom window. I crept across the floor over to the window, intent on making noise to scare them off, but when I peered out into the darkness, the clouds above moved and moonlight cast a pale glow over the surrounding land, and the new abomination that haunted it.
There were indeed two crows, but they didn’t fly. They acted as the horns on the ram that now stood outside the window. Their bodies were crushed and contorted, bonded painfully to the white bighorn sheep’s head, the left side of which was rotted and sunken in. The crows’ wings were bent and broken, and they seemed unable to lift them.
As I crouched gazing at this malformed evolution of nature, the ram suddenly charged, its head down. The crows let out a pained squawk as they smashed into the bottom corner of the window, sending a violent crack throughout the glass. The hit made Kimmy and I both yelp, and made me fall backwards.
”HellooooOOOOooooo?” from the front of the house.
The second charge hit the same spot, leaving crow’s blood on the weakening glass, a piece of which dropped to the floor next to my feet. The third hit landed below the window and seemed to shake the entire cabin. With that third smash, the cawing dwindled to a weak proclamation from one of the crows, and nothing at all from the other.
The time, the ram backed up, readying itself. As my eye unintentionally fixated on the mangled, bloodied crows atop the rotting ram’s head, I said to Kimmy, “cover your ears, tight.” In my periphery I saw her oblige, then reading the shotgun. I’d never fired one before, but I figured that with a gun that size, from that range, even if I missed I couldn’t miss. I aimed the gun downwards, and though it was only a second or two at most, it felt like an entire day went by in slow motion as the crow/ram barrelled towards me.
I timed it as best I could, and just as the dead crows hit the glass, I pulled the trigger.
It sounded like a bomb went off.
Immediately my ears rang, and it took me a moment to get my bearings. When I did, I realized that I was being sprayed by the sideways rain that was now coming into the bedroom. On the ground outside the window, the ram with crows for horns lay dead, the entire left side of its face eviscerated, leaving, ironically, only the already-rotted side intact.
Out front the moose still called out ”HellooooOOOOooooo?”, and all around us the thunder rumbled.
“What the fuck is happening?!” Kimmy yelled out over the howling wind ripping through the shattered window.
I had no answer, so I didn’t try to offer one. Instead, I hurried over to her and grabbed her hand, leading her out of the bedroom and down the hall. My idea was to find an opportunity to try and kill the moose, having no idea if the gun I was carrying was even capable of taking down such a massive animal, but before we reached the end of the hallway we watched as its gruesome antlers smashed through the window next to the door, the ”HellooooOOOOooooo?” filling the foyer and travelling down the hall.
The noise then suddenly halted, leaving only the heavy wind and the flood of rain coming through both the broken windows. But that didn’t last long.
That din was soon accompanied by a sound that stopped us in our tracks and terrified us more than any of the others.
We stood in place, listening, trying to ascertain the origin of the new noise, but it made itself clear after only a moment.
In the light cast by the lanterns in the living room, we saw it slither out from the room we’d been in only a minute prior. A snake, at least four feet long and larger around than the top end of a baseball bat. It slithered to the center of the opposite end of the hall from us and curled up, circling around itself, then rose its head like a cobra about to strike.
It stared at us, emitting its rattling hiss…
…and then it barked.
It pushed its head forward, the way a person would when trying to make someone flinch, and the sound it produced was one typically reserved for pitbulls or German Shepherds, a deep, guttural bark that seemed to shake the whole cabin around us.
Our staredown continued, and the crying moose outside wailed while the snake barked and growled. I readied the shotgun, although I lacked the confidence that I could hit the snake at this distance. But it didn’t matter. The snake, which already had its head risen, rose even taller. Its long, thin silhouette somehow stood nearly to the ceiling.
And then its legs sprouted.
All at once, hundreds of short legs flung out from its left and right sides, and the snake/centipede fell forward with a heavy thud and moved diagonally up the wall, winding up to the ceiling and over to the other wall in a spiral towards us, carried by its innumerable independently-moving legs. I fired a shot, hitting only a framed picture and bursting the drywall behind and around it into splinters.
My ears rang as I pushed Kimmy to the right and into the bathroom, slamming the door behind us. Kimmy turned on the lantern I had placed on the back of the toilet as we heard the chittering of the thousand legs on the wall reach the door.
tap tap tap
The snakipede gently tapped on the door, then issued another bark.
A quick chittering that seemed to move down to the floor accompanied the storm outside, and then a movement in my lower periphery made me jump a step back. Then more movement at the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and indeed, I needed to verify it before my mind could accept it.
“Kimmy, light.” I said, reaching my hand back without breaking my gaze. She transferred the lantern to my hand and I reluctantly brought it forward, confirming what I thought I’d seen.
The snake/centipede’s legs were human fingers.
White fingers, black fingers, tan, pale, long nails, chewed nails, painted nails, broken knuckles, adult fingers, children’s fingers, all of them curled underneath the door, wriggling about as the head barked.
“Oh my god…what are we gonna do?” Kimmy asked, her voice thick with worry. And I had no answer. “Do you think…the bedroom window is like, right there, already broken. I could go out this window, climb back into the bedroom, sneak through, and shoot that…that thing, if you can keep its attention on you.”
“That’s a good idea, but I’ll go. I can’t have you out there.”
“Who’s gonna be quicker and quieter, the size 27 shoe-wearing, six-foot-five thousand giant of a person, or little five-foot-one Filipino me?”
She made a good point, as much as I hated to admit it. I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath.
“Fine. Be careful.”
“Oh, should I be? I was thinking I’d hang out out there for a while, maybe ask that thing out there if it wants to work those fingers out, if you know what I mean.” she smirked. Her sense of humor and sarcasm were clearly stronger than her fear, and it made me laugh, which I appreciated. Then her lips straightened and her expression turned to resolve. “I’ll be careful.”
She leaned in and kissed me, then stepped to the window, unlocked it, and silently opened it. She prepared herself to climb through it, and I kicked the bathroom door, which caused the snakipede to bark even louder, growl even angrier. Kimmy slinked through the window, and when she was on her feet outside, I flipped the gun around and handed it to her handle first. And then she disappeared out of my view.
I kicked the door again, yelling, and tried to stomp on the fingers as they pulled at the bottom of the door. The knuckles cracked and the fingernails – some chewed, some manicured – cracked and broke as my foot smashed into the snakipede’s mismatched digits, and I yelled out, doing whatever I could to keep its attention on me and the door that separated us. Outside the storm still raged, and I tried to imagine where Kimmy was in her short but crucial journey. Suddenly the now-mangled fingers slid back under the door, and I couldn’t hear any movement or growling or hissing.
It had heard her.
It had heard her and it was waiting to strike.
I put my hand on the doorknob and prepared to swing the door open and stomp on the thing’s body until it was nothing more than a pile of mush (however unlikely it was that that would happen), but then…
The shot sounded like dynamite, and was accompanied by a shrieking howl. Then I heard Kimmy rack another round into the shotgun, and after another BOOM, the shrieking stopped. I stood there for a moment, the smell of gunpowder creeping under the door.
The doorknob turned within my hand and my wife pushed the door open. I pulled her close and wrapped my arms around her, but quickly released, each of us knowing we didn’t have time for that right now. On the floor behind her laid the lower half of the snakipede, its patchwork human fingers splayed out while its top half stained the walls and floor up the hall.
“What do we do?” Kimmy asked as I loaded more shells into the shotgun.
“I don’t know. We can’t drive out of here, the car will flood. Jesus, this is a stupid fucking placement for a house. We, uh…we don’t know how many of these things are out there. There’s still that big fucking…moose thing out front. What do you think?”
She sighed and ran her fingers through her long brown hair. “These things aren’t going to stop on their own. And I mean, we can shoot them, but I feel like we’re trapping ourselves in here if we don’t leave. We can at least try to drive out, and if it doesn’t work, we can run, swim, whatever.”
“The closest…anything is like a mile away. That gas station, right? If we can make–fuck, but can you outrun a moose? I mean, there could be other things out there, right? I don’t know if there’s a cheetah with dicks for ears or a fucking…elephant that shits demon crickets or something. I just don’t know if we’re in more danger staying in here or leaving.” I hung my head for a moment, then looked at my wife. “I’ll leave it up to you. Whatever you want to do, that’s what we’re doing.”
She pondered for a moment, while another ”HellooooOOOOooooo?” rang out from the front of the cabin and the antlers scratched and banged around on the porch.
“We need to leave.” she said.
“That’s not a horror movie decision, is it?” I asked, half-joking, but also very much half-serious.
“We’re either the idiots that stay in the haunted house or we’re the idiots that decide to go exploring the spooky noise. No matter what, we’re making a horror movie decision. We just can’t sit here waiting to die.”
“Alright, I think first we should just try to get an idea of what all is out there. I’m going to try to kill the moose on the porch. I’ll lure it to the broken window on the right of the living room, you look out the window next to the door, see what you can see.”
Kimmy nodded, and we shared a quick kiss before stepping over the half-destroyed corpse of the barking, snake-sized centipede with human fingers for legs. As we reached the end of the hall Kimmy stayed back a moment while I crept to the window to the right. Rain whipped against my face as I inched closer, the curtains billowing from the fierce winds. The moose was still nearer to the front door, which was closest to the left side of the room, opposite from where I was.
I leaned further, trying to see exactly where it was while still hiding myself from its line of sight. Then a single CLOMP and ”HellooooOOOOooooo?” as the petrified critter antlers screamed and filled my field of vision. I stumbled back, but quickly found my footing and pointed the shotgun out the window and pulling the trigger. The shot took off the moose’s left antler just near the head, and in response the moose began kicking wildly like it was in pain and smashing the other antler into the house.
Not wanting to waste time, I racked the shotgun and aimed more to the left, hitting the side of the moose’s face, sending it toppling to the floor of the porch. It moaned and kicked its legs, the left side of its face a mess of fur and viscera and shattered skull.
“You got it!” Kimmy yelled out. I ran over to her.
“Did you see any more of them out there?” I asked.
“I–I don’t think so, but it’s so dark, I don’t–I have no idea.”
“Keys. I need the keys.” I suddenly remembered that they were in the master bedroom. “Come with me.”
I took her hand and led her back down the hall, turning into the first room on our right and stopping in my tracks, with Kimmy nearly running into my back.
“What? What is it?” she said, her voice filled with worry.
In the far corner of the room, closest to the side of the bed where Kimmy was sleeping, was a massive cocoon. It began at the ceiling and came down to past the middle of the wall, and it was…pulsing. Like a heartbeat, it swelled and depressed rhythmically, and even in the darkness, I could see the innumerable quarter-sized spiders crawling all about it.
Spiders are my biggest fear, and this sight nearly crippled me. I felt them crawling all over me, despite none of them being on me. I felt them under my clothes, in my hair, underneath my skin.
Kimmy leaned over and saw it, whispering a quick oh my god, then asking where the keys were. I pointed to the nightstand on my side of the bed, and my wife stepped around me. I know I’m a bitch for letting her go in that room instead of me, but I physically could not bring myself to step further into the room. The crippling terror alone rendered me unable to venture in any further, but that coupled with my mind not being able to process how the cocoon had been erected so fast meant there was no chance whatsoever. We had been sleeping in that room five minutes earlier; I suppose it could’ve been forming while we slept and in the anxiety of being woken up by the moose not noticed it, but that hardly seemed likely.
Kimmy took careful, quiet steps into the room as the cocoon breathed, never once breaking her stare at the dry, palpitating pustule in the upper corner, the spiders on which made it look as though it was squirming. She lifted the keys off the nightstand almost silently, but as she backed out, something jutted out of the cocoon, stretching the skin-like material of which the cocoon was made out like a narrow tent. Then whatever it was receded, then poked back out again in a different spot, then receded again, and repeated this yet again.
And then as Kimmy and I turned to leave the room, the cocoon burst, sending the spiders that covered it falling to the ground like thick, black raindrops, and allowing that which grew inside it to stretch out.
I only got a brief glimpse of it in that moment, but the thing that emerged from the cocoon had what I presume to be eight legs, each being that of a human and, like the snakipede, of varying size and race and condition. It seemed like slow motion as I turned around and lost sight of it while it crawled out of the cocoon and onto the floor.
“GO GO GO!” I yelled, pushing Kimmy ahead of me and following quickly behind as we bolted down the hall, into the foyer, through the front door, and out into the storm.
I slammed the door behind me, and as we took the few steps across the porch to the stairs and then down them, there was a loud THUD from behind us – the thing from the bedroom was close behind. The dead moose to our right had made its exaggerated ”HellooooOOOOooooo?” noises, the snakipede had barked, the ram had made its noises from the crows fixed atop its head; the spider creature behind the door emitted a sound that sends a chill down my spine even just thinking about it now.
It was the sound of a hundred children, some laughing, others crying, still others screaming.
We leapt down the steps of the porch, and instantly the rain stung our skin as it pelted us, aided by the powerful winds that carried them. The car was parked just to the side of the porch, and we were in it in moments. I turned the key, and the engine came to life just as the human-legged spider crawled through the window next to the door.
I hit lock and heard all four doors click, then put the car in reverse and slammed my foot on the gas, turning the car around in the wide driveway. I shifted into drive at the same moment as the spider, laughing and screaming and crying, landed on the hood of the car, making Kimmy and I both scream.
I slammed on the gas.
We sped down the relatively steep driveway. Once we reached the bottom, we would either barrel through the river that separated us from freedom, or we would find ourselves in a dead car, and be forced to swim, and then run, through the darkness and rain, with only a single gun to protect us against whatever other of nature’s monstrosities might await us.
The spider rolled loudly over the roof of the car, tumbling onto and then off of the trunk, making its haunting childlike noises the whole way over.
The car growled as I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, and held my breath. With both our seatbelts on we hit the water, sending a flood up the windshield. I can’t be certain, but it seemed that for a moment the car floated across the moat before the front tires caught and pulled us up the slight incline and out of the water.
And at that same moment, the rain just…stopped.
Like someone had flipped a switch.
The wind ceased, and the gray clouds dissipated, allowing the moon to illuminate the land around us as we made our way down the road away from this nightmare, and allowing us to see the silhouettes of scores, maybe hundreds of animals on both sides, all standing perfectly still. There looked to be hideously malformed bears, deer, elk, sheep, buffalo, moose, even elephants, giraffes, more massive spiders, snakipedes, dogs, cats, all of them just…watching us drive away, watching us so intently I could feel their eyes on me.
We drove straight home, never stopping once. We left a good deal of our things in that cabin, but nothing nearly important enough to make us even consider going back there.
That woodland menagerie was a living, waking nightmare, and I have no idea how it came about or why, despite their overwhelming numbers, we were able to drive away from it.
And I’ll never be able to look at our cats the same way again.