The cabin

[Estimated reading time: 8 minutes]

[Note: this is a work in progress.]

The cabin is an old-fashioned thing, wooden beams span the single inside room. A large bed sits next to a window and occupies a quarter of room space. In the opposite corner is a small cast iron stove, half a dozen logs stacked neatly by it. The walls of the cabin are covered in an odd jumble of old photographs, hiking equipment, a handful of mirrors, and two bookcases.

Felicia has taken a random book off the shelf and plopped onto the leather couch that's opposite the big front window with the lake view. From her posture, it is clear that she has claimed the entire couch. David takes a seat in an old armchair.

He doesn't want to interrupt Felicia's reading, so he gleams the book title off its spine: "The Pacific Ocean Walrus". A few thoughts come to David, but he ultimately decides against speaking, against interrupting Felicia.

David sits there for a minute and just watches Felicia read the book. She seems really into it, her attention is caught up entirely in the foreword, and David feels deflated.

"Stop staring at me," Felicia says from behind the book.

"Sorry. I'm... gonna go for a walk. Around the lake. Won't be long."

Felicia doesn't say anything. That must be one hell of a book about walruses.

David gets up and goes to the door. He's already wearing a jacket, something he forgot to take off when they got to the cabin. He looks around, trying to find his keys, then remembers that they're on the hooks by the door. As always. He grabs the keys and steps out of the cabin, and shuts the door slowly behind himself.

"Damn it all to hell," he mutters quietly under his breath, then sets off.

The cabin's north side faces the lake. There's a path on the south side, which then curves around the cabin and loops around the lake. David starts walking on this path.

There are a few other cabins around the lake. These look empty right now, or at least there is no one around yet. Just one car sits in the shared parking lot, David's. It's off-season, David reminds himself. That's why they'd been able to get a good rate on the cabin.

"What the hell is wrong with me?" David mutters to himself. He's one of those people that talks to himself more than anyone else in his life. Which goes a long way to explain why David is the way that he is.

This trip with Felicia was already off to a rocky start. They'd argued in the car on the way here, some six hours from home and still two hours before they'd be able to reach the cabin. It was the usual topic: kids. Neither wants to drive another eight hours back home, so by an unspoken agreement, they're stuck here tonight. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

The sun is setting and David takes a moment to focus on the bright orange sky overhead. Lit up as it is, the cloud casts an unreal glow on the lake and the cabins. David takes his phone and snaps a quick picture.

"Felicia would love this," he says, then deletes the photo.

It sounds petulant, like a stupid kid throwing a tantrum, but this is where David is. He looks back to the cabin and wonders, not for the first time, if their relationship is going to survive this.

David regrets the decision just as he puts his phone away. So out comes the phone again, and he snaps the same picture, and this time he just puts the phone back in his pocket.

"Why is this so damn difficult?!" He growls this. David wants to scream it at the top of his lungs, but that won't do. Of course not. Some very strong personality in the back of his head is guiding him, a psychotic ventriloquist that controls David's life and is determined to destroy it, slowly and painfully.

David completes the walk around the lake and finds himself standing in front of the cabin. It must have been less than ten minutes since he left. David goes back on the path and goes in for another loop around the lake.

The orange glow intensifies and contrasts against the few hints of purple highlights. David is awestruck and quickly comes back to the cabin.

"Hey, babe, you gotta see these clouds," David speaks as he opens the cabin door and goes inside. His eyes angle toward the couch, and find nothing. "Felicia?" David looks around the cabin.

It's not a large cabin at all. There isn't even a bathroom, just a single bedroom, but Felicia isn't here. David halfheartedly checks under the bed. A small part of him expects Felicia to jump out right now and say "boo!", but it doesn't happen. Felicia isn't around.

The bathrooms are in the communal space, right by the parking lot. David goes there and sits down at one of the picnic tables. He has a clear view of the women's bathroom entrance. He sits and watches both the door and the strange glowing clouds above.

After ten minutes, David is worried. "Felicia!" he calls into the women's bathroom. No reply.

David looks around and notes that it's getting dark and there's no one else here, so he walks into the women's bathroom. No one at the sinks. He goes through and checks the stalls. They're all empty as well.

He goes to the car, checks that Felicia isn't there and the car is locked. Then it's back to the cabin. No one there. Then back to the bathrooms. Nada. He looks to the path that loops around the lake, his eyes follow it, looking for Felicia, but come up empty.

Did she walk into the forest? David is terrified at the possibility, at the idea of going out into the darkness to find her.

The orange clouds turn pink, then red, and ultimately dark burgundy. The sun has set and Felicia is nowhere to be found. David comes back to the cabin and lights every lamp. The smell of kerosene drives away the mosquitos that have started to show up. David hangs the lamps on every side of the building, so the small cabin is now lit up like a beacon.

David sits down on a chair in the back of the house and stares into the dark forest. He expects Felicia to walk out of the darkness, any minute now. The waiting is killing him, so David takes the walrus book from the coffee table, fully intending on reading it himself.

That's when he finds the note, a small piece of hard paper that Felicia was using it as bookmark. It's David's business card, from about a year back, when he was still at the old firm. The front has his name, title, and an outdated email address. On the back, in Felicia's gorgeous curlicue and blue ink, are the cryptic words "David, don't look at the moon". Below the words and toward the lower right corner of the card is today's date, written in the same script and ink. One of Felicia's usual pens - there were dozens of them scattered around back home - is lying next to the book, its cap off and lying on the floor. Felicia must have been in a hurry, if she didn't put the cap back on, David muses as he recalls the frequent admonitions Felicia made about pens and caps belonging together.

David has to fight back an urge to run outside and look up at the moon.

He reads and re-reads the card and tries to understand it. What is going on? Where did she disappear to? What does any of this have to do with the moon?! Where is she?

David grabs a baseball cap from the wall-mounted rack by the door, puts it on and maneuvers the bill to block his vision of anything above eye level. Then he opens the door and steps out of the cabin.

The path is behind the cabin, and beyond this is a somewhat-sparse forest. The kerosene lamps light up trees for about thirty feet, but beyond that is pitch-black darkness.

David looks into the abyss and, full of fear, screams: "Felicia! Where are you?!"

Silence is the only response. The sounds of the forest come to him, the rustling of leaves moved by insects, the hooting of an owl. He does not hear any steps, no one speaks. David stands there and glares at the darkness, willing it to reach out to him.

David is an avid swimmer, spends plenty of time in their clubhouse's pool and enjoys the odd trip to the ocean, but he is not comfortable swimming in dark waters. Terror strikes him when David pictures himself swimming out into the middle of a dark lake, feet dangling down and eventually disappearing from view. He fears the unknown swimming up at him, a gigantic squid composed of darkness reaching up with trunk-like tentacles of terror, to pull David down into the depths.

He looks out into the forest and feels that same dark and terrifying fear.

Then he realizes where that fear is coming from. He walks head-down around the cabin, to the sandy shore of the lake that is just below the cabin, empty now of the usual kayaks. The moon is thankfully behind him, so David isn't afraid of seeing its reflection in the water.

"Felicia! Felicia!" David screams into the dark.

A strange humming noise reaches David. At first it sounded like the wind, and so David ignored it, but now the sound is louder. David turns his head, looks around himself, and slowly locates the sound's origin. It seems to be coming from directly in front of him, from the lake. David takes out a flashlight, flips the switch, and points the beam of light forward, in the direction of the far side of the lake.

A still form lies in the middle of the lake. David is expecting ripples to emanate from the form, but the lake is still, a perfect dark mirror.

David shifts the beam of the flashlight back and forth, lighting up the form. It looks like a naked woman, lying face down in the water. Dark coils of hair fall down and block her face, but David is pretty sure that he is looking at Felicia.

"Felicia!" David screams, again and again, but the form does not move. He kneels down, picks up a pebble from the shore, and winds up to throws it, but then glances at his hand. David's fingers and the small pebble are covered in a glistening black liquid.

David brings the pebble closer, to examine it, and is startled awake.

David is lying on the bed in the cabin. Felicia looks up from her book, a look of surprise on her face.

"Are you OK, David?" she asks. "Did you have a nightmare? You were talking in your sleep."

She holds the walrus book in one hand, a finger marking her current spot, about halfway into the book.

David looks around, confused. "What day is it?"

"Saturday," Felicia replies, similarly confused. "Are you OK?"

She gets up off the couch, uses one of David's cards as a bookmark and puts the walrus book down, then comes over to David.

Her manner is warm, caring, concerned. Not the cold annoyance that David felt from her earlier, before her "disappearance". Felicia comes over and sits on the edge of the bed, raises the back of her hand to David's forehead, so as to feel his temperature.

David recoils from Felicia. In her surprise, Felicia jerks back as well.

"David, what's the matter?" she repeats.

"I... had a nightmare," David slowly replies. He looks around at the cabin and sees the same furnishings. Everything is just like it was in the dream. Felicia was reading the same walrus book, though she's now wearing a different outfit. She watches him quietly, waits for reality to chase away the strange memories. "When did we get here?" David finally asks.

"Last night. Don't you remember?"

"I remember arriving at the cabin, you started reading that book, and I went for a walk. The clouds were beautiful, and I came back here, to tell you about them. But you weren't here." David moves to the edge of the bed opposite Felicia, stands up and walks to the couch. Felicia watches him and doesn't say anything.

David picks up the walrus book, opens it up to where Felicia was, and looks at the bookmark she chose. It's his old business card. Just like in the dream. David holds it, stares at it for a long moment.

If I flip this card, what will it say? David frowns. What happens if it's blank? What if it's not? He looks up at Felicia.

David looks up at Felicia, but he does not see her. She is not there. David once again looks around the cabin, checks the same places he did last night (or in his dreams?), but she is not here.

He looks down at the card in his hand. The old business card. David flips it over, and wakes up.

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