After a long discussion, they all agreed to go back. Before the crack of dawn, they set out for another trip across the lake. The night had been rather cool. A low-lying layer of steam fog made for an eerie experience.
“I feel like I’m crossing the river Styx,” Paul said.
“Well, I hope someone paid the ferryman,” Brad jokes.
In the rolling mist, then he gets on board
Now there’ll be no turning back
Beware that hooded old man at the rudder
And then the lightning flashed, and the thunder roared
And people calling out his name
And dancing bones that jabbered and a moaned
On the water
And then the ferryman said
There is trouble ahead
So you must pay me now (don’t do it)
You must pay me now (don’t do it)
And still that voice came from beyond
Whatever you do
Don’t pay the ferryman
Don’t even fix a price
Don’t pay the ferryman
Until he gets you to the other side
-Chris De Burgh – Don’t Pay the Ferryman
The boat glides ashore and they drag it several feet up onto the sand. After looking around for several minutes, an overgrown path is found. The path was crowded with pignut hickory trees and low bush blueberry plants. This made for a more bothersome than difficult trek. When they had walked for five minutes, a crow takes off from the ground and disappears into the canopy sounding its warning call. Everyone had the same thought. The crow was there to point the way toward another clue. They walk swiftly to the point of the crow’s departure. There were several grave markers. Some had dates and names chiseled into them. Others did not. Without warning, the ground gives way underneath Brad’s feet. He quickly grabs the side of the collapsed grave and flips himself back up. Part of an old casket is revealed along with the bones of the deceased. Something catches their eye.
“Could it be?” Paul said. “Another bottle?”
“Leave it be,” Rose said. “Unless someone is brave enough to go down there and dance with the dead?”
No one wanted to take a chance. They felt they had done enough desecration for the day and head back to the path. After a twenty minute walk, a cabin presents itself to the group. Everyone but Rose goes inside to investigate.
“I’m going to look around out here,” Rose said.
In actuality, the cabin looked exactly like the one Jeffrey created in the arts and crafts activity. She really wanted to freak out and head back. However, she kept it to herself because she was curious for answers.
The others enter the cabin. The air was quite stale. The layout was a simple one room flat. The kitchen and its table were to the right. A bed and a dresser to the left. A fire pit that was used for heat and cooking was centered at the rear. Paul opened the doors of the cupboard. It was empty. Erica went to inspect the dresser. While Brad stayed at the door, Justin sifted through the fire pit.
“Looks like bones of a grouse. Maybe a rabbit, too,” Justin said.
Meanwhile, Erica is opening the dresser drawers. She doesn’t find anything until she gets to the bottom drawer. There she finds a photograph.
“Hey, an old photo,” Erica said in a puzzling manner. They all rush over.
“Could be from the 1920’s or even earlier,” Paul said.
The picture is of a man and a woman standing next to a car.
“That is a Ford Model T. I would say Paul is right,” Brad said.
Around the back side of the house, Rose finds a cellar door. The side walls were of old, quarried slate. The door was a strong wood, perhaps oak. The door handles were rusted. There was a chain wrapped around the handles with a lock. She notices it is actually unlocked. She removes the chain and tosses it to the ground. The lock tumbles. Rose flips the right side door up with all her strength. It locks in the open position. Looking downward, it is pitch black. Crumbling slate stairs lead the way. Rose is unafraid and ventures into the cellar. She takes seven steps to a landing. The stairs turn right and there is another door. Suddenly she becomes covered in cobwebs. It feels as if tiny creatures are crawling all over her. Before she can let out a scream, a hand touches here on the left arm. In an instant, she sweats profusely. Then, she is freezing cold. Rose vanishes.
The inside of the cabin does not reveal anything important. The group heads out side and Erica calls out for Rose. “Rose, where are you? Was that you making all that noise?”
They notice the cellar door is open.
“She must have gone in,” Justin said.
Carefully walking down the stairs, they all randomly call out for Rose. Paul gets out his flashlight. Erica looks back at him quizzically.
“I always carry it. You never know when you might need one, especially when you are in the woods,” Paul said.
After descending five steps, there is a door. Justin grabs the handle. It opens inward with ease. The darkness unveils a keg to the left and a wine rack to the right. There are several overstuffed burlap sacks along the back wall. Erica investigates the rack.
“Hey, another bottle of whiskey,” Erica said.
“Yeah, I bet there is another note inside,” Brad said sarcastically.
“In fact it does have one!” exclaimed Erica. “You should not joke about the mystery of Old Cabin Still.”
From the back of the room, a very faint sound of slithering is heard. Paul shines the light in its direction. “Uh, those burlap sacks are moving,” Paul said.
The four scramble to get out of the cellar. The staircase is narrow. They do not realize they are fighting each other due to their own panic. Brad stumbles and smacks his right knee into the stair case. He falls down writhing in pain. The pain is so intense he cannot speak or even move. The others do not realize Brad’s predicament. They are already back outside. A large gust of wind kicks up dirt and leaf litter causing the group to shield their eyes. The cellar door slams shut. In an instant, calm returns. Paul realizes that Brad is not among them. Paul runs over to the cellar doors. He tries to open them but he cannot. They scream out for Brad. A faint voice is heard. “Get back across the lake. Get help for me,” Brad said with desperation in his voice.
There would be no help for Brad. Out of the walls, thousands of wolf spiders crawl out. They attack Brad and he perishes a gruesome, painful death.
Paul, Justin, and Erica run back to the boat. Once again, Erica is holding a bottle. Justin sees the bottle in Erica’s hand.
“Get rid of that bottle. It’s a curse,” Justin said.
“No, I won’t do it. Maybe it will free Brad,” Erica said.
“And unleash what?” Brad shouts in anger as he tries to take it away from Erica.
“At least let me read it now.”
Erica smashes the bottle on some rocks. She picks up the note and reads it aloud, “She who reads will never know. He who loves will also go.”
Both Eric’s and Paul’s bodies begin to warp and dematerialize. They spin upwards as if caught up in a tornado. They are flung high into the air. They plummet like missiles into the lake.
Justin’s survival mode kicks in. He cannot even process what has just occurred. He starts rowing frantically across the lake. He notices the lake is still quite foggy. He cannot see where he is going but he does not care. Rowing harder, the oars do more splashing than accelerating the boat. Justin gets halfway across the lake. He is exhausted and stops. Out of the fog comes another jon-boat. Justin is relieved and shouts, “Over here.”
“There is no need to yell,” said the boy.
“Jeffrey, is that you? What are you doing out here all by yourself?”
Jeffrey eases his boat closer. “Take my hand, Justin.”
Justin’s hand is crushed by the grip. Jeffrey begins a transformation. Skin splits from his bones as he grows larger and larger. Slimy scales start to protrude from the creature. An overwhelming stench takes over. The smell was as if the bottom of a swamp was turned over. Hot mucus drips from his fangs. His jaws gape open. In an instant, Justin is consumed.
At the bottom of the lake, there is commotion inside an old Ford Model T. Paul and Erica surface in an air pocket within the car. They bang against the window in a futile effort to escape. They realize they are trapped and only have a few minutes of air. Paul stares at Erica. She is dressed in an afternoon tea dress. Atop her head, an elegant cloche hat. Erica looks Paul over. Paul in his dapper, flannel suit.
Back at the graveyard, Jeffrey had just finished covering up the collapsed grave. He plunges the shovel into the soft earth. The crow swoops down and lands on the end of the upright shovel and lets out a banter of caws. “Yes, Kangee,” Jeffrey said. “It was unwise to read the bottles out of order. Although, we do still have Rose.”
Or, is it? I just may write a sequel. By now, you should see the Stephen King influence.
Photos and artwork are not mine.