She, Who Lost Her Soul
"Want to go for an adventure?" That was my sister's sales pitch. The green forest leaves had already begun to transition to the colours of autumn fire. It made the tree canopy look like a stain glass picture of the inferno. My sister, Mandy, always felt loneliest in the Fall. Once, on one of our earlier walks, I tried to point out the beauty in the bouquet of forest colours, to which she responded, "You're right, isn't it breathtaking how things look when they die". I mostly shut up now.
This time, on our way to one of our regular walking trails, we stopped in the middle of the highway, and pulled over. "Can't you wait to take a piss?" I asked. But without saying a word she grabbed her shit out of the back seat and started walking into the woods, with no trail in sight. It was very much, "bitch and get left behind", so I followed, and nudged her in the ribs "What the hell?" I said; she smiled. Mandy walked with such purpose that I decided to leave any worry back at the car.
"There's this cabin in the woods" she said finally, her eyes searching beyond the caucus of thin white birch trees, peeled and spotted with shallow, gnarled craters that looked like eyes and mouths.
"There's this Starbucks in the city" I replied, imagining a hot drink pressed to my lips.
"I was up here the other day but I was too chicken shit to go in. It was a cult hot spot. There's all these writings on the trees. I think maybe, from what I read, they were practicing a ritual that involved time travel. Followers of this witch would like, cut off their legs and arms to offer to her and stuff"
"That. Is pretty creepy" I answered and wanted to add, "I'm turning around", but could see in Mandy's eyes that this was some demon she needed conquering and it was complicated. It's hard being her sister. The writing did come, except she didn't do it justice. There were crimson symbol like red stamps, I mean, they were everywhere; and writing, very small fractured words were spread around like someone had thrown them on the trees at random. The small cabin stood on a bed of rocks and was surrounded by trees that had been shaved, dried and painted in "is this blood?" I asked. It looked an awful lot like blood.
There was no door. A small black roof sat atop the weather stained wood panelled house. There were two windows on each side of the door with only twig crucifixes to bar them up. Mandy headed in first, taking a deep breath before setting foot on the uneven floor. Hearing the floor groan slow and deep, like awakening from an ancient slumber made me tense up. I imagined the yawning house closing its mouth and swallowing her whole. That drove me crazy. It's messed up, but I'd rather be in there with her than left out here if it happened. So I followed.
I started down the hall towards the fork at the end. Every once and a while, there'd be small gaps in the wood panels of the hallway. I hated it, but my eyes would explore the vantage points each crack rewarded, and I was scared as hell that I'd find someone looking back at me.
My foot broke through a rotten floor plank. I fell to my knees. Nearly shit my self. I combed the hair out of my face and tried to breathe. It felt like there was a tight band around my chest and I couldn't get air deep enough into my lungs. And friggen Mandy was giggling.
"Hardy har har" I managed to say, turned the corner and stopped in the door way. My sister was kneeling in the centre of a giant painted circle that was covered in symbols I couldn't identify. The red was... It was pulsating. It was reacting.
"This is it" she said, passing her fingers across the writing. She was pressing hard enough that I could see smudges in the wake of her hand sweep. "Ever wish you could go back in time?" I was still trying to catch my breath. She turned to me and asked, "Can I tell you something? Sometimes I wish I could go back before I was born, you know, and not exist."
"Why do you friggen talk like that? Don't talk like that? Do I gotta scream it in your ear? You got a whole damn family who loves you. God." I could feel my frustration fill every pore in my face. It was tight and stiff, it felt like cement. I'm sure I was as red as a beat, and Mandy, again was giggling.
"Mandy" I tried, but the sounds that came out from my grit teeth were far from her name. Then I saw her eyes widen, that's when I froze, when she looked as if to say, "Did you hear that?"
The giggling came again. It was clear to hear that it was coming from the attic.
"Who's there?" I asked, looking up. There was a small hole with what I can only describe as a fleshy lump sticking out of it, and it was trembling. Mandy slammed her hands on the floor and forced a scream out of my mouth. "You're a damn idiot." I said, injecting as much acid in each syllable that I could muster.
"You want to check it out?" She asked.
"The giggling? Are you crazy. If you got a death wish, I am not going to watch you die. Alright?" I replied and headed out into the hall. I could spot the cut out that led to the attic in the room on the right as I exited... She better follow me out.
I went as far as the last crimson marked tree. It was there I waited. It was there I took a closer look at the red marks pressed into the white bark. I found, and I don't know how this is, that the tree skin appeared to have grown over the writing. I peeled back a layer and red sentences were made visible, "Tell my sister I love her" was written there. The next tree over was the same thing. Another tree was marked, "The search is driving me mad". What the hell kind of place was this?
It was then I heard her scream.
It cut through the chill air and seemed to echo as though caught in the trees. "Mandy" I yelled, but she was still screaming. I started back and when the yawning house was in site, she stopped. I couldn't see her in the halls, nor in the windows.
I knew she was in the attic.
As I approached the house, I could feel the air grow more dense. The trees were more red. I could feel an oppressive vibration coming from the wood panels, hitting me in blasts as though the place were breathing. "Mandy. You asshole. Are you alright?" I said on approached, acutely aware of the the silence of the surrounding woods. The encroaching cold air added to my sense of isolation.
There came a heavy thump from inside. Something splashed across the floor and into the fork at the end of the hallway. I peeked again through the window on the right, and lying on the floor, was a corpse. It was dressed like my sister. I crossed the hallway quick, eyes closed and then knelt down by the body. I picked it up and brought it onto my lap. It was lifeless and heavy, with arms dangling by her sides. There was no head. Instead, a fountain of blood emptied onto my arms and stomach. It couldn't be my sister. It had to be a doll. "Mandy" I whispered. I looked up at the cut out entrance to the attic. What faint light entered the house illuminated a face... not Mandy's. It had long black hair that was partially covering its eyes, but I could still see, that it was starring straight at me. It crawled slowly from its place in the darkness. Then I began to see how long it was. I could see its slender hands grab the walls and lower itself down. There was no body, only arms and legs, hundreds it seemed, overlapping each other like scales on a fish. Its eyes expanded beyond the border of its lid folds as it drew near.
"Bring her back" I said as the witch advanced.
When her head was floor level, and still the bulk of her was overhead, I could see clearly the shards of glass she held between fingers and toes. Could see her blue veins sitting atop thin peeling skin.
"I ate your sister" she said, her pupils dilating, the black engulfing the white, "She near climbed into my mouth"
The first swipe came so fast I didn't have time to move. My chest felt hot and then stung as he cold air kissed my torn skin. The five others I met with my forearm. With each thrust, my blood was splattered onto the wall. I turned to run but felt shards open up my back. One of the thing's hands grasped my neck and turned me around. I saw her lips pull back and her mouth widen. Then something happened, I saw one of her hands clamp the forearm of the one that strangled me as if in protest. Suddenly her body of appendages, which before, moved as one, now began a chaotic pattern. She started rolling in place, hands and feet slapped the walls and were shredded up against splinters of wood. I was released.
"I ate into. Climbed my mouth" she said as I ran outside, "near she your sister."
She repeated different variations of the sentence, each one more nonsensical than the last. Now, there were appendages trying to rip out her face, and she was howling, jet black eyes bulging out of her white face. The screams stopped when she fell to the ground, arms and legs rolled away from her like the magic holding them together had suddenly been lifted. With the flood of parts came a horrible smell. I turned, vomited and when I looked back, the witch's head was gone.
My sister's corpse came out from the back room. She was walking strange, muscles jerking as she went. Each footstep unstable. I ran.
My sister's dead. But there was her corpse, walking backwards towards me, the witch's head transplanted, eyes peering out at me through black curtains of hair.