Samhain

Now in the darkening of the year,
the veil between the worlds wears thin,
and those gone on ahead draw near.
— The Owl Underground

Evening of October 30, 2022

The rain taps gently on the windows. I don’t really believe in ghosts. But it’s October, and everyone’s gone on holiday — and the algorithm had thrusted this cabin upon my feed. I was tossing and turning in bed that Wednesday evening, and the photos were just enticing enough. The price made me wonder if the advertisement was some kind of scam, but curiosity got my fingers typing up an email. The next morning, someone responded. Within the same hour, I was booked for a 3-day/2-night stay at a fraction of the usual cost. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but my friends who do claim that the veil between worlds is thin tonight. The rains continue their tap-tap-tapping on the glass.

 

When I arrived here, much to my relief, the photos on the ad were accurate. They promised a fireplace, some board games you could use if you came as a group, complete wares in the kitchen, and a cabin full of antique curiosities. I wondered, as I perused them, if anyone had ever stolen a bauble or two.

 

There is a guest book filled with thank you notes and high praise — even scribbles and doodles from children. My favorite was a crude drawing of a squirrel next to a skillfully sketched pine. I like to believe they were made by a father and daughter, only 4 months before my arrival. I decided to add a few wildflowers on the page after it.

 

On my bedside, there is a bottle of ink and a fountain pen that accompanies the leather bound guest book. We have all used the same ink and the same pen, it seems. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but the rain outside has stopped, and the growing silence in the cabin makes me feel less alone and oddly terrified.

 

My car is parked out front. I was worried about the ride here because all they gave me was a Google pin in the middle of a dense forest, a ways away from any main roads.

 

Find the key under the mat. And return it there after your stay! Enjoy.

 

Beyond the door to this singular bedroom, there is a creaking. But that may just be the wood expanding and reacting to the weather. This is what I tell myself. I find that the scratch of the nib against my own notebook is enough to distract me and soothe this amorphous fear. It is the lingering kind that makes goosepimples form on your skin and raise your hairs. Very cliché slasher film, I know. It’s interesting how the mind recalls every single horror movie you’ve watched when you are either alone, shrouded in darkness, or both.

This year has not been kind. Every quarter was marked by some kind of loss. First, my father in March, and then 2 close friends in June, and in September, my sister was diagnosed. I don’t believe in ghosts, but the floorboards continue to creak outside and I find my heart is racing.

 

I should go to bed.

 

Or I should make tea.

 

I need to show my mind there is nothing there. There is nothing there.

 

When I rise from the bed, I feel the springs released from under my weight. Thick, soft socks find the hardwood and my feet pad over to the door. My soundless footsteps feed my fear, and I feel it as a sudden rush of blood, and a humming under my skin. I’m careful not to turn my head this way or that, my peripheral view remains motionless, but I am on guard. I tell myself, don’t look.

 

There is no one, of course, when I open the door and step into the living-dining. The warm light bathes and illuminates the space, as I make my way towards the kitchen. I try to calm my steps. I feel silly but I also feel afraid, because my feet want to run even though there’s nothing chasing me. I don’t believe in ghosts. I just reach for the kettle, open the tap, and set it on the stove so I can busy myself and get rid of this ancient terror. Our ancestors feared the night, for within it there were many monsters. Beasts and the natural elements definitely claimed many lives then. I tell myself this fear is primitive, my DNA carries the trauma of the first human beings that walked the earth. I don’t realize I’m standing there for quite some time, unmoving. The kettle whistles and there is a fast rapping of knuckles on the window behind me. I know I heard it, I know I heard it.

 

I turn, despite myself. But there is nothing, there is nothing.

 

I don’t believe in ghosts.

 

But I believe in real danger, “Hello?!”

 

My voice sounds softer than what I wanted it to be, but also louder in the empty cabin. The kettle is still whistling as I watch the window, trying to see if there is some stranger outside who means me harm. But nothing moves. When I turn back to the kettle, it is because it has stopped whistling. And the stove has been turned off. And my tea is already made.

 

But I must have done that myself.

 

I cradle the tea in my hands and seat myself at the oak dining table. The fireplace crackles, and I decide it’s too quiet. I blast some of my favorite music on my phone to drown out the noise of my mind. Eventually, I feel calm and tired enough to go back to bed. But I sleep with the lights on.

Morning of October 31, 2022

I woke up at an ungodly hour because there was a weight beside me on the bed — I swear it! Or perhaps it was one of those sleep paralysis episodes. I’ve never had them before, it must be this cabin. I tried to reach for my phone on the bedside table. But my arm was too heavy. The weight began to move, I sank further into the mattress, and my vision was suddenly obscured by long, black strands. I tried to scream but nothing came out. The weight loomed over me. And the floorboard creaked, and the kettle whistled, and knuckles rap-rap-rapped against the window. Someone help me, someone help!

I gasped — and suddenly sunlight filtered through the windows. I was alone again, and the day was absurdly beautiful.

 

I don’t think I can stay another night here. I type up a quick email to let the host know I’ll be cutting my trip short. But a few moments after I hit send, my inbox pings.

 

MAILER-DAEMON: Failed Delivery

 

No matter. I pack up anyway. I load up the car. I leave the key under the mat, and drive home.

 

Evening of October 31, 2022

There is a comfort in seeing skyscrapers again — the urban jungle of concrete, steel, and bright lights. I thought that nature would allow me some reprieve, a space to grieve and mourn my losses. I know I haven’t done that. Work kept me busy, and I allowed it to. There was a satisfying click when I turned the key to my apartment. The scent of home and the familiarity of everything within it greeted me. I let my pack drop onto the carpeted floor, locked the door behind me, and plopped down onto the couch.

 

I realized I didn’t have a single photo of the cabin on my phone. No selfies with the antique baubles, or artistic shots of the forest surrounding it. But I scrolled through my Instagram until I found old photos of my friends. Mave, Clement, and I are at a newly opened café with our slices of cake and little cups. Mave is having tea, as usual — Earl grey with a splash of milk, no sugar, she would say. I hate that tea, but I admit — prepared that way — it was perfect. Clement’s journal is on the table too, flipped open to a page filled with beautiful floral sketches. Her hair in this photo is long, because she said she would only cut it once the pandemic was completely over. I’ll either die like this or live to finally get that pixie cut!


I keep scrolling, and eventually I find photos of my father’s last days in the hospital. He is so thin that I barely recognize him. My mind still recalls my father as a strong man. He loved hiking, loved the outdoors. Like Clement, he liked to draw. He would make the most beautiful sketches of pines. He was also a sensitive guy who valued privacy. The way he would knock on my bedroom door — he never barged in, always knocked first — a fast rapping of knuckles, and he’d call out, “Kid?”

 

I have enough energy now to unpack and put away my things, so I do that. Inside my bedroom, one by one, I remove the items from my bag. Half-eaten trail mix in a zip lock, granola wrappers, socks, toiletries, more clothes, chargers — but something inside it that doesn’t belong makes me grow cold.

With trembling hands, I pull out a leather-bound journal. When I flip through it, I recognize my father’s handwriting this time. Mave’s and Clement’s too. There is a rap-rap-rapping, a creaking, black shadow in my periphery, the scent of Earl Grey wafting into the room.

 

And the kettle outside begins to whistle.

 

 

Written by @micahfinds
Check out her finds on Instagram!

Author: @micahfinds

2 comments

Micah Robles

@Jes Hart Stone
Thank you so much! I was quite nervous when I was composing this short story. And it is extremely validating for me to receive some good feedback. Thank you for appreciating it! ♡

Jes Hart Stone

Great story! Loved the leather journal, fountain pen, and ink we all shared.

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