The wind slammed into the front of the small cottage, causing the shutters protecting the single pane glass windows to vibrate. The fire crackling in the large, stone lined open-hearth fireplace danced wildly, casting moving shadows around the small, open space. A cast-iron Dutch oven dangled from a cooking crane over the fire and the bubbling winter stew within filled the air with the robust smell of French Cassoulet that mixed with the rabbits roasting on the spits on the opposite side of the hearth. Oil lamps hung from wrought iron hooks riveted into the hickory support beams dotted along the center of the room; their soot veiled glass shades caused the light from within to scarcely illuminate the surrounding area. The walls of the small log cabin were rather unremarkable—dark, aged hickory with gray chinking—but had withstood over two-centuries of harsh Pennsylvania winters and this one would be no different.
The rough-cut wood floors were covered with woven area rugs; rustic, simplistic wooden furniture were set in groupings to define living areas and made the space appeared lived in. There was a small table with two chairs in the kitchen with a bowl of fruit on top, rocking chair with an small quilt in front of the fireplace, bookcases filled with worn paperbacks and hardbound editions that the titles had been rubbed from the spines over the years, and on the opposite side behind a sheet divider was the bedroom which consisted of a small bed with a down comforter, nightstand with an oil lamp, and burrow.
It was a quaint, rustic cabin, one that would be the setting for the beginning and end to a legacy that spanned centuries and over countless lifetimes, a legacy that was bathed in blood and filled with love and devotion.
The front door opened with a bang, slamming into the wall behind it, before a hulking, dark figure walked in with a load of chopped wood in their arms. After depositing the haul next to the hearth, they closed the door and secured it before shucking their oversized coat and rain boots. The jacket they hung up on a hook behind the door and placed the boots off to the side to dry; they’d need to get another load of wood before the weather turned and the rain became snow. There wasn’t enough time to truly prepare for winter, and soon they wouldn’t able to swing an axe in their condition.
Perhaps the big blond in the next homestead up would be willing to swing an axe for trade? Maybe the local doctor that was kind enough to make house calls and that checked on them daily would assist? Asking for help was the last thing they wanted to do, but she didn’t have a choice. It wouldn’t be long until she were unable to do any of the day-to-day chores that were required to survive a Pennsylvania winter in an off the grid homestead.
With no phone or means to reach out to those in the neighboring homesteads, she’d have to wait it out and try to bring in a couple loads of wood to carry her through the night.
Once the small table in the kitchen was set and the stew and rabbit were cooling before serving, a pounding came at the door just as she went to sit down.
Company never came by that late. It was dark out and she never had company when dark out and the visitors she’s had over the past four-months knew that. The wooded parcel the cabin was in the middle of was haunted. Darkened shadows moved faster than anything not born from the fiery pits of Hell should move. Whimpers and howls filled the night air, and more than once scratching at the door and the outside walls had caused the Winchester short rifle that was normally next to the door to be in her trembling hands all night.
Too tired to be scared, and irritated and hungry, she unlocked the door then pulled it open.
“What?” she demanded.
Standing in the rain, trying to use their suit jacket as an umbrella, was a man that wasn’t dressed for the weather.
“Ma’am, I do not mean to impose, but my car broke down and I have been walking for miles,” he said.
“Mary, not Ma’am,” she corrected, eying him suspiciously.
“My apologies, Miss Mary,” he said.
His accent was unfamiliar to her, but it was strangely familiar at the same time.
New Hope, Pennsylvania, didn’t see its share of tourist or visitors outside of summer B&B’s that had closed for the season months ago. The borough had a population less than three-thousand, most of which were seasonal or recluses, much like the cabin’s inhabitant. Those that were running from their past, even if they didn’t know just how bad that past was, kept to themselves in the wooded, rural outlying areas. The few townsfolk that she had come across were purely by chance but it was when she needed them most, and that was what prompted her to lower the Winchester in her hands.
“That don’t surprise me,” she said. “There ain’t nothin’ out here for miles…” her words trailed off when he stepped closer towards the doorway. The light coming from the interior of the cabin illuminated his face, clearly showing each of his features. “Have we met before?” she asked before she could stop herself.
A smile pulled at the corners of his full lips, causing a dimple to recess deeply in his cheek on one side. “Not in this lifetime, Miss Mary.”
She gave him a look. “Uh huh,” she huffed.
“Regrettably I learned the hard way that going right leads deep into the dark and scary woods,” he said, his voice deep and soothing, and the unmistakable of amusement in it caused the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end. “Three miles in I was about to turn around and head back when the smoke from your chimney and the smell of something delicious caused my stomach to dictate that I continue west.”
“If you would have gone the other way you would have come across the Doctor long before you got soaked to the bone,” she said.
He nodded with a smile. “I shall remember that the next time my feet tell me to go west. If is not too much to ask, may I use your phone?”
“Ain’t got one,” Mary said.
A crack of thunder was accompanied by a violent gust of wind that nearly blew the woman back into the cabin and it was followed by howls that seemingly surrounded the cabin.
“Get in here,” she snapped at him, raising her rifle again, her eyes moving around the darkness behind him.
She could feel their eyes on her.
Curious and slightly amused by her barked order and the irritation suddenly emanating from her, he nodded and complied.
It only took two strides, but it was enough that it caused the rifle to once again lower and the young blonde woman’s flat blue eyes were consumed in black when her pupils dilated when they met his sapphire eyes.