Story rating: 18+ 

Genre: Fiction, Horror
 
For those interested in reading a Trigger Warning that contains what some may consider a *spoiler* read between the llamas. If you’d rather not, skip over the two lines of llamas and enjoy.

                 🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙                    

*Trigger Warning*
This work includes some disturbing themes, including violence, murder, and one scene that you probably won't want to read while eating.

🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙🦙

 


Remember

 

Remember. Remember the dark skies that night. Remember the cold earth and the silent trees. Remember the night you buried me. 

 

Wes jerked awake at the sound of the voice, then winced at the pain in his joints. Frigid air always seeped into his cabin from the cracks in the windows, and it had found a home in his bones long before he’d fallen asleep. The sky was darkening, a fact that made spiders skitter down his spine. The short-lived paralysis of fear burned away under the heat of adrenaline when he fully realized what the lengthening shadows meant.

 

Wes made a mad dash for the fireplace, but it was too late. He jerked to a halt the moment he saw the bluish-white fingers resting on one of the logs within. Fear seized him again, yet at the same time, he couldn’t shake off the morbid curiosity at what terrors that night would hold for him—it was always something new.

 

The broken talons of the hand rapped against the dusty log once; then the fingers fell still, resembling a dead spider. Ice began to form on the windows. The shadows that engulfed the short expanse of weedy grass between his cabin and the forest oozed over the window sills into the room. The feeble light offered up by the various nightlights placed throughout the room flickered once, twice . . . For a moment, he thought they would survive. Then they all died at once, plunging him into the brunt of the dark twilight. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so dark that he couldn’t see his surroundings. Wes slowly became aware of the fact that he wasn’t breathing. The burning in his lungs grew with each second he spent enthralled by his terror.

 

Breathe. Go on and breathe. Breathe while we breathe no more,” a deeper voice snarled. He couldn’t tell whether it was ringing only in his head or through the room.

 

The fingers in the fireplace crept forward on their broken nails, drawing a hand out from between the logs. Then came an arm, pushing the log in the back off of the grate with a solid thunk that broke Wes’s stupor and sent him reeling back into the wall.

The wraith had followed him from a suburb of Chicago all the way to the dense woods of the Pacific Northwest. If abandoning his career and moving to the other side of the country couldn’t free him from the wraith, then nothing could—but that didn’t keep him from trying to reason with it.

 

“I’ve done nothing to you!” he cried for what had to be the thousandth time. 

 

The fingers stopped moving, now resting on the tiled floor in front of the fireplace. It had never stopped when he’d spoken before. Not once. Hope started to bud within him. Perhaps this was the end. He’d finally talked sense into the ghost. He allowed himself to blink, and when he opened his eyes, the apparition was gone.

 

He blinked again and hesitantly studied the fireplace more closely. It couldn’t be over . . . could it?

 

He searched for any trace of the wraith. Nothing appeared to be amiss. The ice was gone from the windows, the cadaverous hand was nowhere to be seen, and the shadows were no longer alive. He looked again at the fireplace, hard. It was the same as ever, except . . .

 

The logs in the fireplace, he realized with a jolt. That one log

 

Wes shrieked as the floor swallowed him. He clawed wildly above him, groping for something—anything—to keep himself from sinking further, but all was dark. The moist soil filled his mouth, his nose, his ears, and the spaces under his fingernails. He lost his sense of direction, and then he started to lose his mind. His neighbors had been wrong. He’d been sane before. Quite sane. Now, however, he was a rabid beast, trying without avail to fight his way back to the surface, screaming when he had no air to spare, choking and crying and—Where am I? Where is the light? The air? The cabin? The world? Air? Air? AIR! 

 

Wes gasped in what breath he could through the dirt in his mouth, then coughed long and hard, his lungs revolting against the soil with a vehemence that almost flattened him. His stomach suddenly clenched, and he wretched up bile and mud. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. His tears cleared out the rest of the soil until he could see the grubs and worms writhing in his vomit amidst the shells of dead insects. Something twitched under his tongue, and he hurriedly dug in his mouth, pulling out a giant earthworm. Though empty, his stomach heaved again. His breath rushed back into his lungs in a great, shuddering wheeze and then rushed out in a sob. He fell on his side and curled into a ball.

 

“Stop, already! What did I ever do to you?” he cried hoarsely.

 

“Run!” someone screamed.

 

Wes raised his head, squinting through the blur of fresh tears. A familiar-looking man sprinted toward him like a terrified rabbit.

 

“Run!” the man screamed again, skidding to a halt in front of Wes and stooping down to grab his arm.

 

“What?”

 

Wes looked around wildly. He was in a forest. It was just turning to night. The oak and maple trees around him started to take on a sinister red glow as the sun sank lower, the crimson aura intensified by the vibrant colors of mid-autumn leaves.

 

“Run! We have to run! Come on, or she’ll get us!”

 

The man pulled Wes up and then tugged him along, forcing Wes to break into a full-blown sprint that he had neither the balance nor the strength for. He tripped and came down hard, dragging the other man with him.

 

“Come on! Hurry!”

 

The man turned back to face Wes. Perhaps because of the pleading expression on the man’s face, Wes finally remembered who he was.

 

“Tim?”

 

The man—Tim—blinked at Wes as if he had spoken a foreign language, and then Tim’s eyes focused on something over Wes’s shoulder. Wide-eyed and gaping, Tim released Wes’s arm to scuttle backward, throwing leaves and dirt up in his haste. Wes turned his head slowly, his hair standing on end. His throat closed against his noisy panting as his ears strained to pick up the slightest sound. But there was nothing. Nothing. No sound came from the figure standing behind him. Wes gulped and settled his gaze on the emaciated form, for the first time seeing the wraith whole. Only it wasn’t a wraith now. It was a woman.

 

Her long, dark blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders in rich waves. Her deep grey eyes stared piercingly at him. Her head was tilted slightly to the side as if contemplating something, but he knew the moment he saw her eyes that she had decided long ago what to do with him. Seeing a woman, however, relieved him of the fear of the unknown. He now had a face to that which had facelessly haunted him for so long. He felt as if he had more control. Wes climbed to his feet to confront her, but the woman would have none of it. She threw her hand out forcefully, flinging him into the nearest tree. Whether he’d slipped into a dream or another world, the pain felt real enough when his ribs cracked. He opened his mouth in a soundless scream as he hit the ground behind Tim.

 

“You will not talk. You will listen, as others listened to you. You may as well have buried her yourself, and all the denial in the world won’t change that. You will receive the same punishment as her murderer.”

 

The woman’s voice was as clear as the sharp crack of ice over a lake and as deep as the sound of winter wind through a tunnel. It was haunting, full of cold, calculated rage. It was a patient rage, a rage that could stretch on forever, never burning up. The woman’s black dress made no sound as she moved toward Tim. He cowered back, but she lifted a hand. As her hand rose, so did his fear-stricken body.

 

“This is the dress I wore to my daughter’s funeral. It wasn’t an ordinary funeral. You see, no body was found and I was the only one to attend. I knew she was gone. A mother always knows. And I knew that you killed her. You covered your tracks, had your friend here lie to give you an alibi. They wouldn’t listen, but I knew. At her funeral, I swore with my blood that I would avenge my daughter. If I couldn’t as a human, then I would as a ghost, able to move through walls and wipe away all traces of my mischief just like you did, Timothy. I would make you and your friend as crazy as you claimed I was.”

 

She slammed Tim into the ground.

 

“And now I know where you put her body. My daughter, Erika. Murdered at twenty. Buried here in the woods. I’ll soon bury my burden here, too, along with Erika’s. The world will move on as if nothing ever happened—but you and all those who helped you bury my daughter will not.”

 

Wes shuddered as he felt himself sinking beneath the leaves and dirt.

 

“Wait,” he gasped, choking.

 

I’m sorry, he thought, and then he tried to say it aloud. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. He tricked me!

 

But that was a lie, and he knew it. As he continued to sink, helpless and terrified, he saw again his house in Illinois. He saw Tim standing on his front porch at two in the morning, a wild light in his eyes.

 

“Hey, Wes. How’s it going, man? You doing good? Nice place you got here.”

 

“Tim? It’s been a while. What are you doing here? Why are you all muddy?”

 

Tim shrugged and shifted his weight from foot to foot.

 

“I, uh, got into some trouble. It’s nothing big, it’s just, uh, I got a wife, you know? And, um, I’m kinda in a fix. You see, there was this office party—”

 

“Office party? You got a job now?”

 

“No, man, I went with a friend who works there, but the guy left with a woman. Anyway, I messed up. I sort of, uh, had an affair with one of the secretaries. I’m a little drunk. The office is just a few blocks over there. I walked here. Listen, I ain’t got no other friends, and the other guy won’t answer his phone. It’s a long drive home, and I don’t want to risk a DUI or show up drunk. Can I crash here? And if anyone asks where I’ve been, could you, like, say I showed up here at eleven and have been here all night? You can tell them I was drunk, but leave out the affair. I’d really appreciate it, man.”

 

Wes’s gut told him something was off, but he always got that feeling around Tim. 

 

“Tim, there aren’t any offices within a few blocks of here.”

 

“A few blocks, a half-mile, it’s all the same to me, man. Remember, I used to do them marathons. Got some endurance, even blitzed.”

 

“You entered one marathon. You didn’t finish it.”

 

“I know, but I kept up the training. Wes, man, look at me. I’m drunk, cold, tired—” 

 

“Muddy,” Wes added pointedly.

 

“I fell in that ditch over there. Look, I took all the heat for that cocaine thing when we were in college, went to the slammer. This is an affair, man. Can’t you cut me a break?”

 

It wasn’t long after that when Wes relayed that alibi to the police. Some girl named Erika had gone missing without a trace. The mother suspected foul play from Tim, Erika’s boyfriend—a gut instinct that Wes helped Tim discredit. Since he owed Tim for college, Wes ignored his suspicions. Besides, the missing girl meant nothing to him. Tim had walked away clean. Until now.

 

The ground closed over him. Erika’s mother vanished behind the earthen veil. Wes thrashed, throwing up chunks of dirt, but he continued to sink and drown in filth until he felt something even colder than the mud close around his throat.

 

A hand.

 

It was a bony, clammy hand. It squeezed until he stopped thrashing and fell still, settling into his grave. 

 

“Remember,” a voice hissed to him as he slipped away. It was different than the mother’s voice—younger, sweeter, but unhinged. “Remember the dark skies that night. Remember the cold earth and the silent trees. Remember the night you buried me. Remember the night you all buried me, and the days you spent throwing dirt on my grave, covering up the crime one lie at a time.”

 

Wes’s heart stopped. The darkness was complete. The mother’s lamentations were the last coherent words to echo through his head:

“Soon you will know my pain, as you’re learning my daughter’s pain. So, remember. Remember and suffer like all the others.”

 

Wes could hear cries in the darkness. Tim’s voice mingled with those of so many others, all wailing over the muffled sounds of insects clicking and leaves rattling. They were the damned. Their tortured screams echoed through the shadows, not dampened by time or space. Soon Wes’s voice added to them, and the cantata of torment that the mother had composed reached its crescendo, singing her soul to rest.

 

In the world beyond the darkness, the leaves whipped up and covered the freshly turned earth. The moaning of the wind mimicked the wailing of the reaped souls. The trees looked on in wooden silence, taking the fresh corpses into the prison of their roots. Squirrels would sow the nuts of those trees over the rotting bodies within the earth. Deer would pack the loosened soil. The worms would grow fat and long. The world would move on, and the forest would keep its secrets.



Copyright © 2021 by Kayla Cook


Boring Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction and is in no way intended to offend, threaten, alienate, or persecute anyone. Names, descriptions, entities, and incidents included in this story came entirely from my (Kayla Cook’s) imagination and any resemblances between them and those in the real world are purely coincidental.