Lizzie nearly jumped for joy and did a little happy dance when she found her uncle’s laptop. It actually wasn’t even that hard to find as it had been on the dining room table, buried under what looked like a recent stack of bills and paperwork. It wasn’t intentionally hidden, just probably lost in the confusion of financial responsibility.
The laptop wasn’t even that old. She was really going to work on her misconceptions about her uncle because when she had read in the letter that he had one, she had imagined it would be some relic that was nearly as old as Windows itself. Then the laptop she found didn’t even run on Windows.
It was a Mac, something she was not familiar with, but new enough that it was so small it could easily be unnoticed under a piece of paper. She still hadn’t found the charger yet, and hadn’t expected to see it light up, but the moment she opened it, the screen came on.
…And of course it was password protected. Come on Unc, why the hell do you need to keep your laptop password protected when you lived out in the middle of nowhere.
She looked at the screen in disbelief, and wanted to hurl the slim object outside into the woods beyond. This couldn’t be happening. She hadn’t realized just how much she had hoped to find the little piece of technology since her uncle had informed her about it until she actually found it. Then finding it, all she wanted was for it to work.
Come on! I need music! It was too damn quiet out there. She wasn’t creeped out anymore and being out there alone strangely didn’t upset her as much as she thought it would, but it was so damn quiet. All she wanted was to open Pandora, put on a station and have something playing in the background. Sure, she could turn on the television that was so old she wasn’t even sure it was in color, but it wouldn’t be the same. She had to have music to really break the void in the silence.
She needed it because if she didn’t break the silence soon, then she would start to worry. She was already starting to worry, because why was there so much of it. Why were the dead out there not screaming at her anymore? What were they up to? In this growing unsettlement of silence, she heard the buzz of the refrigerator somehow grow louder as it was predominantly the loudest noise in the little cabin, which only added to her discomfort. What were they doing out there?
In a way she was frustrated that all the windows were blacked out. She understood now the reason for it. It would be greatly unsettling if every time she looked up she would see her dead friend looking in at her, but it also made it hard for her to look out at them. What if she wanted to talk to them.
She looked down at the laptop, and pulling herself out of her funk, lifted it from the table. She wasn’t sure what possessed her to do it, but she looked on the bottom of it. Sure enough, there was a little piece of paper taped to the bottom. On one line read a long series of numbers which she assumed was the WiFi key. It was below it that really caught her attention. It just read Password: Cyntha.
She entered in her aunts name and within seconds the computer showed her an empty desktop free of too many icons. It was then that she realized that she really had very little experience with Macs. Her school mostly used Chromebooks, she had always had Windows Pc’s and so now this Mac was completely foreign to her. Where the hell was the internet?
Oh no, if I can’t figure it out, who am I going to call for tech support?
She looked at the bar at the bottom of the screen and the row of icons there. There weren’t too many, but they were kinda weird. There was what looked liked a two faced multicolored blue icon which she had no clue what that did. There was a compass, why the hell would I need that on a laptop, a rocket ship, a gear box and what looked like a stamp with an eagle on it. Her uncle must have some weird apps on this thing as none of those really made any sense to her.
She clicked on the icons one by one, and gave out a gleeful shout of excitement when she saw the familiar plain white Google homepage.
She quickly found her way and within minutes music streamed from the little speakers. It wasn’t much, and she wasn’t really sure how to turn up the volume, but for now it was enough. She just needed to find the cord before the battery died. She could see that it was 8% and knew that if her laptop said that, it would be dead within a heartbeat.
It would do for now, so start looking for the cord. She worked her way around the table, looking at the walls in the room to see if there was anything plugged in to any of the outlets, but there weren’t any outlets. How could a room not have any power outlets? She got down on her hands and knees and looked under the dish cabinet. She wasn’t going to pull it out as she was too afraid of breaking any of the dishes, but what she could see showed nothing.
“Huh,” she said to herself, standing and brushing off the dust from her hands onto her jeans. “Anything in here?”
She stepped through the archway into the tv room, carefully avoiding the towers of garbage she hadn’t gone through.
“So what are you plugged into?”
The television was another cord, which lead to a surge protector on the other side of the room that was plugged into another surge protector hidden under a small pile of papers. This place was a fire hazard she realized as she followed this surge protectors cord into her bedroom to another surge protector. This surge protector had the power cord for the laptop plugged into it, and its cord ran back from her bedroom, along the wall and through the dining room into the kitchen where she found one of two outlets in the entire house.
She looked at all of it, the cords and the lack of wiring in the inner rooms and just kept running the course of the cord back through her head. No outlets in the inner house. Didn’t the letter say that the kitchen was an add-on that her uncle added? If he was renovating it out here, then why not add some outlets to the other rooms? They obviously had power running through them as they had lights, light switches and such. Yet it was only the kitchen and the bathroom it was connected to that had outlets and running water.
She filed the information away, hoping that maybe she would get answers later, but answers from who? There wasn’t anyone she could ask about it.
She had a nagging sense to call her brother. It was a desire to speak to him, hear that computer generated voice and just listen as he comforted her that it was all going to be okay. Of course if she did call him, not only would she be putting his life in danger, but he would not tell her it was all okay. He would first think she was overreacting and that it was all just coincidence that her friends were dying. He would also never believe that they were coming back, haunting and hurting her, and would be concerned that she was losing her mind. Thanks to their uncle, schizophrenia was perceived as running in their family as everyone thought they had gone insane. What else would you think if you uncle ran around saying that his dead wife was talking to him.
She had forgotten that he had said that before he had gone off into the cabin in the woods. It had been so long ago, and her dad never talked about it.
Well, it wasn’t time to be thinking about that. She took the laptop into the bedroom and plugged it in. It was still at 8% and she had to wonder if the battery gauge even worked on the thing as no laptop had that good of battery management.
So now what should I do? She looked around the living room and the dining room. She’d barely made a dent in the mess and knew if she continued at it the way she had been going, she would get frustrated and start throwing things away in mass. She couldn’t allow herself to start doing that. There might be information she would need somewhere in the thick of it, but there was just so much of it to go through.
“What, are you in a hurry for some hot date?” She said to the empty room.
“You date is dead,” yelled Sarah from outside. Lizzie hadn’t realized that she had even spoken out loud, yet she must have and loud enough that they could hear her. She bit her lip as she moved closer to the blacked out window, the one closest to where she had heard her friend. “He’s dead and you killed him.”
“I thought you didn’t like him.”
“You killed him and you killed all of us. You don’t even care. You killed all of us, tortured us, and now you won’t even take your own life and release us. You did this to us.”
Lizzie heard the tears in Sarah’s voice and felt her chest clench. Even when Sarah had been attacking her the previous night, Lizzie had still seen the pain on her face, the ash to all their skin, and the fresh cuts along her dead arms. Lizzie didn’t know where the talisman sent her dead friends, but it had not been a vacation cruise. Not unless the cruise was through hell, and the attendants were the devil’s minions.
Was Lizzie just going to ignore her now until one of them was gone? From everything they knew so far, Sarah would never fade away. She would always be there, and as it stood, she would always hate her for what Lizzie had done. Lizzie didn’t think she could survive that. They had been like sisters, together forever, until the end. Sarah was dead, but it was not the end.
“Sarah?” Lizzie’s voice was soft, but she knew Sarah had heard her as the sniffling stopped.
“Fuck you, you can just go die you fucking whore! Fucking every man around no matter how much someone else had a crush on them.”
Lizzie recoiled from the window as though she had been slapped, her hand to her mouth to cover the gasp that escaped her.
“I… no, I didn’t. You know I didn’t.”
“I know. What the hell do I know?” The vitriol dripped from Sarah’s voice as she spat out the words, yelling at Lizzie though the painted glass. “I know you don’t care how long you left us there. You banished us, and let us get tortured. We were in hell. I was raped regularly and when I wasn’t being raped…” Sarah’s voice drifted off and Lizzie could hear the fresh sobbing coming from her friend.
Lizzie wanted to go out there, reach out to her and pull her into a hug, but she knew that even if she dared to go out there, there was no way she could physically touch her. They had tried at the hospital and it only lead to both of them feeling ill. Though Sarah had been able to attack her last night, Lizzie wasn’t convinced she could return contact. She seemed to be at the disadvantage to the dead, something that didn’t make her too comfortable when interacting with any of them.
“Sarah,” Lizzie said when her friend had let the silence linger. “Sis, you know I would never-”
“They tore me apart. And no, I don’t just mean emotionally. They would pull off a fingernail, slowly, not to hurry themselves as they had all day in whatever a day was in their existence. They would remove a fingernail, and then another. Then they would painstaking with no rush and the dullest blade, slice off my tit. Then they would do it to the other. They would chop off my toes and fingers, but not quickly. They would put the blade to the nub and ease down on it so it sliced through the skin and bone not in one quick motion but with great delight in hearing me scream as it slowly worked its way tearing the tissue.
“The only thing they didn’t cut away from me was my mouth because they loved to hear me scream, and I screamed. I cursed your name in screams that were meant to awaken the devil. You had done that to us. You had done that to me, your ‘friend’ and had you didn’t do anything about it.
“Then as my body lied there, they would rape me again and again. Not just in the places they should but in every hole they had found and made, and when they were done, and only then, the day would reset and it would all start over again.”
Lizzie stood by the window, listening, and not sure what to say or how to react. The tears kept rolling down her cheek fresh as she tried not to imagine her friend going through that endless torture. She wished she could block out the images, but she saw the horrors in her mind as her friend told her what she had been through. She fought against it, but it was a losing battle. She could see it so clearly and knew it would be another nightmare that would be there to keep her from sleep at night. There was becoming a steady rotation, and this one would be added to the horrifying playlist.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I only wore it for one night.”
“Sorry.” a male voice spat from the other side. It sounded like Chuck.
“One night!” Josh yelled. All of them must have gathered by the window now. It was not just Sarah she was talking too and she could hear how upset they were. She had no idea what they had been through.
“One night! I was there for ten years. I know as I counted the days. Do you know how many days I watched as my son was ripped out of his mother and fed upon by demons. They forced me to watch as they ate his flesh. Each day, the same thing over and over. I had watched it over four thousand times. Yeah, you sent us to that hell for over ten years.” His voice was gravely and she felt the raw emotion that emanated from him. It was harder to hear once he stopped yelling and she knew it was because he was breaking down.
“It’s okay. Your wife is still alive. None of that was real. It was all mind games.” Sarah was telling Josh, working to speak through her own tears.
“I didn’t know.” Lizzie hadn’t realized the words escaped her. “I just put on the talisman for one night. I didn’t know.”
“My wife was pregnant. My wife was pregnant and I didn’t know. How could I have known. She hadn’t told me. She…” Josh had lost much of the previous anger she had heard and seemed distant, like the air had been sucked out of him.
“It was a mind game. It’s all going to be okay.”
“I left her alone to raise our child. The others, they’re nearly grown, but I left her alone to take care of a baby. What kind of father am I?”
“I didn’t know.” Lizzie tripped over a pile on the floor and fell back into the Lazy Boy. It rocked back, but she never took her eyes off the window. The pain that Josh had to be feeling, going through everything they had, she didn’t know how to apologize for that. It was too much, nothing she would say would ever soothe him. He would always hate her, and all she could say and keep saying to him was that she hadn’t know. What kind of answer was that.
It wasn’t one…
“You didn’t know.” Josh said, breaking out of whatever trance he had been in. “My wife was pregnant. I didn’t know, you didn’t know, none of us knew,” Josh said with a burst of maniacal laughter. “It seems like none of us knows anything except you’re a death magnet and that seems like something you sure as hell should have known.”
She heard something pound against the window and then Josh was howling in pain.
“Holy shit,” Chuck exclaimed.
“What happened?” Lizzie said, forcing herself to stand again and approach the window. She made sure not to trip over the pile she had be had before and noticed it was a stack of what looked like leather bound books. They looked odd, but she moved around them, focusing on the window.
“I’m sure he won’t do that again.” Elisabeth hadn’t talked much since they had returned from wherever the talisman had sent them, Lizzie still refused to think of it sending them to hell, but not her voice sounded strained.
“No, he won’t. Well, now we know not to even through anything at the house.” Chuck said.
“How had he even been able to pick up the rock?” Sarah said. She sounded shocked. They all did.
“What happened?” Lizzie asked again, though she was beginning to piece it together that Josh had thrown a rock at the window, but what happened to him after that?
“Guess this means we can’t torch the place,” Chuck said.
“Nope.” Sarah responded.
Had they actually been planning on burning the house down? Lizzie wasn’t sure, but they sounded serious. She didn’t know where they had planned to get the first, but as the house wasn’t burning, they probably hadn’t figured that out as well.
“FUCK!” Josh howled. “You fucking whore of a bitch. I will get my hands on you and then I will personally feed you to them. You understand me you slut. Fuck.”
Lizzie was backing away from the window, back to sit in the chair again. She wrapped her arms around her, shaking her head, refusing to believe the venom that was being hurled her way.
She hadn’t known. How could she have known any of this was going to happen? The letter had been vague and there were barely any instructions in the initial reading of the will. She had no way of knowing. And the talisman? She wouldn’t have even known about it had Josh not insisted she read the letter. It was his fault partially. He told her to do it. How was she ever supposed to know what it would have done to them.
And if he hadn’t been such a jerk, then maybe she wouldn’t have been so quick to put it one when she had left with Roland yesterday.
The voices outside were quieting, getting farther away. She could still hear the howls coming from Josh. Whatever happened must have really hurt him, but how do you hurt the dead? What was it about the house that did? Was it something she could use? She still wanted to check out the barn and see what was out there, but was afraid to walk the path to get there. She could wear the talisman, but had sworn to herself she would never wear that again.
She could go now, couldn’t she? The voices were moving away in the other direction. She would have a clear shot to run and the letter said she would be safe once she got in there. Now would be the time to do it.
But she wasn’t moving. She wasn’t getting up, and when she admitted it to herself, she had no motivation to actually get up and do it. She didn’t want to do anything. She wanted to sit there and cry, but she wasn’t giving in to that. She was just going to sit there and not cry, to have this moment of doing nothing.
Around here there was still plenty of the mess, though in the living room there was less of a paper mess and more of a ‘this was were he stayed most of the time and had all the food wrapper garbage mess’ combined with the occult circle and candle mess. Strange, but she was no longer freaked out by the pentagram and circle on the floor anymore. She didn’t want to go near it, but as far as she knew, that was what kept the dead from getting inside, so it wasn’t getting touched.
She did notice the books she had tripped over. She picked one up. It had a leather cover, but did’t look like something store bought or printed. The front had a latch on it, though the latch was old and the catch broken as the strap didn’t close. She opened it, and saw her uncles handwriting, filling the pages.
She went back to the first page and looked at it. It was dated just over fifteen years ago, and written there in a shakily written sentence was her uncle’s first diary entry.
“My wife died a week ago. The night after her death, her spirit came back and has not left me.”