I inherited an old house that has been passed down in my family for decades. It's really more of a shack, as no one has actually lived in it since my dad was a little boy. So when that key was handed to me, I decided to go out there and clean it up and see what repairs I could make to make this livable, because I found the idea of living in seclusion appealing. No neighbors, no city noises, just me and nature. 

The first day, I walked into a disaster, it looked like the last time someone lived there, they left all their furniture and belongings behind, now they are a dust coated time capsule. I went room to room, brushing the dust off of everything and examining photo albums and little trinkets I found. The more I found, the more uneasy I got. What exactly happened to make someone just leave everything behind? I made a mental note to do some investigating when I got back to my apartment and the wi-fi.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the dust coated furniture, I put the photo albums in my backseat for after I got home and showered. I entered the kitchen, retro 50's style everything. I went to the window above the sink that overlooked a small yard and the forest beyond, from where I stood, the tree line looked so dense with foliage there was no way a person would squeeze in there. The sunlight was turning golden, I figured I should probably pack up and go before dark comes  I was not about to spend a night there with no power. 

Before gathering my things, I glanced out the window one more time to take in the beauty of the forest backdrop. I gasped and froze.  There was a man standing just inside the tree line. Could he see me? I wondered as I instinctively dropped to the floor and immediately felt stupid, he's just a hunter, of course! I told myself and slowly pushed off the floor and looked in the same spot. He was gone.  I decided it was time to go and made my way to the front door, doing a quick double check to make sure I didn't leave anything behind.

Once I got back to my apartment and got settled in, I was eager to look through all the photo albums I had found. 

I set up my laptop on the kitchen table and stacked the albums nearby, after ordering a pizza, I picked up the first book. It was covered in a brown leather and stamped on the front with the word "Family". The leather was dingy and fraying in places. The first page had pretty, loopy handwriting in the middle of the page "Sharpe Family" and underneath "1965-1970". I stopped there, my father would have been just a baby then, he never talked about living out there, he had briefly mentioned turning it into a hunting shack but never actually went out there as far as I can remember. Maybe my grandparents just used it to store some things, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. I grabbed a small notebook and pen from my kitchen drawer and scribbled a note to call my grandmother and ask her what happened out there. 

The book was full of typical family pictures, clearly not taken at that cabin, there were birthdays, holidays, school pictures just photos of a happy family, nothing weird in there. I grabbed the next book dated 1970-1975.  The first photo was of that cabin, in faded black and white, it looked the same as it did earlier in the day. I flipped to the next page. Another black and white photo of the cabin with a young family smiling in front of it. The couple had to be my grandparents, my grandmother was holding a young toddler at her hip and a little boy of about 5, standing in front. I assumed this is when they inherited the cabin. The little boy was easily recognizable as my father, but who is the little boy at my grandmothers hip?  I never knew I had an uncle. Confused, I shrugged it off and flipped the page. My father standing in front of the cabin' s front door holding up a string of 4-5 fish.  He had a big toothy smile, he looked so proud. 
I flipped through faster, all various members of the family outside by the front porch, all looking happy, until the last half of the book, that's when it started getting weird. I got up and flipped on the kitchen light and sat back down when there was a loud knock on the door, startling me. Slowly I went to the door and looked out the peep, I had forgotten I ordered it. I paid the delivery guy and brought the box back to my kitchen table. 

Settling back in, I went back to the first weird photo. Still black and white and just a young boy in the picture but he wasn't smiling, his face was solemn, almost afraid. I flipped the page, the next was the mother, father and the young boy, the parents were posed behind the boy, each had a hand on one of his shoulders. Where was the little one? I didn't think I wanted to know the answer to that. I don't have any aunts or uncles on my dad's side and the young boy is my father, that was clear. I looked at my cell phone on the table in front of me. At my grandfathers funeral last week, my dad handed the keys to me saying "I have no use for these, go explore the cabin and please just tear it down, this curse needs to end" I had all kinds questions but my dad was distraught and I had no intentions of upsetting him more. The only person left to ask was my grandmother, she showed up to the funeral with her new husband, she would be less distraught. 

I called her and asked if we could get coffee and talk about some things. She saw through this and offered to come over as long as I put a pot of coffee on. My grandmother was about twenty years younger than my grandfather was, and for a woman in her seventies, she could have passed for 50.  I always felt closer to her, she helped talk me through the awkward teenage years with boys and mean girls. She only had a son so I was the daughter she didn't have, and that was ok with me. 

I tried some google searches in the meantime, I searched our last name and only got my grandfathers obituary. I reached in my jeans pocket for the scrap of paper my dad scribbled the address on and typed it into the search bar.  Nothing.  Strange. I opened up the maps app and typed it in. All it showed me was a thick forest. My GPS took me there earlier, the address has to be recognized somewhere. I switched views to satellite and zoomed in. All I could see was a small clearing in the thick trees. That must be it but I couldn't zoom any further. Defeated, I closed my browser and rubbed my temples. I got up and started a pot of coffee and packed away the leftover pizza, when there was a knock on my door. 

My grandmother, Angela, let herself in before I got to the door and gave me a hug "Kat, sweetie, you doing ok?" She asked into my hair. I stepped back and smiled "I'm ok gram, thanks" she smiled sweetly and put her hand on my shoulder. I followed her into my kitchen as she poured a cup of coffee. 

She was a beautiful woman, her long red hair was highlighted in silver, making her look younger, she had piercing green eyes and aside from a few wrinkles around her eyes, her skin was smooth, hiding her real age. I always hoped I could age as well as her when I got older. I got her green eyes and red hair, she always joked when I was little that my parents should have named me Angela Jr. 

She sat at my table and noticed the photo albums stacked there. Her bright face darkened. "Where did you get those, Kat?" She asked. 
"I went to the cabin this morning, I wanted to clean it up and see what kind of renovations it may need, but I got a creepy feeling so I grabbed some of the photo albums and got out of there"  I explained 
"Good girl" she almost whispered, her face had turned pale and she stared at those dusty books.
"Grandma, what happened out there?" I asked, breaking her trance. 
She sipped her coffee silently. 
"That place is evil, I hope you weren't planning on moving in. You really should just have it demolished" she said finally. 
"My dad said the same thing" I answered. 
"He got his brains from his mama" now the smile was brightening her face again. 
"I don't want to upset you but I have so many questions" I paused to gauge her reaction, and continued "who is the baby,  or was?" 
This time she jolted a bit, but regained her composure. 
"That was your dad's younger brother, your uncle" she reached across the table for my hand, I squeezed her fingers 
"The forest got him when he was almost 3" she added, a single tear rolling down her cheek. 
"I'm sorry gram" I whispered. 
She cleared her throat and turned her attention back to her coffee. 
"Grandma, when I went through the house this afternoon, I looked out the kitchen window and someone was in the woods, he seemed to be watching me but then he was gone. I thought I was imagining it but I wasn't was I?" I blurted out. 
"A man?" Was her only response. 
"I don't know but it appeared to be a man" I answered 
"Don't go back there, please"she pleaded. 
I agreed to stay away and changed the subject. 

After she left, I sat back down and opened the photo album with all the photos of the cabin. What did she mean by "the forest got him"? I started to look closely at the cabin in the photos, I got all the way to the end without seeing anything unusual until the last photo. It was one of the many that just had my father as a young boy standing by the front door, looking distraught. Something caught my eye. There was a form in an upstairs window, I slipped the photo out of its sleeve to look closer. The form was shaped like a man with broad shoulders, and a large head. I couldn't see any details or facial features. I dropped the photo on the table, unsettled. 
I pushed the albums aside and decided to watch a movie in bed to get my mind off of the whole day. 

The nightmares began that night. I was back in he cabin, the sunlight turning a deep orange, shadows getting longer and longer. I climbed the stairs to the second floor and entered the master bedroom. I turned on a small bedside lamp and changed into pajamas, crawling into the bed, and I hear a baby crying. I froze.  It seemed to be coming from just outside, I quickly turn off the lamp and creep up to the window, carefully pulling back the curtains and straining to see in the dark, there was an orange glow in the distance like a lantern burning. I watched as the light got closer and closer until I could only make out the distinct shape of a man standing at the tree line, he seemed to be looking right at me. He lifted the lantern to his face. It wasn't the face of a human, he had long scraggly hair, small, sunken eyes that glowed yellow, where his nose should have been, were two gaping holes and it's mouth dropped open impossibly far, exposing rows of jagged, razor sharp teeth. Then I heard the deep laughter but it wasn't coming from anywhere, it was in my head and it was getting louder and louder. The thing lifted a hand to wave, I could see it had 3 long fingers, that came to a point like claws, it waved its fingers in my direction, sending chills up my spine.  He only said one word before I woke up in a sweat, he said "soon" in a raspy deep voice of a man. 
Is he what my grandmother meant by the forest? I decided to go about my daily routine that morning and forget about that cabin that everyone seems to want destroyed. 
That same nightmare replayed in my dreams every night for a week. Finally I took the address and went to the library, maybe I could get answers from there. 

I settled in at the back of the library by the ancient microfiche machines that I am reasonably certain nobody has touched in 20 years, but it proved quite useful.
I found a newspaper article titled "The Search for Baby Charlie continues" the rest of the article was about my 3 year old uncle who disappeared, the forest was being combed through for a few days and then just ceased with no explanation. I printed a copy of the article and kept searching.  I needed to know why the search was called off, I don't know why but I felt like I couldn't leave without answers. An hour later, I found it and it was a blow to the chest. An article dated a year after his disappearance, it was an article to remember the little boy but as I read through the article, there were 5 different searchers who disappeared in those woods, only to turn up mauled to death. There was speculation about large cats living somewhere deep in the forest so the search was called off and my uncle presumed dead by mountain lions. Something didn't quite add up to me, it felt like a cover up to keep the public from panicking. 
I jumped when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Kat, dear I'm going to close up in a few minutes." Mrs Clark, the librarian was standing over me. 
"Oh I must have lost track of time, I will be out in a few minutes Mrs Clark" I smiled 
"Oh, such a terrible day that was!" She was looking at the article in my hand. 
I blushed "oh, yeah I was looking into some old family history" I answered lamely 
"I remember that like yesterday, they claimed big cats in there but everyone knows it's the guardian" she didn't break her stare from the paper 
"The guardian?" I pressed for more information 
"Oh you know that silly legend about the forest being protected by a creature they call the Guardian" she explained 
She could see I still looked confused. 
"Stay right there, I'll show you" she hurried off behind the front desk. I began to stand up as she selected a book that had been tucked away under the librarian desk and came back to my table, handing it to me, she seemed to be paranoid, looking over her shoulder like someone was watching. 
"Take this home with you, but bring it back by closing tomorrow, don't tell anyone I gave this to you" she handed to me and I slipped it into my bag and she relaxed. 
"Thank you Mrs Clark, who ever said being a librarian would be a boring job?" I joked and she laughed loudly. 
"Nobody thinks to ask a librarian for information, I am very useful" she smiled brightly  
I nodded still smiling but feeling uneasy. 
I cleaned off the table I was using and hurried out the door, eager to open that book and find out what this town and my family were hiding. 

When I got home, I set up my laptop on the kitchen table again and set that book in front of me. It had a worn leather cover with a snap closure, there was still dust stubbornly clinging to the indentations in the leather. Curiously, I opened the cover. "Legend of the Guardian" was written in loopy, pretty handwriting. 
To my surprise, the whole book was written by hand like a diary. 
Legend has it, there is a creature who has the form of a man but if you ever get close enough to see it and survive, you would quickly realize it is not a man at all. Someone had drawn a crude sketch of it, my breath caught in my throat. It was the thing from my nightmare. It was exactly how I remembered. I backed away from the book like the thing was going to jump out at me. 

That night, the nightmares returned, but they got much worse than I could possibly imagine. Everything was the same, exactly the same but when I woke up I wasn't in my apartment. The orange light of dawn seeped in through the window behind me and I sat up straight in bed. Where the hell was I?  Panic set in, I hopped out the the bed and ran for the door, passing a square window. I stopped. "Oh shit" I whispered. 
Looking out the window, was an overgrown yard with thick trees beyond. I woke up in the cabin. I must still be sleeping.  Looking around the room, it was the same as my dream, only it was daytime. I was struggling to keep that flutter of panic I felt start in the pit of my stomach.
"This isn't real..this isn't real" I repeated to myself.  
I turned and ran to the bedroom door, flinging it open to my apartment living room. Now fully emerged in panic mode, I stopped dead "what the hell?" I said out loud to my empty apartment. 
Turning around, back toward the bedroom that was definitely not mine moments ago, I see my familiar room staring back at me. I must have been sleep walking, but it felt so real. 

Confused, but relieved I went to my kitchen and made coffee. Sitting down with my steaming cup, that book seemed to be staring right at me. Instead of throwing it in my bag to return to the library, I flipped it open and began to read the legend that involved my family that I knew nothing about. The cabin that everyone wants me to demolish was built in the 1800's by my great great grandfather and has been struck by tragedy ever since. My uncle wasn't the first child to go missing in those woods but he was the youngest it seems. A great uncle spent his entire life in an asylum after he attempted to burn the house down with his brother, sister and parents in it. Half the house went up in flames, mostly his sister, Rose's room, but after sifting through the rubble, there was no body, she was gone. My great uncle was hysterical claiming the monster told him he had to save his family. They locked him up and he never spoke again.  The house was rebuilt but Rose was never found and the house was passed down to my grandfather. 

I rubbed my temples, this was creating more questions than it was answering. My phone bleeped on the table, eager for a distraction, I read the text from my oh so cool "seventy is the new fifty" grandmother (yes she says that). It read:
"Kat, when it calls to you, don't answer"
“What?” I replied.
"The house. I know Mrs Clark gave you that book, she's a nosy one. Of course I know you have to read it but when you're done, burn it or it will call you"
"Call to me how?" Is all I asked. There was a long pause before the dots started blinking telling me she was typing.
"It already did. I will be there in 10 min don't go anywhere"
Now I was getting the panic feeling again. What if I have that dream again and it's not my apartment I open the door to? 

I couldn't look away, I continued to read because I felt I had to.  When my grandmother arrived, I didn't hear her knock, I barely heard my cell phone ring when she called me to open the door. 
"Put that book down child" she scolded as she entered my little apartment. 
Back in the kitchen, she helped herself to coffee and refilled my cup 
"You look like hell" she said 
"Thanks" I forced a smile 
"It got in your head, dreams? How many? And tell me what happens in them" she pushed
"They started the night I went out there, last week, and were exactly the same every night...until last night" I answered, not looking at her. 
"What happened last night?" She was almost whispering. 
"It was all the same, until I woke up. I was in the cabin and when I ran to the bedroom door, it opened to my living room and it was like it never happened" I was talking fast, I couldn't help it.  
She was silently staring into her coffee.
"Our family is cursed" she began in a voice so low I could hardly hear
"Your grandfather didn't believe in that nonsense, that's why we lived there as long as we did. I found this book in the old cellar, along with some other photo albums and journals. The book scared me so bad that I took it to the library and asked that it be locked away. I really should have burned it. There is something in those woods, something living and so terrible it can only be evil. You saw him out the window and then in your nightmares after, it's calling you and it won't stop" she paused there. 
I tried to process this. 
"Who is he?" I asked finally, afraid of the answer but I had to know.
Now she looked at me, her eyes looked sad and tired, the sparkle was gone.
“In the journal, he is referred to as a Guardian, but he is more of an evil spirit or demon.  I researched the family history, much like you've started to do. My plan was to come here and beg you to stop and walk away from it, but you are so much like me it wouldn't do any good" she paused to sip on her coffee. 
I sat quietly, waiting for her to continue.  She silently picked up her bag and took out two small leather bound journals and set them on the table in front of her. 
"I found these in the cellar" she didn't take her eyes off the books. 
I reached out a lightly touched the cover of one, like it was hot. 
"They will tell you what you need to know. When you've read them, burn them." She started to get up 
"Wait, where are you going?" I asked, alarmed at the thought of being alone with those books. 
She gave me a sad smile and place a hand lightly on my shoulder. 
"You don't need me. But if you find yourself in the forest, call for Charles, he will help keep you safe" she advised. 
"Who is Charles?" I asked. She smiled again and started for the door. 
"I have to go sweetie" she blew me a kiss. 
"Wait! Who is Charles? If he's supposed to keep me safe it would be nice to know who I'm talking to" I pleaded, chasing after her. 
She stopped at the door and dropped her head. 
"Charles..." she cleared her throat. 
"Charles is your uncle" she finished, her voice quiet now, she didn't look at me, she just left. 

I was still standing in my entry way, dumbfounded. What? How is that possible? What exactly was in those woods? It was then that I realized she never said that little boy died, she said the forest got him and I assumed she meant he died. My head was spinning. 
I ran back to my kitchen, I was going to find out the truth no matter what.  I dove into the journals and photo albums that were spread out before me. 

One of the journals was very old, the first half had dates between 1890 and 1895, it was like he would write a few entries, usually in the fall, when food was getting sparse and he would hunt deer and whatever he could find, desperately trying to keep his family fed during the winter.  In the second half of the journal it started getting weird.  He first mentioned meeting another hunter in the woods one fall afternoon, they had a conversation about where the deer were hiding, the man told him of a clearing in the middle of the forest and made promises about an abundance of food and resources.  The entries stopped being dated in the fall of 1885, the cabin began construction when the ground thawed that following year and was finished by fall.  He talked of catching large fish in the summer and building a smoke house to preserve the meat through the winter.  He seemed content, until his entries stopped making sense.  At first it seemed that he was starting to battle with mental illness or dementia, he mentioned creatures living in the woods and watching the house at night.  One entry even described animals with gaping mouths full of pointed teeth, when they stood up on two legs, they were as tall as a man.  In his final entry, he sent his wife and children to stay with family in town and he holed up in the cabin to fight off the creatures surrounding the house.  The final statement in the journal was 

“The windows are breaking, they will be inside soon.  There are many more than I could have imagined. they are coming for me, I was weak and did not do what they asked.  How could I?  I hear them scratching to come in, it will not be long now.  To my family, I love you dearly”

I sat silently for a few moments,  what did they want?  I flipped through the other journals my grandmother left for me and found nothing about what happened in those woods.  The next journal I found was written by the adult son of the first writer, who I finally found out was Edward Sharpe, my great great grandfather.  He had one son, Frank, who went back to the house after he got married, fixed it up and they moved in.  

Again, the first half was entries about how happy they were.  Three children were born in that house, twin boys, Jack and Joseph, in 1910 and a baby girl, Rose, in 1912.  There were entries from childhood milestones and happy things until the last third or so of the journal.  
A lost and cold hunter appears at their door, asking for help.  He had broken an arm and got lost trying to find his way back to his home.  My great grandfather and his wife of course brought him in the house, fed him and found him some dry clothes.  
In one entry, he describes a clear fall night, sitting on the front porch, having a smoke with this stranger who says his name was Jacob.  Jacob tells my great grandfather that he knew his father and used to hunt with him back when the cabin was built, that is how he knew to come there.  He offers his condolences for the passing of his father.  Finally he tells my great grandfather that his father never repaid him for his help in building the cabin and he must insist that he get repaid.  When asked to elaborate, he only said “soon” and looked up at the stars and finished his smoke.  The following morning, he was gone.
My blood went cold.
I skimmed through pages and pages spanning over years and the hunter never returned.  Then, in 1925, the fire happened.  It was started in Rose’s room, by her brother Jack.  Jack would cry inconsolably every night about how the man told him he had to start the fire to save the family.  He said it was to pay the debt his grandfather owes.  Rose was never found, her remains were not in the ruble.  Jack was sent to live in a hospital, where he became mute and eventually catatonic.  The house was rebuilt and when they moved back in, there was a letter stuck into the door jamb: 


Dearest Sharpe Family,

I offer my deepest sympathies for the loss of two children, I just cannot imagine the pain you must be in!  
I also must convey my gratitude for taking me in all those years ago and for the repayment of your father’s loan.  

My Sympathies,

A few months later, his wife was found hanging from a tree, ruled a suicide.  My grandfather and his father left the house after that.  
I didn’t understand why my grandfather moved back in there after marrying my grandmother, after all that tragedy.  

That is when I noticed the paper sticking out of the back of the book, among all the neglected pages that just seemed so sad now that the story was told.  I took the loose paper out, it looked new.
The first few words sent goose bumps down my arms.

“My dear Kat,”
My grandmother had written a letter to me.

“You now know the tragedy that has followed this family.  You are so much like myself, it makes me proud, but in this case, I wish you would stop here, but I know you won’t.  I continued to search for any information on the land or who this Jacob is.  That is when I found the book on the legend of the area.  You see, Jacob, is the guardian, he guards his home.  He is not human, as you have already seen.  I found his home, deep in the forest but I could never get close enough to see anything but the entrance.  The last time I went in the forest, I found my Charlie all grown up but unable to leave the forest for reasons I don’t understand.  
Katy, please be careful in your investigating, if you uncover the truth, just know that I will believe your story if no one else will, as they probably won’t.
You are the last in the Sharpe bloodline, I believe the guardian will not take you like he took the others because he will want you to marry and have your own children to keep the curse alive for many more generations.  I won’t ask you to let the curse die with you, I would much rather find a way to lift the curse and if that means burning the cabin to the ground than so be it.  
Please be careful and if you need help, call me.

Love you sweet girl,

I dropped the letter on the table and opened my laptop. I ran a google search for the address again, bringing me to the satellite view of the forest.  Zooming into the clearing where the cabin should have been, I began to scan the area around it for anything strange or unusual from the uniform landscape of trees.  
After what seemed like hours of staring intensely at tree tops, I stopped at what appeared to be a small clearing and zoomed in as far as I could. I couldn't see anything, so I rotated the angles in an attempt to get a clearer picture. 
It was a tiny clearing, with what looked like large rocks stacked next to each other in a perfect circle.  That was definitely strange but it was what I saw inside the circle that turned my blood cold. Nothing, absolutely nothing. It was literally a black hole, not a patch of dirt or even a pile of dirt, it was an empty, black space. 
There must be something wrong with the camera they used for these photos, I thought, but the way it sent shivers down my spine, I didn't believe that was true.  I had to see it for myself, no question about it. 
I began mapping its location from the cabin and printed as much as I could of the map. I looked at the time on my laptop, 11:00am. Plenty of time before night fall. Good, I was terrified of what might happen if I had the nightmare again and I just couldn't wait to find out what the hell was going on. 

I parked my car facing the cabin, turned off the engine and just sat there for a few minutes, just staring at the old wooden building that caused my family so much tragedy.
I got out and retrieved my backpack from the trunk and headed into the forest.

I would like to tell you that I found all the answers and reversed the family curse, that I found my uncle and brought him home finally and everyone lived happily ever after.  But that’s not what happened.

I did find my uncle, or he found me was more like it.  I also found where the Guardian came from, along with so many other horrible creatures.

I approached the rock formation I saw in the satellite photos and circled all the way around, trying to find a way to at least see the other side when I heard someone yell 
“Hey!  Hey lady!  What do you think you’re doing?” A man’s voice boomed from the trees
Startled, I jumped and stammered
“oh..oh sorry..I was just…just hiking out here” I said stupidly.
“Nobody hikes in these woods, unless you have a death wish”  he stepped out and I was taken aback at how much he looked like my dad.
“Charlie?” I blurted out without thinking.
Now it was his turn to be surprised, he came closer, almost squinting.
“you look exactly like my mother, but you’re not her.”
“I’m Kat…I’m your niece.  My grandmother…your mother…said you would be out here” I explained.
He stared at me for a long time, then moved forward to hug me with a big smile.

After our little reunion, he took a deep breath and said 
"So are you trying to lift the curse?" He asked 
"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to do. I guess, for starters, I need answers" I looked up at him. I noticed then that he had the same stunning green eyes my grandmother and I had. I found that oddly comforting. 
He didn't respond, he stared off into the woods, as if thinking. 
"Charlie, what's behind those rocks?" I asked after a brief silence. 
His face changed then 
"That is his world. Once you go there, you are marked" he almost whispered, looking around like someone might hear him. 
"Marked?" I repeated, confused. 
"HE will know"
"You mean the guy they call the guardian?" I asked. 
He furrowed his eyebrows at that. His demeanor was very childlike, I noticed. 
"Guy? He's not a guy, he's not even human. He is one of THEM, he is their leader.  Whatever you do, don't cross Jacob" 
"His name is actually Jacob?" I asked.  He nodded. 
"Charlie? How did you survive all those years out here?" 
That seemed to startle him. 
"My mother has been coming out since I was a little boy, she made sure I didn't go hungry or get cold" his tone said I should have known that. 
That seemed to create more questions than answers but I dropped it for the moment. Someone wasn't telling me everything. 
"The sun will be setting in about an hour, you should get out of here, at least  until the sun comes up again" he was acting paranoid now, but something in his eyes set off alarms in my head. Was that fear? He lived his whole life out here, what does he have to be afraid of?  I didn't want to stick around and find out. 
"I will come get you in the morning when it's safe again!" He called after me 
"I wasn't planning on staying at the cabin" I called back
"You will have to!" 
I stopped dead in my tracks and turned to ask him why. He was gone, without a sound. There was something unsettling about that, so I ran most of the way back. 
I quickly jumped in my car to get away from this place, turned the key, click, click. 
"Seriously?!" I yelled at my car. I must have left the dome light on. Wonderful. 
I sat there building up the courage to stay a night in that creepy place. 

I slept in the master bedroom and didn't wake up until the orange light of dawn shone through the window and I heard heavy footstep on that stairs. I froze and listened to them get closer and closer. Finally stopping right outside the bedroom door. 
After a long silence, there was a loud knock on the door that made me jump. 
"Kat!! It's Charlie! Are you up?" 
Relieved and feeling kind of silly, I opened the door. 
"Didn't mean to scare you" he chuckled softly. 
"I will go make some coffee so you can change and do what you need to do to get ready" he added, starting to turn red in the cheeks. 
I smiled "thank you, I'll be down in a minute" 

An hour later, we were back in the woods, headed to the rock formation,  walking most of the way in silence.  Finally, when I could see the first section of rock, I asked the question that was burning in my head. 
"Why do they take kids?" 
At first, I didn't think he heard me, but when I was about to ask again, he startled me by answering
"They're innocent" was all he said. 
"Here we are" he waved his arm out in an exaggerated gesture of introducing the rocks. 
I walked up next to them and ran an open hand along the smooth walls. 
He was very quiet today, just watching from a distance. I turned to ask him about his home when my vision began to fade in and out, then went completely dark. 

I was falling...

When I opened my eyes again, there was a woman sitting next to the bed I was laying in. 
"Excuse me? Where am I?" I asked her 
Her face lit up 
"Oh good! You're awake!" She exclaimed excitedly. 
That statement struck me as odd
"How long was I sleeping?"
"Oh only about 5 days, we were worried you had gotten brain damage from your fall but you seem to be ok now" she rambled. 
"5 days!! I only fainted, probably from heat or exhaustion" I was alarmed
"Oh no, you fell off a cliff when hiking in the forest out there. It's a good thing Jacob saw you fall, you could have died!  You're very lucky dear" the nurse exclaimed. 
"Jacob? Did you say Jacob?" My head was spinning 
"Why yes of course!  Have you met him? I'm sure he will be by the check on you later" 
"No I haven't met him, I just know of him" I was suddenly exhausted. 
She patted my arm and hurried out the door. 
I looked around at my hand, studying the IV tubes inserted in the backs. I got a sickening feeling that I wasn't in town, I looked around the room for any clues as to where I was and how I got here. Nothing, just a sterile, empty room. 

Just then a man poked his head in the door 
"Knock knock" he said pleasantly which annoyed me
"Where am I?" I blurted out 
He chuckled quietly, almost to himself
"You're in my home now" his voice got deeper and much less pleasant 
"What does that mean?" I pushed
"You found the door in that rock formation and just happened to fall in it" he was almost glaring now, making me uncomfortable 
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to I didn't even see opening I just fell" I was talking fast now, but I didn't care. 
"No you didn't mean to, but I meant you to. I sent your uncle to bring you here" 
I noticed his eyes were almost glowing yellow. 
"What are you?" I asked, remembering Charlie saying he wasn't human. 
He leaned closer to the bed, almost close enough to whisper in my ear. My heart was thumping so loud I was sure he could hear it. 
"I can be anything you want, I'm what you're people call a shapeshifter. To them..." he waved an arm around the room "I am a God"
His yellow eyes sparkled which sent shivers down my spine

A few hours later, it was getting dark and the hallway was silent. I slid out of the bed as quiet as I could and retrieved my clothes. After changing and quietly listening to make sure I wouldn't get out, I pushed the window open and looked down. Perfect, ground floor. Quickly I squeezed through the window and carefully shut it and I ran. 

I was running aimlessly, having no clue where I was or how I got there, I looked for wooded areas at the edge of the little town. 

What I found was creatures, the type of creatures that nightmares have nightmares of. There's the fuzzy round things that would be cute without the razors for teeth. Some look human, until they open their jaw, exposing pointed teeth, rows and rows of them.  Some are lanky and so pale they look painted, they amble around slowly, reminding me of zombies without the groaning and gore. Everything has pointed teeth, some have 3 claws where they should have hands, and yellow-orange eyes as big as saucers, that don't blink (I assume this due to a lack of eye lids, which creeps me out more than the teeth)  so far they haven't bothered me and I have no plans to bother them. 
I don't know how long I have been here, time is different. I found the doorway to go home but I can't open it. I've been told by the few locals that speak to me that the door only opens for 3 days during the full moon and even going out there then is risky, if the nightmarish creatures don't get you, they might follow you. I can't be responsible for bringing those things to my world.  It seems that Jacob can come and go as he pleases, I am working up the courage to follow him over the next time. 

I need to end this curse once and for all and if that means getting stuck here and dying to stop the bloodline, then I will do it. 

I should have stopped when I was warned....



**Artwork by Steven Zemlicka**

Published by Liz Zemlicka


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