Please Don’t Take A Job At ‘Pine Palaces’, No Matter How Much Money They Offer You

@sapsanyasha

I’m writing this by my bed. It’s almost dawn. I can feel that I don’t have much time left. I can barely see anymore. I hope this account serves as a warning to everyone about what’s up there in the mountains at the Pine Palaces. Please. Just stay away from it…God my eyes itch…there are some things we just weren’t meant to find. Please, someone, read this so we’re not forgotten. This is what happened.

I arrived at the Pine Palaces three days ago. It was as beautiful as the website boasted. High up in the West Virginia mountains, where the air was untouched by cities and smog, and where you could feel the purity in every breath. The cabins I would be maintaining, along with the other two summer workers, weren’t quite palaces, but they were elegant in a natural sort of way. Each log cabin was decked out in all the usual outdoor décor. Animal heads hung silently on the walls, polished exposed wood filled the interiors with a delightful smell, and a fireplace sat ready to burn the neatly stacked pile of wood that rested beside it.

There were eight cabins in total, six for the guests, one for the workers, and one for the owner of the retreat, Ken, who lived there year round. They formed a semi-circle along the parameter of tall trees, where space had been made for a giant fire pit in the center.

Half a mile down the dirt road there was a lake that Ken rented out paddle boats for the guests to use. I had asked him upon arrival if employees could use them free of charge and he had winked and told me if he liked his workers. Behind the cabins, down a path that led into the woods about four hundred feet from the clearing, was where our maintenance supplies were kept. Rakes, leaf blows, a couple axes, a chainsaw, the usual upkeep wares. I remember on the first day when Ken showed us the old shed, one of my fellow workers, Carter, had asked why he kept the supplies so far back. Ken had chuckled and told us that we’d understand once we got married and went on vacation with our families. He slung his arm around my shoulder and said that he had never seen people fight worse than up here where most modern amenities were unavailable.

“Wouldn’t put it past one of em to take the chainsaw to their significant other,” he had said, throwing Penny a wink. Penny, the last piece to our trinity of workers, looked at Carter and then at me, her face unsure and a little nervous.

“Don’t you worry,” Ken had said, “I’ve never had trouble up here. Real trouble anyway. Most folks are good people, just looking to get away from all the nonsense. They come up here and roast their marshmallows, eat their hot dogs, and listen to the silence.”

After that, we all went back to the cabins and Ken began instructing us on our daily duties for the summer and we prepared the site for the arrival of our first wave of visitors the next day.

Three days later I found that I enjoyed being up in the mountains more than I had anticipated. The quiet days, the chirps, squeaks, and groans of nature, the warm yellow sun, and the explosion of bright crystal stars that light the night.

Carter, Penny, and myself all got along very well, in fact, it felt weird that we had only known each other for three days. We were all outgoing, inspired, and we all wanted something a little different to fill our time between semesters. We wanted to go back to college in the fall and have unique experiences and adventures to tell out friends.

And then there was Ken. Ken had been running this place for twenty-eight years. His dad built it and when he passed away, Ken took over. He was proud of it, you could tell by the way he worked, the way he moved, and the way he talked to the guests. He was about sixty but had the mentality of a man in his young twenties. He was energetic, kind, and made everyone feel welcome. He insisted all the visitors call him Grandpa Ken and if anyone wanted, at sundown he’d tell stories about the history of the mountains and land around us. It was charming and I found myself looking forward to that time of the day.

That was all before I found that fucking well.

I pulled the paddle boat behind Ken’s cabin and wiped the sweat off my face with a dirty hand. “That’s the last of them,” I said to Carter. “Everyone is in for the day. Penny should be done stacking the wood for tonight’s fire. Do you wanna see if she wants to go for a swim?”

Carter, a tall and thin, sporting glasses and blond hair that he was always pushing away from his lenses, nodded,

“Yeah that sounds good. I feel like I’m going to melt. It’s hot as hay fever today isn’t it?”

I snorted, “Got that right. You go check out with Ken, let him know we’re finished for the day, make sure he doesn’t need anything. I’ll go help Penny put the tools away.”

“Ok.” I brushed my hands on my jeans and walked around to the front of the cabin. A couple of guests were sitting on their porches, enjoying the shade and starting to wind down for the evening. I spotted Penny by the fire pit, stacking the last few pieces of wood.

“All done?” I asked.

She looked up at me, “Yeah, that should do it. I hope that’s enough.” Penny was a cute girl. Nothing to write home about, but her charm came not from her looks, but from the adorable way she always worried she was going to get into trouble.

I smiled back, “It’s fine. You really think Ken has the capacity to yell at you even if it’s not?” She shrugged, “I just want it to be right.”

“It is. Now do you want to go swimming with Carter and I? He’s letting Ken know right now.”

She lit up, “Oh that sounds fantastic! Can you put the ax back in the shed while I go suit up?”

“Sure thing,” I said, bending and picking it up.

“Thanks, I’ll meet you back here,” She said and scampered off to our cabin to change.

I slung the ax over my shoulder and made my way to the path that led into the woods, nodding my hellos to the guests I passed. The woods were quiet today, a low hum of wildlife getting lost in the gentle sway of trees that danced back and forth in the sunlight. My boots kicked up dry dirt as I walked, and I wondered when the last time it had rained.

As I was about to round the final bend to the shed, something caught my eye. About thirty or forty steps to my left, off the path, I spotted something coming out of the ground. Curiosity took over and I began to make my way towards it. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it in my previous trips back here, but I had been more concentrated on sticking to the path and not getting myself lost.

As I walked closer, I saw that it was a well, its stone sides rising up out of the ground in the center of a big clearing. I broke through the tree line and stopped dead in my tracks. A heaviness came over me. A thick unease bubbled in my stomach. Something was making my skin crawl and I felt goosebumps form on my arms. I licked my suddenly dry lips and swallowed hard. A warning light was going off in my mind and my unease turned to panicked nausea.

Suddenly I didn’t even want to look at the well. I turned my eyes away and stood there, unable to move. I tried to tell myself to snap out of it, but the unbearable avalanche of horror that filled me when I tried to look at the well, wouldn’t allow it. I needed to leave. I felt my hands shaking at my sides and I realized that I had dropped the ax. I couldn’t even will myself to pick it up.

Why are you being such a baby? I asked myself, still not moving. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I knew the answer.

Because there’s something down there.

I ran. The terror turned to a feeling of haunting danger and I fled.

I crashed back down the path and back to the cabins, my sudden disruption causing a few of the visitors to look my way curiously. I looked at them and offered a weak smile. Shaking my head and feeling slightly stupid now, I went to find Penny and Carter. The terror was fading quickly now that I was back around people and I was starting to feel rediculous about the whole incident. My breath steadied and my heart rate slowed. I shook my head, rolling my eyes, “Get a grip man.”

I found Carter and Penny and we all strolled down to the lake and went swimming, the cool water washing the dirt and sweat off us. I decided not to say anything to either of them about the well, but made a mental note to ask Ken what the deal was after his nighttime stories.

“Sleep tight folks and thanks for listening,” Ken said as the guests offered him a genuine round of applause. We were all sitting around a roaring fire and Ken had just finished telling us about how this place was built. For such a mundane story, Ken had filled it with practiced flare and charm that only old men seem to be gifted with when telling a tale.

As the visitors thanked Ken and lifted sleeping children over their shoulders to bed, I approached Ken, “Can I ask you about something real quick?”

Ken, still sitting at his bench in front of the fire, patted the space next to him, “Sure thing kiddo, have a seat.” He pulled out a cigar and cut the tip off, striking a match against the wood bench.

I took my place, watching as the last of the guests retreated to their cabins for the evening. Carter and Penny looked at us inquisitively and came over, curious as to what I was going to ask.

I took a deep breath, “What’s the deal with the well back by the supply shed?”

Ken froze, his match hovering inches from the tip of his unlit cigar. After a second, he lit it and took a couple of deep puffs from it before answering.

“What do you mean son?”

Carter and Penny had taken a seat on the bench next to us and Carter piped up, “What well? There’s a well back there?”

“Yeah, it’s in a clearing, a little off the path,” I said, pointing in the direction it was in.

Ken turned his head and looked directly at me, “Don’t go near there, you understand me?”

The seriousness in his voice shook me. His grandpa persona was gone and his eyes were cold black rock.

“I mean it, son. Ain’t nothing good back there. Just steer clear of it, ok?”

“What’s wrong with it?” Penny asked.

Ken took another drag, obviously uncomfortable with the conversation, before answering, “It’s dangerous. There’s something wrong with it. I don’t know what it is, but I know for a fact that…well that people aren’t suppose to be around it. There’s something…unnatural about it. Best you all keep your distance.” Carter leaned forward, his eyes lighting up, “Is it haunted or something?” I could hear the excitement in his voice. Ken shook his head, “No. Ain’t no such things as ghosts, kid. But there are other…forces of nature that human kind just aren’t meant to find.”

I swallowed hard, remembering the terror from earlier, “Ken…is there something down there?”

Ken was silent for a moment, the crack of the fire popping sparks around us. Then he whispered, “Yes.”

What is it?” Carter pressed. “Have you ever looked down there?”

Ken shook his head, “Can’t bring myself to get near the thing, truth be told.” Suddenly his head whipped around and he was looking hard at me again, “You didn’t look down it did you?!”

I shook my head, “No. Honestly, I got spooked just being around it. That’s why I asked, it seemed so jarring compared to the peace these mountains hold.”

Ken let out a sigh but Carter wasn’t done asking questions, “How do you know something’s down there then?” Ken tapped his cigar and a hearty piece of ash floated to the ground, “I had a horse, back when I first took over the camp,” He started, then looked at Penny and cleared his throat, “I don’t want to go scaring Penny, just take my word on this and stay away.”

“I want to hear,” Penny said. I didn’t blame her, something about the sober tone in Ken’s voice begged for explanation.

“I suppose you’re all adults,” Ken said, staring into the fire, “But let me warn you that what I’m about to tell you is rather…unsettling.” With a giant sigh, he continued, summoning the old memories, “Back when I took over this place I had a horse. I named her Cherry. Beautiful creature. For the first couple weeks, it was just me and Cherry. I was working on fixing the place up and getting it ready again for guests. During the evenings I would ride Cherry all through these mountains,” he said, sweeping his hand across the dark horizon. “Let me tell you, you haven’t seen a sunset till you’ve seen one up here when the leaves are changing. Anyway, one evening I tied up Cherry to that tree over there,” he said, pointing towards the path that led back into the woods, “We were about to go for our evening trot. I went inside to wash my face and change out of my trousers. Wasn’t gone but five minutes. When I came out, Cherry was gone. I didn’t see her anywhere. But I could hear her,” He said, his voice quieting and shaking slightly, “And she was screaming.”

“Screaming?” Penny asked softly, eyes wide.

“I ain’t ever heard anything like it before,” Ken continued, “But I took off down the path towards where I heard her. And that’s when I found the well for the first time.” He paused, silently puffing on his cigar. After a few moments, he continued, “Cherry was trying to force her way down the well. She was too big though. She was stuck, her rump sticking up in the air, her head down the hole. And let me tell you…she was going mad. Her hind legs were kicking and scraping against the stone walls of the well, trying her hardest to push the rest of her body inside. She was thrashing and wriggling about, all the while screaming down into that hole,” his voice started shaking again, “But there was nothing I could do for her. I was too afraid. Something was keeping me from getting close to that well. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising. Pretty sure I wet my trousers at some point as I stood there watching. Oh, I was frightened,” he said softly.

“What happened then?” Carter said quietly.

Ken looked around at all three of us, then said, “She eventually squeezed down into the blackness. Took her the better part of an hour to do it. She wriggled and kicked till she scraped off her skin and she fit. I ain’t seen so much blood before in my life. How she was still alive, I don’t know. But I stood there and watched, paralyzed, as she grated herself against the stone till eventually, she slipped down inside and immediately she stopped screaming.”

We were all quiet as he finished. Ken idly flicked more ash from his cigar and stared at the ground. The unbelievable events he had just shared with us chilled me. I remembered the feeling of being close to the well. I shivered.

“It’s getting late,” Ken eventually said, standing and tossing his cigar into the fire, “Why don’t you kids get some sleep huh? Going to be hot tomorrow, I think a lot of the guests are going to want to use the paddle boats.” We all stood up and wished him a good night, all of us somber and a little rattled. Except for Carter. His eyes buzzed with light. We retired to our cabin and began preparing for bed. Penny slept in her own room and after brushing her teeth and washing her face, she bid us goodnight.

Before she closed her door, I asked, “You ok, Pen? You’re not freaked out?”

She gave me an uneasy smile, “I’m not sure if I believe everything he said, but it was a pretty creepy story non the less. I’ll be ok, thanks though.” And with that she shut her door.

I went to the room Carter and I shared and stripped down to my boxers and laid down on my bed. Carter followed and turned the lights off. We were silent for a while and then I heard him sit up.

“Dude, let’s go check it out.”

I sat up as well, slightly alarmed, “What? No way man, you heard Ken. We should stay away from it.”

“Oh come on,” he pleaded, “It’ll be spooky. You know how great it’ll be to tell Penny in the morning that we went and looked down the well?”

I snorted, “Carter, you didn’t see it. You weren’t there. It creeped me out, no way I’m going back at night. Now just lay down and go to sleep. Please? Just drop it.”

After a moment I heard him sigh and lay back down. Relieved I closed my eyes and stared at the ceiling. Sleep did not come quickly.

I don’t know what time it was when my eyes snapped open, but something was wrong. I jerked into a sitting position and let my tired eyes adjust.

Carter was gone.

“Shit, shit, shit, you idiot what the hell,” I said, standing and grabbing my clothes. I didn’t take Carter as an adventurous person, never mind a brave one. What was he thinking? If he was where I thought he was, then I needed to tell Ken immediately. I had been by the well, I knew the story held truth and I knew that there was something dangerous about it.

I thought about waking Penny, but decided against it. I stomped into my boots and flung the door open. The night was calm, a fat white moon dripping its vanilla rays down to meet me. The camp was still and sleep coated the air. I marched down the stairs and turned towards Ken’s cabin when something caught my eyes towards the tree line.

Carter was walking towards me. He spotted me and gave me a sly smile, “Well well, change your mind?”

The big fire in the middle of the camp from earlier was almost out, but there was just enough flame that I could make out his features as he approached me.

“What hell are you doing?” I asked, my voice a harsh whisper.

“Sorry man,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets and shrugging, “I just had to see it for myself. Took me forever to find it.”

I paused, cautious, “You…you saw the well?”

He nodded, the smile still on his face.

I licked my lips, “And?”

He slapped me on my shoulder, “Ken’s full of crap I’m afraid. It’s just a stupid well. There’s nothing down there man.”

I released a breath I didn’t know I had been holding in, “Wait…really? You actually went and looked down inside?”

He chuckled and rubbed his eyes, “Yep, no ghosts or monsters I’m afraid. Just Ken jerking us around. It was a good story, I’ll give him that.”

I shook my head, “Well, I guess I’m just a big baby then. Let’s tell Penny in the morning, I think she was a little freaked out.”

He laughed, “Alright. I’m totally busting on Ken too for trying to freak us out. Come on, let’s go to bed.”

As we turned back towards our cabin, the dying fire splashed the last of it’s light on Carter’s face and I noticed that his eyes were incredibly bloodshot. He rubbed them again and we went back inside and slept till morning.

The next day was blistering hot. As predicted, most of the guests wanted to take the paddle boats out onto the lake. Ken, back to his grandpa routine, helped the three of us make sure they were accomidated and happy. He asked if we would take shifts staying down by the water and keep an eye on things. Penny said she’d take the first shift and so Carter and I stayed behind and saw to the daily chores. We had ended up not telling her, after a quick talk in our room that morning. We agreed that it was better if she didn’t know because of her constant paranoia of getting in trouble. And if she was frightened by Ken’s story, she didn’t show it as she went about her morning. Carter was cheerful despite the heat and helped me prepare the wood for the evenings fire. His eyes were still terribly bloodshot and when I asked him about it, he shrugged it off.

“Probably caught me a case of double pink eye. Just my luck. They itch like crazy. You think Ken has something for them? Eye drops maybe?”

“He might. It looks bad man,” I said dragging another log over to the chopping block.

He scrubbed at them, “Ah, let’s finish this first shall we?”

Today was cleaning day and after we finished the wood, Carter went to relieve Penny. He ended up not speaking to Ken about his eyes, despite my protests. He said maybe a swim would clear them up and I told him to not touch anyone if he was going to keep itching them.

About a half hour after Carter left, Penny came strolling up the hill looking hot. She wiped sweat from her forehead, “You would never know that I was in the water ten minutes ago. It is stifling today isn’t it?”

I nodded, “Yeah, I’m looking forward to my shift at the lake. Did you see Carter?”

“Yeah, what’s wrong with his eyes?”

“He thinks it’s pink eye.”

She shivered, “Gross. Poor guy.” She scanned the campsite, “So what do we have left? We’re cleaning the cabins today right? Mid-week scrub for the guests?”

I stretched my arms over my head, “Yeah, sounds fun doesn’t it? Ken told me this morning we don’t have to go overboard. The deep clean is on Sunday in-between arrivals. Just neaten up, make sure the bathrooms are clean, get rid of trash, all that.”

“Alright, let’s get to it then,” She said and we both went to gather supplies for our afternoon of upkeep.

Time went quickly with the two of us chatting and cleaning, the work quickly muted to the sound of good conversation and laughs. She was a nice girl and I found myself unable from growing slightly fond of her. We hadn’t gotten much time to talk one on one and I found her to be quite the pleasant person. As the sun crawled across the sky like a dying man in the desert, we finished up the last of the houses. I blinked sweat out of my eyes and let out a long sigh as I saw Carter trudging up the hill. He saw us and waved, meeting us in the middle of camp. His eyes were still bloodshot, but they looked much better than they had that morning.

“Save any lives?” Penny asked with a smirk, “Any hot moms rescued?” Carter threw his head back and laughed, “Fraid not. Nope, just a bunch of whiny kids and drunk dads. You guys finish cleaning?”

“Yeah,” I said, “All that’s left is to rake the grounds. I’m going to go change and head down for a dip. I mean, to keep an eye on everyone.” We all laughed and split ways. Carter and Penny going to retrieve the rakes and myself down to the lake.

The water was cold and wonderful. As the sun slowly dipped into a rainbow of colors, I spent the remainder of the day swimming and have casual conversation with the guests. I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to end the day.

The story that night was about Ken’s vision for the campsite. He told the guests about all the improvements he wanted to make and how he wanted to redo the cabins. He involved the visitors, asking for their feed back and accepting their comments graciously. Most of the people had nothing but good things to say, all of them thanking the four of us for being such wonderful hosts and how they couldn’t wait to come back the next year and see the place.

After the conversation dulled to a murmur and the moon rose high, everyone thanked us again and began to turn in for the night. After everyone was inside, Ken informed us that he was tired and he was going to turn in as well. We all wished him a goodnight and we went back to our cabin.

Feeling exhausted myself from the heat and days activities, I told Carter and Penny I was going to go to bed. They both agreed with me and we went to our rooms for the night.

“How’s your eyes?” I asked Carter, already in my bed with my eyes closed.

He turned off the light next to my bed and crawled under his sheets, “Still itch like crazy, but I don’t think they’re as pink as they were this morning. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be better.”

I muttered my agreement and felt the day disappear into slumber.

I awoke with my heart racing. I was bathed in a thick sheen of sweat and my throat was dry. Something wasn’t right. My breath rattled past my cracked lips into the dead air. I tried to sit up but I crashed back down into my bed. Something was restraining me. What the hell?

I wiggled around and found that my wrists and ankles were tied to the bed posts. Confused and terrified, I fought with them for a few vain seconds before finally giving up.

I raised my head to look over at Carters bed. He wasn’t in it.

“Carter?” I said aloud. “Carter where are you?”

Silence. And then, “Shhhhh.”

The noise came from his side of the room but I didn’t see him. Heart still pounding, I stretched my fingers out to try and flick the lamp on next to my bed. My fingertips brushed the switch and I pulled my hand back as the ropes binding me cut into my skin.

“Carter what the hell is going on? Where are you?” I said, my voice cracking in panic.

Silence. Then, again, “Shhhh.”

I didn’t know if he was playing some kind of joke on me and I didn’t wanna start screaming and wake all the guests if that was the case, so I stretched my hand out again, fighting the pain that was burning into my wrists from the rope. Just…a little bit…there!

I turned the lamp on and yellow light pushed the shadows back. At first I didn’t see Carter, but movement caught my eye.

He was laying under his bed, looking directly at me.

He was smiling and in horror, I saw that his eyes were nothing more than two bloody, pulpy, orbs, rubbed so raw that he had cut into them with his fingernails and torn them out.

“They won’t stop itching,” He said to me, still smiling. And then he was up. Like lightening, he scurried out from under the bed and was on top of me.

I struggled and was about to scream when he shoved a piece of cloth into my mouth, hard. I gagged as his fingers pushed the torn sheet deeper, his thighs holding my body still with an iron clasp.

“Just keep it down buddy,” He said, his breath dry and smelling of bile. His bloody mushed sockets stared down at me and I turned my face away, the gore making me light headed.

He sat up on me, “Is it gross? It is isn’t it. Here, let me do something about that.” He reached beside me and ripped apart the sheet I was sleeping under. He tied it around his eyes and the back of his head, the blood soaking through and appearing to give him two phantom red eyes.

“There,” He said calmly. “That’s better. I can see better like this anyway. I was hoping you wouldn’t wake up, but I decided I needed to tie you up in case you decided to go looking for me again.”

I whipped my head around and tried to buck him off me, terror and confusion slamming into me with every word he said. He held on and gripped my body tighter with his legs, pressing down on my chest with his hands.

“Stop that,” He said firmly, “You’re safe. I’m not going to hurt you. I just need you to stay here, ok?” He lightly slapped my cheek, “Stay.”

He was about to get off me when he paused, smiled to himself and leaned back towards me, whispering into my ear, “But there’s something you should know. Do you want to know what it is? You do don’t you?”

I bit down on the cloth in my mouth and nodded.

He licked his lips, “I’m going to go cut Penny’s fucking head off.”

My eyes widened and I screamed into my gag, thrashing wildly. He chuckled softly and held me still, waiting patiently till I wore myself out. Panting hard around the cloth, I looked up at him, his smile full of teeth, the glistening red outline of his mutilated eyes bleeding through the linen.

The well.

The thought crashed into my chaotic mind like a truck. It was the well.

He had…seen something down there. Somehow, it had changed him. Suddenly Carter raised his fists and brought them smashing down into my face, knocking me into darkness.

I awoke again, face swelling and painful. My vision swam. The room was dark again. I was still gagged and I could feel my breath becoming labored as my nose was clotting with blood. I was going to suffocate if I didn’t get this rag out of my mouth. Slowly, in a daze, I worked my tongue and teeth over it until I finally could spit it out. Gasping in deep grateful breaths, I struggled against the ropes that held me. After a few frustrating moments, I finally loosened them enough to get a hand free. A few more minutes of tearing and I was completely out of my bindings.

Penny.

Oh no, Penny.

I dashed to her room and kicked the door open. Empty.

I felt my heart bubble up into my throat and I stood there trembling, “Oh no, oh no, oh no, please please please.”

My eyes filled with tears and I crashed out of the cabin. Get Ken, get Ken, NOW. The night was thick, the air clawing at my skin with humidity. The moon stared down at me, uncaring and indifferent. The fire had gone out in the middle of the camp and as I about to charge Ken’s cabin down at the end of the lot, I heard something.

Screaming.

It was Penny.

I stood, frozen and immobile. It was coming from woods.

I knew where she had been taken.

Biting my lip, my face screwed up in mental agony, I looked at Ken’s cabin, and then bolted towards the woods.

Towards the well. She might have seconds to live, if she was still alive I needed to get to her and stop Carter. Please God, let her still be ok. Please please God.

I crashed down the path, bare feet scraping against stones and branches, my toes slamming into rock and wood. I didn’t care, I didn’t think about it. I flew as fast as my legs would take me, heart beating faster with every step.

There.

I reached the curve in the path and turned left into the woods. Crashing through the underbrush, I held my hands out in front of me, pushing aside the low hanging branches and leaves that reached towards my face. Panting, I broke into the clearing and froze.

Carter had Penny bent over the opening of the well. He was standing behind her with a fist gripping her hair, pulling her head back to expose her throat.

The muscles on his arms strained as he worked a knife into her pale flesh, slowly slicing into her, back and forth, back and forth, deeper and deeper. He paused and looked up, seeing me.

“Oh…hey.”

“Penny!” I screamed. In the moonlight, her eyes slowly rolled over to meet mine.

Agony.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Penny! Hang on!” I screamed, tears rolling down my face.

Carter ignored my outburst, taking the time to wipe sweat from his face and tightening the cloth around his eyes,

“You know this is a lot harder than you’d think.”

“Carter stop! It’s Penny! You’re killing her!” I screamed.

He stared at me silently, the blood stained sheet around his eyes looking black. Finally, he motioned at me with his bloody knife, one hand still gripping Penny’s hair, “Come stop me then.”

I swallowed and was about to charge him when I realized…I couldn’t. My knees had turned to water and all the strength in my body had drained. The forest seemed to press in on me. My breath came out in little gasps and I was terrified. I felt my bladder release and warmth spread down my legs.

The well.

The fucking well.

I couldn’t even look at it. I was filled with such nightmares that I wanted nothing more than to turn and run. Get out of here, get out of these mountains, and get as far away from that fucking well as I could.

Carter was smiling, “You can’t can you. You’re terrified.” He tapped the top of the well with his knife, “Come on. Come over here. Look down there,” His smile grew, “Look down in the well.”

“Please,” I mumbled, vision blurring with tears and snot bubbling out of my nose, “Please stop this.”

Carter shook his head slowly, “No. In fact, I think It’s time to finish this.”

He raised his knife again and brought it back to Penny’s throat. She was slumped over now, but just as he was about to resume cutting, her eyes met mine and she muttered a single word.

“Run.”

Hearing her speak, I ripped myself from my terror. Face streaking with tears and mucus, I charged Carter.

Every step towards him, my body seemed to increase in weight, pulling me to the earth. I grit my teeth and steeled my adrenaline, crashing into Carter just as he was turning towards me, mouth agape in surprise.

He slammed into the side of the well, hard, knocking the knife out of his hands. We both went down and I hit my head against the stone, stunning me. The world spun and I heard him growling, already beginning to stand.

“You don’t know what you’re doing, you fucking idiot,” He snarled, grabbing me by the hair and slamming my face into the ground. I bit my tongue and howled in pain, feeling blood fill my mouth.

Dizzy, I rolled onto my back and stared up at him.

He stepped on my chest and leaned down, his voice raw, “You can’t stop this.”

He quickly jumped back and grabbed Penny, pulling her up and across his shoulders. He hoisted them both up onto the lip of the well and silently, they tumbled down into the darkness. They were gone.

“NO!” I screamed, my voice splintering. I scrambled up, sobbing, pleading, and gripped the sides of the well.

I looked down into the blackness.

I looked down into the well.

My eyes went wide and the world stopped.

“Oh no,” I whispered. TC mark

Read the whole story of Tommy Taffy. THE THIRD PARENT by Elias Witherow is now available! here.

Elias Witherow

Elias is a prolific author of horror fiction. His books include The Third Parent, The Black Farm, Return to the Black Farm,and The Worst Kind of Monsters.

“Growing up reading the works of King, admiring the art of Geiger, and knowing fiends like Pinhead left me as a pretty jaded horror fan today. It takes a lot to get the breath to hitch in my throat and the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end.. My fiance is quite similar, so when he eagerly begged me to let him read me a short story about The Black Farm by Elias Witherow, I knew it had to be good... And I was not dissapointed. Elias has a way of painting a picture that you can feel with all your senses and plays the tunes of terror created when our world meets one much more dark and forces you to keep turning the pages hungry for more.” —C. Houser

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