“This place is so beautiful,” Lucy said.
“Of course, you say that every time, the same exact sentence. Every Time,” Leon exaggerated the words every time, but it was true. She's said that every year we've come to the cabin.
“One day you’ll miss hearing me say that!” Lucy huffed.
“That’s true, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to make fun of you for it,” Mina teased.
“You seem lost in thought, River. What are you thinking about? Are you mesmerized by my beauty?” Mei joked.
“Er, no. Sorry?” I answered.
“No, he’s thinking about having to carry all our bags up to the rooms because we’re all too lazy,” Ember chuckled.
“I’m not doing that again. You have more shoes packed than the girls, like, why? I don’t understand the need for all the shoes, not to mention they’re all the same kind but different colors!” I debated.
“Hey! They’re different! Some are more worn out than others!” Ember fired back.
“Sure,” I would've kept going if he wasn’t right about all the bags I have to carry up two flights of stairs. And without any help, “So none of you guys are going to help me carry these?” I pointed to the trunk full of bags.
“Do you want the help or need the help?” Lucy asked.
“Both. It will go faster with more than one person and I don’t want to be here all night. Please?” I pleaded.
“I can help, I don’t feel like making food, too tired from driving,” Mei said.
“Isn’t it going to be more tiring to carry all that up?” Mina asked.
“You know how I get when I bake, everything needs to be precise. With this I can just throw them on the beds and we’re good,” Mei giggled a little bit because she knew that no one wanted their bags thrown. Especially not Ember. He’s very particular about his shoes.
“Yeah, I’m so tired,” I fake yawned, going with it, “I’m just gonna chuck your bags up from the first flight and then take a nap.”
“I’ll carry my stuff up,” Lucy said.
“Same,” Ember agreed.
“If it helps I’ll grab mine,” Leon said, not buying the fact that me or Mei would be reckless with his stuff.
“You sure?” Mei persisted.
“Certain,” Lucy insisted.
“The weather is great isn’t it?” Ember said as he grabbed his bag, “There’s something about the weather in these woods. The beautiful taiga in Canada. The weather is always the same, but that’s what makes it calming.”
“Well, it’s not always the same. Last week it poured. But we always choose the week that seems the best to come down,” Mina said, “Also, I’ll start the food. Would you mind taking up my bag?”
“Got it,” Leon grabbed her bag and started heading inside.
I met Mei in first grade, then she skipped a grade. I met the rest of the group during middle school, about seventh grade. I asked my family if I could bring them here one year, and we’ve been coming ever since. Most of the time it’s just us, though. We have a routine when we get here. We’ve come here for five years every summer for a week. Once we’re here someone brings up the bags, usually me, while the others start dinner. We drive from Detroit so it’s about a three to four hour drive. We get here around five, and then stop for groceries before we get here because the cabin we stay at is vacant until we come here. The town is about a thirty minute drive from our cabin. Our neighbors are also spread apart from us, about an eight to ten minute walk. It’s a very secluded area, but it’s beautiful. We usually don’t unpack until after dinner, then the next day we get more groceries for the week. Then we just hang out. We have a bunch of board games here, we have cable T.V. and other streaming services.
“So what were you really thinking about?” Mei asked me, as I realized that everyone had gone inside with their stuff except me and her.
“What?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“Earlier, you spaced out. Leon asked what you were thinking but you never answered him."
“I don’t know, something feels weird. I’m sure Ember realized it, and probably you, too, but it’s not actually calm. It’s strange, I feel like something bad is going to happen. I get to relax with you guys for a whole week before having to really care about anything, but I feel like I’m not going to be able to relax,” I didn’t realize we had gotten to the door of the cabin, she opened it and we headed in.
“What makes you say Ember can tell? He literally said that it was calming being here.”
“He never talks about weather, it’s either talking about sports or bragging about something. Not the weather. Last year, and in past years, he’d say something like ‘It’s so great being here with all my friends and being able to destroy them in battleship’ and then Lucy would call him out on cheating. But he didn’t brag. Not even on the way here.”
“Yeah, we can ask everyone during dinner what they think,” Mei suggested.
“Why so secretive? Talking about some mysterious treasure you want to keep to yourselves?” Mina asked, coming up behind us.
“Where did you even come from?” I asked.
“The window, Leon bumped into me while I was taking a sip of water and I dropped my glasses. He apologized to me then walked into the wall. I have no clue where his glasses are,” She answered.
“So, what you’re saying is you jumped out of the window instead of using the door and walking to the other side of the porch?” Mei asked.
“It was less walking, I’m short anyway so squeezing in and out of the window wasn’t hard. I think Ember stole Leon's glasses while he slept on the car ride here,” Mina laughed.
“How’d you know?” Ember yelled to us from the top of the stairs, holding out what were most likely Leon’s glasses.
“Ember! Give Leon his glasses back!” Mei yelled as Leon came from the kitchen and started yelling at Ember before I had to yell at them to calm down.
“Fine!” Ember gave Leon his glasses back without much of a fight, but he knew it was easier that way.
“Thanks. Don’t know why you decided to take them in the first place,” Leon cleaned his glasses before putting them on, “I’m going to have to tape these to my head soon.”
“Why don’t we make our beds, eat, and relax outside a little bit?” I suggested.
“Dibs on the big comfy chair!” Lucy called.
“Hey, no fair! You get it every time!” Mina yelled at her.
“Hmm, do you think it’s big enough to share?” Lucy asked.
“I mean, sure. Just don’t break it. If you break it you replace it,” I answered before heading up to my room. The cabin was pretty big, bigger than your normal cabin. There are a lot of hiding places, I found one when we played hide and seek years ago, and no one found me. They were calling all over but couldn’t find me. I had to slip out of the hiding spot and move behind a curtain, so they would find me. No one else knew the hiding spot or any of the other hiding spots I won with. There are a lot.
“Boo!” Leon whispered in my ear, as I realized I hadn’t moved since getting to my room.
“Hi to you, too, Leon,” I didn’t need to turn around to know whose tactics were to attempt to sneak up on someone.
“I swear I’ve never scared you before. Has anyone else?” He asked, I had to think for a while before answering.
“I think one time, it was Halloween and Mei pretended to fall, and since it was dark, I didn’t see her splatter fake blood on her. Then she pretended to be hurt. I don’t think I gave her the reaction she was hoping for, though,” I started to make my bed, but he continued to question me.
“What was your reaction?”
“I was really calm and asked what was wrong, blah blah blah, then I went to get help because I saw an adult nearby, and she stood up and called me boring. I was salty for a while but then just didn’t care. She couldn’t tell how scared I was on the inside, though. Internally screaming.” I admitted.
“Was there ever a time someone actually got hurt?” If anyone else had been asking me all these questions I’d be concerned, but it was just Leon, he always asked questions.
“One time, forget who, but someone dumped Mika. She was crying all night. I was acting as one of her best friends because she refused to tell anyone. She thought she seemed weak, so I grabbed a new container of ice cream. Like one of the giant ones in the plastic containers. I was going to have family over the next day, specifically the little cousins, so Sundays were on the dessert list. We ended up passing out at seven in the morning with the whole container gone.”
“What did you do about the guy?” Leon grabbed my pillows and fluffed them up while I continued. Normally I didn’t like talking about myself, but neither did Leon, so I continued. “Oh, yeah. I ended up running into the guy the next week and just told him he was an idiot before going shopping with Mika. I didn’t want to hurt him, no need to. In the end, he’s the one who messed up. Plus, Mika has a great boyfriend now who’s cool,” I sighed, then turned to Leon, “How do you always have so many questions?”
“I just do,” He thought for a second, “I’m magical!”
“Yeah, sure. I’m not a genius, but I know you’re not magical,” Ember said, coming into the room. “Dinner is ready. I was forced to find you guys. Now I have to share my food.”
“Okay, thanks,” Leon stood up, and we headed to the dining room.
After a little while of eating, I decided to ask the question, “Does it also feel strange?”
Lucy seemed confused, “Does what feel strange?”
“Ember, you talked about the weather today. The weather of all things. Something’s wrong. Do you guys also feel like it’s not calming? Like something isn’t right? I’m not going insane, Mei confirmed that,” I looked at Mei and she nodded.
“Maybe you and Mei are both going insane?” Mina suggested.
“No, I get what he’s saying. It’s not like Ember to talk about the weather. It does feel kind of off. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s just,” Leon took a second to find the right wording, “uncomfortable.”
“Yeah, I don’t like the feeling, I was hoping I was car sick or something and it’d pass. Guess not. Maybe I spread it?” Ember commented.
“Should we sleep on it? I don’t want to cause any unnecessary worries,” I said.
“Maybe, I also don’t want anything to happen. How about we be cautious and go the night, if anything happens we leave first thing in the morning?” Lucy ran the idea by us. We agreed.
After eating, we sat outside together, Lucy and Mina making fun of Ember for talking about the weather of all things, Mei questioning what was going through Ember’s head when he decided the weather was the best topic of choice. Leon and I were talking about what we could do tomorrow if we stayed. The tall trees surrounding us, the beautiful moon giving us light. You could see millions of stars in the night sky. Pitch black but also bright. The smell of bonfire coming from our neighbors' houses. We don’t make bonfires unless we are going to stay up late, and everyone was too tired and uncomfortable for that. It was nice to relax and look at the beauty of this place. It would’ve been relaxing for the rest of the night, but then Leon started shaking while he talked. Then he took a sharp breath and stopped talking. I was the only one that seemed to notice, though.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Um, yeah. Can we go inside?” he seemed scared, so I agreed.
“We’re going to make hot chocolate, you guys want any?” I looked to everyone else, and they said yes. Leon didn’t relax until we closed the door behind us, but he still seemed on edge and continuously looked back at our friends.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, also staring at our friends.
“Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think I saw something out there. It was like a dim light, and it gave off a huge shadow to this, I don’t even know what it was, but it was weird. It moved, I followed it through the trees till it stopped moving. Then, I don’t know how I could tell, but it looked at me directly in the eyes. I couldn’t breathe. I’m scared. Its eyes were beady. I could tell from however far away it was, and they were blank. No expression. I didn’t see the rest of the face. It blended in with the darkness. I’m hoping I was seeing things. I don’t know,” he sighed, as he grabbed the mug with a picture of Bob Ross on it. We made hot chocolate for everyone else before calling them in.
“Is everything okay?” Mei asked as she closed the door behind her.
“I think I saw something in the woods, and I just want us all to be safe. I don’t know, though. I could just be on edge and seeing things,” Leon informed.
“Oh, okay. Do we want to lock the doors?” Mina asked.
“Two people should go lock everything, if one person goes alone they’ll die, in every horror story, the first person to go off alone dies,” Ember stated.
“We’re not in a horror story,” Mina thought for a second, “If we were, Lucy would be killed off first.”
“If there’s a monster they’ll go for the easiest target, which would be the one who gets attacked by raccoons for trying to pet them. You know I’m right,” Ember teased.
“Okay, then someone come with me to lock everything up!” She took a big sip of hot chocolate, then took a huge bite of the whipped cream. I didn’t think that was possible.
“We’d have to have someone go with you in the first place, considering you don’t know how to lock the windows. You’re also too short to reach the windows,” I reminded her.
“It’s not my fault I’m five one and three quarters! I could beat you up if I wanted to!” She stood on her toes and tried to compare herself to Ember, who was six foot.
“Yeah, okay. Let’s go lock the windows,” Ember set his hot chocolate down before walking away, Lucy followed but ran to keep up.
“If there’s some sort of monster out there, can we, like, I don’t know, capture it?” Mina asked.
“No, why would we capture it?” I added, “Don’t answer, I don’t want to know.”
“What if it’s cute?” she protested.
“What if it only eats human meat?” Mei offered.
“Then it will learn to eat what we feed it, or starve!” Mina took a giant gulp of hot chocolate.
“Did you just burn your mouth? I know for a fact that hot chocolate isn’t cool yet,” I saw a small tear come from her left eye, but it didn’t fall. I couldn’t help but laugh at her face of satisfaction and discomfort.
“Yeah,” she squeaked.
“What if it shoots lava or fire from its mouth?” Mei and Mina continued to go back and forth while Leon and I enjoyed the entertainment and sipped our hot chocolate.
“Let’s not keep anything dangerous in the house,” Lucy said.
“Thank you!” Mei smiled.
“Fine,” Mina accepted defeat as Lucy locked the back door and then sat down.
“So, should we leave tomorrow?” Ember asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe we see if anything happens through the night and go from there?” Mina seemed hesitant.
“You were just talking about wanting to keep a monster, now you’re scared?” Mei questioned, “Nothing is going to happen, no one will get hurt. And there is a 99 percent chance that there isn’t a monster in those woods.”
“Yeah, you’re right!” Mina’s mood lifted in an instance.
“Should we go to bed now or play a quick game of Monopoly?” Leon asked.
“No game of Monopoly is quick,” Ember reminded him.
“I know. I’ll go grab the box from the cabinet,” Leon got up, he headed to the cabinet next to the fireplace in front of us and grabbed the box.
We played Monopoly for a good hour. Mina passed out after going bankrupt by my hotels, Ember became commentary after he got caught cheating and was disqualified. He always cheated with board games. Mei got a hotel on the board before running into my hotels. Lucy bankrupted Leon before I ran into her hotels. Once I lost, she passed out on the couch on top of Mei. Leon passed out after getting bankrupt, too. Everyone was asleep except me and Ember. I start putting away the game and looked out to the beautiful sky, the clouds were heavier than before, almost covering the moon completely.
“It is beautiful out here, though. I wasn’t wrong when I said that, it was just a little out of the ordinary for me,” Ember said, looking at the moon like I did.
“Yeah, that’s true. I hope we can still have a good time even though everyone is on edge. It seems like we forgot about it while playing Monopoly. That’s good, I guess,” I looked at the moon one more time before putting the box away in the cabinet. It seemed to be drizzling out now, “Might be safer to have us all grouped together in case something does happen.”
“Okay,” He said as we both headed to the closet with all the blankets in it and wrapped blankets around everyone.
We made sure everyone had blankets on and then went to bed. I slept on the end of the sofa that was vacant because no one could reach the board from here. Lucy was still fast asleep on Mei, but she slid down the pillow they were leaning against, so they weren’t completely hitting heads anymore. Ember chose the recliner he was sitting in the whole game, Mina was spread out on the bend of the couch while Leon was between her and Mei.
To Be Concluded in Part 2