3. The Haunted Woods (I)


Beck, Ava, and Anna were seated in the living room as the rain poured heavily once more. Anna and Ava were still seated at their position while Beck was seated on a wooden chair across Ava and beside Anna. They had been getting to know each other in the last hour or twain while eating dinner prepared by Beck.

Anna was a thirteen-year-old still in middle school. Her school had just gone on spring break which was why she was on the road with her sister. They were going to spend the holiday at Charlotte. They always went there every summer. Being there at spring would be the first.

Ava was a twenty-six-year-old nurse. Because their parents were no more, she was Anna’s guardian as well as her brother’s. She provided their needs and did everything she could within her power to ensure Anna wasn’t taken away from her by the government of North Carolina.

Beck, well according to what he told them, was a twenty-seven-year-old man, who couldn’t go to college because he had no one to help him out with the fees and related stuff. What he’d been doing for the past years was temp jobs in Strangeville, a small town about a mile away from the cabin, helping the people there out as they paid him for his services.

That was the usual introduction of himself he gave to those who came across him. He always said so because if they never succeeded in the ritual to break his curse they’d never have the privilege to know the truth about him. The truth wasn’t a pleasant one, and hopefully the victims, if successful would hate him too much to want to know why whatever happened to them happened. They’d simply leave in their anger, back to their normal lives.

In the case of these two sisters, he considered doing differently: despite that Anna’s presence was not unnoticed, Beck felt as though he were on a date with Ava, trying to get to know her. Yes, he had concurred with himself before getting in the shower not to change anything about himself because of her, nonetheless seeing Ava once more led to him daydream certain erotic things about her.

It wasn’t like he had completely lied: he was truthful about his age and what he did for Strangeville. The rest and what he knew he’d still have to tell them were the deceit he wasn’t delighted in telling.

When Beck mentioned that they were still in North Carolina, as Ava had asked because she’d never heard of Strangeville on the way to Charlotte through Raleigh, she breathed out a sigh of relief. She said she thought that they had gone outside their home state as the G.P.S. in her car had stopped working once they’d left Knightdale.

She and Anna also thought it curious that a town would be called Strangeville. He explained to them that it was because of the unusual things that went on in and around there.

It was probably the talk about strange happenings that made Ava say to him, “You said something earlier about this place being dangerous.”

“Yes,” confirmed Anna. “What did you mean by that?”

He looked at the table. The moment had finally for him to explain to them why they were not safe where Ava’s car stopped. At least out of everything he’d said the most truth he’d spoken was the danger they were in.

“These particular woods,” he said, his eyes still on the table for dramatic effect, “we’re in is haunted.”

“Haunted?” Anna said.

He nodded, glancing at her. “Strange things happen, which makes people get lost here.”

“What exactly happens?” Ava said.

He looked at her. “There’s a ghost which hunts the souls of human beings. Hardly anyone from the town comes in here. They know they’d end up dead if they did.

“In your case”—he pointed at both of them—“the ghost lured you here. That was why you missed the route and your car stopped where it did. Assuming you stayed there, waiting and hoping someone would find you after the rain stopped, I doubt by now you girls would still be alive. Latest by dawn, you’d be no more.

“What would have been worse is if you came into these woods. The ghost could easily sense you and not hesitate to locate you. But, I think if you entered the woods on the other side of the road, it would have been wild animals which would end your life and not the ghost.”

“That sounds cool,” Anna commented.

Beck scoffed within himself. It wasn’t the first time he heard a victim comment something like that about the story. Many of them never believed ghosts existed. But that never prevented him from thinking, For goodness sake, what is so cool about innocent people losing their lives to a hungry dead soul? Even if the story really happened it shouldn’t be one to joke with. There really were things beyond our physical world that interfered with it whenever it so pleased them.

“Is that a real story,” Ava said, shifting his attention from the redhead to her, “’cause I don’t believe ghosts exist? They’re just human fantasies.”

“It’s how my parents died,” he continued his tale. “When they told me, I too didn’t believe them until I found their corpses close to where your car is. The following morning, I lost my wife in the same manner. In her case, I witnessed it.”

“That’s so sad, Beck,” said the thirteen year old.

He shifted his gaze back to Anna. Now, her light pink lips were pouted at him.

“And now,” she added, “you’re all alone.”

He looked back at Ava when she said, “Haven’t you thought about leaving this place so you wouldn’t face the same fate?

“Trust me when I say I have. But if I do, people like you girls wouldn’t have someone warn them.”

“So assuming you grew old and died, what’s going to happen to people like me and Anna?”

He bowed his head, knowing she had caught him there: no one had ever had him that. That was his cue to improvise with something meaningful though he knew he’d never grow old until the curse was broken. “I really don’t know,” he said slowly as he calculated his next words. He looked at her again. “I’ve thought about that too, but what can I do about it?”

“You could pass the information on to your children,” Anna said.

He shook his head. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I don’t think I’m going to be having any kids, whether sooner or later, as I don’t have a wife or girlfriend even.” He raised his hands, motioning to the building. “What woman would want to be out here in the middle of nowhere?”

“Well,” Ava said, “I’m sure you can easily get a wife from Strangeville and you both could have kids.”

As much as that sounded wise in his ears, he knew he’d never take a woman from that town ever again. There was no way he’d associate with anyone from a town full of freaks.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds, Ava,” he said. “The people in that town know the story of these woods; they wouldn’t want to give up their daughters.”

“Then, I think it’s best if you leave here, Beck, for your own safety.”

He knew she was right. But, there was no way he could leave. He was destined to be stuck here until the curse was broken. It practically had a bound on anyone leaving there; people could only go in—not out—and that was only when there was rainfall, which fell about twice a year Strangeville. If he could leave, he’d have done so half a century ago.

“How did the ghost start haunting the woods?” Anna asked, bringing him out of his train of thoughts. “Did your parents tell you that?”

“They did.”

“What did they say?” inquired the sisters.

“They said that someone was killed in these woods many years ago. The person didn’t deserve to die so his soul wanders in this forest in order for him to revenge. I’m not particularly sure if it’s true but it’s what they told me.”

“So it means the ghost is stuck here until it can find a way out,” Ava said.

He shrugged. “Do you know if the ghost would ever stop haunting?” said Anna.

He shook his head, much to their disappointment. In the real story, he knew that people who in their hearts had love so true were the ones that had to give themselves willingly for ‘the ghost to stop haunting’. That was how Sara, Strangeville’s most powerful witch and the one who’d been helping him, described it when stating the necessities to break the curse.

A loud yawn brought him out of his deep thoughts. He glanced at Anna to see her mouth wide open and her hands stretched out. She brought them down before smacking her lips. “Ava, I want to go to bed.”

Like a chain reaction, Ava and Beck yawned too, causing Beck to laugh and the girls giggle after. He stood, telling them to follow him. He took the flashlight he’d use when bringing them to the cabin, guiding them out of the sitting room to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms, the girls trailing behind him.

Once in the corridor on the floor up the stairs he gestured to a door. “You girls can sleep here. Unless you don’t want to sleep together, the other can stay here.” He gestured to the door opposite. “The candles in the rooms are lighted already. You can put them off if you don’t want them.”

“Thanks, Beck,” they said together.

He smiled. “It’s my pleasure.” He moved ahead. “I’ll be going to bed too. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” they replied.

He went down the corridor, leaving them to figure out how they’d sleep for themselves. He heard them greet each other goodnight before the creaking of a door—or doors as it sounded like that.

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