Do Not Let Them See You !
Stop. Stop everything you’re doing. It’s been a long time since I ever cared or necessitated the attention of other people, but it may be the last.
Do you hear it?
I’ve been looking all day but I can’t figure out a cure for it, or what it is. It’s a noise, to put it simply, a scratching. It’s an unending scratching in the back of my mind that I can’t wash out or erase and well, its deafening, really. It’s deafening, and it’s what I need help with.
Are you alone?
Good, good… I’m alone too.
Let me take a breathe.
I have been in fact, alone, for most of my life. When I was nine, my father died of throat cancer. When I was twenty-five, my mother died in a car accident. To be honest, it destroyed me, but it’s impossible to ignore the simple fact that death brings with it a certain freedom…. a lusting, an ache… that itch that every human has to escape the freedom of judgement and the noise over your head, and run. Run forever with your tail tucked between your legs, or just long enough until there’s no one there to pull it.
In other words, after my mom’s funeral, I got in my truck and drove off.
Where? It definitely didn’t matter to me. I lived on the East Coast of the US, and at the time, there seemed to be no other escape than the great wooded wilderness of Maine. I’d read about it in all the books as a kid; driving back and forth between play dates and sports my mother had set up to socialize me. If The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon managed to get lost in the woods without even trying, I bet I could too. I remember wondering back then, even as a kid, why she ever bothered to leave at all. If it was really so massive and empty out there, life could be one big adventure. A hot air balloon drifting above a sea of hate and disgust; maybe dropping in occasionally to touch it, but never getting to close to grasp.
Four years of a soul sucking job at one of America’s biggest and best after college had afforded me quite a chunk of money I never really bothered to spend, a good percentage of about half of which was sitting in the shoebox in the passenger seat. So I quit my job, left, and hit the road.
On the way up, I felt like a conquistador. Vanishing into thin air almost literally, with only a text to the couple friends I’d managed not to alienate over the years. The road was mine, and I owed it to no one. I remember laughing and crying all at the same time like I was crazy, with my windows open and the cool rain splashing into my face. I was baptized in my own personal freedom, after living in a cage of inescapable sickness and sadness for so long, and that drive cleansed me.
I drove for days. I didn’t settle on Maine right away, I wanted to see the world and sleep in the back of my truck under the stars. Not as romantic as it sounds, of course. It poured in Boston the night I was there, then the storm followed me up to New Hampshire. My night under the stars ended with me sleeping in the driver seat’s pushback position under a questionable Vacancy sign, clutching a 7-11 pretzel and listening to the radio crackling out a half audible version of CCR’s Have You Ever Seen The Rain. After my second night on the road, my impatience got the better of me, and I quickly settled on my permanent destination. I remember that when I crossed the border into Maine, it felt like the storm had finally, truly, caught up to me. The skies opened up with buckets of it, sweeping into the streets and overflowing the sewers. Thank God for All Wheel Drive.
When I got into the towns, I looked around for Real Estate magazines. They were usually stuffed into the outdated newsstands outside grocery stores, and I tore through nearly all of the ones nearby, hunting for the local For Sale pages and hoping to find a cabin to my liking. Most were too close to the highway, or people in general. A lot were outdated, or numbers that led to an answering machine. By the end of the day, I was facing the decision of sleeping in the car push back again or continuing to look through the night. I settled for the latter.
It wasn’t until 4 or 5 in the morning until I finally found what I was looking for. I drove down the highway, dead-eyed and cranking the Classic Rock station that was again going out of range when I saw a giant, lit up sign on the highway that seemed to leap up at me from behind a hill.
LAKEFRONT PROPERTY FOR SALE!, it read.
I snapped awake and slowed down to a near stop, craning my neck to look back and relieved to see no one behind me before I parked
Admittedly, the sign was a little creepy. There was a man in a used-car salesman type outfit, with a clip on tie and a too-tight shirt, emerged from the backdrop of a see-through lake, urging you to ‘Come On Down’ (with a toothy grin) to Big E’s Wooded Homes, with an on-off lit arrow pointing to make a right turn. I remember laughing to myself hysterically at the time, as Don’t Fear the Reaper was the current song cackling through my radio. The Stand immediately came to mind, and in my own naïve way, it seemed like fate. So I turned, and followed the sign down a dirt road that seemingly led to the middle of nowhere.
I followed that road for what must have been three hours, and the further I got from the highway, the more my excitement grew as I felt myself completely relax. At a certain point, society has a literal and figurative way of collapsing behind you in the woods. You can’t even see it – the tree coverage and distance hides any trace of the buildings, your job, the pollution, and general shit that awaits behind it.
There were road signs along the way, of course, though it seemed pointless as there were no turns. Each sign was the same as the billboard… only, the original billboard had more specific information regarding the pricing, availability, and phone number, which I ignored when I pulled in. These road signs were smaller, and not lit. Each of them had only had the same man greeting you with outstretched arms, urging you to Come on Down!.
The road signs gave me my only slight feeling of apprehension. Maybe I was crazy, or maybe it was the road, but it felt like his smile got wider with each road sign. I chalked it up to the haze of the dawn, and drove onwards in blissful ignorance, whipping into turns in my truck like I was a rebel on the run.
When I finally happened on the first cabin, it was almost by accident. It was around 9 am, and I had just hung a turn and kicked up a mess of dirt, blasting my suddenly and questionably clear radio when I hit a patch of concrete and almost flipped. Embarrassed, I turned off the engine immediately and hopped out of my truck, foolishly trying to wave away the dirt wave like some sort of magician.
At that moment, a beautiful woman stepped out from her cabin and I fell over in my panic.
“You know we had stuff planted there?” She hollered.
I stood up quickly like an idiot, hollering back “What?” as I realized Don’t Fear The Reaper was still blaring out of my car radio and I hurried to cut the keys.
“Never mind…” She muttered. “Nobody’s called about cabin visitation today, and you’re not an owner… You must be a walk-in.” She smiled nervously.
I steadied myself, relaxed, and explained my situation with the brutal honesty that had raised me.
She nodded, giving me a slight smile, and even nervously laughing at parts. When I was finished talking, she offered to show me the cabin, which was about an hour’s drive further into the woods, almost directly on the lake.
I loved it. Within two hours, I found myself agreeing to homeowner policies, signing deeds, and buying a cabin.
To my surprise and luck, Emily had explained that there would be a large discount if I paid in cash, and she would allow me to move in today. The cabin
“One more question”, I asked, at the end of a very long day, unable to shake the face of the smiling man from the road signs. “Where’s Big E?”
Her expression changed in a heartbeat, and I mean, immediately. Shamelessly, her beauty was probably what swung such a quick sale, and it’s terrible to say, but even in the moment… I couldn’t help but notice that she was cute when she was sad.
“I’m Big E now. Emily, that is, or Emy. I probably should have said that,” she looked down, sweeping her long brown hair sweeping over her eye.
I quickly apologized, and she explained her father was the original Big E and the ones in the signs, and he had built and owned most of the cabins in the area. About a year ago, he died a year ago in a hunting accident nearby. Somehow, I knew there was more to that story, but I held myself back and didn’t ask what. Quickly, she changed the subject to the purchase and explained that the local satellite company would be out the next day for installation. They were hot for sales, she laughed (again nervously), as there wasn’t a lot of activity around the area anymore. I happily agreed to their fee, and signed on. Call me a hypocrite, but while I hated society, I still wanted to observe it from my bubble. I wasn’t Henry David Thoreau.
After all the paperwork was complete, I shook her hand, bid her a safe trip home, and spent the first night alone in my cabin. It was uneventful, which was everything I wanted it to be. I slept through, for hours, in my makeshift jacket-bed on the floor. I dreamed of everything the space around me could become. My shrine, my cut above the world and behind it. I would be the pinnacle of self-sufficiency and rely on no one for my needs; physical or emotional.
The next morning, I drove the six hours to the nearest general supply store and spent the day buying everything I could possibly fit to furnish my new cabin. A bed, a dresser, food, water, you name it. There was a lake nearby, so I grabbed some fishing equipment and tools to make traps and grills. Everything that could possibly fit into the bed of that truck, the back seat, or the passenger seat was jammed tight.
As I was packing the last of it in, I looked up to the sky and saw the colors begin to turn. More rain. I dreaded driving down the dirt road in the night and rain, with only the guidance of the ominously leering Big E for company, so I hauled ass.
Luckily, as always, there wasn’t exactly any traffic.
After two hours of wondering whether Big E’s smile really did get bigger with each sign (it had to, it was near end to end by the last), I slowed down once I reached Emily’s cabin, hoping to see if she was around to ask. She wasn’t, but what I found was even stranger.
Every door, every window, ever crevice had a single, plain wooden board placed over and nailed shut. Every bit of sunlight that could possibly enter Emily’s cabin was completely boarded. In fact, the only sign of life was a single white piece of printer paper, nailed to what appeared to be the front door, under a roof and shielded from the rain. I gulped, looking around me in the dusk and rain for signs of a prank, cut the keys to my car, and stepped out.
I never minded the rain. A little water never hurt anybody, but I had never seen a storm of this density. I walked, then ran, realizing that the storm was picking up as I hurdled towards her covered doorway. I banged on it angrily several times, listening for footsteps as I waited. After a couple minutes, no one answered. Nearly forgetting, I glanced at the printer paper and small black font beside me.
.uoy ees meht tel ton oD. gninokceR fo yaD
Unable to understand the small type, I ripped the paper off the door and stuffed it into my jacket before running back into the rain. As I was driving down my road and away from Emily’s cabin, I thought I noticed a crack in the wooden planks.
By 8 or 9, I was home, and I had a lot of work to do. The satellite guys must have been by earlier, because they had let themselves in and set up everything for me already. After taking a look, I sat out by the lake after the storm ended, pulled out a joint, and then got to it. In an hour, the bed and dressers were all set up. In two, my computer and TV were functioning. By the end of the night, the TV was blaring, my fridge was stocked, and my bubble was fully automated and complete. I felt perfectly at ease for the first time I could remember.
It was around this point that I remember lying down on my new bed, somewhere around 3 am… staring at the TV mindlessly as the analysts on MSNBC argued away and… thinking how happy I was to free from their problems.
That was when I first heard the scratching.
It was quiet, at first, I thought maybe I had a rodent problem already. It came from the bottom of the cabin, on the far opposite wall from me and the TV, and it sounded like a tiny little nail digging into the woodwork. I walked over to it and kicked the wall once, hoping to scare off and deter any possibly curious raccoons. The scratching stopped, then, and I was satisfied. I went back to watching TV.
Ten minutes later, it happened a second time. And a third time. And a fourth. Each time I kicked the wall, the scratching would stop… but then get louder, as if more confident.
After six or seven kicks, I had given up on hitting the wall for the night. After I let it be for a while, the scratching took on a more melodic tone. Almost relaxing; the buzz of the TV mostly drowned it out, but it still sat there, somewhere in the back of my peripherals, reassuring me; guiding me to sleep.
That was the moment where I started to truly unravel.
It said my name. I know it did. I know this wasn’t the TV, or the music, or my slightly stoned and half asleep stupor. In that moment, sometime around 3:30 in the morning last night, that fucking THING called my name.
I freaked out, jumping up immediately and running to the other side of my cabin that was the source of the noise. I grabbed my baseball bat and slammed it against the wall, screaming “WHO ARE YOU” over and over again before I nearly cracked the foundation. After a sob and exasperated breathe, I slumped and fell down to my knees. That’s when I heard it again.
Now, I’m going to describe this as rationally as I can without being taken for insane, but there, standing at the window; was the dirtied, dead face of a creature that… cannot be my mother… plastered up against the glass with her nails absently scratching.
I don’t know what really happened next. I screamed, that’s for sure. I think once it realized I saw it, it bolted backwards freakishly towards the tree line, still looking towards me as I ran towards the window to see it. Its face was looking towards me, and its body was running forwards. Freakishly, It continued to scream my name the entire way, only… the way my mother used to when I was in trouble as a child.
Matthewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!! Matthewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!! Matthewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!! Matthewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!! Matthewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!! Matthewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!
I screamed back, unable to control myself as I huddled under the window, looking desperately for cardboard or something to cover it. I found it, luckily, in all the boxes I had brought home earlier that day. The rest of the night and early this morning, I carefully covered each and every window with cardboard. I didn’t hear the scratching the rest of last night, but I obviously didn’t sleep until sometime after daybreak. It’s now the afternoon, and honestly
Reddit, I don’t know what the fuck to do next.
It’s going to get dark soon.