INKTOBER 2019: Day 13. Ash

The Abandoned Cabin on Lost Girl Island

They say the cabin was built by a French fur trader, who lived there with his Ojibwe wife. Sometimes the story is that he killed her–sometimes, that she killed him. Sometimes they are tragic lovers who burn to death together. But some people believe that no one ever really lived there at all—that the cabin was always empty, the work of some Native American trickster spirit, or maybe even the Devil himself.

The only thing everyone agrees on, assuming they don’t just dismiss the whole thing as a myth, is that there is something unmistakably supernatural about the burnt-out cabin on Lost Girl Island.

For one thing, no one has ever been able to pinpoint exactly where it is. It’s deep in the woods, far off any trails, out of sight of the resort cabins and lake houses. The island has been surveyed more than once, as have all the islands in Burntside Lake, and no surveyor has ever found it. Nor has any happy summer camper ever stumbled upon it by accident. It only seems to appear at just the moment when a seeker has begun to believe it’s nothing but a story the locals whisper about and they’re on the cusp of giving up–or when the wanderer who has never even heard of the cabin gets so lost in the woods that they begin to doubt if they’ll ever find their way out again.

Many have searched for it—but only the hopeless ever find it.

It’s small and unassuming when you first see it. A one room cabin built of rough-hewn logs. You can see that the roof is charred and burnt out, but all four walls are intact, as is the wooden door. There is even thick, antique glass in every window—not one broken, even after all this time. You can’t see through them—they are covered in a thick, almost tar-like, layer of black soot on the inside and no light at all shines through the glass, even in the middle of the day.   

The door is made of thick, heavy oak planks bound with iron—they say if you touch it, you can feel a heartbeat in the wood.

But then again, perhaps not. Perhaps it’s just your own pulse at the end of your fingertips, quickening as you press it into the dark wood of the door. And your heart does beat faster. There’s something in the air around the place that raises the pulse. You can feel it sink into your bones. An achy weariness tinged with fear and guilt. You feel like you’re about to get caught doing something awful.

They say the door doesn’t open, unless you knock three times, and then it seems to swing open on its own.

If you step far enough past the threshold, it closes on its own too.

The interior is completely empty, the walls are bare of any objects you might expect to find in an abandoned cabin. The walls and ceiling are covered in a film of pitch-black soot, and grey and white ash covers the floor. No matter how much of the filth you rub off any surface there is still more below it. Even digging your fingernails into the glass of the windows won’t scratch through the soot. The only light in the cabin comes through the hole in the ceiling.

It’s suffocating.

Claustrophobic.

It feels sickly, like decay, and you realize nothing grows inside the cabin the way it should for a building that has been sitting this long without a solid roof. You can taste the evil in your mouth, feel it sliming its way down your trachea, percolating into your lungs.

You want to scream.

Instead you feel yourself laughing–a dry, raspy laugh, and you know it’s coming out of your own throat, but it sounds like it’s coming from behind you.

You want to leave. You want to turn around, walk right back out the door and never look back. But something holds you in place. Compels you forward, draws you to the center of the cabin until you are standing in the pillar of light coming through the roof staring into the sky above you, the only visible connection you have to the world outside.

You find yourself transfixed. Time passes but you hardly feel it. You watch the sun go down, and the light disappears above your head.

You stand there in the middle of the room, and look up through the hole in the roof. You see nothing but a black, starless and moonless sky, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There’s just a hollow, unending void hovering above your head.

You try to light a match. It flickers out.

The lighter doesn’t catch.

The flashlight blinks out.

Your phone dies.

You are alone with the dark.

That’s when the vertigo hits—when the world seems to tilt into the void and you can’t tell the floor from the sky—whether you’re upright or upside down, or just hanging in the air—nothing is certain except the darkness.

You hear screaming; it seems far away—but you can’t seem to get a grip on the distance between the echo and your ear.

You think it might be coming from you, but you can no longer distinguish your throat from your spleen. You choke on your own bones, vomit your intestines out of your arteries, stuff your brain into your kidneys, turn your stomach inside out and crawl inside of it, but it’s just darkness inside of darkness.

The screaming turns into howling, turns into a deep anguished wailing. The kind of wailing that only comes from a loss so deep that the body producing it tears itself apart in the agony.

 And you do.

You burst into a million pieces, scattering like soot and ash across the four walls of the cabin and you cling to them, holding onto the edges of the room in its familiar geometry leaving the center as empty as your sense of self.


In the morning, you find yourself lying on the floor, your body covered in black soot and white ash, with long hatch-marked lines where your fingernails tore into your skin trying to scratch it off. You feel heavy, like something is sitting on your chest. Breathing is difficult, and a deep ache inhibits movement in your limbs.

That sense of corruption that hung in the air when you first entered the cabin is even thicker than it was before. You struggle to crawl across the floor towards the exit, coughing through the ashes you disturb as you move on your hands and knees.

You kneel in front of the door, for a moment, exhausted, you press your forehead into it.

You think you feel the heartbeat in the oak.

But maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the throbbing of your aching head.

You find it in you to push the door open—it’s so heavy you have to use the whole weight of your body to move it.

But as you push the door out and cross the threshold, you feel the strength returning to your limbs and you rise with ease, feeling lighter—weightless even, like you might lift off the ground in a strong breeze. There’s a sense of being cleansed, as if you had emerged from a baptism of fear and ashes, purified and free of iniquity.

You close the door behind you as you step forward, inhaling the sweetest air you have ever tasted.

For a moment, you stand there, unsettled by the loss of a burden that was a part of you. You know somehow, that the cabin absorbed it, that a piece of you is still scattered in pieces on the walls. You wonder if that’s really a good thing, if maybe something evil sunk its claws into you and took its pound of flesh. A piece of your soul, even.

You turn around, wondering if you should go back for it somehow, but the cabin is gone. There’s only forest behind you as far as you can see. 

Uncertain, you wonder if any of it was real—or if it was just a dream.

But no—you are still covered in ashes. It was real. It did happen. You feel different than you did before. Blinking, you look around, and it occurs to you—the cabin didn’t move.

It’s you that’s no longer in the same place.

What is Inktober? You can learn more about it here.

21 thoughts on “INKTOBER 2019: Day 13. Ash

  1. FANTASTIC Rook!!!😁😁😁
    I love❤❤ stories like these where the characters go on an existential journey of self.
    Like a Phoenix, we have to be burned, brought back to dust to be whole again.
    Questioning where we went wrong on our journey to know we were where we were supposed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh WOW!! Your insistent voice and immersive words transported me right in the middle of that cabin! Felt suffocated there…and as you describe it in the end, felt relieved when I was released from the clutches of this story! DAMN! THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AMAZING, Rook! 😍😍❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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