Copyright 2018 by Chris Benedict
A storm was blowing in from the Juan de Fuca Strait, clouds dimming the afternoon sky with the threat of it. Wind howled around the eaves of the cabin, starting with a low humming like a nest of angry hornets and rising to an eerie, whistling wail. The trees whipped back and forth in the front yard, their needles hissing.
Inside, Brigit had turned on all the lights. She stood before the huge picture window, rubbing her arms with her hands and clutching an afghan around her shoulders. Lightning flashed, and she found herself counting the seconds before the growling rumble began. It shook the cabin, and her glance briefly left the window to touch upon the ceiling and walls, before being drawn back to the spectacle outside.
With a snap, the lights went out. All the sunlight of the afternoon had fled, leaving an unsettling, green-tinged grayness that barely penetrated the pall. Brigit felt goose bumps rising on her arms, shoulders, and neck. Rain came in waves between the winds, flailing the earth with its fury.
A shadow moved across the well-landscaped yard just as hail began to ping off the metal roof, and Brigit swallowed back a shriek. Had it been a bear? She was a city girl, and to her, the countryside around the airbnb cabin seemed wild and forlorn. But no — the shadow had been walking upright. It had looked more like a homeless man in a long, dirty duster.
A furtive thump sounded at the far end of the cabin, through the bedroom where her friend was sleeping. Trailing the afghan behind her, Brigit moved slowly and silently into the bedroom.
“Jenny…” she called softly, but another rolling growl of thunder swallowed her words. She felt, more than heard the furtive scraping noise. Her eyes were drawn to the far end of the room, where a door led to a mud room and then into the back yard. The direction the walking shadow had been headed…
Her heart was pounding, but she was drawn inexorably to the small rectangle of glass in the door. The tiniest of metallic clinks stopped her in her tracks for only a moment. She had to see. Putting her eye to the shuttered window, she peered into the pitch-blackness of the mud room.
Lightning strobed, and in its crazy after-image she saw him. Crouching there in the corner, taking shelter from the storm. She couldn’t see much of him, but it looked like the huge homeless guy was wearing a dirty fur coat. He glanced her way and their eyes met through the glass…
Brigit put her hand across her mouth to keep from screaming. Then she fumbled with the deadbolt, slamming it home.
“Whuu- what’s going on?” Jenny asked, raising sleep-drenched eyes blearily toward her clumsy, panicked retreat.
“Th… the lights… went out in the storm,” Brigit whispered, crawling into bed with her friend and drawing the covers over their heads. “I think you have the only flashlight.”
The storm passed finally, and a loud thump woke Brigit as dawn light stole into the cabin. A minute later, the lights flickered back on.
Warily Brigit went to the mud room door, and made sure the room was empty before opening it. Huge, barefoot prints, nearly fifteen inches long, smudged the white tile floor. A tuft of cinnamon-colored fur was caught in a splinter.
Jenny laughed it off, theorizing that they’d made the mess on the floor themselves after their hike yesterday. The fur was probably from someone’s dog. The rest, she blamed on a nightmare, remembering nothing herself of the incidents that had occurred. “You just got scared by the storm. It happens.”
But Brigit shook her head and denied it. She packed her things and stowed them into the trunk of their car. “I’m not staying here another night,” she replied adamantly.
She wouldn’t tell her friend Jenny — as long as they left today, she might never tell anyone at all. They’d never believe her anyway.
But she knew what she’d seen in that mudroom, lit up to relentless life by the lightning. Either that homeless guy had really needed a shave — like, up to his eyeballs, and his forehead too — or she’d seen a sasquatch…..