The peaks of the mountains cast shadows across the valleys as the sun sinks beneath the horizon. Clouds tumble over the each other like the ragged breath of a starving wolf as the eerie sounds of critters and animals echo off the tree trunks. A dense fog hovers over a secluded lake in the valley, where a cabin rests within the naked strip of land. A lantern screeches on its jay hook above the door as a gust of wind sweeps across the porch. The scent of chicken and vegetables lingers throughout the cabin which is all that remains of the dinner eaten by the owners of the cabin: a husband, a wife, and their daughter, Lucy Dowles.
Seven-year-old Lucy Dowles rests peacefully in the guest bedroom of the cabin, where she grips the comforters firmly in her hands. The warmth of the bed enthralls her body as she sleeps. A ghostly breeze brushes her face and interrupts her slumber. Her eyes wander towards the door as she squints and rubs her eyes with her tiny hands. She shivers as the breeze continues to whisk pass her face. She peaks over the sheets towards the window, but it is closed. She twists and cocoons herself inside of the comforter. The disturbing creak from the door draws her attention instantly, but she remains stone cold in the bed. She looks over the comforter again. Her hazel eyes peer at the door, where it is slightly open. A chill creeps down her spine as her heart rapidly paces in circles.
A little boy’s laughter echoes in the hallway. Lucy’s mind is drunk with curiosity as she drags her feet out of the bed. She leans forward to look out into the hallway, but it is barely visible from her angle. Lucy cautiously pushes off the bed and walks towards the door. She leans against the door and pokes her head out into the hallway. Nothing is there.
She pulls the door wide open, cautious as to not wake her parents across the hall. Her father rolls in his bed but continues to snore. The boy’s laughter echoes in the kitchen. Lucy looks across the hall into her parents’ room, but her instincts taunt her to continue investigating the sounds in the house.
The brisk air takes her breath away as she enters the kitchen. The wooden floors are cold beneath her bare feet. She hesitates for a moment as she looks at the metallic panel on the refrigerator. She sees the opaque outline of her black hair and tiny body in the reflection. A knock at the window makes her heart skip a beat as she twists around like a top. A cloud forms in the window as though someone is breathing on the opposite side of the glass. Lucy pushes herself back from the counter with a hint of fright swirling in her mind. She continues to stare at the window as letters form within the cloud. The letter, “C” appears as more letters gradually form. A message is finally legible in the window:
COME PLAY WITH US
Chills writhe throughout Lucy’s body, and she stumbles around the island in the middle of the kitchen. The door to the back porch slams with force as she falls to the floor. The message fades away in the window. She walks towards the back door and hears garbage cans crash around the other side of the porch. The hairs on her neck rise as she twists the doorknob.
The floorboards are slick and wet as the fresh midnight dew lingers in the air. The cold and moist air sticks to Lucy’s skin as the rustling in the trees alert her attention. The lantern continues to swing on its hook as the wind picks up momentum across the porch. She ventures towards a pile of metal trays scattered across the porch, where something knocked them off the table. She walks to the corner of the porch and hears a bloodcurdling hiss as sharp claws dig into her ankle. She pulls her leg away and observes her small wound. Blood trickles down her ankle and wraps around her heel. She looks back at the black cat. Its tail is furrowed and back arched as though ready to attempt to attack Lucy again. The bright red glow from the cat’s eyes mesmerizes Lucy as the cat slowly ducks under the railing and hops into the yard.
Lucy peers out at the darkness of the back yard as the moon peeks through the clouds. The wound burns on her ankle as the legs to her pajamas rub lightly against her skin.
The boy’s laughter erupts from beneath the porch as pine needles stir beneath his footfalls. Lucy leans over the railing, but the boy is already sprinting towards the woods.
“Come out and play, Lucy!” the boy’s laughter makes her petrified to know where he is leading her to, but yet again, her instincts continue to persuade her to continue on her investigation.
The boy finally disappears into the black abyss of the forest, where only his white clothes give off a ghostly aura. She races down the steps of the porch and follows behind him like a sheep in a herd. The cold and wet blades of grass glide beneath her feet, while soaking the bottoms of her pajamas. She watches his golden hair bounce on his head as he avoids fallen trees and low hanging branches.
He disappears in the distance as Lucy slows down to catch her breath. She hears the screeching crickets around her, while the yelping bullfrogs remain hidden in the distance. Her feet sink into the mud. The boy is no longer in sight. A breeze pushes her forward as though forcing her to continue in the direction of the lake as an orange glow sways in the distance. The underbrush cracks beside her, and she quickly turns her head towards the sound. No one is there. The trees narrow as she walks deeper into the forest. A flood of adrenaline rushes throughout her body as anxiety thrashes at her lungs. She sees the pale face and dull eyes of the young boy staring at her. Lucy screams and falls backwards into a pile of wet leaves. Tears swell up under her eyelids as the boy bends down to help her stand up.
“Come play with my new friend, Lucy. He won’t bite,” the boy says with a suspicious tone.
“Who are you? Where is your friend?”
He smiles and points a limp finger towards a tall figure hidden beneath a black coat. The figure stands on the shore with his finger summoning both of them towards him.
“Lucy!” her mother’s scream can be heard in the distance.
“I have to go,” Lucy says, looking back towards the forest.
“No. There is nothing to be afraid of,” a devilish voice says in her subconscious.
“Who are you?” she asks, looking up at the tall figure.
“Come and see,” the sinister voice says as the figure invites her onto his gondola.
Lucy and the boy walk across the cool sand. She feels the pebbles press against the bottom of her feet with their dull edges. The moon outlines the figure as it reaches out for Lucy’s hand. He pulls her towards the cool water.
“Join us, Lucy.”
“I can’t,” Lucy says frightened by the request. “My mother is worried sick. I can’t go. I’m sorry.”
“No worries, Lucy.” The figure waves his hand in the air and the echoes of her mother are silenced. “I have the power to take away all of your worries. Your mother will be fine.”
“But,” she stops. Her mother’s cries can no longer be heard. “What happened?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you.”
The fog lifts slightly as the figure hoists Lucy into the gondola. The boy follows behind her. Lucy feels stomach bile rise in her chest as the gondola drifts out towards the middle of the lake. The figure rows gently until they reach the center. The silence of the lake and the forest forces tears down Lucy’s cheeks. The boy’s hand reaches out for Lucy.
“What’s happening?” Lucy asks, shivering from the cold night.
The figure grabs her neck and twists, until her life is taken away from her.