moores-mountain

Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark. 

~~~

Snowflakes descended peacefully but steadily, caressing tall pines that populated the isolated forest at the top of Moore’s Mountain, before collectively resurfacing the landscape below, conspiring to hide all remaining traces of fall. A minority of naked oaks, sporadically surrounded the rustic cabin; their skeletal branches beginning to freeze, moaning in protest against the wind.

The man paused, his labored breaths turning vaporous in the cold. He released the load he was carrying and inhaled deeply. The cool night air invigorated him. The sight of new snow reminded him of an empty canvas simply waiting for the artist’s inspiration to give it new life. The scent of pines, mixed with sweat on now damp clothes, brought back fond memories of previous Christmas Eves’ spent with the girls at this beautiful hideaway from the rest of the world.

The stocky man, in a faded, green-checkered flannel and dirty jeans, marveled at the silence brought on by the deceptive winter storm; marveled at how calm it made him feel within, despite the raging tempest that consumed him.

He removed his brown and weathered hunting cap, felt the snow tickle his bald head marked with old scars, let the snow melt on his outstretched tongue in child-like bemusement.

The axe near the wood pile brought him back to reality. The man was mesmerized by the sight of its crimson edge, still dripping warm life. He smiled. Christmas Eve was his favorite time of year. More than the fresh air and scenic view, the blood made him come alive, exciting him in ways nothing else could. Christmas Eve was his special time to be… naughty.

Nice was long dead.

The man picked his load back up, grabbing the corpse around the legs, and continued toward the wood line. To pass the time, he whistled old Christmas songs. ‘Let it Snow’ was his favorite. He dragged the corpse toward a small ravine, just past an enormous pine, leaving a long, crimson scar on snow in his wake.

He tossed the body into the ravine. The snow would bury her and the blood trail by dawn, wiping the canvas clean for a new creation, a new kill. After retrieving his axe, the man sat down, sheltered beneath the large pine tree, and admired his artwork. He soon lost track of time… staring into those lovely, dead eyes.

~~~

The Pennsylvania Turnpike wound its way around Moore’s Mountain, connecting with the rest of humanity near a truck stop, which served as the only rest area for the next fifty miles.

Jennifer sat quietly in the booth by the large diner window that overlooked the convoy of trucks that congregated at this run-down crossroads, forgotten by time, primarily frequented by exhausted truckers. The rest stop consisted of one large gas station/mini-mart, a weigh-in station, and a low-class greasy spoon called Mary’s Morsels.

She tried to steady her shaking hands as she watched each new driver arrive and exit well-used cabs converted mobile abodes. Any one of them could be the trucker who abducted her sister.

Nikki and Sonya waited patiently, seated across from her, as Jennifer placed her hands along the sides of her head, running her fingers nervously through rivers of long, brown hair – anything to keep preoccupied. She caught a glimpse of her tired face in the distorted reflection of an aluminum napkin dispenser. She looked old, too old for a promising, young college student of twenty-three. Her eyes were two, dark, sunken pools where all her worst fears lived; all her guilt and pain festered on the surface of those sad, brown eyes. Once, she might have been considered beautiful – but now – that face was just a tired mask used to keep the flood of grief in check.

Memory was poison, but she replayed it again anyway…

…“I’ll be right back,” she’d told her little sister, Megan, when they’d stopped in to get gas. They’d been on their way home from a road trip together. Jennifer had left her in the car, just long enough to dash in and out of the mini-mart. Less than five minutes later, she had returned to an empty car. Megan was gone.

She’d looked around in a panic, calling her sister’s name, until her gaze met the eyes of her sister’s abductor. Those cold eyes. He had smiled as he drove away. Jennifer had tried to pursue, but lost him on a crowded turnpike of outbound tractor trailers…

…That had been yesterday, one night before Christmas Eve.

God, that felt so long ago, Jennifer thought.

“You should tell her,” Sonya suggested to Nikki. Sonya, was a tall, black girl with long legs and a short leather skirt. Her short-cropped, pink hair complimented her pink parka, which barely concealed an equally revealing leather blouse.

“Listen closely, Doll, ‘cause I‘m never repeating this again,” Nikki said begrudgingly, shooting Sonya a nasty look. Nikki was a short, petite Asian girl with jet-black hair tied back into two trendy looking ponytails. She wore a shiny, black trench coat that attracted the light distractively well, and a pair of pointy-rimmed, black sunglasses.

Jennifer finally turned to acknowledge the women.

Nikki said, “You know that man, the one you’re hell-bent on catching here? Well, I met him once, three years back, right around Christmas. I was at this very same truck stop. My car broke down and I needed a ride. Your trucker was nice enough to oblige. Well, he gave me a ride, alright… raped me right in the back of his horrid smelling cab. He tied me up and drugged me so he could do it a few more times later.”

Jennifer was stunned.

Nikki leaned in and whispered, “You know what he did after that? I know you do, I can see it in your face. That’s right, he took me to that cabin in the woods, the one on the mountain. Ring a bell?”

Jennifer had no response.

Nikki continued, “The real bitch of it all is… that was the night I died.”

Jennifer stood up, infuriated. “You think that’s funny? Well, I’m not laughing.”

Sonya said, “Please sit down, Girlfriend. No one’s doing much laughing right now.” She turned to Nikki, “Go on, tell her the rest.”

“That’s right, Doll, I’m dead, in-the-grave, doing my little Casper impersonation for you. Hell, it’s Christmas Eve, so why don’t you just call me the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

Sonya laughed, sarcastically adding, “And you wonder why he killed you first?”

“Funny. Ha. Ha,” Nikki mocked. “Anyway, she’s right, you know. I was that Asshole’s first kill. You see, he was still learning how to be the professional psycho he is today. So when he got me to that cabin of his, there was a whole lot of sloppy killing going on. Hell, he had to stab me seventeen times before I went down. I made one hell of a mess- even gave him something to remember me by. I put a nice little scar down the top of his bald head with my finger nails.”

“I can’t believe this- what you’re saying’s impossible.”

Nikki’s impatience was showing. “Your trucker’s been killing girls every Christmas, Doll, and no one’s ever caught him! He’s not going to come back here, so stop waiting around to save your sister. There’s no saving her now, can’t you see that?”

“Shut up,” Jennifer said. “Just because he… killed you… that doesn’t mean my sister’s dead. There’s still a chance-”

“Still a chance? Are you for real, Doll?!”

Sonya stepped in, “Girlfriend, the point is, your trucker isn’t coming back here tonight. He’s at that cabin where he took my friend here three years ago – where he’s got your sister now.”

Jennifer’s mind refused to accept. She turned to Nikki and reached, “You can take us there. You’ve been there before! It’s not too late because it’s Christmas Eve-”

“Doesn’t work like that, Doll,” Nikki said sadly. “I’m just the Ghost of Christmas Past, remember? I can tell you what was, but as far as the here-and-now is concerned – well, let’s just say, I don’t speak that language anymore.”

“I- I don’t understand,” Jennifer said. “How can you say my sister’s dead already? How could you possibly know that?”

Sonya smiled and said, “We know because just like there’s a “first” victim, there’s also gotta be a “last” victim. And that, Girlfriend, is yours truly.”

“Fucking Ghost of Christmas Future!” Nikki announced.

Sonya ignored her and continued, “Your sister’s dead because three years from now, on Christmas Eve, your trucker is going to find me passed out drunk at this truck stop, all un-lady-like, sprawled out across the restroom floor. I won’t even remember how I got there either. Point is, he snatches me right up in those big, killer hands of his, takes me to that cabin – you know the one – then waits until I wake up. I won’t know if he has had his way with me or not – I won’t have time to think about it – ‘cause fifteen seconds later, my head will depart these fine shoulders of mine. Last thing I’ll remember is that axe of his coming down from the sky, like divine judgment, while he’s whistling some damn Christmas song.”

“Did you say ‘whistling’?” Jennifer asked.

This triggered a nightmarish memory from somewhere deep in Jennifer’s black, subconscious sea. She could picture the cabin now. “I’ve been there before, haven’t I?”

Sonya looked uneasy. “Yes, you know the place, Girlfriend, but it’s not what you think. Best get that thought out of your head right now.”

“Why?”

“Think about it now. If I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future, that means your trucker didn’t get caught, assuming your sister got away. If she did, then how can he still be around to kill me three years from now… at this very same location? He’d either have to be the world’s dumbest psychopath to come back here, or no one’s found out what he’s been doing up on that mountain yet.”

Jennifer fell silent. Finally she said, “No, you’re both wrong – you have to be.”

“You came back here, Doll, because this was where you lost her,” Nikki said. “Your guilt leaves you no where left to go. But it wasn’t your fault.”

As the rest of that horrible memory of Christmas Eve began to invade, Jennifer felt ill. She looked at Sonya and said, “I remember how to get there!”

“No, Girlfriend!” Sonya said. “That’s not the way, and you’re a damn fool for even thinking it! Wait! Where do you think you’re going?

“I’m going to bring my sister home,” Jennifer announced with finality as she exited the diner and headed for the cabin up on Moore’s Mountain.

~~~

The storm was intense. Violent gusts of wind protested Jennifer’s arrival and assaulted her flesh with murderous zeal. The cold ripped at her bare skin as ice crystals began to freeze on her eyelashes.

Jennifer’s sweater was the only article of clothing keeping her warm – keeping her alive – as she moved toward a barely visible, dark blur, that stood against the white backdrop, within a relentless veil of snow.

The cabin looked abandoned – lifeless – as several dark sockets peered out at her in the night. A large rectangular mouth stood open, its tongue swinging and banging violently in the wind, as the cabin watched her every move with extreme hunger. Large snow drifts had begun to bury the western wall of the monster, as fierce wind plummeted that side.

Jennifer moved toward the east side, to escape the worst of it, and tried to restore some feeling in her numb limbs.

What the hell am I doing here? She thought desperately. Her terror made the reality of what she faced overwhelming. Somewhere, in the belly of that dark cabin, waited another monster, who had her sister.

She decided to sneak around back, hoping to find another way inside, undetected. That’s when she noticed a dark, erratic line in the snow as Jennifer moved closer to investigate.

It was barely visible now, but she could clearly make out the remains of a blood trail headed in the direction of a large pine tree just a few yards away.

Oh, God, No! I’m too late.

Jennifer felt her heart sink as she slowly followed the crimson trail toward a ravine. She desperately wanted to run, run far away from what she might find at the end of that trail, but Jennifer also had to know. She had to see Megan’s body.

She wept painfully with the burden of each heavy step, forcing herself forward to the bitter end. As she neared the edge of the ravine, Jennifer steadied herself to face the truth. She started to peer over the edge.

From the large pine tree, the killer emerged with his familiar flannel, ball cap, and a rather large axe in his hand. He moved with surprising speed straight at Jennifer.

Jennifer screamed as she scurried away, losing her balance, and falling backward into deep snow. She tried to move but her limbs would not cooperate, due to the cold.

The killer stopped, hovering over her with his axe raised at shoulder level, a maddening blood lust dominating his contorted face, filled red with untamed rage, and a dark, malevolent fire burned in his eyes. He was actually… smiling.

Jennifer raised her hands in futility, to fend off the axe blade that never fell. That’s when she realized the killer wasn’t looking at her, he was looking past her, toward the ravine.

After a long moment, the maniac finally turned toward the cabin and began whistling, ‘Let it Snow’.

Jennifer finally dared to move – to breathe – only after the killer had turned the corner of the cabin. She had not expected to find him still here.

Maybe Megan’s still alive!

Hope, especially late, could be so cruel.

Jennifer managed to get to her feet. She started toward the cabin, convinced that Megan might still be in there. “I’m coming, Megan!” she promised through frostbitten lips.

“Jenny, stop!” the familiar voice said from behind her. “You can’t go in there.”

“Megan?” Jennifer said while turning. She could hardly believe it. Her little sister stood in the snow, still wearing her thermal, printed pajamas she wore on the trip home. Her face was dirty. Her long, blond curls were a tangled mess. Her clothes looked ripped and blood stained. “My, God, Megan… how did you get out? Are you alright? What did he-”

“Jenny, please don’t go,” Megan pleaded. “You’re not supposed to be here. This is a scary place. A really dark and scary place.”

“Megan, I know, honey, I came back to get you.”

With a sad look, Megan said, “I’ve been looking for you, but I couldn’t find you. Please, can we just go now?”

Jennifer moved toward her as Megan stepped back. “Megan, what’s the matter? Are you hurt?”

Megan was crying. “You still don’t understand. You’re going the wrong way, Jenny. You still don’t remember what happened?” Megan continued to lead her back toward the edge of the ravine.

When Jennifer reached the edge, Megan pointed down at the corpse, and finished, “There’s a reason he couldn’t see you, Jenny.”

Jennifer looked down and saw the naked, mutilated remains of a woman that looked remarkably like herself. She fell to her knees in shock. “My, God. Does this mean-”

“Jenny, we’ve been trying to reach you. Me, Sonya, Nikki…We’ve been trying to get you to come home. But you keep running away.”

“But I have to save you, Megan. It’s all my fault.” Jennifer was falling into deep despair. The overload of seeing her own corpse was too much. She had to get out of here, had to get back to the truck stop and find the killer so she could get her sister back.

“Jenny, stop it! You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

“Running.”

“But, I have to save you from… all this.”

“It’s over, Jenny.”

“But the killer’s still in there with you-”

“Jenny, he killed me yesterday… and he made you watch. Then he killed you.”

“NO!”

“You went violently. Fought to the bitter end. Even after all that blood, you still wouldn’t… let go.”

“That’s not what happened!”

“You ran, Jenny. You ran back to the truck stop. Back to the place he grabbed us both. He brought us here and did horrible things. But you changed what you saw because he made you watch me die and it was too much for you to bear.”

“I couldn’t help you, Megan!” Jennifer broke down, unable to fight back the memory. “I begged for your life- said I would do anything if he’d let you go, but he wouldn’t… stop.”

“I know, Jenny. No one blames you.”

“It’s all my fault! Oh, God, I’m so sorry, Megan!”

“Jenny, it’s time to come home. I miss you. You’ve been at that truck stop for a very long time. That’s where the guilt brought you – where it keeps bringing you back to.”

Jennifer wept.

“Jenny, I forgive you and I love you. Please, come home with me.” The Ghost of Christmas Present reached out her hand. “Let the guilt go, Jenny. This place – the mountain, the storm, the cabin, the man… all of it… is just where you hid all that guilt, and the truth, keeping this memory alive and hidden on what became your dark mountain.

Jennifer looked up at the ghost of her dead sister. “I don’t know how to let go.”

Megan smiled and said, “Just take my hand, and we’ll let go together.

Jennifer reached out with one shaking hand, and let her sister help her up. Then they embraced for a very long time, letting all that pain fall like snow until there was nothing left. Then together, they departed Moore’s mountain as two murdered sisters finally found peace that Christmas morning.

~~~

Four Years Later…

The winter storm was persistent, attempting to keep the man from making it home in time for Christmas Eve.

He knew he never should’ve accepted the contract this close to his ‘special’ time, but the money for hauling one last load across the Pennsylvania mountains was just too good to pass up.

The man could feel the slick road beneath his rig and constantly had to slow down to maintain control. He’d chosen a foolish route directly through the mountains, believing he could get home faster, but the winding roads had become treacherous due to the storm.

He was nearing the most dangerous part of the trip. One long winding bend down the mountain, and then he was home free.

The man began to whistle his favorite Christmas tune and smiled as he thought about the young woman, Cassie, a new waitress at Mary’s Morsels. When he arrived at the truck stop, he would wait for her to end her shift… and take her. No one would miss the part-time waitress. They would all assume she quit. They would all assume any damn thing they wished, but none of them would ever find her up at his cabin on Moore’s Mountain.

“You aren’t ever going to hurt another girl again, Asshole,” the voice said from behind him, in his truck cabin.

The man turned suddenly, startled by what he saw.

Sitting on his bed was a black woman with pink hair, an Asian woman with sunglasses, and a young girl.

The man recognized them immediately. “No! You… you can’t be here! I killed you! I killed all of you!”

From the passenger seat, came the voice of a fourth woman. “We’ve already warned Cassie about you. She never even showed up to work this evening.”

The man gasped and recoiled from the dead woman to his right.

Jennifer smiled with satisfaction and folded her arms. “What’s the matter? Did you really think you could just leave us all up on that fucking mountain? That we’d never come for you… eventually?”

“No! No! You’re… you’re all dead! All dead!” The man shielded his face from the apparition.

“Well of course we’re dead, you crazy fuck,” Nikki said from the back.

“Not too smart for a stone-cold killer, is he?” Sonya joked.

Megan simply laughed and then covered her mouth to contain her giggles.

Jennifer shook her head and looked out the windshield. “You know, you really should keep your eyes on the road… especially with this storm.”

The man looked forward and saw the fast approaching bend. There was no time to avoid the guardrail headed straight for him.

Jennifer smiled wickedly and said, “It’s your turn to be buried on the mountain… you sick sonofabitch.”

The man grabbed the steering wheel and turned it sharply to the right causing the tractor trailer to turn over on its side as it slid on the ice and over the guardrail.

~~~

“Moore’s Mountain” Copyright © 2012, 2016 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~

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