I took a job as a Fire lookout in the middle of the woods, I found a strange set of rules to follow - Chap 8
I grab my machete. It makes sense that the smiling lady follows you out of the woods, that’s why Harvey couldn’t leave and that’s why neither could Allison. That’s why Allison said, ‘there’s no getting out’, because there isn’t. Unless we burn her. And Sam? Allison said Mark didn’t have a daughter, but was that just to throw me off? To turn me against a potential ally? Either way, I don’t fully trust Sam, not by a long shot. Definitely not until I hear what she has to say. So, I grab my machete.
I edge down the steps, approaching Sam. She’s looking at me. Her eyes dart to the machete, but she seems like she understands my caution.
“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?”, I ask, “if you know everything, why didn’t you tell me when we first met?”
“I didn’t know who to trust, Oscar”, Sam explains, “I had known Harvey, and we trusted nobody, not fully, except each other.”
“And Harvey’s dead now”, I’m solemn with my words, “how did you know him?”
“Yes”, she looks down, “he is. That was confirmed last night. I struck up a friendship with him when he worked here. I’d bring him extra food, and take runs just to see him. That’s why I’m in these woods now, I was looking for him. But after last night, it’s clear, yeah… he’s dead.”
“How was it confirmed last night?”, I ask. She seems genuinely heartbroken.
“The lady, the smiling lady, she seems to focus on one victim at a time. Whilst she’s hunting someone, it seems like she ignores everyone else. That’s why Allison kept feeding her people, so that her sister wouldn’t turn on her”, Sam explains. My breathing is heavy, my heart racing.
She carries on, “last night, I was out looking for Harvey, as I’ve been doing. I saw the fires around your tower, and I saw those figures falling into them. People she’s taken. One of those figures resembled Harvey… And some of the others, his family. I saw the sixth fire, the one she made for you, and I heard her crying to try to lure you out. She focuses on her prey one at a time, which confirms that you’re her target. She’s already got Harvey. She never gives up on her prey until she gets them. And it’s you now. You have to burn her.”
“But-but I killed Allison, not her! I pushed her when she attacked me, so why did I see her fall into a fire last night?”, I’m shaking. I hadn’t actually said aloud that I had killed her before.
“Yes, I thought you might have. The smiling lady wouldn’t have attacked her whilst she was focused on you. But it doesn’t mean that, since Allison’s death, the smiling lady hasn’t taken her. Hasn’t eaten her. She’s always hungry. It’s all she cares about.”
“Wh- why- why don’t you just burn her fucking body?!”, I shout. This is fucked up. I’m desperate for a way out of this nightmare.
“It has to be you. It has to be the one she’s hunting. I’ve fucking tried, but I only found her body after Harvey disappeared. Whenever I try to burn it, the flames wont light. I don’t fucking understand it, but I know it has to be you. She lit a fire for you last night, and it has to be you who lights hers.”
“How the fuck can I trust you?”, tears rolling down my cheeks. It made sense why she was looking for Harvey; she needed him to burn her body.
Sam pleads, “I hid in a bunker last night. That’s how I’m here so early. It was Harvey’s bunker, Oscar. The smiling lady doesn’t know about it, that’s how he survived so long. I can show you where it is if-”
“I know where it is”, I whisper.
I have no choice. I have to trust her. I have to burn the body. I quickly go upstairs and grab my backpack. In it, I put my lighter and a cannister of kerosene.
I’m going to follow Sam, but I’m not letting go of my machete.
Of course, it’s in a fucking cave.
On the way, Sam explained that after being pushed, Allison’s sister had crawled here, in an attempt to find shelter, but had succumbed to her injuries within the cave. She explained that’s why I may have seen her crawling, because the smiling lady is replaying her final moments on a loop, which drives her hate. That also explains why she’s always smiling – Allison said she was smiling when she pushed her. As Sam stands by the cave, creviced into the side of a steep hill, I shine my flashlight into its entrance.
I don’t see much. It’s a thin, tunnel like structure. Around 8 feet across, 15 feet tall. There isn’t much room to manoeuvre should we run into any trouble. I can’t see far enough into it to see where it ends. We enter the cave.
“She’s near the end of the cave,” Sam whispers, “there’s like a turn at the end, maybe 300 feet inward. We should be safe, I’ve never seen her ghost in the day before..”, Sam trails off.
She leads the way, I’m keeping a close eye on her, but that becomes harder the further in we get. Soon, we are enveloped in darkness. The light from our flashlights is all I can see, as we leave the daylight behind us and enter the dark. Sound soon becomes non-existent; our footsteps and shallow breathing our only company.
Almost as if out of nowhere, we meet a wall. To the left, a downward slope that takes us deeper into the cave’s abyss.
“Why the fuck would she go so deep?”, I whisper, “if she was wanting to be rescued”.
“She didn’t”, Sam’s hushed reply, “she was at the entrance when she died. Someone moved her further in to protect her. I think Allison.”
We walk deeper.
10 minutes later, the cave expands. Usually, spending this amount of time in a dark atmosphere means your eyes adjust. However, mine haven’t. It’s almost as if this is a type of darkness I haven’t experienced before, or if the smiling lady had put some weird effect on us. I don’t fucking know. I just know that other than the light from my flashlight, and Sam’s in front of me, I can’t see shit.
A crack behind me.
A quick, snapping, crack. My heart jumps, and I spin around to shine my flashlight where the sound originated. I see only legs, for a split second, crawling away from me into the darkness from which I came. The bare, dirty calves of what looked like a woman, shooting out of sight. Fuck. Something’s in here with us. And it’s alive. The smiling lady is here. I turn to Sam.
What the fuck?! I’m alone. Sam’s flashlight on the ground. What the fuck, where is she?! Do I call out? Fuck, I don’t know. I’m going to leave her flashlight; I need one hand to grip my machete. I can’t go back; the smiling lady is behind me. I need to find her body, and I need to burn it. And I need to help Sam.
I shine my flashlight around, looking for Sam, when I see a backpack leaning against the cave’s wall. I carefully move towards it, knowing something is watching me from the darkness. My sweaty palms making the machete more difficult to grip; I’m squeezing it as hard as I can. I get to the backpack, quickly scanning the cave around me with the flashlight, but I see nothing but rock. I turn my attention to the bag’s contents. It’s already open, it doesn’t look like it’s been here too long; maybe under a week. I hurriedly go through it; an old tarp, a lighter, and the same small cannister of kerosene I had taken; the same type that was provided for me at the tower. Also in the bag, a knife. The same style of knife I had found in Allison’s tower, only bigger. The same gold outline, with silver and black designs swimming through it. On the knife, engrained;
Your Pair of Knives. Our Pair of Hearts. My Harvey.
Another one of Harvey’s knives. This is Harvey’s bag. I flick the knife open, recently used. Its previously sharp edge now blunt, stained with the remnants of stone. I shine my flashlight on the wall the bag leant against. Writing, scratched into the rockface:
10 sam lies
Cracking behind me. I spin around, and see Sam. She’s smiling.
“Sam- “, I start.
Her eyes are locked with mine, she sees me through the darkness. Her arms start to break. Almost as if being broken by the air around them, they snap with jolting movements. Her elbows bend backwards, as her bones jut out, hugging the skin under her forearms. With every crack, her smile grows wider. Soon, it is unnaturally sprawled across her face. Her eyes, wide with glee. Her skin grows whiter, her hair longer. She is now unrecognisable as Sam. I now knew her as the smiling lady.
I have fallen for it. Just as Harvey had. She needs the darkness, that’s why she’s roams at night. That’s why I felt I was being watched as I left Allison’s tower; I was, but she couldn’t do anything as it wasn’t dark. She watched me as Sam during the day, but attacked me as the smiling lady during the night. That note in Allison’s tower, explaining what I look like. Only Sam had seen me before then. Fuck. I feel so fucking stupid. I was safe from her in the daylight. But it’s dark now. And she’s changing.
She died in the dark, and now she lives in the dark.
I stand up, my machete shaking in my hand. I edge toward her. I’m ready to strike.
In an explosion of movement either side of me, I am grabbed. The creatures crawl at me, as I feel their bony hands and arms dragging me down. I count 5 of them as I struggle against their grip. There are too many. They are too strong. My flashlight has fallen from my grip, and now shines in my direction. I make out the faces of my attackers.
Harvey. His wife. His child. A tall man, Rick. And Allison.
They hold me down, Allison’s broken arms cutting me as I struggle, her shattered bones sharp. As they all pin me against the ground, they smile.
I catch a glimpse of Sam as she lunges out of the darkness, and bites into my chest.
A new man lives in my tower now.
He has a family, a dog too, who visit him.
We only leave the darkness when she tells us to.
She doesn’t want to lose us.
I smile now.
And when she tells me to burn, I burn too.
I am writing this to warn you of the Smiling Lady in the woods. Do not try to find me. This will be the last time I speak to you all. Do not come looking for me. I belong to her now.