It was early morning by the time they arrived at the abandoned cabin. Mackey squinted at it, sure that he wasn’t seeing a cabin.
The cabins Mackey had seen on Discovery and National Geographic were proper log-things, built in the woods or on the edges of forests that fronted mountains – this thing looked like one of those pre-built jobbies that were put up on construction sites, all flat, dirty plastic walls with narrow slits for windows and pre-cut doorways. He stopped walking and turned to face the idiot that had brought him here.
“You call that a cabin? That kak little thing?”
The kid swallowed, Adam’s Apple bobbing comically, and broke into a nervous smile. Freckles covered his cheeks like paint sprayed on from a toothbrush and he had bright red hair. Mackey didn’t like gingers, though he couldn’t explain why. Just never had.
“Dat’s what they tol’ me,” the kid said. “Dey said it was a cabin.”
Mackey spat a glob of yellow into the grass and turned back to the ‘cabin’. “Well, they were talking kak. Why would a spook be in there, huh?”
The kid shrugged, bony shoulders jerking quickly up and down. “Ek weetie. Dey said der was. Said kids went in and didn’t come out.”
Probably a gat in the floor that goes outside, Mackey thought. He just couldn’t see a spook in a shitty building like that. But then again, he’d found some crazy kak in places he had expected to be clean – like that mal poltergeist in that District Six house. Hadn’t lasted long and had fought him like a tik-bliksem, but he’d gotten it out eventually.
And if there was something here, he’d get it out, too. Since he could remember he’d had a kind of power over dead things.
He set off again, feeling the familiar agitation rising. He didn’t like doing what he could do, but when a guy had no education and no family… Well, this was what put bux in his pocket and food in his stomach. Most of the people he’d seen that were in similar situations were tik-heads and ran with gangs, and Mackey stayed away from all of that. He had enough to deal with.
He heard the kid hurrying to catch up and Mackey shot a glance over his shoulder – he saw the figure standing next to a tree about a hundred metres behind them. Same yellow rain jacket with the hoodie, same red boots. Just like that little dude from It who got his arm ripped off by that mal clown, except this little dude was his brother.
Why can’t he just leave me alone? Jinne! He turned back to the ‘cabin’, forcing himself to ignore the apparition. And the memories of the night that Andre had died in his arms. And then come back.
Los dit! He focused on the ‘cabin’, close enough now that six or seven strides would put him within touching distance, and stopped. “You don’t come inside, okay? Whatever you hear, you stay outside.”
“Cool, man,” the ginger said, and Mackey could hear the relief in his voice. “I’ll stay here.”
Not when you see what’s about to happen, Mackey thought. They always ran.
Taking a breath, he started forward again and almost stopped when the building flickered, like a TV losing signal. It lasted only an instant but it was enough for Mackey to know that there was something inside.
Whatever was inside knew he was coming.
Mackey reached the door and pushed it open – the hinges were dry and it squealed like a pig being led to slaughter. Sunlight fell across the dirty, dusty floor. He stepped inside, pivoted, and closed the door behind him. Did he just hear a giggle? The ginger?
The darkness was sudden and total, as if someone had flicked a switch. Mackey reached out for the door but his hand waved through open space. His heart began pounding. He stepped forward, leading with his shoulder, but there was no door. And no wall.
“What kak is this, huh!” he shouted, spinning around to face the yawning darkness. “You think you clever!”
Mac-ckey… The voice shivered into him and over him, as if he was experiencing someone else’s rush of gooseflesh, and Mackey clenched his teeth to keep from screaming. He stepped forward, waving his hand through the air. “What the hell are you?”
The light came on again, illuminating the space around him. Too much light. He checked the slits in the wall. Sure enough, they weren’t big enough to allow in so much light.
But he could now see that the place was empty. And clean. Not a spot of dirt on the floor. Nothing to indicate that this ‘cabin’ had been standing out here for, well, as long as it had.
And then he saw the door in the far wall. He spun to the left, scanning the wall, and swore. No door. He slowly turned to face the ‘new’ door. “Clever, clever,” he whispered. “You in my head now?”
Instant darkness again, then a flash of light, then more darkness. The light began strobing, as if silent micro-bursts of lighting filled the space above the ceiling.
And with every flash of illumination Mackey saw that the walls were jerking closer, drawing in on him, and the door was skipping closer, too.
Mac-ckey… He screamed, as loudly as he could, forcing himself to stand his ground. Mac-ckey… You’re in me, now…
He felt something move behind him and turned to look. The ginger kid. His eyes were black and his mouth was too wide. His hair blazed with an inner fire.
Trap, thought Mackey, like that fish that dangles a light.
The floor began tearing loose in strips, jagged pieces that reared in his direction, and as the ‘hand’ formed Mackey realized that this wasn’t a cabin and that he wasn’t dealing with a spook.
This was a living monster and he had walked into its mouth.