A month had passed. Marika awoke after a restless slumber. It was Friday. Outside the sky was grey and a twig from the nearby tree was softly tapping on the window. With a sigh Marika turned to the side. A glance at the clock showed 10:12am on the display. It only confirmed what she already knew. She was alone. Her husband Robert had already gone off to work. Weary and stiff she crawled out of bed and to the bathroom.
Today is the day, she thought to herself as she absentmindedly squeezed toothpaste on her toothbrush and stared brushing. She was restless, uneasy, and shuffling up and down the bathroom, past the window. Then she stopped. It overlooked the driveway, and she could see that the dirty truck was gone. Tense she shuffled back to the sink and spit.
She had meticulously planned for today. Everything was in order. She had reserved a car from a shabby rental a bit out of town. There was no way that she would’ve driven with her own car. She had bought clothes, which made her look like a lumberjack, much to her dismay. Her phone was charged, and she had studied the way to the cabin on Google maps for hours. She was as ready as she could but, but now, the only thing she could do was to wait.
Robert wouldn’t get off work before 4pm. She knew that. Even then, she wouldn’t drive before 5pm she had decided. The risk of accidentally running into her husband was too great. So now, all she could do was to wait. How she hated it.
She tried to occupy herself with housework, cleaning, paying bills, organizing the following weeks dinners and appointments. However, she could not concentrate on any task. Her thoughts always circled back to the cabin, and with agony she would glance at her watch only to confirm that she still had hours to wait.
Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity to Marika, the clock struck 4:30pm. She quickly got dressed in the lumberjack outfit, threw her phone, a bottle of water and some snacks into an old backpack she had found in the basement, and made her way to the rental company.
When she arrived there an old and battered Ford was waiting for her, and a slimy clerk.
“It’s suitable for offroad, isn’t it?”, she asked the clerk. She hardly knew anything about cars. It only mattered to her that they worked for her purposes.
“Of Course!” the clerk answered with a wide grin. His nicotine-stained teeth disgusted her.
“Good,” she pushed a bundle of dollars across the counter, not wanting to touch the man.
Still smiling the man took the money and in turn held out a battered car key. Carefully, she took it and immediately shoved it into her pocket.
“Thanks,” she said and quickly left the office without turning back.
“Have a nice trip!” she could hear the clerk yell behind her.
On the lot she found the Ford unlocked, but Marika was not even surprised at that. It was old and battered, with dents all over the passenger’s side, and the blue paint chipping off at all corners.
Nobody would want to steal such a rust bucket of a car anyway, she thought.
It took a minute or two to adjust the seat and get used to the car – she had never driven a car older than from 2005 before – and by the time she pulled out of the lot it was already 5:10pm.
The drive to the cabin was 3 hours, but to Marika it seemed to be a lot longer. The Ford was too slow for her liking and incredibly loud. So loud, in fact, that she feared her husband might hear the car approach.
I might have to park the car further away from the cabin, she thought as she yanked the gear shift. It had been forever since she had driven a manual car.
Before her the lonely street wound itself up into the mountains, and the fields on either side yielded to the looming pine trees of the upcoming forest. The last bastion of civilization was a motel imbedded within. It was the motel her husband had visited last month. She still had the receipt crumbled up in her pocket.
Slowly the sun was setting as the darkness of the forest grew. It was only a matter of minutes until she would arrive at the cabin. With every second the nervosity rose, and soon she started drumming with her fingers on the steering wheel. The rhythmical thumbing somewhat calmed her nerves, but it was not enough. Her mind was racing, and in front of her inner eye she was picturing countless scenarios of what was about to come.
Finally, she pulled into a small dirt road off the side of the main road. About a mile in she parked to the side. She would walk the rest by foot. The cabin was only a few feet ahead. She would be there in about five minutes.
As she turned off the headlights the darkness of the forest enclosed her. High above the treetops a full moon was shining bright, scarcely illuminating the dirt road before her.
Marika stepped out of the car, only her phone in hand. The key was still left in the engine. She would leave it there. She doubted that anybody would take it. In the darkness only illuminated by the moonlight she made her way to the cabin. The air was moist and smelled of moss. Below her feet the gravel crunched with every step.
After a few minutes she reached the cabin. It was dark. Robert’s truck was parked outside, but there was no sign of anybody nearby. Carefully, trying not to make a sound she walked up to the front door. It was locked. Confused, she turned around staring into the forest.
Where could he be? She wondered. And was there someone with him, her unconscious added.
She pulled out her phone and tapped on the screen. Within a second a map of the area appeared on the display. She knew that the reception was horrible out here and had downloaded maps of the area to her phone. As she flipped through the pictures, she found something of interest. There was a lake nearby, not too far off the cabin.
He might be there, she figured, and made her way through the darkness of the forest towards the direction she believed the lake to be in. She was right about the direction, however traversing the thicket of the wood in the moonlight proved to be more difficult than simply walking down a dirt road. She stumbled often and her clothes got caught in twigs and thorns. She wanted to cuss but she restrained herself, wanting to make as little noise as possible. Eventually she reached a clearing which spread out towards the lake.
It was a beautiful sight to behold. The full moon was shimmering on the surface of the water. The lake itself was surrounded by trees. Dazed by the beauty Marika did not notice the two figures at the shore. However, a shrieking sound quickly drew her attention towards them. At first it seemed like a couple was enjoying themselves.
Thinking she caught her unfaithful husband in flagranti, Marika was about to step out of the thicket, but then suddenly stopped in her motion. Instead, she cowered back down into the undergrowth, quivering in shock.
What Marika had thought to be pleasure play was the exact opposite. With horror she watched the man hack down with a knife at the woman on the floor. Faintly she could hear the clothes rip and bones crack.
The man was grunting and panting as he was slicing. The woman was crying and pleading. Her shrieks were faint and full of pain. The man, however, was relentless.
And then, suddenly, the shrieks and pleading had stopped.
The man propped himself up, with one arm swiping his forehead.
Marika clasped her hands over her mouth.
In horror she stared at the bloodied face of her husband illuminated by the faint moonlight.
For a moment she just stared at him, her thoughts racing. What should she do? Eventually she scrambled to her feet. As quietly as she could she tried to retreat back into the forest. She had to get back to the car. Carefully, one foot was placed after another.
Shocked, Marika turned around. She had stepped on a comically large twig which made a comically loud noise. Any other time she would have laughed about it but not now. Panicked, she stared down to the lake where she could see the man rising to his feet. Her heart almost jumped out of her chest at the sight.
Without thinking she started running, not caring of she made a sound. Like a maniac she dove over bushes and ducked beneath trees, not even stopping once to catch her breath.
At the car she yanked the door open, almost ripping it off its hinges. Without catching a breath, she turned the key and hit the pedal. The engine revied as she sped in reverse back the dirt road.
Marika made the whole way back to the car rental in less than three hours. A personal record that she did not care for. She parked the Ford on the lot, threw the keys into the return box and took a taxi home.
Although calmer when home, Marika found herself restless. She hardly slept this night. The picture of her husband gutting a poor woman was etched into her skull. Frequently she found herself standing by the bathroom widow looking over the driveway, expecting her husband’s truck to appear any second; but it never did.
Neither did it the next morning.
Nor did it appear on Sunday morning.
At 7pm Marika was standing in the kitchen, like always, the roast ready to be served, waiting for her husband. With clenched jaw and fidgety hands, she stood there, nervous. Her heart was racing, competing only with her thoughts, like it had done all weekend.
Many times, she had argued with herself, whether or not to call the police. However, she had no evidence, nor could she be sure of what she saw. It could have been a misunderstanding, she told herself over and over again. A trick on the mind, played by the moonlight and moving shadows. It could have been a deer.
Oh God, please let it have been a deer.
Punctual as ever, Robert arrived. His clothes dirty as usual and with a loving smile on his face. He kissed his wife quickly on the cheek before he cleaned himself up.
Marika, taken aback by her husband’s normalcy, did not know how to react. For a moment she just stood there, frozen on the spot in the kitchen.
The rest of the night she did her best to act normal, but she miserably failed at it. She was distant and distracted, a fact Robert pointed out a couple of times during dinner. Marika did her best to disperse any suspicion, making up an excuse of having faced an embarrassment with one of her friends this weekend. Robert did not pry any further – as he was never really interested in Marika’s girlfriend issues. He usually just let her talk as much or as little as she wanted, while he ate his dinner almost silently.
Maybe he hadn’t seen me?
Days passed and Marika’s nervosity faded. Occasionally she shrieked at a random noise, but then again, she had always been easy to scare. Days turned into weeks and normalcy returned. After a month she had already forgotten about the incident.
“Tomorrow is Friday,” Robert remarked one night in bed.
“Uh-huh,” Marika replied hardly listening, and turned the page of her book.
“Maybe you want to come to the cabin with me this weekend?” Robert asked, his voice innocent as it could be.
Marika’s heart dropped.
Robert knew she despised the cabin and the outdoors.