Speakeasy #157 – Recollections


Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold of the forest that year – even more so than normal. All the paths up to Jepson Point had been blocked since the first heavy snows drifted in last fall. Even on that day, as the sun yawned across a blemish free, azure Alaskan sky, the chilled air remained stubbornly resistant to the approaching spring.

It was cold, it was – but at the same time, not as cold as it looked. It’s hard to explain. So I didn’t. It’s just the way I’ll remember it.

As the Rangers made their way into the trees, tiny drops of snowmelt splashed into freshly made paw prints: wary footsteps lightly trodden by the first animals to venture from the warmth of their dark, winter hiding places. Up in the canopy the opening bars of an embryonic spring song whispered through the pines. It took them all night, but finally the Point was in sight.

I’m not sure why we couldn’t have got there sooner. It might have ended differently. Maybe it wouldn’t. No, I don’t think it would.

Radio contact with the cabins nestled on the edge of Green Lake had stopped three weeks back – lines down were the explanation. Even in the days of mobile technology man seemingly remains in communication at the pleasure of nature; lines were down all over the forest.

The forest. Beautiful and terrifying. I never wanted to be anywhere else; I’ll never go back. How can I?

The cabins were quiet. The lake’s eerily green waters still frozen. Ribbons of smoky fog swirled amidst the early morning battle of sun and ice. Piles of chopped wood lay gathered in neat stacks at the gable end of the first cabin after the lake head.

Almost too neat.

The windows remained shuttered. The snow covered chimney said there was no fire burning in the grate. There was no answer as Chief Ranger McLennan rapped firmly on the door. Unlike in the movies the door didn’t then creak open: it was locked from inside and the key was in the door. It took the persistent boot of Assistant Ranger Jefferson to prize a way in. On the bed is where they found her – blood stains everywhere.

We should have waited for the others. We should have.

Nobody knew who she was or where she’d come from. The cord between frozen mother and child painted with ice-tipped crystals. The radio crackled in the corner of the cabin. Blood smeared the smashed controls; there was no sign of the hunter who had rented the cabin. Without thinking a shivering Assistant Ranger Jeffries set the hearth ablaze. Slowly the cabin’s single room began to defrost – to feel alive again.

From the bed there came a child’s cry; a mother screamed a scream of unimagined pain. Harry McLennan’s last words were ‘Run, for the love of God, run’. Assistant Ranger Jeffries remembered nothing more in the cabin – he has never been able to recall how he got back.

I  know you don’t believe me. But that’s the way it was. I know that’s the way it was. I just wanted to get warm. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Winter has returned to the forest. The cabins at Jepson Point now lie broken and abandoned – a mother’s screams still echo through the pines; her child now silent and still once more.

Yes, I admit this is weird, but it’s truly what came to mind when I read the prompt i.e it had to be written! I hope the crowd over at Yeahwrite find something in it they might enjoy.

36 thoughts on “Speakeasy #157 – Recollections

  1. Silverleaf

    I love the descriptions – absolutely beautiful. I’m not sure whether the mother was a ghost or some other otherworldly creature but I like the way you set the scene and interspersed the narrative with first person thoughts – or are they journal entries?

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks, Silver. Yeh, the sections in italics are present tense/first-person thoughts mixed in with the third-person/historic narrative i.e. the Assistant Ranger thinking of things ‘now’ as he recollects the events of the day. Didn’t really set out to do this, but it sort of went that way. As for the mother and child, just liked the image so threw it in there – no real significance, just a weird/gruesome/creepy/sinister sight.

      Appreciate you taking the time to comment. I always enjoy reading people’s thoughts on my stories. In turn I hope they like to read my thoughts on their work.



  2. Madhura

    My god, this was the epitome of spooky stories at this week’s speakeasy! Your story, quite literally scared me! I was right there! And that voice, it keeps whispering in that self-convincing tone in my ears, and now I can’t stop talking that way… ‘I’m sure I’m going to have trouble sleeping tonight. I’m sure I will’.
    But then that just means your story was brilliant… I loved it! 🙂

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Heh, don’t have nightmares, Madhura – they’re just words, weird/creepy words, but just words. Flattered by your very kind comments. Thanks!

  3. jannatwrites

    I like the italicized interjected thoughts – for me, it made the story more urgent and ominous – especially the line about they should’ve waited for the others. That line put me on edge and foreshadowed that something really bad happened (and of course I eagerly read on because I wanted to know what horrible event took place 🙂 )

  4. Suzanne

    Wow. That’s so fantastically disturbing imagery! I love the way the present-day thoughts break the story up and add to the tension. Nicely done, sir! 🙂

  5. zeudytigre

    Great build up and foreshadowing, I was worrying about how this one was going to conclude but wanted to know. You successfully created a creepy atmosphere. Liked the idea of the defrost releasing something spooky, even if I wasn’t too clear on what had been released!

  6. tinsenpup

    You know, this IS weird, but you pull it off beautifully. It played like a horrible, chilling movie in my head. Those little interjections seem so natural that they didn’t even stand out for me until others mentioned them – that’s not an easy thing to do in a piece of flash fiction. This is great. I was disturbed by it, but loved it regardless.

  7. Bastet

    This is such a weird scary story. I could see the place, the cabins the frozen bodies…you write very well with great imagery…the italics set in the present tense was good…but I didn’t catch on that it was the Assistant Ranger who was talking in the present until the end. Good one!

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks! Yeh, I think my thoughts were the Assistant Ranger being the current tense/italicised voice would be a kind of reveal at the end. Was all a bit of a brain dump in truth, but it seems to have worked out ok. Glad you liked it.


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