Short Story
                                                                  By Jim Graves

Martin Thompson had worked hard at becoming self-reliant.  He had learned at an early age that people –
in general – irritated him.  It wasn't that he disliked them, it was more an under- standing of their ways that
simply led to avoidance of them.  And the fact that most of the people he had known, eventually assumed
they had the right to call him "Marty", which he hated.

At the age of fifty-one, he decided to disassociate himself from society.  He had earned a good living and
saved enough money through the years that he could now retire, modestly, from the daily routines of a
world he no longer cared for.

He found a small cabin for sale in the mountains.  It was rustic but comfortable, what some might call
quaint.  The kitchen had a wood burning stove and a cellar.  There was one bedroom.  The front room had
a large stone fireplace to provide heat during the cold Pennsylvania winters.  All of the furnishings (which
were still in good condition) had been left by the previous owner.

The realtor made a persuasive, though unnecessary, sales pitch.  “The well out back is clean.  It’s been
tested and the water is fine to drink.  There’s only the hand pump, but since you said you were okay with no
electrical service being available, I don't guess you would mind a hand pump for the water.  As you can
see, the property has been well maintained.  All it needs is someone who will enjoy and appreciate it for
what it is," he said.

Martin paid cash and moved in two weeks later.  He sold most of his material possessions, taking only
what he thought he would need.  Among the few luxury items he did take, were: an old Royal typewriter;
several reams of typing paper; his collection of books (consisting mostly of Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey
westerns and several volumes of poetry); and two cases of bourbon.  The latter, also for the cold
Pennsylvania winters.

He sold his Chrysler and used the money to buy a four-wheel-drive Jeep, used but still in good condition.  
The Jeep would be needed to make the occasional trip to town for supplies.  There was a trout stream that
ran near the cabin, and the woods were full of game, but he would have to go to town for staples.

He soon settled in and began to explore his new home and its surroundings.  He started with the cellar,
thinking he would clean it and use it for food storage, but had second thoughts.  There was a strong musty
smell that seemed to permeate even the stone walls of the small cellar.  He hadn't noticed it when he first
came to see the place, but then again, the realtor hadn't really taken him all the way down into the cellar.  
Just a quick look from the top of the stairs.  This would take some major cleaning.  There would be time for
that later.  He walked back upstairs, eager to escape the smell.

He walked outside, onto the back porch.  The realtor had told him the stream was less than a hundred
yards through the woods behind the house.  He reached it in no time.  It was beautiful.  The clear water
turning to a frothy white where it flowed over and around the rocks.  The fresh, clean air was a welcome
relief from just a few minutes before.  He stood there, his eyes closed, breathing in his surroundings.  He
listened to the water flowing.  The soft wind blowing through the trees.  The sound of some small, unseen
animal scurrying along its way.  For the first time in a long time, he felt at ease.  He was almost...happy.  
He smiled to himself.

The first couple of months seemed to fly by.  He had purchased two large drums for collecting rain water
which he used for bathing and laundry.  He built a small smokehouse out back.  He had become quite the
outdoorsman.  He had also started stocking canned goods and non-perishables whenever he went to
town.  He had been only twice since his time here.  The last time there, he bought all the first aid supplies
he could think of and enough lamp oil to last through the winter.  It was nearing the end of September, and
his plan was to not go back to town until spring.

He had spent the early part of the day splitting firewood.  It had become a routine.  Now, as the evening
wore on, he was enjoying the fruits of his labor.  Relaxing in front of the fire, re-reading ‘Riders Of The
Purple Sage’ and about to enjoy a drink if he could work up the energy to go into the kitchen for a glass
and a bottle.

He finally managed to push himself up from the chair.  Stretching, he realized just how much his muscles
felt every swing of the axe, earlier in the day.  The oil lamp from the living room provided enough light for
him to find his way to the cupboard.  Taking down a glass and a half full bottle of Jim Beam, he turned and
headed back to the warmth and comfort of his chair.

He stopped midway, noticing the cellar door.  It was open.  Not much.  Just a few inches.  He hadn't been
in the cellar in three days, when he had finally given up on the disinfecting and scrubbing for the time
being.  Again.  He reached out and pushed the door closed until he heard it catch, tugging on the knob to
make sure.  Returning to his chair, he settled back in, reading and sipping bourbon until he drifted to sleep
in front of the crackling fire.  He dreamed.

A hospital room.  The doctor yelling, "Clear".  A nurse telling him, he had to stay back and let them do their
job.  The paddles.  Rachel's upper body suddenly jumping and then falling back to the bed.  Waiting.  Once
more.  The doctor, "Time of death..."

Martin jumped, quickly looking around the room.  He always woke at that point in the dream, with tears in
his eyes.  He didn't have the dream every night.  But most.  It had been that way for the last eighteen years.

He and Rachel had been married for two years when she was critically injured in a car accident.  No one
was at fault.  Her's was the only vehicle involved.  A foggy night.  A wet road.  An accident.  She was dead
one week later.  Martin lost his only love.  His only friend.  He had been faithful to Rachel...then and every
day since.

He looked at his watch.  Almost five-thirty a.m.  He couldn't believe he had slept that long.  He picked up
the glass of bourbon, finishing off what little was left in it, and poured another.  He stood, pacing as he
drank.  Trying to shake the dream from his mind.  Walking into the kitchen, he looked outside, through the
backdoor window.  There was a steady rain falling.  He hoped it would stop.  He wanted to go fishing

There was a slight creak.  That of unoiled hinges.  He turned to see the cellar door, once again, opened a
few inches.  "What the hell," he muttered.

Taking the flashlight that he kept on the kitchen counter, he opened the cellar door, shining the light down
into the darkness.  He walked down the first four steps.  Bathing the cellar with the glow of the flashlight, he
saw nothing out of the ordinary.  The bucket and cleaning supplies still sitting where he had left them.  He
went back upstairs, closing the door and making sure it caught.

Returning to the front room, he looked over at the old Royal typewriter sitting on the small desk next to the
front window.  Rachel had bought it from a thrift store.  It still worked perfectly.  She had told him since he
enjoyed reading so much, he should try writing, he may actually have a talent for it.  That was Rachel.  
Always positive.  Always encouraging.

He had tried writing a few times, nothing worth saving.  And after the accident, well, he never really felt like
trying much of anything.  There was no reason.  No enjoyment.  He simply existed.  He took the bottle and
his glass and sat down in front of the typewriter.  Taking a single sheet of paper from the right hand
drawer, he rolled it into the Royal and sat.  Staring.  He emptied his glass and poured again.  Is this how
some writers become alcoholics, staring at an empty page – he wondered?

He got up and stoked the dying embers of the fire, adding more wood.  The rain had brought a chill to the
cabin.  Once he had the fire going again, he returned to the typewriter, and the empty page.  He started
typing, beginning with his first day at the cabin.  Anything was better than all that white space staring back
at him.

The first snowfall came during the last week of October.  He watched as the world – as he now knew it –
changed from the dying leaves of plants and trees to a pillowy white winterland.  He was glad he had

That night's dream was different.

The woman stood over him as he slept.  Watching.  She reached down, pulling the covers from him.  
Caressing his thighs until he became aroused.  She removed his underwear and lowered herself, taking
him inside her.  Her dark hair cascaded down over her breasts as her hips moved with slow, rhythmic
determination.  He was overcome with a sense of...knowing.  A sense of belonging.  He couldn't explain it,
but at that moment, everything was clear.

Martin quickly sat up.  His heart was racing.  His breathing rapid.  It was as though he had just  
He lifted the blanket and looked down at  But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that it was real,
that it wasn't a dream, even though his good sense told him that it was.  The worst part was the guilt.  The
woman in the dream wasn't Rachel.  How could he do this to her?  She had been the only person who ever
understood him.  And now this?  This is how he repaid her understanding?  Her patience?  Her love?  He
kept telling himself that it was just a dream.  You can’t control your dreams.

He couldn't get back to sleep.  He got out of bed and went into the front room.  He stoked the fire, adding
more wood.  He was suddenly freezing.  He knew it was his imagination.  The cabin was warm.  It was the
dream that had caused his chill.  He had never had a dream like that.  Neither sexual nor one so real.  He
could almost smell the woman's scent.

He crossed the room to look out the window, when he noticed the sheet of paper in the typewriter.  
Looking closer, he read the single word typed in the center of the page.


The chill returned, running the entire length of his spine, causing him to visibly shake.  He knew he had
been drinking a lot lately.  But he also knew that he hadn't typed that word.  With a trembling hand, he
pulled the paper from the Royal.  He quickly turned, looking around the room.  Through the kitchen
doorway, he could see the cellar door.  Opened.  The paper slipped from his fingers, gliding to the floor.

Slowly, he approached the cellar door, stopping within arm’s length.  He tried to reach out but couldn't.  It
wasn't fear of what may be down there.  But fear of realizing he wasn't alone.

A soft, sad whisper came up from the darkness. "Lonely."

He stepped back, tripping over his own feet.  Surely, he was losing his mind.  He hadn’t even lasted one
month of winter before he went completely insane.  Was the voice actually coming from the cellar, or was it
coming from his own mind?

"I am real," the voice whispered, with the same sad tone, as if it had read his thoughts.

"No.  This isn't happening," he said.  "This is not happening."

"I will not harm you.  You are free to leave.  Everyone leaves,” the voice said.

He couldn't move.  He was frozen in place.

"What...who... are you?" he asked, surprising himself.

"If I told you my name, you would not know it.  I have been as I am since the beginning of time.  Long
before worlds were created," the voice said.  "You have no idea what it is like to spend eternities alone."

Martin lowered his head.  He knew loneliness.  For the last eighteen years, he had embraced it.  He had
grown comfortable with being alone.  Or so he told himself.  It was a lie.  A lie he lived every day.  Maybe
his loneliness was punishment for not being in the car with Rachel.  Maybe it was punishment for not telling
her he loved her before she left the house that afternoon.  Maybe it was simply the fact that she was gone...
and he was still here.

"I do understand what it's like to be lonely," he said.

"You are not running away," the voice said, almost questioning.

"No, I’m not.” He took the first step leading down cellar, pulling the door closed behind him.

About Jim Graves

Jim Graves is a writer of
horror. Originally from
Texas, he lived in
Nashville, Tennessee for
eleven years where he had
contracts with Whistle
Music Group and Alley
Roads Music.  He has
worked a variety of jobs
through the years,
including; loading dock
manager, lumber yard
manager, and truck driver,
to name a few.  He now
lives in the UK with his
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