Nora Lafferty '23, Writer

“Shh, I hear her coming.”

“I really don’t think this is a good idea, Ivy. It’s mean.”

“Shut up, Cecilia. Ready Connor?”


The room is dark, so dark that Cecilia can hardly distinguish who it is that shoves her into the closet. Hardly, but not quite. She knows those hands. She knows the nails that dig into her skin and the cold, silky feeling of her friend’s jacket. She knows that perfume and those mannerisms, she knows it’s Ivy. 

“I don’t like this, Ivy,” She says one last time in an attempt to make herself heard. 

“Cecilia, it’s just a joke. Don’t be a baby.”

Sullen, she shrinks to the back of the closet, sinking into soft sweaters and downy jackets in an attempt at disappearance. The door to the bedroom creaks open, loud and rusty. The hinges are old, the wood underfoot groaning in protest. 

The cabin is beautiful, but ancient. It mirrors the woodland around it; tall, looming, imposing, but also so fragile. Cecilia almost got hit by a falling lightbulb earlier, and she wouldn’t be surprised if the entire bedroom fell through the second floor with only five people in it. 

“It’s fine, Londyn. Just a creaky floorboard. Jeez, no need to be so jumpy,” Stella tells her companion as she pushes into the room. “I just need my coat, then we can- Connor? What’s up, can I help you find something?” 

“Ah, no. Actually, I was hoping I could talk to you.”


“Um… alone.” 

Cecilia can’t see through the cracks in the closet door, to which Ivy’s phone is firmly pressed, but she hears rustling, and assumes Stella has turned to look at her friend. Flustered, Londyn backs away, a thud and a small ‘ouch’ making it clear that she had not been watching her footing on the way out. It’s typical, and kind of what Ivy had been counting on- Londyn not sticking around, too shy and too scared of confrontation to fight for her spot by her friend’s side. 

“Thanks. You know, we’ve been friends for a while.”

Oh. Oh, Cecilia can hear the hesitation in his voice, feel the tension in the air. In the soft glow of the phone screen, obviously recording, she can see Ivy’s lips pull down into a frown, her nerves of steel fraying. 


“But we weren’t always.”

“What do you want, Connor?”

“I’m just saying, there’s been some obvious chemistry between us over the years,” he amends.

“Okay? We aren’t kids anymore.”

“No, but you still like me.”

Cecilia shrinks further, as if she can disappear out of this closet, out of this situation. She pushes herself into hangers and clothes, feels the wood backing of the closet catching and snagging on her cardigan.

Stella, to her credit, doesn’t miss a beat. “I don’t know what would have given you that idea.” Cecilia breathes out a breath of relief as a silence washes over the room. Then, just as abruptly, she sucks it back in again. 

“Londyn told me.”

“Did she?” Stella asks, though it sounds less like a question and more like an attempt to organize whatever cards are being handed to her. 

“Please don’t be mad at her. The truth is, Oliver told her I liked you, so she was just trying to help.” Connor sounds calm again, every bit the manipulator Cecilia remembers him being when they were talking. Every bit the manipulator he was earlier on, dating her best friend and still making advances on her every time Ivy’s back was turned. She feels sick. Stella doesn’t deserve this. Londyn and Oliver have no idea what’s happening, they don’t deserve to have their names thrown around like this. 

“You… you like me?” Stella hesitates

Around Ivy’s shoulder, Cecilia sees the dim screen of the phone. Connor cups Stella’s cheek, nods and freezes as she leans in. 

That’s when Ivy laughs, and Cecilia feels the bubbling tension in the room spill over. Ivy Richard’s laugh is one to earn, one to dread. It doesn’t radiate happiness, doesn’t reflect an air of joy. Ivy Richard’s laugh is cool like an autumn day, musical and malicious, a pretty gem with a deadly point. She pushes her way out of the closet, Cecilia’s arm in one hand, flashing phone in the other. 

“I can’t believe you fell for that! Oh, you should have seen your face. You were so convinced! And Connor here thought I was lying when I said you were crushing on him. You guys are a riot!” She drops Cecilia’s arm to take a spigot beside Connor, reaching up to give him a quick kiss. “That was funny, wasn’t it babe?”

“You guys are…” 

“I didn’t think she actually-”

Connor trips over his words, red as the coat Ivy wears beside him. Stella looks mortified, looking between the three of them in horror, before taking a step back. 

“Wait, Stella,” Cecilia tries, reaching out. 

“No. No, you knew? You knew? And, and Oliver and Londyn, and you,” she seethes, rounding back to Ivy, tears burning hot behind her eyes, hidden only by the darkness of the bedroom, the setting sun outside the window. “I knew you were evil, but I thought we were friends.”

“Grow up, Stella, it was just a joke. No need to cry over it. Jeez, can’t believe you even fell for that. I mean, Connor and I have been dating for months. Didn’t you know?”

Stella is frozen, immobile and unmoving in the center of the room, glancing between the three of them as though she is unsure of which threat is the worst, who she is the most angry with. “No,” she whispers, voice caught in her throat. She clears it, and tries again. “No, it seems you forgot to tell me.” The tears are spilling over now, but Stella does not waver. 

Ivy pressed her index finger to her cheek, looking up at Connor in a mocking manner. “Hmm. Seems I did. Honest mistake, I assure you.” 

“Stella,” Cecilia takes a step forward, wrapping her hands around her friend’s arm, eyes pleading, voice breaking. 

“Don’t touch me!” She shouts, pulling back, stumbling, and bolting out the door. 

“Stella!” Cecilia cries, rushing out the room after her. The cabin is dark, and Stella knows it well. Cecilia may be an athlete, but she has always lacked the grace that her Londyn and Stella, ballerina’s since birth, contain. Stella rushes down the stairs, and Cecilia crashes into a figure exiting the bathroom.

“Cecilia?” Lilith frowns, taking in her panicked expression, tear filled eyes. “Cecilia, what’s-?”

“Stella, Stella’s gone, and Ivy, Ivy did something, and I can’t, I can’t-” She can’t breathe. Cecilia has run for miles, beat the fastest girls and the fastest boys in the country. She knows the burn of her muscles and the rubber of the track she spends so much time on. She has endurance, breathing techniques, and lungs of steel, but right now, Cecilia Miller cannot breathe. 

Lilith frowns, guiding her down to the ground, watching her slump against the wall. “It’s okay, Cecilia. I’ll find Stella. Just take some deep breaths, I’ll be back to talk to you.”

And then she’s gone, rushing down the stairs with a series of creaks and groans from the wood. Cecilia is left there, a panting mess, black spots flooding her vision. Lilith will find her, she has to. She knows Stella better than anyone- she knows her sister better than anyone. Cecilia exhales with that reassurance flooding her brain, and closes her eyes, banishing the burned out spots of vision from her sight. 

Lilith has never been athletic. Much to the disappointment of both her parents, she quit all her sports at the ripe age of 11 years old. She sticks to her books and dresses and easy little outings. She would have to be a fool to think she can catch Stella, with her toned calves and strong build.

She flies down the stairs, through the kitchen, pausing as she’s assaulted by the thick stench of alcohol. Her brother lies there, asleep on the counter, bottles and glasses scattered around him. It’s not an unusual sight, so she knows Theo will not wake should she try to rouse him. He’s better than her, faster than her, has a better chance of catching Stella than her, but so did Cecilia. It doesn’t matter now, she’s on her own.   

She rushes through the remainder of the kitchen, shoves her boots on her feet. She pushes past a confused Oliver and protesting Londyn, out the front door and into the freezing cold. Stella’s footsteps are evident in the snow, but disappearing quickly. The wind bites at her face as she runs, down the path and through the woods, following her sister’s footsteps. She hears her up above, a crashing, desperate pace that does not, could not, belong to her graceful baby sister. 

“Stella!” she calls, slowing. It is hard to see in the snow, clouds and flurries of white obscuring her vision. The cliffside is approaching, and though she can’t see it well in this weather, she knows these pines and these rocks, this frozen river and that hole in the ground. “Stella!”

A figure stands at the edge of the chasm, a silhouette of gray in a blizzard of white.

“Stella, come away from the edge!” Rushing to her sister’s side, she takes her hand into her own. “Stella, you’re frigid, come on, we need to get back inside.”

Her sister’s face is unmoving, unchanged. She looks over to her slowly, eyes blank and bored. There’s a tear frozen on her face, though it might just be another snowflake from the storm around them. 

“Okay,” she whispers quietly. “Okay, lets…” she clears her throat, raw and exhausted. “Let’s go back. I want to go back.”

“Of course you do. Come on.” 

The wind blows, the snow slips, and two sisters fall into the chasm below, never to be seen again. The screams carry on the mountains, usually. Shrieks of joy and laughter echoing between peaks and valleys, to be heard by all for miles. Here though, in this storm, nobody hears Stella Devon gasp, nobody hears Lilith Devon scream- if there was a scream to be heard in the first place. 

“Well. This is a drag,” Ivy says from her seat on the couch. The fire flickers to her right, making her look waxy and gaunt in the light. 

“Don’t be rude, Ivy,” Cecilia scolds, legs crossed on the opposite side of the room. She looks tense, like she’s living in a nightmare. The house is dark, Connor refusing to turn on a single light until they warmed themselves up first. 

“What? It is. This is so depressing. I get he wants to mourn, or whatever, but why do we have to be here for it? It’s bad enough that I have to be back in this creepy place, let alone be with all of you. I mean, it’s been a year. Get over it already, you know?”



“Shut up.” 

Londyn’s never seen Oliver so angry- his eyebrows furrowed together, lips turned down in a snarl. He’s sweet, usually. One of the nicest guys in school, definitely the most respectful, but Ivy has a way of bringing out the worst in people. 

“Enough, guys. Theo will be here soon. He invited us here to remember and respect his sisters, not fight. I know most of us aren’t friends anymore, but at least try to keep yourselves together,” Londyn pleads from her spot on Oliver’s side.

Connor sits silently, staring into the fire. He’s on the floor, legs crossed and posture slumped. Ivy watches him carefully, eyes weary. Cecilia watches Ivy, eyes hard, like she’s trying to warn her, or control her. Oliver watches his hands, fiddling and restless in his lap, and Londyn watches him, willing her breathing to stay under control.

The wind howls outside, almost hiding the sound of the front door slamming open as Theo enters. “Hey guys! Wow, good turn out. Really wasn’t expecting half of you to show up!” There’s a pack of beers in one hand, his phone in the other. 

“Don’t be silly, Theo,” Londyn says softly. “Of course we’d come. It’s for Stella and Lilith, after all.”

Theo smiles, though it’s tight and forced. “Right, because you all seemed to care so much about them when they were alive hm?”

“I-” Londyn stalls, then closes her mouth, looking away from Theo and back down to the floor. 

“Don’t be like that, Theo. Londyn hasn’t done anything wrong,” Cecilia says, looking hesitantly between Londyn and Theo.

“Oh, sure Cecilia. She only played a part in the demise of my sisters. Connor told me, you know. All of you should be disgusted with yourselves. I mean really, what kind of sick joke was that?”

“Londyn and Oliver didn’t have any part of it, Theo. Please, sit down. We can talk about this in a civilized manner,” Cecilia offers, scooting to the edge of the couch she sits on to make room for him. 

“No- no, I don’t want to talk to you guys. How can you sit there and, and deny what you did? How are you not sick with grief?  How have you not followed them over the edge of the cliff? What is wrong with you guys? What kind of friends are you?” He’s pacing now, in front of a large class window looking out into the dark woods. 

“Stop it,” Connor says, standing up now. “It was a year ago. If you don’t want us here, we’ll go, but don’t start talking like this. It won’t solve anything.” 

“No, what won’t solve anything is you acting all self righteous, like you have any ounce of self respect remaining in that useless, pathetic-” 

The glass shatters behind him, and arms reach through to grab Theo. He screams, as does Londyn, as he’s hauled out the window by force. A figure stands behind him, burly and tall in a gas mask and thick lumberjack coat. The pack of beers falls to the ground, shattering alongside broken window glass. 

“There are sins to repent for,” the stranger says, voice low and broken through the mask. 

Without any more warning, Theo is dragged off into the woods, still kicking and screaming. 

There’s a single moment of shocked silence, before; “Oh my god, oh my god, what just happened,” Londyn cries, a sick pale of green as she stares into the void where the window once was. Screams echo in the woods, Theo howling manically. 

“Out of my way,” Connor says, standing and shoving the idly standing Ivy back into her seat, storming around the living room decor and to the window. “We have to follow him. Come on, Oliver, be a man. Where’d all that anger go?” 

Oliver is swaying on his feet, looking just as green as his friend beside him. “Oh God, oh God,” he murmurs, gripping Londyn’s shoulder to keep himself upright. 

“I’ll come with you,” Cecilia says, steeling herself and donning her coat.

“I can’t let you do that,” He denies, stepping between her and the door. 

“We don’t have time for this, Connor. You guys stay here, get away from the windows and lock the doors. We’ll find Theo,” she reassures, shoving around Connor and hurrying out the door, leaving no choice but for him to follow. 

“What in the world was that?” Ivy whispers into the quiet room, void of all sound but the screeching of the wind outside.

“I… I don’t know. Someone just, someone grabbed him through the glass. How is that even possible?” Oliver asks, quivering nervously. 

Bizarrely, Londyn finds herself calm. Though, maybe it’s not so bizarre. Her discipline has always emerged at the strangest of times- when mademoiselle is yelling at her, when she is on stage, when her muscles ache and her mind screams in protest, Londyn rises to the challenge.

“We should call someone,” she says, voice alien and foreign to even her own self. She is acting through a cloud of smoke, speaking into a muffler. She isn’t sure if they understand her, not until Ivy shakes her head. 

“You can’t. There’s no service and the wifi’s down. Theo was going to start up the generator, but…”

“Why can’t we start it?” Oliver asks.

“It’s somewhere in the basement, but the basement connects to the old mountain mines. There’s a reason the Devon’s always marked the basement as off limits. The things are on the verge of collapsing in on themselves, and it’s a maze down there. They spread across most of the mountain.”

“Oh. I just thought they had some creepy halloween decorations down there.” 

“That too,” Ivy shrugs.

“Awfully familiar with a place that’s meant to be off limits, Ivy,” Oliver accuses.

“Connor and I liked to explore. The rest of you are incredibly boring to be around.” 


“In any case, there’s no way to contact anyone out here.”

“The fire tower,” Londyn says suddenly. “There’s emergency equipment, I know it. Stella and I used to climb it when we were kids. It’s only occupied in the summer, but they leave the equipment and connection up there year round for lost hikers.” 

“Oh, that’s genius. Grab your coat, we’re going.” The last part is to Ivy, who looks reluctant and hesitant to be dragged out into the blizzard outside- but the house is ominously dark and there is a stranger with them on the mountain, so she does not have much of a choice. 

The hike to the fire tower isn’t long, shortened more so by the haste the small group makes. It’s cold and it’s gloomy, shadows tall and tempers short. Ivy mutters into her jacket, curses and insults, but Londyn can tell she’s nervous and can tell how seriously she takes this by how quickly she moves through the woods. 

“Up there,” Londyn says.

“Up that thing? Are you kidding?” Ivy asks, eyebrow raised at the metal ladder, shivering and shaking in the wind of the storm.

“Do you see another way up? Please, enlighten me,” Londyn calls over the wind, grabbing onto the first rung of the ladder. 

“I don’t think I can… um, I’ll keep watch from down here. If that’s okay, I mean,” Ivy says. She looks nervous, eyeing the ladder and fidgeting with her gloves anxiously. 

“Ivy Richards,” Oliver gasps, hands pressing to his mouth. “Are you afraid of heights?”

“No!” Ivy scowls. “I’m just… I’m not very strong. You know me, and my mom. No sports or weight lifting because it would build bulky muscle. Just… I don’t think I’d be able to hang on against the wind.”

“It’s okay Ivy,” Londyn reassures. “You don’t need to explain yourself. Oliver and I will head up. Stay here and keep watch. Shout if you see something.”

It’s a tough climb, even with her gloves, the winter winds fighting against them every step of the way. Eventually though, they reach the top, pushing up the hatch and tumbling into the unlocked tower.

“Phew,” Oliver sighs, collapsing into a heap on the ground. 

“Up,” Londyn urges her friend, already pushing herself to her feet, hurrying over to the panels by the window. 

On a sunny summer’s day, this tower looks on for miles. It sees the lake at the bottom of the mountain and the peaks surrounding it and all the trees in between. Tonight, however, it sees nothing. It’s dark and blurry, concealed by snow and sleet alike. 

“I’m not really sure… um… Oliver, check your phone’s service.”

“I have two bars,” he replies, still on the ground. “But my calls won’t go through,” he says after a moment, frowning at the glowing screen. 

“Ugh!” Londyn looks over the devices scattered about the wooden counter, reaching for a small radio after a moment’s thought. She fiddles with it, clicking buttons and turning dials until a crackling sound comes through. 

“Hello? Hello?” 

There’s nothing but static for a moment, but after some more adjustments, Londyn seems to figure something out. 


“This is the Washington Police Department, do you read? Over,” a voice says, crackly and quiet through the radio, but there none the less. 

Oliver hurries over, taking the radio from Londyn’s hands and fidgeting until it’s a bit louder, discernable over the howling winds. 

“Yes, yes, hello,” Oliver is breathless, grappling with the radio like it  is a lifeline, hands shaking  and shivering in the cold, quaking from the anxiety of the realities that have occured on this mountain. “My name is Oliver Torres, and I’m on Washington Mountain with my friends. There’s someone here with us, and we think they’re dangerous. Please, send help.” 

“Alright Oliver,” The voice says calmly. “Stay on the line. The storm is making things difficult, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get patrols up there until it clears out. Is there any way you can make it back to the main road? Over.” 

“N-no,” Londyn interrupts. “We can’t leave our friends behind. If we leave, they’ll be all alone with that man.”

“Can you provide a description of this suspect for the incoming authorities?”

“Tall, um… uhh… I don’t know. He was wearing a mask,” Londyn says, looking at Oliver, a bit panicked.

“It was this brown plaid jacket. He had on this big full face gas mask, so it kind of hid everything. His hood was up, and his voice was very deep. He had to be- I mean, I assume he was really strong. Our friend wouldn’t be easy to haul off without a fight. He’s a pretty big guy.”

“I see. This is very helpful, Oliver. If you can, please stay by the transceiver until help arrives. They should be able to get through the storm around approximately four a.m. Over.” 

“Four in the morning?” Londyn squeaks. “We don’t have that kind of time. Theo needs help now. We don’t even know where he is.” 

The woman begins speaking once more, but Oliver isn’t listening. They don’t even know where he is. No, no, but they could. With shaking hands, he pulls his phone out of his pocket, swiping open the social media map. For a few excruciating seconds, the screen buffers, two bars in the top corner flickering in uncertainty. Then, it pulls through. 

“Londyn,” he says, getting the attention of his friend. “Look at this.”

She hurries over to him, peering over his shoulder to see what he’s seeing. “Oliver? This can’t be right. It says… it says he’s back at the house. Did he drop his phone?”

Oliver shakes his head slowly. “No, he couldn’t have. Just the drinks. He was clutching his phone so tightly that his knuckles turned white.” 

“Then he’s really back at the house. But how is that possible? We should have seen them loop back around, or at least heard them with all that screaming Theo was doing.” 

Oliver furrows his eyebrows, opens his mouth to answer, before he is cut off by a loud scream. 

“Ivy,” Londyn says breathlessly, eyes blown wide. 

“Shoot,” Oliver says, scrambling back towards the hatch, and the ladder below it. The screaming has stopped, cut off just as suddenly as it began, but the silence is somehow far more worrying. The radio still hums in the background, and Londyn can’t help but feel they are doing the wrong thing, leaving behind their only source of communication, but they have no choice. She follows Oliver out the tower, making sure to keep a couple rungs above him on the ladder, careful not to step on his hands. 

He’s yelling below her, shouting Ivy’s name like his life depends on it. Maybe it does. All Londyn can do is focus on the ladder in front of her- focus on one step at a time, step step step, focus on not falling. Focus on the ground below, where she thinks she can see a small splotch of some kind of dark liquid stained on the snow.

Where she thinks she can see Ivy’s midnight black hair, blood red jacket, bluebell jeans, splayed across the snow like a fallen angel. 

They are almost down, and Londyn is not liking the looks of what they are approaching, when the wires supporting the ladder from the right side suddenly snap. 

It swings, and she screams, along with Oliver, who releases a string of swears that Londyn hadn’t even known he was capable of.

“What was that?!”

“I don’t know! Someone must have cut the wires, we need to get down from here!” Oliver says, voice panicked and sheer below her. Londyn holds tight to the ladder, willing herself to stay on, cold metal searing through her glove and into her hands like a burn. 

There’s scrambling below her, a sharp inhale, and then there is a thud, the tell-tale sound of Oliver falling into the snow below. Silence ensues, Oliver making no sign of movement as Londyn’s heart threatens to beat out of her chest. 

Stay calm, she tells herself. You’re strong enough, so just don’t

She slips. Her heart jumps into her throat, from which a scream rips itself as she feels the rung of the ladder fall out from under her. Landing in ice cold snow, right beside her friend, she lays stunned for several moments, frozen in fear and shock. 

“Oh, wow,” she whispers. “Okay. Okay, you’re okay,” she tells herself, pushing herself up and looking over beside her, where Oliver lies motionless. “Oliver?” She scrambles over to him, pushing through the tall piles of snow and over to his side. “Oliver, are you okay?”

He blinks snowflakes out of his eyes, face scrunched up in an ugly grimacing expression. “I’m going to be feeling that for weeks,” he tells her. 

She laughs, but it is not from the humor of their situation. It is relief, exhaustion, adrenaline. She pulls Oliver to his feet, and looks around. 

“Where’s Ivy?”

“I don’t know. She was just here, wasn’t she? We saw her in the snow.” 

Despite this, any sign that their friend had once been there was gone- all except a dark red splotch of blood against the pristine white snow. There are tracks leading away from the indented shape of her form in the snow, as though someone had been dragging her unconscious form away. 

“I don’t understand. Where’s he taking her? Where’s Theo?” Londyn asks, voice shaking. She reaches over and clutches Oliver’s arm, scared that if she were to let go, he would disappear just as the rest of them had. 

“It said… it said he was back at the house. But that can’t be true- it just doesn’t make sense.” 

“But if he’s not in the house, then he must be…”

“Hey, Londyn?” 


“What was it Ivy said about the mines again?” 

“They run all under the mountain… even under the… oh. Oh god, we have to go.” 

“We should try to warn Cecilia and Connor. If they haven’t been taken already, that is.” 

“Don’t talk like that. They have to be okay. They just have to.”