The Cabin IV: In Jacob's Shadow, CHAPTER 1 preview

The darkness was too deep for her to see in the confined place, and the only thing she could hear was the wind as it found its way through the pines, wailing around the mountain, looking to devastate anything in its path. The eeriness of the night was heightened by the occasional call of a wild animal. For the past four years, Patty had enjoyed the fulfillment of her dream of an exciting life in the city. Having been away from her childhood home for such a long time, she’d nearly forgotten the wind’s lonely sound and the call of animals echoing just below it.
Sheltered by unfamiliar, rough walls, the girl cowered in the corner, dreading the door’s opening and her captor’s return. As if her head were filled with cotton, she looked through a haze. How did I get here? Why don’t I remember? she wondered. A foul odor that she couldn’t identify assaulted the cool mountain air. She realized that in spite of the unappetizing stench, her stomach held an empty knot of hunger, and she was thirstier than she’d ever been in her life.
Chilled by the night air, she got to her knees. Cautiously, she crawled around the base of the wall, eventually coming just slightly short of a full circle, about eight feet shy of where she had begun. There she came in contact with an army blanket. Surprised and grateful, she found the edge, unfolded the blanket, and wound it around herself, covering her body from head to toe. Wrapped like a mummy, she sat back against the wall, and tried, unsuccessfully, to make out the objects barely visible in the windowless room.
An unsettling, muffled sound suddenly disturbed the air. The soft, wounded-animal noise was coming from just across the narrow room. Wanting desperately to hide, Patty quickly pulled the rough blanket over her face but could not stop the screams that filled her throat.
Mercifully, a dazzling light filled the room, melting the darkness of Patty’s dream, dragging her horror-filled mind slowly back into consciousness.
Tuesday had flipped the light switch on and was rushing across the soft carpet. She sat down on the edge of Patty’s bed. Loosened from pins and hairspray, Tuesday’s mass of blond hair cascaded around her shoulders.
“It’s okay, honey. It’s only a nightmare.”
Gradually coming up from the depth of a steep, spiraling tunnel, Patty fully awoke to the comforting sound of Tuesday’s voice.
“When am I going to stop having these nightmares?” she sobbed.
“Everything’s okay,” Tuesday soothed.
“I’m so sorry to wake you,” Patty said.
“It’s alright.” Tuesday hugged the girl tightly then released her so she could look into her eyes. She had come to think of Patty as her own child, never once regretting that she and Cliff had adopted her shortly after their marriage.
“Want to talk about it?”
“I’ve had this same nightmare before. Remember the one about me being locked up in a dark place with the wind howling outside?”
“Yes, I do,” Tuesday said. “Did anything new happen? Or can you tell where you were in the dream?”
“No, not at all,” Patty said. “My dream ends before I know where I am or who is responsible for—” she sobbed, unable to put words to the horrific scene.
“Take your time, Patty.”
“It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so scary.” Patty forced a feeble smile through her tears, deeply relieved that what she had just experienced had been only another nightmare.
“We’ve got to do something about these nightmares,” Tuesday said.
“I know. The therapist isn’t doing any good. He thinks the dreams are just nerves or maybe hurtful images from my past. He doesn’t understand that they’re really bits and pieces of my life, past and future.”
“I’m afraid he’s like most people and has little concept of what your dreams are about.”
“You can include me in that group,” Patty said. Her bountiful, long eyelashes were wet with tears.
“Maybe another therapist might have had a case like yours and can help.”
“Tuesday, that’s just wishful thinking. Continuing with therapy is a waste of time and money. Can’t you see that? What I need is to find my birth family. They may be just like me. They might be able to help me understand why I have dreams that—days, weeks, months, years later—I find myself walking into, awake, thinking, ‘This has already happened,’ knowing what everyone is going to do and say.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Tuesday said. “You know I’ll do anything I can to help.” She paused briefly and then said, “Except of course allow you to travel to the mountain alone.”
Choosing to ignore the remark, Patty wrapped her arm through Tuesday’s and leaned her head against hers, her dark hair in stark contrast to Tuesday’s.
“If only you could. I hate having these horrifying nightmares and knowing that chances are I’m actually going to live them someday.”
In one last attempt to get her approval and avoid going against Tuesday and Cliff’s wishes, Patty looked Tuesday in the eyes. “I know you and Cliff don’t feel it’s safe for me to visit the mountain, but I have to go back. That’s the only way I’ll ever find my birth family. Annabelle and Aggie must know something! They were the ones tending to my mother when I was born.” Patty’s eyes filled with fresh tears. “And because Pa never saw to it that we had medical care, the family had to watch as my mother bled to death,” Patty said, her voice catching. “Annabelle said that my mother never even got to see me or hold me in her arms.”
“Are you sure you’ve remembered everything that the women have told you about your mother over the years?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Sometimes it’s all I think about. Annabelle, especially, always got angry when I mentioned my birth mother. I always thought she felt kind of threatened whenever I wanted to know all about my birth mother, since she’d taken my mother’s place in every way that she could under the circumstances. But as I got older, I realized that it was talking to her about my dreams that upset her so much that she’d refuse to talk about my mother.”
Patty shrugged. “Tuesday, nothing is going to change until I go to the mountain. Don’t you see that Annabelle’s actions prove she knows something?”
“I’m not forbidding you from ever returning to your mountain home,” Tuesday said. “I’m just asking you to take a few months, and we’ll talk about it again.”
“Whatever,” Patty said.
“You’re sounding like your friends now. Anyway, you need to finish with the plastic surgeon. You know he wants to do one final skin graft on your face.”
“I know that, but I hate to have to go in the hospital again. I’d thought I would’ve been finished with all that by now.”
“It’s no big deal,” Tuesday said. “And you knew when we started that it would take more than a couple of hospital stays. The last skin graft didn’t take well and he’s only going to replace it. After all you’ve gone through, you can’t give up before it’s finished!”
“After that,” Patty said imploringly, wanting Tuesday’s permission, “I’m going to go.”
“Let’s discuss all this with Cliff,” Tuesday said, bringing him in as a stall tactic. “We have to consider each other when we make such huge decisions.”
“Fine. I know he’ll see something wrong with my going.”
“Patty, we have to decide this together! As a family.”
“Whatever.” Patty flopped back onto her pillow and pulled the comforter to her chin, causing Tuesday to shift her weight to release the blanket.
“You’re not being fair, young lady. We only have your best interests at heart.”
Relenting, Patty sat up and threw her arms around Tuesday. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to be a brat. I don’t know what would have happened to me if not for you. You know that I love you and Cliff. I respect you both, and ever since you’ve taken me in, I’ve tried to make you proud, but, Tuesday, no matter what happens, I have to find my birth family.”
In the last class of the morning, Patty sat in her usual seat in the second row, next to Ashton, her best friend. Patty had always enjoyed history, but to be learning about witchcraft this semester was terribly distressing. Distressing because with each assignment she found that there were parallels between the stories she had been assigned to read and the events in her nightmares. The class was almost over, and Ashton kept glancing at Patty as she too recognized the parallels. This lesson was on the unsavory ways society dealt with those believed to be involved in witchcraft.
The bell rang and the girls headed to their lockers through hallways filled with laughing, rowdy teenagers. “Patty, that was scary,” Ashton said. “The stories where the women were burned at the stake, well, they sound like they were taken straight from your dreams.”
“I know,” Patty said opening her locker with a bang. “This stuff frightens me, and nobody can really understand unless they’ve lived it. That’s why I want so badly to find my birth family. Maybe they have dreams of the future and the past just like I do.”
“I sure don’t understand it,” Ashton said.
“Last night Tuesday told me that I can’t go to the mountain.”
“What are you going to do now? I know you were counting, big time, on going.”
“I’m going anyway.”
Ashton, jostled by a group of freshmen hurrying to lunch, shouldered against Patty, causing her to drop her books. Bending down to help pick up them, Ashton gathered the papers that had slipped from one of the fallen books. “What’s this?” she asked, wide-eyed. Ashton held a picture of a young woman tied to a pole, and piled around the base were stacks of wood reaching to the girl’s knees. “Patty, did you draw this? It looks like you.”
Hastily, Patty took the picture and slipped it back inside her book. “Let’s go to lunch.”
“I only wanted to know who it’s supposed to be.”
“Forget it.”
“Whatever,” Ashton said good-naturedly.
The cafeteria was a den of noisy teenagers, calling out across the room, laughing, grabbing and throwing someone’s cap, slamming down their books to hold a seat while standing in the line for food, or just shouting to be heard by those at their table over the clamor in the huge room. Patty and Ashton joined their friends at the usual table. Tiffany was already there with her sister Amber. Almost from the first, the girls had become a tight-knit group, the three quickly accepting Patty and her innocent, unsophisticated ways, which were intriguing to them. Patty trusted her friends and felt free to talk to them about her life on the mountain.
“Now that you can drive, I can’t understand why you don’t go visit your family on the mountain.” Tiffany said. “Are you afraid?”
“Yes, you are,” Amber said before Patty could answer. “How cool is that?”
“No, actually, I’m not. I just told Ashton that I’m going. Didn’t I, Ashton?”
“Yes,” Ashton looked around at the others. “Why not? She has her own car.”
“And, anyway, I was never scared to go. I just never wanted to visit someplace I was never very comfortable or happy. Annabelle, the woman who raised me, isn’t my real mother, and I have no desire to run into my father or brother.”
“Right,” said the others, as they began picking at their food.

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Wild and Wonderful, West Virginia Wildlife
         (photo courtesy of Jack Oliver II)           

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