I decided to write a story for my husband for father’s day. I knew I wanted to write a scary story. I tried to write one about a demon cat, and it wasn’t flowing. Then I remembered a misunderstanding that sprang up during a recording of our podcast (Creepy Cabin Podcast) and this story was born. Overall, I’m happy with it. There are flaws and I know I could write better if I had given myself more time with it, but I’m still proud of it. I hope you enjoy it!
It was a bright and sunny day. The children of the neighborhood were out playing in full force. Their shouts of glee and screams of laughter could be heard in most houses. Nearly everyone had their windows open; it was the first truly nice day of the year. The long winter was ending. The snow had melted, leaving puddles of mud in its wake. Parents were seated outside, enjoying the fresh air as their children ran amok. Birds and other critters were chirping and chittering. It was a cacophony of noise, but the kind that makes people smile because finally the gray of the winter is dissipating, being warmed by the rays of a sun that really wants to show off.
It is joyful.
Until suddenly it all stops. The movement of children chasing each other, the cries of their voices, the noise of the animals. The chatter of parents who aren’t scrolling mindlessly through their phones. And even that movement stops. Everything is frozen beneath the sun — a sun that is still shining brightly — and everything is silent save for a scream on the wind.
Then movement begins and the sound resumes. There’s an odd feeling lingering over everyone’s shoulder, but no one recalls hearing the scream. No one recalls being frozen. Something is wrong, but no one knows what. They shake off that feeling because it’s nice out. Winter might well truly be on the way out, and if it isn’t, then none of these people or animals wish to be fools and waste the warmth and joy of it.
They shake the feeling off and move on.
A breeze rustles the trees and no one notices.
Jeremiah has the house to himself. It is a rare occurrence. The house is usually filled to the brim with people. Bursting with too many bodies and too much noise. He knows he is being uncharitable. His foster family is nice. This is also the nicest home he has been in. But with the amount of people in the house, it feels almost like a group home. Someone is always nearby, and while everyone seems nice enough, it feels like too much for Jeremiah. The weight of expectation on his shoulders. He doesn’t like feeling the pressure to be on at all times
But being in the house alone is nice.
The windows are open, and he is sitting at the desk in the bedroom. He shares it with another boy by the name of Nev. Nev is almost always in the room and at the desk. His shoulders hunched over his battered notebook. It usually forces Jeremiah to do his homework on his bed, or downstairs on the kitchen table, surrounded by the other kids. Most are younger than him, and they always need his help, and it’s hard to focus. Jeremiah isn’t sure how he feels about being at the desk. He’s long coveted it, but now that he has it, it feels wrong. Like he is invading Nev’s space.
Jeremiah sighs, staring at his homework. It’s math, and he enjoys math. Numbers can’t lie and once a person understands the rules behind whatever math they are doing, it’s easy. He doesn’t think he has fun in doing math, but he does like it all the same. He enjoys the predictability. But he is finding it difficult to concentrate today. He shifts his gaze to look out the window.
There’s a large tree near it. Sometimes, the wind will blow the branches and they will scrap against the window. Jeremiah remembers fearing that noise the first few times he heard it. But he’s grown accustomed to it now. The branches don’t even look long enough to reach the window now that he’s staring at them. Jeremiah frowns and then forces himself to look away from the tree.
He hears a baby screaming in the distance.
He shivers at the noise and tries to fight the onslaught of memories. He wonders what neighbor has a new baby and if their windows are open too.
Then he hears a dog barking.
And notices the branches of the tree rustling near his window, but not against it. He thinks he hears them scraping against the glass, which confuses him, but he doesn’t have time to dwell. Nev comes in, and even though he doesn’t ask for the desk back, Jeremiah gets up and lets him take it.
“There was a murder in this house,” Claire is saying. Jeremiah is only half listening. Claire likes to tell stories all the time.
“They say it’s haunted by the murdered kids.”
Nev grunts in response. Jeremiah always thought of himself as quiet, but Nev is the champion of quiet. He communicates mostly with grunts and shrugs.
“Ghosts aren’t real,” Jeremiah says, but his mind goes to the branches of the tree. That’s not a ghost thing, he is certain of it, but it is weird.
“There was still a murder here. Some guy went crazy and killed everyone in the house. Then he killed himself. There was a lot of blood. The family was dismembered. He shot his own brains out.”
Claire likes to go into detail about anything she shares. Jeremiah pales as the image she describes springs into his mind. He feels sick to his stomach. He doesn’t want to believe what he is hearing, but Claire has a way of making you believe her words.
“How do you know all of this?” He asks.
Claire shrugs, “Steve told me. It’s how he and Erin got the house for cheap. No one else wanted it.”
“How long ago did it happen?” Nev asks, and Claire stares at him. Jeremiah is staring too, but he drops his gaze quicker than Claire.
“Not sure. Ten or twenty years ago? Other people have owned it since, but no one sticks around. We’ve been here the longest.”
“Have you witnessed anything strange?” Jeremiah asks, knowing that Claire has lived with Steve and Erin for a couple years now. He doesn’t know if they’ve been in this house the whole time or not.
Claire shakes her head.
“Nothing weird at all.” And all Jeremiah notices is the disappointment in her voice.
A baby is screaming in the wind again. Jeremiah’s eyes open wide in the dark. The branches of the tree are scrapping against the window again. He hears a yowling sound he thinks might be a dog, but it sounds too close and none of his immediate neighbors have dogs.
He sees Nev sit up in bed and stare out the window.
The baby stops screaming, and the yowling stops too.
The wind picks up in ferocity. The scrapping on the window grows louder and louder.
Jeremiah and Nev just stare at each other. Eyes wide in fear.
Just as suddenly as it started, it ends.
Nev shakes his head and says nothing as he settles back into bed.
Jeremiah’s heart is thudding in his chest and he keeps hearing Claire’s voice in his head. The entire family had been dismembered.
He doesn’t sleep again that night.
Jeremiah has the house to himself once more. It doesn’t feel as freeing as it did the first time. He’s got a baseball bat in hand, but he isn’t sure what he is going to do with it. He hears the baby cry on the wind. In the wind? He’s certain the baby isn’t real.
He squares up his shoulders and grips the bat tightly in hands that are sweaty; he goes outside. The back door lets out a loud SQUEAK that causes him to wince. It isn’t dark out. Isn’t even near dark yet. He walks towards the tree, knuckles white as he clenches the bat.
“I know you are out there,” he whispers. His face a burning hot and red now. He tries to stave off the embarrassment he feels by kicking the tree with his foot. It hurts and intensifies the embarrassed feeling.
“What are you?” He asks, and then he hears a yowling of a dog. Right behind him. Terrified, Jeremiah spins on the spot and sees nothing.
He hears laughter in the wind.
He squints at the tree. The branches seem to wave at him, and not in a friendly way. They are taunting him.
“It’s the wind,” he says. Breathless. “Not the tre—…”
The wind picks up. The baby screaming is in his ears now. So loud that he drops his bat to slap his hands over his ears. He drops to his knees. Heart racing in terror and eyes stinging with tears.
The wind whips around him and he hears more sounds; a car backfiring, the scrape of a window, the laughter of children, the bark of a dog, the shout of a woman, and crying. He doesn’t know how long it lasts. The wind is a frenzy around him, and then suddenly it all stops.
Jeremiah stays on the ground. Cheeks slick with tears. Heart trying to burst out of his chest.
“What do you want?” Claire asks and Jeremiah startles.
“You have been staring at me for the last ten minutes. Out with it,” Claire says, shrugging her shoulders. Jeremiah scowls at that, but he can’t deny it. He’s been trying to build up the courage to talk to her. To bring up what is on his mind. He figures he has about a fifty-fifty chance of Claire believing him or ridiculing him for it. He takes a deep breath. It doesn’t steady him.
Claire continues to stare at him. He wonders — and not for the first time — if she can read his thoughts, or see into his soul. It doesn’t help with his anxiety around her.
“Do you know anything about wind creatures?” He spits out, finally.
Claire says nothing. He can’t read her expression.
“No, why?” She says, but she doesn’t seem to be making fun of him.
“Remember that story you told Nev and me? About the guy who killed his family?”
“Well. What if the guy was innocent? What if it was some… like… monster?” Jeremiah feels himself losing what little confidence he had as he talks longer. His shoulders sag.
“You don’t believe in ghosts but you believe in monsters?” Claire asks, her brow jutting up.
“Nev might know. He’s into that stuff,” Claire says, and she heads up the stairs.
Jeremiah watches her, confused, before he runs after her.
“Nev, do you know anything about wind creatures? Jeremiah wants to know.” Claire asks, leaving the bedroom door wide open as she flounces into the room. She plops down on Nev’s bed. Nev, once more, is at the desk. He frowns, looking up from his notebook.
“You hear it too?” He asks, not looking at Claire. He’s staring at Jeremiah.
Jeremiah feels his cheeks burning. He doesn’t like to be looked at, “I guess?”
“I’ve been researching it,” Nev says, and he looks down at his notebook. “Haven’t been able to find much. There’s…” Nev pauses here, frowning. “Accounts that sound like what I’ve heard, but no one has a name to it.”
Claire is looking between Nev and Jeremiah.
“What?” she asks.
“There’s something that lives in the wind.” Nev says.
“It attacked me,” Jeremiah says.
“What?” Nev and Claire ask at the same time.
Jeremiah sighs and tries to calm himself so that he can speak.
“It was a couple of days ago. I went outside with a bat. I thought it was the tree.”
“You were going to fight a tree with a bat?” Claire asks, and Jeremiah can hear how stupid she thinks he is.
“I wasn’t thinking clearly,” Jeremiah mutters, before continuing on. “But it isn’t the tree. The wind.. It like… was taunting me. Yelling at me. It can sound like anything…” Jeremiah explains, but he doesn’t sound as sure of himself as he should.
“It mimics what it’s heard before,” Nev adds, before looking down at his notebook. He pushes his ill-fitting glasses up the bridge of his nose. Jeremiah has noticed that Nev’s glasses are always slipping down. “At least, that is my hypothesis from what I’ve read and my own… experiments.”
“Your what?” Claire asks, sounding both impressed and maybe horrified.
“I…” Nev looks nervous.
Claire is studying him intently. Jeremiah really believes she can read minds. If wind monsters are real, why can’t a foster kid have the ability to read minds?
“Holy shit,” Claire says, and then she is laughing.
“What is funny?” Jeremiah asks.
Nev won’t look at him. His face is red. He’s clearly embarrassed, and Claire is still laughing.
Claire stops laughing and Jeremiah is unsurprised to see tears in her eyes. She calms down enough to talk.
“It was before you got here,” Claire explains, the ghost of her laughter still in her voice. “And Nev tortured Damon by playing Taylor Swift on repeat. I thought you just did that because the guy was an ass.”
Nev shrugs. “It was mostly for scientific reasons. And, maybe because he was an ass too.”
Jeremiah shakes his head. He never met Damon, but the other kids talk about him in whispers sometimes.
“But the wind started mimicking her songs. The singing, the instruments… all of it. Never together. Just… snippets of it.”
“Okay, so there’s a wind monster. What do we do about it?” Claire asks, she’s flopped back onto the bed and is staring up at the ceiling.
Jeremiah doesn’t know. He looks to Nev, who also looks as if he has no solid ideas.
It is a few days later. Nev, Claire, and Jeremiah are skipping school. Jeremiah has never skipped a day in his life. He doesn’t enjoy drawing attention to himself and he thinks that skipping will make people notice him. At least the teachers and other adults at the high school. Claire told him not to worry about it, and Nev didn’t seem anxious either.
The neighborhood seems unusually quiet as they walk through it. Everyone is at work or at school. It makes Jeremiah even more convinced that he is doing something wrong. He wonders if there are any retired people staring at them through their curtains. Calling the authorities on them. Jeremiah doesn’t want to get into any trouble. He hates the way his heart is racing.
“It’s going to be fine,” Claire says.
“Maybe,” Nev adds. Nev has been talking a lot more now. “But probably not because we could be about to meet a deadly creature.”
“It’s wind,” Claire points out. “How can wind be deadly?”
“Have you heard of hurricanes before? Tornadoes?” Nev asks.
Jeremiah focuses on the conversation happening next to him. Somehow the prospect of facing a deadly wind creature is less anxiety inducing than being chased down by authority figures who are against truancy.
They make it to the house without getting caught. Claire has a key, and she unlocks the front door. They quietly go up to their rooms. Claire down the hall, last door on the right. Nev and Jeremiah on the left. They drop off their backpacks. There is tension in the air.
“This plan is stupid, isn’t it?” Jeremiah asks in order to break it.
“Probably, but we couldn’t come up with anything better.”
It isn’t comforting, but Jeremiah isn’t too sure what he expected.
“Boys, let’s go!” Claire shouts down the hall.
Jeremiah tries to will himself to be brave. Mostly, though, he is trying his damnedest to not shit his pants. He wonders, a little hysterically, if the wind monster will mimic his pant shitting. He doesn’t quite know how that will work.
Nev leads the way out of the bedroom with Jeremiah trailing behind him. He makes the mistake of looking out the window and he notices the tree branches waving at him. He shudders.
Without speaking, the three teenagers make their way down the stairs and out to the backyard, the SQUEAK of the door following behind. There’s a gentle breeze blowing. Jeremiah can feel it in his hair. Claire is standing there with what looks like a dagger in her hands.
“Where’d you get that?” He asks.
“Found it at a garage sale. That guy with the broken boat in his yard? He sold it to me.”
“Nice,” Nev says. Nev has what looks like a radio tethered to him and a microphone. Jeremiah doesn’t even know what to ask him about that.
And Jeremiah has his trusty — maybe — bat in his hand. He isn’t sure they are prepared for this at all. But they don’t know what they are facing. He supposes having any kind of weapon and whatever Nev has is better than nothing. Maybe.
The three of them look at each other for a few minutes. Silence stretches. Jeremiah is just waiting for someone to say something. To break the silence — preferably with an actual plan — but neither Claire nor Nev seem like they want to. Holding onto the tension and silence is not something Jeremiah wishes to do.
“So, what do we do?” Jeremiah asks, his voice sounding too loud in the afternoon’s silence.
“How did you call the beast to you before?” Claire asks, tilting her head. She has sheathed the dagger and is staring up at the tree. Watching the wind blow through the leaves. She’s squinting. Jeremiah wonders if she needs glasses.
“I just. I told the tree—because I thought it was the tree—that I know what it is.” Jeremiah sounds embarrassed. His face turning all splotchy red.
“Wind! We know you aren’t wind!” Claire says loudly. It isn’t quite a shout, but it is near enough to make Jeremiah tense and worry about the neighbors. Nev looks concerned too, but he says nothing. Simply adjusts his grip on his weird tool.
The wind does nothing.
“What is that thing, anyway?” Jeremiah asks Nev, frustrated. Claire is glaring at him, and it makes him feel uncomfortable. He isn’t sure what he did wrong, but she is making him feel like he did something.
“It’s supposed to help me get a read on the wind. I think,” Nev says, frowning. “I had to make it with what I could find. It… it might not work.” He adds, looking embarrassed. Jeremiah groans at that and Claire shifts her glaring to Nev.
The wind is vicious. It feels like claws against Jeremiah’s skin. But he doesn’t see any claws. Sees nothing that resembles a body. The wind just whips around him. Hurting him. Making him hear things that aren’t there — or might not be true — he can’t tell anymore. He lost sight of Claire and Nev hours ago. Or it feels like hours ago, but he isn’t sure how much time has passed.
Going further into the woods to chase the wind might have been their worst idea yet.
The wind laughs in his ears and leaves him.
Jeremiah falls to his knees, his entire body hurting.
“CLAIRE! NEV!” He yells, and his voice is hoarse. He wonders if he has been screaming into the wind this entire time. His voice echoes through the woods. The silence that answers back is deafening.
Jeremiah pushes himself up to his feet. It is getting darker, and he needs to get back to the house before night falls. He doesn’t quite know where he is. Jeremiah has never lived in a place before with woods to explore. He doesn’t understand how to read them. How to get unlost.
He picks a direction.
“Nev!” No answer.
“Claire!” No answer.
And the wind is being too quiet. He trusts the quiet even less than the loud.
“NEV!” He tries again, and his voice is shaky now.
Jeremiah is certain he has killed them. Maybe not with his own hands, but with his actions. Or his inactions. He wants to sink to the ground and cry, but he doesn’t. Stubbornness that he didn’t even know he had, pushes him to move forward. Pushes him through the woods.
He reaches the back gate, and there is Claire. Her body slumped against the tree. She doesn’t have her dagger anymore. Nev is nowhere to be seen, but Jeremiah sees his odd radio thing. Jeremiah pushes open the gate and runs into the yard, skidding to a stop before Claire.
He’s the one being too loud, but his voice doesn’t seem to carry. He barely hears it as it leaves his mouth.
“CLAIRE!” He tries to shout louder, but again his voice isn’t carried. He wonders if the wind is stopping it. Panicked, he looks over Claire’s body. He can see her chest move like she is breathing, and her eyes snap open.
She opens her mouth to speak, and no sound comes out. Jeremiah can tell she is saying something, but he doesn’t know what. He can’t hear her!
“Claire, I can’t—….” And his own voice seems lost now too.
They stare at each other.
Claire stands, and Jeremiah helps her up. She looks injured but he can’t tell from where. He feels like they should get into the house, but he isn’t sure how safe the house is.
The gate slams shut and they both look towards it.
Nev stands there — outfit torn and scratches all over his face — he looks terrified from where Jeremiah is standing. Jeremiah wonders if they are wearing identical expressions.
Nev moves towards them and then everything stops.
Nev looks frozen in the spot. One foot half-raised to continue his forward movement. Jeremiah and Claire are frozen as they lean into one another. Silence fills the air. Complete silence. No animal noises. Nothing from the wind that had been screaming not too long ago.
And behind Nev is a creature. Dark like a shadow and standing on two legs. Hands that seem to be all claws. Jeremiah sees it and doesn’t. It’s like his brain doesn’t want him to see it. He can’t do anything. The creature seems to be the only thing that can move. It is going to get Nev and Jeremiah can’t will his body to move.
Why has the wind stopped?
“NEV!” Jeremiah isn’t sure how it happens. How he can move his mouth, but once the name is out of his lips, everything comes into motion again. The dark shadow vanishes just before reaching Nev, and Nev is running towards him and Claire at full speed.
The three teenagers collapse into each other as the wind howls. The air all around them feels angry. Together, in a stumbling mess, the three of them rush to the house. The door squeaks, but the squeak is swallowed by the shriek of the wind. They collapse into the kitchen.
Their foster mom is in the kitchen. She looks like she is unloading groceries.
She opens her mouth to say something, but then everything freezes once more.
Save for a gentle breeze that blows through the open door.