Genre: YA contemporary suspense/thriller
"Cara, Eric, Shawn, Emily and Kwon.....Who will survive the cruel world?"
Blurb of Chockstone Cabin
Emily and four of her classmates are the brightest students in a distinguished high school. To spend their last autumn as seniors, they decide to spend October 31st at a remote resort—a nice cabin named Chockstone. Their relaxing retreat soon comes to a crashing halt when one of them witnesses a horrific attack, signaling the end of their fun….and the start of a gruesome nightmare.
With nibbled hands on both sides, she shut the hardcover novel with a resounding thump. Emily reflected on the ending of the novel. She sat on the breakfast chair, her bare feet crisscrossed on another besides her. Behind her, the kitchen window blinds filtered in frail Saturday sunrays that caressed her pallid skin. Her long, pale-yellow hair ended at her lower back while its ends brushed against the back rest of her chair. She shifted herself closer to the table, dropping the book titled Wilderness, by Scott Franklin, on it.
“So how was it?” Emily’s mother asked as she clutched onto a big, plastic bowl brimming with freshly-made popcorn.
“Good, although it was sad,” Emily replied. Her mother sat opposite her. On the tabletop, beside Emily’s novel, were a plate of half-eaten stemmed grapes and the remnant of a medium-size homemade pizza. And now Emily’s mother lay down a bowl of popcorn.
“The main character died at the end. She starved to death,” Emily replied. “It was thought provoking.”
“Her faith,—knowing there’s much more than her mortal life, brought a sense of calm to her demise. That’s what I meant,” Emily replied to her mother.
“Very thought-provoking,” Emily muttered to herself.
“So does it top your all-time favorite book?” Emily’s mother asked. The lens from her round-rimmed glasses glistened briefly from the sunlight. Her fuzzy plaited hair snaked to her right shoulder.
“It has joined my top ten all-time favorites,” she said. This might have to do with the fact that she is the same age as the main character, seventeen.
She leaned forward and took a fistful of popcorn before shoving it into her mouth, munching it with satisfaction.
“By the way, I’ve already contacted your father’s agent and he’ll be available too.”
“So how many people are coming?” Emily said.
“About twenty. You know your father. He isn’t one for a huge party.”
“But it’s his seventh book to reach number one on the best seller list,” Emily said.
“I know, I know,” her mother replied. “It’s quite an accomplishment but he’s being modest about it all. That’s why this surprise party will be great. I can’t wait to see his face.” She then groped some more popcorn and munched on it. “For the life of me I…”
Emily and her mother spoke for almost an hour, amidst eating and drinking since mid-morning. Usually, they would’ve had their mother-daughter get-together throughout the afternoon period, but today Emily had arranged to meet two classmates at the nearby library.
Listening to her mother talking, Emily happened to side-glance at the Roman numeral clock that was next to the wall cabinet. It was a bit past two o’ clock.
“I need to get going,” Emily replied, a little saddened that she could not slouch any longer. She uncrossed her feet, removing them from the chair and placing them on the polished tile floor before getting up. Emily’s mother too stood up, picking up the bowl before emptying the corn seeds into the trash bin by the refrigerator. Emily took the novel with her.
In her room upstairs, she gently placed the Wilderness novel in the empty gap at the mid-section of the bookshelf. A sea of arranged books were shelved beside her dressing cabinet, noticeable to anyone who would step into her room. Her love of reading was all thanks to her parents who had made it their profession. Even more fortunate was the fact that most of the books cost little to nothing for her. Her mother worked as a librarian— not the one nearby her neighborhood but the largest one in downtown.
Emily hurried to her dresser drawer by her study desk at the left side of the room. She pulled the first drawer open and inspected inside for a while until she took a decent shirt that was suited for friendly, October weather.
This will do, she thought holding an aqua cotton t-shirt. She later found her faded blue jeans.
After dressing, she crossed her room toward the daybed underneath the curtained window. A row of tailored pillows and a short stack of thick textbooks lay on it. It was her tranquility spot to read a good book, or at least study for exams. Propped up beside the daybed was her black messenger bag as she hunched down to get it.
She marched past her main sleeping bed, past the night stand where a thick, leathered book with the cover of a crucifix laid, to get to the drawer top, grabbing her hairbrush. She then hurriedly combed her hair, making it as straight as she could. With a passive expression on her face, she went out and exited her home.
The brisk wind played with her already-combed hair, messing it. She brushed it back, removing strands from her view. Her black Converse shoes rustled the wrinkly leaves on the cemented pathway. She took a right turn and began her trek on the sidewalk. The strap of her messenger bag ran across her upper body like a pageant sash. She tightened her grip on it, thinking about how she hoped today’s session wouldn’t be long because she really wasn’t in the mood to be outside. She was in an indoorsy mood today. To her left, the asphalt road of Mango Street where here and there cars parked at the curb. To her right, the close knitted houses, two stories, with well-kept lawns and this month’s Jack-o-lantern appeared on either the pouch railing, beneath brushes or at the edges of the front steps. Not all the houses acknowledged the soon coming Halloween day (Emily’s parents surely didn’t) but one particular house most definitely did and Emily drew near to it.
Her eyes, as always, gazed at the over-the-top decorated Halloween house of the Burkes’. Various sized weathered headstones stuck out of the front yard as a fog machine misted the grounds. Fake cobwebs overtook the porch filled with grotesque heads. Scattered across the yard were scary creatures that Emily averted from. Her past memory of seeing them already knew that the hunched-back undertaker held a skull-designed lantern, and a scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head stood on a stake, accompanied with stacks of hay and more pumpkins. Two cheesecloth ghosts resided as well but, funny enough, weren’t as scary as the others.
Emily quickened her steps as always when she had to pass by the Burkes’ house. Almost getting out of sight she noticed something shift from the corner of her eye, something from the front yard, a creature, a new creature she hadn’t seen before. All she registered was a black, pointed hat, the bushy gray-streaked hair and skeleton fingers charging in her direction. Emily screeched, leaping in fright. Her heart raced, knowing she was doomed. The swift attack by the hideous witch had caught her off guard.
Without warning a burst of laughter erupted from the witch, not a scary one, not even a feminine voice. Using the skeleton fingers the person removed the hat which was attached to the wig and revealed the head of a chiseled-looking guy. He raked his somewhat groomed dark-blonde hair and flashed a sly smile. Simultaneously a dainty, laugh sounded from behind a tree close by Emily. She soon showed herself.
“Got ya,” she said with a cute smile. It was Eric and Cara, the very people she was helping today, who had given her a heart attack. She wasn’t amused by this.
“Come on, lighten up,” Eric said while he easily unzipped the black gown, coming to the sidewalk, revealing his collegiate fashion look. He sported a dark-blue sweater, with an exposed collar at the neck, with like-colored pants. Cara handed him the black trash bag where he carelessly dumped the costume.
“That wasn’t funny,” Emily said.
“It’s just a little Halloween scare,” Cara said with a shrug. “It was all Eric’s idea.”
“I couldn’t resist,” he replied with a smirk. “When I figured out that you lived close to the Burkes, I took my chances.”
“Whatever,” Emily replied, trying to brush the entire incident aside. She continued her causal pace while both Eric and Cara joined her.
Stepping on a sewer top, the three of them strode across the leaf-tossed sidewalk. Eric was in the center, like a ladies’ man—which isn’t a new thing being he was fairly popular at Rogers High. Eric was the star athlete in track and field, almost getting a scholarship from Harvard if not for his serious injury that pulled him out of the running two years ago. Since he lost that way into entering Harvard, he attempted instead to be the valedictorian of the school but early last year figured it would be impossible to do so. He, however, managed to be among the top ten percentile which meant he could still enroll into a great college.
Now his attention was all on Cara who appeared indifferent to his alluring glare on her. At their short trek to the library, neither of them spoke to the gauche Emily. They already knew she wasn’t the social type and Emily wasn’t offended by their behavior.
Looking at Cara, her profile is what you describe quote-unquote as cute as a button. There’s no argument about that. She has an aura that presented to humanity as being friendly, personable, someone you would want to be your best friend, someone trustworthy and yet she behaved ignorant to all of this, as though she was just like anyone else. She’s half Italian, half Mexican so her skin is perfectly tan and smooth in contrast to Emily that’s a bit too pale and unsmooth. Emily would’ve been more self-conscious about her appearance if she stood beside her (Emily was now pleased Eric was in between them). Cara was also at the lower hierarchy in her popular clique—like Eric— and a mediocre volleyball player. But she’s really intelligent and wise for her age.
Coursing through Cara’s left outer forearm was a long, thin-grooved scar, almost vine-like. She got that when she was six years old, in a car accident. Her mother died while she was the lone survivor. Her father was left to raise her. Emily’s eyes went away from Cara and loitered around at the banalities of suburbia all the while droning out Eric and Cara’s fruitless conversation.
Ten minutes went by before they arrived at the neighborhood’s outskirt. They reached the major road where cars zoomed by, controlled by the traffic lights that told them when to stop or go. For now, the pedestrian signage instructed them to tread on. The traffic light stayed deep red, the cars behind thick white line seemed impatient, waiting for it to flick green. They crossed the road and in seconds arrived at the library premise. Thick oaks trees surrounded the parking lot which was teeming with cars. Emily noticed a brown-skinned woman aiding her little son, who hugged two thick books out of a gray minivan. She hurried through the lot, as did Eric and Cara who weren’t chatting as much as before. They entered into the cozy aura of the public library and soon discovered a spot at the corner. A place all to themselves, and prepped for the study session.
“The Great Gatsby,” Cara said in a majestic yet sarcastic tone of voice. Each of them had their lined paper, a printed paper numbered with questions, laminated paperback book and writing equipment. Her voice then returned to normal when she asked the first question on the sheet: “What is the meaning of the title? In what way is Gatsby great?” They waited for Emily’s explanation, knowing she was more insightful, precocious, when it came to literature. Without hesitation, she spoke her answer.
“That’s well said,” Eric said earnestly, the only one sitting in his chair backwards. He read the second question on his printed sheet: “Why did Nick become involved with Jordan, and why did he break off the relationship?” And then he stated his personal answer.
“Not quite,” Cara replied to what he said.
“I have to agree with Cara, although your answer was reasonable,” Emily replied.
“On page…” Emily began, flipping the pages of the novel as she sought to back up her reasoning. When she was done, Cara simply nodded, liking her answer.
“We’re so acing this essay test,” Eric said. Cara gave a concurring nod.
“A bit off topic, but I wouldn’t mind having the life of Jay Gatsby,” Eric said.
“Haven’t you read the novel?” Cara replied with an arched eyebrow. “You know what happened to him right?”
“I meant the good part, the parties. You can’t deny it. The man knew how to live.”
“For a brief period he lived the American dream,” Cara replied thoughtfully.
“A dream we’re all seeking, every one of us,” Eric said. “And you”—he pointed a finger toward Cara with covetous eyes—“could be my Daisy.”
Cara rolled her eyes before stating, “That ain’t happening.”
Emily covered her mouth, stifling her chuckles. In her opinion—which she didn’t care to share with them—she thought of Eric more as a Tom Buchanan than Jay Gatsby.
“Oh you’re saying that now but in time—” he paused himself suddenly; his mind seemed to go elsewhere. A hint of somber took over his eyes and a ghost of a frown curled on his lips. Emily narrowed her eyebrows at his sudden change of mood.
“Not going to happen, Eric,” Cara said without waiting for him to complete his sentence. She was completely oblivious to his present mood.
“We need to get back to the questions guys,” Emily said.
“She’s right. Let’s finish answering them before we chat, old sport,” Eric said, sounding like himself again.
Completing all fifteen questions, they packed up their belongings and ended their session, glad that the sun brightened the sky for them to spend the remaining day elsewhere, or in Emily’s case, back at home. At the foyer of the library, Eric excused himself to use the restroom while both Emily and Cara waited for him. For a brief awkward minute, they did nothing and said nothing to each other but then Cara decided to search in her pocket and out came her cell phone as she started reading her text messages.
Emily decided to gaze through the main glass door of the library, looking at the individuals that went to the drop box outside as well as others that left and arrived in the building. Bored of just watching random people, she twirled the tip of her hair, pondering on how she would get top marks on her AP calculus homework that’s due next week.
“Hey!!” Cara’s voice shook Emily away from her thoughts. Her finger unwound her hair. Her bewildered face stared at a frail-looking old man wearing a collar shirt with trousers and sandals. His liver-spotted left hand clung onto Cara’s forearm, with ardent, troubled eyes staring into hers.
“Don’t go to the cabin,” he said presciently.
What? Emily thought, startled that this was occurring in front of her.
“Don’t go,” he said again, pleading as though he was Cara’s grandfather bearing the truth about life itself.
“Let go of her,” a vehement voice behind Emily said. Wincing, Emily spun to see Eric before she went back to the old man who let go and then backed away. His wide eyes flashed a pleading glare at Emily and mouthed the same words again. For some reason it gave her the chills, the hair on her forearms pricked up. The old man hurried away, exiting the library with a book that Emily spotted at his other hand. He took a turn, disappearing at the corner as though he was a ghost.
“Did he harm you?” Eric asked Cara.
“No,” Cara replied, shaking her head. “I’m fine. I’m just more startled by his presence. I didn’t see him coming.”
“Me either,” Emily replied.
“Come on, let’s go,” Eric said. “Sorry I took so long.”
And with that they all left the library, walking back to the neighborhood where Eric left his car, ready to drive Cara home. Emily was only minutes away from her home. During their journey back, none of them mentioned the brief incident with the old man, it was as if it was nonessential, especially his eccentric message. Emily’s logic of the situation was that the poor man probably forgot to take his medication, he didn’t look too healthy. She arrived to see her father, who was now at home. She couldn’t wait to talk to him, maybe get his suggestion of a good book to read as she rushed into the kitchen and gave him a tight I-Miss-You type of hug.