Hope is the Last Thing Ever Lost
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
From “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe
~ 1 ~
The Five Visitors
Tim was never big on visitors. Since his time in the cabin he only had five.
Visitor number one showed up on their doorstep shortly after they fled the city and headed for the woods. He was maybe about ten at the time, barely able to comprehend what was happening, yet old enough to realize it was bad. They had fled in the middle of the night, his father grabbing him out of his warm, newly washed sheets leaving everything they owned behind, including his favorite toys and even his dog. Maybe if he was more awake, he would have bothered to ask what was going on, but the concerned look on his mother’s face coupled with the intense anger he felt rising in his dad as he shouted orders for her to run faster, made Timothy decide it was best to just stay quiet which he did for the entire car ride out of the city towards the new life that was waiting for him.
That night as he lay down in his new bed with old, musty sheets, there was a knock on the door. The wooden floor boards creaked as his father let the man into their cabin. They continued to creak as the two fought. Tim closed his eyes tight when he heard the crack of the gun, his mother scream and then once again the creak of the floorboards as the body of visitor number one fell to the ground.
He found himself pacing on those same wooden floorboards now, with his own rifle in his hands. The creaking had gotten better over the years. Eventually he knew he’d have to replace them, pretty sure that wear and tear had caused dry rotting under his feet. If he wasn’t careful, he’d end up falling right through the floor altogether.
Visitor number two appeared about three years later. He had been out hunting with his father. Something he hated to do but understood it needed to be done. When his father heard laughter coming from within the house, he ran ahead and pulled open the door. Tim tried to run after his dad, hesitating only briefly when he heard his mother cry out.
After taking a few more steps, both his father and visitor number two came barreling out the door and fell down the front steps landing right beside the thirteen year old. Without any hesitation, his father straddled the stranger and broke his neck. The crack sounded oddly similar to the floorboards.
Visitor number three showed up when Timothy was about twenty five. His mother had been dead for at least four years, so when he heard the sound of a woman’s voice, at first he thought he was imagining things.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” She had asked.
As she walked from the woods Tim was sure he was just having a waking dream. She was absolutely beautiful and about his age as well. His father got up from his rocking chair and moved to meet her. She had a huge smile on her face. One that said, “Thank God I’ve been saved!”
Her name was Candice. It was the first time he was allowed to keep a friend.
He paused from his memories and looked down at his new friends. Neither of them seemed too happy. “I bet you’re hungry, aren’t you?” Both of them stared up at him with terror filled eyes.
Visitors number four and five came about two years later. They had been sitting in the living room. Tim cleaning his rifle, his father sitting on a chair covered with a blanket and Candice, washing dishes. No one heard them coming until there was a knock at the door. At that point everything just happened so fast.
Candice screamed, “Help me, please! They’re holding me against my will!!”
Upon hearing the scream, the two visitors came crashing through the door. Tim’s father stood up and shaking the blanket off of him ran towards one of the men while the other ran towards Candice.
Tim’s dad took his rifle and aimed it at the man who was heading for his girlfriend, shooting him in the back as he fell into a screaming Candice’s arms.
“Jesus Christ!” The second visitor said as he stared at the dead man on the ground.
“What are you waiting for son, shoot him!”
Tim hesitated slightly but then did as his father instructed. The second man fell in a bloody heap on the floor as Candice continued to scream.
That memory was one he didn’t much like.
He went over to the ice box, temporarily dropped his rifle and grabbed some leftover stew from the night before. He felt two pairs of eyes watching his every move. The tall one kept glancing over at the gun as the other one watched him spoon the stew into small bowls.
“I know it won’t be the tastiest thing you’ll ever eat, but at least its food, right?”
He waited for an answer he knew would not come as he laid the bowls next to the two men.
That night with visitors four and five was the first time he had ever killed a man and it wasn’t as easy as his father had always told him it would be. In fact he had only killed one other person since.
He hadn’t intended on shooting his dad, but after the dead man fell on Candice, she wouldn’t stop crying. His father kept yelling at her to stop but to no avail. Not knowing what else to do; his dad had taken his gun, aimed it at their roommate of two years and shot her between her eyes. Her head fell back with such brutal force, the sound of her skull cracking sounded similar to an egg shattering after being dropped on the floor.
Tim was enraged, so without thinking, he aimed the rifle at his dad and shot just once, right through the heart.
Ever since then he’s been all alone.
He had ventured into the town a few times, thinking to himself that maybe he should come out of hiding and start fresh. After all he wasn’t even sure what he was hiding from in the first place, but being around people felt foreign to him and he didn’t like it. Things had changed drastically since the last time he had come into civilization. There were street lights instead of stop signs. Huge department stores had replaced the local five and dime. The old movie theater was now a pawn shop and there seemed to be coffee places every other block.
He had money from the last two visitor’s wallets. His own father seemed to have collected a nice healthy wad of cash. Tim counted at least $150,000 hidden under those creaky floor boards. Perhaps that is why the family ran in the first place.
So, that initial visit into town, he walked into the local Wal-Mart and purchased some real food and supplies before disappearing once again into the woods. As much as he hated to make an appearance in the real world, he knew he wouldn’t be able to rough it as well as his father did. He liked to live off the land, but he also enjoyed the occasional ice cream sandwich, magazine or book.
Tim loved to read but we’ll talk about that at another time.
He had made it a monthly routine to head into town and grab things as needed. Mostly it was food, occasionally bigger items for the house. He had bought himself a generator so he could watch TV. Something he missed terribly from his childhood. Every time he went to the store he grabbed a DVD out of the $5 bin. Some of the stuff he watched was horrible, some were okay. It didn’t matter though because at least it felt like company and that was something he had missed as the years went by.
The grunting made him look down at the floor. He knew it was probably cruel of him to lay out the food so close while their hands were tied behind their backs and gags were in their mouths but he honestly had no idea how to handle this predicament. He couldn’t take the chance of untying them both because they could easily overthrow him even though one of them seemed significantly small enough to handle.
He decided he would eat first and then let them eat one at a time until they got used to the idea of not fighting back. It had taken Candice awhile, maybe things would happen quicker with these guys.
As he made his way over to one of his new friends to free his hands so he could eat, he realized that no one had been up to this cabin since the day he had buried those four bodies in his backyard. Those last two visitors, Candice and his father. That was over twenty years ago.
That was a long time to be alone.
Tim squatted behind the smaller of the two guys and cut his ropes, “If you promise me you won’t scream I’ll let you and your friend eat some.”
He was answered with a slow nod and big, horrified eyes so he undid the knot that kept the gag in the man’s mouth. He choked and licked at his lips.
“I’m sorry, I don’t like to do things like this, but I had no choice.”
The other one looked at the guy who was lucky enough to be free with a mixture of worry and jealousy in his eyes. “Don’t worry,” He assured the bigger one, “Once he’s done you’ll get your turn, I promise.”
He never intended to take prisoners before. The thought had crossed his mind on a few occasions as his trips to town sometimes brought about interesting conversations in the middle of aisles. Mostly he found himself longing for a woman but they intimidated him so he stayed away. When he really needed that kind of companionship he would go to the local strip club and pay for instant gratification. At the end of the day it was a friend he really wanted. Someone he could hang out with and talk about sports, maybe hunt, drink beers. He missed his family so he thought that maybe one day he’d create himself a new one.
Then these two guys just suddenly fell into his lap.
When it seemed like the smallest one wasn’t going to eat a thing, he grabbed his hands and once again placed them behind his back. “You’re just going to be really hungry later.”
He struggled but just a little, “Please just let us go.” He pleaded but Tim wouldn’t listen. It didn’t work for Candice so it wouldn’t work for them either. He placed the gag back into his mouth and moved to the big one.
“I know you could probably tackle me if you wanted to, but if that happens I won’t hesitate to shoot your friend, do you understand me?”
The big one nodded as once again, Tim reached behind and undid the binds and unknotted the gag from the man’s mouth. He noticed the cut above his eye and remembered the accident they had claimed to be involved in.
He was making his monthly drive into town when he saw the two of them walking up the dark road. They were moving slowly as if completely lost. At that moment he had made the decision to take them. He wasn’t even sure why. One person would be pretty easy, but two? How on earth would he manage that? He had then looked down at his rifle, in the front passenger seat thinking he could maybe kill one of them and just take the other one. He would be long gone before they were found. The fast beating in his heart gave him a sense of jubilation he hadn’t felt in years. No, he was going to take both of them. If it didn’t work, he could always resort to his first plan and kill them in the woods. Wolves and bears would get at them long before anyone even knew they were gone.
“Why?” The bigger one managed to squeak out after a short bout of coughing subsided.
“I am tired of being alone; now eat.”
“We need to get help.”
That’s right, he had forgotten about the other three.
When he slowly pulled over and let the two guys catch up to the truck, he wasn’t sure how he was going to handle the situation. He had thought about immediately taking the rifle out and forcing them in but seeing how distressed they looked, he thought he might not even have to do that.
“What’s the problem?” He had asked in a very shaky voice. The adrenaline he felt was overwhelming.
“Thank you for stopping! The bigger man said. We were in a car accident and need some help!”
“How far back?” Tim decided to ask when he noticed the absence of a vehicle anywhere in site.
The shorter one answered this time, “I feel like we’ve been walking for hours. We rolled the car into a ditch off the side of a rural road.”
“Our friends are still back there,” the big one had said sounding very alarmed. “Two of them are trapped inside of the car.”
“And the other one?” Tim was hoping the word dead would pop up.
“He’s waiting for help, but he’s hurt!”
“So, you already called the police?” Tim started to think this was a very bad idea.
“No, I couldn’t get a signal.” The bigger man said.
Tim took a deep breath, knowing once he opened that door, there was no turning back. “Come on in, I’ll take you into town and get you some help.” He opened the passenger side door where the biggest one was quick to get in as the other one climbed into the back.
“Thank you so much, we appreciate it!” Tim nodded as they drove away from the town and back towards his cabin.
“Why do you have a rifle in here?” the question came from the bigger guy in a pretty shaky voice.
“I always take it with me wherever I go. I live in the middle of the woods, bear country. You can never be too careful.”
That was a very uneasy ‘oh’ in Tim’s mind.
“Are we getting close?”
“Not quite yet. We’re kind of in the boonies.” Tim lied once again feeling a rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins as he tried to figure out a way to get the guys out of the truck and back to the cabin without hurting or killing either one.
When they turned off the main road and onto the small dirt path that led to the cabin, the big one started to shift uneasily in his seat. That’s when Tim came up with the brilliant plan he had. “Listen, we’re really close to my cabin so how about we just go there and then you can use my landline and call for help. It’ll actually be a lot faster than if we were to go into town. I live right up here!” Another lie since Tim did not own a phone. What was the purpose?
The big one looked in the back seat at the shorter one. Inside they both probably thought it was a very bad idea, but desperate to help their friends they agreed.
Now Tim looked down at the bigger one as he took one more swallow of the stew looking as if he was about to throw it right back up in protest.
“If you’re all done it’s time for the two of us to go.”
The big one looked at Tim, unsure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.
“Since the two of you will now be living with me, we’re going to need some more supplies and I need your help to carry them.”
“What about Howie?” He asked looking over at the shorter one.
“I’m sure Howie will be just fine on his own for a little while, won’t you?”
The smaller one now had a name.
Howie nodded but didn’t really look like he wanted to be left alone or that he was particularly happy that the big one was leaving with a gun wielding psychopath or at least that’s what Tim was sure the smaller man was thinking.
He grabbed the bigger guy’s arm and scooped him off the floor once again the one called Howie showing disapproval by struggling to break free of his binds.
“Relax Howie,” Tim said. Now that he knew his name, he felt like he was talking to an old friend, “I’ll take good care of him.”
The bigger one gave Howie a nod which made him stop his struggle.
“Alright then, let’s get to it!” Tim said as he pushed his visitor out the door with the butt of the rifle excited that he was no longer going to be living all alone.