Trigger warning: hanging mentioned
Her house was gone.
At first, Sienna had thought it was just a wrong turn. Never mind that she had lived on the
same farm for seven years. Maybe she had taken the wrong shortcut through Murphy road. Maybe
the O’Connors had cut down the distinctive apple tree at the last right turn, and she had simply
missed it while she was singing along to the radio.
When she was certain that wasn’t the case, she pulled over to the side and entered her
address into Google Maps. Never mind the fact that she definitely knew where her house was. When
Google Maps didn’t show her location either, she assumed it was a glitch. Internet problems. The
old man in the house on the hill was hogging all the WiFi again with his noisy YouTube videos.
So maybe it was possible that she had forgotten her entire address and was completely lost.
It wasn’t that strange. The houses here were miles apart from each other, and many newcomers had
been lost for hours on the dusty paths. The roads were empty and it had started to drizzle a little.
Despite it only being 4 PM, the sky had already begun to darken with the promise of an incoming
“Ugh,” Sienna murmured, hitting her horn. A short honk! sounded, startling the flock of
birds ahead of her. Her being lost meant that she would have to call her mom, and if she called her
mom, she would most definitely ridicule her for something so stupid.
With new resolve, she started back up the car and started to make her way down the road.
The rain was coming down harder already, forcing her to use her windshield wipers. God, what a
nightmare. She just wanted to get home.
She accelerated a little, trying to speed up the process. If she had just passed the Hardison
farm, then her house would be right on the—
With a scream, she slammed her foot down on the brake, her head ramming against the
wheel. With a little cry of horror, she stumbled out of her car, hoping to god that she hadn’t just
literally killed a man.
A small whimper greeted her, and she crouched down on the muddy road to see the dark
figure in front of her better.
“Oh my god,” Sienna said. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry! I swear to god, I didn’t see you and when
you yelled, well, it was too late, and I braked as fast as I could, but—where are you hurt?”
The man whispered, his voice barely distinguishable in the rain.
“Your leg? Alright, do you think you can stand up if I help you?”
Moments later, after an awkward struggle, Sienna had managed to deposit the man in the
backseat of her car. Under the dim light, she could see his matted black beard and sturdy green
jacket paired with well-worn boots. She unsurely hovered next to him, increasingly aware that her
favorite jeans were getting more and more soaked as the rain kept pelting down.
With a groan, the man managed to sit himself up a little. “Sorry,” he rasped out.
“Oh my god, don’t be sorry at all, I was the one who ran you over. I’m so sorry about that.
Again. Do you need me to call someone for you? Where’s your car? Are you visiting someone. The
Hardisons are just down the street, I can drive you there.”
“I’m—” he cleared his throat. “I’m hitchhiking. Backpack?”
“Did you have a backpack?” Sienna asked. She hurried to the front of the car where indeed, a
very fat backpack was laying in the puddles, thoroughly wet. She brought it over to the man
“It’s kind of wet. I’m sorry.”
“S’alright,” he murmured. “Thank you… “
“Sienna,” she supplied.
“David,” he nodded at her. “I should be going now.”
“Going?” Sienna repeated. “What, in this rain? With your leg situation. You can’t do that!”
David smiled, albeit a little painfully. “Nothing else I can do, really.”
“Well—” Sienna hesitated. One did that nowadays, with all the horror stories one hears on
the news. Ultimately, her sense of guilt won. “I can drive you to mine. You can rest up, let your
things dry.” Noticing that he was about to protest, she quickly interrupted. “I insist. It’s the least I
can do. I mean, with me running you over and all.”
David smiled again. “Thanks. I’m grateful.”
Sienna grinned back, then hopped into the driver’s seat and restarted the ignition. The car
sputtered to life. She genuinely hoped she would remember the way now, because it’d be a little
embarrassing to get lost on the way to her house in front of a stranger. She took three sharp left
turns in a row, trying to recall from muscle memory the way to the farm. One right, a left at the
tiny wooden sign, go straight for about three minutes until you get on the windy road and it’s
“There!” David pointed out a small farm with a light on in what appeared to be the kitchen
of the house.
Sienna switched off the car, frowning. She was almost certain that she had gone the right
way this time, but this didn’t exactly look like her house. She turned around to face David, who was
eerily staring right at her, his eyes narrowed.
His face cleared in a second. “This is it, no?”
Sienna shook her head. “No. I’ve never even seen this before. But it has to be somewhere
here, let me just… ” she trailed off as she tried to start the car and nothing happened. “No!” Sienna
cried out. “This can’t be happening.” The rain was still coming down strong, it was insanely dark for
this hour of the day, she had an injured hitchhiker in the back of her car and who knew what else
might happen to her while the night was still young. She grabbed her phone, determined to call her
mom and just beg her to pick her up, but David touched her shoulder.
“Don’t bother with phones. No reception, I’ve been trying.”
Sienna groaned, still trying to call her mom, but it didn’t work. “We must be further out
than we thought then. I have no clue what to do.”
“Could go inside?” David suggested. “Better than getting soaked out here.”
Sienna shrugged. “Worth a shot.”
Together, they made their way up the path to the little house. A few chickens, all huddled
under a small overhead, made feeble noises at them, but it was obvious that they were too soaked to
make any real noise. Sienna frowned. She hated it when people didn’t treat their animals right.
Before they had even knocked at the door, it opened to reveal a sprightly young woman, her
blonde hair in a bob and her face adorned with a beaming smile.
“Hello!” she enthusiastically says. “What brings you here?”
A little taken aback by her excitement, Sienna glanced nervously at David, who strangely
enough, was beaming right back at her with the same energy.
“We got lost,” Sienna said. “Uh, lost reception and my car isn’t working. And there was a
little bit of an… accident, so David’s leg is hurt.”
“Oh sure, hon, you can crash at mine for a bit. I don’t have a phone—no one to call—” she
giggled “—but I can give you some fresh clothes and whip up some chili! I’m Jade, by the way.”
“Wow, thank you,” Sienna said. “Uh, yeah, that would be great. I’m Sienna, and this is
David and Sienna followed her into the living room, where Jade laughed as David kicked off
his shoes. “Make yourself right at home”
Sienna nodded her thanks as Jade brought her a warm blanket and she settled on the couch.
David was hanging around the side tables, where tiny little photographs were all stacked in their
tiny little frames. Sienna leaned forward to look a little closer at them. Most were in black and
white, primarily focused on scenery and close-ups of nature.
“These are so cool,” Sienna said in a feeble effort to break the silence. “Family thing?”
Jade smiled her wide smile again. “Yeah, bit of a hobby of mine. I’ve been collecting for a
very long time. My mum taught me how to find the good ones and develop them.”
“That’s so sweet,” Sienna said. “And thank you, again, for letting us come in.”
“Of course!” Jade waved her hand dismissively. “No biggie for me. I don’t get many visitors,
and it’s good for me to socialize every now and then.”
David limped over to a big painting over the fireplace directly in front of them.
“I thought it was your right leg, David,” Sienna frowned, noticing his limp.
Jade and David looked at each other.
“It is,” David said. He switched his stance a little. “I’m just looking at this painting.”
Jade got up as well, moving to stand next to David. Sienna watched them gaze fondly at the
painting, almost as if it were their child. She focused on the painting, which wasn’t really the most
pleasant sight. It was a sepia oil painting depicting a woman with long blonde hair hanging from a
tree, a noose around her neck. Despite her obvious deadness, the girl still had her red cheeks and
lips, looking like a goddess even in death. Beneath her hanging body, a young man sat on the
ground, his hands stained with the red of the strawberries he was eating.
“Our ancestors, you know,” Jade said conversationally. “From the Salem Witch Trials.”
Now Sienna was interested. She got up and pulled the blanket with her so she could observe
the painting up close. “Wow. That’s insane. It’s so sad that so many innocent lives were lost.”
Jade made a soft, dismissive noise. “Well, they didn’t really expect to find witches now, did
they? As if they’d expose themselves that way. They were too smart for that. The books have it
mostly right, but did you know that the first ones to accuse were witches? No one suspects the
people who are the accusers, and the witches knew that. All but one got away unscathed.” She
turned her gaze back on the painting mournfully.
Sienna nervously chuckled. “You make it sound like witches are real. You’re a good
Jade looked at her, startled. “Why, I wasn’t telling just a story though.”
Sienna laughed again, this time backing away a little. She clutched the blanket around her
tighter. “Right. Anyways, thank you for your hospitality, but I think it’s best that we leave now.”
David took a step towards her, still limping, but Sienna noticed with growing tredipitation,
that it was his wrong leg again. “I wanted to try her chili, though,” David pouts. “Can’t we stay for a
Jade smiled at her again, her full smile, though this time it looked a lot less friendly and a lot
more threatening. “Stay, Sienna, just for a bit.”
Sienna started to back up fast now. She reached for the door behind her with both hands,
suddenly realizing that there were a lot more locks on it than she had known. David and Jade were
still walking towards her as she frantically tried to unlock the third one, pushing and pulling from
side to side.
“What’s the matter, Sienna?” David asked. “Aren’t you going to take me to your house?”
Sienna shook her head. “No, no, I think it’s better if you stay with Jade. My… my mom will
be weirded out, you know.” She finally managed to grip the last lock and within a second, she had
turned her back on then and was flying out the door. It wasn’t until she had reached her car that she
dared to spend a second looking back and—
Nothing. There was nothing there. No house, no farm, no chickens, nothing. Jade and David
had disappeared too, leaving her with a view of the trees and the night sky.
Her hands shaking uncontrollably, she slid into her car, not trusting herself to make even
one noise lest it turns out it wasn’t just a bad dream. She drove as fast as she could to get out of that
specific grove of pines where she knew a house with Jade and David was just. As if she wasn’t already
psyched out enough, she suddenly realized that she was still wearing the blanket from the house.
With a bloodcurdling scream, she ripped it off of her onto the backseat where just a while ago there
had been a whole man….
Shaking her head, she accelerated so that she would get back on the main road faster. She
didn’t have to find her house right now. She would go back to the markets or the school and wait
there until morning. With that firmly in her mind, she slammed her foot down on the accelerator,
trying and trying and trying to leave that terrible memory behind until she was going miles over the
speed limit and—
With a sob, she stopped the car out of reflex more than anything else because she knew that
voice, she had just heard that phrase from that voice a while ago. She stayed still for a second, the only
sound her heavy pants and the constant thrum of the rain. With the tiniest inkling of courage, she
pressed the accelerator softly. The front wheels went over the lump, then bumped back down. The
back tires followed suit.
And she drove on.