There’s an urban legend in town about a cabin deep, deep in the woods. Hidden away by overgrown trees and rocky terrain. It has no history. No one knows where it came from, how it got there, who might’ve built it. Everyone has their own idea about its truth, and you’ll never hear the same theory twice. But there is one that everyone believes.
The cabin is haunted.
Anyone who’s stayed there knows it. Anyone who even goes near it knows it. Even animals know it.
Travelers wave the warnings off, though. Refusing to believe that it could actually be true, and thinking that it’s merely town superstition. Thrill seekers go because of the warnings. Hoping to glimpse or document what goes on inside the cabin.
By the time they come back, few can manage the ability to speak, to recount the horrors of what happened, and no one plans to ever come back…
Which meant Bill was pretty damn good at his job!
Not that anyone should expect anything less from Bill Cipher. He was a demon of unimaginable horror, with nearly all the power of the universe! If he couldn’t frighten a couple of humans, how could he ever call himself such?
Now true, he did manage to… upset someone who may have been powerful enough to trap him in this plot of land for an extended period of time. But that changed nothing!
Bill Cipher was still feared across the world by mortals and non-mortals alike!
And it’s not like Bill couldn’t find a way out of this mess. Just because it could take a while didn’t mean that all hope was lost! It just meant that in the meantime, Bill could entertain himself.
After all, these mortals were far too fun to scare, and they just kept coming! You’d think humans would learn to stay away from an unknown abandoned cabin that’s inhabited by a sociopathic, all powerful demon who’s created atrocities so terrible only the truly strongest of souls could speak of them, but apparently not! Not that Bill was complaining, of course. With as stupid as humans are, Bill could be as scary as he wants and never fear that he’d run out of prey!
The townsfolk can try all they like, but they’re not actually all that good at dissuading travelers. Especially when it actually encourages other humans!
Bill rubbed his hands together gleefully.
It would appear that new victims were already on their way up.
“I don’t understand,” said a kid pacing back and forth. “How do you manage forgetting to pack the tents?” The kid, who Bill was now dubbing as Pine Tree due to the pine tree on his shirt, stopped pacing as he addressed a large man nearby.
“I don’t know, dude! There was a lot of stuff!” the man Bill was dubbing as Question Mark (from both his shirt having a giant question mark on it and not entirely knowing if the man was human or hairless gopher…) said guiltily.
“Yeah, and we were bound to forget something,” a young woman rationalized, taking Question Mark’s side while messing with an axe in her hands. Her red hair and flannel jacket stood out almost comically against the greens of the forest around her. “It’s just the way of taking trips.” Red, Bill’s new name for her, shrugged.
“But the tents ?” Pine Tree stressed, near incredulous that no one else was taking this as seriously as he was. “Those are kind of important! Ugh… I knew I should have gone through the list one last time… Where are we going to sleep now?”
A feminine Pine Tree look-a-like (his twin probably) standing next to him in a shooting star sweatshirt gasped. She swept her arms out and up, gesturing to the sky. “We can just sleep under the stars!”
Yeah, if the sweatshirt hadn’t made Bill want to call the girl Shooting Star, that comment would have done it anyway.
“Ew!” The shrill cry sent shivers down Bill’s nonexistent spine. The girl the sound had come from looked absolutely disgusted. Then again, if Bill had been forced to wear that llama sweater, he’d’ve been disgusted too. “You mean on the ground? With dirt and bugs and who knows what else? No thank you,” Llama scoffed with a wave of her hand.
“Not to mention the trees block out all the stars…” Pine Tree mumbled past his pout.
“Maybe we can fashion sticks and our sleeping bags together for makeshift tents?” said a short girl off to the side. She was standing next to… a guy? A girl?
“Great idea, Candy!” it roared in an abnormally deep voice. A few birds scrambled at the sound.
“That’s really not a bad idea, you know,” Red pointed out, sounding more and more interested. Which… wasn’t much considering how dis interested she was before.
“And then what would we sleep in?” Llama countered, angrily. With her hands on her hips, she sounded more like she was commanding servants than arguing her case.“You don’t honestly expect me to sleep on dirt do you?!”
Pine Tree seemed to be ignoring it all. Though, Bill wasn’t sure how considering how piercing Llama’s cries were. Pine Tree concentrated on his watch. “Damn it… It’s 4:30…. Took us five hours just to get up here… We don’t have time to go back to the car. Which means…” His shoulders dropped and he pinched the bridge of his nose before turning to Llama and saying, “sleeping bag tents or stars? Take your pick.”
Llama gasped. “You can’t be serious!”
“Well, I’m sorry, your highness,” Pine Tree mocked, “but we don’t exactly have any other choice. Unless, of course, you wouldn’t mind hiking five hours back to the car alone and in complete darkness.” He swept his arm towards the path they’d just come from, daring Llama to head back at any moment.
Llama simply glared at Pine Tree.
Sensing trouble, Red stood tall and pocketed her axe. “Look, guys,” she started, hands out defensively while she tried diffusing the situation. “We still have some time before we have to stop and make camp. The sun doesn’t set for a while! The mountain is bound to have some trails around here which could lead to a clearing or maybe even some shelter.”
Shooting Star shook Pine Tree’s shoulder. “Dipper!” Dipper? That was his name? Hah! Pine Tree was way better. “You have the map! Are there any trails nearby?”
Pine Tree heaved a sigh and pulled of his bag to find the map. Now, Bill knew for a fact that there were some trails off to the west that lead to an information center that would no doubt offer some level of shelter. It would only take about two hours… But that was in the exact opposite direction of the cabin! If Pine Tree had a good map (which, considering how prepared this guy apparently liked to be, he probably did) then he’d find the trail, see where it leads, and be a responsible hiker and go there!
Which would totally ruin Bill’s fun!
Hell no. There was no way Bill was gonna let these guys get away that easily!
The group wasn’t on the property and pretty far out of Bill’s range, but they were just close enough that Bill could summon a small gust of wind. Just as Pine Tree had taken the map out.
The map flew from Pine Tree’s hands.
“Oh, shoot!” Pine Tree scrambled after the runaway map. It fluttered with the wind before softly landing on the ground a ways away, and just as Pine Tree was within grasping distance, it would fly away again. Luring them right to the cabin…
“Way to go, Butter Fingers!” Llama called after, struggling to keep up with the group without dirtying herself.
“You know...” Pine Tree panted, “this wouldn’t… have been an issue… if I hadn’t been the only one with a map…”
Bill was tempted to continue watching Pine Tree trip and stumble through the roots and plants, but he had trouble. Red, the apparently competent one of the group, was expertly hurdling the rocks and fallen trees and catching up a little too quickly to the map. Just a few more moments and…
She was in perfect map-grabbing position. Predicting where the map would float next, she leaped for it.
Only for another gust of wind, this time coming from the side, to catch the map and have it somersault around Red and out of reach.
Red fell to the ground. “That’s not possible!” she gasped. “I should have caught it! Why did it…?”
Pine Tree caught up to her just as she was getting up. “It doesn’t matter! You can blame yourself later, but right now we need that map! If we lose it, who knows how long we’ll be up here!”
So close. They were so close! Bill was practically vibrating with excitement.
There was only a few more feet before the map passed the treeline and into the view of the cabin!
At least… it would have been had a hook not come from out of nowhere and caught the edge of the map, pulling it back to the group.
Bill felt his body crumble into pieces. Then he turned to glare at the culprit who ruined his plan.
She held her device up proudly. “Grappling hook!”
Both Pine Tree and Red sighed with relief, and made their way back to her and away from the cabin.
Shooting Star waved the grappling hook with a smug grin. “And you thought I was silly for bringing this,” she teased.
Pine Tree rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Thanks for proving me wrong-”
“... fine. Again.” Despite sounding annoyed, Pine Tree gave a soft smile. He carefully pulled the map from the hook, then (damn it all) laid it down with his hands and knees pinning the corners of it to the ground. “Now then… Where are we now…? Candy, you have the GPS device. Where are we?”
While those stupid kids figured out where they were, Bill was hatching up a new plan. Pine Tree wasn’t gonna let that map out of his hands again and there was nothing else light enough to blow away, so wind wasn’t an option anymore. They were close enough that Bill could conjure something to chase them to the cabin… but then there was the risk he’d scare them right past it! He just needed them to find the cabin. That was it! Just a few more meters…
Then something caught Bill’s eye.
He nearly glowed pink.
Pine Tree left his backpack open. Not by much, but just enough for something small to fit through… maybe like a squirrel?
With the entire group focused on the map, no one noticed a squirrel materialize near them and creep closer. The backpack had slipped off of Pine Tree’s shoulder, so he didn’t feel the added weight once the squirrel wiggled it’s way through the opening.
Looking through the squirrel’s eyes, Bill searched. What could he take?
Notebooks, pencil pouch, clothes, water bottle… Those were all too big. There was some food in there, which would be something squirrels would take, but there was no guarantee that Pine Tree would need to get it back. He probably had plenty in reserves, the prepared little bastard. And- oh!
That would work!
After all that, it was the jingling of keys that finally made the group look up.
Pine Tree’s eyes widened. “Hey!”
The squirrel, keys in mouth and staring straight at Pine Tree, flicked it’s tail and dashed towards the cabin. Red immediately pursued the thieving animal, and the rest of the group each belatedly followed at varying paces.
Pine Tree groaned and, while standing with his stuff, complained with loud frustration, “What the hell is up with this damn mountain and taking my stuff?!”
Not the mountain. Just Bill.
And if Pine Tree had just stumbled on the cabin himself instead of being a knowledgeable hiker, then Bill wouldn’t have had to take his stuff.
So really this was all Pine Tree’s fault.
Red lead the charge against the squirrel. Not that they had to go far. Red, seeing the thick brush of the treeline up ahead, had the axe in her hand in a split second. Taking only a moment to aim, she flung the axe just as the squirrel disappeared under the foliage.
The axe followed effortlessly and landed on the other side with a ‘thunk’.
Shooting Star stopped following with a jolt and gasped, clearly horrified at the thought of a poor, dead, innocent squirrel. But Red didn’t even flinch.
Pushing her own way through the brush, Red’s eyes locked onto where the axe had landed.
But the keys laid not too far from the axe.
Red grabbed the keys and the axe, huffing in disappointment. “Damn,” she cursed, softly. “We could have had squirrel for dinner.”
Bill was now really glad they hadn’t been close enough for Bill to make himself look like a squirrel and take the place of the illusioned squirrel he’d had to use.
Because even though none of those humans had seen it, that axe had cut the illusioned squirrel in half before it dissipated. And sure, that wouldn’t have killed Bill. He’s an immortal demon, and that axe is nothing more than an axe. But it still would’ve hurt .
Watching the squirrel dissipate had left Bill quite uncomfortable, though.
Red was dangerous.
She might not scare as easily as everyone else. That would mean that she could be some kind of anchor for the others, making them harder to scare too. That, and also Bill was kind of a stickler about completion. He couldn’t let them go if one of them wasn’t scared!
Bill’s job just got harder, but at least it was work he enjoyed.
Red’s eyes caught on something, and she paused.
“Hey, guys?” she called, eyes not moving. “You should see this.”
Bill relaxed in relief.
They finally saw the cabin.
The rest of the group gradually made their own ways past the treeline, each one gasping with wide eyes as they caught sight of the cabin.
“This is so much better than the dirt,” Llama said, nearly in tears.
Pine Tree, the last to make it through, frowned. “Huh… the map didn’t say anything about a cabin...”
“Who cares?!” Llama cut off, absolutely ecstatic. “This cabin will be perfect for us! It’s not falling apart, it probably has enough room for all of us, and it’s not dirt .”
“Yeah, but someone probably owns this if it’s not falling apart,” Red pointed out, arms crossing over her chest. “And I’m not sure they’d be too happy about a bunch of strangers crashing there.”
Don’t worry. Bill checked with the owner and the owner said GET IN THERE ALREADY.
Pine Tree mimicked Red’s stance and said with a huff, “Besides, this ‘cabin’ looks more like some rich person’s lodge. Like something you’d own, to be honest.”
“Even better!” Not even Party Pooper Pine Tree could bring Llama down now. She stared longingly at the cabin. If Bill looked closely he might’ve been able to see hearts in her eyes. “That just means that there will be top of the line and modern appliances. No gathering wood and cooking over an open fire!”
At that sudden realization, Llama bound straight for the cabin.
“She knew that she had a choice not to go camping, right?” Red whispered not so subtly to Question Mark. Question Mark just shrugged.
Party Pooper Pine Tree caught Llama’s arm though before she could get too far away. “And that also means that they’ll probably be even more pissed that we stayed here!” he chided to her.
Llama rolled her eyes and peeled Pine Tree’s hand from her arm. “Hey, if you want to try and find some better place to stay, not likely, then you go ahead and do that. But in the meantime,” Llama backed away towards the cabin as she spoke, “ I’ll be settling in for the night and see if I can draw up a nice, hot bath for myself in this fantastic cabin!” Then she darted for the cabin door.
Pine Tree reached out for her in vain frustration, muttering under his breath. Shooting Star snuck up beside him carefully. She set a gentle hand on his shoulder biting her lip.
“Bro, you know…” she started cautiously, knowing what she was about to say would more than likely piss her brother off, “she does have a point.”
Pine Tree predictably rolled his eyes. “Thanks for taking her side.”
“I mean it! We don’t exactly have that many options-”
“And,” Red interjected reluctantly, “the options we do have include exposing ourselves to the elements and wild animals.” Of which there were plenty up on the mountain. Bill would know.
“Or trying to find some place else that might not even exist...” Question Mark rubbed the back of his head guiltily.
“You, too?!” Pine Tree gasped in utter betrayal at Red and Question Mark. Then his shoulders dropped in defeat as he saw Monster & Friend™ sheepishly agreeing.
Pine Tree was painfully out numbered, and Bill found that hysterical.
Red sighed, taking on a comforting persona. “While I may not agree with Pacifica’s reasons, this is the best of our current options.” She offered Pine Tree a soft smile, which Pine Tree winced at.
He then risked a glance towards Shooting Star, who started giving him puppy dog eyes while whispering “pretty please” over and over again. Pine Tree shut his eyes and sighed. “Well… At the very least we can stay until we’ve thought about our other options, and if the owners catch us then we can just explain the situation…”
“Yes!” Shooting Star and Question Mark jumped in cheer, and bounded straight for the cabin. The rest of the group following behind. Red lagged until she was next to Pine Tree and ruffled his hair in a sort of apology. Pine Tree brushed the hand off, but smiled nonetheless.
Bill silently cheered with along with Shooting Star and Question Mark all the while.
Leading them to the cabin didn’t necessarily mean that they would stay there, after all. If Llama hadn’t been such a pampered princess, they might have found some other place to stay that didn’t impede on Pine Tree’s and Red’s “moral grounds”.
Pine Tree… Hmmph. That Pine Tree was going to be a tough nut to crack, what with his logic and reasoning . He was so cautious too! Such stupid traits to have… Especially in terrifying situations. Which is exactly the situation they were being lead into!
Obviously, Pine Tree and Red were high up on Bill’s scaring list. They were clearly the grounded ones of the group, and so long as they were grounded the group would hold onto them for support and be less easy to scare. But if the minute they’re ripped from the ground, the rest of the group would follow along. Screaming right along with them.
You know, so long as they were the only two who’d give Bill trouble. But in a large group like this, it wasn’t likely there’d be any more tough nuts.
Finally, Pine Tree and Red made it inside the cabin. Meaning everyone was now inside and, unbeknownst to them, trapped for the worst time of their lives.
Bill rubbed his hands together eagerly.
Time to get to work.