By Aaron Taylor
In the heart of Lake Lanier rests the Isle of Three Sisters. Once home to the Mason family, she now rests, still longing for lives to share her secrets. Much time has passed since the last proprietor walked her grounds. A much-anticipated death.
Henry Mason left behind a wife and three daughters to fight in Desert Storm. Three years later, he returned to an empty house, partially crippled and anxious to be with his girls. Empty graves nestled in the northern part of the island marked the resting place for his children. Some say their cries are still heard in the winds along the bank of Three Sisters Island.
For years, he isolated himself, rebuilding the dwelling that once housed his family. His only venture to the mainland was for provisions and supplies to maintain his family’s property. Until his final days, the tomb was kept in immaculate condition. Perfectly fitted to the treelined perimeter surrounding his hell on earth. His death came with swiftness at a later age as the heart that once beat for his children, gave out mid sleep. For months, his body lay in wait for a discoverer. Henry Mason wasn’t seen around town for months before someone noticed his absence. Authorities eventually disclosed the details after a routine health and welfare. One thing was for certain; the mystery surrounding the girl’s death, died with him.
Rumors began to surface. Not only about Henry Mason, but the disappearance of his wife and the death of his girls. Henry was speculated to have been a deserter, hiding on the island. Others rumored he tortured POW’s and was responsible for hundreds of deaths. Some say, regarding the children, they were stricken with illness. While another version of the details say they perished at the hands of the mother and Henry caught the misses in the act of killing the girls. In a fit of rage, he snapped and bludgeoned her to death. Burying the innocent on the island and burning Emery’s corpse.
Over time, many people found the Mason’s Cabin to be an attraction with a strange gravitational effect to those that ventured close. Local teenagers would row out to the bank of the island, canoes loaded down with spirits of another kind, for a quick hangout and defacing of private property. The land was peppered with cans and bottles. Ruminants of prophylactics and other forms of teenage garbage strewn about the island. Just when all seemed fine, the first person went missing.
A group of college kids decided to pull an overnighter in the Mason’s cabin. A young man was seen leaving the confines of the house mid evening and never returned. His friends thought he rowed back to shore in a bit of a prank to strand the others on the island. When they found the canoes docked where they had left them, each one exactly the way they had been staged, they knew something was off. A search party was lucky to find his body. The boy had been hovering feet off the lake bed like a plastic bag caught in the mid-autumn breeze.
Months passed before others dared to exploit the islands solitude. Another went missing, this time a simple bird watcher tracking the nest of a Limpkin. His boat was found drifting in the middle of the lake. His equipment was still in the boat with the oars. Local rangers traced his cellphone signal 100 yards off the bank of Three Sisters somewhere beneath the water. His body was never found. Then another, and another…all contributions to the 700 souls that perished in the lake since its construction.
All accounts lead to one final assumption; Three Sisters Island was no place for the local community. Families warned off their young from drifting to close to the island. Void of visitors, The Mason’s Cabin fell to the charge of the state and was deemed government property until a year ago when it surfaced on the local market.
The moment his eyes fell on the property listing, Daniel knew he had to have it. Such an opportunity was sure to be sold quickly. For 75K, this was a steal. The wood cabin had been left to its original construct. Not much caught up to the modern-day era. No fancy electronics, no distractions from the joys of nature. The outside varnish had been restored to its natural beauty by contractors hired to dispose of adolescent tampering.
The house was a diamond in the rough of bad publicity and tales of worrisome accidents. The realtor spared no expense during the closing of the sale to enlighten Daniel on what he was getting himself into. The superstitious rumors weren’t enough to scare him off. Being an outsider from Maine, Daniel had no connections to the area. Why would he want a piece of land in the middle of a synthetic watery graveyard?
“This town has made a habit of ruining a good thing. People will come to the island with their own speculations of the Mason’s myth. My intent is to invite them.”
An Airbnb would practically sell itself. People from all over look for cheap secluded locations to leave their mundane lives behind. What better way, Daniel thought, than by giving them a private island with a few scary stories surrounding it?
Like he done with all his properties, Daniel embarked on a voyage to get a lay of the land. The fourteen-foot Jon Boat he bought would make for an easy 15-minute skim across the pond to the island from the boat ramp of Vann’s Tavern Park. Loaded down with his weekly supply of groceries and case of Busch Light, Daniel envisioned a small family, three, perhaps four people laughing and dreaming of their hours at play on their own piece of heaven for a few days.
The mist from the waves crashing against the aluminum hull of the boat kissed Daniel’s face. Small droplets of moisture accumulating in his stubble. The morning rays were vibrant as they danced along the water’s surface. Glancing over his shoulder for Johnnie Law as he downed the backwash of his morning beer, he tossed the can behind him and watched it settle into churning froth of the 20-horsepower motor before being washed over in the current.
Daniel turned the throttle wide open about thirty feet from reaching land. The high-pitched hum of the motor echoing over the top of the waves. A dense sluggish sound hugged the bottom of the boat as the depth became shallower. His body jarred forward as momentum slowed briskly. A loud thud followed by a sharp twisted metal sound filled Daniel’s ears as water slowly crept into the bottom of the bow.
Scrambling to keep his haul from becoming soaked, Daniel began frantically unloading everything from the boat onto the shoreline. Underneath the surge of water approaching the island as the boat made berth, the log now protruding through the hull must have been disguised in the wake. Three Sisters Island was thick and bogged down with mud and frayed branches packed into the soil. Every step was a struggle as the brownish sludge continued to smother his hiking boots.
Several trips through the slop later, Daniel had completely emptied the boat of all belongings and fought to pull the boat further on shore.
“Bad enough it’s got a hole. Last thing I need is this bitch at the bottom of the lake.”
Cell reception on the island was minimal. A measly fraction of a bar of service continued to flicker on and off between the first and second. In a bit of mixed fortune, the game warden was able to understand what Daniel’s phone call consisted of. Unfortunately, it would be about four days before they could get someone to him.
“Typical small-town response time.”
The journey towards the house was easier considering someone had packed the trail leading to the front door with pea gravel. The weight of his steps pressing the stones into the soil gently sliding to the left or right as if trying to pull him in the opposite direction. It was his first-time laying eyes on the property in person. Sure, the webpage from the realtor’s page did a great job displaying the house, but it was nothing in comparison to the true sight of the simplistic abode. Beneath the canopy of the trees above, the quaint little dwelling gave one a sense of true solitude. You truly were tucked away from every ounce of communal distraction. No noise or light pollution. No bystanders soliciting in front of shops. It was a blissful first impression.
Inside was just as pleasant. The open floor concept places you into the kitchen, living room and dining room all in one. Spacious and structured to give off the most of each area. The stove was an old gas stove. A rusted red can of propane with chipped paint merged to the aged appliance by a black hose that was beginning to fray under the pressure of time. “That’ll need to be replaced”, Daniel thought to himself.
Adjacent to the stove was a single table with four chairs. Each one festooned with cobwebs underneath the seat grappling with the legs. The window above the stainless-steel farm style sink, watched the shore line to the north side of the island.
The living room housed a lone sofa with threadbare cushions. Cotton stuffing and wires from the springs were visible underneath some of the tarnished areas. Tattered curtains hung in the window, sun faded and dingy. The whole cabin smelled of wet wood and old furniture. The bedrooms were presented in similar fashion. Each of the four rooms had a single bed, one-night stand perched on either side with bare windows obscured with grime and discoloration. Concluding that the property would take a little more work to bare its weight as a true vacation home, He gritted his teeth, and got to work.
The sunset loomed over the distant treelined mainland while Daniel descended his ladder for a final time. Having installed the final exterior camera for his BLINK system, a sense of security eased his increasing wariness of his investment. During his few hours of cleaning and setting up the internet connection, water damage in the ceiling, rotting floorboards, and some shingles in need of dire replacement had reared their ugly heads.
Opening the BLINK application on his phone, Daniel began thumbing through the setup instructions. It was fairly easy considering he had installed the same exact system in his other properties. As he began scrolling thorough the additional cameras on his other domiciles, a strange sense of discomfort slowly crept over his shoulder.
Daniel glanced up from his phone and looked into the reflection of his kitchen window. His blood thickened at the sight. Accompanying his reflection, surrounding him, were three young girls varying in age. Their hair was dark and caked with mud that clung to the sides of their faces. Hidden beneath their hair were a pair of dark receding pits where their eyes should be. Blacker than night the immense emptiness in their face seemed to pull Daniel in the longer he stared. Dressed in a blemish free white gown, sopping wet from head to toe, they were idled. The sun almost illuminating their ghostly pale complexion. Daniel couldn’t help but stand there, staring into the figures. He felt his breath begin to shallow as if being suffocated. As if he were beginning to drown.
A sudden vibration and loud chime from his phone jarred him from his trance. A blink and redirection of focus to his screen and back to the window now wielding his reflection alone, sent even deeper chills down his spine. Daniel was a sensible man. Never one for superstitious foolishness. This however; what he just witnessed, was anything but fiction. For the first time, he thought there may be truth to the Mason family legend.
Trying to enjoy himself, Daniel fished for the remaining part of the day. A few nibbles but nothing more. He was beginning to feel like a misfit toy. As much as he seen the luxury of the ambition, the evening time posed a bigger problem. Originally wanting to maintain the disconnect from modern civilization, a television set would make sense to the nightlife on the island.
The brownish yellow glow from the incandescent lightbulbs cast a dense aura of discomfort for Daniel. Sleep hadn’t come easy. Even after polishing off six beers, he found himself glancing at his Garmin loosely fastened around his wrist. Now approaching midnight, Daniel was at a stalemate with his sanity. He longed for company. Someone else to talk to. He desired other voices that didn’t boom from his speakers.
Approaching the kitchen window for a glass of water felt like an endless journey. The length of the open floor felt like it had doubled in size during the evening hours. As he turned the tap, swooping a glass underneath the faucet, a deep rumble protruded from the walls to his left. No water flowed.
“Huh. That’s odd.” Having checked the water pressure several times throughout the day, he knew there was plenty of potable water at his dispense. The filtration system running from the lake towards the house was in perfect order from its instillation just a few weeks ago. Turning the faucet on and off as if the water were strung on a line to be reeled in. Daniel fought frantically to remedy the issue before having to venture into the emptiness of night. Just as he was about to give up, it happened.
A thunderous splat of thick brown shot from the faucet and into the sink. The impact sent discharge into the air and onto the front of his shirt. The smell of dirty water and earth breached the opening of his nostrils with such a force, he gagged. He could feel the dampness of his shirt as the water and mud began seeping through the cotton.
His cursing filled the cabin, ringing in his own ears. His heavy breathing began to fade as he regained his composure. Daniel removed his shirt carefully so as to not smear the mud on his face. He could feel the temperature difference from the warmth of the dry cloth to the saturation of icy bitterness of the soiled portions. With clear water now flowing from the faucet, he began scrubbing his shirt free of sediment, as well as the sink. His hand seized the mass of earth, about to push it down the drain, when he recognized the coarse texture in the soggy mush. It was everywhere, suffocating his hand. Weaving between his fingers, were fragments of coarse black hair.
The soft voice filled his ears with horror. He shut off the faucet again listening intently for the direction of the voice.
He lunged backwards to the floor, eyes still fixed on the kitchen window above the sink in horror. Pressed to the glass was the face of the girl he had seen earlier. Her pale gray skin was cracked and wrinkled as if she had been submerged for ages. Her black hair was hovering above in all directions as if she were caught in a horrible windstorm or adrift in a body of water. Her hands pressed to the glass as if trying to free herself from the confines of the woods. A look of desperation and worry painted an image he couldn’t shake.
The darkness of the island swarmed inside the windows as all the lights flashed out at once. Now in the black, Daniel fumbled for his phone. It was nowhere on his person. “I must have dropped in when I fell.”
He groped the floor desperately for the phone. Anything. He found the table leg, giving him a directional bearing. “Okay, I’m still in the kitchen. It couldn’t have gone far.” All that he could hear was the vibration on a hard surface and his labored breathing. It was so black, he could taste the darkness. He inched closer and closer to the rumble in the floorboards. Finally, his fingers fell on his trembling phone. As he lifted it off the ground the illumination of the screen grew in size the hovered above the floor.
The notifications had come from his BLINK app. Motion detected at the North Camera. Motion detected at the South Camera. Motion detected at the west camera. Over and over, the same notification filled his screen. About twenty motion detections were announced.
“There’s no way.” Daniel said to himself. Shock filled his face as his eyes skimmed over the messages. His knees began to ache desperately. Leaning forward to brace himself on the floor to stand, he felt something wet between his fingers. A large puddle of icy cold water was now covering the floor. What was more alarming, was that it had a current. His palm stung against the water. He was right in front of the sink. A leak? He questioned silently.
Using the flashlight of his phone, he shone the beams of white into the water beneath his hand. His eyes strained for a moment to adjust to the light. Sure enough, it was dripping from the cabinet door under the sink. Thinking the clog must have blown a pipe, Daniel opened the door to the cabinet under the sink.
Behind the cabinet door was yet another girl even younger. Her expression was haunting. Her mouth was wider than the opening of the sink, nearly dragging the floor. The muscle fibers in her jaw were beginning to tear from the strain in her face. The pits for eyes were oozing with horror as the terrible shrill rang through Daniel’s ears. Scurrying backwards from the sink, he cracked his head against the bottom of the table. The sudden shock and blunt force knocked him unconscious.
He racked his brain trying to remember exactly what happened. Waking up to the cawing of birds overhead bathing in the sunlight, he reached up and rubbed the back of his head for the same spot he last contacted the table. A small knot on the base of his skull was present and rather tender to the touch.
He lurched out of bed. A quick glimpse in the mirror bore his resemblance but the gray
t-shirt he had worn the night prior was still on and stain free. The sink he would later find had the same spotless appearance. No hair in the drain, no plumbing issues. Everything was, as it should be, perfectly normal. Everything except him.
What about the BLINK? There has to be something on there. He grabbed his phone off the table. Immediately checking the application, he found several recordings from the night before. He mashed the tab with the enclosed play button labeled “clips”. Now I’ll see exactly who it was. The first video displayed nothing. Just a flickering speck of white. “Probably a bug”. The next video showed a racoon, in several different locations on the property. But none resembled even the faintest description of a girl.
The rest of the morning was spent surveying the land for traces of footprints or anything that might make sense of his hellish night. The filtration system had been voided of any debris. There was no leak in the sink under the cabinet. Nothing pointed to any reasonable explanation as to why he seen the images of the girls. All the while, he had an odd suspicion that he was being watched.
Scrubbing the history of Lake Lanier troubled him even more. All the deaths surrounding the fabricated reservoir made him uneasy for the first time. He glanced out at the water’s edge and envisioned faces looking up at him from the depth of the murky bottom. A sense of chills flushed out a light shiver as he cranked his neck to the side to crack his joints and ease the tension. It was then that he remembered the story from the realtor about the Mason family. Skimming over the article about Emery’s disappearance and the rumors of the girl’s death he found himself in a troubled web of thoughts.
They had three girls. Well, that makes sense because I could have sworn I seen three figures in the window. Their bodies weren’t found… Mom went missing… Henry was abandoned…
Everything was making sense. What if the girls never left? Could they still be here? On the island… “in” the island.
A gust of wind stirred up the leaves at the foot of Daniel’s lawn chair. Until now, the winds had remained calm all morning. Something told him to follow their direction. As his sight traced the dancing motion of the leaves, he caught a glimpse of the front door. Wide open, swaying in the wind, the door almost gestured for him to enter the home. A troubled look emitted from his face as he recalled closing the door tightly upon his last exit. He hadn’t reentered the home in at least an hour.
Approaching the door with hesitation, he reached out to pull it shut when a dark figure swept across the jarred opening quickly, almost stopping Daniel in his tracks. He grabbed the door forcefully and pushed it open, not without noticing the drastic temperature difference from the sunbathed wood, and the rest of the structure. Why was the door cold?
Bracing for a fight, Daniel clenched his fists prepared to come to blows with whoever was inside.
Everything was as it should be. No windows cracked. Nothing out of place. Had he seen someone or was he slowly starting to let the rumors of the story alter his grip on reality.
Just as he prepared to turn around, a gently flicker of something on the table caught his attention. The only thing he had left on the table was a few empty beer cans and his silverware from the night before.
A single piece of parchment was folded and centered on the table setting. Daniel’s hands trembled as he took the paper in his fingers. Carefully unfolding the wilted page, he read:
Daddy’s watching you
Dropping the letter on the table, Daniel backed away slowly, not taking his eyes off the table. The doors to the rooms suddenly slammed shut and reopened over and over. The thunderous crack filled the whole home making Daniel’s bones shake.
“EMERY!” “EMERY! “EMERY”
Louder and louder the chants echoed as the doors continued to slam. The voice was anything but that of a woman. This voice was furious. Fierce. It came from nowhere seemingly, but it filled every inch of the home. Crouching to the floorboard’s hands cupped over his ears, Daniel, in that moment, knew this place was nothing he wanted a part of.
Suddenly, the silence became more deafening than the noise of the screaming and the doors. Slowly, Daniel rose to his feet, hesitatingly lowering his hands from his ears. Looking around, all the doors to the house were left open. All but one. He inched closer to the secured door. The brass fitting felt warm to the touch. He wasn’t sure if the slight tremor he felt was from his nerves rattling the knob, or the vibrations of the violent slams. The door swung open violently, ripping the handle from fingers.
Henry Mason sprang from the room, faced enraged with hatred, and shot his ashen gray hand around Daniel’s neck. He couldn’t swallow, couldn’t breathe. Henry’s hand clutched harder around his throat, his nails piercing his skin. Warm trickles of life were inching down his collar bone as Daniel fought for air. The icy chill of the man transcending through his body crippled Daniel’s knees, forcing him to the floor. The roar of Mason’s voice still rattling around in his head as he lay slumped against the wall. Blackness began to engulf Daniel’s vision as Henry Mason’s face began to blur.
Daniel shot up from the floor in a coughing fit. His lungs cried for oxygen. The muscles in his throat were tender to the touch making swallowing that much more intolerable. Once he regained his balance in the doorway, he stumbled to the bathroom. The reflection of his neck cast shadows of bruising on his neck. Henry Mason’s large handprint had covered almost every square inch of his throat. Fear for his life became all too apparent.
The time on his phone read 11:38 pm. With no reception breaking through, calls for help were useless, especially at this hour. It would be another day and a half before the Game warden would be there to get him to shore. Still, another night here was not something he looked forward to too. Leaving everything behind, Daniel made his way to the door, determined to get off the island one way or another.
Th cold air hit him in the face like a Louisville Slugger. His hot breath rose up in front of his face like steam from a broiler. How is it this cold mid-August? Making his way to the shore line, he felt a gentle tickle on his thigh. His phone was vibrating again. He reached into his pocket for his phone again, probably just the BLINK again.
Sure enough, the security cameras had detected his movement as he left the house. Paying no mind to the notification, he trudged on to the water’s edge. Glistening in the distance was the flickering of lights from the adjacent town. During the daytime, the swim did not look impossible. At night, exhausted from fright, it was like crossing Niagara.
Maybe it will be a shorter swim on the far side of the island.
The walk east was difficult. Not only had the black of night disguised the weeds and bogged down spots of the island that were submerged in water, but the light from his phone was less powerful as the battery drained itself in his hands.
To his surprise, the position of the island really made no difference when contemplating the swim. The absence of light in the sky only illuminated the endless depth of the lake.
“Now what?” Daniel said aloud, turning his screen to face him. His flesh was swarmed with goosebumps as the notifications appeared over and over. “Motion detected, motion detected, motion detected, motion detected.”
Clicking on the notification, he could see the same ghostly figures standing below the cameras, looking directly into the lens from the ground. Sounds of sloshing came from behind him in the water. Henry Mason was swiftly making his way towards Daniel again. Daniel dropped the phone in panic and scrambled to house as fast as he could.
Glancing back was a mistake. As Daniel reached the glow of the security lights on the house, he flung forward, tripping on a downed branch and landed on his stomach in the cold damp mud. His foot was suddenly suspended, flexing his lower back to the point of immobility. He was being drug through the marsh back towards the lake. Fighting with all his might to break free from his grip, Daniel couldn’t get away from Henry Mason.
The lake began to swallow him whole as he was drug deeper until his head was submerged. He couldn’t move. A huge weight pressed down on his chest cracking his ribs. Pain surged through his body as his ribs crushed and he screamed, sucking in gallons of water. Henry Masons smile as he looked into the eyes of Emery one final time. Forcing the life from her body as he had done with his girls. His secret staying safe.
Officer Dawson searched the grounds of Three Sisters Island for nearly thirty minutes. No signs of forced entry, no foul play. The only thing odd was the phone sitting on the table.
“Why would he leave his phone?”
Dawson figured Daniel must be somewhere on the island and decided not to wait. He left a repair kit for his Jon Boat sitting on the table next to the empty cans.
Just as he was about to turn and leave, he heard the pairing of a chime and vibration. Officer Dawson approached the table again, picked up the phone, and seen the notifications begin to surface for “motion detected” on Daniel’s blink app underneath smears of mud.
He walked outside dropping the phone on the counter, looking for the cause of the disturbance. No one was around. Clearing his activity with dispatch, he began walking back to his boat, wading in the shallows near Daniel’s. He couldn’t help getting the feeling he was being watched as he throttled up and sailed away from the island for the final time. Daniel and the girls stood idled in the reflection of the shoreline, saponaceous foam flowed through their bodies as they watched his boat shrink in the horizon.