Below is a Recollection–this is not a review, but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience through Heretic’s The Cabin: Ruin. This 8 horror simulation unfolded in real time with its own distinct storyline, including unique paths for each participant, that will not be repeated. If interested in the pre-show leading up to this event, please read The Patient and The Caretaker.
I step out of the car and into the blistering, dry heat. Two other vehicles filled with familiar faces pull up for what should be a great weekend spent in the empty wilderness of California. Just Jason, Omar, Chelsea, Madelaine, Jake, and myself. Six friends. One cabin. With an absence of work and no surrounding town within miles, this is the much-needed escape from reality we are all looking for.
We grab our belongings. We haven’t brought much, just the basic necessities to survive a few nights. Clothes, food, flashlights. Backyard essentials. Retrieving the cabin key from a combination box hidden off to the right, we enter through the side door only to be met by a haze of dust mixed with the hug of an uncomfortable warmth.
At the top of a long, narrow set of stairs, the living room with connecting kitchen awaits us filled with a series of furniture pieces and decorations that sit together in the most unflattering way. Stationed along the walls lies the occasional mousetrap. I remind myself that the cabin isn’t the point though. It’s about the time my friends and I will spend together and the memories we are going to create.
We explore the cabin and find traces of the previous residents who stayed here in the past. Puzzles. Board games. Enough VHS and cassettes to fill an antique shop. I sink into the couch to relax and spot what appears to be a torn off piece of clothing, stained with…what? Food? Blood? Whatever its origin, I immediately throw it in the trash where it belongs.
Because night will approach in just a few hours, we decide to go for a quick hike around the area to enjoy the beauty of nature that we can’t get back home. Our laughs and weekend planning echo in the brutally hot air as we celebrate our current adventure, but our delighted smiles diminish out of sight at the glance of a four-wheel truck that passes by on the dirt road. Not an unusual occurrence, except for the stone-cold stare the driver maintains every second we remain in view.
We no longer feel welcome.
Back at the cabin, we remain quiet as we continue to settle in, our previous excitement left behind in the dust. Jake comes in from the balcony, looking deeply concerned.
“Uh, guys? There’s some people approaching our cabin.”
We all rush to look outside. A man and woman are supporting a shirtless figure who appears badly injured, his entire face is wrapped in bandages, and barely conscious.
“Please open the door,” the woman pleads. “Our car broke down.”
Before we give an answer, we discuss among ourselves regarding what we should do. They’re complete strangers and we have very limited space as it is… But the man they’re carrying clearly needs immediate medical attention. We make our way towards the door, but opening it is completely unnecessary as the three strangers are already making their way inside.
The doors were never locked.
“He’s very sick. We need to lie him down,” the woman says with a thick french accent as she brushes her brown hair from covering her face
Jason runs over and suggests we take him to one of the rooms downstairs, but it’s too late. They’re already escorting their patient up to the second level and it would be too much effort to bring him back down. At the top, they make a sharp right and carry the Patient to the room at the end of the hall. They place him down on the bed without waiting for permission. Madelaine and Chelsea dart in and begin removing their bags and personal items. The room isn’t theirs to claim for the night anymore.
“Thank you so much. You’re the first ones to let us in. Most wouldn’t even open their doors,” the woman says.
She introduces herself as Stephanie and the man is Gene. Traveling together to Vancouver, their car has broken down in the middle of the road and they have traveled from house to house, desperately searching for anyone to help. Jake brews a pot of coffee for our new guests. We want them to feel comfortable and safe, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about them. Who are they? Where were they coming from?
And what is wrong with the Patient?
“I wouldn’t really worry about his condition,” Gene says. I think back to the blisters and rashes I saw covering the the Patient’s body. “And it’s not contagious, if that’s what’s on your mind. There’s nothing to worry about if you don’t have a cut or an open wound.”
The six of us exchange looks.
Returning from checking on the Patient, Stephanie tells us that she needs to make a quick phone call.
“Can any of you supervise him as I step outside?” she asks.
Nobody is eager to elect themselves, until Omar stands up and offers his assistance. I decide to join him for the simple fact that none of us should remain alone. Gene leads the two of us to the room while the rest hang back in the living room. We enter and see the Patient lying still on the bed, painted ever so lightly by the remaining beams of daylight slipping through the window blinds. The room is hazy. I feel like I’m on the brink of a fever just by close proximity.
“There’s nothing much you need to do,” Gene says. “Just watch him and give him a spoonful of water every 10 mins. Keep him hydrated. If he starts to vomit, make sure you lift his head so he doesn’t choke on it. Just call us if it gets any worse than that.”
Having another person’s life in your hands is stressful enough. We’re not qualified for this, but Omar and I have to anxiously do what we can. Gene leaves the room and closes the door. Now we wait, expecting for the worst… hoping for the best.
We slouch to the side of the bed on two flimsy plastic chairs. It’s quiet, but we can hear muffled dialogue coming from our group and new guests casually discussing in the living room . Omar gets up and carefully brings a spoonful of water to the Patient’s mouth. We think he swallows it. If not for the occasional blink, he could easily be mistaken for a corpse. His body is thin. The skin is almost rotting. Death reeks from his pores.
Omar and I sprint to lift up his head for fear of him throwing up.
“Stephanie! Gene!” we shout in unison.
The two of them rush in and take our place.
“Is he alright?” I ask.
“Oh, he’s fine,” Gene responds unconvincingly. “It can be difficult for him to take down the water sometimes.”
The Patient continues to cough violently as Omar and I leave the room, relieved to reunite with the others. We huddle together, and they quietly explain to us everything they have learned about our guests. Stephanie is the Patient’s caretaker and Gene is a doctor. They’ve been traveling the last few days and are headed to visit Stephanie’s family. During their journey, they ventured off-course to go sightseeing since they’ve never had the opportunity to see the lakes and mountains of California. Things were going smoothly for them until their car unexpectedly broke down.
Not everything in their story makes sense, but all we have is their word.
Stephanie comes back into the room flustered. “I can’t find my wallet. All the money that we had was in there!” We try to calm her by thinking of different possibilities as to where it might be. We all suggest that it could have been left at their car that broke down, but she refutes that idea instantly. Then a spark ignites in Stephanie’s eye.
“We stopped at a Circle-K when we were on the road. That’s the last time I remember using it,” she claims. Gene appears, agrees that it’s a good possibility, and looks up their number for her to call. Stephanie inputs their number into her phone, waiting for someone to pick up on the other line.
“Hello? Hi, I came into to your store today and misplaced my wallet. Did I leave it there by any chance?”
We listen to Stephanie describe her wallet as she converses back and forth with the employee on the other end. After a kind thank you and goodbye, she disconnects her call. No wallet.
We continue to suggest ideas. Stephanie now thinks she dropped it when they were knocking from door to door for help. “I’ll have to go outside and look,” she says. “But I need to go before it gets dark out. Would any of you like to come with me?”
Madelaine agrees to help. Jake says he’ll come along too. Again, we can never leave any one of us alone. The three of them head out the door to begin their search leaving Omar, Chelsea, Jason, Gene and myself behind. The Patient remains alone in his room.
With the absence of the wallet, Gene recognizes another one of their possessions missing: their bag of medical supplies. The contents inside are necessary to care for the Sick Man. If he doesn’t get it soon, things will turn bad.
“Is it back at your car?” Chelsea asks, helpfully.
“No, it’s probably back at our cabin with all of our other belongings,” Gene replies, almost too quickly. “We must have forgot it on our way out.”
This new bit of information immediately alarms us. This is the first we have heard of them having a cabin, since we were under the impression that they were temporarily passing through the area. Gene asks if anyone can take him there since it is only a 10-minute drive. With Jason being the only car owner eligible with Madelaine and Jake have gone, he has no other choice but to help Gene out by driving.
“I can come with you guys too,” Omar offers.
“It might be best for you to hang around here,” Gene says. “We need someone to watch him in bed. Jon, you should come with us though.”
Me? I’m not going argue. The situation is strange enough as it is and I want to do whatever I can to resolve the matter at hand as soon as possible. Jason and I say goodbye to Omar and Chelsea and walk with Gene to the driveway. We get in into the car and Jason drives into the wilderness, further and further from our Cabin.
The sun sets over the horizon line of trees. Night officially commences at the click of Jason’s high beams as this car paves down the dark dirt road. The ride is silent apart from Gene who continues to sprinkle small pinches of chit chat wherever he can.
“Watch out for the donkeys up here. I’ve never seen so many donkeys.”
His forcefulness to keep a conversation going makes me uncomfortable and I get the sense that he’s hiding something. I’m thankful Jason and I have each other by our side.
We continue to drive higher and higher up the mountain until Gene tell us to pull into a driveway on the right. We park horizontally to a cabin much nicer than ours, modern and beautiful. He tells us both to wait in the car while he goes inside to search for his medical bag.
“I won’t be long,” he says.
We watch Gene enter through the front door of his cabin and disappear into the darkness. Silence. A light catches my attention. I look over to see the bulbs turn on in the garage through the small square windows lined up across its door. Gene enters the space and begins scavenging around, but he’s not alone. Another figure is inside. I can’t tell if they’re arguing, but they look to be shouting based on their gestures. Gene exits, turning the garage lights off. He walks back to Jason’s car casually.
“I couldn’t find it anywhere. I might need you two to come inside and help me search,” he says.
“Yeah. So who were you talking to inside?” Jason asks.
Gene laughs. “I wasn’t talking to anyone. You were seeing things. Come help me search. And bring any flashlights you have.”
We walk to the door, but before we go inside, Gene stresses to not turn on the lights under absolutely any circumstances. He doesn’t want any attention drawn to us. Jason and I don’t question his peculiar request.
Because I don’t have a flashlight of my own, I hover close to Jason as we quietly take our steps inside. The space is huge and luxurious. Even if Gene and Stephanie planned on staying there only one night, they have great taste. They must have money to be able afford a place like this.
We search in every room and corner we can, but Jason and I are limited in the amount of ground we can cover while we desperately share a single beam of light. We circle back to Gene after every bag we find, but each time he quickly states it isn’t the one.
“It’s a black messenger bag. It’s not very big.”
The places we haven’t searched are growing thin, but we continue to scan through every corner and closet. Sometimes twice. Every new space we shine the flashlight I fear we’ll unveil something lurking in the shadows. After almost twenty minutes with no luck, Gene suggests we check outside. He’s confident it’s on the property and if it’s not in the cabin, it could be by the shed out back. We walk along the side of the cabin and scan every patch of ground around us. Nothing. That leaves the shed as the last place we haven’t checked.
We trot down a slope towards a large stable-like shed with an open front. Gene shines his flashlight towards the structure. Crouched inside, a shirtless man twitches with a black bag over his head. His frail and dead-like appearance reminds me of the Patient back at our cabin. Telling Jason and I to stay back, Gene heads slowly down to check on him. Unresponsive to any of Gene’s questions, Gene tries to carry the man so he can take him back to the cabin and find out why he was in the shed. I’m hesitant to go near him for the slight chance of the man being deranged or psychotic. As Gene helps the man back to his cabin, Jason and I a safe distance behind, the man bursts away from Gene’s arms and lunges in my direction. He pins me furiously to the ground. His cold hands grip tightly around my neck.
He’s trying to kill me.
“I’ve seen you! It was you!” he slobbers.
Gene grabs the man and throws him off me, but he continues to resist.
“How do you know him?” Gene demands while holding him back.
“I’ve never see him before,” I reply. “I don’t know why he says he knows me.”
The man is clearly delirious and it’s apparent we won’t get any clear answers from him at this moment. Gene supports the man as we make our way back to his cabin, but the once dark exterior now has a shining light coming from one of the rooms..
“I told you not to leave the lights on! We don’t want draw attention,” Gene yells. We confidently tell him that neither Jason or I turned on any lights. Gene instructs Jason to wait with the man who is now calm and subdued on the ground. He asks me to go inside with him to turn off the lights.
We head to the kitchen and Gene flips the switch to turn the lights off, but we are not alone. Standing in the corner of the dark living room stands a man the size of a wrestler. A black paintball style mask covers his face. He storms towards us, lifts me up and slams me onto the table.
Gene bolts out of the house.
There’s no escape for me. I’m powerless against this brute force. I’m lifted up and effortlessly carried to the garage where Jason and I saw Gene from the car. He drops me into a chair in the middle of the room. Another stranger creeps out from the shadows and ties my hands together with rope. A bag is thrown over my head.
I hear a gun cock.
“Is he safe?”
“Is who safe?” I ask.
I’m shot with plastic bullets all over my body, each one stinging more than the last.
Hands are placed over my shoulders.
I sense someone’s face slither close to my ear.
“Is he safe?”
“The Patient? Is that who you’re talking about?” I ask again.
I’m shot a few more times. Pain radiates through my skin.
“We’ll know if you’re lying.”
The bag over my head is removed and I stare back at the paintball mask of my tormentor, but I sense someone behind me as well. The man in the paintball mask places a metallic canister on the hard floor, pushing it slowly until it’s positioned between my feet.
I look down at the ground.
Liquid contents explode everywhere, completely soaking my face and clothes. Thankfully my eyes shut in time, but it’s still enough to burn.
“How much do you weigh?” the mysterious man behind me curiously asks.
I respond that I’m around 175lb.
He laughs. “That’s pretty light for my friend.”
Instantly, I’m lifted into the air by another man with the physique of a bodybuilder. I fear that I’ll be thrown at any moment like a rag doll, but the view from above is frightening enough. The Bodybuilder places me back down on the chair.
“I’d be careful though. He also likes to bite.” Breath warms my ear, teeth nibbling the edges.
A blindfold goes back over my head and I’m shoved to my feet. Somebody begins moving me forward and I blindly move in whichever direction I’m guided. I stumble down the stairs as I’m led to another room. I’m placed in a different chair The new room has an ambient humming sound in the background. Like a motor.
“Is he safe?”
I still can only assume they’re talking about the Patient. I tell them everything I know. About Gene and Stephanie. Our cabin. My friends…
“We don’t care about you or your friends. We only want the Patient,” he begins. “You and I can be friends though. Will you help us?”
I nod my head. I have no choice I can only assume that this man who has been asking me all these questions is the leader of this group of people. There’s a strong confidence in his voice and a surprising amount of kindness.
“The things we’ve done to you can get a lot worse if you don’t follow our instructions. There needs to be trust between us. In order to prove your trust, we need to show you exactly how much worse it can get.”
My blindfold is lifted from my head and I turn to see the motor sound is coming from jacuzzi in the middle of the room. The aqua light from the water glows outward and illuminates the wallswith an ominous tint. TI’m carried over to it and my head is placed close to the water. The bubbles boil violently as the heat breathing out burns my face. My head is thrust beneath the surface. Submerged, I become more lightheaded every second I remain down there. My lungs scream for air. The moment it becomes too much, I’m lifted back up, gasping. My vision is blurry. The room is spinning.
They throw a towel on me and dry me up, because apparently, I’m no good to them sick.
As I sit in the chair regaining my composure, I stare out a large window in front of me that stretches from floor to ceiling, focusing on the stars dancing in the sky. It’s beautiful. I feel at peace until I see The Leader approach behind me in the reflection.
“The man back at your cabin…he’s not what he seems. He has certain abilities that allow him to control others. Right now, he’s heavily sedated. You don’t want to see what he can do when he’s fully awake. We need you to help us get him back. Do you understand?”
I nod my head again, but I lie. I don’t understand. Certain abilities? There’s no possible way the Patient can actually control people with his mind. A blindfold is placed back over my eyes and I’m led back to one of their cars.
“Let’s go. We’re taking you back to your friends.”
I sit in the middle of the backseat of the car, sandwiched between two others. Another muscular body is seated to my right and somebody to my left who has their arm wrapped around my shoulders. Old music plays on the radio. I feel the vibration of the car driving down the road, but I cannot see what is in front of me because of the blindfold. The man sitting to my left repositions his arms to remove my blindfold while still covering my eyes. He delicately removes his fingers, slowly unveiling the dashboard of the car. As I get used to view in front, his hand returns to cover my eyes.
This routine repeats roughly four more times as I’m gifted the occasional glimpse of the view of the road. I savor every second I get.
“When you arrive back at your Cabin, I want you to find your phone. A text will be waiting from us. Confirm you’ve received it by replying back. Further instructions will arrive later.”
As they drop me off, I’m escorted to the front door of my cabin.
“Remember, we don’t want your friends. We just want the Patient. Confirm when you’ve received our text.”
I head inside and go up the stairs. In the living room are three other men I’ve never seen before. Jason, Omar, Chelsea, Madelaine, and Jake are all silent on the couch. Static emits from the television, our overnight bags ripped open, and our belongings scattered all over the floor. I’m barked at to sit down. I strategically sit next to my bag to get access to my phone. I see Stephanie, but she looks different. She no longer has brown hair anymore, revealing a bright red color which was hidden underneath a wig. I doubt if her name is even Stephanie. She waves a gun in the air as she and the men in the living room argue about money. I try to fill myself in on the conversation I fell into, but my priority is my cellphone. I need to respond to the others’ text.
I discreetly remove my phone from my bag and see I have a new text:
‘It’s your birthday.’
I reply that I’ve received their message and I’m ready to perform whatever task they need. I warn them about the gun Stephanie has and the men I didn’t recognize.
The men forcefully wrap duct tape around our wrists and separate us into pairs in different rooms around the cabin. Omar and Jake are placed in one bedroom, Chelsea and Madelaine in another. Jason and I are left as we’re grabbed by our necks and dragged to the last space available: the room where the Patient is kept. We arrive and the room is empty.
The Patient is gone.
The lights turn off and Jason and I are thrown onto the bed. The door slams shut. Chaos ensues as we hear screams coming from outside. I’m unable to tell if it’s from our friends or not. The door reopens with a silhouette standing in the door frame. Two figures walk into our room and grab me and Jason and we’re carried into the kitchen area.
It is dark except for a hint of blue haze filling the room, creating a nightmarish setting that is difficult for me to accept. I am dropped forcefully onto the counter. My shirt is lifted up and I am smacked across my chest. And another. SMACK. And another. SMACK. The figure opens up a drawer that ignites with the clatter of appliances and silverware. He teases me with a sharp object by gliding it along my body.
I am picked up from the counter and thrown against the wall with all of my attacker’s might. He does it again. From what I can see, the Patient is standing behind him. He’s awake. Focused. He’s manipulating the events around him like a deranged puppeteer. As I call out in pain, I hear others going through the same terror.
I’m taken back to the room and thrown on the bed. My hands still taped together, sharply cutting into my wrists. The other tormentor comes back with Jason over his shoulder and tosses him beside me. My body is sore and it is hard to move but I slowly peek through my eyelids towards the doorway. The Patient is looking back, staring through the small space between his bandages. He walks away which prompts one of the men to slam the door shut as they leave.
Jason and I lay on top of the bed for what feels like forever.
“Do you think they’re gone?” I whisper.
We hear rustlings outside the door and call out for attention. Jake opens the door and comes over to unbind us from the tape on our wrists. We gather in the living room where Madelaine, Chelsea, and Omar are as well. We attempt to settle down, stunned, praying our ordeal is over, but outside we hear a car approaching. The door downstairs swings open and The Body Builder from before enters the cabin, accompanied by someone in a hoodie. The Bodybuilder grabs Madelaine and Jason and the person with The Hoodie pushes me to follow. Omar, Jake and Chelsea are left behind.
Out in the cold night air, we are forced to line up by the SUV they arrived in. The Hoodie opens the back door of the car and pulls out three neckties before binding our wrists. The three of us are tossed in the back seat of the car.
Nobody talks. We are not informed where we are going but I can only imagine our destination is back to Gene’s Cabin, the place where I was interrogated and made to help the mysterious group who want the Patient. The Hoodie is driving fast, winding down the road to get to wherever they need to be as quick as possible.
We arrive back at Gene’s cabin just as I thought. Whether or not Gene was actually staying there I’ll never know. Even his whereabouts are now unknown. The garage is open and the car pulls in. The garage door begins to close behind us.
Hoods are placed on myself, Jason, and Madelaine. I’m picked up by the Body Builder and carried to the living room. I’m placed down and I hear him leave, I assume to retrieve the others.
The bag over my head is removed.
“You did good. As I said before, you and I are friends. Friends help one another. In a little bit, it’s going to get very bad in here, but I can get you out of this. What would you like to do?”
I think about my situation and can’t imagine abandoning my real friends.
“I’m going to stay,” I say.
The Leader walks away. I’m kneeling in front of a window, but in the reflection, I can see the Body Builder bringing Jason to the living room. The hood is not removed from Jason’s head. Another tormentor comes out and smacks Jason. It sounds painful, but he endures it. Madelaine is brought in now and they’re both blind to the aggressive hits that are brought to them. It’s only a matter of time until I join them.
“Last chance. I can get you out of this. Are you sure you want to stay?”
This becomes the hardest decisions I have to make.
I decide no.
I’m not going stay.
If he promises to get me out, I’ll take it.
“Smart move. Stay put for a little longer. As soon as you see the second car approaching through the window, I’m going to get you out. Sit tight.”
I wait and wonder If I made the wrong decision. Leaving the others is a choice I might never forgive myself for. I gaze out the window towards the mountaintops and see Jason and Madelaine being beaten in the reflection. The Bodybuilder is standing right behind me, intimidating me just with his presence. I don’t turn around. In the distance, lights start to emerge over the hill and I can see a car approaching. The Leader comes back.
“Alright, let’s go.”
He blindfolds me again. I stand up from my kneeling position and he guides me to the stairs and we walk down to the lower level.
“Where are you taking him?” I hear a female voice.
“This one’s mine,” he responds.
We walk away and eventually we stop and my blindfold is removed I’m in a large bedroom. The Leader takes out a knife cuts straight down my shirt. He tells me I can relax and lay on the bed until he comes back. I lay on the bed, but relaxing is not possible. Upstairs I hear more footsteps. Every movement is heard through the floors. Probably the rest of my friends coming in: Chelsea, Jake, and Omar.
A voice howls from the living room above me.
“Take them out in…”
“Five, four, three…”
I only hear destruction. What I perceive to be reality crumbles as I attempt to interpret the monstrosities occurring above. Crashes intertwine with screams until I can’t tell what is what. Hearing my friends suffer is more painful than anything physical that could be inflicted on me, and there’s nothing I can do to put an end to it.
Down the hallway, a wheezing sound draws nearer as a masked figure breathes in and out strenuously carrying a smaller shadowy figure wearing a gas mask. . It jumps on the bed and crawls towards me. These are not the friends The Leader promised. The wheezing tormentor begins to claw my stomach up and down. Others I didn’t notice enter the room watch with pleasure. I endure the pain as much as I can but I can’t control my body from shaking. The Leader returns to the room, but is he my savior or executioner?
He pulls me out from underneath my tormentors, and carefully leads me through the room, relieving me of the horrors I was put through. The glass doors slide open and he escorts me out of the cabin.
He tells me I’m free to go.
As I take a deep inhale of the cold mountain air, I wonder if my escape is too good to be true.
For more information on Heretic, please sign up for membership on their website and follow their Facebook. Check back tomorrow as we conclude with Part 3 of The Cabin series with an overall review of the experience.