Years Active: 2019 - 2020
Available on: N/A
Written by: Jordan Tury
Edited by: TBA
Cover Design by: Jordan Tury
I always hated the Summer holidays. Not because I couldn’t see my friends as much outside of school, but because six weeks in isolation was enough to drive any girl completely mad, especially when isolation reeked of damp leaves and clusters of wet mud on a woodland riverbank.
Forty-two long and grueling days surrounded by oceans of pigeon shit and cockroach orgies. That to me was the Summer holidays.
No fancy top of the range penthouse suite in the bustling streets of Tokyo nor jungle getaway off the coast of Jamaica. Just one girl with her family, spending every year without failure at the infamous Purity Lake cabin retreat.
For as long as I can remember we’ve spent our annual summer holidays at Purity. A home away from home that I pretty much know better than my own home back in the city. With its perfect track record of hassle-free holidays there was no doubt we’d be spending our next year there, and the year after that, too.
Quite sad when you think about it; knowing I can recall the exact amount of trees in the surrounding woodland, all the way from the entrance gates to our secluded cabin by the lake a single mile apart.
You could almost say pathetic. But that’s what our family did, and nothing was about to change it.
Year in, year out, my friends in school would bitch and brag about where they’d be jetting off to for August, always trying to one up one another on who’s parent splashed out the most cash on fancy flights and six star hotels.
But for little old Violet, it was just the same old family getaway to Purity every bloody year without failure.
That’s how it was done in our family, and to be honest it gave most people the impression that we were just smug wankers who fancied ourselves as nature freaks or tree huggers.
We aren’t, just to state a fact. We just love the outdoors, as you do.
We can blame Dad for that.
I guess Dad is the reason for bringing us out to Purity every year, because in his eyes us kids needed time away from the ever expanding technology that controlled our lives like marionettes.
My brother Ryden and I are just a couple of clones generated in a lab somewhere. Just a couple of ‘monkey see monkey do’ types that rely purely on technology to get us by.
Social networking and endless hours of video playback; enough to make our eyes go square and brainwash us into thinking we’re nothing but virtual avatars living under an alias of our own making.
So I guess you could say six solid weeks of that could really turn your brain sour and poison your soul.
That’s exactly why Dad brought us here every year, where not a single piece of technology could interfere with our tranquility and reflection on mellow vibes.
Of course, being fourteen I hated the idea of losing my phone to a lockbox in Dad’s car boot, but deep down I guess I was relieved.
Relived I wouldn’t have to maintain any form of social presence for the next six weeks.
No keeping up with the latest gossip from the girls back home. No buzzing and pinging, popping and bleeping all hours of the day from an angry device vibrating endlessly in my back pocket. No sympathy votes would cast my way and so long as I avoided social networking I could bypass the brewing storm of envy for my friends in exotic locations.
I was just a girl, living with my eyes above a phone screen for the first time in ten months.
And to be honest, I guess I kind of learnt to like it.
It was our ninth year at Purity, and as before I expected nothing but six solid weeks of staring out the window overlooking the wide stretch of misty river.
Fishing trips with Ryden and Dad in the morning, preparing meals with Mum in the afternoon, and toasting two billion marshmallows on the fire in the evening.
It was pretty much rinse and repeat each and every day until the gooey foam of mallow projectile vomited through our noses. That’s when we knew it was time to go home.
But it was the time spent in-between, in the quiet hours of the day where nothing was going on. That’s what tormented me. The eerie silence of the running waters and dead winds flowing through the trees beside the floating dock.
Tapping the window when it rained or scraping the rope of the swing when it was clear. That’s what drove me crazy most of the time; the loneliness.
Our cabin was situated on a gorgeous picturesque riverbed, close enough to almost dip your feet into from the bedroom window.
A dozen and one trees hung over the cabin and shaded us perfectly on a hot Summers day, just the way Mum liked it whilst indulged into her thousandth novel of the holiday.
A long stretch of dock hovered over the waters and held a perfect spot for Dad and Ryden to go fishing early hours of the day whilst Mum and I preferred to sleep in.
Two, maybe three other cabins could be seen on the opposite ends of the lake, just visible through the mists on a clearer day. But that didn’t matter, because nobody ever bothered one another anyway.
Purity was a place people would come to escape the reality of dull conversation and fake laughs. It was a place you’d come to rest your head and excuse yourself from the bullshit of the day to day.
No electricity, no tacky entertainment or bingo halls, just the plain outdoors in its rawest format.
This wasn’t to be mistaken for one of those dismal caravan parks you’d find spotted around the country. This wasn’t some sort of product of fake plastic and tack. This was a place where people committed themselves to solitude long enough just so their heads would refrain from exploding.
Dad worked long hours at the bank, and for the days he’d have at home he’d be too busy with his eyeballs super glued to a laptop screen plastered with spreadsheets and equations. Bloody hypocrite, what with his annual monologue on technology and how it burns the core. But then again I suppose he had a reason to indulge in technology, whereas Ryden and I just used it to inflate our egos and post pointless shit online nobody actually cared about. That’s precisely why he chose Purity.
We were just his add-ons that tagged along for the ride I guess. Because apparently fourteen is a little too young to stay at home for six weeks.
Pft, I could handle it if I were given the chance. So long as I had a wad of Dad’s bonus funds for pizza and takeaways I’d be A-OK.
Yet somewhere along the way a strong lack of trust formed between my workaholic father and his lazy little daughter.
‘You’ll burn the house down’ he’d grumble whenever I dared ask him.
‘You’ll break something. You’ll have parties. You’ll offend the neighbors.’
There was always an excuse for him and his oversized and proud ego. He had to be the man of the house and prove everyone wrong, even when we were in the right.
That was just Dad though. His heart could be as hard as stone or as soft as water, and I honestly wouldn’t have him any other way. Because no matter how strict or stern he reached, I always knew there was a frail little smile behind those lips every time.
So that was that, and regardless of how many times I’d beg him to let me stay at home he’d never take the bait. So I was stuck with spending my six weeks holidays locked in a four bedroom cabin with him for six weeks straight.
‘Quality family time’ Mum would smile behind the straw of her peach daiquiri every afternoon, spread out under the sun and admiring her surroundings.
‘Just what we need’ she’d giggle merrily, every single friggin’ day.
Ryden is the older sibling, and so whatever he says would usually be believed over my side of the story. That’s just the way it is. I guess that’s how it is in all families I suppose. There is a form of dominance and sibling rivalry buried beneath the foundations of trust in most families, and if I did something, he’d have to do it better.
He breaks something, I get the blame. He sneaks out late, I was the one that held out the door for him. Do you see a pattern shaping up here?
Ryden was pushing nineteen at the time of our ninth visit, and so the world of adulthood was opening up to him and crafting him into a businessman just the same as Dad.
They were so damn alike that it almost seemed embarrassing at times. They were replicas of one another. They’d wear the same tie to a formal outing, eat the same meal at a swanky new restaurant, break out the same Dad jokes at a dinner party, and so on and so forth.
I liked to wind him up about it, but he’d always deny it and tell me I was being stupid, no matter how blatant it was at times.
I couldn’t help but laugh as he smirked at me whilst holding hands with ‘daddy dearest’
Our ninth visit wasn’t going to be any different, or so I thought at least. It was just going to be another Summer of skipping rocks along the water and holding my nose through a plateful of toasted marshmallows every night.
The weather was as good as it could get for Britain. Cloudy with a chance of sun on most days, occasionally peaking at twenty Celsius.
So long as it didn’t belt it down with torrential rain, I didn’t care. I’d take whatever the skies gave us. But I’ll tell you this. When you’re secluded behind the thick walls of cabin fever long enough when the rain decided to fall, stories and characters began to unfold.
We all needed our space and an open field to set our minds free, and so those painful days where we were trapped indoors truly were the most grueling hours imaginable.
Gazing out of the window wishing Dad would just make his next move on Monopoly without consulting a hand-printed guide on property and land evaluation. Longing for Mum to remove the next brick from Jenga without having a panic attack if it dared tremble. Or dredging through monotone campfire songs from Ryden that only made my toes curdle and face wince in embarrassment.
So long story short; if it rained, it sucked a fat one. It had to be sunny in order for us to push on and barge through the days of Purity.
But as I was saying, it was our ninth year.
Feeling the fresh breeze of air flowing through the car window and the sweet scent of greenery hit my nose. Dew drops and tree bark filled my nostrils as we approached the entrance to Purity.
It had been a horrible four hour drive, made longer by the fact Mum forgot the ticket printouts and having to turn back an hour in.
Dad was of course fuming and distant for half the journey, making it one of the most tense and awkward drives of our lives. But with our faces buried in a book or pillow we learnt to avoid the cloud of smog and frustration brewing in the air.
My stomach was knotted and both cheeks had flushed a pale green, almost ready to bloat with vomit.
I had stopped staring down at the group chat with the girls on my phone and had my eyes fixated on the passing road signs, preying we’d almost be there before I threw up all over Mums shoulder.
I kept quiet and breathed regularly like a yoga instructor, holding back any negative thoughts that might have intruded.
Watching Ryden in the corner of my eye through a swamp of oversized baggage and pillowcases I could only see him staring back with the widest grin on his face.
Eyes wide and patronizing, he whispered, ‘Don’t chunder Vi. Mum’ll murder you if you vom.’
As if that helped with my paranoia of destroying the family car with a curtain of carrot and beetroot pieces. Idiot.
‘Shut up’ I burped.
Stooping low into my chair and pressing my cheeks up against the coolness of the car window I ignored him.
A single mile from the entrance to our cabin was left to travel by car, followed by a short five minute walk through the woods.
Not so bad when you put your foot down, but ironically this was Dad’s favorite part; driving through the trees and acknowledging the serenity of the landscape.
With his foot barely on the accelerator he swiveled his head around each corner of the car, smiling at each and every tree as if they were his long lost children.
He was in his prime, and regardless of Mum forgetting the tickets he seemed overjoyed to finally be back after so long.
In his element he made sure to do what all Dads do and inform us of every new change to the area, filling our heads with pointless information we’d soon forget.
‘This is where they are planning on putting a lookout point, kids. We’ll go visit it at some point. Oh, and there’s the new great oak tree! One of the biggest in the county I heard!’
‘Nice one Dad!’ Ryden shouted.
‘Nice one Dad!’ I mocked, half laughing, half vomiting in my mouth.
‘Alright you two, stop’ Mum laughed, touching up her lipstick in the overhead mirror.
She pouted her fat lips and smacked them shut, clapping the lid of her foundation case. Stowing away her makeup in her bag she retrieved the tickets and placed them securely on her lap.
‘I’ve got the tickets, love’ Mum whispered, still unsure whether Dad had forgiven her.
He broke the faintest of smiles and placed his hand over hers.
‘Cheers, love. We won’t need them until tomorrow when the park attendant comes round though. Make sure to keep them safe, okay?’
Dad patted her hand like a good little doggy and instructed her to shove the tickets firmly back into her bag for safe keeping. So she did, eager to impress.
With eyes watering and cheeks puffed out the car finally pulled up onto the grass verge. Two more seconds and I would’ve painted the green trees red. The thump of the tires rolling up the mound made my stomach wretch, but we were finally there. Free to collapse into the soil of my new home and wallow in the misery of silence.
Throwing myself out the car and onto the ground I clutched my stomach in my fist, holding back the urge to say something sarcastic to Ryden before he got to me first.
Spread eagle on the grass I sobbed into the dirt like some sort of teenage basket case. For the moment I wished I was anywhere but there. Perhaps somewhere warm where hot bubble baths were within reach and not wiping myself off with a wet blanket for six weeks.
I had finally arrived in the great outdoors where fish swam by the dozen and blackbird’s flew by the handful. Not a person in sight other than my family rearing to get moving.
Ryden thudded my side with one oversized boot and dropped a backpack onto my spine.
Laughing and scuffing his feet against me he grinned, ‘Bloody hell Vi, you really are a tragedy aren’t you?’
‘Shut it will you?’ I sighed, rolling over to my back to see his gleaming face between the hanging branches.
We both smiled at one another as he pulled me up onto my feet and unloaded a handful of bags onto my drooping shoulder.
Loaded up with crates of beer, cases of makeup and one double duvet encasing me like bubble wrap I made way for the woodland opening.
Looking like bloody E.T I shuffled through the trees barely holding the bags and looking through the small oval space of the duvet covers.
‘Come on then you lot!’ Dad threw four rucksacks over his shoulders and pushed through to the front, bleeping the key and locking the car behind him.
Mum scooped up her tiny handbag and handled it as if it were a lead acid car battery, pretending to struggle with carrying anything other than her own two feet.
It was just a normal July morning, cool and calm. Pushing twelve o’clock our first day was well underway. But time was soon to be a pointless factor over the next six weeks. Soon enough the only times of day would be day and night, dawn and dusk. Electricity was slipping through our fingers and it was only a matter of time until all devices were locked away in Dads ‘emergency only’ box, to which he of course kept the key to, firmly chained away on his bulky set of keys.
‘And remember kids, we only use a phone if either A, one of us needs medical assistance, or B, a member of the park security is needed’ Dad belted on, scrolling through his million rules imprinted on his brainstem. The exact same rules he scripted every year until we could recite them clearer than we could pronounce our own forenames.
When he spoke about Purity, he was serious. This was his one time a year where he could take a breather from his line of work. So being good kids, we gave him that authority and satisfaction, and for when Dad was around, we were his perfect little tots that obeyed to his ruling command.
Muttering under his breath and confessing his love for the picturesque backdrops anyone could clearly see that he loved it. We couldn’t take that away from him. This was what he lived for and we weren’t about to challenge that.
Pushing through the trees and ignoring Ryden’s repetitive attempt to bash my ankles in from behind I felt the chant of the cabins walls calling our names. The fiery breeze swept through the covers and kept my hairs on end as I pushed past every bush and every bundle of leaves.
Straying away from the path we followed Dad’s footprints into the darkness of the woods. Slugging our possessions along with us and mocking the ‘immense pain’ Mum was experiencing twenty feet behind, we found ourselves emerged in the woodland and closing in on home.
Not a massive amount I can say about the woods other than it was dark, it was dingy, and it was wide enough to cover half a county.
Not a city for miles, only sinister darkness and a wide abyss of forest greenery.
Headlights did not flash nor did any engine roar. The world beyond the entry gates was tranquil and silent, marking the starting point to our summer sweet getaway.
We had arrived.
‘Come on Vi, keep up!’ Dad yelled back over his shoulder, holding back a cheeky grin at my pathetic attempt to cosplay a ghost.
‘You know where we are, don’t you kids?’
‘Yes Dad…’ Ryden and I groaned in perfect synchronization, as unenthusiastic as the previous eight years.
‘We’re at the point of no return Dad – we get it’ I slurred in a sarcastic tone like a spoilt bratty tween.
The point of no return was Dad’s way of making our ‘adventure’ seem quirky and keep us on our toes, for ‘we shall not cross the fine line from Shangri-La to civilization until the final day of Summer shall pass’
In other words, Dad didn’t want any of us to leave the woodland until the six weeks were over.
Not exactly saying that was a bad thing. I mean after all there was nothing out there to see other than more trees. So we just nodded our sloppy heads and went along with it.
‘Yeah Dad, we know, alright?’
‘Oh you do?’ Dad paused in his tracks. Clutching onto his backpacks he began to inhale the air, panning his head around from left to right. Pausing for suspense he prepared for his annual ‘boogey man speech’ that failed to scare us every year.
‘Because I heard somebody lurked in these parts of the woods you see. Somebody not of our species. You could almost say…something unnatural?’ He twitched his left eye and bent in close to Ryden only inches from his face.
Failing to build suspense he held his ground in hope of some sort of reaction from either of us. But nothing. We just kept quiet and waited for his next move.
‘Ain’t that right, love?’ Dad looked over me to Mum finally catching up behind.
Throwing her car battery to the ground she stopped to catch her breath.
‘Ugh, what was that, love?’
‘Agh, the monster, you know – oh forget it!’
‘Nice one Dad!’
Ryden dodged a quick jab from Dads left hook as he swung his quadruple backpacks in his direction and back towards the woods.
I chuckled only to give him satisfaction, hitching up the duvet and pushing on.
A few more minutes of treading over fallen branches and snail shells and we had finally found the light at the end of the tunnel.
The trail of solar lights beamed a golden glow only fifty yards away, signaling the pathway to our beloved cabin. The exact same cabin we pre-booked every year.
Through squinted eyes the silhouette of the cabin could be made out from fifty yards, but you could never see the fine detail unless you were pressed up against it.
Purity has a rather large thick layer of mist due to the tall trees and heated waters, meaning nine times out of ten you’d walk out the front door to the scene from any horror film ever made. It was slightly eerie at first, but it grew on you, and soon enough you could find your way about it and know where you were heading. To that day I had never failed to find my way back. I always knew that no matter how far I strayed away from the cabin, I would always find my way home.
Dad took care of the possibility of getting lost by installing a flashing solar light in one of the tall trees directly over the cabin. It was barely noticeable from up close, and yet from a mile away you could see it as bright as day, flashing all hours from dusk til’ dawn. Not that we needed it of course. But when I say Dad took this seriously, I meant it. He really did pull out all the stops when it came to Purity.
‘Here we go again!’ I slapped the first solar light.
‘Home sweet home!’ Dad echoed through the mist.
‘I’ll get the fishing gear set up!’ Ryden screamed in excitement, marching off ahead like a little trooper on Christmas Day.
Mum kind of just slumped past me groaning like a banshee, eager to get her daiquiri fix before the sun went down.
I sighed and removed the duvet from my body, feeling the crispness of the mist send shivers down my spine.
Regardless of it being Summer, it was still enough to make you quiver for the first few days. It was an odd sensation I can’t totally explain. I can only describe it as paranoia when you think you’re being watched. A bitter cold cloak wrapping around you as if a pair of eyes were watching your every movement.
That’s exactly what the mist felt like for a while, but like everything else, you got used to it, and before long it was as familiar as your own damn heartbeat.
Being so secluded with only your family around it almost felt even lonelier than being completely isolated on your lonesome. I don’t know why, but six weeks with three people can either be one of two things. It can either bring you closer together, or it can make you want to jump at each others throat by the half-way point.
For this year, I was hoping it’d be the first.
I wanted a simple holiday, even if that did mean biting my lip through Dads campfire ghost stories and Mums cringe-worthy gossip about boys. Ryden was easy to put up with as he kept his head down and shadowed Dad most of the day.
Mum was keen to bury her head into endless books and complimentary bottles of miniatures, and so she was pretty easy to deal with the majority of the Summer.
I guess that kind of meant I was left to myself most of the time, and with no real hobby or goal for the Summer, days of staring at the wall were most likely definite.
‘Just another Summer, Vi’ I whispered.
Following the solar lights along the pathway I crossed over the threshold and onto our little patch of happiness.
I climbed the four wooden steps onto the front decking and walked into the already open doorway to a scene shot straight from a war film.
Bags launching from room to room, bottles clanking in the fridge, Dad repeating the rules over and over again, Mum emptying every piece of crockery for inspection, Ryden spreading out the fishing rods across the landing. And then of course there was me, stood amongst this mad family flipping this beautiful home upside down and making it our own, for whoever previously occupied it didn’t ‘care for the bones of the house’ as Dad put it.
‘Hello again, cabin’
I threw all my bags onto the floor and took a moment to back away whilst the others unloaded everything. Not exactly much of a helping hand, but I was much better off staying out of the way whilst they all continued to do ‘their thing’ being the seasoned pros they were.
Backing out onto the decking I looked out across the small dock where Dad and Ryden would usually fish. As misty as usual, and yet, I was still able to uncover something between the thick white layers.
‘How peculiar’ I said, questioning my eyes.
‘What is this I see? There isn’t usually anybody around here?’
Looking back into the doorway I thought best not to interrupt Dad on his manic mission to unload the bags in under five minutes. Instead I thought to venture towards the dock. Stepping down onto the wood I approached the little silhouette stood at the other end staring out to the lake.
‘Hello, are you here for the tickets?’ I asked, assuming of course it was the park attendant.
‘Dad has them. I can go and grab them if you like?’ I continued. But the figure did not speak, nor did they turn around to acknowledge me at all.
Slightly concerned I stopped in my tracks. Shoveling my hands in my pockets I groaned and waited for a response impatiently.
‘Hello?’ I asked.
‘Can you talk to me?’
I scuffed my shoes against the dock before moving a few feet closer, almost within spitting distance of the person.
For a moment the skies cleared and opened a gap for the light to come shining down on the dock we were planted on. Quickly coming to my attention I realized I wasn’t in fact talking to an adult of any kind. In fact, it was just, a boy?
‘Hello, are you from the neighboring cabin?’ I asked.
‘Are you lost? Do you need some help getting back?’
I laughed and shrugged of the fact he wasn’t even acknowledging me, eager to make conversation with anyone that wasn’t blood related.
We had only just arrived and already I was oozing for conversation with anyone else, so imagine how six weeks would take its toll on you. It wasn’t healthy.
The boy looked maybe a year younger than I, with a face barely recognizable from between the thick layers of wooly scarves and knitted jumpers.
With lips tucked under his blotchy red scarf he looked up at me from a few inches below. Quietly locking his watery irises onto me he stared as if I were otherworldly, almost from another era entirely. Wide eyes and quivering boots against the dock he stuck to his ground and said very little to me.
But I was persistent.
‘Yeah it’s a nightmare trying to find your way around if it’s your first time. I can guide you back if you like?’
‘Have you been here before then?’
Awkwardly arching my feet and curdling my toes I danced around the dock like a witch, desperate to be noticed and spoken to. I wanted to seem approachable, and if this was as close as I’d get to another person for six weeks I couldn’t fuck it up.
I had to find an escape through another person. I needed someone to help get me by for six weeks, someone to sink my teeth into for conversation that wasn’t campfire related.
But after about five minutes of talking I noticed one thing. I was the only one doing it.
The boy just watched me in awe as I pranced around on my inflated ego, blurting out meaningless conversation I wasn’t even sure he understood. For all I knew he could’ve been some German tourist doing his backpacking rounds across Europe. But to me at the time, he was a person that wasn’t Mum, Dad or Ryden. And so whoever he was, he was good in my books. That’s all I needed; an accomplice to see me through the storm.
‘Vi – In here, now!’ Dad shouted through the mist from the front cabin door.
I swiveled my head back towards a handful of backpacks that needed unloading into various rooms.
‘Come on, make yourself useful Vi!’ Ryden laughed.
‘Quit talking to your boyfriend!’
I was almost certain none of them could actually see the boy by the dock, and this was just a regular jokey thing for Ryden to say in most situations. It wasn’t funny the first time, and it won’t be funny the millionth time either.
The mist was so thick that even I could barely make out the boys eye colour, let alone what he was wearing other than the blood red scarf and tatty striped jumper. But I knew when Dad was serious, and unless I spent the next twenty minutes unpacking I knew I’d have to endure an even longer lecture about time management.
So with a quick flick of the wrist and grin, I threw my feet back towards the cabin and departed, saying only one final thing.
‘Maybe I’ll see you around then!’
Jogging back up the dock and towards the cabin I could just about make out the frail timid voice breaking out as I sprung myself up the stairs. Between the creaks of the dock floorboards and flutter of crows I heard only one thing leave his little soaked lips.
‘Nice to meet you, Violet’