There was a smell.
At first, she couldn’t detect it, as though it was simply a subtle aroma just beginning to waft into her suddenly awakened senses. There was a pounding in her head, a distraction, as she tried desperately to gain her bearings after the nightmare her subconscious had just formed. Swallowing roughly, the redheaded female managed to open her blue eyes tentatively; she was unsure what to expect as she trailed her fingertips along her lower back and near her shoulders. There was nothing there. Her eyes opened fully with an accompanied deep breath, and a sigh. It had just been a dream, again. She shifted slightly on her mattress, contemplating returning to the dream world, before she realized that smell was back… and stronger than ever. Sniffing slightly, she frowned, shifting to sit up and glance around the darkened room. It was too dark for her to see; the light had not risen in the sky quite yet. A mumble of inconvenience left her as she shifted around and grasped at a large candle that was half-limp at the base of her bed. She grabbed a mostly-emptied box of matches, striking one to light the candle in her grasp before softly shaking out the original source. Rubbing her eye with her free hand, she twisted her body around and planted her feet onto the hardwood floor.
Except it wasn’t just the hardwood floor she was stepping on.
Her gaze flew down to the ground as she bent at the waist, lowering her candle to view what stickiness she had stepped into. A guttural sound lifted from her as her eyes widened, realizing that there was a blood red trail leading towards her pale appendages, warming the bases of her feet and toes. Standing shakily, she began to slowly follow the trail to the far corner of her room, watching as the pooling liquid seemed to become thicker and more widespread near her destination. As the candlelight seemed to finally illuminate the source, she froze, her feet like boulders in the slowly growing patch of blood. Her eyes alighted upon a body, limp and lifeless, twisted and morphed in the corner. It was unfamiliar – dark hair rested atop his head, his skin was pale, and his body was lean with muscle, yet emaciated. Her eyes quickly found the source of the pooling blood – a huge gaping hole in the man’s side, where a chunk of flesh and a bone used to be.
She drew in a quick breath.
Connecting the dots quite easily, she crouched down, uncaring of the blood in order to get a closer look. The black hair of the figure was long and tangled, obscuring most of his face, like his twisted limbs seemed to conceal most of his body themselves. Reaching out her hand, tentative digits brushed away the locks from his eyes. The result of what she saw caused her to jump slightly as a feeling of confirmation washed over her. What stared at her, wide open and lifeless, were milky white pools that she knew she could always recognize. She had been watched by them for years, feeling them along her form, always aware but never truly seeing. A sadness seemed to overcome the small woman as she felt tears well into her eyes – a feeling she was completely unfamiliar with, seeing as she rarely felt sympathy or sorrow towards another being. But this creature… this monster, who had really been a man all along, had been her guardian. She drifted her fingers towards his eyes, hesitating only momentarily, before dropping her hand. She’d had the desire to close the lids, shutting out the known world, but had stopped. No sense in doing so. She shifted, looking over the body, her mind quickly catching up with the situation at hand. This man had been her Wendigo… for some strange reason, she’d always fantasized the idea of the monster being a female. It had always been so caring of her, so maternal in action, that she never would have imagined that it was more of a father figure. Of course… that probably stemmed from her latent daddy issues.
A small cracked her lips at the memories.
Standing once more, she trailed her fingertips through the blood pool, bringing them to her lips in order to lick them clean. The cogs in her mind turning, she made her way out of the room, leaving bloodied footprints along the way to the bathroom. She lit three spare candles along the counter-top above her old make-shift cabinet bed, lighting up the otherwise windowless room. Grasping desperately at some of the pooled water in the sink, she scooped a copious amount into her dirtied hands and splashed it onto her hands. A faint nag at the back of her mind began to tug at her senses, reminding her briefly to refill the sink with fresh water later… before she realized it was an unnecessary, habitual thought process. Shaking her head and drying her face by lifting up the stomach of her shirt, she soon braved a look up into the cracked, aged mirror before her… and she screamed.
Fingers tightly clutching the edges of the sink to prevent falling, Hollen’s breath caught in her chest as her blue eyes stared back at themselves. She recalled, before she’d shattered the radio, that there had been an old wives tale about what one could see in the mirror. The mirror can reveal one’s true self, it had creaked.Staring into one’s reflection can be the same as looking into one’s own soul. No one else sees it the same way you do… only you can witness the true you. The words playing over and over again in her head, she realized that she was witnessing something no one else would be able to ever see. Staring back at Hollen was not her true reflection… but rather, her soul… what she’d become.
Staring back at Hollen was a beast.
It held sky blue eyes, sharp and cognitive, and the head of a large wolf whose maw was gaping with sharp, white teeth. Antlers were in place atop its skull, ears present shortly before it, and the large, thick neck led down into an emaciated looking torso. The entire spectacle was covered with red-hued fur, matching the copper color of her hair, and a stark contrast with the whiteness of the walls surrounding her. She inhaled; the beast inhaled. She shifted her head tentatively and the image followed her. Soon, she was rapidly stepping back, taking short, shallow breaths as she backed herself against the wall outside of the bathroom doorway. Her head tipped back and she closed her eyes, trying to calm her rapidly beating heart whilst also trying to gather her thoughts. This had been the plan all along… the beast had raised her, prepared her, for this moment. She had passed some kind of invisible guidelines… completed her rite of passage, and the man had believed that it was her time now. Suddenly, a sense of immense calm and clarity passed through her, causing her beating heart to slow. Her body began to move, setting off towards the stairs as she descended and headed into the hallway.
Light was beginning to grace the Earth.
As she stepped onto the front porch, she gazed up, seeing the dark tones turn to reds, then oranges, then pinks and yellows. The lights were always so beautiful. Bitter cold air filled her lungs in a short breath before she formulated a plan. It started with a step off the porch and blood-stained feet beginning to leave a trail as she cut her way through the familiar forest. It was a departure; it was a new beginning for a new life. Inhale. Exhale visibly. She picked up her pace, reaching parts of the forest that were less and less familiar the further she seemed to travel. She knew where she was heading… it was an area that had been forbidden. Forbidden until the right moment. As she spotted a road, hearing vaguely familiar sounds, she began to cry out as her body forced itself into trembles. Her clothes were in tatters; her frame was outrageously thin. She could use a few good baths. She was covered with fading scars and her bare feet were cracked from the snow, leaving behind a bleeding trail… a perfect cover-up.
“Help! Help… please!”
Her voiced cries were high pitched as she attempted to put desperation into her tones, waving her frail arms. Her little show attracted some attention as she stood at the side of the road, shivering as if she were freezing cold. Four cars pulled over as people of all types began to rush towards her, asking too many questions, letting out appalling sounds of disbelief and disgrace. A blanket was soon draped over her trembling shoulders and wrapped about her mostly-exposed torso. She heard someone get on a phone… calling the police, she suspected. Teeth chattering, her wide blue eyes and sunken cheeks seemed to add to her act. The women stood closest to her, rubbing her arms, trying desperately to get her to speak. No one said anything offensive; no one said what they were really thinking.
She had no idea how much time had passed before a very large, noisy vehicle sped to their location and parked, joined by police officers. A staff of people seemed to rush to her, gathering her up and leading her out of the snow… leaving her bloody red footprints to end in the pureness of the white snow. She was bustled into the back of this obnoxiously loud, noisy vehicle, and placed onto a bed. People were constantly being careful, tentative, asking her questions and probing her carefully for answers. She knew the whole routine; it was how her parents had acted before they’d turned to more… crucial, panicked methods. Never looking anyone in the eye, never speaking, Hollen gazed towards the retreating forest as the witnesses of her discovery began to depart. Her cracked feet dripped blood against the shiny floor of the vehicle before they covered the red with white bandaging. That felt nice. She could see the red of her blood in the snow, the trail she’d left behind. Someone would follow the pattern back to the cabin, of that she was sure. But who would believe that this frail creature could have done any harm?
As the large doors began to close, a hidden smile graced her lips.
The Wendigo would live on.