Monday, 31 October 2011

Cold Terror

When I was on the train this weekend I decided to attempt to write some fiction.  Since it was Halloween weekend I naturally decided to try a horror story.  Here it is.

“It was cold, so cold we could feel our breath freeze in our beards and icicles form on our eyelashes, and that was fine, until we got lost.”  Erik rasped.  He was sat in an unbelievably soft bed, propped up on a pile of feather pillows.  At first Erik didn’t know where he was but the assumed from the bed and the smell of cooking bacon that drifted into the room that he was at the Inn.  A small window showed snow drifting in the frozen street outside making Erik again thankful for the small fire that burnt in the corner of the bedroom.  Erik’s eyes were dark and sunken, his skin taught and pale.  Erik’s audience was a single man, a stranger who had introduced himself as Daniel Hawksworth.  Hawksworth was a scarred, serious man who sat on a wooden chair in the corner of the small bedroom with a large revolver on his hip.  Hawksworth stared at Erik intently, focusing on every detail of the man’s story.

“We’d been trying to climb the mountain, Ben and I have always wanted to climb Cairn Pyke’s north face and we were half way up when the blizzard hit.  I don’t know when we left the path but the snow had been falling for a few hours by the time Ben realised we weren’t where we were supposed to be.  I’ve already told you how cold it was but it was then that my blood really froze.”

“We’re both experienced climbers so we knew how small the chances of finding our way back to such a narrow path were.  The snow was so thick we could barely see more than a few meters in any direction.  I started to panic but Ben calmed me down, he said that there were lodges and even a few villages all over the lower slopes of the mountain.  So he reasoned that if we just kept moving down hill we’d find shelter somewhere.”

“We moved slowly, I remember inching my way down the hill, terrified that it’d break my ankle on a patch of ice or some snow covered pot hole or step of an unseen cliff face.  The snow settled on our coats and packs, weighing us down and making each step harder than the last, but we kept moving and eventually we reached the cave.”

As he mentioned the cave the man’s voice quivered and he shuddered despite the fire that burnt in the corner hearth but he continued.  “It was a vertical crack in the rock face, wide enough at the bottom for us to walk through together and dozens of meters tall.  The stone was cold and hard and an unsettling darkness filled the deeper parts of the cave, but it was shelter.  Ben fumbled with our packs for food and sleeping bags while I lit our camp stove for a little heat.

Again Erik paused, “and that’s when you saw the creature?”  Hawksworth prompted. “That’s when I saw the creature.  I think the cave must have been its lair.  I nearly wet myself when I saw this huge thing stagger out of the darkness.  I suppose it looked most like a man but it was taller than anyone I’ve ever seen and far broader.  It had tiny black eyes and a mouth full of cruel hooks, like a bear’s or a wolf’s.  Despite its width the thing was painfully skinny and its huge bones were clearly visible under its milk white skin so it looked like a shrink wrapped skeleton.  I don’t know what it was but it scared the hell out of me.”

“It was a Wendigo” Hawksworth explained “Once it was a man but for whatever reason, hunger or perversion, he turned to cannibalism and so the old powers that live in these mountains cursed him to transform into an unnatural monster with an insatiable hunger for human flesh.  I come up here every few years to hunt them.”  Erik found this easy to believe, the man’s face was battered and scared, he moved with the absolute certainty of an apex predator and was completely at ease with the huge pistol holstered at his waist.  “God that’s horrible” Erik said.
“There’re plenty of horrible things in the world” Hawksworth agreed gravely before asking “What happened when the Wendigo saw you?”

“It attacked me, Ben was working on the sleeping bags nearer the cave mouth but I was right in front of the thing, sorry the Wendigo.  It grabbed me by the neck, at least that’s what I think it wanted to do, its hands were so big that they covered the bottom half of my face as well.  The Wendigo’s skin was cold and rough and its arms were phenomenally strong.  I panicked as it lifted me off the ground and instinctively bit its hand.  The thing’s skin was thin and tore easily like old paper.  A bitter taste filled my mouth while the thing howled in pain.  The creature seemed shocked that I’d hurt it and screamed like a fog horn as it dropped me.  I landed hard on the cold stone but I was quickly on my feet and running.”

“We abandoned out bags as we sprinted out of the cave and back onto the mountainside.  We forgot our previous caution and threw ourselves down the mountainside.  The Wendigo chased after us, the ice and the potholes and the sudden drops didn’t matter now, if we slowed at all we knew the thing would devour us.  We hurtled down the slope, sliding and skidding as we ran.  The snow was still falling thick and fast so we couldn’t see the thing through the blizzard but we could certainly hear it.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as terrified as I was then, running through the freezing white with the monster howling behind us.  We had no idea how close the Wendigo was and whether or not it could see us.  All we could do was run and hope the thing would lose us in the snowstorm, but it never did.  The howling followed us all the way down the mountain, always terrifyingly close but just out of sight.  I could still hear it when I spotted the orange glow of the town lights through the driving snow and I heard it again just before we burst through the Inn doors.  That must have been when I passed out.  I have no idea what happened next, the last things I remember before I woke up here were the monster’s howls and the Inn’s warmth.

Erik seemed drained after recounting his ordeal.  “I can tell you what happened next.”  Hawksworth said.  “The Wendigo followed you and Ben into town; it ran right up the main street just as you crashed into the Inn.  I was in town for this year’s hunt and fortunately I had my gun to hand so I managed to kill it before anyone got hurt.”
“Oh thank god” Erik sighed before his relief turned to curiosity “you shot it?”  Hawksworth patted the gun holstered at his hip.  “I shot it; a bullet to the brain kills most things and a silver bullet kills pretty much everything.”
“Oh god, I’m just so glad it’s all over.”  Hawksworth’s face darkened and he was silent for a moment before saying “I’m really sorry Erik but it’s not.”

“What?” Erik asked
“You bit the creature Erik” at Hawksworth’s word’s the world seemed to stop as a sickening realisation formed in the pit of Erik’s stomach.  “No... I only bit it a little.  No it’s not fair.”
“I know” Hawksworth said sadly.
“I didn’t even swallow what I bit, I can’t...”
“I know it’s not fair but you tasted the creature and for whatever power lives in these mountains, that’s enough.”
“No... There must be...”  Erik stammered in protest, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing but as he ran his tongue along his teeth and found a row of razor sharp points he knew it was undeniable.  He raised his hands to his face and found his skin bleached and his fingers stretched to cruel white claws.  

“Mirror!” Erik shouted at Hawksworth.
“You don’t--” Hawksworth replied
“I need to see!” Erik interrupted.
“Ok” Hawksworth said as he reached into his jacket pocket and handed Erik a compact shaving mirror.  “Oh god there must be something you can do?” Erik asked as he examined his transformed features.  His eyes had become sunken black pearls that sat deep in his skull.  His teeth were long curved fangs that ended in vicious points.  Erik moved his gaze from his face to his naked chest and found he could see every bone through the pale skin that barley covered them.  He wanted to cry but the thing he had become had no tear ducts so he let out a howl of grief and frustration that sounded painfully like the cries that had chased him down the mountainside. 

“Oh god” he said with a mouth that wasn’t his own.  “Please, is there anything you can do.?”
“Just one.” Hawksworth said drawing his revolver and pointing it at the creature that had been Erik’s face.  “I’m so sorry.”  The polished metal seemed red in the firelight but Erik didn’t seem to notice it, he was overwhelmed by the sight and the smell of the man, the meal in front of him.  The once human thing stared at Hawksworth and felt its stomach rumble.  “Do it.” Erik said, sickened by the monster he had become.  Hawksworth looked deep into the Wendigo's eyes and pulled the trigger.

The End

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