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grab you by the neck of the woods

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If there’s anything that can be said about Washington winter nights, it’s that they’re cold, freezing. There are times when Brie wonders why she didn’t move back down to Arizona when she broke up with Daniel, but her job at the national park is steady, and she’s still got friends up here, and despite the cold, she’d still take being surrounded by mountains and nature over the harsh, unforgiving heat of the desert any day.

It’s dark as well as cold – as it is at night time – and Brie only has the dim glow of a flashlight to help her see. The warmth and safety of her car is waiting for her back in the parking lot, and she could easily turn back and be done for the night, but it’s not like her to leave a job half done, even if she’s scared shitless while doing it. She doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with being afraid, but she’d never admit to it. Nikki was always the brave one, the fearless one, the one who’d sigh and roll her eyes if Brie said she wasn’t sure about something, and then do it just to prove that she could.

Even if Nikki isn’t here with her, even if it’s been almost a whole month since they’ve seen each other, Brie still feels like she has something to prove, to herself if no-one else. She refuses to be the weak twin, the scared twin. It shouldn’t be something she’s still hung up on, but it’s why she’s here: in the dark and the cold in the middle of the night, telling herself every ten minutes that it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s

Brie takes a deep breath. She’s finally reached the old barn she needs to check out. She should be relieved, but this isn’t any old errand she’s been sent on as part of her job. This isn’t even part of her job, but strange things have been happening lately. Strange things that have her curious, strange things that only she might be able to stop.

Brie puts her ear to the wall of the barn, and listens.

“I know you’re in there,” she says, voice loud enough that she can’t even pretend that she doesn’t hear her words shake. “I know someone’s there.”

She doesn’t get a response, but she wasn’t necessarily expecting one. Maybe a response would calm her, or maybe it wouldn’t. She doesn’t know.

Brie opens up the door and shines her flashlight inside.

There’s – there’s nothing. Of course there’s nothing. Whatever she thinks is in there wouldn’t show itself yet, wouldn’t make itself known to her. She shines the light around, into every corner of the barn, and there’s still nothing, until a figure suddenly materialises in front of her. Brie has to try not to drop the flashlight.

A woman, fair hair and fair skin, looking uncharacteristically immaculate for someone who’s been out here in the wilderness.

Immaculate other than the – than what looks like blood that’s splattered across the bottom of her dress, though that doesn’t seem to bother her. Her hair is pulled back and her fur coat is draped to reveal a bare shoulder. Her eyes are as cold as the night. Brie would wonder how she isn’t cold, but she knows why, knows that it’s because this woman isn’t actually human, knows that it’s because she’s – she’s a demon.

It’s been a while since Brie’s come across any of those. Years. She’s never encountered any up here. Back in Arizona, sure, but not since moving away. She kept herself away from that part of her life for so long, hoping it would never catch up with her, never come back to haunt her. If she doesn’t do something about this, though, it could all very well come rushing back. She stares down the woman in front of her, daring the demon to speak (though really, it’s because Brie doesn’t want to be the first to say something).

“So.” The demon finally chooses to speak. Her accent is strong – Russian, Brie thinks – and even just that one word is dripping with frostiness. With persuasion. “Brie Bella.”

Brie’s eyes go wide. What? She knows Brie’s name? She’s – she’s specifically here because of Brie? The thought has Brie’s insides freezing up, colder than the frost that’s being carried by the night wind.

“I’m here to get rid of you.” Again, Brie’s voice betrays her: there’s a tremor in her words.

The woman laughs, cruel, chilling to the bone.

“But you don’t want to,” she says, cocking her head to one side. “You never wanted any of that life. You wanted to leave that to your sister, and never have to deal with it again. That’s why you’re so far away from home, yes?”

Brie’s got everything she needs to deal with a demon in her bag, and she starts to fumble for the zip.

“Oh,” the woman (demon, Brie tells herself) continues, “you’re not going to try and kill me, are you?”

Brie knows she should. She knows she should and that she very well could, but there’s something so enticing about her, and though it’s something that’s threatening to pull Brie in and spit her right back out again, she can’t help but let the cold – the cold of the woman, the cold of the night – get to her.