You’re walking in the woods, down by the river. You’re all alone and your phone is dead. The wind moans through the bare branches of winter like a chorus of the dead, making them rattle together as though they were made of bone. You shiver as the cruel wind nips at your fingers and nose. You don’t know exactly what time it is, your phone’s been dead for a while, but you know it’s late. It’s beginning to get dark and in the twilight the clay-rich river looks as though it runs with blood.
You’ve been wandering around for a while when, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a tall figure shadowed by an ancient yew. You don’t stop, glancing back after a few steps. The figure is no further away than it was before. You continue walking, disregarding the figure. The further you go, the harder it is to ignore. It is following you, about thirty yards away at all times, usually right in the corner of your eye. It has noticed you noticing it, and it seems to be getting agitated. Suddenly, it gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint.
You are terrified, and begin to run. The figure is gaining on you, and you see blood on it’s face, no, there’s blood everywhere. You’re hurtling heedlessly headlong through the woods, vaguely looking for where you left your car. Silhouettes flash by your eyes, some clearly trees, others resembling tall, otherworldly creatures that seem to be reaching forward to tangle up your legs and stop you from escaping. Finally, a root catches your ankle and sends you sprawling. You scramble up, and are about to start running again when something gives you pause. It’s quiet. Nothing is chasing you anymore. You’ve lost… whatever it was. You are relieved, until you are hit with the realization that you are hopelessly lost yourself.
You stumble through the underbrush for far too long, it remains dark. Reason says that the sun should have risen hours ago, but still the darkness hangs overhead like a shroud of crow’s feathers. You push through a particularly dense bramble and abruptly stop. You can see a light in the near distance. It is a small cabin in the woods. You move towards it, elated and cautious. As you take a step, it happens. You hear it before anything else. A wet snap. Like the sound of a beam being hit by a wrecking ball.
Or of a shinbone being snapped by a bear trap. You let out an involuntary shriek as the pain reaches your brain, then quickly quiet yourself. You have no idea how close that creature could be. You try to move but, although the bones are snapped cleanly through, the teeth still hold your leg tightly in their maw. You lean over, desperate to escape this creature, and begin to gnaw off your leg. Your teeth catch in the flesh, and blood coats your mouth. As you tear the last few ligaments, you stumble forward. You are free.
What you have just done hits you as the blood, your blood, dribbles down your chest. You gasp, and sit down hard. It had seemed like the only thing to do. You shake your head. You will deal with that once you get out of this. If you get out of this. You get up and stumble towards the cabin, blood streaming from your stump leg.
You reach the cabin. It is old and dilapidated, sagging in on itself like a loaf of bread left in the oven too long, but you can see light and hear someone moving around inside. You’re nervous, edging towards the door cautiously. You push it open slowly, and peek inside. There, sitting in a dilapidated old armchair, is the dark figure. He is somehow still shrouded in shadows, even though he is sitting in front of a roaring fire. You’re suddenly angry, and you snake your belt free of it’s loops, stumbling forward quietly. You reach the armchair and quickly wrap it around the figures throat, pulling sharply. The figure jerks in surprise and tries to stand up from the armchair, reaching for a knife sheathed at his side. You grasp both ends of the belt with one hand and reach down with the other to grasp the knife. You wrest it from the figure and plunge the blade into his side. He stops struggling and you limp outside quickly, grimly satisfied at what you’ve done. One less evil in the world. Behind you, the blood of the figure runs red like a clay-rich river at dusk. The figure raises its head.