Halloween Writing Contest- 1st Place

Kylie Coker, Mrs. Martinez's Creative Writing class

I was never one to believe in the supernatural.

My family did, sure- we lived in a cabin far off from our small mountain town, where the sun was never warm enough to satisfy our cold skins and you could feel your blood freeze during even the hottest of summers. The icy threads of winter always managed to linger year round, wrapped tightly around our bodies.

As a kid, I always dreamt of going somewhere warm, far away from the barren and cold weather that plagued the streets of my hometown. A warm beach, with fine, crystal sand that cascaded through your fingers when you held it, sunwashed flora growing in the warm dunes, and clear waves crashing on the shower, licking at my ankles with salty strokes. My skin would be sunkissed and freckled, warm and vibrant with newfound life. I’d never feel cold again- only some nights, maybe, when I would find myself basking in the moonlight glistening against the sea.

As I matured with age, I found myself surrounded by like minded teenagers- kids, young adults, chasing after the sunny fantasy we all shared. My friends were the type of guys to do anything for a fun memory, to do something to get rid of the hollow cold in their bones. To feel warm and alive.

Despite those lively young men, I, on the other hand, was shy and introverted. I’d follow after anyone if they had given me the time of day. The thought of losing the kids I’d grown up with all because I was too chicken to follow them along in their childish adventures instilled me with a fear I thought I would never overcome; left me curled and weeping in my bed on late nights, alone and afraid.

I was 17 when I finally overcame that very same fear.

It was one evening late winter, and I had just snuck out of my family’s home, partying somewhere a ways out in the woods. I didn’t tell anyone, but a fear persisted in my heart, like a knot in my chest. My family had warned me as a child about coming into the woods so late at night, and in winter nonetheless, and the tales of wendigo-esque beasts lurking in the forests was enough to keep me far away. I could remember gazing out my window, stilling with each shadow that passed across the snowy terrain. The woods were so dark that they swallowed anything and everything. I was afraid that if I fell asleep, the shadows would crawl through my window, clawing up my bed sheets until it engulfed me, too, in its black void.

I shuffled my feet in the snow and thumbed at the red solo cup in my hands, watching my friends huddle around a large bonfire, so close that the embers fluttered down on their skin like flakes of snow. I remember absentmindedly staring off between the trees, my eyes glazed over and unfocused. There had to have been something there, nestled between the whitewashed oaks and birches, peering at me with predatory eyes.

If I had said something to my friends about it, they would have called me a stubborn prude. I took a swing from the alcoholic beverage in the cup, letting the sharp taste settle and burn on the flat of my tongue. Something far away moved in the woods, slipped between the spaces in between the trees.

It was like I was in a hypnotic trance, stumbling after the unseen creature. I can’t remember why I did this; why I broke away from my safe haven, in search of a beast that I had feared as a child.

In an unintelligible, drunken stupor, I collapsed in an open clearing, falling face first into the snow beneath me. I grimaced as I connected with the frozen soil, pain blooming along the bridge of my nose. I lethargically fumbled around for a bit, my limbs moving slowly with me, so exhausted that I hadn’t noticed the beast that had lumbered into the clearing with me until the light of the moon finally illuminated its face in the darkness.

It was inhumanely tall and yet, at the same time, impossibly underweight, sharp curves of its protruding bones morbidly elegant in some grotesque fashion. Its joints were like thick balls under its skin, the thin, shale-gray flesh there pulled tight to accommodate the size of the swells. It twitched and jerked continuously, slender claws flexing. I wasn’t quite sure if it was looking at me or not. Its face- or at least, where its face should have been, was washed pale and sunken, socketless pits turned in my direction, like two endless voids looking through my soul.

The stench- God, the stench. A pugnet musk seemed to emit from it- the unmistakable smell of old rusted pennies and rot. It made me think of death, of carcases decaying under soil, of maggots worming under my skin. I could feel hot bile rushing up my throat, the thick vomit threatening to spill past my lips. I brought a hand to my mouth and held it there, cupped over my nose, my warm, uneven breath fanning against the sweaty skin of my palm.

I could hear it breathing, too, hollow pants clouding the cold air. Its tongue, dead and withered black, hung from its jaw, swinging as it jerked its head around. Was it searching for me? The thought sent waves of terror through my body. My heart thumped wildly against my chest- so loud that I swore it was going to hear it, thundering in my ribcage. Any moment now the beast would pounce on me, burrow its sharp claws into my skin, and rip my heart from my body. I’d lay, my skin frosting over in the snow, so cold that I would feel the cold frosting over my bloody entrails, and watching as it swallowed me whole.

I would die any second, I was sure of it. I’d die and no one would even know.

It let out a cry, twisting its head up, towards the interwoven chain of trees ahead, its bones cracking loudly as it did. It looked upwards, for a long while, before scrambling away. It barreled through the snow-painted underbrush, clawing at the frozen ground as it followed some unknown thing.

I waited a long while after it had left, frozen in place, the whole confrontation happening so fast and ending just as quickly.

When I finally ran back to my friends, I decided not to tell them about meeting the creature; nor did I tell my family that following morning.

I’d carry the memory of the creature all the way to my cold death in those mountains, never reaching the summer life I dreamed of.