by Sarah Wissman
Something evil lurks in the darkness. Ever so slowly, you can hear its heavy footsteps crunch on frozen gravel. Its gait is languid, like molasses falling over stones. You can feel the way its frosty breath draws away all heat, all the warmth in the world, like drawing away all happiness. It makes your blood turn to dry ice.
It’s getting closer. The footsteps get louder with every step. All you have are paralyzed limbs as you crouch behind the thick hawthorn bush. Your fingers dig into the moist, muddy ground as you try not to cry out in fright. Dirt gets caught under your nails. You can see the ghastly figure through a narrow gap in the leaves. Even though the sky is starless and the pearly moon is nonexistent, the creature is somehow darker. It is a black void, filled with the hate of the world.
Don’t panic. Not yet.
The smell of death is an aura that permeates the air around the creature. Now you can hear the faint scrape of its long claws against the ground. It pauses. The silence is a cloak on the forest. All the animals can sense the darkness. No crickets whisper in the grasses and the birds are silent. Rodents steer clear. It lets out a high pitched screech that makes you clamp your hands over your ears. But as you move your arm, your hand brushes against a protruding branch, causing the whole bush to vibrate. Your heart starts to beat faster.
Don’t panic. It might not have heard it.
But you know that’s not true. The footsteps start again and stop right in front of you. The only barrier between you and the creature is the hawthorn bush. Dread seeps into the very marrow of your bones and makes the tips of your toes tingle. The scent is so overwhelming that is makes your eyes water. With a single brush of a spindly, skeletal hand, the creature moves aside the branches like moving aside a piece of paper. The thorns do not cause it any harm. It’s as though they are not there. You can see its glowing red eyes locked on you. They are full of black magic, hatred, and the anger it feels for the world.
Okay, now you can panic.