Writing Contest Second Place Winner, Winter’s Howl

Written by Garrett Dawdy

Illustration by Madison Otten

You could hardly tell a gravel road was supposed to be there, the amount of snow turned the whole ground into a white blanket, only the absences of trees gave it away. It was cold, so very cold. The jacket and hat did nothing to stop the winding from howling icy daggers into you. Your car was a good bit away, abandoned when you couldn’t get it free, and with no heater your only option was to move, at least you hoped it was the only decision and not a mistake.

 Foot fall after foot fall, you continue on with trees on each side and no sign anything is alive. Fear and natural survival instinct is the fuel in your internal fire keeping you moving while your fingers and toes slowly freeze. 

Maybe it’s paranoia, but you think you can see things moving in the trees, objects taking different places. Maybe it is the snow, but you hoped you would be able to detect the difference. 

Fear continues to spread around your body as you wonder if your mind has gone mad or if something really is out there. Things keep darting through the trees using the snow as cover. Something is moving. It can’t be a trick of the snow. They almost look like human figures moving between snow and tree. 

What if, you wouldn’t dare entertain the idea, but what if. Your heart rate increases as you turn around.

A figure stands behind you, shredded clothing and grey skin, its face that of a dead man, and then it takes a step and another towards you. You turn back around, legs already pushing you through the snow, running across the snowy ground and fear taking hold. To the left, more bodies shamble from the brush and more and more begin to block your path on the road. Only one option left: a swift right into the forest. Running as fast as you possibly can, passing by frozen bodies, and seeing others emerging from the snow, you continue through the trees. The wind sweeps up the sound around you, yet you hear something. It’s coming from the back of your head. 

“Your warm flesh diminishes, and your body gets colder and colder. Join us in the cold.”

 More and more you keep moving, eventually going down hill, until you spot a boulder overhanging a bit, allowing someone to slip under its shade. You take it up on this offer, going under the unlikely form of shelter. You’re not sure if the things will find you underneath, but it’s worth a shot. Finally, your breath is able to catch up, and your muscles stop straining. The only thing you hear is your breath and the wind whipping around you. Fear stops you from moving, not like you would, you’re safe here, even though you’re getting colder, and you can’t feel your hands.

 You’re safe here. Your eyelids begin to close as you realize it’s best to just lie down and accept the cold.

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