I had first noticed that something strange was happening in March of this year. It was a gut feeling. Our plot of land (and the surrounding area) had always been teeming with wild life. Every night as the moon rose the air was filled with the distant call of wolves. Gradually, (over the period of a few weeks) the animals began to fall silent. Only the howling remained. Megan laughed but I was sure of it.
I had taken Jasper out on our usual trek. The air was brisk as dusk crept upon us, staining the amber light a pale blue. He found something strange nestled amongst the pines. It was startled by our intrusion and bolted with visceral speed. I shouted for him to heel; instinctively he gave chase. Within seconds the gloomy woodland had consumed him.
I endeavoured to track them, but the freezing air seared my tired lungs. Finally, I managed to corner him at a jagged cliff edge overlooking the old slate quarry. His eyes were filled with hatred and his mouth awash with foaming tendrils. Strange marks were peppered around his neck. He did not recognise me.
I buried him in the crisp snow, beneath the foot of a towering oak.
As I studied my blood-caked hands I could feel the scorching desert sun bearing down on me once more. I took cover as the sound of erratic, furious shots rang in my ears. In the cruel light of day the silhouettes became human, every minute feature a lucid, horrific portrait.
The cold dragged me from my recollection. I had to get back. It isn’t safe around these parts, especially after dark. I reached for my flash light. It was gone, though the sky was clear and the moon full. The wilderness bathed in its silver light; murky shapes were cast from the pines.
I washed my hands in the snow, creating a dark red pit. The flesh of my forearm had been torn and throbbed relentlessly. I applied a tourniquet and headed back. I felt as if the trees watched my every move.
Megan was waiting when I returned. She stood in a rectangle of artificial light, rubbing her arms. Her face contorted as Jasper failed to accompany me.
I could not provide her with a true account of events. The firelight flickered in her eyes as she bandaged my arm. She cried into my shoulder. I stared out of the window, watching the trees. There were so many malignant shadows, so many dark recesses.
This morning I awoke to find myself alone, a warm indentation still present next to me. I flung the bed sheets to the ground; she knew how dangerous it was to venture out.
I found her at the brink of the frozen lake. She did not respond. As I approached she turned and glared. Her features had been consumed by a feral intensity. She backed away. The snow crunched with each tentative step. Beside her lay a curious hole in the surface; as if something had burrowed its way out.
I sit at my desk, studying the woodland as logs crackle in the fire behind me. The snow is falling again in thick, white blankets. It looks so clean, so inviting; so pure.