Due to my desire to put out a genuinely good piece of writing rather than doing them quickly, I have left part 2 until Halloween itself. If you are reading this series for the first time, please see Part 1 here.
Gramma Dolli slumped in the corner, staring at the empty home. It was not empty in the sense that there was nothing in the house. Max had, indeed, let her in. Within moments the wendigo had torn apart everyone in the home, stared directly at Gramma Dolli, and then left. It was in the monster’s leaving that the problem had begun.
No, it was not the empty of a space without any objects, now that their lifeless bodies were left strewn across the home. It was not a colorless empty, now that it was painted in a scattered yet deep crimson across the wallpaper, floors, and all other furniture.
It was empty because it was still.
There was no noise. The wendigo had since gone, its large feet stomping away deep into the forest, leaving a trail of flesh and blood in its wake. But there were no more footsteps. There were no sounds of her grandchild and her friends. There was no sound of the stove cooking, which, although not off, made not a peep as the pot had been smashed to the floor in the terror. There was not the sound of birds chirping, of the wood burning in the fireplace, or even of the trees swaying in the wind. There was not even any wind to be heard, though she felt its subtle presence licking at her bloodstained and wrinkled skin.
It was only still.
Still, all except for her beating heart.
She could feel that for a surety. She could feel it in her fingers, her arms, her legs, her feet, her chest, her head, her eyes – it penetrated her body with the only sound she could find to concentrate on.
She could not even make enough sound to cry. It had only been a few minutes since the thing that had been Madison left her home and neighborhood. She was still in a sort of shock, she imagined. It was empty like that too – she thought no clear thoughts. She saw no movement. She heard nothing but the sound of her heartbeat, and now even that seemed to be silencing itself.
It was an eerie, stagnant, stillness.
The darkened sky was clouded over, and no moon appeared in the sky. There were no clouds, either, it seemed. Where were the moon, the sun, and the stars? She could not see them from her window now as she normally could at dusk. There was no light, not except from an occasionally flickering light source. She assumed it was the neighbor’s lamppost. Even this made no sound.
She looked at the garden. It was dead – not as though it had been trampled, but as though nearly a century had passed. The blooms had suddenly died in a color more wretched than simple brown, and now drooped black and shriveled in their places in the garden, nearly indistinguishable from the darkness of the night. It was like this wherever the once-Madison, the wendigo, had passed.
But it was still… still.
It was not a calming still, as a calming still brings one back to a natural state. This was an unnatural calm, deeper than the calm before the storm. Yet the storm had passed, and yet the stillness remained.
She remembered Mai. She remembered her laugh, her cry, her smile, and her frown… now all she saw was a husk of a human with lifeless eyes and an opened mouth. There was too little of a face left to even recognize as belonging to Mai at all, ripped apart by the wendigo.
There is a stillness, sometimes, that deafens all noise and thought. There is a quiet that sinks its sinewy, spider-like fingers deep into your bones and latches there. There is a silence so loud it is like a scream ringing deep in your soul.
She no longer wanted that silence.
So she screamed instead.
She screamed, and screamed, and screamed, with a sound so sudden and loud it startled even her. She screamed for all the children who would never scream in joy or terror again. She screamed, for she had no other response to the stillness.
And when she had dried her throat from screaming, it was there again. It was a cruel, cruel companion – a haunting, chilling fiend that refused to give way to anything but the stillness.
Her eyes widened. She could feel her heartbeat moving in her eyeballs, but even the sound of her heartbeat was now more of a vibration pulsating through her body than a real sound to her.
It was there, in the darkness, that she saw something – the faint sight of a thing she had nearly forgotten. When the light of the lamppost flickered, it was there. It stood at the edge of the woods, facing the house. And when the light shone for any length of time, it was gone again. She knew it well.
Staring it down, she slowly, but surely, leaned on her cane, and using the wall as a brace, attempted to get up. It took a few tries, but she finally propped her aged, weary, distraught body on the cane and began to walk into the woods.
She felt it as she left the house. It was deeper here, out in the open. Every crack of leaves underneath her feet was like glass shattering beneath her. But there was no wind here in the woods the further she went. There was only an icy blanket spreading around her, a chill that came with no gust or breath of air to accompany it.
With each flickering of light, the shadows of the trees began to contort, as though they themselves were alive somehow. In the shadows, she swore she saw tall figures walking to and from each tree. Some even seemed to look at her. But they made no sound.
With each moment of darkness in-between the flickers, the thing she had waited for since her childhood seemed to stay in its place – beckoning, taunting… waiting. She hobbled over to it, shivering from the cold and trembling from what she knew came next.
The shadowy figure stood at the base of a towering, knobby tree, twisted like thick grapevine. It was not much larger even than she, yet perhaps that was from its crooked, hunched form as it waddled toward her on all fours, tapping its long cane in one limb as it moved in her direction. It stood in front of her, and she felt its hot breath on her face.
Its face was most like that of a giant black bird, yet gaunt, barely existing outside of skin and bones, with massive, glowing red eyes peering at her. The rest of its body was similarly gaunt, with thin, long feathers poking out at random sections of skin, and a massive cloak covering the sprawling, disfigured limbs. Its back legs seemed to bend backwards as though its entire spine had been snapped around the other way. Its feet were like gargantuan crows feet, with one of its finger-length claws resting only a hands-breadth from her face.
It stared at her.
She stared at it.
After some time of just them and the flickering light, Gramma Dolli handed up her staff.
But the creature only stared.
“Take it!” Gramma Dolli demanded. “Take it! I don’t want it anymore!”
The creature stared.
The bird creature moved its mouth, pulling back skin the way humans pull back their lips, and for much the same reason. Under its beak were two rows of unnervingly human teeth.
And then its mouth opened. It chuckled.
“Why are you laughing, witch? Take it!” she shrieked.
The witch-monster obliged, moving its claw for the staff – but taking her hand with it. Gramma Dolli was lifted from the ground.
She began to screech as the witch cackled in a voice that seemed almost human, but distorted in the same manner as that of a parrot mimicking a human.
The witch stopped laughing.
“It wassn’t abouuut thhe featherrr,” it crowed. It held Gramma Dolli aloft. “It wasss neverr abouuut thhe featherrr.”
The witch turned its cane-like stick in its claw, revealing a long blade on the other end. It was then, looking up, that Gramma Dolli saw a blood red moon peering through the clouds.
“It wasss abouuut… pleasssure.”
It sliced across her throat without a sound.