By Guest Author, Natalia Ferguson
It’s dark, and quiet. The tips of trees cannot be distinguished from the darkness of the sky, and I can’t see my feet as I place them on the cold, hard ground. The crunching of leaves and twigs as I walk is jarring, and I fear something might be watching from the cold abyss of the forest. In a haze, I finally see a light. It’s a cottage, casting a warm orange glow into the emptiness.
I make my way, hoping for shelter from the shivering cold. I stumble to reach the door and I knock. No answer, so I let myself in. And oh, how warm it is inside! I feel as though I’ve walked into the air of July. There’s a soft orange glow coming from a fire in the main room.
“Hello?” I call out. “I’m sorry to walk in unannounced, but I really need a place to stay for the night.”
There is no response, and while I’m supposed to be feeling warm, a chill consumes my body. Why would someone leave their toasty cottage in the middle of the night, with the fire still roaring? With further exploration, I discover that whoever was here must not have been gone for long. There’s soup on the table, and it’s still warm.
Without warning, the front door bursts open, releasing gusts of cold wind that drown the glow of fire. Fearfully I rush to shut the door, and realize I must not have shut it properly when I entered. I breathe a sigh of relief, the only sound in a now dark and quiet cottage.
After awhile of scavenging kitchen cupboards, I manage to come across a flashlight. I flip it on and decide to look for a place to rest. I mean, whoever was here thirty minutes ago certainly isn’t here now, and I am definitely not going back into that cold.
There are three bedrooms. Two of them have beds with neatly tucked sheets and blankets that look softer than snow. The third’s bed is not made. Its blanket has been thrown onto the ground, and it’s as scrunched up as my brow. A long mirror resides on one wall, and there’s an open book sitting on the bedside table, as well as a half-empty glass of water. The light in here is off, but pale moonlight trickles into the window. Just enough for me to catch my reflection in the mirror.
My face. My face! That’s not my face! Someone else looks back at me, someone with sunken eyes and peeling skin and the most horrid look one could imagine. I take a step back. I’m terrified. What has happened to me? Suddenly, there’s a sound. A scuffling, from under the bed.
I creep closer, and lean down to look. A woman. There’s a woman hiding under the bed, and she’s looking at me with the rawest fear I have ever seen. My vision fades to a nothingness darker than the forest, with the silent scream of the girl’s face imprinted in my mind. It’s in my last moment of wakefulness I realize that it was not my nightmare at all.