I’ve always loved the snowy plains of my home area.
It’s so different here. There’s a sense of vastness to it.
Each year my brother Markus and I take the long trip back. It’s become a sort of tradition to us. We go on a long hike to the cabin and spend the weekend there. We usually reminisce about childhood and play our old board games.
When Markus asked me if he could bring his girlfriend Melanie along, it took me a while before I obliged.
Melanie had been enthusiastic at the outset. After an hour on the long hiking track, that had all changed.
“Ugh, couldn’t we just drive there?”
“And miss all that?” I said spreading my arms in a wide arc.
“It’s just snow, Steve! I don’t get what the big deal is.”
“Come on babe,” Markus interjected, putting his arms around her. “Isn’t the view nice?”
“I guess so, I’m just so tired of walking,”
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I’d warned her that it was a long trip to the cabin, but of course, she hadn’t listened.
“We can take a break once we reach the resting area, okay?” I tried comforting her.
“And how long is that?”
“About another half hour or so.”
As she sighed behind me, I heard Markus laugh.
While the two of them were teasing each other, I went ahead a bit and let my eyes wander over the white plans around us. It was so beautiful and quiet. How often had we played out here as kids I wondered for a moment?
“Hey, what’s that over there?” I heard Melanie ask from behind.
I turned back to find her and Markus looking over at a forest at least half a kilometer away from us.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“There’s someone over there.”
I couldn’t make out much, and it took me a while before I saw who she was referring to. There was a person at the edge of the forest. Must be another hiker or one of the forest workers.
“Look! He’s waving at us,” she exclaimed before she raised her own arm to return the greeting. “Hello over there!”
“I doubt he can hear you,” Markus said.
“It doesn’t matter! I’m just nice!”
For a while, the figure continued to wave, and Melanie waved back a few more times. After a while, whoever it was seemed to be satisfied and vanished between the trees again.
We continued on, and about ten minutes later Markus walked up to me.
“So did you read it yet?”
“Eh, what do you mean?”
He rolled his eyes at me.
“You know what I’m talking about, dad’s novel!”
“Well, I started it, but I haven’t gotten far yet,” I admitted.
“Come on, Steve, he worked so hard on it, the least you can do is read it, okay?”
“Guys? I think he’s following us.”
“Who is?” I Markus asked turning around.
“That guy from before. I just saw him over there!” With that she pointed to a stretch of forest to our left.
“You sure it’s the same guy? It could be just another-”
“Yes! It looked exactly the same, and he was waving towards me again.”
“Well, that’s what you get for waving at strangers.”
“That’s not funny, Markus! Seriously, what if it’s… I don’t know some psycho or something?”
Both Markus and I started laughing.
“It’s probably another hiker,” Markus said trying to calm her down.
“Yeah or it’s someone from the village who thinks it’s funny to fuck with people,” I continued. “God knows Martin would do this exact thing, right?”
“He so would,” Markus agreed.
“What? Who’s Martin?” Melanie asked, staring at us.
“Just a friend from our childhood. One of the weirdest guys we ever knew.”
As we continued on, Markus and I started to tell Melanie a bit more about our adventures with our friend Martin. Soon enough we’d all forgotten the mysterious person who’d been waving towards us and were laughing and joking around again.
I’d just started another tale when we reached the small resting area. It wasn’t much, nothing more than a bench under a wooden overhang. By now we could already see the small, forestry hill on which the cabin was located.
“My legs are killing me,” Melanie complained as she slumped down on the bench next to me.
“Well, we’re still only halfway there,” I joked. She gave me a ‘You can’t be for real’ face. When I saw it, I burst out laughing. “It’s only about twenty more minutes, we’re almost there.”
“Fuck you, Steve!” she yelled at me and started to hit my shoulder before she started laughing as well.
“I totally believed you, idiot,” she yelled. Suddenly she jumped up from the bench. “Oh my god guys, look, deer!”
With that, she rushed back to the path, took out her phone and started taking pictures.
“So much about her legs,” Markus whispered.
“She’s a nice girl,” I finally said smiling at him.
“Yeah, I’m glad I met her.”
I asked him how exactly the two of them had met. Markus had barely started the story when Melanie came running back towards us.
“He’s back again!”
This time we didn’t need to ask who she meant.
“He was over there, ahead of us, near this old ruin or what it is!”
Markus was by her side in a moment. “Are you serious? Over there?”
I stepped towards them and looked ahead. On the foot of the small hill there were the remains of an old building. That’s where she’d seen him?
“Come on, it’s probably nothing. Maybe he saw us resting here and decided to give us a last greeting. Maybe he thinks we’re from the village, too.”
“I don’t care! It’s creepy, that’s what it is!”
“If he comes near you, I’ll beat the shit out of him,” Markus promised her in a serious voice.
“Come on, let’s get going. No reason to wait here and argue about it. Whoever it is might be long gone anyways.”
Melanie said nothing. Only once we’d gotten closer to the old ruin I heard her again. Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper.
“It can’t be. There’s no way…”
When I turned towards her, I saw she’d stopped in her tracks. Her face was a mask of disbelief.
“Babe, what is it?”
“How can he be this tall?” she almost screamed, pointing at the walls that remained of the ruin.
“He was way taller than these! I thought the walls were only a meter or so tall, but, but…” she broke up.
I looked at the old ruin. The two walls that were still standing were almost three meters tall.
“You probably saw it wrong, we were so far away, so-”
“I know what I saw, Markus! He was standing right here!”
I couldn’t help but wonder what she’d seen. It had to be an optical illusion or something. What else could it be? Still, I started to feel a bit unsettled about the whole thing myself.
“Let’s go to the cabin. If there is someone following us, we’ll be safe there.”
For a moment Melanie wanted to say something, but then she merely nodded.
It wasn’t much longer before we arrived at the cabin. I saw that Melanie’s eyes were still daring around, scanning the trees, searching for some giant figure.
Two twists of the key and the door sprang open. The place was exactly the same as Markus and I had left it a year ago.
“It shouldn’t take long before the place warms up,” I said as I stepped to the fireplace.
While I was busy to use what few logs were inside to start a fire, I heard Markus speak to Melanie in a low voice. I saw her nodding a few times before she began to sort through her things.
As I heated up some coffee, Markus went upstairs to look for our games.
When I brought Melanie a cup of coffee, I found her on the phone, browsing through Facebook.
“Really?” I asked her. She looked up at me for a moment before she put her phone away. “Fine, I put it away, there’s no internet out here anyway.
For a moment she pouted, but then she started laughing and took the cup of coffee from my hands.
A few minutes later Markus came back with the huge box that held our old games. Most of it was the simple board games we’d played as kids, like Monopoly.
There was one other game though, the one we’d created ourselves. It was a sort of Dungeons and Dragons board game. It was nothing fancy. You just moved over a board, battled monsters and who defeated the final boss first won.
Still, even as adults, the two of us loved playing this silly thing. Even Melanie was eager to join in. It wasn’t the game itself that was interesting, it was the stories we had about it.
After the first round was over, I decided to go outside and get a bit more firewood. There had only been a few logs left next to the fireplace, so if we wanted to keep the fire going, I’d to get a few more.
I put on my thick winter cloth and boots and went outside.
It had gotten dark outside by now. During the day the area was a beautiful winter wonderland. At night, it was nothing short of creepy. I pushed the thought that we were completely alone out here as far to the back of my mind as I could.
With quick steps, I hurried to the stack of firewood next to the cabin and started to pick up log after log. I couldn’t help but look around every once in a while and listened to the sounds of the night. There was a slight breeze that gently shook the trees back and forth.
Just as I picked up the last of about a dozen logs, I heard a crunching sound nearby. It sounded almost as if someone was walking through the snow. I jerked around and looked, but no one was there. It was most likely an animal. Or hell, maybe some snow had fallen off a branch nearby.
I walked back toward the front door. I was halfway there when I heard it again. As I turned around this time, I could have sworn I saw a shadow between the trees. I felt the hair of the back of my neck stand up. For long seconds I watched the trees to the left of the cabin.
“Need any help?” Markus suddenly called out to me. I almost jumped up, and half the logs tumbled off my arms.
“Jesus Christ! Don’t do that!” I yelled.
Markus started laughing and walked over to pick up the ones I’d dropped. “You’re always so scared in the dark, it’s hilarious.”
I was about to tell him what I thought I’d seen when I noticed Melanie at the door behind him. I shook my head and decided to drop the target. It must’ve been my imagination or the light from the house playing a trick on me.
“I warmed up some mulled wine,” Melanie said as we stacked the logs next to the fireplace.
“Great, thank you!” I said as I took off my boots and rubbed my hands against each other.
The mulled wine was almost too hot to drink, yet I took a big sip. It warmed me up in an instant. I’d always loved the stuff.
For a while we sat together, talking and joking before Melanie said she was getting a bit sleepy.
“Guess it was all that walking today.”
“Come on, I’ll show you our room.” With that Markus led her upstairs.
While the two of them went up, I walked back to the small stove. I heated up a bit more of the mulled wine and refilled my cup. Suddenly I heard a noise again. It was muffled, but it sounded almost as if something was scratching against the side of the cabin. Must be the branches of the trees, I thought.
As I stood at the stove with my cup, I started to wonder. Wasn’t there only a slight breeze? This was a bit too loud, wasn’t it? I felt the same sense of dread wash over me once more. What if there was someone out there?
“I hope you heated up some for me as well,” Markus called out to me from the stairs.
“Not going to join her in bed?” I asked grinning at him.
“Nah, maybe later,” he answered, “there’s something I want to talk to you about, something important.”
“I know, I know, I really should read dad’s book, it’s just-”
“No, it’s not about that, it’s about the cabin. Dad wants to sell it since no one is using it anymore except for us.”
“Wait, what? This place is our cabin! We’ve spent so many winters here, and he wants to sell it like this?”
“Well, we’re only ever here once a year, so I get where he’s coming from.”
“That’s not the point!” I almost yelled at him. “What about all our memories!”
“Hey, calm down,” Markus said raising his hands, “but dad’s got a…”
He trailed off, and I saw him look around. I’d heard it too. The sound was back again, this time it was louder. It was almost as if something or… someone was scratching along the wood outside.
“What the hell’s that?”
There it was once more.
“I’m going to have a look,” I said. Markus was right by my side, putting on his shoes as well. “You’re not going out there alone!”
I nodded and picked up the old, iron fire poker. Then we tiptoed to the front door. A quick look out the window showed us nothing but the dark of the night and trees slowly shaking in the wind.
“Shit,” I cursed.
A moment later we stepped outside.
Had that guy been stalking us and sneaking up on us in the middle of the night? Fucking hell! This was seriously creepy. I raised the fire poker, ready to beat down on any deranged asshole trying to jump me.
I’d barely taken a few steps when I saw something move near the corner of the cabin. It was gone as quickly as I’d seen it, but I knew someone was there.
“Shit, that’s right below her window,” Markus whispered.
“Go and get her! If it’s really that guy again…”
For a moment he hesitated, then he nodded and went back inside.
“Who’s there?” I called out. “What the hell are you doing here?”
There it was once more, the crunching of snow, the scratching on the wood.
My hands were shaking as they clutched onto the fire poker. I jumped around the corner, ready to yell, only to stop dead in my track.
There was something there. It was no man though, and neither was it an animal.
It was a giant, hulking figure, leaning forward against the house. It must’ve been at least four, if not five meters tall. I saw long, claw-like fingers. They were almost digging into the woodwork as the thing pressed its face against the window.
I stood there, staring up at the impossibility in front of me.
“What in the…” was all I could bring out.
Right at that moment the thing’s head jerked in my direction. Its face was simple, too simple. It looked almost as if someone had sewn a face on a piece of cloth or a bag. The lower part ripped open, and the creature let out a high-pitched scream.
It raised its arms before it brought them crashing down against the woodwork and the window. Wood and glass exploded under the force.
I heard chaos erupt inside of the room above. I heard Markus’ and Melanie scream up in terror. In a second the thing’s arms vanished inside the gaping hole that had once been a window. I heard Markus yell something before his screams cut through the night. They continued only for moments and culminated in terrible blood curling wail. Then everything was quiet again.
I couldn’t do a thing. I was frozen in terror. I took a single step forward but then cringed back. The fire poker slipped from my hands as I slumped down in the snow.
For a moment the thing looked over at me. It didn’t seem malignant anymore, it looked almost… happy.
Finally, it turned from me towards the trees. Within seconds it had vanished again.
Before it was gone though, I’d seen that it had been holding something in his giant hands.
It had been Melanie’s limp body.