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Windigo Rises MAG
Luminous moonlight from a silver crescent lances through the brittle branches of the forest. Disturbed by a brisk gust, a light dusting of the previous day's snow gently drifts from their withered surfaces to the ground below. Very little moves out here tonight. Mid-January this far north has always been a time of fragile tranquility, as if the sky, as well as the earth, is covered with a thin veil of ice. It is all too easy to disturb this peace, but, fortunately, there isn't much around to do so. Usually.
That fragile tranquility shatters when a spine-tingling wail rents the air. The breeze stills, as if it were a breath sucked in in trepidation, and the snow ceases its drifting for a moment. The world holds still, encased in a tight bubble of tension.
Rapid footfalls crack through layers of crusty ice, and another inhuman cry of rage swells in the tense world. A human figure unceremoniously bursts through a clearing in the woods, arms heavy with bags of a foul-smelling substance. Her breath gushes in and out in rapid succession, and it soon becomes clear why: an instant later, a second figure, this one horribly gaunt and as tall as the surrounding pines, darts through the trees in pursuit. Another unearthly wail reverberates from its misleadingly frail form.
The first figure, a slight young woman, continues her mad dash, though she knows her efforts are useless. Even though her arms are loaded with the right deterrent, even though she's the star of her track team and has her best “haul a-- and don't look back” playlist of songs cycling through her head, and even though Yoli is back home whipping up some witchy juju to get rid of this thing, she's just too tired to press on. The beast hot on her heels is easily three times as fast as she is on her best day – and today has definitely not been her best day.
Winter break is supposed to consist of nothing but lounging around all day, pretending to catch up on homework and chores, and generally being a hermit. Two days into the week-long vacation, Sandra had no qualms parking her butt in front of the TV all day and halfheartedly grumbling about class projects. But that sedentary option wasn't good enough for dear little Yoli. Boredom didn't suit her at all, and, like the demented witch she was, she decided to drag out Dad's old Ouija board and force Sandra into “summoning a dark energy,” whatever that was supposed to mean. Apparently it was her version of quality sister bonding.
Knowing how persistent Yoli was with her freaky obsessions, Sandra humored her and played along. Sure, Dad had claimed dozens of times that “you can't screw around with that spirit stuff, girls – it'll mark ya for life, you can count on that,” but that was all nonsense. After all, he kept the board around, so he obviously wasn't that convinced it oozed evil.
Daddy, if I die out here, just know that I'm sorry I never listened to you – and that this is all Yoli's fault!
The wind whips up again, throwing gusts of frigid air and thin limbs at Sandra's exposed face and neck. She's beyond feeling the cold by now, and the branches' slashing falls on numb skin. Her heart thunders against her sternum, trying to pound its way clean out of her rib cage, it seems. Her lungs feel like a dry, shriveled-up furnace filter, and her legs turned into sacs of pudding three minutes ago. She can't do this, can't do this ….
“Come on, it'll be fun,” Yoli persisted, sliding the planchette in place.
“Says the one who can spend four straight hours reading Shakespeare because ‘it's so riveting and rich with literary development.'” Sandra rolled her eyes at her sister's scowl and remained in her supine position on the futon. “Seriously, no. It's creepy.”
“Whatever,” Yoli huffed. She settled in a cross-legged meditative pose in the middle of the living room. “I don't really need a partner for this, after all,” she added archly.
“Excellent,” Sandra drawled sourly, turning up the TV in an effort to drive her eccentric sibling from the room – or at least to drown her out. Yoli narrowed her eyes in irritation but tuned out the audio obstruction.
After ten excruciating minutes of heavy, expectant silence – on Yoli's part, not the TV's, which was blaring the opening theme to “The Brady Bunch” – Sandra rose from the futon in a huff. “All right, fine. There's only so much of this daytime crap I can take anyway.”
Yoli gave a brief smirk of victory but remained silent with concentration, her hand poised above the planchette. In Sandra's opinion, she took the freaky ghost-spirit stuff too seriously. But anything sounded better than reruns of decades-old sitcoms.
“You remember how this works?” Yoli asked.
Sandra snorted as she positioned her hands above Yoli's, hovering over the heart-shaped chunk of wood. “Like I have the option of forgetting with you in this house.”
Yoli curled her lip in a silent snarl and flexed her wrists. “All right, then,” she threw back icily. “Who do we want to summon?”
“You're the one who's been sitting here for the past fifteen minutes. Don't ask me.”
A slight shadow passed over Yoli's face, and she chewed her lip in thought. “Actually,” she said slowly, as if pained, “I kind of wanted to try a ‘what' this time.” She looked up at Sandra with hopeful bemusement, at which the older girl just shrugged noncommittally.
“Again, don't look at me. I'm just commentary,” Sandra replied airily. She was already beginning to regret her decision. If only the remote wasn't so far away.
Unaware of her sister's hesitation, Yoli nodded in determination and pulled a small handbook from some hidden pocket of her book bag. When Sandra caught sight of its title, she couldn't hold back a snort of derision. “Dear God, are you serious? It's not bad enough that you want to talk to friggin' ghosts, now you want to summon a vampire?” Shaking her head, she stood. “And besides, since when does a Ouija board work for anything besides ghosts?
“Would you just wait a sec? Jeez,” Yoli snapped, her cool demeanor finally wavering. “In case you can't read, the book's title says ‘and Other Subversive Spirits.' As in, not just bloodsucking losers with complexion issues.” She paged through the worn book while Sandra gave her a narrow look. “Here, let's try this one.” She held up the dog-eared page to her sister, who accepted it as the Pope would a pentagram.
“A Windigo?” Sandra scrunched her nose. She looked down at Yoli, skeptical. “Do I even want to know what that is?”
“Read the description.”
Sandra sighed in resignation and scanned the page, her expression growing more sour with every passage. “‘… stalks the forests of the north in search of human flesh … rips out vital organs in seconds … playing catch with human skulls'?” She sent a withering look of incredulity at her sibling. “What the hell? You wanna bring one of those things into the house?”
Yoli simply shrugged. “You're the one who claims this is all a load of bull. Why not give it a try?”
“Um, the same reason I don't stand on the roof wearing a friggin' aluminum foil hat during a lightning storm. It's just asking for trouble, Yoli.” Sandra snapped the book shut and tossed it to her deranged sister. “Not gonna happen.”
Yoli's chill guise cracked a bit further, her eyes lighting in indignation. “Typical Sandra, chickening out at the last second.”
“And just what is that supposed to mean?” Sandra snapped, hands on her cocked hips.
“Nothing.” Collecting the Ouija board and her bag, Yoli strode out of the room without another word.
“Whatever, Yoli,” Sandra called up the stairs. “You want to drag a supernatural cannibal into the house, fine. I'll make some side dishes for it – what do you think goes best with Mexican girls? I'm thinking fried rice or some pico de gallo, but, y'know, I'm not the best culinary-”
The slamming of a door interrupted her tirade. Sandra slumped, as if the sound had popped her temper like a needle in a swollen balloon.
Yoli, I swear to every deity I can pronounce, if I survive this, you won't!
The bags in her arms feel like 20-pound weights, and the rancid odor stings her nostrils in a far different manner than the icy wind. Branches continue to claw and whip her. Her heart and lungs vie for her attention, each shrieking out in burning agony. At least she can't feel her legs anymore. She's not even entirely sure she's still moving.
The heavy crunch-crunch of footfalls echoes in her ears like firecrackers, but she can only hear one set. Either her body has finally run out of steam, or she's no longer being pursued – at least, not via the ground. “The Windigo uses trees as its snowshoes,” Yoli's book had warned. The gaunt form is probably stalking her from the pines, though how they can bear the creature's weight is a mystery to Sandra. She doesn't ponder this for long, as another heart-freezing shriek reverberates from the surrounding trees. She gasps in the arctic air and ignores the fecund package in her arms.
Hurry up, Yoli ….
Not an hour after her little episode, Yoli stumbled down the stairs, eyes bright and wide with the childish exuberance of a four-year-old on Christmas morning. “Sandra! Come here, I gotta-”
From her prone position on the futon, Sandra jolted upright, senses alert, as if someone had flayed her every nerve ending open and tased her. A chill had leeched into the room and snuck into her bones with rapid efficiency. Something – some malevolent energy – filled the room like a swarm of angry bees, like a hurricane.
“Yoli, what did you do?” Sandra shrieked as she jumped off her seat and raced to her sister. Yoli just stared, dumbstruck.
“I-I summoned it,” she breathed. “I actually summoned it!” Her eyes grew wide with a mix of delight and abject horror. It took only a second for Sandra to notice why: standing at an impressive seven feet, a rickety stick of a figure with glaring eyes of iridescent green filled the corner of the living room. Its clawlike fingers curled into fists, the dry appendages clicking together with faint rasps that sent chills down the girls' spines. The creature made no other movements or sounds – just that curling motion of the hands, coupled with the glaring.
Sandra's heart felt as if it were wrapped in frozen barbed wire. “Yoli, what's it doing? Why's it just standing there?”
“How should I know? Maybe it's not hungry, or-”
Like a bolt of lightning, the Windigo snapped to action, lunging toward the girls with an inhuman scream reminiscent of rusty nails being dragged across tin. Though her first instinct was to leap out of the way, Sandra remained frozen in place, paralyzed by the cruel sound and the cold seeping into her veins. The creature's gaping maw widened as it approached, claws open to rend her limb from limb.
Sandra felt an insistent yank on her arm and found herself toppling to the floor as the Windigo crashed over the stair banister, colliding with the wall with a solid crack. The girls took advantage of its prostrate position and dashed back to the living room, throwing the door closed.
Growling, the Windigo hurriedly pulled itself up, heedless of the shower of wood splinters raining down, and smashed into the wooden door with another inhuman wail.
Heart hammering in her throat, Sandra managed to gasp, “Okay, you summoned it. Great, awesome! Now how are you gonna get rid of it?”
Yoli gaped like a fish, her eyes darting between the rapidly splintering door and the basement door. “Basement, now!” Without further prompting, she and Sandra hurdled themselves down the narrow stairs, throwing the door shut.
“Somehow I doubt a few inches of wood will stop that thing. You've got to get rid of it, now!” Sandra snapped. The heavy thunking and cracking of the upstairs door, punctuated by reedy shrieks, thundered above them.
“I …” Yoli floundered, wringing her hands. “The book didn't really say … I mean, that is ….”
Catching on, Sandra leveled a glare at her sister that could easily rival the Windigo's. “You don't know how to get rid of this thing?” Yoli just wrung her hands and averted her eyes. “You idiot! What a moron. I can't even believe … How could you? Ugh!”
“Look, just relax, okay? We're not completely powerless here.”
“Says the continuous snap-crackle-popping of
the barriers between a cannibalistic stick dude and us,” Sandra snarled. “What can we possibly do to stop it?”
“Well, we can't really stop it,” Yoli said, her words emphasized by the solid crashing of the door above them and the subsequent smashing of the basement door. Her face paled at the new proximity, her eyes darting to and fro, locking on the cellar door. Yanking Sandra by the arm, she ran to the door and began shoving various items out of the way. “Come on, we need to get out, now.”
“No, I never would've guessed!”
As the wood of the basement door splintered and groaned from the being's attack, Yoli's eyes widened in an epiphany. “Wait, that's it!”
“Shut up and grab the cat box!”
Incredulous but obedient, Sandra did as she was told and dragged the smelly box of soiled litter closer.
“Scoop up as much crap as you can – and I do mean that literally,” Yoli commanded as she began collecting the odorous substance. “Windigos hate anything that messes with their sense of smell – heavy spices, feces, sweaty gym socks, anything nasty and pungent.”
“We're gonna throw cat s--t at it?”
“Basically.” Yoli tied up her bag, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “I've got another idea, but I don't know if you'll like it.”
“Anything about this situation that I should like?” Growling, Sandra shook her head. “What is it?”
Yoli thrust her bag of cat feces into Sandra's not-so-awaiting hands. “Okay, the book didn't say how to get rid of a Windigo, but I know the board has something about expunging spirits. It's up in my room, and obviously I can't get up there at the moment” – another wailing cry echoed down the stairs, accompanied by the insistent scraping of claws on wood – “but if you could distract it ….”
Which currently leaves Sandra racing through the woods, two garbage bags like lead in her arms, lungs and muscles starved of oxygen, and a ravenous Windigo hunting her from the trees. Who knows why the creature chose to pursue her – she's the one carrying the excrement, after all. Maybe she just looks tastier than her psycho sister.
At last her body can take no more. Sandra crumples face-first to the frozen earth, arms splayed out, their odorous treasure hanging loosely in her grasp. The ground quakes with the Windigo's weight as it leaps from the trees and hurries to claim its prey.
In a last-ditch effort, Sandra wills her watery muscles to swing the bags of cat feces at her attacker. It's about as effective as trying to sift grain with a butterfly net. The beast lets out a cry, and swats the offending packages away.
Sandra slumps, exhausted and defeated, as the flesh-eating monster approaches with obvious glee. She doesn't look up. She keeps her face buried in the snow, hoping against hope that her death will be painless. She certainly feels numb enough to escape most of the agony of being eaten alive, but it isn't like she's had prior experience.
Gnarled claws grip the weakened muscle of her calf like a vice. Apparently she isn't numb enough; she can feel not only the pain of the appendages digging into her flesh, but also the frigid ground scraping her cheek raw as the creature pulls her closer.
I tried, Dad.
Another wailing siren of a call – this one clearly expressing triumph – echoes from the Windigo's gaunt chest. A tear trickles from Sandra's eye, but she neither feels it nor cares that she's terrified beyond feeling. Warmth gushes around her left leg – her blood, she assumes.
“Just get it over with, you miserable ….”
All at once the claws in her leg are gone. Not wrenched away, not pulled back, just gone. Poof!
What the …? Did Yoli really …? Dear God, the girl actually knows what she's doing!
A few moments of utter silence pass, in which Sandra confirms her suspicion that the Windigo is no longer there. She manages to push herself off the ground on shaking arms and half crawl, half drag herself to a tree to lean against.
She doesn't dare look at her leg. She doesn't dare think of how far home is or if anyone will find her before she becomes a meat popsicle. All she thinks is that this nightmare is finally over. And that Yoli had better learn to sleep with her eyes open.