Stacey was about to head out when she heard something new in the darkness.
It had been at least half an hour since the monster in the dark had come looking for her, and it was a sound so unlike the ones from before, it forced her to take notice.
The sound of Wendy crying came to her through the cold air. It was a soft and pitiful sound that caused her heart to bleed. Stacey knew that it was her. She had heard her voice so much that she would be able to pick it out in the cacophony of a crowded room.
She needed to help her.
Wendy, who had been so kind to her when she thought she was going crazy.
Swallowing, Stacey crept out of the hollow in the tree. She prepared herself to venture back out into the forest. To delve into the realm of the monster.
It was easier said than done.
Stacey felt rooted to the ground. Like her hiking boots, almost completely obscured by the snow, were worming into the earth.
Just moving her feet was a struggle, but in the end the sound of the crying spurred her on.
She had to save her.
The trees passed her by as she walked, the endless landscape of the forest passing her by while she searched for her friend.
That was when she saw it. The form of a woman in a white orderly uniform. A woman with dark blonde hair. Wendy.
However, something wasn't right.
Stacey could still hear the weeping.
But it was coming from the opposite direction.
Ice froze around her heart.
It was here.
It was close.
Wendy had seen her.
Stacey should have been glad, but instead all she felt was terrified.
If Wendy was still alive, then Stacey knew why the monster had spared her. She was being used as bait.
It could kill Wendy whenever it wanted, but it wanted more. It wanted her.
Why it wanted her, she had no idea, but Stacey needed to get away from it.
She needed to get Wendy away from it.
Her feet started moving, as if they had a mind of their own. Stacey ran towards the other woman and quickly grabbed her by the arm.
"We need to run!" she hissed. "It's here!"
Wendy looked at her through crimson eyes and nodded fast.
The uniform she wore was stained with blood and mud. She had obviously run into the woods as soon as whatever happened at the lodge occurred.
How long had she been out there?
Stacey didn't know and didn't think to guess.
They both started running.
"What is it?" Wendy asked, her voice hitching as she huffed through the tears, and they sprinted.
"No idea," Stacey said, trying to keep her response short so that she could get as much air into her lungs as possible.
She had run so much that evening Stacey was both impressed she was still standing and glad that she got the experience in.
The adrenaline was already running thin in her veins and her legs were stiff from the lactic acid build up. But as long as she was able to move, she would run as hard as she could to get away from what chased them.
The sound of crying had stopped.
It had obviously realised she hadn't taken the bait.
But she couldn't hear it doing anything else.
Was it coming after them? Or was it trying something else?
Stacey knew now that it had the capacity to set traps. It could be quiet when it wanted to. It was fast too. And strong.
It had picked up Paul and torn him apart like a doll.
So, if it wanted to it could catch them.
Which only left one other explanation for why it hadn't done that yet.
It was hunting them for sport.
When one tactic didn't work, it changed course and tried something else.
"Which…" Stacey huffed, swallowing air after the word, to keep the energy in her legs. "Way to the… Staff cabin…?"
Out of the corner of her eye, Stacey saw Wendy start to look around. She was trying to get her bearings.
"Um… Left? Left… I think?"
Stacey turned left and dragged Wendy by the arm. "How far?"
"No… No idea… Sorry."
"Just… Keep running."
Behind them, Stacey heard the snap of a branch.
Her heart kicked her ribs.
She had to keep running.
Running to the staff cabin.
Running to safety, where she could get to a phone and call in search of blood and wicked things, of animal bites and insect stings, and bone and sinew twisted round, the roots that worm into the ground-
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
Something winked through the night at her. It blinked into view as Stacey dragged Wendy erratically through the trees.
Light from a cabin.
The generator had worked. The power was back on.
And they were getting close to the cabin.
Getting close to the one that dwells within the trees, that hides behind the winter leaves, that craves for blood still hot and fresh, and hungers for the living's flesh-
They could see the outline of the building.
Stacey summoned all the power remaining in her legs as charged forwards.
She released Wendy's hand and leapt up the porch stairs without even thinking about how she could slip on the snow.
Her hand tried for the door and found it locked.
Wendy appeared next to her and started hammering on the door with her fist.
"Let us in!" she shouted.
The door opened, and Stacey just about cried as she saw Joe's face.
The two women burst into the cabin and slammed the door behind them. Stacey whipped around and locked it as fast as she could.
As she heard the bolt slide into place, she collapsed against the wooden barrier and squeezed her eyes shut. Emotion welled inside her and she fell to her knees, overcome with the relief that she was finally at least a little safe.