|Photo courtesy of Davi Ozolin via Flickr|
The darkness was like a veil.
Slipping her feet from the bed covers, she winced as the lace from the hem of her nightgown scratched her ankles. She sat and listened. A barely audible whisper drifted from the open window. It was almost as if it was calling to her. The cottage was otherwise silent and still, the embers from the evening fire still burning in the fireplace.
She searched for her woolen cloak and found it dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Draping it over her shoulders, she fastened it. The sound started again and she froze, waiting for it to dissipate. Quickly slipping her bare feet into well-worn leather boots, she struggled to light the candle beside her bed.
The night held the impending breath of winter. A breeze slid through near-bare branches, stripping them of their leaves and stirring complaints. A full moon shone overhead, surrounded by a luminous fairy ring. Stars dotted an otherwise inky sky.
Following the now-distant sound, she made her way through the thicket of trees. Forest animals darted from her path, startled from their nocturnal activities. Her feet made shushing sounds through leaves that scattered the forest floor. She held the candle in front of her. Wax spilled onto her fingertips. The candle's flame hesitated before it went out with a puff.
An unattended fire burned in a clearing. Its flames licked up into the star-dotted sky. The burning wood crackled with delight. The fire's fevered intensity beckoned to her. She made her way towards it, if only to warm her icy hands before deciding if she should return to her cottage.
A whisper sounded from behind her. She whipped around, searching the forest with her gaze. The glow from the firelight rendered her blind.
Silence. The forest was still, almost as if it too, was holding it's breath.
She stepped from the comfort of the fire. Little by little, her eyes became accustomed to the darkness. The whisper started again. Two green spots flashed, like eyes. Startled, she suddenly felt the presence behind her.
It was the last thing she remembered.