The Red Mother: Episode 13

May 19, 2019 7 min read

The Red Mother: Episode 13

My gun was out of my pocket almost instantly. Then, huge fingers wrapped themselves all the way around my hand, encompassing my pistol and even some of my wrist, crushing my bones against the gun metal. My assailant's hand felt like a piece of wood, all knotty and coarse. I hung on through the snapping of several bones, but, at last, I was forced to drop my only shot (Literally) at escape. Then my face was introduced to a nearby tree, a couple of times. I have no idea how I remained conscious, but there I was—wide eyed and, quite likely, about to be killed.

Yeah, I begged for my life. Nearly killed me to do it, but I wagered I’d be dead if I didn’t. Not that it did me any good; the beating continued throughout my blubbery pleading. All this, and I still had no idea what was smashing the shit out of me.

Once I was reasonably broken, my attacker slung me over his shoulder and carried me deeper into the woods. The guy paid no attention to footpaths, choosing to plough straight through the underbrush. And judging by my height from the ground, which I was able to gauge via some conveniently placed patches of moonlight, the man was really, really tall, and likely filled that lofty frame with oodles of muscle.

Thorns and branches tore at every exposed part of my body, and since I’d been beat to a limp pulp, I couldn’t do much to shield myself from the onslaught. And while I wasn’t really in any shape to gauge time, I guessed we’d been traveling for over an hour, full steam ahead and up a number of steep hills. The guy wasn’t even breathing heavy.

I was trying to pull together any useful information I could gather about the guy, passing notes to myself through the smashed window of my mind. I tucked away anything and everything that might supply me the slightest advantage over the woman-beater; that is, if I ever got a chance to face off with him. I knew he was right-handed, about six-and-a-half feet tall, heavily whiskered and freshly bathed (I smelled cheap soap on him when he put his hand over my face to stop me from screaming). It was the soap, in fact, that made me believe I might live a little longer than might be expected under such circumstances—he wanted to smell nice for me, or at least he didn’t want to offend me by stinking. Either way, the man sought some kind of approval from me—which could be all the leverage I’d need.

We were inside some kind of rickety little shack before I knew it. It was strung with vintage lanterns…and wildflowers, of some kind. I’m no botanist, so I didn’t know if the specific bouquet he had gathered had any significance; but, I was pretty sure they were all for me. I would’ve liked him better if he’d spared the plants and laid off my looks a little bit. I felt like my face had fallen off a long time ago, and all that was left of my head was a kind of cotton candy consciousness, just floating along, all spongey and sticky.

He threw me into a heap of animal furs. From the smell of it, it was his bed. The guy didn’t break his stride, but he did break a sweat, and his soap wore off miles ago. His odor was all over the hides, and I shivered at the thought of what he might be working up to.

Fire sprung up from a crooked hearth made of piled stones, and I could feel warmth attempting to penetrate my raked flesh. A man—a BIG man—walked in front of the firelight. He was made of towering shadow, as the fire at his back filled his face with darkness. His breathing, for the first time, began to grow erratic, and he started to fidget. It was my eyes that did it to him, as he turned to avoid my stare—he was ashamed, somewhat, of what he had done.

“You’d best fall in love with me right away, girl. It’ll go a lot better for you if you do. That throttling back there was nothing compared to what these hands can do, given time and a good mind to do harm. ‘sides, you deserved what I gave you, and then some. You shouldn’t have said what you said about me. You shouldn’t have told. But, none o’ that matters, now. You’re mine, like you was always meant to be. And that’s never gonna change. Now, I’m gonna be layin’ with ya, and if you make me think you don’t like it, even for a second…you’ll wish the devil had found you instead o’ me.” His voice was as hard as his hands, and there was a feral simplicity to his mind. The only thing human about the guy was his shame, even if it went mostly ignored.

I thought to try and divert him with some fancy word-work, but his hands were already around my neck by the time I opened my mouth. His weight fell on me like an avalanche, and I could smell his horrible breath, packed into deep grunts, falling across my face…

And then I woke up, in my sleeping bag, safe and sound.

I put my hands to my face and realized that I was unhurt. My gun was still snug-as-a-bug in my pocket. I took it out, if only to make myself feel a little more secure. But the smell of the man’s breath still lingered, either in the air or in my memory. Whichever, it was making me sick to my stomach.

The sun was just breaking over the horizon, and I could see a patch of matted down grass, only a foot, or so, from where I bed down. There was slobber everywhere in the spot, and huge paw-prints in the dirt. Something appeared to have kept me company while I slept... It was the last straw; my stomach couldn’t take any more. I must have puked for a solid 15 minutes. I felt like a pampered princess, incapable of taking a shot, or even a couple of shots, straight to the gut. But I couldn’t let the madness in, despite all the room I was clearing out for it. I had to focus on the dream—what it meant—nothing else could matter. If I tried to reflect on it all, to fully appreciate what was happening…I would be gone, completely.

As I made my way back to the motel, I caught myself, more than a few times, affecting a limp and cradling my head—trying to assuage wounds that were never inflicted outside of a nightmare: even my body had been tricked by the dream. By the time I’d reached my room, I was completely lost in the tangles of this new part of the witch’s mystery. And all throughout my musings about undead dogs, prophetic dreams, and supernatural bitches I had somehow successfully firewalled the darkest implications of what was happening from myself. But, I suppose, as an alcoholic, that part of the gig was old hat. At any rate, normal sleep came quick, and I spent the morning, and some of the early afternoon, sound asleep.

I made the library only a few hours before it closed. But, lucky for me, the “local interests” section was pretty small. And it didn’t take very long at all to locate what I was looking for. Or, more likely, whatever was guiding me forward didn’t want to waste time on my looking through books about the “Animals Common to the Canadian Wilderness.”

My clue was hiding in a book called, “Myths and Monsters of the Great North Woods.” There was a bit about how the Wendigo, a cannibal spirit that possessed people, might have been responsible for a number of disappearances in the woods surrounding the area that is now called Hunter’s Silence. In particular, two disappearances struck me right away—A lumberjack and a logging foreman’s daughter. The Lumberjack, Wellington Hest, was described as ‘particularly large and powerful,’ and was thought to have been taken by the Wendigo after he failed to return from a patch of trees he was clearing. All that remained of the man were small quantities of blood and a ripped shirt. The Woman, Bertha Pines, was said to have gone missing shortly after Hest failed to return from his assignment in the woods. Now, in truth, what I really had was just a handful of straw, with very little to justify the kinds of connections I was trying to make, but my nightmare was already hard at work within my subconscious, filling in the details. Almost intuitively, I saw how it could have happened. Hest might have had an unreciprocated crush on Pines, faked his death, and then nabbed Pines when no one was looking…and then took her back to his love-shack in the deep woods, to do horrible, horrible things to her. When I combined my theory with the earlier dream about the wolves…a terrible picture began to emerge.

I needed to know more—how the witch figured into all of this. If it still stood, I would need to find the old shack, and sleep in it. At this point, I had fully started down a path that lead directly out of the world. I tried to treat everything with the dispassion of a dogged journalist, on the burning trail of the story of the century. But I had long since realized, in some small part of me, that there could be no story. My ‘story’s’ details and connections were spread out between two worlds; its players were perched on the edge of life, death, and dream; and its ‘facts’ played between believability and lunacy. No, this journey wasn’t about the witch anymore, or about telling a story to the world…

 It was about me, now.

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