The sky was a dark shade of purple, like a bruise covering the world. Heavy clouds blanketed it and kept the twinkling of the stars hidden. The moon was clear of the cloud cover and shone with a pugnent orange, like a giant sky pumpkin. The clouds themselves were fat with snow that threatened at any moment to fall and smother the world in the same way they smothered the sky.
It was cold, bitterly so. And the winds howled endlessly through the land. Screaming and freezing all they came in contact with. Between the winds and the blizzard brewing, the people stayed huddled in their homes. Fires blazed and did next to nothing to fight the indifferent glacial temperature. But that was not the only reason the flames gave little comfort to the people wrapped in furs and skins.
Tonight was the night of the sacrifice.
The chill outside was not the only reason the people sat huddled together in their homes. The shaking was not just from the frigid air and screaming winds. The food stores were nearly empty, a harsh winter coupled with a burning summer made for a poor harvest that went too quickly to sustain all the village.
And dark things roamed the starless night. Things that hungered for warm flesh and copper blood. Creatures that hunted out of the only black. Shadows that tore through man and beast. Monsters that walked on two legs but we’re nothing close to human, driven by need and thundering urges.
Wendigo walked the night. None who saw a wendigo lived to tell the tale. Stories passed down say they were vaguely man shaped, ranging from six to nine feet tall. Covered in ragged fur and said to have preternatural strength. Long claws some said dripped with poison, antlers like a stag, and a mouth of jagged fangs. Black, soulless eyes stared out of skull faces and the scent of death emanated from them. All feared the wendigo.
All except She Who Lived Beneath the Ice, the River Queen to whom the sacrifice must be made. The people never spoke of Her. For to call upon Her was to call upon death. She was death incarnate. And as the wendigo hunted the night, she hunted them and protected her chosen few. A few paintings and rough sketches of Her existed. They depicted a woman of beauty, with hair like raven feathers and eyes of the purest blue, like the Ice if the glacier itself. Skin the color of the first snow draped by a black dress woven from the night sky itself. She would slaughter the wendigo in exchange for a night of sacrifice on the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice was her domain.
And as the people sat in fear of the walking death outside, they say in fear of Her as well. From the village walls erupted from one of the crude homes and all knew the cause. In one home the flames of the fire turned pure blue and burned without heat. The flickering lights of the torches took on the same hue, marking this home the chosen for the sacrifice to She Who Lived Beneath the Ice. The wailing sobs hid the sounds of relief from the rest of the village, the ones who would live another year.
In the morning the ground would be covered in thick snows. The chosen family would be marched to where one river fed another, the place of Her power. They would be left on the ice, the entire village would be on hand to witness. And as one the village would return home and the family would not be seen again, swallowed by the ice and taken to Her domain beneath the ice and in the water itself. It was said they were taken and lived in service, or were eaten to fulfill her power. That night She would come and rid the village of the wendigo scourge.
Other tales said the family would return the next year to hunt as the wendigo themselves. Pawns in Her game amongst the mortals, an ever turning cycle. Some said She was the Wendigo, awakened after the last harvest by the cooling earth and filled with a terrible hunger only sated by sacrifice. In return she protected the land, Her rivers giving fresh water and fish, feeding the fertile farmland, and giving a lane for travel and trade. The wildlife flourished here and provided sustenance along with the farms.
But sacrifice had to be made. A willing trade of death for life, a sacred covenant between living and She Who Lived Beneath the Ice that had existed from the time man found its way to her domain.
A prophecy was passed down from elder to elder. Unspoken among the common tribesmen and later villager, the words spoke of Her chosen. One born from the lands before, born in in this new land under the sign of the blue flame. That She would take this one as a mate. This one would walk along the Ice and give himself to her in exchange for power over death. For a piece of Her power itself. And that they would rule in Her domain together until the end of days.
As time went on and man conquered the lands, the sacrifice and promise went unfulfilled. Soon She became a myth, and from myth to forgotten. The town prospered as She slept, waiting for the Her promised one to arrive. Her power waned in these strange times. But still townsfolk were taken under the frozen waves. Each year in lieu of sacrifice She would take men and children into the frozen depths. Enough to subsist until prophecy was made true.
Some still believed in Her, in the legends and whispered tales but most forgot. And She slept. And in Her sleep She dreamt of him not yet born. And She hungered. A rage built up inside of Her and lashed out in the form of blizzards and lost children. And even in Her sleep She watched, for She would know when the time arrived at last.
In the middle of January in 1979 one of the worst blizzards of recent history hit. It shut down the entire town. Accumulation settled on power lines and the weight took them out causing a massive blackout. People were trapped inside of homes, stranded for days. In one of these houses two teenagers, a boy and girl, very nearly adults were busying themselves as near adults trapped indoors tend to do. Candlelight filled the room and the gas furnace kept it a warm and cozy temperature. It was during one of these bouts of time killing that a condom broke. At the same time the condom broke, unbeknownst to the two excited lovers, one of the candle flames flickered and turned a pure blue color. It went unnoticed as well as their business took place under the warm blankets. Just over ten months later a bouncing baby boy was born.
At the moment of this inception She awoke. She knew immediately that Her chosen had finally come. On the day of his birth another freak storm blew through the area and again the powers was knocked out. He was born at home, the doctor braved the storm and delivered him by candle in his parents apartment. As the doctor slapped his back to release the amniotic fluid from his little lungs and his first cries were heard, all the flames turned blue for just a moment. A sudden flash of blue and then the power came back on. So quick no one could be sure it actually happened. His cries and the holding winds filled the area.
And under the ice, She smiled. She had learned patience and now Her time was so near.
I eventually woke up with blood all over my face and shirt. Head still throbbing and I felt weak as a newborn kitten. I don’t know how long I had been out. I could not remember a thing after stumbling into the bathroom with my bloody nose and hitting the ground.
I pulled myself up and plopped down on the couch. My phone was flashing and with dread I woke it up.
Happy Birthday my love from an unknown number on the screen.
In my ever winding spiral I lost track of the date. It was nearing the end of November. And She knew it was my birthday.