Estimated reading time — 14 minutes
“The snow did not even whisper its way to earth, but it seemed to salt the night with silence.”
-Dean Koontz, Brother Odd
Winter’s bitter chill drifted in from the open window. Frost laced the dried wooden frames of the window sill and empty countertops still littered with verglas painted pots. The harsh burn of the cold clawed the walls of his throat, biting at the lining of his lungs and firing at the center of his chest. His brittle lips split as he opened his mouth to take a drink from his canister. Blood stained the frost coating the stubble on his jaw. He could feel the freezing water glide over his taste buds and settle down into his stomach, temporarily easing the exasperated burn.
The mountaineer looked down at himself as he leaned against the dilapidated wooden wall beside him. His bright orange thermal coat had been torn. Blood oozed out through the stuffing and soaked into the fabric surrounding it. His hands were scraped, torn bits of skin hanging off from where the elements got to his exposed flesh. His knees were bloodied with small pebbles embedded into the skin from his rapid climb up the mountain. He couldn’t feel his fingers anymore. Whether that was because he had lost too much blood or it had gotten too cold out, he didn’t know.
A shrill howl sounded out from the woods riding along with the eerie breeze of Ngazodig. Or, as the tourists called it, Suspiria. He understood now why it had been nicknamed that. When you sat still and listened to the wind, really listened, you could hear the voices. He didn’t know who the voices belonged to. He didn’t care much to find out. The sighs and whispers drifting in through the haze gave him comfort. If he was going to die, at least he wasn’t going to die alone. He wondered how many people before him had sat in this same shack and heard these same voices.
The shack… Why was it up here? He looked around himself at the glaze coated surroundings. The shack wasn’t much bigger than a school classroom. The walls were made of a dried wood with cracks and holes peeking out between the boards. Two big windows sat at the east and west of him, the one he was closest to having been shattered across the shelter’s floor. A worn rug with faded red wool woven into the middle sat in the center of the shack. A broken table and two chairs sat at the north end of the cabin, the chairs pointed outwards towards the slanted door of the shelter. They looked solemnly towards the exit that allowed death to sweep itself in on the white speckled wind. Two tin cups sat frozen to the wooden surface of the table. The rim of their folded metal was lined in crystals and the faint brown tint of dried blood. It was lacking, but it gave him lee from the storm outside. As long as he wasn’t going to die lost somewhere on the side of a mountain he was fine with dying in a secluded cabin.
Another howl carried in with the wind, this time, closer than before. It was tracking him. Probably following the smell of his blood.
“God damn it…” He muttered through gritted teeth.
The man pulled himself up to his feet, placing one hand on the wall behind him to help steady himself as he stood. He didn’t have the energy to run anymore. Even if he did decide to run he had no idea where he was going. He’d be lost in the snow storm raging outside in a matter of seconds. Easy pickings the lurking beast.
The man hobbled over to the table, clenching his jaw at the throbbing coming from his abdomen and knee. He had no idea how or when he hurt his knee, but whatever he had done to it, it sure was biting him in the ass now. Each deep inhale he took made his throat fire up in parched protest. The man threw himself into one of the empty chairs resting at either side of the table and fished around in his survival pack for a pen and paper. Though the sensation in his fingertips was dulled, he could still faintly make out the thin spiraled lining of his notebook. He pulled it out, placed it on the table, flipped to the next clean page, and retrieved a pen from the front pocket of his bag. With some pressure, the silver sprayed plastic clicked into place, breaking through what thin layer of ice had formed around its edges. It took him a few moments to work his hand into the position he needed to hold the pen properly. The stiffness in his knuckles made his fingers awkwardly curl around the pen’s base in what would serve as a weak grip. With a few scribbles along the margin and some light pressure, the ink ran free onto the paper.
To whoever it may concern,
I’m writing this while sitting in a cabin located somewhere on the east side of Ngazodig. Or, as some of you may call it, Suspiria. I understand now why the townsmen nicknamed the mountain that. While I sit here and await my untimely demise I can hear the sighs ride in with the wind. The inaudible voices mutter phrases that I don’t understand into my ear. Though it’s ominous, in some strange way, the gentle whispers provide me with a sense of comfort. I wish I could fade off listening to these voices. I wish I could lay down on this table, rest my head in my arms, and slowly drift off into the abyss as the cold overtakes me. I wish I could die of dehydration or starvation, or perhaps even simple infection. But, alas, the beast outside draws near. This letter will be my final contribution to this world. I pray that you read it through, whoever you are, before venturing further into the banks of Suspiria.
My name is Clark Wright. I was born in Florissant, Colorado to Wendy and Alan Wright. I have two older brothers, Jack and Gerard, and one younger sister, Josie. I’m 42 years old. I have a wife and two little girls. The youngest one is Belle and the eldest is named after her mother, Ingrid. I’m a self-proclaimed mountaineer, explorer, and I have an unhealthy addiction to Lil’ Biggo’s fruit snacks.
I climbed up this mountain with a group of my closest friends (Larry Forde, Harrison Wolfe, Jerry Springhouse, Marcia Richards, and Mark Sephneck) in hopes of reaching the top within a couple of months or so. We hired ourselves a guide. A nice man named Namito Wôbi. Everything had gone alright for the first two months. Every night we would huddle together in our tents and sing to our hearts content any song that reminded us of home. John Denver, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Fleetwood Mac, you name it. At the time it seemed a simple gesture to remind ourselves what would be waiting for us back at the bottom. Now I think it this that lead the monster to us.
It all started with Mark saying he was off to take a piss. “Two minutes, just wait two minutes,” he said. We were required to carry a bright orange extension cord with us at all times so we could follow it back should we wander off. Mark tied one end of his cord to the base of a small pine and walked off into the white. One minute passed… Two… Then three, four, five. Mark never came back. But the cord just kept going, kept shaking like he was still walking further into Suspiria. We hollered out into the wind, calling his name, flashing our lights and pulling at the cord. No response. Marcia took first in following the cord off into the snow and the rest of us trailed behind. It took fifteen minutes for us to finally reach the end… Or more so the abrupt end that shouldn’t have been there in the first place… The cord was chewed off, thin tangles of wire and thick orange plastic hanging out in frills where whatever had gotten to it gnawed through. A small collection of blood blotched the snow in front of the cord. The center of the puddle was slowly melting down deeper into the cushion its crimson shade stained, signifying that the blood was still warm. We looked around the alp for any signs of were Mark could’ve gone, even ventured further off into the wild in hopes of finding him. Maybe he just hadn’t realized his cord had snapped. Maybe he just thought he still had more leverage and kept walking without realizing his safe line had been broken. Who’s to say the blood in the snow was his?
“Mark! Mark!” Marcia called out. Nothing. Not a single goddamn thing.
We were informed beforehand of the very likely chance one of us may die along the trek to the summit but Mark’s disappearance struck an uneasy chord within us all. Of course, him being gone in itself was very upsetting and weighed heavily on us all, but there was something else to his sudden absence that haunted us from behind the crowded treeline of the mountain. Something about that chewed off the end of the cord end that just didn’t seem… Right. I realize how stupid it must sound now that I’m reading the words in front of me but there’s simply no other way to put it. It’s one of those feelings where you just… Know.
We headed back to camp once the sun started to lower itself behind the peak’s frosted tips. It was a unanimous agreement to begin our descent back down the mountain immediately.
Marcia seemed most affected by the suddenness of Mark’s mysterious fate. She was the first one to discover the broken cord after all. When we arrived at the scene all she did for the first few minutes was stare aimlessly out into the flurry. Her eyes seemed glazed over like she had somehow gone somewhere else while looking off into the veil of snow. She wouldn’t talk for the first two days of our descent aside from informing us she was going to go pee or that she needed a refill of her water. It wasn’t until the third night of us pitching our tents behind a small formation of boulders that we finally heard her speak.
She sat in front of her bright red tent, knees pulled up to her chest and distant blue eyes glued to the ground in front of her. “It never stopped”, she mumbled. Her voice was just barely audible against the whistle of Ngazodig zipping over the mountainside.
“What?” said Harrison in return.
“The cord. It stayed stretched out like he was still walking the entire time until we reached the end. It was a tight as a rope when we started but it went slack right before we found that it was chewed off.”
She was right. None of us had noticed it at the moment, or perhaps she was simply too in shock to comment on it at the scene, but the cord had indeed gone limp when we reached its end.
“What about the blood? It was only a few dots nestled together at the base of the cord. If he was hurt, where was the trail? Where were the tracks- the path in the snow of where he wandered off after the cord stopped?”
The rest of us fell silent. Where were those tracks? It was as if he just vanished into air, swept off by the never-ending wind. If he was gone with the wind, was he watching us now from some unseen, cloud-topped fortress? Our silence continued throughout supper, as we settled into bed, and all throughout the next day as we thought of just what may have happened to dear old Mark.
As we passed treeline after treeline we began to see things. Paranoia seeped into us all, burying itself at our cores as we watched the blanketed branches for the monster that took our friend. Eyes reflecting off of our flashlights in the dead of night, footprints in the snow beside our camp, misplaced bags, and water bottles, a burning gaze that followed us wherever we went. It never stopped. We were going crazy.
Namito would sit outside as the embers of our fire died long after we all went to sleep, staring off into the mountains as if he were waiting for something. He’d have his ax in one hand and a lantern in the other, sitting silently, unmoving, unblinking, waiting for whatever it was to come out of the trees and present itself to him. One night I crawled out of my tent to join him. I asked, “Namito, what are you doing? What are you looking for?”. All he did was shake his head and mutter for me to go back inside. I tried to follow his gaze off into the night but all I could see was the faint luminous reflection of the moon against the snow in the forsaken black of the woods.
Then, one morning, he was gone. We awoke early and crawled out of our tents into the crisp fog that draped itself over the mountainside to find Namito was nowhere to be seen. He left no tracks, no blood, no signification of where he had gone aside from his ax still sitting lonesome next to the spot he perched himself the night before. He left no map, no sense of direction, no bright orange cord leading off into the wilderness, no supplies, no note of farewell. He took his pack, he took the flare gun, he took the rest of our climbing rope and he took our hope. Whether he left of his own accord or the beast got to him I’ll never know. In hindsight, I wouldn’t blame him for leaving on account of the events that would happen next.
With no guide and a second missing companion, we were left to wander aimlessly along the mountainside. All we could do was hope we were still going in the direction Namito had led us upon. Marcia had gone silent again. She trudged along quietly in the back of the group as we made our trek back towards base camp. We had taken our cords and tied them together, looping them through our carabiners to keep us close to one another. Every time she stopped and slumped down into the snow we’d feel a heavy tug that would lurch us backward. Four times this happened until finally, she said she couldn’t go any further. Her feet ached, her hands were numb and her heart even number. Larry simply couldn’t handle it anymore one day. He marched over to her and pulled her up by the collar of her jacket.
“Damn it Marce, we don’t have time for this!”
His voice boomed, piercing the almost deafening silence between us. It echoed off the white walls around us and down into the trenches beneath, carrying itself across the land in a small outburst of frustration. He threw her up over his shoulder and continued forward. He hauled her for what seemed like hours, stopping every now and then to collect himself before throwing her back over his shoulder and carrying her again. The entire time she kept her gaze focused at whatever blank canvas painted itself before her. We tried to persuade him to stop and put her down, to rest, allow himself to breathe while we made camp. But he just kept going. Kept trudging through the knee-high snow. Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks. Sweat collected on the inside of his shirt and around his hairline. His lips became cracked and brittle, blood seeping out whenever he stretched his lips to speak or drink. They gained a faint blue tint towards the center, and as time went on, the hue spread itself to the outer corners of his mouth. His fingers no longer stretched out the way he wanted them to. The pain in his knees from the constant weight subsided into a faint tingle as the cold seeped in. Larry didn’t die at the hands of whatever monster was prowling around us. He died in the dead of night from exhaustion. While the rest of us slept he took his final labored breaths before ascending to whatever life lay beyond. The next morning we took what supplies remained from him and buried him the best we could under a lonesome pine tree.
With only Harrison, Jerry, Marcia and I left a new challenge arose between us. Marcia had completely shut down. She had no will left to keep going. No smile to be shared, no voice to speak with, no spirit left within her. It seemed she too had left us though she sat beside us the whole way. As much as I hate to say it, she was becoming a liability. We thought about leaving her. Stationing her under the next tree we found and giving her what little supplies we could spare. But such acts would be inhumane. She was still our friend after all. She was still Marcia Richards, mother of two and esteemed photographer. This trip was not only supposed to be a way to get her motivation back, it was also supposed to serve as an opportunity for her to snag some once in a lifetime pictures. Throughout our trial, she remained completely unresponsive. And then it happened.
It was dawn. The flamboyant colors of the sunrise began to paint themselves over the horizon, dancing and twirling around the clouds, bringing life to the depressing grey that filled the sky. A peaceful silence had settled over our camp, and for once, I didn’t feel the watchful eyes of the beast burrowing into the back of my mind. Her scream ripped through the air. It was a cry full of terror and pain, filling the space with a sense of dread and panic, racing over the mountainside and bouncing off cavern walls. I was paralyzed where I stood for a few brief moments, startled by the thrashing and muffled growls coming from Marcia’s tent. Cries and shrieks of anguish as well as gargled pleads for help began to fade just as quickly as they had started. We burst out of our tents and sprinted in her direction once our bodies allowed us to become mobile again. Her tent lay torn and in shambles, ripped right out of the ground and cast to the side. Bright crimson trials streaked the barren landscape from where she once lie. They lead off further into the mountain with heavy indents of where she and whatever was dragging her had been. We plowed through the thick blockade of white and our throats quickly became dry and stung at the sharp bite of the cold as we shouted her name over and over again. Though, no matter how loud we yelled or how much we pushed ourselves to go faster, she and whatever beast had claimed her disappeared into the mountain. The only thing we found left of Marcia was her detached arm torn straight from the socket, wedding ring still stationed perfectly on her ring finger.
We went from hopeless, to angry, to confused, to scared shitless in a matter of seconds. A brand new kind of fear settled in deep, and suddenly, exhaustion didn’t matter anymore. We turned back and ran towards the camp as fast as we could. We ignored the burning sensation and cramps that formed in our thighs and feet as we quickly threw together our supplies in a panicked scramble. It didn’t matter what direction we were going in anymore as long as we were going down. To hell with the safety cords. We bounded down the side of the mountain as fast as our feet could fly. Jerry and Harrison were in front of me as they had lighter loads than I and were quickly beginning to disappear off into the haze of Suspiria.
“Wait!” I called, “Wait-”
A sickening snap echoed back at me followed by a pained cry. Jerry had been zipping through the snow so fast he’d send himself flying in short leaps as he strained to get ahead. He had landed wrong on his ankle, snapped it backward and sent himself tumbling down the mountainside. His body thwacked hard against the rocks dotting the slope we bounded down. He smacked into trees, boulders, logs, flew over hidden caverns and slide down snow covered passageways. The fall itself was enough to kill him. Soon the grotesque sounds of his flesh colliding with the earth faded off into the white the farther his corpse rolled away.
From behind a shrill screech sounded out across Ngazodig. It was too high pitched to be human and too loud to be of any earthly creature. It bellowed and shook the very mountain we stood on as whatever it was began to leap across the banks towards us. We couldn’t see it, we couldn’t hear its paws plowing through the snow towards us, but we could feel it. It was another instance of where you just… Know. As we passed by the bottom of a steep ridge surrounded by pine and rock I quickly cut to the left and took shelter behind one of the formations. Harrison continued ahead without even noticing I wasn’t behind him anymore. I’m sure it was only minutes after I’d stopped, but it felt like hours before the beast behind us drew near.
I could hear its heavy breaths escaping from whatever ghastly maw served as its mouth. Hot, heavy, lined with a faint undertone of wheezing, they came closer and closer. Strained growls escaped its throat that sounded more like a suffocating cow. Whatever served as its hands and feet dug deep into the ground underneath it and propelled it along. Thundering booms sounded as the beast slammed down into the snow again and again. It slid right past me, its feral howls fading further and further off into the direction of Harrison. I don’t know what ill-gotten fate fell upon him, whether he died at the hands of the mountain or the beast. Either way, I pray he didn’t suffer long.
As soon as the monstrosity seemed far enough off I began to scramble back up the slope in hopes of losing it. Rocks and wood dug deep into my hands as I clawed my way up, puncturing through my gloves and nipping at my skin. The snow whipping around in the wind felt like spiteful needles pricking at my face in scorn that I had evaded the creature. I’d dropped what supplies I’d carried in my scramble to safety, hoping I could somehow throw myself up Suspiria faster. Below me, the creature’s shrill cries rose up from the depths. My heart hammered against my ribs, threatening to break through and flee from what abomination lurked below. My lungs flared, throat scorched, my very core throbbed in a sharp stabbing pain from the dry mountain air I was forcing in. The more I heaved the less air I seemed to be getting into my lungs. The harder I had to focus on getting myself up the ridge, the more my muscles burned and cramped. I lost myself somewhere along that mountainside. At some point in my scramble for life I was no longer present. My body went into autopilot and the pain faded off into the cold. I didn’t feel the fear anymore. I didn’t feel anything anymore.
It wasn’t until I found this shack and managed bust open the door from its frozen hinges that feeling finally returned to me. It came in like a wave and knocked what breath I had in my lungs back out through my throat. The only supplies I have with me now are in the backpack that stayed on my shoulders throughout the climb. I’m too exhausted to try and run now. Even if I could, I still have no idea where I’d go. I’d be lost in the wilderness in a matter of minutes.
I can see it now! It’s lurking just outside the cabin walls, staring at me through the spaces in the wood with yellow eyes. To whoever reads this, remember my name. Tell the world what horrors took place on this cursed mountain. Turn around and never look back. This… Thing. It isn’t earthly. It’s a demon of the snow. Christ, it may even be the Devil itself. It’ll smell your blood for miles. Heed the words of a dead man; If it doesn’t already know you’re here, it will. You’re better off finishing it yourself than waiting for it to finish you.
Best of luck,
CREDIT : Cecilia Vasquez