I trudged up the mountain, with an extremely dense fog around me. I could see barely a foot in front of me, and it was getting colder by the minute. It seemed as though the forest was getting denser, although I knew it wasn't, and the conditions were disorientating. Even though no sun was seen, I had to wear my sunglasses to keep myself from going blind, as the snow and fog were extremely bright, and even then it was hard to see.

I was coming up here to check on the few residents of this mountain, a letter had not been sent for some months now, and as the village doctor, they were my responsibility. I was exhausted by that point, and I was three-quarters of the way there. I sat down and rested in the light, crunchy snow. I observed my surroundings, and saw nothing but trees and snow.

I then heard the most unfamiliar, deafening sound: Nothing. It was way too quiet out, and the only sounds I heard was that of me breathing, and the sound of the snow as I shifted. I wondered if it was true that there was nothing there, so, holding my breath and sitting completely still, it was as if the silence got "louder." I stopped to gasp for air, passed this peculiarity off as nothing, and continued on trudging through the snow, gradually getting deeper.

At last, I spotted the cluster of four or five houses on the mountain, and I needed a meal before I headed back down. By now, the fog was thinning considerably, and I was eager to see how my neighbors were doing. As I neared one of the cabins, I noticed that something was... off. I didn't know. I just couldn't put my finger on it, but I shrugged it off and got closer. Once I was nearer and had a better look, I noticed what was wrong. The wooden siding was rotting in places, and I noticed small holes where the wood was broken off.

"Curious..." I muttered, approaching the door.

There was something else, too. The knocker on the door was missing; it appeared as though it had been forcefully torn off. I rapped on the door, and waited. And waited. And waited. I had knocked at least three times now, and still no response. It was an hour or so past noon by now and I was puzzled...

"Where the hell could they be at this hour!?" I wondered, knocking again.

Seeing as how there may or not have been anybody home, I hiked over to another of the cabins. The orientation was different, so I went around to the front. At first I didn't notice, but when I did, it thoroughly disturbed me. A large, red, diagonal smear of red something lay on the wooden entrance.

"That better be paint," I told myself, knocking on the door.

Again, nothing. Grumbling to myself, I checked each of the houses, and nobody answered. Irritated, I kicked down the door of the last house, and before I knew it, a rifle's bullet whizzed by my head, as I ducked back around the entrance.

"Holy shit!" I cursed.

My heart was racing, and I peered back inside. I noticed a wire running from the door, around a short wooden post nailed to the floor in the middle of the room, and to a table with a rifle strapped to it. The trap was interesting, and I was confused as to why someone would build it. I moved out of the line of fire, and studied the house. It was still too quiet, and I explored the small house, nothing out of place... except the residents were gone.

"They couldn't have just vanished."

I looked around some more, finding everything but the people. Mysteriously, in the next house, the kitchen washbasin was missing, too. There was a strong smell of some chemical, chlorine? I nearly vomited as I rushed outside to get a breath of fresh air, and put my scarf over my face to act as a filter, and headed back inside. I could smell it, but only faintly this time. Curiosity drove me to find the source of the scent, so I searched the house. I found the source in a wardrobe, and sure enough, two or three gallons of bleach poured out, spilling all over the floor. I looked back to the wardrobe, where there was only spilled bleach and the buckets it came from. Uninterested, I left.

I cautiously entered the third house, and when I noticed nothing out of place, I continued nonchalantly in. I realized the tripwire too late, and I fell forward, successfully performing a faceplant. I was prepared for anything, and I was partially disappointed to find nothing else, partially glad. Surprised it was even there, I looked around to find something else, but, like the other houses, nothing else out of place. I found it odd that, because the first house tried to kill me, the houses were getting tamer and tamer. I proceeded to the fourth house, and nothing out of place, no traps, the only thing abnormal was that there was folded, clean laundry on the sofa.

I left, and was about to inform the mayor of my findings, when I noticed the other house, the one with the smear on the door.

"I might as well," I sighed, strolling over to the house.

By now, I had let my guard down. The houses had had nothing of major interest, so why should this one? My foot was a little sore from kicking down doors, so I turned the handle and-

The house was a total wreck. I cautiously stepped over wreckage, and the place smelled strongly of... something unidentifiable.

"What is that smell?"

It wasn't pleasant, either. The "decor" wasn't either. Most of an entire wall was covered in clumps of dirt, and another was painted with the words "North Winds." What? I looked around, seeing a broken chair, all the china in a cabinet shattered into uncountable tiny pieces, a grass cutter laying on the floor. The last one was the oddest of all, grass didn't grow up here, the mountain was capped in permafrost. In fact, it's always been like that up here, for as long as I can remember, anyway. I continued through, each room filthy with objects strewn about, except for the kitchen. It was unusually clean, in fact, it was spotless. Ignoring this oddity (other oddity), I headed into the basement. This shocked me the most. I brought a lantern down there, to find the villagers. Not in a respectable state, though, there were only the charred remains of them. And there were odd symbols on the walls, too, written like finger paint in that red stuff I saw on the door.

It left a trail leading to the corner, where that thing sat, grinning. It was human, or was, at least. It had pale white-blue skin, bloodshot eyes, light green eyes, and long nails. It was missing the lower half of its body, which lay preserved in the below-freezing cold on the other side of the basement. It whispered something barely understandable.

"The north wind..."

Frightened out of my wits, I flew up the stairs, through the den, and out the door (after tripping over the grass cutter). I looked back only once, and saw the door slam shut from the inside. I sprinted down the mountain, and back to the main part of the village. I was absolutely sure I was in the clear, until I found that everybody in the entire village was gone. As I write this, I am starving, and in hopes that someone will find this. I can only hold these things off for so long, and I need food badly.

-Jakob Woodburn


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