The heat from the fireplace was always therapeutic during nights such as the one last night. The fire would wrap itself around me and seem to seep into the crevices in my bones, warming me from the inside out. By the time I wake the next day, I am feeling much better and no longer fearing my body would snap any second. I decided to take the time to finish making food this morning; luckily, the food didn’t spoil overnight. I set them all down on the counter, dimly lit by the sun outside immersed in clouds. The low crackling of the fire and the sound of the knife cutting into the browning food was the only thing protecting me from silence. It seemed to remind me that I am alive and that I am a person. I exist. As odd of a thought as it is, it makes me think about what people consider what is true reality, or what is simply an illusion.
My descent into my existential thoughts was stopped when I felt a rough hand on my back. I instinctively whipped around, however, as I did so, I felt my heel slip. I began to tumble backwards, and in a moment of panic, I shut my eyes in hopes that I would be able to bear through the pain. However, I was saved by a single arm that wrapped itself around my back, and as I looked up, I saw my father. He pulled me back to my feet, and I could tell that he was a bit cranky from his drinking last night. I silently turned back and continued cooking, my hands trembling lightly. I heard the low squeaking of the chair as he sat down at the table. “How long have you been cooking?” He asked me in a tired voice. I gulped down my fear as I tried to recollect how long I had been working on the food.
“M-maybe half an hour…?” I stuttered, shifting on my feet, and I heard a low sigh from him. “What did I do last night?” He asked, and I felt my grip on the knife grow tighter. “Y-you, um…” I began before continuing the sentence in nothing more than a murmur. “You started talking about what the townsfolk were saying…and…” I then felt his arms wrap themselves around me from behind, and he rested his forehead on the back of my shoulder. “I’m sorry…” He said. “I really do want to quit.” I tried to bite back any rude words, because he really never did try. He had told me that he was going to stop for so long, that sometimes its hard for me to tell whenever he’s drunk or sober. “You were out all day…” I said under my breath. “I know…” He mumbled into my shoulder, his breath stale with alcohol. He then let go of me and asked if I wanted him to go to the village today. “No…” I insisted. “I’ll go. I need fresh air anyways…” “You sure?” “Yes.”
There was never avoiding the people of Cullfield, nor their accusations about me. Ever since they heard of how the Americans are finding hundreds of witches, mostly women, they’ve been paranoid of some of the women, especially me. It was claims that at churches, I turn the holy water into oil. I bring snakes and rats into farmer’s plantations and I cause women to lose their babies. Now, the main accusation was that I was the cause of all of the mills no longer working, but if anything, “witch” has just become a derogative term to use against women.
The trip between home and Cullfield was nerve-wracking, no matter what time of day or who is around. Wolves, bears, lynxes, badgers and wild cats all roam the forests and mountains. As unholy as it is, every time I go down the mountains, part of me wishes that father would go down for ale and not come back. I always try to shake off the idea of hoping that he was dead, but it is always still present somewhere in my mind. I eventually make it down and to the village, where women are out for morning shopping, and children are playing. I took a deep breath and stepped through the barrier between me and civilization. I began to walk to the bazaar, where I normally picked up food, similar to some of the other “witches”. The village was relatively small and open, so all of the stores and homes were widely spread out. The boots I wore crunched in the snow as I approached a bridge that crawled over a river that had been frozen over. As I considered the idea that the river may be connected to the rushing one i saw earlier, I remembered the figure I had seen. I was so shaken from the events before that I guess it didn’t even register what I had seen. I reflected on what the creature had looked like.
I didn’t see very much of it; all I could see was extremely long, black hair that covered its face and tiny twigs and slashes of mud all over it. Even whenever it put the bucket back, I could barely see anything related to skin or anything of that nature. I want to say that it wasn’t human, since it was in freezing cold water and didn’t move like a person, but then again it didn’t look anything like an animal. My thoughts were interrupted as I felt myself bump into something, and as I looked over, I noticed it was an old man. I quickly apologized and dropped to my knees, scurrying to pick up the stuff I had knocked out of his hands. “Oh, thank you, miss.” He thanked, and as he looked over at me, the wrinkles on his face multiplied as he frowned. He quickly ripped the food away from me and said that he could take care of it. I insisted that I help, but he only claimed that I would make his food rot. “Unlike you, I have a family to take care of!” He snapped as he darted away faster than any old man should. I remained motionless as I watched him leave. I frowned and stood up, not sure of what to say. I wanted to chase and confront him, but that would confirm everyone’s beliefs that I am evil. I let out a deep sigh and continued on my way.
I eventually made it to the bazaar and back, buying food to cook, along with some fabrics so that I could possibly work on making a blanket. By the time I had made it to the bottom of the mountain, I could see all of the ice-pickers outside, gathering around. With the mills no longer working, they were all working to get water for everyone. I didn’t have my bucket with me, so there was nothing I could do. I simply set off up the mountain, hoping to not get eaten by any animals. I had actually been attacked by a wolf once, when I was a child. I was out playing in the snow with my father when I ran too far from home and a wolf attacked me. Father found me and managed to scare the animal off, but not without any scars. I have an extremely large scar on my back from when he had scraped his claws on me and bit into my shoulder. I still fear that it would happen again when I’m alone. However, I was lucky enough to make it this time.
Father had already left for work, so I was given a bit of down time. I plopped down onto the chair beside the dying fireplace and fed it more wood. I grabbed some of the fabric, stuffing, and sewing things before beginning to cut out squares of the different fabrics. One was a beige color, and the other one was dark brown, since the dyes are limited at the bazaar. “Witches” are given the worst of the worst, even if that means the scraps. I cut the fabrics into several squares and began to sew them all together in a pattern. By the time I finished the first side, the fire had almost died again. I fed it more wood before returning to the quilt. I eventually finished it, and even if it wasn’t the most comfortable, it somehow kept me warm with the idea that I had made it all on my own.
With the blanket wrapped around me, I stood up and looked out the window, however it didn’t help much with the clouds covering the sun. It looked like it was always twilight; my stomach answered my question with a low grumble. It was time to eat, and seeing as how father already left for work, I was alone. Loki was probably upstairs, sleeping, so he probably wasn’t in the mood to go hunting. Even if he was, I wouldn’t have the guts to shoot a deer or buck. Looking at the browning food, I realized that I would need to use it quickly in order for it to still be edible. My thought process was to make soup, then hopefully if I have enough time, snuggle under my blanket and read. I looked over at the turned over bucket beside the door. I had fallen asleep before I could clean up the water, so it had dried, and I was a bit worried that moss would grow in the wood planks of the floor or it would smell of mildew. Either way, I walked over to the door and pulled on the coat and boots. I bent down and picked up the bucket, but as I went to open the door, I heard a low skittering from the upper floor, and I was quickly greeted to claws against my shoulders and a snout in my face.
I smiled and told Loki to get down, but when he didn’t listen, I grabbed his paws and lowered him down to the ground. He let out a low whimper and began to pad his paws onto the ground, almost as though he were dancing, and I sighed. I opened the door, and he scurried out, jumping in the snow. I smiled softly as I stepped out as well and watched as he proceeded to urinate onto a tree. I closed the door behind me and stepped out into the calm forest. It seemed much more peaceful today than it had the night before. However, it still burned against my bruises as I walked. The boots crunched in the snow as I began to walk into the forest. The bucket handle squeaked shrilly every time it swung back and forth. Loki hopped about in the snow as though he were a rabbit, which made me smile as softly as the snow appeared. His light brown and black fur began to wander a bit too far for me, so I called out: “Loki! Come back here!” He didn’t listen as he kept running ahead excitedly. I frowned and told myself he wouldn’t stray far. There was nothing around for him to explore, so he would eventually come running back. I kept trudging through the thickening snow until it began thinning out as it approached the river. I dropped the bucket onto the ground and plopped onto my knees. I picked it back up, and with much sturdier hands, succeeded in lifting it back up. I then planted it firmly in the snow and stood up. I brushed the snow off my knees and called out to Loki.”Come!” I shouted. “We got to go home!” It was a miracle he had learned both Finnish and English, so he was able to understand both me and my father.
I proceeded to continue calling him for about five minutes, and with every call of his name, I grew more worried. Father loved that dog, and so did I. And he helped him hunt for food when I wasn’t able to get any from the market. If he found out that I lost him, he would beat me senseless. Out of what seemed to be nervous habit, I began to hit myself in the back of my head. It wracked my brain, and in an odd way, I felt as though it would help me think. I let out a low groan of worry as I began pacing back and forth. “Loki!” I cried out worriedly. There was still no response, and I nearly tripped over the bucket. My stumbling seemed to rip me from my thoughts, and I decided to go find him. I looked in the snow and saw his footprints, so I began to follow them. The wind whipped through my hair so rapidly it was as though they became tiny whips that hit my face repeatedly. I could practically hear the cracking of them flailing in the air. I spent what felt like hours tracking him, and I only was able to stop when I saw a little den. I recognized it as a badger’s home. I only then truly looked at the footprints. They were much too small for a large dog like Loki. I felt my heart race as the snow grew heavier. I quickly began to run in the opposite direction of where the paw prints were pointing. The snow eventually became too thick for me to see, and it was obvious the tracks were covered now. I pulled the hood over my head and looked around to see only white. Panicking, I spun around so fast that I became dizzy and toppled over.
The forest spun around me and caused me to shake, unable to balance myself. In a final, desperate cry, I called out, “LOKI!!!!” My voice would have normally echoed off the trees, but with the heavy snow, it only went maybe two feet away from me. I managed to recollect myself and stand up; it was more difficult when I could barely see due to both the snow and the growing darkness. Straightening my back, I heard the crunching on feet coming closer. I froze up as I noticed a dark figure coming closer, and I let out a scream as Loki pounced onto me, licking my face. I frowned and snapped, “BAD DOG!” I pushed him off me and grabbed him by the scruff to keep him from running again. Turned around, I had no idea where to go. Loki tried to run to the right of me, and with his powerful nose, all I could do was trust him. I had no other idea as to how to find our way home. I followed him as closely as I could. I was constantly worried as to how he was constantly tugging to get in front of me. If he got free again, he may run off and leave me here to freeze.
The snow began to let up, and by the time it had cleared up, I could recognize where we were. Feeling safe now, I allowed Loki to run ahead. I smiled with a great amount of joy, and as I ran toward the house that basked in the light of the moon, I felt a sharp, piercing pain that was strong enough to knock me onto my back. As I noticed what hit me, I let out a loud scream in pain. An arrow was jutting out of my shoulder, blood gushing out of my fresh wound. However, because it was so cold, it was spilling out relatively slow, and as I grabbed it to pull it out, I felt all of my limbs grow weak with pain. Even now, I couldn’t bring myself to cry. Even whenever I saw my own father looking down at me with a bow in his hand.