17 Dec The Town that Dreaded Snowfall
“The Town that Dreaded Snowfall”Written by Kyle Harrison Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 13 minutes
I was headed toward the airport to catch a flight, driving down a country road that my GPS claimed would serve as a shortcut when my luck officially ran out.
A sudden flat tire caused me to swerve off the road, slamming my rental car into the side of a tree. The airbags promptly deployed and made me fall unconscious.
By the time I woke, I realized I had missed my flight. And cell phone service was shit, preventing me from being able to contact the airlines and make an adjustment.
So there I was, miles from where I was supposed to be without even a spare or a phone to call for and there wasn’t another vehicle to be seen on that dark highway. I was alone and with no option but to walk, so that’s what I decided to do.
My head still felt numb from the impact and my body was hurting so I wasn’t sure I could make it far, but I was sure I had just passed by a crossroads that marked a small rest stop of some sort so I aimed for that direction.
After about ten minutes of walking, I saw the sign and realized it was actually a mile marker for a township in the area. A place called Saint Lepaldi. It didn’t sound familiar but I figured my best option would be to head in that direction before I lost consciousness.
The night seemed darker on this highway and I felt tired, resting on the side of the road near a ditch as I felt the temperature begin to drop. The weather report had claimed the evening would be pleasant, but to be honest, so far it felt like one long headache.
Before I knew what was happening though, it became a nightmare.
I heard this strange bellow coming from the nearby ditch and it made my hair stand up on end. It sounded like a mixture between a cat and a wolf and maybe an owl.
I stood up and looked toward the gully, trying to see if there was a wild animal somewhere nearby. The whole area seemed still and deserted, almost devoid of life.
As I stood there a chill filled the air and I heard the noise again. This time I used my smartphone to peer into the ditch and get a better look. There was definitely something there, some small creature that was crawling along in the mud. But it didn’t look like any beast I was familiar with.
As I shone the light on it, it turned its head toward me and I nearly dropped my phone. Its eyes. They looked human. In that unexpected moment, I scrambled away and moved toward the road, uncertain I was safe there anymore. Whatever this thing was, I resolved to steer clear of the side roads for the rest of the journey.
But every few feet I moved I swore I heard the creature follow, making its ominous guttural noises as it crawled along. I felt its eyes were on me as I started to run down the street, desperate to get away from the unnerving thing. I wasn’t sure if it was a demented individual or some kind of monster but the thing moved at inhuman speed, even as I spotted a farmhouse on the side of the road and started to dash toward it.
Someone inside could surely help.
I rushed to the doors, trying to make as much noise as I could. But the occupants must have been out for the night because nothing I did was stirring them. Quickly I decided to hide in the barn instead, hunkering down and watching as the shaggy creature approached.
I could feel my entire body shivering as I caught a better glimpse of it, this hunched over form sneaking into the shed and watching as it crawled toward one of the cows.
Before I knew what was happening the creature attacked it, grabbing ahold of the bovine and tackling it to the ground.
The large animal tried its best to fight but before long the diminutive monster had somehow managed to turn it over entirely with its legs up in the confused farm animal moaning as I listened to the strange little creature begin to feast.
It sounded like it was killing the cow, but I dared not move for fear I would be next. The crunching and grinding of the creature kept going for at least an hour as I hunkered down. Finally, satisfied and full of meat and milk, the shaggy short cryptid crawled away; leaving me to hide in the hay bales.
Truth be told I was so terrified by what had happened to the cow I wasn’t sure I felt safe to go anywhere, and I was also too exhausted so I tried my best to get rest in the smelly barn. It was better than whatever nightmares awaited me in the snow beyond.
Somehow, I managed to fall asleep, perhaps from the shock and the terror I had experienced but in the morning my dilemma only worsened.
I felt something nudge me on my backside and groggily awoke sometime after sunrise, staring up to see a dark-haired farmhand holding a sawed-off shotgun in my face.
Instinctively I raised my hands in defense, showing the worker I meant no harm and they ordered me on my feet with a few harsh words I couldn’t make out. It didn’t sound like a language I was familiar with.
Then they pointed their weapon toward the farmhouse, saying a few more strange things that I couldn’t understand but I got the impression they wanted me to head inside.
I obeyed immediately, my body too sore and tired from the night before to argue. Hopefully whatever creatures were lurking about would not be still here in the daylight I thought to myself.
As I crossed the yard toward the house the unease I felt began to go away when I heard children laughing and saw normal people on the front porch. Well, I say normal, but truth be told, I could immediately gather that these folk were quaint, perhaps similar to the Amish or Quakers in their quiet lifestyle.
The children dispersed when they saw me and the housewife went to go get her husband. I stood awkwardly there in the front yard for what felt like an eternity until they both returned.
He was a well-dressed man, in overalls with a brimmed hat and a long scraggly beard. Typical attire for the two faiths I assumed he identified with but I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions until I had the full story.
“You lost son?” he asked me. Before I even had a chance to respond he raised his hand for me to come inside and offered, “The wife just finished making us porridge for breakfast. Come sit a spell and tell us how you came to our little town.”
* * * * * *
As I ate the warm food I recounted my tale to the couple, although I left out the parts where I had seen the strange creature that had attacked their cattle. I didn’t want to seem insane and I wasn’t sure if the experience I’d had was actually even real. They sat and listened quietly, the husband running his fingers through his beard thoughtfully as I concluded the story.
“You’re lucky that you found us. Winter comes quick around these parts, and it’s harsh and cold. Any day now the ground will be covered with snow and travel will be impossible. But you can stay with us for as long as you like. We have plenty of room and it wouldn’t be very neighborly of us to send you away,” he declared. The wife was nodding and bobbing her head in agreement as I checked my phone. Of course there was no reception way out here, I shouldn’t have been surprised. For all I knew, because of missing my flight, I had likely wound up losing that job.
So a vacation in the sticks wasn’t exactly on the agenda, but I figured it was better than drowning my sorrows in liquor back home.
As we finished the meal, the couple instructed me to leave my bowl on the floor of the breakfast room, which I found a bit odd but I did as they told me to before I was shown the guest room.
The wife rattled off a few rules such as no food in the bed and no candles burning at night. I figured they were just customs that related to the traditions of their faith, so I told her I would try my best to remember.
As I settled in, I looked out the window and saw just as they predicted; winter clouds were forming over their farmland fast. Soon it began to snow ever so gently and I saw the two of them out in the front yard apparently having an argument.
As I watched the husband and the wife became more heated with one another until, at last, he announced he was going to town for a drink after smacking her across the face. Somehow despite the obvious patriarchal system I had seen so far, the act surprised me. This picture-perfect little slice of Heaven seemed to have cracks after all I thought.
I also was certain I saw another shadowy shaggy monster dragging a lamb off into the nearby woods. The poor tiny animal bleating as the wife watched it happen impassively. Her face told me I wasn’t simply seeing things. Whatever this strange troll was, it was real.
I kept myself as busy as I could the remainder of the day, offering to help with chores and do anything that would keep my mind off of the strange things happening around the area. But as the day lingered on, I saw more evidence Something terrible and unnatural was occurring in this small town.
I was helping put the dishes away for the midday meal when I grabbed a plate with some leftover chicken to throw it away and the wife stopped me short.
“You mustn’t bother it,” she whispered. Her eyes were filled with fear as I lingered near the trash can.
I hadn’t spoken about the creatures to her yet and I could tell that she wasn’t likely to tell me much, but still I felt the need to get answers.
“There is something living in these woods. I’ve seen it,” I said as I placed the plate back down. Her eyes twitched and she looked away.
“I must prepare for Jonah to return home, much work to be done,” she answered as she flitted away to another room.
Outside I saw the snow was falling more rapidly now, covering up the roads. But I could see strange footprints out there, moving about the farmland. Evidence of creatures that seemed to be using this area to their heart’s content, unhindered by any person. I saw one of them enter the kitchen soon after this thought crossed my mind, it moved like lightning to the leftovers the farm wife had given out. It chomped and licked at the pan, its wild eyes glaring up at me. Daring me to stop them. I could see from their gnarled and broken teeth that the creature was ravenous for food. It looked like it wanted to rip me limb from limb. I reached for a knife to defend myself, only for the wife to grab my wrist and pull me back to the hallway.
“We mustn’t disturb them,” she whispered, repeating the instructions as I saw something long and skinny crawl from one of the cabinets.
This one looked even more malnourished than the other, its lanky form hardly able to pull its body across the floor. The other creature began to snarl, protecting the leftovers as best as it could. And I watched in disbelief as the two monsters fought, biting and snapping at one another. Ripping the flesh off their scrawny bodies.
Perhaps what was most frightening about them was how much like children they looked. Naked and starving children that had turned animalistic.
The wife kept me still until they had left into the cold and I dropped the knife, my heart beating wildly.
“What in the hell are those things?” I shouted to her. But she was too petrified in fear to say a word and insisted we wait for her husband to return.
When Jonah made it back to the house that night, the dark clouds covered the sky but the ground was illuminated by the snowfall. We heard the other trolls moving about the land, attacking animals and neighbors just the same up until he made it in the house.
As we ate just a little bit of porridge and yogurt, the rest of their food pantry was barren and dry; I felt the need to break the ice on the conversation.
“How long have you been dealing with these demons?” I asked. My stomach was growling for the lack of food and I knew why. This entire town was living in fear of these creatures, letting them run amok.
The husband drew in his breath and put his bowl on the ground. Just as I had finished talking we heard loud roars against the doors. Slamming and opening them over and over again. Making everyone on edge as I saw several of the trolls crawl into the kitchen to steal what little food we had left.
As the demons took our dinner away, the husband explained the situation as best as he could.
“They come when the snow hits the ground. There are at least a dozen of them. Some speculate perhaps there are more out there in the woods. But they take what they want, and in exchange… let us live,” he whispered solemnly even as one of the ghastly creatures licked pudding and yogurt right off of his beard. He did his best to not flinch.
“We protect our young ones by abiding by their rules. Keep others from being attacked or punished by their cruelty,” he added as the banging came to a stop and the creatures fled out the door again.
“But your children starve. Your town does. I can tell just from your wife and your children that they need to have food or they won’t make it through the winter!” I argued.
He pursed his lips, obviously not wanting to reveal another nasty detail of the story but I wasn’t having it. This madness had to stop.
“Who is in charge in this village? We should round up all of the men and find these things and kill them!” I told them both.
“And risk their wrath? Possibly kill even more innocent lives? You are an outsider. Do not attempt to dictate how we live,” Jonah snapped back as he slammed his fist on the table.
The whole kitchen got quiet as he cleared his throat and added, “The snow has become heavy this year and therefore our sacrifices will be greater. The elders of our village have chosen to throw a festival to the spirits of the earth which watch over us tomorrow… and once we finish this ritual the demons will leave us alone.”
I saw the wife’s face get pale as something unspoken was left out of the conversation but I decided to not press the matter any further. I was sure the rest of this small village would likely follow the same strange rituals as these folk, and I was considering simply leaving.
That opportunity never came though.
During the night the little creatures came back, this time more numerous than ever, clattering against doors and snarling against the windows. The children cried themselves to sleep and I could hardly close my eyes for fear of them simply entering the house and doing whatever they pleased with me. I kept a knife that I had hidden away under my pillow that night as the monsters roamed freely, determined to escape this nightmare the next day.
But I was so exhausted from the ordeal, I don’t recall much about the morning except Jonah rising and telling the children to dress as though they were attending a Sunday sermon.
“You will be joining us as well. It will be safer than remaining here,” the wife explained. I saw genuine concern for my well-being in her eyes so I decided to not question. I was actually a bit curious to see what sort of ritual the town folk might perform that would appease these creatures, so I followed them down the snow-covered roads toward the main marketplace.
The rest of Saint Lepaldi was just as quaint and simple as I had expected, a testimonial to their refusal to connect to the modern world. I wondered as we got close to the town square if this was because of the creatures or something else.
I saw villagers in their homes and businesses peeking out, all dressed in either their Sunday best or some kind of colorful costume that reminded me of Santa’s elves.
And as we approached the center of town I soon realized why they all seemed to be shaking in their boots.
There was a massive stone statue there of a giantess, carved in the finest rock this side of the main coast, and surrounding her I saw artistic representations of the twelve demonic children I had seen over the course of the last few nights. The entire square had been shoveled free of snow for a platform to be built around the statue, along with long tall torches and metallic iron cages that lined the corners of the square.
In three of those cages, I saw people, naked and shaking from the cold of the elements, screaming to be let loose even as the leaders of this small villa calmed the crowd.
“Brother Jonah. Have you brought our final sacrifice, the fruit of the country?” One man asked.
“I have my lord. He stands before you now,” Jonah responded. Then I suddenly realized my role in this festival. I was not invited as a guest. These people were about to sacrifice me to this massive stone edifice.
As soon as the realization hit me I tried to run, but Jonah pushed me down to the gravel and shoved his boot in my chest.
“It’s better if you don’t fight it, stranger. Your presence here was a blessing from our giants. To prevent my family from losing anyone, the Lord of the Snow gave us you,” he explained.
Several burly men tied me with ropes and placed me in a cage to the right as the elders continued to make a speech, passing out bowls and other utensils to the crowd.
“Brothers, sisters, our Harvest has drawn to a close. The shadow of snowfall is overcast and the spirits of the earth must be appeased. Let us pray now to them that our township remains under their watchful eyes. Let us ask them for forgiveness for walking on their land.”
The entire crowd began to chant and moan and bow before the statues as several men lit the cages on fire, starting to my left. I desperately looked toward the husband and wife for some kind of help, knowing I would soon be engulfed if they didn’t act.
“Great Grÿla, Lady of the Hills and Devourer of Flesh. Wife to our Sleeping Saint and Mother to the Thirteen Demons. Come forth and feast upon these sinful children of men. Let their flesh atone for our year of waste. Our forgiveness be upon their deaths!”
I heard something shake and rumble and saw that the stone statue seemed to be moving on its own, suddenly taking life as the entire town shrieked and trembled. The giantess grumbled and reached down, crushing the first cage with her strong hand as she snarled loudly. Her children came to life next, snickering and snarling into the crowd as they attacked random townspeople. The elder chanted that they would be allowed to feast on any they pleased.
I knew I was to be the next meal for this cult of mad followers and I begged the family that had let me stay with them for help, but they were so aghast with the ceremony they paid me no heed.
I crouched down as the giantess crushed the top of the cage, giving me mere seconds to run. I leaped from the trap and raced across the snow, the older men of the town shouting to hunt me down. I did not stop for anything. Bolting from the town and toward the woods, hiding in the tall grass as the demonic children continued to attack all of the villagers that they pleased.
I could not stop to reflect on this hellish nightmare as I gathered my strength and kept running into the night until my power failed me.
When I woke I was on the road again, covered in blood and mud and snow, a passing car asking if I needed aid. I saw I had made it all the way back to the crossroads and I thanked them for the help, barely able to crawl into the backseat.
As I got my rest, I asked them where they were headed; hardly even considering their response important at first.
The driver checked his GPS, the instrument glitching as he admitted. “I’m a bit lost. I was considering going toward that township for some help.”
I grabbed the back of the car seat, my wide and frantic eyes pleading that he didn’t. “You mustn’t go there. Just keep driving. Even if it’s all night. Stay away from that dreadful town.”
As he turned around the vehicle to go the other way I heard the howling of a cat off in the woods and shivered in panic.
Snow was coming down harder than ever as we left. Now I could only hope that we made it far away from this madness before another nightmare took shape.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableKyle Harrison Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A