Snow Angel

The woman in the large red anorak was fifteen feet behind the monster and gaining. The monster was a large thing with huge limbs that flailed as it ran. It was coated in long yellow fur thickly layered over pink skin. Its face was a broad, flat horror show of wrinkled flesh, horrid teeth, flared nostrils like bullet wounds and large red eyes with deep black centers which were now wild with panic. The creature's hide was mottled and splotched with still-flowing blood coming from the wound made by the arrow sticking out of its lower back.

Were she not chasing a foul creature who had recently changed its diet from caribou to small Inuit children, the woman might have noticed the beauty of the landscape that was hosting this daring chase. The pursuer and the pursued had just torn past the tree line, climbing higher and higher up Mt. Anirniit. The woman knew that if she gave the creature even the slightest advantage it could disappear into any number of caves or tunnels that ran through these mountains. The creature had home field advantage, but the woman was determined to show no mercy.

The creature zigged and zagged with wild abandon, not thinking, only trying to shake the dogged pursuer. The ground was hard and slick from a recent cold snap, and footing was difficult. The creature saw a rise on the distance and made a break for it, hoping that the other side held a slope that would give a moment's respite in a quick slide and maybe even a hiding place.

No such luck. Leaping over the rise, the creature slid a mere twelve feet into a dead end of high walls of ice and rock. The creature stood on its hind legs, its claws searching for some purchase in the rock, some means of escape, but meeting only with slick, unforgiving surfaces. The creature turned around to gauge the possibility of retreat, only to see the woman climb over the rise.

The two stared at each other for a moment. The woman had the sun at her back and new the advantage it gave her. The creature saw only a vague, dark outline of the woman, but it was enough. The creature expanded itself as much as it could, spreading out its limbs and reaching up to its fullest height, then let out a bellow. The woman was unshaken, and with one fluid motion of ease and grace readied her bow, reached into her quiver for an arrow, readied and fired.

The arrow struck the creature above its right breast. The bellow turned into a howl of pain so forceful the woman staggered back a step. She heard the howl echo throughout the many caverns, valleys and walls of the mountain range. Then she heard something else. It was a low rumble that grew louder. It came from a new, unsettled snow fresh from last week's flash blizzard. It came from an onslaught of snow and ice rushing down from the mountain's peak heading directly towards the two combatants.

Briefly distracted by the sound of encroaching danger, the woman and the creature stared at each other again. The panic in the creature's eyes had turned into the narrow focus of desperation and survival instinct. There was only one way out and it was through the woman. She saw this and new that there was no time for another arrow. She dropped the bow and had barely enough time to unsheathe her bowie knife before the creature barreled over her. The force of the impact as beast hit woman threw the woman down the other side of the rise.

Flat on her back the woman saw the creature heading towards her, then past her as it tried to outrun the force of nature coming down from the mountain. As the animal's hind legs passed her she struck out with the knife, digging it deep into the thick meat and muscle of the creature's leg. The creature let out another howl of pain and rage. It forced itself to continue moving forward, but the woman held fast onto the knife, allowing herself to be dragged behind the creature. After a few paces the animal tired of the extra weight and the pain of the knife's serrated edges cutting an increasingly longer gash into its leg. It was time to be done with this.

The creature stopped and turned back towards the woman. He lifted his leg and kicked backwards, its heavy paw connecting with the woman's face, shaking her loose. The creature rose up and bore its teeth. Its fur stood on end. The woman crouched low and prepared for battle.

The creature swung first, a mighty, lumbering blow that the woman easily dodged. She tucked herself into a ball and rolled by the creature's foot, retrieving her knife by extracting it painfully from the monster's hind leg. The monster continued the momentum of its first strike into a complete circle and came around to land a fierce blow against the woman, throwing her off her feet and sending her sprawling. She hopped back up to her feet, but the blow had caused her to lose the bowie knife. She took an arrow from her quiver, figuring that if nothing else if the beast got close enough she could jam the stone tip into its eye. If she jammed it hard enough, she could possibly hit brain.

As the woman assessed the situation, she only then noticed that the rumbling was now an almost deafening roar. She looked past the creature who was positioned up mountain from her and saw behind it a rushing onslaught of white. Within her brain she felt her fight or flight instincts wrestle with themselves, arguing whether to go for the death strike now that it was just her and the beast, or leave it up to nature and run while she still could. She decided to run, figuring that the creature's injuries would surely diminish any chance of surviving an avalanche. Now all she would have to do is survive it herself. She turned and fled.

As she ran she could hear the creature running behind her, panting and growling, its massive form beating a tattoo into the earth as it ran. Then she couldn't hear the creature any longer. She didn't want to look behind her, she knew it was a bad idea to look behind her, but she felt the pinch in the back of her neck urging her to turn, and so she did. Behind her she saw the creature stretched out flat, riding the front of the avalanche like a belly surfer. The creature had its eyes set on the woman and was directing itself towards her on a wave of white.

She knew it was over the minute she turned around. Her chances had been slim to begin with, but the look back had broken her pace and the snow tide was almost on her, as was the creature using it as a shuttle to overtake her. She had maybe twenty yards before she was caught. If this is the way it was going to be, she wasn't running any more. She turned around and faced the avalanche.

The beast was surprised to see her stop, and even more surprised to see her run towards him. It quelled the surprise quickly and bore its teeth, readied its claws. The woman leapt into the air. At the top of her arch she reached into the bag on her side with her climbing gear and pulled out a spike. She landed on the creature's back. The creature turned its head around and snapped its jaws at the woman. When its mouth was wide open to woman shoved the spike inside so it propped open the creature's mouth. For a moment the creature was baffled and panicked, unable to close its mouth or remove the spike from its position. Then it looked at the woman with resiliency in its eyes. It clamped down its jaws with such force that the spike broke through the bottom of its jaw. Now it was the woman's turn to panic.

The creature contorted its body to get at the woman, and its change in surface area broke its position at the head of the avalanche and caused the woman and the creature to be swept over by snow. The woman tossed and toppled in the snow, flailing her arms and legs, attempting to both stay close to the top of the drift and keep loose space and air around her. Finally the snow had washed over them both, covering them in cold, wet whiteness. The woman felt the snow pushing on her from all directions and she felt her mind get thrown by being unable to tell which way was up. Then she remembered a trick the natives had told her. Please let me be right-side up, she thought, as she let loose her bladder. No such luck, as the urine worked its warm trail up her body, past her waste and then she felt her shirt begin to soak. At least she new which way was up. She clawed at the snow until she had righted herself and then worked her way up.

She was relieved to the point of tears when only a few minutes later she broke the surface and crawled out of her premature burial. She sat and took a moment to collect herself. Looking around she saw the slope of the avalanche. It had ended slightly below the tree line. She thanked the heavens that she hadn't run into a tree, seeing some of them that had been overtaken by the avalanche bent by its force, their tops sticking out of the snow at awkward angles.

She stood up and shook herself off. After a moment of taking in the surroundings she had oriented herself and readied for the trip back to town. She leaned against a tree nearby and wondered if there would be anything edible nearby, as she'd lost everything in the events of the day. She heard something first, a rumbling, then felt that the tree was shaking. Then the ground beneath her was shaking. Then there was no ground beneath her. It was pulled aside as the creature pulled itself through the snow, climbing the tree up through the snow.

The woman found herself standing for a brief moment with one foot on the animal's head, the other on its shoulder. The creature looked up and roared at the woman, pulling itself harder and faster out of the snow that surrounded it. The woman jumped onto the tree and shuffled up it with expert ease. She was only about twelve feet above the new ground the creature was pulling itself out of. It would be fully emerged in only a moment. She felt her jacket and pants, hoping for some lost or forgotten item that could possibly be used for a weapon. All she found was some jerky, which would have solved her problem of a moment ago, but was useless now. The creature could certainly climb up the tree after her. If not it could probably just knock the damn thing down. She reached up to the branch above her to see if she could pull herself up any further, but the branch broke off in her hand when she put her weight on it. She held the branch in her hand and looked down the tree.

At the bottom the creature was loosed from the snow. It looked up at the woman and smiled, the bottom of the climbing spike still sticking out of its lower jaw, looking like a strange goatee. It knew that it had her. It made a lazy swipe up at her feet, which she pulled up and avoided the claws by inches. The beast looked up, beat its chest violently and let out a roar of triumph, loud and long. The woman looked down at the creature, filled with a boiling anger that this stupid, brutish beast would overcome her. She was better than this. She shouldn't die this way, with this crude mistake of nature chewing on her flesh that had bathed on some of the most exclusive beaches in the world, tearing at muscle that had defeated some of the greatest fighters alive, swallowing a mind that had made a small fortune hustling chess amongst some of the great military strategists of the age. She grabbed the branch with both hands until she heard the bark crunch, then she bared her own teeth and let out her own roar, a sound of rage and frustration so strong it shook the tree she sat in.

The creature stopped. It looked up at her with confusion. It had obviously won, and yet this pitiful little animal was roaring back? Offering some sort of challenge? The creature enjoyed supplication in its victories, and would certainly not allow this one to be an exception. The creature stood on its hind legs and put its front paws on the tree. It looked up at the woman and let out another mighty roar. It shook the tree with its paws, nearly unseating the woman from her branch. She put one arm around the trunk to steady herself, keeping the broken branch in the other. She looked down at the animal shaking the tree, into its massive open jaws, filled with saliva and teeth. The creature stopped its display of dominance and looked up at the woman in the tree.

The woman was smiling.

"RAAAAAAAAARRRRRR!!!!!" said the woman, bouncing her butt up and down on while holding the broken branch above her head, shaking it triumphantly. "RAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!!!!"

The creature could not believe the arrogance of this mite, this miniscule morsel, this beaten little thing. It would have her trembling if it had to roar so loudly it burst the cursed thing's eardrums. The creature reared back, opened its mouth and set itself to show this troublemaker who ran things around here.

But there was no roar to come. As soon as the creature had opened its mouth the woman had thrust the tree branch into its throat. The creature looked up at the woman, its jaw held comically open. No forcing this through its lower jaw. No biting through. No escape. Its eyes connected with hers. She wanted to discover exactly what was there in that moment. Fear? Resentment? Anger? She believed there was perhaps some pleading in those eyes, some attempt to call for mercy. Something, she imagined, like what had been in the eyes of the Inuit children it had stolen from their mothers for over a month now. She hoped this was there, and she hoped her eyes had the same cold, merciless stare it had inevitably given those children back. She pushed the tree branch further, down into the throat of the monster. Its neck expanded to an unnatural width. Its claws grabbed at the branch, trying to gain some sort of hold and failing. Blood began to pour from the side of the animal's mouth. The woman wrapped her arms around the branch and jumped out of the tree, putting all her weight into the final downward push. The branch slid further into the creature, past the throat, down into its torso. The woman let go of the branch and fell to the ground. She looked at the creature, which was now sitting on the ground, quite straight, its head looking up into the sky and only a couple feet of branch extruding from its mouth. The creature's body let out a small series of shutters and shakes, then was still.

The woman stood up. She'd have to move fast if she was to make it back to civilization before dark. She took out the jerky package from her anorak, released the zip-locked seal and bit off a chunk, chewing it for a moment, relishing the flavor. She looked back at the creature for a moment. She took the rest of the jerky out of the package and put it into one of the anorak's pockets. Returning to the creature she looked at its stiff, lifeless form. Taking off one of her gloves she flexed her fingers for a moment to regain dexterity, then quickly plucked out both of the creature's cold, dead eyes and put them in the bag.

"A little something to remember you by," she said, then sealed the bag and stuck it into her pocket. Town was about seven miles west, and if she hustled she could get back before the boys had left the local tavern for the night. She had a story to tell, and damn if it wasn't a good one. She figured it would be well worth a pint or two.

Jake Thomas

Story Writer. Marvel Comics Editor. Wrangler of Squids.