The moon shone like a blade frozen in blue ice. And as the final wisps of cloud faded away, so did Sam’s self-confidence. She had failed. James was right. There was nothing she could do to save him. Sam felt like lying down in the snow, letting the cold blanket her. Giving up. But no, she could not give in to despair. She had to keep trying. Sam drew a shuddering breath.
“Which way?” The witch lifted the amulet. It began to glow, then lifted up and pointed towards a forest, a dark mark on the pristine landscape.
They walked in silence, the amulet casting a sickly green glow on their faces. And as they began picking their way through the line of trees, they heard a howl. It tore through the icy silence, eerie and unearthly. Sam’s heart caught in her throat, but she quickened her pace. That sound had come from nearby.
As they reached the edge of a clearing, the amulet stopped glowing and fell back against the old woman’s wrist. She grabbed Sam’s arm and motioned for her to be quiet. They had found him. Sam crouched down and peered through the thick undergrowth. The sight made her eyes widen, and she had to clamp her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming.
The creature was at least eight feet tall and heavily built. Its dark fur was long and thick, and its sharp teeth glinted in the moonlight. Sam could see the remains of what had been clothes scattered on the ground and twisted into its fur. She had not expected anything so large, so grotesque.
The witch muttered something under her breath and disappeared. Seconds later, Samantha could hear the crunch of boots on snow as she approached the creature. Its head turned toward the sound, and the noise stopped. After a few seconds it turned away and Sam remembered to breath. Why was she so afraid? Perhaps, Sam thought, she was in over her head. No, no, everything was under control. The witch would do the spell now that she was close enough, and everything would go back to the way it used to be. She could hear James’ laughter now, feel his breath on her neck-
The creature lifted its head and breathed in deeply. Then its head turned toward the spot where the witch’s footprints ended. Too late, Sam realized that the creature had caught the woman’s scent.
It leaped, and the witch, startled into visibility, tumbled to the ground. She got up and tried to cast a spell, but a powerful backhand sent her flying into a tree. Sam found herself running toward the creature. She wasn’t sure what to do, but she knew that she had to do something.
“Stop!” she cried, waving her arms, her breath steaming the air. The animal looked at her, then at its prey. Deciding that the new threat was more important, it charged at Sam. She reached into her coat pocket, pulling out a case. Maybe with a few needles she could-
She was knocked to the ground, and the needles were scattered into the snow. The beast was on top of her. Sam could feel its claws digging into her shoulders, could feel the blood trickle down and soak into her clothes. Her mind was frozen with fear, and she could only manage one word.
For a second, Samantha thought she saw a look of confusion flash across the creature’s face. Then it lunged.
There was a bang and a flash of bright light. The animal’s back arched, and it let out a pained cry. Then it fell backward onto the snow and lay still. Samantha sat there, frozen. The witch was holding a faintly glowing charm, and blood flowed freely from a cut on the side of her face. Sam stood stiffly, and walked over to where the beast lay. Its eyes were dull and glazed.
“What have you done?” Sam said breathlessly. Then, turning to the witch, she screamed.
“What have you done!?”
“He was going to kill you, kill both of us. I did what had to be done.”
Sam turned back to the body and as she watched it began to transform. The claws began to retreat, the limbs began to shrink, the dark fur disappearing. Sam brushed the hair away from James’ eyes, and putting her head down on his chest, she wept bitterly.
The train’s mournful whistle pierced the night air.