Kaylee peered out the frosted window. Her reflection stared back at her, accentuating her feeling of loneliness. She looked past it, out into the snow covered hills. She’d never known anything else. When she was younger, her mother would tell her stories of the world beyond the hills, scary, horrifying stories. Stories of murder and death. Kaylee had been terrified of leaving her asylum up in the mountains ever since. However, she’d also seen what the frigid winters in the mountains could do to a person. She wondered sometimes if life beyond the hills was easier. There were many hardships to living where they did, and her mother had experienced it first hand.
This winter had been surprisingly harsh. Her mother had been spending more and more time outside, despite Kaylee’s constant pleading for her to stay inside and finally get warm. However, her mother never listened. She kept going out, over and over again. Each time her mother returned inside empty handed, pale-faced, and with the look of someone who had seen a ghost. Only less than a week ago her mother had been outside on one of her long times alone, when it happened.
Kaylee had been inside tending to fire on the hearth. Nothing else seemed to matter, except keeping the dancing flames bright and steady. The warmth of the fire had spread throughout the living room and Kaylee had been thinking about setting a pot of water to boil for tea. She knew her mother would like tea after being out in the cold. However, as Kaylee stood to get the pot from the kitchen, she heard a horrible noise. Kaylee dropped to the floor and covered her ears. The screeching and moaning drifted from the kitchen and living room before suddenly dissipating as quickly and abruptly as it had come. Kaylee sat on the floor shaking uncontrollably. The pot stood still and silently where she had dropped it.
Kaylee didn’t know how long she had been sitting there, but she was jerked out of her fear and thoughts when she heard the door open. Her mother fumbled her way into the house and collapsed on the floor. Kaylee gasped and quickly ran to her mother. Kaylee shut the door and began helping her mother to the bed. Her mother groaned the entire way there.
“Mother? What happened?” Kaylee had asked. Her mother's weak, pale form lay on the bed. Kaylee thought her mother might disintegrate at any moment.
“Don’t worry,” she had said slowly, “it’s just the cold.”
After that, her mother lapsed in and out of consciousness. Then, she stopped gaining consciousness. Kaylee had never mentioned the horrible sounds she had heard floating on the wind, but she knew that whatever had happened to her mother wasn’t a normal cold.
Her mother had been in a coma for two days now. Kaylee knew that she would die of starvation or dehydration soon, but she couldn’t make her eat or drink while she was unconscious. All Kaylee could do was wait. Thankfully, her mother had been training her for sixteen years how to fend for herself. Even as a very small child, she’d been learning everything from her mother. Kaylee could hunt, garden, cook, tan leather, skin animals, and much more. She could do everything she needed to survive, but it would still be much harder without her mother.
Kaylee had no idea what had happened to her mother. She didn’t dare assume that it had anything to do with what she had heard. She prayed that it was only a horrible sickness from the cold, that everything would be okay. However, deep down in her soul, she knew that it simply wasn’t true.
Kaylee snapped back to reality as she heard a noise from the back room where her mother was resting. She jumped from the window and rushed to the back.
“Mother? Mother! Are you awake?” she called as she entered the room.
However, she soon realized that it wasn’t her mother that had made the sound. Kaylee began backing up toward the door. She was about to bolt through the door when she realized that the door, in fact, was now gone. The room was completely sealed, as if there had been no door in the first place. Her mother, and the bed, and all the furnishings, too were gone. Instead, in their place was a single woman. Kaylee gasped and uttered a silent prayer.
The woman in the room with her looked like her mother, but wasn’t her mother. Kaylee had never seen two siblings, but she figured that if her mother had a sister, this woman had to be it. She had the same angled face with dark red lips, but oddly pale skin. Her hair was dark and straight, put up thoughtfully in an elegant braid bun with a small dagger holding it together. The woman stared intensely at Kaylee with her deep brown eyes, examining every part of her closely, with careful consideration. Kaylee tried to move, to back away, anything to get away from this woman scrutinizing her, but she couldn’t move. Every breath was forced and ragged.
“Hush child,” the woman whispered. Her voice floated on the air like a thousand birds chirping a soft song.
As soon as the words reached Kaylee’s ears, she collapsed to the ground and fell into a deep sleep.