The Wind of Lonely Places
Floating down through a dark space, twisting amid a whorl of pale fires, falling, falling, faster now, weight returns, and momentum, and speed...an instant of vertigo as the world goes grey, and the fires flee away...he bruises his shoulder against a tree trunk, narrowly misses colliding with another. He ducks a low-hanging limb, whips through empty space off of the ramp of a snowbound root. He flies among the trees, spurred to insane risks by the howling at his back, the mad, hating presence. The terrain is suddenly familiar. As if summoned by recognition, the Blood Rock appears. He wrenches his skis around, digs with the edges, skids to the brink. He turns, snarling, lifts his poles into line with the thing bearing down on him, couches the handles against his palms. The thing is a rotted, tattered caricature of the human form, its hair matted and verminous, claws dripping, skin mottled with decay. The eyes run with ichor, the ragged lips peel away from broken, yellowed fangs. Worse is its familiarity, its blasphemous echo of a cherished face... He tries to take its rush at an angle, but there is no time. It strikes, and they go over the edge together, grappling. He tries to swing it under so that it will take the shock of the landing, does not know if he will make it in time. He glimpses a kaleidoscope of fangs: fangs that tear at his throat, fangs gleaming in the hurtling form of a leaping dog, and the fangs of broken rocks that rush suddenly very close.