Seth sat by a fire in a warm oak cabin, thinking of how cold Winter could be. Winter, meanwhile, was doing her best to make sure the monster at their door stayed on the other side of it.
“Hey, Winter…” Seth began. “I’m sorry for all this.”
“Stop talking.” Winter commanded, impatient and working to listen for any sign of the beast hunting them.
Seth considered asking her to be a little nicer… again. It wouldn’t work if he did, and he knew that. He continued to tremble, hoping for one last pleasant conversation before his limbs were torn off, or his throat cut, or-
Seth took a deep breath in, trying to remain calm. “You don’t have to be so mean.” he said.
Winter was silent as she continued hammering wooden boards over the doors and windows, blacking out all light except for a dim glowing fire, and the old oil lamps that burned above their heads.
Winter worked fast, much faster than Seth would have, and as she secured the last board over the last window, they were sealed in. She handed the hammer she had been using to Seth without a word, and sat down on the floor with her legs crossed and eyes shut.
“What is it?” Seth asked.
“I don’t know.” Winter said. It seemed he was dead set on interrupting her every activity today.
“I’ve come to these mountains a hundred times, and nothing like this has ever happened. We’ve seen bears before; are we sure it isn’t a bear?”
Winter glared harder, reminding Seth that she hadn’t yet learned what it was since the last time he asked.
“What if it can break those? Are the boards strong enough?”
The boards answered Seth’s question themselves by shattering into splinters as the door crashed down, broken off its’ hinges. The bright entrance slowly grew darker as it was occupied by… by what?
At first, Seth thought it really was a bear. He would’ve looked closer, had he not been more occupied with running for his life. Winter couldn’t identify the creature either- a first for her. She watched the beast move further in, trying to look for any distinguishing features.
“Get in the kitchen!” Winter shouted, unaware Seth was already there, debating between hiding under the sink or cramming himself in the cabinetry. After considering both options, he decided instead to pry the boards from the nearest window, and do his best to escape.
“Way ahead of you! What is that thing?” Seth strained, working to find any leverage on the wood with the hammer Winter had given him.
The shadowed beast joined the conversation with a roar that echoed off the walls, shaking the entire cabin. Winter kept a few steps back, still trying in vain to see what was upon them.
“Winter! What the hell are we dealing with?” Seth said, stumbling back as he managed to pry the first of three boards off the kitchen window. Still not a large enough gap to squeeze through, he resumed work. “Bear? Wolf? Moose?”
As Seth listed possibilities, the beast seem to strain against itself, now unable to move. It shook, making horrendous noise as newfound, sharpened claws forced their way from its’ paws. It wailed while antlers grew out of it’s forehead, piercing the skin and growing at an impossible speed. The beast whimpered as it looked to the floor, trying to fight back the pain.
Winter knew what it was.
“Stop talking!” Winter yelled without removing her eyes from the writhing creature.
“Winter, for the love of God, I’d really like to know what we’re dealing with!” Seth said with an edge in his voice, struggling to make any progress on the remaining boards. “What is it?!”
“It’s a tulpa!” Winter shouted.
“A tul- a what?” Seth shouted back.
“It’s a mental fiend, a creature that only exists because you think it does!” Winter said, with a twinge of pride in her voice for figuring it out.
Seth, as if he forgot the monster was ever there to begin with, stepped back from the window and turned to look at Winter. He took a moment to speak, still turning her the words over in his head until he was sure that he had heard her correctly. Unaware if this was a joke with bad timing or earnest statement, he slowly asked, “Are… are you serious?”
Tulpa or not, it roared again, continuing to move towards the two. Winter flipped a plush couch over, working to blockade the room and protect Seth. She took a few steps back as the monster advanced and called out, “Empty your mind, it’s the only way to stop it!”
“It’s gonna be a little hard to ignore that thing Winter, I’m kinda freaking out!” Seth strained, shocked at how calm Winter seemed to be during all this. Trying to force the thought out of his mind, Seth put his forehead against the cool wooden board and shut his eyes. He took a long breath in and exhaled shakily. Despite his best efforts, he could only think of the beast, sure to dive in at any moment. Pure frustration led to Seth drawing his forehead back a few inches and hammering his own head against the boards in repetition.
Unable to run, he turned and put his back to the window. In front of him, the beast had pushed Winter into the small kitchen now, blocking them in as it struggled to fit through. Winter stayed facing the monster, arms out defensively. Seth’s fingers tightened around the hammer in his hand and he took a small step forward, staring at the impressively huge form clawing towards him. A room’s length away, he still raised the hammer above his head to strike the fiend, inching himself into a fight he couldn’t win.
The beast growled deeply when it noticed Seth’s approach, paralyzing him where he stood. He squinted his eyes, looking for any other routes to take. His eyes perked as a thought came into his head- if he couldn’t empty his head by will, he’d do it by force. “Winter, I figured it out!”
Winter turned just in time to see Seth take the hammer in both hands, lower it with his arms extended, then rush it upwards, hitting himself in the face at full force to knock himself out cold.
Rather than go unconscious, however, Seth instead learned what a railroad spike to the forehead might feel like, and his left brow began bleeding. He groaned and reached a hand up, holding his new self-inflicted wound.
Winter leaned in shocked at what looked like the most idiotic thing she’d ever seen, until she realized what his intentions were. “Back of the head!” she said, turning again to face the monster. Seth slowly moved his hands up again, steadying himself to hit again.
The tulpa drew back for a moment to test its’ footing, and lunged at Winter. Breaking a path for itself, it reached a claw toward her face. Inches before the impact, Seth connected the hammer to the back of his head and crumpled to the floor.
Then it was over.
The massive creature burst into a chilled fog all at once, settling low in the room, and then disappearing without a trace. Winter stayed in a defensive position for a few moments more until she caught her breath. She walked to where Seth was laying on the floor, hoisted him over her shoulders, and walked out into the snow to find help.
On Such A Winter’s Day.
Jeff Vernier is an independent author and creator of Misfit Mementos. Support us on Patreon for extra content, author notes, and behind-the-scenes looks at future projects.