Spider threads caught at her face, a sign that no-one had been there yet. This was no place to be at all – in the middle of a cold and dark forest – but it seemed to be the only refuge that Rylie could find, at least until the sun rose again.
She spent the most part of the day walking along the dirt path. It was her hope that she would have chanced upon anybody in the forest, but she did not. She ate as little as she could from her backpack as she had no idea how long before she would find a town. Things would have been a lot easier if she had not lost her map.
Rylie closed the wooden door behind her. The hut was dark. She turned on her torch and shone it around the room. Apart from a wooden table and two chairs at the longer wall across the door, the hut was empty. Spider webs hung from corners and along the wooden walls. A simple beam structure above her head seems to be stable enough to inhabit the hut. Rylie thought about lighting a fire in the middle of the room, but its dry wooden floor could potentially be an undesired source of fire.
The hut seemed safe to stay for the night. Rylie positioned herself in the middle of the room as far away as possible from the cold that was creeping in through the walls and closed windows. She opened her bag and brought out a sleeping bag, unrolled it on the floor, and tucked herself in. Everything else stayed in her bag so that in the event of an emergency, she would have been able to pack quickly and evacuate. Apart from that, there was nothing left for her to do except to have the night pass as soon as possible, so that she can continue her way eastward again, wherever that may take her.
At least an hour had passed before Rylie stirred awake. Still inside her closed up sleeping bag, all she saw was darkness. Her body warmth remained tightly kept in the bag, which gave her a sense of comfort and safety, however something had stirred Rylie awake. She could not tell what it was, so she curiously peaked out of her bag. By this time, her eyes had adjusted quite well to the dark, and she could see sufficiently in the dark room. Everything looked just as it was – empty and still. She looked up the ceiling and could not see beyond a certain space above the simple beam. Was something there? Rylie’s hand reached for her torch but she hesitated whether she wanted to shine into the darkness. What would she see in there? A chill shot up her spine as her imagination took over. Would a pair of red eyes stare out from the darkened world up there? Would her torch reveal a hideous face with sharp teeth baring down on her?
Rylie had no idea how long had passed as she stared into the dark. She thought she saw movement, but it was very much more likely a trick in her vision after staring at a spot for too long. Her torch remained tight in her clammy hands. No she was not shivering, not yet, but she was undeniably afraid.
And there it was, a sound. A sound from above the beam where Rylie’s eyes could not see. It sounded like a croak, except that it stretched a little longer than what a frog would have made. Or could it have been the starting sound of a growl? A frightening cold gripped Rylie. She could not tell if it was the cold from the temperature in the room, or the cold from blood flowing away from her face. But Rylie knew, she was scared. She tightened her grip on the torchlight, not sure if the torchlight would become more of a help to see better, or it could be her only makeshift weapon against what might suddenly drop itself onto her at any minute. Or second.
Then there was the unmistakable sound of scratching. A creature must be up above the beam, walking about with its claws lightly digging in on the wood to keep itself from falling. It could also be positioning itself before making a leap downwards onto Rylie. What creature was up there right now? Was it docile? Was it hostile? Was it hungry?
Rylie tried to be as quiet as possible as she slowly brought her torch through the opening of the bag where her frightened eyes were peering out of. Her entire body was still inside the bag so she wondered that if the creature were to drop on top of her, she was at least, still protected in some way. She had to find out what was up there. Rylie aimed her torch with her already very cold and shaking hands. Her thumb pressed hard on the torch’s button, and she clicked on it.
White light beamed out of the torch and onto the ceiling. The beam blocked most of the light casting a big shadow on the underside of the roof. There was no further movement because whatever the creature was up there, it was still staring down at her with big eyes and not flinching at the sudden burst of light. Rylie would have screamed, but she did not because what she saw was an unmistakable face of a possum.
Normally, a possum or any animal would have ducked when a sudden beam of light is shone into their eyes. But for some reason, this possum did not. Rylie noticed its whiskers moving frantically, seemingly trying to sense what was going on in the hut. Then she realized that the possum’s eyes were cloudy white. The poor animal was blind.
Rylie gave a sigh of relief and affection to this familiar creature. She poked her head out of the bag to give the possum a smile. Oh wait, it would not have mattered because the animal was not able to see. However, what a wonderful sight it was than anything else which would have been as frightening as what Rylie conceived in her mind. She then slid herself out of the bag smiling at the possum, appreciating this little opportunity of affection in her otherwise difficult day.
Her thoughts went to the possum. How did the poor blind animal survive this harsh forest? It would have been very difficult to look for food without the sense of sight. With no one to look after it, the possum’s will to survive must have been very strong. Pity overwhelmed Rylie, so she reached for her bag to take out some rations to feed the curious animal. It was just then did she catch a shadow at the corner of her eye.
That same frightening chill returned. Rylie turned slowly to a corner of the room and once again heard that low beginnings of a growl. There stood a creature the size of a large dog with small but burning red eyes, a gaping mouth and sharp teeth. Long fur or hair hung from all over its body. It seemed to bear the scent of the forest, and which was probably why Rylie did not sense another presence in the room. But now she did, an unmistakable and unidentifiable abomination in the room with her.
No one could hear Rylie’s scream. She was in the middle of nowhere. The possum would have been the only witness of what occurred right after that, but it was as blind and silent as the spider-webs that greeted Rylie when she arrived.