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Michael woke up on Christmas morning, completely naked and in a snow-crushed forest. The pines towered over him. Seemingly millions of dark green monoliths surrounding him, almost like a mob. The sky scratched dandruff onto the slab of green as he came to his senses. He had no bruises, no scrapes, nothing. He was perfectly fine. He also lacked any article of clothing, any way of keeping him warm. On all fours, struggling to escape the white cement, he felt nothing but pain. Like ants digging out of each and every pore, ripping holes in his nerves. He screamed an animalistic howl. He had no memory of being kidnapped, or even the events that lead up to this situation. He had under an hour to make it home, wherever home was.

It was night. The midnight blue formed a sea for scattered stars. His face was a burning red. His ears were numb with cold, and he could hardly stand. No animals were in view, but no people, either. He willed himself to his feet, immediately vomiting over himself and the beautiful snow banks. His nostrils, burning and frozen near-shut, still gave shelter to the stench of bile and half-digested ham. He threw up until he pulled muscles in his neck and upper back. He had been awake two minutes, but he didn't know how little time he had left. He didn't know much, still shaking from shock. The wind pulled is hair to each side as he held back last night's meal. 

The meal, oddly enough, was his last memory. Ham, squash, four types of potatoes (his wife absolutely adored them), and corn, just to paint a picture. It was, well, a picturesque family meal. Elderly grandparents, a loving wife (beautiful beyond description), a son, a daughter, and a greedy yellow lab, begging for a taste of ham. He, himself, dented most of the ham, but was too full for most of the potatoes. His wife, a caring blonde named Shannon, unleashed a begin that sized wine bottle on the table. It rivalled the son in height, and strained the leaf of the table it sat on. The wine danced into Michael's best wine glass. That glass birthed another, which morphed into a third. The third hulked into after-dinner scotch, which Mike fumbled into a cracked glass. He went blank after that. Next thing he knew he was frozen by his own meal the next morning. 

Seven minutes had gone by. Mike, feeling drunk and hungover at once, couldn't tell. After focusing hard on making sense of it all, he thought he could see the top of his house in the distance. They had just purchased a perfect, secluded home at the mouth of a dense forest. He wasn't familiar with the land, but he did notice an old treehouse he recognized. It was well beyond repair. Nobody had used it for at least a decade, and dead raccoon carcasses were strewn throughout the two-by-four living room floor. The golden paint job looked massacred by time and the environment. Bear scratches were plastered along the walls. It was also about ten minutes out from Mike's home, which he clicked in to. 

His feet were stabbed by snow as he stomped his way forward, stopping only once to dry heave over a bush. His stomach went up in flames, and he almost passed out. As he shivered, he scanned the emerald wall before him. Half-blind, he froze as he tried to make out, what to him was, a blotch of red. It was like one brick in the wall hadn't been lathered in green. As he tip toed forward, the brick did too. Rubbing his eyes, he re-focused his vision. The clouds masked any sun that was coming up, and Mile froze in his tracks. 

About twenty feet in front of him was another man. All flesh he had had been impossibly peeled away, leaving a mass of bone and muscles. The maroon man stood, almost copying Mike, his outer muscle twitching and writhing. Drops of blood leaked from his body, leaving bullet points in the snow. The cold, speaking of, seemingly didn't bother him, or it. His face was a Munch masterpiece, a mangled mess of a human that looked as if in a constant shriek. 

Mike panicked, primal fear taking over. He tried to sprint to his house, but ended up tripping over his numbing feet. His head pounded, making basic thoughts hard to understand. In his haze, he watched the beast dash, right towards his house. It was then that Mike had noticed some marks on him. He had dried blood, in the shape of hand prints, on his calfs. He stood up, confused as ever, but worried. What happened to his family, do they know that he's missing? The maroon man became enveloped in the trees, and Mike was alone again. It had been 15 minutes since he had woken up, and he was trembling. Each step nearly snapped his leg into pieces, his feet wandering all over the place as he attempted a dash to the house. The army of clouds marched on and turned the sky dark grey. Mike couldn't shake the image of the man out of his head. It was all his stupor allowed him to think about.

His memory, seemingly triggered by the mass of muscle, leaked through his consciousness. He remembered bits of broken memories. The grandparents left after supper, that he knew. He got t-boned by visions of crying kids, more scotch, and a barking dog. The dog, probably his dog, seemed more a wolf. A wolf, feral and loyal, chasing after something. After another minute of his trek, he saw flashes of complete red. Not a whole image, but parts of one. The fact that it was a similar colour to the monster made him go faster. The fact that his feet had forgotten to feel also helped.

He flew, a hero on a mission, determined to make it out of the pines. He had also noticed bloody footprints on the edge of his path. Not his own, as his feet were fine. They trailed from the house, into the woods, and back along the trees in the other direction. He followed them, and escaped the woods. He folded in front of his castle, weeping to himself. He smelled. The vomit had latched onto him. He scratched at it, but nothing helped. His migraine only made him bawl more, as he started to shake intensely. He convulsed, the mist of confusion coming back with every other second. As he crawled over each step up into his doorway, following the monster's trail, he crossed twenty minutes of being out in the cold. 

He stood up in front of the entrance, slurred some garble, and fell through the door. The crash echoed throughout the house. He broke some fingers in the fall, but couldn't really tell. The cracking of the door deafened him to his splintering fingers. His ring finger, bent 90 degrees left, dangled from his hand like a man off a cliff. His gold band eventually slipped off the work of broken bone, hiding itself under the rubble. 

"Shannon?!" Mike called. No response. He was greeted in his own house by a wreath. Flowers, like droplets of blood, were shot through a green ring. It sort of held onto the stone wall for dear life, before Mike used it to stand and it fell to the floor. The maroon figure still hadn't left his mind. Creaking footsteps from directly above him confirmed that it was in the house. 

"Shannon?! I'm... b-b... I'm okay..." His words disappeared and he sleepwalked onward. Each breath of his was like his footsteps, sparse and sloppy. He mumbled and groaned as he progressively explored the car crash of his house. He wanted to look away from the apparent destruction, but he just couldn't. The curtains were mangled and torn. The dinner table was covered in the remnants of a broken scotch bottle. The liquor formed a stream that became a water fall at the table's edge. The dining room and kitchen were a mess. Broken plates, sprawled out utensils. The ham littered the floor in bits, smothered in scallop, mashed, and backed potato bits, with skins still in the Tupperware, but tipped upside down on the table.

Only a horror movie beast could be so ruthless, so careless. He limped to the living room, and, after accidentally rolling his ankle, he feel to his knees and let out a broken cry. The lab was not alive. He hadn't been torn apart by the supposed cryptid, but beaten. Mike couldn't make out the exact details. He drifted between sleep and being awake, not making out most of his companion's body. He fell on it, wanting so badly to rest. A furious fatigue had rained on him, and he could hardly take it. He wasn't cold anymore, which he thanked God for. In fact, he was rather warm and comfortable. The fireplace had long since been murdered. A few, quarter-burnt logs were draped on the couch. Not even the decorated tree was intact, having been snapped into a multitude of pieces and dumped before the TV. A scream from upstairs woke him slightly and took him to his feet, though he slouched until he was on the cusp of falling on his face. The shattered home seemed but an ignorable background by now. He couldn't see much as he pulled himself from wall to wall, and up the stairs. He did see those damned footprints, which were fresh.

He stepped over a mountain of thrown family pictures. One nail had been yanked with a photo of them from the Easter prior. It stood, alerted of Mike's presence, and swiftly pierced the sole of his foot. It dug in all the way, not that Mike could feel it. The tip broke through the other end more and more with each motion. He stared at the slightly-opened doorway to his and his wife's bedroom at the very end of the hall. He didn't want to go further but a whimpering kept him going. He walked three more paces before his rolled ankle gave out on him, and he fell sideways through a small drawer. Propping himself up, his eyes began to slowly roll into the back of his head. He sputtered incoherent syllables. He could hear his bedroom door creak ever so slightly, but couldn't see it. The door eventually flung open and met the wall loud enough that Mike could imagine what that collision looked like. His hand, the one with the broken ring finger, halfheartedly snagged a leg from the drawer's remains. Mushy footsteps grew closer to him, and he began to swing wildly. Eventually, he slapped something to his right. 

"Hello." A minute voice chirped.

"F-fuck... fuck..." He was lost. He didn't feel frozen, but he barely clung to his life.

"Hello."

"Mike!!!" Another voice ran through the hall from the bedroom. It sounded like Shannon.

In response, the previously quiet voice let out a gargling screech, silencing Shannon. Mike felt the leg get ripped from his limp hand, and heard it get tossed into an adjacent room. A wet, slimy hand took hold of Mike's arm and began pulling. The grip was like a vice, as the maroon hand slipped easily. It was warm, and various muscles spasmed from time to time. Mike got slung into his bedroom, cracking his head off the corner of a bed. He could hear his daughter weep behind where the beast had sprawled him out. It jerked and broke out into flailing motions, tearing down blinds and putting a hole into the wall, still made up of cold stones. 

Mike's clothing was scattered around the room. A pile of dress shirts covered a small lump in the corner, by his dresser. Mike couldn't tell for sure what was under there, but he swore he saw toes sticking out of one side. The maroon man made its way over to Mike. It did nothing but stand over his broken image and stare. Mike's daughter kept crying. He could barely make out Shannon's heavy breathing. She was on the bed, but Mike was unable to stand, let alone get on the bed. 

After a few minutes, the monster bent over and rummaged through some of Mike's sweaters. It pulled out Shannon's ginormous wine bottle, now half empty, and chugged it. It then propped mike against the bed and put its blood soak face up to Mike's. Its breath was as bad as the vomit. It was toxic, and brought forth inaudible combinations of loud vowels and consonants. It sniffed him, it even picked at the scabby throw-up on his frost-bitten chest. Mike could catch a good look at his daughter, bruised and balling quietly. The monster seemed more invested in Mike than the others. 

"Why... why, Dad..." she whimpered. 

"Hello." The monster responded, seemingly calmly, but loud enough to hurt her ears. It couldn't break its glare from Mike. It acted almost like they had some connection. Any head swivel Mike's battered body made, the maroon man copied it. 

"Fuck you..." Mike whispered as loud as possible. The beast, still calm, turned around and screamed the same curse right into Mike's daughter's face. She made an attempt to run, but got picked up by the monster with ease. She whaled like a wounded animal, before the beast threw her aside into Mike's desk. Mike watched as she didn't get up, being smothered by some papers from his work.

As the beast was distracted by the mess it had made, Mike used what upper body strength left to throw himself on his bed. He peered out the window from the sheets, witnessing a wall of pure white. Hugged by a sleep, he began to close his eyes. In the background he could hear the man pick up the bottle of wine.

"Mikey... oh God!" Shannon yelped only seconds before Mike felt the impact of the wretch smashing the bottle over her face. The glass flurried over Mike's head, a river of something pooling at his back. His mind shut down as he counted the billions of snowflakes that fell outside, the monster still destroying his room. His eyes rolled far back into his head. To anyone, he'd seem dead. Low pulse, shallow breathing, and covered in several people's blood. He was still alive, but with no sign of help, he might as well had died, frozen stiff in a snowbank, if the maroon man wouldn't leave his side. ____________________________

Devan's ears rang from the thumping hip hop blaring throughout his townhouse. He had just finished his last exam and invited some friends over to celebrate. He was the support for two of his friends who were drunkenly making out against him. Something called to him in the kitchen, which hid down the hall. 

"Sup, bud," One of his friends walked in, "Doin' shots, wanna come?"

Devan had been sober for three months. The last drink he had was one of the factors that tore his relationship apart. He felt stronger without a drink, more protected. But, he hated not being just a little loose at his own party. The music was too loud, everybody smelled, and one guy had just puked in his backyard.

"Um, yeah sure, why not." He shrugged, chuckling all the way to the kitchen. He put back three buckets of rum, just to start him off. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad night.

His house rested in a relatively quiet neighbourhood. The street was lined with student houses, as it was a few blocks away from the town's only university. The muffled bass from the party house seemed to be the only noise on the whole street. It wasn't, however. It masked the rapid pitter patter of a maroon-coloured figured, sprinting down the street towards the house.

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