The Festivities of Morkwood: 21st December

It’s an odd feeling, to suspect your own relative of being shtriga.

I thought about nothing else all night. As a product of Morkwood’s superstitions, part of me genuinely believes Aunt Iris rose from the dead and left me that note. I grew up on stories of mothers finding nothing but droplets of blood in their baby’s cribs, and of villagers making pacts with the devil by offering their firstborn to the shtriga. It’s hard to separate myself from that.

As a teenager, I provoked and tested the fears I had been brought up with by going into the woods late at night with friends, carving symbols into trees and calling upon the evil spirits to show themselves. Nothing happened, so I came to the conclusion that it was all nonsense. And I had continued believing that into adulthood.

For the most part. But there was always doubt.

The piece of paper is still in my bag. It is real. But how did it get in here, if not by forces unknown?

I’m only given one meal a day in here. Milk and cold vegetable stew. It makes me nauseous – I can feel the thick white liquid and brown mush curdling inside of me. I feel weak and my mind drifts from one thing to the next, never quite able to grab hold of any thought long enough to properly contemplate what’s going on, or what to do.

It’s also getting increasingly difficult to tell my dreams apart from my wandering imagination. Or what has happened from what I want to happen. Or where I want to be, from where I actually am.

I took the handkerchief off my thumb. It’s red and swollen and sore, but it doesn’t hurt as much as it did yesterday. I ripped one of the sleeves off a clean t-shirt from my bag and rewrapped the wound. I have to keep it clean. God knows what’s in this shed. I wish they would give me water so I can wash it.

I want to sleep all the time. But I can’t sleep.

I’m going to die in here.

I must have dozed. A few minutes? A few hours? I don’t know, but it was a knock on the door that woke me up.

Or had I imagined it?

No. The knocking continued. Slow and deliberate.

I crawled over to the door. My mind was too foggy to stand, and I didn’t trust my legs to support me.

I peered through the crack in the wood. I could see the guard, and he was facing the opposite direction, but his hand was behind his back, knocking on the door.

“Hello?” I whispered, my voice cracking.

He stopped knocking.

After a short pause, he spoke very, very quietly. “Tomorrow.”

“What’s tomorrow?”

“Be ready.”

“Ready for what? What do I need to do?”

But he didn’t respond, and his hand slowly returned to his side.

I had my doubts, but now I’m certain. My aunt must have possessed the guard – she had spoken to me through him.

She’s coming for me tomorrow. She’s coming to save me.

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