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By: Dale Uhlmann

The stomach-churning odor of rotting flesh seared Linda's nostrils as the foul beast cornered the six-year-old child and her companion, Sister Teresa Reid, against the grove of fur trees they had been forced to flee against due to the blizzard-like winds that had suddenly blown up. Though resembling a human being, its gaunt, ashen flesh pulled tautly over its tall, bony frame made the thing look more like a tall, walking skeleton that had just been disinterred. Its horrifying, yellow, glowing eyes, pressed deeply into its bloody sockets, shifted from Linda to Sister Catherine, then back to Linda. It seemed to be deciding which victim would more fully satisfy its hunger. While it was making up its mind, Linda couldn't help but notice the creature's massive, foot-long talons and single-dagger-like nail on each of its huge feet. All of these sharp weapons, Linda knew, would rend one of them-or perhaps even both of them-to pieces.

This was the Wendigo, the monster that her Cree Indian father had told her stories about. The Wendigo, according to the Cree, was a cannibalistic spirit that lived in the wilderness and was perpetually in search of human flesh to satisfy its insatiable hunger. It had been Linda's and Sister Catherine's misfortune to have been separated from the other members of the St. Anne Ontario Orphanage walking party that cold February morning and to have wandered into the creature's territory.

Linda's parents had drowned in a boating accident two years earlier, and she had been placed the orphanage, under the Sisters' supervision. She had found it to be a cold, implacable place. She had been forbidden to speak in her Algonquian Cree dialect, forced to cut her long, black hair short, and ordered to renounce her "heathen" Native American heritage. Among the nuns, the only one who had shown any kindness toward her was a young woman named Sister Catherine Murphy, who taught music at the orphanage. In training the girls' choir, she was struck by Linda's naturally beautiful voice, and encouraged her vocal abilities. They had soon become fast friends.

On that crisp, clear morning, a sudden snowstorm had caught the party by surprise, and forced Linda and Sister Catherine to a nearby fir tree patch. While huddling together for shelter against the gale-force winds that had nearly knocked them to the snowy ground, their eardrums had been nearly shattered by a deafening, unearthly shriek. Sister Teresa had thought it was a wild animal of some kind, but Linda knew, from her father's stories, that they had been the cries of the Wendigo. He had also told her that the creature was incredibly fast, and had the power to control the very elements. This, Linda feared, the creature had done by having summoned this blizzard.

The two had then spotted a sudden blur over a large snowdrift about three feet ahead of them. Then, in an instant, the creature had been upon them. Now, as it opened its massive mouth, Linda couldn't help but notice that it had no lips, reminding her of what her had once told her, that, while the Wendigo preferred human flesh, it would actually eat anything-even portions of its own body. She then stared into ghastly teeth that resembled rows of sharp, deadly needles. Now, it had finally made its selection, as its eyes now settled on Linda. The monster's intentions were now clear. It would start with the light snack that the skinny little girl's flesh would afford it, and then finish with the fuller flesh of the young adult woman. The Wendigo was, by its nature, gluttonous.

As the creature lunged forward, Sister Catherine courageously jumped in front of Linda, willing to sacrifice herself for the child. As she did so, with her right hand, she instinctively held, in front of the monster's eyes, the silver crucifix that dangled from her necklace. The Wendigo stopped, unleashed an equally deafening, now terror-filled, shriek, and bolted away so fast that it appeared to vanish before their very eyes. Instantly, the previously incessant snowfall and winds ceased. The sun broke through the clouds, and was once again calm and placid.

"Thank God!" Sister Catherine exclaimed, barely able to hold back the joyous tears that now began to well up in her crystal-blue eyes. With all due respect to the Lord, Linda knew that the creature had not been repelled by the Christian image itself, but by the metal it was made of, silver, the one element that, properly wielded in a knife or bullet, could kill a Wendigo. Still, she said nothing to the Sister and let her think what she wanted to think. Besides, maybe the Lord's insistence that Sister Catherine always carry the crucifix on her person wherever she went had been His way of saving them after all.

At any rate, it wasn't long before the two found their way back to the other members of their party. But before they did, Sister Catherine asked Linda to promise to tell no one of their encounter, claiming they would never believe them, and that they might think they were making up stories to frighten them.

"But Sister, not telling them … wouldn't that be like … lying?"

"Oh, no, Linda, not in the least," she insisted. "It's not telling them an untruth; it's just not telling them something that wouldn't help them, and might even hurt them. It's for their own good. You understand, don't you?"

"Yes, Sister," she answered, although she still wondered what the difference really was.

This terrifying experience would never leave her, and would haunt her dreams ever since, even into adulthood, long after harnessing her musical talents and, at the age of twenty-two, having become a nationally known pop music star and Native American activist. It was this very dream she was experiencing again, after having struck her head against the side door of the small plane she was traveling on that early January evening, along with the other cast members, and the producer, of the reality TV series Differences.

Differences had been the brainchild of Felipe Ferrara, a liberal news commentator with the New Era American Radio Network. He had decided to bankroll some of his money into a reality TV show that would reflect his support of both cultural diversity and divergent points of view. He had tried to select as a diverse a group for the program's first season as possible to live and work together, in various community service jobs across the country, with each taking turns leading and supervising the group from week to week. His first choice had been Linda, because of her controversial and outspoken support of Native American rights, having recently participated in a march on Washington by AIM. She was also the perfect candidate to sing the show's title song, which Felipe had written himself, and which she had just recorded for its debut episode. When asked, in view of his own Latino heritage, why he hadn't included himself in the show's inaugural cast, the slightly rotund Felipe had joked, "Nobody's gonna watch a show starring a fat, fifty-year-old Puerto Rican." The other cast members he had chosen were:

Marvin Page: Thirty-nine-year-old African-American and former starting forward with the All-European Basketball League. He had recently come out of the closet with a book detailing the pressures he had encountered hiding his homosexual lifestyle for eight years in professional sports, and his support of gay marriages.

Fuko Shimura: Twenty-five-year-old Japanese-American action film and TV star and avid PETA supporter.

Brandon Wainwright: Twenty-nine-year-old hunting reality TV show star and NRA supporter. Comedians loved making fun of his cleft chin, heavy beard stubble, ubiquitous NRA cap, and camouflage-style hunting attire, and signature phrase, "Remember, guns put food on your table."

The four episodes that had already aired had been well-received, prompting sponsors to pick up their option for eight more episodes for the next season. Because Brandon had taped some episodes of his own reality series, Have Gun, Will Hunt in Fairbanks, Felipe felt that taping one episode in that city would generate great publicity for the show.

Unfortunately, he would never live to see its benefits, as he, along with the plane's pilot, a twenty-nine-year-old Ukrainian named Ivan Kozak, had been killed in the crash upon impact. Bound for a personal appearance in Fairbanks, the plane had encountered a powerful down draft due to a sudden, violent snowstorm that had developed, and had crashed into the Mount McKinley area of the Alaska Range.

The plane's co-pilot, a twenty-eight-year-old biracial man named Travis Harper, who, along with Ivan, had flown reconnaissance missions in Iraq, was busily tending to the other survivors. He gently nudged Linda back into consciousness and told her she was lucky to be alive … but was she?

Travis led Linda, who was still groggy, to a nearby clearing, where the others had gathered around a small fire that Brandon had been able to start with his lighter and some cardboard and other rubbish from the plane. Night was fast approaching, and the temperatures would soon drop. She squatted around the fire along with the others.

"I thought Alaska was the 'Land of the Midnight Sun,'" remarked Fuko, rubbing her gloved hands together for extra warmth while Tanna, the small Japanese read-and-white Chin dog she had brought with her, huddled closely to her feet.

"Not all year round," Brandon corrected her, prodding the fire with a jagged piece of fuselage.

"Where the hell are we?" asked Marvin, warming his own hands over the open fire.

"In the worst possible place we could be," Brandon answered, "right in the frickin' mountains-in the middle of nowhere."

"Can't we radio for help?" asked Marvin.

"No way," Travis said. "It's busted."

"What about my Blackberry?" Fuko asked.

"Blackberry?! Blackberry?!" Marvin asked incredulously. "Look around, honey. See any cell phone towers out here? And no, you couldn't text message for help, either, so don't even go there! Blackberry!" Freakin' unbelievable!"

"Hey, you don't h

ave to get snippy!" Fuko retorted. Tanna whimpered as he sensed his owner's agitation.

"You gotta cut Marvin some slack, Fuko," Brandon chimed in, "It's that time of the month again, you know."

"Oh, you're a real smart ass, ain't you?" retorted Marvin.

"I agree," said Fuko. "That was totally uncalled for!"

"Hey, lighten up, people," responded Brandon. "I was just kidding."

"Hey, fuck you!" Marvin said.

Travis had heard enough bickering.

"All right, all right!" he told them, raising both of his hands in order to quell the disturbance. "Let's all simmer down, okay? This isn't getting us anywhere."

"Oh, I suppose next you're gonna say, 'Can't we all just get along?' I heard enough of that bullshit from Ferrara."

"You've got something against that?" Fuko asked.

"Hell, no! Why do you think I signed on for this show?"

"Sometimes I wonder," Fuko replied.

"So do I," added Marvin. Both had always felt that Brandon had merely used the show to boost viewer interest in his own series.

"Folks, with all due respect," said Travis, "this isn't a TV show. This isreal reality. One thing I learned over in Iraq is you've got to put personal feelings aside and pull together if you want to live. If we can't do that, we're not gonna make it-none of us!"

At that moment, the conversation was interrupted by a loud, unholy shriek that held all-especially Linda-in a grip of fear, and caused Tanna to yelp and jump into Fuko's arms for safety. It sound uncannily familiar to her-but it couldn't be that-not here, in Alaska.

"What the hell was that?" exclaimed Brandon.

The screams continued, louder and louder.

"Quick! Get back to the plane!" insisted Linda. "I'll explain later."

Instantly, they hurried back to the plane. Even inside, they could hear the shrieks, which were deafening. Then, suddenly, they stopped, and the group stood silent for a few seconds that seemed like hours, trying to make sense out of what they had just experienced.

Finally, Travis spoke up.

"Ms. Brighton, what was that we just heard out there?"

She then proceeded to tell them about her encounter with the Wendigo.

"Bullshit!" scoffed Brandon. It was probably some big cat in heat, or some other animal. I've hunted in Alaska more times than I count, and I ain't never seen no monsters!"

"I don't know what it was," Travis conceded, "but until we find out for sure, I don't think anybody should go out there alone. Now, I know Mr. Ferrara packed some provisions on this plane, some dry cereal, some carrot sticks, a few Granola bars, and three or four bottles of Artesian water. It's not much, only about two days' worth-maybe three-so we're going to have to ration everything right away."

"You don't think we'll be stuck out here longer than three days, do you?" asked Fuko.

"I hope not, Ms. Shimura. I certainly hope not."

Then, Fuko decided to mention the elephant in the room. "What about … them?"

She was referring to the two members of the group who had not survived the crash, Felipe and Ivan.

"We'll cover them with some of the blankets we brought with us and move them," he answered. "Tomorrow, when it's daylight, we'll give both of them a proper burial." He knew that, despite the cold temperatures, the bodies would be full decomposed within a week at most, so they had to act quickly.

"Mr. Wainwright, will you give me a hand?" he asked.

"Sure," Brandon replied.

First, they moved Felipe's body from the seat in which he had died, covered it in a big wool blanket, and placed the corpse for the time being the in the plane's supply closet. Then, they went to the cockpit to retrieve the co-pilot's body. This would be a much tougher task for Travis, since they had become friends while serving together in the same unit. Still, he did what he had to do, and stoically attended to his remains as he had Felipe.

As the two made their way back to the others, Brandon pulled Travis aside to speak confidentially to him. Marvin couldn't help but notice the conference, and was convinced they were speaking about him.

"Look, Harper," whispered Brandon, "You know my seat is right next to Marvin's, right?"


"Could you and I exchange seats when we sleep tonight?"


"Why do you think? The guy's gay!"

"So? Did that ever bother you when you were doing the show together?"

"That was different. I only had to work with him, not sleep next to him!"

"What? You're afraid the guy's gonna hit on you when you're asleep? I thought that kind of bullshit went out with the eighties!"

"Hey, can you blame me? What if any of your guys over in Iraq were gay?"

"As a matter of fact, some of them were. I can also tell you that they all fought for their country-some even died for their country. I just don't believe you! "Here we are, stranded, in the dead of winter. If the weather doesn't clear soon and help arrives, we could all easily starve after three days, and you're worried about being screwed in the ass!"

"Will you just do as I ask? Please?"

"Man, anything to shut you up!" answered Travis.

A few hours after they had settled in, Marvin, who was still awake, noticed Travis had not yet dozed off either, and decided to ask about his earlier conversation with Brandon.

"He wanted to move because I freak him out, right?" he whispered.

"Yeah," Travis wearily replied.

"Man, I don't know," Marvin sighed. "I'm gay, and I don't fit in. But you know, you and I are kind of in the same boat."

"What are you talking about?" Travis asked.

"Well, look at you. You're not either all-the-way black or all-the-way white. How do you fit in?"

"I don't worry about 'fitting in,'" answered Travis. "I'm just too busy trying to be myself. Now will you stop asking so many questions and let me sleep? Who do you think I am anyway, Oprah?" he joked.

Marvin laughed. It was the last laugh either one of them would ever enjoy again.

The next morning, Travis and Brandon buried Felipe and Ivan. Breaking through the frozen hard ground was difficult, but the iron shovel they had gotten from the storage closet somehow managed to do it. The rest of the day passed, with no change in the situation.

The following day, temperatures continued to drop, and a blizzard was developing. Provisions were already getting dangerously low, and because there was no nearby freshwater stream or lake in the immediate area they had crashed in, fishing was out of the question, so Travis knew they would have to hunt for wild game. This would mean, though he hated the very idea of it, relying on the increasingly arrogant and obnoxious Brandon's expertise and direction. That, however, was what he planned to tell the group tomorrow that they had to do.

Fuko, however, would have none of it.

"No freaking way!" she protested. "I'd rather starve first than kill a poor, innocent animal that has the same right to life as I do. I can't go against my principles."

"Then let your principles feed you," Brandon coldly replied. "The weather's clearing now, and we're gonna get some meat." He and Travis then headed off into the open mountain range in search of game. They returned, however, empty-handed.

"Shit!" Brandon ranted. "I can't understand it. We didn't see one squirrel, bear, deer, or bird out there!-Nothing!"

"In fact," Travis, added, "I haven't heard or seen a single bird since we crashed. It's like something scared all of the game away from this spot."

As if in answer, the same horrifying shriek they had heard the first night of the crash now thundered through the hills. It seemed to come from all around the mountain range, building slowly, and then reaching deafening intensity before finally ceasing. All, especially Linda, took this as a harbinger of doom.

Nothing later that evening would alter that feeling, particularly after they had finished the last of their meager provisions. They now faced the very real prospect of starvation. On top of that, everyone knew of the true story of the members of the Argentine soccer team whose plane had crashed in the Andes, and how some had resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Would they eventually be forced, some wondered, to that point of desperation? For instance, Felipe's and Ivan's bodies were still in the ground. Would they eventually be forced to exhume their corpses and consume whatever flesh was still edible? And if any of them died, would the survivors cannibalize their bodies, too?

Fortunately, at least according to Brandon, there was one viable food source that was immediately accessible to them: Fuko's pet Chin, Tanna. Unless they had better luck finding wild game, he insisted that the dog must be sacrificed.

Fuko was mortified at the mere thought of such an action.

"Oh, come on, woman!" Brandon protested. "He's a dog, not a human being! He's not your kid, for Christ's sake!"

"He is to me, and you're not touching him!"

"What the fuck is this? Jackie Cooper and 'Please don't shoot my dog!'" He screwed up his face and made it seem as if he were going to cry, as the little child actor, in his autobiography, said he in fact had done when an assistant director had warned him that if he didn't cry on cue, he'd have his pet shot.

"Look, we need food," Brandon insisted, "and we have it-here!"

"NO!" shouted Fuko, hugging the dog tightly in her arms, as if protecting a small baby.

"He may have a point, Fuko," Marvin reluctantly admitted.

Even Travis had to agree with Brandon and Marvin: "I think we at least have to consider it, Ms. Shimura," he said.

"Linda," she asked, tears welling up in her eyes, "What do you think?" "I don't know, Fuko," she honestly answered. "I just don't know."

"Okay . . . okay," she replied, sobbing. "Let me sleep on it, and I'll decide in the morning. Okay?"

"Hey!" Brandon answered. "Our lives are at stake! This ain't your decision to make!"

"Shut up, Wainwright!" Travis interjected. "Okay, Ms. Shimura, it'll be your call tomorrow." Then, he addressed the rest of the group: "Let's turn in."

"This is crazy … crazy!" Brandon muttered to himself.

They all slept fitfully that night, especially Linda, whose dreams were once again haunted by her childhood encounter with the very creature she was convinced was stalking them now. Mercifully, she was about to awaken from this recurring nightmare, when she heard a familiar voice ringing in her ears.

"Linda! Linda!"

She immediately recognized Felipe's distinctive Puerto Rican accent. Then, a figure barely recognizable to the man who had hired her for the reality show miraculously materialized before her very eyes. It had Felipe's general build and appearance, but looked as if it had been ravished by some beast. Much of the flesh and cartilage had been so thoroughly consumed that little more than a raw skeleton in clothes remained.

"Felipe?" she asked. "What's happened to you?"

"There's no time to explain," he answered.

"Why are you here?"

"I've got to tell you something," he said.

"Tell me what?"

"That you can't stay here any longer! You've to get out … Now, before …"

"Before what?"

"Before you find out what you don't want to find out-for your own sanity … and before …"

"Felipe, I don't understand what you're trying to tell me! Besides, I can't leave. None of us can. We're stranded!"

"You've got to find a way. Wait … wait a minute … we don't have much time left. There's one more thing you've got to know."


Before he could answer, his spirit form disappeared before her eyes. In his place now materialized Travis' co-pilot, who was in the same hideous condition as Felipe.

"Ms. Brightman," he began, in his thick Ukrainian accent, "Tell Travis to …"

"Tell him what?<"

"Tell him to be on guard, and to use his knife. It's made of real silver. It…"

His message was then abruptly silenced by some inexplicable, agonizing pain that caused him to scream in agony. Then, he and his screams quickly began to fade away, leaving Linda utterly bewildered, and frightened beyond words.

She furtively glanced around the plane, and noticed that Fuko and Marvin were still fast asleep in their seats. Neither one of them had evidently seen or heard anything. Had she been asleep after all? Had this merely been another terrible dream? If not, if this experience had been real, why had Felipe and Ivan decided to warn her in particular. And why were their bodies in such a horrible condition?

She also noticed that Travis and Brandon were not there. It was morning,. Perhaps, early risers, they had decided to try at least one more time to hunt for food before forcing Fuko to make her terrible decision, speaking of which, Tanna was not either in the seat with Fuko or anywhere else to be found. Where was the dog?

She then noticed something else: the strong nauseating smell of human flesh that penetrated and seeped into the very fabric of the plane.

Suddenly, she heard Travis' voice from outside.


Linda jumped out of her seat, flung away her blanket, and hurried outside to investigate, followed by Fuko and Marvin, who had been awakened by Travis' exclamation.

There, they saw Travis standing, mouth agape and in disbelief, at the grave he and Brandon had dug for Felipe and Ivan just days before. The grave had evidently been opened during the night, revealing both men's near-skeletal bodies, in the same condition Linda had seen them just minutes before. A seasoned soldier, Travis had seen all sorts of atrocities in Iraq, but this was almost too shocking even for him, as he began to retch.

Before either Travis, who had just regained control of himself, or Linda, Fuko, or Marvin could speak, a rifle shot, followed by a shrill yelp, rang from a short distance away. All four hurried to where the shot seemed to have come from. There, they found Tanna dead, with Brandon, his rifle strapped over his left shoulder, standing proudly over his kill. Brandon had, just before daybreak, snatched the dog from its sleeping owner and placed his left hand over its mouth to silence it. Travis, who was a light sleeper, had been awakened by the activity and had seen him bolt out the front door of the plane with the dog. He had quickly followed him to try to rescue the animal, but, once outside, had been frozen in his tracks by the sight of Felipe's and Ivan's cannibalized corpses.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" screamed Fuko at what she regarded as Brandon's cold-blooded butchery. She rushed over to her beloved dog's body and lifted it off the ground and into her arms, cradling and sobbing over it as if it were a dead child. She cried profusely, but Brandon was unmoved.

"I did what I had to do!" he insisted. He then pulled out his steel hunting knife from his left hip pocket. "I've built a fire, and after I've gutted this mutt," he said, holding the knife upright proudly in his left hand, "I'll roast him and we'll have some REAL meat. He ain't much, but he'll keep us alive for at least another day."


"What's the matter with you, man?" Travis interjected. "We were supposed to let her decide!"

"Yeah, well I just decided for her!"

"YOU FUCKING BASTARD!" Fuko repeated.

"Aw. Come on, woman! Forget about that fucking dog of yours! It's time to eat!"

He defiantly trudged toward her, brandishing his knife in his left hand and determined to wrest the dead dog from her arms. When he was practically upon her, Fuko dropped the carcass and began struggling with him for possession of the knife. Fuko was a skilled martial artist, and, despite the 6' 5", 250 lb. Brandon's superior size, she managed to incapacitate him with a powerful right-hand chop to the head, followed by a swift left kick to his groin, causing the knife to fly out of his hand. As he was doubled over in pain, Fuko hurried to retrieve the knife, and then rushed at him, the knife firmly grasped in her right hand.

Brandon had recovered sufficiently to grab his rifle, which had been hoisted over his left shoulder, take aim, and shoot Fuko directly through the forehead. The blood spouted from the bullet hole like water from a busted pipe, and she collapsed on top of her dog's body.

"YOU FUCKING MANIAC!" Travis shouted. "WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?" screamed Marvin.


He pointed his rifle directly at Travis and Marvin, prepared to use it again if he thought he had to.

Instantly, the same unearthly shriek they had heard during the first few days shook the mountain, and in a fraction of a second, Brandon was starring face to face into the yellow eyes of the most hideous visage he had ever encountered. It was the Wendigo, the monster that had been stalking and tormenting them since the day they had arrived … the monster that had frightened away all the wild game from the area … the monster that had unearthed Felipe's and Ivan's bodies and consumed their flesh … and the monster that now confronted Brandon.

He fired two straight shots into the creature's chest, but with no effect. In fact, the shots seemed to do nothing more than make it angrier. With a swift kick of its right foot, it swiftly slashed Brandon's jugular vein. It then jumped upon Brandon's fallen body, blood spouting profusely from its victim's throat, and began to make quick work of Brandon's flesh before he had bled to death.

In the meantime, with Brandon's agonizing screams echoing in their ears, Travis and Brandon fled to the plane, quickly locking the doors behind them. Soon, Brandon was quiet, allowing the Wendigo to dine on the rest of his body in peace and quiet. Afterwards. It would feast on Linda's body, and then, for dessert, Tanna's. While the creature preferred human flesh, it was not choosy.

Once inside, Travis asked Linda, "Was that, that, the Wendigo?"

"Yes," she replied.

"What can we do? How can we kill it?"

"You can't kill it-not with any ordinary bullets or weapons, except with …"

"With what?"

"With something made of silver," she said. "It's the one metal that the Wendigo fears."

Then she reminded him of how the Wendigo that had threatened her and Sister Catherine so many years ago had been repelled by nun's silver crucifix, and what Ivan had tried to tell her about his friend's knife.

"Well, I don't believe in ghosts," answered Travis, "but I do have a big, thick silver knife. And if that's what it takes to kill this mutehrfucker, then so be it."

"Yes, but you have to use it on the monster's heart. As unbelievable as it sounds, it's made of ice-solid ice. One blow has to completely shatter the whole heart. Then, you must completely dismember the body and dispose of each piece in the most remote spot possible-a well, the bottom of a lake, a river, or an ocean, or in a cave. If you don't, it won't die. It will return to life and kill again!"

Before he could answer, their conversation was interrupted by a terrible crash. Running to the plane's front, they found Marvin floundering about like a man in deep water. He had just bumped into and knocked over a heavy storage case. He seemed terribly faint.

"What's the matter?" asked Travis.

"I don't know, man," he weakly answered. "I feel weak … and cold … my ankles are pounding like mad."

Travis rolled up the legs of Marvin's brown corduroy jeans and saw that both of his ankles were badly swollen.

"You'd better lie down," he said, "and get under that blanket. I think you got one hell of a fever."

"Tell me about it!" he answered, as he collapsed into his seat and covered himself with his blanket.

Travis motioned Linda over to his side and whispered. "I've got to get him some ice from outside for both of his ankles and his fever. We're all out of bottled water."

"Mr. Harper," she said earnestly.


"Please don't tell Marvin this, but …"

"But what?"

"Well, my people believe in 'Wendigo Fever.'"

"What the hell's that?"

"The Wendigo sometimes uses its powers to inflict its next victim with a virulent illness to torment and drive that person mad before making its kill."

"Vindictive prick, isn't it?"

"Yes," she said grimly. "And he has all the signs-weakness, high fever, swollen ankles."

"Well, I'm gonna try to do something about that." He took a perfunctory look outside the plane's windshield. "That thing's gone right now, and the storm has stopped. I'm going outside to get him some ice. You look after him."

First, Travis had to get a pickaxe and a tin bucket from the supply closet. "Too bad this axe's made of iron, not silver," he thought to himself. "It would make a hell of a lot better weapon than this knife." Still, he was in no position to doubt Linda's insistence on silver; the knife would remain his weapon of choice.

He took the knife from his left black leather pilot jacket pocket, brandished the weapon in his right hand, and cautiously stepped outside. There, he discovered that, to his disgust, the beast had finished off Brandon's, Fuko's and Tanna's bodies. As nauseating as the carnage was, he didn't have time to dwell on these atrocities. He had to get back to the plane as soon as possible. He put the knife back in his pocket, placed the bucket down and, with the pickaxe, began to chip off bits of ice from the frozen ground. After filling the bucket with what ice he could, he was at last ready to return, when he heard agonizing screams coming from inside the plane's cabin. They were Marvin's screams. He rushed back to the plane.

There, dropping the pickaxe and the bucket to the floor in horror, he saw the Wendigo crouching over Marvin's body. It had already severed the poor man's throat and was feasting hungrily on its newest victim's right forearm.

The creature sensed Travis' presence right away, temporarily turned its attention away from its meal, and cast its yellow eyes on him.

Travis was sure the monster was going to attack him. But as the tall, massive creature rose and stood upright, it stopped, and then Travis saw something that would easily drive the emotionally strongest of people insane. Quickly, the monster's form began to melt and dissolve, and in its place stood … Linda Brightman. Her mouth was bloody, and chunks of Marvin's stringy flesh were embedded in and staining her white teeth.

"Ms. Brightman," he gasped in wonder. "Ms. Brightman? What the hell's going on here?"

"Mr. Harper," she tried to explain, her eyes welling up with tears. "That's what Felipe and Ivan were trying to tell me. It's taken me over-I am the Wendigo!"


"This monster has the power to possess the body of a human being-especially one whom its image has visited in dreams-like me-so it can get closer to its prey. That's what Felipe and Ivan tried to warn me about, and why they said I had to leave. They knew, from the knowledge given to them from the Other Side, that I was now a danger to us all."


"It's true, Mr. Harper … It's true!" And if you don't act fast, I'll become that thing again! I can't control the transformations. When it happens again, I'd kill anything and anyone. I might even kill … you!" You've got to destroy this thing inside of me!"


"You know how. I told you."

"I can't! … It's horrible!"

"You must! I can't do it myself. But you, you have the weapon to do it with … your knife … your silver knife. I …"

Before she could continue, she was suddenly seized by an excruciating pain in her mid-section, which caused her to double over. When she finally caught her breath, she gasped.

"It's happening again! … It's happening again!"

Swiftly, her delicate features began to melt and dissolve into the terrifying visage of the Wendigo. The monster uttered a fearsome shriek and prepared to attack Travis.

The creature leaped upon him, easily knocking him to the floor with its great strength. As the monster opened its still bloody maw, Travis could feel its breath, as hot as a blast furnace, on his face. As it prepared to finish its prey off, Travis yanked the silver knife from his pocket and plunged it as deeply as he could into the beast's midsection.

The monster let forth a demonic scream and fell back on the floor, its body writhing in agony and its talons tightly clutching the deep wound. Then, Travis pulled the knife from the Wendigo's body, quickly located where its heart would be, and swiftly began to cut away whatever skin there was in the middle of its chest. He had to hurry, because there was no telling how long the creature would remain incapacitated.

He located the heart quickly; he could plainly see it pulsating through the openings in the breast bones. Linda was right. It did appear to be made of solid ice. His knife thrust would have to be strong.

At that moment, the monster was regaining its strength. Its eyes now seemed to be made of hell fire, and it roared in fury as it tried to spring to its feet. Now was the time. Travis knew he would hot have a second chance. Using the knife as he would a stake, he drove it with all his might, and with all his force, through the Wendigo's frozen heart. Instantly, it shattered into chunks that flew up and littered the passenger area with blood and ice.

The Wendigo uttered one long, final, unearthly shriek. Then, much to Travis' relief, its eyelids closed, its hellish screaming stopped, and its body grew still. Remembering Linda's warnings about completing the task, lest the Wendigo return to life, Travis removed the knife from the monster's shattered heart and laid the blade aside. Then, he retrieved the pickaxe and prepared to dismember the corpse. First would be the head.

As Travis raised the pickaxe and prepared to separate the head from the body, he felt two pairs of powerful hands grab him from behind, disarming him.

"Let me go! Let me go!" he protested, as he struggled to free himself from their grasp. "I've got to cut it up or it'll come back! … It'll come back!"

"What the hell are you talking about? What will 'come back?'" one of the men who held him fast demanded to know.

"It's a monster! A monster!"

"'Monster?' What 'monster?' That girl? "

Travis looked down. Lying dead on the ground was not a monster, but a human being. It was Linda, an ugly, open wound in the middle of her gray wool turtleneck sweater where a sharp object like a knife had penetrated her chest and literally butchered her heart. Sure enough, along side her body was the blood-covered knife itself, along with heart fragments, made of human muscle and tissue, not ice.

"You sick bastard!" the man continued. "You killed seven people and ate six of them!"

"It's a good thing we got here on time," the other man added, "or you would have butchered this one, too!"

These two men were Alaskan troopers, who as luck would have it, had been out on a routine helicopter patrol of the mountains once the weather had cleared sufficiently. They had spotted the fire Brandon had prepared for the dog, and had decided to land and investigate. They were convinced that Travis had gone insane, murdered his friend Ivan, along with Felipe, Fuko, Brandon, Marvin, and Linda.

Were these men right? Travis wondered. Had he hallucinated the whole thing-even the earlier transformations he had witnessed? He had been treated in a VA hospital for combat fatigue before coming home from Iraq. Had this condition, coupled with the isolation, worsened, and driven him completely insane?

Impossible! They had all heard and seen the Wendigo.

But how much, he now wondered, had been real and how much had been his own self-induced mass delusions?

No! He couldn't accept the possibility that he, who had served his country so bravely, could have become a bloodthirsty murderer and cannibal.

And yet, had not war turned many a noble man before him into a monster?

Despite all reason and logic, he still could not make himself believe that he, and not some monster his war-racked mind may have made up, had had been responsible for this savagery. He would not believe it!

"No! No!" he insisted. "She was a monster! She did it! She knew it! She begged me to kill her!"

"Taser him!" ordered the man on his right. His partner complied.

Instantly, Travis felt as if he had just been shot with a flamethrower. He lost control of his body and began twitching spasmodically. Growing numb and faint, like a man who has just been kicked in the head by a mule, he fell to his knees. Instantly, he passed out, collapsing in a heap.

For the time being, he was placed, under police supervision, in a Fairbanks hospital, since, en route, he had inexplicably contracted a severe fever and was suffering from extreme and painful swelling of the ankles.

There, the staff doctor listened to his incredible story and was convinced he was suffering from a combination of post-traumatic stress syndrome from his experiences in Iraq and a malady known as "Wendigo psychosis," in which the victim believes he or she

needs human flesh in order to survive. This opinion he would readily testify to when Travis' case would be heard.

The doctor's testimony, however, would never be needed. The next morning, Travis' scarcely recognizable corpse was found by the day shift head nurse. Someone-or something-had been able to break into his room during the evening and savagely murder the Iraq War veteran. Whoever or whatever it was had, to the nurse's horror, eaten nearly every bit of flesh from the body.

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