Three furry fingers, thick and matted with blood, curled around the frame of the kitchen door. The nails on each finger tapped rhythmically, purposefully, as though it knew the sounds would bring prey.
Outside the wind had settled to no more than a light breeze. The snow had been heavy at first, but now it came down only in flurries every few minutes or so.
The kitchen door eased open. Those long, startling fingers crept like spiders over the key and slipped it off, dropping it onto the tiled floor with a clatter that resounding clatter.
The little girl came down the stairs, her footsteps muffled by her pink bunny slippers. The kitchen lay no more than thirty feet away, and once she crossed the hallway there would be no way back.
The kitchen door was pushed all the way open, creaking on its old hinges. If the girl had kept the backdoor locked like she promised, the creature now lurking behind it would not be inside, just behind the glass panelling.
‘Hello?’ the little girl called into the darkness.
The creature’s ears pricked at the sound of her voice. It stopped and listened.
‘Who is it?’ the little girl asked, and took a tentative step inside the kitchen.
She is a brave child, born strong-willed and honest. She is also blind.
If the creature knew this, would it attack? It could smell her now, her sweet scent drifting invisibly from her body into its mouth and snout. It caresses the beast’s desires for blood and a long line of drool hangs down from its open mouth.
‘I’m not afraid of you!’ the child proclaims. ‘I can’t see you, but I don’t fear you.’ She takes another, more confident step into the kitchen.
‘If you kill me, you kill me,’ she says. ‘But if you leave now, no one loses.’
This is not true of course; the creature’s belly is empty. It growls.
‘Stay where you are!’ the girl demands. ‘I am not afraid of you!’
The beast moves into frame. The girl sees only blackness. But she can smell it, that foul rotten stench of death and decay.
The thing resembled a wolf, and she knew this by the way it sniffed around the room. Her eyes did not work, but her ears worked better than most. The slapping of the beast’s long tongue against its furry chin, the way its tail swished from side to side, knocking against the island in the middle of the kitchen - all were audible in her perfect ears. She hears its harsh breath, almost like a dog, but less kind, more threatening. She hears its feet, hard and rough on the tiles, its long pointed toenails scraping against the floor.
When it growled a second time, she was convinced this thing before her is a werewolf. Her heart sinks, but she shows no clear terror. She instead laughs at it.
The werewolf halted, lowers its jowl and opens its long, snouted mouth. Rows upon rows of razor teeth glisten in the moonlit kitchen, but the little girl sees nothing. She imagines its no more dangerous than a puppy.
The werewolf howled a blood-curdling sound so intense the little girl shivered. At six years old, she is suddenly acting very mature.
The thing grabbed her by the nighty and lifted her up until she was flat against the ceiling with her legs dangling down, left foot brushing against the monster’s pointed, hairy ears.
‘Kill me then,’ she whispered, tears forming in her eyes.
A flash of light.
The girl sees nothing.
Suddenly she was on the floor, her face smacking down hard as she lands.
The light switch behind had been flicked. She could hear it. Footsteps rushing through the house, a gunshot, a howl.
A window smashed somewhere in the house, probably the living room. Then silence fell over her, washing away all other sounds.
The little girl was still lying on the ground when a man came into the kitchen. ‘Are you OK?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied softly.
‘It got away,’ the man said.
‘I know,’ the little girl replies.
‘Did it bite you?’ the man enquires, and she heard him reload the gun he must have been holstering.
‘No,’ she said.
The man sounds relieved. ‘That’s good. Your parents have been contacted, they’ll be here soon.’
The little girl nodded and hoped the man would see it. She turned in the direction of his voice and asked, ‘Was it a werewolf?’
‘I don’t know, honey. We never really saw it.’
She nodded. She knew it was a werewolf.
The man took her up to bed and left her in the bedroom.
She lay awake most of the night. The same thought recycled through her mind over and over again and now she trembles with fear:
It has my scent. It will come back.