Ted had been walking for what felt like an eternity. The glacial winds whipped around his face, chilling him to the bone. The leathers that once kept him warm served no more than dead weight, the frigid air seeping into the rips and holes of his clothes. His hair and body were caked in a thin dusting of snow, fresh from the blizzard that encased him still. Ted could hardly see his own two hands. He had to squint his eyes in order to block out the relentless winds of the storm.
He could not go back to his village now, too many wrongs had been committed, too many deeds left unpunished. And yet, these barren plains of ice held no more for him than the gallows did. He slumped onto his hands and knees, quaking, trembling, as the snow filled his gloves. Ted knew that crying would not end his pain, but judgment had long been thrown out the window. Suddenly, as the gloom of the emptiness flooded his mind, dread began to set in, the worst dread of all… the dread of death. This fear is so intense, so humbling, even the greatest of leaders kneel before it.
He sobbed and shook, wondering how it had come to this. Ted craned his head skywards, pleading to God to be saved from his agony. The thought then made him chuckle a bit, despite the fact that he was on the brink of death. Who would ever want to save a wretch like me? He shook his head, staring aimlessly off in to the distance. Blinking away the tears, he noticed a faint, but still ever-present glow of light. The thought that it could simply be a hallucination crossed his mind, although it was enough hope to keep on going. Wearily, he got up, shivering as a small patch of snow slid down his shirt.
Ted began walking towards the glimmer of light, his pace progressively increasing as the glow shone brighter. Soon enough, he was sprinting, mind repeating the same words over and over again. Moving, I must keep moving. Sleep deprived and starving, he pressed forward, trudging through the snow. At last, after many grueling strides, he reached his salvation. It was a weathered away cottage, wood dry and creaking. Ted noticed that the blizzard scarcely blew here, although he hardly had a second thought of it. The windowsills had a thin pile of snow atop them, long icicles running down beneath them. Grey shingles lined the roof, barely visible underneath all the snow. It appeared to be a two-story getaway. Even though it was dark out, the sun shrouded by the blizzard, it seemed cheery enough to be hospitable.
The house was completely lit upon the inside; it was nothing short of a miracle that he saw the weak glow. He giddily approached the doorway, its arch similarly topped with snow. He rapped hard on the knocker, a sculpture of some deer of sorts, a stag he thought. Ted heard no reply. He rapped again, harder than before, still no response.
“Hello? Anyone in there?” The house remained silent and unmoving.
“I’m comin’ in!” he yelled, shivering, no longer wanting to spend another minute in the unforgiving conditions of the arctic tundra. He would rather be pressed for another crime than freeze to death out here.
He tried the doorknob. Locked, as he expected. Reluctantly, Ted walked around the cottage, looking for some other means of entry. At the far back of the house, he found a hard, metal door, an entrance to the basement perhaps. Once again, the handle was locked. Frustrated at himself for believing that this could’ve been his last hope for survival, he kicked the door, causing a cascading pile of snow to fall, shaken from the wall. In his anger, he almost missed a small trashcan beside the door, partially sunken into the thick snow. Eager for even a minute amount of sustenance, Ted reached for the lid of the aluminum bin. Just as he was doing so, he heard the hazy sound of a door creaking.
He withdrew his hand, and cautiously moved his gaze towards the ‘basement’ door. It was of course still closed, but this opened his mind to the conclusion that the front door had been unlocked. Brain overridden by the thought of contact with another human being, he ignored his insatiable hunger and rushed to the front door. It was open, but only a tad. Ted excitedly opened the door, hoping to finally see another person. He was greeted by the silence of an empty room. An antique rug, patterned with reindeer and evergreen trees, draped the cedar floorboards. In the far right corner sat a rocking chair, accented by doilies and silks. Along the wall in front of him were shelves, stacked with snow globes and other knickknacks. A fire burned fiercely in the hearth, warming Ted deeply. He let out a sigh of relief as he slumped against a drawer, closing the door and secluding himself from the brutal winds.
He sat in the eerie silence for a moment, allowing himself to warm up a bit. After breathing in the heat, he rose to find the owner who so graciously permitted him to enter.
“Hello! Hellooo!” he boomed. Ted thought to himself that he had simply not tried the door enough and that it was merely stuck. Confident with his explanation, he sought to find out what else was hidden within the cottage. Without the consolation of the fire, lanterns were required to light the kitchen space. The floor was polished checkerboard tile, and like the rest of the house, very dusty. He eagerly opened the cabinets that lined the upper edges of the room and the floor adjacent to the wall, longing for some nourishment. Sadly all that occupied the cupboards were a healthy serving of dust and cobwebs. Not even a morsel of food remained.
Disappointed, Ted explored what little was left of the first floor. He found nothing of significant use, only a vast expanse of antiques. Leading back into the kitchen, he sighted a door, a pantry of sorts. Once opened, it exposed that it was not a pantry, but in fact a stairwell. He gradually climbed the stairs, clinging to the rails for support. The stairwell joined the first floor to what appeared to be a hallway. Of course, this was only his speculation. There were absolutely no sources of light at the top of the stairs, leaving his surroundings in obscurity. He fumbled about the wall like a newborn babe, desperately combing for a door way or anything really.
He reached the end of the hallway at last, finding it was simply a dead-end. It vexed Ted that they would build a house with a stairwell/hallway that led absolutely nowhere. In the midst of the gloom as he disconcertedly looked for some kind of exit, he glimpsed a small shimmer of light. He blindly grasped for the shard of light, rushing to seize it before it vanished. His gloved hand closed around a miniscule sphere, and upon tugging at it realized that it was attached to a string. He pulled down, revealing a small trapdoor, connecting to what he assumed to be the attic.
Small rays of light protruded from the crevice in between the ladder and the ceiling. He stood back and dragged down harder. The ladder clanged against the ground with an echoing thud. The light almost blinded him, being in the pitch for so long. As the house breathed its last groan, Ted was drowned in an unnatural quiet. Suddenly, the comforting cottage became much less consoling. With no other place to go but back, he hesitantly climbed the rungs.
The attic space was claustrophobic; the slanted ceiling left very little room for any movement. So, upon entering the cramped space, he wasn’t surprised to find very little. He spied an opened secretary in the far right corner, beside the ventilation. On it were a few needles, some string, unfinished dolls and other sewing crafts. To his left was a bed, covers left undone, as if someone had been inside the room not too long ago. The whispering wind slithered through the gaps in the ventilation, giving him shivers. The attic unnerved him, not only because of the bed, but the rest of the cottage’s abnormal feel: the creaking door, the dead end hallway, and the unsettling ambiance. Having limited points of exit made it all the more discomforting.
Still on edge, Ted panicked as a loud creak resounded throughout the room. Frantically he scanned the surrounding area. He exhaled in relief, seeing not a hair out of place. Paranoia was at last beginning to weave its way through his system. I’ll stay here only as long as I have to, He decided. Remembering his crimes and having left the village he added, although perhaps longer than I anticipate. With "cat like" reflexes, he slapped at the object that fell upon his neck. It was merely his own sweat, or possibly melted snow off his hat. Although he quickly realized that it was a constant drip. Just a little roof leakage, that’s all, he reasoned. Ted gulped heavily as he heard breathing that was not his own.
Slowly he craned his head upwards. He was immediately gripped by an overwhelming state of shock, rooting him on the spot. Not more than ten feet above him lingered an atrocity that could only be described as surreal. A human clung to the ceiling in a spideresque fashion. It was dressed in worn, tattered, leather moccasins, and sagging breeches, cobalt in color. It was topped in a tan sweater with vertical stripes. Ted could only imagine what lurked beneath the burlap sack that shielded its face. Only a small opening allowed the saliva to drip onto his neck. The only visible portions of the being were its hands, its awful, cold, dead looking hands. Almost as if frostbitten, they appeared in a pale blue tone, and to each finger was tied a six-inch long sewing needle.
Ted took short, quiet breaths, as to not alert the fiend. However, he knew, deep in the recesses of his frantic mind, that it already was aware of his presence. A long shiver ran up his spine, like the flames of a burning rope. His eyes bulged, threatening to leave their sockets. He gulped hard, trying futilely to force his saliva past the lump in his throat that was his heart. The beast repeated over and over in a slow, raspy, monotone voice,
“I want your face,'” The solemn but menacing words broke Ted’s trance like a stone piercing glass. He let loose a "blood curdling" scream as he stumbled down the ladder. He fell, striking the wooden floors hard, leaving splinters in the palms of his hands. He raced blindly through the endless hallway, putting as much distance as he could between himself and the creature. Close behind he could hear the god-awful sound of needles click clacking along the walls and the now shrill, fast paced repetition of the disturbing words. Ted flew down the stairwell, practically bashing the door open. Child-like fears overwhelmed him, causing him to take shelter in an empty cabinet.
He cursed himself, realizing the foolish decision that he had made. It was too late to turn back now, all he could do was remain as quiet as possible. His breaths were rapid and he trembled uncontrollably. He sat in fetal position within the final cabinet along the row. Ted could hear the monstrosity slowly open the door, soft footsteps following shortly after. He flinched as he heard a cabinet door bang forcefully against the wall. It was only a matter of time before it found him.
“Such a beautiful face, no need to hide it,” Furious beads of sweat rolled down his forehead as the next door was thrown open. Only three more to go, he thought woefully. The third one opened with less intensity than the ones previous. God save me. The fourth door swung open. Ted could almost hear its breathing right beside his head, cabinets being connected and whatnot. Tightly, he closed his eyes, too frightened to look. He braced himself for impact, accepting his death as the karma for his wrong doings. God may have yet had mercy on him— the thing’s shadow disappeared, walking away in the opposite direction, in search of its lost prey.
He waited several minutes to be certain it truly had gone before hastily fleeing his refuge. He quickly flung open his wooden cage, hoping to escape before the thing could reach him. Just moments after leaving the cabinet, Ted screamed in excruciating pain as the creature dropped from the ceiling, clutching him in the shoulders. The needles pierced deep, scraping the bone. Reeling in agony, he wrenched the sack from its skull. Immediately he wished that he hadn’t. Beneath the burlap was a hideous, bald figure. Like the grisly hands, its head was pale blue, as if left in the snow for a week. Both ears and nose appeared non-existent, nothing more than hollow caverns. But the most gruesome feature was its eyes. Both were stitched completely shut, even skin had begun to regrow over them. Its mouth was also stitched, but with thicker strands and more cross hatches. Only a small portion was torn, allowing for its sickening words to drift through.
"Give me your faaacce!!!" it screeched, deafening his ears momentarily. Exhausting all the energy that he could muster, Ted pulled free from its hold. Long lines of warm blood trickled down his arms and sleeves as he raced through the entryway, not caring where he went, so long as it was far away from that lonely cottage in the snow. However, as he ran across the plains, it simply stood in the doorway, smiling. Suspended between two needled fingers about chest high, was a rapidly spinning spool of red thread that trailed far out into the distance in the direction of Ted. The needle on its left ring finger was missing.
"Stitcher always gets its prey."