10 January, 2017 by katelaity
‘In the morning, I asked about the strange noise. I did my best to make it sound like a trifle but even mentioning the odd sound made the family members look furtive and oddly guilty. Even the children were no help. The very youngest had forgotten all about it by then and the somewhat older ones were clearly too frightened to even speak of the sound.
‘My curiosity was this way whetted even more and I pondered how best to get my new friends to explain to me the creature that stalked the wild night, but about which they had no desire to speak, as if to utter a name would bring it upon us. The people of that land, the Cree, they know the value of names and words. Having far less time for frivolous speech than we do, they tend to weight their words with care. To name a thing is to touch its power.
‘The winds continued through the day though they dropped for a while in the afternoon. The sons used the time to gather more firewood from outside and I leaped up to help them. The youngest of the brothers gave me friendly looks but the older ones looked generally grumpy and cross. I guessed that much like the men I had known all my life—Arcadians being a rather singular tribe themselves—they were concealing a great deal of fear beneath their gruff expressions.
‘But none of them wanted to talk about what had happened in the night, so I consoled myself with being helpful and observing how they lived. While we gathered more wood the women used snow to fill the bubbling cooking pot. They were grateful they did not have to head to the river to refill the cauldron that cooked away always over the fire, ever reminding me of the Scottish kings witches. I quizzed them about spices and flavours, made them show me things they used so I could better use the resources surrounding me.
‘You wouldn’t think it to look at me but I am quite a good frontier cook.
‘As I went for a last armful of wood from the old tree felled some days before I happened upon a track through the snow that had been obscured by the wind and snow but not filled. If the light had not been at just the right angle as the sun began its downward slope, or the snow had fallen that much harder in the morning, or even if the winds had been only marginally stronger just then, I might not have seen the prints in the white landscape.
‘What is that track?’ I inquired of the youngest, thinking him the most likely to respond. He only shook his head as if to say he did not know.
‘The oldest eyed me stern as a schoolmaster, then he bent to spit in the track before covering it with snow. Then he said only, “Wendigo.” And led us all back to the house.
‘I rolled the strange word around in my head getting used to the sound of it. Though he had obscured the track it was fixed in my mind and when we returned indoors I took out my notebook and scribbled down a description and sketch of the print. How to describe it? It was rather like a bear’s paw, I thought at the time. Longer and less inwardly curving as the trail of the bruin tends to be. In fact it was rather more like a human foot though of course much larger and clawed.
‘The oldest son shook his head at me. I wasn’t certain whether he thought me foolish to be writing down the information or that there might be some danger in thinking too much of the creature. Yet I was bursting with curiosity.
‘I would learn more that night, which would cure me of my idle wonder.’