“Come on, it’ll
be an adventure,” Bill Zander
said to his wife, Elena. “The forecast says it’s going to be sunny and warm
this Saturday. I told Don I’d run it past you and let him know tomorrow at
work. The guy’s lonely; he lives on an island, for chrissakes. He could use
“Is it just going to be
the three of us?”
asked Elena. “I’ll feel like a third wheel if you guys start talking shop.”
promise I’ll keep the shoptalk to a minimum. Don’s a Native American folklore
buff. He’s an interesting guy; I’m sure you’ll like him.”
but if I give you the sign, you’ll start making the “gotta get going” noises,
right? I don’t want to look like a nag in front of one of your office-mates.”
and Elena drove out of town about noon on Saturday, headed for Moosehead Lake. As
had been predicted, the weather was fine. Summer was often a long time coming
in Maine, but when it finally arrived, it was beautiful.
had seen pictures of Don Penley’s house at work. It was a two-story log cabin
with two small outbuildings. The island was about five acres, fairly circular,
and had woods on everything that wasn’t house, outbuildings, a small beach, and
the boat dock.
Lake was only about 20 miles from Greenville and an easy commute for Don. It
was a fairly large lake, but had only one inhabited island; Don’s island.
parked their car in the boat dock parking lot off the highway per Don’s
instructions. There were two other cars and four pick-ups, all with boat
trailers attached to them.
call Don and let him know we’re here; he said it would only take him a few
minutes to get here from his place.”
ten minutes later, Don pulled up to the pier in a Johnson-powered fishing boat.
After introductions, Bill and Elena put the stuff they had brought with them
into the boat.
a good thing we didn’t bring anything more or there wouldn’t have been room for
us,” joked Bill.
no problem,” said Don. “I could’ve made two trips.”
then I’d have had to stay by myself either on this side or on the island,” said
started laughing shrilly at that. Then, seeming to catch himself, abruptly cut
it off. He bent over in the boat and started to arrange things so that the boat
would be balanced.
looked at Bill and mouthed the word “creepy.” Bill looked a little embarrassed
for his friend and shrugged. He was thinking maybe this hadn’t been such a good
idea; maybe he should have come alone.
started the engine and they headed for the island. He nodded and smiled as they
bounced over the small waves, but all three of them knew that the mood had
already been dampened.
started the coals in a huge Weber grill and there was a nice picnic table on
the front lawn with a view of the lake.
bring out the cooler and we can have drinks while the coals are getting hot.”
he had gone inside, Bill and Elena turned to each other and both whispered at
the same time.
shouldn’t have come,” said Elena.
shouldn’t have brought you,” said Bill.
Here he comes,” they both said together. Then they laughed crazily like naughty
kids who have been caught by the grown-up.
at first looked puzzled and then relieved. Earlier it had looked like the visit
may have been over before it had started. That wouldn’t have been good at all.
made a pitcher of sangria earlier,” he said, setting the dark red drink on the
table. “I hope you like it. I make it
with more vodka and no gin. I find the gin masks the flavor of the wine too
much. Try it and tell me what you think.”
great,” said Elena, taking a sip.
“I love it.”
this is pretty good, Don,” said Bill.
The ice is a nice touch on a warm day.”
two just sit in the lawn chairs, relax, and look at the lake. I’ll put some burgers
and brats on the grill. I have some fresh-caught perch too; fish are great on
re-filled their glasses with sangria as Don walked back into the house to get
stuff’s really tasty, but it’s kinda strong, ain’t it,” said Bill, slurring his
words a little.
took a long drink. “Yeah, it’s strong,
but delicious. Hmm…. Ya
know, I feel like I could take a nap right
here in this chair….”
…. images of a wolf-like
down from tall fir trees and carrying off a screaming Native American
woman. Villagers running from their
tents and leans-tos yelling “Wendigo” and pointing at the sky….
…. pieces of bloody bodies,
the branches of trees, savaged by an animal out of a nightmare….
…. a Wendigo, standing in front of him, huge slavering tongue lolling on
sharp teeth, Elena, unconscious, thrown casually over it’s shoulder….
jerked awake and found the sun was setting across the lake. “Elena, wake up! Something’s
not right; we got here a little after noon and now the sun’s setting.”
looked at Elena’s empty chair and overturned his own chair struggling to get
out of it. “Elena! Penley! Where are you?”
followed the footprints of some sort of animal from Elena’s chair to where they
abruptly ended in the sand forty feet from the water. He stood there and looked
back and forth from where the tracks started and where they ended. There was
nothing to show that whatever made these tracks had walked up from the lake to
the chairs – just tracks from Elena’s chair to where they ended. And there were
no signs of Elena’s tracks except with his and Don’s from the pier to the
Don Penley! Where are you?”
has her…., I drugged the sangria…., it took her when you were both asleep….”
turned to see an ashen-faced Don Penley looking at him with red-rimmed eyes.
are you talking about, Don? What has her?”
brought it here by calling its name in my sweat lodge,” said Don. “The smoke
had produced visions other times and a voice in the visions kept telling me to
bring a sacrifice. I’m so sorry, Bill, I thought I was only going through the
motions of what I read in some old books.”
where is she, Don? What has Elena and how do we get her back?”
have no idea, Bill. I’m sorry, but I don’t have a clue as to what to do next.”
from the tall old trees behind the house came a series of blood-curdling screams.
The screams sounded like Elena, but didn’t. Bill had never heard screams like
these in his life.
sound of rushing wind and the blur of something flying out of the trees
directly at them caused both Bill and Don to hit the ground and cover their
faces. There was a deafening growl from
just overhead and then the thump of something heavy landing in the sand twenty
feet from them.
Wendigo had returned with Elena. It threw her roughly onto the sand near the
two men. Walking up to Bill, it kicked him sharply in the head, knocking him
unconscious. It picked up Don and shook him like a ragdoll, its hot breath
singeing his eyebrows. Then, giving him a level stare, it shook him once more
and tossed him to the ground.
swiftly for about thirty feet, it leaped into the air and disappeared into the
trees, leaving a charnel house stench in its wake.
Elena’s orders, Don tied and gagged Bill before putting him in the boat. Then,
with Elena seated in the bow, her
clothing singed and torn, he started across the lake to the boat dock parking
lot and she and Bill’s car.
looked down at his co-worker, who still appeared to be unconscious on the
bottom of the aluminum boat. He nudged Bill with his toe to see if he could get
a response. Nothing.
he looked up, he saw Elena staring at him. Her eyes momentarily took on a
bright red color and she smiled at Don, showing all of her teeth. And then she
screamed. And screamed again. There was an answering series of screams from
back at the island and a flock of ducks rose from the lake and flew off in a
rush toward the mainland. Bill moaned in his sleep but didn’t awaken. Elena
sniffed the air and gave a guttural chuckle when she noticed that both Don and
Bill had pissed their pants.
turned in his seat a bit as if to adjust something on the boat’s engine. He
wondered if he had the nerve to return to his home on the island. When he
finished the adjusting charade, he didn’t look back at Elena. Instead, tears
streaming down his cheeks, he kept his eyes on the boat dock in the distance,
silently wishing it closer…..
As Don continued to gaze trancelike
shoreline, Elena bent down and slowly licked one of Bill’s forearms. Out of the
corner of his eye Don then saw her tentatively bite the arm as if to test the
sharpness of her teeth versus the toughness of Bill’s skin.
broke him out of his reverie and without thinking about it, he pulled the flare
gun out from under his seat and shot Elena in the chest as she sat up from
tasting Bill. The Wendigo Elena exploded into a raging inferno that burned
wildly for a few seconds while she gave out with screams even louder than the
heard one long answering howl come from behind him. Turning, he saw all of the
buildings on his island were completely engulfed in flames, and the Wendigo,
screaming and flying low across the water, was heading straight for him. In the
next few seconds it reached him and with razor-sharp talons on massive
forepaws, tore his head off, taking it as a trophy as it turned and headed back
to the island.
spurting from the severed artery in his neck, Don slumped over into the bottom
of the boat and landed on the still-unconscious Bill and a smoking Elena. The
boat continued toward the boat dock where
a couple of fishermen had come from their trucks to the shoreline to see what
was happening. The boat beached itself a bit off the mark and the police were
a Wendigo, Sarge?” asked Johnny Taylor, a recent recruit to the Greenville
if I know,” said his sergeant, Ed Wilson. “That’s all the guy’ll say, but
damned if I know what he means.
year later, almost to the day, Bill Zander made arrangements to have a
fisherman boat him out to the island. He carried Elena’s ashes in a copper urn
and planned to scatter them among the ashes of the burned buildings.
the end, she may have been more Wendigo than wife and Bill felt this would be a
sort of closure for Elena and the Wendigo.
for himself. He had been feigning unconsciousness during the last leg of the
boat ride and still had nightmares of Elena ghoulishly tasting his arm and of
Don’s headless torso falling on top of him in the boat.
wasn’t afraid the Wendigo might still be on the island. He actually hoped it
was still there, rather than having gone back to where ever Don had called it
the guy he rented the boat ride from looked on in puzzlement, Bill made a paste
from lake water and a little of Elena’s ashes and streaked it down his cheeks
like war paint. He knew if the opportunity came up confronting the beast would
be suicidal, but he figured to get in a few good licks with the new hunting
knife he carried in the sheath at his side.
Roy Dorman is retired from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor
of Yahara Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and flash fiction
published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow
Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The
Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online