Was I awake?
I had been having the strangest dream…
I wondered why that damn alarm clock wouldn’t stop ringing?
I dreamt people were shouting at me not to drink a witch’s brew, they must have been pounding on the inside of my skull too…
My mind’s eye opened a crack to check if I was still asleep.
There was a dull throbbing ache in the back of my head and a vile taste in my mouth that I decided were most decidedly real. I pulled myself up over the cusp of oblivion and rubbed my eyes gingerly in an ineffectual effort to ease the pain. I quickly came to the conclusion that part of it came from lying slumped against a chair in an unnatural position. As I slowly rightened my body and opened my eyes I became certain that I was indeed awake. How long had I been out? A quick glance out the window showed me that it was late in the afternoon and that several hours had passed.
I decided that I felt up to the challenge of quelling the invasive noise that had awoken me, felt around for the culprit and realized with alarm that there was no alarm clock. I experienced a moment's disorientation before realizing where I was. I irritably wondered what that incessant shrill sound was.
Now what? There was a wry smile on my face as I thought, a bit bitterly perhaps, that my dream voices never tell me what I should do, just what I shouldn’t have done. After-the-fact backseat drivers…
Now what? I gave the door a try… It was unlatched… So far so good. I cautiously made my way to the main room and grabbed a steel poker from the chimney. The heft of the cold metal was oddly reassuring. I wondered where the old woman had gone... The front door unlocked. I took me all of two seconds to decide that running off through the woods would serve me no purpose. I shrugged and went to investigate where the sound was coming from.
I rounded the corner of the house and approached a small windowless woodshed from which the noise seemed to be coming. In addition to the frantic tooting, I could now hear quite a commotion coming from within. I cracked the door open to peer inside and then I saw something nasty in the woodshed. In the gloom, I had espied a headless corpse lying on the ground... when a tremendous force suddenly pushed against the door and knocked me back onto my fundament.
I know how unbelievable this will sound, but from within the woodshed emerged a flying head! It seemed to be burning in the sunlight and its rolling eyes seemed crazed and panicked…
I had discovered the source of the sound that had woken me! As it streaked past into the darkness of the woods I saw the whistle Talrayn had given me... It was somehow fused to the creature's lips, a seamless merging of skin and bone!
I glanced at the headless body of Mrs. Nanaac and saw that the neck had not been cut as I had first thought: it was a grotesque rounded stub like that of a person who has lost a limb. Her high necked collar had come unbuttoned and I could see that the base of her wrinkled neck was ringed with curious red birthmarks, like odd symbols in some mysterious and evil tongue… Yes, there was no mistaking it, as mad as it may sound I am now certain that it had been bodiless things that had chased me through the woods and into the lake that morning.
I pondered the mystery of the whistle. What would have happened had I tried bringing it to my lips? Would the same have happened to me? I had no idea… Nor did I know what to do next. Was there any help to be found in Chiwsip? Was there anything I could do? The sun was already hanging low in the west… I would have to decide quickly.