The Dark Cottage
Laura opened her eyes and glimpsed light creeping in slits around the windows. She moved her fingers on the coarse fabric of the blanket. She touched her side, her wound bandaged.
Laura gazed at the ceiling as her eyes adjusted to the darkness and wondered where she was. She remembered staggering to her feet by the river and running, moving as fast as she could. She remembered thinking the others would come after her and her urgency gave her strength, yet befuddled her sense of direction. A cabin or a cottage had shone in the starlight, and Laura remembered stumbling to the door. Had she knocked? She was now lying on a bed, safe indoors and warm.
Laura tried to sit up and a pang of sharp pain made her wince. She inspected her surroundings. The room was dark, save for the slits of light from the shuttered windows and doorsill. The embers of a fire glowed on the far wall and Laura distinguished a pot or cauldron hanging above it. Her heart sped and thumped in her chest. They, her devils, had fires with hanging cauldrons. She discerned the dark stone of the fireplace framing the glowing embers. Eerie figures stood like black masses against the wall; she hoped they were a table and chairs.
Laura felt woozy and closed her eyes for a moment. Her body hurt, and she was thirsty. A glass filled with liquid sat on the nightstand and Laura wondered if she should drink. She reached for it and sniffed it. It had no scent and Laura hoped it was water. As she drank, she caught sight of a pair of yellow fiery stars watching her from the corner. A rough breathing, like a whispered growl or a cat’s purr, came from the direction. The eyes were too big to be a house cat, and she perceived a big black mass occupying the entire corner and part of the far wall.
“Who are you?” Laura whispered.
A red flame-like tongue flicked out, and the mouth, shining with jagged pearls, gaped open in an audible yawn. Laura remembered a bearded young man had opened the door. Maybe he had a big dog? Laura passed a hand over her eyes and stifled a yawn. Still woozy and sleepy, she slid down in the bed and closed her eyes.
She heard the padded feet and the clack-clack of claws on the floor and thought the dog was approaching. Then, she noticed the distinct sound of booted footsteps by the bed. She tried to open her eyes, but fell into a deep sleep instead.