He stumbled through the snow, hugging himself in a desperate attempt to stay warm. The blizzard raged around him, battering him so much he could barely see, snow clinging to his frozen face. If he didn’t find shelter immediately he would die. He stopped, in front of him was a tree, or what could only be called a tree. Its bark was dull and rotten underneath the snow but its few thin branches offered slight protection from the storm. He quickly got under it, cleared a space for himself and sat down. He knew he couldn’t stay still for long but maybe the weather would die down in a few minutes. He was safe, for now, unless he fell asleep. The thought of sleep brought a warm feeling and he felt his eyelids begin to close. No! He knew if he fell asleep he would freeze for sure! But still he felt himself begin to slip away to a world that seemed all too tempting….
He awoke to the cheerful sound of singing birds, chirping happily in the tree tops above him. His back was rested at the bottom of a great oak tree, its branches full of fresh green leaves glistening with morning dew. A pleasantly warm sun illuminated the tiny valley that curved behind a hill in front of him. The smell of new green grass and bright colourful spring flowers brought a confused smile to his face as he stood up slowly. He started walking along the naturally made path of soft moss and wondered to himself where he could be. His mind was fuzzy and unclear but he could only have guessed the storm had gone off and that the sun had melted all the snow. This didn’t seem very likely but he didn’t really care what had happened as long as he was safe. Now that his immediate danger had gone, the man continued round through the valley until suddenly he came across a remote little cottage, standing not far from him. The man began to feel a cooling breeze as the temperature started to drop and it was getting close to dark surprisingly quickly. The little cottage became more and more tempting to the man and as he got closer he saw that the front door was open, letting trickles of glowing warmth escape. As he got closer the man could see a block of wood with a recently used wood-cutting axe outside. He hoped whoever was inside wouldn’t mind his staying there until he could figure out how to get home. The cottage itself was rather small, with two ground floor windows and a small attic with a thatched roof on top. Ivy covered the front wall, blending it into its beautiful surroundings. Cherry trees were scattered around he outside and they were right in the middle of blooming, covering the ground in delicate pink blossom.
Once the man had reached the front door he could smell the delicious smell of freshly backed bread making his mouth water. It reminded him that he had not eaten or drank in a while. Looking through the gap in the door, he could see rather old, wooden styled furniture and a small fire crackling in the corner of the homely room.
“Hello? Is anybody there? I got lost and…” boom!
The second the man placed his foot inside the house, everything changed. In a split second it was cold and dark and the blizzard was howling once more. The man’s face was frozen, not with the sudden freezing temperature, but with nothing but raw terror. The inside of the cottage had changed dramatically. All the furniture had become broken and rotten and covered in mold.
Suddenly an unusually large rat fled across the floor, straight towards him. It jumped through the gap, past him and ran straight across the snow until the blizzard hid it from sight. The only evidence that it had been there were a few specks of blood, dotted in the snow where it had been. He stepped back, hands outstretched in a defensive manner. That’s when he realised he would have to go inside, it was the only place that offered protection from the piercing cold. He opened the door again, once more exposing the dead looking house. He stopped inside and turned around to close the door but all of a sudden he stopped. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the log and axe only this time they were covered in snow. That wasn’t what terrified him though. Lying across the stump were the remains of what was once a living person. The axe was stuck in the stump right above the neck and on the ground he could see where the head had landed, its flesh picked off by ravenous birds.
Before he could even open his mouth to scream, the seemingly frail door slammed shut in his face with the aid of a fresh gust of wind. He knew there would be no point in trying to open the door. He could tell it wouldn’t open and that he was stuck inside the house. As he turned around he could see that the bottom floor of the house had been turned into one relatively small room with a small wooden staircase decaying at the side. There was a fireplace just ahead of him and to his right, a small wooden table with some chairs thrown on the floor, all of them broken and dusty. Apart from that the room was bare and dark. The floor was covered in mold and various animal droppings, spiders sat waiting in webs that strung high from the ceiling and the entire house was deathly silent apart from the lonely howls of the wind.
The man couldn’t stand staying in this room and moving kept him warmer so he decided to explore upstairs. The thin wooden planks groaned under him weight and one ore two of the snapped away under his feet, forcing him to jump over the gaps.
The upstairs was just as eerie as below. Rotten beams sloped upwards above him and the grimy floor was long and narrow making him feel a bit claustrophobic. There was no furniture save for a single bed at the end of the room, its ragged grey sheets lying on the floor net to it.
With each step the man took towards the bed he began to fell his eyelids growing heavier and heavier, his legs feeling more and more like lead. By the time he reached the end of the room he could no longer deny sleep as he collapsed onto the bed in a state of utter exhaustion…..
Sunlight filled the room through the tiny gaps in the golden straw thatched roof. The man woke and was surprised to feel delicate silk underneath him. As he sat up in a bright red four poster bed decorated with ornate gold patterns he noticed that the house had changed once more… He was no longer sitting in a horrible damp room but a room that screamed of money. As he got up he couldn’t help but brush his hand over the detailed carvings cut into the wood of one of the posts of the bed. None of this seemed odd to the man as his brain was not working properly and he found it hard to think clearly about anything.
He took his time walking back towards the staircase, filling his eyes with the new-found beauty of the room. The floor he walked across was made of matures oak, recently polished, covered in an oval shaped rug made of the softest material he had ever felt. Its bright colours jumped out at him and he knew no human could possibly have made it for its pattern was too complex for anyone to comprehend. Exquisite wooden drawers and cupboards hugged the sides of the room and in one corner he could see a deep brown mahogany desk with matching chair. Covering the walls around him were rich cotton drapes and tapestries that told the story of a most violent and terrible war.
As he got to the bottom of the varnished staircase, he house was once again what it had first looked like. His eyes fell onto the stone fireplace that’s fire had gone out and he shivered even though it wasn’t cold. He must have caught a fever or a clod or something and he decided he should light it, to warm himself up a bit. Sitting next to the fireplace was a basket full of chopped wood and he reached down to pick a handful up…bam! The instant his hand touched the basket the house had changed again. Once more it was cold and dark and terrifying and as the man got up he saw right in front of him a small picture inside a frame saying the words “Home, Sweet, Home.” Normally this would seem like a sweet piece of decoration for any house apart from the fact that there was a large bloody gash sliced directly through the middle of picture, destroying most of the letters.
Eyes wide, he jumped back and the second he touched the floor things were back to normal. He walked away from the fireplace, never taking his eyes off it, and retreated to the table in the middle of the room. He would have to do without fire for now as there was no way he was going near there again. He felt himself bump into the table and he could see that on top of it there was a loaf of bread and a large bowl of ripe, juicy fruit. His stomach groaned at the sight and he hastily grabbed at the food in a state of sudden starvation. But it never reached his mouth. For in his hands now there were only lumps of ash. Looking at the table he saw all the fruit had instantly become rotten and inedible. Apples and oranges had shrunk and were grey with age. The loaf of bread had had the same effect. It was patterned with dots of green and in and amongst it were maggots, lice and worms, all wriggling about.
He closed his eyes and opened them and just as he had thought, everything was perfect. He grabbed at the food for the second time but the same thing happened. As soon as he touched anything, it became ash and as soon as he closed his eyes, everything was normal.
By now he was starving and freezing even though it still looked warm. He ran to the door, not caring if it too changed, just wanting to get out. To his surprise the door opened but waiting outside for him was the deathly blizzard.
If he went inside, he would die of hyperthermia or starvation or would simply go crazy. He would die staring at delicious food and a bare fireplace. And if he tried to get any of that, it would go away, to be replaced by hell. If he went outside, the hell would return and the blizzard would kill him. Either way he would die slowly.
The man sighed, his glazed eyes not really seeing anything. His mind had gone to sleep and he couldn’t think. The last thing he ever remembered was seeing that axe outside and slowly, oh so slowly, dragging himself towards it with a drunken smile on his face as he suddenly realised his third and final option…
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