This was part of a larger story I'm currently writing but I realized it didn't really fit. Luckily, it sort of functions as it own, brief story.
Deep in a sleeping forest, in the submerges of a snow blind haze of white and white and more white, a woman stands alone. Bound in furs, thick wool, and gloves that obscure the shape of her body, only her dark hair done up in two braids and her eyes are visible.
She’s been standing there for quite some time, perfectly still and silent as the trees, watching. The blizzard thickens. The wind picks up. Yet still she watches. Now and again, the faint light reflected in her dark eyes flashes. And she listens for the sound of approaching footsteps. And when she hears them, her fingers twitch, pull tighter around her walking stick. Waiting.
She hasn’t come here by accident but by incident. In search of food for some of her hungry patients. Those who lie sick and in need of something to keep up their strength amidst this unforgiving winter are waiting for her to return.
But now she’s become stranded here, not lost but besieged by those also looking for food. These unearthly scavengers, out of place in this forest, slaver as they stare at the woman standing alone in the woods, half-obscured by the blizzard.
But unbeknownst to all of them, she’s already sensed them long ago. She knows what’s going to happen and what she must do to survive this and resume her search for food. And so the healer becomes the huntress.
As they arrive, she’s there again, at the center of it. Placed firmly within herself as she listens to the rapid footfalls of each approaching attacker. She doesn’t need to see them. She can feel them, the height and volume of each body flinging itself through the air towards her.
The first one is large, more than twice her size, and so she waits for it to come within reaching distance, then abruptly takes a swift measured step to the side, letting its momentum carry it forward. The swing of her stick follows after, cracking its skull as it sharply connects with its head. Before it hits the ground, she is ready for the next, smaller one. As it lunges, she steps around to its back and gives it a hard thrust in the direction it was already going. Another, just behind her tries to take advantage of her seeming distraction but she ducks out of its way and sweeps its feet out from underneath it. The instant it lands, she stabs the point of her stick through its chest, then brings the length of it around to arrest the movement of the one that missed her before. This one too, she runs through the instant it lands on its face.
As the hunger of her aggressors grows and the swath of violence surrounding her intensifies, her eyes disappear. Her muddled emotions fade into the background. And it is without hatred or unnecessary aggression that she dispatches each of her attackers with equal speed and efficiency. Even when she makes a mistake, when one of them actually sinks its teeth into her, she doesn’t become wanton. She flinches briefly, then uses its grip on her to stab through its eye. In the end, it falls limply to her feet like all the other soulless wretches.
Snarling, screaming, the ones who couldn’t reach her before, clamber over the corpses in their path to get to her. But the instant they enter her field of reach, they are destroyed, like thousands of supernovas, all winking out of existence one after the other.
In that moment, she is the collapsed star, the center of gravity pulling in everything around it. Her movements gradually flow into a ceaseless, unbroken rhythm: punching, kicking, stabbing, pulling and pushing each body against the oncoming mob to further obstruct its progress.
In that brief moment, her walking stick, like herself, becomes something else. It doesn’t cease to be what it was but it’s existence is altered to include this purpose. Rather, she gives herself over to this task in the same singular way she always does to everything else: inexorably, inevitably and unto death.
And as the last one falls to the ground, what remains is fifteen bodies lying scattered around her, scarlet seas of blood steaming up through the banks of snow, and a woman standing alone in a blizzard, surrounded by the silent woods, searching for food for her hungry patients still waiting for her at home.