The snow fell thick and fast around the town she had come to know as home as Anna once again trudged through the elements to the top of the hill. She couldn't even see the moon tonight.
“Anna, are you daft or something? You can't go out there tonight, you'll catch your death of cold!” Marie's voice called out from the tavern door below. “I'm not dragging your frozen body out of the snow, do you hear me?”
“I'll be fine, Marie, I won't stay out for long.” Anna pulled the thin blue shawl around her as a whirlwind of snow gusted around her feet and continued up the hill. The wind seemed to blow stronger against her every minute, saying 'go back, go back.' On the very top of the hill, she hesitated, searching the sky for a glimmer of the moon. She closed her eyes for a moment, shielding them from the storm When she opened them again, surprise filled her, surprise that she could no longer see the tavern, the town, even the ground around her. All was a swirling vortex of white snowflakes and the darkness of night.
Anna shook the snow from her shawl and started back down, relying on her footprints to guide her in the right direction. Surprise filled her at what she saw at the bottom of the hill.
Nothing remained, nothing living, nothing dead, just snow, snow, and more snow. “Did I come down the wrong side?” she wondered aloud. She turned to go back up, but the hill disappeared into the swirling tumult, even her footprints had been erased.
“You should have listened to me,” said a voice, much like Marie's, but different somehow, filled with darkness and spite. “I told you not to go. I told you. Why didn't you listen?” The voice sounded like the edge of a jagged blade, cutting into her spirit with every word. “Now you'll never get home. Micheal won't find you, he'll never come for you.” A grinning facade of Marie's face emerged from the storm, leering, with one green eye and one brown.
“No...” she said breathlessly, backing away from the half-familiar face. “No, he'll find me, he will!”
“Stop lying to yourself, Anna, that celestia forgot about you long ago.” She turned to see her father, his face twisted and grotesque like Marie's, with jutting fangs and yellow, glaring eyes. “He'll never come.”
“No! He will!” She tried to run from the two, but the snow that blanketed the ground slowed her steps, as the monsters grew closer and closer. As they reached to touch her, she fell. The snow shot up, ropes of frozen crystals binding her arms and legs. The father-monster leaned over her, still grinning, his eyes filled with malice, hate and... what was it? Hunger.
“He never really cared. You knew it all along, but you didn't want to believe your head. You trusted your heart, and look where it got you. Celestia are evil, you know that, I taught you that, but you forgot it for his sake. And now he's abandoned you.”
“No, no...” she murmered feebly, as the snow pulled her further down, further into an airless world of darkness and pain.
“They're right.” A facade of Micheal stood over her with the others, with talons sprouting from his hands. “I don't care, I never did. And you believed me, foolish girl.”
She stared up at him, pleading, as her heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces. “Micheal... why?”
“Because you were a fool, that's why.” Even the traveler had joined the ranks of the demonic figures standing over her. “And now, you die.”
Micheal pulled out a blade and kneeled down, holding it to her throat. A wicked grin filled his countenance as he raised it high above his head.
“Oh, no you don't!” Marie's voice rang through the air, normal, the reluctant compassion and touch of sarcasm that always flourished there returning. “Stupid little sleepwalker, get off of her! Off, I say!”
Anna felt warmth returning to her body, driving out the cold and fear that filled her. She moved her hand to her face; it no longer was bound by the icy grasp of the nightmarish snow. She slowly realized that her eyes were closed. When she opened them and sat up, she saw Marie, standing next to her on the summer hilltop. The older woman shouted insults at something Anna couldn't quite make out and was hitting it repeatedly with a broom.
“Take that, you miniature imp, you misbegotten creature of the night! I'll teach you to mess with humans, you spike-headed little monkey, you...”
“Marie?” Anna asked. “What's going on?”
Marie trapped the creature under the broom and looked over at Anna, who was still rubbing sleep from her eyes. “Oh, good, you're awake,” she said, relief in her voice. “I thought I might have gotten here too late.”
“What's that thing?” Anna asked, pointing to what appeared to be a scaled monkey clawing at the broom, snarling and biting at whatever happened to be unfortunate enough to be near it.
“A sleepwalker,” said Marie, giving the thing another whack with the broom for good measure. “Deadly little creatures, inject venom into you then wait until the hallucinations cause enough stress to kill you. This one almost had you, lucky I came out here when I did.”
“Really?” Anna's eyes widened. “I've never seen anything like it...”
“Surprising. They're all over in the summer. The only thing I know of that can keep them away is celestia feathers, they can't stand the light they refract.” She chuckled. “Well, celestia feathers or a well-built door.” She whacked the thing again, and kicked it down the hill. “You'd better come inside. Where there's one, there's always five or six more waiting to help eat the kill.”
“R-right.” Anna shook her head, trying to clear her mind of the shadows left by the monsters. “So... That wasn't Micheal who said that?”
“Oh, dear. Of course not. And whatever you thought I said, it wasn't me either.” Marie guided her down the hill and into the inn. “Just don't sleep outside again.”
Anna went inside, but Marie lingered outside the door for a moment, staring at the moon.
“Micheal, wherever you are, hurry. She needs you.”