The land of Hisui was colder than home even during the height of summer, but tonight was so cold the walls of the house may as well not have been there at all.
Miyako could feel the cold creeping under her bedroll and biting on her toes. She curled them up against her feet as though to make them a smaller target, but it didn’t make a difference. As her breath fogged in front of her, she wondered for the hundredth time since she’d arrived on Prelude Beach three months ago if all this was worth it.
She sat up, looking around the room for more blankets. On the other side of the room, Yota snored, spread-eagled under his bedroll. The fact that he’d taken well to the cold climate despite being such a crybaby annoyed her more than it should.
Getting up, she shuffled quietly over to the small basket of things the village had given them when they’d arrived: a tin of tea leaves that had gone unopened, a few books, a crafting kit… A blanket. It was laughably thin, but the material looked insulated, and it would have to do.
She looked up from the pile of trash out of the window. It was too dark to see anything out of, the lanterns extinguished for the night, and in this empty, untamed land there wouldn’t be a source of light for easily 50 miles to the Diamond Settlement. Well… unless she counted the ghosts roaming the Fieldlands at night.
She shuddered at the thought, and that was when she noticed that the basket was wet on one side. It had been pressed up against the window, which was coated on the inside with condensation from frost. She was too cold and miserable to fuss, even if she wanted to. She took her sleeve and wiped down the panes.
For a moment, she thought it was a trick of her eyes in the dark. Some light inside bouncing off the condensation. But then it moved. Two red eyes like glowing coals, out in the darkness outside.
She gasped, her breath hitching as it was stolen. Stumbling back, the back of her shins collided with the genkan step and she fell backwards on her behind, eyes still too terrified to look away from the window.
Had it seen her? What was it? Maybe it had been her imagination…
And then those eyes appeared again, right in the window pane. Red and burning. It wore a witch’s hat and hovered ominously from left to right, grinning through the dark.
In the red light of the creature’s eyes, Miyako could barely move to scream. And then it began to sing. Plaintive, mewling cries of a thing long-dead. Miyako whimpered, all thoughts of the cold forgotten as she curled up in a ball.
It reached up with a shadowy tendril and chapped on her door.
“Go away!” Miyako shouted. “Go away and leave us alone!”
It recoiled, face contorting like in pain.
“Please! We don’t want any trouble! Just leave us alone!” She curled deeper into the foetal position, shivering as she squeezed her eyes shut harder.
A few minutes passed. She was still alive. She opened her eyes.
The creature was gone. In the window, only blackness.
She opened the door, and the blustering wind blasted through the house. She stepped out onto the porch.
Nothing. No-one. Just the little row of houses in the dirt.
“What the hell are you doing?” Yota shouted from inside the house, woken by the cold wind. “Get that door closed!”
Miyako took a deep breath, and resolved to put that nightmarish thing behind her.