I was nine years old when this all happened, so forgive me if the details are a lil unclear. I bet if you’re also twenty five you got crappy memories of when you were nine, unless something important happened. Two important things happened when I was in fourth grade.
First thing, just before Thanksgiving my parents announced they were getting divorced. Now that I look back, it was for the best. Dad was a bit of a sleaze and had multiples affairs while Mom was an addicted spender. It wasn’t a pretty thing leading up to the divorce and the events afterwards were even worse. No wonder that year I chose to spend Christmas with my friend Erica.
It wasn’t technically approved by my parents. I just knew they’d force me to choose who I’d spend Christmas with and I wanted no part of that. I was telling my friend Erica about it when she told me she and her parents were going to her grandparents for Christmas. They lived in Canada. So even if my parents caught onto the ruse, it’d be too long for them to go pick me up. Least that’s what we thought. I’d get in trouble when I was back, sure, but for Christmas I’d have probably have a great time.
So, after packing my bag and convincing my mom I’d be at Dad’s, I got a ride with Erica and the next morning, three days before Christmas, we set out for Canada.
We never reached Canada. That’s the second important thing.
We were in an accident.
It was a fun trip, Erica and I were singing Christmas songs while the snow came down around us, transforming the world into a shiny winter wonderland. It was going to be a heck of a drive, all night we’d be on the road. Erica’s parents always got along so well. They never fought, even as they were wondering if they were on the right road or where we were going to stop for dinner. Even if they disagreed on something, they just laughed about it and changed the subject.
Honestly, if I ever get married, I will definitely want a marriage like Erica’s parents.
It got late and the snow came down even harder. The air grew tense as Mr. Ross seemed to get quiet, only offering one word responses to Mrs. Ross’ constant nervous chattering. Erica and I didn’t really notice, we were nodding off. It was late, we were tired. Erica had even taken off her seatbelt, she complained it was cutting into her chest as she tried to lied down and I was too tired to argue about it.
I only woke up when Mr. Ross shouted and the car roughly jerked to the right. The windshield was engulfed in white and I remember hitting my head on the seat in front of me before everything went dark.
I woke up to the tearing of metal.
My eyes flickered open, I was slumped forward in my seat, my head was pounding, but I was alive. My forehead felt sticky, and oh, it was so cold!
I managed to look up to see the roof was being peeled off by… something. I couldn’t see what it was. It was too dark. But it saw me. It knew I was alive.
I must’ve passed out after that again because I woke up and I was somewhere else.
It was dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, if I could lift it up anyway. I was being held down by something heavy. I figured out later that they were blankets, several blankets piled on top of each other to form a winter proof cocoon.
I struggled and began to panic, trying to make out any light, trying to find out where I was when I heard the soft footsteps coming towards me.
A bony finger rested on my lips, I smelled something like rot on the breath of the being kneeling next to me.
“You will live. Rest.”
The voice was soft, melodic, low. It reminded me of my grandpa’s. My eyes slid shut and I drifted back to sleep.
When I woke up, there was a fire illuminating a little of the room. I couldn’t see Erica or her parents. The blankets were made of some kind of fur, I managed to struggle one hand free to touch them. They were so soft.
My rescuer was in the shadows, he looked enormous to little me laying on the floor. He was hunched over, otherwise he would’ve hit his head on the ceiling. I still couldn’t see his face.
“Where’s my friend?” I managed to ask.
He said it in such a calm way. Like he was talking about the weather. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I attempted to curl up under the blankets but it was hard to move with how heavy they were. It kept me almost uncomfortably warm.
“You survived. But you’re hurt.” His head craned forward, looking down the room. I looked down to see it was a tunnel, leading out to a pure white landscape. “The snow still comes down. You will wait here until it’s passed.”
My stomach growled pitifully. I opened my mouth to say I was hungry before the man took a few steps to be at my side. He knelt beside me and pressed his finger to my lips.
“I’ll feed you soon. Go back to sleep. You need rest.”
According to the police, I was missing for five days. To me, it could’ve been one. It could’ve been ten. It could’ve been a year I was in that cave. But I wasn’t alone.
I had my friend. My… guardian angel, I think he was. I never moved from that spot on the cave except to go use the bathroom in a bucket in the corner and that was only when my savior let me up. He never got creepy with me, he never even touched me except to occasionally caress my head and when his fingers brushed my lips either to shush me or to feed me.
He fed me just before I would go back to sleep, lulled by his soothing voice and the warmth of the blankets and the fire. I’d feel something press against my lips and I’d chew it down, it tasted faintly of pork or steak. When I ate, he’d tell me stories. He never told me his name. Only stories about who he was, what he’d seen in his very long life.
“Have you saved anyone else?” I asked once.
He laughed quietly.
“Only you, Tanya. Only you.”
I asked why he saved me.
I never asked what he meant by that. He told me to go to sleep, that I needed to rest to heal. To be fair, he wasn’t wrong. When the doctors examined me back in civilization, they said I’d been pretty banged up.
I never went hungry. I never felt afraid. I felt safe. I told him all about my parents. About their constant fighting, how they were making me choose between them on Christmas of all things. He nodded, he understood my pain.
“Greed. They’re greedy for you.” He made sure to tuck the blankets under my chin, when the fire burned brighter I could’ve sworn he was wearing something on his head, but it was too dark to really tell. “I know greed better than most living creatures.”
“Is… is greed bad?” I asked. I was getting tired at this point, my eyes were barely able to stay open.
“Depends how you see it.”
I had one more question.
“Are you an angel?”
He laughed so hard, an empty and bitter sound. “No, I’m not. I suppose I should take that as a flattery. Help will come tomorrow for you, Tanya. You’ll go home. I’m sure your parents will learn not to be greedy. But… I wonder if I should be greedy?” He rested a hand on my face. “… I’m very lonely up here. I hunger for many things, not just food.”
“I’ll come back!” I nodded as furiously as I could. “I promise!”
“Would you now?” He almost sounded… hopeful. “… Well, I suppose you won’t really have a choice. Go sleep, now.”
When I woke up, there were police swarming the cave and my guardian angel was gone, the fire put out.
I told the police what had happened, which I then had to repeat to more police, and then some doctors, and even more doctors… it was pretty exhausting. My parents were furious with each other and tried to use this incident as ammo against each other that they weren’t fit for custody, but I remember one of the doctors having a quiet discussion with them, about what had happened. About how I’d done to stay alive. After that they shockingly backed off, equal custody was granted and things improved.
I didn’t understand what the doctors had meant until I’d gotten older. I was the only one who didn’t know. We’d moved because people wouldn’t stop looking at me with horror and… pity. A kid had called me a freak before his mom dragged him away. Mom had my last name changed to her new husband’s. No one knew who I was.
As a thirteen year old, it was quite a shock to find what had happened to me on one of those true story blogs. But sure enough, everyone knew it but me. Poor little Tanya. Stranded out in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. The drivers and her best friend dead from the crash. It was so cold… And there was nothing for me to eat.
I’ve gone off the grid now. It’s a little hard to explain my ‘changes’. Growing nearly ten feet tall and sprouting antlers is a bit bizarre, I won’t lie. The transformation kicked in when I was maybe eighteen, dunno why it took so long, but whatever.
I’m doing pretty well overall. Canada is a really beautiful place. I go from place to place, not giving a shit about, well, anything. No job. No worries about tomorrow, only today. I’m never content though, never full.
I don’t think I will be until I find my rescuer and thank him for all he did for me.