This is so stupid, Alexandre thought, dead leaves crunching beneath his feet, the smell of dewy bark surrounding him. I guess this is what I get for trying to make friends with a bunch of 18-year-olds. But Alexandre didn’t want his age to keep him from the full college experience. Despite the dean’s promise that the University of Montrant had many mature students in their undergrad programs, in the first week of being on campus, Alexandre hadn’t met anyone that wasn’t coming straight from high school.
So, rather than commit himself to isolation, he decided to join a club. They called themselves a secret society even though they were advertising at the campus club fair. Yet, even the pseudo secrecy sounded fun to Alexandre. There were camping trips, woodland parties, and tours of the “dark underbelly” of campus – whatever that meant.
Yet, as he walked further into the forest alone, he was beginning to feel like he made a big mistake. He hadn’t expected to be sent off on some sort of warped vision quest in chase of a legend as part of his initiation. He had spent enough time alone to last him a lifetime. And he had given up believing in magic long ago.
Alexandre was in search of the legendary Baba Jaga who lived in the woods. Allegedly, a day’s walk from the school. The campus was full of legends of students who had visited her to get charms to pass exams or a love potion to slip to their crush.
Alexandre didn’t believe any of the stories. But, having strapped a borrowed tent and sleeping bag to his pack riding on his broad shoulders, he wasn’t completely opposed to spending a night camping and returning with a tall tale of his own. Just as he thought this, he looked up to see the sun shrinking through the changing leaves of the forest, hiding behind ominous looking rain clouds.
Shit. Alexandre thought. Mr Prepared, Mr vigilant protector of his own health, hadn’t thought to bring rain gear. Subconsciously, Alexandre’s hand began rubbing his chest. The afternoon was already cool, and rain would make for a very unpleasant, and for Alexandre, dangerous overnight stay. He looked down at the ring he wore on his pinky finger, the one his sister had worn since she was thirteen. She had intended to wear it for the rest of her life. It had been pneumonia that had removed the ring from her finger. Alexandre had gotten it too, after years of caring for her. But, he had a strong immune system, hers, weakened from years of illness could not recover. Still, the doctor had warned Alexandre that his lungs had been permanently damaged, and he needed to be careful.
Alexandre was already wondering when it might be suitable to just go back to his dorm room when the path came to a fork. He put down his pack and pulled out his map. The map had a theatrical red X where the witch’s home was supposed to be, straight down the right path. He looked up at the sky again; gambling with how much time he had before the rain came.
Alexandre had already been walking for hours. He probably wouldn’t make it back before dark, let alone before the storm came. At least if someone did live here, he might be able to take shelter before it was too late.
Alexandre looked down at the ring on his finger again and made the decision. He rushed along as the clouds moved even faster above him, specks of rain beginning to fall on the oranges, yellows, and reds of the leaves around him. He was headed toward the witch’s house.
Eva stood inside her home, looking up through the skylight, watching the rain begin to pour down from above.
“There has not been a visitor in many moons now.” she said aloud to the still wolf resting by the fireplace, “an interesting evening for a traveller.”
She looked out the window and, while the traveller was not in view yet, she could see him coming, could smell him already with a keen animal sense, a scent that both calmed and excited her.
Eva knew what the students and the residents of the nearby to…