bailey macabre


ᓭᑭᓯᐃᐧᐣ — a nêhiyaw horror story

It’s the time of year when dead leaves have been composting on the ground for weeks, their brown remains slowly turning to mud beneath our feet as we venture into the forest behind our house. The sun begins to set while we traverse the rotted ground. Embers from the bonfire we lit in the front yard cascade toward the sky, and its light diminishes as we travel deeper into the forest. Food has been really hard to come by, not only due to the changing seasons but also because of the encroachment on our land.

It seems like with each passing year, fewer animals visit this territory. Maybe it has something to do with that leak up north that turned the water bad. Maybe it’s because of that new subdivision they’re building a few miles from here. In the summer the forests burn and in the winter there’s no place for any living thing to seek shelter. The bears don’t even come to hibernate anymore. If I were an animal, I’d leave too. But I’m not — and we still gotta eat.

I watch nohcâwis weave through the trees effortlessly. He is sure footed and strong. I wish I could be like that one day. I’ve already slipped twice and my pants are wet with mud.

“It’s a shame your old man ain’t around to help us out. Back when we was your age we used to run around here tryin’ to catch whatever we could. Weren’t no good at it, though”.

There are things about nôhtâwiy I can remember, like the veins on his hands and how they protruded when he worked on that old car of his. I remember he grumbled often and never really smiled. He left the day before my tenth birthday. nikâwiy seems to think we’re all better off without him. She told me stories of his constant desire for more. We would never be enough for him. I know this, and I hate him for it, but hearing my uncle talk about him brings forth a longing I never knew existed.

The sky is almost completely dark now, and I can feel the mud beneath my feet harden as the air gets colder. I pull the flashlight from my jacket pocket and switch it on.

nohcâwis turns to me. “Now keep your eyes open! We’re looking for that big game — you see antlers, you stop movin’ and I’ll take that as yer signal”.

I walk ahead of him and with my flashlight pointed forward, I scan for any sign of life. My stomach makes a loud gurgling noise. Please, Creator, bring us something — anything. I start thinking of moose meat frybread and my mouth waters; I’m almost entirely lost in the fantasy when I hear something move in front of us. The wind blows forward and I know whatever’s out there picked up on our presence. My uncle remains silent as he follows my lead.

Trying to throw off our scent, I move to the west in hopes of getting behind the wind. I don’t want us to spook anymore animals. I’m so focused on tracking that I completely forget we’re in the forest. Alone. At night. I’m so focused that I —

Wait. What’s that smell?

Flashbacks of turned meat rush into my mind. I think of the time our fridge quit; I opened it only to see all our hard earned provisions covered in writhing, white maggots. The stench that hit my nose back then was so pungent and putrid I knew I’d never forget it.

And here I am, smelling it again. That sickly, somehow sweet stench of decay. Something is dead in this forest and has been for quite a while now. The cold air hits my cheeks and I pull my hood up over my head. It got cold fast — really fast. My fingers begin to numb as I shakily try to pull my gloves out of my jacket pocket. I fumble the flashlight and it falls on the ground – its beam highlights my uncle’s face.

He is frozen in fear, his mouth agape, as if trying to scream, but no sound leaves his throat. He doesn’t move. His eyes fixate on something behind me. His gaze never falters while he remains immobile. I hesitantly pick up the flashlight, keeping it on him, hoping that my movement snaps him back to reality. Still, he doesn’t move. He seems as equally mesmerized as he is afraid.

I turn around cautiously, using the beam from my flashlight to guide me. At first, I see giant antlers. For a moment, the possibility of a hearty meal in my future hits me and I feel excitement rise in my gut. However, it quickly gives way to fear as I continue to investigate. Illuminated against the darkness that surrounds us, a blood-soaked creature perches on its hind legs, feeding. The massive antlers give way to skinny, emaciated shoulders. Thick, dark fur makes its way down its spine, and the hair sparkles, covered in frost. Pointed ribs ripple through its thin, sinewy flesh, and they move up and down as the beast consumes its prey. I hear the gnawing of flesh, and the cracking of bone, and I freeze. It turns to face us. Its eyes are focused intently on my uncle, who hasn’t moved at all. I stare at it, and as terrifying as it is, there’s an odd familiarity about it.

I remain stunned, watching, wishing I could move – wishing I could do something.

In an instant, it springs toward us, launching off its hinds, and I throw myself aside to prevent being caught in its grasp. I land hard on the ground and hastily look around to see where it went. I grab the flashlight and shine it toward my uncle, who is pressed beneath this monstrosity. It wasn’t aiming for me in the first place.

His eyes never waiver as he stares at the monster, who pins him beneath its enormous weight. It takes my uncles hand and lifts it toward the night sky, pulling down the sleeve of his coat to expose his bare arm. It peels his flesh off with the same ease one would peel an orange. nohcâwis doesn’t scream. He doesn’t move. He just stares with wide eyes as the creature removes his skin and slurps it into its mouth. I remain stunned as I watch the behemoth torture and consume my uncle. Everything in my body wants to leave, yet somehow I remain frozen.

The monster brings my uncle’s skinless arm toward its mouth and begins to chew. I can see the bloody muscles separate from stark, white bones. In disbelief, I watch. It feels like my brain is disconnected from my body and I am trapped here — a prisoner. It’s then I realize I am being forced to witness its exhibition. I couldn’t move if I wanted to.

nohcâwis is tortured, dismembered, and consumed in front of me. A momentary spark of clarity hits me, and all the horror stories I heard growing up fill my mind. wihtikow. They’re real. They’re real and I’m watching one devour my uncle.

I’m next.

Internally reeling, I know I need to free myself from the dominion this beast has over me. I think of smoke getting in my eyes – I imagine the stinging burn as tears drip down my face. This thought feels so intensely real that I am able to close my eyes for a moment. Luckily, this means I break eye contact with the miscreation. As soon as I free myself from its gaze, my autonomy returns.

In the tales I’d heard as a child, the only way to kill a wihtikow was to use fire to melt its heart of ice. I recall the bonfire we left burning at our house. If I can find my way back home, I may have a chance to kill this thing.

Just as I begin to run away from the slaughter, the sound of feeding ceases. Rhythmic pounding follows me as the vile creature gives chase. The moment it leaves my uncles side, he lets out a blood-curdling scream. He wails in agony. His pain-filled howls pierce the night air as I scramble toward our house. Eventually his shrieks become gurgles, and his gurgles give way to silence. The tears well up in my eyes and my vision blurs, making the expedition home much more difficult.

The breath of the wihtikow is sour and stale and I can smell it as it gets closer. I crest the hill and relief strikes as the glow of the bonfire paints an orange haze across the overcast sky.

Being careful not to slip, I watch the forest floor as I trek towards the light of the bonfire. The scent of smoke lingers in the air and I breathe it in deeply, using it as fuel to propel me to safety.


The wind picks up and with it comes an unwelcome reality. That putrid, rotten stank hits my nostrils again and the presence of the wihtikow behind me can’t be ignored.

My feet carry me as fast as they can and the shadow of my house looms closely on the horizon. Out of nowhere, the air surrounding me turns intensely frigid. I breathe in the glacial blast and it catches in my lungs. I fall to the ground in a coughing fit and before I gain my footing, I’m pressed into the cold mud under the weight of wihkitow.

Its thin, lengthy fingers grab me by my arms and twist my body around so I am forced to lock eyes with it.

Once more I am its hostage and can no longer move. I feel its bony claws press into my stomach, tearing through my flesh. Searing pain rips through me. What was once the core of my body, where I held the most warmth, becomes a frigorific nightmare under the wihtikow’s icy grasp. The blood that oozes from my wound transforms into red icicles cascading down my battered frame. The monstrous fiend pulls at my intestines, removing them from my body and inserting them into its mouth, never once breaking eye contact. Despite being exenterated by a creature I had feared since childhood, there remains something recognizable about this beast. It’s a feeling I can’t shake. My breath becomes shallow and my vision narrows, but I continue to stare into the eyes of my executioner.

That’s when it hits me. The familiarity. The greed. The hatred. With my last breath, I utter one final word.


originally published on, 2019, written by bailey macabre

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