All Hugo Award-winning fanfic, all the time.

WIP Amnesty Week: “Return to Mt. Washington”, ch. 4

Here’s where I got to in the “Nerd Boys and Wendibros” Until Dawn WiP.

This is mostly me being As You Know, Bob self-indulgent with my fanon lore. The idea here is that eating a wendigo’s heart (which, remember, we saw Josh do earlier on in the series) is what causes the “hybrid” style wendigo. This entire story was basically an excuse for Josh to have a Big Damn Hero moment involving a fake-out where he pretends to eat Ash. Basically because lololol fake love triangle fuck that basically.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us about the fucking wendigo.”

Chris winces, first at Emily’s tone, second at the slap she applies to his arm.

“Seriously! How could you?”

“Uh,” says Chris. He has that kind of wide-eyed, helpless look men often get while talking to Emily. Ash just wraps her arms tighter around her waist, tries not to feel the cool September air against her skin.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” From Matt, peering over the railing and into the darkness. Not that there’s anything to see; they lost sight of Sam and Mike and Josh a while ago. “Maybe I should’ve gone with them…”

“Has everyone suddenly forgotten what happened last time or what?” Emily, still pissed. “I’ve got two words for you, Matt: Radio. Tower.”

“They’ll be fine,” Chris interjects. “Josh is with them.”

“It’s Josh I’d be worried about,” Jess mutters from the doorway.

Chris seems to take the comment in a positive way, even if that’s not how Jess means it. He gives his best gormless grin and says, “Nah. You know he’s the Makkapitew, right?” A pause. “Well, I mean. I think so. We don’t talk about it, but the timeline fits.” If he thought the words would reassure people, he’s disappointed.

“What… what does that mean?” Ash asks. “Being the Mak— Makwhatsit.” She remembers the name from the last time: the One Who Has Big Teeth, fiercest of them all.

Chris just shrugs, unconcerned. “He’s stronger, faster, that kind of thing. The others are usually deferential, outside of breeding season. They’re social, you know. The wendigo. We’ve learnt a lot about them.” Then, in the same breath: “I’m going in. No point hanging around out here.” Jess steps aside to let him back into the house, sharing a look with Ash as she does so.

“I can’t believe you study them.” Emily’s nose scrunches up in disgust. “Why?”

“Because,” Chris says, over his shoulder, “Josh is one of them. Understanding them helps him understand himself.”

“What do you mean ‘social’?” Jess asks. “Like, are they throwing sick parties up here when we’re not looking?”

Ash feels better when she steps back into the lodge, then even more so when Matt drags the sliding door shut. Chris has thrown himself back down on the lounge, looking relaxed in a way the rest of them definitely aren’t.

“I mean social,” he says. “Like, think lions, I guess? Except not quite. I don’t know a proper analogy for it. But, basically, there are three ‘types’ of wendigo that we know of. Surface males, like Josh, who hold down a territory. Roaming males, who don’t, and who mostly live in the mines. And females, who wander. You’re talking large, intelligent apex predators, here. It’s really only male-male encounters that are tense. Josh’s territory is the largest on the mountain, so he gets a lot of females moving trough it. They aren’t allowed near the house, but otherwise he doesn’t run them off. And they can’t be too bothered by him, because they let him draw them.”

Ashley has a sudden flash of Josh, sitting behind a sketchbook, a wendigo reclining on a chaise lounge in front of him. The image isn’t funny; it’s horrifying.

“Josh… draws the wendigo?” Matt asks.

This, of course, prompts Chris to show them, bringing up a folder of images on the TV. Ashley isn’t sure whether she’s impressed or repulsed with the results; Josh always was a good artist, but she’d found his preferred subject matter macabre. Ironically, his sketches of wendigo are prosaic rather than the violent; studies of them sleeping, or looking curious, or engaging with each other in non-violent ways. (Similar, in fact, to the way Josh acts with Chris, though Ashley tries not to think too much about it.) The wendigo are still horrific—still ugly amalgamations of teeth and scars and wide, soulless eyes—but seeing them drawn so calmly, in so much detail…

“It sort of makes them seem more like, y’know. Just animals or something. Like those horrible deep sea fish.” Jess is leaning forward, chin in her palm, watching the slideshow. “Ugly and stuff, but not supernatural monsters.”

There’s a page of head shots, of varying expressions, all labelled with names in Josh’s handwriting: Master Chief is snarling, Aerith looks afraid, Mario and Luigi apprehensive. All lined up next to each other, Ash can start to see the physical differences; Cortana has horizontal gouges on her cheeks, Shepard’s are more vertical. Altair’s missing an eye, Kerrigan’s covered in burn scars.

There’s a map, too; a topographical representation of the mountain, overlaid by scribbles from a tablet pen.

“This is us,” Chris says, pointing to a large, green-shaded area. “The next biggest territory is Master Chief’s. He’s kinda aggressive, but over the far side of the mountain, so we don’t see him much except during rut. He wants Josh’s territory. I’ve chased him off with the flamethrower a few times.” He says this so conversationally, like it’s NBD, bro. “Over here in the red are Mario and Luigi, we think they’re brothers. Came out of the mines together last season and took territory off Sephiroth, in the purple, and Altair, in yellow. We think Luigi is how Altair lost the eye.”

Ash studies the map. Josh’s green region is the largest area by far. She tries to image how he patrols it. Stalking through the trees on all fours, or riding on a dirt bike?

“How… how many are there?” she asks. “In total, I mean?”

“‘Bout twenty, we think,” Chris says. “The five territoried males”—including Josh, Ash notes—“plus about another five in the mines, plus about that many females again. Maybe more we’ve never seen, but they’d be down deep. All Nats; natural-born wendigo. We, uh. We think all the converted ones got killed in the explosion. They would’ve been mostly males”—except Hannah, he doesn’t say—“and what with Flamethrower Guy locking them up in the sanitarium… We think maybe their, like, ecosystem has been screwed up for a while.” He loves this, Ash realizes. Loves running his own weird little cryptozoologic survey up here in Nowhere, Canada.

“So you don’t think he did the right thing,” Emily says. “Locking the wendigo up?”

“They eat people, man!” Matt exclaims.

Chris just shrugs. “We’re the wendigo’s preferred prey,” he says. “But they’re opportunistic predators. They eat deer, elk, rabbits, bats, birds—”

“Other wendigo?” Jess asks.

Chris’ mouth snaps shut. For the first time, he looks uncomfortable. “Not… usually,” he says.

“The cannibal monsters avoid cannibalism?”

Chris is really, really uncomfortable. He’s trying to hide it, but Ash has known him long enough—has spent enough time studying his face—to see through it.

“Look,” he starts. But that’s as far as he gets, and even that word is interrupted by an electronic chiming sound that seems to come from everywhere in the house, all at once.

“What—?” Matt starts.

“The doorbell?” Chris is on his feet.

“Who’d be ringing the doorbell?” asks Emily.

“Josh?” is Jess’ suggestion, but:

“Josh has keys,” Chris says. Then, “Wait here. I’ll see who it is.”

“Oh hell no!” Matt is moving, too. “I’m not doing this again, dude. Not again.”

“It’s a woman.” Chris ignores Matt, is instead peering at a panel on the wall. There’s a video image, the camera from the front door, and they all cluster around to look. There is, indeed, a woman. She looks terrified, alternating between ringing the bell and pounding on the door and shooting anxious glances back over her shoulder. Her skin is dark and the video is bad, but even so they can all see the bruise on her cheek and the trickle of blood trailing from her hairline.

“Who is she?” Jess asks.

“No idea,” says Chris, and starts making his way to the front door.

“Wait,” Ash hears herself say. “Wait, you aren’t just… aren’t just going to let her in, are you?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Because! We have no idea who she is! She could be… could be—”

“Worse than what normally lives in this house?” The corner of Chris’ mouth lifts, just a little. “It’ll be fine. This is Canada!”

They might very well be in Canada, but the frantic woman is American; they can tell it from her accent the second she falls in through the door. “Oh thank you!” she says. “Thank you thank you I thought I was going to die out there I—”

“You’re safe now.” Chris is big, and blond, and reassuring, and Ash’s heart breaks, just a little, all over again. “My name’s Chris. These are my friends, Ashley, Jess, Emily, and Matt.”

“Mister,” the frantic woman says. “Mister, that don’t matter right now. We have to get off this mountain! We have to get off right now! There are monsters out there, like I’ve never seen before. They have… they have teeth, and eyes and—”

“The mountain is dangerous at night,” Chris says. “We have a lot of predators up here. Wolves, bears—”

“Mister, what I saw weren’t no bear!”

“—but they don’t come near the lodge. You’ll be safe here.”

The woman blinks, takes a step back. “You don’t believe me!” she says. “You think I’m crazy! I’m not crazy. I saw it, it was—”

“It was dark,” Chris says. He pulls out a smile. Ash can’t decide whether it’s sympathetic or patronizing. She isn’t sure why Chris isn’t just admitting what they all know. “Come on,” he says instead. “Come through. You can get cleaned up, stay here for the night. Then we can get you home tomorrow. Are you up here by yourself?”

He gestures, inviting the woman inside. After a moment’s hesitation, she starts to move. Limping, Ash notices.

“N-no,” the woman says. “But I got separated from the others.” Another pause, then: “Sadie. My name’s Sadie.”

They get Sadie settled in on the lounge, Jess going at her with a first aid kit Chris produces before he vanishes into the kitchen with a, “I’ll make hot cocoa!”

After a moment, Ash follows, only to find him in the hallway, face lit-up by his phone.

“Texting Josh,” he says by way of explanation. “Or trying to. Reception’s a bit hit and miss up here. But he should know it looks like we found our screaming girl.”

“What about the men?” Ash keeps her voice low, just in case.

“That’s what I’m thinking, yeah.” He scowls. “Something about this isn’t right.”

There’s a traumatized girl in the den and monsters on the loose on the mountain. Just another evening on Mount Washington, Ash thinks.

Thinks, but doesn’t say. “What do you want me to do?”

“There’s a landline,” Chris says after a moment. “In the entryway. The number for the local police station is written on a Post-It on the bureau.”

“You want me to call the cops? What for?”

“At the very least,” Chris says, “trespassing. This whole mountain is private property.”

Ash scowls. “Chris! You can’t! That poor girl’s just been chased by God-knows-what, and—”

“Ash, look,” Chris says. “This place, it’s remote. You can’t hike up here by accident; the terrain’s too all over the place. If someone’s here, it’s because they decided they wanted to be here. And, like I said, this is private property. The whole mountain.”

“You think she came up in the cable car,” Ash realizes.

“Which is locked,” Chris says.

“Unless someone has a key.”

“I have one, so does Josh,” Chris says. “But we had a spare set made, back when they were rebuilding the lodge. It was with the construction foreman.”

“You think someone stole it?”

Chris shakes his head. “I think someone duped it. Maybe someones. I doubt they did it by accident. Hence, cops.”

Ashley nods. “Right,” she says. “You’re right. I’ll go call.”