Cottage of safety by @Theminidandy 500 Words

It seemed like he'd been running for days.  The snow was getting deeper and the trees were getting closer together.  He'd not heard them yelling for a few hours, maybe he'd lost them; maybe they were just chasing him silently.  Had he ever been that lucky before? No, not that he could remember.

He slowed down, and suddenly he realised just how much the hunt had taken out of him.  His legs ached and his lungs were on fire.  He needed to sleep; he needed to find shelter.  But mostly, he needed dry shoes.

Ahead, in the distance he saw a thin wisp of black smoke curling up into the sky, as if a fire had been started and then hastily put out.  Fire meant people and people meant help. 

Running again, through the knee-deep snow, he was getting closer to where the smoke had come from.  The trees were now that close together that you couldn't see more than five yards in any direction.  It was nearly sunset, and behind him, the unmistakable howl of a timber wolf echoed through the forest.  This served to give him a second wind and he gained pace for a mile or so.  He was on the verge of collapse when he finally arrived at the cottage, the door swung open as he leaned on it and he just had time to register the glowing embers of the fire before he fell, unconscious, to the floor.

He awoke with a start, unsure as to what had woken him.  He couldn't remember closing the door, but it was closed now, and there was no trace of snow on the floor.  The wind must have blown the door closed, perhaps that was what woke him.  He removed an oil lamp from the wall, lit it with one of his few dry matches and instantly regretted doing it.  The walls of the large room were lined with portraits, each intricately detailed, each one more freakish than the next.  Where one depicted a human face, larger than life, with sharp teeth and red eyes, another featured a creature that reminded him of an octopus, with every tentacle covered in vicious claws.  There were paintings on the ceiling; the faces in these were less clear, but the detail was still remarkable.  Each one had a solid, black, background.

He managed to find a blanket, and curled himself onto the table. He found it difficult to stop looking at the paintings.  He saw one of a timber wolf, its long tongue lolling from the side of its maw.  He could see the amazing detail in every individually painted hair.  Eventually though, he could not stay awake any longer and sleep took him.

Many hours later, the warmth from the bright sun shining on his closed eyelids woke him, and his first thought was of the wonderfully horrific paintings.  He slowly sat up, and looked, but what he had thought were paintings were clear, glass windows.

The door swung open. 

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