Disclaimer: I don't own any of this and I'm not trying to sell any of it.

AN: This chapter is not for the faint of heart. If you have trouble with cannibalism (ie watching shows like Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs, or some scenes in Attack on Titan etc.) then you've been warned.

AN 2: As per the norm, uploading now and editing later.

~o0O0o~

CASE 14: HUNTER OR HUNTED!?

Then, from the distance it looks like we meet,

~o0O0o~

At precisely six o'clock in the morning, I hear my phone's alarm go off. I turn it off as quick as possible. I can hear Ayako showering in the bathroom so maybe… just maybe… she hasn't heard it yet and I can sleep a little longer.

I hide the phone under my pillow and try desperately to fall asleep. Naru and I didn't get back to the hotel until two this morning and four hours just isn't enough for sleep. The pillow is so fluffy, the blankets are so warm, and my eyes are so tired.

"Don't even think about it missy," Ayako grumbles. "Just because you and Naru had a midnight adventure does not mean that you can ignore the fact that we are leaving in two hours." I whine from my pillow, causing her to yank the sheets off of me. The bitter cold in the room makes me shiver and cringe. I look at her desperately, my eyes pleading for her to let me go back to sleep. "You can sleep in the car." She scowls and stares until I force myself to sit up. With a smirk plastered to her face, she continues getting ready for our trip.

I sigh and comply with her wishes.

I don't want to be the one who holds us up anyway…

~o0O0o~

I spend an hour taking a shower and packing up my suitcase. Once I've finished, I meet the others downstairs for one last continental breakfast.

Until we hit the next hotel at least.

"What on earth had you two out so long last night?" John asks Naru and me as we much on toast. Neither of us are hungry and the other members of our group are eyeballing us suspiciously.

"I suppose you may have the right to know about our personal conducts," Naru answers.

Personal conducts?

Bad choice of words Naru!

He snorts at my internal response before answering. "We were giving Eugene our farewell." The glare Masako was giving me soon changes to painful sadness as she looks towards Naru longingly.

"You mean…" Monk says but turns his gaze downwards with remorse.

"Gene crossed over last night."

The others go silent and we sit together as a quiet, broken and beaten group.

"He is at peace," Masako says, breaking the tension after a moment. Boldly, she puts her hand onto Naru's shoulder and squeezes it gently. "You know that, so there is no reason to be sad. This is a happy thing to have happened."

I notice Monk and Ayako glance over to me out of the corner of my eye. I can't respond though. I don't know what to do. She isn't in the wrong for consoling him, and technically Naru and I still aren't dating.

I grind my teeth together in frustration. I want to hate myself for feeling so self-observed. I should be thanking her for being so kind to him. But what right do I have to be thankful? I should have been the one to comfort him like that. So why didn't I?

And above everything else…

Why am I jealous when I should be grieving for Gene and feeling sympathetic for Naru?

I pass a glance at Masako but she isn't looking at me. Her gaze is still affixed on Naru, and he's looking back at her, thanking her for her sincerity.

~o0O0o~

Our meal soon finishes and we, at last, make our way to our rental car. But as I step out of the building, I'm suddenly overwhelmed by a strange feeling.

I jerk my head around, certain that someone is watching me.

But no one is there.

That's weird…

~o0O0o~

Today's drive is an unfortunate fifteen-hour journey. We plan on heading west, diving through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Our goal is to ultimately wind up in San Jose, California, but we won't be getting there until tomorrow. As we drive though, I continue to have that same feeling.

I'm almost jumpy.

How can I feel like I'm being watched when I'm in a minivan?

Our rental is a Mazda 5. The seats are situated as two in the front, twoish in the middle, and two in the back. I'm in the middle, sharing the area with Masako. Monk and Ayako are at the front, and Naru and John are in the back. I turn towards them, looking at Naru and John. Even if they were staring at me, or if Masako was even, this feeling of being watched is different than that.

"There isn't anyone behind you two… right?" I ask hesitantly. Masako is glancing at me shrewdly, probably trying to see if I'm up to something. Naru is looking at me in the same way, but I know he's more or less trying to calculate what is causing me to act like this. John complies with my question and sits up more, turning his chest so that he can look into the back easily.

"Nothing there, Mai-san," he asys.

"Oh good," I sigh in relief, resting back into my seat.

"Everything good back there, kiddo?" Monk asks.

"Yea." I say. "I've just been feeling like I'm being watched." I shrug off the idea now that I know nothing is in the vehicle.

"You're probably just tired from exorcising that house last night," Ayako says.

"And a little unsettled because of Eugene-san crossing over," John agrees.

"You're right," I agree. I catch Naru frown from his reflection in the side mirror. He remains silent, but his expression makes me wonder. Because of my intuition, does he suspect something else is causing this feeling?

As I contemplate the idea, the sinking feeling of being watched becomes stronger. It makes me feel trapped. Like someone will soon be coming to kill me, and there's no way I can escape.

Ayako yells in fright and there's a loud THUNK on the window as I watch orange and red fall to the pavement.

"Stop the car!"

But Monk is already slowing the vehicle down and pulling to the side of the road.

I hurry out of the rental, same as Monk, but while he goes to inspect any damage, I check on the animal.

Dead, at the side of the road, is a poor fox. I look at it pitifully, wondering how this could have happened. Monk is now talking on his cell phone, probably calling the rental office to tell them about the damage. I search the nearby fields for my fox, and see her staring at me from on top of a rock.

"Are you trying to tell me something?" I ask anxiously. The fox begins to transform again, trying to mold into the form of someone else I know, but Monk grabs my arm and drags me back to the car before the fox can finish.

"But Monk!" I argue, trying to get out of his grip.

"We have to go," he says harshly. "I have a bad feeling. We need to leave."

"So you feel it to?" I ask.

He frowns. "I don't know what I feel."

As he starts the Mazda back up, a strong wind begins to blow. He drives the car forward, but has to veer against it in order to stay straight. I look out of my window, and see the fox has finished transforming.

The form it has taken isn't anyone I recognize. The figure is human in shape, but it's build is tall and lanky. Beyond anorexic in appearance. I feel like I'm looking at a skeleton simply draped in human skin. The fox's eyes are glowing red, and it smiles back at me with a large grin filled with spiky teeth. I watch her reach towards me and notice her hands and feet are covered in claws.

Why take on that form?

What are you trying to tell me?

I show the image to Naru, using my mind to provide more description then my words ever could. Naru doesn't say anything; he has been silent for the entire car ride, but I watch him frown again through the side mirror and I know he's mulling over what this warning might be for.

~o0O0o~

We arrive at the hotel around ten at night. We had grabbed food at a nearby fast-food restaurant, and bring the meals to our rooms. This time, we are only staying in two rooms. John offers to use the couch hide-a-bed in the boys' room; but us three girls aren't that considerate. We play janken to decide who will get one of the two beds and who's stuck with the couch. By we, I mean me and Ayako, because Masako takes one of the beds without asking. We argue with her for being rude but she ignores us and goes to sleep quickly.

~o0O0o~

"How are you holding up?" Ayako asks from the bed as I try to get comfortable. "Still feeling uneasy?"

"I am," I say sadly. "I can't shake this feeling that someone… or something… is watching me."

Ayako muddles her thoughts over. "Maybe you'll get an answer in a dream?" she offers as reassurance.

I don't say anything back. I'm very positive I will get some kind of answer in my dream. But with this heinous feeling that's is surrounding me, I'm not sure I want the answer.

~o0O0o~

From the trees, I see two men walking boisterously through the heart of the forest. They're carrying long, sharpened sticks; several fish pierced through the wood. A fresh catch. They whistle and hoot, shoving each other playfully, elated from the food they've acquired.

In a few minutes, they come to a clearing where they've pitched two tents made from animal skin. The men start a fire and prepare to cook the fish. While one works on maintaining the heat, and cooking the fish perfectly by sprinkling various leaves onto it, the other begins to paint his body with red paint.

They speak in a language I do not understand. The words I catch are Kichi Manido and kìgònz. As I watch the painted man dance around the fire, entertaining his chef friend, I am struck with a thought. Maybe it's my intuition, but I have a feeling the painted man is dancing as way of thanking his god for the fish.

The chef calls out to the sky musically, holding up the fish and yelling "kìgònz." He also motions to his dancing friend and shrinks his hands together. I want to laugh at the gesture. It seems like the chef is teasing the dancer for catching a small fish.

As the two finish their ceremony; the fish are cooked and the dance is done, they amble into their tents to sleep. The moon is high in the sky now, and I watch it blissfully, remembering my date with Naru so many months ago. While I stare up at it, the moon begins moving faster than normal, sending time skyrocketing forward as it descends past the earth and the sun rises to the middle of the sky before following the same path. Day and night speeds by so fast that I can't comprehend how much time has gone.

When it finally slows, I look back down and see fall leaves littering the forest floor, and the two men now appear thinner than before. They still joke with each other. One giving the other one a small shove. They laugh, but there isn't enough energy to continue. They can't wrestle with one another now.

They look at their fish supply meekly once they reach the campfire. I can feel my throat becoming heavy as I become overwhelmed by my immediate understanding of the situation.

They're lost…

And slowly starving.

The men don't dance now, instead, the dancer plays a drum while the other sings. They're hopeful for a rescue that I know will never come. Tonight, they're forced to share a single fish, before crawling into their tents and falling asleep to the hungered pains of their stomachs.

I look up to the moon again, and watch as the days' pass by quickly; looking down again when the sun has finally slowed to a stop.

Snow.

Bitter cold, white snow has covered the ground and the tents. The two men aren't just skinny. They're bones are noticeably protruding out. A tear escapes my eye as I force myself to watch them sit beside one another, shivering.

It's so sad that these two great friends ended up like this…

They talk to one another solemnly, and I still can't understand any of their language. I have nothing to base my assumptions on so I just watch them shrug and shudder against the wind. A look of fear and understanding seems to pass over them as they continue their conversation.

The two stand, and hug one another.

But what are they saying?

Is this some kind of suicide pact?

"Kichi Manido" and "Bi-bon" are said. Along with nervous chuckles and frightened glances as the dancer whispers.

I can't make out the words. The wind is rushing by, howling loudly and covering the words the dancer has made.

But they aren't affected by the wind?

I conclude that the spirit showing me this dream is hiding the word from me.

But why?

I don't know your language so would it really make a difference?

While I try to rationalize the action, the two men begin fighting. They punch each other with the small strength they can muster. Each punch sends the recipient and the sender to the ground, forcing them to use more strength just to stand back up. Their skin is dry and hard, breaking easily as they fall and make contact with one another. Blood begins to slowly sprinkle on top of the snow. As they continue their fight, one finally loses the will to stand back up. The other, seeing an opportunity, grabs a rock and slams it onto the man's head.

I can't make out who is who anymore. Tears are pouring from my face as I watch the victor lean down and tear into the flesh of his friend. Hesitantly, he brings the torn piece to his mouth.

I close my eyes so that the scene goes black.

~o0O0o~

I jump up quickly from the hide-a-bed, frantic and on edge. Then I jump again when I see the spirit standing before me. He's tall, towering over me by at least a foot. His hair is long, black, and matted. A feather or two rest along the tresses. My eyes trail down, too nervous to look him in the eye. His torso is bloodied and ripped open; tendons flay out of his flesh on his shoulder and the bones from his ribcage creep out from the skin. Blood is seeping from the large gashes that cover his body.

"Help me," he says in words that I've never heard before yet somehow understand.

I pause for a second, processing everything, but before I can think rationally, my instinct creeps over me and I scream at the top of my lungs.

It's a noise I'm not sure I've ever made before.

Blood curdling.

Piercing.

It will wake the whole hotel.

But I don't stop, because aside from my dream. Besides the man begging me to help him. Outside of our window I see a pair of bright, yellow eyes.

I hear a faint whimper from Masako's direction, but it doesn't stop the racket I'm making. Even Ayako, as she tries shaking me out of my fit, doesn't stop me. I can hear Naru, Monk, and John banking on our door, trying to come in.

Because Masako is stuck in a state of shock—she can probably see the man standing before me—Ayako leaves my side to answer the knocking.

Finally, my throat dries up and I begin coughing excessively. I inhale and exhale and cough more, as the room spins and I try to focus. I reach for my key. Naru had tied it to a string before he gave it back to me, so it's laying around my neck. I squeeze it as a way to ground myself. I need to remember where I am. Who I am. What I am.

Before I can forget everything, I start explaining my dream in full, as well as the spirit and the eyes watching me from outside of the hotel window.

Faintly, I hear Monk translating my words into English.

But why?

"That sounds like a wendigo," I hear someone answer.

I jump back to my memory of the dream and put wendigo in place of the words I couldn't hear.

They match…

I look over to the strangers nervously. The feeling I had of being watched is stronger than ever now.

"What is a wendigo exactly?" Monk asks.

One man shifts uncomfortably. He's tall, and wears a hat made out of raccoon skin. He has a jean jacket on and it's covered in small chains of copper. "It's a very powerful demon," he says.

The other man sighs with exhaustion. He has a bandana on and is wearing a leather jacket. "It's probably not anything you want to get involved with, if you can avoid it," the man in leather answers.

"You aren't really answering the question," John says with a very uncharacteristically sarcastic tone. "We need to know what we're up against."

"Bad omens."

A small woman shows herself from behind the men. She has long, wavy black hair. Thin eyebrows and a fierce look in her brown eyes. She's wearing a blue tank top that exposes her midriff. And low-rise jeans that show off a tattoo on the left side of her navel. It's similar to a cherry blossom.

"It'd be wise to leave. The less you know, the better," she says. She looks right at me. "Run away before the wendigo finds you. And fear not." She gives me a smirk. "We are wendigo hunters."

"But w-what are," I try to say. "Wendigos…"

"Enough. The night is still young and sleep is needed. You, of all of us, will need sleep the most," the woman says with a knowing look. She turns away and her and the others exit our room.

Naru shrugs. "I'll start researching then. I wasn't planning to sleep tonight anyway."

I race over to Naru before he can leave. "We need to find the spirit. He needs my help."

Naru glares at me. "You don't need to save every spirit. Especially is a monster is involved. Remember, I'm a ghost hunter. Not a monster hunter."

"B-b-but they are," I try to argue. I'm tired though, and my voice comes out soft. "Maybe they'll help us?"

Naru looks away from me, finally at his last straw. "Make sure she sleeps. I don't care if she has to take a pill to do it."

I stare flabbergasted as he slams the door behind him.

~o0O0o~

"Please, Naru," I argue the next morning over our breakfast.

"I said 'no'," is his only response.

"Naru… That spirit visited me in my dreams THREE times last night. It showed me the same dream again and again. And each time I woke up, he stood before me and begged me to help him."

"I'm quite aware of that, Mai. You did connect our minds and forced me to watch the dreams with you. But look at yourself. You aren't fit to help him right now."

I sit back down, defeated. He has won our argument. Again. Case closed. I can't rebuttal. There's nothing else to say, because he's right. My eyes are puffy and discolored. My cheeks are sunken in. I look like I've magically lost five pounds last night, and not in the good way. Above everything else, I'm horribly tired. And on edge.

I keep grinding my teeth and it's starting to cause my jaw to lock.

But I can't help it. My dreams keep me awake, and when I'm not dreaming, all I see is the pair of those yellow eyes staring at me. And then I feel the insatiable dread of being watched by a monster. By a Wendigo… Whatever that is.

Naru hasn't told us.

"Alright guys. Chop, chop! It's eight o'clock which means we have to hit the road," Monk says. He stretches and pops his neck, trying to prepare for the long, thirteen-hour drive to San Jose.

~o0O0o~

For the majority of our drive, I'm still not able to rid myself of the feeling. It's becoming more intense with each passing over, to the point that I imagine the monster is standing right behind me.

But I'm sitting.

My back is right up against the seat in the Mazda.

The only one behind me is Naru.

I glance around the seat and see him sleeping against the side of the car.

"How cute. You just can't keep your eyes off of him."

I don't answer the remark. It's difficult to breath in this state of mind. I'm so jumpy! I glace out of the window and see my fox, standing in the demon-like form again. Can't anyone give me an answer?

My hands clench and unclench as Masako scoffs at me. I turn to her, desperate for distraction from the uneasiness.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Oh forget it," she glares at me and then looks away with a huff.

"LOOK OUT!" Ayako is screaming again as the Mazda drifts forcefully on the road. Monk is steering us too suddenly to the right. Slamming on the breaks to move sharply, and accelerating as fast as possible.

Ahead of the car is a heard of… seven… sixteen… twenty-eight… FOURTY-some deer racing across the road. They head over the divide quickly, and seemingly coming out of nowhere. We swerve through them as gracefully as possible, which is saying a lot because Monk wasn't given much time to react.

"Damnit!" He says as we're forced to take I-94 W exit. We wanted the I-80 W. "I'll have to turn around somewhere. We may have just gained several more hours of drive time."

"Why?" I ask. "Where's this road go."

"Don't bother turning around," Naru says. "Obviously some greater force is at work here. We'll just have to drive North."

"What's North? Where are we going?" I'm almost yelling with anxious excitement.

"Canada," they all answer to make me feel stupid.

I scowl. "Well duh…"

Naru sighs. "It's the homeland of the wendigo."

My entire body trembles at his words. Fear seems to paralyze me. Somewhere in my core, my instincts are telling to me to run.

I want to help that spirit…

But then why do I feel like this?

~o0O0o~

I racing barefoot through the forest. Running as fast as I can. My heart is beating a mile a minute and I fight the urge to look behind me.

I don't want to see it.

I don't want to see that creature.

I can hear it ripping through the trees as it chases me.

Sweat is beading down my temples as I huff on air. It's getting harder to breathe.

I have to keep going!

A guttural moan catches up to me, riding on the wind and enveloping me with a sound that makes me trip on a rock. I stumble forward but find my balance before my fall. There is no room for mistakes here. I must keep going.

Don't look back.

Just run!

Don't stop!

No!

The creature moans again and the sound is much louder this time. I close my eyes and scream as I drive my legs move faster using sheer willpower.

It's no use.

I'll never be fast enough.

~o0O0o~

I wake up with a gasp. I hadn't even realized I fell asleep.

Not that the nap helped. Each time I drift off another dream overtakes me, and I wake up feeling more drained than before. My eyelids twitch as they sag from exhaustion. What do I do now?

I can't go walking. My cell phone is nearly dead. If I try to read a book I might get car sick. And I've listened to my IPod one too many times by now. With a sigh, I look out of the window to watch the scenery.

Frozen in place, and staring back at me with a maniacal grin is my fox. It's taken on the same bony body as before. Down to the claws and sharp teeth. As we drive past it, time seems to still just long enough for me to really take in the detail of this creature.

Is that what is chasing me?

Are you trying to show me it's true form?

My breath catches and my body begins trembling. No one in the car notices though. It's like they've all tuned in to a different program that I'm not a part of. Though they are surrounding me in this vehicle, chatting quietly with each other, I feel isolated and alone. I want to tell them more, but they're already doing so much for me by driving me to Canada instead of California.

And what's the use in worrying them more?

We're all stressed out as it is.

~o0O0o~

At last, Naru points out our exit. After more driving, we finally get to our destination.

Kenora, Ontario, Canada.

It's nine at night and we still need to find a hotel to stay it—no one thought of reserving one during our drive.

Before that, we pull up to a nearby gas station to fill up the car.

I get out to stretch my legs. I have to fight the urge to hide but I figure, if a monster was going to get me, shouldn't it have gotten me by now? After a yawn and a good stretch, I decide to go inside of the convenience store to look around.

Past the rows of candies, chips, and automotive supplies, I find the back wall decorated from top to bottom, side to side, with large webbed circles. Beads decorate the webbing and feathers fall from them, attached by skinny leather straps.

What are these?

"Dreamcatchers."

I turn around and see the woman from last night has joined me. Her appearance is striking as ever. She has a dark brown stained leather jacket on over a light purple, flower patterned shirt, and cowboy boots that nearly reach to her knees are worn over blue jeans. A leather belt ties the ensemble together.

"These," she looks at them with a frown, not completing her thought. "Maybe I'll make you one."

"W-what?" I gasp at the sudden offer. "Oh no that's okay. I don't even know what they are…"

She leans closer to me, scrutinizing me with just a look. "They drive out bad dreams."

"Oh… Maybe I do want one…" I look back at the wall and check the price. The smaller ones are around seven Canadian dollars. A larger one is sixty. "Eh… Not at those prices…"

The woman chuckles. "Your name? I'm Kanti."

"Mai," I answer.

"Hello Mai."

"Hello Kanti."

Kanti wraps her shoulder with mine and begins ushering me to the door.

"It is not a good idea for you to be alone. You must stay with the others. Or with me," she explains as we leave the convenience store. "We came here to hunt the wendigo. If it is really after you, then you need to stay with us."

"I'm not sure if Naru… that's my boss… I don't know if he will like that," I say.

"No problem. We've already convinced him," she says.

The others are standing outside of the Mazda, chatting with the man wearing leather and the man with the raccoon hat.

"Oh good, you found her," Monk says as we draw nearer. "Mai, this man is Dustin," he nods to the man with the raccoon hat. "And this man is Evan," he gestures to the one in leather. "You've already met Kanti."

"H-hello," I say shyly.

Dustin and Evan introduce themselves more formally before the others explain that we've been invited to stay at Dustin's cabin with them.

"They'd like us to assist them in hunting the—" John starts to say but Kanti cuts him off.

"Not out here. It will hear us." She looks to the side dangerously, as if she knows exactly where the wendigo is. "Let us leave now. It is best we be home where we're protected."

"You heard the lady," Dustin says.

"Let's get to it then," Evan agrees.

We split off into our separate vehicles and follow Kanti and her friends to the cabin.

While Kanti and Evan show us to the rooms we'll be using, we drop off our stuff and Dustin disappears. Once our bags are situated, Kanti and Evan brings us back out of the cabin, leading us to the docks of a nearby lake where we find Dustin revving up the engine of a speed boat.

"Hungry I assume?" he asks when we approach.

"Terribly," John brown says, grabbing his stomach. My own growls loudly, causing me to blush. Ayako laughs and smacks me on the back playfully.

"There's a restaurant just ahead. We can use the boat to get there. It's a very popular spot so we should be safe," Evan says.

We sigh from relief, happy for the chance to eat a real meal. Something that isn't fast food or a lame continental breakfast.

It's my first time on a boat, let alone a speed boat, and I'm very nervous as I climb onto it. Sitting so high up makes my feeling of being watched increase dramatically. Kanti must sense that something has changed with me, because as soon as I begin feeling worried, she sits next to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. She looks towards the forest that surrounds the cabin. I follow her gaze and the two of us stop to stare at a pair of bright, yellow eyes, watching us from the top of the nearest trees.

I gasp. She clenches my shoulder tighter, assuring me I'll be alright.

"Everyone ready?" Dustin hollers over the engine. We give him a "yes" and he brings the boat away from the dock, before speeding us to the restaurant.

The trip is a quick fifteen minutes, and the rush of air that whips past me is a welcome distraction from the fear that has plagued me for two days. I take deep breaths to take in as much fresh air as I can. The sky is cloudless, with a bright moon and thousands of stars shining over me. I stare at them happily.

Aren't they beautiful?

I love this feeling.

"I can tell."

I sneak a quick glance to Naru, his remark startling me.

"You're finally smiling again," he answers me. I blush and my smile grows. I want to feel at ease now. I don't want to worry about anything on this boat. But I can see Masako watching us. Probably wondering if we're having a secret conversation.

A thought passes my mind then.

I wonder how often she thinks about us talking telepathically?

"Probably more than is healthy."

I bite my lip. I had meant to keep that thought private but I forgot to turn the telepathy off.

What do you mean by 'more than is healthy?'

"She's jealous of you of course."

I frown, my good mood falling to pieces and causing Naru to frown as well. I break the telepathy so I can mull over his words in private. Of course she'd be jealous.

I may not be dating Naru, but I'm his assistant, and I can talk to him telepathically. Because of that, I am closer to him than she could ever dream to be, and since she lacks the ability, there is nothing she can do to change that.

I look at her and see her staring out at the lake with a downcast expression.

It must be really tearing her apart inside…

Before I can think more of the topic, we come to the restaurant's docks.

After ambling out of the boat, we head of a long staircase to the doors of a restaurant called Crow Rock.

A tall, busty blonde greets us with a large smile.

"Kanti! Nice to see you again!" the waitress says.

"You too, Camille," Kanti says. "Can we get the usual spot?"

"Right this way!"

We follow Camille to a large circular booth.

"If only it weren't night out. This spot always has the best view of the forest!"

Kanti and I head into the booth first, sitting at the window; our backs turned against it. I sink down to hide my head as much as I can, afraid that the wendigo may see me from outside.

Monk looks at me, confused. "You alright kiddo?" Naru also frowns at my behavior so I sit up straight again.

"Of course, just stretching," I say with a sheepish grin.

After ordering our meals, Kanti and the others begin discussing the wendigo.

"We saw it when we left for the restaurant," Kanti says. "It's a fast creature. I wasn't sure if it was even heading here until we saw it."

"There have been other signs. It was bound to wind up here at some point," Dustin says.

Camille comes to us to refill our drinks. "Are you talking about the wendigo?" She asks without waiting for an answer. "You know, with all the wind we've been having, I thought one might be around. Darn wind just picked up and hasn't seemed to calm down."

Her comment causes me to jump. I chance a glance out of the window and see a dark, billowing shadow of a figure standing on top of the tree tops. When I blink, it's gone.

I turn my head back towards the table. Stiffly, I sit with wide, nervous eyes. I can feel Kanti staring into me, her gaze attempting to pour into my soul. But I don't want to alarm anyone.

~o0O0o~

Once we return to the log cabin, I race inside as fast as I can, hurrying to my room. Dustin and Evan have their own rooms. Naru, Monk, and John are sharing a room. Ayako and Masako are sharing a room. And I'm sharing Kanti's personal room so she can keep an eye on me. Her room is filled with Native American decor, from paintings to small totem-like figurines, and she has a massive, bear skin dreamcatcher hanging on the wall by her bed.

I unravel the sleeping bag they've leant me and lay on top of it.

~o0O0o~

For hours, I lay here, trying to fall sleep. I'm don't normally have insomnia. Most times I fall asleep before I even realized I was dozing off. But, tonight, nothing can put me to sleep. I have that constant unnerving feeling of being watched.

I wish Gene was here to provide me answers. Or my fox even. But no one is helping me today. The only information I have is from our conversation at dinner and my dreams. I know the creature is big. I know it travels with the wind. I know it eats people… And that is all.

I start to hear a soft beating of hands hitting a drum.

Or maybe it was there all along and I just noticed it?

Hesitantly, not sure what might be causing the sound if it isn't a drum, I stand from the sleeping bag. Kanti isn't in the room with me; she hasn't been all night. And when I peer out of a large window in the living room, I see that she is playing the drum out on the deck.

Cautiously, I go outside. I listen to the sound of her beating the drum, sitting by her side. Kanti is also humming something quietly.

Before I can say anything, she stops and looks at me.

"Shouldn't you be sleeping fox girl?"

Then she goes back to humming and drumming.

"How did you know about my fox?"

"I have the sight. Your fox has been following you around all day." She doesn't stop drumming this time.

"You were able to see the fox all day? I can only see her when I'm looking for her, and Masako, she's a medium, but she can't see my fox at all," I say.

Kanti starts laughing. "It's a different level of seeing."

I stare at her dumbfounded so she elaborates.

"Animal spirits exist on a higher plane. A higher vibration if you will. Because they're purer then human souls. So they're harder to see."

"Could you… say that easier?" I ask hesitantly. I'm not sure what she's getting at.

"To put it bluntly. Humans are more likely to see demons than they are angels. Right?"

"Oh! It's like that then?" I guess, besides the ghosts, I have seen a fair share of monsters. That vampire. The zombies. This Wendigo. I haven't seen an angel yet though so her reasoning kind of makes sense. I look at her impresses, but she doesn't notice because she's back to humming while she beats the drum. "So… What are you doing anyway?"

"Meditating," Kanti says. "The rhythm helps me concentrate. The humming helps elevate my spirit. I've been trying to ask your fox about its warning. What is it trying to tell you?"

"Oh you got a warning from her too?" I gasp. "I've gotten two so far. The first one was an actual fox running in front of our rental. Poor thing didn't make it… Then the second warning was when my fox turned into some weird demon creature."

Kanti quits drumming and glares at me questioningly. "What else?"

"N-nothing else," I put my hands up defensively. "H-here I'll ask her." I look to the forest with embarrassment. I don't know if I'll ever get used to talking to things I can't see. "F-fox… Could you help us please?"

The fox appears out of the woodwork, ambling towards us as its energy curves and bubbles while it changes its appearance.

Kanti whistles. "Your fox responds to your requests quickly. That's impressive."

"Isn't it supposed to do that? Since it's my guide?" I say.

"Guide doesn't mean slave. The fox has the right to do what it wants when it wants," Kanti says.

"Well, yea, I suppose…"

The fox finishes its transformation and shows us the demon figure again. Kanti shouts in surprise. She looks down to her drum, then back to the fox, then down to her drum again, as if she doesn't know what to do now. Then she turns to me.

"That is image of the wendigo…"

"I sort of figured that," I say.

Kanti gulps. "Mai. This warning. Your fox is trying to tell you that the wendigo is haunting you. This isn't just about you cleansing a victim, it's about you being a target…"

A low howl erupts from the trees, similar to the noise I heard in one of my dreams. Kanti grabs me and forces me into the house, before slamming and locking the door behind her. As I process what's going on, Ayako storms over to us and begins slapping charms onto the doors and windows.

"I heard it coming," she explains after she's placed them. "I'm going to tag the rest of the house."

The others come to the living room as Ayako leaves to put up more charms.

I hear a loud roar and jump in fright. Outside of the house is a massive bear. It's standing on its hind legs and growling at the forest. The bear claws at the air, as if taunting the wendigo to come face it.

"Bear?" I say.

"You have a fox. I have a bear," Kanti answers.

My jaw drops. "So that's a spirit?" She nods her head.

The boys and Masasko come to the window and look out onto the forest; they can't see the fox or the bear.

"This is not good," Kanti mumbles. She looks at me with a solemn expression. "It only wants you. I don't know why. But…" she motions to my friends. "…don't drag them into this."

Naru, Monk, and John look at me wearily, while Ayako rejoins us.

"How'd you know those charms would work?" Evan asks her.

Ayako blushes before answering. "The spirits of the forest told me."

I leave the window, not being able to take it anymore, and head over to a corner in the room. I sit down heavily and wrap my arms around my knees, hiding my head in them.

Kanti's words fill me head.

don't drag them into this.

So then…

What am I supposed to do?

John comes over to me and kneels down. "Are you okay? Mai-san?"

Naru walks over to me too. "Why don't you try to get some sleep."

"Good idea," Kanti is by me again, tugging on my arm and dragging me to her room. "I'll watch over you."

~o0O0o~

I find myself sitting at the top of the trees again. I'm watching the aftermath of the two friends who were lost in the woods. The friend who won the fight—I still can't make out whether he's the dancer or the chef, has decided to keep his friend's remains for as long as possible. The days speed by but I watch what is happening below this time, instead of looking at the sun and moon as they quickly pass by overhead.

His friend's remains stay in the snow for several weeks. And the victor takes time out of each day to eat a small portion. He doesn't have the strength to wait for the meat to cook apparently, because he eats everything raw.

He uses every available resource; plucking out every hair from his friend's body. He might not even know what, but I think it's to create a disassociation. The very first thing he did was eat his friends face, so I can only assume he's trying to make the body unrecognizable.

Maybe to lessen the guilt.

Or the disgust?

He has thrown up several times during his meals.

Soon weeks turn into months, and his friend's body has rotted away any remaining flesh and meat. But the man doesn't stop as his body starves more. He chews on the bones like a dog. Even though his teeth crack and shatter.

His hunger is driving him mad and he's doing everything her can to quench the pain.

~o0O0o~

I wake up feeling nauseated. Even during breakfast, I can barely eat. After watching the man cannibalize his friend for the whole night, I don't know if I'll ever be able to eat again.

"You're not eating Mai?" John asks. The others look at my still-filled plate, just now realizing that I haven't touched my food.

"Good," Kanti says bluntly. "Hunger and fatigue might enhance your spiritual powers. It may be your only chance to survive the wendigo."

I sigh and at least take a drink of my coffee.

~o0O0o~

As the day passes on, the wind picks up more and more. Clouds gather and rain starts falling heavily. Lighting cracks across the sky, leaving the clouds yelling in pain. Amongst the noise, I faintly hear the wendigo calling out to me.

Monk and Dustin leave the house at one point, hurrying to park their vehicles into the garage.

In the living room, the TV announces a Tornado Watch has been issued and that everyone should be on the lookout and ready to take cover at a moments notice.

I've never heard much about tornados. Only that they're destructive.

I wonder how bad they really are?

Once Monk and Dustin are back, everyone begins preparing for the possibility of a tornado. It's so loud because of the storm, that we have to yell just to hear each other. The wind is howling frantically, and throwing the window panes into disarray, slamming them against the glass, and pounding onto the screen doors.

I stand in the middle of the room and watch everyone scrambling to get valuable laptops, and anything else that they can't afford to lose, into the basement. They're so preoccupied with this, that they don't notice me. They don't see me or hear me. I'm almost invisible to them in their current state or terror and focus.

don't drag them into this.

I decide to take the opportunity. While they're distracted, I sneak out of the cabin, using a back door.

The wind is so strong that I'm knocked flat on my face the moment I leave the cabin.

It takes forever to fight against the wind and push myself up again. I have to half crawl across the yard and into the woods until the trees finally block the wind and I find myself capable of standing again.

Just a few meters into the forest, my legs turn to lead.

What…

I look up, but my mind can't comprehend what I'm looking at.

Is…

A creature made out of billowing black smoke towers over me, stands tall into the tree tops. I can't make out any pupils. Just a pair of glowing yellow lights that stare with me hungrily.

This…?

~o0O0o~

I'm at the top of the trees?

It takes me a moment to realize I'm in a dream again. I must have fainted when I saw the wendigo. But why didn't is eat me?

Did someone save me?

Naru?

"Mai! Where are you?"

So you didn't save me…

"Mai this is no time for jokes. What's going on?"

I don't want to tell you…

I can feel tears pouring down my face. I don't want them to wake me up though. I'm afraid of facing my new reality.

Is it possible I'm dead?

"Don't think that way!"

I'm startled by his tone. He's right though. I shouldn't think that way.

"What do you see right now?"

I don't know. The continuation of my recent dream…

"Let's watch it then."

I nod my head and notice Naru's person stand next to me on my tree branch. He looks at me discretely, trying to rectify whether or not I am still alive.

"You said a continuation? What has happened prior to this?"

I look down at the cannibal. He's frozen in time; as if the dream is waiting for me to be ready before it starts.

"Well," I start. "This man and his friend were lost in the woods. Once winter came, they got into a huge fight. He killed his friends… And ate him."

Naru frowns. "Then this man is your wendigo." He sees my confused look. "Watch."

I finally give the cannibal my full attention and the dream begins to play out.

The man sits weakly by his small fire. It's the middle of summer now, so he isn't freezing. But he doesn't have enough strength to fish or hunt anymore. He's holding a knife, staring at it as he turns it over, checking how sharp it is. With a crazed expression, like he trying to convince himself this is really a good idea, he digs the blade across his lips. The thin pieces of flesh rip off easily, followed by a draining of blood. He grabs the flesh and shoves them into his mouth hungrily.

I bury my head into Naru's chest as the man heats he blade up. He uses the hot metal to cauterize his skin together and stop the bleeding.

Another day soon passes over us and we come time find the man gripping into the blade, driving it into his arm this time.

"No!" I'm yelling at him, but this image of the past can't hear me. "Why am I being shown this?"

"I think the wendigo wants you to see it…" Naru says.

I gasp as another day passes over us. "What? Why?"

He frowns before answering. "The wendigo, as legend says, is an intelligent demon who enjoys tormenting its victims before devouring them."

We look down, forcing the dream to continue playing out, and see the man go after a different part of his arm.

"He's lost so much blood," I say after realizing the red that is staining the dirt. "How can he keep going?"

"He's transforming Mai," Naru answers. "He'll continue this until he isn't human anymore, and all that will be left is a demon."

Time begins to accelerate and with each day, the man has chosen another part of himself to consume. The hunger is too much for him to bear and he starts screaming. Though from hunger, pain, or insanity… I'm not sure.

Eventually, the days' stop moving forward. The moon is paused at the top of the sky. It's full but illuminates the man and nothing else. His body begins to crunch as bones snap into new form. He screams shrilly as his limbs are stretched to an outrageous length.

"Mai, this is almost over," Naru says. "When it is, you'll wake up and have to deal with the demon alone."

"How do you know I'm not—"

He grabs my shoulders forcibly. "Because if you were, why would he bother showing you this? Now listen to me. This is a demon you're dealing with. Not a person. Not an animal. It is a horrific monster that will do anything and everything it can to break you down before eating you." His expression is wild with fear and concern. "Don't antagonize it. I'll be with you in your mind if you let me."

I nod my head.

We look down at the cannibal, and see it stand in its new body. A skinny giant with a hungry stare and a jagged grin. For the first time, the cannibal acknowledges I'm watching him. The stare he gives me is so intense, I can't help but wake up.

~o0O0o~

The wendigo's layer turns out to be a cave.

It's cool and quiet. Too moist for my taste but it's better than the sweeping wind outside. The wind is so loud it sounds like a train is passing by and I wonder if a tornado really has touched down.

Hidden deeper in the cave, I find the wendigo staring at me with intrigue. I don't see any eyeballs; just yellow glowing from the sockets. His shadowy form is a little more distinct now. I can see an almost clear outline of his muscles and the claws that cover his hands and feet.

"I bet you taste delicious…" he says in a language I don't recognize and yet still understand. "Are you really the one who had all that power?" The monster licks its lips, except there are none. That action is so shocking to me, that I find myself fainting again.

~o0O0o~

I'm running again.

Racing through the woods with that creature chasing me.

Maybe I can distract it? I hesitate for a second to think.

Too late.

It got me.

~o0O0o~

I wake up screaming again as I remember the feeling of its teeth digging into my legs. I look down but my legs are fine. Right. It was a dream…

The wendigo is still watching me, amused. Its form is even clearer now. I can make out each of its jagged, rotten teeth. I see worms and maggots crawling out of the tears in its skin from where it ate itself. And there's a putrid smell of rotting meat filling the cave now.

I lean over to the side, gripping my stomach as I throw up in disgust.

The creature laughs mockingly. "No one has stayed sane for this long before. Maybe you are powerful." He inches closer to me. "Do it." Closer more. "Show me that power."

"Never!"

The wendigo laughs louder. I have to cover my ears because the pitch causes my head to feel like it's splitting open. Before I can register the motion, the wendigo is gone. I'm alone in the cave now.

I try to stand, using the wall to help get myself off of the cave floor.

I take cautious steps but slip on slick rock and fall down again. My stomach aches with hunger.

If only I ate something.

I lay still on the ground, too weak and scared to move. My legs are heavy, my mind is wracking, the pain in my stomach feels like a hundred needles stabbing me from the inside out.

I remember what Kanti said during breakfast. Hunger and fatigue might enhance your spiritual powers.

I don't want to heighten my spiritual powers though…

I could get lost in the forest if I leave my body.

Or what if he finds me lying limp and decides to eat me?

I need to get out of this funk!

I need to ground myself!

I reach for my house key and cling on to it with all of my might.

"I'm Mai Taniyama. Seventeen years old. I'm in Canada. It's in the late afternoon to around early evening." With my reality reaffirmed, I watch for the wendigo to reenter the cave. Instead, my fox appears and hurries to me. It comes to rest by my side in an attempt to comfort me. "Don't worry. I will survive this."

"Good job Mai," Naru says in my head. We're still connected, and we'll stay this way until I'm rescued.

With a sudden burst of air, I'm pinned to the cave wall by one of the wendigo's large hands. I don't let go of my house key, and I can feel the metal breaking my skin.

"Where's Mai?" Monk's voice says but it's coming out of the wendigo's mouth.

"The Wendigo has her," Naru says.

"This was bound to happen," Kanti says.

My eyes tremble as the wendigo plays out a whole conversation for me.

"I can't sense her location." Masako.

"She could be anywhere in this whole forest." John.

"Do you have any ideas?" Ayako.

"Yes. I've been in contact with her." Naru again.

He knows where you all are…

"We're aware of that. What did he do?"

He's trying to provoke me. I grit my teeth as an idea wells within me. Naru. Some PK energy please.

He obliges and we volley the PK to one another as the wendigo continues to recite the conversation. I don't pay any mind to the words now. I need to calm down if this is going to work. I look at my fox and it winks back. In a second, I unleash the PK and the fox fuses with it to create the same shield as before. I concentrate the shield to just my immediate position, instead of extending it to the entirety of the cave. This way, I can conserve its power.

The shield obliterates the arm that was holding me, causing the wendigo to jump back. He looks at his arm as it regrows, and then howls with ecstasy.

"That's the power I felt!" He lunges at me with another claw, but the shield turns the arm to dust before it can touch me. Again, the arm regrows. "You will taste so good!"

He continues to attack me, but I stand tall and firm. If I want to maintain the shield, then now is the time I need to heighten my senses. I take a deep breath and try to clear my mind. The wendigo continues to attack without showing any signs of slowing down.

When my mind has calmed down, the True Sight awakens again. The cave seems to shift in appearance, showing me itself on a spiritual level. Within it is a cesspool of blood and bones crowded by bacteria and insects.

A hundred spirits are trapped here, and they fly towards my shield eagerly.

As each one touches it, their soul explodes into the golden light.

The wendigo doesn't even notice. It attacks again and again. Never stopping.

"How are you holding up?" Naru wonders.

Could be better.

"Want to try switching? My self-control and endurance is a lot better than yours."

I don't know how…

"Just close your eyes and treat this as a possession. Only, don't leave your body."

I close my eyes and relax myself, allowing him to fully submerse himself within my senses. For a moment, we are one sensually. What he hears, I hear. What I smell, he smells. Every fiber that makes us, us, connects until even our heartbeats meld together.

"You can open your eyes now…"

I comply, and find myself in a small, dark room. I open the door and see the boys' room at the log cabin. I notice a mirror and hurry to it. In the mirror I see Naru. I play with the dark strands of hair. Touch my face. Adjust the collar to my suit.

I'm really you?

"For the time being, yes. Some twins like to take each other's places. Gene and I always took that to a new level with the body switching…"

I notice that Monk and John are in the room with me, looking distraught.

"You alright there, Naru?" Monk asks.

"Yeah, we were shock when you told us not to bother you and then locked yourself in that closet," John adds.

"G-guys…" I say sheepishly. "I'm not Naru."

"Gene-san?" John asks.

I look down, still a bit shocked. "No…"

Without saying anything else, I hurry to the main room where the rest are. Monk and John following but tripping over each other.

"Is everything okay, Naru?" Ayako says me.

"I'm not Naru," I say. Masako stares at me placidly.

"You allowed him to put himself in danger for you. Again? Do you even know what we're dealing with?" Masako lectures and her expression tells me she wants to kill me.

"She's right. I specifically told you not to put your friends' lives in danger," Kanti says. Her companions look at each other confused.

"This was necessary." I try to explain.

"Why is that?" Masako demands.

I frown. "Because his brain works differently than mine." I can hear him chuckling from my comment, but it doesn't deter me from turning to the others. "I need more information about how a wendigo can be defeated."

Dustin and Evan step forward to help. "Only a few things will defeat it," Evan says. "Mainly… Spiritual weapons… as in, charms or things that are blessed, and silver or copper."

"And once you get it down, you have to cut off its limbs and destroy them," Dustin says. "And even that isn't simple."

They tell me a few more things as I contemplate my options.

"I got it! I know how we can defeat it!" I say suddenly, an idea popping into mind.

"How?" Monk asks. I look at all of them seriously.

"Before I tell you, I have to know. Who is willing to risk everything just to attempt to save him?"

Monk looks to the other three, realizing that they might not be so willing. John does the same. There's no questioning his loyalty.

Masako steps forward defiantly, "Of course I'll help rescue Naru. I don't care who's body he's in or what form he's taken. I will do whatever it takes to save him just like he has done for me."

"Sorry Masako, but you aren't needed for my plan," I say, trying to dismiss her from the danger we're about to throw ourselves into. "I will not risk your life for no reason." Masako glares at me but I turn to Ayako; Monk and John soon looking at her too.

"I know what you're thinking" Ayako says. "And you've assumed correctly." Ayako huffs disappointed "to bad I don't have my robes…"

With a smirk, I stare back at Monk and John.

"Don't even borrow asking. You already know that we'll do whatever it takes to save Naru," Monk says.

"We've faced Zombies and a vampire before. I'm sure we can handle a Wendigo," John says firmly.

So with my team figured out, I revert back to English and begin giving them instructions. Kanti will find the cave. John will bless Dustin and Evan's silver dagger and bullets to give them stronger powers. Ayako will gather the gods of the forest with her bell charm while Monk protects her should the Wendigo attack.

While everyone carries out their tasks to prepare for our attack, Masasko won't leave my side. I try checking on everyone and how they're doing, but Masako continues to try and get my attention.

I turn to her. "What, Masako?"

"How dare you Mai!" She yells. "I should be on the front line trying to help get Naru back because I can do MORE than you. YOU should be the one to stay behind because you're in his body. How can you think it's fine to let him face that… That creature? All on his own and right after his brother crossed over? And then you have the audacity to take his body and run rampant at it. You could get both of yourselves killed! Don't you care at all about him? Or do you only care about yourself?" She falls to the ground crying. "I can't just stay here doing nothing."

I look down on her, crying on the floor. I can't fathom how difficult this must be for her. But if something ever did happen to me, I'd want to know that Naru has someone who loves him as much as I do.

So for you Masako, I'm sorry.

I can't let anything happen to you.

"What I said is final. We don't need you for this," I tell her bluntly.

"But Mai!" I look back at her with annoyance, which causes her to glare more. "Don't you ever look at me like that with his face!"

Before I can say something back, John comes back with Dustin and Evan.

"I blessed the weapons with holy water," he says before reading the atmosphere in the room. "Is everything alright?"

"It's perfectly fine," I say with a smile. Masako's angry face soon blushes and John looks at me awkward. Oh right. I'm Naru right now. I think, laughing internally. They aren't used to seeing him smile.

Ayako comes in, holding a stick with a bell dangling from it. She takes a second to process my expression because it's so not Naru. "I'm ready."

I clap my hands together, and we head outside, trying to find Kanti so we can start.

I hear a large, guttural growl followed by a song being sung in a language I don't know. Coming out of the forest is Kanti, sitting on top of her spirit bear. As she approaches the bear's image fades away and she comes to stand on the ground.

"I've found the wendigo," she says. I notice that now, her face has a thick blue line painted across it, under her eyes. She is wearing a leather necklace with blue beads decorating it, and two feathers ties to it. Noticing my gaze, she explains, "These are eagle feathers. The eagles will alert us if the wendigo is coming, and they will lend us courage.

"Great," I say. "We'll need it."

We make our way into the forest with Kanti leading the way. The hunters are on either side of us. Ayako is behind me. Monk and John take up the rear. And Masako watches meekly from the window of the cabin.

Before we've completely left the cabin, I look behind and give the lodge one last look.

I'm ready to switch again at a moment's notice.

"I'm holding up for now. But do try to hurry up."

~o0O0o~

"You were humming last night, but now you're singing?" I ask Kanti as a way to make small talk and get my nerves under control.

"Kanti means 'sing'," She explains. "My abilities are enhanced through music." She gives me a wry smile. "It's all about meditation. People find all sorts of ways to meditate. I like music because it's so natural. Everything has a song to sing. Even the forest. Listen. You may hear the forests' song."

She starts singing again, but this time she doesn't use any words. Her voice carries out the sound in low, melodic beats. While we continue through the forest, I try to listen to forest's song as well.

Maybe because we're stepping in tune with Kanti's singing, but I soon notice that each footstep adds to a rhythmic beat that pairs with her voice. Wind blows lightly now, but the rustling of the leaves soon chorus with the sound of branches moving as animals chitter and climb.

As I listen astutely, the sounds become louder and more focused. My senses heighten until I start to see the forest spirits. Small, white kodama bobble their heads, sounding like beads shaking in wooded cups. They walk around us and weave between the trees. Bright lights glow eerily, dancing around that shadows. The faint light they cast echos out a bellowing sound that reaches my ear in little more than a whisper.

"I think we've entered a Ghosting State," Monk says.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"Think of it as an explanation for time displacement," he says.

"During all those instances you've experience where more time than usual has passed. Or less time sometimes, that the Ghosting State. We may find we've lost a lot of time when this is over."

"Well that certainly explains a lot," I think aloud, recounting the times where I did notice time was different that it should have been.

We hear a crunch of twigs that causes us to turn around.

The wendigo?

But coming out of the bushes is Masako instead.

"How can you be so stupid?" I yell.

"Don't talk to me like that when you're in his body!" Masako says. Before I can rebuttal, the eagle shrieks its warning. We look to the tree tops, wondering where the creature is.

Monk start chanting, saying his mantra quickly and creating an energy barrier that expands to protect the group.

The wendigo comes out from the tree tops, growling angrily.

Before Ayako has time to react, the wendigo slams its hand onto the barrier. The barrier shatters but we're protected. Her bell chimes from the attack, summoning one of the gods.

A forest god flies out of the bell, looking like liquid light as it wraps around the wendigo, distracting it. Ayako takes the time to jingle the bell again and again. Two more gods attack the wendigo, piercing through its body.

The creature shouts in pain; an earsplitting scream. Its wounds heal quickly, forcing the gods to keep attacking it.

Dustin and Evan shoot their guns as the gods bring the wendigo down to the ground. Adrenaline propelling him forward, Evan races towards it and pierces the wendigo's heart with his dagger.

Ayako shakes the bells again, and the gods rush to it and tear it apart with their force. The wendigo breaks apart with a scream of wind that blows branches off of nearby trees.

It looks at me, as if knowing who I am despite only seeing Naru's appearance. The wendigo uses the last of its energy to try clawing at me again. Before I can think, Masako recites Ayako's nine-cuts mantra. The attack slices the wendigo's had apart before it can reach me.

We both fall to the ground from shock. The rest of the forest gods burst from Ayako's bell, desperate to destroy the demon and re-purify their forest.

"Th-thanks Masako," I say.

Masako looks away from me angrily. "I didn't do it for you. I did it for him."

"I think we're near the cave," Kanti says, pointing a finger. We able to her and look past a gulch she's pointing over, before spotting the cave entrance.

It's done.

Want to switch back?

"Gladly."

The transition back is a lot easier. My senses are aching to reconnect with my body.

Once my mind is back in its rightful form, I open my eyes and see that the red and orange energy is still surrounding me. When I go to release it, the sudden loss causes me to collapse.

~o0O0o~

I'm running again.

But why?

We've defeated the creature.

With that, I turn around, ready to face it head on.

The wendigo stands before me, only, it looks like it's in pain. Its body is shrinking but also healing. I watch it grow shorter, until it's gone from being as tall as the tree tops to just about a foot taller than me.

I recognize that face.

"You're the one who asked me to help him," I say.

"Yes." The man answers without words, yet I know what he wants to say. "I felt that immense energy you used. I hoped, it would help break me from this curse."

"So it wasn't your friend I needed to save. It was you."

"Thank you for helping me. I could have killed you."

"I believe in my friends," I say with a smile. Even Masako.

He smiles and dissolves into the familiar, warm, golden light.

~o0O0o~

When I wake up, I'm riding on the back of Kanti's bear. Kanti is with me, riding in the front.

"How are you doing?" Ayako asks.

"I'm great," I say with a smile.

I notice Naru has also collapsed from the ordeal. Monk has one of his arms over his shoulder and is half dragging Naru. Masako is near them, anxious about Naru's disposition.

"Is it really okay that we left it like that?" Dustin asks.

"We didn't follow protocol," Evan agrees.

"It is fine. The forest did our job for us," Kanti says.

"Yea, he moved on anyway," I add.

Kanti looks at me quizzically. "How are you sure?"

"I had a dream."

Kanti whistles, impressed. "I'd expect as much from someone with two guides."

"I only have the one…" I say confused. "Gene crossed over."

"It's not a boy. There's a female spirit. It uses your fox to communicate with you."

There's another spirit guiding me?

~o0O0o~

Once we're at the lodge, Ayako plays doctor and gives Me and Naru a thorough check up. She deems that neither of us are hurt physically but that we should rest up.

Monk laughs, "They'll get plenty of rest during the 36-hour drive to San Jose!"

I groan in annoyance.

36-hours?

That will take us two and a half days due because everyone will want to sleep in a hotel for a bit.

I grumble and head for Kanti's room.

Kanti isn't here again. She's probably outside meditating. I'm okay with that though because I am finally relaxed and ready to sleep.

~o0O0o~

AN: Just saying… with them "switching bodies" there were a BUNCH of OOC jokes I wanted to say… and the fact that I had to keep them in character made me sooooooo sad…

AN 2: This was nearly 40 pages of material. Definitely my longest chapter yet. After all this work, please let me know what you thought. I love reviews :D They make me happy ( ^_^ )