I picked Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Peter MacDonald, you can find his blog here. I'm going to post the story down below though, so you can see it all in one shot. My bit starts under the next divider, next to the picture.
He bent down to check the last trap on this run. It was, unsurprisingly, empty. Game had been scarce for the past week, which boded poorly. If this kept up, he would have to dig into his stores, which might mean a lean winter. With a dejected sigh, he stood up, brushed the snow off of his knees, and started down the mountain towards his home. As he walked, he began to sing out loud a poem his father had taught him:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
He took a deep breath between stazas, and the crisp winter air chilled his lungs. The warmth of his breath had fogged up his glasses, and he took them off for a moment, cleaning them with his shirtfront. He’d been wearing the same pair for three years now, and they were starting to wear thin; one of the legs had been clumsily repaired with bailing wire two weeks ago, after he’d taken a nasty fall on some frozen ground. Hopefully, a trader would come through with a new set before the pass closed.
If any more traders came through at all. It had been more than a month since he’d seen one.
My little horse must think it queer
to stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
the darkest evening of the year.
As he finished the second stanza, a distant rumbling made him look up, and see the black stormclouds moving in from the distance, the setting sun resting behind them. It seemed he’d misjudged the snowfall; it was letting up now, but it was only a brief reprieve before a true winter storm came down upon him.
I should cut through the woods, he thought. He normally avoided the deep woods whenever possible; he’d lived around them his whole life, but he still got turned around in them sometimes. Plus, the woods were full of unfriendly animals. The last thing he wanted was to accidentally stumble into a bear’s den, or get surrounded by a pack of wolves. But he wanted to get caught by that storm even less, and taking the direct route through the woods would get him home a lot quicker than walking long way around.
The woods were dark and twisted, and as he peered through his broken spectacles to keep track of the path, he sang the next stanza to keep his spirits up:
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
of easy wind and downy…flake…
As he spoke the final words, he stepped into a clearing and stopped short at the sight in front of him. The snow - including, he slowly realized, the very snow he was standing on - was stained red, and covered in the bodies of…creatures. There was no better way to describe them, but they were unlike anything Jake had ever seen in the twenty-three years he’d lived on the mountain. They were messes of tooth and claw, amorphous masses of limbs and mouths and eyes and tendrils. There were more than a dozen of them, but no two of them were alike, except for the one thing they had in common: they were all dead, rent apart by deep gashes and still slowly oozing blood.
The smell came upon him suddenly, and he doubled over with a sudden rush of nausea. His mouth filled with the taste of iron, and he nearly threw up onto the snow. He stepped forward in a daze, compelled to investigate. The creatures’ forms sickened him, but they fascinated him as well. He had to know more. Had to see more.
There were only a few of the creatures at the clearing’s edge, but the center was a solid mass, bodies piled together and on top of each other until you could barely tell where one ended and the next began, all of them coloring the snow with their ichor. Jake approached slowly, suddenly acutely aware of the sound of his boots crunching against the snow, of the fogging of his breath, of that terrible, terrible smell. He extended a hand to touch one of them. It was still warm. It had not been dead long. Its skin was thick and rubbery.
Jake jumped backwards as he heard a groaning sound. Panic made him clumsy, and he tripped over his own feet, falling down to the bloody snow. A moment later, another, louder groan could be heard. Jake lay very still for a moment, and then slowly rose to his feet as he realized that none of the creatures were moving. They were not the source of the noise. He stepped forward again and peered over the very top of the pile.
At the center of the clearing, at the very center of the mound of flesh, lay a woman, no older than he was. Her hair, blonde, her body, slim. Her cloak was stained with blood, and he could see that her clothing had been torn by tooth and claw. Her shoulder was a horrific mess, covered in what looked like teeth marks. But she was breathing. She was alive.
“Holy shit,” he gasped, clambering over the dead to get to her. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.” His mind seemed to be stuck, unable to process any more than that. He knelt over her, quickly stripping off his gloves and then doing the same for her furs, wincing at what he found beneath them. Whoever this woman was, she was badly hurt.
His eyes fell on something bright: a pendant, hanging around her neck, which seemed to glimmer in the non-existent moonlight. For a moment, her injuries were forgotten. He reached out carefully to touch it, then lifted it up to inspect it. It was made of wrought silver, and shaped into a complex spiral of loops and whorls. He lifted it higher still, captivated by its light.
A sickening noise lifted up from the other side of the clearing, shocking him out of his stupor. He dropped the pendant and sat up, looking fearfully in its direction. One of the things - almost in the shape of a wolf, but with too many arms, too many jaws, and a body of roiling tendrils - was moving. It let out another sound, a rumble which got right into his gut and churned it, and then to his horror it sloughed up off of the ground and started coming towards him. Its legs were broken, its body covered in cuts, more than one of its limbs ended in stumps - but it was coming, leaving a blood red trail on the ground as it dragged itself towards him. It made it two, maybe three paces, and then with a keening moan it slumped over and died.
Jake crouched fearfully for a moment, waiting to see if it would start moving again. When it didn't he turned back to the woman, and got to work carrying her back to his cottage.
Suddenly every warning he’d ever been told, about the woods and the things he might find there, nearly shouted in his ears. He tripped over something on the trail and fetched up against a slim tree. The bole cracked, like a gunshot echoing through the quiet, and a deer startled on to the trail in front of him.
It froze, staring at him, eyes wide with terror, chest sawing. Jake watched as its eyes grew larger, as a thin, reedy scream began to echo from its chest. It started soft and high, like the air whistling out of a balloon, and grew louder and louder until he nearly dropped the girl to clasp his hands over his ears.
The animal reared and stumbled back, and dropped suddenly silent to the ground. Blood leaked from its eyes and its nostrils. Its tongue hung limply from the open mouth, black against the snow on the ground.
Jake couldn’t breathe, his heart pounded in his chest and his vision started to dim. His limbs were numb. The tree cracked softly and started to bend under his weight. The girl whimpered, and shuddered, pale and otherwise still with snowflakes starting to cling to her lashes.
He didn’t remember how he got back to the cabin.
One minute he was standing against a broken tree, dead deer at his feet, and the next he was stumbling through the door with the girl still in his arms. Jake reeled forward and dropped her on the pallet in the corner before he raced back out into the snow and threw up off the side of the porch. He fell to his knees and wrapped his fingers over the edge of the boards, staring at the stained snow. His heart still pounded, the scream still echoing in his ears.
He stayed like that, knees numb and sore against the worn planks until a twig cracked off in the trees, where they bordered the yard.
Jake jumped to his feet and peered into the woods. Nothing moved. The snow fell, thick and blinding. The wind didn’t blow, the trees didn’t shake. Jake swallowed, and backed slowly toward the door of the cabin.
He hadn’t hidden his tracks.
Even if he had been, before the animal—he hadn’t been, he’d been too focused on the things in the clearing—he couldn’t be sure he had after either. Jake looked around him at the trees and the snow and the deepening gloom as the storm rolled in, still utterly windless. He glanced back over his shoulder, but the girl was still where he’d left her.
He carefully, quietly shut and bolted the door. There were no windows in the cabin, no cellar under it, not really. He had a root cellar, where he stored what little food he had—it wouldn’t be enough for two people for the winter.
If she ate.
Jake pushed the heaviest piece of furniture he had—an old chest of drawers with a trunk nailed to the top—in front of the door. He added another log to the fire and lit the oil lamp on the table. Pulled a bowl of water from the barrel in the corner and grabbed a clean towel.
The snow on her lashes and in her hair had melted. Her cheeks and hands were pink, but the rest of her was a bright garish red. Jake swallowed, and started carefully cleaning her wounds. He didn’t change her clothes; he didn’t have anything else for her to wear. He worked around the ripped and bloody fabric and did the best he could. Tore up one of his old shirts and used it to bandage the worst places.
He’d finished, and put another log on the fire, when there was a noise on the porch. A soft scrape and the creak of a board. Jake grabbed the rifle—he hadn’t taken it with him to check the traps because he only had so many bullets—and pointed it at the door, chest pounding.
Another strange drag. A soft thump. The door latch clanked and jiggled but didn’t actually turn, even as much as it would while it was locked. The shuffling drag moved away, he thought he heard soft rumbling noises and grunts.
All was quiet. Only the crackling of the fire and the sound of her breathing.
The wind shrieked through the trees so suddenly he almost fired by accident. The cottage creaked and braced against the onslaught. It shuddered, just enough to make him wonder if it would hold before it seemed to find its feet in the sudden storm.
There was a dead rabbit on the porch the next morning.
Jake had slept in the chair, in the middle of the cottage, so he could see her and the door and the fire all at once. He kept the gun in his hand the whole night. In the morning he waited a long moment, listening to the wind in the trees and the muffled sounds after a heavy snow. Once he was sure there wasn’t going to be some unnamed horror waiting on the other side of the door, he opened it.
The rabbit was large, a well-formed male. Dried blood crusted around its eyes and nose, but the corpse was still limber and unfrozen.
Jake cleaned it for the pot because he didn’t have a choice.
He ate rabbit stew for two days. The girl didn’t wake.
He opened the door, after he’d finished the rabbit stew, to go get more firewood and found three guinea fowl and a small clutch of eggs, placed gently before the door.
And hey, check back Friday and I'll come up with some sort of scientific tie-in for this weeks posts for Sci-Fi Friday.