Your parents have taken you on a ski trip somewhere snowy and cold. They say it's not far from the arctic circle, whatever that means. It has been quite a nice holiday. Different. The weather has been good, with bright sunlight during the short days and starry, clear skies at night. You've learned to ski and can zoom around the slopes faster than most.
The lower parts of the mountains are covered in pine trees and sprinkled with small log cabins. Above the tree line is nothing but biting wind, glittering snow and views that stretch for miles. No towns or roads can be seen, just mountains and forests and little lakes. There is something very old and wild about the place.
You wouldn't really call it a village, but the people here do. There is a little road, and by the road is a small shop and a place that sells handmade souvenirs. Halfway up one of the mountains is a restaurant that serves reindeer and moose. You can ski straight from the slopes all the way there and have waffles with whipped cream and cloudberries in the sun.
Yes, it's been nice. But the villagers are strangely quiet . The sun sets early in the afternoon and the nights are darker than anything else you've seen, with pale stars twinkling far above. The snow muffles every sound. It almost feels like someone - or something - is watching you from the edge of the forest.
But it's probably nothing.
On the last afternoon of the ski trip you notice a little winding path leading down the mountain in the narrow strip of forest between two slopes. It looks steep and uneven, and it twists sharply around trees and rocks before disappearing into the woods. It's the perfect way to end the holiday.
You give your parents a shout and a wave. They wave back and give you the thumbs up, gesturing that they'll meet you at the bottom of the hill. You take a deep breath and head for the path, grinning.
It isn't too difficult at first, and you can manage the sharp turns just fine. It's fun and exciting and brilliant, and you laugh out loud as you swoosh through the woods. Then the path becomes steeper and more uneven. The wind stings your face and fills your ears. You can hear a trickling sound from underneath you; there must be a stream running under the snow. The forest around you grows denser and closer, and your eyes water as you try to slow down. You veer to avoid a tree and suddenly you're flying through the air. For a heart-stopping moment you have time to be scared. Then you land with your skis in a tangle and your clothes full of snow.
And then all is dark.
You wake up to stars and silence. Your head is sore but apart from that you haven't been hurt, but why haven't your parents gone searching for you? You must have been gone for hours...
A noise from the dark woods makes you jump. Something moves not far away and you get to your feet, chills running down your spine...