From the Inside Flap
Clark approached the front door of the clubhouse cautiously. He didn't see any footprints in the snow, or paw prints either, but that didn't mean something or someone wasn't in the building. The wind could have opened the door. Or a squatter could have found his way down the road and decided the clubhouse was a better option than one of the cabins.
Either way, Clark didn't want to take any chances. In his right hand, he held a two-pound sledgehammer, his left arm extended, palm out and prepared to push anything away from him.
"Hello?" he called, stepping into the clubhouse. Clark glanced around. There was a smattering of wind-blown snow across the polished wood floor. All of the tables were covered with sheets. The backs of the chairs making each table look like a crowned ghost.
"Hello?" Clark called again.
Someone or something whimpered. The sound came from the back, near the kitchen.
He went to the right wall and crept along it, keeping an eye on the closed door to the kitchen.
"If you're in there, it's okay," Clark said, his voice breaking with fear. "I ain't going to press charges. You just need to get out."
He paused, then added, "Hell, if you need it, I'll give you a ride into town."
A pot or a pan rattled in the kitchen, and Clark stopped, a few feet from the door. The sledgehammer shook in his hand, and he switched it from his right to his left.
"Come on out now," Clark said, his voice hoarse, the words painful to speak.
I hope to God it's just a cat, he thought, and he took the last few steps to the front door. Hell, I'd even be okay if it's a raccoon.
The closed door was without a handle, a brass push plate instead of a doorknob.
His hand trembled and his fingers touched the cold metal. All the noise behind the door ceased, and Clark hesitated.
Then, with a sharp exhalation, he pushed himself forward, thrusting the door open. It bounced off the wall, rebounded, and cracked against his extended arm, numbing it. In the dim light filtering down through the skylight above, Clark saw a small shape hunkered in the far right corner. A pile of small frying pans was nearby, but Clark focused on the figure.
It looked to be a child, crouched low in the protection of the corner's darkness. The air was harsh and cold, smelling of something wet and foul.
"Hey," Clark said, his courage returning at the sight of the invader's size. "Hey. What are you doing in here?"
The child shook its head, long, dark brown hair hiding its face from him. A long, winding moan escaped from its chest.
"How did you get in here?" Clark asked, lowering the sledgehammer. "Are you alone?"
Still, the child refused to speak.
"Listen," Clark said with as much authority as he could muster, "you're in a lot of trouble. I'm going to have to call the cops, you know."
Clark stepped further into the room, letting the door swing closed behind him. When it had, a shadow to his left caught his eye, and Clark turned to look at it.
It towered above him, reaching from the old boards of the floor to the tin panels of the ceiling. Waves of cold emanated from the shadow and Clark took a horrified, fearful step backward. The sledgehammer fell from his hand, slamming into the floor and denting the wood.
Clark glanced over to the child, who had straightened up. Its face was pale, the features elfin and fine, the eyes wide and light blue. Clark couldn't tell if the child was a boy or a girl, its long, dark brown hair ragged and unkempt. A thick, dark gray, woolen blanket was wrapped around it. From the fabric's depths, a pale, thin hand clutched the blanket closed.
Clark opened his mouth, to ask what the creature was, to see if the child had come with it, but he couldn't.
The air was stolen from his lungs, his mouth robbed of his words as he realized he could see through the child. He caught a faint glimmer of the stovetop through the child's face. A sharp, piercing scream exploded in to the silence of the kitchen, dropping Clark to his knees. He clamped his hands over his ears.
A second later, his own scream joined the first as a cold and brutal hand grabbed his neck from behind, and started to squeeze.