Burning Feet is a scary story about a man who hires a guide to take him hunting in the Canadian wilderness. On the snowy plains, they encounter a horrifying creature from Native American legend. This tale is based on a classic short story by Algernon Blackwood called “The Wendigo”. A shorter version of this story also appeared in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
There was a wealthy man who loved hunting. He decided to go on a trip to a remote part of northern Canada. It was a forsaken and desolate part of the country and few people ever ventured that far north. Even fewer went there to hunt. He traveled to a trading post and tried to find a guide. He asked around, but nobody he spoke to would agree to take him. They all said it was too dangerous.
Eventually, he was put in touch with a stocky Cajun man by the name of DeFago. The man seemed to know a lot about trapping, Indian-lore and how to survive in the wilderness and the hunter thought he would make an excellent guide. DeFago was badly in need of money and agreed to take the hunter out to the best hunting grounds.
They set out together, paddling down the river in a small canoe. When they reached their destination, the men set up camp near a large frozen lake. As far as the eye could see, the ground was covered in a thick blanket of snow. The hunter was enchanted by its beauty and he enjoyed the sense of freedom it gave him.
For three days they hunted on the icy plains, but they had nothing to show for it. Luckily, DeFago taught him how to break a hole in the ice and catch some fish, so they didn’t go hungry. The hunter was glad he had chosen to bring a guide. He knew that the only thing that lay between him and starvation was DeFago.
The third night a windstorm came up. They lay in their tent listening to the wind howling and the trees whipping back and forth.
To see the storm better, the hunter opened the tent flap. What he saw startled him. There wasn’t a breath of air. stirring, and the trees were standing perfectly still. Yet he could hear the wind howling. And the more he listened, the more it sounded as if it were calling DeFago’s name.
”De-Faaaaaa-Goooooo!” it seemed to be calling. “De-Faaaaaa-Goooooo!”
“I must be losing my mind,” the hunter thought.
When he closed the tent flap and turned around, he saw that DeFago had gotten out of his sleeping bag and was huddled in a corner of the tent, his head buried in his arms.
“What’s wrong?” the hunter asked.
”It’s nothing,” DeFago said. “Just the wind playing tricks on your ears.”
But the voice that carried on the wind continued to call his name. It sounded oddly seductive and sweeet and DeFago became more tense and nervous.
“De-Faaaaaa-Goooooo!” it called. De-Faaaaaa-Goooooo!
The Cajun man flew into a panic and jumped to his feet. His eyes were wild and he was trembling. He pulled back the flap of the tent and was about to get out when the hunter grabbed him by the arm.
“Where are you going?” the hunter shouted. “You can’t leave me here alone. How will I…?”
Suddenly, he was interrupted by the tremendous roar of the wind, coming across the lake. The trees overhead shook with the force of it and the campfire flickered and threatened to go out. There was a tremendous rushing noise as something swept over the tent, almost lifting it off the ground.
DeFago was shaking with fear. All of a sudden, he broke loose and fled from the tent. The hunter watched as his guide ran off and was swallowed up by the darkness. The hunter could hear him screaming as he went. Over and over, he cried, “Oh, my fiery feet! My burning feet of fire!” Then his voice faded away into the night and the wind calmed down again.
At the first sign of daylight, the hunter followed DeFago’s tracks in the snow. The trail led through the woods, down toward the lake and out onto the ice.
But soon he noticed something strange. The footprints DeFago had left became longer and longer. They were so long that no human being could have made them. It was as if something had helped him to hurry away.
The hunter followed the tracks out to the middle of the lake, but there they disappeared. At first, he thought that DeFago had fallen through the ice, but there wasn’t any hole. Then he thought that something had pulled him off the ice into the sky. But that made no sense.
As he stood wondering what had happened, the wind picked up again. Soon it was howling as it had the night before. Then he heard DeFago’s voice again. It was coming from up above and he was screaming, “Oh, my fiery feet! My burning feet of fire!” But there was nothing to be seen.
Now the hunter wanted to leave that place as fast as he could. He went back to camp and packed. Then he left some food for DeFago, and he started out. Weeks later he reached the trading post and set about looking for DeFago. He asked around, but none of the people had seen him. He told them what he had witnessed, but nobody could explain what had happened to DeFago that night.
One old man took him aside and whispered, ”Could it have been the Wendigo?”
“Wendigo?” repeated the hunter. “What’s that?”
“They say it comes with the wind,” said the old man. “It calls your name and tries to trick you. Once it has you in its clutches, it drags you along at great speed until your feet are burned away. Then it drags you some more and burns away more of you than that. They say it carries you into the sky, and drops you. That’s the story I heard as a child, but it’s an old Indian legend. Who knows if it’s true…”
The following year, the hunter went back to the same area. He was buying supplies at the trading post again and asked about his old guide, DeFago. Nobody had seen hide nor hair of him.
As night fell, the hunter was sitting by the campfire. The darkness brought forth a strange figure of a man. He came in and sat far from the fire, where the light and the shadows mingled. The man had a blanket wrapped around him and his hood was pulled down so low that his face was hidden in shadow.
The hunter watched him for a while and thought there was something familiar about him.
“DeFago?” he asked. “Is that you?”
The stranger didn’t answer.
“It is you, isn’t it, Defago?”
The hunter began to wonder if something was wrong, if the man needed help. But he couldn’t see his face.
”Are you all right?” he asked.
“DeFago, can you tell me what happened? Just a little, so that I can help you…”
From beneath his hood, the stranger muttered something. His voice was low and breathless.
“I seen that great big Wendigo thing,” he whispered.
The hunter wanted to get a look at DeFago. He still wasn’t sure if it was really him. He reached out and tugged at the man’s hood. The hood fell back and the blanket dropped to the ground.
The hunter screamed in horror.
There was nothing under the blanket but a pile of ashes.