This is one I was working on a while ago, I might return to it but I initially wrote it as an experiment. Enjoy!
The walls, now dust, grey and battered, wind whipped scars cover the side facing the orange trees. Silence. A few fallen leaves rustle, darting along the road. Silence. A hollow silence; something’s not right. An ominous energy like that before a thunderstorm felt right through the bones of the girl. She looks towards the trees, unsure if she really wants to see, really wants to know, what’s hidden in shadow. Nothing. She stares harder, praying to see nothing unusual, for her mind to be put to rest. Nothing. But still something. She eases her right foot forward and stops. Was it the wind? No, was it an animal? Most definitely. Her breathing gets heavier as her throat becomes tighter. Left foot, right foot, stop. Left, right, it’s getting harder to breathe, but she still goes forward until she reaches the first oak. She freezes, staring. Something’s staring back. She knows, she feels it lurking just beyond the visible. She picks up heavy feet, knitted wool scarf trailing behind. Steadying herself on the nearest tree, it’s rough bark scraping her hand, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Every sensation in her fragile body is telling her to go back, you don’t need to know, a voice chants in her head. But still she goes on.
Dead leaves crunch underfoot. She dares not look back at the road, something’s pulling her in, persuading her to venture further into the sprawling mass of oaks and willows. It’s all dark amongst the grand, old giants. A few bars of light stream from above, highlighting open patches of ground.
Slowly wandering aimlessly forward, seemingly aimless at least, she comes to a fork amongst the dense growth. In the middle of the left hand path, not ten yards away, is a fallen mass, struck by lightning, grey and burnt with the look of mangled, black flesh within the gash. Curiosity beckons her in. She walks the length to the trunk, covered in moss and other fungi. A sudden awareness, something’s watching her, something’s behind her. She whips her head around to see nothing. The lightning tree shakes, as if jumped on by a substantial weight. She turns again to see nothing, but out of the corner of her eye, a blur of movement and black. All becomes white, as if in a vision, or after a camera flash has burned the eyes. She stumbles backwards, in a daze. Shakes her head to focus. She needs to focus. Everything‘s become a blur. She begins hyperventilating, she cannot breathe. Every attempt seems to squeeze more oxygen out of her lungs than in. She cries out to whatever or whoever is listening. Begging, pleading for help. Flustered tears slide down her neck. She wants to run but her lungs won’t allow her. Dizzier and dizzier, the world spins. Faster than empty lungs can bear. Faster. Around and around and around. She falls to her knees, wishes for the road, the empty safety. She clutches her knees. Stares at a point to regain some control. Her breathing slows. Quiet. But too quiet. No birds, no whisper of wind. Nothing dares to make a noise. Not even the trees. They see what can happen.
Only now she hears. Now she hears the mistake. The mistake that makes the bristles on her heavy coat stand on end. It’s moving towards her, faster than fast, quicker than quick, hungrier than starving. She runs, she has to. Go towards the road, nothing will happen on the road. That black sea of trodden path is the only safe place. No, a wrong turn, there must have been a left somewhere, next to a willow. They all look the same. Was that there before? A new open space. Oh God, she’s drowning. Stop, listen, snap, run. She turns back to look and falls. A trunk protruding out of the ground. She dares not move. Her breath lingers, visibly grasping air. Body trembles, shakes. She turns her head slowly, for her eyes to rest , uncertain, on a place where something just disappeared into the trees. A chilling gasp renders her paralyzed. The nightmare closing in. Wants to move but can’t. She hears footsteps, animal footsteps. Not an animal form. The colour runs screaming from her face as a small white hand appears directly opposite her from a curtain of ivy and willow vines. It parts the trees slightly but hesitates, a mocking hesitation. It smells her fear. An insignificant bead of sweat trickles down her forehead as the hooded beast appears, slowly. A thing no one dares imagine. It moves towards her, she scrambles back, trying to escape but not finding her footing. As it reaches her feet they both freeze. One in fear, one in anticipation. Small puffs of white mist emanating from inside the hood. Neither moves. An obnoxious crow decides it’s had enough of the silence. Distracts the thing for a moment, gives the girl time to move. It’s grabbing at her, doesn’t let her out of its sight. Tears blur her vision but still she runs. No time to be afraid, survival instinct kicking in. She can feel its cold breath cutting into her neck, right through her scarf. Tree limbs cut her face, stinging and oozing, making the thing more desperate. Her lungs burning, desperate. Screaming’s not allowed here. A sudden recognition, the willows are closer together, huddled against her, but similar to along the road. She runs into the cluster, fights through branches. The thing is close behind her. An unfriendly root finds her feet, trips. Lands on hard ground. Her hand’s grazed, her clothing ripped, blood seeping from the tears. The ground’s too hard. The root found the road for her. She crawls further onto the road, glances back. The thing stares hard. Its mouth, not visible, opens. The girl covers her ears to the inhuman shriek, a drone that rings in her ears, throbbing. It tears one step forward, painfully. Then the girl sees nothing. Blackness.
Run, Autumn, Winter is coming.
2 thoughts on “Autumn – Prologue”
The suspense at the beginning is really strong!