I sat there, rocking back and forth, my eyes sealed tight as my heart pounded. It was then I heard her voice, “Ivy?” And my eyes shot open.
The locker door opened and I practically fell from my prison, I lay at their feet sobbing, still curled in a tight ball.
“Ivy! What the hell are you doing?!”
I shuddered on the cold floor, as I looked up through the darkness I could see the unmistakable silhouettes of both Alexander Millar and Phoenix, staring wide-eyed at me, holding a torch.
I crawled up Alex’s strong frame, his hand guiding me to my feet. I wrapped my arms tight around the pair of them, almost sobbing with relief. I struggled to form words, only managing a few, “How did you find me?”
“Phoenix said you might be in trouble. When you didn’t come outside, we came back in to look for you.” Alexander said, “When she said you were in trouble, we came as soon as we could. We looked everywhere.” Alexander caressed my back as a soothing gesture, those deep hazel eyes locking upon mine and filling me with warmth.
“I’m so glad you did,” I whispered, “Thank you, both of you!” I relinquished my hold over him and squeezed Phoenix closer to me for reassurance.
Phoenix said, “This place is giving me the creeps, can we get out of here?”
As I let go of the pair another sharp voice rang out, strong and angry, “Are you all bloody stupid?!” What the hell are you doing down here?!” It was David, his tone thick with worry and fear, he ripped me away from Phoenix and shook me, “I thought you had been killed!”
At that moment sparks started to fly in the distance, accompanied by the ear-piercing of metal on metal. A locker from the far end of the hall slammed open. I could hardly make out the deep claws marks against the metal door, but they were unmistakable.
We all span round in hysteria. I backed up, “Guys, we need to go.”
“Who’s there?” David called out, dread heavy in his voice.
Another locker slammed open.
Prickles ran up my arms as my hairs rose with a fresh, crisp batch of goose bumps. I clutched on to Phoenix’s hand securely, her knuckles turning white under my grasp. “We have to get out of here,” I hissed, my voice barely audible. My eyes were fixed on the darkness.
Alexander awkwardly expressed, “Is it something to do with what you saw in the woods?” Rushing to get out his words; his tone was chilling, tense.
More embers flew into the air, metal slammed against metal, the echoes rushed towards us and down the rest of the corridor. Clang-g-g-g-g!
“Oh God,” David cried at Alexander, “Not that bullshit from you too!”
Phoenix squeezed my hand and whispered so quietly into my ears I had to strain to hear her, “I trust you. Tell me what’s happening.”
I replied, “We have to go. They’re going to kill us.”
The boys were still arguing, Alexander sticking up for my story and David opposing it. They were too busy to notice that the smashing of lockers was getting closer, inching towards us, oblivious to the danger. The corridor was being torn apart and nothing was spared,
“Guys!” I yelled, my heart beating fast in my chest, “Please, we have to go!” I grabbed hold of Alexander’s hand and pulled. We weren’t safe here, I was never safe.
We began to run away from the opening lockers. They were slamming more rapidly, trying to keep up with our new speed, the destruction rushed towards us. We sprinted down the corridor, Alexander’s leg flinging forwards.
He was scared. Just like me.
I squeezed his hand in encouragement. I knew what it felt like, I knew how confused he must be, I knew we couldn’t stop. The four of us dashed away from the approaching noise. Phoenix and David were ahead of Alexander and I, I was emotionally exhausted so we were lagging behind. I tried to force my legs to move faster, one foot in front of the other, Alexander desperately tried to drag me, but it was no use my legs were like jelly and we were slowing down.
Something grabbed my ankle and snatched me from Alexander’s hold. I screamed as loud as I could, I struggled and I squirmed as an unknown force dragged me away from my friends, away from hope.
“Help!” I screeched, “Please help!”
I heard Phoenix crying my name helplessly and David shouting, “Don’t just stand there you idiot! Come on!”
I listened, defenseless, to the stampede of footsteps galloping towards me, to aid me. They offered no help at all, all I could think of was the beat and the panic it had thrust upon me.
The friction of my stomach against the floorboards was burning like fire. I began to sob, I could taste the salt from the streaming tears already coating my lips. I dug my fingernails into the floor, curling the wood beneath my touch... tearing my nails away from the flesh of my fingertips. A desperate attempt to prolong my life.
Phoenix was getting further and further away, a mere shadow in the corridor. My nightmares were becoming a reality, I was going to die.
David and Alexander’s pursuit after me seemed to be in vain. I could see their silhouettes racing forwards, their arms extended, ready to hopefully catch hold of mine and yank me to safety. I flung my arms out hysterically, but every time I grabbed David’s or Alexander’s sweaty fingers, my hand would slip straight out of their grasp.
I cried and I cried, screaming for help. I felt hot tears running down my face, my eyes were barely open. My skin was red raw from the force of being dragged along the ground.
My outstretched arms were feeling weak, my muscles about to collapse. My fingertips were inches away from David’s, so close and still so far away. I elongated my frame, trying to jerk away from my attacker.
Our fingers were touching, a flash of craving for familiar feelings, a flash of hope.
Come on, come on, come on, come on, I begged to myself, Please just reach a little further.
David recoiled drastically, bellowing out in excruciating pain. All chances of getting free were lost. He clasped his leg in both hands, weeping loudly. I could just make out the deep incisions into his flesh, blood streaming through his ripped jeans and down his calf. The slash marks looked painful but after a split second he persistently pushed onward.
With one final, hopeless attempt to get free from this unidentified monster, dragging me away to what could only be my death; I thrashed my legs violently and I offered my arm out frantically. I managed to securely latch onto David with all of my effort. He held my hand firmly in both of his and pulled and he pulled.
The pressure on my ankle vanished, and automatically I was scrambling to my feet, finally free, and running down the corridor once more, “Go!” I shouted to Alexander and Phoenix, who were a few dozen meters down the corridor, “Go!”
They ran, travelling down the corridor like zebras fleeing from a perilous lion.
“Now do you believe me?” I panted furiously, clinging onto David’s hand, our palms still sweating.
David remained silent as a stone. I could not see his face very clearly, only the floor illuminated by the light from the torch. I could only try to guess what he was feeling.
In front of us Phoenix and Alexander pushed fiercely onto a metal bar attached to a withered door, it was stuck. The door refused to open. We were all going to cease to exist in a matter of moments.
David ran on ahead in anguish, denying facing the facts. He lifted his good leg and kicked the door ruthlessly. It rattled insanely but still didn’t open. Alexander was hasty to assist him, smacking the door with his feet and fists.
“Ivy...” The utterance was neither male nor female, I could feel icy breath whisking through my hair from behind me. I crumpled inwards on myself. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I couldn’t stand this anymore. I despised running to simply stay alive. It was always close behind, I would never be free.
I crashed against the door forcefully, throwing my entire body weight against it.
The door soared outwards away from us and sunlight poured into the corridor. Relief washed over me like a wave, my legs almost fell away from underneath me.
With a hand shading his eyes, Alexander called, “Come on! This way!” And darted out like a gazelle after Phoenix. David took my hand and hauled me out with him.
We all stood in the center of the courtyard. Watching and waiting for any sign of an assailant, you could have cut the tension in the surrounding atmosphere with a knife.
No one came.
Alexander and Phoenix collapsed down in the sunlight in the middle of the grass, gasping for breath, David and I quickly joined them. We sat in complete silence, the only sound I could hear were from the birds singing in the trees. The sun was high in the sky; its glow bore heavily down on us, not a cloud in sight. I inhaled deeply, closing my eyes, listening to and feeling the peaceful aura encircling me.
Alexander was the first to speak, making Phoenix jump out of her skin, as he said, “What is going on? Will somebody please enlighten me?”
I sat up, the sun tepid on my skin, I glanced down at David, he had his eyes shut and he was pinching the bridge of his nose with deep frown lines etched into his forehead.
I spoke warily as not to disturb him, “I think there’s something after me,” I rubbed the bruise that was now forming where whatever it was had grabbed my ankle, “I don’t know why, I don’t know where they came from or what they are, but they want me – they are after me.” I swallowed, realizing that my mouth was drier than the Sahara desert, “I need you all to help me. Help me find out what they are and what they want. I can’t do this on my own, you have to help me fight them.”
“Why aren’t they coming after you now?” Phoenix asked, “I mean, they aren’t coming after you now, they mustn’t want you that badly.”
Alexander whispered, almost inaudible, “I haven’t seen anything, it’s like they’re... invisible.” He said the word in complete disbelief, like it wasn’t possible. All four of us knew now that it was possible, all aware that this was happening, completely insane as it was.
I sat thinking for a moment. Sunlight, why won’t they attack in the sunlight? I suddenly remembered something that one of the popular girls jeered at me this morning, “Maybe they have, vampiric traits? They burn in sunlight or something similar? They don’t want us to see them... but why?”
“Don’t you see, they’re afraid.” Phoenix suggested. “Of being seen, of the light.”
“They have to be,” I agreed, “Otherwise I would be dead by now.”
“Or, maybe they’re hiding back inside, where nobody can see them; waiting for us, ready to pounce!”
“Thank you so very much for your helpful and absolutely delightful contribution Alex.” My tone was dripping with sarcasm.
Out of nowhere Phoenix then said, “So, are we trapped?”
I stared at her, confusion lying like a sheet of fabric on my face, “What?”
“Well, think about it, if they’re afraid of sunlight, we’re safe out here in the sun... Until it goes down.” She shivered, “Then they can come out and have their way with you, with us. But also back in there,” She looked around us in a full circle; I took in the tall buildings surrounding us on all four sides, “Is a place we can’t go back into, they’re in charge. It’s their rules in there, we run, we hide. They chase, they kill. We are powerless in the dark.”
I took a deep breath ready to reply, but a voice rang out before mine, saying words that surprised us all, “People only seem to get hurt when it’s dark. Like Mrs. Anderson, the lights would’ve been off when she entered the bathroom. Wouldn’t they?” I nodded, and the voice continued, “Like Ivy, the power was cut in her house before she was attacked. Like now. Safe outside. They’re afraid of light, of being seen. That has to be their weakness. There’s no other explanation.”
The voice belonged to David. He was stood majestically over us, taking control of the situation.
I cleared my throat, “You’re right, you’re both right. Everything is starting to make sense.” And it was, the jigsaw of a thousand lost pieces was coming together part by part before my very eyes.
“Whoa, whoa,” Alexander stopped my train of thought, “So, we’re trapped out here?”
I looked around at the withering three story walls of our archaic school encasing us in the courtyard, my heart sank. Yes, we were all trapped.
“Well, if you want to go back in there, be my guest,” David chortled, extending an arm towards the open door we just escaped through.
“After you, Mr ’it was just a shadow in the bushes’.” Alexander retorted.
I tried to suppress a giggle but I couldn’t stop it from sliding out of my mouth. It gained a glare from David but a smug smile and a wink from Alexander. My heart felt torn, and then tied itself into a tight knot for a brief second preventing me from breathing. Then the knot was gone.
“So, that’s how you want to play is it?” David folded his arms across his chest as a defense mechanism.
I knew, more than anyone that a fist fight would soon break out. I remembered the last time I had seen him cross his arms like that. It was probably about five years ago, David and I were twelve and playing in the park. Billy, the estate’s bully, and his mates came over and pushed me onto my rump, and they laughed all about how I had no father to play with. I had started to cry, and that’s when David got all defensive, Billy was left with a broken nose and a very ugly black eye.
I certainly didn’t want David’s fist ruining Alexander’s flawless features so I stepped in between the pair of them, “We really don’t have time for this, do it when your own lives are at stake, not when mine and Phoenix’s are also on the line.” I glared at both of them in turn; neither of them met my eyes.
Alexander looked at his feet, ashamed, and David just refused to look at me. “We have to work together if we want to get out of here alive, got it?” I shot them both a serious glower. No one attempted to argue with me, “Good. Now, Phoenix?” I sighed, “Please tell me how we’re going to get out of here.”
She had been very quiet throughout all the confrontation, rubbing her chin in deep thought, “I would suggest... Climbing up that tree and onto the roof. Then go over the roof, down the kitchen drainpipe on the other side into the teacher’s car park and then round to the front doors.” She said slowly, thinking about what we would do next extremely carefully.
I looked at her for a moment, puzzling it through. I eyed up the tree. Would it hold Alexander’s or David’s weight? It looked strong enough, with thick branches twirling towards the sky. The plan of action seemed easy enough, it seemed safe enough, I mean, I’ve climbed onto rooftops and down drainpipes before. I smiled and I decided, “Okay, let’s get the hell out of here.”