Chapter 1: The Kidnapping
“Come on Mom, we’re going to be late!”
“I’m coming, Winter! We don’t have to be there until 2:00, and it takes like two minutes to drive there.”
“I know,” Winter muttered under her breath. She probably was overreacting a little bit. After all, she was just going to Moon’s house. Pulling on her favorite tie-die hoodie, she couldn’t help but realize that today would be tenth year together. The puppy calendar that Moon had gotten for her last Christmas told her so. Well, when Winter and her mom will finally get to Moon’s house, she could tell her this.
Winter turned to the mirror leaning against the wall and peered at her reflection. Her bright blue eyes twinkled back; her blonde hair tied back in a low ponytail. Her hands were nestled in her hoodie’s pocket, fiddling with a loose seam.
“Okay, Winter, I’m ready.” Winter’s mom called out from downstairs. As soon as she said this Winter was downstairs and pulling on her fluffy blue coat that was matching to Moon’s. Winter couldn’t understand why it had to be so cold outside, especially in November. It should’ve been at least a little warm. Although it was totally normal for Minnesota, Winter would have really liked it to be warm sometimes.
Outside, it looked like someone had draped a white blanket over all the houses and streets. Winter padded through the snow, her ankles already freezing. Her mom’s Honda, cold as it was, was inviting and friendly, a change from outside.
“So,” Winter’s mom started.
“So, what?” Winter buckled herself and looked at her mom gripping the steering wheel.
“So, I just got an email from your school last night. You go back on Thursday.”
“Oh!” Winter definitely didn’t expect this. “Really?” They had had to do all their classwork online because of the snow since October, so this was a pretty big thing.
Her mom smiled mysteriously. “Yes, and do you know what else is coming up?”
For a second, Winter was puzzled. What else was new? And then it hit her: the two families' tradition of spending December in Florida was coming up. She grinned at her mom and out of the corner of her eye, noticed that they were here.
She was up and out of her seat before her mom even turned off the ignition.
“Whoa there, kiddo, it’s not like you haven’t seen her in forever!” her mom teased, but she climbed out of the car as well and walked up to the front door. Before Winter could knock at the white door, it was opened by a girl, about Winter’s age, with shoulder-length brown hair and dark eyes, wearing a navy-blue button up shirt and jeans. Her tan face lit up when she saw Winter.
Both girls gaped at each other for half a second and then fell in each other’s arms, breathless. When the finally parted, Winter looked at Moon. Moon looked at Winter. Moon took Winter’s hand and pulled her into the warm, brightly lit house, Winter’s mom trailing behind, sharing a smile with Moon’s mom and an embrace.
“I have sooo much to tell you!” Moon declared. They were sitting cross legged on Moon’s shaggy blue rug, talking excitedly. Winter loved Moon’s room. Every wall was painted a different color, and her bed was a mix of blue, red and purple. When she had her room painted, Moon’s mom, Alice, had said she would get tired of it, but Moon disagreed.
“Me too!” But you first.” Winter pointed at a boy band poster on Moon’s white wall and raised her eyebrows. “Since when have you been into Rockwell?”
“Oh,” Moon peered sheepishly at Winter. “Umm, since Benson Meyers said he liked it?”
“Oh, come one, Moon! You told me you didn’t have a crush on him anymore!” Winter paced around the room, looking at Moon’s room. It was the same as always, except for a few new books and a messier desk.
“Well, that was in sixth grade.” Moon rolled her eyes. She suddenly lit up like she had gotten an idea. “Oh! Winter, I wanted to show you something!”
“What—” Winter had picked up a book and was flipping through it when it dropped to the floor unexpectedly. She thought Moon had pullet it out of her grasp. “Hey, what was that for?” she said angrily. Then she caught sight of the book floating in midair. She stared at it, transfixed. “You did that?”
Moon nodded proudly, a big smile on her face. “I did it,” she whispered.
“Moon!” Winter put her arms around her and squeezed.
Winter ended the moment by breaking away from Moon. She beamed at Moon and said, “Oh, I wanted to tell you something, M. You know, today’s our tenth year together.”
Moon nodded and replied, “Yeah! Hey, remember when we were in kindergarten and the teacher had to make us sit apart so we wouldn’t talk?”
Winter bobbed her head vigorously. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and rocked on her knees excitedly. “But then we still talked across the room! Ooh, what about third grade when we dressed the same and your mom couldn’t tell us apart?”
They laughed simultaneously until there was a knock at the door. “Come in!” Moon yelled. Her mom opened the door. Her face shining, she told the girls that it was time for dinner.
“Okay, we’ll be down in a second, Mom.” She grabbed Winter’s hand and they drifted to the kitchen together, chatting along the way.
Right as the door closed, several ink black puddles slid from under the bed, in the closet, from behind the posters, from every corner of the room. They joined together into a creature with no form and the room dropped in temperature. The horrifying creature dripped with the darkest black ink-like substance. Dripping to the floor before disappearing into the wood, it kept changing shape to a dog, a green-skinned creature, then becoming more humanlike by the second. Suddenly, it shuddered, and the room temperature dropped again as it hunched over, it began shrinking from its towering height, its skin turned a light peach, and sprouted shoulder-length brown hair. The creature straightened, its face still dripping ink and eyes still blood red, it walked to the mirror and brushed its fingers across it. A reflection of Moon came up, smiling, before gasping in horror and attempting to rush out of the frame, but it was trapped. The reflection turned toward the creature and the monster bore its eyes into it before stepping away. Its face turned identical to Moon’s before slipping back under the bed, leaving no trace it was there except a few tiny splashes of ink on the floor.
The two friends’ voices disappeared downstairs, getting softer and softer until there was no sound at all.
“Alexa, what does the name Moon mean?”
Moon was sitting in a chair at the dining room table with a book laid out in front of her. She had just finished a chapter, and she needed a break. Her dad was bustling around in the kitchen, his shaggy brown hair flying around when he turned.
“Sorry, I don’t know that one.” Moon sighed. Figures it wouldn’t know. She had just read that how you got your name could mean a lot about you, but Moon didn’t think she was really silvery and huge. Winter wasn’t cold like her namesake either, quite the opposite. Oh, what she wouldn’t give to see her right now! Moon groaned, slouched forward, and buried her head in her arms.
She stood up, walking over to the pot on the stove and looking inside. She heard footsteps coming from behind her. Moon lifted her head and said, “I sincerely hope this tastes as good as it looks—” She turned around, expecting to see one of her parents, but instead came face to face with darkness. Ice-cold, gloomy darkness. A scream froze in her throat, shock and hypothermia stopping it from escaping. The dark was frosty against her lips; it felt like poison. She jerked away and tried to scream again but it felt as if it was being shoved back down her throat. She stumbled forward blindly and felt as if she was getting pulled through something, like the unsettling feeling that makes you think you might have walked through a ghost. She slipped into unconsciousness.
Winter woke up with a start, her breathing rapid. She sat there a few minutes to ponder her dream. In it, she was with Moon, and she was being chased by something, but she couldn’t tell what it was. Waving the dream away with a mental hand, Winter sprang out of her bed and grabbed her door handle, checking her calendar. It was Sunday the 20th, which meant she had three days until she would go back to school.
“Winter, honey, are you awake?” came a voice from behind her closed door.
Winter opened the door to find her mom standing in the doorway, bright-eyed like usual.
“Good morning, Winter. How’d you sleep?”
“Fine,” Winter replied, glancing at her rumpled bed where she’d tossed and turned. This had been happening for a few nights like this, where she just couldn’t fall asleep for no reason. Last night, though, she had fallen asleep earlier than usual. “I guess.”
“Okay, good, because we’re going to Alice’s house again.”
If Winter’s mom saw the puzzled look on Winter’s face, she didn’t’ show it. “What? Why?” she asked. She didn’t mind, of course, because any chance she had to see her best friend would be taken by her.
Her mom sighed and looked at Winter in the eye. “She’s gone, Winter. Moon’s gone.”