Monday, 24 December 2007
Darting black eyes surveyed the surrounding forest in meticulous detail while the beast hungered for death. It was on the hunt. The faint smell of prey loomed in the air.
A thick layer of snow silenced the monstrous, four-legged beast’s footsteps as it wandered through the sparse forest. The hillside was quiet and snowflakes cascaded onto, and through the beast’s mutilated body.
Its short muzzle drooped downward. The pointed pink nose had a sheen beneath its large, tear-shaped nostrils and strings of saliva dripped from its jagged teeth. Canines, molars and incisors swelled from its rose-coloured gums at a multitude of angles, some even seeming to belong to a separate species. A canid tongue glided across its sharp teeth when a smell filled the cold air. The smell of human flesh.
A sudden rush of adrenaline surged through the beast’s body. The hunt was on. It tore through the forest with incredible speed. Every large stride that slammed into the earth sent snow flying with each echoing thud. Stretched, mangled feet with lupine toes ripped through the earth.
Growls rose from the beast’s throat, low and unholy. Its hunger grew. Its prey grew nearer and entered its sight. The creature did not waste a second. It leapt as soon as it was close enough and tore its teeth through the man’s throat. Its mouth filled with gore. The butchered bones crushing in his neck. It tightened its hold, decapitating him with a pop.
Shrill cries cut through the forest. The man’s wife seized her teenaged son and tried to run away, their feet falling into the deep snow. Bones broke and shattered as the creature hurled the man’s body to the side and followed the remainder of its prey.
The boy’s efforts were not enough to save his soul as the beast clamped its jaws around his shoulder and flung him into a tree. A thundering crash resounded through the frozen forest as his skeleton shattered on impact.
Fumbling over her feet, the woman met her end as the foreboding beast caught up with her. Evil itself gazed into her eyes. What were mere seconds in reality, slowed into millennia as she stared at the beast, taking in every detail.
A short neck sprouted from the creature’s broad and flat chest. On both sides of its sloping forehead were wide and pointed ears. Beneath its frowning forehead, littered with sparse hairs atop its ashen skin, were two sunken eyes. The dark colours of the night encased its animalistic eyes, leaving no room for white to show.
It did not think twice. Her skull cracked into tiny pieces as it succumbed to the beast’s jaws. It spat the woman’s head from its mouth to let out a harrowing howl that entered the silent night and would echo for years to come.
The forest grew quiet, and it dragged the three corpses further into the night.
Adeana’s attention was drawn to the back door as she heard something knock against it. Then another. A smile spread across the gleeful girl’s face and she dashed through to the kitchen, flinging the door open.
Before her stood three young teens with giddy expressions and bicycles by their sides. The tallest boy quickly propped up his bike and ushered the other two inside, playful giggles trailing behind them. “Hurry up, Daniel!” Adeana ordered in a stage whisper as she pulled him in, making sure no one saw them.
With the door locked in place and partners in crime inside, Adeana hurried over to the living room and hovered a hand above the light switch. “Ladies and gentlemen, I now present… The Ghost Fort!” she proclaimed with both pride and uncontainable joy as the bright lights fled from the room, leaving only a linen fort behind illuminated by fairy lights.
Awe engulfed the room as the others stormed nearer, but Daniel lingered close to Adeana with a smug look on his face. “Not bad for a twelve-year-old.” he scoffed with crossed slender arms. Adeana had no issue recognising the jealousy intertwined with his words and she merely stuck her tongue out at him, earning a shrieking response from the girl in the fort.
“You have to kiss him now, Dean! You stuck your tongue out! I saw! Andrew she st-” This horrible racket earned not only a glare from Daniel, but was promptly silenced by Andrew slapping a hand over her mouth.
Adeana hunched over and peered out of the living room window at the neighbourhood, speaking in a hushed voice. “Naomi! Missus Varma is next door. If she hears us, my dad will kill me!” A gathered ponytail of messy blonde curls thrashed against Adeana’s ear as her head whipped back to stare at Naomi.
The frail pre-teen sat staring with large brown eyes and shadows of stringy hair draped around her face, as well as a hand still clasped onto her lips. “Gross!” Andrew squealed, ripping his hand away from both Naomi’s tongue and elated grin. “You’re disgusting.”
Adeana payed little mind to the bickering kids beside her and plopped down in the middle of the fort, clearing the floor in front of her. She sat up straight and flung her head back in a dramatic gesture. “Daniel, fetch the spirit communicator. Stat!” Still keeping her pose, Adeana opened an eye to check on Daniel before shutting it again as he sat down beside her.
“Here it is.” Grey eyes landed upon an old, rectangular box missing its glossy print. Sad ragged leftovers of ripped up cardboard decked all sides of the box with one simple word sprawled across the lid in bold marker letters: ’Ouija’.
The group of kids looked at one another and back at the box. A strange feeling filled the room as the four took deep breaths, eyes never leaving the box. Daniel was the only one to speak up, but fear remained in his feeble voice. “Who’s opening it?”
Eight hands and eight feet flew up in an instant with crossed fingers and presumably crossed toes. “Not me!” They cried as quickly as they possibly could, their rushed words barely sounding of this world. The room silenced once more and the precariously balanced kids held their poses, waiting for someone to sacrifice themselves.
A few seconds ticked by before they all resorted to pointing fingers at anyone but themselves. Naomi was the first to state her case against Adeana in hopes that the others would follow suit. “Dean should! Her house, her ghosts!”
Adeana’s grey eyes grew in surprise. Her voice faltered for a second, but she was quick to offer up the next victim in hopes of swaying the jury. “Uh, Dan! He’s the oldest, so… Daniel should open it. Besides, he brought it here.” This accusation turned all heads toward Daniel who returned their stares with a threatening glare.
“Absolutely not, there’s no way I’m doing it. Andrew insisted on playing with this demon telephone so he should open it.” To further his point, Daniel pushed the box closer toward Andrew who stumbled back accordingly.
“No way in heck! Naomi can open it, she doesn’t have a reason not to.” Andrew huffed shoving the box into Naomi’s lap with his foot. She let out a squeal which was instantly met with a resounding sigh and a punch to the arm, accompanied by a menacing glare from Adeana who grabbed the box from Naomi.
The remaining three kids stared at Adeana in wonder as she ripped off the top of the box and set the game out on the floor. She grabbed the planchette from the mangled cardboard box and slammed it onto the middle of the game board, a serious smirk on her face. “Who’s ready to talk to some ghosts?”
Daniel sported a devilish grin and scooted closer, followed by a huffy Andrew and then finally Naomi. They all placed four fingers each onto the planchette before staring at Adeana’s lips, waiting for the forbidden words to fall out.
Just as Adeana took a deep breath, Andrew removed his hands from the planchette and grabbed his backpack. “What the hell are you doing, dude?!” Daniel scolded as the tense atmosphere in the room dissipated with each rummage deeper into the bag.
“Before we talk to the spirits…” Andrew started with a garbled voice as his head disappeared further into the bag, but soon emerged with a bottle in tow, “there are other spirits you need to meet.” The bottle twinkled in the light almost as brightly as the boy’s toothy grin and he set the drink down for everyone to see.
The jade bottle’s contents sloshed around as Andrew sprung up and ran to the kitchen. A peculiar feeling surrounded the drink as the remaining three simply stared at it, unsure of what to do next. Daniel quickly snapped out of his trance and picked up the bottle to further inspect the beige label. “Where did you get this?” he called out toward the clattering in the kitchen.
A muffled voice answered with a hint of pride laced between the words: “I got it from my brother’s closet. He’s really bad at hiding things. I looked up how to drink this stuff and apparently you need to add ginger ale to make it easier to drink, or, to do… something.”
Adeana bounced where she sat as she remembered something else. “Oh! Bring ice as well! Top shelf of the freezer! I heard that ghosts like the cold!” Giggles filled the room.
“Seriously Daniel, again?” Adeana scolded and gestured to the glass of translucent gold, then back at the dumbfounded boy. Incoherent babbling fell from his lips, but his protests were in vain. The rest of the group did not take his nonsense for a second and ordered him collectively: “Drink!”
The pungent liquid washed down Daniel’s throat as he chugged the contents of his glass with a scowling face, wincing and flicking his head to the side as he finished. “I didn’t even move it this time! One of you is responsible for this.” Wisps of hair hid his tearful brown eyes from the others in a smoky curtain. As if it were a habit, Daniel clenched his eyes and sat his glass down for refilling.
A huffy Adeana smacked her hands against her thighs. “Shut up. We’re actually trying to talk to ghosts and you’re ruining our authentic and scientific investigation.” she glowered at the scrawny boy who wiped at his face with a coughing laugh.
The bottle cap whirred back into place with a flick of Andrew’s finger. He smiled with perfectly aligned teeth, appropriately protected by a guardrail of braces. His pale green eyes glimmered with excitement. “You need to stop it, Dan. You’re even worse than Erick.” An elbow lightly jabbed at Daniel’s ribs in attempts of softening Andrew’s already spoken words.
Despite Andrew’s attempts, Daniel responded with a sudden fire. “Are you insane? I’m nowhere near as spoiled and stuck-up as that douche. He has a golden spoon stuck up his ass for goodness sake.” he spat disapprovingly at his friend, whilst glimpsing at Adeana every so often.
Adeana took quick note of the situation and directed her oddly cold gaze toward Andrew. “You should take that back. I know Daniel’s a douche when he wants to be,” her expression softened as she hid her mouth from Daniel and whispered aloud, “especially when we’re trying to talk to ghosts,” she winked and returned to her regular speaking voice, “but Erick’s way worse.”
Naomi shuffled where she sat. Her thin black brows wiggled into a frown and a tentativeness in her voice became audible. “Are you sure you’re allowed to say that? You’re supposed to love him…” a chill crawled along Naomi’s spine the very second two grey eyes landed on her and she spluttered, “O-or at least like him.”
“Well, I’m allowed to say that I really don’t like him. He’s an asshole.” Andrew blurted out unapologetically and without a second thought, deserving a jab to the ribs from Daniel. “What?” he begged with an ignorant shrug.
Adeana on the other hand appreciated this comment and stretched a gesturing hand out toward Andrew. “See! I’m not the only one who thinks that about him. So why am I not allowed to dislike him, but Andrew can?” Arms flailed into a knot as the blonde girl huffed into a ball with hunched shoulders.
“He’s your brother! You have to like him! It’s like a rule or something.” Naomi squealed with a shaking head, trying her best to find footing on Adeana’s right side.
A mere snort escaped the ball’s nose in response. She remained seated in her irate state for a few seconds before crumbling under the need to argue her point. “Whoever made up the rule that you need to like everyone you share DNA with, was an idiot. It’s like having a cat and a pigeon together and telling them that because they live in the same house, they need to like each other.” Ochre eyebrows rose as she made her point, waiting for someone to poke holes into her argument, which Naomi gladly did.
“I think it’s a lie parents come up with to get their kids to get along better.” she beamed at her contribution with a giddy snort.
Daniel was quick to sit up straight and tilt his head toward Naomi, eyes shadowed by a frown. “So you’re saying that you only like me because mom said so?”
Naomi’s brown eyes widened more as the seconds ticked by. “No… I didn’t say that…” she redirected her gaze to anywhere but her brother and earned a snicker out of the group before grabbing hold of the planchette and staring keenly at the Ouija board, “Let’s try again!”
Adeana shook her head and placed four fingers onto the planchette as well. “Okay, but this time no pre-” she was interrupted by the echoing shrill of sirens approaching through the streets.
A single thought ruptured through the group and they scattered. The sirens grew louder. Mints were stuffed into everyone’s palms. Naomi rushed to the kitchen with as many glasses as she could carry. Flashes of red and blue engulfed the room. Daniel boxed up the board game and stuffed it into his messenger bag. Andrew hid the bottle out of sight. The sirens fell dead.
No one moved except for Adeana. She shared a look with the rest, then moved toward the window. Eerie creaks filled the silence and she pulled the curtain back. Someone was walking to the door. She glanced back at her friends. There was a frantic knocking.
The fort crumbled. They grabbed all of their belongings and the three left the same way they came. Adeana wrapped herself in a blanket. She shuffled toward the knocking and opened the door, forcing a cough. “Sergeant Field, how ca-”
“She’s here. We’re taking her back to the station now.” The officer spoke into his radio. Forest green eyes stared at her. They were warm, and hollow. “Adeana, we need to take you to the police station. Is that okay with you?”
Adeana’s gaze fell to the ground. She collected her thoughts and stood straight. “No. Why do I need to go? Do my parents know?” Head tilted to the side, she examined the man’s expression.
“We’ll explain everything when you’re in a safe place.” He stepped aside and gestured toward the flashing cars just past the black spruce tree. A thunderous boom sounded in the sky, followed by a dissipating crackling as fireworks painted the sky. Yellow, green, orange, red and blue illuminated the faces of people pouring from their houses. They stared at the commotion before them, and when there was a bang, they looked up.
Adeana couldn’t shake the hundreds of eyes on her. She edged further from their sight, eyes darting and her voice strained. “It wasn’t me. I didn’t steal it, it was An-”
“Adeana!” called a woman from the driveway, held back by an officer. It was Neelam Varma. Thundering blasts sounded above the homes. Another set of fireworks littered the sky. “Honey! It’s okay! You can come stay with me and Maya! Don’t worry, just go with the officers and everything will be alright!”
The curious people drew closer. More firecrackers glittered above the town. Red and blue blinked faster. “What’s going on? Why are you taking me away?” Adeana stepped back. The blanket caught under foot. “No! They’ll be back soon! They said so! They said after the fireworks!” She crashed to the ground. Sergeant Field rushed to her side. A roaring display of colours crashed into the sky.
“I’m sorry, Dean. There isn’t a lot I can tell you right now. We’re still working on the evidence.” he helped her onto the bullnose step, “You just need to come with us to the station for a while, then we can bring you back.” He sat down beside her, resting a hand on her back.
The sound of crackling dissipated. The people grew tired and wandered back inside. A vociferous quiet hovered over the streets. Adeana stared at the woodgrain and her eyes grew distant. “They said after the fireworks.”