Amber gasped as she awoke, her head banging and vision foggy. She sat up, groaning, then stopped so abruptly she felt her neck click.
She wasn’t in the forest anymore.
It was dark and damp, but it wasn’t cold - there was an uncomfortable, stuffy heat in the place that she was inside of. It seemed like a small room but she couldn’t be sure, since the whole area was coated in darkness. There was no light, nor sign as to where exactly she was. She could only just make out a door in the far corner, the shadowy outlines to a chest and some sort of small cage, rust enveloping the thin metal bars. But as she straightened up on the hard but flimsy object she was lying on, she looked down at her feet and saw three wide letters, scribbled in an inky red substance on the dark wooden floorboards.
S. H. H.
“Shh” doesn’t stand for anything, and isn’t short or simplified for another word. So was it a hint to keep quiet? All she could really hear was her breathing and her rapid pulse. There was no birdsong, footsteps, anything - just her, in a small dark room, inside goodness knows where. Now, any normal teenage girl would panic and freeze up, maybe make a fuss and alert the kidnapper -but not Amber. She smelt adventure churned with a spike of danger, and though she was eager to seek answers, the main thing on her mind was to get out.
She patted her body carefully, remembering how she always kept a torch along with her book and pencil on her. She stood up as quietly as she could, noticing that the object that she was previously on was a hard, wooden bed, with an old mattress with dark spatters shading some of the white, wearing fabric.
Amber looked around the room in attentiveness, then ducked and crawled under the bed. There were no unexpected surprises, and so she discreetly took out her sketch pad, roughly drawing out the room as well as she could with no light. She fingered her torch, considering turning it on, and bringing an empty tube of bright light to the pitch-black room - but decided against the idea. She glanced at the door, knowing that sooner or later, she would have to escape. There was every sign that the place she was inside was fatal, and obvious that wherever she was, being quiet was crucial. Edging out from underneath the bed was a big risk to her too, and as she passed the chest, she noticed a small, black steel bar, cold and strong. A crowbar.
Amber picked it up silently after she’d checked for traps, and pressed her ear up to the door, listening for any noises.
She looked down, feeling for the doorknob, and, squeezing her eyes shut and holding her breath, gently, gently, eased it open. She opened her eyes again, to see a main hall that was dimly lit. The walls were a brown-black colour, grubby and peeling. There was still no sound, except for a cool breeze drifting in from the minute cracks and gaps in the corners of flaking walls. Still, there was no sign of anyone near, and so Amber took a deep breath and advanced onwards through the dark unsettling hallway, not daring to switch on her torch. After a while, she started seeing a thick, sturdy wooden door slightly to the left. But as she came nearer, her heart skipped a beat in alarm as she realised that the main door was bolted, boarded and chained up, cobwebs skimming its rough surface.
There had to be another way out.
She looked around, dashing into the next room to her right, the door ajar slightly. There was no proper window - instead, there was a gap just big enough for her to squeeze through to freedom, with old, splintered glass shards scattered on the ground beneath it. She tip-toed towards it, biting the inside of her lip so hard that she could taste droplets of her sharp, metallic blood. Her fists were clenched and body tensed as she readied herself to push her way out of the unknown building.
But as she was steadying herself, she noticed a small brown book on the floor, with a strange, calligraphic symbol. It was dirty and dog-eared, quite historical looking, and as her curiosity and urgency battled, curiosity won once again. Amber bent down, picking up the book and glancing at it quickly before putting it away in her pocket. But as she did, the crowbar slipped from her grip and fell to the wooden flooring, clattering and banging loudly.
Amber winced, eyes wide with disbelief and fear, until she heard the most ear-piercing, terrifyingly indescribable roar that caused the glass shards to rattle against the ground. She scrambled upwards and pushed herself through the gap hurriedly, dropping onto the grassy forest floor. The night sky was painted navy and the moon’s beams didn’t illuminate anywhere near her as she looked around, spotting the same old bridge that she’d seen before being hit. She ran towards it as fast as she could, not daring to look back. She made it to the bridge, and it swung tiredly and unsteadily on it because of her rapid movements and weight. And halfway across, she spotted a glimpse of her kidnapper.
It was unlike any person or any living being, for that matter, had and will ever see. The figure she saw was of a girl; tall, with straggling black hair past her shoulders. Her skin was a dirty, pale white colour, with a simple black garment covering most of her body. The face, however, was terrifying, and Amber may have screamed if it wasn’t for the loss of her voice due to the trauma. Its eyes were a milky white, with blood staining the corners and dribbling down her cheeks. It moved at a fast pace, feet barely touching the floor, and Amber ran harder, past the bridge and to the main part of the forest. The creature screeched in fury, the sound travelling across the woods as it stopped at the start of the bridge, watching Amber sprint away as fast as her legs would carry her. With a growl, she ignited a blinding white bolt of lightning from her hand and threw it at the girl, the bright bullet missing Amber slightly as it grazed the side of her head and cheek. Amber yelped in pain but continued running onwards, not looking back, panting as the trees blurred past her. Finally, she began to spot the moon and dusty lighting of the streetlights on the lit-up roads at the forest’s entrance. She slowed a little after about ten minutes of running nonstop, wheezing and choking as she made it to the wooden gate that served as the forest’s entrance.
An older woman came shuffling towards Amber in concern, touching her arm and making Amber jump.
“Goodness, dear, are you alright? Why, you look like you’ve seen a-” She stopped, her eyes widening behind her striped glasses.
“My goodness! You’ve got a nasty, deep graze on the side of your face, my girl! Can you hear me? What is your name, child?”
Amber’s breathing became uneven and ragged, faintness taking over her weakening mind and body - and she collapsed, trembling as people crowded and pushed worriedly around her. The moon’s watchful beam became a haze as she was consumed by darkness once more.