【 Chapter Three 】
A sharp gasp broke the deafening silence of the small, dark room as Amber awoke abruptly, her head aching and breathing uneven. She didn’t move for a few moments, trying as best as she could to take in her surroundings by only moving her eyes that were dimmed by the thick blackness of the place. She was lying down... on a hard bed - more of an old bed frame and mattress, a couple of springs escaping the dirty white material and digging into her legs. The room Amber was in didn’t seem to be very big, but she could make out a wooden door at the far end, to the left. There was a small table near the bed, at the right, where Amber’s feet were. A couple of shelved on the wall space opposite the door, but nothing on them. A chair next to the door. And something she couldn’t quite make out written in large letters on the dark wood flooring, the flooring itself being weak floorboards, possible creaky.
Well. She wasn’t in the forest anymore.
It was dark and damp - not cold, but uncomfortably stuffy. The whole area was coated in darkness, with no sign or source of light. Amber had never been here before, and on that night she was sure she never wanted to go back again. But she did go back, with a slightly different and all the more curious outcome than the one she first had.
Slowly and steadily, Amber sat up on the bed and felt for her pockets, breathing a little easier when she felt the torch in her red cargo pants’ pocket, along with her sketchpad, which somehow managed to fit in the bigger pocket too. When she made it out of here, she decided silently, she’d sketch the room. But right now she needed to focus on the getting out part, which would mean using her torch. Was that a good idea? Was just staying put a better one? With a light sigh of defeat, Amber carefully pulled her torch out from her pocket, trying hard not to make too much noise and alert whoever it was that owned the place she was trapped inside.
A hollow tube of pure, white light brought the room alive in an instant, and Amber blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to it. Cobwebbed corners of the peeling, discoloured walls were highlighted, the old, dark wood table and chair sought out by the light, along with the gold, metal doorknob that gleamed in the torch’s wake. Everything but a person or sign of life. But when Amber directed the light to the floor, she stopped suddenly as the dusty glow ran across three crimson letters, three simple but ominous letters, a few floorboards in width and length.
S S H
Did it stand for something? Or was it just a message to stay quiet? Amber’s brows furrowed as she read them again and again. She hid the torch’s light in the mattress, creating a thin, luminous ring around the bulb and on the material, and waited. Waited for something, to hear something. Maybe she was near the forest, so she could make out owls cooing outside, or the thunder rumbling in the distance. Or footsteps from inside.
Now, I’m aware of the fact - and have stated before, but I’ll repeat it just once more - that any normal teenage girl, boy, child, adult or person of any age were to find themselves in the position of Amber’s, they would panic and freeze up, declaring their case hopeless already. Making a fuss and give away their state and where they were to the kidnapper. Or make a weak attempt of escape with a strong, unpleasant ending that we won’t ponder.
But Amber is no normal teenage girl.
And she never will be, or even could be now, which is something she’s perfectly fine with.
She looked around the room attentively, picking her torch back up and releasing its light again before easing herself off the mattress and standing next to the bed, glancing at the three red letters before her golden gaze shifted to the door. Still nothing. So she took her chance. Treading slowly and as lightly as she could, Amber advanced to the door and put a hand over the cool metal sphere, waiting again for a moment before gently turning it clockwise. A soft click sounded, and she stopped, letting go of the doorknob and stepping back, holding her torch up. Then she pushed the door open, revealing a long, dark corridor. There was no sound apart from Amber’s controlled breathing, and no one waiting for her on the other side. Yet.
Taking a deep breath, Amber started walking down the corridor, unsettled and unsure whether to look back, because if she did and found no one there, she was bound to look back to find someone suddenly appearing in front of her. Amber really did hate jumpscares.
After walking for thirty seconds or so, she spotted another entrance to her left and stairs to the right, spiralling upwards to the gloomy unknown, more cobwebs skimming the rough surface of the walls and flaking bannisters. Then she looked in front of her, making out the shadowy outline of a door, bigger than the rest and in the centre. Her eyes widened a fraction as she realised that this must be it! - her way out, right in front of her.
But her heart skipped a beat in newfound dread when her eyes traced the rusting chains and bolts and wood board over the exit, probably placed there soon after Amber had arrived. Just her luck. There had to be another way out. So she resumed her search, and cautiously opened the door to her left after a moment’s hesitation, holding the torch up as her only means of defence and guidance so far.
The room was bigger than the one she was in before by a little, a long lamp with a smashed bulb at its heart in one corner, next to a sturdy chest with what seemed to be a crowbar lying on top. Amber immediately took it, making do with it as her protection. A large couch was at the other end of the room, empty and unwelcoming, with a rug in front of it with a nasty stain that Amber spent no time wondering about. There was also a decent gap in the wall that must’ve served as a window, old splinters of glass scattered on the ground beneath it and on the uneven ledge. A cool gust blew in, and Amber relaxed slightly upon seeing it. That’s her other way out, then.
She looked back quickly, then looked back again at the chest, natural curiosity sparking in her mind as she rolled her eyes to herself. What was she waiting for? This was her chance to go, and she didn’t want to wait around for the trouble - but this was also a rare opportunity to look for a clue or a weird souvenir from it all that she could take with her and investigate - in the safety of her own home. Or maybe Ruey’s? Ruey’s was better.
With a quiet huff of annoyance, Amber crept over to the chest and lifted it open, peering inside in interest and wariness. There was nothing inside but a book - brown cover and yellowed pages, no title. A memo? Journal? Whatever it was, she should take it. So that’s what she did.
But as she reached inside and grabbed the book, the crowbar slipped from her grasp, and she winced as it fell to the floor, clattering loudly. Shock made her hold her breath and widen her eyes.
That’s when she heard it.
The most ear-piercing and frankly most indescribable, inhumane roar that caused the glass shards on the floor to rattle in their place. Rushing footsteps came immediately after, and Amber bolted to the gap, pushing herself forcefully through and shoving the book in with her sketch pad before breaking out in a run. Faster than she had ever ran before, as fast as her legs could carry her. She was still in the forest and near the bridge - she could see it just a metre or so away. The night sky was cold and dark, the storm ceased but the moon’s gentle illumination hidden from sight. Amber made it to the bridge, and it creaked and groaned in protest as her weight was added, swinging unsteadily under it. Halfway across, she dared to look back. When she did she swore to herself - though it didn’t last - she’d never look back again.
Her kidnapper, the owner of the small, ghostly house she could see far behind her, was unlike any person, or any living being, for that matter, had and will ever see. The figure Amber’s eyes were fixed on was of a girl that seemed as tall as her, with thick, dark hair to her ribs in her face. Her skin was paler than any cloud she’d seen before, and her clothes consisted of a black top and shorts, wearing and frayed. The same material was wound around her arms and legs, ribboning her limbs and contrasting with her skin’s shade. But her eyes were paler, milky white and brighter than her torch, empty but searching, with what looked like blood welled up at the bottoms and oozing down like tear tracks, staining her cheeks and dribbling down to the floor and her clothes. Her lips were bitten harshly. Her tongue was black.
Amber almost gagged and would’ve screamed if it wasn’t for her dry throat and complete terror drowning every one of her senses. The girl didn’t move, but it watched, and it watched as Amber regained control over her body, and ran harder, determined to escape it. The creature - the girl - tensed, screeching in fury before it ignited a blinding white bolt of lightning from her hand, Amber was too busy running to spot it. Then the girl closed her open palm into a tight fist, and the lightning bolt launched, hitting Amber within a second on the side of her face, slashing her right cheek and exploding as it hit a tree. The tree fell to the forest floor, leaves scattering and fluttering in a mini blizzard from the impact. Amber screamed then, but didn’t stop running, going on and on, refusing to take a break even for a moment as she went. Eventually, she spotted the gate back to the public, the dim glow of the streetlights and the almost bare roads. Amber shoved the gate open and stumbled out, the world around her misty and spinning, spinning out...
“Are you alright, dear?”
An old woman came shuffling towards Amber in concern, her voice sounding muffled to Amber as Amber panted and choked, a high-pitched hum in her ears.
Finally, she began to spot the moon and dusty lighting of the streetlights on the lit-up roads.
“My goodness! You’ve- you’ve got a nasty cut on your... can you hear me? Hold on, I’m calling an ambulance, I-”
The rest was muffled and echoing as Amber’s ragged breathing slowed, images of the girl flashing in her mind as she collapsed to the ground, hands trembling and fingers twitching as a few other people gathered around her in worry. The moon’s watchful beam became a haze as she was consumed by the darkness of her head once again.