Have I opened my eyes? It's so dark. I look down at my hands. They are surprisingly visible. My eyes scan the darkness, as if I am a wife searching for my sailor husband to come back from his travels. Where am I? I think back. All I can remember is a bright light and then the next thing I know, I'm here. I don't remember what my life is like... or maybe that should be what it was like. Is anyone else here? I should check...
"Hello?" I whisper.
I gaze around the inky void, searching for a face, listening out for a reply. But none comes.
"Hello? Anybody there?" I say, louder this time.
My voice ripples in the space like the bang of a drum. But still no reply.
"Hello? Anyone?" I yell.
"Yeah! Over here!" a voice calls.
Finally! I walk towards the voice. My feet feel like they're walking on air. Everything feels so.... empty. Even my mind feels like it could float up into the twilight like a big red balloon. I keep walking until I start to see the face of a girl no older than me emerge from the blackness. Her hair is cut short, a dull red, and she wears only a vest and shorts.
"Hi, I'm Maude," she says. "Nice to meet you."
"In this place?" I say.
Maude shrugs. "Yeah, I know. You get used to it. Your name?"
I think for a bit. It's somewhere at the back of my head...
"Wendy," I say.
Maude looks impressed. "Good you remembered so quickly. It took me ages to remember mine. Okay, follow me to the hangout."
I follow her swiftly through the dark nutility. It's not long until we see a strange looking shape. As we get closer, I realise it's a pile of clothes. Beside it are some people of about twelve to seventeen. There are lots of naked children, no older than ten or eleven, lying on top of the heap. They are all huddled together in a little bundle. I stop dead in my tracks.
"Don't they have any clothes?" I ask, shocked.
"They do," Maude says. "They put them on the bed." She turns to face me. "Oh, don't worry. They put them back on in the day. It's just to keep them comftable. Sorry, but you'll have to take off your's when we go to bed later."
"How do you know when to go?" I ask.
"Oh, just when we get tired," she says. She looks up and down at my clothes: a red hood and jeans. I guess that means I'm a bit of a tomboy. Maude says, "Nice clothes, but Diabolus will get rid of them soon and replace them with the dumb outfit everyone here wears."
"Who's Diabolus?" I ask.
"Oh, the whole reason we're in this s**t," Maude hissed, looking angrily around her.
An dark-skinned boy approaches us. Like Maude, he wears only a vest and shorts. He smiles at me, and I suddenly feel awkward. I'm starting to sweat. Am I attracted to him?
"Don't worry, he does that to everyone," Maude says. She glares at him. "F*** off, Nigel."
"Chill out, babe," Nigel coos.
He walks over to me... and scoops me up in his arms so my nose is just touching his. I am gazing right into his dark eyes, which are boring into my skull. He kisses me. Softly. Suddenly, I feel very attracted towards him. He looks so handsome and enchanting. I kiss him this time, and then we start snogging. Then, his hand starts to move slowly up under my shirt...
Maude slaps him.
"Ow!" he yells, backing away.
"You g*t," Maude growls. She smiles at me. "It's a weird skill he has."
"I see," I say. I look at him as he walks away. Then, I realise he's actually not attractive after all- a bit... plump.
Maude laughs. "Yeah, I know. He really is good at enticing girls. He has this special way he looks at them and reacts towards them. They forget all about how fat he is and just love him for his charm."
Nigel walks towards another boy.
I look at the boy.
Wow, he's such a dream.
His hair is pure black, almost camoflagued against the darkness. His eyes are a piercing blue, and the way he looks at Nigel is... somewhat mysterious. He's not very muscly really, a bit scawny; his vest seems too big for him. I keep looking at him, admiring him and then....
He looks right at me.
I turn away, trying to avoid his gaze.
"Wow, did Don look at you?" Maude asks, looking surprised. "Don rarely looks at people. He's such a loner."
"Really?" I say.
"Well," Maude says. "I'm not sure why he is, but we think it was to do with the time when he was punished."
"Punished?" I say.
"Yes," Maude says. "He was tortured by Diabolus."
"Why?" I ask.
"Oh, he stood up to her," Maude says. "Said she was nothing but a big fat a**e." She laughs. "It seemed funny at the time, actually. But then he was called up and we didn't see him for ages."
"Why are we here anyway?" I ask. "Why would we want to live in misery like this?"
"To get your soul eaten," Maude says.
Those words shoot me like a bullet.
"Yeah," Maude says. "When Diabolus has collected every child's soul, she will have a big feast and take over the world."
"That's horrible!" I cry.
Maude nods sadly. "Yeah, I know."
There's a long moment of stillness. I look ahead at the bed of clothes and watch Don. He doesn't look at me, only down at his feet. I see him say something to Nigel and walks off. I walk over to Nigel. He smirks at me.
"Want another kiss?" he asks.
I snort. "In your dreams. Where did Don go?"
"To sleep," he says. "He has his own special place where he sleeps. Doesn't like people coming near. Once, somebody did, and they have a scratch on the back now." He turns around and I notice a mark on his back. "Yeah, it was an experiance I'll never forget. Anyway, we sleep with the younger kids. When we're tired."
I want to ask him more about Don when suddenly a loud voice booms through the emptiness.
"Wendy," it says. It's a high-pitched, jagged voice, like knife scratching metal. "Be prepared for your ritual."
The next thing I know, I'm hurdling through a whirling tunnel of light away from Maude, away from Nigel, away from Don...