In The Darkness

What she would find that day would change the world she lived in. Ancient pages would show her things that no one would ever believe and lead her to a land beyond her home town of Lockley.
Louisa McCain discovers an old diary in her basement, that tells her of a fantasy land that she could only dream of. She slowly gets entranced by the idea of the beyond, the potential that it holds. She becomes obsessed with finding this place called Philia, frantically scrambling to put together the clues and find the portal.
If she does, will it all be what she imagined or will she be plunged into a world that she wishes she'd never found?

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2. Two

I spent the rest of the day in my room after moving the boxes down into the basement. I was intrigued by my ancestor’s research on the town, wanting to know all that he discovered.

I also wanted to know whether it was all just fiction. My common sense told me it was just fiction, a delusion that this man was having, but there was a tiny niggling in my gut that things were going to change from now on, that this crazy delusion of his might not be as fictional as I first thought.

I followed his journey and research as he kept on seeing the strange people in the forest. He discovered some kind of correlation between their appearances and the moon, theorising that there were more of them on the new moon because of a portal opening on that night that connected our two worlds.

I powered up my laptop, wanting to test his theory and be in the park on the next new moon. The website told me that the next new moon would be in two days; plenty of time to prepare and read the rest of the diary.

I would have to tell Aaron and Saffron, my friends, about this. Hopefully, they would be able to help me uncover this mystery.

The weekend passed by in a blur of dog-eared pages and misshapen letters. I stuffed the diary into my bag along with all my school books for the day.

It would be the new moon tonight, the night where I would discover how much truth there was to this diary from my basement.

I took my usual route to school, passing the woods in the park. The trees were now becoming bare; the leaves creating an auburn carpet on the grass. The sun shone through the remaining amber leaves on the tree, creating a fiery glow that burned through the thin nature. The veins created a unique labyrinth on each face, forming a maze of darkened lines that all lead to one single point at the base. 

I passed by the small lake that stayed ever constant in the centre of the park. It was abnormally still today, not a ripple on its glassy surface. Normally it was teeming with life; effervescent fish of all the colours of the rainbow and insects flitting about the surface. Sometimes, even a long legged heron that stood proudly on the edge, watching the kingdom of life that bustled in the water below, before snatching up a meal then swooping away from the picturesque scene.

A few birds flew past, their grey wings creating a tiny breeze that hit a few leaves off a nearby tree, revealing more of its worn bark. They were soon gone though, and the park returned to its former silence.

The crisp, brown leaves beneath my feet crunched the sound echoing around the eerie clearing. The trees bowed their trunks; relaxing after months of carrying the burden of vibrant greenery that now lay on the floor. The whole scene appeared rather depressed; possibly to do with the coming invasion of the creatures that Othello had talked about in his journal.

I could imagine the scene of the midnight beasts now, unknown to the many inhabitants of the town of Lockley but spotted by one person.

That’s all it took for their secret to be out; one person. If just one person was observant enough to see them out in the forest in the dead of night, their cover would be blown and they would be revealed to the world. Whatever ‘they’ were, of course. That was one mystery he never seemed to unfold in his research; what these creatures of the night were.

There were no clues as to what they were either, only the fact that there were people and wolves in the forest and lake. Whether they were anything more than that was still, yet another, mystery.

It seemed I was coming up with more questions than answers at the moment. Maybe Aaron and Saffron would be able to help me fill some holes, if only temporarily. It would be great to just get a good view of the larger picture, with as few questions as possible left, so that I could hopefully discover this foreign land.

***

“Hey Lou!” Saffron shouted across the yard, her tight red curls bouncing about her slim face. Sapphire blue eyes smiled at me as she approached and enveloped me in one of her tight hugs.

“Hi Saff, you had a good weekend?” I asked.

“Yeah, it was alright, the usual.” She rolled her eyes, making me laugh. “Yours a good one?”

“Well...”

“I can tell this is going to be a long story.”

“I’ll wait until Aaron gets here, then I don’t have to tell the tale twice.”

“Sure. So, what’s this about you and Chris, eh?” She nudged me with her elbow, wiggling her eyebrows at me.

I had been out with this guy called Chris that sat next to me in Maths. He had asked me if I wanted to go see this new film with him at the cinema on Saturday so I agreed, not wanting to be mean and just drop the guy. We had been in the morning and, to say the least, we would not be going any further than friends. It wasn’t that he was an unpleasant guy; it was just that I thought of him more as my brother than my boyfriend. It goes without saying that I was thoroughly happy when he didn’t pull any moves on me.

“Nothing. We’re just friends and nothing more.” I assured Saff, making it clear to her that I was serious.

“Ok. That’s a shame that is. He seemed like a pretty decent person.”

“He is, Saff. It’s just...he’s not really my type.”

“Alright then. Can you give me his number though?” She was cheeky that Saffron Chambers, always wanting a new boyfriend. I swear she’s been through about half of the year’s population of boys already since year 7.

“Saff!” I said with mock shock, “Why not? It’s not like you haven’t done it before.”

“What hasn’t Saff done before, Lou?” Aaron walked up behind us, as always, curious as to what we had been talking about before he arrived. His ice blue eyes switched between me and Saff, his hand running through his dusty brown hair that had been swept away in multiple directions by the morning’s gusty winds.

“Nothing!”Saff was quick to say. Aaron raised his eyebrows. We both knew that there was very little that Saff hadn’t done and pretty much the whole school knew that.

We had all gained our individual reputations around school: Saff was, to put it kindly, the school’s promiscuous girl, Aaron was ‘The Gay One’ (he wasn’t best pleased with that one but embraces his title anyway) and I was the renowned shin kicker. Mine originated from year 7 when I went around kicking all the lads in the shins whenever they annoyed me. At least I don’t have anyone messing with me; they know that playing with me is like playing with fire. I can be dangerous when I want to be and can defend myself if necessary.

“Earth to Lou.”Saff waved a manicured hand in front of my dazed expression, pulling me out of my thoughts.

“Huh?” was my ever so eloquent reply.

“What was it you were going to tell us about what happened at the weekend?” Saff pursued the topic again.

“Well...” I told them about how I had been in the basement and found the diary. All about the place it told of, called Philia, and about the forest in the park; the secrets it supposedly held. I showed them what I had read of the diary so far, summarising what Othello had put, as quickly as I could.

“That guy was obviously on crack.” Aaron said bluntly.

“Aaron! You can’t say that,” Saff scolded, swatting him on the arm, “I’m sure it’s nothing, Lou, but if it’ll put your mind at rest, we’ll help you untangle these secrets.”

“And as usual, I don’t get a say in this.” Aaron moaned, receiving a jab in the stomach from Saff. “I mean, sure sounds like fun wasting my precious time on a wild goose chase.”

Aaron got a scathing glare from Saff but a curt nod of approval to accompany it. He was safe for another day.

“You two are like an old married couple.” I cooed, knowing that I would receive simultaneous death glares from the two. As planned, they came, causing me to laugh hysterically at the pair who then turned their glares on each other.

Despite Aaron being called ‘The Gay One’, he was far from it. Saff and I both knew he liked to have the odd girlfriend from the girl’s school in the next town but he kept it a secret from everyone else. I also knew that he didn’t really like any of those girls; he just did it to try and make Saff jealous and aware that he was up to having girlfriends.

I saw the longing looks he gave to her when he thought no one was looking and could almost hear the fantasies that were going on in his head, which I didn’t really want to see but had to cope with in anyways.

It was also clear that she liked him too. She just didn’t want to admit it to herself. Or anyone else for that matter. It didn’t seem like she would for a while either, but over these past few years, I have made it my life mission to see my two friends finally get together after years of unintentional flirting and sneaky glances.

“Louisa McCain! Aaron Fisher and I are not like a married couple!” Saff screeched, as usual, annoyed by my little jab.

“You wouldn’t want to be married to me!” Aaron gasped, clasping his heart in mock melodrama.

“I’m sorry, Aaron, but you’re not my type.” Saff flippantly said, not seeing the hurt that flickered over Aaron’s features.

I sent him a sympathetic look and shrugged, communicating a message of ‘what can you do’.

Aaron knew of my mission to get him and Saff together, and fully supported it, but knew it would take time and effort to get Saff to realise him as more than just a friend.

The bell rang, signifying the start of form and the start of the good old school routine that we knew so well.

***

The day dragged along like a usual day did. The lessons were average, just the teacher droning on whilst the students robotically wrote notes on the topic of the day.

School days were always monotonous, always the same. The only difference between each day was the teachers and lessons but after a fortnight, the cycle looped, creating an almost endless cycle of education that every school in the country followed.

It wasn’t as if we even mattered to anyone really. All we were was a number and a few grades, nothing significant to the people who mattered in the world. To them we were like ants, small and easily disposed of. They didn’t care at all.

The only people who really cared were your friends and your family, the people who knew you for your personality, and not for a number taped to your name.

I walked through the park again on my way home, except this time it was a different place. Children ran among the trees, pretending to be foxes and rabbits; butterflies and fairies as they darted among the foliage. Their laughs and screams could be heard throughout the forest, creating a warm belonging feeling down in my stomach.

I remembered the times when I used to do that. I was always the rabbit, being chased by one of the foxes through the trees, squealing and giggling as I darted among the emerald glow of the leaves.

It was different now though. I was an outsider now, and the leaves no longer shone a vibrant green but burnt a thousand fiery reds and oranges. I could no longer run among the wildlife, without a care in the world. I could never again live in the fantasy of imagination that those children did. I was confined to the path, plastered in saturated leaves that squelched under foot, boring and straight forward with no room for deviation. 

I sighed as I continued the repetitive stroll down the path of indifference, my mind staying as blank as a fresh piece of paper, my feet moving of their own accord.

I found myself in front of the lake. It was not very big, more of a large pond really. It was fringed by more of the embers of the trees, which floated lazily across the surface on the gentle gusts of wind that blew. A few golden fish flitted about under the glassy surface, flashing in and out with glints of colour.

I continued down my path, soon reaching my destination.

“I’m home!” I yelled into the house, my voice echoing through the empty halls.

It had never felt like a home to me, only ever a house. It had no feeling to it, no warmth in the light woods that now adorned the place.

It used to be home, back when the banister was a warm mahogany colour and the carpets a lush burgundy red that covered your feet in its lavish fibres. The walls used to be the colour of coffee, pale yet warm, and adorned with several family photos from multiple generations. It had all changed ever since dad had gone away.

He had left when I was 10 to go to war. All I remember was hugging him at the port where a humongous metal ship was docked, Union Jack blowing proudly in the wind. The ship had departed all those years ago, eternally taking my dad on a voyage with a cruel ending. He had been dressed in the navy’s uniform, stood looking identical to all the other members of the crew. He stood out to me though, like other’s family members would to them.

That was the last I saw of him that summer’s day. It had been 5 long years since I had seen him, 3 short years since we had received the news.

My mother had been happy that day, acting exactly like any other mother would; running around the house cleaning, cooking and ironing. Then it had all stopped. As if time itself had frozen at that very moment she picked up the post; opened the letter that would change our lives forever; make us want to rewind back to that fateful day, that was 2 years ago back then, and stop my dad, her husband, from leaving on HMS Rockport.

The letter informed us that the ship had sunk, just off the coast of Africa. It had been returning from its voyage to the coast of Syria and Iraq and was just returning, when there were ‘complications’, as the letter had phrased it. Apparently, the seemingly invincible vessel had suffered some damage from an unknown source, causing the engine to malfunction and the ship to sink. My dad, being the captain of the ship, had to honour the noble rule that the captain went down with his ship, therefore meaning he and several other unlucky crew members were unable to survive. They drowned that fateful day and life had never been the same since.

I can still clearly picture my mother reading the letter, sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, her face bleaching with every sentence she read. The smile that had been gracing her face had soon slipped off to be replaced with pain and floods of tears.

I ran up to my room, not bothering to wait for an answer from my mother. She didn’t usually answer in anyway, so why would today be any different?

My room was cold, just a place where I slept, nothing more. It was just a hollow place, with no feeling at all. It could have been any size, colour or shape and it wouldn’t have made any difference. No matter how extravagant or drab, this room was just a temporary accommodation for me, easily left behind.

I leaped on the bed, extracting the diary from my bag and flicking through some more of the pages. It all seemed to get crazier and crazier as the pages went on, ideas that these creatures were mermaids, fairies and werewolves. It was beyond bizarre.

By now, the creator of this journal seemed to be hallucinating, probably paranoid and imagining too much. The tale continued to become more and more twisted, like your worst nightmares tangled with your best dreams in a web of confusion.

I threw the diary away, not wanting to believe another word it said. I would find out tonight whether Othello was telling anything near the truth; how much fact was in his fiction.

The hours flew by as I awaited the ten o’clock, the time that I would go to the park.

I heard my mother walk across the landing and flick off the light, signifying the end to her day and the beginning of my investigation.

The hands continued their unending journey around the clock face, until they pointed to ten and twelve. It was time.

I grabbed my warmest coat off the back of my chair, pulling it around my body. I pulled on my trainers, my fingers fumbling as I rushed to lace them up as fast as I could. Gloves and a scarf were next to go on; ready to fight the cold autumnal weather.

I was ready now to discover the truth among the lies; what was real and what was not.

I stepped out the front door, puffing out a breath that blew out a puff of icy smoke, clouding the area in front of my face for a few seconds.

I marched through the gate, determined to find my answers, and headed to lake in the forest in the park.

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